Category Archives: Salads

Jacob’s Kitchen: Pumpkin Patch Picnic (Project Food Blog – Challenge 6)

This post is my sixth entry for Project Food Blog,’s quest to find the next food blog star. (Click here to see my contestant profile.) In this round we were challenged to create a portable meal on the go. Voting begins Monday, October 25, 2010. Follow me on twitter, facebook, or through my RSS feed to keep up to date with my progress in the competition. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me in the first five rounds, I appreciate all of your support more than I can ever express!

Every year a good friend and I make our annual pilgrimage to our favorite pumpkin patch. The farm itself is about a thirty minute drive, and over the years it’s become something of an agrarian amusement park. Her children  join in on the fun, and we end the day by each carefully selecting our own pumpkins from the field for carving. For me, the pumpkin patch is one of those rare experiences in life that really live up to the charm of the perfect Norman Rockwell paintings. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year, and there is something about that familiar chill in the air, all of those bails of hay, and the mounds of colorful leaves, winter squash and decorative gourds, that fill me with joy. Moreover, this time of year begins the long holiday season where we all, as a community, seem to collectively retain some sense of sentimentality; and people just seem kinder to one another. And on these days, traipsing through the corn mazes and produce stands, feeding the farm animals, and spending time together in the country I somehow feel most like myself.

The children always have their requisite hot dogs and apple cider from the farm stand, but this year I thought I would surprise my friend with something a little bit more special. So I decided to pack up a little picnic to share while the children played in their autumn wonderland. Nothing terribly fancy mind you, just simple, casual, delicious food among friends.

When planning the menu I wanted something light, something best eaten cold or at room temperature, and something that would ultimately travel well. I  decided I would stick to the fall theme and make individual pumpkin and blue cheese crostatas, an autumn inspired green salad, and finish it off with a little bit of seasonal whimsy with my favorite white chocolate dipped caramel apples. To go with our meal, I chose to make a sparkling pomegranate pear punch, and for something extra cozy with dessert I thought my coconut chai would pair beautifully with the apples.  All of the wonderful flavors of fall wrapped up together in one little picnic.

Packing – A few ice packs along the bottom of the cooler is all that I need to keep our food nice and fresh for the ride. I like packing the food in cylindrical deli containers which I purchase at my favorite restaurant supply store. They are inexpensive, sturdy, reusable, and I really appreciate the fact that all of the sizes use the same lid. Hand sanitizer and plenty of moist towelettes are a must for picnics. Not only are they great for keeping your hands clean, but they are also nice to use to wipe down your dishes before repacking them. I always like to use real plates, mugs, and reusable bottles whenever possible. It really isn’t that much trouble and it always feels a little bit more special; besides, it’s just the green thing to do.

Sparkling Pomegranate Pear Punch – This punch is refreshingly tart and sweet; the lemon and pomegranate add a delicious pucker, and the subtle hint of cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger really make the pear flavor come alive. In a blender, combine five ripe pears (peeled and cored), two cups of water, a third of a cup of vanilla sugar (or to taste), the juice of one lemon, a pinch of salt, and the tiniest dash of ground cinnamon. Blend until the mixture is very smooth, then pass it through a fine mesh strainer to remove the fruit pulp. Add one cup of pomegranate juice, and two cups of your favorite ginger ale.

Autumn Salad – This salad is the perfect mix of flavors and textures. The rich creamy goat cheese, sweet juicy pears, smoky bacon, crunchy pumpkin seeds, and the tart chewy cranberries all come together perfectly. The spiced apple flavored dressing rounds everything out, driving home the fabulous flavors of fall. To make the salad, toss baby greens with sliced pears (which have been tossed in freshly squeezed lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown), crumbled goat cheese, lardons of crispy bacon, dried cranberries, and toasted pumpkin seeds. To make the dressing, reduce one cup of spiced apple cider over medium heat until only one fourth of a cup remains. Add one finely minced shallot, three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a third of a cup of extra virgin olive oil, and a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper. (To take the salad on the road pack the lettuce in one large storage container, submerge the sliced pears into the dressing and place into another smaller storage container, pack the crumbled goat cheese into a separate re-sealable storage bag, and combine the remaining salad topping into one small container.)

Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Crostatas –  Pumpkin and blue cheese are a match made in heaven, and together they make an elegant filling for these crostatas. The buttery crust, sweet earthy pumpkin, subtle sweetness from the maple syrup, and delicious piquant creaminess of the blue cheese all harmonize together beautifully. The toasted pine nuts add a great texture and nutty flavor, and the sage leaves are the perfect savory compliment that bring it all together.

To make the pastry dough, combine one and a half cups of all purpose flour, one teaspoon of salt, and three tablespoons of sugar. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse this mixture along with twelve tablespoons of cold diced butter and one half of a cup of cold vegetable shortening until the flour is evenly coated with the fat (about twenty seconds).  Add another cup of flour and pulse to combine. Empty this mixture into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the dough with one fourth of a cup of very cold vodka, one fourth of a cup of ice cold water, and gently fold to combine.  Flatten the dough (which should still be pretty tacky) into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour (or up to a week in advance).

Meanwhile, in a large skillet set over medium heat, sauté three cups of peeled diced fresh pumpkin in two tablespoons each of butter and extra virgin olive oil until it is soft and beginning to brown around the edges. Add two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh sage leaves, three tablespoons of pure maple syrup, a third of a cup of toasted pine nuts, one large garlic clove (grated on a microplane zester), three fourths of a teaspoon of salt, a fourth of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a fourth of a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg, and a half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Continue sautéing for two to three minutes, then remove from the heat and allow the pumpkin mixture to come to room temperature.

Roll out the pastry dough on a floured board to one fourth of an inch of thickness and cut out four rough seven to eight inch rounds. In the center of each round add one fourth of the cooled pumpkin mixture and top each with two tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese. Bring the dough up around the sides of the pumpkin filling, forming a rustic pie. Brush the dough with a beaten egg and bake at 400° for twenty to twenty five minutes, or until golden brown. Garnish with fried sage leaves. (To take these crostatas on the road carefully stack them on a small plate, separating each with a piece of parchment paper, and wrap the stack tightly with plastic wrap. In a separate sandwich sized storage bag, separately pack the fried sage leaves for garnishing.)

Jacob’s Favorite Caramel Apples – These decadent apples are really just our childhood favorite dressed up for company. The tart apple, rich caramel, creamy white chocolate, and sweet cinnamon sugar all meld together in your mouth to create a flavor that really is very reminiscent of apple pie. Perfect for this time of year, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be happy to be surprised with one of these beauties.

To make them, begin by thoroughly washing and chilling your apples (if you suspect that your apples have been waxed, scrub them with baking soda as the wax can prevent the caramel from properly adhering). Insert a stick into the core of each apple (you can typically find these at bakery and craft supply stores).While I will often go to the trouble of making my own caramel for dipping, since I was in a bit of a hurry, I decided to take a fool proof short cut and use melted caramel candies instead. I start by melting one and a half pounds of soft caramel candies over a double boiler along with two tablespoons of whole milk, one tablespoon of pure vanilla extract, and a half a teaspoon of salt. Dip each of your apples to coat, and allow the excess caramel to drip off. Hold the coated apples upside down for forty five seconds or so to allow the caramel a chance to set up slightly before placing them on a baking sheet lined with lightly buttered parchment paper.

