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Archive for the ‘salad’ Category

springtime greenery

Despite my best intentions of eating a lot of fruits and vegetables over Passover, I often end up overloading on protein. My meals over the past few days have looked a lot like this: breakfast – eggs; lunch – leftover matzah ball soup (my mom’s); dinner – leftover brisket. Lather rinse repeat.

I finally had enough and trekked to three different grocery stores in my neighborhood to see what was inspring. My local Indian store (Shalimar on Mass Ave) had some great fresh herbs as usual and a nice eggplant – I’ll be trying Janna Gur’s “burnt eggplant” method soon but not tonight. Asparagus was on sale at Shaw’s. I had a few avocados in my fridge and picked up some tomatoes at Harvest, but wasn’t in the mood for guac. Here’s what I ended up with for a nice springtime salad.

Asparagus Avocado Salad

asparagus avocado salad

Adapted from Avodaco Recipes. I used 2 good-sized pinches of salt to balance out the sweetness in the dressing from the sugar and balsamic and the tartness from the citrus. It complements the asparagus nicely. You don’t need to use all the dressing for this salad (of you can just make more veggies).

Serves 2 (or 1 very hungry, veggie-deprived girl)

1.5 lb of asparagus

1 medium avocado

Juice of 1 lemon or 1 lime (I used half of each because that’s what I had lying around)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro

1 ½ tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar, or white wine vinegar if you don’t have white balsamic

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 teaspoon of fresh mint

Salt and pepper, to taste

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus, then steam until just tender and bright green, about 5 minutes.

Plunge the asparagus into cold water to stop cooking. Drain well. Set aside.

Peel the avocado and slice the flesh (I cubed when I realized that slices were too delicate). Toss with half the lemon juice.

sliced avocado

For the dressing, whisk the white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, remaining half of citrus juice, sugar, mint and cilantro.

Add salt and pepper to taste, then pour over the asparagus and add avocado

Toss lightly, then spoon into a suitably sized bowl.

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Erez Komarovsky's monochromatic Fennel and Pistachio Salad

One of my main rules of cooking is that I never make anything that I don’t like. And I have never liked anything with an anise flavor. Never. I have even returned dishes in restaurants if they have too strong of a tarragon or anise basil seasoning.

A few years ago, I overheard my friend Naomi saying, “don’t yuck someone’s yum.” A pithy little phrase, but one that I sometimes have difficulty following. However, writing here has taken my cooking and exploration of food to a new level, and is an opportunity to check out things that I have not normally been particularly keen on.

So, when I went to a cooking demonstration at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts last week, I was thrilled to discover that of the dishes made, my favorite was a fennel and pistachio salad. Janna Gur, the Chief Editor of Al HaShulchan, Israel’s monthly foodie magazine, taught the course and took the participants on a gastronomic tour of Israel.

Janna Gur making lemon "fillets" (supremes)
Janna Gur making lemon “fillets” (suprêmes) for the fennel and pistachio salad; note, eggplants roasting on stove in background

The two main written recipes that Gur shared with us were actually ones she received from chef/ restaurateur/ artisan bread baker Erez Komarovsky (owner of Lechem Erez/Erez Breads); they were tied together by what she called “the beauty of their monochromatic palettes.” First, there was my favorite, the fennel salad with its yellow sand greens, and then a beetroot and pomegranate salad that Gur described as “a tiny jewel box” with its ruby colors and whose flavors together “sing.”

Erez Komarovsky's monochromatic salads

Gur also demonstrated a technique for “burnt eggplant” roasted on a gas burner or in the oven (prick the skin if you’re making in the oven to prevent an explosion) until the skin is charred and flesh is soft. She then shared a few variations on how to serve:

- traditional eggplant salad with mayonnaise and lemon

- “baba deconstructed”:  split burnt eggplant and flatten on plate; top with baba ingredients – tahina, lemon juice, tomato seeds, honey, fresh herbs, and then serve – eater scoops out the eggplant with its toppings

- Gur’s Romanian mother’s eggplant salad (she called it the “reds and the blues” – for the tomatoes and eggplants): scoop flesh out of the eggplant and chop; mix with grated tomatos (liquid reserved), chopped tomatoes, grated onions (so less sharp), chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and vegetable oil (not olive oil)

