The Bitten Word Cover to Cover Challenge {Beet Salad}

If you worry that Autumn signals the end of bright, colorful salads, then you clearly haven’t tried this one.

The boys over at The Bitten Word brought this salad to my attention.  A couple of weeks ago, they decided to include their readers in an October food magazine cover to cover challenge.  They had a huge response, and found themselves with the daunting task of assigning 350 recipes from 6 of their favorite food magazines.  I was assigned to Team Food Network Magazine, specifically this No-Cook Beet-Orange Salad from the latest edition.

Raw beets remind me a lot of raw corn – they’re very sweet, earthy, and a little starchy.  The creamy, tangy goat cheese is a nice accompaniment, along with the sharp bite of the vinegar and the crunchy nuttiness of the pepitas.  If you think you don’t like beets, try them raw – you might change your mind.

Luckily, I’m a fan of beets, so this salad was right up my alley.  The original calls for chioga or golden beets, but I was only able to find golden and red when I went to the store the other day.  The only downside to this is that red beets stain EVERYTHING, so it’s best to add them at the very end to avoid turning your whole salad pink.  I also used toasted pumpkin seeds in place of the Marcona almonds because we’re a mostly tree-nut-free household.

Having a mandolin is certainly beneficial here, but it’s by no means a requirement.  You want to slice your beets paper thin, so if you use a knife make sure it’s super sharp.

You’ll need three oranges for this recipe – one to juice, and two to segment.  If you need to learn how to supreme an orange, this is a good tutorial from Coconut & Lime.

No-Cook Beet-Orange Salad

adapted from Food Network Magazine, October 2012

prep time: 20 minutes

yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 beets, sliced very thinly on a mandolin
  • 2 oranges, supremed
  • 2 cups fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper
  2. Combine the beets, oranges and herbs in a shallow serving bowl
  3. Dress with the dressing
  4. Garnish with goat cheese and pumpkin seeds
  5. Enjoy!

One From The Archives: Super Squash Salad

I posted this salad recipe more than two years ago, but I thought it warranted a reprise.  I’ve already made it three times this spring and early summer, and I predict I’ll be making it a lot more during the height of squash and zucchini season.  We had it for dinner tonight with buffalo sirloin steaks, and it was the perfect light foil to the rich, gamey meat.
First published April 4, 2010

Looking for a simple and healthy salad to take to all those spring barbecues and potlucks you’ve got coming up?  This salad has been a hit at every party I’ve taken it to.
In fact, I first had it at a potluck I went to a couple of years ago.  I took one bite and fell in love with it.  I asked the woman who brought it how she made it, and she quickly told me the few ingredients that were in it.  I ended up making it the next week for another function, and it was such a success, I’ve been taking it as my side dish to potlucks ever since.

Seriously, it’s one of the simplest salads you’ll ever make.  And the colors – I mean how can you resist those vibrant greens, reds, oranges and yellows?  It just begs to be devoured.

Ingredients:
3 yellow squash
2 zucchini
2 carrotts
1 red bell pepper
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 pinches salt

Begin by washing your veggies and slicing them into uniform slices.  I used a japanese mandoline to make quick work of it, but you could just as easily use a good sharp knife.  Just make sure you cut everything to a similar thickness – about an eighth of an inch.  Everything remains in its natural raw state, so you want to make sure nothing is too thick to be tender.
As you can see, the mandoline does a great job of giving you perfectly thin, uniform pieces.  I highly recommend it (they’re a little pricey, but they come in handy for situations like this; and, they make great homemade potato chips).
Once you’ve sliced everything (just julienne the pepper and onion), place all the veggies in a gallon zipper top bag.  Mix the vinegar, sugar and salt together, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Pour this mixture into the bag with the veg and close it up, squeezing to release as much air as possible.  Let marinate in the fridge for at least two hours.  Can be made up to a day ahead.
The end product is a little sweet, a little sour, a A LOT delicious! The raw squash and zucchini have a soft, velvety texture, and the crunch from the carrots and onion is a nice contrast.  The onion has a nice spicy bite, and the red pepper is nice and sweet.  And you just can’t beat the color!

Healthy, flavorful, and beautiful – the perfect combination!

