Autumn Greens Salad

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autumn-greens-salad

I’ve found that there are times when I just kind of go off salad. I think that’s an easy thing to do, because….well, it’s salad. It’s raw greens, some raw veggies—usually a cucumber that you’re not really that interested in eating but that you have in the fridge for some reason—and there’s dressing. Meh.

This type of thinking makes me die inside just the teeniest bit. I mean, I’m all about that health. I need zero convincing that a salad a day is key to all manner of wonderful processes getting fired up in the body: hearty elimination, antioxidants and enzymes from raw food doing all that scrubby work they do, detoxification on a manageable scale.

But I have to admit to succumbing more and more often to salad ennui. It’s cold out; I don’t want raw, crunchy stuff. It’s a pain in the ass to clean all those greens, even though some of them are already clean in the big ass clamshell that they came in because I bought them that way. I mean the laziness appalls me, particularly with my industrious northern European “me? have feelings instead of produce stuff?” upbringing.

I’m convinced one of the absolute best use of recipes is for salads, because I for one desperately need that little joggle to get me out of my rut. This little gem of an Autumn Greens Salad was adopted from this original version in the November 2018 issue of Cooking Light (different name there. I’m not being coy. My primary changes are in technique, but I pretty much thugged the ingredient list, though I played fairly dramatically with amounts. And it IS autumn, and these readily available ingredients in Michigan in November; at least, this year).

autumn-greens-salad-ingredients

Autumn Greens Salad: The Dressing

My primary change from the original is in constructing the dressing and the salad itself. I wanted to keep the olive oil separate here, so I measured off the amount into one good-sized bowl. Then I mixed everything in the main salad bowl, the one in which I’d toss the final assemblage of ingredients.

I chopped some garlic first, then salted it (you don’t need much). Initially,  I grated on just a smidge of orange zest (for photos I forgot that step). Then a little mustard and honey, and finally my acids: in this case, a tad bit of lemon juice and cider vinegar. I chose cider over rice vinegar as in the original because these greens are so sturdy and I like the complexity of the subtle apple flavor. Rice vinegar flavor is so subtle, I prefer it for more delicate greens. This is, alas, my native Californian palate talking, and may be a little over the top in the “Pretentiously Discerning Tastes” category. In other words, use the vinegar you have on hand. But if that’s balsamic, I’d skip the lemon juice.

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Finally, I added the slivered raw onion and some chopped sour cherries. (The original recipe calls for Zante currants, but…like…what even are those?)

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Let all of that sit while you go on to the next step.

Autumn Greens Salad: The Greens

I’ve said it approximately 8,000 times, which may surprise you given the low content on the blog: Massage raw kale. This step, mystifyingly, was left out of the original, like you’re just going to eat a bunch of torn kale, happily chomping away like some sort of hominid. I repeat: after destemming your kale, cut it in ribbons, then massage it by dropping it in that bowl where you put the olive oil. Rub the kale through your hands for about 2 minutes.

You’ll be adding this to the salad bowl on top of the dressing ingredients in a minute.

For your other greens: We had some really nice curly endive on hand from the farm. It’s unlikely you’ll find this is a box; rather, it’s going to come in a big old-fashioned head, probably a little (or a lot) dirty around the roots. Separate the leaves, wash it well—3 times is a good rule of thumb, but just keep dipping it in water until the water is completely clean. Spin it dry, wrap it in paper or cloth dish towels, put it in a big plastic bag, and you’ve got a pleasantly bitter green for a month.

I cut the endive in small pieces because, while not as sturdy as kale, it’s still pretty toothy.

Autumn Greens Salad: The Bling

I followed the original recipe by using both a blood orange and a navel orange. Grapefruit in combo or on its own would also work nicely. (Citrus with dark greens falls on the “food magic” continuum for me, something I just made up but that I think we need.)

