Tag Archives: salad

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

Grilled Pumpernickel Bread Salad

This salad is all about the ingredients. Let me say, right up front, if you can’t find any good pumpernickel bread where you live, substitute a sourdough or other hearty type bread. Do not buy supermarket pumpernickel bread. It is too light and fluffy, and when grilled, it will just burn and then become sponge like in the salad.  It is not what you are looking for here. You need a dense heavy bread that can stand up to the rigors of the grill. I once actually made pumpernickel bread. It was good, but not great. Luckily, in Ottawa, where I live, we have the Rideau Bakery. They make a fantastic pumpernickel. Dense and chewy, it is the perfect vehicle for soaking up all the flavours of this salad.

This salad is the creation of grillmeisters Chris Schlesinger and John (Doc) Willoughby, from their book “Let the Flames Begin.” Now you wouldn’t expect to find a great salad in a book about BBQ, but these guys take grilling everything seriously. They give very detailed instructions for grilling the bread properly.

“Making a good piece of toast on the grill is actually not that easy. You want to get it really toasted – not just grill marked – but to stay tender on the inside. So cut the pumpernickel thick (1 inch) and make sure the fire is medium, not hot.”

I overdosed on this salad several years ago, when I made it for lunch every Saturday for 8 weeks in a row. We finally got sick of it and I retired the recipe. But I was having a manicure a few weeks ago and my esthetician was telling me about a Macedonian feta cheese that she always buys. When she is not telling me filthy jokes, we talk food. She is originally from Bulgaria and I have learned so much from her. So when she talks about feta from Macedonia, I listen!  Macedonia, if you don’t know (and, I didn’t!), is bordered by Serbia to the North, Bulgaria to the East, Greece to the South and Albania to the West.

Macedonian Feta is very creamy, much like goat cheese. If you can’t find it, a Greek feta would also do very well in this salad. Just make sure you find a feta that is not too dry and chalky.

Fresh oregano is called for in this salad. It really adds an earthy quality. If you can’t find any, substitute fresh basil instead. I like to use a variety of coloured tomatoes in the salad. If you can find Lebanese (sometimes called Israeli) cucumbers for this salad, use them. If not, an english cucumber will also work. I don’t bother peeling them, but I do take the time to scrape out the seeds, with a little teaspoon. Just slice the cuke in half lengthwise to remove the seeds. I find that sometimes the seeds can be bitter and they can also make the salad a bit watery.

Click here to print recipe for Grilled Pumpernickel Bread Salad.

Pear Endive Salad

In an earlier post, I talked (perhaps a bit too much) about a recent wonderful holiday in the Caribbean. While I loved the beach, the conch shells, and the silver toast holder, what I loved best was the treadmill in the fitness center at our hotel. You see, each treadmill had a little TV attached to it, and the best part was, wait for it… they carried The Food Network and The Cooking Channel. We don’t have the Cooking Channel here in Canada yet, so I was quite excited to check it out.

My husband finds it quite perverse that I watch food shows while exercising. But here’s my theory. I categorize people into one of two groups. The first group is those who “Eat to Live.” You know these people, they view food as fuel for their bodies. They are the ones who say things like, “Oh, I was so busy, I forgot to eat lunch.”, or, “I was so stressed, I couldn’t eat and lost 5 pounds.” Then there is the second group, those who “Live to Eat.” In this group you have the people who, if they are not eating, they are thinking about food. They are the ones who are planning what to have for dinner while they are still finishing breakfast. They are the ones who watch the Food Network while exercising.  I always wondered why the TV on those exercise machines are tuned to CNN when I turn the machine on. Do people actually watch that when working out, or do they just change the channel after they are done so you will think they are intellectuals?

On the third day of our holiday we were in the gym working out. I had already done 30 minutes on the Elliptical machine and was planning to do 30 minutes on the treadmill. 15 minutes into my treadmill workout, a new episode of  “Chuck’s Day Off” began on the Cooking Channel. He was making a Pear and Endive Salad. Not so thrilling, you may think, at first glance. But then, I watched him prepare the pear vinaigrette and he had me hooked. He took pear nectar, and reduced it on the stove until he had a thick pear caramel. I did not know you could do that! He whisked that thick caramel into a vinaigrette for the salad.

