Friday, September 17, 2010
90 salads have come and gone, like visitors stopping along a journey. Each one has delivered a story, some had tales of cold mornings and long days of laboring, some travelled through forest paths speaking of the business of woodland chatter and the sounds of feet pounding against the scratchy dirt, some spoke of lazy blue skies and summer sun in company of the carnival atmosphere of friendship.
In the mornings I have stood in my kitchen, readying dishes and fumbling about with the anticipation of an innkeeper, wondering what salad was going to come and visit with me that day, and what stories would it tell. I tried to be observant, noticing the colors, textures, and smells, so that after the visitor is gone I could share their story with you.
I hope you have enjoyed the second season of "90 salads in 90 days" as much as I have enjoyed telling it. In the winter months, check in with Leafy Reader at http://leafyreader.blogspot.com for more stories and recipes.
Salad 90: Reminiscing Miso-ginger Salad
peel and cut into rustic bites: 1 bunch small beets
heat 1 cup water in a frying pan or pot and simmer the beets until just tender.
In a food processor, or using a grater, grate 8-10 baby carrots, unpeeled.
Clean and chop 1 small bunch baby Swiss chard
Mix ingredients together and dress with miso ginger dressing:
in a saucepan, heat:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 cipollini onion, chopped
heat until just simmering, remove from heat and add 1 inch peeled fresh ginger and 1 tbsp mild miso paste. Transfer to a food processor and blend, adding
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp raw honey
adjust seasonings to desired flavor and serve.
Christina's vote: "This salad put a fire under my hinder"
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Growing up, I remember how excited my mother used to get when some Midwestern relative or childhood friend would send us a package of wild rice as a gift. As she cooked the rice, she would emphatically tell us about what a nice treat we were about to receive. I would peer over the stove, waiting to taste the mysterious concoction that was releasing woodland odors into our family room. It was black, and creepy looking, and I half expected the stuff to come alive and attack me. My mother's excitement was convincing, contagious even, it was fueled by the fondness of childhood memories.
When at last, dinner was served, I stared apprehensively at the pile of what looked like bird seed on my plate. I remember wanting to like it as I scooped that first bite up to my mouth, but then..
"It tastes like twigs" I whined, feeling let down.
It's funny how our taste changes as we get older. I now understand exactly what my mother meant when she insisted that wild rice was a treat, though I'm not sure exactly when or how it earned my favor. Perhaps it was the first time I experienced wild rice with cranberries, or wild rice in chicken soup. Perhaps it was the first time I tried real, hand-processed, wild rice as opposed to paddy rice which has a more rustic texture.
Actually, I now find that I like both kinds of rice, for different reasons. I used paddy rice for this salad, mainly because I forgot to pick some up from the market and couldn't get any of the real stuff at the store.
Wild Rice with Apples Salad
1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 fennel bulb, diced
1 sweet tango apple
2 Tbsp hazelnut infused olive oil
pinch salt and pepper
1 Tbsp rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh marjoram (a little goes a long way)
To cook rice:
(If using hand cultivated rice, consider yourself a very lucky individual. It takes a lot of work to hand process rice, and the flavor is supreme. Generally hand cultivated wild rice cooks faster than paddy rice, and needs to be rinsed three times before cooking.)
Rinse the rice before cooking, then toast in 1 Tbsp olive oil in saucepan before adding water (I think it cooks faster this way). Add water in amounts indicated on package for desired serving sizes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until cooked (I usually turn the heat off toward the end of the cooking and just leave it on the stove covered for a few hours while I do other things).
Christina's vote: "Strange combination"
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I left work early, determined to finally run some errands. The summer months had come and gone, and it feels as though I spent my hours hopping cars on a train of one commitment followed by another, trying to get to the engine up front. With frazzled nerves, I finally decided that this train has no engine, instead it runs on coffee and stress alone. So after a morning of lab work, I took an afternoon break and simply never went back.
It was a feeling of freedom, the kind that a child experiences when the radio announces that your school is canceled due to snow. I managed to hold on to the feeling while cleaning out my car, which is a testament to the theory that freedom is an attitude and not an achievement. I joyfully wiped coffee grime out of my cup holders and vacuumed sunflower seeds off of the floor mats, happy to be working toward something that fits in the category of self care.
While driving home, I noticed a sign for a hair salon that I have never noticed before, called "Chop". On impulse, I decided to see about have a hair adventure. The salon was upstairs, in what looked and felt like an apartment of a 20 something. The wooden floors were uneven. The walls were painted lime green and decorated with black and white photos. There was an Eiffel tower painted directly on the wall along the way into the bathroom. The decor was a mixture of pottery barn and ikea. The shelves were lined with astrology books and containers of nail polish.
"I feel like I am hanging out at a friends house" I confessed to my stylist.
