Salade Niçoise

Maybe because of Bastille Day or maybe because the days are so hot during the summer, but salade niçoise sounded like a perfect dinner tonight. Before heading to the grocery store, I thought I would jump online and find a standard recipe. What I found instead was little agreement on what constitutes Nicoise salad. I found vegan versions, vegetarian versions, version with salmon instead of tuna, etc. There are even purists who say that there should never be any cooked vegetables — only tomatoes, anchovies, and olive oil. I took these disagreements as license to make my own version. So, here it is:

Salad

  • 1 small head of butter lettuce, washed, chopped, and patted dry with a towel
  • 6 small Yukon gold potatoes
  • 8 oz. trimmed green beans, preferably haricot verts
  • 3 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 small radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3 small beets, cooked and quartered (I used Love Beets cooked beets with white wine and balsamic)
  • 1/2 cup olives (Nicoise, Kalamata, or whatever type you like best)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 1 can tuna in olive oil, excess oil drained off

Fill a large pot with water and add salt to make it very salty. Add potatoes to the pot and bring the water to a boil. Boil until you can easily stick a fork into the potatoes, about 15 minutes. Remove the potatoes and set them aside to cool. To the pot of boiling water, add the green beans and blanch for 3 minutes and move them to a bowl of ice water to quickly cool them down. While the potatoes and green beans cool, carefully place the eggs into the pot of boiling water. Turn the heat to medium and put a lid on the pot. Cook the eggs at a simmer for 11 minutes. I love that I can use the same pot of water for all of the cooked components. Remove the eggs and place them in a bowl of ice water to cool them down. Quarter the potatoes, drain the green beans and place them on a towel to dry, and peel the hard boiled eggs and cut them in half.

Place the lettuce in a large serving bowl. Compose the salad by grouping together the salad ingredients on top of the lettuce. Season the salad with salt and pepper to taste.

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Dressing

  • 1 small shallot, finely minced (about 1.5 oz.)
  • 2 tsp whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2.5 oz. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 oz. olive oil

In a jar, combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil. Mix well. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to create an emulsion. If needed, place a lid on the jar and shake prior to serving.  I especially like the fresh thyme in this dressing; the flavor really comes out and enhances all of the salad components.

The salad can be served immediately with the cooked components still warm, or it can be made ahead and served cold. Top the salad with the dressing and enjoy.

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Massaged Kale Salad

Kale salad with hard-boiled eggs

Here in the US, kale is primarily in season from January through April. With this window rapidly closing, we are trying to enjoy as much fresh, local kale as we can. So, when we got a beautiful bunch of Lacinato kale from our community supported agriculture (CSA) box, I decided to try something that, admittedly, sounds rather strange — massaged kale.

The inspiration for massaged kale came from a dish Jill ordered from Prato, a modern Italian restaurant that our friends in Winter Park, Florida took us to a while back. While their menu changes regularly, they often have a variation on the kale salad that does not disappoint.

To make my interpretation of the salad, you need:

  • 1 Bunch of fresh Lacinato kale
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Eggs, hard-boiled (see notes below), cut in half
  • 4 Small sweet pepper (or a medium yellow or orange bell pepper) thinly sliced
  • 4 Strips of crispy bacon, broken into small bits
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 2 Radishes, thinly sliced
  • 4 to 5 Fresh stawberries, sliced
  • Grated Parmesan, to taste

Remove the tough stems from the Kale and thinly slice the leaves. Toss the kale in a mixing bowl with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Massage the kale vigorously with your fingertips for 2 minutes. The kale will soften and wilt slightly. Top the kale with the remaining ingredients to make a fresh, healthy salad. The lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper used to massage the kale creates a nice coating, so additional salad dressing is not necessary. Makes 2 dinner-sized salads.

Massaged local kale salad
Massaged local kale salad

To make the perfect hard-boiled egg: Put the eggs in a saucepan that is large enough to cover them with 1 inch of cold water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Once the water is boiling, put a lid on the pan and remove it from the heat.  Wait 11 minutes, then drain the pot and place the eggs under cool running water for a minute. Carefully crack and peel the eggs.

