Posts Tagged ‘salad’

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Breakfast love. (DAMASCUS BAKERY)

March 15, 2011

I am tempted to post this photo with no words at all. But that would be depriving the reader of some really great info. First of all, this is a breakfast spread put together by my sweetheart with some stuff he whipped up and some other items from Brooklyn’s incredible Damascus Bakery. The bakery is well known for fresh pitas, lavash and a selection of breads, which are also available in other locations. Onsite they turn out an enormous variety of pastries and sweets as well as some mind-blowing prepared dips and salads. Pictured above are tabouleh, muhammara and olive tapenade with a spice crusted flatbread (zataar bread, far left). There are also MG’s flourishes of perfectly cooked eggs, dried fruit, grapes, buttered toast and some homemade ricotta with honey and pine nuts. I feel royal.

It is a little sad because Damascus Bakery is located on Atlantic Avenue right next to the extremely well known Sahadi’s and might therefore live in its shadow. And while Sahadi’s is a great spot, full of bustle and bulk, Damascus has a more homey style with hand-made goods, a friendly feeling and quite possibly the world’s best halva. Both are worthy of a Cobble Hill field trip.

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More simple pleasures. (STRAWBERRIES AND WINE)

June 29, 2010

Because of extreme good luck, this spring I was in Paris. The weather was still in it’s ‘ghastly’ phase and days were partly cold and gray. That did not stop me from having a spectacular time. Each rough morning on rue de la Roquette was met with a different delightful breakfast that especially the French know how to throw down. A bag of warm croissants and pastries, super thin ham and to-die-for butter on baguette, soft, soft, soft-boiled eggs, pain perdue (a.k.a French toast) or this little number, strawberries macerated in red wine, that deserves honorable mention for its deliciousness, its ingenuity and most of all its simplicity.

If my foggy morning memory serves me correctly, it is the recipe of my friend’s dad who lives on the island of Corse (Corsica). Though I have never been there, as a lover of food, I know it is an incredible place. I have been present in Paris when contraband care packages of jurassic Corsican cheeses, pink garlic, honey, olive oil and endless night-sticks of saucisson were cracked open and devoured.

Another great export, the sweet/tart combo of strawberries and wine has a great balance and richness to it. The slight amount of pectin in the berries and the bit of sugar help to thicken the liquid and create a very complimentary sauce, not overtly wine-y at all. A perfect morning dish, gets everyone off on the right foot, as well as an excellent desert served with cream or over cake or all by itself.

STRAWBERRIES IN WINE

1 pint of strawberries, hulled and quartered lengthwise

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup red wine

  • Place sliced strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Toss to combine.
  • Add wine and stir well.
  • Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Stir again and adjust sugar for desired sweetness.
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Summery sides. (THAI CUCUMBER RELISH)

June 21, 2010

These sweet/tart quick-pickles are a perky little accompaniment to grilled meat or fish, salads, sandwiches or a big ole burger. Wherever you like cucumbers, really. In this version, sweet and spicy notes rule the brine and the salt is minimal. With the chiles removed, I think they would be a hit with kids.

This recipe is also a perfect opportunity to brush up on knife skills. This classic beauty is known as a matchstick. First slice the cucumber into rounds crosswise then slice the rounds lengthwise. The matchstick cut does very nicely by radishes as well.

Once all your veggies are cut up, you have only to dump the brine on them and wait until they are cooled. In thirty minutes the relish is ready to eat and, as an added bonus, it will improve with age. Enjoy.

THAI CUCUMBER RELISH

1 medium sized English cucumber, cut into matchsticks (2-2 1/2 cups)

1 small shallot, thinly sliced

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into tiny matchsticks

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/3 cup rice vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar)

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup brown or white sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 small dried chiles (optional)

  • In a small sauce pan, mix brine ingredients; vinegar, water, sugar, salt and chiles.
  • Bring brine to a boil and stir to fully dissolve sugar and salt. Remove from flame.
  • Carefully toss cucumber, shallot, ginger, garlic in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
  • Pour slightly cooled brine over and mix gently.
  • Press down on vegetables lightly to cover with brine but don’t worry if it doesn’t cover. Vegetables will soften, let off water and be covered in liquid after sitting a bit.
  • Store in fridge up to one week.
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Simple Pleasures. (ENDIVE SALAD)

June 12, 2010

‘Simple pleasure’ surely means different things to different people. It’s a sort of Hallmark-y title for a post, which is not my usual style, but there are reasons the phrase stuck. I have reasons. Simple: nothing more than a knife was needed to create this dish. It took about five minutes total. I used only the tiniest of cutting boards, leading to tiny clean-up. Six ingredients, all ready-to-eat, created a perfect flavor balance, but that is getting into pleasure. Pleasure: flawless local strawberries and a craving for slightly bitter endive that looked great at the supermarket. It was a coincidence that the perfect cheese to go with the salad was in my fridge, capra (goat) cheese infused with honey, and coincidences bring me great pleasure. Magical ingredient crema di balsamico* on top of my favorite arbequina Spanish olive oil….and the peppermill was full (refilling that thing can be so annoying), the opportunity to stop for a minute and share a bitter and sweet salad with my dear friend, all added up to aforementioned sappy phrase. Please refer to title.

ENDIVE SALAD, STRAWBERRIES and CREMA DI BALSAMICO

Serves 2.

