Posts Tagged ‘Salads’
Tired of my fascination with Lebanese cuisine yet? No? Oh good! Because I would hate for you to get bored, especially right now. Pictured above (and below) is fattoush, a classic lebanese salad that has the flavors of sumac—an awesome fruity-lemony spice that’s derived from some sort of fruit off of some sort of shrub—parsley, mint, scallions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, and toasted pita bread. And in case you haven’t realized it yet, that combination of ingredients also happens to make for a salad that is my favorite yet in texture. Crunchy, juicy, crispy, toasty. All good things.
I ate this with Waylon alongside some grilled ribeye over last weekend. Waylon says it’s one of his favorite things I’ve ever made (!), and I have to say, it was pretty, pretty good. Our judgment was probably influence though, just a little bit, by eating outside on the deck, with the view of the water, on a beautiful warm night. I’m sure you know how those things go—I think I’m especially susceptible to my surrounding environment when I have meals.
But what also made this especially good was how it seemed to fit so well with that night. This salad, with the small yet delicious exception of toasted pita pieces, is literally a bunch of chopped vegetables and herbs thrown together with a simple vinaigrette. Which yes, sounds like almost every other salad in the world. But somehow this one really feels different. (And this is coming from someone who eats salads as a meal at least a few times a week. Not that you’d be able to tell from the content of this blog.) Maybe it has something to do with the vibrancy of the herbs, or the contrast of the fresh lettuces and vegetables. All I know is I’ve never tasted anything that tasted so fresh. Bon Appetit featured it as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Food World,” and calls it the “original chopped salad.” It’s the original, and I’m pretty sure nothing has ever come along that can parallel it.
One Year Ago: Rosemary Focaccia
I understand that there is a lot of flexibility in terms of what composes this salad. But, in my opinion, you cannot substitute or go without the sumac, pita bread, parsley, and mint. You can find sumac in spice stores and middle eastern markets. Also, like most salads, this one should be served immediately to prevent any wilting of the herbs and lettuce and to preserve the texture of the pita.
4 teaspoons ground sumac, soaked in 4 teaspoons warm water for 15 minutes
juice of one lemon, at least three tablespoons
2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 8-inch-diameter pita breads, toasted until golden brown
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped, or 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
6 scallions (green parts only), thinly sliced
1 small head romaine lettuce, trimmed, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch strips
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
1 cup fresh mint, stems removed
ground sumac, for garnish
First, prepare the dressing. Combine the sumac in the water it soaked in, lemon juice, minced garlic, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Gradually add the oil in a small stream, whisking constantly, until it’s all blended and emulsified. Season with few good pinches of salt, and taste for salt, lemon, and vinegar.
Using your hands, roughly break up the toasted pita bread to be in bite-sized pieces. Place the pieces in a medium bowl and drizzle the 1/4 cup of olive oil over and toss to coat. Season the pita well with a good pinch or two of kosher salt. In a separate large bowl (largest one you can get your hands on), mix
Place pita pieces in a medium bowl; pour oil over and toss to coat. Season pita to taste with salt.
Mix tomatoes and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add 3/4 of dressing; toss to coat, adding more dressing by tablespoonfuls as needed. Season with salt. Add pita; toss once. Sprinkle sumac over, if desired.
Tabbouleh is something I neither understood nor enjoyed not too long ago. In case you haven’t been fully introduced to it yet, it’s a Lebanese salad of parsley, mint, bulgur, tomatoes, and lots of lemon. I’ve always thought of it myself as primarily an exotic salad that, if presented in front of me, was to be appreciated for its cultural and healthful aspects, but not for much else.
After all, it’s a salad made of mostly herbs. Herbs! Things I thought existed in their mildest form to provide the slightest contrast of color on finished dishes, and at their boldest in a pureed pesto. The most prominent herb of tabbouleh, parsley, is especially something I’ve always been on the edge about.
I ended up changing my mind when I actually got a good taste of it (imagine that!) at the Lebanese restaurant in my college town. I put away my presumptions about it, and tasted it for what it was: a bright and refreshing herbal salad.
David Lebovitz has a pretty great post about tabbouleh, and how most versions show up as a bulgur salad with specks of herbs. More authentic tabbouleh only has speckles of bulgur, not the other way around. And as much as I agree with him (and honestly, who am I to disagree?), I do love a little bit of a bigger bulgur-herb ration than he has featured. I like tasting the chew of the bulgur against the herbs, with the background acid of the lemon and the roundness of the olive oil.
Anyway, this isn’t a recipe to bookmark or to put on some list of dishes to accomplish. It’s something that feels like it should make a consistent appearance all through summer, spooned out onto pita chips, or eaten directly by itself. Or, piled on top of this hummus and then spooned up with warm pita bread. The sharp, lemony tabbouleh cuts straight through the creaminess of the hummus. It is quite the experience, especially in the warm days of summer like the ones we’ve been having.
