Impromptu summer lunch salad

Hungry mid-day and don’t want to fuss much? Take what you have that is farm fresh and toss together a casual salad.  Here’s what went into today’s salad chez moi: chopped kale, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, raw summer squash, diced peppers.  If I had a red onion, I would have added that to the mix. But this is a no-stress lunch, so not to worry, I told myself.

I wasn’t in the mood for a sharp vinaigrette, so here’s what I did: I started with leftover extra mayonnaise/sour cream from potato salad. To that I added buttermilk and a bit of olive oil and salt.  Voila!

Canned items:  chickpeas, drained and rinsed, artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed, and soaked in olive oil (the oil I later added to creamy dressing, above)

Farmers market/CSA items:

yellow summer squash, sliced thin on mandoline

assorted sweet peppers, cut into large dice

Several leaves of lacinato kale, soaked, dried and chopped fine

YUM!

Summer lentil salad extravaganza

When you find yourself with lovely local lettuce in early summer, and perhaps some leftover grilled chicken, cook up some Puy lentils and assemble a main course salad, great for a crowd. Pomegranate molasses adds a new flavor element to sherry vinaigrette brightened with lemon zest and juice.

Ingredients:
Stewed puy lentils, chilled
Chicken or vegetable stock for cooking lentils
Sherry shallot vinaigrette with shallots macerated in apple cider vinegar, lemon zest & juice, walnut & olive oil, sugar and pomegranate molasses
Leftover chicken, sliced thick or hard boiled eggs or boiled chilled shrimp (omit cheese)
Canned artichoke hearts and bottled roasted peppers, drained and rinsed.
Toasted walnuts (1 c), broken up when cool.
Little turnips, carrots sliced on mandoline
fresh herbs, minced — parsley and chives, at a minimum

Directions:

Cook lentils: Sauté diced carrots, celery, shallot in large saucepan. Add 1 t cumin, crumbled, ground pepper, and less than 1 t dried thyme, crumbled. When done, stir in chopped garlic and cook for one minute.
Stir in 1-1/2 c puy lentils, picked over and rinsed. Turn up heat and add stock to more than cover. Bring to a simmer and cook at least partially covered 20-30 minutes until barely tender — don’t let get mushy. Drain and chill.
Toast 1 c. walnuts in 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes until fragrant. Let cool, then break up a bit.
Heat olive oil in small sauce pan, add couple garlic cloves cut in half and cook for a couple minutes until slightly browned and aromatic. Remove from heat and let sit.
Drain and rinse artichoke hearts; put on towel and blot dry. Put in bowl and pour garlic oil over them, adding more oil as needed.
Make vinaigrette: minced shallot and apple cider vinegar to macerate 15+ minutes. Lemon zest, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, walnut oil, olive oil, dash sugar (or honey) and 1-2 t pomegranate molasses, S&P. Taste and adjust acid, salt and sweetness as needed. Using a lettuce leaf is a good method of tasting.
When lentils are cool (or brought to room temp if cooked in advance), toss liberally with vinaigrette. Salt as needed.
Mince fresh herbs such as parsley and chives. Mix into lentils with walnuts.
Wash and spin dry lettuce leaves.
Clean turnips and cut thinly on mandoline with carrots and parmesan, if using. Cover and refrigerate to wait for salad assembly.

Assembly:
Lay lettuce leaves around outside of platter. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Dump dressed lentils in center. Top with chicken, artichokes and peppers. Sprinkle on coarsely broken up turnips, etc.

Winter salad — Watercress, pears and blue cheese

A delicious, elegant dinner party first course.  I served for Thanksgiving.  Pears are in season; watercress is a welcome bright green as Winter is setting in in the Northeast US.

Ingredients:

Watercress

Mesclun

Pears – D’Anjou

Blue cheese

Walnuts – roasted and cooled (375 degree oven for 8 mins until fragrant)

Vinaigrette:

Shallots, minced; soaked in apple cider vinegar to cover

Lemon juice

Walnut oil

Olive oil

S&P

Shake in bottle; refrigerate up to a couple days. Remove before using to come to room temp.

