Archive for the ‘Salads’ Category

Salsa or Gazpacho? It Depends

Monday, August 26th, 2013

One day it dawned upon me that I have the same intention when making salsa or making the chunky summer soup, gazpacho. Either way, I’m going for a tomato base with veggies and a complex mix of sweet, salty and sour flavors, plus heat from chiles. That same day, I realized that most of the ingredients are identical, save a little more cilantro in the salsa and chopped cucumber added to the gazpacho. But, really, the combinations change every time. Jalapeno or habanero? Lemon or lime juice? Red or yellow or white or green onions or all four? Garlic cloves, garlic chives, or shallots? Red, green, yellow or orange sweet peppers? Salt or Vulcan Salt? Ground Black Pepper–always a resounding “Yes!” to that.

Today’s version started with the beautiful, meaty tomatoes from the Nicollet Mall Farmer’s Market, Thursdays, in Downtown Minneapolis. My own garden finally offered the first and then a second ripened San Marzano tomato to add to the mix. Lemon-colored peppers, green onions, chopped garlic cloves. I can’t help but stop and admire the burst of colors at this point.

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The vegetables always outdo themselves. The seasonings take a bit more thought. I use fresh lemon or lime juice and a splash of olive oil. Vinaigrette calls for about 1/3 lemon juice to 2/3 oil. I flip those proportions and lean into the lemon or lime juice for an assertive, bracing quality to the dish. Sometimes, I augment the chiles’ heat with Crystal Hot Pepper Sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. If gazpacho has the upper hand, I splash in some Worcestershire sauce. Instead of giving you exact amount, I advise calibrating these ingredients by your taste preferences as I do for mine.

Before the mix

Before the mix

The chunkier the tomato, the more the dish tends toward gazpacho. Yet, it’s easier to scoop a salsa’s single, large tomato chunk onto a tortilla chip (in Minneapolis/St. Paul, I recommend those from El Burrito Mercado, sold across the metro area and in their St. Paul HQ). OK, it may be even easier to scoop the more uniformly, chopped vegetables. It just depends.

For certain, I know that from now until frost, salsa/gazpacho will be on the menu almost daily.

(New) Friends and Recipes: What Time Doesn’t Change

Monday, June 6th, 2011

For a long time, I’ve been in the habit of imagining what some people I meet may have looked like in their younger days. It started, I think, with a work colleague who was about 15 years older than I. She was elegant and lovely, a very kind and fun person. Her face had aged early and she occasionally commented that she missed being beautiful. In my mind’s eye, I could ‘see’ her as an incomparable beauty in years past. For all she had become and accomplished, she was no longer beautiful in that dewy 20-year old way.

While I had liked the way I looked, I’d reserved the word beautiful for other people and in turn, I’d rarely been called beautiful in features. I found it fascinating that my friend believed she had lost status as a beauty as she aged. At that time, she was under 40, far from old in any way.

Last week I joined a group of eight women. Each of us knew at least two of the guests. One knew every one of us. We’d all gone to Iowa State University in the 70’s. Each has weathered storms in her life. All were smart, lively, interesting women.

I looked around that table, imagining how each of us had looked as a college freshman or junior and how we’d each embraced our lives. The guest of honor commented to one woman: “You get the award for having changed the least,” while said woman laughed and said, “Really?”

For my part, based on the three women I’ve known since journalism school at ISU, each of us grew into the essence that was wholly apparent then: Raeanne’s

exuberant creativity; Sue’s practical competence and centered joy; Heather’s

creative pragmatism and peerless organizational skills.

I sat there marveling at what each of us had become as fully formed women. Those I knew and those I’d just met, beautiful, every one.

And of course, there was food. Heather, planner extraordinaire, hosted us, made assignments, and offered the appetizers and wine. Liz,

who I’d just met, brought the main dish salad, Liz’s Dijon Chicken Salad. The distinctive Dijon-mayonnaise dressing had layers of flavor. It’s one of the best I’ve tasted. Raeanne and Sue ‘art directed’ the photo. In the next few days, I’ll post two more recipes from a memorable evening

Liz credits the recipe to her friend Doris Fortino, who lives in Lucca, Italy and owns an inn.

Liz’s Dijon-Mayonnaise Chicken Salad

 

 

 

2 to 3 lbs. of boneless chicken breasts

Fresh thyme or other fresh herbs

Lemon pepper

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup blanched pea pods, sliced as desired. Or use sugar snap peas, blanched

In medium saucepan, place chicken, herbs, lemon pepper and water to cover. Cut a sheet of cooking parchment to exact size of pan, using the lid as a template. Cut an X in the middle with scissors to allow steam to escape. Bring chicken and herbs to a simmer. Cover with parchment and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and slice into 3/4-inch cubes.

Drop pea pods into boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove and plunge into ice water to cool. Drain, dry and slice, as desired.

Meanwhile, toast almonds on baking sheet in 300° oven, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In medium bowl, combine cooled chicken and peas. Stir in Dijon-Mayonnaise Dressing (see below). Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve on lettuce leaves, croissants, or bread of your choice. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Dijon-Mayonnaise Dressing

Try this dressing as a dipping sauce for crab or salmon cakes. Change it up by stirring in chopped green onions, chopped red bell peppers, and/or fresh herbs.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup oil
Soy sauce to taste

In small bowl, combine all ingredients. mix well. Makes 1 3/4 cups dressing.

Masters in Action

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Among the masters in my midst are Martha Nichols and Susan (Sue) Palmquist.  Martha, an interior designer, is a longtime friend who has helped me make my successive homes more lovely than I could have done myself.  Besides her skills in putting together all the design details, I call her the Color Empress.  To see Martha consider colors for a room is akin to watching Dale Chihuly invent his glass creations or Olympic gold medal figure skater Kim Yu Na soar over the ice.

I’ve recently gotten to know Sue, Martha’s collaborator in many projects and friend of many years. Sue, co-owner of Sawhill Kitchens in Minneapolis, designs kitchens as a maestro who first listens to the client’s vision and then, makes sure the range plays well with the sink, that the backsplash complements the countertop and cabinets, and there will be room to open the refrigerator door all the way to remove the crisper drawers.

I watched these masters in action last week. Imagine an equally supportive game of tennis between two of the very best. Martha and Sue each have true joy in what they do and the highest standards of excellence.

Not only does Susan make kitchens that work, she’s a wonderful cook. She made us a Roasted Vegetables and Orzo Salad and served it with baked chicken breasts.  My contribution to this lunch was bread and chocolate chip cookies. Here’s Sue’s recipe:

Roasted Vegetables and Orzo Salad

Cut the following vegetables into 1-inch cubes, squares, or pieces:

  • 1 eggplant (medium size)
    1 red pepper
    1 yellow or orange (or both) pepper
    1 red onion
    1 cup green beans

3 cloves garlic – minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 pound orzo

Dressing

1/2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice – approx. 3 lemons
1/3 c. good olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Final additions

6 scallions, minced
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts
3/4 lb. feta cheese (crumbled or diced)
20 – 24 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Place eggplant, red, yellow, and/or orange peppers, onion, and zucchini in baking pan. Toss in 1/3 cup olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast about 30 minutes until browned, turning once.

In medium saucepan, cook orzo according to package directions. Drain, rinse lightly, and place in large bowl. Add the vegetables along with all the scrapings from the pan. Meanwhile, make the dressing and add to the warm orzo & vegetables.

Just before serving, add scallions, pine nuts, feta cheese, and basil chiffonade.

Serve with roasted or grilled chicken breasts.  Makes about 10 servings.