More Cabbage? Genius.

Mere moments after last weeks obsession with red cabbage slaw, I began reading a hard copy of Genius Recipes.  I missed the Fergus Henderson Red Salad when it appeared online a couple of years ago - and who knows, I might have overlooked it by not being completely obsessed with red cabbage at the time.  I'm only mentioning it because it is genius, as is the rest of the Kristen Miglore book which feels so good in the hands.  With 'gestures of balsamic' and 'healthy splashes of olive oil', it is exactly the right evolution from my red slaw when plated with Greek yogurt and candied jalapenos.  A short and sweet paragraph encouraging you to give it a go.

red salad.

"A pep talk for wilted saladmakers."

"A pep talk for wilted saladmakers" was what Mollie Katzen hand wrote into her Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook all those years ago.  12 years after she wrote it, I picked up a copy at a local bookstore, I was barely 18 and a burgeoning vegetarian.  I cooked through both of her handwritten books for years, and still pick them up when in need of inspiration.  Or in need of a pep talk for my wilted saladmaking.  

To me, salads (like sandwiches) are always best when someone else makes them for you.  The love that goes into something so simple, or just really good ingredients that have been treated nicely so that they reciprocate: that can't be faked. And I swear that if a friend or restaurant makes me a salad it's better by far than one coming from my own hands.

I likely ate a record number of vegetables in 2014.  I ate them steamed and raw, roasted, braised, and fried.  But very seldom do I make a proper "salad".  I know this is true when last week I had a lot of leftover salad greens and made a salad for supper and my husband said, "Wow. A salad."  (And he ate every biteful I loaded onto his plate.)  And the reason I had made the salad in the first place was that when I had friends visiting, E told me she's been favoring a honey mustard vinaigrette - so I made one up for lunch that we compiled of greens and roasted veggies, some cheese and chopped prosciutto.   Man that salad was good.  Probably because I only helped with the salad, and I was surrounded by good company.  I had extra vinaigrette, and we ate it and then I made more for Christmas Day.  It was good a vinaigrette.  I will write it down in a minute.

In November, I met my friend Deena in Chicago at we ate at Little Goat Diner.  I had been to the diner once before, and couldn't wait to go back.  We shared a salad called the Chickpea, which when read looks like a plain old salad.  I mean, you expect when reading the ingredients of a salad to just get a bowl of vegetables and then dutifully eat them... even when you also know that eating a "salad" in a good environment, made by talented people and enhanced by the company of a good friend is going to blow you away.  That salad came out in a gigantic bowl in front of us and I am still thinking of it to this day.

In December, I ate a salad at a newer local restaurant with one of my best friends.  We didn't know how much food to order and at the last second added on a salad to our order.  Again, I didn't expect to have a plate of salad overtake me for weeks after.  The ingredients were: Shaved Brussel Sprouts | Honeycrisp Apple | Pecans | Balsamic Shallots | Blue Cheese Croutons | Roasted Garlic Dressing.  More garlic than I've eaten in one place at one time in just about forever and it was definitely the plate we licked the cleanest.  If I frizzled up a bunch of shallots, broke out my mandoline for brussel sprout shaving, and used my own bread for croutons I couldn't mimic that salad I don't believe.  

If anyone did, I needed a pep talk for wilted saladmakers.

chile olives

Maybe the dining events of the past 2 months have challenged me to want to make a really good salad, one that could stand on its own and be eaten a number of ways.  (It could also be that I am so sick of sweets that I can hardly wait for the calendar to change tomorrow and I can impose self-induced sugar-freedom.)  This salad is one I am happy with.  I thought all morning about eating it for lunch today (the baby liked it too - the chickpea part anyway... he can actually say "chickpea", which is all the more endearing), after eating a different version last night.  It's the kind of thing that gets better with age.  Keep the components in separate containers and have instant breakfast, lunch, or dinner with very little fuss.

Chile olives are among my most treasured things.  My co-op used to carry them, and they haven't now for several months.  I was overjoyed to find them at Whole Foods, even if sometimes it means making a trip there just to get the blasted olives. I'm sure you could substitute other brined olives and some chile flakes of your choosing.  The dressing for the chickpeas is versatile and can be used in other things.  It keeps as well as all homemade dressings do when stashed in the fridge, for a week or so.

chickpea salad.

Last night I ate this salad with buttered sourdough toast and topped with runny-yolked fried eggs for supper, and today I ate it just plain for lunch.  I'd imagine it would be good in a number of different ways as well, including being wrapped up in a tortilla or another piece of lettuce of some sort.  I'm a big fan of the kale salad Dr. Weil popularized; even though kale's superstardom is waning just slightly, massaged kale salad is still good and makes an awesome pizza topping and omelet filling.  I especially love that it gets better with age, 4 days in the fridge and it's just as good as the first day, probably even better.

