Roasted Carrot & Wild Rice Salad

roasted-carrot-&-wild-rice-salad

An enormous bunch of carrots called out to me last weekend at the market. I had a few in salads, made carrot soup, and somehow was still swimming in them. I like carrots as much as the next girl, but I can only eat so many. It would take quite a bit to inspire me to finish off the bunch. So I brought out the big guns.

This grain salad makes carrots (or you could use squash or sweet potato) sexy. Carrots roasted in garlic, wild rice, toasty hazelnuts, briny feta, maple dressing…whoa. Lay it out room temperature in a grand holiday spread or eat it warm for lunch.

carrot-&-wild-rice

coriander

Roasted Carrot & Wild Rice Salad

1 c. wild rice
4-5 medium carrots, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
olive oil
fine grain sea salt
1/2 c. hazelnuts, roughly chopped
4 oz. block of feta, cubed or crumbled

1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, or 1/4 ground coriander
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp. maple syrup
1-2 T. walnut or hazelnut oil (or more olive oil)
fine grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 425.

First start the rice by placing it in a heavy bottomed pot covered with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn down to low, and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes. When most of the grains have split open, it is done. You may have to drain off the excess water, then set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the carrots, garlic, a few glugs of oil and a little salt on a baking sheet. Roast until just starting to shrink and turn golden, 25 minutes or so. Check on them every so often and flip at least once.

On a separate baking sheet, spread the hazelnuts in a single layer and slide into the oven under the carrots. These should only take 7-8 minutes to get toasty and fragrant. Then pull them out and set ‘em aside.

Next make the dressing. If you have whole coriander seeds, crush them up. Add the lemon juice and maple syrup and whisk to combine. Whisk in the oil, then salt to taste. You want the dressing to be quite strong tasting, because it will get watered down when tossed in the grains and carrots.

Combine the cooked rice, carrots and most of the nuts and cheese in a serving dish. Pour the dressing over top and toss gently to coat. Top with the rest of the hazelnuts and feta and serve.

serves 4-6

roasted-carrot-&-wild-rice-salad-2

Thanksgiving Ideas

As a kid, my Thanksgivings consisted of a long drive to and from Grandma’s house, canned green bean and cream of mushroom soup casserole, and a large, rambunctious Italian family yelling at the Cleveland Browns on TV. And two bowls of cereal. One before we left and one after we got home at the end of the day, so that I didn’t starve.

Boy, I do love being an adult, because now I can cook some delicious meals for myself, family and friends. If your Thanksgiving meal plan hasn’t yet been set in stone, here are a few more ideas from around the web.

Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes - from 101 Cookbooks

Mini Apple Galettes - from Naturally Ella

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash - from Love and Lemons

Roasted Butternut and Coconut Soup - from Green Kitchen Stories

Whole Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower – from My New Roots

Garnet Pilaf – from Sprouted Kitchen

Fall Vegetable Slaw with Hot + Sweet Ginger Dressing – from The First Mess

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad – from Happyolks

Cider Punch – from Not Without Salt

Truffled Delicata and Wheatberry Salad - from Me!

What are you making for Thanksgiving?

Lentil & Pepper Salad

Today I walked outside and the air smelled crisp and clean. It was still warm, and the breeze felt good on my bare arms. It’s the first day that really feels like Fall. Gone are the salads of light, crisp greens and bright lemony dressings, and in it’s place stand brightly colored harvest vegetables, hearty grains and beans, and creamy dressings.

Enter this salad. Actually, I’m not sure that it can be defined that way, as pretty much everything is cooked, and it is still warm – but it includes a dressing, so I’m sticking to my guns here. Diced sweet bell peppers, which you can use raw or cooked to your liking, peppery french lentils, some toasted nuts and seeds, all tossed with an orange-y creme fraiche dressing and topped with lots of fresh basil. I’m gonna go ahead and say you can use any type of lentil you’ve got, except for red, but I just happen to adore the grassy, peppery bite of frenchie here, especially with the sweetness of the peppers and orange, and the creaminess of the dressing.

Lentil & Pepper Salad

2/3 c. french lentils, rinsed and picked over for rocks and such
1/4 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
3 T. olive oil, divided
2 bell peppers, diced

2 T. creme fraiche
1/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
salt and pepper to taste
a big handful of basil, chopped

Add the lentils to a large pot and cover with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn to low, and simmer, covered, until tender but still with a little bite, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes to finish cooking. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the almonds and seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing every once and a while, until toasty, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the same skillet, and add the peppers. Cook until they are the texture you like them, 3-5 minutes for a firm, crispy pepper, up to 10 minutes for a softer, sweeter pepper.

Now make the dressing. Combine the creme fraiche, orange juice, and the rest of the oil (2 T.) in a small bowl and whisk. Add salt and pepper until you’ve got a strong tasting dressing – the flavor will disperse when it’s mixed with the salad.

