Category Archives: Salads

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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Ruts and Tomato Watermelon Feta and Mint Salad

F3 625 sqPeople lament, all the time, “Oh, I’m in such a rut”. Their gloomy tone implies that it’s a bad thing. But really, if you think about it carefully, being in a routine is not necessarily an unfavourable state.

Take me, for example. Every day, for the past two years I have eaten the exact same lunch of hummus (I am especially fond of the Fontaine Santé brand!), carrots and celery. Sometimes I throw caution to the wind and add some sugar snap peas and cucumbers, and when I’m really feeling wild, I might add a hard boiled egg, but pretty much it’s hummus, carrots and celery every day.

What I have come to realize is that by having my brain on auto-pilot at lunchtime, and not having to think about what to make for lunch, it frees up valuable space in my brain to contemplate other weighty matters. Such as, what to have for dinner or whether or not a two state solution is a viable option for peace in the Middle East. Recently most of my grey matter has been been heavily pre-occupied with how to annihilate the entire population of Deer Flies in Eastern Ontario. Has any body else noticed how fierce they are this year? They don’t just bite, they take a chunk out of you and it hurts!

So my mind was otherwise occupied when my daughter called me at lunchtime one day last month and burbled all excitedly about what she made for lunch that day. Diced watermelon, tomatoes, chopped fresh mint and a little bit of feta cheese crumbled on top. She boasted that it was a fantastic 2 point lunch on Weight Watchers, which we periodically follow. After we exchanged all the news, we said goodbye and as I looked at my sad little plate of carrot and celery sticks and bowl of hummus, I knew it was time for a change.

Lately my local fruit and vegetable store has been carrying these sweet golden tomatoes. Lush, intense and chock full of juice, their sweetness masks the acidity.slicing tomatoesSummer watermelon has been fantastic the past few weeks. That heavy dense flesh so refreshing and bursting with sweetness.watermelonThere really is no recipe for this salad. Just slice the tomatoes and watermelon, chop up some fresh mint and sprinkle on some crumbled feta. The contrast of the sweet melon against the tangy tomatoes is intensely satisfying. The salt from the feta and the freshness of the mint add a final grace note that is quite addictive. F5 625 sqsliced on platter 1In the interest of full disclosure here, I must be honest and admit that the above photos do not in any way resemble what my lunchtime salad looks like. I dice up everything in a stainless steel prep bowl and eat it standing over the sink. Just thought you should know! in ss bowl 1

Surefire Cure for a Cronut Hangover: Dilled Green Bean Salad

serving beans 2Last Monday morning I woke up with a killer Cronut hangover. For the uninitiated, a Cronut is an amazing pastry from Dominique Ansel Bakery on Spring St. in SoHo. Imagine if you will a cream filled donut hooking up with a croissant, falling in love and mating.  (Hey, it could happen, ever watch those eHarmony commercials?) The Cronut would be the love child of that union.Cronut 1They take a croissant type dough and form it into a donut shape. Then they deep fry it and pump it full of a Tahitian Vanilla pastry cream. They enrobe it in a rose flavoured glaze, tint it the palest, prettiest pink imaginable, and then, bedazzle it with candied rose petals.

This creation is based on the traditional Breton butter pastry, known in Brittany as Kouign AmannPeople are lining up for them as early as 6:00 a.m., because they sell out so quickly. There are even rumours that Cronuts are being scalped on Craigslist. They just launched a lemon maple variety for the month of June and a Dulce de Leche variety is in the works for July!cronut2 lemon maplehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vswiimBEvCk

I first heard about Cronuts on Serious Eats. I knew that in the wrong hands, (MINE), a Cronut could be a dangerous thing. But I needed to find out if they were really all that and a bag of chips. So, I figured I’d do the next best thing to actually eating it myself. I would get my friend to try them, and give me the lowdown.

My girlfriend Paula and her husband were heading to NYC, so I forwarded the Cronut link to her and asked her to go check them out and report back to me. She e-mailed me back that she would do one better; she would bring me back some to try myself. Apparently they sell out very quickly, so she went online, ordered them and on Sunday afternoon, schlepped her husband down to SoHo to pick them up. He stopped complaining once she shoved a Cronut in his mouth. She managed to get them through Newark Security and even through Customs unscathed, although I suspect a Cronut or two were sacrificed as bribes to ease their entry into Canada. We take Cronut importation seriously in this nation.

Now you may be thinking, “What a great friend Paula is, to bring these all the way back from NYC”. Or you may be wondering if she isn’t just a sneaky closet enabler, trying to fatten up her friend.

Sunday night, around 8:30 p.m., our doorbell rang. It was Paula, on her way home from the airport with the box of Cronuts. She said that we had to eat them right away. I didn’t want to be rude, so I took a small bite. Crispy flaky light layers of buttery croissant gave way to a silky pastry cream filling flecked with vanilla bean seeds.Cronut 2I am sure I moaned as I thanked her profusely. I really was planning to have just a little bite, so I could say I had tried them. However, once she left, an evil voice from somewhere deep inside my head commanded me to finish the entire thing. So I did. And then, once my husband and daughter went upstairs, I scarfed down a second Cronut; hence the Cronut hangover on Monday morning.

