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Salads for the Summer Solstice

Lettuce Leaves

“Whenever I chop fresh herbs, I think of you.” That’s what my friend Ginny told me, and it is one of the most wonderful ways to be remembered that I can think of.

There’s a lot of chopping in these salads, and lots of fresh herb flavor. I made them to celebrate the beginning of summer and the end-of-spring harvest of young carrots, snap peas, spring onions, early cucumbers, fresh herbs, and abundant salad greens.

Wild Onion

My garden is a wild abundance of flowers and herbs, rubbing shoulders (if not pushing and shoving) among the vegetables. There are volunteers and galloping weeds looking for available space. It’s a jungle…and a salad maker’s paradise. I wander the pathways with a basket, picking this and that–whatever looks colorful and tasty. Then I invited friends for lunch.

Calendula

My friends and I ate salads and toasted the summer solstice. Then we jumped into summer by plunging in an icy- cold, rushing mountain stream.

Carrots in Harissa

A Middle Eastern inspired carrot salad with North African chile paste…. tone it down for a salad, spice it up for a condiment.

Ingredients: 8 to 10 young carrots (about 1 1/2 lbs), 2 Tbs olive or sunflower oil, spring onions or sweet onion (about 1 1/2 cups small dice), 1/2 tsp crushed cumin seed, 1/2 tsp crushed caraway seed, 1 tsp coarsely ground coriander seed, 3 Tbs fresh lemon juice, pinch sugar, 1 to 2 Tbs harissa (how hot is your harissa?), 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped chives, 2 to 3 cups baby spinach, arugula, or kale for serving

Red Onions

Peel the carrots and cut them into 1 1/2 to 2-inch long, thin matchsticks (or round slices). Blanch in salted boiling water for 1 minute (or steam about 5). Chill the carrots in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the spices and cook 30 to 60 seconds. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté 3 to 5 minutes to soften. Add the harissa and stir to combine. Transfer the onion-spice mixture to a large bowl and add the carrots, stirring to coat well. Stir in the chopped fresh herbs, lemon juice, and sugar. Taste and adjust the flavors, adding salt, lemon juice or more harissa as needed.

Make a bed of greens (spinach, endive, arugula, kale…) on a platter or shallow bowl and arrange the carrot salad on top.

*Excellent Spicy Carrot Tapenade

Mix extra carrot salad with green olives, chopped pecans, capers, and garlic.

*Harissa

I make harissa in the fall with whatever hot chiles I harvest from the garden. This year it was a combination of red jalapenos, aji dulce, and a type of cayenne called Red Fire. Naomi smoked the peppers, and I blended them with spices and garlic to make the paste. Harissa can be made with dried chiles any time of year. Choose the type and quantity of chiles according to your heat tolerance.

Ingredients: 1 to 2 oz dried red chiles (ancho, Anaheim, New Mexico Red, pasilla, cayenne, guajillo, etc), 1 roasted and peeled red bell pepper, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp cumin seed, 1/2 tsp caraway seed, 1 tsp coriander seed, 2 to 4 garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp red wine vinegar or 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, 2 Tbs olive oil

Toast the dried chiles briefly on a dry skillet over medium heat. Remove the seeds and stems and put the chiles in a bowl. Cover with hot water and let soak 1/2 hour, until soft.

Toast the spices 30 to 60 seconds on the hot skillet, stirring constantly. Transfer to a mortar and grind to a powder. Add the garlic and salt and pound to make a paste. Add the paprika, vinegar or lemon, and oil. Stir to combine, then scrape the mixture into a blender, along with the soaked hot chiles and the roasted red pepper. Process to a smooth paste. Store in the refrigerator of freezer.

Sugar Snap Pea Tabbouleh

This is an herb salad made with a little bulgur wheat and snap peas replacing the usual tomatoes. It is sharp and refreshing with lemon juice, and best eaten soon after it is made. If you don’t have fine grain bulgur wheat, use regular bulgur wheat and prepare it with boiling water. Let it soak 10 to 15 minutes, then drain in a large sieve. The salad is also good made with cooked freekah or quinoa.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup fine grain bulgur wheat, 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs warm water, 12 oz sugar snap peas (strings removed), 3 small cucumbers, 4 to 5 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves, 3 or 4 thinly sliced scallions (white and tender green parts), 1 finely diced seeded jalapeno, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp ground allspice, 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1 to 2 tsp pomegranate molasses and Romaine lettuce leaves for serving

Fresh Garden Herbs

Dressing: Using a mortar and pestle, mash1 garlic clove with a pinch coarse sea salt to make a paste. Add 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, a pinch sugar, and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Whisk to combine.

