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Archive for the ‘salad’ Category

uncommonly good

Watermelon Feta Salad close-up

On Thursday night, some friends organized an evening picnic on Boston Common to watch a little Shakespeare. The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company was putting on Comedy of Errors. Having spent at least a half-dozen summers in Manhattan and never making it to see Shakespeare in the Park (despite living anywhere from a few steps to a few blocks from said Park), I was very excited to finally partake in a little outdoor drama.

And of course friends, good food, and wine.

Our hosts, Noam and Tammie, invited picnic contributions, quoting the first Shakespeare play that I had ever read (and whose prologue I still have memorized), “Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers” (Romeo and Juliet, 4.2).

Well, lick we did…read on, my friends.

Having been privy to some little cherry tomatoes from my CSA (they called them pear tomatoes, but they were more globular than narrow) and a few tiny fruits from my tomato plant, I wanted to incorporate these precious beauties, especially rare this summer due to the blight, into a salad.

CSA tomatoes and a few tiny ones from my window sill garden

CSA tomatoes and a few tiny ones from my windowsill garden

I picked up a beautiful seedless watermelon and made what is a very common salad in Israel and the Mediterranean but whose mix of salty and sweet caused several of my friends to look at me somewhat askance when I announced, “Voilà, watermelon-feta salad!” as I unpacked my  savory-sweet delight.  Of course, Noam, the Israeli in our crowd, came to my defense when no one wanted to try the salad, saying (my apologies for paraphrasing), “This is a classic salad in Israel, but we tend to make it with Bulgarian cheese. It’s a great combination.” I dressed the salad and served up bowls with an encouraging smile during the intermission. By the end of the play, we were picking out the last bits of watermelon flecked with feta and basil ribbons, licking our fingers (well, that might have only been the cook, er, me).

And the salad was so good, I made it the next night too.

Watermelon-Feta-Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

salad with red leaf lettuce

I first heard of and tried this seemingly strange and uncommon combination in Israel and wanted to get some background on why is so popular there. A source on Wikipedia suggests that watermelon originated in the Nile valley. Add this fruit that is 92% water to some sweltering heat, described by a favorite food blogger as “wading through warm honey,” in a Mediterranean area known for salty semi-firm yet crumbly cheese, and the experimental combination seems inevitable. Once tried, the desire to repeat the experiment is nothing short of addictive. The juxtaposition of textures – the creamy saltiness of the feta, the crisp sweet chill of the watermelon – play off one another nicely. I added the crunch of fresh-from-the-farm tomatoes and added some basil from my windowsill garden. There are so many variations and I’ve made a bunch of suggestions at the end. This salad is best served cold; make sure to add the dressing no more than 20 minutes before serving, as you don’t want the watermelon to lose its turgor.

Serves 6-8 people.

4-5 handfuls of spinach (1/2 a 10 oz bag…i.e, 5 oz) or a head of red leaf lettuce or other leafy greens.

10-12 pear tomatoes

- 1/4 of a seedless watermelon

- ~ 1/4 C feta — I use Israeli goat milk feta that is softer and more like Bulgarian cheese than a hard Greek-style feta (the brand is Pastures of Eden and I buy it at Trader Joe’s; I like it because it is not too salty; I found a nice review about it in the San Fran Chronicle). It is best to keep the store the feta in water and change the water every few days.

- white wine vinegar – 2 T

- extra virgin olive oil – 5 T

- basil (20 leaves)

- salt and pepper

Assemble salad: Rinse and spin the spinach or greens and rip into bite-sized pieces. Quarter the tomatoes. Cut the watermelon into ~1-inch cubes. Crumble feta over the salad.

feta crumbled over spinach

Make dressing: Chiffonade the basil and put into a small bottle (I use an empty spice container).

- 003 (2) crop

The dressing is a standard vinaigrette (typically 3:1 oil: vinegar) that’s just a tiny bit lighter on oil – add oil, vinegar, a few grinds of pepper and a pinch of salt. Shake up to emulsify. Dip a green leaf into dressing to taste for salt and adjust seasoning for taste.

dressing

Chill salad until ready to serve. Dress ~ 15-20 minutes before serving.

chilled, dressing on the side

This is such a versatile salad and there are so many variations you can play around with:

- Shake up the greens – mild greens work here as do those that are more bitter (like arugula)

- Add more salt with capers or olives

- Add some bite with thinly sliced or chopped red onions (I like to quick pickle them in a little white vinegar to cut some of the raw onion’s sharpness, described here) or spring onion

- Use a different acid in the dressing: instead of white wine vinegar, use a sweet balsamic or lime or lemon juice

- Try different herbs: mint, cilantro instead of basil

- Add some heat to the dressing with peppers

Here are a few more recipe ideas I found when looking around the web, one from Janna Gur for Watermelon Cubes with Salty Cheese and Capers and another Ynet article including a salad from Erez Komorovsky that adds blackberries and red onion to the mix.

watermelon-feta salad with spinach


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a fine mess

“But I have never tasted meat,

Nor cabbage, corn nor beans, / Nor fluid food one half as sweet

As that first mess of greens”

- James T. Cotton Noe*

collard slaw from above

My CSA is yet again challenging my taste buds and culinary prowess.

I received collards last week. I associate these hardy greens with the South, and though I grew up in a border state and affect an accent and a “y’all” when it suits me, I’m pretty Northern and city to the core. In looking around for some collard recipes I could relate to, I learned a bit about the history of collards but came up with very little that I could actually envision cooking eating because most recipes call for hamhock or fatback, neither of which fit into my kosher cooking repertoire.

While these greens were imported from Europe, they became part of Southern “soul food” in the 1800s as they were quite prolific and cooked with other kitchen extras using a long simmering method from Africa. These greens cook down quite a bit, not unlike bok choy, kale, or spinach, and the phrase “a mess of greens” usually refers to a whole lot of southern collards that reduce down to a hearty dark green, somewhat stinky (even though I do go for stinky sometimes) slightly slimy in my book, beloved-by-Southerners delectable dish. The better part of the poem that supposedly popularized, or at least codified, this phrase is copied at the end of the this post.

