Summer Lovin’ Salad

 

It’s not summer yet, I know. In fact, I started this post while procrastinating on a trip to the backyard a certain someone in the house jumped the gun a bit and planted already in direct opposition to tonight’s frost advisory. I think most of what’s out there can handle the chill in the air but there are still some unplanted tomater plants that should be brought in for the night (where they are locked in the bathroom we have a plant muncher cat) 

It would be easy to forget about April lows in the 30s with the sunshine this afternoon and the beautiful colors of these tomatoes (from Canada!!) and bright green mint plus even some parsley from my own burgeoning herb garden. 

This recipe is from a special ‘magazine’ Meals Made Easy from Real Simple magazine, on newstands now1 now. I was able to locate the original recipe, here along with a ton of other chickpea recipes that share similarities. 

I had to make some slight modifications so this is my version. Also, I didn’t actually measure anything so consider the numbers approximations: 

Lemony Chickpea Salad with Tomatoes & Mint

Ingredients 

1 15 ounce can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in to wedges
1/3 to 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
5-6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped (or more, if you can)
3/4 package fresh organic mint, leaves only, rough chopped
3 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
salt
pepper
2 pinches cumin

Directions 

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to combine and let sit for 20-30 minutes to let flavors meld. Adjust salt & pepper if necessary. Or maybe add a bit more vinegar if yours is really lemony like mine. 

 

To go with, I also ‘roasted’ some carrots and parsnip with red onion based on a different recipe in the maga-book. 

2 carrots, some red onion (the rest of the half I didn’t use above) and 1 parsnip. Parsnip and carrot cut in to long thin “fries”, seasoned with maple garlic pepper salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil until smoke-hot, add onions, cook a few minutes then toss in parsnips and carrots. Allow parsnip to get some color, reduce heat to medium and place lid on pan and cook 15 minutes. Remove lid and cook until softened to your liking (this will also vary depending on how thick your slices of root are. 

 


 

1 I bought this magazine during a “quick” trip to Walgreens that turned in to spending $40. Clearly there is something about that store which induces such behavior- I only needed some inexpensive facial moisturizera and a thermometer yet I somehow spent almost fifty dollars! After going to the car, I realized that this ‘magazine’ was priced more like a cheap cookbook. I considering going right back in to return it but did not. And I’ve used it 4 times already, 3 successes and one quasi-success. 

Bonus Picture: Look, its me, the theoretically anonymous author! What, you don’t see me? That’s my face, right there in the spoon!
 

a Walgreens (and likely others) have gotten very crafty with their product placement. The fancy-schmancy $20 and up facial treatments are all in the middle section. The normal, no botox-in-a-bottle varieties are either on the top shelf or the bottom, forcing you crane your neck, stoop down and look all over for some low-price SPF 30 lotion for your face.

Roasted Vegetable Salad with Maple-Mustard Dressing

Tomorrow is my work holiday luncheon. Rather than pay $8, I signed up to bring a dish. I’ve been wanting to do a roasted vegetable dish since before Thanksgiving so I decided to make a salad.  Garnering inspiration from Eating Well and 101 Cookbooks, I came up with this salad.

Ingredients
Salad
1 1/2 lbs red skin potatoes, quartered
2 medium parsnips, cut in to equal sized chunks
1/2 bag baby carrots, halved
3 shallots, quartered
3 golden beets, scrubbed but kept whole
goat cheese crumbles
Dressing
walnut oil (or canola, keep it mild)
maple syrup
3 tablespoons spicy mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (optional: use cayenne pepper or combination)
2-3 tsp balsalmic vinegar or more as desired

Directions

Wash and cut vegetables so all are the same approximate size. I prepped each veggie separately and placed them in sections on 2 shallow pans. Toss vegetables with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast vegetables in 375 degree oven for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. By keeping the vegetables separated on the pans, I was able to remove them as the finished. In my oven, the shallots and carrots finished first, then the parsnips, followed by the potatoes and beets.

As vegetables finish, add to a bowl. For the beets, you will need to remove the skins then cut in to quarters or eighths. Golden beets don’t bleed as much as regular ones so you could peel and slice first. When all vegetables are done, mix well and let cool to room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make dressing, mix oil, mustard, vinegars, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a container and whisk or shake well to combine. Alternatively, you could mix all ingredients except oil in the bowl of a blender. Blend at medium speed and slowly drizzle oil in to create a creamy emulsion.
When ready to serve, toss vegetables with 1/4 cup dressing and top with goat cheese crumbles. Best served at room temperature or slightly warmed. I also think that this could be served warm/hot by heating the maple syrup, vinegar, seasonings and mustard over medium heat then combining with the oil right before serving, like a glaze-vinaigrette combination.

You will have leftover dressing- imagine the possibilities! I suspect that some of our leftovers will be reduced in to a lovely glaze for roasted pork loin. Store in the fridge until you decide.

I’ll try to add a picture here later, after its all ready to be presented at lunch. What I can tell you right now, is that my house smells good- maple syrup and roasted shallot smells are wonderful!

Salad Days

I love salads and I wish I made them more often. Nothing too fancy, just a mix of lettuces, some chopped veggies and a little crunchy topper. I sometimes think about more advanced salads or non-traditional salads like the roasted beets and goat cheese type that I love. For awhile Chris was making me a salad several days a week and bring it to me at work. But that goes in streak and we’ve been on the “off streak” for a while now.
So, tonight, with no protein in the fridge looking to be cooked, Chris mentioned he’d cooked some chicken earlier in the week for salads so maybe I could do up salads. And it sounded pretty good to me.
Clearly, there is no recipe involved here. We had a bag of romaine and a plastic box of field greens. I took a few cups of each and combined them with diced carrot, bell pepper, green onion, red onion* (sliced very thin), and tomatoes. Add to that a handful of dried cranberries and another handful of sweet n’ spicy pecans from Trader Joe’s and we had ourselves a salad. My one rule: Always, always always re-wash your lettuces. Even if the bag says ready-to-go! Between internet horror stories of frogs in bags o’ lettuce and occasionally floppy texture of bagged lettuce, its worth the extra step, in my book. At the very list, your salad will be fresher tasting with more crunch.