Janna Gur scooping out flesh from "burnt eggplant"

Woven throughout the demonstration were pictures and anecdotes of Israel’s progression from a literal culinary wasteland in the 1980s when Gur was an El Al flight attendant, carrying oranges from Florida and olives from Greece, to its current reclaiming of its historical title, “eretz chalav u’dvash” — the land flowing with milk and honey. Today you can find groves of pomegranates. A rich melting pot of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish, Arabic, Mediterranean, and North African flavors and influences. Wineries rivaling those in France. Classics reinvented like Turkish malabi, a pudding made with rose water, turned into a rosewater-topped cheesecake.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to devour the cookbook that Gur signed for me and, given the success of the fennel salad, I can’t wait to try more recipes.

Erez Komarovsky’s Monochromatic Fennel and Pistachio Salad

Adapted from Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey.

There must be some chemisty (magic?) involved in the technique of submerging the cut fennel in ice water and then mingling with lemon suprêmes (in Israel, apparently these are called “fillets”) before adding a honey-based dressing with a little kick from a hot pepper. Whatever it is, I was determined to recreate the recipe as soon as I could buy some fennel for the first time in my life! Coming from an anise “yucker” that’s saying a lot. Perhaps my taste buds are changing. [For example, recently I bought some Absenthe on a whim and found it not altogether distasteful. And I did not have more than a few sips, so I can't blame my judgment or lack thereof on la fée verte.] Or perhaps, Janna Gur and Erez Komarovsky are just that good. I’m betting on the latter.

If the acid in the lemon is too strong for you, try some Granny Smith apple, sliced into thin segments to provide tartness with less acidity and keeping with the color palette. Add a splash of lemon juice to prevent the apples from turning brown.

Serves 6

- 2 large of 3-4 small fennel bulbs

- 1/2 C lemon suprêmes (or, as Gur calls them, filleted lemon segments) – 3-4 lemons at least

- Coarse sea salt

- 1/4 C delicate olive oil

- 1 hot green pepper, chopped finely (I used a serrano pepper)

- 2 T honey

- 1/2 C pistachio nuts, roasted and crushed (I used unsalted ones)

Cut the fennel bulbs in half and then into thin longitudinal slices. Soak in ice water for about 30 minutes (I just stuck in a bowl of cold water and then in my freezer).

While soaking, roast pistachio nuts in 350ºF for about 10 minutes and allow to cool.

Drain and mix the fennel slices with the lemon segments (reserve juice for later). Sprinkle coarse sea salt on top and set aside to rest for 15 more minutes.

Mix fennel and lemon salad with olive oil, hot pepper, and honey. Add nuts immediately before serving.

B’tay Avon!

I had a little bit of leftover salad and, after marinating for 2 more days, it was great thrown on baby mixed greens with a few more roasted pistachios.

Fennel and Pistachio salad thrown on some mixed baby greens

** DOCTOR’S NOTE: Proceed with caution due to the recent salmonella scare  and recall associated with pistachios. Roasting is supposed to kill the bacteria, and I always roast nuts myself. Do what makes you comfortable in this respect. The salad can obviously be made without pistachios. Try pinenuts instead.

Erez Komarovsky’s “Jewel Box” Beetroot and Pomegranate Salad

From Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey. I have not yet tried to make this salad at home, but it was also excellent (but I like beets!).

Serves 6

- 3-4 medium beets (if you want to cheat, you can probably use canned)

-2 T pomegranate concentrate (Pomi juice should work)

- 2-3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

- 2-3 dried chili peppers, crushed

- Coarse sea salt

- 1/4 C delicate olive oil

- 1/2 C fresh cilantro leaves

- 1 C pomegranate seeds – we used pre-packaged pomegranate seeds in the class; the trick to removing seeds from a pomegranate is to cut into quarters and then submerge in cold water – many of the seeds will rise to the surface; you can gently tease the remaining seeds from the white membranes with your fingers under water

Boil beets in water until tender. Cool, peel, and cut into a very small dice.

