Cauliflower, Smoky Quinoa, and Radicchio Salad

A few weeks ago, Noah texted asking if he should pick anything up for dinner on his way home. (Good boyfriend points!) I told him he should figure it out what he wanted to eat because he was on his own. I had my own plans.

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In matters of taste, Noah and I do not always agree. He dislikes squash, cauliflower, and broccoli. There is a list of things that upset his stomach, which includes raw cabbage, quinoa, and many beans. I hate chocolate ice cream and can’t eat pizza so he also has his own (possibly more legitimate) complaints. In any case, I now rule out many of my favorite foods when I plan dinner (except when I’m on a conversion mission) or try to load all my broccoli and cabbage eating into lunch.

On this night, however, I had an idea for a salad and was determined to make it. When Noah got home and saw what was getting tossed into my bowl he nodded and said, “Now I get it. That’s all your favorite foods.” You see, I had myself a salad of roasted cauliflower, smokey quinoa, and radicchio. I’d also tossed in pickled shallots, jalapeño peppers, mozzarella cheese, and toasted hazelnuts. It was creamy but not unhealthy, spicy and tangy. This is a complicated salad. It takes a while to make, but I thought it was worth it. Even though it contained so many of Noah’s least favorite foods, I caught him sneaking a couple of bites. So, maybe it was a conversion mission after all.

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Red Cabbage, Pinto Bean, and Tahini Slaw

Have you been sitting around wishing you had more recipes for mayonnaise-less cole slaw? Alternatively, have you been thinking that everything would be better if it was socially acceptable to eat a big Tupperware full of cole slaw for lunch? No? I’m the only person around holding both those thoughts in her head at once? Weird.

Here’s why it’s worth spending your spare time pondering both of those questions: If you could magically get rid of the mayonnaise in cole slaw, you could, I would argue, have the perfect lunch time salad. After all, cabbage holds up to dressing over the long-term, better than almost anything else. If you want it to taste like cole saw, you practically have to let it sit in its dressing for a while (maybe even a week). If that dressing were actually healthy, and not just mayonnaise-filled goop, you would be well on your way to a guilt free lunch you could make on Sunday  night and dump into your Tupperware on the way out the door every morning. If you added some beans for protein, it might even be perfect.

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I have been tinkering with this salad for three summers now. The cabbage has gotten progressively more thinly sliced, although not obsessively so. It has lost the cheese I once put in it, which also makes this a vegan lunch! I think it is now the right balance of creamy, crunchy, and filling to make a great lunch, but it also would not be out of place as a side at a barbecue. It is also, notably, incredibly easy to make. Just slice your cabbage, drain your beans, chop your parsley, whisk together some tahini and lemon juice, and you are in business. It’s so simple that, with my initial quandaries answered, I have spent all week debating why it took me so long to get the formula exactly right.

Red Cabbage, Pinto Bean, and Tahini Slaw

– 1 small red cabbage

– 1 can pinto beans (You could probably sub chickpeas, but I think that pinto beans have a nicely creamy texture to match the dressing.)

– 3 tablespoons chopped parsley (or more to taste)

– 1/4 cup tahini

– 1/4 cup lemon juice

– Salt to taste

* Drain and rinse pinto beans.

* Finely slice cabbage.

* Whisk together tahini and lemon juice.

* In large bowl mix together beans, cabbage, parsley, and tahini-lemon juice combination. Salt to taste.

I find that if I’m going to eat this over the course of a week for a lunch, it perks up a bit if I sprinkle a little extra olive oil, lemon juice, and salt on it right before I eat it.

Rebecca’s Kimchi-Apple, Parsnip, and Chicken Meatball Composed Salad:

I told you I had a back-log of recipes from my friends who are excellent cooks, so here’s another.

This one is from Rebecca. Rebecca is the kind of friend who thinks nothing of hopping in a car and driving three or four hours to see you. So, Rebecca was a particularly good person to decide to drive across the country with the summer after our freshman year in college. She was even better when we made the perhaps misguided decision to drive from Seattle to San Francisco over night with only a large box of blueberries, a loaf of bread, and a Fiddler on the Roof CD to keep us company.

Between those two legs of road trip, Rebecca and I learned that we worked well together as organizers and as cooks. We ran a voter registration drive by day and cooked for our five other roommates by night. Since then our friendship has continued to be defined by travel adventures, political adventures, and cooking adventures.

