Superior Dip Refresher Salad

When I was little the whole family would go up to Maine for a summer vacation. We would take sailing lessons, where we would have to practice capsizing our little boats. The water was painfully cold (it would take your breath away) but it would leave you with a vibrant glow and refreshed with energy for the rest of the day. A dip in lake Superior has the same effect. 

I made a salad for breakfast today which calls to memory the refreshing feeling of getting dunked in icy water by dear lovely cousins and brothers. 

2 cups whole milk yogurt
1 large minced clove garlic
juice from 1 lemon
1/2-1 Tbsp pepper
1 Tbsp dill
a dash of ume plum vinegar or salt
mix ingredients together (I use my mini blender for this), set dressing aside
Wash and rinse some FRESH spinach (don’t buy the bagged stuff, get some really green, meaty, local stuff if you can find it) The recipe makes a lot of dressing, you can make enough salad for 4-6 people or save the extra dressing and use it as a dip for carrots. 
Add some frozen peas (rinse them with water to un-freeze)
and some chopped cucumber
carrots would be good too, but I didn’t have any. 
Dress and serve! Plan on having garlic breath, it is so worth it though!!!
Christina’s vote: “A wonderful summer salad- I ate until my stomach hurt”

The Cruncher’s Delight

This salad seems to be a favorite around here. It is always cause for excitement when the fennel and cabbage hit the cutting board. It is also incredibly good for digestion. Fennel used to be medicinal food for aging popes in italy who suffered from poor gastric motility (I realize I am starting to get a little personal here). Purple cabbage is high in flavonoids, the kind which may help block inflammation, and ginger seems to be the tummy cure-all. 

Aside from all that, this is the salad I make when I really want people to be impressed. Choose fresh ingredients and it is almost impossible to mess this up. 
The dressing
in your salad bowl, whisk:
1 Tbsp pure sesame seed oriental seasoning or toasted sesame oil (make sure you pick toasted and make sure your oil is still good. If it smells a little acrid, don’t use it!)
2 Tbsp sunflower or olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp ume plum vinegar (japanese section..which can be found in the mexican aisle)
1 tsp honey (buy local honey to help ward off allergies)
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
add a pinch of salt or soy sauce if you prefer
whisk dressing vigorously
Now add:
 1 large fennel bulb 
2 large carrots,peeled and diced
1/2 small purple cabbage 
mix the salad well. If it appears over dressed then add more chopped cabbage. If it is underdressed then shame it ruthlessly (unless you live in Minnesota in which case you can shame it discretely until it is gone). 
Christina’s vote: “I love this salad! Crunchy and tangy are my two favorite sensations.”

Ultimate Potluck Salad- Salad-e Olivieh

Today we are going to a potluck at Christina’s Iranian aunt’s house, so I wanted to try making a Persian salad. I had a few recipes to go off of, but mostly I had to keep asking Christina to extract flavors from her memory (I have never actually had this salad before).
People say that civilization began with Persian culture, after reading through a few different recipes for salad-e olivieh I believe it. A combination of potato, chicken and egg salad with fresh vegetables and herbs, this salad is the ultimate in backyard picnic and potluck decadence.

I made the maYOnnaise (I have a hard time remembering to pronounce the yo..might be an east coast thing) from scratch. I used a mini cuisinart blender to do it, which made things really easy.

For the mayo:
use 4 egg yolks (really get the whites out, I think they ruin the flavor)
slooooowly (1 tsp at a time) drizzle in 2-3 cups of sunflower oil or naughty olive oil (stay away from the virgin because it may cause separation down the line)
When you have a nice stiff mixture, add some lemon juice (squeeze), salt (pinch), mustard powder (1 tsp)

This is your base. Now have some fun. Add spices, add vinegar, add tarragon, add garlic, add whatever you think might be interesting. (I did a splash of cayenne and some ume plum vinegar..which is a salty vinegar that I absolutely adore).

For the salad:
Start by dicing 2 large onions. In shallow wide pot or frying pan add a few Tbsp oil and the onions. add 1 3-4 lb frying chicken (cut up, skin on) and some salt. Fry until color changes, then add 1 diced carrot, 1 cup water and some salt. Allow the chicken to cook uncovered for about 40 min to an hour on medium heat (until it is cooked through).

Now cut up some small dutch potatoes, or yukon gold, or red potatoes or fingerlings or new potatoes..whatever you like, but not baking potatoes..use salad potatoes! add them to hot water and bring to a boil. allow potatoes to cook for ~20 min.

Now start the eggs. hard boil 3 eggs.. like we did yesterday. bring water to a boil with eggs in it, allow to boil for 1 min then turn the water off and allow to sit for 20 min with the cover off, or 8-10 min with the cover on.

While everything is cooking, peel and dice 2 carrots, wash and dice some fresh parsley and some green onions or leeks, and two large handfuls of dill pickles.

To assemble. dice up chicken, squeeze fresh lime over the top. Mix in potatoes. add a frozen package of peas (the temperatures will even out) mash up eggs in a separate bowl, then add them. add the diced pickles, carrots, green onions and parsley. Mix in the mayonnaise, add salt and pepper to taste!

Chill overnight.. or for a few hours.