Mix with the pomegranate concentrate, lemon juice, peppers, and coarse sea salt. Set aside for ~15 minutes.

Mix the salad with the cilantro leaves and pomegranate seeds. Pour olive oil on top and serve.

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spinach-apple-feta

 

One of my favorite salad toppers is freshly toasted nuts. And if it’s an extra special occasion (or just a regular evening that you want to turn into something special), the nuts get coated in sugar and even spice. You can buy them like this already (e.g., at Trader Joe’s) and some places have even started marketing them, for example “Meshuga Nuts” (I could not find the link), but I like to buy the raw shelled nuts and make my own to add whatever spices and level of sweetness I fancy on a given day.

This recipe is pretty easy, but does make a little bit of a mess. The nuts are great to snack on and are wonderful as an appetizer, with cheese, or served in pretty little bowls alongside dessert.  They also make nice gifts

I find pecans work best because they have nice little grooves that capture all the flavors. Walnuts should work equally as well from this grooved perspective; almonds might not have great grooves, but they are another favorite of mine in salads.

Pecans

nice grooves on the pecans, ready for a coating

 

Sugared and Spiced Nuts, some guidelines

Don’t be afraid, there’s a lot of verbiage here and it looks scary, but I’m just walking you through the process and warning you about all of the mistakes that I have made along the way so you won’t make them!

Any nuts will work, but my preference from a texture perspective is pecans. I also like making plain sugared almonds. Any spice mixture will work — experiment on what you prefer. I have listed here my favorite and detailed how I make these nuts in such a way that they do not end up one huge sheet of nut brittle, rather separate nuts with a slightly crumbly spicy-sweet, slightly gritty texture. These are not sticky.

Makes ~2.5 C

1 lb pecans

1/3 C white sugar

1/3 C brown sugar – this helps with the texture, but you can use all white sugar

Basic mild spice mixture:

1/2 t hot chili powder

1 t curry powder

1/2 t cumin

2 T water to help spread spices

I like mine a bit more spicy and sweet and salty, so I added the following (after tasting the initial coating): additional 2 T sugar; 1/2-1 t cayenne pepper; additional 1/2 t curry powde; 2 large pinches kosher salt; additional 1-2 T water to help distribute spices

Prepare foil-lined baking sheet to catch nuts when the are ready to cool.

Dry toast pecans (1 lb) on large skillet set at medium heat. Constantly move skillet around to avoid burning the nuts – this takes about 5-7 minutes.

Add sugars and spices and continue to move the skillet around to help sugar melt and liquify. Adjust your flame/heat between low and medium to your own comfort.  Again – do not let the sugar or nuts burn. This can and will set off your smoke alarm (I’ve done it before!) and you might have to throw out the whole batch! You have to watch pretty carefully. One moment you have a pile of sugar and a few spices, the next, a column of smoke. But, with practice, it gets easier. If you add water early, burning is less likely, but I don’t find the texture works out as nicely. So, keep moving the pan/skillet around and eventually the sugar will melt into a nice light brown (very hot – DON’T TOUCH!) liquid.

Coat the nuts evenly with this mixture of sugars and spices in the pan with a non-stick spatula. Don’t worry if the sugar starts to re-crystallize or if the spices haven’t distributed perfectly evenly … that’s what the water is for. Add the 2 T water to essentially deglaze and get all the bits that are stuck to the pan to unstick. This also helps with give the coating the desired texture — a little gritty rather than smooth. BUT, note, when you add the water, it will splatter a bit (see the bits of my stove top that I just couldn’t crop out of the picture…), so stand back.

pecans in pan, not quite sugared and spiced enough for me

pecans in pan, not quite sugared and spiced enough for me

Allow nuts to cool a bit and taste to see if any additional spices, sugar, etc. is necessary.  After tasting, I decided to increase the sugar, spices, and add some salt (as outlined above).  Note, the salt enhances the sweetness in the mix (as in fleur de sel caramels). Again, allow the sugar to caramelize and melt as the spices get fragrant. I added 1-2 T water to help distribute the dry ingredients evenly across the nuts.

Spread nuts out evenly on the foil-lined cookie sheet and allow nuts to cool for 5-10 minutes. They should not be sticky.