Cut away the peel, rather than simply peeling it; this gives you something to hold onto when you cut out the sections. Put the round side in your hand, then very carefully, with a curved blade knife, remove the sections from the membranes. (Here’s my full tutorial on how to do this.) Cut the orange over the bowl with the dressing to capture that wee bit of juice that results. Add the oranges to the bowl.

Now, scrape the kale into the dressing bowl, using a spatula to make sure you get all the oil. Chopped endive goes on top. Then I throw on a handful of a baby green or two; we always have a big old clamshell of something. Arugula is my favorite, though I didn’t have any the day I made this.

Finally, I put fresh parsley leaves on top. Basil leaves are superb here, but I had fresh parsley and it worked nicely. Fresh herb leaves really make excellent salad greens, something I learned from Yotam Ottolenghi, who I think should be canonized or something. 

Finally, I tossed the whole thing. You may initially feel like you need more oil, but just toss for a good minute; there’s enough oil on the kale leaves that will eventually coat the other greens. Of course, I’m fond of a fairly light touch with oil, so do add more if you need it.

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Shave some Manchego on top. You know what would also be good? Those Mercona almonds you get from Trader Joe’s. Yep, those are going on for Thanksgiving. But I didn’t have any. And it was still super yummy.

Autumn Greens Salad: The Recipe

Autumn Harvest Salad

I love a big old bowl of rainbow crunch. This Autumn Harvest Salad, inspired by a June 2017 Clean Eating recipe, fits the bill and sums up for me the things I love about this time of year: the rich colors, the produce bursting with vibrant flavor and color, and that wonderful feeling of newness that hits me every September.     autumn-harvest-salad-with-chicken Read the step by step or jump straight to the recipe.

The dressing is a citrus-y yogurt concoction, though I adapted it to be a little lighter on the acid. I just don’t like dressings that are too liquid or have too high a proportion of vinegar. I did add the juice left over from sectioning an orange I had on hand. The original recipe calls for a bigger amount of juice and no fruit. It made a lot more sense to me to add the sections. The approximate tablespoon of juice that resulted was pretty much perfect, without me feeling like the salad was swimming. See this quick tutorial to efficiently slice up an orange.

how-to-slice-an-orange

Beyond that, it’s a pretty straightforward operation. Make the dressing (see details below if you don’t have the basics down). Chop a bunch of stuff. In my case, that included plenty o’ cabbage….

cabbage-autumn-harvest

….along with  some carrots, mint, parsley, jicama, and fresh corn, with a few hemp hearts and golden raisins thrown in for good measure.

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You can keep your Autumn Harvest Salad entirely vegetarian by adding tofu, tempeh, beans, or nothing….

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But if you happen to have some protein on hand, like, say, this tasty best damn chicken (hey, here’s the recipe!), add it, by all means.

best-ever-chicken

Shrimp or salmon would work, too. Build it all up on a dish. Enjoy with gusto.

autumn-harvest-salad

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Autumn Harvest Salad: The Recipe

 

Watermelon Salsa

I confess that this will be a photo-lite post. I came up with watermelon salsa completely on a whim, or, as the French say, caprice. (I prefer caprice, don’t you? “Whim” sounds so, well, wimpy, but “caprice” trips across the ear in a sparkly way, like a little fairy dancing past my head. Careful, fairy! Don’t buzz like a mosquito, or you’ll be fairy toast.) So I didn’t do much planning, just snapped the final product. watermelon salsa with corn, scallions, and cilantro

Read this brief post about how I came up with this wondrous thing, or jump to the recipe.

I had been experimenting with a black-eyed pea and collard taco, based on an Isa Chandra Moskowitz recipe (from Isa Does It). I’m not publishing results for my version of the taco, because I’m still fiddling a bit to deem it shareable with y’all. I admit that most beans taste weird to me. Other people say “earthy”, I say “reminiscent of dirt.” I dunno what it is that bugs me.