I swear that I love chickpeas more after I learned how to perfectly cook them, and I have Alton Brown to thank for that.  I alter my method to include brining the garbanzos overnight, and then I often just cook them on the stovetop instead of dragging out my slow cooker.  When cooked with a tiny amount of baking soda, they always end up with creamy centers. 

Chickpea & Kale Salad  (inspired by Little Goat Diner, Heidi Swanson chickpea wrap recipe, Dr. Andrew Weil's massaged kale salad, Elisa Girard's description of viniagrette, GoodKind's use of extra garlic.)
makes about 4 good servings.

Chickpea part:
  • 1/4 cup chile olives
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup honey-mustard vinaigrette  (recipe follows)
  • 1 t. urfa beiber chile flakes (a new favorite of mine, found at the Spice House), or other chile flake you like
  • salt and black pepper
  • Aleppo pepper for sprinkling
Pulse the chile olives in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add in 2 cups of the chickpeas and pulse to chop coarsely, about 6 1 second pulses.  Transfer to a bowl, stir in the vinaigrette, reserved 1 cup of whole chickpeas, and chile flakes and season to taste with salt and pepper.  (If it seems dry, add a little more vinaigrette.)

Kale part:
  • 1 good sized bunch of lacinto kale
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves
  • salt
  • shaved pecorino cheese (optional)
Remove the stems from the kale and slice thinly.  Mash the garlic cloves with salt on a cutting board with a chef's knife to make a paste.  Then blend the paste with the lemon juice and olive oil to make a dressing.  Add extra salt if you think it needs it, then combine with the sliced kale and massage it for 5 minutes.  I know, it seems silly to be standing around with your hands in a bowl of greens, but it does seriously do something magical to them.  Add cheese if using and that's it.
Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette - mix all the ingredients well  (I swear by this little device.)
makes about 1 1/4 cups, recipe is easily halved
  • 2 T. white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 t. dijon mustard
  • 2 T. (or so) minced shallot
  • 2 T. honey
  • salt and black pepper
  • 4 T. plain whole fat yogurt (optional.  It is good with and without.)
chickpea salad.
Will 2015 be the year of the salad for me?  I kind of think so.  I'm anxious to turn the page on the heavy and well sugared foods of late December and say good morning to a lighter, brighter, more vegetable infused diet in January.  If you have good salads to share, please send them my way! 

Happy New Year!!

Vegan Monday: Soy Yogurt and The Silver Lining

It's not often that I truly dislike something food or beverage related. I like to (proudly) think my palate is sophisticated and varied, but every once in a while I run across something and I think to myself "I really never, EVER, want to try this again". The first time (well, the only time) I had cuttlefish at a pretty nice sushi establishment, I looked across the table at my Husband who had already devoured his slice, and he knew that I was in trouble. This was a cloth napkin type place, not a place in sight for an uncultured Midwestern girl to politely spit a wad of partially chewed fish.

Of course there are foods I prefer not to eat due to processing, but when I run across something I know to be reasonably good for me but I find just in no way palatable, I feel kind of sad. Enter Soy Yogurt: I have never eaten soy yogurt before, but last week mentioned that I would try making it. So I did.

It looks like creamy, tasty yogurt...

I decided to buy and not make the soy milk from scratch. There are plenty of easy instructions out there, and frankly I've just been too busy lately. I enjoy soy milk, but not as much as almond or rice milks, so I pick my battles according to what I love.

I also bought a cultured soy yogurt to use as a starter. The proportions and procedure for making soy yogurt are exactly the same as that for regular dairy yogurt. Milk is heated to 180 degrees, and cooled to 100-110 and inoculated with a culture, 1 tablespoon of culture for a quart of milk. This left the better part of a little soy yogurt for me to taste during the 7 or 8 hour time the soy yogurt was incubating.

Granted, this first sample of soy yogurt was plain, unsweetened and unadulterated by fruit which may have been able to sway me in my harsh opinions. My first bite was awful; It was flabby, waxy and tasted of intensified soy - like an essence of soy. I could not get past the fact that it tasted exactly like a crayon, or at least like the way a crayon smells to me. I thought that maybe it just needed some doctoring, so I added some sweetener. Then granola. I then audibly whispered "this stuff is just vile". And it was! I looked over the ingredient list on the label again, and it did have such things as guar gum and tapioca starch, natural stabilizers that I knew my homemade version would not have so I held out hope that my finished product would knock the socks off it's prepackaged brother.

