Kale salad with apples, dried cranberries, and pecans

Kale salad with apples, dried cranberries, and pecans - Vegetal MattersIf we’ve never met, I think I can sum myself up pretty well with this statement: I’m the one who brings a salad to a party. I’m certainly not anti-dessert (hooray for cider doughnut season!!!), but so often everyone else offers to bring an appetizer or something sweet and there are no vegetables to balance it all out. Kale salad keeps incredibly well, and is in fact better if made ahead so the dressing breaks down the kale a bit. The particulars are not so important here, I really like the apples but a roasted veg like butternut or beets works as well (or could be in addition to the apple), any dried fruit, and whatever nuts you have around. I wanted to make sure there was a diary free offering for our work potluck, but at home I would definitely add crumbled goat cheese on top.

Kale salad with apples, dried cranberries, and pecans

Serves 4 for lunch sized salads, 8 or more for party sized servings

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Salad

  • 10 oz kale (1 large bunch or about 6 cups), stems removed and chopped. I used a mix of Red Russian and curly green.
  • 1 apple, chopped right before serving
  • ½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)

Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Taste and adjust to your liking. A few hours before serving, toss the kale in the dressing. To really get the dressing in the curly bits use clean hands to do the tossing and massage the dressing into the leaves. To serve, top with the pieces of apple, pecans, dried cranberries, and goat cheese (if using).

Barbecue chicken salad with tomatoes, peaches, and goat cheese ranch dressing.

Barbecue Chicken Salad with Tomato, Peaches, and Goat Cheese Ranch Dressing - Vegetal Matters Christmas creep is by far the worst example, but I think the problem has gone way beyond just one holiday. It is more like seasonal creep now. It happens with businesses, beers, and food bloggers. The infamous hot pumpkin coffee beverage starts making its appearance at the end of August.  I went to a grocery store and a craft store labor day weekend and was bombarded with pumpkin beer and Halloween decor. And this doesn’t just happen this time of year. Sam Summer goes out on shelves in March. Recipes for asparagus and strawberries pop up everywhere in March and April, even though their seasons aren’t really in full swing until June. Tomato dishes are everywhere in July, but their peak season is August and September (and it even goes into October).

There is a push for always preparing for what is ahead, instead of enjoying what is here. A need to experience all the quintessential things that are supposed to happen in a season, instead of the reality. It is about to be October. I live in Massachusetts, and on Monday I went to the farm where I buy my produce and selected from summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, radishes, winter squashes, potatoes, kale, chard, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, leeks, onions and herbs. It is that wonderful time of seasonal transition, when both summer and winter crops are coming in. I still love my share of fall crops (though pumpkin does not get me nearly as twitterpated as everyone else), but my true favorites come from summer. The beauty in many fall and winter crops is they last a long time if stored properly. So I have many months to get in my butternut squash soup and beet salads, but in the meantime I’m going to ingest all the nightshades and stone fruit I can manage.

Last week I made barbecue chicken, but wanted a lighter meal for the leftovers. A few peaches from peach week were still in the fridge, and since I’ve already put peaches and tomatoes together, and peaches and chicken together, putting peaches, tomatoes, and chicken in one dish wasn’t much of a stretch.

Barbecue Chicken Salad with Tomatoes, Peaches, and Goat Cheese Ranch Dressing

Serves 4.

This is easily scale-able. If you don’t eat chicken, chickpeas or cauliflower (a la buffalo cauliflower salad) would make an excellent substitution.

Salad

  • 2 chicken breasts with barbecue sauce (see note for substitutions), chopped
  • 12ish cups lettuce (I used a mix of lettuce and cabbage), enough to fill 4 dinner plates, from about 1/2 a head of cabbage and a small head of lettuce
  • 2 medium tomatoes (or a few handfuls cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 peaches

Dressing

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots or red onion
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley

If you have a food processor, set it up with the S blade (or use a blender). Turn it on and drop the garlic in from the top, processing until you don’t hear any more bits bouncing around. Add in the shallot, and process for 30 seconds. Add the goat cheese, buttermilk, salt, and pepper in and process until smooth. Without a food processor, whisk the garlic, shallot, goat cheese, buttermilk, salt, and pepper together. Then whisk in the parsley (don’t add the parsley into the food processor unless you want a very green dressing). Allow the dressing to sit in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or longer if you can.

Chop peaches and tomato into ½ inch pieces. Divide lettuce onto plates, then top each plate with a quarter of the tomatoes, peaches, and barbecue chicken (I like to warm it slightly). Serve with goat cheese ranch.

