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Archive for the ‘salads/dressings’ Category

I’ve got a real thing for a good tangerine. Mandarins more so. In fact, to be even more specific, satsumas are really my thing. Starting around the holidays, I’ll start pacing the produce aisles of Asian markets and Whole Foods looking for large piles of those bright orange orbs with the telltale leaves and stems. When fresh, they are incredible – bright, full flavored, juicy, sweet but with a little bit of tartness for a wonderful flavor balance. I adore them and will eat as many as I can during the short season.

A few weeks ago, I did a thing. After reading an article in Bon Appetit about a California citrus farm specializing in tangerines, I placed an order. It took a few determined weeks to make it happen but it happened. Orders open up only once a week and as demand is high and supply is naturally limited. They usually sell out quickly, especially early in the season. It was cold and grey outside and I desperately needed a little sunshine. I opted for a variety pack to try a little of everything – a few Valencia oranges, a few blood oranges, three types of amazing tangerines, two gorgeous lemons and the best avocado I’ve had in my life. Ten pounds of beautiful citrus was picked on Saturday and on my kitchen table by Tuesday. It was glorious. The best tangerines I’ve ever had. Next year I’ll get my butt in gear earlier for satsuma season. I’ve got the reminder set in my calendar and am drooling just thinking about it.

I’ve enjoyed most of the shipment as is but with some beets sitting in my produce drawer, I decided to combine the two and make a salad. Roasted beets and fresh citrus are a marvelous combination and so very pretty if you mix up the beet colors. The beets are tucked into foil packets and roasted in a hot oven, as this is my preferred method for best flavor. I’ve never understood why some people boil beets. ugh. The oranges get a sort of fancy treatment called “supreme” in which you carefully separate the flesh from the rind and membranes into nice little segments. Sure it takes a little bit of time but the effort is well rewarded in the end. Take care to cut off the rind and pith, following the curve of the fruit and leaving as much of the orange flesh behind as possible. It does take a little practice; when I worked in restaurants I bet I suprememed a couple cases of oranges every week. You get really good after the first case.

I roasted both red and yellow beets and tossed them in a simple, light vinaigrette type of thing along with both orange and tangerine segments. The dressing is mostly orange juice and vinegar with just a little bit of olive oil so it’s light and bright, perfectly accenting the whole mix. A handful of toasted walnuts went on top because they go great with citrus and beets and the crunch is delightful. I also reached for the za’atar, that wonderful middle eastern spice mixture of thyme, sesame, sumac and other lovely things that is also, coincidentally, amazing on citrus and beets. The whole thing is delicious. Bright and a little earthy, sweet and a little tart, fresh and crunchy. A wonderful combination of all the things.

Fair warning that red beets will stain everything – your hands, your cutting board, every damn ingredient they come in contact. The trick is to lightly oil or spray your hands with cooking spray to prevent this (your cutting board too.) Keep them separate from your other ingredients too, in their own bowl until the last moment, unless you want the salad a lovely day-glow shade of fuchsia.

twelve years ago: Khachpuri (cheesy Georgian bread)

eleven years ago: Oatmeal Jam Bars  

ten years ago: Guinness Stout Floats

nine years ago: Chocolate Banoffee Tart

eight years ago: Lemon Tart – Sunday Lunch Polish Easter

seven years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise

six years ago: Flourless Chocolate Cookies

five years ago: Potato Goat Cheese StrudelChouquette

four years ago: Pici (hand rolled spaghetti), Old School Garlic Bread

three years ago: Easter Recipe Round Up (and some polka favorites) 

two years ago: Sourdough Spätzle

last year: Corned Beef Dinner Hand Pies

ROASTED BEET & ORANGE SALAD

Serves 4 as a side dish

I like to keep this simple, but a soft goat cheese or salty feta crumbled on top is quite nice. Pistachios would be nice though I prefer the earthy slightly tannic flavor of a walnut. Be sure to zest the oranges first.

