Tag Archives: salads

Happy Harvest Season

8 Oct

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Is there anything better than the start of autumn? The cooler weather, fresh and breezy air, and all the yummy food that arise at this time all bring about a welcomed reset button. At the first feel of a slight wind, I’ve got 5-year olds yelling, “It’s autumn! Can you feeeeeel it?!”

Years ago, when I lived in Orange County, California, I worked at a year-round school where we started the year in July and received a 3-week fall break come the end of September. Oh holy goodness that break was so exciting! For the last week in September, and half of October, I gallivanted around SoCal visiting farmers markets, specialty food shops, and cooked most of the days away. The very best part, however, was taking a yearly trip up to Napa to visit my friend, Heather, who just happened to work for a very prominent winery.

Traveling to Northern California specifically during the grape harvest is simply special. There is a magic in the air matched only to that first nose, first swirl, first sip of fabulous wine.   The wine in Napa is big and exciting – tastes of fruit, mineral, and spices inevitably convert the faint of heart. Those in Sonoma are intricate, earthy, hitting the front of the tongue with brightness and pungency and almost leaving a feeling of urgency for more. Even the everyday oyster crackers served to cleanse the palate tasted better in wine country. As written endlessly in boundless foodie mags, the restaurants are fabulous, the food is fresh, and the locavore movement is thriving. Just thinking about the smell of hot, vine-laden grapes (sweet, earthy, and pungent) and the sight of the Russian River Valley (breathtaking does not do justice), literally makes me want to pop open a bottle right here and now.

Please excuse the drool.

Moving from California to Oregon created some initial sadness, but as Rob and I quickly warmed to the cold and wet climate, and we found a whole new world of wines. Not only was the now-infamous Willamette Valley a mere day-trip away, but the Umpqua Valley wineries proved to be some of our favorites. They were smaller, quainter, and not at all stuffy as the winemakers themselves would be happy to pour a perfectly Oregon-air-chilled glass of Baco Noir and chat the day away. Our Oregon wine excursions created a brand new set of memories of the Harvest Season. We would pack a lunch, sit on a picnic table in the vines or one overlooking the cascading evergreen hills with pockets of clouds blurring their branches, sip wine, and just be. It was quiet; not much talking, and there were never any hooting wine tour buses tainting the experience, nor the pressure to “hit up” as many wineries as possible. The whole experience was so relaxing, so picturesque, so perfect it felt unreal.

Recently, my mom and I went antiquing and I found a gem of a book: West Coast Cookbook by Helen Brown. The copyright is in Roman Numerals (which I’m convinced were invented only to make people’s shoulders drop and eyes roll), and after too-much-for-an-educated person-deliberation, I figured the copyright was 1952.

This book has more character and personality then expected in a dusty, antique find, and filled with so much culinary information. Aspics, cheese, bread, game meat, coffee, chocolate, all have sections devoted to their significant history rooted in the West, and Ms. Brown discussed it with mouthwatering eloquence. Phrases like, “You can’t turn off a cow,” and “tortillas are the staff of life,” keep the pages turning and the stomach grumbling. That is, until my eyes stumbled upon this:

“This is a vinous book. Good food is nothing without good wine, and our generous use of it as a beverage and as a necessary part of our cookery has much to do with the pleasure of our table…. When I speak of our wines, I mean Californian. The amount produced in Oregon and Washington is negligible.”

What?! Oregon, Washington – insignificant wine? Sorry Helen, you’re wrong on this one. While California has its fancy viticulture charm, the Pacific Northwest has its own delicious backbone of wine history that California would be envious of (but surely never admit).

Alas, it’s a pain in the neck to hold a grudge, so I won’t. Helen is still a cool gal. So as I’m remembering Harvest Days memories, and enjoying my antique find, a fantastic meal dedicated to the West during the Harvest Season is in order. Turning to the Fish & Shellfish section of the cookbook, Ms. Brown states “fish is not a food to be eaten only when nothing else is available, but is, when properly prepared, food as good as it comes.”

Ain’t that the truth?

So here it comes: good food! To be paired perfectly with good wine, no less!

There are a few parts to this Smoked Salmon Layered Salad. First off, layering salads should be the new thang if you ask me. They are so pretty and so much fun to eat. Oh, and a whole meal served on one giant plate, family style. Easy? Yes. No fuss?   No problem. And the gourmet-ish mushroom croutons? Get out of town! Such a show stopper.

Pair this meal with a great glass of Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay, and you’ve got yourself a West Coast, harvest-inspired meal. Enjoy!

