Category Archives: salad

homemade croutons

there’s been a lot of talk about homemade croutons lately. oh wait, i think pretty much all instigated by me. a friend on twitter was lamenting the demise of a loaf of bread i’m sure she had spent the better part of a day mixing, kneading, rising, and baking. my first thought was ‘croutons!’.  in my mind, the baking gods had closed a door and opened a window for her. now, no one wants to spend the day making a batch of croutons, and thankfully you don’t have to. but it’s nice to know one is only ever 15-20 minutes away from a batch if there’s ever an emergency. homemade croutons are a completely different animal than store-bought. i can’t even remember the last time i bought a bag of croutons at the store–i have always loved to make them from leftover or stale bread. this is not a mind-blowing recipe, nor will it change your life. it’s just a method for baking glorious cubes of toasted bread that i’m glad i know of and would like to share. it also pleases the taurus in me to use up every last scrap of food.

homemade croutons (makes about 3-4 cups)

this is more of a method than a recipe. you can pretty much use whatever bread, oils, or herbs you have on hand.

approximately 1/3-1/2 loaf stale bread

several glugs good quality olive oil

1 tbsp fresh herbs (i used thyme)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

kosher salt and pepper

preheat oven to 350 degrees. cut bread into large cubes. you can leave the crust on or not. i prefer to leave it on for a more rustic taste and feel. place in a large bowl with all other ingredients and toss. you want to add enough oil to coat the bread but  not make it soupy. pour onto a baking sheet with enough room in between the pieces so they brown freely. bake 13-15 minutes, turning once of twice for even browning.

allow to cool and store in a covered container or plastic bag for up to a week.

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my favorite fall salad (grape, feta, and toasted walnut)

fave fall salad-1

a little over a year ago, i promised houston that i would keep him well fed, laugh at his jokes, and at least try to be a decent person to live with. in other words, we got married. i absolutely loved everything about my wedding day, from the crappy cabins that we stayed in (sight unseen, at least the interior) with the lovely view of the blanco river, to the sitting around the campfire at midnight on a wooden bench still in my ivory silk wedding dress, to the food. oh, the glorious food. i wanted to so very badly make my own food or cakes for the wedding, but i was talked out of it at every turn. and i’m soooo glad i was. they were right; i had enough to worry about.

fave fall salad-wedding food

this is the only picture i could find with the food in it. if i was taking the photos, things would have been very different (more food!). the unflattering pose is due to the fact that i am removing a garter that my sister-in-law loaned me. i couldn’t get it off fast enough–i think it was meant to fit on a baby’s arm.

we ended up having salt lick cater the wedding. it was held at a vineyard out in the hill country here in central texas, and i just love pairing wine with food like barbecue. it just seems to drive people crazy. i love the juxtaposition, i guess. being the california girl that i am, i couldn’t offer a meal without adding something green, fresh and fairly good for ya. so i made a salad. not just any salad, my favorite fall salad. thankfully all i had to do was provide the ingredients and two of favorite people actually put it all together while i was getting ready. thank you, friends.

fave fall salad 2

my favorite fall salad (serves 4)

this is part of a monthly series with other food blogger’s from across the globe called let’s lunch. see links to their fall salads below!

several cups mesclun or spring mix greens

1/3 cup toasted walnuts (left large and chunky)

about 20 red or black seedless grapes, cut in half

4-6 tbsp crumbled feta cheese

red onion, sliced very thin for garnish

vinaigrette dressing:

1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp water

1 tsp dijon mustard

4 tbsp good quality olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

make the dressing: place vinegar, water, and dijon in a small jar with a lid and shake. add olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. close lid and shake again.

place greens in a large bowl and mix with dressing. i don’t tend to like a heavy amount of dressing, so i just add a bit at a time. place greens on individual plates and arrange, grapes, feta, walnuts and red onion on top.

if you love fall salads, check these out from the other let’s lunch folks:

bonvivant

a tiger in the kitchen

cowgirl chef

slow food chef

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asian noodle salad

 

asian noodle salad 5

it’s hot. i don’t know about where you live, but here in texas, we are approaching almost two week’s worth of officially oppressive 100 degree (and above) weather. i made the bad decision to bake a cake at 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon the other day. i learned my lesson. no more cooking inside until this passes. i boiled the noodles for this salad at 8:00 o’clock in the morning and that’s the last of it. it’s officially salad weather. and this is a doozy. i found it on the pioneer woman‘s website, where she gleened it from jamie oliver. she says it’s her favorite salad ever. ever. ever.  and i have to concur. this is one sweet salad. i love the pasta to veggie ration. as i’ve said before, this is how i justfy eating lots of pasta. the ratio between pasta and veggies needs to be at least 1:1.

