elevating the status of the salad

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We’re back!

There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly-cut mint and freshly-squeezed lemon to brighten up a kitchen after a long hiatus of take-out. One can only take so much pad thai. 

This salad comes from the Williams-Sonoma Book, “Salad of the Day,” which I received over the holidays. I’m just getting around to testing it out now. Let’s just say things have been a little busy. Anyway, get that grill (or grill-pan for all you indoor cats) going and enjoy this spring salad!

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
  • 2 zucchini, cut on diagonal into slices 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat

For the Lemon Cardamom Dressing:

  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed (I just used ground cardamom)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 green onions, including tender green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh mint leaves, minced
  • 2 tbsp minced flat leaf parsley

Directions:

  1. Heat grill to medium.
  2. Put asparagus and zucchini in a heat-proof bowl, pour boiling water over to cover, and let stand for 2 minutes to soften slightly. Drain, let cool, and toss with the 1 tsp oil.
  3. When the grill is ready, put the bulgur in a heatproof bowl and add boiling water to cover by 2 inches. Let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grill the asparagus and zucchini, turning often, until lightly browned and crisp-tender, 4-5 minutes. Remove to a platter and cool slightly. Cut the asparagus spears on the diagonal into thirds.
  4. To make the dressing, in a bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, 1 tsp salt, and several grindings of pepper. Add the 2 tbsp oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the dressing is smooth.
  5. Pour the dressing into a saucepan, add the chickpeas, and warm over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Drain the bulgur. Combine the bulgur, grilled vegetables, green onions, mint, parsley, and chickpeas with the dressing in a serving bowl and toss to coat evenly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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This Japanese-inspired dressing is good on top of most fresh vegetables. If you use less water, it can make a great dip, too. I used this recipe on Epicurious, and only adjusted the amounts of each ingredient. Also, rather than use both a food processor and a blender, I put all the ingredients in the Vitamix at the same time and blended for about a minute until smooth. 

  • 4 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1/3 cup fresh ginger
  • 2 shallots
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water (or more to thin out as necessary)

It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or so. The salad in the picture has lettuce, roma beans, cherry tomatoes, sprouts, and thinly sliced cucumbers. I actually think a great appetizer would be thicker cucumber slices with a dollop of this orange gold on top.


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This post features a bunch of recipes. Not only is there the salad and dressing, but I also want to share  this simple way to make baked chips. I served it with leftover vegan cashew avocado “cream” from these incredible tofu tacos I discovered on Love and Lemons. 

To make the salad (I measured nothing):

Put some chopped romaine lettuce in a bowl.

Top with the following: I chose to do it cobb-salad style, but you can toss it all together, too. Go loco.

  • radishes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • grilled corn (Soak it first for about a half an hour. Grill on medium-high for about 10 minutes, rotating a few times. Then, let it cool and cut it off the cob)
  • shredded carrots
  • chopped red bell peppers
  • thinly sliced red onions
  • drained black beans
  • optional: shredded cheddar cheese
  • You can also do: avocado, jicama, etc.

Basic cilantro-lime dressing:

Blend the following until smooth:

  • 2 handfuls of cilantro
  • juice of 2 limes
  • a little bit of honey (or agave or sweetener of your choice)
  • salt/pepper
  • a few tablespoons of olive oil
  • water to thin out as needed

For the chips:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Prepare oil: Mix together a few tablespoons of olive oil with spices of your choice. I did a few shakes of cumin and paprika, and then a few pinches of salt.
  3. Put a stack of corn tortillas on a cutting board and cut them into sixths (first cut in half and then cut each half into thirds)
  4. Arrange tortilla triangles in a single layer on a cookie sheet (no overlapping) and brush both sides with the oil mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until slightly brown and crispy.
  5. Serve with salad and dip of choice.

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My challenge this morning was to create “salads” that could be eaten on a boat, picnic style. Whether you’re heading to a barbeque, movie night in the park, or any other occasion where utensils are a hassle, here are a few easy ideas:

The first is  caprese salad…on a stick. You need:

  • small mozzarella balls, cut in half
  • a bunch of grape tomatoes
  • basil leaves
  • salt
  • your favorite balsamic vinegar dressing (you can make your own by whisking/shaking equal parts vinegar and olive oil)
  • toothpicks

Assemble toothpicks with the mozzarella on the bottom, flat side down so it can stand. Then, fold one basil leaf in half and put it on the toothpick. The grape tomato tops it off. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Just before serving, drizzle with balsamic dressing.

The other option is chopped up vegetables and some great dressing as dip. I went with Sang Lee’s sweet ginger dressing. The farmer’s market had quite a selection for dippable vegetables today. I went with: wax beans, red and green bell peppers, burpless cucumbers and carrots. I also used some home-grown roma beans.

OK, it may not be rocket science… but it’s August and sometimes we just want to cut vegetables and use them as a vehicle for good dip.

