In Which She Finds Salad to be More Her Liking.

Pear Almond Upside-Down Cake

Pear Almond Upside-Down Cake

To put it mildly, writing this past year has been a struggle. During the past several months, I’ve had to wade through the cobwebs of my mind for a bit of inspiration. It’s been a bit frustrating and has at times left me feeling somewhat forlorn.

Enter: Summer Fruit.
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Being a city gal no dirt call her own, I get my perishables from the Farmer’s market, brick-and-mortar, and a bit of foraging. In Summer months, I’ve got dear friends and family who generously share with me a bit of their harvest.

This year, it seemed to come all at once. Tomatoes, pears, plums. The kind of fruit that requires one to be ready for action. Needless to say, I produced several small-batch wonders.
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~An orgasmic caramel-vanilla pear butter
~A zippy plum chutney
~Blushing strawberry preserves.
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And then the cakes…I have made several over the past couple of weeks. I’ll debate anyone who disagrees with me that cake is a perfectly acceptable stand-in at breakfast. Add some eggs, or plain yogurt, and there you have it: a complete meal. My favorite cake as of late is a variation on this olive-oil ricotta cake in which I substituted some cornmeal for part of the flour.
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But what’s carried me through this past week and sustained me throughout the long hours and hectic days is a hearty dish of my own genesis. I was perusing the internet and reading a post on grain salads in one of the Food52 columns, which got me thinking about my pantry. Needless to say, it had been a while since I’d done any serious shopping and my cupboards a bit paltry, however I had a bit of red rice tucked away, along with some coconut chips, from which sparked an interest in a salad fleck with toasted coconut and pistachios, and a kaleidoscope of colorful veggies, complemented with a spicy ginger miso dressing.
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This salad was so bright and hearty, the pistachios flecking about like little green jewels. It’s appealing on a multi-sensory level. I ate it for several days running.
I imagine this salad would easily lend itself to substitution, say; wild or brown rice, farro, wheat berries or another grain. Ditto that for the pistachios. The key is to let the grains cool thoroughly before combining them with other ingredients. I like to line a pan with parchment and pour the grains out onto the parchment to let the excess moisture evaporate before mixing with the other components.
Buddha's Salad

Buddha’s Salad

I’m calling it “Buddha’s Salad,” because, well…it feels appropriate.
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Enjoy, and much love,
J
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Buddha’s Salad
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3 c. cooked red rice (or sub another grain)
2 c shredded red cabbage
1 c shredded carrot
1/2 c. finely sliced green onion (green parts only)
1/2 c. fresh cilantro
1 c. toasted coconut chips
1/2 c toasted pistachios
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For the dressing:
1/4 c rice vinegar
2 tbsp miso paste, more to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp grated ginger (I often cheat and use the Ginger People brand grated ginger)
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
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Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients; toss with salad mains to coat. Eat with exuberance.
Aside

Time for Savory.

Most the time my week involves simple food: thick slices of crusty bread, smeared with avocado and sprinkled with coarse salt. A toasted sandwich. Roasted root vegetables. A quick soup puréed with whatever I can find on hand, adding meat or legumes if I’m feeling the need for something a little heartier. An easy salad with poached egg. Green smoothies and the like.
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Lately I’ve been more interested in creating sweets that I almost need an excuse to make something outside of my usual repertoire.
Rhubarb-Pear Tart with Almond Crumble

Rhubarb-Pear Tart with Almond Crumble

This’ll go on for some time. When I start to worry that I’ve forgotten how to cook, I’ll open my books and my refrigerator and glean inspiration, usually starting with the latter and ending with the former. This weekend, I was celebrating a friend’s birthday and wanted to bring something interesting and delicious to share. I had this beautiful bulb of fennel, and I knew that would be the genesis of my creation.
Run-spiration.

Run-spiration.