The soy yogurt took longer to culture than dairy yogurt, about 10 hours. I patiently (actually, I was in no great hurry to try it...) let it sit under refrigeration overnight, to try it for breakfast the next day. It seemed to separate, presumably due to the lack of thickeners, and did taste slightly better than my first experience. The texture was good, and I did manage to eat a small amount of it mixed with fruit into a unattractive smoothie - the soy somehow turned vibrantly colored blueberries into a muddy blue brown color.

While I hate wasting food, this experiment may not get eaten. My Mom has taught me to "let things go back to the earth" and not to feel bad about it if I don't like something, or it gets forgotten about in the fridge. I somehow feel better if I have it laying around for a couple of weeks, it begins to decompose and looks like a shadow of it's original splendor, and then tossing it doesn't make me feel so wasteful. I do have a thorough refrigerator cleaning on the list of things to do today, so maybe I'll be inspired to let it go sooner.

As disappointed as I was with soy yogurt, E told me about a salad that she's been kind of addicted to lately. It is based on marinated beets, and couldn't be simpler. Roasted beets are tossed with equal amounts of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup and seasoned with salt and pepper. E has been eating her version with avocados, tomatoes, goat cheese and pine nuts, but I made a nice vegan version in all the colors of the rainbow:

The orange tomatoes were from my CSA, and while the outer appearance wasn't quite blemish free, it was probably the most delicious tomato I have ever eaten! I have reminded myself to never just judge on first appearances...

Full disclosure urges me to let you know that for supper last night (after my vegan photo shoot), I added feta cheese since I had some I needed to use up. I remembered about the avocado, and added some more of the marinade, and really was surprised at how filling and satisfying a rainbow of veg is for dinner!

I'm not sure I would try soy yogurt again. As I'm not staunchly vegan, I guess I don't have reason to. My dairy yogurt is so satisfying and great, and I've taken to straining it and performing more experiments with the whey.

I soaked some yellow mustard seed last night, and made a yellow mustard that even has a couple of tablespoons of whey in it. Apparently, the whey adds to the shelf life, and also most likely makes a common condiment like mustard more of a whole food. I can't wait for the Tongue Splitter Ale to be finished, and I'd substitute the water in the recipe for home brewed beer - then I'd be truly excited! Meanwhile, I need to now find a use for 12 oz. of yellow mustard - any ideas, send them my way...

The ways of experimenting always lead to places I don't expect. I have a new appreciation for my Husband, who just does not like beets. I always think how it is impossible not to love a beet, but after tasting this yogurt, I can not imagine liking it. After all, he goes on eating cuttlefish and last time we ate at Polonez, he ordered (and loved) the tripe soup - for someone I tend to think is picky, these are brave accomplishments. I made this Rainbow Salad for myself, and another green salad and a piece of fish for him, and we were both happy and eating together at the same time, and isn't this what I should be thankful for?

It's easier with a small family to become a short order cook, which is essentially what I have become. Even though not much could make me happier than mimicking the fast pace of a restaurant in my little galley kitchen, I'm trying not to do this so much, since the Boy-O is picky and I need to make him stop being picky. Little by little, it is coming along. For the past week, he devours peas that I planted late in the back yard, ripping open the little "zippers" and popping them in his mouth as fast as he can. Generally, if I can get him to take just one bite of something, he concedes into enjoyment of a new food.

An adventurous-eater-friend of mine (*wink, wink*) told me that while she doesn't always love everything she tries, she would never tell her husband who tends to be a little more reserved in his eating habits. I doubt I could have held back and insisted my family try the yogurt, but I see her point. I often think that if I can just be a good example, that I will seep into the pores of my family - and I daily hope that this is the case. Sometimes I feel daunted in the tasks at hand, but usually persevere, always offering a taste of something new even though I'm most often met with a "no thanks". One day, I know things will change, and then I'll look back on these days of sometime frustration and smile.

To Borrow a Phrase: Greek Hippie Salad

I consider the humble wheat berry. It is wholesome, toothsome, versatile, and completely underused in my kitchen due to it's incredibly long cooking nature. I never remember in advance that it should soak for 8 hours prior to it's 1 hour stove-top simmer, and frankly, since I don't know what I'm going to eat from day to day, planning for such ingredient usage is usually out the window unless a dinner party is involved. I do usually have a quart jar stashed under my cupboard, just in case inspiration and planning strike me.

