Category Archives: Salads

Peach, Green Bean and Pickled Onion Salad

Oval Blue Platter 2 625 sqWhen Mother Nature shows up at the farmers market flaunting her peaches (and beans), you don’t mess around too much with perfection like this. Keep it simple!peaches in collander 2beans in basket 1I have made this salad four times already this summer. The first time I made it, it was part of a celebratory dinner* for 12. (Big football game victory – Go RedBlacks!!) Luckily I had a wonderful sous chef with me in the kitchen that day; my niece Samantha was visiting. We have collaborated in the kitchen before, on a 6 braid challah, so I knew I had some exceptional assistance.

As the afternoon wore on and we continued our prep, I noticed the level of blanched beans in  the colander was diminishing. My niece could not stop eating them. She told me that her beans never tasted like this, and asked what I had done?  I explained that they were fresh from the farmer’s field and I that I had heavily salted the cooking water. (almost 1/4 cup Kosher salt for a big pot of water). This seasons the beans perfectly and they do not taste “salty”.

Sautéing the peaches in a bit of vegetable oil for just a few minutes really enhances their natural sweetness. The pickled onions add a welcome piquant note. This is a beautiful fresh summer salad. two plates with prosecco 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Peach Green Bean Pickled Onion Salad.

close up* If inquiring minds are curious, we rounded out the feast with Flatbread and Dukkah, Rib Steaks, Smashed Roasted Potatoes with Smoked Paprika and Rosemary, Arugula, Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad, Blueberry Coffee Cake and Hazelnut Almond Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Grilled Caesar Salad: The Classics Revisited

plated 1 625 sqCertain classics should not be tampered with. For example, The Wizard of Oz, as created by Frank L Baum and then interpreted by MGM in 1939, is perfect just the way it is. Why mess with brilliance? Clearly some people disagree with me as evidenced by the 2013 Disney release of Oz: The Great and Powerful, which topped box office records with a whopping 80 million dollars on its opening weekend.

And don’t get me started on the 1998 remake of Parent Trap. The original, released in 1961 was an integral part of my childhood. Suffice it to say, that Lindsay Lohan is no Haley Mills.

However, that being said, some classics need to be updated every once in a while, so they don’t get stale. I am referring to the culinary classics here; just a delicious little twist, an exciting take on the tried and true.

According to Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, Caesar salad has become the epitome of American mediocrity.  Appearing on virtually every restaurant menu across North America, it is often made with gloppy bottled dressing, packaged croutons, which, while salty and crunchy, still manage to taste like cardboard and canned “Parmesan” cheese, which resembles dust. Surely Caesar Cardini, the creator of the original, would be rolling over in his grave if he ever tasted one of these versions.

Geoffrey Zakarian’s revision of The Classic Caesar Salad is not revolutionary, just utterly delicious! He does not get ridiculous by suggesting that we forgo the croutons altogether and replace them with pan-fried tofu cubes. He just instructs us on how to make the very best crouton. Start with a good quality country Artisan bread. Then, tear the bread, using your hands, into craggy crouton shaped pieces.crouton ingredientsBy tearing the bread, rather than cutting it, you get much more surface area and more little nooks and crannies to get crunchy. Geoffrey recommends frying the croutons in about ½ cup of oil, but I cut the oil in half and recommend just baking the croutons in the oven. They are still quite delicious and very addictive.oil on croutons 2Two kinds of cheese are used in this version. The classic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is grated finely and mixed into the dressing, as in the original version. Then, Pecorino Romano cheese is shaved on top of the salad, using a vegetable peeler. Parmigiano Reggiano is a cow’s milk cheese, while Pecorino comes from sheep’s milk. Pecorino is tangier, and a bit more assertive than the milder, nutty flavoured Parmigiano.cheese shardsAnchovies were not used in Cardini’s Caesar salad. The original dressing contained Worcestershire sauce, which, I just discovered, does contain anchovies. The addition of anchovies came later, in the 70’s. If you think you don’t like anchovies, just give them a chance in this dressing. Anchovies are an extremely umami rich food. Umami is an almost indescribable fifth taste that takes your eating experience beyond salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Umami can best be characterized as a savory taste. Anchovies give a punch of flavor. They are that secret ingredient that you just can’t put your finger on, the one that really makes the flavour pop.