Christina’s vote: “wonderful salad. conjures memories of persian gatherings, triple kisses, and offending people with my bad tarof”

Cold Ride Cafe Warmup Salad

It is 40 degrees outside on this Saturday morning in mid May and I had to put on my winter coat before perusing the farmers market. I found some lovely spinach, asparagus, local bacon and eggs. The spinach is rich, meaty, and deliciously green. It kind of makes me wonder if some genetic engineering might be responsible. Of course, it is more likely that I am just shaking off the remnants of a long winters lowered expectations due to tired imports from the grocery store. 

Christina is at her studio and I can’t wait for her to get home to try this. Every bite is absolutely perfect in my mouth, which I attribute mainly to the fresh ingredients. I wonder if Christina is painting something green…
Here is the dressing (I actually measured this out today so that it will be easier to follow): 
3 Tbsp olive oil 
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp vinegar (I used 1 of rice vinegar, 1 salad vinegar but it doesn’t really could use cider vinegar)
1/2 tsp yellow mustard powder
1/4 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp maple syrup
a dash of lemon juice
fresh ground pepper  
Whisk together and set aside.
For the salad: 
hard boil 2 eggs (cover eggs in cold water and bring to a boil, boil for 1 min then turn the heat off and let them sit uncovered for 15-20 min while you finish preparing the salad..if you are a fast chopper you can cover the eggs and they will be done in 8-10 min.. know your abilities!) 
cook 6 strips of bacon in the microwave. Normally I am not a proponent of using the microwave, but bacon is greasy and messy and it likes to jump up and bite you and I find it is not fun to play with. It usually crisps up better in the microwave anyway.
One more hot ingredient. The asparagus. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a pan. When the oil is hot add chopped asparagus, 2 cloves minced garlic and a pinch of salt. Allow to cool just until the asparagus turns bright green (but still crunchy) and is coated with the garlic and oil (~3 min). Turn off the heat and set aside, squeeze some lemon juice over the top.
Rinse and chop spinach into bite sized pieces
add sliced mini cucumbers
diced red bell pepper
warm asparagus
sliced egg
crumbled bacon
Dress salad just before serving
Christina’s vote: “Bacon in a salad? yes, yes, yes!! a perfect blend… a blend of perfection..perfectly..uh…no, now I’m blowing smoke..but it IS damn good! I’m gonna have me some more!”

Sassy Sasha’s Siamese Sesame Salad

Use thin rice or mung bean threads as the base for this salad. You can buy them in the Asian section of the grocery store, or at an Asian grocery store. A funny thing about grocery stores in non-ethnically diverse areas… they like to group all international foods into one category: “mexican”. 

Cook rice or mung bean threads according to package instructions, or just cover with boiling water and allow them to soak until soft, then drain and rinse with cool water and set aside. (we will be using about 2 cups cooked threads)
In a large bowl, 
squeeze the juice from 1 lime
add 1 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
a dash of soy sauce
10 minced basil or thai basil leaves
2 chopped scallions
Adjust as necessary (more ginger for the adventurous, perhaps a dash of cayenne?)
Assemble the salad in the large bowl with the dressing once you like the flavor: 
2 cups rice or mung bean threads
1 cup diced red pepper
2 cups chopped bok choy leaves
1-2 cups snap peas chopped
garnish with lime zest for extra kick (when zesting use only the colorful part of the fruit, avoid the white rind as much as possible) 
Christina’s vote: tasty, the dressing is superb, loved the snap peas.. but I could do without the noodles in my salad! I have enough of them in my head! 

Crunchy Bitter American Stink Salad

despite the word stink (which inserted itself into the otherwise crisp title by the nasty little blue cheese crumbles that make for memorable dining), this salad is really yummy and not actually stinky.
Salad dressings usually are comprised of an acid, a fat, an emulsifier (to keep the liquid and the fat together) and some herbs or seasonings. Examples of acids are lemon juice, orange juice and vinegar. Examples of fats used are olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil, tahini. Examples of foods that contain emulsifiers are egg yolk, lemon juice and honey. I will usually provide loose suggestions of ingredients for each dressing, then you get to play chemist and create the perfect dressing to suit your palate. As the days go on we will be making all our own dressings, and we are not going to shy away from the homemade ceasar or ranch either.. but these will come later.

For today, a simple dressing (if you feel lazy, omit this step and use ranch, or french, or ranch and french, or whatever you need to use up in your fridge because as the days go on we will be making all of our own dressings).

Squeeze a lemon into your salad bowl. Rub the juice all over the sides of the bowl (like when you rub lime juice on the rim of your glass). Mince and add a small clove of garlic (if you have a date with a Virgo, omit this step) drizzle in some olive oil ~1-2 tbsp just keep tasting as you go. If you ever feel there is not enough flavor (too much oil) just add some vinegar. Too much vinegar? Add some honey! too much honey? add some cayenne pepper..too much cayenne? ah, too bad. add salt and pepper if you like. Okay, dressing is, the salad. mix together:

chopped green lettuce
diced green pepper
diced celery
diced purple cabbage
thinly sliced shallots (unless you have a date..but of course if they REALLY like you they won’t mind..)
blue cheese crumbles
(if you are doing this as a dinner salad, add sliced hard boiled egg)

If you want to make this salad FOR a date and you want to impress and amuse them, top with dried hibiscus flower (they are like giant craisins but yummier and prettier)

Incidentally, while you are using up your pre-made salad dressings, try mixing french and ranch dressing and using it as a dip for fresh raw green beans. It reminds me of eating french fries but without the greasy after-bloat.