Category Archives: Salads

Israeli Cous Cous Salad and A Generosity of Spirit

with cheese and slicer 625 sqI was visiting with my nephew and his girlfriend last month and she asked me a question that kind of shocked me and got me thinking. She has been following my blog for a while now and she wondered if I gave out the real recipes, or if I held back and left out an ingredient or a crucial step in the recipe. Huh??

I assured her that I always gave the legitimate recipe and included every step, plus probably a few extra (sometimes my recipes run long!), to ensure success. As we chatted a bit longer I understood where her question was coming from. She was born in Venezuela and the culture in her family was to guard their recipes very carefully. Perhaps the idea of secret family recipes stems from one generation wanting to pass something valuable down to the next. After all , many imigrant families came to North America with nothing of material value. All they had were these recipes from the “old country” to pass on to their children and grandchildren.

This secretive behaviour is the antithesis of how food bloggers operate. I have been blogging since 2009 and have come to discover that most of us approach food blogging with a generosity of spirit. We are a giving bunch, willing to share our knowledge and expertise. There is actually a code of ethics for food bloggers. Acknowledging sources and linking to others that provided inspiration is part of the modus operandi. We are a passionate bunch, but humble as well, fessing up to our flaws and our less than perfect results.

I have found my tribe and I feel blessed to be a part of this generous fraternity of food bloggers. 

This salad was inspired by a similar recipe in the July 2014 issue of Bon Appetit.

While ripe, warm-from-the-vine summer tomatoes are still a few months away, roasting or grilling tomatoes can bring out the sweetness in any tomato. Begin by coating some grape or cherry tomatoes and corn with a few glugs of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. A few fresh rosemary sprigs will perfume the whole lot. ready for roastingIsraeli couscous is 2-3 times larger than the traditional North African couscous. While both are made from semolina and wheat flour, Israeli couscous is toasted while the North African variety is simply dried. The toasting gives it a nutty taste and chewier texture. I like to give it an additional toasting in a bit of olive oil, before cooking it in water. toasting cous cousI decided to serve it on a bed of mixed lettuces (arugula, belgian endive, radicchio and pea shoots), but you could also serve it without. Some toasted sliced almonds add great crunch and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese add a wonderful salty accent. I added some pickled shallots because I love the bright acidity that pickling brings to the party.close up

Click here to print recipe for Israeli Couscous Salad.

In the spirit of generosity, here are some of my favourite food bloggers!
Caroline of The Patterned Plate.
Steph of Raspberri Cupcakes.
Bobbi of Bob Vivant.
Hannah of Honey and Jam. (she has a new cookbook coming out very soon!)
Tara and Maria’s cookin’ and shootin’.
Kellie of Le Zoe Musings.
Wendy of The Monday Box.
Joy of Joy the Baker.
Ashley of Not without Salt. (Her beautiful new cookbook just came out!)
Lindsey of Dolly and Oatmeal.
Rosie of Sweetapolita. (Check out her gorgeous new cookbook.)
Belinda of The Moonblush Baker.
Phyllis of dash and bella.
Jessie of CakeSpy.
Thalia of butter and brioche.
Molly of My Name is Yeh.
Tara of Seven Spoons. (See her lovely new cookbook)

 

 

 

Shaved Spring Salad

on green plate 625 sqIn my little corner of the world, there is still one stubborn patch of ice in the north-east corner of my yard that refuses to melt. The chives, god bless their hardy little souls, have managed to poke through the ice and have given me hope that spring will arrive.

We are still weeks away from local asparagus here in Ottawa but that has not curbed my craving for something raw and crunchy! Imported rainbow carrots and asparagus will have to do for now.fresh beautiful sprng coloursShave the carrots and asparagus with a vegetable peeler. I love my Y shaped peeler! At the risk of being accused of “skinny shaming”, fat spears are what you want here. Thos skinny ass spears of asparagus are useless (and tasteless too, IMHO).carrotsasparagusToasted hazelnuts, chives and some shavings of gouda or gruyere cheese are mixed in to provide some crunch and funk. Tossed with a simple hazelnut oil vinaigrette, this shaved salad tastes like springtime in a bowl. Most supermarkets now carry hazelnut oil now. Just remember to store it in the fridge. Feel free to use olive oil instead if you can’t find hazelnut oil. It will still be delicious.

Click here to print recipe for Shaved Spring Salad.

white plate 625 sq

Sticky Chicken Lettuce Cups with Corn Salad

chicken and corn saladConsider this post to be a Public Service Announcement (PSA) warning you about the dangers of drinking and grocery shopping. You would think that I had learned my lesson last year while visiting my friends Marla and Ed in Florida. After a delicious dinner which included several bottles of wine, we stopped in at the local Publix under the guise of getting some milk. Ed led me down the “Aisle of Eden” (candy aisle), and convinced me that buying the family sized bag of Twizzlers was a stellar idea. Waking up in the morning with a killer headache, and viewing the empty candy bag on the couch made me realize that perhaps our judgement was less than sound.