Pour water over bulgur in a small bowl or saucepan. Leave 1/2 hour to soften.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch snap peas 30 seconds. Drain and cool in ice water. Drain, chop in 1/2-inch pieces, and set aside in a colander.

To chop parsley, hold a handful of parsley sprigs together tightly with one hand and use a sharp chef knife to slice the tender stems and leaves into very thin shreds. Cut cleanly to avoid bruising the leaves. Discard tough stem ends. Thinly slice mint leaves only–no stems.

In a large bowl, mix together the softened bulgur, chopped peas, diced cucumber, chopped parsley and mint, scallions, and jalapeno. Sprinkle with salt and spices and toss to combine. Pour on the dressing, toss well, and taste. Adjust the seasoning. Drizzle pomegranate molasses on top. Serve with Romaine lettuce leaves for scooping.

*Homemade pomegranate molasses: Boil 1 quart pomegranate juice (add 1/4 cup sugar if unsweetened, or 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice if sweetened) until reduced to syrup. That’s it. You can use cranberry or cherry juice for delicious variations.

Mango-Avocado and Black Bean Salad

It appears to be mango season in Western North Carolina, so I have been making mango-avocado salsa recently and love the combination. I added cucumbers and black beans for a salad.

Ingredients: 1 can or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, 1 large firm-ripe mango, 1 firm-ripe avocado, 3 small thin-skinned cucumbers, 1 cup diced red onion, 2 seeded and diced jalapeno chiles, 1/2 tsp toasted and crushed cumin seed, 2 Tbs thinly sliced mint leaves, 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, salt

Drain and rinse the black beans, set aside in a sieve. Peel and dice the mango and avocado. Dice the cucumbers. Put all the ingredients in a salad bowl and toss gently to combine. Add the lime juice, and season with salt.

Dill Flowers

 

Garden Herbs

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Beth and Annalie’s Garden Dinner

Beth and Annalie live and garden in Dalarna, Sweden–a picturesque region of small farms and iron-oxide-red barns and houses tucked into the hills along narrow, winding roads. They live in an old farmhouse; the barn is now their woodworking shop. Their yard is the old barnyard–a small plot of land so densely planted I almost got lost wandering the paths between garden spaces, admiring the garden gates and compost pile.

Willow Compost Bin

Dalarna is in central north Sweden–a challenging place to garden–so Beth and Annalie planted a living fence of willow to shield their vegetable garden space from the wind and create a warmer microclimate. Theirs is a free-spirited, rambling garden…pathways lace through raised beds of rich, dark earth, and plants jumble together–cilantro in the asparagus, borage in the kale, and calendula and poppies everywhere. There are beds of thriving potatoes, wildly happy garlic, and a forest of the biggest strawberry plants I have ever seen. It is a permaculture garden of flowers, herbs, vegetables, berries, and fruit trees finding a home together. The surrounding forests and meadows are a mushroom hunters’ heaven.

Swedish Garden

There is amazing diversity here–hazelnuts, apples, pears, cherries, gooseberries, raspberries…all loaded with fruit. An herb garden spills over with giant angelica, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, mint, dill, and lemon balm. Everywhere you look there are plants bursting into the long days of Swedish summer. This has been an especially cool and wet spring and summer in Sweden, so the garden is full of cool-season crops: parsnips, carrots, peas, fava beans, kale, collards, cabbage, turnips, celery, lettuce, bunching onions, a very tasty pigweed, and arugula. A tiny glass house provides a warm environment for Beth’s hot peppers, a few tomatoes, and basil; window-frame tents create shelter for squash and cucumber. Out of this bounty Beth and Annalie cook wonderful garden meals.

Strawberries

Potato Salad with Green Sauce

Potato and Olive Salad

Beth used freshly dug small new potatoes for her salad. Any smooth-skinned new potatoes or fingerlings–red, white, or yellow–will work.

The Potatoes: Chop 1 1/2 lbs. potatoes into roughly 3/4-inch cubes. Cook them in a vegetable steamer until they are tender and easily pierced with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes. Put them in a bowl with 4 finely chopped shallots or green onions, season with kosher or sea salt, and toss with 3 Tbs sherry or cider vinegar.

Ch0p 2 tsp fresh thyme, 2 tsp fresh oregano, 4 Tbs parsley, 4 Tbs cilantro, 1 cup arugula, and 1 cup pigweed (substitute endive, radicchio, or escarole). Mix the herbs into the potatoes. Add a small handful pitted green olives.

Make a paste with 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of coarse salt. Whisk together with 1 tsp whole grain mustard, 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, and 5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil. Toss the dressing with the potatoes. Serve with Green Sauce.