When I visited her in Philadelphia last week, I knew there would be excellent food to eat. Fittingly, my second night there we reunited with our third road trip companion, and Rebecca served us my favorite thing I’ve eaten in a long time.

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Rebecca nonchalantly decided to make a riff on the Momofuku apple and kimchi salad–another thing I love about Rebecca is that she is never intimidated by a recipe or much of anything else.

Rebecca’s riff on the salad included not just apples dressed in kimchi and arranged on a bed of arugula, but also a tangle of crunchy parsnips and pile of cilantro-chicken meatballs. This surprising combination of ingredients was held together by a swath of maple-syrup and yogurt. I came home and immediately set out to make it again. I think you should too.

Kimchi-Apple, Parsnip, and Chicken Meatball Composed Salad: 

– 2 large, crunchy apples (I used a Granny Smith and a Fuji)

– 1/4 cup kimchi

– 1/4 cup greek yogurt

– 2 tbsp maple syrup

– 1 lb parsnips

– 1 lb ground chicken or turkey

– 1/2 cup chopped scallions

– 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

– 2 tbsp fish sauce

– 1 tbsp soy sauce

– Roughly 3 cups of arugula or mache

– Juice of 1/2 a lemon

– Olive oil to taste

* Puree kimchi in a food processor or blender. (I found adding a bit of the kimchi juice made this process easier.)

* Chop apples into relatively large chunks and mix with blended kimchi. Set aside.

* Whisk together yogurt and maple syrup and set aside.

* Mix chicken, scallions, cilantro, fish sauce, and soy sauce together until scallions and cilantro are evenly distributed throughout ground chicken. Shape into balls and set aside.

* Peel parsnips and slice into thin spears.

* Heat glug of oil in large pan over medium heat. Add chicken meatballs. Cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides (5-10 minutes depending on meatball size). Turn heat down a little and cover pan with lid to cook meatballs through (5-10 more minutes, again depending on size.).

* Meanwhile, heat a bit more oil over medium heat in another pan. Add parsnip spears and cook, stirring occasionally until beginning to brown. Add about 1/3 cup of water to pan and cover for about 5 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook, letting any remaining water boil off and parsnips to crisp and brown more (about 5 more minutes).

* Toss greens with juice of 1/2 a lemon, olive oil, and salt to taste.

* Arrange on plate: In individual portions, spread yogurt mixture on plate, place greens on top of yogurt, add apples, meatballs, and parsnips on top of greens.

And I’m Back…

I presented you with lumpy breakfast cookies and then disappeared. I know. I don’t know what happened to the last two months. There was the election. My mom had a birthday. I made these:

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They are a version of the poached vegetables from PlentyThey were pretty good, but I think I prefer my vegetables roasted so I didn’t post about them. I also made this cake, which I can’t recommend highly enough–especially if you double the recipe, bake it in three cake pans, and stack the layers with orange marmalade in between and butter cream frosting on the outside. That’s a birthday cake.

I forgot to take pictures of the finished product, but I did capture these lovely egg shells about halfway through the project.

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After the birthday, I finished up in Boston. There was Thanksgiving. I made this pumpkin chiffon pie:

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It was delicious. Maybe someday I’ll remember what I did and write about it here. As you can see, however, it is surrounded by our to-do lists, which might tell you something about why it was not written about this year.

Then I had a birthday, which involved an amazing trip here. Last year, for my birthday I baked four brand new cakes. This year I made two trusted standbys. Here’s one:

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It’s really just this cake with candied oranges (and apparently a stray lemon seed) instead of strawberries and orange juice in the syrup.

Then I went into a sugar coma and spent the rest of December alternating between eating too much sugar and too much raw broccoli, both of which made my stomach hurt. Somewhere in there I managed to make five different kinds of pickles and write a conference paper but those are stories for a different day.

One night, after Noah and I had spent too long at a holiday house party and thus had skipped dinner hours and eaten too  many cookies, I also made a dish that Shauna at Gluten Free Girl described in a recent post.  I saw the words “avocado” and “fish sauce” and knew I had to make it. The dish is roasted broccoli with an asian-flavored avocado dip. It was the perfect late night snack, but when I tried make it again today the avocado was too hard to mash. It was still edible though so I decided to deconstruct the dish into a salad. I’m glad I did. This salad is perfect for a day when you are looking to eat large quantities of broccoli but also want to be a little more gentle with your stomach.