1 bunch beets (about 1 ½ pounds), scrubbed, trimmed and cut in half or quarters if large

olive oil

kosher salt and ground pepper

¼ cup walnut pieces

2 oranges or 1 orange + 2 tangerines or 4 tangerines (zest first)

For the dressing:

1 teaspoon finely minced shallot, about ¼ of a shallot

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon mild honey, like wildflower or clover

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest 

¼ teaspoon za’atar

Good pinch of kosher salt

Few grinds of ground black pepper

¼ cup fresh orange juice

1 Tablespoon good olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  2. For the beets: place the beets on a large piece of foil on a sheet pan (if roasting various colors of beets, keep the red ones separate.)
  3. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. 
  4. Fold foil around beets and crimp ends to form a neat packet. 
  5. Roast until tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 45 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely then peel the skins off with a paring knife (lightly oil your hands if working with red beets to prevent having fuchsia tinted hands all day.)
  7. While the beets are roasting, toast the walnuts on a sheet pan until fragrant, about 5 minutes (keep an eye on them – they’ll go from perfectly toasty to burnt in seconds). If large, coarsely chop once cooled. Set aside until needed.
  8. For the dressing: in a large bowl, whisk together the shallot, orange zest, vinegar, salt, pepper and za’atar. Set aside while you prepare the oranges and beets.
  9. Supreme the oranges: Cut about ½” off the top and bottom of each orange/tangerine to expose the flesh. 
  10. Place the orange/tangerine cut side down on a cutting board and with a chef’s knife, follow the curve of the orange to remove the rind, including the pith (the white part.) Try to cut as close to the pith as possible, reserving as much of the flesh as you can. Discard the rind.
  11. Switch to a paring knife and over a bowl to catch the juice, cut each citrus segment from the membrane by cutting gently on one side of the membrane then the other, carefully removing each segment (discard any seeds as you come across them.) 
  12. Squeeze the remaining membrane over the bowl for any excess juice then discard. Continue with any remaining oranges/tangerines.
  13. Measure off ¼ cup of accumulated orange juice for the dressing. If you don’t quite have enough, give it a few minutes. I’ve found that orange segments will continue to give off juice for a while, so if you wait a bit, you might eventually get what you need. If not, squeeze another orange or tangerine to top it off.
  14. For the salad: thinly slice the peeled beets (about 1/8” thick) and place in a small bowl (keep red and orange/yellow beets separately to prevent everything from turning bright pink. Hint: spray your hands and the cutting board with cooking spray or lightly oil to keep it all from staining.)
  15. Finish the dressing – add the orange juice and olive oil to the dressing bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  16. Add the dressing to the various bowls of things – citrus segments, beets – and gently toss to combine. If using tangerines, take care as they are rather delicate and tend to break apart.
  17. On a serving platter, scatter about the dressed beet slices and orange/tangerine segments. Drizzle any excess dressing over, top with the walnuts and a good pinch of za’atar.
  18. The salad can be made ahead – however, and this is a big however – if you’re using red beets they will turn everything pink. So, if making ahead, keep the red beets separate in their dressing and combine just before serving. 

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I have a remarkable cadre of friends in Southwest France, mostly retired, who are truly living their best lives. They are constantly posting beautiful, luscious, envy inducing photos of meals they’re enjoying through this pandemic and it’s been enough to make me tear up a few times. Maybe one day we’ll be able to enter the country again. Maybe one day, I’ll see them again and share a lovely meal.

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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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Every year, I participate in a wonderful community garden program, The Peterson Garden Project. It started 6 years ago when I came home from drinks with friends at half price wine night. Dangerous. I was scanning through my twitter feed and saw someone post that she’d just bought a community garden plot in the city. I didn’t even know we had that so completely intrigued, I clicked on the link to learn more. The next morning I saw the confirmation in my inbox. In general, I don’t mix pinot and online shopping but I was thrilled. I’ve never been much of a gardener beyond the herb boxes on my back porch but I am a cook and an eater and the thought of growing things tickled me to death. I started perusing seed catalogs and downloading plot planners like a kid making Christmas wish lists.

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