One Year Ago: Peach Shortcakes
Adapted loosely from Lebanese Food & Cooking
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish
A key to great tabbouleh is thinly sliced parsley leaves that aren’t bruised or mushy, so make sure to use a sharp knife and slice (not chop!) the parsley in tight bunches. Also, I don’t think the lemon zest is traditional, but that’s how the Lebanese restaurant that turned me on to tabbouleh served it. Take big strips of the lemon rind with a vegetable peeler, making sure not to get any bitter white pith, and then chop it as fine as you can.
1/3 cup fine-grain bulgur
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
1 heaping teaspoon lemon rind (only the yellow part), finely chopped
2-3 tomatoes, diced
2 large bunches flat-leaf parsley, stems mostly removed and leaves finely sliced (see note)
large handful mint, leaves finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
In a heatproof bowl, pour 2/3 cup boiling water over the bulgur and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for 15 minutes. Drain any excess liquid, and transfer bulgur to a large bowl. Add olive oil and the lemon juice and zest and toss to combine. Add the thinly sliced parsley, mint, diced tomatoes, and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and toss to combine. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately, before the herbs wilt.
I’m not sure what’s so special about this dish. It’s salad and chicken, a meal that god knows I’ve eaten my fair share of throughout my short lifetime. And yet this meal feels pretty special, simply because the salad was placed on top of the chicken rather than alongside it.
Of course, this dish isn’t separated from others singularly by the placing of its parts. It all only really works because the salad is placed on a piece of chicken that’s been pounded flat (a paillard), and the bright flavors of the salad go along with rather than clash with the chicken. What the dish ends up being is basically a mess up crisp-tender vegetables and lettuces like asparagus, snap peas and red bell pepper piled on top of some quick pan-fried chicken that’s seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and whole-grain mustard. To finish, it’s dressed with a light dijon-tarragon vinaigrette, and the whole thing ends up tasting pretty awesome.
Chicken paillard, at its basic level, doesn’t imply anything about being topped with salad but rather just refers to the fact of chicken being butterflied and pounded out thin so that the whole thing is about 1/8-inch thick and pretty wide in diameter. However, judging by the looks of google results when you type in “chicken paillard,” I think it’s safe to assume that a lot of interpretations of this dish have ended up having with some sort of salad piled on the chicken.
This modern day assumption of chicken paillard is quite alright with me though, because I honestly thought making my way through this dish with vegetables and tender chicken and the light and tangy vinaigrette flavoring every bite was really refreshing. I think it’s something that I’m going to be making a lot of this summer, just because it manages to be substantial without being at all heavy. (By the way, a great side to round out the meal are these roasted smashed potatoes, flavored with thyme.) This version, with the flavors of mustard, spring vegetables, and tarragon is courtesy of Nordstrom’s interpretation of chicken paillard, but I’m looking forward to playing around with it more. Feel free to try out differing combinations of vegetables, seasonings and vinaigrettes yourself, depending on what’s in season or what you’re in the mood for. It is important to remember that this, at its core, is a pretty quick and straightforward dish—use whatever flavors in the form of vegetables or already-made vinaigrettes you already have lying around in your fridge.
Nordstrom’s Chicken Paillard
Adapted from Nordstrom’s Entertaining at Home Cookbook
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (at least 1/2 pound each)
3/4 pound asparagus, chopped into 2-inch pieces and ends trimmed
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
4 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
8 ounces mixed baby greens
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed, and julienned
3 plum or roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped roughly
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/3 to 1/2 cup dijon-tarragon vinaigrette (recipe below)
Using a sharp knife, butterfly each chicken breast by splitting each breast in half horizontally, leaving about 1/2-inch attached at one end. Working with one chicken breast at a time, open a breast out flat and place between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound the chicken gently, beginning from the center and working out towards the edge. Flatten until about 1/8-inch thick and about 6 or 7 inches wide in diameter. Remove the top of the plastic wrap, smooth a piece of parchment over the flattened breast, and then invert the chicken breast and parchment in order to place it, parchment side down, on a large plate to set aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts, stacking them all on top of each other on the plate. Set aside and refrigerate until needed.
Meanwhile, blanch the vegetables. Have a large bowl filled with cold water and ice ready. Fill a 3 to 4-quart saucepan two-thirds full of water and a couple large pinches of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add chopped asparagus pieces and cook, uncovered, until bright green and crisp-tender without tasting raw, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a skimmer, remove the asparagus and immediately shock in the bowl of ice water. Once cooled, remove, drain well, and set aside in a large salad bowl. Repeat the same cooking and cooling process with the snap peas.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Meanwhile, spread a tablespoon of whole grain mustard evenly over the chicken breast on the top of the stack and season with salt and pepper. Leaving the chicken on the parchment (it helps the chicken to retain its shape while cooking), carefully flip the chicken breast into the skillet, parchment side up. After about a minute of cooking, remove the parchment sheet. Continue to cook the chicken until lightly browned on the first side, about a minute longer. Using a wide spatula, flip the chicken and cook until cooked through, about a minute or two longer. Once fully cooked, transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and keep warm in the preheated oven. Repeat this process of heating a tablespoon of oil in the pan while seasoning the chicken with mustard, salt and pepper, and then cooking the chicken through with the remaining 3 chicken breasts, cooking them one at a time and keeping the cooked chicken breasts warm in the oven.