Once all of your apples have been dipped, place the baking sheet into the refrigerator for thirty minutes, or until thoroughly chilled (if your caramel covered apples are not cold enough, the melted white chocolate will not adhere to the caramel). Next, melt one and a half pounds of white chocolate chips over a double boiler with one tablespoon of canola oil, and allow it to cool slightly. Dip each of your caramel apples three fourths of the way into the melted chocolate, allowing the excess to drip off (holding each apple upside down just as in the caramel dipping step). Before returning the now chocolate covered apples to the baking sheet, carefully sprinkle each with a generous amount of cinnamon sugar (two cups of sugar mixed with one and a half tablespoons of ground cinnamon).  Once the apples have dried and hardened, transfer each to a small cellophane bag and tie with raffia. (While these apples are perfectly fine on their own, to aid in the ease of picnic eating I think it’s nice to pack an apple slicer.)

Coconut Chai – This chai is rich and flavorful. It has just the right amount of spice, and the honey and coconut milk take it far beyond just your ordinary cup of tea. To make it, in a sauce pan, combine six whole cloves, six allspice berries, six green cardamom pods, one half of a nutmeg nut, four star anise, and three cinnamon sticks. (Here I had the luxury of instead using one four inch length of real cinnamon which a fabulous friend sent to me from her recent trip to the spice markets of Dubai. In the United States you can often find it labeled “ceylon.”) Over a medium low flame, slowly toast the spices for two minutes or until fragrant.  Add six cups of water, one fifteen ounce can of coconut milk (whole or light), one vanilla bean split down the center, and two half inch slices of peeled fresh ginger. Bring this mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for seven to ten minutes. Add five and a half tablespoons of loose leaf black tea, and continue simmering for another five minutes. Add one fourth of a cup of honey (or to taste), and strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Ladle it into a thermos to keep it piping hot and ready to serve whenever you are.

These days it seems like most of the food that we eat is on the go.  But just because we are on the move doesn’t mean that we can’t still enjoy the food that we love to eat with the people that we care about most. This pumpkin patch picnic is a perfect example of how investing a little bit of extra time can turn any ordinary meal into something really special. In this economy, where money is tight for all of us, a little thoughtfulness can really go a long way. Luckily, preparing someone’s favorite meal, surprising a friend with a beautifully wrapped jar of homemade jam, or baking something extra special is often even more appreciated than the most extravagant gifts.  This season brings out the best in all of us, and it makes me want  to spend as much quality time as possible with the people that I care about. Food sets the stage for our time together. And with a picnic like this, what a beautifully charming production it is.

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Filed under Beverages, Desserts, Project Food Blog, Salads, Side Dishes

Jacob’s Kitchen: Entertaining with Ease (Project Food Blog – Challenge 3)

This post is my third entry for Project Food Blog,’s quest to find the next food blog star. Click here to see my contestant profile. Voting begins Monday, October 4, 2010. Follow me on twitter, facebook, or through my RSS feed to keep up to date with my progress in the competition. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me in the first and second rounds, I appreciate all of your support!

Round three of Project Food Blog challenges us to host a luxury dinner party. And, while some people may think of entertaining as burdensome or stressful, it is one of my absolute favorite things to do. Entertaining is my passion. It’s in my blood. There is something so special, so personal about inviting people into your home to share a meal. Dinner parties can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose. Your friends won’t have a better time if you spend a week, and half of your pay check on extremely complicated cuisine. The truth of the matter is your guests are there to spend time with you; the food is just the excuse to get together, not the focus. A big bowl of spaghetti and meat balls, a perfectly cooked meatloaf, or your grandmother’s famous enchiladas served with a cake or tart purchased from your favorite bakery can be even more enjoyable than lobster and filet mignon. For me, it is a luxury whenever I invite my friends into my home. And I want to spend our time together enjoying their company, not slaving in the kitchen.

In my early adulthood I hosted dinner parties where I made every single thing from scratch, and worked tirelessly to ensure every last detail was beyond perfection. But when the time came to actually sit down with my friends and enjoy the spoils of my hard work, I found myself exhausted and just waiting for the evening to be over with. And while the food was delicious, I can’t imagine that I was much fun to be around. Now I take a more lighthearted approach to entertaining, allowing myself to be a guest at my own party.