 

 

Last week I cooked….

This week I cooked - Vegetal MattersSummer cooking can be paralyzing. We wait all year for the glut of food coming out of gardens and farmers markets in the Northeast and opportunities to cook and eat it outside. Now that it’s all here, it is so hard to pick just the right recipes to make the absolute best use of the moment. I save recipes for salads, grilled things, and produce heavy dishes all winter long, but now that it is the time to use them I want to do it all but at the same time just do the most simple thing to highlight the bounty. I’m trying not to overthink my cooking, and remember the January day long and cold ago when I resolved to embrace simplicity. Now is most definitely the time to do so, so more time can be spent soaking up glorious weather, ice cream cones, berries from the pick your own farm up the road, and reading in the grass.

Potato and chorizo tacos inspired by Mexico: The Cookbook, rice with diced tomatoes and chipotle in adobo, black beans, guacamole, and lime crema for simple but satisfying entertaining.

Saag paneer. I think I always make this recipe in the beginning of summer when greens are plentiful. I used a fifty-fifty mix of chard and collards instead of spinach, and I think most mild greens would work here.

Big salads with lots of lettuce from the garden, beans from the freezer, and lemon vinaigrette.

Chorizo and potato frittata, with more salad. I just used the shallots and parsley with lemon juice and olive oil to dress the salads. Cooking the potatoes beforehand made this way easier to put together than a more traditional tortilla, and also I would eat two planks of wood if there was chorizo in the middle.

Burgers with bleu cheese. There was only 93/7 lean/fat beef at the store which would have made for dry burgers, so I added a minced slice of bacon in for each patty. These were the highlight meal of the week by far. Juicy, flavorful burgers that were perfected with bleu cheese, sauteed red onion, a slice of lettuce and a Dijon-mayo mix.

Rhubarb cream cheese hand pies to bring to various Fourth of July celebrations. Labor intensive, but perfect and adorable tiny, portable pies.

Whole wheat raspberry and ricotta scones. These are beautifully mottled with raspberries and so moist from the ricotta.

Pasta with pesto, feta, cherry tomatoes, and sauteed kale that took almost no time to put together on a rare weekday off spent at home.

Last week I cooked…

Turkey Burgers - Vegetal MattersMeals in my kitchen are not always some original, blog-able dish. Sometimes I make the same thing on repeat (often for breakfast), or follow someone else’s recipe to make a satisfying meal. But a lot of the time I’m trying something new, or adapting recipes a bit to fit my ingredients and desires. This will be a regular posting about what I’ve made recently to track my food obsessions and inspire more variety on your table (and mine too! please share!).

Lemon Pepper Yogurt Chicken – Amazing, easily adaptable marinade.

Quinoa salad with grilled lemons and asparagus, pistachios, mint, and parsley (inspired by the Quinoa Salad with Toasted Pistachios, Preserved Lemons and Zucchinis from Persiana).

Turkish White Bean Salad – Easy summer meal assembly.

Lettuce and snap peas tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, and sumac.

Spring Asparagus Pancetta Hash topped with goat cheese and a fried egg! For dinner!

Tofu lettuce wraps with ginger carrot pickles, cucumber, cilantro, scallions and peanut sauce. Loosely adapted from this recipe, but I had some of this Thug Kitchen peanut sauce leftover in the fridge so I just added some hoisin to it instead of making up a new batch. I thought it was a little thin as a dipping sauce when I originally made it, but it was great on tofu bowls with rice and snap peas.

Apple Chipotle Turkey Burgers from The Sprouted Kitchen (an old favorite), with grilled sweet potato fries and salad with strawberries and balsamic dressing.

Breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs, black beans, cilantro, scallions, and wicked hot green salsa every morning.

PS – Exciting development this week…my first tomato is almost ripe!!!! It’s a sungold cherry, that I picked and then immediately consumed.

Sungold Cherry Tomato - Vegetal Matters

 

Persiana and Turkish White Bean Salad

Turkish White Bean Salad - Vegetal Matters
You know what is better than a giant cookbook collection? A free giant cookbook collection. I usually end up with at least one cookbook borrowed during my weekly library trips. I hadn’t requested any new ones last week (the week before it was Paletas), but I took a quick look at the new non-fiction and Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour practically jumped into my arms. I looked through it during navigation breaks on this weekend’s road trip to upstate New York and planned out a summer’s worth of meals from its pages. Middle Eastern food is the theme, and the book is full of fresh vegetable and herb salads, hearty grains and legumes, warmly spiced meats, and varied mezze. A small sampling of recipes on my list are the Hummus, which incorporates chickpea cooking liquid, Smoked Eggplant Salad (ok, every eggplant recipe), and Tomato Salad with Pomegranate Molasses. The salads entice me most, as they are all simple but with lovely herb and spice combinations that excite me way more than my usual repertoire.