I felt vaguely nauseous from all that sugar and butter I had ingested, so I figured that the perfect antidote was something green and acidic. I remember reading somewhere that apple cider vinegar is a great digestive aid. I had some fresh green beans, so I got to creating with what was in my fridge.trimming green beanspepperscelerydill and shallotsmaking dressingin bowl square 625Cookbook author and griller extraordinaire, Chris Schlessinger, once said, “Green bean recipes are like movies:  You always think there are lots of good ones around until you’re ready for one, then you can’t find any you really like.” Here’s a fantastic one for whenever over-indulging makes you feel the need to be virtuous. (At least until the next binge!)

Click here to print the recipe for Dilled Green Bean, Celery and Pepper Salad.

 

Asparagus Panzanella Salad

plated 625 sq 3I promise that this asparagus post (unlike my previous one) will not offend anyone by mentioning any bodily functions, so feel safe to read on. This post is all about the unabashed joy of celebrating all things green this spring.

The classic panzanella salad originated in Tuscany. It was a way to use up stale bread and highlight tomatoes at the pinnacle of their summertime glory. Often onions, cucumber and basil are added. The texture of the bread in traditional panzanella is not supposed to be crunchy or chewy or crusty like croutons. If you have ever eaten this salad in Italy, you will recall that the bread is light, a bit wet, airy, just short of mushy. I was shocked when I had it a few years ago on the Amalfi Coast, and to be frank, was less than enthused. It sort of had the texture of fluffy torn-up matzoh balls. There is a very fine line between lightly moistened and unpleasantly soggy. Although I love the classics, in my panzanella salad, I want the bread to have a bit of chew and crunch. 

The inspiration for this spring panzanella came from Chef Michael Symon. Asparagus and green peas get top billing in this version of panzanella. Out of season tomatoes need not apply for entry into this salad. Like Michael, I grilled my asparagus, but I also shaved a few raw spears with my vegetable peeler to get some fresh crunch.shaving raw asparagusI used a half a loaf of Ciabatta bread I had in the freezer. I thawed it and then tore it into chunks, rather than cutting it into neat cubes. Tearing it gives a more rustic appearance and all those craggy surfaces have a better chance of soaking up the flavourful dressing. oil on croutons

cutting asparagus

grilling asparagus

chopping mintIf fresh peas in a pod are available where you live, go ahead and indulge. I used frozen peas since we are at least a month away from fresh here. I really love frozen peas. It seems to be a family thing. My daughter used to eat frozen peas as her afternoon snack every day when she was about 4 years old. Peas are one of the few vegetables that are actually better frozen. Unless you have green-peas growing in your backyard or access to a Farmer’s Market, you really are better off buying frozen. Cook’s Illustrated explains why this is so:

“Fresh peas have very little stamina. They lose a substantial portion of their nutrients within 24 hours of being picked  This rapid deterioration is the reason for the starchy, bland flavor of most “fresh” peas found at the grocery store. These not-so-fresh peas might be several days old, depending on where they came from and how long they were kept in the cooler. Frozen peas, on the other hand, are picked, cleaned, sorted, and frozen within several hours of harvest, which helps to preserve their delicate sugars and flavours ”

I finished the salad off with some crumbled Ricotta Salata cheese (a firm ricotta). If you can’t find it, Feta would work just as well. Ricotta salata is a sheep’s milk cheese that has been pressed, dried and salted. It has a dense, slightly spongy texture and fresh milky flavour.ricotta salata 3

servingA quick dressing is made with garlic, dijon, sherry or red wine vinegar and olive oil. Fresh chopped mint gets sprinkled over the whole dish. This is a delicious addictive salad. I was home alone the day I made this and polished off the entire platter after photographing it. The contrast of the soft grilled asparagus was really wonderful against the crunch of the fresh shaved raw asparagus ribbons. The peas, barely cooked gave a great pop of green brightness. I mixed everything together and let the salad sit for at least 20 minutes. By the time I ate it the croutons had time to soak up the dressing and they were chewy but still just a bit crunchy. Perfect.

Click here to print recipe for Asparagus and Panzanella Salad.

I had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc with this salad. Asparagus is quite difficult to pair with wine, as certain chemicals in asparagus can make your wine taste vegetal, grassy, or just plain rotten. A crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect match. I am currently crushing on New Zealand Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc. It has a juicy acidity and crisp finish that pairs perfectly with this salad.

If you are curious about learning more regarding food and wine pairings, check out Natalie MacLean’s Great Canadian Wine Match. Natalie is a certified sommelier and was named the World’s Best Wine Writer at the World Food Media Awards.

the-great-canadian-wine-match-2013-lo

This is the first People’s Choice Competition for Canadian food and wine pairings. A real on-line battle of the bottles! The search for Canada’s best wine and food pairings launched on May 8. Wine drinkers from coast to coast are rallying behind their favourite Canadian pairings in this first grassroots, “bottoms up” competition.

Wine lovers can nominate and vote for their favourite Canadian wines as pairings in six Canadian food categories: cheese, chicken, beef, seafood, pizza and dessert. Voting ends May 20 when the top five wines in each category move to the showdown finalist phase. Wines from each region in Canada will vie to be named the best wine with a particular Canadian dish.

“This is a coast to coast toast to celebrate our own wine and food ,” says MacLean. “I think we can all drink to that.”