No matter what they say, your guests want to believe that you threw all of this together in the twenty minutes before they arrived. And luckily, because of the make-ahead strategies I now use, that isn’t far from the truth. As a caterer I have cooked for groups of various sizes, and I can tell you that entertaining doesn’t have to be scary. Whether it’s this luxury dinner party for six, or you’re cooking for six hundred, the exact same rules apply. This is dinner parties 101: my entertaining manifesto.

Step 1 – Get Organized:

Have an action plan. Break down what you need to do day by day on the days leading up to the event, and hour by hour on the day of. Mark down when you will set the table, which dishes will be used for serving, when you will shop for your ingredients, when you will prepare different components of the meal, which recipes you will be assembling on the day of the party, all the way down to the exact times that your food needs to come into and out of the oven for final service. A little bit of advanced thought and planning will make your parties infinitely less stressful.

Step 2 – Set the Stage:

Candles– Candles always make any meal feel special, and the more the better. I prefer small votive candles in glass holders over their taller, tapered cousins. And while scented candles around your home can serve to set the mood for the party, one should never use scented candles on the table itself. All they do is steal the spot light from the aroma and flavors of your carefully prepared food, and no one likes to be upstaged.

Flowers/Centerpieces– Flowers are certainly not essential for any table. A bowl of fruit, vases filled with fresh herbs from your garden, some artfully arranged autumn leaves and decorative gourds can all be equally dramatic. Let your imagination run wild. There are probably items around your house right now that, when repurposed on your table, can create a visually interesting centerpiece. With that said, however, flowers are classic, easy, and always beautiful. I personally enjoy arranging my own flowers, first buying larger bouquets like these pink roses for this evening at my local warehouse store (for a fraction of the price!), and then separately purchasing a few filler flowers from the florist to pull everything together. If you, on the other hand, find yourself unsure about which flowers to purchase or how to arrange them, keep in mind a couple of steadfast rules. When in doubt, buy one flower in quantity and it will always look great. You can never go wrong with roses, peonies, hydrangea, or tulips: they are simple, beautiful, and elegant. Keep your arrangements small (which is to say short). I prefer to keep them under ten inches, allowing your guests to look into each other’s faces rather than catching a passing glimpse of one another through a dense, albeit beautiful, floral jungle. I like using small vases grouped together on the table. They are easier to arrange, cheaper to fill, and you can always play around with spacing to create a variety of looks.

Table Setting– I like to mix and match traditional items with newer modern pieces, and set the table in whichever way I feel looks best, and not how any text book tells me that I should. This can change dramatically from day to day, and therein lies the fun of it. Here I mixed together my everyday white dishes and flatware, silver chargers, and silver rimmed crystal wine glasses that I inherited from my grandmother. Simple white napkins with festive napkin rings, and a neutral, corresponding table cloth all come together beautifully, none overpowering the other. In setting the table what you are really doing is setting the stage for quality time with your friends and family. Do it carefully. People really appreciate every little detail. I choose to be more elaborate with my table setting because I enjoy doing so. If you do not, don’t fret. Simple, everyday dishes, silverware, and a few wine glasses are all  that you really need for a fabulous presentation. In your house you get to make the rules, so if having to wash and iron cloth napkins will prevent you from ever having friends over, by all means use paper. Some of the most enjoyable parties that I have ever been to have also been the most casual.

Music- For dinner parties, what I want is background music, and for this I find music without lyrics to be the most appropriate. A quick search online will yield a variety of instrumental versions of most of your favorite music. In this way, the songs are familiar, but not distracting. The music should serve to enhance the mood, not be the evening’s entertainment.

Step 3 – The Food:

When planning a dinner party, select food that you know how to make well. Never test out a new recipe on the day of an important event, or you might find yourself ordering pizza while the fire department airs out your house. Make things in advance whenever possible. And choose menu items that can be made at least one day prior and only assembled on the day of the party. This will keep you from going crazy, and allow you the time to really enjoy your friends and family.

