Over the past year, with all of the fresh produce available to me, I have become a salad convert. Where I use to cringe at the the thought of a salad, now I delight in the idea of creatively bringing the salad together.
First and foremost are the veggies and fruits available through my CSA and local farmers markets. This week, alongside all the apricots, plums, broccoli, celery, and fresh mixed greens were the first picks of Gravenstein apples and lots and lots of zucchini and squash, not a problem, I love these items. I chose to grill my zucchini giving it a charred smokiness. To round out the succulent smokiness, I used the tart crunchy apple and sweet plum.
When choosing a protein for my salad this week, I chose to heighten the smokiness with bacon and used a Toma cheese which is a semi-hard cheese that has a buttery flavor with a tangy-grassy finish. Had I had walnuts or pecans, I would have roasted those off in the oven to bring out their natural oils and added them to the salad, alas I did not have any.
All of this information, helps me determine what sort of dressing will be made. With the smokiness from the bacon and zucchini, I knew I needed to counter that with a bright pop and with the tart apple and sweet plum, I knew it didn’t need to be too sweet. I couldn’t decide on a specific vinegar to base my dressing off of, so I mixed them together. Enjoy!
Chimichurri is the traditional accompaniment to South American grilled meats. Argentina is home of this pesto like sauce; however, it turns up as far north as Nicaragua and as far south as Chile, and in just about every Spanish speaking country in between. No two chimichurri recipes are exactly alike, although the basic recipe contains four ingredients: parsley, garlic, olive oil, and salt.
Here is the version that we use at our house. It is highly flavorful and a lovely combination. Enjoy!
A fresh veggie salad with all the fixings and drizzled with smoked paprika vinaigrette.
I have been really enjoying all the fresh fruits and vegetables that summer is providing here and it has inspired me to branch out and try some new salad dressings. One that I came across was a smoked paprika vinaigrette.
I love smoked paprika and have the spice in my pantry, but I must admit it does collect a little dust as I don’t use it as much as I should. So of course when I saw this recipe I was intrigued. It was smoky and delicious and it sort of hinted at having bacon crumbled on the salad without the crunch, but that’s what you have croutons for, right?
My CSA box was full of veggie goodness perfect for a salad. Using leftovers from taco night and spicy sweet potato cubes, I had the perfect fixins for a Southwestern salad. The best dressing accompaniment was this Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette. Enjoy!
Last Friday in Yoga class, as we were settling down for savasana, my teacher said, “Remember you are the result of the love of thousands.” What a wonderful reality, no matter what your circumstances may be, good or bad, the truth of the matter is long down the line love created your unique DNA patterns. Speaking of my upbringing and a long line of my ancestors, we all had a special place in our heart for the sweet vidalia. An onion that loved our sulphur rich soil.
Growing up, I loved the Vidalia so much that at the age of ten, I won the top prize, attending 4H camp for free, by selling the most bags of onions statewide. One of the best ways to use the uniquely sweet onion is to make it into a sauce that can be used as a dressing or smeared on a sandwich or even used as a great dipping sauce. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to the yummy vidalia, but if my family taught me anything, they taught me how to “make do.” Using local shallots, I caramelize them to bring out their sweetness. It curbed my nostalgic craving and all was good in the world again. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time:
“I was born from people who were born from people who were born from people who were born here. The memory of what they entered is scrawled on my bones, so that I carry the landscape inside like an ache.” Janisse Ray Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
My husband knows my passion for new sauces and dressings, so the other night he brought home a bottle of sherry vinegar. It couldn’t be at a better time either, because we start receiving our CSA boxes this week that I signed up for a few weeks ago. Of course, I am super excited about that. Keeping up with all the fresh produce will hopefully keep my eye on the prize with my health, plus give me material for sharing recipes with you guys.
I have never worked with sherry vinegar before, so I adapted a recipe from Giada De Laurentis. The sherry vinegar is so nice and the best part, to me, is it is sweet enough that it isn’t absolutely critical to add sugar or honey to the vinaigrette. I have a pretty gnarly sweet tooth, so this is a very good thing when I am watching my health. Anyway, enjoy everyone!