Enjoy.

The Return of the Prodigal Blogger {and some thoughts on salad}

I guess I kind of disappeared for a month.  Sometimes a girl just needs to take some time off, to get away (figuratively, that is), to relax, relate, release (name that 80s sitcom).

Not a lot has happened since we last chatted.  I’ve mostly just been working and spending time with family.

Over spring break, most of our time was spent putting a new roof on our barn (which is really just a barn-shaped storage shed, but it sounds much cooler to say we re-roofed the barn).  When that was all over, we pitched a tent in the backyard and camped with the boys.

We rambled in the woods,

cooked over an open fire,

and generally enjoyed being outside, away from the television and the computer.  Of course, the two-year-old didn’t make it through the night in the tent, so I had to take him upstairs at around 2 a.m. and put him in his crib.  I think our oldest really enjoyed getting to finish the night in the tent with his dad, just the two of them.

For Easter we kept it pretty low-key.

The boys hunted eggs.

And caterpillars.  Which are now pupating in their cocoons in our dining room (in an enclosed container, of course).

I’ve been running (really), and getting better at it slowly.  The weather has been really nice – cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons.  Mid-morning has been the perfect running temperature, so I’ve been getting outside and doing a 3.1 mile circuit around our neighborhood.  I have yet to make it the entire way without having to stop to walk part of the way, but I’m increasing my pace every time I go out, so that’s good.

I haven’t been cooking as much as usual, mostly because I’ve been trying to spend more time outside with the kids, which eats into the cooking time.  What I have been doing a lot of is throwing together fresh salads with a little bit of protein.

A whole mess of salad greens, topped with some thinly sliced red onion, fresh jalapeno, avocado, some tomatoes (if you can find them in season where you are – if not, sometimes I use salsa on my salads), and sprinkling of cheese – sometimes feta, sometimes shredded cheddar.  I dice up a couple of ounces of protein – grilled chicken or shrimp works well – and top it all with a light dressing.

Tonight it was chicken breasts that I’d butterflied, marinated quickly in a little lime juice and worcestershire sauce, and cooked quickly in a cast-iron skillet.  I put it all in a flour tortilla that I’d baked in the oven to make a tortilla bowl and I topped the whole thing with my new favorite salad dressing – mix 1 tablespoon of sour cream with 1/2 a cup of salsa (make your own, or use a good quality jarred salsa).  It’s super simple and delicious.

I think we’ve eaten salad for dinner five nights out of the last seven.

A lot of this has to do with economy – of time, of calories, of effort.

Did you know that the word prodigal means “wastefully or recklessly extravagant”?  I was beginning to feel like I was being extravagant with my food, with my time, and particularly with my effort on this blog.  I was sacrificing time for myself, for my family, for my friends, in order to keep coming up with the next recipe, the next blog post.

I needed to simplify.  To focus on what was important – the kids, my husband, our health and our relationships.

And we’re all much happier for it.

So, you’ll forgive me if I’m not here as often as I was.  And if the posts focus on more simple meals – healthy things that you can put together quickly, and that will allow you to spend more time doing the things that are important.

Salad with Grilled Chicken
prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 20 minutes
serves: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
  • juice of two limes
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 romaine heart, diced
  • 1/2 an avocado, diced
  • 1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 4 flour tortillas (optional)
  1. If you want the tortilla bowl, take your flour tortillas and fit them into four oven-safe bowls and bake them at 350F for 15 minutes.  This will make them dry out and keep the bowl shape.
  2. For the chicken, combine breasts, lime juice, worcestershire sauce, oil, salt and pepper in a zip top bag and let marinate for 20 minutes or so.
  3. Heat an iron skillet over high heat and cook the chicken breasts thoroughly – about 8 minutes per side.  They should get nice and golden brown.  Remove from the pan and cut into desired shapes for serving (strips, dice, etc).  I usually allow 2-3 ounces per person, but my husband can eat an entire 6-ounce breast in one sitting.
  4. To assemble the salad:  place a four cups of greens in the bowl.  Top with diced avocado, sliced onion, sliced jalapeno, shredded cheese and diced chicken.  You could also include black beans, fresh corn cut off the cobb, diced bell pepper, or any other vegetable of your choosing.
  5. For the dressing: combine the salsa and sour cream.  Pour over salad.
  6. Enjoy!

