Last night saw the triumphant return of one of my favorite summer salads. We really are entering the very best time of the year for people who love to eat.
31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!
Mike and I are off to beautiful Newport, RI shortly to attend the Farm Fresh Rhode Island 2010 Local Food Fest, and while we’ve got a wonderful day of delicious local fare ahead of us, we didn’t want to head out without a little something in our stomachs. A light lunch was in order, and this refreshing Smoked Trout and Cucumber Salad fit the bill perfectly. Tinned fish like these Cole’s Applewood Smoked Trout filets are a pantry staple, and were a delicious addition to a salad of Arcadian Fields arugula, thin slices of City Farm lemon cucumbers, and Wishing Stone Farm English cucumbers, all dressed with a silky, tangy dressing of fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh dill, extra virgin olive oil, and Narragansett Creamery yogurt. I suspect this salad would make a terrific light dinner with some chopped hard-cooked egg, slivers of young red onion or shallot, and a hunk of crusty bread.
Get the recipe: Smoked Trout and Cucumber Salad
Mike returned from Tales of the Cocktail yesterday, laden with swag and full of great stories. He was also feeling a little… shall we say fatigued from indulging in so much good food and drink during his week in New Orleans, and he asked that I plan out some light and healthful fare for the week.
Our Monday dinners are typically meatless, and this Herbed Tabbouleh Salad looked like just the sort of hearty but wholesome dish to help ease my guy back into post-pork-and-bourbon reality. I used my own homemade roasted red peppers, plus chickpeas that I had previously cooked from dried and portioned out (canned versions, are of course, just fine – I just have to do things my way). The salad itself was a breeze to put together, the bulgur needing just a quick soak in boiling water to soften, then a toss with the red pepper strips and chickpeas plus plenty of chopped parsley, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and some of our best olive oil. Mike liked it so much he ate the leftovers for lunch today, topped with a little leftover chicken I had cooked up while he was away. Another day, another winning low-fuss and sweat-free dish.
Get the recipe: Herbed Tabbouleh Salad
(To those of you who have found your way over here via thekitchn, welcome!)
The mercury has dropped a bit in the last week, but I’m still stuck on big, bright, crunchy salads for dinner. I’ve accumulated a ton of gorgeous vegetables between our regular Saturday farmers’ market in Providence and the two I spin through in Boston during the week, and I really can’t think of a better way to put them to use.
I’ve made a variation of this salad for years, with planks of chicken either breaded and fried or simply grilled or roasted, tossed with my version of “wing sauce” and served with lots of crunchy vegetables and my homemade buttermilk blue cheese dressing (the sauce and dressing recipes can be found here). Last night’s version had its chicken fried crisp, served on a bed of butter lettuce from Kimball’s Fruit Farm, shredded red cabbage, sliced radishes and shredded carrot (also from Kimball’s), chunks of juicy, ripe Woodstock Farm tomato, and cutting celery from our garden (via City Farm). It’s the perfect thing for when I’m craving the flavor of that classic bar snack but want a slightly lighter take on it.
If you live along the Eastern seaboard, you may have noticed that it has been a bit steamy of late. In anticipation of the heat, I worked a couple of my favorite main-dish salads into our meal plan for the week. Since I already had a full day of cooking planned on Monday (and was already working up a sweat), I did a bit of prep work for these salads in advance, which meant they came together quickly and easily on the nights I served them, requiring little more than chopping and assembly to get them on the table.
First up, Tuesday night’s Cobb salad, made with chunks of grilled-in-advance chicken, hard boiled egg, avocado, bacon, blue cheese, chives, and tomato on a bed of crunchy lettuce. I added some chunks of cucumber and radish to the mix – not traditional, but cool and refreshing (and who doesn’t love extra vegetables this time of year).
On Wednesday night, after a snack of thinly sliced radishes on sea salted butter-ed bread, I assembled another one of our favorites, a Niçoise-style salad loaded with blanched haricots verts and true “new” potatoes (both from Wishing Stone Farm), cucumbers and tomatoes from Kimball Fruit Farm, more hard boiled eggs, and a few pantry staples: Nicoise olives, capers, and great canned tuna and anchovies. I love <a href="serving this on a big platter so that diners can help themselves to as much of the various components as they want, and though you can certainly cook your potatoes ahead of time, I prefer to boil them soon before serving, then toss them with a bit of my shallot-studded vinaigrette so they can soak up the flavor.
These two salads are a couple of my favorite meals to help beat the heat – just add some chilled rosé, serve, and smile.
After Mike’s 40+ mile bike ride yesterday morning, he was craving a hearty dinner, and in looking at the recipes I had bookmarked for my week of food52 dinners, I had just the thing in mind.
First up, my friend Marie‘s Caesar Salad with Pancetta, the runner-up in the somewhat controversial “Your Best Caesar Salad” contest. This salad has everything I love in a Caesar – rich egg yolk (in this instance, gently coddled), lots of garlic and anchovy, and crisp homemade croutons. Marie’s additions of pancetta and lime juice are what make this salad really special – we loved the crisp bits of pancetta in the salad, as well as the flavor the rendered fat gave to the croutons, and we could have eaten the lime-spiked dressing by the spoonful.
For our main course, I went with The (Not Barefoot) Contessa’s Fish Pasta, an early food52 recipe challenge champ, and a really delicious dish. The olive and caper-spiked tomato sauce is evocative of a puttanesca, and the chunks of meaty white fish (in our case, halibut) give the sauce heft without heaviness. We would have liked a little more salt and acid in this dish (and perhaps a pinch of red chile flakes), though that’s totally a personal preference – this is a wonderful seafood pasta dish that we’ll definitely make again.
Temps reached record highs in Little Rhody yesterday, and as I sat in my air-conditioned office in Boston, I knew there was no freaking way our planned Wednesday night dinner was going to happen in our not-yet-air conditioned carriage house kitchen.
I wasn’t inclined to cook at all, in fact, and began a mental inventory of fridge and pantry to try to figure out my game plan. I love a big salad for dinner on a sweltering night, and it wasn’t long before I had a few good candidates in mind.
We’ve always got the ingredients for what we call an “indoor picnic” on hand – good cheeses and cured meats, tinned fish, olives and other brined and pickled things, but our fresh vegetable options were somewhat scarce, and a special trip to the store was out of the question. I did have a big bulb of fennel in the crisper, and decided to use it as my base and go from there.
In the end I went with something that was a little bit like an antipasto salad, with shades of giardiniera and panzanella thrown in for good measure, a crisp-crunchy-tart-tender-tangy melange of shaved fennel and red onion, lightly pickled cauliflower and carrots, roasted red peppers, capers, chunks of Crespone salami and Parmagiano Reggiano, and garlicky homemade croutons, all in a zippy red wine vinaigrette.
This salad was surprisingly hearty, but the crunchy texture and the brightness of the flavors kept it from feeling heavy. Best of all, I got it on the table without breaking a sweat.