Salads

100 Days of Salad by Anne

radishesAt the moment I'm eating salad every day.  This is not an exercise in restriction; it's a commitment to self-indulgence and celebration of one of my favorite menu items.  When asked what my favorite foods are, I have often said, "Salad...and cheese, of course."  These salads I've been making are delicious, usually casual and easy, and they fill my heart and stomach with joy.  Inspired after the food styling workshop, I started taking pictures of these joy-giving salads, so I started a new sister blog, called 100 days of salad , to share ideas.  I hope you'll share your own ideas there as well!  100 days of anything is pretty long, even if it is your favorite thing.

Bring to Boil is still continuing on. It's like when Buffy the Vampire Slayer spun off to the concurrent but separate show, Angel.  The two blogs will likely refer to each other, since the same person is cooking for both.  One blog's going to be about daily salads, and this blog will continue to be about Everything Else (possibly even more salads?).

Fun With Salad by Anne

salad.pasta I read recently that your dinner plate is "supposed" to contain only 1/4 meat, 1/4 starchy stuff and then all the rest is vegetables.  Or something like that.  Maybe it was exactly one bite of meat followed by three pounds of vegetables.

At any rate, the ratio was interesting to consider, since many of the meals I make for my family are usually super meat-happy.  Michael has passionate carnivorous tendencies, and Rosalie is no stranger to the meats, either.  I am somehow less so.  Not to say that I'm a bunny--although I was a semi-vegetarian for a few years.  I'm definitely an omnivore with all the delights that go with it, but after awhile, I feel like I need a break from the meaty side of life.     Also, with all the food experimenting I like to do (especially lately with chocolate), it's easy to start feeling gross from all the richness. 

Salad is one of my favorite dishes.  It's a pretty broad category, so there's no shortage of possibilities there.  Especially when you do the weird thing that I've been doing lately with my salads.  Basically I make a dinner for Michael and Rosalie that would make them happy, then I mix a small serving of whatever is for dinner into a huge, crunchy, colorful salad. 

Here's the deal.   A vast expanse of plants on my plate can be fun for awhile, but it can become tedious, especially when the rich part of the meal (the enchilada, the baked potato, the pasta, the pizza) can just ruin the fun of salad by hanging out there being intense and delicious. I don't want salad to ever become a chore. 

So. If I'm going to eat the healthy salad and the alluring rich food all in the same meal anyway, why not make a salad with vegetables that are harmonious with the main dish, then dump that dish right on my salad?

For example: Pizza?  Cut it into cubes and you have pizza croutons.  How about chili? Just think "taco salad" and include veggies that work in that context, such as bell pepper, avocado, onion, crisp lettuce, and tomatoes.  All manner of meats thrive in a salad when cut up small enough, and the sauces just add some complexity to the vinaigrette. 

Tonight I transformed a bowl of soup into a salad by cutting up only chunky veggies rather than leafy ones, then pouring the soup over them (without most of the broth).  What broth there was broadened the flavor of the simple olive oil and vinegar.

At first I started doing this just because it was fun and it tasted good.  Now I'm considering it a challenge.  How many dinners or lunches can become salads?  When does it go too far?  Indian curries or Thai food?  I think not, especially if it's a heavily spinachy salad.  Seriously. Is there a single homestyle meal you can think of that absolutely would not work on top of a big old salad? I can't think of one yet.

Chicken Curry Salad Paradigm by Anne

curry powderDid I ever eat chicken curry salad before this recipe?  It's hard to even imagine.  This recipe is a Platonic Ideal--the ultimate curried chicken salad paradigm.  It's the kind of salad that people will get seconds for, and if they don't, they might be haunted by it later, kicking themselves for not getting another plateful.  This may sound extreme, but a friend of mine actually said this after doing some self-kicking.  So. Thanks, Barefoot Contessa, for hooking me up with this awesome recipe.  The kind of curry powder you use is one of the keys to this salad's magic.   For me, the magical powder is Muchi curry powder, an Indian blend.  It has a little bit of heat from the  cayenne, white pepper, and black pepper.  The brand I use is Frontier.  If you are curious about this flavor but it's not at a store near you, it is available online.  Frontier brand's Muchi curry contains: Turmeric, cumin, ginger, black pepper, coriander, fenugreek, dehydrated garlic, celery seed, cloves, cayenne, caraway, white pepper, and mace.  If you're ready to make this salad right this moment and feeling adventurous, you could doctor up that curry powder in your cabinet--or even make your own.