Nice: Salade Niçoise

Yesterday, before the sun had risen too high in the sky and pushed the temperatures into the stratosphere, I wandered down to the garden, toddler in tow.  As the 18-month old chased the chickens (bock-bocks as he calls them) in and around the cypress trees, I examined the various plants to see if any were bearing fruit.

Two of our ten tomato plants are laden with green orbs, and the two jalapeno bushes are weighted down with inch-and-a-half long pods.  The butternut squash vines are in full bloom, and many of the blossom ends are beginning to swell with the promise of delicious golden flesh.  Our infant asparagus patch has successfully gone to seed, and our cucumbers are rife with fuzzy little fingerlings.  The lacy tops of the rainbow carrots are waving in the breeze, and the melons are creeping along the ground stealthily, their little yellow flowers smiling smugly in the sun.

Continue reading “Nice: Salade Niçoise”

Steak Caesar

Y’all, I was craving some greens tonight.  And I know it’s Monday, which is supposed to be, you know, Meatless, but I was also craving some red meat.

That’s how this Steak Caesar was born – just like that.

See, I’ve been making some really good stuff here lately – and I plan to share it all with you in the very near future.  Super fun and decadent  things like Whole Wheat Croissants and Crock Pot Coq Au Vin.  All this fun stuff, though, it’s rich and fattening and it makes me feel sluggish and more than a little bit guilty.  My body, it knows what it needs.  And what it needed tonight was not flaky layers of buttery pastry or rich red-wine soaked chicken stew.  No, what it needed tonight was this simple, light Caesar salad.  With rare, rare, rare steak.

Did I mention it was rare? ‘Cause it was. Rare. Just the way I like it.

I love a good Caesar, but I don’t love romaine.  It’s kind of boring.  And bland.  And tremendously lacking in anything resembling a nutrient. That’s where the dinosaur kale came into the picture.  This dark, bumpy, reptilian-looking green just screams nutrients.  When you go to strip the stems from the leaves, the scent of minerals – metallic and earthy and oh-so-good for you – comes drifting up to your nostrils and you know you’re in for a tasty, healthy treat.  Paired in equal measure with the more traditional romaine, it takes a boring Caesar to a whole new level.  Top the whole thing with some beautiful beef tenderloin?  Fugedaboutit!

And no Caesar would be complete without croutons.  Luckily, I’d baked a couple of baguettes over the weekend, so I diced one up and tossed it with some mild olive oil.
The tenderloin, which was an end-piece that had been sitting in the freezer for a while, had been started on the grill and when I sliced into it, it was a little underdone – even for my vampiric tastes.  So I placed it on the pan with my croutons and stuck it in a 350F oven for a while.  My husband likes his steak medium to medium-well, so I needed to make sure at least some of it got done enough for his taste.
For the Caesar dressing, I combined:

2 cloves garlic, minced (I actually used reconstituted dried minced garlic – 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
1 whole egg

I whisked all of this together and then drizzled in

1/2 cup olive oil

Whisking constantly the whole time to create an emulsion.  Sometimes I add dijon mustard.  Tonight I didn’t, and it was just fine.  The flavor was a little lighter than normal, but I think that was just what I needed.

I reserved half the dressing for another use.

Once the meat and the croutons were done, I chopped up 8-10 leaves of lacinato kale and 1/2 a head of romaine and tossed them with the dressing.  I grated some Parmigiano Reggiano over the top of the greens.

Top each serving with 2-3 oz. of the meat and some of the croutons.  Top with more shredded cheese, and enjoy!

>Salad Days

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Salad Days – a phrase coined by Shakespeare in 1606 in Anthony & Cleopatra, when she refers to her dalliance with Julius Caesar: “…My salad days,/ When I was green in judgement, cold in blood….” (thank you Wikipedia for the reference). More recently it has come to refer to times of youthful exuberance, carefree living, and an idyllic and enthusiastic outlook. 

I’d like to think that I’m looking forward to some salad days in the near future.  I’d like to think that we all are – that things are going to start looking up, that our worries will be lessened and our outlooks will become hopeful again.   In the absence of salad days, though, today I bring you salads that might get you through days that are less than idyllic.