Salad assembly:

Wash and dry lettuce and watercress; remove thick stems if needed

Cut pear in half and core with corer, or cut into quarters and slice to remove core.

Cut quarters into quarters  or thirds lengthwise to make moderate-size wedges.

Toss greens with vinaigrette. Place on individual plates. Lay pears in pretty way grouped together on side of plate. Sprinkle walnuts and blue cheese on top. Drizzle more dressing on pears, etc.

Sweet potato salad

This is a terrific way to serve sweet potatoes at a party. It comes from my long best friend Deb.  It is an unexpected mix of flavors, all delicious and somewhat healthy to boot!  I intend to get around to posting my entire recent New Years day party menu — with recipes.  Since this was requested and the only recipe I have is a text message, it deserves a more secure place, such as here.

Here’s the idea of it:  (1) You roast thickly sliced unpeeled sweet potatoes in olive oil until JUST tender (not mushy) and, if you’re lucky, somewhat caramelized.  Let cool, and cut in half or 1/3’s to make large chunks.  (2) Cut up red peppers and scallions.  (3) Make a honey dijon vinaigrette with tarragon vinegar.  Store separately in the refrigerate and combine with non-HFCS sweet chopped pickles or relish just before serving.

Ingredients:

8 or so good-size sweet potatoes, the best you can find (farmers markets, yes)

1-2 sweet red peppers, washed, and cut into large dice

1-1/2 bunches scallions, sliced

sweet pickles (non HFCS) or Wickles relish

honey dijon vinaigrette made with tarragon vinegar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Wash potatoes and cut without peeling into 1″ or larger slices.
  2. Put olive oil on sheet pan.  Smush potatoes into oil (or oil onto potatoes).  Probably will need a second pan. Roast, checking and turning for about 20 mins, checking more frequently at end, to try to snag them JUST as they turn tender (a fork goes in ’em easily) and before getting mushy.  This will probably mean pulling off individual pieces as done rather than the entire pan.  Let cool.  When cool, cut in half or perhaps thirds to make LARGE chunks.
  3. Wash red peppers and scallions.  Cut peppers into large dice, and slice scallions.  Put into their own container (together) and refrigerate.
  4. Make vinaigrette with tarragon vinegar.  1 t honey, 3/4 t mustard (Dijon, preferably), tarragon vinegar, S&P.  Add olive oil.  I like to do this in a bottle (which allows you to simply shake rather than whisk).  Refrigerate.
  5. Cut up sweet pickles into small pieces, or find that Wickles relish.
  6. To serve:  pour vinaigrette over potatoes, add red peppers, scallions and pickles/relish, toss and serve.

Caesar Salad

image

So my mom had one cookbook that was always a thrill when she took it out of the bookcase, because it was Dione Lucas‘ French cookbook The Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook (a predecessor to Julia Child), and it had a recipe for caesar salad that my mom used.  She made it in a super large Stangl bowl (that I will never see again along with that cookbook, but that’s a whole other kinda story) with blueberries — the bowl, not the salad.  She mixed and served the salad in a super large bowl because there were six of us and there were never any leftovers.  Other than that, we were a typical suburban 60’s kinda family chowing on iceberg and russian dressing.

As an adult oh about 20 years ago, I developed a recipe for caesar salad dressing that omits the need for a raw egg, using mayo instead.  I LOVE this dressing.  My gift to you.  Let me know what you think!

Ingredients for salad dressing:

anchovies — 4 fillets, preferably from a jar, minced (I like to rinse ’em)

garlic — 4 cloves, minced

lemon juice — 2-3 T

worcestshire sauce  — 1 T

mayonnaise — 2 T

S&P — 1/4 t each

olive oil — 1/3 c.

dijon mustard — 2 t

Directions:

Mash anchovies with garlic into paste.  Add all other ingredients except oil.  Whisk in oil.