The Green Sauce: Steam 4 cups chopped mixed greens (spinach, chard, kale, collards, borage) until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess liquid. Put the cooked greens in a blender with 1 tsp fresh thyme, 1 tsp fresh oregano, 2 Tbs parsley, 2 Tbs cilantro, 1/4 tsp red chile flakes (or 1 small minced hot chile), 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 2 large garlic cloves. Puree smooth. Mix the puree with 1 cup thick whole milk Russian or Greek yogurt. Add salt to taste.

Green Dip

I was irresistibly drawn to the robust, whirling garlic scapes in Beth and Annalie’s garden. They had never tried garlic scape pesto, so I harvested a bunch to make some. The scapes are chopped into 1-inch pieces (to make about 2 cups) and blanched in salted boiling water 1 minute. Scoop them out and put in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, and 2 or 3 Tbs toasted nuts (we had peanuts). Puree to make a smooth sauce. Add 1 or 2 Tbs of the blanching water to make the pesto thinner.

Garlic Scapes

Wild Forest Mushroom Soup

Beth took us to her secret mushroom spot in a boggy birch forest. There was deep moss underfoot and the smell of  rain-soaked leaves and fallen logs. We looked for patches of small chanterelles–like golden nuggets hidden in the forest floor. We found just enough for a taste, so Beth made her mushroom soup mostly with dried chanterelles, full of wild and woodsy flavor. Other varieties of wild or “cultivated wild” mushrooms–shitake, oyster, morels, cremini, or porcini can be used for the soup, with different and delicious results. You can also use a combination of dried and fresh, or cultivated and wild mushrooms.

The stock: Beth made her soup with a combination of the mushroom soaking liquid and vegetable bouillon. Other options include homemade or good quality canned mushroom, vegetable, chicken, or meat stock.

Make your own Stock:

*Wild Mushroom Soup Stock: Start with 1 oz (3/4 to 1 cup) dried mushrooms and/or mushroom stems (porcini, shitake, any flavorful mushroom…) Wash the mushrooms well to get rid of grit. Put the washed mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups hot water. Weight them with a small plate and let sit 20 to 30 minutes, until soft. Strain, reserving the liquid. Squeeze out excess liquid and chop into small pieces. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter or cloth.

Warm 2 Tbs olive oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 large chopped onion, 2 diced carrots, 2 thinly sliced celery stalks, 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves, and 2 bay leaves. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 to 8 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Add 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 4 or 5 Tbs roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, the soaked mushrooms, their strained soaking liquid, and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour. Strain the stock through a sieve. Store in the refrigerator up to 5 days or freezer up to 6 months if not used right away.

*Basic Vegetable Stock: Warm 4 Tbs olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups chopped onion, 1 cup chopped leeks (including green part), 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots, 3/4 cup chopped celery with leaves, and 4 lightly smashed garlic cloves. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly browned. Note: An alternative method is to toss all the vegetables with the oil, spread them out on a roasting pan, and roast them in a 400-degree F. oven until browned, about 40 minutes. Either way, you want the vegetables to be lightly caramelized before adding the liquid. Add 2 bay leaves, 3 or 4 branches flat leaf parsley, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, and 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns to the vegetables in the pot. Add 8 cups water; bring to a boil, and simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hours. Strain the stock and store in the refrigerator up to 5 days or freezer up to 6 months if not used right away.

*Easy Chicken Stock: I like to make chicken stock from the bones left over from roasting whole organic chickens stuffed with fresh thyme, lemons, and lots of garlic. I put 2 or 3 chickens’ worth of bones in a slow cooker, cover the bones with water, and let the pot simmer all night. Alternately, roast 3 or 4 pounds organic chicken parts (wings, backs, legs, necks…) in a 400-degree F. oven 45 to 60 minutes until well browned. Scrape the chicken and any pan dripping into a large stock pot or slow cooker, add 1 or 2 coarsely chopped carrots, 1 thickly sliced onion, 2 celery stalks, 4 lightly smashed garlic cloves, and 3 quarts water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently, covered, 3 hours to overnight. Strain the stock. Cool and remove the fat. Store the stock in the refrigerator up to 5 days, or in the freezer up to 6 months.

*Beef Bone Broth: Use big meaty bones from grass-fed beef  (our neighbor Rodney gave me some from a bull he butchered). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a roasting pan with the bones, roast them for about 1 hour, until well browned. Pour off the rendered fat, put the bones in a slow-cooker or large stockpot, add water to cover, and simmer 4 to 12 hours. Strain the broth, cool, and remove the fat before using or storing. Store in the refrigerator up to 5 days or in the freezer up to 6 months.