Nuts can be stored in an airtight container for about a week, but they typically don’t last that long in my home. 

 

sugared and spiced pecans, ready to munch

sugared and spiced pecans, ready to munch

OTHER SPICES MIXTURES TO TRY:

- cinnamon, sugar (this is a simple one that can work for Passover)

- cumin, sugar, cayenne or other peppers

 

SALAD SUGGESTIONS:

These nuts are wonderful on a classic salad of spinach or baby greens, beets (even from a can if you’re in a rush!), pears, pickled onions or regular shallots, and chèvre. Salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic to dress.

I’ve also thrown them on a similar salad of whatever  I had in the fridge – spinach, apples, and feta. Since the feta is pretty salty, no need to put salt in the dressing. Not as good as the first combo, but the nuts made it taste pretty special.

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we can work it out

salad close-up

When my friend Lau (the one who gave me the piggy and likes compote aux pommes) played a few songs off of Israeli singer Noa‘s “best of” CD from France (“Le Meilleur de Noa“) a few years ago, I was hooked. Within a year, I had bought almost all of her CDs, importing many from Israel. In particular, I love her 2002 remake of the Beatles hit “We Can Work it Out” with Palestinian Mira Awad. A note on Awad’s nationality — on her website, she refers to herself as Palestinian, so I am deferring to her preference; I have elsewhere seen her called “Israeli Arab” and “Israeli Arab Christian.” I think this song is a beautiful cover with a great message.  And it appealed to my love of music and art (and dance) bringing people together.

 NOTE: This video is from a Dutch TV show that includes Noa’s and Mira’s opinions on the political situation in Israel. The  song is on Noa’s CD “Now” and on iTunes.

And then about 2 months ago, I learned that Noa and Mira Awad are again collaborating and I have been eagerly waiting to find out what they would come up with: they will represent Israel in the Eurovision song contest in May 2009. They composed 4 different duets and the winner, “Einayich” means “Your Eyes;” the English title is “There Must be Another Way” and it is sung in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.  Since I first heard it a few weeks ago, I have found myself humming its refrain, loving how Noa and Mira’s voices mix so beautifully.

Here are the words to the song, from Noa’s website:

There Must Be Another Way

Words and music: Noa, Gil Dor, Mira Awad

There must be another way
There must be another way

עינייך אחות
– your eyes, sister -
כל מה שליבי מבקש אומרות
– say everything my heart wants to say -
עברנו עד כה
– we’ve come a great distance -
דרך ארוכה
דרך כה קשה
– our road has been long and hard -
יד ביד
– hand in hand -

והדמעות זולגות זורמות לשוא
– and the tears fall, flow, in vain -
כאב ללא שם
– our pain has no name -
אנחנו מחכות
– we are both waiting -
רק ליום שיבוא אחרי …
– for the day ‘after’ -
There must be another way
There must be another way

عينيك بتقول  (עינייך אומרות)
– your eyes say -
راح ييجي يوم وكل الخوف يزول (יבוא יום וכל הפחד ייעלם)
– one day, the fear will be gone.. -
بعينيك اصرار (בעינייך נחישות)
– in your eyes there is determination -
انه عنا خيار (שיש אפשרות)
نكمل هالمسار (להמשיך את הדרך)
– that we can continue our journey -
مهما طال (כמה שתיארך)
– for as long as it takes -

لانه ما في عنوان وحيد  للاحزان (כי אין כתובת אחת לצער)
– for there is no address to sorrow -
بنادي للمدى, للسما العنيده (אני קוראת למרחבים, לשמיים העיקשים)

– I cry to the open plains, to the merciless sky -
There must be another way
There must be another way
There must be another, must be another way

דרך ארוכה נעבור,
– a long and hard journey lies before us -
דרך כה קשה,
יחד אל האור,

– together, on our way to the light… -
عينيك بتقول (עינייך אומרות),
– your eyes say -
كل الخوف يزول (כל הפחד ייעלם)
– all the fear will someday disappear -

And when I cry I cry for both of us
My pain has no name
And when I cry I cry to the merciless sky and say
There must be another way

והדמעות זולגות זורמות לשוא
– and the tears fall, flow, in vain -
כאב ללא שם
– our pain has no name -
אנחנו מחכות
– we are both waiting -
רק ליום שיבוא אחרי
– for the day ‘after’ -
There must be another way
There must be another way
There must be another, must be another way

Obviously I’m not the only one to recognize the overt symbolism here (for example, there was an article written in Time about it last week) — an Israeli and a Palestinian, their voices rising together on the same stage, representing one country.

