Category Archives: Salad

Citrus with Spiced Maple Syrup

citrus fruit salad

This is the shoulder season, when anticipation builds for spring flavors. I can’t wait for ripe strawberries. I wander through our neighborhood farmer’s market on Saturdays, taking the produce pulse. Have the ramps come in? When will we see asparagus?

Luckily, we still have citrus. Shipped in from Florida, Texas and the west coast, pink grapefruits and Mineolas are delicious right now. Tangerines, navels, kumquats and pummelos. Even the fruits’ names carry me away to sun-soaked places. Sumo, Valencia, Golden Nugget. They could be names on the Las Vegas Strip. Or given to champion race horses in Saratoga Springs.

whole citrus fruits in rainbow colors

I learned this simple, outstanding dessert recipe when teaching my very first cooking class at The Sylvia Center, in Soho. One of my dearest old friends, a fellow food-lover and chef-instructor named Nina, invited me to be her assistant. The students were reluctant teenagers, struggling academically and exploring career options in the food industry. We taught them knife skills. But we also exposed them to vegetables and fruits some had never tasted. It was a revelation.

ingredients for spiced citrus salad

This is no ordinary fruit salad. It marries the tart with the sweet (citrus plus maple syrup), with an exotic overlay of earth and warmth (spices). Make it with whatever citrus fruit you have. The more variety of oranges you add, the more colors and hidden flavors your salad will contain.

maple syrup with spices

At first, supreming citrus seems challenging. Using a sharp knife, you cut away the peel and pith, leaving a naked orb of fruit. You then cut out neat segments, filling a bowl with bright, colorful citrus wedges. Be sure to squeeze every last drop of juice from the remaining membrane before discarding.

details of how to supreme citrus

The fruit will perk up your taste buds. It is fresh and succulent. The “broth” tastes like nectar. You will want seconds. It’s my favorite cold weather dessert, good for parties and those who avoid dairy, gluten and carbohydrates. Unbelievably delicious and packed with vitamin C.

 

Citrus with Spiced Maple Syrup
Serves 6-8

Count on about 2 whole citrus fruits per person. Choose an assortment of citrus, including at least 3 different ones from the following (suggested) list, preferably of different colors:

Minneolas
Tangerines
Blood oranges
Grapefruit
Navel oranges
Clementines
Pummelos
Mandarins
Valencia oranges
Cara Cara oranges
Tangelo
Satsuma
Hamlin Oranges
Mango oranges

½ cup maple syrup, preferably grade B
1 cup of water
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
4 juniper berries
4 cardamom pods
3 cloves
1 small knob of fresh ginger
Pomegranate seeds from 1 pomegranate (optional)

Put maple syrup and water in a saucepan. Add star anise, cinnamon stick, juniper berries, cardamom pods, cloves and fresh ginger. If there are certain spices you prefer, feel free to eliminate some and/or add others. Bring syrup and spices to the boil, then lower heat, and simmer gently, until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, supreme all citrus into sections over a bowl, squeezing the juice of each before you throw out the membrane. Be sure to remove all the pith and seeds. Depending on the overall quantity of juice, you may want to pour some off and drink it separately.

Add strained, cooled maple syrup broth to the citrus and juice, and stir gently. Serve in glass bowls, with optional pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top, as a garnish.

When serving, citrus should rest in about 1 cup of “broth,” juice with maple syrup mixed, with fruit piled up and not floating in too much liquid.

 

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Filed under dessert, Recipes, Salad, vegan, winter

Spring Salad of Peas, Asparagus, Ricotta and Mint

peas pea shoots asparagus mint sugar snap peas Vegetables mark the cadence of a year. The tempo quickens in spring, with ramps, asparagus and baby greens brightening our plates. Things escalate in early summer, with peas, beets, herbs, and more. By September, the markets in New York City are bursting. It’s a screaming match of color and flavor, a fever pitch of produce, a cascade of foods to taste.

spring vegetables peas salad

Because I like to cook seasonally, I get impatient right about now. We had a bitterly cold winter. The growers are saying spring is 2-3 weeks late this year. Each Saturday morning, I go to the farmer’s market in my Fort Greene neighborhood to check the pulse. Still only apples in the first stall? Or has their first crop of raspberries come in?