asian noodle salad

this is a versatile salad in that you could swap out the veggies for what you preferred or just what you had on hand. but please don’t leave out the cilantro. it was made for a salad like this. so cool and refresing. oh, and don’t leave out the brown sugar in the dressing, as the  pioneer woman points out. it needs it to balance out the other ingredients in the dressing. otherwise, it is too bitter and completely unenjoyable. i mean, don’t even bother, ya know?

asian nood;e salad 2

don’t you feel healthier just looking at all those veggies? i love napa cabbage. i don’t use it enough. how about you?

asian noodle salad 3

you could use any pasta you prefer. i had fettucine so that’s what i used. i also added some cashews. just a few. as a treat. peanuts or almonds would also work well.

asian noodle salad 4

asian noodle salad (makes a ton)

adapted from the pioneer woman and jamie oliver

salad:

1-8 ounce package pasta-cooked al dente, drained and rinsed (if made ahead of time, be sure to add a bit of oil to them to prevent fro sticking together)

1/2 head napa cabbage, sliced thinly

1/2 head purple cabbage, sliced thinly

several large handfuls of baby spinach

1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange) thinly sliced

1 small bag bean sprouts (i did not use these because i hate them more than life itself…)

2 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)

1 cucumber, chopped or sliced as you like

 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

 

dressing:

juice of 1/2 lime

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

3 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp brown sugar

1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, finely chopped (seeds and ribs removed for minimal heat if you prefer)

more cilantro, chopped

1 cup cashews, peanuts, or almonds (optional)

 

prepare noodles and set aside. mix together salad ingredients in a very large bowl. whisk dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl and pour over noodles. add nuts, if using, toss to combine. mix salad and noodles with dressing together. can be made ahead of time but is best eaten within 24-48 hours.

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Filed under pasta, salad, side dish

spinach strawberry salad with goat cheese and walnuts(total yumsville)

strawberry-salad-complete-no-dressing

many moons ago i was part owner of a small coffee shop. i was in charge of the culinary, rather than the financial, side of the business and that’s the way i liked it. during the spring, when the stars and planets aligned to allow spinach and strawberries to cross paths at the same time, we offered this salad. it was such a hit that we would sell out every time we had it and our customers would still request it when the season was over. what they didn’t realize, however, was that the reason it was so perfect was because the produce was at it’s peak. if we served it at any other time they would have been sorely disappointed. it is a coveted pleasure that is available only for a short time.

a-strawberry-truck

a-strawberry

starwberry-salad-sliced-straw

i have seen salads like this available at family friendly chain restaurants, usually saturated in some sort of ‘fruit flavored’ vinaigrette dressing. i find that serving this with a fruity dressing can render it rather sweet and cloying. a dressing with just a touch of sweetness allows the fruit flavor to really shine. try this one:

strawberry-salad-oils-and-vinegars

get your oil and vinegars ready-i used walnut oil, balsamic and red wine vinegars.

strawberry-salad-vinegar-added

start in a generous bowl and add your vinegars, one at a time. the balsamic is for sweetness, while the red wine vinegar gives that tangy, tart flavor.

strawberry-salad-vinaigrette-add-salt1

add the ever important salt.

strawberry-salad-vinaigrette-add-pepperand LOTS of freshly ground black pepper. maybe more than you think. just give it a taste. black pepper goes surprisingly well with strawberries.

strawberry-salad-whisking-oil

whisk in your oil slowly (or put all your ingredients in a jar and shake it-same diff.)

strawberry-salad-vinaigrette-in-bowl-with-whisk1

i like to dress the greens with the vinaigrette, then pile the other stuff on top. it makes for a prettier presentation, whether in a large bowl to show off at a potluck or on individual plates to show off at your next dinner party. enjoy this with a nice glass of dry rose from this place or somewhere else.

spinach strawberry salad (serves 4)

6-8 cups fresh baby spinach

8 fresh strawberrries (about 2 berries per salad), hulled and sliced

4 ounces fresh goat cheese

several slices purple onion, sliced VERY thin (as not to over power the salad)

a few handfuls of walnuts, toasted

balsamic vinaigrette-adapted from ruhlman’s vinaigrette ratio

1 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

salt & LOTS of freshly ground black pepper

6 tbsp walnut oil

stir the vinegars together in a bowl. add salt & pepper. whisk in the oil slowly. pour over the spinach and toss. place in serving bowl or individual plates. place strawberries, goat  cheese, sliced onion, and walnuts on top.