Just as he was beginning to put the whole thing together my husband came by my treadmill and asked if I was done yet. My inner voice screamed, “NO! Chuck hasn’t finished making the vinaigrette. I can’t leave yet. This is the most exciting part.”  What I actually responded to my husband was something like, “Not quite yet. The endorphins are just kicking in and I’m really getting into the “zone” here. I think I’ll just go for another 12 minutes. You go ahead, I’ll meet you back in the room.” He trotted off. I  did an extra 12 minutes on the treadmill (which I figure burned enough calories for a bonus glass of Prosecco) and got to see Chuck complete the Pear and Endive Salad. Everybody wins!

Chuck Hughes, if you don’t know him, is a Montreal chef with a show on Food Network Canada. The US Cooking Channel recently added his show to their lineup. He is very sweet and very cute and he has the cooking chops to back it up. He beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America in “Battle Canadian Lobster”. The premise of his show is that on his day off he cooks for all the people in his life that mean something to him. He cooks for the cops who patrol the area around his restaurant, the garbagemen who are on his route, his bouncers and even his coffee supplier. You gotta love this guy. His arms are covered in tattoos of lobster, arugula, bacon, shrimp, lemon meringue pie. This is a guy who Lives to Eat!

Pear nectar is readily available in the juice aisle at your supermarket. I found a really nice one in the organic aisle. You start with 2 cups of nectar and boil it down until it is really thick. Then you just let it cool and whisk it into the remaining vinaigrette ingredients.

I used Belgian endive and radicchio, red and green pears, black seedless grapes and a wonderful French cheese called mimolette. If you can’t find mimolette, Gouda would also be great.

To print recipe for this salad, click here.

Blood Orange and Green Bean Salad with Hazelnuts and Sherry Vinaigrette

For those of you who live in a place where the daffodils and crocuses are popping through the earth and spring is just around the corner, I say, how lovely for you. Well, I may add a few more descriptive words than that, but I prefer to keep this G-rated. If, like me,  you are suffering through a long and snowy winter and the end seems very distant, and the view outside your front door or bedroom window looks something like this, well, let’s all chant together… #@*&@!!

From my above rant, you can clearly tell I do not embrace winter. When I first moved to this winter wonderland we call Ottawa, many well intentioned people advised me that the best way to get through the long winter was to pick a winter sport and embrace it. After all, in the Nation’s Capital we have hundreds of miles of trails for snowshoeing or cross country skiing, not to mention the world’s longest (7.8 kilometers) skating rink, once the Rideau Canal freezes up. I have tried it all and to be honest, I just hate being cold. I prefer to spend my winters indoors. But I will admit to going a little stir crazy by mid-March. Just when you feel there is no end in sight and you can not look at another root vegetable or cabbage, these appear in the market.

These beauties are blood oranges. They typically appear in my market late February-March. Once I see them, hope blooms in my heart and I know that asparagus and strawberries will surely follow soon. Sometimes the blood oranges come wrapped up, like a present in colourful Ninja Turtle wrapping paper and sometimes they come unwrapped, naked for all the world to see. Mine came from Italy. They also grow them in Texas and California.

I am reminded of a line from the movie Forest Gump when I slice into a blood orange. You never know what you’re gonna get when you slice into a blood orange. The flesh can range anywhere from a blush coloured pink all the way to a profoundly deep crimson. Sometimes the flesh can will appear mottled, partly orange and partly red. I find those scariest of all, they sort of look diseased. The flavour is slightly less acidic than regular oranges. The colour variance inside the 3 oranges I sliced up was very surprising. I got orange, pale red and deep red flesh. Blood oranges have this unique color because they carry anthocyanins, which are powerful flavonoid pigments that exist in red and purple fruits and vegetables. These pigments are very effective in protecting the body from many diseases.

Blood oranges look especially pretty when you take the time to segment them into little wedges. I made a video demonstrating how to do that.

I paired the blood oranges with green beans, frisée, radicchio and belgian endive for a gorgeous salad. I tossed everything with a sherry vinaigrette and sprinkled on some toasted chopped hazelnuts. A few pomegranate seeds on top would really gild the lily!

I defy anyone to feel sad after feasting your eyes on this salad.

To print recipe, click here.