spring lunch recipe peas asparagus mint ricotta

This recipe gets a jump on spring, in spite of the paltry supplies on offer. Only the pea shoots are local, not counting the ricotta that comes from Narragansett Creamery. But I couldn’t wait.

spring salad  of peas asparagus mint and ricotta

Blanche the peas and asparagus for a minute to brighten their color and soften the bite. You can smear the ricotta mixture on the plate and spoon the salad on top, for a more elegant presentation. Or just toss it all together like a pasta dish without the pasta, using veggies as a stand-in. This is a one-pot spring meal to raise the volume on spring.

spring tangle of pea shoots peas asparagus mint and ricotta

 

Spring Salad of Peas, Asparagus, Ricotta & Mint

Serves 4

½ pound asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
½ pound fresh peas in the shell, (about 1 cup, shelled)
¼ pound sugar snap peas, sliced into 1” pieces on the diagonal (about 1 cup)

1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped mint
Pea shoots, several handfuls
Chives snipped for garnish

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add one tablespoon of salt, and the asparagus. Cook for 2 minutes, skim out the asparagus and place in a bowl with cold water and ice. Do the same with the peas, cooking for just one minute, then adding to the cold bath. Drain the cooled vegetables. Cut the asparagus spears into 1” pieces, sliced on the diagonal.

Mix together the ricotta, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.

Toss the vegetables in a few spoonfuls of dressing. Add the mint and stir to combine. Reserve ¼ of the vegetable mixture. Gently mix the ricotta mixture into the remaining vegetables. Place in the center of wide serving platter. Surround with small bunches of pea shoots. Spoon a little more dressing on the shoots. Scatter reserved vegetables on top. Garnish with snipped chives. Sprinkle a pinch good, coarse sea salt on top.

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Filed under Appetizer, dinner, Lunch, Recipes, Salad, spring, vegetables, vegetarian

Lentils with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

cherry tomatoes from fort greene farmer's market We felt the first snap of cold yesterday in New York. The day before, a walk through the neighborhood farmer’s market under buckets of rain was proof that summer lingers. Minute cherry tomatoes on the vine, bushels of yellow squash and sticky plums. It’s still bountiful around here.

fort greene farmer's market

I use the market as a bellwether. Instinctively, I know it’s time to start cooking winter squash and potatoes and roots. But the farmers have the last word. I asked a few of them, as I planned the menu for the next Supper Club (Oct. 18), what might I find in two weeks time? Can I plan on tomatoes, still?

summer squash at the farmers market

One farmer, Hector, said global warming has changed things in upstate New York. The season runs longer, for sure. The chances of a frost in the next few weeks are very low. Cherry tomatoes will likely be around for a little longer.

blistered cherry tomatoes

Lentils find their way onto my plate about once a week: dressed up with herbs in a salad, braised in aromatics and served alongside a grilled sausage, served with vegetables and rice to make a protein-rich meal sans meat, cooked into soup. Fast-cooking. Cheap. No soaking needed. Hearty, fibrous and nutritious.

french lentils, also called lentilles de puy

A batch of lentils will last in the fridge for days. You can mix and match flavors, working them into lunch and dinner in small quantities. The following recipe isn’t necessary, really. Just make lentils and add what you like. Design the dish around what the farmers bring to market. Or just add chopped bacon and caramelized onions and call it a day.

lentils with blistered tomatoes

 

Lentils with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 8

2 cups of lentils (lentilles de puy or French Lentils are best for this recipe)
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 small onion, peeled and cut in half, root intact
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt

For the dressing:
Juice and zest (thinly sliced) of one lemon
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

A splash of sherry or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
6 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (any or all: basil, chives, mint, parsley, tarragon)

Simmer lentils for 20 minutes with carrot, onion, bay leaf, garlic, salt, and plenty of cold water (at least 3:1 water to lentils), until just tender but with a little bite (al dente). Drain and save liquid for stock.

While the lentils cook, make the vinaigrette, mixing together all the ingredients except the oil. Whisk in the oil. Err on the side of a more acidic (=more lemon), as lentils need a flavor boost.

Add dressing to drained, warm lentils. Toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in a splash of vinegar (sherry or red wine), 3 tablespoons of herbs, and stir to blend.