*Quick Stock (Improving Canned Chicken Broth): Sauté or roast coarsely chopped aromatic vegetables in olive oil until lightly browned. For about 6 cups canned broth, use 1 medium onion, 2 carrots, 1 celery stalk with leaves, 2 lightly smashed garlic cloves, 2 branches flat leaf parsley, and 1 bay leaf. Simmer the sautéed vegetables, covered, in the canned chicken broth about 30 minutes. Strain the broth before using or storing.

The Soup: Use about 2 cups dried wild mushrooms (2 oz), a combination of 1/2 oz (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup) dried wild mushrooms and 8 to 12 oz fresh wild or cultivated mushrooms, or 1 to 1 1/4 pounds mixed fresh wild and cultivated mushrooms. Prepare the dried mushrooms as for the mushroom stock. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms about 1/4-inch thick.

Warm 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Stir in 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion (2 medium onions). Reduce the heat and cook the onion slowly until very soft.

While the onions cook, warm 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the fresh mushrooms, tossing to coat with oil. Allow the mushrooms to cook without stirring until they soften, 5 or 6 minutes. Add the chopped rehydrated mushrooms (if using) and continue to cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly browned. You may need to add a little butter or oil if the pan gets too dry. Stir in 2 Tbs thinly sliced garlic, 1/4 tsp red chile flakes, 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, and 4 tsp fresh marjoram leaves. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 2 minutes.

Stir the sautéed mushrooms into the onions. Add 3 Tbs chopped parsley, 1 Tbs tomato paste, 2 or 3 finely chopped sundried tomatoes, 1/2 cup dry white wine, and any reserved mushroom liquid (or 1 cup stock). Bring the liquid to a boil; simmer briskly until reduced by half, 5 minutes. Add 6 or 7 cups stock of your choice. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer the soup gently 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbs sherry (optional) and 2 or 3 Tbs cream. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in 2 Tbs finely chopped parsley leaves.

Serve with toasted, crusty bread and freshly grated Parmesan or other hard, aged cheese. Beth added blue cheese, which was perfect.

The Bottomless Pot: I made this soup with dried shitake, oyster, and porcini mushrooms and Rodney’s bone broth. The mushrooms looked skimpy, so I added more…probably about 3 cups total, and ended up with a lot of soup. If your soup is really thick, like mine was the second day, it makes great pasta sauce. I also used 1 1/2 cups soup mixed with crushed tomatoes and a little red wine to braise meatballs.  I thinned more of the left over soup with broth and added braised red cabbage to make deeply flavored borscht. Finally, I used the last of it to make a wild rice and chard soup.

Salad Days

Salad in a Bowl

Vegetables are so abundant and beautiful right now that every day is a salad day. Salads for lunch, salads for dinner, salads for parties and picnics… Combining lots of vegetables and herbs with whole grains turns salad into a meal-in-a-bowl–perfect for the end of summer. These salads are light and refreshing, they travel well, and they welcome all kinds of garden-fresh vegetables.

Beautiful Floral Salad

Bulgur wheat, an ingredient of Tabouli salad, might be the most familiar of grains used in salad, but there’s a wide range of whole grains to discover that contribute interesting texture and structure to salads. My list includes wheat and rye berries, barley, farro, kamut, wild rice, Bhutanese red rice, short grain brown rice, and quinoa. Their subtle and earthy flavors blend well with vegetables and fresh herbs and support all kinds of flavorful vinaigrettes and add-ins like olives, capers, nuts, and dried fruits.

The first key to making a delicious grain salad is to cook the grains properly. Like pasta, grains for salads are best cooked al dente –they need to be cooked through, but retain something to chew on. When the grains near the estimated end of the cooking time, taste them frequently and remove them from the heat as soon as they taste done. Cooking times for grains vary depending on variety and age (just like beans, old grains take longer) and range from 15 to more than 60 minutes. Soaking long-cooking grains overnight can shorten cooking time by one-half.

 Tips for Cooking Grains

Grains

* Toast grains for more flavor.  Dry-roast grains on an iron skillet to add depth and bring out their nuttiness. Or, sauté them for a few minutes in a little butter or oil for added flavor. Get even more flavor by including finely chopped aromatic vegetables like onion, carrot or celery in the sauté.

* Cook the grains in chicken or vegetable stock instead of water to boost flavor. Add herbs, aromatic vegetables, or whole spices to the cooking liquid.

* Do not overcook! When the grain is done, drain off excess liquid and transfer to a platter or baking sheet to stop the cooking.

*Let the grain cool before mixing with other ingredients. Warm grain will wilt herbs or other tender vegetables and absorb too much vinaigrette.

One cup dry grain will yield 4 to 6 generous servings when used in a salad.