*****

Edit!!  Actually, the brand that I have been using from the bulk section of a gourmet-ish grocery store, Frontier, has a couple varieties of Indian-inspired curries.  I was using "Curry Powder," not the "Muchi" variety.  However, "Curry Powder" still has a fair amount of heat because it contains cayenne. The ingredients are different: Organic coriander, organic turmeric, organic mustard, organic cumin, organic fenugreek, organic paprika, organic cayenne, organic cardamom, organic nutmeg, organic cinnamon, organic cloves.

 The next time I make this chicken salad (which will be doing soon), I am going to try it with Muchi, as I recommended above.  Might as well follow my own advice!

 *****

Another secret to this recipe is the use of roasted chicken breasts that still have the skin on and bone in.  The flavor of the meat is so much more rich and juicy when prepared this way.  And then you have an extra bonus: I use the skins and bones to make a small amount of quick chicken stock while I'm making the rest of the salad.  It's not a big deal--I just throw in the chicken parts, cover them with water, then add the tired-er scallion leaves from the recipe, along with old carrots and celery and some herbs.  I bring the water to boil and let it simmer for a couple of hours while doing other things.  Then I strain the stuff into a bowl and put it in the refrigerator.

Curried Chicken Salad

Adapted fairly faithfully from the Barefoot Contessa's recipe; modified to make a finer texture.  I have modified the texture to fit in the cones from yesterday's post.  If you wish to serve this salad as an entree salad or on a sandwich, coarsely chop the chicken, and dice the celery and scallions more coarsely as well, and leave the cashews whole (still adding cashews at the last minute for a good crunch). 

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 lbs chicken breasts (6 split breasts or so) with bone in & skin on
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 Major Grey's Chutney
  • 3 T curry powder -- one that you love!
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions, both white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup roasted, salted cashews, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚.
  2. Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Roast the chicken breasts until they are cooked and still juicy, about 35 minutes.  Set chicken aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a food processor combine mayonnaise, chutney, wine, and curry powder and process until completely smooth. 
  4. Remove chicken from skin and bones, then pulse 8 to 10 times to create a fine texture.  Combine the dressing with the chicken until well-coated.  Stir in the celery, scallions, and raisins.   Refrigerate for a couple of hours to give the flavors a chance to meld. 
  5. Right before serving, stir in the cashews.
  6. If stuffing into cones, spoon salad into a ziplock baggie and snip a hole in the bottom corner of the baggie.  "Pipe" chicken salad into each cone, giving enough pressure to fill in the bottom tip of the cones.

Makes about 6 cups.  If filling cones--fills about 80 - 90 cones.

Solving the Potato Salad Problem by Anne

potato.saladPotato salad does not turn my crank.  Too many times it comes to the plate a bland, light-colored afterthought, even after many loving attempts to bring it to life.   I’ve had good potato salad, but not as often as sadder versions, so oftentimes I opt for other salads to avoid disappointment.   How can this beloved vegetable turn into such a flavor vortex in a salad?  Is it just me who feels this way, or do you see this potato salad problem, too?  Whatever that problem is, keep it in mind when I tell you that we were invited to a great barbeque on the 4th of July.  I was excited to go.  However, when my friend emailed me about other people’s contributions—including barbequed ribs and cole slaw—it became clear to me that a potato salad was in order.  No gettin’ around it, I was destined to bring The Flavor Vortex to the party.  Maybe you are thinking, “Really? No, Anne, you can always fight destiny.  You could have brought baked beans.”  But it was hot.  And we Americans love our potatoes.  What else could I do?   

My best Saturday solution to the potato salad conundrum was to pack it with powerful flavors and balance the potatoes evenly with other ingredients.  Cherry tomatoes, green beans, and new potatoes made a pretty, crunchy, and juicy triad, and for flavor I called in the help of many capers, fresh herbs, and orange juice, among other boosters. 