A strange confluence of events brought me to tonight’s dinner menu.  I was faced with a fair lack of motivation and a refrigerator full of broccoli, half a rotisserie chicken and some eggs.

The abundance of broccoli was the result of my participation in my son’s school’s healthy lifestyles activities last week – we gave out samples of fresh broccoli, grape tomatoes and cauliflower during lunch.  At the end of it all, we were left with quite a lot of fresh vegetables, and the school cafeteria couldn’t (sadly) utilize them.  So we split everything up and took it home.  I was faced with nearly 20 pints of grape tomatoes and 5 lbs. of broccoli florets.  I’ve used most of the tomatoes at this point, having put together two jars of homemade ketchup that are now fermenting on my counter next to a vat of sauerkraut. The broccoli, however, has been less inspiring.
I worked a cultivation/stewardship event last night, one of the last I’ll have to attend at my current place of employment.  It was catered by JCT. Kitchen, and the food was fabulous.  I especially enjoyed their deviled eggs – they were stuffed with the lightest yolk mixture I’ve ever encountered, sprinkled with chives and topped with thinly sliced country ham.  I don’t know what they used in the deviling process, but I don’t think it was the typical mayonnaise/mustard/worcesterchire sauce mixture.  I went to sleep dreaming about them and woke up craving them, so I decided to try to replicate them this afternoon.  I know it’s not really deviled egg season (I associate them with summer barbecues and picnics), but I just had to try.

 I began by boiling six eggs.  My method for obtaining perfectly boiled eggs (sans green yolks) is pretty simple – I bring a pot of water to a boil, gently place the eggs in the boiling water using a slotted spoon, and allow them to boil for one minute.  After one minute, I turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let it sit for 15 minutes.  Then I drain the eggs and run cold water over them to halt the cooking process.  I’m rewarded with perfectly boiled eggs every time – tender whites and golden yolks, slightly translucent in the center.

I sliced the eggs in half and placed the yolks in the bowl of my food processor,  I seasoned them with unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  I then turned on the food processor and drizzled a couple tablespoons of olive oil through the feed tube.  I added a teaspoon of rice vinegar and a pinch of honey granules.  The resulting yolk mixture was light, airy and delicious.  I used extra virgin olive oil, so that flavor was definitely prominent – next time I’ll try using a more neutrally flavored oil (I was even thinking that avocado oil would be good for this application – or maybe just plain avocado).

So there I was with these delicious deviled eggs, but nothing else for dinner.  Deviled eggs make me think of picnics and picnics make me think of salads – chicken salad, egg salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, etc.  I know it’s not summer, and it doesn’t even really feel like spring outside right now, but a dinner comprised of picnic-type foods sounded like just the ticket.

I knew I had that half of a rotisserie chicken in the fridge, so chicken salad seemed like a logical choice.  I’m a fan of fruit in my chicken salad, so I chopped up an apple and toasted some pumpkin seeds (I like nuts in my chicken salad – almonds in particular – but the husband is allergic, so pumpkin seeds are a great alternative).  After pulling the meat off the chicken carcass, I diced it up and added the fruit and seeds and stirred it all together with about 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

Next up was the broccoli – I decided a cold broccoli and tomato salad with artichoke hearts and pumpkin seeds would be tasty.  I barely steamed two cups of broccoli florets and quartered about 15 grape tomatoes and 7 or 8 artichoke hearts.  I tossed it all with two tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of lemon juice and some salt and pepper.

I toasted some homemade sandwich bread for the sandwiches.  As an aside, this last batch of sandwich bread that I baked – perfect.  Soft and light, very similar in texture to store-bought whole-wheat bread, but so much better. I plan to bake a batch tomorrow, so I’ll make sure and take pictures and post the recipe this weekend.

The whole meal was like a ray of sunshine on a dreary day – bright flavors, interesting textures and beautiful colors.  The eggs were very similar to the ones from JCT. Kitchen, although I was lacking the ham and chives to really gild the lily.  It was damp and windy outside, but these simple salads (did you know that some folks in the bible belt call deviled eggs “salad eggs” in an effort to avoid reference to anything devilish?) were a nice reminder that spring is on its way.