"I know" she said "we used to serve wine too, but then..." she trailed off, leaving me wondering. "So where do you work?" She asked.
From the confessional booth of my chair, I told her everything. As she relieved me from my tattered ends, I let go of some gnawing stress and mentally recommitted my energy. Sometimes I forget what I am working toward until I am forced to explain it to someone I have just met.
My stylish stylist shared some of her stories too "I had my palm read when I was younger, and I was told that I would have twins at 25. I never did have twins, but I did meet my now boyfriend back then.. and he IS a twin. AND he is a Gemini!" She shrugged and held my gaze as though to say 'come on, who wouldn't believe in psychic energy after that'
"How long have you been together?" I asked, unsure how else to respond.
"Well I am 33 now so.."
"Wow, you don't look 33" I interrupted. She looked to me to be in her early 20's, with dyed red hair, that she sometimes wears up in a mohawk.
"Well I sleep a lot" She told me. That was the moment that I noticed my own wrinkles, and I shot my stylist a sleep deprived look of desperation.
"Coffee?" She asked, and I nodded slowly.
I called Christina on the way home. "I am starting to look older" I said. "Do you think I should start getting more sleep?"
"Welcome to reality" Christina replied. "It's good to have you back."
Welcome to Reality Salad
2 Tbsp tarragon
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
the juice and zest of 1 minneola tangelo (substitute orange, or meyer lemon)
1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries (find some that you like the taste and texture of on their own)
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 cup romanesco, broken into small pieces
1 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Christina's vote: "A fine crisp blend"
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The wagon bounced from side to side, it's giant wheels catching on patches of grass and causing us to hop in our seats the way one does when trotting on horseback. The air had a snap to it, and smells of hay and pumpkins huddled inside my nose, as though they too were trying to keep warm. I nestled my head in the crook of your neck and listened to the crunch of the leaves as we turned off of the field and onto a woodland path. I half expected to see a headless horseman jump out of the woods, or bats soaring overhead, and so I crouched down low in my seat and tried to make myself into less of a target. From my huddled position, I marveled at how sweaters are the perfect armor for this kind of ride, allowing just enough chilly wind in to keep oneself alert in the event we should encounter a hay ghost or a live scarecrow.
The moon provided a blueish tint to the path up ahead, where the trees broke open in a gesture of offering to the sky. The sound of voices laughing, and merriment warmed my fear and melted the exhilaration into a calm and joyous serenity. When at last the wheels rolled to a halt, and we gingerly climbed to the soft, loose, dirt- covered ground, I saw that we were standing in a clearing before a giant cauldron of hot cider. Light emitted from a central fire, and licked the faces of the people as they talked, and listened, and sang into the night.
1/2 ronde de nice, cubed
1 sweet tango apple, sliced
1 small bunch sorrel (about 1/2 cup)
2 Tbsp hazelnut infused olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp dark honey
sprinkle of salt
Christina's vote: "This salad was a freak of nature"
Monday, September 13, 2010
"Have you guys seen Tammy's garden behind her restaurant?" I asked Shari and Don of Heinel farms.
"Yes she is growing our kale!!" Shari said, excitedly. "I gave her some to plant over there" Don chimed in "How is it doing?"
"Beautiful" I answered, recalling the prehistoric looking mass of rich green kale leaves growing unruly in the back corner of the parking lot. It stuck out oddly in the gravel parking lot, like seaweed growing in the middle of a desert. Tammy had given me a bouquet of kale to take home, and I recalled how the flat crinkly leaves dwarfed the refrigerator crisper. I scanned Heinel's table, and noticed that they had an impressive and diverse array of, not only kale, but also other exotic members of the cabbage family. They had orange cauliflower, and green, spiky romanesco.
I took a moment to express my love for the delicious crunch of romanesco, and Shari told me that romanesco is a natural example of a fractal. In case you have forgotten your high school math (or, as in my case, had difficulty paying attention in high school) a fractal is a geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is a miniature version of the whole. See yesterday's post for a delightful salad featuring this bizarre vegetable, which, when cooked on it's own, tastes like a buttery cauliflower.
To my knowledge, today's salad is not an example of a fractal, but it did inspire awe in me this morning, much in the same way as the romanesco. Parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, and potatoes, when freshly dug, are like sweet little jewels buried in the ground. Fire polishes them and enhances their sweetness, and oil brings about their shine. Salt hardens them to crisp little morsels, and kale livens them with color.
Nature's Treasures Salad
Boil a pot of water. Add:
2 small/medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small/medium rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 small/medium turnip, peeled and cubed
Cook for 10 min or until just tender.
Rinse and chop 1 bunch kale.
mince 3 cloves garlic
heat a frying pan and add 2 Tbsp olive oil, kale, and garlic. saute for about 3 min, then add drained root vegetable mixture.
season with salt
add 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
cook until kale is desired texture and color
add 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar,
1/4 Tbsp lemon juice (and zest) and 1/4 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
1/4 Tbsp ume plum vinegar
Christina's vote: "This salad made me believe in the pot of gold at the end of rainbows."