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Roast Broccoli and Avocado Salad (for one, but easily scaled up):

– 1/2 small head of broccoli cut in to florets

– Olive oil, salt, and furikake for roasting

– 1/2 an avocado

– 3 scallions

– 1 tsp rice vinegar

– 1/2 tsp fish sauce

– Red peper flakes

* Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

* Toss broccoli with a good splash of olive oil, sprinkle of salt, and sprinkle of furikake and spread on baking sheet. (You can pick up furikake at most asian grocery stores, but you can also skip it if you don’t have it on hand.)

* Roast until the broccoli is crisp at the tips (about 20 minutes, but be sure to toss it once while roasting).

* Cut avocado in to small chunks and slice scallions into rounds.

* Toss broccoli, avocado, and scallions with fish sauce, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes to taste.

Enjoy!

Mayonnaise-less, Brussel Sprout, Apple, Walnut Slaw

Since we are discussing end of summer/beginning of fall recipes (and using up apples) let’s talk about this slaw.

This summer, I was on a mission to invent some coleslaws that achieved classic potluck coleslaw level creamy-ness without mayonnaise. Driving this mission, was my deep love for cabbage and my deep hatred for mayonnaise as a salad binding agent. Sure, I like to dunk fried potatoes in inappropriate amounts of aioli, but for whatever reason I shutter when faced with salads–whether or tuna or cabbage based–coated in mayonnaise. In July, I decided that 20 years of mayonnaise salad aversion had forced me to pass up too much cabbage and it was time to do something  about it.

Since then I have been tinkering with how to make sufficiently creamy coleslaws by combining all sorts of cabbage with various nut-based dressings. For Noah’s birthday, I tried red cabbage with tahini and parmesan, which worked pretty well, but which I have not quite perfected. For lunch one week, I experimented with a broccoli and peanut slaw, which also still needs work. For our potluck break fast tonight, however, I think I nailed it.

To make this I used a miso-walnut dressing from 101 Cookbooks that I learned about last year from BigGirlsSmallKitchen. I made the original recipe for this dressing with soba noodles a lot last winter, and I suddenly remembered it a few weeks ago as the perfect creamy dressing with no mayo or cream. So, last night, I tossed it with shaved brussel sprouts and finely chopped apple and let it sit for 24 hours. Today, it tastes like my dream coleslaw. Creamy, sweet and savory all at once but with no mayo at all. Perfect for the last round of picnics.

Brussel Sprout, Apple, Walnut Slaw:

– 10 ounces brussel sprouts

– 1 mutsu apple

– Handful of walnuts

For dressing: (From 101Cookbooks via BigGirlsSmallKitchen)

– 1/2 cup walnuts (The original recipe calls for them toasted. I do not have a toaster and am generally too lazy to toast them in the oven or even a pan. It has never been a problem.)

– 1/4 cup olive oil

– 2 cloves garlic

– 2 tablespoons white miso paste

– 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

– 1 teaspoon honey

– 1/ 4 cup warm water

* Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in the blender until smooth.

* Finely chop apple and put in large bowl.

* Remove brussel sprout ends and any bad leaves. Cut each brussel sprout in half and then slice into fine slivers.

* Add slivered brussel sprouts to apple and toss to mix.

* Add walnut-miso dressing and toss until brussel sprouts and apples are finely coated.

* Cover and refrigerate over night.

* Toss a handful of walnuts on top before serving.

Quick Asian (and Trader Joe’s) Inspired Salad

Today I began another research trip, but this one is going to take a few months. I’ll be in New Haven on weekends but spending my weeks in Boston. While I’m here, I’m incredibly lucky to have free and lovely housing. It’s day one though, and I didn’t feel totally comfortable making a mess of my wonderful hosts’ kitchen when preparing myself dinner tonight. So, when I found myself grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, I ended up looking for things I could make easily.

The project actually brought me back to some of my first forays into cooking dinners for one. When I lived in D.C. the closest grocery store was Trader Joe’s so I put together most of my meals based on what they had. Any frequent Trader Joe’s shopper knows that their selection is quirky, but I actually think it’s great for inspiring interesting combinations. In D.C. my roommates and I regular cooked their pre-cut sweet potato spears in the toaster oven to make the most delicious home fries. I liked mine doused in cumin and olive oil and tossed in salads with feta cheese. I also remember a delicious salad I regularly brought to work composed of fingerling potatoes (which Trader Joe’s used to sell ridiculously cheaply in a microwavable bag, but which I can’t find anymore), peppers, edamame and spinach.