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Smoked Salmon Layered Salad
(serves 4)

  • 2 tins of quality, hot smoked salmon (for the canned version, King or Coho would be best; Chuck’s Seafood in Charleston, OR, and Josephson’s in Astoria, OR both ship throughout the country).
  • 1 lb. fresh, end of the summer green beans, cleaned and stem-end removed
  • 1 pint crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced into ½ -in pieces
  • 1 head tender lettuce – either romaine, red lettuce, or the baby lettuce mix from a bag. If using romaine or red lettuce, roughly chop.
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • s&p

** This meal pairs perfectly with Oregon Pinot Noir (I love Giradet from the Umpqua Valley), California Rose (Louis Martini makes a good one found in the heart of Napa), and Washington Chardonnay (Three Rivers is a great Columbia Valley un-oaked version).

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the sweet potato dices on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil, s&p. Roast the sweet potatoes until the edges are browned and the insides are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the green beans by seething them in a large sauté pan. Seething is a combination of steaming and sautéing in one pan. Put the green beans in the pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil, ¼ c water, and a good pinch of s&p. Heat over medium heat, turning the green beans often, until the liquid has cooked away, and the green beans are bright and cooked through (the beans should still retain a bit of a crunch – they should not have the texture of a stewed bean). When the beans are done, set aside.

To make the mushroom “croutons,” simply put the mushrooms in a sauté pan with the 2 tbsp of butter on med-high heat. Stir, then let be to brown, stir, then let be to brown, until all the mushroom pieces are so browned and lovely, and almost crunchy. Transfer mushrooms to a paper towel-lined plate, season with a bit of salt, and let cool. They will continue to crunch-up while cooling. (Seriously, these things are addicting. They may not even make it to the salad.)

To make the dressing, mix the Dijon mustard, lemon juice, honey, and a pinch of s&p together. While pouring in the extra virgin olive oil, whisk until combined and smooth. Set aside.

For the smoked salmon, open the container, drain if necessary, and flake the salmon using a fork. Set aside.

Now for the assembly! On a large serving plate, first put down the lettuce, and then sprinkle over the sweet potatoes, and the chopped thyme. Then evenly spread out the green beans, and the smoked salmon. Top with the mushroom croutons, and serve with the dressing in a carafe on the side for individual drizzling (I’ve found that this salad has enough flavor as is, that some enjoy without the dressing).

Dig in, image you are sitting among the vines, and enjoy!

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Happy 2015

27 Jan

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Did anyone else have a whirlwind of a holiday season? Even now, mostly through January, I’m just now getting to writing. After Thanksgiving, Christmas was just a hop, skip, and jump away. After Christmas, Rob and I traveled up North visiting Boston, Maine, and Connecticut. Two weeks later, we took a road trip to visit my sister and friends in New Orleans. Celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the overall holiday/New Year season with family and friends was more than wonderful, it was truly a blessing.

But so was all the amazing food.

For a quick run-down, starting from the week of Christmas at my mom’s house for hor’derves, ending with this week’s vegan inspired meals, here are our holiday dishes in Cliffs Notes: Foodie Volumes form.

NOTE: It’s ok to drool. No one will judge.

  • Dungeness crab cocktails and Mom’s dip (yep, my absolute fave straight from the waters of our former backyard)
  • Beef Wellington (Rob’s fave, and he only gets it once a year. Poor guy.)
  • Pork Loin Chili
  • Oysters from off the Massachusetts coast
  • Oysters from off the Maine coast
  • Oysters from 2 different river beds in Maine
  • Maine Lobster (in the best way: a simple roll in a local fisherman’s pub. Also had great coffee.)
  • New England Shrimp
  • Oxtail Tortellini (yes, I will be recreating this)
  • Scottish Salmon (Chinooks, you’re still No.1, but this beast of a fish takes a close second)
  • Lamb Shoulder Risotto
  • Lamb Leg
  • Lamb Rib (Lamb. Rib. OMG.)
  • Oh, and all those lambs were in one dish. Well, it probably was just one lamb…
  • Maine Finnan Haddock with Absinthe Cream (Absinthe cream, people!!)
  • Goat Meat Chili
  • Duck Confit Poutine. The real deal.
  • Fermented apple, cider beer. Kinda like kombucha, only better.
  • Truffled Venison
  • Wild Boar Pappardelle
  • Wedding Cake Latte (pumps of vanilla and almond syrups)
  • Jenn’s Bacon and Spinach Wrapped Chicken
  • Lemongrass Hot Wings
  • Etouffee French Fries
  • And finally…. Duck Sausage with Spicy Mustard and Cranberry Sauce (in hotdog form, mind you)

After finally taking yet another step into the social media world, I did document many of these on Instagram, #eatingacrossAmerica and #42potatoes. Needless to say, it’s been fun. And filling. But mostly fun.

So now it’s back to the real world; Rob is back flying and I am back teaching, and in four days I’ve given myself 7 paper cuts. One of which is in that little soft spot between my fingers (now, if that’s not cause for a choice word or two, I don’t know what is). However, reality doesn’t mean the food adventures have to stop. Oh no, my friends, it’s only just beginning.

