Tag Archives: salad

Old friends and new

blue jam

Blackberry-blueberry jam, an attempt to get the blackberry flavor with fewer seeds.

I MARKED THE 8TH ANNIVERSARY OF THIS BLOG, by picking a tub of wild blackberries and making a blackberry cobbler. The first post that I wrote here, in 2009, was about the culmination of eight blackberry cobblers (!) that I made that summer. Well, I only made one this summer, but I can report that the recipe still holds up well and is suitable for any kind of berry. Cobbler and Blueberry Boy Bait are old friends during berry season, recipes I can count on–so familiar I can almost make them by instinct.

blueberryboybait

Speaking of instinct, my dear friend Martha and I read a post touching on this subject in one of our favorite food blogs, Juls’ Kitchen, written by Giulia, a cook and writer in Tuscany (We read it in the Italian version first, as we’re studying the language and she writes so well.) She wrote about making a cake by instinct — and it made me think about the dishes that I make instinctively, or almost so.

basil,tomatoes

Since it’s summer, and I’m enjoying my small crop of cherry tomatoes and basil, grown in pots, one of the simplest and best pasta dishes came to mind — an easy one to make by instinct. I cut the tomatoes in half, add some garlic and a dash of salt, and cook them down a bit to release their juices. Then I add a little of the cooking water from the pasta, toss in a good dose of chopped basil, stir the cooked, drained pasta into the skillet, and sprinkle with grated Parmeggiano or Pecorino Romano. Done. The best old friend of the late summer menu: I can never have too much of it.

summersalad

Leftover wild salmon, leftover rice, chopped cucumber and cherry tomatoes, corn kernels, chopped green onion, cilantro and a dressing of lime juice with a little oil and salt.

Summer, with its bounty of vegetables, is also such a great time to compose salads. I don’t know if there is an art to this, but I think there is something of an instinct, developed over time, of putting foods together so they marry well. Contrasts of color, flavor and texture work well in a composed salad. Leftovers and seasonal specials are equally welcome. It’s not that my instinct is always so great–some salads I’ve made did not marry well — in fact, probably needed to divorce! But usually, my instincts are not too bad and the ingredients get along pretty well — even complementing each other.

Especially in the lazy days of summer, I tend to forget what I can put together for a simple meal, and I need inspiration from something I’ve seen or read, which I can then adapt to what I have.  The salad above that was like that — I was just reading about a lime-juice salad dressing, and then put this together from leftovers and farmers’ market produce.

Then, as I was sorting through photos for this post, I looked at the photo of this salad and realized I could make it again for today’s lunch, even though I was missing the rice and had more cucumber. Avocado would be nice in this salad too, or black beans, or red pepper.  You could make it vegan without the salmon. You could use parsley instead of cilantro if you are one of the 4-to-14 percent of the population that thinks cilantro tastes like soap. You could add some sesame seeds or nuts on top .  . .

There are as many salad variations as there are mathematical combinations of vegetables with grains, beans, protein, what have you. Here’s a post with some of my late-summer favorites from seasons past: https://tobykitchen.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/salads-salads-salads/.

Have fun, eat well and stay cool,
Toby

blackberry foccacia slice

Hmmmm, shall I make a blackberry focaccia as I did this time last year? https://tobykitchen.wordpress.com/2016/07/19/blackberry-supper/

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Filed under baked goods, fruit, musings, Praise for other cooks, salad, summer, Uncategorized

Whatever. . .

WHATEVER IS FRESH  — from your garden or your neighbor’s garden, from a farmers’ market,  fruit-and-vegetable stand, u-pick farm or along a path, growing edible and wild — well, that’s what you should be eating right now.

For me, the vegetables and herbs lately include tender carrots and stringbeans (green or yellow), tiny new potatoes, nice little cauliflowers, fresh garlic, cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, tarragon and mint. And summer fruit: Bluecrop blueberries that I picked at a wonderful organic blueberry farm (Yes, I may have to make the seasonal favored coffeecake, Blueberry Boy Bait ), blackberries from the bushes that grow wild here, and melons — watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew — from a produce stand.

July salad

My July salad: tiny potatoes, green and yellow stringbeans, carrots, cherry tomatoes and green onions in a mustard-vinaigrette

What to do with them? Well, it’s a theme I keep coming back to — salad. It doesn’t require much cooking, and it’s perfect for summer eating — lunch, dinner, picnics, road trips, snacks. . .