My snack of choice at the moment is wasabi roasted seaweed, which you can get at a lot of grocery stores these days including Trader Joe’s. Tonight, I decided it would be good on top of a salad so I let it dictate what else I bought. I picked up a bag of arugula, a bag of snap peas, some cherry tomatoes, a sweet potato, and their teriyaki tofu. At home I microwaved the potato; chopped up all the ingredients; dressed it all with some olive oil, some rice vinegar, and a splash of soy sauce; and crumbled some of the wasabi seaweed sheets on top.

In my own kitchen, I might have cooked and marinated the tofu myself, but frankly this was delicious. More importantly, I only used one knife, one cutting board, a bowl and two forks. Perfect for easing myself into someone else’s kitchen.

(In my own kitchen I also would have taken a picture.)

Quick Asian Salad for One: 

– Arugula

– Sweet potato

– Chunk of firm seasoned tofu (I used Trader Joe’s Teriyaki tofu.)

– Cherry tomatoes

– Snap peas

– Sweet potato

– Roasted wasabi seaweed

– Rice vinegar

– Soy sauce

– Olive oil

* Microwave sweet potato for five minutes and then chop into small pieces. (Make sure to stab a few holes in the potato with a knife before you stick it in the microwave.)

* Halve cherry tomatoes and cut snap peas and tofu into chunks.

* Toss tomatoes, potato, peas, and tofu with arugula.

* Drizzle with olive oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar to taste.

* Crumble seaweed on top.

Gorgonzola, Endive, and Mushroom Salad

Last week on a rare trip to Williamsburg, Noah and I stopped in at the Bedford Cheese shop. I have an immense amount of affection for this place because the week before I graduated from college, my roommate and I drove to Williamsburg to try to find her an apartment and stopped here. On that trip, we bought Australian feta–essentially feta soaked in herbs and olive oil. It’s as good as it sounds.

My memories of the week before graduation mostly involve rain. Running through a hot rain storm; learning to replace the windshield wipers on a car; and being tucked into a warm car with wet clothes and good cheese as we got hopelessly lost in the Bronx on our way home from Williamsburg.

So, it seemed fitting, as we experienced days of gray skies, rain, and even hail(!) this week, to break into the cheese I bought on our recent visit to the cheese shop. This time, I had purchased a creamy gorgonzola. I decided it should go into a salad so I bought some Belgian endive, but beyond that this salad really came together based on what I had in our refrigerator.

That said, it was so good that I plan to make sure I have these ingredients in the refrigerator more often going forward. It has a nice mix of soft and crunchy ingredients and is hearty enough to be a meal. I think it will be an especially delicious fall salad.

Gorgonzola, Endive, and Mushroom Salad: 

– 3 heads of Belgian endive.

– 7 cloves of garlic

– 8 ounces Cremini mushrooms

– 4 ounces Shiitake mushrooms

– About 12 fingerling potatoes

– Gorgonzola (I used slightly under a quarter pound)

– Olive oil

– 1/2 a lemon

* Thinly slice mushrooms and garlic.

* Put out layer of 2-3 paper towels.

* Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large pan.

* Add mushrooms to pan in a single layer and sprinkle salt on top of them. Cook until the liquid they release is basically gone and they are starting to get a little crispy. Transfer to paper towels to dry.

* Add a little more olive oil to pan and put in sliced garlic. Keep an eye on the garlic and remove quickly when slices are mostly, but not entirely, brown. You want to make brown garlic chips, but garlic burns quickly so watch carefully. When you remove them, spread them on the paper towels to dry as well.

* Prepare potatoes by cleaning them and then either boiling them or microwaving them. Boiling the potatoes until they are tender will get you slightly better results, but when I’m in a rush, I just poke a hole in each potato with a  knife, and then put them all in a bowl covered with a plate and microwave for about five minutes, or until tender. In a salad, I think either way is fine.

* Clean endive and chop it horizontally so you end up with small slivers.

* Slice cooked potatoes into rounds.

* Toss endive and potatoes with the juice of half a lemon, olive oil to taste, and salt. Spread on a plate.

* Scatter mushrooms on top of endive/ potato mixture.

* Crumble gorgonzola on top of mushrooms.

* Sprinkle with garlic chips and salt and pepper to taste.