The punch of garlic in this recipe comes from roasted garlic, which is much sweeter and way less assertive than raw garlic. It adds a lovely mellow flavour.

In Geoffrey’s version of the salad, the lettuce is not torn, but rather whole leaves are arranged on a platter. It is quite lovely this way, but I took it up a notch and grilled my romaine hearts on the BBQ.

Each romaine heart is cut in half lengthwise, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. The cut side is placed on the hot grill for a minute or two to get just a hint of smoke and char. Arrange each heart half on a small plate, drizzle with creamy dressing, scatter crunchy croutons on top and finish with some shards of Pecorino Romano of Parmesan.

This knife and fork salad will delight (almost) everyone who tries it. We have had lots of company at our cottage over the past several weeks and I have made this 6 times. My husband happened to be present for all six times. After being married for almost 30 years he knows my habit of finding a dish I love and making it repeatedly until I grow tired of it. After the 5th appearance of Grilled Caesar he very sweetly told me that he really loved it, but could we please have something else tomorrow. Luckily he will not be here this week, so I can make it again for my girlfriend who is coming to visit!

Click here to print recipe for Grilled Caesar Salad.

Greek Farro Salad

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Savvy contemporary chefs have a secret ingredient in their cuinary tool box. If you remember this treat from your childhood, you might guess what this mystery ingredient is.Lik-m-aid packagesLik-m-aid, a sweet-sour treat was eaten by licking your finger, sticking it into the little envelope and coating your wet finger with the crystal-like powder inside. Then you would lick your finger to eat the tart-sweet goodness. It came in several fruit flavours; lemon, lime, strawberry, raspberry, grape and orange, but a quick look at the ingredient list (dextrose and citric acid) revealed that this treat contained no actual fruit. Today Lik-m-aid is sold under the name of Fun Dip and it comes with a candy dipping stick so modern kids do not have to use their fingers. I hope that kids today appreciate how good they have it. fun DipChefs in the know are using citric acid to create pucker-inducing flavours that consumers are starting to embrace. Sour is no longer a four letter word.  Sour beers are gaining in popularity, and the pickling craze is not about to die down any time soon. I fully expect Carla Hall to introduce “Can you Pickle it?” based on her wildly amusing (well, amusing certainly to my sisters and I ) game, “Can you Blend it?

Citric acid occurs naturally in lemons, limes and other citrus fruits. It is also manufactured in a dry powder form by adding a special mould to glucose and letting it ferment. The dry powdered stuff is the one that chefs are using to elevate flavours and bring harmony and balance to a finished dish. It is easily available in small bags at most bulk food or health food stores. Food writer Shawna Wagman calls it the “fairy dust of flavour amplification.”

Here in Ottawa, Chef Kevin Mathieson, founder of Art is In Bakery, is creating magic with it. He sprinkles a touch of citric acid and confectioners sugar on citrus peel or wild Quebec blueberries and lets it dry out for a week. Then he grinds it all up in a coffee grinder and adds it to jellies for filling house-made chocolate truffles and marmalade that gets thickly spread on their buttermilk multi-seed bread for Sunday brunch.

The Food Section of the April 9 2014 Globe and Mail featured a recipe for a Greek salad dressing using citric acid. Chef Carlotte Langley learned to make this from the  French-Lebanese mom of the very first chef she worked for. I decided to creat a Farro Greek Salad to showcase this fantastic dressing. Tart and full of bright zingy flavour it plays very well with the nutty, chewy farro and all the fresh crunchy vegetables. mise en place 2 I usually just cook farro in boiling water, but I learned a great method over at Food52. I added half a red onion, a clove of garlic, parsley and salt to the water to infuse the farro with more flavour. flavouring farroI am not a huge fan of raw red onion, so I thinly sliced and pickled it. A short 20 minute bath in red wine vinegar, water, salt and sugar are all that’s needed to tame the harshness.pickling onions

Click here to print recipe for Greek Farro Salad.