Here, for example, I selected pomegranate cosmopolitans that can be mixed the night before, and a delicious appetizer that requires no cooking whatsoever (halved fresh figs, salty prosciutto, and shards of Parmesan cheese). I follow that with my signature salad (baby greens tossed with sliced fuji apples, dried cranberries, glazed walnuts, crumbled blue cheese, and a tangy balsamic blue cheese dressing) which can be assembled the night before and dressed right before serving. For the entrée I selected my pumpkin ricotta ravioli with sage brown butter (made with my homemade ricotta cheese) which can be made and frozen up to six months in advance, and boiled for two minutes right before serving along side my simply sautéed spinach. And what could be more decadent or more luxurious than an individual chocolate soufflé? With my make ahead version, you can assemble them two days in advance, freeze them, and toss them into the oven as you are sitting down to dinner for an inexpensive, yet show stopping end to any meal. (In the interest of space saving I have not included the recipes, but you can click on the links to see my full description of each.)

Two of my guests are vegetarian, and instead of driving myself mad making two separate entrées, I simply designed a menu that we all can enjoy, which makes life a lot easier for me. I have also selected two wines from my favorite local winery to pair with the meal, one red and one white, both of which pair nicely with the entire meal from start to finish (the pinot noir being especially great with chocolate). If you are unsure about wine pairings, simply select wines that you and your guests enjoy drinking, and you can never go wrong.

Part of the luxury of dinner parties is your ability to linger over the food, and really take your time from course to course. After the salad is served and enjoyed, I excuse myself for a couple of minutes (my dining room is attached to my kitchen, so I needn’t actually “leave” the fun of the party), drop the ravioli into the already boiling salted water (which I remembered to put on before my guests arrived, leaving it over medium low heat), and set the dishes out for plating. I take this opportunity to refill wine and water glasses, to collect the salad plates and forks, and to segue into my hilarious story (pantomime included) of how I once accidentally set myself on fire. The ravioli take very little time, and when they are done, I slide them into the warmed, pre-made sage brown butter sauce, plate them, place the soufflés into the preheated oven, and I’m back at the table with my guests in no time.

Dinner parties shouldn’t have to be cost prohibitive, stressful, or intimidating. A few simple preparations and some careful planning is all that you really need to be an entertaining superstar. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or exceptionally fancy, it’s the little touches that can make every meal feel like a vacation. This challenge was just another excuse for me to invite the people that I care about most for a delicious homemade meal, and to spend a leisurely evening enjoying each other’s company. Luxury doesn’t have to mean trying to impress people. It means thoughtfully preparing your food, and investing your time and energy into really pampering your friends and family. If they were impressed I hope it was not by the difficulty of the menu, or the cost of the ingredients, but by the fact that it all seemed to come together so effortlessly. More than anything, my goal is always for each of my guests to leave my parties thinking, “Wasn’t that fun!” I know I always do.

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Filed under Beverages, Desserts, Pasta, Project Food Blog, Salads, Snacks

Jacob’s Signature Salad (and $45 CSN Giveaway)

The generous people at the CSN stores have given me a great opportunity to give back to all of you, by offering a $45 gift card giveaway!!! Yay!!! If you are not familiar with the CSN online stores they have everything you could ever possibly need and more, like these beautiful dutch ovens. I have purchased many a kitchen gadget from them, and have lots of other wish list items to go. They are fabulous! You can peruse their entire selection from all of their stores here, and I encourage you to do so.

To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite fall inspired recipe (a brief description will suffice).

For additional entries you can:

1. Follow Jacob’s Kitchen on facebook and/or twitter.

2. Subscribe to Jacob’s Kitchen via email/rss (you will find a link on the upper right hand side bar)

3.Retweet: “Check it out: $45 CSN gift card giveaway from @Jacobs_Kitchen

4. And, last but not least (in a transparent and shameless act of bribery) you can vote for Jacob’s Kitchen in Project Food Blog challenge 2 by clicking here.