As true Northern folk (and with apologies to my dear dear “Atlanta family”) I just couldn’t bear to cook down a mess of collards. So I sought out alternatives. I found a collard green slaw recipe – bingo! No cooking means no stink. And no pork. I’m no raw food vegan, but I guess this fits the bill if you’re into that. The one thing I can say is that when you eat this slaw, it tastes like you’re eating something healthy. But in a good way.

Collard Slaw

016 sharp crop square

The inspiration for this no-cook salad came from Red Menace over at A Chow Life. Check out her beautiful blog for great ideas and lovely photography. While I didn’t use her sweet slaw recipe, I did filch the idea of marinating the collards in a vinegar to break down some of the fibrous bitterness in the raw greens. I followed my more savory, Asian-inspired slaw recipe that I use for other cruciferous greens- cabbage, broccoli – rummaging through what was handy in my cupboard. This was great after about 30 minutes of flavor mingling and even better the next day when a bit less crisp, but more intensely flavored.  After 18-24 hours, your greens will reduce by about about half, so you still need to start with “a good mess.”

This recipe doesn’t really have exact quantities, but I’ll do my best. I prepared enough for 3-4 small side salads.

- A mess of collards – I received about 20-25 medium-sized leaves from my CSA share

- 2 carrots

- rice vinegar (~2T)

- toasted sesame oil (~1 T)

- hot pepper sesame oil (~ 1-2 t)

- salt or soy sauce (a pinch or 1/2 t to taste, I used pink salt)

- sugar (a pinch or two to cut the bitterness)

- sesame seeds

Soak and gently agitate collards in a big bowl of cold water several times until the water runs clear.

Pat collards dry and chiffonade: roll up 5-6 leaves at a time lengthwise. Because the leaves are pretty wide, I made a cut on each side of the stem. I kept the stem intact because the collards I had were pretty young, but if yours are really fibrous feel free to discard. Then slice widthwise into thin (~1/4 in) strips.

Peel the carrots and julienne them. I used my julienne peeler which made this pretty easy. You could use a food processor, but what a pain to clean (plus, I don’t have one).

Mix the greens and carrots and add the the vinegar, oils, and a little bit of salt and sugar to taste. Start with just a little bit of salt and sugar (and spicy) because you can always add more later. The sugar is important to cut the bitterness of the greens. The salt draws out some of the flavor. Add a few pinches of sesame seeds for taste, texture, and looks.

Let marinate for at least 30 minutes for a crunchier salad, or overnight for a softer slaw. The spiciness does intensify with time.

Variations: if you don’t have hot pepper sesame oil, leave it out, or add some red pepper flakes. Try peanut oil instead sesame oil.

bowl o greens

* THE FIRST MESS OF GREENS

… to me the woods a-ringin’

With the notes of happy birds / When the April buds is springin’

Is a song too sweet for words: / And the beautifullest, since you ask it,

In art or nature’s scenes, / Is Kate with knife and basket,

A-getherin’ of greens.

It pears to lift the veil of years / And opens up to view,

A scene that brings me soothin’ tears

As sweet as tender dew / To grass that suns have withered dry :

I can see her jist as plain, / Though Father Time has dimmed my eye,

And ricollect the pain, / I suffered while she paused a-thinkin’

What such an answer means; / And the “Stay and help us, John,” a-winkin’

“Eat our first mess of greens.”

But I have never tasted meat, ‘

Nor cabbage, corn nor beans, / Nor fluid food one half as sweet

As that first mess of greens.

It’s not the pictur near as much

As the thoughts that gethers round, / That always gives the paintin’ such

Distinction and renown. / There’s nothin’ in a grassy knoll

So beautiful to see, / And yit I think within my soul

It beats a flowery lea. / And oh, I git Munkasket,

If I only had the means, / To paint me Kate with basket

A-getherin’ of greens.

- James T. Cotton Noe (1864-1953), American writer and poet,

from the Loom of Life

close-up

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Modern conveniences make our lives easier, no doubt. I remember when we got our first car phone. It actually had to be attached TO the car. And when my dad went out grocery shopping and my mom forgot to put something on the list, she could call to remind him not to forget the OJ. What a revolution. I remember remarking, “what did we do before car phones???” Now, I travel almost everywhere with a cell phone, a BlackBerry (my “BB”), my tiny Nikon digital camera, an iPod, and if I’m going somewhere for more than 3 days, my computer – because I never know when there might be a blogortunity.

The same holds true for me in the kitchen. I never thought I needed a mixer, but now I can barely fathom making a cake without mine. (And I recall when a newly smug married entered my apartment and exclaimed, “Zahavah, you have a Kitchen Aid, you don’t need to get married!”…I just looked at her husband and could not utter the pitying comment that I would not come up with until hours later.) Even in my 6X6 Manhattan kitchen (and now in a larger, newer Boston abode), my “work space” was somewhat cluttered with a mini food processor, blender and multiple immersion blenders, crepe maker, waffle iron, and George Foreman grill, and don’t forget the 3 sets of pots and pans. Yes… in addition to basari (meat) and chalavi (dairy), I have a small collection of parve (neutral) batterie de sine (Ok, it’s not really batterie de cuisine, but after finishing Julia Child’s My Life in France this weekend and visiting The Breakers and The Elms in Newport, RI last week, I have decided to adopt this terminology. And, anyway, a girl can dream!)

outside the Elks, reminded me of Rimini (unable to capture the extensive batterie de cuisine inside)

Outside the Elms. The juxtaposition of stone and sea reminded me of Rimini (unable to capture the extensive copper batterie de cuisine inside the massive kitchen)

But every once in a while, it’s refreshing to leave a lot of the fancy things behind and keep things (relatively) simple.