Classic Tabouleh and Variations on the Theme 

Classic Tabouleh

I like to make Tabouleh with roughly equal parts bulgur wheat, chopped parsley, and diced tomato. It’s a great summer meal, served with flatbread or scooped up with leaves of romaine lettuce. What makes it truly delicious are the bright taste of herbs and plenty of fresh lemon or lime juice.

Ingredients: 1 cup bulgur wheat, 4 or 5 medium tomatoes (about 2 1/2 cups diced), 2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves, 1/2 cup finely chopped green onion, 1 finely chopped jalapeno or mildly hot banana pepper.

Vinaigrette: 1 garlic clove mashed to a paste with a pinch of coarse salt, 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste. Whisk all ingredients together.

Make the salad:  Heat a skillet and dry-roast the bulgur briefly to toast the grains. Transfer to a bowl, add 1/2 tsp salt, and pour 1 1/3 cups boiling water over the bulgur. Cover and let sit until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Gently combine the chopped vegetables and herbs with the cooked bulgur. Pour on the dressing and toss again. Season with more salt and pepper or lemon juice, to taste.

Variations

Replace the chopped tomato with green beans, Swiss chard, or broccoli: steam or boil the vegetables in salted water until tender-crisp. Drain, cool, and chop before mixing into the salad.

* Replace the fresh tomato with sticky oven-dried tomatoes: cut plum or cherry tomatoes in half, place on an oiled or parchment lined baking sheet cut-side-up, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 250 degrees F 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until they are wrinkled and the skins are starting to brown, or roast them at 350 degrees F for 1 hour for juicier results.

* Add diced cucumber, green pepper, and coarsely chopped green olives.

* Make a bulgur-chick pea salad with 1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, sun-dried or oven-dried tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese.

  Wheat Berry-Pomegranate Salad

We first ate Coliva–a wonderful mixture of wheat berries, toasted seeds and spices, dried fruit, herbs, and pomegranate seeds–during our long-ago travels in Greece. There it was sweetened with sugar and served as part of religious ceremonies, but I have adapted the flavors to make this salad.

Ingredients: 1 cup soft wheat berries (soaked overnight), 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds, 1/4 cup currants, 1/4 cup golden raisins, 1 cup pomegranate seeds (1 pomegranate), 4 carrots (enough to make about 3 cups diced), 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 2 Tbs chopped mint.

Spice-oil Vinaigrette: In a small skillet, warm 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil with 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and 2 tsp lightly crushed cumin seed until small bubbles begin to rise around the garlic. Turn off the heat and let cool 30 seconds, then stir in 1/2 tsp ground coriander seed, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper, pinch cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Let the spice oil steep 1 hour. Whisk in 4 Tbs fresh lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt.

Cook the wheat berries: Put the soaked wheat berries in a saucepan with 4 cups water  , 1/2 tsp salt, 1 bay leaf, and 2 sprigs fresh thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer partially covered until the wheat is tender but chewy–anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour or more. Cut the carrots into small dice or matchsticks. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; blanch the carrots 1 minute. Drain and cool.

Mix the cooled wheat berries and carrots with all the other ingredients (save the toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle on top). Toss with the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Farro Salad with Roasted Cauliflower

Farro Salad

Farro is an ancient form of wheat widely used in Italy. Its large grains cook quickly to a tender-chewy texture. Emmer, spelt, or pearled barley could be used instead of farro.

Ingredients: 1 cup farro cooked with 1 carrot, 1 small onion, and 1 celery stalk; 1 head cauliflower, 1 pint quartered cherry tomatoes, 1/4-cup chopped green onion, 2 cups chopped mixed tender herbs (parsley, cilantro, arugula, mint),1 Tbs chopped fresh marjoram or oregano, 1 Tbs toasted whole cumin seed, 1/4 cup chopped green olives, and 1 Tbs capers

Vinaigrette: 1 garlic clove mashed to a paste with a pinch of coarse salt, 3 Tbs fresh lemon juice, 1 Tbs white wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp lemon zest, 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Cook the farro: Toast the farro on a dry skillet for a few minutes. Transfer to a saucepan and add 1/2 tsp salt, 1 carrot cut in half lengthwise, 1 small onion cut in half, 1 celery stalk, 1 bay leaf, and 2 1/4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 15 -20 minutes, until the farro is tender and pleasantly chewy. Drain any excess liquid and discard the vegetables and bay leaf. Put the farro on a large platter or mixing bowl to cool.