Anyway, Ms. Moskowitz features an apple/avocado salsa on her black-eyed pea taco, a great flavor/texture choice. But heck, it’s summer. I don’t want to eat apples. Then I thought: Hey! Black-eyed peas/collards = southern U.S. states, therefore fresh corn and watermelon also = southern U.S. states = what I like to eat in summer. Suddenly, like Rapunzel’s pregnant mother, I could not get watermelon out of my mind. (In her case, she couldn’t get some European lettuce called rapunzel off her mind, hence her kid’s weirdo name.)

Dammit, I HAD to have some watermelon.

So I chopped it up, noticed some scallions in the fridge—the mildest of onions—and sliced them, shaved the kernels off a half ear of corn, squeezed in some lime, sprinkled in cilantro, and voila! Fresh watermelon salsa. Which I immediately ate with a spoon, and then I remembered my taco, which had turned into a collard wrap, and to which I’d added some sweet potato fries. Because southern U.S. states also = sweet potatoes.

watermelon salsa on a collard wrap

I imagine this marrying nicely to any kind of pale meat taco, particularly shrimp or chicken. Maybe even pork (though I only ever eat the stray piece of bacon or sausage, so can’t say for sure). The coolness and crunch of the ingredients complements spicy proteins in a lovely, light way. Enjoy!

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Watermelon Salsa: The Recipe

creamy-protein-salad-base

The Perfect Creamy Protein Salad Base

I admit it: this title, “The Perfect Creamy Protein Salad Base,” doesn’t exactly snap, crackle, and pop with descriptive lusciousness. Then again, it perfectly describes what I’m about to show you. Add to that its handy factor and adaptability to every diet from paleo to vegan, and I do believe you may thank me (if only in your heart).

Here’s the step by step, but if you prefer, jump straight to the recipe.

It started with a recipe from one of my favorite favorite all-time cookbooks, Isa Does It, by the truly genius vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I have been meaning to try her vegan version of tuna salad, made with chickpeas, forever. But one day, I was just really craving tuna, because sometimes that happens.

Her recipe calls for a bunch of veggies minced fine in a food processor. I didn’t have carrots, but I did have radishes, and I was too lazy to get out the processor. Also, I had just written this nifty knife post and was feeling a bit choppy. So off I went.

creamy-protein-salad-base-ingredients  She then calls for a rather heavy amount of mayo (vegan, natch), as well as some sunflower seeds to mix in with the chickpeas. I like mayo, especially on French fries (which is tremendously Gallic of me). But I also really like some good sour yogurt, and I’ve been upping my probiotic game. Yogurt feels lighter to me as well. So I mixed yogurt, mustard, and mayo together….

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…then added the veggies and tuna. Voilá! A perfect creamy protein salad base just became a really yummy lunch.

creamy-protein-salad-base-tuna

Lately, btw, I’ve been very happy with Thomas’s Everything Bagel Thins, seen above. I’ve been Noom-ing (post in the works about this super cool new diet/fitness program), which, for one thing, means that I’m watching my proportions of food. Rather than dividing food into “great stuff that you don’t want to eat but have to because it’s good for you” and “all the stuff you want and can’t have,” Noom simply assigns food a green, yellow, or red designation. Green is the least calorie dense, and red is the most. Red isn’t bad, but you just need to be careful how you allot your red points, as well as your yellows. You can knock yourself out with greens, which are mostly fruits and vegetables, but also include some nice things like yogurt. Anyway, the Thomas’s Bagel Thins are just 100 calories of yellow. And I find that when I have a small amount of complex carbs with lunch, I don’t get hungry so quick. As noted, I love carbs. This is the first program in a while that hasn’t made me feel like some sort of felon for admitting that.

Today, I went ahead with Isa’s fake tuna salad, which adds some dulse flakes to the mix for a nice little hit of the sea. (I told you she’s a genius.)

But really, this would work with any cooked protein. Tuna and beans, obviously, but also leftover chicken or turkey (I don’t eat them, but you might), as well as any number of seafood items, particularly lobster if you’re really in the mood for debauchery. Quick, easy, tasty, and you really don’t need to measure. But just in case you feel like you do, well, here’s a rough and highly adaptable recipe.