Turkish White Bean Salad - Vegetal Matters

Our last stop before home was the grocery store to grab some cans of white beans, an onion, and a lemon to make this salad. Cooking upon returning from a road trip is not usually an activity I jump to, but this was just a quick assembly and made me feel so much better then relying on someone else for a meal again after a weekend of eating out. I also took the basic concept of Ghayour’s fattoush dressing which is just lemon juice, olive oil, and sumac to make a salad with lettuce from the garden that grew like wild while I was gone. I’ve made many a lemon vinaigrette, but the sumac added a more nuanced sourness and lovely red flecks all over the lettuce (and (I’ve already made it again since). I also made the Eastern-Style Focaccia which took 2 hours start to finish and was full of cumin, coriander, sumac, and thyme, and Pistachio and Feta Dip to go along with it, which was as easy as throwing everything in a food processor (and an excellent use of the disappointingly unsalted pistachios I accidentally bought for road snacks). Persiana hasn’t been in my possession for long, but I already feel this book should be added to the my house library.

Turkish White Bean Salad (Piyaz)

Slightly adapted from Persiana

This salad is delicious leftover, but the Aleppo pepper does tint the dressing red after it sits for a while. If you are serving this to entertain, toss just before serving. Serves 4 as a light dinner or lunch, 6 as sides.

  • 3 cups cooked white beans, rinsed (2 14-oz cans)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion (mine was from half a large onion weighing ½ a lb)
  • 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper flakes (or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped (about a large handful)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Mix the beans, onion, Aleppo and parlsey in a large bowl. Put the rest of the ingredients in a smaller bowl and whisk until smooth. If it seems stiff, add a teaspoon of water at a time until the dressing is pour-able but still on the thick side. Pour the dressing onto the bean mixture and toss carefully to coat.

Spring Composed Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing

Vegetal Matters - Spring Composed Salad with Lemon Caper DressingThere was snow on the ground when I got up this morning. So, I realize I’m jumping the gun with all these spring ingredients, but it still feels like they are a long way off from the farmer’s market and I can’t wait any longer. This salad looks fussy, but it is far from it. It comes together quickly, and is infinitely adaptable. The dressing is assertive (and certainly not for the caper haters), but deliciously bright. Use whatever vegetables you have around, cooked or raw. Chicken or fish could be added (or omit the egg for a vegan meal). If you have any fancy or flavored salt around, this is a great time to use it. I had some lemon salt I made (so easy!), but a big flake or sea salt would shine here. I love the look and process of eating a composed salad, but you could certainly toss it too. Is that enough options? Get to salad making!

Spring Composed Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing

Salad inspired by Alana Chernila, and dressing adapted from Feed Me Pheobe.

While I tried to be specific, don’t get crazy with exact quantities here. Use what you have and what you like. This would easily double or triple for a crowd (just use multiple platters).

Serves 4

  • 1 lb red skinned potatoes
  • 6 radishes (about ⅓ lb)
  • ½ lb asparagus
  • 2 handfuls cherry or grape tomatoes (¼ lb)
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ lb snap peas or green beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Whiz the ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, and capers in a food processor or blender, or mince the capers and whisk all ingredients together.

Place the eggs in a small pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 9 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. When they are cooled a bit, peel and quarter.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut potatoes into 1” pieces. Toss in olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. While the potatoes are baking, trim the ends off the asparagus, cut the tomatoes in half, cut the radishes in quarters, and look at the pretty snap peas. On a large platter arrange the tomatoes, radishes, snap peas, and hard boiled eggs. Season them all with a little salt and pepper. Fill a small bowl with the dressing and place in the center.

After 20 minutes take the potatoes out of the oven and move them over to one half of the baking sheet. On the other half put the asparagus and toss in the oil that remains on the pan (or add a teaspoon more if needed). Return the pan to the oven for 5 more minutes. When they are all done let them cool slightly, then add to the platter with the rest of the salad. Dip, and enjoy!

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

DSC00791 postThis salad was born out of super bowl leftovers. But there had been enough indulgence watching the game, and redemption was needed. Buffalo wings with bleu cheese, carrots and celery is amazing because it is a perfect spicy/creamy/crunchy combo. I don’t want to eat wings all the time though, so this salad is just the fix. Cauliflower is an excellent hot sauce vehicle, and I borrowed the method from Thug Kitchen’s delicious Buffalo Falafel recipe (CRUSH HUNGER BREATHE FIRE. Cracks me up every time.).