But, perhaps I was one of the few people inspired to make a salad!

The first time I made this particular salad was for my graduate school’s multicultural food festival. I managed to step into a little controversy by being an American helping out the Israeli club and not quite following directions. We divvied up responsibilities – falafel, hummus, tabbouli, and Israeli salad — and I chose to make the salad because it was the healthiest.  Plus, I figured I knew how to make typical Israeli salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley or mint because  when I volunteered with the Israeli army through Sar El after my freshman year in college, we ate this salad with every single meal including breakfast.

of course I'm smiling, I'm 18, in a kitchen, surrounded by tall handsome Israeli soldiers!

of course I'm smiling, I'm 18, in a kitchen, surrounded by tall dark Israeli soldiers!

Never satisfied to leave simple enough alone, I had just bought a new cookbook — Joan Nathan’s The Foods of Israel Today — and browsing through it, found a recipe called “Kibbutz Vegetable Salad” that was described as follows:

Sometimes called Turkish Salad, this typical Israeli salad, served at almost every meal, has many variations. But one thing remains the same: the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cucumbers must be cut into tiny pieces, a practice of the Ottoman Empire…

It sounded to me like a traditional “Israeli salad” with some peppers thrown in. I actually think of “Turkish” salad as a cooked salad, almost like a tomato sauce spiced with roasted peppers. In my mind, the salad described in the recipe seemed like a more colorful version of traditional “Israeli salad.”

1354

But when I brough this salad to the food festival, proud of my beautiful confetti of colors, one of my Israeli classmates looked at it, sneered, and said, “that’s not Israeli salad, that’s Arab salad.” Hers looked something like this:

tomato-cucumber

just tomatoes and cucumbers

While perhaps not perfectly authentic, my salad didn’t deserve a snub. This comment  just made me want to throw my hands up in the air and say, “Can’t we all just get along?”.

And, actually, in doing my research, my understanding is that “Arabic salad” is more similar to “Israeli salad” than it is different. Both have finely diced cucumber and tomatoes. Both usually add onion,  often spring onion. Both are dressed with olive oil and lemon. Both add a green herb, either parsley or mint or both. Neither ever includes lettuce.

So what was my classmate objecting to? The peppers? Was that supposed to be a statement? Please! The food festival was about food and sharing culture, not political statements. Granted, never having lived in Israel, I know I cannot understand the intricacies of Arab/Palestinian-Israeli relations nor can I fully appreciate the depth of the feelings and animosity between these two groups.

But I love the message that Noa and Mira Awad have shared with each other, with their communities, and, now more than ever, with the world. The current situation is unsustainable. There must be another way. And if Israelis and Palestinians come together and find common ground, slowly … eventually… we can work it out.

Yes, I am an idealist.

So, I used to call this Israeli salad. I no longer know what it actually is. But now I’m reclaiming it and renaming it.

Salade Mira-Noa vegetable still life with za'atar

Salade Mira-Noa

Adapted from Joan Nathan’s The Foods of Israel Today. Dedicated to Noa and Mira Awad, and wishing them luck at Eurovision 2009 in Moscow.

This does take a long time to prepare because there is a lot of fine chopping. The salad is best eaten fresh alongside hummus and pita.

Serves about 10 people.