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The Perfect Creamy Protein Salad Recipe

salad argentina style, heaped on a pizza

Salad Argentina Style

I fall in and out of love with salad. When I make the effort to create a really good one, I wonder why I ever eat anything else. But when I’m lazy and do the same old same old, and I wonder why I bother.

When I travel, I expect hit and miss. Over the last few years, I’ve had great success with simple salads in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Ireland. In Italy, surprisingly, I had some plates of green as depressing as anything I’ve seen in the US. In the Caribbean and Colombia, I resign myself to getting my fresh raw produce via smoothies. The tropics are not conducive to glorious greens; often, the only lettuce I see is a  hydroponic variety devoid of flavor and texture.

So when we decided to hit Buenos Aires for a couple of weeks this winter, I thought, well, I’m not going to expect much. Most people, including many Argentines that we met along the way, equate Argentina with beef. In fact, if you say “carne,” Spanish for meat, in Argentina, beef is assumed. I figured for a vegetable, I’d probably be offered pork.

I have never been so delighted to be proven wrong. Salad Argentina-style, at least in BA, is a glorious, creative wonder. Certainly, it helps that we were there in the height of summer. The climates of Argentina and Uruguay remind me of those in the California where I grew up: sunny, dry-ish, and fertile. Geographically, the soil is rich and good, not needing a bunch of weird treatments. Farmers get respect.

Most importantly, food tastes like it’s supposed to, and salads taste green. My first one arrived not as a salad, but as a pizza from La Pharmacie, a restaurant near our 10-day home. A crisp crust spread with a dense tomato sauce and thin slices of melted mozzarella featured a lush layer of peppery, tender-crisp raw arugula on top. Meaty, fruity olives perched on top. The great thing about this meal: I didn’t think I was ordering a salad, but I got one anyway, and I also began to completely rethink the concept of pizza. Why shouldn’t it just be a crispy base for a ton of fresh vegetables?

Salad Argentina style-a pizza topped with fresh arugula from La Pharmacie in Buenos Aires

I intentionally order a salad from Cabernet restaurant in Palermo. This beauty featured tender crisp mixed greens surrounded by paper-thin, perfectly ripe pears, sprinkled on top with hazelnuts and blue cheese. (Sorry about the light here, but perils of restaurants, etc.)

Salad Argentina style-a pear-hazelnut-blue-cheese-arugula combo

Back at Pharmacie, this Caprese was simple and stunning, with sweet roasted peppers in crimson and saffron, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and plenty of basil. (And, needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, non-optimal light.)

Salad Argentina style-the wonderful simple caprese from la Pharmacie in Buenos aires

Salad Argentina-style: A few guidelines

Here’s what the salads had in common:

  1. A base of flavorful, thoughtfully chosen greens. Optimally, get the best you can find, wash them yourself (rinsing a lot, bc the good stuff is dirty), spin them dry, and pile them on the plate—or the pizza.
  2. Something sweet. Roasted peppers and roasted cherry tomatoes were favorites, but fruit, particularly pears, were frequent add-ins as well.
  3. A little cheese. If you’re vegan, you’ll skip this. But having access to really excellent cheese is one of the reasons I never can quite commit to being a vegan. There simply isn’t a substitute for the creamy yum of farm-fresh cheese.
  4. Something savory. Olives of all kinds, or artichoke hearts, or bamboo hearts (easier to get down here). Or nuts. Usually not all of those things, which allows the flavors to shine.

It’s not so different from the directions in the salad post I’ve already done. The main thing is, Salad Argentina helped me snap my winter-dulled palate back into life. As I get back in cooking mode here, these faves from other cooks can brighten up your late winter kitchen. Because admit it: You gotta be a little tired of soup at this point.

Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest is always rock solid—I actually just typed “rock salad,” which I sort of like. This recipe for broccoli and avocado salad is excellent.

I haven’t tested this vegan salad made from spiralized sweet potatoes (from Laura at The First Mess), but the combo of chipotle with miso seems like a spectacular transition one for early spring—which, they tell me, is coming.