The combination was tangy and tasty.  It tasted more alive and fresh than a standard potato salad.  I even enjoyed it enough to have seconds.  I’ll be honest, though:  I loved other salads more that day.  I didn’t want to stop eating my friend Jen’s awesome coleslaw with chipotle peppers and her mom’s green salad with mangos, mint, basil, avocados and honey.  Those were the salads I was thinking about on the way home.  Even so, I felt good about the “potato” (and other things) salad.  It has crank-turning potential.  However, is it really a potato salad if it only plays a role in an ensemble cast?  If you happen to know a way out of the Flavor Vortex, please tell me about it.  I really do want to be a better person and learn how to make—and enjoy—a mean potato salad, if there truly is such a thing.  It’s not over yet, potato.

Potato Salad with Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes

Modified from Bon Appetit, June 2001

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 t minced fresh thyme and/or fresh oregano (tarragon or chives would also work nicely).
  • 6 tablespoons drained capers
  • ¼ tsp (or more) salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 1/4 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 1-pint basket cherry or teardrop tomatoes, halved.  Choose a variety of colors, if available.
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

  1. Stir together two T each of the vinegar and orange juice in a small bowl. 
  2. In a separate bowl, make dressing: stir together the remaining orange juice and vinegar, along with the oregano, capers, salt, and pepper.  Let these flavors meld while preparing other ingredients.  (Later, when the salad is ready for dressing, you can whisk in the olive oil for pouring over the salad).
  3. Boil potatoes in well-salted water for about 8 minutes, or until tender, and transfer to a bowl immediately.  Pour the first orange juice-vinegar combination over potatoes and coat well.  Cool potatoes, stirring occasionally to re-coat with the liquid.
  4. Boil green beans in well-salted water for about 4 minutes, or until bright green and still crisp.  Drain and add the green beans to the potatoes, along with the onion. 
  5. Whisk olive oil into the rest of the dressing, and pour dressing over salad, and mix gently but thoroughly (try using clean, bare hands for maximum gentleness and coating potential).  Add tomatoes and Italian parsley, and mix gently a final time.  Adjust seasonings, if necessary.  This dish is best enjoyed within a couple hours of making it.

 Makes 6 side-dish servings or about 10 polite potluck servings

Cooking with Sea Beans by Anne

whitesalmoneditAfter a couple of happy experiments with sea beans this week, I think we have a winner.  When I go to Ballard Farmers’ Market this Sunday, I’ll definitely stop back by the Foraged and Found Edibles booth in search of sea beans.   So if you find yourself at that booth too, staring at those funky-looking stems, listening to people murmer "Sea Beans..." quizzically aloud to themselves as they pass, and you're wondering whether to try them or not, you could consider these ideas for starters. 

First, they perked up a regular old tuna salad.  In the salad, the sea beans provided salt and a compelling crunch.  That crunch compelled me, actually, to keep adding more of them to the salad as I ate it, so you might find that ¼ cup from the recipe below is not enough for you, either.  I was surprised that while the sea beans have a distinctive taste on their own, once in the salad they did not command attention—rather they seemed to enhance the flavor of the tuna like good backup singers.  For the tuna salad magic alone I want to keep buying sea beans. 

 

Tuna Salad with Sea Beans

Tuna salad lovers often have their own favorite versions.  Here is a simple version that I used to give the sea beans a chance to have a say-so in the flavors, although they were subtler than I expected.

Ingredients

  • 1 can of tuna packed in oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 2-3 T of mayonnaise
  • 2 stalks celery, diced finely
  • 3 T minced sweet onion
  • A few turns of ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup rinsed and chopped sea beans

Directions 

  1. Pour the whole can of tuna, oil and all, into a medium mixing bowl.  Begin flaking tuna with a fork, then add mayonnaise and continue to flake tuna to get a fine texture.  
  2. Add celery, onion, pepper, and sea beans. 
  3. Enjoy with crackers or on a sandwich.

Serves 2. 

 *  *  *  *  *  * 

 

This week I also tried sea beans in a salmon dish, which was another hit, although I have to say it was a bit lacking in color.  Isn’t it a bummer when something delicious doesn’t look very pretty?  Well, I’ll take delicious any day. For color, though, this might shine next to some sliced fresh tomatoes, as soon as tomatoes start coming this summer.   By the way, if you cannot get sea beans, this dish would still taste lovely all on its own.  However, they add texture and a satisfying crunch, as well as hints of salty seaside. 