I am taking a new approach to the new year. Like many resolutions, the oh-you-made-a-new-years-promise-to-eat-better-and-detox-but-after-three-days-of-quinoa-torture-you’ll-give-in-to-the-hidden-frozen-candy-bar resolutions obviously don’t work so well. I’ve learned not to make resolutions that will end up in failure, making me feel defeated and diving into plate(s) of nachos. So this year, there are no resolutions, just more fantastic eating.

We have an overabundance of beets from our farm, so I’ve been trying to be creative with them (plus, almost every restaurant we visited in New England had some sort of beet salad on the menu, so I’m inspired). Beets are an incredibly versatile veg, and after putting in the initial efforts to prepare them, having them ready to use in the fridge lends to infinite possibilities.

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To prepare roasted beets: cut off all the greens (if you have beets with their green tops – they are edible and delicious, by the way), then wash and dry the skin. Place the beets 3-4 at a time in a foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap the foil loosely around the beets making a little package. Pour in about ¼ c of water, and leave a little opening at the top for steam to vent. Place in a 400 degree oven for an hour to an hour and a half; until a paring knife slides easily in the beets. Remove, let cool, and peel the skin off using a paring knife, or just your fingers. NOTE: you will get beet-red stained hands, but it will fade with a few washes.

At this point, they beets are ready for whatever beety plan you have for them. I choose to lightly marinate them with rice wine vinegar, salt, lots of black pepper, and dill, and keep them in a glass jar for making salads, hashes, or pureeing with white beans and garlic for a delightful and healthy crostini topping. They are great for breakfast, on sandwiches for lunch, chopped up finely as a relish on tacos, and fantastic paired with sweet, fatty fish.

In other parts of the country, beets tend to be the start of the spring season. Here in Northern Florida, they are a staple at the moment. So, whether you are able to use them now, or have to wait until April, hopefully some inspiration has sparked for a healthy new year. Enjoy!

 

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Ten Apples Up On Top

25 Sep

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While the weather is just starting to cool down out here on the Florida/Georgia border (meaning, it’s 85 degrees with a breeze and a drizzle), it is strangely starting to feel like autumn. Every once in a while the trees rustle, and the abundance of overzealous salespeople pushing the newest crop of Halloween and Thanksgiving goods is enough to make one forget that is it is, still, technically September.

However, I must admit, I’m one of those people. Our house already has decorative pumpkins perched on the dining room table, cinnamon-scented candles burning with delight, and a giant trifle dish full of apples on the counter. My autumn inspiration started when Rob and I took a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. It’s a small town in the mountains, with farm stands, roads that wind up pine-lined cliffs, and a fabulous food-filled downtown. Really, we ate our way through the city, and still barely made a dent. One thing we did learn when our mouths weren’t stuffed with trout, or barely, or tomato bisque (but they were maybe half-full with wine from tasting at the St. Paul’s winery – we are civilized after all), was that Asheville is the 7th largest producer of apples in our nation.

What a way to welcome fall – go to a place that is inundated with the first, and one of the most prominent, symbols of the season!

Of course, I shopped. We got apples, we ate apples, I got an apple yard flag, we tasted and bought apple cider; we were, for lack of a better word, tourists.

So back to reality (aka: Kindergarten), we are starting to learn about apples this week. The kids are so excited. Apples! Is there anything more delightful? Christmas? Nah. Valentines Day? Hardly. And don’t even get me started on birthdays. The day that we “experiment” and taste and graph different colored apples is more exciting than Ronald McDonald himself delivering free chicken nuggets. When we read Dr. Seuss’ Ten Apples Up on Top, they are simply engrossed – open mouths, wide-eyed, engrossed. To Kindergarteners, apples are the crème de la crème of the new season.

To be honest, they are to me as well. All over the internet apples are springing up with cider recipes, butter recipes, pies, cakes, and roasted with pork tenderloin. So I decided to add one of my own with a simple, fresh, early autumn salad featuring, you guessed it – celery. WHAT? Ok, ok, apples are in there too, but in a different way: as the dressing.

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Similar to the cauliflower dressing I made a while ago, using a fruit or a veg to amp of the faux-creaminess of a dressing is a super simple, and none-the-wiser, trick. In this case, I used a Jonathan apple (I left the skin on because I like the little specks of red throughout the dressing), cored it, and whirred it in a blender with ¼ c apple cider vinegar, 2 heaping tsp honey, juice of ½ a lemon, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, and s&p. The outcome: a non-cream, creamy dressing sweet and tangy and perfect for your favorite fall foods. Here, I was a bit mundane, trying to jazz up the humble (yet deliciousCelery, Bacon, Cheddar, and Parsley Salad (use those ingredients, add as much or as little as you want).  But this dressing would be good over chicken, pork, even as a nice addition to cranberry and walnut-laced coleslaw. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Just like my students’ excitement.

Please try the dressing and let me know how you used it! Can’t wait to hear!

Enjoy!

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