Here are a couple of my favorite previous posts about summer salad, for more ideas:

Salads, salads salads

Summer’s salad days

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Taste of Sicilia

sicilia insalata_0001As we’re getting ready for a trip to Sicily, I was reading through a little travel journal I kept from a visit there eight years ago, when I went to research lemons. I came across this page with a tuna-lemon-olive oil salad with artichoke hearts and green beans that I made in a lemon orchard agriturismo above Sicily’s Lemon Riviera, on the eastern side of the island (we are going there again!). We usually had a kitchen in Sicily, so we could shop in the markets, and we ate some variation of this salad nearly every day we were there — and with tuna so good and produce so fresh and delicious, we never tired of it.

This salad (with variations) became a standard once we were home, too. You may have to substitute Meyer lemons or preserved lemons for the Sicilian lemon if you want to eat the lemon peel, but otherwise –except for the gorgeous views of Mount Etna and the Mediterranean — it translates well, especially in the spring.

tuna insalata

I’m sure we always had bread or breadsticks with “My Sicilian lemon insalata (good for il prazo–lunch–or antipasta). The bottom line reads: “good with Etna red or white, iced tea or lemonade.”

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Filed under salad, spring, Uncategorized, vegetables

Summertime easy

saladbowl
It’s been more than a month since I’ve written here, and in the meantime, we took a 12-day road trip to Montana (central and eastern) and a bit of Wyoming. For those of you who have followed my blog, you’ll know this trip in the rural West presents a challenge for me in finding food that I like, especially fresh vegetables.

I’ve written about my road trip kitchen and motel cooking tips before here, and here — and salads I made by boiling water in the electric kettle to cook bulgur and washing lettuce and other vegetables in my salad spinner.

But this year, I was lazier — ahem, that is to say, more practical (smarter?)– and often bought those packages of pre-washed spinach or salad greens that I usually eschew at home. Let me just say –they are great for travel! — Of course, I had my bottle of olive oil, plenty of lemons (and my lemon reamer) and some salt, so I had all the ingredients for dressing any kind of salad.

Also, I was inspired by a nice new blue speckled enamel salad bowl I bought at Ray’s Sports & Western Wear in Harlowton, Montana.

broccolirabe

Amy of Terra Verde Farms clued me in about roasted broccoli rabe. Just toss with a little oil and salt, roast at 400 degrees till it’s as done as you like it.

Back home, I really haven’t had much energy for making dinner. So we continue with salads (lettuce and radishes from the farmers’ market) and corn or bread or a quesadilla. If I am more ambitious (not much) I might just make pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil and a sprinkle of pecorino. Or it’s cool enough to turn on the oven, occasionally I make a delicious  little piece of sockeye salmon and rice. Or some roast vegetables.

Often I really can’t think of what we should eat for dinner (crackers and cheese?) but if I do decide to actually cook something, it must be simple. It’s summertime, after all.

beancornquinoaThe salad above is about the most complicated thing I’ve made in a month, and it was really pretty easy. Quinoa (I used red quinoa from Trader Joe’s) a can of black beans, corn kernels, green and red onions, halved cherry tomatoes (from the plants on my patio!), chopped cucumber, cilantro, a little chopped jalapeno, avocado pieces and a dressing with some oil and lots of lime juice, some lime zest and salt. You could vary this a number of ways, of course.

It made a good lunch today — but I don’t know what we’ll have for dinner.

It’s not that I’ve been avoiding the kitchen all the time. I made a jar of quick pickles using dill I had in the garden, and I bought basil from farmers’ market to make pesto.

picklesI made Blueberry Boy Bait for summer visitors. Lately, Steve and I have been picking lots of wild blackberries in the evenings, and I’ve made blackberry scones and blackberry crisp (in individual servings so we wouldn’t eat too much) and even blackberry focaccia —  but mostly I’ve been putting them into the freezer for the long winter ahead.

It’s summertime, I’m lazy, and the livin’ should be easy…

individualblackbcrisp

When it comes to dessert, few things are easier than a blackberry crisp. Add a tablespoon or two of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon of cornstarch to enough berries to fill two ramekins; top with a mixture of butter (you don’t need much), oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon (and chopped nuts if you wish.) Bake at 350 degrees till berries are bubbling and topping is crisp. Yum!