Making the salad: Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Cut the cauliflower into florets of equal size (about 3/4 to 1-inch), toss them with 3 Tbs olive oil and 1/2 tsp coarse salt, and spread them on a roasting pan. Cut the bell pepper in half and place it cut side down on another pan. Roast until the cauliflower is toasty brown and tender (25 to 30 minutes). Flip after 15 minutes. Mix the cauliflower, green onion, tomatoes, herbs, and cumin seed into the farro. Add the vinaigrette and toss to mix well. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Top with chopped olives and capers.

Good additions or substitutions: Chopped artichoke hearts, shelled peas or edamame (green soybeans), roasted zucchini and eggplant, toasted nuts or seeds, nasturtium flowers…

Wild Three-Grain Salad

Sometimes I like to substitute one grain for another in a salad or combine them for their different textures and flavors — a good opportunity to use up left over cooked grains. This salad combines three grains, kamut, quinoa, and wild rice, which have very different qualities that complement each other well. Kamut is an ancient strain of wheat with very large kernels and a nutty flavor. Quinoa is the seed of a plant related to lamb’s quarters, and true wild rice is the seed of a grass that grows in rivers and lakes and is harvested by hand (I feel very lucky when I get some delivered from Minnesota!) The grains should be cooked separately because of their different cooking times.

Ingredients: 1/2 cup kamut or triticale (soaked overnight), 1/2 cup wild rice, 1/2 cup quinoa, 1 finely chopped small red onion (rinsed in cold water), 1 finely chopped carrot, 1 diced red bell pepper, 1 diced green or yellow bell pepper, 3 or 4 chopped sundried tomatoes, 1/3 cup dried cranberries,  1/2 cup chopped green onion, 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, 2 Tbs chopped mint, 2 Tbs chopped basil.

Vinaigrette: Mash 1 garlic clove to a paste with a pinch of coarse salt. Whisk in 2 Tbs fresh lime juice, 3 Tbs fresh orange juice, 1/2 tsp orange zest, 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper.

Cook the grains: Put the kamut in a saucepan with 1 1/4 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat 35 to 45 minutes. Wash the wild rice, drain, and put in a saucepan with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat 15 minutes (true wild rice cooks very quickly!). Dry roast the quinoa briefly, stirring, in a saucepan. Add 1 cup water, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over very low heat 15 minutes.

Mix the cooled grains with the prepared vegetables and cranberries. Toss with the vinaigrette. Stir in the herbs. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Serve on a bed of baby arugula, spinach, or curly endive, and top with crumbled feta cheese.

Smoky the Dog

Smoky the dog supervising.

Spring Salads

Yum, Salad!

My friend Marlis lives in a homemade house tucked into the woods, with an opening to the sun just large enough to grow a garden. Her garden is terraced into the hillside below the house–intensively planted beds overflowing with herbs, flowers, and vegetables. I followed her through the garden, picking leaves, sampling peas, uncovering a thriving carrot patch and rows of ruby-red beets beneath the vines. Marlis gathered ingredients for her favorite spring salad, which she made for our lunch. We ate on her tiny porch at a table overlooking the garden, talking about what a great science experiment having a garden is…. how fun to watch plants grow, to be close among them observing their likes and dislikes, and what a gift it is to spend time in their company. If you get something to eat in the bargain, that’s great!

Marlis’s Spring Salad with Orange-Ginger Vinaigrette

Fill a salad bowl with leaves: lettuce leaves of different shapes and colors, small spinach or chard leaves, arugula, endive…snippets of herbs, tips of pea vines…Grate one small carrot, one gorgeous red beet, and a knob of fresh ginger over the top.

Make the vinaigrette: Use a mortar and pestle to mash 1 garlic clove and a pinch of kosher salt to a paste. Put the garlic paste in a bowl with 5 Tbs fresh orange juice and1 Tbs fresh lime juice; let it sit 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in 1 tsp chipotle chile in adobo, 1 tsp grated ginger, 1/2 tsp orange zest, 1 tsp white wine or cider vinegar, and 4 to 5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Pour the marinade over the salad. Toss gently. Sprinkle the top with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

This vinaigrette would be a perfect dressing for a variety of steamed vegetables: beets, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, snow peas, zucchini…Serve them on top of a bed of spicy salad greens, perhaps tossed with buckwheat or rice noodles.

Snap Pea and Carrot Salad with Scallions

Spring vegetables are sweet and tender enough to eat raw, but cooking them just a little allows them to meld with the flavors of a dressing all the better.

Prepare the vegetables: Cut 3 or 4 young carrots into thin matchsticks about 3 inches long. Trim and cut 1/2 lb snap peas in half diagonally. Blanch the carrots and snap peas 1 minute in salted boiling water. Scoop them out and rinse briefly with cold water to cool.  Drain in a colander or salad spinner.