Please leave one additional comment for each additional entry, telling me which you have done. Unfortunately, only US and Canadian readers are eligible to win. (For the rest of you, check back soon for more giveaways!) Comments can be received up until 11:59pm on Tuesday, October 5, 2010. One winner will be randomly selected and announced on Wednesday, October 6, 2010.

In the meantime, I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you one of my most requested recipes, which I call Jacob’s Signature Salad.

In order to give credit where credit is due, this salad was actually first invented by the culinary genius Kristi Chauvin Baker, a deeply fabulous friend from college. I have, of course, put my own little spin on it over the years, replacing the toasted walnuts in her recipe with glazed walnuts, and by re-imagining the dressing.

The salad itself is very simple, but packed with the great flavor. Baby greens are topped with sliced fuji apples, dried cranberries, glazed walnuts, and crumbled blue cheese, and then drizzled with a tangy balsamic blue cheese dressing. People really go crazy for this salad, and it’s not difficult to understand why. The combination of flavors and textures make it feel really special.

To make the dressing… in a blender I combine one cup of crumbled blue cheese, three tablespoons balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon mustard (preferably Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Honey Spice, though dijon works equally well), one tablespoon of granulated sugar, one third of a cup of extra virgin olive oil, one third of a cup of apple cider, and some freshly ground black pepper. I then blend until smooth. (Be casual about making the dressing. If it is too thick, add a little more cider; if it is too thin, add a little more cheese. Taste it, and adjust to your own palate. In your kitchen you get to make the rules.)

As a first course, side dish or light lunch this salad is always a big hit. It is elegant in its simplicity, and since everything can be prepared in advance  and dressed right before serving, it is perfect for entertaining. (Simply toss the sliced apples in freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.) Enjoy!


Filed under Other, Salads, Side Dishes

Watermelon Salad

As the summer winds to a close, I long to capture the freshness of the last of the summer produce that remains. This week in our CSA shipment we got the cutest, little watermelons ever in the history of the world, each about the size of a large magic 8 ball (remember those?). They were almost too adorable to cut open, but I thought what a  charming idea it would be to hollow them out and use them as bowls. Natural bowls really speak to me for some reason, be they vegetable, fruit, or bread. A hollowed out lemon filled with sorbet, a stuffed bell pepper, a red cabbage “bowl” mounded with vegetable dip, I’m not sure exactly what it is about them that is so alluring to me. I think at the heart of all of my cooking is a desire to have an end product that reads as simultaneously effortless, rustic, earthy, and chic. And, for whatever reason, natural bowls accomplish that beautifully. I started by carefully slicing one end off of each melon to create a flat, standing surface. I then cut the other end, and, using a spoon, scooped out the fragrant, ruby flesh. In a large mixing bowl I combined the watermelon (which I cubed), with half a red onion (sliced), one small English cucumber (seeded and sliced into half moons), a handful of halved kalamata olives, a generous handful of crumbled feta cheese (preferably French or Greek), and a shower of a fresh basil chiffonade (stack your basil leaves, roll them up like a cigar, and slice as thinly as possible).  In another bowl, I whisked together the zest of one lime, the juice of two limes, about a fourth of a cup of extra virgin olive oil, a couple of teaspoons of honey, four or five dashes of Tabasco (thanks to Brian at A Thought For Food for the spicy suggestion!), a dash of salt, and freshly ground black pepper. I poured the dressing over the salad, and gave it a gentle toss (as not to break up the feta any more than necessary). This salad is so fresh tasting. The sun sweet melon, salty olives, tangy cheese, the slight heat from the onions and Tabasco, the brightness of the lime juice, the ever-so-slight sweetness from the honey, and the minty, fresh basil all harmonize together perfectly.  It’s crisp, crunchy, and flavorful. And the melon bowl, well, it kills me. Enjoy!  (If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win my first giveaway – a $50 gift card to Williams-Sonoma!!!)


