Category Archives: Salads

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

 

Celery, Green Olive and Plumcot Salad

cropped closeIf you are anything at all like me, then there’s a pretty good chance that even though there’s not much to eat in your home, and you are in desperate need of a trip to the grocery store, there are always some olives and a few stalks of celery, albeit, a little limp and bendy, in your fridge. So you would be forgiven if the title of this post has you believing that this is one of those, “Clean out the Fridge” deals.

That is precisely what my husband thought when he discovered this salad on our dinner table last night. Au contraire, my dear husband. Although this salad does contain said limp celery and the dregs of the olive container, it is actually one of the most delicious flavour combinations I have come across in quite a while. Thanks to Chef Bonnie Reichert, for this inspired combo.

Instead of using plums in this salad, as in Bonnie’s original recipe, I substituted my fruit crush of the month, Plumcots. Can we just talk about plumcots for a minute please? A super sweet cross between a plum and an apricot, plumcots (sometimes called pluots) are consistently delicious. The sweet apricot cancels out any hints of sourness from the traditional plum. Plumcots are available June through late-October and each variety is only available for a few weeks. Seek them out. You will thank me later!plumcotsSweet juicy plumcots and fat salty green olives make such excellent playmates in the bowl. The crunch from the celery stalks add a very welcome crispness to this salad. The tender celery leaves, from the heart of the celery, which most people sadly discard, are chopped up and added to the salad and provide a lively hit of pale green freshness.mise en placeA simple vinaigrette, boosted by a dash of grainy mustard and dollop of sweet honey, make all the flavours of this salad start to hum. Toasted sliced almonds, scattered over top make this salad literally sing. Cleaning out your fridge has never been this delicious.

Click here to print recipe for Celery, Olive and Plumcot Salad.

with forks 2

Sunny Summer Salad

oval platter 1Had I presented this salad to Mr. Langley, my former culinary school instructor, I would have miserably failed the assignment. His mantra of “Balance, in colour, texture, size and shape” plays in the soundtrack of my memories, right before Stacy and Clinton’s “Colour, texture, pattern and shine!” (Anyone else mourning the end of WNTW, as much as me?) This all yellow salad would not have pleased him. Thankfully, I’m not in Culinary School anymore and I just cook to please myself. This sunny summer salad pleased my daughter and I greatly!

We were rummaging around in the kitchen trying to figure out what to make for lunch last week. I suggested our usual standby; tomato, watermelon and feta salad but we had no watermelon. We did have some gorgeous ripe nectarines, with wildly blushing skin and flesh reminiscent of goldenrods. They got chopped up, along side some tiny sun gold tomatoes and some mini yellow pear tomatoes. Of course I sautéed some corn (fresh corn goes into every salad I make in the summer!) We diced up some feta cheese and chopped up some fresh basil and mint for brightness.raw ingredientsThe sweet crunch of the sautéed corn played so well next to the creamy salty tang of the feta. Mildly acidic tomatoes balanced the lushly sweet nectarines. Harmony in every bite, despite the  monochromatic ingredients. I think if we blindfolded Mr. Langley and gave him a taste, he would give this salad an A+.2 plates 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Sunny Summer Salad.

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.