Thinly slice the white and tender green portion of 4 or 5 scallions. Finely chop a fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper. Coarsely chop 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, 1/2 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup chives, and 1/4 cup mint leaves.

Make the vinaigrette: Use a mortar and pestle to mash 1 garlic clove and a pinch of kosher salt to a smooth paste. Stir the paste together with 2 Tbs fresh lemon or lime juice and 1 Tbs rice or white wine vinegar. Add 1/2 tsp lemon or lime zest, 1 tsp minced fresh ginger, a pinch cayenne (or 6-8 toasted and ground Szechuan peppercorns). Let the mixture sit 5 to 10 minutes, then whisk in 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil and 1 Tbs toasted sesame oil.

Combine the carrots, peas, scallions, and jalapeno in a salad bowl. Toss with half the dressing and set aside 15 minutes to let the vegetables absorb the flavors.

Just before serving, toss the vegetables with the fresh herbs and season with salt. Drizzle on the reserved vinaigrette, toss, and taste for seasoning. Add more salt, lime juice, or vinegar to taste.

Zucchini Salad with Red Onion and Arugula

Zucchini Blossom

Use the youngest, freshest zucchini you can find. Slice 4 or 5 small zucchini (about 3/4 to 1 pound) diagonally into very thin (1/16-inch thick) ovals. Sprinkle the squash with kosher salt and place in a colander. Slice a small red onion into very thin rounds. Separate the rings and soak them in cold water.

Prepare the herbs: Chop or tear young arugula leaves to make about 3 cups. Roughly chop a handful of sorrel leaves, 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, 1/4 cup chives, and 1/4 cup mint leaves. Mix the herbs together with 1 Tbs capers (rinsed and chopped if large).

Make vinaigrette: Mash a garlic clove with a pinch of kosher salt to make a smooth paste. Put the paste into a bowl with 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 1/2 tsp lemon zest. Let it sit 5 to 10 minutes, then whisk in 5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 tsp curry powder.

Assemble the salad: Taste the zucchini; it should taste seasoned, but not too salty. Drain the onions and pat dry with a towel. Toss the vegetables with 1/2 the vinaigrette. Toss them again with the herbs and the remaining dressing. Taste the salad and adjust the seasoning; add salt, pepper, lemon juice, or curry powder if needed. Serve the salad on a large platter, topped with chickpeas and a sprinkling of cayenne or Aleppo pepper.

Slices of avocado would be most welcome.

More Yummy Salad!

Winter Salads

Winter Salad In Wooden Bowl

Green is my favorite color, especially when it comes to eating. I love eating leaves of all kinds and mixing surprises into a salad. This is a recipe I gave to a friend, the artist Martha Kelly, to use while she was here taking care of my garden in the fall: Walk through the garden with a basket and pick leaves that look good to you. Mix them together in a bowl and toss with some extra virgin olive oil to coat all the leaves. Sprinkle on a little kosher salt and a few splashes of delicious vinegar. Toss again, and go eat it. It works beautifully.

I like to eat fresh salads every day, so I try to keep a supply of greens alive in my garden through the winter with the help of row covers and little tents. I have lots of different types of chicory (thanks to the seed pack of mixed chicory I planted and allowed to self-seed all over the garden). The young leaves of most chicory varieties are tender enough to include in salads, but my favorite for eating raw is called “Sugar Hat”. This variety makes a large Romaine-type head that is self-blanching and only mildly bitter. I also have endive and escarole most of the winter, as well as several kinds of mild-flavored Asian greens in the mustard family. Chinese cabbage and bok choi are very hearty and sometimes make it through the winter, and I can always count on “Tango” lettuce and arugula…and spinach, if I am lucky. Parsley, chervil, sorrel, mint, cutting celery, chickweed, beet greens, and other bits of green make their way into winter salads, too.

For me, salad has to be green. When the garden lettuce is tender and sweet, I like to make salad of leaves alone. But hearty winter greens tend to be more intensely flavored, and ask to be combined with some milder, sweeter ingredients to make the salad a happy experience. Here are a few ideas:

Endive, Avocado, and Grapefruit 

Salad In Round BowlMake vinaigrette: With a mortar and pestle, make a paste of 1 garlic clove and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Add 1 1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, 1 or 2 tsp. white wine vinegar, 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves, the zest from the lemon, and a little freshly ground black pepper. Whisk in 5 to 6 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Make the salad: Chop enough frisee or tender inner leaves of escarole or endive to fill a salad bowl (4 to 5 cups). Toss with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens. Taste and add salt if needed. Arrange slices of avocado and grapefruit segments (remove membranes) on top of the greens. Drizzle on more of the dressing and garnish with thinly sliced shallot or red onion and chopped fresh mint or cilantro leaves.