Yotam Ottolenghi creates such glorious, flavorful salads. If you love vegetables, get his book Plenty. This salad introduces what for me was a revolutionary idea: mix herbs with impunity. Don’t worry so much about the grams, just look at the proportions: about 2 parts cilantro (aka coriander) and parsley to 1 part basil and dill, 3 parts arugula (rocket), and 4 parts some type of young lettuce; just be sure you get something with flavor. Play with the nuts and seeds. Know that when Brits say mange tout (it means “eat all”), they mean “snow peas,” because sometimes they forget that they hate the French (which is sort of adorable). Use the recipe as a jumping off point, and discover joy and wonder on a plate.

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quick pickled vegetables sparkle up a plate at Le Chou Fou

Quick Pickled Vegetables

Quick pickled vegetables are exactly what they sound like. You make a pickling brine, quick. While it heats and then cools, you slice some veggies paper thin. When the brine cools, you add the veggies.

Done.

quick pickled vegetables sparkle up a plate at Le Chou Fou

Jump to recipe.

Here’s why these things are genius: Quick pickled vegetables sparkle up ANY meal, and they do it fast. Planning a sandwich for lunch? Throw a few pickled veggies on for crunch, bite, and color. Add ’em to a bowl of rice and beans, or on top of some Asian pasta with nut butter sauce. You just changed the game from biz as usual to an impromptu party. Mix some pickled radishes into your salad bowl for a burst of sweet tart happiness. I had some on hand recently to top off the Baja Mole Bowl. Lovely.

My favorite quick pickle candidates are:

  • Carrots, especially the multicolored ones. Carrot sticks bore me, and I don’t like the way the carrot core so often tastes like wood. Slicing the veggies super thin and then giving them a brine soak makes them fun again.
  • Radishes. I’m crazy about those white/pink/purple radishes known as Easter Eggs. Radishes fulfill their destiny when pickled.
  • Onions. Raw onions cause stinky nightmares without a soak in some water. The brine perfectly mitigates their sulfurous nature.
  • Bell peppers, seeded and sliced.
  • Celery, slivered. You may also want to de-string the stalks, a tedious but worthwhile process if you don’t like having to gnaw through a tough old celery string.

You may be surprised that cucumbers aren’t on the list, but I’ve never really liked the texture of pickled cucumbers. So I choose denser veggies with a more intense crunch factor. Of course, cukes are the classic pickle base, and they make swell quick pickles if you don’t mind them a little less crisp. But cucumbers have so much water that I never eat them unless I’ve seeded and salted them, then let them stand until some of the water drains out.

For me, cauliflower is TOO dense, so I nix that, even though it’s a popular choice. I never eat raw cauliflower when it’s on a crudite platter, either, and it does seem to be left in a forlorn little mountain long after the carrots, celery, and peppers have been dipped and consumed. I’ve also seen pickled green beans, a great candidate in the crunch department. The problem is, they turn a REALLY ugly color. If this doesn’t bug you, go for it. Broccoli, for me, combines the density issue of cauliflower with the hideous color transformation of green beans. I’m highly visual. But as always, do what floats your boat, not mine.

While there’s nothing wrong with mixing the veggies together in the brine, I like to keep them separate and distinct. I would slice all the veggies, put them in separate containers, then pour the cooled brine over the top of each. You just need it to cover. If you run out of brine, it’s super fast and easy to make another batch.

Pickling brine scarcely needs a recipe, it’s so simple: 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water, with a generous pinch of sweetener and a discreet amount of salt. You can also add some mustard seeds or cloves or some other spice you like as you please. I gently heat the mix on the stove, stirring to make sure the sugar and salt dissolve, then cool completely before adding to the veggies.

As usual, I’ve included a recipe, but you really don’t need one. In fact, this is SO easy, teach your kids to do it and get them in the raw veggie habit for life.

Quick Pickled Vegetables: The Recipe