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Archive for the ‘salads/dressings’ Category

I’ve been on a salad kick lately and was looking for something bright and tangy the other day after eating several plates of filling, hearty spätzle. Vietnamese food came immediately to mind and thought a salad incorporating those flavors would be nice. Something with a bracing nuoc cham type of dressing, bright with lime juice, chilies and fish sauce. I pulled a chicken breast from the freezer. Took stock of my vegetable bins. Grabbed a package of rice noodles from the pantry. I hashed out an idea from a recipe I’ve used before, stopped by the Asian market for fresh lemongrass and picked up some mint while I was there too.

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I’ve had a series of failures lately. A few St. Patrick’s recipes that didn’t go as planned. A cake that was 5 kinds of awful. A bad batch of chocolate chip cookies. They were stacking up but that’s ok; it happens. Distractions, busy work projects and overconfidence were derailing my best intentions. I’ve also been eating a lot of overly rich, creamy foods lately that haven’t been sitting well so today I wanted a salad. One of those old school Italian, red sauce joint kind of salads with all the stuff in it. So I made one.

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I shut down my little community garden plot this week, in anticipation of winter and the garden closing date. It’s been a strange year for that plot; a terrible season for tomatoes though my herbs did quite well as did the kale and chard. I didn’t harvest much of the kale over the summer, rather, just left them to grow. And grow. And grow. This week I harvested nearly 4 pounds of beautiful Tuscan kale from plants that were the size of small trees. The leaves were gorgeous – big, dusty dark green, crinkled just so. I brought home a gigantic bag and no real plan. There’s soup and pasta dishes and sautéed batches, of course. And there’s salad. Hmmmm. Kale Salad. Yippee.

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It’s hot. I was in France last week and it was hot. I came back to Chicago, and it was hot. So damn hot. In this kind of weather I don’t have much of an appetite, not that it slowed me down much in France (copious amounts of cold rosé certainly helped) but back home, my dinners have been a bit lackluster. Truth be told, I decided the other day I wasn’t going to eat much else besides fresh sweet corn and cold watermelon for rest of the month.

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I was hungry. It had been a long, chaotic day spent on my feet cooking for other people and the last thing I wanted to do was cook for myself. A drive thru was in order. Driving home, I passed the usual suspects and wasn’t all together thrilled. Burger? Fries? Ugh. I started thinking about healthy fast food and the lack thereof. In general, the options are not great. Back in my advertising days, I worked on my fare share of fast food accounts and time and again, no matter how great the option, healthy fast food never sold. The sad truth – surprisingly (or maybe not), there’s not a high demand for healthy options in fast food restaurants. But there was one thing, quite a while ago, that was pretty good. Back in the late ‘90s Wendy’s had fresh pita sandwiches on the menu and they were delicious. Really good.

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Despite this recent heat wave, we’re nearing the end of the gardening season and my little community plot is still happily cranking along. Though it wasn’t the best year for tomatoes, my herbs have been unbelievable. At least once a week I’m aggressively cutting back the basil, lemon verbena and mint in an effort to tame and contain the little beasts. I recently trimmed the oregano so aggressively I think it might shiver a little as I approach. My rosemary bush is having a year like no other but it’s the parsley that is the most surprising. No matter how much I cut it back, it springs forth with new vigor in all its vibrant, bushy glory. I’ve been using it quite a bit in the last month but needed to step up my efforts. It was time for tabbouleh.

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I made cheese boereg over the weekend, delightful phyllo pastries filled with a mix of delicious, slightly salty cheeses. They were wonderful, perfect in this cold weather, but to make them a meal I needed something else. I’ve been trying to stick to a healthy eating regimen to start the new year and though these little pastries didn’t necessarily fit that bill, if I made a salad I could scoot it into that category with a little creative rationalization. So I made a good, chunky greek-type salad to go along with those little golden triangles. The salad, filled with fresh summery vegetables, may not the best choice for this time of year – it’s definitely more of a warmer season type dish – but I needed a little crunch, a little brightness in my gloomy day.

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