This weekend, I visited the condo in Sunny Isles, Florida that my snowbird grandparents (whom you met briefly; I have referred to my grandmother as “Grapefruit Bubbie” because we always had a grapefruit half waiting on each plate before dinner) left to my mother after their passing, and that my parents just finished gutting and renovating. While this was normally our winter get-away, my sister and I joined my parents to toast our new southern abode this past weekend.

My job was to start to outfit the kitchen and my sister, the architect, is in charge of any design decisions that have yet to be made.

a simple lunch as we take a break from unpacking and escape the August sun at high noon

a simple lunch as we take a break from unpacking and escape the August sun at high noon

Since no one will be living here full-time, we’re really trying to keep things pretty basic. We’ve thrown out a lot of things,  but have kept some stuff worth saving. Starting from the beginning means I’m out buying measuring cups, cookie sheets, and salt (and parchment paper and Callebaut chocolate…maybe you see where this is going…) and making do with some oldies but goodies, like Teflon pots and pans that were probably bought when Teflon was a novelty and are still in their original boxes.

Being here in the heat of August that does not let out even in the evenings means that I am barely in the mood to cook. We do a lot of take-out from the local kosher markets – my favorite is Sarah’s Tent in the Waterways.

But there are just a few things that no one can make for me, and that I made with the most basic of equipment. Fresh iced tea from tea bags seeped in a Corning Ware percolator, voided of its percolating bits. Lemon balm-infused simple syrup to sweeten said iced-tea. Salad with marinated zucchini and other veggies, some of which, like the lemon balm, are from my CSA and I could not bear to leave to languish in my fridge.

one last pot of fresh iced tea, seeping at 6 am before I caught my flight (excuse the flash)

making an early morning pot of fresh iced tea for the day (excuse the flash)

lemon balm-infused simple syrup

lemon balm-infused simple syrup

And of course, a family favorite – chocolate chunk cookies (with only chocolate chunks, no nuts). I meant to bring down a jar of almond butter, but in my rush to catch my flight, I grabbed peanut butter instead. I hoped the recipe would be pretty adaptable and my father had been talking about these cookies for over a week (I made them for  him for father’s day and he and my mother have been asking for another batch since then.) For the past few days, in between dealing with plumbing problems, last minute meetings with the contractor, and the-ever-important few hours in the late afternoon sun, I’ve been amassing ingredients in the store. After lunch today, I grabbed a few old school bowls, measured out my dry ingredients, let the margarine get to room temperature, measured out the peanut butter, and chopped up the Callebaut chocolate with a Ginsu knife (remember those? Yup, Bubbie had one!).

pouring the PB

The first step: “Using electric mixer, beat butter/margarine, almond butter, and both sugars in large bowl until light and fluffy.”  Hmm, I have never done this without a mixer. Ok…well, back to good old-fashioned elbow grease. I grabbed a spatula and set to work, first just beating together the butters. So far so good. A nice even creamy mix. OK, I was ready to add in the sugar. And I set to work with the same intensity as before.

Crack.

The first kitchen casualty.

kitchen casualty

Without missing a beat (well, I did snap a few photos), I pulled a big spoon from the drawer and finished up the dough, adding in the chocolate chunks and then throwing the dough in the fridge to cool before running out to the pool for a few late afternoon rays.

if you look real close, you can see the reflection of my flip flop in the bowl

if you look real close, you can see the reflection of my flip flop in the bowl

After returning from the pool where I finally caught up on my New Yorkers (funniest line in the 8/3 issue: “You know who looks fabulous in a bathing suit? A mannequin. Also, a hanger.”), my sister arrived, we grabbed a quick dinner and then toasted our new apartment with some sparkling wine and peanut butter cookies.

In my opinion, they are not as good as the original recipe, too crispy where the others have the perfect chewy bite,  but my family seemed to like them, because when I woke up this morning for my early flight home, there seem to have been a few cookie monsters in the middle of the night.

the cookie monsters attacked overnight

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sneak peek

Vic's olivey Israeli-style salad

I am no good at surprises. I come home from a trip with presents for family and friends, and I can barely get off the plane before I’m calling them up to say, “I’m home, guess what I brought you…No, don’t guess, let me tell you!” I have blown surprise parties. For real. Just don’t tell me about them. Or if you do, make sure I know it’s a surprise. And remind me that means I’m not supposed to tell the guest of honor. And that it means I have to show up on time (or in my case, early…or very very very late to avoid walking in with the guest of honor and saying something like, “How fun, I’m so excited for your birthday party…” as s/he reaches for the doorknob).

Yes. I’m that bad.

So, since I’m making dinner tonight for a friend, I can’t resist. Here’s the menu. And a sneak peek at one of the dishes since I made a test run earlier this week and I liked it so much, I’m repeating it. And, oh guest of honor, if you happen to check out my blog today, well, the surprise is ruined!

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, as reported by Mark Bittman in the NYT and as brought to my attention by Jess at Sweet Amandine

Unió olive oil for dipping — this stuff is good enough plain (there’s a pic of it in my kibbutz herb salad)

Roasted garlic

Warm za’atar olives

Spicy carrot tortellini

Bean and walnut paté

Vic’s salad: Israeli-style salad with olives (see below)

Green salad (maybe)

Spoon lamb – a sneak peek, after braising, before sauce: "falling off the bone"

Couscous

Roasted asparagus

Blueberries and golden raspberries with mint simple syrup (or a splash of lemon juice + mint)

If I have time: Almond butter cookies with just almonds (no chocolate chunks)

Just in case: a slice of apple strudel and min fruit tart from Catering by Andrew (the only place I know of here to pick up good kosher patisserie)

Vic’s Salad

Vic's Salad

Vic and Joe (and the adorable Jackito) were my gracious and amazing hosts during most of my time in Panama City. Not only did Vic make a decadent “chocolate explosion cake” that we took on our Santa Clara private beach picnic, but she shared this version of an Israeli salad of tiny chopped tomato and cucumber, salted with olive juice and seasoned with parsley. It became an instant favorite and I’ve been making it since I came home.