As per usual, I set out on my run and let things percolate. I found myself thinking about the kale, and dried apricots at home, just waiting for something purposeful. I imagined a weaving them into a salad of hearty grains and a silky-sweet-tart vinaigrette.
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And so on the way home, I picked up a package of farro and went from there. For those unaware, farro is hearty variant of wheat berry, with origins in Northern Italy. It is similar to barley in appearance; chewy, nutty and yet surprisingly light. It adds great depth and body to soups and is fantastic in grain-based salads.
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I loosely based this recipe off another inspired recipe from Ottolenghi that calls for roasting fennel and red onion prior to folding into a warm, rice or quinoa-based salad. It seems this recipe has gone through several adaptations, and so I feel comfortable calling this one my own, however for the original post in Cardamom can be found, here.
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This salad is fantastic when served at room temperature, and even better the next day, when the flavors have had married together a bit. I was witty enough to steal a bowl away for myself before sharing, and was glad to do so, as there was none left when I was making my way home. Now that, friends, is the sign of a good dish! I can only imagine this dish would be even better by roasting fresh apricots along with the fennel and onion.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
 
Roasted Fennel and Apricot Salad with Farro

Roasted Fennel and Apricot Salad with Farro

 
Roasted Fennel and Apricot Salad with Farro
*Note: Soaking the farro for an hour or so will reduce the cooking time a bit. Otherwise, be prepared to wait an hour or more to put it all together. Likewise, if the apricots are too firm, give them a quick soak in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then drain.
Ingredients:
1 c farro
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, sliced about 1/4-in thick
1 large red onion, sliced about 1/4-in thick
4-5 lacinato (flat) kale leaves; sliced into ribbons
1 large handful cilantro, chopped roughly
1/2 c dried apricots (I prefer Turkish, because they are generally softer), cut into quarters
1/3 c chopped walnut
For the vinaigrette:
2 tbsp olive oil
juice and zest of one lemon
1 tsp ginger paste, or 1 tsp grated ginger and a pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt
Method:
  1. Boil Farro for ~60 minutes in a large pot with 1 tsp salt and ~5 cups water until al dente (for quick-cooking farro, prepare according to package directions). Drain and let cool slightly
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
  3. Toss fennel and onion in 2 tbsp of the olive oil and a smatter of salt. Spread onto baking sheet and roast for ~40 minutes, giving a turn about 20-30 minutes through, the latter if you want a more charred effect. Let cool slightly, then scrape into a large bowl.
  4. Place kale ribbons on baking sheet and set in warm oven for about 5 minutes. It doesn’t need to be on; you just want to wilt and toast it a bit. Remove from oven and add to onion/fennel mixture.
  5. Make vinaigrette: Combine all ingredients; whisk. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside.
  6. Add farro, walnuts and apricots to roasted vegetables; toss with vinaigrette. Fold in cilantro and adjust seasonings as needed.

 

Roasted.

What one can do with a tray of roast vegetables? I recall an article in the NYT reviewing this book titled An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler. It seduced me with its practicality and how a bit of advance prep and cooking in the kitchie yield several days’ worth of meals. I don’t know about you, but my tastes can change quite dramatically within the course of a day or so. Exactly how many things can one do with roasted squash and cauliflower? In actuality, quite a bit! I was pouring though my food photos and discovered a bevy of dishes I’d created doing just that.

Roasted veggies, greens, egg and sriracha sammie

Roasted veggies, greens, egg and sriracha sammie

salmon:delicata

Salmon with delicata squash and greens

Egg and delicata squash on arugula

Egg and delicata squash on arugula

I’ll never cook a week at a time; I’m too compulsive. I feel the need to eat it all at once and will perseverate over what to eat first. I found myself doing just that thing last week, with a tray of roasted vegetables, a vat of soup, cooked quinoa and the like.

Melissa Clark’s NYT article on creamy carrot and cauliflower soup was the seedling that tied it all together. I made a simple soup of pureed roast vegetables and coconut milk. Adding curried spices seemed appropriate, as they marry well with the delicate sweetness of squash and cauliflower. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of chili flakes and top with a dollop of creme fraiche or…Greek yogurt – I won’t judge.

Having the veggies already roasted on hand makes for a quick meal, however I’ve included roasting instructions, if you’re so inspired. This soup would also work well with fresh vegetables, however they won’t have the caramelized flavor and complexity that roasted vegetables provide.

Roasted cauliflower and delicata squash soup

Roasted cauliflower and delicata squash soup

Curried Delicata Squash and Cauliflower Soup

For the vegetables:
1 medium-sized delicate squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
1/2 large head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces
olive oil; about 2 tablespoons
a generous teaspoon of sea salt
freshly grated pepper nutmeg

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Toss all of the ingredients together; the vegetables should have a light coat of olive oil so that the spices can adhere.
Roast for ~40-50 minutes, giving a toss about half-way through to ensure even caramelization.