I am a girl who came from the land of county fairs, each unique for what they bring to the table such as rattlesnake round ups or peanut festivals, etc, but none did I cherish more than the pig jig. That’s right, if there is anything that I love more than cheese, my guilty pleasure in life is BBQ. Barbecue, meaning meat smoked over wood for long periods of time, not grilled. Please do not get me riled up over what is BBQ and what is not. I have eaten Memphis style BBQ, Carolina style BBQ, Alabama style BBQ, Georgia style BBQ, and Kansas style BBQ. I have even tried the California tri-tip.Each having it’s unique and delicious traits. Though I have my favorites in my head, I can not make any true judgments on BBQ until I make it to Texas to try their BBQ. Then I will feel as though I have covered a good area of BBQ and could make a sound decision. What makes BBQ so good are the cheap cuts of meat cooked over the low slow smoky embers until the fat becomes fluid coating and basting the thing in its own deliciousness. Mmmmm….
I owned my own smoker, a nice mid range one, and once a year we would smoke about 40 lbs of pork butt. Notice I used the term owned. That’s right, when we made the decision to move out of our renovated Victorian to a tiny apartment across the United States, we had to give up the smoker. Sadness… My husband came up with a recipe using pork butt (shoulder) that appeals to that place in my brain for BBQ, its not BBQ, but is a very flavorful meat cooked slow and low and it gets a very nice bark on the outside. Very yummy and delicious. The perfect meat to slice and use in a Cuban sandwich or eat alone with a few sides. Enjoy!
Of course, the markets are full of all those lovely produce items for salad fixins’ and now there are beautiful greens at almost every stall. Excited, I had to come home and make a homemade salad dressing for the week. To go along with the fresh spring theme, I made a light vinaigrette. If you have followed me for awhile, you know I was a prep chef in a small cafe when my husband and I first were married. I spent most of my time, as the name suggests, prepping things, including sauces, marinades, and dressings. During service, I started out cutting up vegetables and graduated up to making sandwiches and salads. I know, I know, it sounds incredibly mundane, but I enjoyed it. Having no formal training, such as culinary school, I kept my head down, paid attention and tried not to get swallowed up by the mad rush during lunch. I learned a lot about everything there, some of that included food.
Vinaigrette is a mixture of vinegar with fat. What ratio is very personal and unique to your taste. Basically, fat coats your tongue making other flavors muted a bit. If you like more tart flavors, you will need to decrease the amount of fat, if you want it much less tart, you will want to add fat to it. I, personally, like a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to fat, but please play around. Taste while you make it and determine what ratio is best for you. This recipe is very easy to double and can be used as an awesome marinade too.
Of course, when you move anywhere new, you expect to make new friends. While it always takes me a few months to get acclimated to a place, I have always been pretty lucky to find pretty good people to hang out with be it through work, book clubs, yoga classes, etc…
After I had lived in the Midwestern part of the U.S. for a few years, a new girl started working in my department. For me, it was a rare role reversal that I had not experienced before. I was no longer the newbie, she was. We hit it off instantly. Though she was from Puerto Rico, we both grew up in hot cultures and loved wistfully talking about all of the foods we wish were still available to us.
On a few occasions, we invited each other over to one another’s house to not only eat, but to also participate in the cooking process. This is how I became aware of what my friend with her beautiful accent would lovingly call “sofrito.” From how she explained it, sofrito is a base seasoning for many Puerto Rican dishes. That distinguishable flavor profile that is intangible to the untrained palate. Back in Puerto Rico, her family used different peppers than the green bell pepper, but those are not readily available here, so she adapted the original recipe using green bell peppers. She would make huge amounts of it and save in small containers in her freezer. While the weather is warming up, I will, as a tribute to a friend I miss dearly, start this week off making some sofrito to use in a few dishes this week.
With the entrance of spring, right now is a beautiful time for using the crossover fruits and vegetables for meals. As apples are exiting the scene, strawberries are entering, so why not pair them during this rare opportunity. That was my thought at least when making my gorgeous salad yesterday, bursting with vivid colors and various textures and flavors, it kept my taste buds interested. The perfect topping was a sweet and tangy dressing accented by pops of savory crunch provided by the poppy seeds. Enjoy!