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Nothing beats the heat like a good iced coffee. Except when that iced coffee gets abandoned while you do something else for a while, and then you have more like coffee-flavored water. Not so refreshing. These ice cubes solve that problem. While the coffee beans are not from this borough, I have good reason to include them on this blog. Here goes: The beans are from the Brooklyn Roasting Company on Jay Street in DUMBO. If you haven’t visited yet, I recommend it.  Also, I got the idea to make coffee ice cubes from the geniuses at One Girl Cookies on Dean Street. Since the beans were roasted in Brooklyn and I was inspired by a local establishment, it’s pretty much fresh from brooklyn-esque.

No recipe here. I just used some leftover coffee and poured it into adorable fish ice cube trays (regular ice cube trays will work, but are far less fun). They were ready a few hours later. The next day I did it again, and now I have a bunch of coffee ice cubes that will last a while! 

Keep cool!


I finally got a picture of this one!

fresh from brooklyn

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This is a special edition “request” post (thanks, A.H.) for a dish I made for a dinner party last week. I wasn’t planning on posting it, so there is no photo. If anyone makes this–can you please take a picture and forward it to me? 

It comes from Jack Bishop’s A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. It’s vegan and delicious. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced gingerroot
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15-ounce can  chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice (I actually used almost 2 sweet potatoes)
  • 6 pitted prunes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves (I minced these and then forgot to add them, so I guess feel free to leave them out)

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Im posting this again for two reasons. 1: Peter Berley was on WNYC last night explaining this ricotta recipe. 2: The use of the word yummy is reaching epidemic levels these days. Enough is enough. Other words you can say: tasty, delectable, delightful, appetizing, mouthwatering, delicious, scrumptious….you get the point.Yummy is a kids word and it makes me cringe to hear adults use it.

fresh from brooklyn

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There’s something I’ve been wanting to say: I am now over 50 posts into a food blog and have avoided using the word “yummy.” It is on my list of most hated words for adults to use. Now that I got that out of the way, I’m excited to share this ricotta technique with you.

Making fresh ricotta is so easy that it makes me wonder why EVERYONE isn’t making their own ricotta. So far, I’ve enjoyed it on fresh ciabatta with honey and on homemade pizza with eggplant. Other ways I plan on trying (recipes to follow throughout the season):

  • with mint and spring vegetables on pasta,
  • in pancakes,
  • in lasagna,
  • by the spoonful…

If you have an interesting way to prepare ricotta, please forward your recipe!

I learned this technique at Peter Berley’s cooking weekend in February, and the picture below is from his beautiful kitchen on the…

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While I haven’t been able to get creative in the kitchen lately, I look forward to cooking for the upcoming holidays. Here are some suggestions to make my favorite holiday even better:

1. Avoid the butterball turkey. Instead, try to find a free-range turkey. You may need to have ordered this in advance. WARNING: The following video is quite disturbing, but worth taking a look before you eat the butterball.

http://gothamist.com/2012/11/14/butterball.php

2. Load up on vegetables. Now that you are totally grossed out and you realize you won’t be eating the meat on the table, get creative with the vegetable “sides.”  I plan on making a few of these dishes from the New York Times Well blog for the upcoming holiday season. The squash and spinach lasagna looks incredible, as does the quinoa carrot kugel.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/11/12/health/20121111_vegetarian-thanksgiving.html

3. Make some festive cocktails.  There are a bunch of good ones to choose from here:

http://www.marthastewart.com/275138/thanksgiving-cocktail-and-drink-recipes/@center/276949/everything-thanksgiving


I read that pearl of wisdom on a paper towel yesterday.

Here’s to tomorrows filled with salsa from the container garden in the sky!

Vegetables with a view: tomatoes and cucumbers in their City Pickers.

 

The herbs: mint, basil, cilantro, chives…(and a tomato stuck in there, too). I gave the cilantro, mint, and basil haircuts earlier tonight for a Thai salad–post to follow soon! I hope I can make my cilantro last all summer. Anyone know if that’s even possible?

 

There are some jalapeño plants along this wall.

 


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This is a special edition “request” post (thanks, A.H.) for a dish I made for a dinner party last week. I wasn’t planning on posting it, so there is no photo. If anyone makes this–can you please take a picture and forward it to me? 

It comes from Jack Bishop’s A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. It’s vegan and delicious. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced gingerroot
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15-ounce can  chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice (I actually used almost 2 sweet potatoes)
  • 6 pitted prunes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves (I minced these and then forgot to add them, so I guess feel free to leave them out)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the cumin and cinnamon and cook until the spices smell toasty, about 30 seconds.

2. Add the broth, chickpeas, sweet potato, and prunes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the sweet potatoes are tender, 12-15 minutes. Stir in the cilantro (!) and salt and pepper to taste and serve.