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stspinachsaladI had a salad similar to this one in a restaurant once. I’m not a big believer in ordering salads in restaurants. Who wants to pay fifteen bucks for a plate of lettuce? When I go to a restaurant I like the chefs to work their magic on me, provide me with a meal I wouldn’t–or couldn’t–make at home. But when I spied this salad on the menu at a local eatery one hot summer’s day it sounded exactly like what I wanted without knowing it, and I have been making it ever since.

Because of the strawberries and sugared pecans, the salad has a sweet taste. I think a lemon poppy seed dressing goes well without overpowering the flavors. A balsamic dressing would also work nicely, complementing the tanginess of the strawberries. I like fig goat cheese in this but plain goat cheese may be more accessible and also tastes great in this salad.

 

Spinach & Strawberry Salad with Lemon Poppy seed Dressing

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

1/4 cup pecan pieces

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon honey Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

pinch salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 cups baby spinach

1 cup sliced strawberries

1/4 cup goat cheese, fig or regular

 

Directions:

1) Set pecans, sugar, and water in a saucepan on medium heat. Simmer for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and pecans are golden. Spread out on a piece of parchment paper and cool completely.

2) Whisk the lemon, Dijon, salt, and honey together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil. Toss the spinach with the dressing and divide between 4 plates. Garnish with cheese and strawberries. Serve immediately.

rocketRocket. Also known as arugula. I love both names. Every time I say them my mouth wraps around the vowels with delight. I call this salad rocket salad because it sounds better than arugula salad. Rocket has a forcefulness to it. It sounds like something that will go off in your mouth, exploding with a million taste sensations.

A week ago, I was a stranger to this peppery lettuce. I’ve never been much of a greens girl–at least of the leafy variety. If I’m going to eat salad, it’s usually a Caesar. Or a spinach salad loaded with bits of bacon and egg and a good dollop of creamy dressing. However, one of my goals in writing this blog has been to expand my repertoire; lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to step outside the box and make things I ordinarily wouldn’t make, and consequently, eat things I ordinarily wouldn’t eat.

Now I wouldn’t classify myself as a picky eater. Like a lot of people, most of what I eat falls in the no-man’s-land between love it and hate it. I don’t dislike salads, they just don’t move me.

I’m slowly starting to change my mind, mostly because I’ve realized how great salads can be with a little bit of fruit. Adding a bit of pear and blue cheese to a bed of baby greens or some strawberries and pecans to some spinach leaves can make all the difference.

With a bit of experimenting, I devised this little salad, which makes a lovely lunch on a summer’s day. The caramelized apples add texture and sweetness, creating a sublime foil to the peppery bite of the arugula. A goat cheese studded with figs gives it even more character. It  infuses the vinaigrette with a creaminess, minus a lot of calories, and is perfect spread on a French baguette sprinkled with a bit of olive oil.

 

Rocket Salad with Caramelized Apples and Fig Goat Cheese

rock

Serves 4

Ingredients:

for the salad

6-7 ounces (200g) arugula

4 ounces (120g) fig goat cheese

6 ounces English cucumber

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

finely chopped red onion

for the dressing

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

freshly ground black pepper

squeeze lemon juice

Directions:

1) Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and apples. Cook the apple slices until golden brown and set aside.

2) Cut the goat cheese into slices with a piece of dental floss; this will keep the disks from crumbling and falling apart as you cut. Slice the cucumber lengthwise on a mandoline to create thin, even strips.

3) To make the dressing, place all of the ingredients in a glass jar with a lid and shake vigorously. Toss the arugula with the dressing and arrange on 4 plates.

4) Arrange the cucumber slices and goat cheese on top of the arugula. Top with apple slices and a sprinkling of red onion. Serve immediately.

 

 

freshbrocI’ve never been one of those broccoli haters. In fact, during the winter I eat a lot of broccoli.  I like to make it into soup, eat it steamed with a pat of butter and a squeeze of lemon, or chop it up into a quiche. I love most vegetables, but I’m short on imagination when it comes to preparing them.

That’s why when I found this recipe for fresh broccoli salad I had to make it immediately. I’d never thought you could do much with raw broccoli except chop it up and serve it as a crudite with dip. Now that I’ve been enlightened, the possibilities are endless. What makes the broccoli in this case so delightful is that it’s cut paper-thin on a mandoline. Now why hadn’t I thought of that?Especially since my mandoline has been my new best friend in recent months. The wispy slices look pretty and hold the dressing well. Used as a base for a summer salad, you could toss the broccoli with any number of vegetables and a simple vinaigrette. Adding some chopped herbs, toasted nuts, or even some salad greens like arugula are good options as well. Broccoli in the summer–who would have thought it?

This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown and is available on the Food Network website.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 lemon, zested

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt

pinch freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pound broccoli, rinsed, trimmed, and sliced thinly on a mandoline

6 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, haved

3 ounces coarsely chopped toasted pecans or hazelnuts

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil leaves

brocsalad

broc

Directions:

1) Whisk together the vinegar, zest, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Gradually add the olive oil, continuing to whisk constantly.

2) Add the broccoli and toss to coat. Cover and place in the fridge for 1 hour.

3) Stir in the tomatoes, hazelnuts and basil. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature or in the fridge for another 15 minutes before serving.

spinsal

It’s amazing what a little sunshine can do for the spirits.

On the first of April I was railing on in disbelief about the thin blanket of snow that had fallen.  I thought it was nature’s idea of an April Fool’s joke.  It just doesn’t snow here in April.  The winter seemed endless and I wondered when it was ever going to end.

But in Vancouver the weather can change in a heartbeat.  The last several days have been wonderfully sunny–and warm.  The kind of warm where you can go out in a light cotton jacket.  I have been bounding out of bed early in the morning, eager to get outside for a walk  around the park or wander over to the market to look at the produce and figure out what I might make next.

A few days ago I longed for comfort food.  Hot soups and stews. Potato gratins and toasted cheese sandwiches.  Now I’m plowing my way through mounds of strawberries and bundles of asparagus.  And I started eating salad again. 

It’s been awhile since I had a salad. Cold greens are not what I feel like eating when rain is falling down in buckets.  With the sunshine streaming into my windows, I felt the first stirrings of desire for a salad.  Spinach salad seemed to me the ideal “bridge” salad.  The salad that takes you from winter to spring.  Still hearty and satisfying with the bits of chopped egg and bacon, yet light, with tender spinach leaves and a garlicky dressing.  I’ve already had it twice this week.

You can tailor this salad to your tastes.  Sometimes I leave out the egg if I’m eating it as a first course.  If I’m having it as my entree, I usually leave it in for the protein. Some people don’t like mushrooms, of course, but they add a nice contrasting texture to this salad.

 spinachsalad

Spinach Salad

Serves 4

1 9-ounce bag (225g) bag of prewashed spinach leaves

about 10 mushrooms, sliced very thin

4 slices European bacon, cooked and roughly chopped

2 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped

Dressing:

bacon drippings, from frying above bacon

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 large cloves garlic, minced

salt & pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon mayonnnaise

3 tablespoons shaved or grated parmesan

 

Directions:

1) Toss spinach and mushrooms in a salad bowl.  Sprinkle with some salt.

2) Make the dressing: pour the bacon drippings in a clean glass jar.  Add olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and mayonnaise.  Put the lid on the jar and shake until well combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3) Just before serving add the chopped egg and bacon to the spinach and mushrooms. Pour dressing over the salad and toss with salad tongs. Garnish with parmesan and a bit more salt and pepper.

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QUOTE

"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child

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