Sunday, September 12, 2010
We drove up to the restaurant and parked at an empty meter on the opposite side of the street. The faded sign above the door spelled out the name 'Rainbow' in slanted letters, and a purple awning draped down leisurely over the entryway like the brim of a wide sun hat. Rectangular cafe style tables jutted out invitingly into the sidewalk, like window boxes waiting to be filled. It was early Sunday evening, and all the restaurants on Nicollet were relaxed and breezy.
After cooking with her at the farmers market all summer, we were finally going to check out Tammy's Chinese restaurant for the first time.
"Let's sit in the sun, eh?" Dunja said, and Christina and I emphatically agreed. Jesse stuck close to Dunja, in order to make sure that he secured a seat next to her. Although I was feeling shy about it, I went inside and told the waiter to tell Tammy that we were here to visit. She came bursting out to our table moments later and graced us with her eccentric energy and welcoming love. Soon we were all busy with conversation, and though we were sitting on the sidewalk of a busy city street, it suddenly felt as though we were five friends laughing in a quaint village cafe.
Tammy took us out back and showed us her garden, which at first glance looked like nothing more than a parking lot. As we walked around the perimeter of the restaurant, one by one the vegetables appeared against the brick. It was like when looking at a magic eye image. After staring at what appeared to be a pile of leaves and vines, I spotted a giant cucumber, then another. Tammy stroked one of the leaves, and suddenly one of the vines was filled with little cherry tomatoes. She wrapped her arms around a potted plant, and green peppers appeared. She plucked some shiso leaves for Dunja and I to taste, and then dug up a licorice root for Christina to take home, as though she knew without asking that Christina was into potted plants.
Soon the waiter came chasing us down, and it was time to return to our seats. Tammy grabbed and smoothed out the hem of her apron, the way a little girl would straighten her skirt after playing in trees, and then headed back into the kitchen. As she walked away, my mind followed her into a picture of one of many possible career directions that my heart might cheerfully go.
The Restaurateur Salad
1 package tri-colored ravioli
Boil a pot of water and cook tri-colored ravioli. Drain by scooping out with a slotted spoon and rinse with cold water. Let sit in the strainer.
In the boiling pasta water, cook 1 head romanesco (al dente) remove with a slotted spoon
Pour out the water and add 3 Tbsp olive oil to the pan. Add 3-4 cloves spicy garlic and salt and heat for 2 min (do not burn garlic). Add romanesco back into the pan and cook 2 min. Remove from heat and let cool.
Toss together 1 cup arugula, 3 small sliced heirloom tomatoes, and the romanesco and pasta. Season with salt and pepper (optional add 1 tsp apple cider vinegar).
Serve warm or cool.
Christina's vote: "This salad made me feel fat."
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Dunja showed up at the market one day recently, and within five minutes of her arrival she was helping me wash dishes. We began talking instantly as though we had known each other for years. It was while we were washing dishes that I discovered that Dunja is a friend of one of my original culinary heroes. I also discovered that she practices a cooking style similar to some of my college friends, and one which I don't commonly encounter in the midwest. Perhaps this is partially why our conversation flowed so easily, and our friendship seemed effortless.
Dunja is from Croatia, and though she has only been here for two weeks, she knows more about what is happening in the Twin Cities than I do. I therefore didn't feel too guilty about it when, after offering to show her around Saint Paul, I then took her instead to our apartment and suggested that we do some cooking.
I emptied out all of the vegetables from our refrigerator, and lay them gingerly on the counter. Then I handed Dunja a knife and a cutting board, and took one of each for myself. It was exciting to work side by side with a chef that I admire and respect, and I couldn't wait to see what she would come up with given the choice of ingredients. Christina rushed to grab the video camera, and filmed as we steadily and methodically chopped and seasoned our way through the piles of vegetables in front of us. Then we sat down and enjoyed a nice meal together. Here is what was created.
Emily's Cabbage Radish Slaw
1/4 shredded red cabbage
2 small kohlrabi, peeled and shredded
8 radishes, shredded
1/2 Tbsp ume plum vinegar
2 tsp dark honey
1/2 tbsp brown rice syrup
1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup ground cherries
Dunja's Arugula Salad with Roasted Garlic Tomato Croutons
1/2 cup baby tomatoes
2 cups arugula
1 small sliced raw zucchini
1/2 clove garlic
1 spring onion, diced
1/2 cup basil
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp ume plum vinegar
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp capers
Toss salad together and garnish with:
2 slices toasted sprouted grain bread spread with roasted garlic tomato sauce
Christina's vote: "This salad was wow, wow!"