Combine the lentils, peppers and half the nuts/seeds in a large bowl. Pour in the dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with basil and the rest of the almonds and sunflower seeds.

serves 4

Roasted Vegetables with Farro & Pesto

I used to be the “Whole Grains Girl”; it was my superhero name. I’m not sure what happened, maybe it was the heat, maybe I thought whole grains don’t make meals interesting enough to photograph and blog about, or maybe I just got too lazy. No more. I intend to be working those bad boys back into my diet in a major way.

See, I’m just getting around to reading Food and Healing, by the woman who founded the Natural Gourmet Institute here in NYC, Annemarie Colbin. It’s really a fantastic read for anyone interested in the subject. I plan on telling you much more about the book once I’ve finished, but right now I just want to mention a small point that really clicked for me. If we want to be whole people (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) and feel whole, then we need to eat whole food. This includes whole grains. What I mean by whole grains is the entire grain, in it’s whole state, not pearled, cracked, rolled or ground into flour. It’s ok to eat those things too sometimes, but in order to really feel whole, the majority of our food should be too. (This applies to things like eggs, chickens and beets, too).

Enter, dinner. All this may be easy to agree with (or maybe not) but the practical side is a little more difficult. Habits die hard, new tastes are hard to make, and sometimes we still crave our old ways. That’s why this dish involves lots of familiar flavors, plus things that we naturally eat whole anyways. It’s easy to eat whole foods when you take gorgeous baby eggplants, squashes and heirloom cherry tomatoes, grown nearby, and roast them to perfection. Mixed with farro, a deliciously nutty and creamy whole grain, and a flavorful pesto, we’ve got quite a meal that can be eaten warm, or room temperature like a grain salad.

You’ll notice that I don’t often make a traditional pesto. For one, I find most pesto very oily, and I don’t need that much oil to be satisfied. I turn my pesto into more of a paste, then add oil/water for the consistency I need. Also, pine nuts and parmigiano reggiano run me a pretty penny, and then to just puree them into other stuff – well, it seems quite a shame. So I use other nuts (almonds in this case) and just grate some cheese on top.

Roasted Vegetables with Farro & Pesto

1 c. whole farro
2 c. water
3 baby eggplants, or 1 small eggplant, thinly sliced on the bias
1 pt. cherry tomatoes (romas might be good, too) halved
1 very small summer squash (I used 2 super skinny zephyr squashes), thinly sliced on the bias
a few glugs of olive oil
a few pinches of sea salt

Pesto:
1 big bunch of basil, just the leaves
1 clove of garlic
a small handful of almonds
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. (or more) olive oil, just enough to bring it together

parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the farro and water in a large, heavy bottomed pot with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes. Let it sit for 5 minutes with out lifting the lid. Set aside.

Lay eggplant, squash and tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil and salt. Toss to coat, then make sure that the tomatoes are sitting cut side up, and everything is in a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, until browned.

Meanwhile make the pesto. Combine everything but the oil in the bowl of your food processor and puree. Drizzle in some oil, with the machine still running, until it comes together in a paste. You may have to stop and scrape the sides of the work bowl.

To serve, gently toss the roasted veggies with the farro. Stir in about half of the pesto. Serve with a small dollop of pesto and cheese on top. You probably won’t use all the pesto, but it tastes great on everything.

serves 2-3 as a main, 4 -6 as a side

Breakfast Salad: A Guest Post

My sister and I are pretty close. Always have been. While other sisters fought over toys, clothes and boys, my sis and I were busy playing dress up and taking pictures (yes, even in high school…). Which is why I am thankful that we still live so close (seeing that we are from western Ohio, and we now both live in the same Brooklyn Neighborhood, that’s pretty rare). We still play dress up sometimes, but other times we like to eat and cook – and drink – together.

You might not know it to look at her, but my sis is quite the cook. At our 4th of July b-b-q, she brought the house down with her salad. Mixed greens, dried cherries, diced apples, candied pecans and a citrus dressing. So I asked her to do a guest post, and luckily she agreed. We were going to have dinner, and she’d make the salad. But, dinner didn’t happen. Instead, a brunch was planned. Lots of brunchy ideas were thrown around (I’d love to tell you what they were, but they are top secret, maybe a future guest post…) and finally she landed on a Breakfast salad. A delicious experiment with peaches, goat cheese, those famous candied pecans, and french toast croutons, all drizzled with a maple-based dressing.

There are a few things that make my sis the best salad-maker around. She is meticulous with the details. And she does her research. When prepping the lettuce, she pulls out all of the big veins, leaving just the soft lettuce leaves.

And the batter for her french toast uses only egg yolks for richness. Her tips for separating yolk from white are: 1. always use a separate bowl, and 2. If the egg white is thick, you can use the shell to cut through it.