- 1 onion (I prefer red for its beautiful color)

- 1-2 T mild vinegar, either white vinegar or cider vinegar

- 2 cucumbers

- 5-6 tomatoes

- Peppers – I like a multicolor mix – 1 each of green, red, yellow, and orange to get that colorful confetti effect

- 2-3T olive oil

- 1 or 2 lemons

- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

- 1/2 – 1 t za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mix that includes sesame and sumac)

Prepare onion first: chop and allow to soak in 1-2 T vinegar and a pinch or two of salt for ~30 minutes while you chop the rest of the veggies. Essentially this will  give it a quick pickling to cut the onion’s sharpness.

quick pickled chopped onions

quick pickled chopped onions

Finely chop the remaining vegetables – cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers — and mix in a large bowl with the onions.

salad ingredients, ready to mix

Dress with juice of 1-2 lemons, a few pinches of salt, a few grinds of pepper, 2-3 T olive oil, and za’atar. Mix again.

Enjoy with friends.

[A very special thank you to Veronica and Joanna for helping me edit and edit and edit this posting, and to Judy for lending me the glass bowls.]

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friday afternoon lunch

I almost always forget to each lunch on Fridays, especially in the winter. From October to March, sunset is early, days are short, and I usually need to leave work at some embarrassingly early hour to get home in time for shabbat. But we just turned the clocks back and sunset is at a gloriously perfect 6:30 (give or take) up here in the north. I even spotted the first few flowers pushing their way through the softening ground on our one day of warmth and sunshine between the big storm and the little storm.

first flowers of spring

I picked up a grapefruit a week ago to pay homage to snowbird Bubbie whose Miami apartment my mother inherited and my parents were visiting to begin renovations. Bubbie used to begin each of our Miami meals with a half pink grapefruit. But mine has been sitting in my fruit bowl uninspired. Until today when my avocados finally ripened. So I gathered some ingredients for my much needed salad because I might not get any other veggies for the rest of the day.

arugula grapefruit avocado ingredients

See, I’m going to a Friends of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) dinner tonight. These things can be fun, but I like good food. And on that front, catered dinners (and I use that term loosely) can be very hit or miss. This has nothing to do with the sponsoring organization — it’s just what happens when you cook for a lot of people. Here in Cambridge/Boston, unless it’s Andrew’s (no endorsement — I don’t even know the guy, but his reputation precedes him), a large shabbat dinner can usually guarantee some form of chicken, maybe some meat, and that’s about it. Fresh fruits and vegetables, highly unlikely. A salad that’s more than iceberg and a bottled dressing, unlikely too. And, I’m sorry Jewish world, but potato kugel does NOT count as a vegetable. Starch maybe, but vegetable, no.

Needless to day, I needed to get my veggies on. And I had a bit of time to wait before shabbat dinner at a winter-hopefully-almost-over  probably-only-one-more-little-storm-left flowers-soon-to-be-blooming long-awaited-spring little-birds-starting-to-chirp respectable 7:15 pm.

grapefruit avocado salad

Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Reminiscent of a salad I used to eat at Darna in NY. Also very good topped with grilled chicken. Dressing is very light as pink grapefruits are not very tart -  you can add some lemon juice for more acidity, especially if  you’re using spinach or mâche greens. Arugula has a spicy bite and normally works well with bold flavors, so its use here was a bit of an experiment but the combination with the mild dressing is quite nice.

Serves 1 person who likes grapefruit; to serve 2, just add extra greens and use the whole avocado

- 2-3 handfuls of arugula (spinach and mâche work great also, but dressing will need to be adjusted – consider adding lemon juice and regular balsamic)

- 1 pink grapefruit

- 1/2 avocado

- olive oil

- white balsamic vinegar (or cider vinegar)

- salt and pepper

Prepare grapefruit suprêmes. Cut off top and bottom of grapefruit to reveal flesh and then cut off remainder of skin so that no pith remains. Remove each grapefruit section over a bowl (to catch juices) by sliding a knife between membrane and flesh in toward the center and then up towards the outside. Repeat until you have removed all of the segments. Save the juice.

pink grapefruit supremes

pink grapefruit suprêmes

Make dressing (enough for two servings). Mix grapefruit juice (~1T) with 2-3T olive oil and 1T vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Dip a green in dressing to taste and adjust as necessary.

Tear greens and arrange on plate. Top with grapefruit suprêmes and coat with dressing. Allow to sit for ~10 minutes to soak up dressing.