Beet Salad with Red Onion and Arugula 

Make the walnut vinaigrette: Make a paste with 1 garlic clove and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Add 1 Tbs. sherry or cider vinegar, 1 to 2 tsp balsamic vinegar, and freshly ground black pepper. Whisk in1Tbs. walnut oil and 4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Prep the onion: Slice a red onion very thinly and soak in cold water 1/2 hour. Drain.

Prepare the beets: Wash and trim 1 lb. beets, leaving the root tail and an inch of stem. Boil whole in salted water or roast them (put them in a baking pan with 1/4 inch water, cover, and bake in a pre-heated 400 degree F oven) until tender–25 to 45 minutes, depending on size. Do not overcook. When cool, peel and slice them into wedges. Sprinkle the beets with a little fresh lemon juice or vinegar and a little salt. Toss with 2 Tbs. of the vinaigrette.

Toast and chop about 1/4 cup walnuts.

Assemble the salad: Toss about 4 cups of young arugula leaves (or substitute a spicy mesclun) with enough of the vinaigrette to lightly coat the leaves. On a wide, shallow platter, make a bed of the greens, top them with the beets and onion slices, and drizzle on more of the dressing. Sprinkle with a couple Tbs. chopped fresh parsley or chervil, the toasted walnuts, and crumbled goat or feta cheese.

Mixed Greens with Roasted Winter Squash and Gorgonzola 

Red Head Of LettuceThis was a happy accident. I made a salad of mixed lettuce and chicory greens (radicchio and baby spinach would be lovely additions), topped with crumbled Gorgonzola. I had some chunks of roasted winter squash left from the night before, so I tossed them in with the salad. A great flavor combination! The sweetness of the winter squash was perfect with the bitter greens and sharp cheese.

Roasting winter squash: Peel and cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds, and cut the halves into 3/4-inch slices. Cut these into cubes. Toss the squash with a  couple Tbs. olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Spread the cubes out on a baking sheet and roast 25 to 30 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees F. Check after 15-20 minutes and stir gently so that the cubes brown evenly. They will be crusty brown on the outside and tender inside when done. I grow a Kabocha type winter squash called “Sunshine” that is dry-fleshed and flavorful. It roasts better than butternut for this use.

Escarole with Fennel and Black Olives 

We had thinly sliced raw fennel on top of mixed greens for many of our salads in Italy. Sweet, crunchy fennel goes very well with the slight bitterness of escarole and other members of the chicory family. Oil-cured black olives, Kalamata, or Nicoise…take your pick.

Make vinaigrette: Make a paste with 1 garlic clove and 1/4 tsp salt. Add 1/4 tsp. crushed fennel seed and 1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard. Stir in 1 1/2 Tbs.sherry or cider vinegar and 1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar. Grind in some black pepper and whisk in 5 to 6 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil.

Prep the fennel: Trim the fennel bulb and slice it as thinly as possible to make about 1 cup.

Prep the escarole: Trim off the outer leaves and dark green tips. Use only the light green part and white ribs. Chop into bite-size pieces to make about 4-5 cups.

Mix the escarole with 2 cups baby spinach or other mixed greens. Toss with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens. Add the fennel and drizzle with a little more dressing. Top with about 1/3 cup coarsely chopped olives.

Asian Slaw with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette

Green LettuceI grow lots of mild-flavored Asian greens (various permutations of Brassica rapa), as well as Napa cabbage and a tender, open-headed cabbage called” Fun Jen”. I mix all their varying degrees of crunch and spice and shades of green into this salad.

Make the vinaigrette: In a small pan, heat 4 Tbs peanut, canola, or grapeseed oil and 2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil with 1tsp. red chile flakes, 2 Tbs. chopped fresh ginger, and 1 Tbs. chopped garlic until small bubbles rise around the spices. Cook 1 minute over very low heat, remove from the heat and infuse 1 hour. Strain the oil and whisk together with 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice, 2 Tbs. rice vinegar, 1 tsp. sugar, and 1/4 cup soy sauce. Taste and adjust the flavors–more vinegar? More salt? More sugar? More chile?

Spotted LettuceMake the salad: Mix together a total of 6 to 8 cups finely sliced Chinese cabbage, mesclun, finely chopped mustard greens, arugula, or other spicy greens. Toss he greens with enough of the vinaigrette to coat the leaves well. Add extra ingredients like shredded carrot, chopped cilantro, bean sprouts, sliced scallions, and chopped mint. Avocado?

This salad mixes very well with soba or rice noodles, or as a bed for tofu or fish. Drizzle on more dressing as desired and top with chopped roasted peanuts.