Category: Salads

Local Salad (in the Winter!)

Did you ever think that you could enjoy a salad with locally grown lettuce while there was still snow on the ground in New England? I bought a large bag of greens from NorthStar farm, located in Westport, MA at the Somerville Winter Market this weekend. The farmer told me the organic lettuce is grown in an unheated greenhouse during the winter. Each leaf is crisp, clean, and just about perfect. I gave it a quick rinse, and tossed it with some shredded carrot for a simple side salad. I have no idea how these greenhouses really work, but they certainly produce some great tasting lettuce! I was initially worried that the lettuce might go bad before I had time to finish the bag, but the remaining unwashed leaves are keeping very well in the refrigerator. Here’s to local salads for the week….

Lentil Salad with Roasted Vegetables

Ahh, 3 days of cooking. I had some hits, a couple misses, and am still working on my entry for the recipe contest. You guys gave me some good ideas in the comments, but I am keeping things hush hush for now. You know, I need to watch out for those Internet spies….

This original recipe had over 20 ingredients, and 5 paragraphs of directions. Now some final dishes warrant this kind of effort, but I think beets and lentils should be much lower maintenance. So I modified this recipe significantly, and it’s much more of the ‘peasant’ dish now. In fact, you should not even bother to roast vegetables specifically for this dish, but take advantage of some that you might have leftover.

I served the lentil salad over some torn Romaine lettuce, and it was a very nice lunch. The flavor was earthy, but in a good way. Note that the lentils I used here are not the standard grocery store kind, but the French variety I bought at Whole Foods. I used them before to make a different lentil salad. They hold their shape much better in salads such as these. If all of this seems too daunting, just remember the simplest formula: roasted veggies + beans + oil + vinegar = good.

4-5 beets, any dark spots removed
6 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1″ pieces
1 t sugar
1 T olive oil
3/4 c. black lentils
3 c. water
1 bay leaf
1 t minced garlic
1 small onion
2 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T lemon juice

Set beets in a baking dish. Mix carrots, sugar, and olive oil in another baking dish. Roast vegetables at 400F. The carrots will take about 30 minutes, and the beets should be fork tender in 60-90 minutes. Allow beets to cool, and then remove skin and slice into 1″ pieces.

Meanwhile, place lentils, water, bay leaf, garlic, and onion in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils are softened. Drain, and remove onion and bay leaf.

Mix lentils, beets, and carrots in a large bowl. Add oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. Toss to coat, and season with salt and pepper.

Spinach Orange Salad

I really hate to bring up a sore subject, but I was invited to a party to watch the Patriot’s game on Sunday. I know, we won’t talk about the game. Let’s stay focused on the food. All over Twitter, Boston area foodies were whipping up their best chili, wings, and potato skins. I decided to go against these trends and bring a spinach salad to the event. Not exactly “football food” but a good complement to the pizza which was being served. To make the salad a bit more exciting, I added orange sections and slivered almonds, and then tossed it in my quick and easy Honey Mustard dressing. And you know what, people liked it. In fact, there was another salad there that was also well received. The mood may have been somber, but the crowd was well fed.

Warm Mushroom Salad

In this wonderful salad recipe posted on Smitten Kitchen, Deb offers plenty of options. You can make the salad simple or fancy, you can mix up the ingredients based on season, and you can serve it as a first course or a main dish.

There are a lot of components to this salad, and I needed about 10 hands when trying to pull it together one night. In the end, I enjoyed it, but I would still suggest some shortcuts. The best part to me was the warm seasoned mushrooms on fresh greens.

Think of this like a salad bar, and you can take what you like, and leave the rest. We’ll all end up with salads that are creative and suit our personal tastes.

Greens
Salad greens were suggested in the original recipe, with the addition of fresh herbs if they were on hand. I used just fresh spinach, which I liked, and this helped to keep things simple.

Mushrooms
There are so many different types of mushrooms, and I chose to use cremini for this recipe. In my mind, they’re one step fancier than white mushrooms without being too much more expensive. But plain button mushrooms would really be just fine. The mushrooms are sauteed in olive oil with shallots, and seasoned with thyme, salt, and pepper.

Roasted Hazelnuts
I roasted the hazelnuts, managed not to burn them, and then rubbed the skins off with a towel. Then I proceeded to clean up all the hazelnut skins around my kitchen. Next time, I’ll just use whatever nuts I already have around rather than making a special purchase.

Egg
To make this a main dish, I added an egg. This was a good addition, but it did require another pan on the stove top and a watchful eye. It might be easier to add some cooked chicken, or perhaps some beans.

Cheese
There were several fine cheeses suggested in the original recipe. I used the Parmesan I had on hand, and would do that again. But if I were serving this at a dinner party, I might try something different, because well, I do like to try new cheeses.

Dressing
The dressing called for shallots soaked in vinegar, then whisked with oil, and then simmered briefly and seasoned to taste. The end result really wasn’t worth all that effort in my opinion. Next time, I’ll whip up a quick vinaigrette with whatever oil and vinegar happens to be my favorite at that time.

So hit the salad bar, and make your own creation!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberries

No, I am not testing recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes, because the truth is that as much as I love to cook, the holiday isn’t at my house and I don’t do much (any) of the cooking. However, this weekend I was thinking about the cranberries in my refrigerator, and wondering if I could roast them. I had some butternut squash on hand too, so I decided to give this a try.

Please be warned – although roasting generally brings out sweetness, this dish is still quite tart. You might get a few ‘faces’ at the table if you serve this as a side dish, especially if they are expecting something similar to sweet cranberry sauce. So if you’re serving this on it’s own, I’d add another tablespoon of sugar.

I decided to toss the squash and cranberries over a spinach salad with white beans, with a balsamic vinaigrette. When all the flavors mixed together, it was just right. Not to mention, quite a pretty salad!

1 20 oz. package butternut squash, peeled and cut
2 c. cranberries, rinsed and drained
1 T canola oil
1 T brown sugar
1 t cinnamon

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, and place in a 13″x9″ dish. Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes, or until squash is softened, stirring occasionally.

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad

I’ve tried a few fun squash recipes this year, like this Sweet and Sour Kabocha. But there are still plenty of squash varieties I haven’t tried, and recently I picked up a delicata squash for the first time. It’s a fairly small squash, and the skin is edible which means no peeling.

The squash was fairly easy to cut, and then I scooped out the seeds and sliced it thinly. I roasted the slices in the oven with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. OK, then I stopped to try it – yum! I could have just stood in the kitchen and eaten the whole pan, but I had a salad to make.
I placed some squash slices on a bed of baby spinach, and added some pumpkin seeds and ricotta salata, inspired by this recipe. I made a simple dressing of sauteed shallots, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. This was one of the best salads I ate all year! The flavors all worked together well, and there was squash is almost every bite. I was even able to pack this for dinner one night, keeping the salad and dressing in separate containers until right before class.
It was so much fun to pick up a squash that was new to me, and create such a fabulous meal.

Maple Balsamic Dressing

I hardly ever buy bottled salad dressing these days. I usually have a jar of Honey Mustard dressing in the fridge, or a variation that includes soy sauce and ginger, or a tomato based dressing like this one. It’s a lot less expensive to make your own dressing, and it only takes a few minutes.

So in keeping with fall themed foods this week, I made a maple balsamic dressing to use for some salads. The dressing includes 2 T olive oil, 2 T balsamic, 1 T maple syrup, and 1 T mustard. You can see the thick consistency, and it was a good blend of sweet and tangy flavors. Like I always say, give it a try!