Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Salads, Hold the Lettuce

When we were in Paris for our honeymoon, we noticed a trend when it came to salads. The lettuce was nowhere to be found. You might find a little hiding at the bottom of the plate (because really, a plate is a far superior vessel than a bowl when it comes to salad), but the French are much more into the other ingredients that make up a "salad" - the meats, the cheeses, the vegetables, the beans, the dressings. While I've been doing my best to consume my greens this summer, I've also wholly embraced this French tradition of Salad: Hold the Lettuce.

I mentioned my potato salad obsession, and here is my favorite rendition. It's Ina's recipe, adapted slightly to whatever I happen to have on hand in my kitchen at the moment. This is an easy thing to whip up quickly and have as a side dish when you're grilling. When I'm making it for just the two of us, I usually cut it in half. It makes great leftovers, too! I made it for a party we had last month, and people were crazy about it.

Ina's Old Fashioned Potato Salad

3 pounds small white potatoes
Kosher salt
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk (don't go out and buy buttermilk just for this - use half and half, or whole milk, or sour cream, or even some white wine)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red onion


Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in quarters or in half, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.


I tend to go easy on the salt in Ina's recipes - I usually cut it in half and then add more if I need to. It's one fault I find with her - she uses way too much salt sometimes!


I continued my summer theme of Salads: Hold the Lettuce at my friend Allison's baby shower that I co-hosted with my friend Stasi. I was in charge of the food, and thankfully my mother (who came to help me) talked me out of my original idea, which was quiches. Getting 3 or 4 quiches baked and hot and ready all at once would have been a nightmare. So, I decided to do salads instead!
Ina's Chinese Chicken Salad, Classic Egg Salad from ATK, "Fancy Coleslaw" (Mom's recipe and handiwork), and pretzel buns from our local butcher shop.

It was a sweltering 94 degrees the day of the shower, so it turned out to be the perfect menu for such a hot summer day. I also made this Watermelon Lemonade from Smitten Kitchen, which is the perfect refreshing beverage for a 7 month preggos lady.

The chicken salad recipe is linked above. A few notes from me: it makes a LOT of dressing, so I found it's best to put about 3/4 of the dressing on the salad and leave 1/4 on the side and allow people to add dressing to their tastes. I'm also a huge fan of her method of roasting bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and then removing the meat and shredding it - it makes for moist, lovely chicken in your salad.

Classic Egg Salad
1 rib celery, chopped fine
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 TBSP minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (I substitute dill, because I love dill, but if you don't, parsley is fine)
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
12 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped coarse*

*Fool-proof method for hard boiling eggs: Put eggs in pot; cover with water. Bring water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare ice bath. When 10 minutes is up, submerge eggs in ice bath for 5 minutes. Peel.

**I was once eating a hard-boiled egg at work and a co-worker said "Oh that's a great snack idea", and I said "Definitely, I usually boil a half dozen at the beginning of the week to have on hand for snacks", and she said "Oh, I wish I had time to do that, but you know you can buy them pre-boiled in the supermarket", and I said "...it takes 15 minutes...". And then I shut up before I made an enemy. But I have thought about this conversation non-stop since and how it just about sums up everything that's wrong with our country...but I digress...

Mix the celery, mayonnaise, onion, parsley, mustard, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper together in a large bowl. Gently fold in the eggs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Will last for about 4 or 5 days in the fridge.

Fancy Coleslaw
(This borderlines Semi-Homemadeness, but it's seriously so good that I don't care. Flavor packets, quel horreur! My mom is slowly but surely turning me into Sandra Lee...I kid, I kid! But she did suggest I get a powdered lemonade mix for the party, to which I replied...start juicing lemons crazy lady.)

1 lb pkg coleslaw cabbage
1 bunch green onion chopped
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. sunflower seeds
2 pkg ramen beef noodles - not cooked
(save powdered packets for sauce)
3/4 c. veg. oil
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
garlic to taste
2 season packets from noodles

break up noodles into very small pieces
add almonds and seeds.
1/2 hr before serving add coleslaw to the above and
dressing. mix thoroughly.

When you can't bear to turn on your oven, turn to one of these recipes for a refreshing summer lunch or dinner!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer = Good Eats, No Fuss (ok a little fuss)

Sheesh, seriously, it's been a month and a half since I last posted a recipe? Eeegads. My paltry excuse is thus: I've been eating scads of fresh local produce, most of which need little to no cooking to make taste good. Try this tonight: Go to the market or farm stand and get some fresh ears of corn. Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap; microwave for 3 minutes. If you're me, slather in butter and lightly salt. If you're my husband, skip the butter (wah?) and salt heavily. Eat. Floss. Fin.

I have actually made some delicious things lately and have even had the balls to turn on my oven. God bless central air. Topping the list has been the Tomato Corn Pie from Smitten Kitchen. People, I cannot even begin to explain how good it is. It's everything wonderful about summer wrapped up in a light biscuity crust, with some rich cheese and little lemony mayo to round it out. Make this tonight.

Took this pic with my new iPhone. Pic does not do it justice. Head over to Smitten Kitchen and drool over her pics.

I've been receiving my CSA box for about 4 weeks now and have gotten some really lovely salad greens, cucumbers, and radishes. One way I've discovered to get me to eat more salad greens is to have a homemade dressing on hand at all times. Make a dressing at the beginning of the week to keep in a plastic jar in the fridge. Shake, pour on salad greens, and voila, it's something to cancel out all the butter I normally consume a healthy lunch. Here's my favorite one via America's Test Kitchen (with a few notes from me):

Basic Vinagrette (makes about 1 cup)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 TBSP red or white wine vinegar (I prefer red)
2 tsp minced shallot (I use a little more than this, about 1 shallot)
2 tsps Dijon mustard
1 and 1/2 tsps minced fresh tarragon, dill, basil, or oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Shake all ingredients together in a jar with a tight fitting lid. It can be refrigerated for up to 7 days; bring to room temp then shake vigorously to recombine before using.

CSA week one loot: salad greens, snap peas, shelling peas, radishes, squash

Glorious radishes!

And lastly, here is a lovely meal we had a couple of weeks ago using basil and green beans from the CSA: Pesto potato salad with green beans. (smittenkitchenwhoelseimobsessed) and this amazing chicken from another blog that is quickly becoming a favorite, The Wednesday Chef.
Lately, I just can't get enough potato salad. This was a great way to quickly use up basil before it turned on me. The green beans were sweet and crunchy and amazing, and I kind of wished I'd just left them alone, but they were also terrific in this salad. The chicken is wonderful - recipe is linked above. I did use a whole cut up chicken rather than just legs as it states in the recipe, as my husband is not really into dark meat.

This meal is an easy weeknight creation and will provide substantial leftovers if you are a twosome, as we are. I was, however, on a bit of a rampage at the local grocery where the pine nuts were an outrageous $7.99 for 4 ounces and they were out of Panko for the chicken. (I ground up 2 slices of Pepperidge Farm Country White in my food processor and used that instead, good results, but will probably go with the panko next time). Amazingly, just two rows down on the shelf, I found the exact same pine nuts for $6.99 - only this was the ORGANIC version of the same brand - for $1 cheaper - ?????? I guess I'll just chalk it up to another of the many things that baffle me about our food system. Lesson learned: don't grab things at eye level, look above and below because you just might find the same (or better) thing for cheaper! (Note: I was still appalled at the cost of the pine nuts - Mark, could you pop over to Harvestime and remind me how much they are going for there? Methinks it is way less).

Hope I've given you some ideas for dinner this week! Stay tuned for a post on Summer Salads: Hold the Lettuce. Happy Summer!