I also like to a salad as above but with sunflower seeds, a bleu cheese crumble and ranch dressing. A favored variation of the green lettuce salad is spinach, mandarin oranges, red onions* and a lite Caesar style dressing. Both of these seem to combine all my favorite flavors and textures.

Normally, I like to add my dressing to the bowl and toss it all together. You use less dressing this way without any bald spots in the salad. I didn’t do that tonight because I didn’t know what variety Chris would like. Of course, we ended up both using the  same kind: Asiago peppercorn!

The best thing about making this salad today is that it was the first opportunity to use the salad bowl and tossers given to me as a wedding shower gift.

So cute!! I feel like I need to have a salad party now! And a pizza party since we also got a pizza stone. And I still want to have a pasta party sometime to use my pasta attachments for the Kitchen-Aid.

To go with the salad, I, at the last minute, decided to make some bruschetta. I just brushed a couple slices of bread (multi-grain artisan) with garlic olive oil, topped them with diced tomato and a little shredded cheese and dried basil then under the broiler for 2 minutes.

*I swear that red onions have gotten a lot hotter over the last few years. These are supposed to the best suited for salads but man oh man sometimes they haunt me all day. I am hoping this is a variation in onion varieties and not a sign that I am getting old.  To get around this, I find that the thinner the slice, the easier for my esophagus.

Popeye: Super Strength and now with added glow-in-the dark

Beginning today, producers can begin dosing fresh greens: iceberg lettuce and spinach with a hint of radiation designed to reduce the amount of salmonella, E. Coli and listeria hiding amongst the leafy goodness.

AP Story: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iA5hZT7HxWkBxoW1U2IS-nAOoq-wD92MPDG81

Please note, that is reduce, not 100% eliminate.  Growers and packagers are still expected to follow the FDA’s other rules about handling salad mixes and fresh spinach. Consumers (i.e. you) are still encouraged to wash the greens before eating them.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has been bugging the FDA to allow this treatment since 2000. Testing has shown that a small shot of radiation will reduce the number of bad bugs which may be present while not compromising taste, texture or nutritional value.  Because current regulations require that any irradiated food be labeled as such, consumers have generally shied away from purchasing eggs, beef, oysters and spices which have been dosed.  Not surprisingly, producers and manufactures aren’t real pleased about that so now the lobbyist groups can start pushing the FDA to relax that rule, something that is already being considered.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest points out that irradiation has zero effect on viruses, a growing issue in food safety circles.  Thus far, there have been no conclusive studies which show irradiation creates toxic food or off flavors. The FDA would like you to know that it can actually increase shelf life.

The amount of radiation is quite small, just enough to kill off most of the salmonella and some of the other germs without wilting the spinach. For me, I will probably skip this stuff. I’m sure it will cost more (or maybe less, at first, to entice people in to buying it).  I’m not that scared of spinach and I don’t want to encourage these guys to start zapping all kind of fruits and vegetables (the original goal of the GMA was far more encompassing).

Just remember this: salmonella and E. Coli don’t originate in plants. These bugs have animal homes including humans, by nature.  If you really want to keep your produce clean of bacteria, you need to be aware of how the greens are fertilized and watered and what animals the fields are exposed to.  The E. Coli spinach outbreak was traced to wild hogs that wandered through the California farms growing all that organic spinach.  The recent salmonella outbreak while associated with peppers and tomatoes was likely spread to those plants by contaminated irrigation systems.

I buy mixed field greens and spinach in those plastic clamshells from Meijer or Kroger or Horrocks. Its usually Earthbound Farms but I’m not making a endorsement for any particular brand. The reality is, this stuff is often bagged or boxed in some far off place, shipped in a refrigerated unit to my local store and could be several days or even weeks old by the time it shows up on its shelf. I only buy organic and this radiation treatment is not allowed under the USDA’s Organic Guidelines.  If you find someplace selling mixed greens by the pound in open bins, its probably fresher and more likely locally sourced.

If you are really feeling ambitious, grow your own! Its actually quite easy with a long narrow planter and a nice windowsill that gets some sun.  Baby lettuces are a cold-weather crop that only require medium sun exposure so you can keep growing them well in to the fall outdoors or year round in a window.  They are also ideal for progressive planting.  Start a selection of seeds in 1/3 of your planter.  About 1-2 weeks later, start a second planting in the next 1/3 and finally, round 3 another 2 weeks later.  By then you will probbaly be harvesting your first round and the whole thing starts over.  You can buy individual seed packets to make your own custom mesclun mix or even a pre-mixed packet with popular varieties of lettuces and herbs.

I’m planning to do my own version of mesclun using my aerogrow after we get back from vacation.  I’d do the window planter thing but 2 cats+ a bucket of dirt equals a really big mess.  Speaking from experience on that one!

 

 


Chris and I are going on a vacation to the Georgian Bay area of Ontario.  I’m hoping to get some posts done and prepped to just publish while I’m gone but I’m not hopeful.  Tonight we are “roughing” it in a hotel but then we’ll be tent camping till Thursday.  Although I guess its possible that the park will have wi-fi.  Anyhow, I’ll have some good adventures to talk about when I get back.