Prepare avocado cubes and add last. Cut avocado in half. Score flesh through to skin in a cross-hatch pattern. Scoop flesh with a a large spoon on top of salad and serve immediately. If not using second half, refrigerate with pit to prevent browning.

avocado ready to be scooped

avocado ready to be scooped

Top salad with avocado and add additional dressing if necessary.

POST SCRIPT

The dinner was actually pretty good, as it was indeed catered by Andrew. Stuffed turkey breast I believe, asparagus and roasted potatoes. No kugel in sight. Fresh fruit and assorted mini cakes for dessert. Not bad.

And there were beautiful flowers (apparently donated by Sarah’s Garden in Newton — sarah@sarahsgarden.org, no website that I can find) on each table that were so colorful I thought they were fake (and made a comment to that effect…until I reached over to touch their soft petals and realized my mistake). I was one of the lucky ones who was able to bring a anemone bouquet home and it survived the arduous journey despite in brilliant form. I can’t resist sharing with you their splendor in one of my most favorite vibrant color combinations.

poppies 1

poppies 2

 

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Tomatoes in the winter can be a real bummer. They’re blah and tasteless. And around this time of year, as my thoughts begin to turn to summer (not the frizzy-hair humidity, thighs sticking to the car parts of it, because, honestly, I’m OK with a few more weeks in my comfy tights… I just ask for a little warmth and sunshine), tomatoes begin to re-enter my vocabulary.

So, what to do with that tomato craving when the farmer’s market comes up empty and the supermarket comes up, well, pathetic and  pricey? You can concentrate. The tomatoes, that is. You can think really hard, but that won’t help much with the tomato issue.

Sun-dried tomatoes are OK.

You can buy them in a jar in oil but they’re too oily.

You can buy them dried in a bag, but when you reconstitute them, they seem either too mushy or too hard. Unlike Goldilocks (an apt attempt at analogy, given my name, Zahavah, which means gold in Hebrew despite my very brown tresses) I can’t seem to get them just right.

But then I discovered how to make my own slow-roasted tomatoes.

I first learned about slow-roasting tomatoes from my cousin’s (and just this week, a brand new mom!) blog – My Husband Hates Veggies. After research and experimenting with several different online suggestions, I came up with a technique that works for me for plum tomatoes (3 hours with oven on, overnight with oven off….don’t open the oven!) and grape tomatoes (the latter of which I use in this salad), and helps make the most of blah winter tomatoes. I can’t wait to try this with summer tomatoes.

All I can say is… this is SO. JUST. RIGHT.

NOTE: slow-roasting does take some advance planning, but very little prep time, and is really worth it.

Slow-Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 225°F.

Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay tomatoes on aluminum foil lined (for ease of clean up) baking sheet with cut side up.

grape tomatoes, cut-side up, ready for the oven

grape tomatoes, cut-side up, ready for the oven

Bake for 3 hours. Tomatoes should be somewhat shriveled and dried, but when pressed, some liquid should remain.

Can be eaten right away, added to salad, or refrigerated for a few days. I read that it is better to store these in olive oil, but I had no problems just storing them in refrigerator in a covered bowl, sans oil.

NOTE: you can also roast garlic cloves (unpeeled — the garlic will steam in the peel) at the same time; roasted garlic is sweet and can be squeezed out of its papery skin and spread onto bread with a little salt or incorporated into recipes, vinaigrette, etc.

slow roasted tomatoes

grape tomatoes, after 3 hours in the oven

Spinach Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Mushrooms

This is one of those salads created with whatever vegetables I had in the fridge and was meant to showcase the slow-roasted tomatoes. It’s very simple and I purposely kept the dressing very light, just barely grazing the leaves.

Baby spinach

Grape tomatoes

Cremini mushrooms (sometimes called baby portabellas)

Extra virgin olive oil

Good balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Assemble the salad: Fill a bowl with baby spinach and add sliced cremini mushrooms. Toss greens with olive oil — to ensure that salad is not overdressed, pour oil onto your hand and use hands to mix well.  Repeat with balsamic vinegar.

If you are the type who needs measurements, start with 2-3 T of olive oil and 1 T balsamic (traditional ratio is 3 oil: 1 vinegar or lemon juice) and adjust as necessary, but allow the salad to sit for about 5-10 minutes before tasting.

