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Posts Tagged ‘salad’

As Claire pointed out to me yesterday, we’ve been on a pretty salad-focused kick here at Food Junta, a lot of said salads involving tomatoes, corn, warming, or some combination thereof. But this salad was so good, I had to share it. Repetitiveness be damned.

Though I’m pretty sure this is a common-ish dish out there in the world, this particular salad was totally unplanned and just a result of what I happened to have kicking around in my kitchen. I had had the corn in my crisper for a little too long (6 days or so) and needed to do something with it, I usually have a red onion or two around for salads, and I had the sungolds around because I love sungolds.

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I love potato salad, but not that gross, mayonnaise-laden stuff that typically passes for potato salad around these parts (the U.S. being these parts). Sometimes that mayonnaise-y stuff can be really good, but more often than not, it’s basically disgusting. Tastes disgusting, looks disgusting, IS disgusting, as Coolio might say.

Enter in the vinegar-based potato salad. It’s still the same basic idea (boiled new potatoes), but with none of the weight of the mayo. This particular version is an entirely farmers’ market inspired creation. I knew I was making dinner with a friend that night, I knew that I didn’t want it to be a labor-intensive ordeal. I saw a pint of teeny tiny new potatoes — smaller than I’d ever seen them before — and felt the need to buy them. Which led me to the idea of potato salad. But this potato salad was going to be the star of the show, not an accompaniment. So it needed more. (more…)

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One good tomato salad deserves another. Claire wrote about the Caprese salad yesterday, and today I move northward in Italy to bring you Panzanella.

Panzanella might be one of my favorite foods of all time. Simple to prepare, beautiful, seasonal, and delicious. And it’s great summertime fare because you don’t have to turn on the oven. It is a Tuscan dish that was invented as a way to use up stale bread, but it’s worth making even if you don’t have any stale bread kicking around.

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Fruit in salad is usually one of my bigger food no-no’s. Not as big of a no-no as fruit and chocolate mixed together; a bigger no-no than, well, a lot of other things. There are exceptions, of course, to every rule. I love Cadbury fruit and nut bars, for one. And I don’t mind pears in salad, especially with a good balsamic dressing and lots of goat cheese, for two. I often think, though, that fruit is thrown into salad as a kind of shortcut to elegance. Like fruit will somehow make up for a lack of salad-making ability. Let’s throw in some strawberries! And some blueberries! And anything that has the suffix -berries! And maybe then nobody will notice this wilted lettuce and bad dressing.

The other day, though, I was making dinner. I was going to serve my guest some sliced mango with cayenne pepper as a little snack while I cooked, part of which was going to be assembling the salad. I have been researching Cuban recipes lately, and a typical side dish is avocado salad — just sliced avocados and sliced white onion, with a white vinegar and olive oil dressing, possibly over a bed of lettuce. I didn’t have any avocados, so I was just going to serve lettuce and sliced onion, a perfectly respectable salad in itself (I love raw onion). But then I realized, in a minor epiphany, why not just add the sliced mango to the salad? (more…)

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Keeping Things Fresh

Claire’s endorsement of salad spinners as a good way to keep greens fresh and get yourself eating more salad is spot on. I am a recent convert to the cult of salad spinners, and so far I am thrilled. But I resisted for a long time, and there are many people out there – people with small fridges, especially – into whose lives a salad spinner is never going to come.

And I wanted to share with those folks a salad storage solution that I discovered right before my spinner revelation. Sick of soggy, brown lettuce after two days of storage, I scoured the internet for advice, and after piecing together several different bits of advice, I think I found a method that works really well:

1. Don’t wash the greens. I don’t know why this helps, but it does. I think it has something to do with the fact that you will never get them properly dry without a spinner, and the excess moisture makes them rot.

2. If they’re wet when you get them, dry them as best you can.

3. Line a ziploc bag with a paper towel or two (or, even better and greener, a spare dish towel), and stick in the greens.

4. Now here’s the neat part: Seat the bag almost all the way, then take a deep breath and exhale into the bag before you close it the rest of the way. This replaces the oxygen in the bag with the CO2 from your lungs, which keeps greens fresher longer. Why? I don’t know. Go ask Bill Nye.

Your greens won’t last forever this way, but they’ll do much better than they will stuffed in a shopping bag. It’s science!

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Lettuce is available year-round from greenhouses (and from Mexico), but this is the season when the variety and quality at the market increases exponentially. A big salad is a great and easy way to round out a meal for company, and I’ve got a dirty secret to share about dressing.

Well, not that dirty.

First, let me say that making your own dressing is cheap and easy. A bottle of salad dressing is going to run you $3.50 or more, while an equivalent amount of homemade dressing probably costs about 50 cents. Plus, store-bought dressings have some REALLY weird stuff in them (Xanthan gum, anyone? How about a little bit more polysorbate 80 on your salmon, Tim?) to keep them emulsified while they sit on the shelf. And all a decent dressing takes is oil, vinegar, and a little mustard to bring them together (and in the darkness bind them). Salt and pepper are usually a good idea as well.

But some people don’t like homemade vinaigrette. They like bottled dressing. They think homemade doesn’t hold up to what they can buy or get in restaurants. But I’ve got a sure fire way to make great salad salad dressing that tastes professionally made. And it’s only kind of cheating…

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