For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 tsp Madras curry powder
3-4 cups of roasted cauliflower and squash
2 1/2 cups broth (vegetable, or chicken)
1 cup coconut milk
salt, to taste
chili flakes, for garnish
creme fraiche, or Greek yogurt, for garnish

In a large pot, sauté onion in olive oil for ~5 minutes until soft and starting to brown. Add curry powder and sauté for about 30 seconds, then add vegetables, 2 cups of the broth, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to a simmer for ~15 minutes. Remove from heat and puree, adding additional water or broth as needed to bring to desired consistency.

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Feed Me, Seymour!

After a weekend being in good company of friends, being nourished in both body and heart, I find myself in the kitchen today. It feels like I’m making up for lost time. The week has been bubbling over with activity, so cooking a meal has been little more than an afterthought.
So, gifted with an extra hour in my day, I found myself laying in bed dreaming up what I wanted to make.
Something hot and stew-y, for sure, something sweet, and something with raw elements.
Garbanzo Bean Stew with Preserved Lemon
I wanted to create an unctuous, meat-free stew and had been pouring over recipes that paired game-y meats with fruit. I’ve had this thing for Moroccan spices lately and was dying to test out my recent batch of preserved lemon. I use garbanzo beans frequently for hummus and in salads, however I rarely use them in soups, preferring the many varieties of lentils available. Garbanzo beans are firm, nutty and can hold their own in a soup with lots of competing elements. Adding a bit of harissa heightens the flavors and adds extra heat.
This stew is stellar, and can be served with couscous, bread or another grain. I served it over quinoa to give it a bit of a protein boost and keep it a bit lighter, as I always like to keep room for dessert!
Garbanzo Bean Stew with Preserved Lemon
2 onions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup olive oil
3 c cooked garbanzo beans
2 32-oz cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
1 preserved lemon, insides removed, chopped
3/4 cup dried Turkish apricots, quartered
1 Tbsp harissa
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
2 cinnamon sticks
2 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1 bunch kale, chopped
Method
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Add onion and cook ~15 minutes, giving a stir every few minutes to evenly caramelize.
3. Turn the heat up to high, and add all remaining ingredients except kale.
4. Once boiling, turn heat down and simmer for ~40 minutes.
5. Toss in kale, allowing it to steam for ~5 minutes, then fold into the stew.
6. Serve over cooked quinoa or couscous; with cilantro and harissa as garnish.
pomegranate arils

pomegranate arils

I also had this pomegranate I’d been meaning to break into. As I was waiting for my press to steep my coffee, I spotted the pomegranate and popped myself up onto the counter, knife in hand. A colleague taught me a fancy technique for scoring pomegranate so as not to bruise the fruit. I peeled back the flesh to reveal the plump juicy jewels inside. After plucking away for about 10 minutes, I had a nice full bowl of seeds. I could have easily gone with a simple arugula salad with pomegranate and toasted pistachios, however I also wanted to do a bit of roasting and satisfy my squash addiction. What I ended up with was truly gorgeous and flavorful as well; kale marinated in a lovely vinaigrette and tossed with roasted delicata squash and pomegranate seeds.
Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate Arils

Kale Salad with Delicata Squash and Pomegranate Arils

2 delicata squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large head lacinato (flat leaf) kale
Vinaigrette:
4 T olive oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tap salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss squash with a bit of olive oil (~2 tbsp), a generous pinch of salt and several grates of pepper. Roast for 40-45 minutes, giving a toss about halfway through so that the squash caramelizes evenly.
Wash kale and chop into ribbons. Set in a large bowl.
Combine vinaigrette; massage into kale. Add delicata and mix lightly. Fold in pomegranate seeds and garnish with pistachio seeds and chèvre.
Pear and Almond Cake

Pear and Almond Cake

Moving on to dessert. Initially, I’d planned to do something with pear and ginger, and then I recalled having a bit of almond flour in my larder. I discovered a recipe on food 52.com, which you can find the link here:
I made few deviations from the recipe, with exception of increasing the proportion of almond flour to baking flour and substituting olive oil for canola oil. This made for a dense, moist cake, which I served with some vanilla-scented creme fraiche. It was truly divine.
Much Love,
J