Add a few pinches of kosher salt and a few turns of fresh pepper.

Add roasted tomatoes. Toss again.

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not quite clotilde

windowsill herb garden

I mentioned early on that Clotilde/Chocolate & Zucchini is one of my inspirations for starting this site. When I am hungry, I often look to her site for ideas, and one of my favorite foods to cook when it’s cold outside is squash. It is the epitome of autumn and winter.

A few weeks ago, I ran a search for squash on C&Z, and the first recipe that came up was Salade Tiède de Potimarron et Haricots Blancs/Warm Hokkaido Squash and White Bean Salad (until she posted another recipe yesterday: Brussel Sprouts with Onions and Squash Seeds). I’ve looked at the recipe so many times and have been jealous of her stories of wandering through the streets of Paris, buying exotic ingredients in the markets, and overhearing fascinating conversations in chic cafes. Ahhh…Paris.

But, I figure…what am I waiting for? The albeit brief Boston thaw is ending, it’s cold again, and I’m super hungry. I have an acorn squash that I bought yesterday. It may be the most common of the squashes around here but it’s a pretty little creature nonetheless…so, I took a few pictures harnessing my inner Clotilde (“Hello, Gorgeous!“):

Acorn Squash ("Hello Gorgeous!")

Then, I created a little bit of atmosphere.

Fireplace

And since I had all the ingredients including fresh rosemary from my windowsill herb garden, I got to work recreating Clotilde’s recipe with a host of short-cuts, getting from cutting board to plate in 45 minutes (though I still have dishes in my sink!).

And then a taste. Indian-style spices co-mingled with the sweetness of squash, the scent of Middle-Eastern orange flower water, heartiness of the beans and slight bite of the rosemary. A surprising melange of flavors that work so well together, especially on a cold night in front of the fire.

Not quite Clotilde, but pretty damn good!

Now, what to do with the acorn squash seeds? Maybe I’ll roast them like pumpkin seeds…

Quick Warm Squash and White Bean Salad

Quick Warm Acorn Squash and White Bean Salad

Adapted from Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate & Zucchini (Salade Tiède de Potimarron et Haricots Blancs/Warm Hokkaido Squash and White Bean Salad).

Serves 2

For squash:

1 medium-sized acorn squash

2 t crushed garlic (I used garlic in a jar)

drizzle olive oil

1 t balsamic vinegar

1 t curry powder or ras al hanout (a Moroccan spice mix)

dash salt

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Cut into 8 slices and remove skin with vegetable peeler. Cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Toss with remaining ingredients and put on baking sheet into oven for ~40 minutes until tender and slightly browned, stirring half-way through.

For beans:cannelini beans with rosemary

1 can of cannellini beans

sprig of fresh rosemary

kosher salt

Drain and rinse beans. Put in small pot, with rosemary and pinch of salt; cover with water and simmer on low for ~20  minutes. Try not to let them get mushy. Drain beans and remove rosemary sprig.

For dressing:

1 T almond butter

2 t olive oil

1 t orange flower water

1 t balsamic vinegar

fine sea salt, freshly ground pepper

fresh cilantro (optional)

Make dressing: In a medium bowl in which you plan to serve salad, mix together all ingredients except salt and pepper. Thin with a drop or two of water if necessary.

Compose salad: Add beans to dressing and toss gently. Add squash and agian toss gently. (I did not toss very gently and you can see that I squashed the delicate beans…and squash <groan>.) Add salt and pepper if necessary and cilantro if desired (I forgot). Serve.

QUICK UPDATE: ADJUSTMENTS TO MAKE FOR A CROWD

-  for squash: 2 large butternut squash (~6 lbs); quadruple squash ingredients (but curry/ras al hanout to taste); will need 2 cookie sheets for baking

- for beans: 2 cans beans

- for dressing:

1/4 C almond butter

3 T olive oil

1 T orange flower water

1 T + 1 t balsamic vinegar (though, I add a little extra)

fine sea salt and freshly ground  pepper to taste

fresh cilantro (optional)

- otherwise, follow directions as above

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