In the past week, I have taken note of 3 separate salads: one with wheat berries, one with crunchy radish and lettuce leaves, and the last one a genre of salads given a great name - Hippie Salads. Starting in reverse order, Marisa at Food in Jars noted somewhere (and I don't remember which post) that her husband isn't always so fond of her hippie salads, salads that are comprised of whole grain and leftover and miscellaneous healthy things. I'd have to say, that my Husband is even pickier than hers, so the concept of Hippie Salad at my house is usually tailored just to suit me for lunches, light dinners, and snacks. I rather like this arrangement, since I determined a while back to no longer make enough salad to feed Guam, and successfully scaled down to accommodate only myself.

As for the crunchy radish and lettuce leaves? Just look here at the beauty that is Veggie Le Crunch! Sprouted Kitchen is really a beautiful, photo driven food blog, but she has some killer recipes as well. I actually fully intended to make a generally the same version of this salad (since I truly am incapable of following proportion and direction), but veered from my course when I stopped by the Outpost today. They had beautiful red and green romaine lettuces on sale, and I for some reason I just had to have a Greek style salad right then and there. I got a cucumber (knowing the leftovers will be tossed in some homemade sour cream that I just made and need to use), and some imported French sheep's milk feta. The bones were laid.

Mid week, Boy-O and I visited R1's place, and I was perusing a magazine and saw the picture for this salad on an olive oil advertisement. I perceived the edamame to be bright green peas, and thought immediately of a pea type version of a wheat berry salad that would be worthy of the new innBrooklyn Virtual Veg of the Month Club. This month's selection is peas and/or pea shoots, and while I haven't scored any fresh from the Wisconsin earth peas yet, the hippie salad I concocted used a healthy amount of the frozen variety.

A couple of thinly sliced and quartered radishes that I had to buy earlier in the week after drooling over Sprouted Kitchen's Veggie Le Crunch.

When I have inspiration, it's easy to concoct, but I still had the pesky problem of the soaking and cooking of the wheat berries. I didn't remember last night that I wanted to cook some today, but I did know that I did around noon. I figured since I love my pressure cooker for pinto beans (and had used it yesterday and still had beans leftover), I would use it for the wheat berries. Thanks to this site, I found charts for pressure cooking everything! I soaked a half cup of rock hard berries in 3 times their water, and went to a birthday party across the street. When we got home around 4, I put them in the pressure pot with plenty of water to cover them by at least 2 inches, and cooked them on medium for 30 minutes. I quick-released the pressure by running the pot under cool water, and was rewarded by perfect, fat berries ready for a Greek Hippie Salad!

As with all hippie salads, you can omit, add or augment however you see fit. My half cup of raw wheat berries yielded a bit more than a cup of cooked berries. All told, my salad was a bit over 2 1/2 cups. Instantly veganize your salad by omitting the feta.

Greek Hippie Wheatberry Salad (inspired by the sources above)
  • 1/2 raw wheat berries, cooked using whatever method you prefer
  • 2/3 c. frozen peas, cooked in boiling water until done - 3 to 4 minutes
  • 1/2 cooked beans, I used pinto
  • 1/3 cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2-3 radishes, thinly sliced and quartered
  • 1 1/2 oz feta cheese, imported sheep's milk is strongest
  • 2-3 T. chopped red onion
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced (about 1 1/2 T.)
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2-1 clove garlic, minced or grated on a microplane
  • 1/4 t. oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • romaine lettuce leaves for serving
In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano and a little salt and pepper. Whisk to emulsify into a dressing. In a larger bowl, combine all other ingredients and toss gently with dressing. That's it! Serve it on the lettuce and add a little more black pepper if you like.

I tasted it and loved it, of course, since I made it to suit exactly what I had a taste for. I didn't originally add red onion, because I didn't think I had one - but luckily I found one that was in desperate need of using, so I added it after the photos. It was the the missing link. I then thought I could have gone and added red and green pepper, and even some other colorful and hotter peppers, but I'll save that for next time.

The missing component.

Hippie salad, or not, my Husband thought he'd even try a bite, though he hasn't yet. I ate mine rolled up in a lettuce leaf like a taco, and then had to have another big scoop on the side. I'd bet the avocado dressing that Sprouted Kitchen made would be good as a wheat berry salad dressing... but then I'd bet that each and every reader could add or subtract one thing that would improve upon the Greek foundation that I was craving this chilly June day.

How many salads have you seen that just call your name and have to be made? I know I'm not alone, when it is a numberless amount for me. They are probably one of my favorite things to make and eat, which is a lucky predicament to be in indeed. I find, that any kind of salad of this nature, stuffed into a tortilla (homemade of beans or corn masa), garnished with cheese and hot sauce is pretty much foolproof.

Not sure how this Greek version would fare in my my old standby, but I have a feeling I'll be making some flat breads after church tomorrow...