Filed under Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Basil Green Goddess Dressing

Shamefully, in the last couple of weeks, in my busyness and general stupidity as an awful human being , I have allowed a considerable portion of my csa produce to spoil in my fridge. This is not acceptable. I can do better. So this week I am now on a mission to use everything, down to the last little leaf of lettuce and parsley stem. In surveying all of my produce, and imagining what I might concoct with such a spread, I realized that I had everything I needed for a nice salad with basil green goddess dressing. Yay! That spells lunch to me! I did use Ina’s recipe as a guide, but didn’t really measure anything. I added twice the lemon juice, I would think, along with the zest of half a lemon, ’cause I like a nice twang, and a big handful of basil leaves, scallions, parsley, six anchovy fillets along with the capers they were wrapped around (because I didn’t have any anchovy paste on hand), a big pinch of chipotle powder, to add just a little nudge of heat, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Once upon a time I used to be afraid of anchovies. Thinking back, I am not exactly sure why. My own ignorance I suppose. But then I discovered the amazingly delicious wonders of fish sauce (which is largely made with anchovies), and lamented all of the many wasted years of great flavor. Really, when it comes down to it, they taste sort of like slightly fishy, extremely salty Parmesan cheese. So nutty and robust, and you would never know or even venture to guess that there were any fish in this dressing, or in sauces, or any of the many other anchovy applications. Seriously. If, like me, you have been afraid to take the plunge into the fishy waters, what are you waiting for? You are missing out! But I digress… I sliced a colorful assortment of tomatoes, and placed them along side half a small head of red curly leaf lettuce, which I washed and spun dry in my salad spinner. And enjoyed the salad with a fabulously excessive amount of this incredibly full flavored dressing. It is creamy and tangy, with a little heat from the fresh garlic and scallions, and the grassyness of the almost licoricey, minty basil. It hits your palate in all the right places, and is a perfect compliment for these amazing farm fresh, vine ripened tomatoes. What a perfectly delicious lunch, and a step in the right direction of utilizing the entirety of my csa. Anyone out there have any good recipe suggestions for kohlrabi or lemon cucumbers? If so, let me know, that will be my next challenge. Happy eating everyone!


Filed under Jams/Spreads/Sauces, Salads, Vegetables

Beet Salad with Orange

Our trip to the Eugene farmer’s market yesterday yielded some great fresh produce. The star of which were two big bunches of multicolored beets. Surprisingly, despite its great location in the lush, mid Willamette valley, Salem doesn’t really have a real farmer’s market, so this was definitely a treat. I knew immediately when I saw the beets that this salad was soon to be apart of our weekend. Based on one of Ina Garten’s recipes from her first cookbook (beet salad with orange vinaigrette), this salad is full of great flavor. I started by boiling the whole beets in salted water until they were tender (about an hour). Once they were cool enough to handle I peeled and diced them, and tossed them together with a few tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice, a splash of raspberry vinegar, a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a dash of sugar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper, and some fresh orange zest. I then added a half a cup or so of diced red onion, some orange segments, and a little Italian flat leaf parsley. The delicious, sweet, earthy beets not only make for a beautifully vivid presentation, but also pair nicely with the fresh orange. Whether as a side dish, first course, or lite lunch, this colorful salad is always a treat. Enjoy!


Filed under Salads, Vegetables

Caprese Salad

The tub of fresh pesto from yesterday, and the fresh summer tomatoes sitting on my counter were both crying out to me this morning to make these Caprese salads. And I was all too happy to oblige them. Simple, but amazingly delicious, these salads hardly constitute cooking. I start by slicing a tomato and a ball of fresh mozzarella. I then layer them vertically (essentially putting the tomato back together again), adding a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to each tomato layer, and a spoon full of  my homemade pesto  and a couple of large basil leaves on the cheese layers. Once stacked, I plunge a bamboo skewer through the top of each stack to help prevent them from toppling over. The sweet, acidity of the tomatoes with the buttery, saltiness of the cheese, and the flavorful basil pesto bringing it all together: it is a little piece of summer on a plate. Happy Saturday!