Heat a large skillet with olive oil over a medium-high heat. When hot but not smoking, add cherry tomatoes and cook, undisturbed, for a few minutes, until they begin to pop and collapse. Shake pan. Tomatoes are done when they are a little browned/blackened, after about 5 minutes.

Serve lentils warm or room temperature, with tomatoes and their juices poured on top, and garnished with remaining chopped fresh herbs.

 

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Filed under Appetizer, dinner, fall, Lunch, Recipes, Salad, sides, summer, vegetarian

Eggplant Caviar

Early fall is when eggplants are at their best. Choose firm, dark colored orbs, plentiful and reasonably priced in this season. Cook them soon after buying.

eggplant mint puree

Adapt this simple mash to your taste, adding different seasonings to tip the scale alternately towards North Africa (using tahini, toasted, crushed cumin seeds and a pinch of cayenne), the Middle East (pomegranate molasses), or Italy (fresh basil and/or minced anchovies).

eggplants ready to bake

No recipe is needed. The easiest method for cooking eggplants is to pierce them a few times with a small knife and bake on a sheet pan in a hot oven until they collapse. Scoop out the cooked flesh and mix in flavorings to suit your mood. Use a fork, rather than a food processor, or you will end up with something more like baby food. The texture is nicer when it’s roughly mashed.

Be sure to garnish eggplant caviar with something to add color to the dish’s dull, beige appearance. Chopped mint, parsley, cilantro or basil work well. Pomegranate seeds provide a crunchy, sweet contrast. Serve room temperature with toasted pita bread. Keeps about a week in the fridge.

serve eggplant puree with toasted pita

Eggplant Caviar
Serves 4-6

2-3 eggplants (about 1½ pounds), rinsed, dried and pierced in a few places with a paring knife (to release steam)
Grated zest of one lemon (optional)
Juice of ½ lemon (or more, to taste)
½ clove of garlic, minced and using the flat part of a knife’s blade, made into a paste with ½ teaspoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
A little extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Black sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a sheet of aluminum foil in a baking pan and lay the eggplant on top. Bake until the flesh is cooked, about 20 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Scoop out the cooked flesh into a medium bowl and discard the eggplant skins. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, including some minced fresh herbs, if you like. Taste and adjust seasoning (more salt? lemon?) Transfer to a small serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with chopped fresh herbs and/or sesame seeds. Serve as an hors d’oeuvre with toasted pita bread, or as a side dish with the meal.

Optional ingredients: tahini, pomegranate molasses, cayenne, harissa, ground cumin, paprika, fresh herbs, chopped scallions, chopped fresh chili peppers, chopped black olives, minced anchovies. Pomegranate seeds scattered on top look beautiful – and taste great.

 

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Filed under Appetizer, fall, Lunch, Recipes, Salad, sides, summer, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

firm ripe tomatoes for slow roasting

I haven’t put away the sandals and sundresses yet. The markets still burst with zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes. We took the subway out to Rockaway Beach a few days ago for an early evening swim. It’s imminent — the Halloween icons, the sweater weather, the short days. But I refuse to let go of summer.

halved tomatoes on a sheet pan for roasting

Making slow-roasted tomatoes extends the vibe. These plump, sweet-sour treats explode in your mouth with concentrated flavor, transporting you to a summer day in one bite. They can be tossed with a salad, served with grilled meat, scattered with pasta and herbs, or popped into a lunch box. I love them on bruschetta, garlic rubbed toast smeared with ricotta and basil leaves.

sprinkle cut tomatoes with sugar, salt and pepper

My cousins Betsy and Bobby live in the Yorkshire Dales (photo below), about a five hour drive north of London. I visited them in August and was served a most delicious salad of slow roasted tomatoes with croutons, black olives and red onions. Most of it came from their beautiful garden out back.

walking in the yorkshire dales, UK

If you can find them, roast a mix of yellow and red tomatoes to increase the visual appeal. Use cherry tomatoes if you wish; just decrease the cooking time by an hour or so. Dusting them with a mixture of sugar, salt and black pepper before they go in the oven exaggerates their natural sweetness while keeping them on the savory side.

Summer in northern England doesn’t immediately evoke images of just-picked, ripe tomatoes. I imagine Betsy roasts tomatoes regularly and stores them in jars with olive oil, treasuring them into the fall long after the leaves have turned. Thanks to her, I will do the same.