Makes 3-4 servings

- 2 tomatoes

- 2 small kirby cucumbers

- 3 scallions

- 10-15 kalamata olives (pre-pitted is easier), liquid reserved (don’t throw it out!)

- flat leaf parsley, chopped

- 1 lemon

- 2-3 T olive oil (to taste)

- freshly ground pepper to taste

Finely chop tomatoes and drain some of liquid in colander while chopping remainder of vegetables. Finely chop cucumbers (some remove seeds and peel, but I don’t bother). Slice white and light green parts of scallions. Slice  olives into ~4 pieces each.

Mix vegetables together and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Veggies, olives, and parsley

Season salad with juice of 1 lemon, 3-4 T of olive juice, 2-3 T olive oil (I used Unió — this oil really tastes like olives!).

Serve right away.

***

And of course, as I’ve been cooking, I’ve been listening to tons of music, including a favorite artist that I happened upon about a year ago: Hadar Manor, an Israeli who found her way to London and began busking in the Underground. I bought her eponymous demo CD that arrived over the Atlantic with a handwritten note and demos for her upcoming album, “Crossing London” which has recently been released. Some of my favorite songs, such as “Ir Miklat” didn’t make it to the album, so I feel like I have a secret stash, and other faves like “Cook a Man” did. One that I don’t (yet) have and would like to share with you is called “Queen of the Underground.”

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csa lunch box

Marinated white turnip and lemon balm over romaine

After a bit of hemming and hawing over the winter, I took the plunge and went with a CSA for the summer. I picked up my first share last week and it included several vegetables that were a bit foreign to me.

Heaven's Harvest CSA share

According to the Heaven’s Harvest website, the share this week consisted of: scallions, Hakurei turnips, summer squash, sweet potatoes, red chard, romaine lettuce, baby bok choi, collards, lemon balm, chives (boo – no chives for me!), and strawberries.

As I was heading down to New York for the weekend, I prepared a little lunchbox for my trip using the fresh bounty that I had.

I researched the white hakurei turnips and learned that they don’t require peeling. Recalling the first time that I made jicama cilantro slaw and inadvertently bought a large turnip (yes, this was well before I had developed into the sophisticate that I am today…I kept exclaiming, “my, this tastes quite earthy!”), I figured a modified slaw would work well with the delicate turnips. So, I did a quick 45-minute marinade of julienned turnips in lemon juice, salt, pepper, extra-virgin, and chiffonaded lemon balm, and then threw the mix over hearty romaine lettuce.

marinated white Hakurei turnips with lemon balm, romaine lettuce


I next prepared some chard, also chiffonaded, and then quickly sautéed in olive oil with salt and thrown atop a whole wheat wrap slathered in hummus.

sauteed chard with hummus on ww wrap


Finally, I rinsed and dried the strawberries and repacked them in their container.

And then I threw everything into an old salad greens container next to a bottle of water, and rushed off to South Station.

lunch box for my trip to NY

As I was heading down to New York, I prepared a little lunchbox for my trip using the fresh bounty that I had.I researched the white _____ turnips and learned that they don’t require peeling. Recalling the first time that I made jicama cilantro slaw and inadvertently bought a large turnip (yes, this was well before I had developed into the sophisticate that I am today…I kept exclaiming, “my, this tastes quite earthy!”), I figured a modified slaw would work well with the delicate turnips. So, I did a quick 45-minute marinade of julienned turnips in lemon juice, salt, pepper, extra-virgin, and chiffonaded lemon balm, and then threw the mix over hearty romaine lettuce.

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kibbutz herb salad

kibbutz herb salad close-up

At the first non-traditional tikkun leil Shavuot that I attended at the Manhattan JCC a few years ago, I took home two principles, one general, one specific. The first was that Jewish learning need not be limited to textual study – this clearly stuck with me as I taught a dance class at my own minyan‘s recent Shavuot evening of learning. The second was how fabulous incorporating fresh herbs into a green salad can make it taste.

Growing up as a dancer (or pretending I was a dancer is probably more accurate) who always watched everything I put in my mouth with trepidation, salads were more a necessity than something to look forward to and savor. And the salads I ate were pretty boring and almost always the same: iceberg, carrots, cucumber, mushrooms, maybe some pepper. Throw on some non-fat ranch dressing from a bottle. Voilà — dinner! As I look back now, all I can think is si triste…so sad.

Now I look forward to salads as an explosion of fresh flavors, with diverse and interesting greens and a few additional veggies to be highlighted with just a splash of freshly made dressing. That fateful Shavuot night captured the essence of this type of salad for me. The woman who taught the class (and please forgive me, but I can’t recall her name) described the salad as a traditional one made on kibbutzim (the Hebrew plural of kibbutz) — collective, usually agrarian, communities that settled in pre-Israel Palestine — using fresh herbs and vegetables grown by the kibbutzniks.

I now have my own window sill garden and I  like to use as many of my own home-grown herbs as possible. I have basil and mint, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot grow cilantro.

my window sill garden

For those looking closely, yup, that’s a little critter climbing up the mint pot (an idea that I got from Monica down in Atlanta – mother to Meira and Maman to Caroline’s kiddos; I bought this little guy in Israel).

I just bought a tomato plant – grape tomatoes to be exact – and it’s so exciting to see the little yellow blossoms fall off as the green bulbs emerge. I can’t wait to seem the little tomatoes pop out.

grape tomatoes, not quite ready

Kibbutz Herb Salad

This salad has become one of my favorite refreshing summer classics and I make variations on it for almost every meal that I go to because it just screams fresh summer to me. The original salad was prepared with the three herbs that I use here – mint, cilantro, and basil – along with goat cheese, toasted pine nuts (pignoli), and sun-dried tomatoes. I can’t recall what greens were used, but I almost always use a mix of arugula and baby spinach – the red leaf lettuce here is milder, but worked quite well. I don’t like pine nuts very much and immediately substituted toasted slivered almonds (you must toast them to draw out their flavor). I usually use fresh or slow-roasted tomatoes and sometimes add some feta or a firm chèvre.