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Corn to the rescue for a lazy cook

Late summer colors from the farmers' market

Late summer colors from the farmers’ market

I had another cauliflower revelation when my farmer’s market vendor, Amy, convinced me to try Romanesko–that outer-space version of cauliflower. She described its flavor as “nutty” — and she was right.

We had a couple of lunches that were not much more than a bowl full of cooked Romanesko. One time I tossed it  with the basic lemon-olive oil dressing and tossed with roasted sunflower seeds.  Another time I melted a bit of butter over the hot vegetable and grated some Pecorino cheese on top.  Both times we just gobbled up our vegetables and no complaints.

Then I decided to go all-out on the colorful salad theme, and tossed together both the Romanesko and the purple cauliflower. And carrots. And potatoes. I think there were some roasted hazelnuts in this one too.

However, here’s a confession: A lot of times, I’ve been too lazy even to cut and cook all the vegetables and mix them up with some dressing. Too lazy to make a salad, that is.

That’s why I’m happy that it’s corn season. Steve shucks the corn outside on the deck (no, really, it’s just a carport, but it has a great view) and I throw it in boiling water for a few minutes. Add a bit of butter and salt at the table and we’re more than halfway to dinner, in my estimation. Especially if the corn is fresh, sweet and tender.

Corn, green salad and bread with fresh tomatoes

It could be as simple as adding a salad and some bread, as I did one evening.  (If your lettuce is as sweet and fresh as the lettuce I buy from Terra Verde Farms, that salad will make you happy too.) And fresh tomatoes–I never have enough of these. You could invite a vegan to share this meal.

Corn, salad and sockeye salmon

Another evening it was corn and salad with a piece of wild sockeye salmon I’d bought from Vis Seafood, Bellingham’s magnificent fish store. It’s pretty easy cooking when about all you have to do is shop at the right places…..

But back to corn. Even when I don’t have fresh tomatoes or sockeye salmon, I’m happy if I have some corn to put on the table.  Everything has been a little late around here this summer, so the corn is still a recent entry– and still very tender. I’m sure we won’t tire of it before the end of this month.

Corn: these days, it’s the main course.

P.S. When my dad came to the U.S. from Germany in 1939, he was shocked that people were eating corn. In Europe, it was only fed to livestock. It didn’t take long, however, for him to become a great fan of corn on the cob.

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Lunch standby

In my quest for a healthy, tasty and filling lunch that I could make ahead, pack in a container and eat without a fuss, I’ve been making bulgur-and-chickpea salads a couple of times a week.

It’s an infinitely variable formula:

  • Grains (you could use bulgur, quinoa, barley or rice of any kind, etc.)
  • Beans (chickpeas, navy beans, black beans, cannellini, red beans, etc.)
  • Vinaigrette (I like olive oil/garlic with plenty of fresh lemon juice)
  • Vegetables fresh (chopped spinach, chard or other greens are good, cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, and of course green or red onions) or cooked (asparagus, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers)
  • Salt and pepper and herbs, fresh or dried — basil, dill, thyme, tarragon, etc.
  • Options:  Cheese (crumbled feta is good or fresh mozzarella slices), chopped toasted nuts, canned tuna or salmon, chicken, olives, marinated or pickled vegetables, etc. etc.

This one had bulgur, chickpeas, asparagus, roasted peppers, and green onions

I’m partial to bulgur because it cooks quickly and simply: Just put a cup of bulgur in a bowl, add 1 1/2 cups of boiling water, stir, cover the bowl with a plate or  lid and wait 20 minutes or so, until the grain has absorbed all the water. Then you can add the vinaigrette — I really like olive oil and lemon juice–salt and pepper to taste, and begin adding your other ingredients.

Go with what you like, what’s in season, what’s around your kitchen and cupboards, what seems like an enticing collage of flavors.

You don’t have to include beans, but they do  contribute a lot to protein and texture. I like the chickpeas (also called garbanzos) because the canned ones are firm enough to hold up well in this salad. I use a ratio of half a can (1 cup) to 1 cup of bulgur.

I also consider the sliced green onions practically essential, for both flavor and color, as are green vegetables, in bite-size pieces. Diced red peppers (raw or roasted) or sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil are great to add color and flavor to the salad. Nuts, olives, feta cheese, are nice options, but the salad is fine without any extras too (and even vegan if you forgo the cheese).

Could you double the recipe and bring this salad to a potluck or a picnic?

Sure, why not?

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Filed under salad, Uncategorized, vegetables