 

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Makes 24 halves, enough to serve 8 as a side dish

12 plum tomatoes, firm-ripe
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper*

Preheat oven to the lowest temperature it will go, 250˚ or 275˚ F. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Arrange cut side up, in a single layer, on a rimmed sheet pan. Mix together sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle tomatoes liberally with sugar mix. Bake for about 4 hours – or more – until tomatoes have collapsed and shriveled, caramelized but not burnt. Eat warm or room temperature. Store for about a week in the fridge, or in a sealed jar covered in olive oil, which preserves them up to a month. You can also freeze them.

* Do you have a good pepper grinder? What does that even mean? Being the house guest of several lovely, kind, adorable friends this summer has provided me with the opportunity of bringing a pepper grinder house present. Selfishly, it’s because I cannot live without the use of my sturdy, workhorse grinder. But also, because everyone – even novice or non-cooks – should have one in their kitchen. This is one I can safely recommend. Look for the Peugeot label on the underside (the business end).

 

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Filed under Appetizer, Breakfast, fall, Lunch, pasta, Recipes, Salad, summer, vegan, vegetarian

Favorite Easy Caesar Salad

my favorite quick salad

This is a time of year when I crave change. Tired of the dark clothes, the winter routine and the root vegetables. Waiting for the first asparagus to appear in the market – and as the temperature hit an unseasonable 72 this week in New York – I made my favorite weekday salad. It’s a citrus bomb on crispy Romaine lettuce with olive oil drenched croutons, garlic and Parmesan curls.

find what you have in the fridge

Make this for lunch (if you bring it to work, carry the dressing in a separate container to keep it from getting soggy). It’s also good for a light supper. This Caesar has all the components to make it interesting and filling. To me, that means crunch, freshness, protein and flavor. It’s not a new twist on the classic, except for its extreme lemon zing. And it doesn’t have raw egg because I find that a bit gluey.

use old bread to make croutons

It’s totally adaptable. Want the Provence vibe of anchovies? Must have bacon on almost everything? Feel like you need a runny poached egg sitting on top? Have spare fresh herbs you can chop and scatter? All of these would be excellent additions.

day-old bread crisped in olive oil

Crouton note: we love bread in this house but often end up with half loaves that are not their freshest. These either get cut into croutons (minus the crusts, to spare our teeth) or thrown in the food processor and shredded into bread crumbs. Our freezer always has a supply of each at the ready. To bring them back to life, heat a little olive oil in a skillet and toast the (frozen) croutons or bread crumbs, both of which can be added to many dishes to bring texture, such as pasta, meat, fish, sauteed vegetables, salads, etc.

first put everything but the oil in a bowl

When I lived in France, I learned to make dressing in the bottom of the salad bowl. Rub a clove of garlic on the inside of a dry, empty bowl. Then add salt, herbs, pepper, lemon juice and vinegar. If you have time, let that sit a while (30 minutes is good). Then whisk in olive oil to emulsify (thicken). No muss, no fuss. Thank you, Bridget Strevens, for teaching me this many years ago!

a lump of garlic in the dressing

The ingredients are all pantry staples, things one should have around for everyday cooking. It’s vegetarian, healthful and quick to assemble. And it makes me feel like I’m sitting in a café terrace, warmed by the first blush of spring.

delicious, fast, healthy

Lemony Caesar Salad

Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups croutons (crustless stale bread cut into cubes)
1 clove of garlic, smashed and peeled
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
4 big fistfuls of chopped Romaine lettuce
1 ounce of Parmesan cheese, peeled into curls with a vegetable peeler
Chives for garnish (optional)

  1. Make the croutons by heating 2 tablespoons of oil over a medium-low heat and crisping the bread slowly, taking care that it doesn’t burn. Turn to brown at least two sides of the bread cubes. Set aside.
  2. Rub the inside of a salad bowl with the smashed garlic clove and throw the garlic into the bowl.
  3. Put all the dressing ingredients in the bottom of a salad bowl (zest, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, parsley and anchovies if you’re so inclined), except the oil. Let it sit and macerate for about 30 minutes.
  4. Whisk in the oil slowly to emulsify the dressing.
  5. Throw the lettuce on top. Sprinkle with croutons and Parmesan. Scatter chives over the salad. Toss at the table and serve.

 

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Filed under Recipes, Salad, vegetarian