Category Archives: Salads

Crunchy Winter Slaw

ginger-crinkle-cookies_17As we enter the festive season of butter and sugar, I thought it would be a good idea to have a new recipe at the ready to provide a healthy counterbalance. This slaw recipe was inspired by an Asian slaw I read about in Milk Street Magazine. This new publication is Christopher Kimball’s first venture since leaving Cook’s Illustrated last year.

I have been a huge fan and supporter of Kimball and Cook’s Illustrated since it’s inception in 1993, so I was curious to check out the premiere issue of Milk Street. The premise behind Milk Street is to bring techniques from the world’s kitchens to America’s weeknight dinner table. Christopher explains that, “There’s no ethnic cooking. It’s a myth. It’s just dinner or lunch served from somewhere else in the world…. Milk Street offers an invitation to the cooks of the world to sit at the same table…All food is everyone’s food.”

This is my take on Milk Street’s “Coleslaw by Way of East Asia.” I loved the combination of cabbage, radishes and sugar snap peas, but I wasn’t fond of the dressing (coconut milk, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and serrano chili). I preferred an apple cider vinaigrette with honey and grainy mustard.

I settled on a combo of Brussels sprouts, red, green and Napa cabbage, radishes and sugar snap peas for my vegetables. Cilantro and mint were also invited to this fresh party.veggiesI believe that every salad needs an element of crunch. Croutons are good, but nuts are better! I was inspired by a maple spicy nut crunch I read about in the LCBO’s Holiday 2016 issue of Food & Drink.  I’m very excited that the magazine is now available online.

I used a combo of pine nuts, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, sliced almonds, pistachios and pumpkin seeds. nuts-and-seedsThe nuts get coated in a hot bath of maple syrup, brown sugar, paprika, salt and cayenne. coating-nuts-and-seeds20 minutes in the oven crisps up everything beautifully. I added some dried cherries to the cooled nut mixture. The recipe makes more than you will need, but it keeps perfectly for at least a month in an airtight container. It makes a very yummy afternoon snack.crunch-mixtureready-to-mix

Click here to print recipe for Crunchy-Winter-Slaw.

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Pan Fried Butternut Squash and Apple Salad

black-round-serving-platter-2Guys, I have big news! Perhaps not internet breaking caliber news, but still, kind of exciting. Did you know you could make a vinaigrette with melted browned butter instead of oil? Kind of mind blowing, I know!

There are no shortage of butternut squash and apple salad recipes out there. A quick Google search unearthed 613,000 of them! What makes this one special is the dressing. It’s a brown butter and apple cider vinaigrette and it’s bonkers awesome.

Regular readers of this blog know my love for brown butter. I have used it in seven different desserts. But it had never occured to me to use it as the fat in salad dressing. I have to give credit for this genius idea to Toronto chef Haan Palcu Chang.

If you have never had brown butter before, you are in for a treat. It adds a layer of toasty, nutty deliciousness to anything it touches. Making it couldn’t be simpler. Butter is composed of butterfat, milk protein and water. When you brown butter, you are essentially toasting the milk protein. As you heat the butter, and it begins to bubble and sputter away, the water evaporates and the hot butterfat begins to cook the milk solids, turning them from creamy yellow to a splendid speckled brown colour and your whole kitchen smells like toasted hazelnuts.

The squash is thinly sliced and pan fried until is is almost charred. A cast iron skillet is perfect for this, but a non-stick skillet will also do the job.charring-in-cast-iron-panYou can cook the squash ahead of time and warm it in the oven just before assembling the salad. A tart apple like Granny Smith is a wonderful contrast to the sweet squash. Brown the butter just before you are ready to serve the salad. If you make it ahead of time the butter will start to solidify.black-round-serving-platterWhile the vibrant orange hue of butternut squash is gorgeous on its own, adding a crunchy topping of toasted hazelnuts, a verdant shower of mint and green onions and ruby red jewel-like pomegranate seeds turn this salad into a pretty stunning masterpiece.dinner-for-2

Click here to print recipe for Pan-Fried-Butternut-Squash-and-Apple-Salad.

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Autumn Grain Bowl

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Leaf peepers everywhere are bummed out that the fall foliage was delayed this year. I’m still walking around without socks, which makes me very happy, because I hate socks. (But I do love a great pair of black tights. They smooth everything out and make me feel so sleek.)

While I have yet to pull out my heavy sweaters, I know that fall is officially here because the pumpkin spice haters are out in full force and my Trader Joe’s annual pumpkin spice flyer arrived in the mail.

I’m going to pass on pumpkin spice and ease my way into fall with an autumn grain bowl. grain-bowls-for-4
While everyone is roasting their broccoli and brussels sprouts, I’m bucking the trend and going raw. I love raw broccoli when the florets are chopped into tiny pieces and the stems are stripped of their woody bark, and the tender core is thinly sliced.  chopping-broccoliusing-mandoline-for-broccoli-stemsShredded brussels sprouts, pickled red onions, cucumbers, radishes and mint round out the crunch party.veggies-all-choppedThe dressing for this grain bowl packs an umami punch, thanks to anchovy paste!derssing-ingredientsI like to dress the vegetables at least 30 minutes before eating to give the salad a chance to marinate and soften up a bit. My grain of choice is farro, but it would be delicious with brown rice, barley, wheat berries or quinoa, if you must! I served the farro on the side and let everyone fill their own bowl. A shaving of Parmesan to top the bowl is an excellent idea.ready-for-dressing

Click here to print recipe for Autumn-Grain-Bowl.