2 heads Belgian endive

1 large handful of strawberries, hulled and sliced

2 tablespoons good olive oil

6 turns of the peppermill

2 generous drizzles of crema di balsamico*

1/4 cup (approximately) soft goat cheese with or without a drizzle of honey stirred in

  • Peel one layer of outer leaves from endive and discard (they are usually bruised slightly).
  • Chop the endive crosswise into one inch pieces and separate the leaves with your fingers. Divide leaves between two plates.
  • Top salads with strawberries and drizzle with olive oil. Three turns of the peppermill over each plate, or to taste.
  • Decorate with cream di balsamico and drop cheese on top in haphazard chunks.

*Crema di balsamico is a delicious sweet-tart vinegar product which is made by a reduction of balsamic vinegar and Trebbiano grape must. Trebbiano grapes are the variety used in making balsamic vinegar and must refers to the pressed juice of the entire grape; skin, seeds and stems included. The result is a thick smooth liquid that needs no help in enhancing the flavors of cured meats, cheeses, fruit or vegetables. It can be used all alone as a glaze, dressing or garnish…a great secret weapon to have on hand. Available online or, if you’re local where I’m local, at Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market.

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New woman in town. (VEGETABLE BEAN SALAD)

September 22, 2009

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Bored in the supermarket Goya section? There is a remedy for that. A Northern California company, Rancho Gordo is here to school us on new-old varieties of beans and celebrate old-fashioned foods native to the Americas (the Beautiful). I, personally, am celebrating beans –the versatility and the benefits. Packed with fiber and protein, beans are naturally low in fat and cholesterol and very helpful in stabilizing blood sugar which is great for America the Diabetic. So these especially intriguing beauties were the star in a recent sort of refrigerator challenge to come up with a dish for an impromptu BBQ using odds and ends that were hanging about. The nice thing being, many of the close-by ingredients were results of our peppery container garden.

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My goal was a hearty salad that would satisfy those not into meat, but tasty enough to be ladled all around. Adding plenty of veggies help keep a bean salad from being too dense and a super-flavorful dressing will be absorbed by the beans, bringing all of the ingredients together in a slick of deliciousness. I have several bags of Rancho Gordo beans (a great gift!) in my kitchen and I went with the Yellow Indian Woman type because the creamy texture would go great with the peppers’ bite, smallish size would mix well with the chopped veggies and the buttery color was perfect for the bright green, red and orange to come.

In handling beans, I rinse them and do a quick check for stones or dirt clumps. Soaking overnight in a large bowl of cold water is a standard procedure which reduces the cooking time and is said to remove some of the indigestible sugars that are responsible for beans’ bad rap. At the least, a soak will clean off any residue that is clinging to the exterior of the beans. Then into a pot with some fresh water with a small piece of kombu (kelp) seaweed, said to boost the nutrients and digestibility of beans in general.*

It is important to use enough water to keep the beans covered during the entire soaking and cooking times to prevent drying out and/or burning. When making beans for a salad, err on the side of too much water and simply strain the excess. When done they should hold their shape, but mash under a fork. Check in on them frequently while they are cooking, always giving a stir and adding water if necessary. Do not undercook, as that is hard on the gut and will make you hate me and my recipe. Really pay attention as they are getting close to done, it will ensure perfection. It’s hard to set a definite cooking time since all beans are different. Even the same variety of bean can differ in length of cooking due to age. That is another plus of sourcing higher quality beans and legumes, they are most likely fresher than the supermarket kind, since there is no way of knowing how for long Safeway’s beans have been sitting around. Once drained, the finished beans will continue to cook slightly from their internal heat. It is best to let them cool spread out on a sheet pan to minimize the carry-over and have better control over the final texture, a little past al dente, but not yet splitting apart, which is key in a great bean salad.

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After cooling slightly, the thick pesto-like dressing can be mixed in and tossed with any veggies you like. The dressing is thickened with roasted garlic and shallots instead of  traditional nuts + cheese, making it suitable for all types of extremists. The beans will double in volume once they are soaked and cooked. A one-pound bag (about 2 cups dry) yields 4-5 cups cooked. The vegetables add another 4 cups, which can easily be stretched or reduced. This recipe makes enough bean salad for about 20 people as a side dish. It keeps well in the fridge (3-4 days) getting more flavorful as it rests. It’s a great snack to have in the icebox and a no brainer to-go lunch.

VEGETABLE + YELLOW INDIAN WOMAN BEAN SALAD

For the Roasted Garlic and Basil Dressing:

6 cloves roasted garlic and 1/2 cup of roasted garlic oil

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 cup fresh dill leaves, packed

1/2 shallot

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

pinch red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

For salad:

1 pound Yellow Indian Woman Beans, cooked

1 bell peppers, finely sliced

2 banana peppers, sliced

3 carrots, sliced

1 can hearts of palm, chopped

1 jalapeno, finely minced

  • Add all dressing ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree. Check for seasoning and adjust as needed.
  • Place the cooked beans in a large mixing bowl and toss with the dressing.
  • Add vegetables to the bowl and toss to combine.
  • Check for seasoning one last time. Serve + enjoy.
  • Leftovers may need a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to come back to life.

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ALSO!! The Roasted Garlic and Basil Dressing can be applied to the TOP 15 Uses for Pesto

* I use this method and beans don’t bother me, that is my only proof that this theory holds water. I think everyone has an opinion on this one, which I am always happy to entertain.