>An apple a day

>

As I mentioned yesterday, we might have picked some apples this past weekend.

Which means I might have spent the day yesterday up to my elbows (eyeballs) in apples.  Seriously – there were a lot of apples.

And I’m not one to let things go to waste, so even the big bushel bag of Braeburns that weren’t all completely edible (bruised, beaten and battered would all be good descriptors) were able to lend themselves to the twelve pounds of apples that I used to make 12 cups of apple juice.

Which I in turn combined with 12 cups (yes, 12 cups) of sugar to make 10 pints of apple jelly.  It’s my husband’s favorite kind of jelly, so it’ll get eaten.  Plus, it makes good holiday gifts.

Not to mention the six pounds of apples that were used to make 3 pints of cinnamon applesauce.  The baby loves applesauce.  I kind of love it, too.

Or the six pounds that were used to make a sinfully rich tarte tatin.  Julia Child’s tarte tatin, to be exact.  It calls for a stick of butter, in addition to the butter in the pastry.  It’s good.  Okay, it’s REALLY good. 

But my favorite apple application has to be this salad.  I ate it with dinner last night, and again tonight, and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.  It showcases apples beautifully, without being too sweet.  The dressing is a simple vinaigrette:

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive or grapeseed oil
salt and pepper to taste

I tossed the greens in the dressing, and topped with 1/2 a diced cameo apple, some toasted pumpkin seeds, and some chevre.  DELISH.

That’s all I have to say about that.

Except you really have to try this salad.  If you don’t like goat cheese (I realize it can be as divisive as cilantro for some people), you could sub a mild bleu, or even omit it altogether.  It’s all about the apples.

Enjoy!  And don’t forget to vote!

>Spinach and Strawberry Salad

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Sometimes the simplest meals are the best ones.
A few nights ago, while my husband was at work, my mother invited my son and I to come to her house for dinner.  She said she had some chicken thighs she was going to grill.  I said I’d bring a salad.  
I looked in the fridge and saw a bag of baby spinach, some raw almonds, and some uber-ripe strawberries.  I also had some Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing.  
My son’s favorite vegetable (besides broccoli, of course) is spinach.  His favorite fruit is strawberries, and he has recently become enamored with tree nuts of any kind.  This seemed like the perfect salad for him. 

Strawberry Spinach Salad

 Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Servings 4-6

Ingredients:
4-6 cups raw baby spinach
5-6 ripe strawberries, hulled and quartered
½ cup raw almonds, chopped
2-3 tablespoons Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette

Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine the spinach, strawberries and nuts.  Top with Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
This makes a great side for almost any meal, but it’s especially good with grilled meats.  I even had it the next day again for lunch, and just chopped up some of the leftover grilled chicken and added it to the salad to make a complete meal.  
Enjoy!

>Easy Weeknight Caesar Salad

>

There was a large head of Romaine lettuce in my produce box this week.  Usually, I’m not a fan of Romaine – except in Caesar salad.  I had the option of exchanging it for something, but I chose to use my exchanges elsewhere and figured we’d just use the lettuce for sandwiches or something.  Tonight, though, I decided I wanted a salad with our spaghetti dinner, so I threw together this easy Caesar knock-off.

I began by toasting some bread cubes in butter on the stove top.  I had the heel of a loaf of country white bread (that I’d made for my Spanglish sandwich last week), so I just cubed it up and tossed those cubes around with some butter until they were crispy and brown.

Then I chopped up the lettuce and put together my dressing.

Ingredients:
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of mayonnaise
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup salad oil
Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Whisk together the first four ingredients.  Continue whisking as you drizzle in the salad oil in a thin stream.  Add the Worcestershire to taste.  

Drizzle the dressing over the greens and toss to coat.  I used about half the head of lettuce and half the dressing (more salad later in the week – yay).  Sprinkle the croutons over the top and serve!

It may not be a traditional Caesar salad (I mean, no parm, no egg yolks, no anchovies), but it tasted pretty darn close to the real thing – and it used ingredients we had in our pantry and fridge.  That’s the beauty of flexibility in the kitchen!