Other ingredients for salad:

romaine lettuce — wash and dry inner leaves (don’t use uncrisp outer leaves)

parmesan cheese — 1/3 c. grated

Croutons:

Preheat oven to 350 or whatever it’s on otherwise

Cut up bread into 1/2″ cubes, to make 3 c.

2 T butter

2 T oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed & cut in half

Heat oil and butter in small pot (or saute pan?) with garlic until butter melts.  Remove from heat and let sit for 10 mins, then remove garlic.

Mix butter/oil with bread cubes.  Bake 10-12 minutes until golden.  These should keep fine if made in advance.  You don’t want them hot anyway on the cool salad.

To assemble salad:

Toss lettuce with dressing.  Add croutons and grated cheese and pepper.  Serves 6 (assuming you prepared enough leaves)

Dinner salad of the cobb kind

imageYears ago in law school, I made a habit of making a particular salad:  hard-boiled eggs, boiled shrimp, chilled, boiled potatoes and lettuce.  Served with ranch dressing.  I don’t recall whether I made the dressing myself or purchased in in a bottle.  I thought it was a very fine thing to eat.

Many years later I came upon Frank Stitt’s buttermilk vinaigrette, which is a very, very fine thing.  Here is a version.

imageFrank Stitt’s Buttermilk Vinaigrette

1/2 small shallot, diced

1 T cider vinegar (I like Bragg’s)

1 T lemon juice

Mix these together with S&P in bowl.

Add: 4 T buttermilk (1/4 c)

scant 3 T mayonnaise

1 T sour cream.

mix with whisk.  Whisk in 1 T olive oil.  Taste for balance.  Maybe it needs more lemon?  S&P?

Earlier in the day, hopefully you will have either (1) poached a leftover chicken breast in stock, (2) hard boiled some eggs, and/or (3) boiled some shrimp, and chilled these items.  Then after you make the dressing, you can pull together a dinner salad, one way is as follows:

Rinse and dry leaves of lettuce and watercress

1/2 avocado, large pieces or large dice

1/4 pound poached chicken or shrimp

2 carrots, peeled and cut into pieces

soppressata ( why not)

imageOther options:  cheese, cubed; cauliflower, red pepper

Very delicious and satisfying plus you get to feel virtuous eating all those greens, and let’s just overlook that soppressata.image

Salad with bitter greens, pears, blue cheese and toasted nuts

Ingredients:

1 head Boston, Bibb or sturdy red or green leaf lettuce

1 bunch watercress

1 small head frisee, and/or radicchio, and/or Belgian endive

1-2 ripe D’Anjou pears

Blue cheese — about 1/4 pound (I love Maytag from Iowa, yes the same family that made the washing machine (!), but any good quality blue will do.  Not average supermarket cheese, and not pre-crumbled.)

about 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted (put on pan in 350 degree oven about 7-8 minutes until fragrant.  Let cool.  Can be done days beforehand, stored covered.)

Salad dressing:

2 t white balsamic vinegar

2 t lemon juice

bit honey (about 1/2 to 1 t., or to taste)

1 chopped garlic clove

S&P

Mix together in small jar. Add about 4 T olive oil and up to 2 T water. Shake. Done.  Use now or later, stored in refrigerator.

Directions:  Wash lettuces/greens, and let dry on kitchen towel.  Tear now or later.

Toss lettuces in large-ish bowl with a few Tablespoons salad dressing.  Mix well.  Arrange greens on individual plates.

Cut pears in half lengthwise, remove core with spoon, apple corer, knife or whatever works for you.  Cut into wedges the long way.  Arrange slices in pretty way on plates on top of greens.  Sprinkle on top the cooled, toasted nuts, and then crumble blue cheese on top.  Drizzle a little salad dressing on top.  Serve.  Hold off on telling people how virtuous they can be feel for eating salad.