Seaside White Salmon

Marinade Ingredients (modified from The Bride & Grooom First and Forever Cookbook):

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 3 T fresh rosemary or other herbs of your choice (rosemary stands up to cooking, though)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Half of an onion

Main Ingredients

  • 1 lb white salmon
  • 2 medium red potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 1 cup sea beans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚.
  2. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Place the fish into a shallow dish and pour marinade over it. Let it rest on the counter for 20-30 minutes. 
  3. While the fish is marinating, chop the onion and the fennel, and slice the potatoes paper-thin.  Using a mandoline is helpful here but not necessary. 
  4. Combine the onion and fennel at the bottom of a baking dish that will later easily accommodate the salmon.  Then arrange the potatoes in a layer over the onion and fennel, overlapping the slices, if necessary. 
  5. Place salmon on top of the potatoes, and spoon most of the marinade over the fish and the potatoes. 
  6. Cover tightly, and cook for 30 minutes.
  7. While salmon is cooking, rinse sea beans and chop them coarsely.
  8. After removing the dish from the oven, lift salmon from the bed of vegetables, transfer it to a cutting board, and slice it into 4 pieces.
  9. Gently mix the sea beans with the vegetables and sauce.
  10. To serve, place a few large spoonfuls of the vegetables and sauce on a plate, and place salmon atop the bed.   

 Serves 4.

 

Easy Mango Cubes by Anne

mangocubespleaseI was going to share with you the mango-cubing method I’ve been using for years.   I learned my trick watching a cooking show when I was a kid.  However, I noticed that Jaden at Steamy Kitchen has a method that I like more (along with a cool kiwi peeling technique--check it out!).  You have more control over the shapes and sizes you can create.  It’s also a bit tidier.  However, my old method is great for feeding mango to toddlers, because it’s fun to pluck the cubes from the skin.  I’ll share both methods with you.

Step 1, removing the seed, is the same for both methods: 

The seed inside a mango is large and flat, so the best way to get the most flesh from it is to slice along the flat side of the seed.  You can tell by looking from the top or bottom of the mango, because the shape is oval, revealing the orientation of the seed.  Hold the mango vertically on the cutting board, with the stem side at the top. Using the top as your guide, line your knife up parallel to the seed/oval,  and slide your knife  ½ of an inch away from the stem top, which will help you avoid the large seed.  Slice down.*  If you feel resistance from the seed, just cut at a gentle curve away from it until you are cutting into smooth flesh again.  You should have a nice, large piece of mango “half” from this process.  Repeat on the other side.   

In the end you have two large pieces of mango for slicing, cubing, or dicing, and a central seed with some extra fruit still attached.  With your knife you can carefully remove some of that extra fruit from the seed, or you can be the kind of person who licks the spoon and take care of the extras in a more immediate manner.

*If you accidentally slice in a way that is not along the flat side of the seed and need to start with a new slice, I recommend method A for your next steps. 

Mango Cubing Method A - á la Steamy Kitchen

picnik-collagemangonew2

  1. Slice mango from seed as described above.
  2. Place the tip of a large serving-type spoon at the top of the mango half, finding the edge between the mango and the skin.  Scoop in, cutting the fruit away from the skin. What you have left is a smooth, neat hemisphere of mango. 
  3. For most control, place your fruit flat-side down.
  4. Chop or slice in whatever shape you desire.

 

Method B - Fun for Kids

picnik-collagemango2

  1. Slice mango from seed as described above.
  2. Holding the mango half in your palm, gently slice parallel lines into the mango, taking care not to pierce the skin as you do so.
  3. Rotate the mango a quarter-turn in your palm and repeat step 2, forming a grid pattern.
  4. Invert the mango half so that the skin is concave and the cubes pop out. Depending on the ripeness of your fruit, the cubes might fall easily right off the skin, or you can gently slice them off with your knife. Small hands might also like to pluck them off.     

