Category Archives: Salads

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.

Pomegranate Tomato Salad

Diced salad 1 625 sqI believe I may have broken the unwritten food bloggers commandment that states, “Thou shalt not post about anything remotely fresh or healthy during the month of December.”  However, in my defence, I believe I am eligible for an exemption from this rule. I have just come off a major bake-a thon, crafting over 30 pounds of Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark, 32 dozen Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, 24 dozen Salted Skor Bar Shortbread Cookies, 12 pounds of Almond Pecan Caramel Corn, 24 dozen Chocolate Dipped Pistachio Shortbread, 12 dozen Caramel Chocolate Dipped Pretzels,  8 dozen giant gingerbread snowflake cookies and 23 dozen Lemon Coconut Cookies.

So forgive me if I need something fresh and good-for-you to eat in December. And, I bet you do too! This salad checks all the boxes. Healthy, delicious, beautiful and very satisfying to eat. It makes a great lunch (ask my mom, I fed it to her today!) and would also not be out of place on the holiday table as one of your side dishes. Crunchy, sweet, salty, sour and just a tiny bit bitter, this salad is a feast for the taste buds as well as for the senses.

This salad is an adaptation of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Tomato and Pomegranate salad in his splendid new book, Plenty More. “The sharp almost bitter sweetness of the pomegranate and the savoury, sunny sweetness of the tomato complement each other so gloriously.”Pomegranates 2tomatoes 2Removing seeds from a pomegranate can be a messy affair. My preferred method is to place a deep bowl into the sink,  quarter the pomegranate and gently nudge the seeds out into the bowl. There are many other methods that folks swear by. Spanking (my mom’s personal favourite) and The Underwater Method are two of the most popular. deseeding pomegranateI love the sweet sharp addition of pickled shallots. So simple to prepare. Mix together equal parts red wine vinegar and water and add kosher salt and sugar. This magic blend tames the sharpness of onions and shallots in about 30 minutes!pickled shallotsYou can slice the tomatoes for a gorgeous composed salad.slicing tomaotesplated sliced 1Or just dice everything up and mix and serve. Thinly sliced basil and mint leaves add a lively freshness.Diced salad 2I love the addition of some grated ricotta salata for a salty, tangy addition, but feel free to leave the cheese off.grating ricotta salata

Click here to print recipe for Pomegranate and Tomato Salad.

 

 

 

Winter Squash and Arugula Salad

plated 2 625 sqBig sisters have a very important job to do in this world. It is their mission to pave the way for their little sisters, teaching them the ropes and ensuring that they do not stumble through life’s little land mines along the way. My big sister taught me where babies come from, (I didn’t believe her!), how to shave my legs, and, with instructions whispered through a locked bathroom door, how to use tampons. She taught me how to hide cigarettes from our mom as well as how to sneak out of the house, late at night, when boys came calling, by throwing pebbles at our basement bedroom window. Sadly, I never had to use that last one. I was a late bloomer and the boys only came for her!

Now that we’re all grown up, she is still passing on lots of valuable lessons. She works for the popular blog, “Yummy Mummy” and is quite knowledgeable about the business side of running a blog. She is always going on about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and how important it is for my blog.  SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.

She explained that the title of your blog posts is of utmost importance. Beginning the post title with a number assists in making the post’s content more actionable. It also reassures those readers, whose attention span matches that of a gnat, that they can scan through your list post quickly if needed. My sister also emphasized the need to use exciting adjectives that promise audacious results.

As I was writing this post, I thought about some of her tips and tried to put them into action. “Seven mind blowing ways to roast winter squash.” Or, “Four essential steps to cutting squash without hacking off your finger.”  (On that note, check out this very helpful video on cutting winter squash) Somehow, they just seemed too sensationalist, and not really very “me.” However, I do promise you a delicious squash salad, that while perhaps not exactly mind blowing, will make dinner time at your house a very happy place to be.cutting squashready to assembleI was inspired to make something with winter squash after a visit to my neighbourhood Farm Boy store. If you don’t have Farm Boy in your city, I am just a little bit sad for you. Entering the store you are heartily greeted by a life-size animatronic singing Farm Boy and his dog Barndoor Buddy. (Not sure if it’s just me, but some days it feels like he’s mocking me!) Perched in the produce section, resides a mischievous monkey who performs endless backflips over the banana display. Rounding the corner into the dairy section, you will encounter Lulu the cow who moos every time you open the dairy case to get milk and Rusty, a crowing rooster, standing guard over the eggs. My kids and I spent a lot of time there when they were little. It was the lazy mom’s version of taking your kids to the petting zoo. And, it had the added bonus of not stinking like a zoo.

The produce bins were overflowing with a myriad of winter squash. Unable to decide what to get, I excitedly filled my cart with about 35 pounds of assorted varieties. As the cashier was ringing me through, her curiosity got the best of her. She just had to know what I was going to do with all these squash. When I told her I was going to take their picture she looked at me like I was a bit crazy. And yes, perhaps you might agree, when I confess that I spent the better part of a very happy afternoon, arranging squash.assortment 3

Click here to print recipe for Winter Squash and Arugula Salad.close up