Serves 1 – adjust for appropriate number of guests (amounts in parentheses are for a crowd…aka, a dinner party of 8 such as the one I had a few weeks ago)

 

- 2-3 large handfuls of greens (I used red leaf lettuce here, but often use a mix of baby arugula and spinach) (for a crowd: 10 oz. package of baby arugula, 10 oz package of baby spinach)

- a small handful of each green you plan to use: ~ 10 large basil leaves, ~ 20 small mint leaves (Sam, leave this out), a handful of cilantro (super-tasters, leave this out) (for a crowd: ~25-30 large basil leaves, ~ 50 small mint leaves, tons of cilantro)

- 1 tomato (for a crowd: 4-5 tomatoes or 10 oz slow roasted grape tomatoes)

- 1 handful (~1/4 C) sliced almonds (for a crowd: 1 C sliced almonds)

- 1/2 lemon for juicing (for a crowd: 1-2 lemons)

- 1-2T extra virgin olive oil – the best you can find – info on a recommended one below (for a crowd: up to 1/4 C )

- salt and pepper

Toast the almonds on a dry pan with a pinch or two of salt over low heat. Shake the pan and watch the almonds carefully because you want them to brown but not burn. Once you can smell them, remove from heat. Let the almonds cool while  you prepare the rest of the salad.

Rinse and dry all greens and herbs. Cut everything into  strips. Cut the red leaf into thicker strips that are still bite-sized (when I use arugula and baby spinach, I just rip everything, removing and stems). Chiffonade the basil and mint. Chiffonadeing results in a pretty thin strip and comes from the french word, chiffon – a rag – and the verb, chiffoner – to provoke (but no one ever talks about the verb… I found this one on my own!). To chiffonade, stack all of your leaves, roll them up, and slice through them with a sharp knife in quick parallel cuts. Chop up cilantro if using.

For more information on the chiffonading technique, check out this little article I found on foodista: Chiffonading on Foodista

Chop tomato.

chopped and chiffonaded greens and veggies, toasted almonds

Mix greens and herbs in large bowl. Pour a little bit of excellent olive oil into one hand and massage into the greens (keep second hand dry so you can add salt and pepper). This ensures that all the leaves are dressed without being drenched. This is the methodology that the Israeli chef shared with us and I always use it for this salad. I really like this tactile methodology.

Unio Extra Virgin Olive OilA note on extra virgin olive oil. Since my last trip to California, I have been on a search for a great olive oil that tastes like olives and I found one! While I have written a draft of a post about my search as well as some emerging thoughts on whether cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil actually requires a hechsher, it’s not quite ready. But, I can’t resist sharing with the amazing Spanish oil that I found (it does have a Spanish hechsher: Certified Kosher by the Federacion de Comunidade Israelites ) that actually tastes like olives and is made from arbequina olives native to the Catalan region of Spain on the French border. It is called Unió and is easy to find at Whole Foods (~$17 for a 750ml bottle).

This olive oil is amazing just served on the table in a little dish to accompany bread. I save it for dipping and salad dressings and do not cook with it.

Right before serving, add tomatoes and squeeze half a lemon over the greens. Toss with a few pinches of salt and a few turns of pepper. Throw the now-cooled toasted almonds on top and toss again. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

kibbutz herb salad

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pomegranate chicken kabobs cooling, ready to pack up

I’m still a little bit confused by New England weather. I mean, I lived here a few years ago when I went to The College (how’s that for subtle?), so I was ready for a long Winter. I was even prepared for the little peek of early Spring followed by a couple more snow storms. But I keep trying to figure out Summer, and I want to compare it to places that I am familiar with. I thought perhaps summer might be a little bit like LA’s “June Gloom”. Or San Francisco where the fog rolls out every morning. But I think it’s just unique with its own, er, charm. I’ve decided that it’s just predictably unpredictable.

All I know is that when I pulled together a last-minute potluck picnic last weekend to celebrate my friend Marina’s coming to town and fully anticipated that it would be held on my living room floor, I awoke last Saturday morning after a week of drizzle to a gorgeous sunshiny day. I even cleaned up my place anticipating a toddler’s grabby hands (or at least took care of the things that reached about waist-level for me).

So my friends and I were blessed with a beautiful day, an outdoor picnic, a bounty of food, and of course a fun afternoon with each other (and I got a relatively mess-free home…at least up to toddler-eye-view).

Here’s the menu, and like I did for my last dinner party, I’ll try to fill out the recipes as I go along.

the prettiest Challah I’ve ever made thanks to a new braiding technique

Guacamole (below)

Corn Edamame Salad (below)

Mayo-free Egg Salad (below)

Quinoa-Mango Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette (made with Spinach)

Pomegranate Chicken Kabobs (below)

Simple Chocolate Cake

Contributions from friends (feel free to send recipes or include in comments): Green Salad, Wine, Fruit Salad, Halva

Here are the salads that I made.

1) Guacamole

I normally add tomatoes to my guac, but I didn’t have any this week. However, I did have a jalepeno so this one came out nice and spicy.

Mash together flesh of 2 avocados, 1/2 finely diced jalapeno = ~1t (seeds removed – and don’t attempt to put on your contact lenses after dicing like I did!), 1T grated onion (optional), 2-3 generous pinches salt, and 2-3 T lime juice. You can also add some cayenne pepper or cumin.

2) Corn Edamame Salad with Pink Salt

This is a very easy salad that I threw together with things I had in my fridge, freezer, and pantry, adjusting and tasting as I went along. This made about 4-5 C salad and there was about 1/2 C remaining for me to take a picture of the next day (but my pic came out blurry).