 

 

Orange Suprêmes by Anne

orangesupremetrioedit2

This wonderful name refers to the juiciest, sweetest part of the orange—the actual orange pulp.  When you remove the skin, membrane, and pith from the orange segments, you have beautiful , sweet , pretty segments that lack the bitterness that comes from the pith.  Orange suprêmes make lovely additions to fruit salads, drinks, dessert decorations, and my next recipe on this blog—Salmon en Papillote with Oranges and Mangos.  You can make suprêmes with any other segmented fruit, such as grapefruit or lemon.

To Make Orange Suprêmes:

picnik-collage1

  1. Cut the top and bottom ends off of the orange, deep enough to reveal the juicy orange pulp. 
  2. Using the orange’s flat bottom to steady it on the cutting board, cut away a strip of the orange’s skin along the curve of the fruit, deep enough so that the orange shows clearly underneath.  You want to save as much of the orange as possible while also cutting deep enough to remove the white pith from the sides.  Repeat this in strips until your fruit is free of all outside white pith.
  3. Hold the orange gently in your palm.  Find the edge of a segment, where the pulp meets the membrane, and slice along this so that the pulp is separated from the membrane. Do this on both sides of the segment so you are cutting a long v-shape to completely free the segment from its membrane sheath.  Do this carefully to avoid cutting yourself.  Continue this process until all you have left is a “skeleton” of the membranes and a bowl full of small, juicy orange crescents.  There should be no white parts or membrane on these crescents.
  4.  If your recipe also calls for orange juice, squeeze the skeleton to remove the remaining juice from the fruit.

P.S. I did not know that this method had a name (and a French one, at that!) for years.  The lovely and gracious Melissa told me the other day at Foodista's International Food Bloggers Conference. 

Supreming on Foodista

Smoky by Anne

img_0551fishKippered snacks.  What is the deal with them, anyway?  Goofy name aside, are they lowbrow?  If I were to write a salad recipe that included smoked fish--which I did--would using kippered snacks be frowned upon in finer circles?  I’m just curious.  Basically they are smoked herring, which to me sounds smoothly Scandinavian and much more sophisticated than--you know.  Anyway, goofy or not, I’ll keep eating them until someone tells me they are extremely bad for me.  And then they might become my sordid secret.  They are pretty tasty.

My favorite memory of kippered snacks: sitting on my dorm room floor, sophomore year of college, eating flakes of smoky fish on crackers with Dijon mustard.  Listening to John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”  Does it get any cooler than that? C’mon!  So every time I break out this flavor combo it takes me back to days when the air smelled like old books, the sky felt like the limit and I had lots of room on the floor to study.    

Well, here I am, 20 years later, and I play “Giant Steps” to my baby girl—a jazz lover.  Meanwhile, I’m out of crackers.  That lack of crackers is the origin of this elegant-ish salad.  If you don’t like smoked fish, you will not like this salad.  No gettin’ around it,  this salad tastes like fish.  It’s also compelling and savory-sweet-crisp-tart-smoky.  Perfect to savor while contemplating your life and your major. 

Wilted Spinach Salad with Smoked Herring and Apples

2 large shallots, sliced in loops

2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to taste

1 tin of smoked herring (kipper snacks)*

1 heaping T Dijon mustard

1 lemon

1 sweet-tart apple (such as Cameo, Braeburn, or Jonathan), sliced thinly

Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

4 or 5 generous handfuls of baby spinach

 

1.       Sauté the shallots in the olive oil over medium heat until tender and almost brown. 

2.       Meanwhile, squeeze ½ of the lemon in a small bowl and whisk together with the Dijon. 

3.       When the shallots are tender, add the lemon mixture to the pan, stir together, and reduce heat to low. 

4.       Open the tin of herring and carefully remove fish to the pan in bite-sized pieces, leaving the oil in the can. 

5.       Place sliced apples into pan and gently stir fish & apples to coat. 

6.       Add the spinach and stir until the leaves are glossy with the dressing and wilted. 

7.       Arrange greens on plate, making sure that some of the goodies make it to the top. 

8.       If desired, squeeze more lemon on top and season to taste with salt and pepper.

*It would be fun to try this recipe with higher quality smoked fish.  It tastes great like this, though!

Make 2 small salads or 1 entrée sized salad.