In a large bowl, combine the greens, red bell pepper, tomatoes, carrot, asparagus and sugar snap peas. Drizzle with the dijon-tarragon vinaigrette to taste—I only ended up using about 1/3 or 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette. Toss it all together gently to coat.
To serve, top the chicken breasts with an equal amount of topped salad. Serve with additional dijon-tarragon vinaigrette on the side (I liked the chicken by itself with it).
Makes about 3/4 cup
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
In a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the garlic, mustard, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper and process until thoroughly until smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil in a thin, steady stream. Add the tarragon and pulse a couple of times to combine. Transfer to a small container or jar and refrigerate until needed.
As my year as a junior in college is coming to an end in only three and a half short weeks that will seem painfully long, I’ve started to realize that of this whole school year, I have eaten a pathetically small amount of salads–and I mean salads as in ones that actually have some form of lettuce. (I realize, also, that my reflections of the year might be better spent on things such as what I’ve learned, or you know, the controversies of German Lebensraum as a foreign policy since a hefty paper on it is due in about a week. But I guess I’d rather gravitate my thoughts towards food and my eating habits. So it goes.)
Anyway, this is somewhat depressing to me, because I honestly love salads. Really! I grew up with a mom who, once we got into our high school years, stopped caring so much about making large, heavy dinners on a regular basis and who would often just throw together a big salad and call it good. And oh, it was good. Me and my siblings ate salads with no complaints.
This type of eating has stuck with me so much so that most days, especially in the summer, I will be perfectly content eating a large salad as one of my meals each day. What I’m trying to get at with this is that I am in no way salad-averse, and as such I don’t really have any excuse for being able to count up the total amount of them I’ve eaten this year on both hands.
I think it has something to with the fact that as much as I try to resist it, my pantry and fridge have college-esque appearances. As in, when I go to make a salad (assuming I actually have some form of lettuce), the only thing I have to top it with are some almonds, or maybe some sliced raw carrots and bell peppers. When you eat a few too many salads like this, the lettuce starts to taste squidgy, the vinaigrette tastes off, the toppings… well, ha, there aren’t really any! So I have sadly avoided salads a lot more than I would have liked this year.
Luckily, I garnered up some form of energy to try out this salad (I have no idea where from–maybe it’s the fact that, oh you know, summer and beaches and swim suits are approaching fiercely), because this salad is just what I needed to realize what I’ve been missing. It reminded me of the reason why I love salads: the way they can showcase contrasting textures and flavors, and how you can eat enough so you feel full but never heavy.
And this salad has got all of that. It’s crunchy from the wasabi peas, roasted soy nuts and wonton strips, juicyness from the grilled chicken, and savory and sweet from the sesame honey-ginger vinaigrette. If you’re going to leave out anything here, don’t make it the chicken. It gives contrast to all the crispy ingredients. If you’re vegetarian or not interested in using chicken for this, try out some grilled tofu instead to give that soft-chew component. (As a side note, if you’re planning to leave out anything, I’d make it the wonton strips. They’re fun and give nice texture, but they’re not much in terms of taste and the salad’s already got other crunch items.) It’s a well built salad, and the dressing is absolutely addicting. It’s a balsamic based, which perplexed me at first, but don’t ask questions! It’s got all the balance of flavors, trust me. Make it, eat it, and realize what you’ve been missing.
Asian Chop Chop Salad with Sesame Honey-Ginger Vinaigrette
Adapted slightly from The Sublet Kitchen
Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main
I’m going to be honest here, for the lettuce I just used this pre-mixed lettuce mix that is called something like “baby spring mix.” It combines baby arugula, baby swiss chard and baby spinach, all three of which I really liked in the salad. Don’t feel guilty going the lazy way to and getting a lettuce mix, but make sure to still add sliced napa cabbage to whatever you buy.
5 wonton wrappers
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 chicken breasts
2 cups baby arugula
2 cups baby swiss chard
1 cup napa cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups shelled edamame,
1/2 cup roasted and salted soy nuts
1/2 cup wasabi peas
ginger sesame-honey vinaigrette to dress (see recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the wonton wrappers into about 1/4-inch wide strips. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange the wonton strips on the sheet so they’re all in an even layer. Spray again with cooking spray to coat the wonton strips and season with salt and black pepper. Bake in the preheated oven for about 3 or 4 minutes until golden, puffed up, and crispy. Be careful here! They will go from under-cooked to burnt in seconds, so keep an eye out for them after they’ve been baking for three minutes. Set aside.
Pat the chicken dry and season with a generous amount of kosher salt and black pepper. Using a barbecue or a grill pan, cook the chicken over medium heat until cooked through and no longer pink inside, about 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside. Once cooled, slice the chicken on a bias and against the grain to make pieces of chicken about 3/4 of an inch thick.
In a large bowl, combine all of the lettuces, the chopped cooked chicken, the shelled edamame, soy nuts, wasabi peas, and toss to combine. Add the crisped wonton strips to top. Pour dressing over top, and enjoy!
Sesame Honey-Ginger Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated or minced
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.