Roast 3 ears of corn in oven as directed a few weeks ago. Cut kernels off of cob.

corn cut off the cob

Cook 1 bag (10 oz) frozen shelled edamame — I microwaved in a bowl with 3T water and a pinch of salt for 1-2 minutes. Drain water.

Mix corn with cooked drained edamame and add some quartered baby tomatoes (15-20).

corn edamame tomatoes

Dress with  rice vinegar (2-3T), toasted sesame oil (2T) and a pinch of salt. Serve with Hawaiian pink sea salt. I bought this pink sea salt at Target (I can’t seem to find it on their website any more) and its ingredients are sea salt and Hawaiian Alaea. A quick online search revealed that alaea refers to a harvested Hawaiian reddish clay that contains iron oxide; alaea salt is traditionally used in ceremonies to cleanse, purify and bless tools and canoes and imparts security on the item being blessed, and in healing rituals for medicinal purposes.

Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt

3) The Baking Architect‘s Egg Salad with Mushrooms

Ellie, aka, The Baking Architect, serves this no-mayo egg salad before many of her lunches. She forwarded me this recipe guide in the middle of a busy Friday to help me prepare for my picnic when I realized I had no mayo and was already boiling my eggs. I have put in my own measurements, but you can obviously adapt for whatever sized crowd you have.

Boil 8 eggs. The fail-proof method I learned for perfect boiled eggs is as follows: Prick a hole in the end of each egg with a clean pin. Place eggs in pot and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Drain out hot water and refill with cold water to stop cooking. Shake eggs around in pot to crack eggs. Shells will come off easily when cool, and yolks will be creamy.

Sautée sliced mushrooms (I sliced about 10 cremini mushrooms) with 1 diced onion and a pinch of salt and some garlic powder — or minced fresh garlic (1-2 t) — in plenty of olive oil (3T).

Allow eggs to cool and then dice the eggs in two directions on an egg slicer. Add the mushroom-onion sautée and mix well. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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And now for the chicken:

4) Pomegranate Chicken Kabobs

Since this was a last-minute picnic, I tried to avoid doing a major shopping trip and used as much food as I had in my kitchen as possible. I remembered that I had a fair amount of dressing left over from that salad with beets and ruby red grapefruit that I made for my dinner party the prior week and figured it might make a good chicken marinade. It did and this chicken would also  be great thrown atop the salad if you decided to make the two dishes together. This is a really easy dish to make on a grill, grill pan, or my old stand-by, the George Foreman.

Make pomegranate marinade (see original post for more detail): Whisk together 1/3 – 1/2 C pomegranate juice, ~1T sugar, 6T orange-flavored olive oil, and salt, and taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Cut 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks. Soak in marinade in fridge for at least 2 hours.

Thread onto bamboo skewers (I put 4 chunks per skewer and made a dozen skewers, putting a beet on the end of each) and grill a few minutes on each side until fully cooked.

Pomegranate chicken kabobs on the "grill"

I let the kabobs cool a bit before packing them up in an rinsed out salad container for easy transport the next day (I was still hoping for nice weather, and my wish was granted).

These kabobs were a favorite of Mo’s — Jamie and Brad’s toddler — as he wandered around the mini Japanese zen park down the street from my place, navigating the huge “upside-down wok” and fake grass (that we were happy to discover does not seem to retain rain water from previous nights).  They were also a hit with Lola, Dani’s puppy, who kept sniffing at our licked-clean skewers after gobbling up the one chunk that slipped through Mo’s fingers.

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close-up in the shadows

To accompany that fabulous roast last week, I made a whole bunch of other dishes.

Challah - looked pretty, tasted bad (oh well!)

Carrot-Ginger-Orange Soup

Arugula and Herb Salad with Tomatoes and Almonds

Haricots Verts with Garlic and Dill

(the Moroccan Roast)

Pomegranate Chicken – tasty but ugly

Whole Wheat Couscous with Onions

Simple Chocolate Cake

Berries and Grapes


I could never have done it all without the help of my fabulous friend Tammie whom you may recall I rely on for music recommendations and fun nights out.

She showed up about 3 hours before dinner in a little black dress, threw on an apron, and asked to be put to work. Now, I’m a little proprietary about my kitchen and it’s sometimes difficult for me to give up control, but Tammie is so pleasant to work with. She could not have been a more willing participant, happy to help however she could, jumping right in and constantly asking what else she could. Tammie donned a pair of perfectly fitting surgical gloves that I had left over from my old days in the hospital to peel beets (and then refused to take them off…they protect the nails, you know?), stirred pots, tasted dishes and made seasoning recommendations, helped put away the magazines that always seem to litter my living room, made me jump in the shower when it was clear that I might never dress for dinner, and made sure the evening went by flawlessly. By the time the guests arrived, the table was ready to be set and all the food were waiting to be served. We had a great time prepping dinner, hanging out in the kitchen, catching up on the week, and I was able to really enjoy my food and dinner guests rather than worrying about last minute details as I sometimes do.

This was one of my favorite dinner parties ever. Thanks Tammie.

Salad with Beets and Ruby Red Grapefruit

spinach beet grapefruit salad panorama


Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking: The Southwest by Kathi Long. We cheated and used pomegranate juice instead of fresh pomegranate and didn’t have any seeds for the salad, but it was beautiful and tasty without. Tammie pretty much made this entire salad on her own while I rushed around and did other things.

Serves 6-8 (with enough leftover dressing to marinate chicken shish-kabobs for a picnic…more details on that to come).