Kale salad with hard-boiled eggs
Kale salad with hard-boiled eggs

Summer Salad with Salmon

Blueberries, corn, peppers, tomato

Summer ingredients are perfect for light salads that are just right for the season’s hot afternoons. Fresh corn and blueberries pair especially well together, lending a slight sweetness and a taste that reminds me of childhood summers in South Georgia. This summer salad builds on this flavor combination and incorporated quinoa and salmon to make the salad a satisfying main course.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint blueberries, rinsed
  • 2 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed
  • 1 Cubanelle pepper, chopped
  • 3 small, sweet red peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 limes
  • Culantro (cilantro can be used as a substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 lb salmon
  • Olive oil
  • Mixed salad greens
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Cook a cup of quinoa according to the package directions. If buying bulk, add one cup of rinsed quinoa to two cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low. Let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes, then drain  any remaining water. Once the quinoa is cooked, set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

While the quinoa cooks and cools, cut the kernels off of the cobs of both ears of corn. Toss the kernels of corn with the blueberries.  Mix in the Cubanelle, sweet red peppers, and tomatoes. Mix in the quinoa and set aside. Season to taste with salt and pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon each).

Blueberries, corn, peppers, tomato
Blueberry, Corn, Quinoa mixture

To make a compound butter for the salmon, mix the butter, juice of half of a lime, and two teaspoons of chopped fresh culantro. Put the butter mixture into the refrigerator to cool.

Culantro-lime compound butter
Culantro-lime compound butter

While the butter mixture refrigerates, make a simple vinaigrette for the salad. In a small bowl, add the juice of the remaining lime and a half , the Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of chopped culantro, salt and pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon each). Whisk in 1/4 cup of olive oil.

When the vinaigrette is ready, set aside and get the compound butter out of the refrigerator. Spread the compound butter evenly over the non-skin side of the salmon. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the salmon to the skillet, skin side down. Cook the salmon in the skillet for 3 minutes per side. Put a lid on the skillet and finish the salmon in the over for 10 minutes, or until cooked to the desired temperature.

Salmon with compound butter
Salmon with compound butter

Serve the blueberry-corn-quinoa mixture over mixed salad greens and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with salmon and serve.

Summer salad with salmon
Summer salad with salmon

Beet Greens Salad

We got the most beautiful beets in our Full Earth Farms CSA boxes this year. I always love beets, but I get especially excited when the beets have the greens still attached. When I am lucky enough to have fresh looking beet greens, my favorite thing to make is a warm beet greens salad with roasted beets, topped with goat cheese. Beets are naturally sweet and pair well with a tangy goat cheese. The greens are earthy like Swiss chard, but have more texture.

Beets from Full Earth Farms
Beets from Full Earth Farms

The salad is quite simple to make and only requires a few ingredients:

  • 1 Bunch beets with greens
  • 2 Sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 oz Goat cheese
  • 1 Tbsp red wine (or vinegar)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the greens from the beets, leaving a little bit of the stalk attached to the root, and set aside. Place the beet roots on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle the beets with a tablespoon of olive oil. Season the beets with fresh thyme, 1 tsp of coarse salt, and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper. Fold the edges of the aluminum foil over the beets to form a pouch. Roast the beets in the oven for 35 minutes (or longer for large beets).

Beets for roasting
Beets ready for roasting

While the beets roast, wash the beet greens and pat them dry with a clean towel. Remove the stems and cut the beet greens into 1 inch strips.

Fresh beet greens
Fresh beet greens

After roasting, let the beets cool until you can handle them without burning yourself. With a pairing knife, remove the skins from the beets and slice the beets in half (or quarters for large beets).

Roasted beets
Roasted beets

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Toss in the beet greens and saute until slightly warmed, about a minute. Add a tablespoon of red wine to the pan and let the resulting steam wilt the greens.

Wilted beet greens
Wilting beet greens

Plate the greens and top with the roasted beets. Crumble the goat cheese over the salads and serve. The oil and wine from cooking the greens act as a vinaigrette, so salad dressing is not necessary.

Warm beet greens salad with roasted beets and goat cheese
Warm beet greens salad with roasted beets and goat cheese

Summer Pulled Pork – 2 Ways

Blueberry Cornbread

There is something about the heat of summer that gets me craving barbecue, especially pulled pork.  It also gets me craving fresh corn with my pulled pork. With these cravings stirring around in my mind, I decided to try a twist on the traditional summer barbecue.

Several months ago, I brewed my first batch of homebrew. It was a straightforward, uncomplicated ale. Still having a couple of bottles laying around, I wanted to incorporate it somehow.

Bottles of Homebrewed Ale
Bottles of Homebrew

I picked up a pork tenderloin from Earth Fare, put it in a slow cooker, and dusted it with a little garlic salt, paprika, chili powder, and cumin, roughly a 1/4 teaspoon of each.

Pulled Pork Seasonings
Seasonings for the Pork

I put then poured a bottle of homebrew in with the tenderloin. I let the tenderloin cook on low heat in the slow cooker for about 6 hours. I have only tried this with my homebrew, but I bet you could impart a variety of different flavors into the pork by using different styles of beer.

