Archive for November, 2011

November 17, 2011

Salad Series {post #2} Fresh Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower Salads, the perfect sidekick

Fresh Brussels Sprout and Herb Salad with Shaved Parmesan, Crispy Bacon with an Apple – Mustard Vinaigrette
1 pound fresh brussels sprouts, cook in salted water until just done, run under cold water. If large slice in half.
4 slices thick cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces, cooked crisp, drain on paper towels
Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste

Apple – Mustard Vinaigrette
1 cup fresh pressed apple juice, reduced to 2 Tablespoons – let cool.
2 T. grainy mustard
1 shallot, finely chopped (about 1 Tablespoon)
1 T. fresh chives, finely chopped
1 T. fresh thyme (measure before stemmed) chopped
2 T. almond oil
2 T. grape seed oil
good pinch of sea salt
few grinds of fresh pepper

For the vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid – shake to emulsify.
To finish the salad, toss the brussels sprouts with enough of the vinaigrette to coat. Top with the bacon and a good shave of Parmigiano-Reggiano (I used a microplane), serve immediately.



Fresh Cauliflower Salad with Crispy Capers, Olives, Shaved Red Onion and Herbs with a Grainy Mustard – Lemon Vinaigrette

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite size florets – cook in salted water until just done, run under cold water.
1/8 red onion, finely julienned (place in a colander and rinse under cold water for several minutes to mellow the taste)
1/4 cup mixed olives, pitted and sliced lengthwise
1 red or green jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (add more or less to your liking)
1 T. chives, finely chopped
1 T. parsley, finely chopped

1/4 cup salt packed capers, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup grape seed oil

Grainy Mustard – Lemon Vinaigrette
2 T. grainy mustard
1 clove garlic, grated
juice from 1 lemon
2 T. almond oil
2 T. grape seed oil
a good pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper

For the vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid – shake to emulsify.

For the crispy capers, in a small pan heat the oil to almost smoking. Add the capers (they might spatter a bit so stand back :) Cook until slightly brown and crispy, drain on a few layers of paper towels.
To assemble the salad, combine all the prepared ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle the desired amount of vinaigrette and toss to coat. Top with the crispy capers and serve immediately.



I spent a lot of time developing these 2 salads, and am happy to report that they turned out quite amazing. Although dressed with bold, mustardy vinaigrettes, the freshness of the veggies and herbs really shine.
Don’t even think about using frozen vegetables here, the key to these salads are to keep them bright and fresh. Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are pretty common, and I’m sure that most of you can find it fresh at your market. Another key to these salads are cooking the vegetables just right. If you cook them too much they’ll be watery and fall apart (that’s a terrible thing to do to veggie), but you don’t want them raw either – the only words I can think of to describe the texture is crisp-tender. You want them to be cooked and still have their fresh quality. Although both dressings are heavily mustard based, they are still quite different and can be served together. With all the heavy food served at the holiday table (roasted meats, stuffing, gravy – all brown, all wonderful) they can really weigh you down. It’s nice to have some cool, bright and fresh options to lighten things up. The fresh, crisp-tender veggies with a bright and bold vinaigrette is the perfect sidekick. These veggie-salads can be prepared early in the day and tossed in the dressing just before serving, leaving one less thing monopolizing your precious space on the stove or in the oven.

I replanted my herb garden this week. After a 4 month stay in California there wasn’t a trace of fresh herbs when I returned – I guess I’m not the only one that can’t handle the Florida summers! I was quite excited to have all the options to use – and I think I used every herb in the garden for these salads.


November 8, 2011

Salad Series {post #1} Wheat Berry Salad and the Elusive Vinaigrette

We eat a salad of some sort just about every day at our house. I’ve been told it’s a particular strength of mine to compose a salad, I just think we excel in things we love to eat. Funny though, back in culinary school I struggled most with making a vinaigrette – it just seemed impossible to balance just enough acid with the oil. Drop by drop we would add the oil into the bowl while the other would vigorously whisk in fear of breaking the emulsion. We would all stand around the bowl with our plastic spoons tasting and re-tasting this terribly flat or lip puckering concoction – “maybe a little more oil” – “no, maybe a bit more acid” – “maybe it needs more salt” – “I just don’t know!” It’s so funny to think about it now. One day it just clicked. I remember the moment I finally started to understand the vinaigrette. I was working my internship in Los Angeles, at Ciudad (owned and operated by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger AKA The Two Hot Tamales). Before service each day, Susan would grab a handful of spoons and walk through the line and taste everything that we were about to send out to the guests, I mean everything! At that point I was just moved up from prep to working the salad/hot appetizer station. Prep cooks work behind the scenes, usually off the line. They peel potatoes, chop onions, slice mushrooms – pretty much anything and everything that makes the chefs and line cooks life easier. The dishwashers and prep cooks are the true backbone of any restaurant, they make us all look better.  In the beginning Susan would comment to me that my salads needed more vinegar/acid (or salt!), even after painstakingly making the dressings. This made me really stop and think about what I was trying to achieve, and in turn brought me back to culinary school and the vinaigrette recipe standard of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid . If you can keep this formula in the back of your mind you are well on your way to making great vinaigrettes. Vinegars and citrus such as lemons have different levels of tartness, so depending on what your acid of choice is, you may have to slightly adjust the amount oil. For me it’s more like a 2:1 ratio, I like a little extra punch, but everyone’s tastes are different. It’s not a science, it’s a subtle balance – you want your tongue to tingle ever so slightly. The acid will hit you in the back sides of your tongue, just enough to make your mouth water a bit. Pay attention, close your eyes and taste – you’ll know when you have the right balance when you say to yourself “damn, that’s really good”.

I’ve been looking forward to diving into this Salad “Series” with you. Salads, vinaigrettes and dressing – there are no limits to the flavors and combinations – so let’s get crazy and creative! Well, at least creative.

Pottery handmade by Catalina Aguirre Hoffman

Wheat Berry Salad with ginger and citrus.
I’ve dubbed this salad “the kitchen sink”, make at the end of the week when you have bits and pieces of things left over that you need to use up. When I’m thinking about a salad, I want to hit all the senses. Is there something crunchy, something a little sweet, salty, something peppery, astringent, a little acidic, something chewy (and this wheat berry salad is definitely chewy!). Sometimes you can achieve this in just a few ingredients – some mixed greens, a few seeds or nuts and a fantastic vinaigrette. Well, this Wheat Berry Salad has more than a few ingredients, but so good! Remember “kitchen sink”, throw in what you have on hand – a handful of nuts, some dried fruit, left over veggies, that little chunk of cheese that’s been sitting in the fridge waiting for a purpose…

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