8  beets

kosher salt to taste

2-3 T extra virgin olive oil

1/3 to 1/2 C pure pomegranate juice (I used POM; original recipe called for 1 large and 1 small pomegranate, the former to be juiced, the latter to be seeded…I’m just a little lazy)

6 T orange-flavored extra virgin olive oil

NOTE: I use O blood orange olive oil – no hechscher on the bottle, but for those questioning its hashkachah, 1) I  bought it in an all kosher grocery store in Miami, Sarah’s Tent under supervision of “Kosher Miami” – the Vaad of Miami-Dade and 2) wait for my exegesis on cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil…it’s in the editing stages. I have contacted O regarding their kashrut status, but have not heard back from them. If you don’t have orange-flavored olive oil, you could probably substitute extra virgin olive oil + fresh orange zest

sugar to taste (I used ~1T)

2 large ruby red grapefruits

Several handfuls of baby spinach, rinsed and large stems removed (original recipe called for 2 bunches of watercress, tough stems removed)

Prepare beets. Trim any beet greens, leaving 1 inch of stems. Place unpeeled beets in a saucepan with water to cover by 3-inches and bring to a boil. Add salt, cover partially, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly, then peel and cut each beet into 6 wedges. Wear gloves to prevent staining your fingers. Toss with 2-3 T olive oil in bowl, sprinkle with salt and set aside.

Prepare grapefruit suprêmes. I have described this methodology for cutting citrus segments from their membranes in an earlier post and Tammie picked it up really quickly.

Make dressing. Whisk 1/3 – 1/2 C pomegranate juice, sugar, orange-flavored olive oil, and salt together and taste on a piece of spinach. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

salad components, ready to assemble

Assemble salad. Arrange spinach, grapefruit sections, and beets on individual plates or large platter or bowl and drizzle lightly with dressing.

close-up

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playing hooky

I was supposed to go to a dance class last night (my new Wednesday evening ritual…yeah!), but after a few too many days of forgetting to wear sunblock (1 day is too many and I really should know better!) and then relishing in the sunshine that had been hiding from us here on the East coast, I realized that I was just a little too pink and weary to make it through a 2+ hour fabulous but exhausting and requiring-full-concentration modern jazz class.

Of course, I had already prepared a light veggie dinner in anticipation of a hungry return from class on which I gladly munched away  as I readied myself for an evening of dancing that would be a little less about concentration, technique, positioning, and placement. My friend Tammie and I decided to kick back and check out a live Brazilian band at Beehive. Complete with caiparinhas (the national drink of Brazil made from Cachaça [a sugarcane alcohol], sugar and lime that I first tried at my friends’ wedding in São Paulo), a demonstration of the  steamy Rio-style partner dance called Samba de Gafieira (followed by our own feeble attempts at emulating some of the hip-swaying fast-and-fancy footwork), an ad-hoc capoiera circle, and good conversation with friends new and old, the evening provided a wonderful respite from the sun.

Rejuvenated and armed with two different kinds of sunblock (yes, they are both from Europe – Piz Buin and La Roche-Posay Anthelios), I’m ready to spring/summer smarter and return to the Wednesday dance classes that I have quickly grown to adore.

Marinated Zucchini Salad

-163 sharp

Many marinated zucchini salads call for cooking your vegetables first, but in a heat wave, I try to do anything to avoid turning on my oven or stove. This salad, drawing from a Greek-inspired dish from Saveur and an Italian recipe from RecipeZaar, is a great use for zucchinis that are in abundance starting this time of year through the end of summer. Some of my other favorite recipes for zucchini include zucchini bread and zucchini parmigiana (instead of eggplant).  Choose zucchinis that are firm and dark green and not too large.

Serves 4-6.

- 2 medium-sized zucchinis or 3-4 small zucchinis

- 6-8 white mushrooms

- 1 bunch spring onions (4-5)

- fresh dill

- juice of 1 lemon (~1/4 C) or 1/4 C white wine vinegar

- 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

- kosher salt or other coarse salt

- pepper

zucchini, mushrooms, dill, wild spring onions

Cut zucchini into thick matchsticks. You could use a mandoline or a julienne peeler, but I don’t have the former and the latter makes strips that are far too thin for this recipe. I just hand slice everything.

Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel to remove any clinging dirt or debris. Don’t submerge in water or the mushrooms will become water-logged and soggy. Remove ends of stems and slice lengthwise.

Slice whites and light greens parts of the spring onions into thin circles.

Rinse dill, pat dry, and finely chop. Add as much as you’d like. In the batch I made without mushrooms, I added a few T. In the batch I made with mushrooms, I added a large handful.

Toss all vegetables  and dill into a large bowl.

Make dressing: juice one lemon into a medium sized bowl (should yield ~1/4 C) and then pour in an equal amount of extra virgin olive oil while quickly whisking the mixture to make a quick emulsification (this is pretty cool when you realize you can do it yourself and it’s really easy — it took me about 30 seconds). Add salt and pepper to taste (~ 1-2 t of salt or more, 5-6 grinds of pepper) and whisk again. Taste by dipping a thin slice of mushroom.When the dressing is to your liking, pour atop the veggies and dill and toss everything together.

If you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can just drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the veggies and throw salt and pepper on top, then toss everything together. I was feeling a little fancy.

If you don’t have a lemon, or want a slightly different flavor, you can use white wine vinegar as your acid, or even try a mixture of the two.

marinated zucchini with lemon and white wine vinegar (no mushrooms)

Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. The salad gets better with time. After a few hours, I usually taste it and find that I need to add a little more salt (much better than it being too salty).

Enjoy after a dance class, while dressing for a night out on the town, or at a picnic with friends.

zucchini and mushrooms marinated in lemon with loads of dill

***

Since I did indeed miss my dance class to go see a Brazilian band, I wanted to share a video of the great contemporary Brazilian dance company, Grupo Corpo, that I saw a few years ago at BAM. Lau had come to visit from London, and the infamous foursome – Jeremy, Thierry, Lau and me – was reunited for an amazing non-date evening. Here is a video of one of the pieces that we saw that night. What I love about this number, besides its infectious music, is the choreography’s playfulness and freedom, the use of light and shadow to make it look almost like there are extra dancers, the simplistic costumes so the audience can focus on the purety of the dance, and how the dancers incorporate the unique back curtain into the entrances and exits.