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Check out what Lindsay over at Love and Olive Oil made using citric acid! 

 

 

Virtuous Green Slaw

625 sq 1In my last post I mentioned a Baby Kale and Brussels Sprouts salad that somehow became tossed aside in favour of Pretzel Crusted Turtle Bars. These things happen, it’s understandable, but today we get down to business with that very virtuous slaw.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may already know that there is not much love lost between me and kale (or Brussels sprouts, for that matter). I have made friends with cooked kale in a Kale Chicken Sausage and White Bean Soup and I have come to a détente of sorts with maple syrup roasted Brussels sprouts. Kale continues to reign supreme in the nutrition battlefield and I really want to join the troops and benefit from all its goodness.

My main problem with raw kale is the itch factor. It scratches my throat on the way down. But what if I removed the fibrous ribs of the kale and then sliced the leaves thin, like a slaw? I came across a raw kale and Brussels sprouts salad, created by Sue Riedl in her “month of salads” feature in the  Globe and Mail newspaper, and was inspired to give raw kale a chance.mise en placeI was excited when I found some very tender baby kale at the market. I sliced it thinly. I julienned some Brussels sprouts and one large Honeycrisp apple.shredded sproutsjulienning Brussels Sprouts

julienned applesSome toasted chopped hazelnuts added a wonderful crunch. hazelnutsDressed with a honey lemon mustard vinaigrette, the kale and Brussels sprouts really sing! I gilded the lily with some shavings of Parmesan cheese. Everything is better with cheese.shaving parmI made this for dinner for my husband and oldest (23 year old) son. Neither was enthusiastic when I told them what was in the slaw. My son said, “nope, not gonna eat it.” With some cajoling, they both tried it. My husband declared it “blogworthy” and my son had a second helping. High praise indeed.

The lemon dressing is quite acidic, but it pairs beautifully with the raw kale and Brussels sprouts. The julienned Honey crisp apples add sweetness and the chopped hazelnuts add an amazing textural contrast with their crunch. Finishing the salad off with shaved Parmesan adds a wonderful grace note of umami.

Click here to print recipe for Virtuous Green Slaw.

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Roasted Winter Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

salad 2 625 sqI have made this salad four times in the past month, and I am just now getting around to telling you about it. Before you go and accuse me of holding out on you, let me explain. My reluctance to share this recipe does not come from a place of greed (as in not wanting to share), but rather, from a place of shame.

I discovered this recipe while reading In Style Magazine. I could tell you that I happened upon it while reading a copy of the magazine at my dentist’s office, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I have a subscription to In Style Magazine and that I get quite giddy when a new issue arrives. I read with meticulous attention, from cover to cover, folding over many pages with inspirational ideas on fashion and decor. I love to see how the celebrities dress and what their homes look like. I wholly confess to this guilty pleasure. There, now my secret’s out. I hope you don’t think any less of me!

In the November issue of In Style, Ina Garten shares tips and recipes for a stress free Thanksgiving. While Ina is fond of saying “How easy is that?”, this recipe, while not difficult to make, does require a few more additional steps than a simple green salad. But the additional work to prepare it is definitely worth it.

dicing squashmaking dressingroasted squashshaving parmThis is a salad with layers of contrasting flavours and textures. The peppery, slightly bitter arugula is perfectly balanced by the roasted squash coated in maple syrup. The crunchy pecans provide a perfect textural contrast to the tender roasted squash. The tangy, salty Parmesan provides a perfect foil to the sweet cider vinaigrette. It is destined to become your guilty pleasure!

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Winter Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette.

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