strawberry-salad-vinaigrette-in-jar


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lemony egg salad with dill

egg-salad-deconstructed

just returned from our whirlwind tour of california. lots of wine, local brews and fabulous food to earn ourselves 12 hours of sleep last night! but for now, let’s talk eggs. now that the easter season is coming to a close, you might be wondering, ‘what am i going to do with all these #*%$*# eggs??’.  and you also may be one of those that despise egg salad. like a certain, ahem, someone i live with (more for me!!). many folks are turned off by the mayonnaise aspect of it, i suppose. i use very little, substituting plain yogurt for the majority of it. you could leave out the mayo completely, if you wish, but it will be very tangy. i really have always loved egg salad, but over the years i have developed the one i love the most. i believe it to be the perfect springtime lunch.  it is inspired by one of my favorite soups, avgolemono (it is of greek origin–breaking down the word it means egg+lemon). i add a touch of freshness with the dill. we have to use up dill this time of year in texas or it will bolt. right now the weather is perfect, in a few weeks it will be hotter ‘n hades.

dill-fresh

egg-salad-sandwich

lemony egg salad with dill

perfect hard boiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped

3 tbsp plain low-fat yogurt

2 tbsp real mayonnaise

2 tsp grainy dijon mustard

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill (don’t bother with the dried stuff, use another fresh herb)

2 scallions, chopped fine (if you cut them on the bias, they look so pretty and delicate!)

salt and pepper to taste

a few handfuls of baby spinach or butter lettuce

8 slices whole grain or light wheat bread, toasted if you prefer

 

prepare and chop your eggs and set them aside in a large bowl. mix together dressing ingredients-yogurt through scallions. add to eggs and mix gently–you don’t want to pulverize your eggs and make them unrecognizable. add salt and pepper and taste the darn thing. i love a good lemony flavor, so i ended up adding a bit more juice and a few grates of fresh lemon zest. if you make this 4-24 hours before you serve it, you will be rewarded with the marriage of flavors. be sure to allow it to sit at least 10-20 minutes out of the fridge before serving, otherwise it will be too chilly to have any flavor at all! spread on your favorite bread or toast and add spinach or lettuce. also would be good with a few very thinly sliced cucumber slices.

makes 4 sandwiches.

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lighten up!

 

marjoram

i was looking for something a little lighter after a last weekend’s valentine sweet-fest. i searched for a recipe with some items i had on hand; lentils, fresh marjoram, a handful of tiny and beautiful purple carrots from the farmer’s market. after a minute or two, i came across this recipe for lentil salad by alice waters. and since i was making a meal of it, i tossed in a few extras. it all added up to a much heartier winter salad that i thoroughly enjoyed. i hope you do too.

look how cute these carrots are!

bunch-purple-carrots

carrot-with-penny

be sure not to overcook your lentils–they can get mushy. you want them to be a bit al dente, like pasta, because they will continue to cook for a few minutes more while they are marinating in the vinaigrette. next time i might add a little baby spinach for color and allow it to wilt into the lentils after cooking. i topped the salad with some crumbled goat cheese and ate it while it was still warm-perfect for a cool night.

lentils-raw

lentil-salad-finished-22

lentil salad (adapted from the art of simple food by alice waters)

 
1 cup lentils (French green lentils or black Beluga lentils are the best varieties to use for lentil salads because they have lots of flavor and they hold their shape when cooked.)

1/2 a small onion, left intact

i bay leaf

1 tablespoon red wine, sherry or balsamic vinegar
Salt
Fresh-ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

a big handful of small carrots (try to buy with tops still attached-they seem to remain more flavorful-or from the farmer’s market).

1 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram

a few glugs of olive oil

3 ounces fresh, crumbled goat cheese

a few tablespoons toasted walnuts

 

preheat the oven 400 degrees. trim carrots and drizzle with a few glugs of olive oil, the marjoram, salt and pepper. roast for about 20 minutes in a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides until crisp tender and sweet. set aside. (you can toast the walnuts at the same time if you need to on a separate cookie sheet but check on them every few minutes so they don’t burn-they should only take about 5 minutes, just until they’re fragrant).

while the carrots are roasting, sort and rinse the lentils. cover with water by 3 inches, add bay leaf and half an onion and bring to a boil. turn down to a simmer and cook until tender all the way through (adding more water if necessary), about 20-25 minutes. drain and place in a large bowl.

toss the lentils with the red wine vinegar, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper. let sit for 5 minutes. taste and add more salt and vinegar if needed. add the extra-virgin olive oil, roasted carrots and parsley. stir to combine. 

top with fresh, crumbled goat cheese and toasted walnuts.

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