What I love about Grupo Corpo is the incredible variety of their numbers and their musicality, their pulling from folk dances and rhythms from their local environs and the broader cultures (Asia, Africa) that make up the melting pot of their own home. Below is a trailer to a documentary with excerpts from many of their numbers, showing off their versatility.

Another one of my favorite numbers is Lecuona – a series of duets filled with longing, desire, and passion (of all types) danced to music written by Cuban Ernesto Lecuona, including this sexy tango…

… culminating in a waltz of 6 couples (starts at 3:25) that looks like a black-and-white movie.

I want one of those white flowy dresses with the open backs!

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well-dressed

quinoa mango salad with lime cumin dressing

I’ve been playing around with quinoa since before Passover to find some good recipes; since it’s a great source of non-meat protein, I figured this would be a prefect choice to bring over to lunch with my vegan friend “farmer Laura.” Like tofu or rice, quinoa tends to take on the flavor of its sauce, but I have sometimes been disappointed with quinoa if it isn’t well-dressed.

Actually, I have sometimes been disappointed with people if they aren’t well-dressed. And by this I mean not appropriately attired for the setting. Flip-flops in the lab or an office. White socks with black shoes. White at a wedding if you’re not the bride. A full-Windsor knot tie with a button-down collar. My classmate in the hospital did not appreciate when I shared this commentary with him.

But I digress.

Back to the quinoa. Because I was really happy to find not one, but two, quite well-attired quinoa salads for different moods. One spicy and sweet with the best that  warmer weather has to offer. The other hailing from a warm climate, but  more savory and using mainly pantry staples.

A few words about preparing quinoa. It is pretty versatile and most of the products I’ve seen sold in my neighborhood are pre-rinsed, obviating one preparation step for removing the bitter-tasting saponin covering. The easiest way I’ve found to get fluffy quinoa is to boil quinoa in salted water (1:2 ratio) for about 15 minutes in a covered pot, remove from the heat, fluff with a fork once the water is absorbed, and then allow the quinoa to fully cool in the covered pot. Only add the dressing and other ingredients to quinoa that has cooled to avoid a slimy mess.

Quinoa-Mango Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

when I found some beautiful watercress!

when I found some beautiful watercress!

Adapted from Julie at Kitchenography’s Quinoa, Watercress and Mango Salad with Lime-Curry Vinaigrette. I eliminated the red pepper, doubled the mango, substituted cumin for curry, and made the dressing a bit sweeter, spicier, and saltier. The star here is the mango,  but the dressing is pretty kicking as well.

Serves 3-4

- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (if not using pre-rinsed quinoa)

- 2 mangoes, diced

- 1 bunch watercress, stems removed (or 2 handfuls baby spinach in a pinch) – watercress has a bit more assertiveness to balance out the sweetness of the mango

Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

- Juice of 1 lime (~3 tablespoons) – don’t forget to zest first

- 2 teaspoons cumin

- pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

- 1 1/2 -2 t brown sugar or honey (my preference is sugar – demura sugar works well also)

- 3 tablespoons canola oil

- Salt and pepper

- Lime zest for garnish

Put 1 C quinoa, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 C water  in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover pan and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit covered until it has cooled completely.

While quinoa is cooking, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together (or just put in a small jar and shake) and set aside.

Note – I keep ginger in the freezer. It thaws quite quickly and is easy to grate on a little grater like the one that I bought in Chinatown several years ago (not sure which Northeastern city I was living in and which Chinatown was nearest) or with a Microplane.

grated ginger

When the quinoa has cooled, toss with enough dressing to moisten (about 1/2-2/3 the dressing). Add the watercress (or spinach) and mango, and toss, adding enough additional dressing to lightly coat. Taste for salt and pepper and add additional as appropriate.

Serve garnished with a sprinkle of lime zest and cayenne pepper for color and a kick.

090

NOTE: you can prepare the quinoa portion with dressing a day or two in advance – the mixture improves as the flavors sit) and then add mango and watercress at the last minute, splashing on some extra dressing. Additionally, leftover salad does equally well in the fridge for a day or two as watercress does not wilt much with this dressing (spinach holds  up almost as well). last bite, still good 2 days later

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Pantry Staples

Mediterranean Quinoa salad

Adapted from Lauren at East Village Kitchen. This is a very simple salad that mainly uses ingredients you have around your pantry, plus fresh basil (that I have on my windowsill). Despite what I have said in the past about sun-dried tomatoes, if you reconstitute them in hot water in the time it takes to cook the quinoa, they will be pretty good and the right consistency (but don’t let them soak for too long!) — I prefer this to the jarred, packed in oil variety.

Serves 3-4

- 5-6 sun-dried tomatoes

- 3 T olive oil, divided

- 1 onion, chopped

- 1 C quinoa, rinsed if not using pre-rinsed

- 1/4 C white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

- 1 lemon

- fresh basil

- salt and peppers to taste

Cut sun-dried tomatoes into strips with kitchen shears and cover with boiling water. Soak for 15-20 minutes while preparing quinoa (DO NOT SOAK FOR LONGER!). Drain water and allow reconstituted tomatoes to cool in ~1 T of olive oil.

Heat 1-2T olive oil in saucepan over medium heat and saute chopped onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add a pinch or two of salt.

Add 1 C quinoa and 2 C water (or follow instructions on quinoa package) to pot containing translucent onions and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover pan and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit covered until it has cooled completely.

Once quinoa has cooled, add vinegar and about 2 T of freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more to taste).

Add sun-dried tomatoes plus the olive oil that they have been sitting in. The oil is now also infused with some of the tomato flavor.

Chifonnade a small handful of fresh basil (~1/2 C) over the top (again, kitchen shears are pretty handy here if you want to take a short-cut ) and mix with quinoa. As the basil gets crushed, its flavor releases and mixes with that of the concentrated tomatoes.

Add salt and pepper to taste. If too acidic, add a splash of olive oil. Like the other quinoa recipe, this one also improves with about a day in the fridge.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

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