Pork in the Slow Cooker
Seasoned Pork in the Slow Cooker with the Homebrew

While the pork cooked, I threw together some blueberry cornbread in my cast iron skillet. To make blueberry cornbread, heat 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in the cast iron skillet as you preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups of self-rising cornmeal, 1 1/3 cup milk, 2 eggs, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Remove the skillet from the oven and carefully pour the hot oil into the cornbread mixture, stirring well to incorporate the oil. Pour the mixture into the hot skillet. Lightly dust 1/2 cup of blueberries with all purpose flour and drop them into the cornbread mixture. Return the skillet to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cornbread is a golden brown color. I always love cornbread, but I especially love the combination of blueberries and cornbread. I’ve tried this recipe with blackberries too, but the blueberries work better.

Blueberry Cornbread
Blueberry Cornbread

I also made some blueberry-corn salad by cutting the kernels off of two fresh ears of corn and mixing them with fresh blueberries and halved grape tomatoes. I did not measure the ingredients, but just added blueberries and tomatoes to the corn until the proportions looked good to me. I also lightly seasoned the salad with salt and pepper to taste.

Blueberry Corn Salad
Blueberry Corn Salad

For my barbecue dinner, I sliced a wedge of cornbread in half and topped it with pulled pork and blueberry-corn salad. I gave the food a light drizzle of Amy’s Organic Smokey Maple BBQ Sauce. Heavenly.

Pulled Pork Dinner
Pulled Pork Dinner

I ate more blueberry cornbread for breakfast the next morning, but for lunch the following day, I was thrilled to have some pulled pork left over. I piled some pork between sandwich thins, added some leftover salad, and topped with more of the BBQ sauce and some dill pickle slices for an incredible barbecue sandwich.

Pulled Pork Sandwich
Pulled Pork Sandwich

These two pulled pork dishes helped satisfy my cravings, at least temporarily. If you get adventurous and try experimenting with different beers to make pulled pork, please let me know how it turns out. Happy barbecuing.

Taco Salad

Although I enjoy salads, I do not usually have a craving for one. Today was an exception to that general rule. For some reason, I was really craving a taco salad. This light but flavorful salad was a tasty way to wrap up the weekend.

In a large skillet, brown about a pound of ground turkey and add salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and dried oregano to taste. To the browned turkey, stir in a 4 oz can of diced chilis.   Add a (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes with their liquid. Drain and rinse a can of black beans and a can of white hominy. Stir the beans and hominy into the turkey and simmer until heated through.

Assemble the salad by crushing baked tortilla chips in the bottom of a bowl. Cover the tortilla chips with chopped romaine lettuce. Pour the taco meat over the lettuce and top with bell pepper, cubanelle pepper, jicama, sliced grape tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, avocado, and cilantro. Finish the salad with a light drizzle of olive oil.

Taco Salad
Taco Salad

Burger Night!

Although we do not eat much meat at home, one of my favorite foods will always be a thick, juicy cheeseburger. Jill, on the other hand, does not eat any red meat at all (well, maybe she will steal a small bite of bacon from my plate on occasion). Despite the general lack of red meat in our home, I figured it was time to light up the grill and kick off the summer season with some delicious burgers.

While in her office a few weeks ago, my co-worker, Erin, gave Earth Fare’s bison and smoked gouda burgers rave reviews and insisted that I buy some and grill them. So, I did. The burger was made with bright red ground bison meat and shredded smoked gouda cheese. The burger was visibly fresh. For Jill I was hoping for a fresh salmon burger or a fresh turkey burger. Not offering these options at Earth Fare, I settled on some Blue Horizon Wild salmon burgers from the freezer case.

Burgers and veggies on the grill
Burgers and veggies on the grill

To go with the burgers, I grilled one golden zucchini from my garden and an eggplant. I chopped the grilled veggies up, mixed them with a freshly diced tomato, and seasoned them with some herbs de Provence to make a ratatouille-inspired salad. I also made kale chips out of some sesame kale from the Earth Fare deli.

The bison and gouda burger was as delicious as Erin promised it would be. Topped with a little spinach and some ketchup, and served on a ciabatta roll, the burger was better than any burger I’ve has in a very long time. The smoked gouda mixed into the meat really added to the flavor of the burger. I didn’t try the salmon burger, but it looked good and Jill said it was tasty. I cannot think of any better way to welcome in the summer than burgers and vegetables on the grill.

Burgers with ratatouille inspired salad and kale chips
Burgers with ratatouille inspired salad and kale chips