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

Serves 4 as full meal salads, 8 as side salads.

The grocery store was out of red cabbage, but that would have been a nice addition for more color and texture. Green cabbage instead of lettuce could make this more of a slaw. Cucumbers are a good add, and if I had some avocado that probably would have gone in as well. You could easily use 4 tablespoons yogurt and leave out the mayonnaise in the dressing.

Buffalo Cauliflower

  • 1 lb cauliflower, split into florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon wheat flour
  • ½ cup cayenne hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1.5 teaspoons cider vinegar

Salad

  • 8 cups of lettuce, washed and chopped (about 1 head romaine)
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • ½ cup of red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large celery stalk, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • ½ ounce crumbled bleu cheese (optional)

Dressing

  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • 1.5 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (½ a lemon)
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Blend buttermilk, bleu cheese, mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender. If you prefer a chunky dressing, whisk everything but the bleu cheese until smooth, then stir it in. Let the dressing sit for at least 30 minutes, longer if possible, to let the flavors mingle (resist adjusting the seasoning until after the rest).

Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes.

Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the flour, and cook while whisking continuously for 5 minutes. It should smell nutty, but not boil. Add half of the hot sauce and whisk until smooth. It will be very thick. Add the remaining hot sauce, water, and vinegar, and whisk until smooth again. Turn off the heat.

Assemble the salads with lettuce, carrot, celery, red onion, chickpeas and any other veg you’re adding. When the cauliflower is done, toss it in a bowl with the hot sauce until thoroughly coated. Top each salad with ¼ of the cauliflower, and drizzle with dressing and an extra crumble of bleu cheese, if using. Serve with extra hot sauce for those who like a serious kick.

Soups/Salads

20150114_1858011The beginning of the new year brought frigid temperatures in New England, as if winter wanted to prove that she was really, truly here. I get it winter, I’ve embraced your chill as an excuse to make at least a pot of soup a week. But it’s also January, a month of resolutions and eating at least 1 cup of vegetables to make up for every baked good consumed in December. Hearty winter salads though, with cabbage and kale and toasted chickpeas and homemade dressings. December is always a month of extremes, and this steady soup/salad diet is bringing me back to equilibrium.

Soups

Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables – This is not the traditional French cassoulet, which involves many separate components to be cooked and layered into an earthenware pot for long cooking. It embraces the same flavors and ingredients though, and translates them into a hearty soup that can be put together in 20 minutes, with a cooking time not much longer. As with many Bittman recipes a small amount of meat is used to great effect. I’ve only made it with sausages (the better they are, the better the soup is), but I imagine it would be even more enjoyable with chops or duck as he suggests.

Hot and Sour Soup – My allegiance to Joanne Chang is no secret. I’ll stop worshiping her when she stops putting out amazing, foolproof recipes. There is a lot of vinegar in this, but it is what makes the soup so delightfully sour. This one also comes together real quick, ready to eat in under half an hour. I’ve left out the pork in a pinch, but I like it best when included.

Winter Vegetable Chowder with Mustard, Lemon, and Crispy Cabbage – I’ve been drooling over this soup since Laura posted it last week. Such interesting vegetables and flavor combinations! It did not disappoint, with brightness from the lemon and mustard that we need on chilly days. The cabbage topping was my favorite part, which I can foresee on many a future soup. It’s also vegan, and pairs very well with white wine.

Salads

Roasted Cabbage Wedge Salad – I think savoy cabbage is one of the most beautiful vegetables, and I’ve seen quite a few of them around recently. Plus I love the presentation of this salad, which seems so much more refined than a tangle of greens.

Shredded Kale Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta – I successfully served this to a friend who had never had kale before (another kale lover! rejoice!). Winter tomatoes are on my list of least favorite things, so instead I use sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil) or roasted red peppers.

Chopped Thai Salad with Sesame Garlic Dressing – Yes, another kale salad. I could devote a whole blog to them if I was so inclined. I love heartier green salads in the winter months because the greens are much more likely to come from closer by, and they pair so well with soups. Peppers are not in their prime right now, and I think a few colors of carrots would be just as nice.

PS – Lacinato kale, or more preferably dinosaur kale, because it makes me picture t-rex’s scaled in kale (someone! make a t-shirt!), is my favorite for raw salads. It’s more tender than other kales, especially when chopped small in a salad.