Archived entries for salad

The Height of Summer: Savory Peach Salad

We’re at the height of it: the humidity, the sweat, the garbage baking on New York’s sidewalks. Our balcony plants are hot to the touch, and nobody can bear to sit close to the grill. I blinked sometime around spring asparagus and suddenly here we are, at peaches.

I haven’t been cooking much. We had one night of excellent hamburgers outside (the trick is a mix of ground lamb and beef) and I made a quick reprise of this scallop saute with chantarelles one night when we were reviewing sparkling wine for an article (up now at Palate Press!) but honestly, there’s been a fair amount of delivery food around here. And salad.

I made this salad twice this week, in part because I wanted to perfect it before passing it along to you, and in part because it’s awesome. Take a few super-fragrant peaches, cut them up and toss with balsamic-marinated onions, creamy feta, basil, and a sprinkle of bacon. It’s summer in a bowl.

You can add arugula to make it greener, but the key is the sweet and the savory, the balance of so-juicy-they’re-gushing-down-your-face peaches and salty feta, smoky bacon, earthy onions. It’s the best of both worlds, a refreshing dinner for the height of summer. I couldn’t resist gilding the lily with some sweet-sweet fresh corn–don’t bother to cook it; this time of year you can gnaw it raw right off the cob. Go ahead, try it.

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Out of the Salad Daze: Crunchy Cucumber Salad with Sesame and Peanut Dressing

Cooked dinners seem to make the best leftovers–I’m happy with a tupperware of pasta for lunch the next day, even giddy with the prospect of having extra grilled veggies or meats to save me from the perils of overpriced Flatiron-area lunch options.

But lunchbox salads are trickier: I hate how even lightly-dressed lettuce gets soggy in the fridge. The answer: skip the leaves. Fresh farmer’s market cukes and (ok, nonlocal) peppers, carrots and barely-cooked green beans are sturdy enough to stand up to a flavorful dressing (even after a night in the fridge.) Besides, it’s a nice break from humdrum salad greens.

This recipe is a spin on Americanized Chinese sesame noodles, but without the noodles. The key here is the awesome dressing: nutty and savory, with a kick from from Lan Chi chili soybean paste, fresh ginger and garlic. The crisp texture of carrots and cucumbers does mean your jaw gets a bit tired after a large plateful, but it certainly tastes healthier than the takeout classic. Instead of meat, I added in some shiitake mushrooms, cooked until velvety with a splash of soy sauce and sweet hoisin. They were plenty satisfying, though you could add stir-fried tofu or a little bit of cooked pork or chicken if you have any…

I’ll be honest–it takes awhile to cut all the veggies just so. Feel free to chunk them or slice however you like if you’re short on time. (And not just killing an hour while waiting for your husband’s train to arrive from Jersey.) But there’s something satisfying about the uniformity of vegetable shapes…perhaps you could do the whole thing faster on a mandoline?

This dish would be a great vegetarian option at a summer picnic or barbecue–feel free to make it earlier in the day and let it chill out a bit in your fridge. Pair with some chilled rosé or a tart riesling (or, if you’re drinking beer, a saison or a smoky rauchbier.)

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Roast Eggplant and Chickpea Salad

Perhaps our diet has been lacking, perhaps I’m over the braises and stews of winter, perhaps it’s the slow way spring is toying with us, but all I want for dinner lately is a really good salad.

I’m not talking just cold greens. Main-course salads have been good to me lately–big bowls of refreshing, bright, clean flavors that no takeout can really satisfy. I could live on taco salad, steakhouse iceberg saladsquash panzanella, and I haven’t even gotten around to a giant duck salad yet this year.

This weekend’s iteration was a keeper: spinach and cucumbers tossed with a garlicky goat-cheese dressing, with piles of crispy, Moroccan-spiced chickpeas and silky, rich slices of eggplant. Depending how long you cook them, the chickpeas are almost like spiced nuts: rich, crispy, snackable. Take them out of the oven a little earlier if you prefer them soft.

You could add a dollop of hummus to the top of this salad if you wanted, or even some chunks of lamb, but that might be overkill. A garnish of mint and parsley wouldn’t hurt. In summer, this dish will be all the easier with the use of a grill; just slather each eggplant slice with oil and herbs and throw them on, turning once.

Of course, in summer, I’ll be all tomatoes all the time.

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Steakhouse Iceberg Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

I’ve always shied away from mayonnaise, from ranch dressing and sour cream. I’m a little afraid of buttermilk unless it’s whipped into a muffin or a biscuit. I cringe when I discover mysterious creamy sauces on my burgers or sandwiches.

But recently, when out to dinner with my parents at Portland’s Laurelhurst Market, I realized I may have a weakness for good blue cheese dressing. We ordered a wedge salad to go with our buttery bavette steaks, and there was something addictive about it. The tangy blue cheese on the simple iceberg chunks, dusted with crispy shallots and bacon—if ever there was a junk-food salad, that was it, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Much to my delight, this dressing doesn’t include (scary) mayo or (disturbing) buttermilk—it’s just high-quality blue cheese stirred into creamy submission with the help of fresh lemon juice, sherry vinegar, and olive oil. You could dribble it on anything—grilled portobellos or eggplant, perhaps, or even on a baked potato. But it’s simply awesome on iceberg lettuce, so good we kept interrupting our dinner conversation to praise it.

We skipped the steak this time—when you’ve got blue cheese and bacon, I’m not sure you need anything more.

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Butternut Squash Panzanella, the easy way

I am not a huge proponent of shortcuts. I enjoy the process of cooking, slicing and stirring and listening to good music while I while away an hour or two, following the steps to slowly bring a recipe to life. I come to the kitchen for a sort of meditative state. That said, I am mostly drawn to the creative side of cooking—the opportunity to experiment, to literally spice things up exactly the way you want them, to make something with a personal touch. And if you need to take shortcuts in order to get in the kitchen at all, if cutting a corner will allow you the time to cook something tasty on a busy day, then there are some compromises I can get behind.

Which brings me to butternut squash. It’s good, warming food. It’s savory and sweet and filling. But man, do I hate cutting it up. So squash does not often appear on my weeknight table. I just don’t have the energy to wage that battle after a long day at work.

I don’t usually buy pre-cut anything, especially overpriced underripe melon (which still somehow manages to be soggy) or pre-diced onions (ew). I like to buy my produce caked in mud from a local farm. But as long as it hasn’t been sitting there for weeks, chunked butternut squash hasn’t faded much, and the time it buys you in the kitchen is amazing.

I dumped the squash straight from the package into a baking dish with olive oil and popped it into the oven the moment I got home. Tossed with garlicky soft croutons, a rich walnut-oil dressing, and ribbons of red pepper and radicchio, this panzanella (bread salad) was exactly the filling, homespun meal Matt and I needed. And we had plenty of time left over to sit on the couch and talk and laugh. And I am a huge proponent of that.

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