Filed under Salads, Vegetables

Shaved Fennel and Orange Salad

While I do genuinely enjoy cooking and baking, there are definitely times where I feel as though the kitchen is the last place I want to be. Luckily, making delicious food doesn’t always require cooking. In fact, a lot of what we call “cooking” is really just assembling. Salads are a  great example. There are hundreds of salads that you can toss together in minutes, and have a satisfying meal without any of the hassle. Here I threw together a classic, almost elegant salad of shaved fennel and orange, on a bed of arugula. I started by arranging arugula on each plate, and then used a mandoline to thinly slice a bulb of fennel directly over it. Using a knife, I removed the peel from two oranges and, rather than supreme, simply sliced them into (rough) half moons, and arranges those on top of the shaved fennel. I then whisked together a simple vinaigrette of extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, a little  juice from the oranges, one clove of pressed garlic, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. After dressing, I added another grind of black pepper, and a shower of torn fennel fronds. The slightly licoricey fennel, sweet oranges, peppery arugula, and tangy dressing make for a delicious combination. It is no wonder this is a classic. Whether as a first course, side dish, or light lunch, this healthy, beautiful salad is sure to satisfy. Happy Eating!

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Filed under Salads, Vegetables

Curried Chicken Salad

Growing up my parents never made chicken salad, and so I didn’t really discover it myself until my early twenties. This might be a throw back to the eighties, but seeing as I missed the first wave, I love making all kinds of different chunky chicken salads. In my signature chicken salad I add apples, and grapes, slivered almonds, celery, and tarragon, which is delicious. I love the interplay of the textures and flavors. Here the volume is turned up even further with curry powder. I never really use a recipe as it all depends on how much chicken and other ingredients I start with. I combine roasted chicken (store bought is perfectly acceptable), fuji apples, celery, scallions, raisins, cilantro, and toasted cashews, and toss them in a dressing made from a cup and a half or so of mayonnaise, a splash of apple cider vinegar, a generous amount of curry powder (3-4 tablespoons or to taste), a third of a cup or so of Major Grey’s Chutney, salt, and freshly ground black pepper (à la Ina Garten, with a few of my own touches thrown in). You can be very casual with this recipe, all of the ingredients can be added to taste and cut to size depending on how you plan on serving. This salad is sweet, and spicy, crisp, crunchy,  creamy, chewy, and tangy. It makes for a delicious lunch served over a bed of butter lettuce leaves, in a wrap, or on a sandwich roll or croissant. Enjoy!

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Filed under Meat, Salads

Bean Salad

When I was a kid I did a lot of cooking. I enjoyed coming up with  new recipes, and trying them out on my family. One year, when most of my family decided to go vegan, I came up with this salad that everyone really enjoyed, and I have been making it ever since. It is embarrassingly simple (but hey, give me a break, I was eleven) but it has a lot of great flavor. I start by draining and rinsing a can each of chickpeas, red kidney beans, cannellini beans, butter beans, black eyed peas, black beans, and whatever other beans I might happen to have on hand. I toss that together with some chopped red onion, and whatever green herb I have laying around. Here I used a handful each of roughly chopped fresh basil and Italian flat leaf parsley, though cilantro, tarragon,  or dill would work equally well. The dressing was originally made by mixing a cup and a half of red wine vinegar, one fourth of a cup of balsamic vinegar, two tablespoons of sugar, a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, and a packet of Italian dressing seasoning. I no longer use the seasoning packet (though it is perfectly delicious made that way) and instead come up with my own mix of dried herbs and spices, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. This salad lasts for two weeks in the refrigerator, and just gets better and better as it sits. It’s the perfect thing for a picnic in the park, or a summertime barbecue potluck. It really is good, and no one need know that it is so incredibly simple to make. Enjoy!


Filed under Salads, Side Dishes