And yet I fell victim to drinking and grocery shopping again this week. After dinner, my husband and I stopped in at the supermarket to pick up a few ingredients I needed to make Bobby Flay’s sticky chicken in lettuce cups with a grilled corn salad. Cilantro was on my list. I was excited to see a small clamshell package of it, as I usually buy a big bunch and end up throwing out half of it once it starts to go slimy and ferment in my vegetable drawer.

Yesterday afternoon I pulled out all the ingredients to make dinner. I opened the package of cilantro and saw these huge spiky leaves. I looked at the package again closely.culantroWhat the hell is culantro?

In my defence, I only had one glass of wine with dinner, but, full disclosure here, I forgot my reading glasses. So, let’s amend that PSA to also include the dangers of shopping without your reading glasses.

Culantro, in case you’re curious, grows in southern Mexico. It is sometimes referred to as cilantro on steroids, as it has a very intense cilantro flavour. The leaf is quite tough so it is not really meant to be used raw but rather added to soups and stews.

A quick trip to the grocery store, with my reading glasses this time, and I had everything I needed to make the mint cilantro dressing for the grilled corn salad.corn salad dressingThe sticky glaze for the chicken simmers on the stove for about 20 minutes.making sticky saucegrilling chicken and corncutting corn off the cob corn salad 625 sqLettuce wraps are the ultimate in guilt free healthy eating. chicken and lettuce 625 sq Click here to print recipe for Grilled Corn Salad with Cilantro Mint Dressing.

Click here to print recipe for Sticky Glazed Chicken Thighs in Lettuce Cups.wrap

 

Blood Orange and Belgian Endive Salad

on platter 2Cutting into a blood orange always brings to mind that famous quote from Forrest Gump; My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Same thing with blood oranges. Sometimes you cut into them and the inside is pale pink, at times they are mottled pale orange and brilliant red, and, when all the stars are aligned just right you get this:making vinaigretteI get such a kick out of slicing into these oranges and finding this brilliant scarlett surprise inside. Tart-sweet and slightly berry-like they’re only available from January to March, so slice into one now and see what’s waiting for you.

Blood oranges have been popular for many years in Italy and Spain, where they grow with wild abandon. I decided to give my salad a Spanish twist by incorporating Sherry vinegar in the dressing, smoked paprika in the spiced nuts and some manchego cheese shavings to top it all off. It would also be delicious topped with some soft goat cheese or some  thinly sliced shards of Parmesan.

For the lettuce element of my salad I settled on Belgian endive, sliced lengthwise into wedges, instead of chopped up crosswise, the way I ususally do it. I added some arugula to ramp up the bitter flavours. If you are not a fan of bitter, and prefer a gentler flavour, use boston lettuce mixed with some red leaf lettuce.

Making your own smoked spiced nuts is easy to do. I decided on a combo of pistachios and almonds. Supporting cast members include sugar, salt and smoked paprika. Feel free to add some cayenne if you like things a little caliente.mise en place for smoked nuts 2Egg whites are whisked until frothy. whisking egg whiteNuts are added and mixed until coated with egg whites. The egg whites help the spices adhere to the nuts.coating nuts in spicesSpread out nuts on baking sheet and bake in 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes. You won’t need all the nuts for the salad. Store the leftover in an airtight container. They are great with cocktails or a glass of wine or just for late afternoon snacking!

Neatly breaking down the oranges into perfect little segments takes a bit of practice but with a sharp knife in hand, you should be fine.

in bowl

Click here to print recipe for Blood Orange and Endive Salad.

 

 

Winter Farro Salad

in bowl fAlthough I have posted about farro herehere, here, here and here, I am of the opinion that you can never have enough good farro recipes. I just adore this nutty versatile grain. I discovered this winter version in the November 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. Associate Food Editor Claire Saffitz had a similar version at the NYC restaurant Charlie Bird. They simmered the farro in apple cider to infuse it with a lovely tart-sweet essence.apple cidercooked farroThe cooled farro is tossed with crunchy julienned apples and celeriac.celeriacYou have to believe that the first guy to come across one of these gnarly roots was in an extremely weakened and ravenous state. It would have taken quite a leap of faith for someone to come across this in the wild and decide that eating it was a sound idea. 

This knobby root is Celeriac (also known as celery root). I have often come across them in the supermarket, but had no idea how and where to use it. However, in January, when fresh local stuffs is in short supply, you need to go outside your comfort zone and embrace the ugly! Celeriac has a mild delicate taste, rather like a cross between celery and parsley. Beneath that grody exterior lies a heart of snowy white goodness. 

Taming this beast is not difficult. Slice off the top and bottom so it sits flat on the cutting board. Slice around the sides and hack off the brown outer skin. Julienne it for raw salads or cube it for simmering in soup. If you are using it raw in a salad, store it in water with a splash of lemon juice after cutting to prevent it from oxidizing and turning brown.  Drain and mix into salad just before serving.peeling celeriac

cutting celeriac into julienneSalty black olives and shaved Pecorino Romano cheese are added as a welcome balance to the cider sweetened farro. Italian parsley leaves provide a verdant fresh punch. I added some pickled red onions because I love how pickling tames their bite. A final garnish of toasted pine nuts and this salad is ready for it’s closeup!serving bowl 3 625 sq

 Click here to print recipe for Winter Farro Salad.