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Israeli Couscous with Pickled Shallots, Peas, Mint and Ricotta Salata

in green bowl 1 625 sqI have never understood the appeal of traditional couscous. It simply does not have enough texture or heft for me. Even when steamed and fluffed properly, so that the grains stay separate, it fails to satisfy me. I like my carbs with a bit of bite to them. Israeli couscous is more my jam. It is dense with a bouncy, chewy texture. I had always assumed that Israeli couscous was just bigger balls of regular couscous. I only recently learned the true difference.

Traditional couscous is actually tiny ground pasta made from semolina flour. It is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until teeny-tiny balls are formed. The couscous is then dried and steamed. Israeli couscous is also made from semolina flour, but the similarities end there. Israeli couscous is made by mixing semolina flour with water, into a dough. The dough is then machine extruded through a round mould, about 1 millimetre in size.  These tiny pearls are then toasted dry, which adds a nutty flavour. 

Traditional couscous has been around, some believe, since the 9th century, but Israeli couscous is just a baby. It only came into existence in the 1950’s. Following the War of Independence in 1948, many immigrants arrived in the newly formed country from all over the Middle East. Most of them relied on rice as a staple in their cuisine, but there were rice shortages. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, asked the Osem food company to develop something that they could substitute for their beloved rice. They created “Ptitim“. It was nicknamed Ben Gurion rice, since it was originally extruded in the shape of rice grains. They later introduced a round version which they called Israeli couscous.

This delicious salad is my adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I have only made a slight change. I substituted ricotta salata for the feta cheese they suggested. I prefer the drier texture and less salty taste of ricotta salata. Many Italian grocers carry it. Feel free to use feta if you like, or even some crumbled goat cheese, if that’s your thing.

Begin with pickling the shallots. Nothing too complicated here. You will need red wine vinegar, sugar, a pinch of salt and some thinly sliced shallots. ingredients for picklingSimmer vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar dissolves. Add shallots, turn off heat, cover pot and let macerate for 30 minutes. That’s it. I always thought pickling was so complicated. pickling shallotsTo properly cook Israeli couscous, begin by sauteeing in a bit of olive oil until about half the grains turn brown. Then add water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 12 minutes. The ratio of Israeli couscous to water is 1:1.25.  (For every cup of couscous, add 1¼ cups water)toasted cous cousOnce cooked, spread couscous out on a baking sheet to allow it to cool before tossing with other salad ingredients. cooling couscousPrepare the dressing. The mild flavour of couscous can stand up to a bracing dressing of Dijon, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and olive oil.making dressingThen it’s simply a matter of assembly. I thawed some green peas (no cooking necessary), drained the pickled shallots, washed some baby arugula and mint, toasted and chopped pistachios and diced up the cheese. Sugar snap peas or asparagus would also be excellent friends with this salad. ready to assembleI loved the combination of all these ingredients. Chewy, nutty couscous, bitter arugula, sweet mint, crunchy pistachios, salty cheese and the zingy pickled shallots. Each bite had me craving more. in white bowl

Click here to print recipe for Israeli Cous Cous with Pickled Shallots Peas, Mint and Ricotta Salata.

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Farro Salad with Pomegranate, Pistachio and Ricotta Salata

ready to eat 2When I was little, pomegranates were considered an exotic and a very rare treat. They usually appeared around mid-September, and my mom would make us get naked and go outside in the backyard to eat them. She was a bit of a neat freak in those days, and pomegranate stains are a bitch to get out. I have fond memories of those backyard orgies with my sisters.

I was in Israel the first time I ever laid eyes on a pomegranate tree. Laden with heavy red globes, about to burst with ripeness, I thought it was the most beautiful plant I had ever seen. According to Jewish folklore, the pomegranate has 613 seeds, which corresponds to the 613 mitzvot (good deeds) of the Torah (Jewish written law). While it makes for a good story, scientists suggest that the actual number of seeds in a pomegranate is most likely dependant upon the degree of pollination.

Now that I’m all grown up and don’t have to get  naked to seed pomegranates anymore, I find myself sneaking them into all sorts of dishes. I love them in Pomegranate Chicken, Pomegranate Tomato Salad, and Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Carrots.

Their jewel-like seeds add crunch and a sweet-sour tang to a Farro Salad. A tart vinaigrette and boldly flavored mix-ins of pistachios and ricotta salata cheese are a perfect complement to the nutty farro.what you'll needCook the farro in a combo of water and vegetable or chicken stock. A bay leaf, garlic clove and a few parsley stems help infuse the farro with more flavour. stock makes it more flavourfulFresh squeezed lemon juice creates a bracing vinaigrette. Shallots add gentle onion flavour and mildly bitter Italian parsley adds brightness and balance.reaming lemondicing shallotsItalian parsleyready to assembleThis salad keeps well for several days in the fridge. Any leftovers make a very satisfying breakfast the next day.

Click here to print recipe for Farro Salad with Pomegranate, Pistachios and Ricotta Salata.

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