 

 

Breakfast Salad

French Toast Croutons:
4 cups of cubed bread (I used focaccia, you can use any crusty bread you’d like)
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons half & half
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1-2 T. butter

Candied pecans:
1 cup pecans
1 T. butter
2-3 T. brown sugar

Maple lemon dressing:
3 T. maple syrup (the real stuff)
3 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

big batch of leafy greens
2 peaches, sliced
2 oz. goat cheese

First make the croutons. Combine egg yolks, half and half, zest,cinnamon, vanilla and salt in a bowl and stir until smooth. Add bread, toss to coat thoroughly, then let sit about 10-15 min. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter until bubbly and just brown. Add croutons and let brown on 1 side for about 5 min, then flip and do the same for another 5 min. Cook and flip until they are all golden brown and tasty.

Meanwhile, candy the pecans. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter and sugar together.  Add pecans and toss to coat. Cook for about 5-10 min, stirring often. Keep your eye on them, as they can burn before you know it.  When they’re done, transfer to a plate to cool. If you’d like, crush them a little after they are done to make them more bite size. This recipe makes more than you’ll use for the salad, but you can save the leftovers in the fridge to add to salad and other things throughout the week.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake.

To assemble salad, toss greens, peaches, cheese, and pecans together in a large bowl. Drizzle in about half the dressing. Top with the croutons, then with a bit more dressing.

serves 2

Corn Salad with Grilled Tofu

Us Midwestern girls know a thing or two about corn. We’d wait until the height of corn season (late July – August), then my mom, sister and I would drive out through the country roads to the farm stands and pick out produce for dinner. Sis and I were in charge of finding the best ears of sweet corn. We’d peel back the husk a bit to expose a few of the uppermost kernels and poke a thumbnail into one. If it shot corn juice into our eye, we knew it was good. Mom always cooked it that might for dinner, because it’s best right after it’s been picked. As soon as sweet corn is harvested, it’s made up of 80% sugar and 20% starch. Within 24 hours it becomes it’s opposite, 80% starch and 20% sugar. The cobs would get slathered in butter, salted and gobbled up. Those were the evenings when a few corn cobs, tomatoes, peaches and a baked potato were dinner.

Sorry to say, even the best Jersey corn can’t really live up to that. So, we have to gussy it up a bit. Enter – the corn salad. The corn gets shucked and kernels are cut off, mixed with chopped pepper and sauteed a bit. Add avocado, fresh herbs and a chipotle-lime dressing, and you’ve got dinner. I marinated some tofu in the dressing for a few hours, then grilled it, to make this into a full meal. I threw in some feta cheese for good measure, but that’s optional.

Preparing corn-on-the-cob for the first time can be a little intimidating, but we’re not going for perfection here. Just peel back the husk and silk, then break off the bottom. Don’t worry about the few silks that are hanging on. Standing the cob upright in a bowl, hold your knife perpendicular and slice down the whole thing. You want to try and stay somewhat close to the cob, but don’t sweat it.

Corn Salad with Grilled Tofu

Tofu:
8 oz. firm tofu (I like Wildwood Sprouted tofu)
3 T. lime juice (from 1 juicy lime)
3 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder (or more to taste if you like it spicy)

Salad:
1 T olive oil
3 ears of corn with kernels stripped (see above for a how-to)
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 avocado, sliced
a big handful of basil leaves (cilantro would be good, too) cut into pieces
2 oz. feta cheese (optional), toasted pumpkin seeds would be good, too
the rest of the tofu marinade

Slice the tofu into 4 thin slabs. Wrap them in a towel and press to dry a bit. Mix the rest of the tofu ingredients in a ziploc bag. Add the tofu to the bag in a single layer, make sure it gets coated in the marinade, then let it sit for a few hours (I did 2, it was very flavorful) If you don’t have much time to marinade, just do what you can and brush more on when you grill.

Heat the rest of the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and corn and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the rawness is cooked out, but corn still pops in your mouth. Set aside.

Grill the tofu. On my grill pan it took 15 minutes on medium high, turning them halfway to get some nice marks. It may take a little  more time on a real grill with a moderate heat.

Pour the rest of the marinade out of the bag and onto the corn and peppers. Mix with feta and half of the basil. Lay the avocado and tofu on top, then garnish with the rest of the basil.

serves 2 for a meal, 4 as a side

*Note: if you decide to use fish or meat instead of the tofu, do NOT use the marinade for a dressing! I bet you don’t need to marinate at all, but if you choose to, throw out the marinade and make more for the dressing.

Inspired by this weeks Food Matters Project, Corn-Avocado Salad (with a little something seared on top)

Bulgur Salad with Roasted Chickpeas & Golden Raisins

You know, I don’t really mind cooking in the Summer. Plus, I’m not a huge fan of raw tomatoes. Sorry to disappoint. So what you see here is my version of a grain salad, with some cooked veggies and chickpeas roasted in some spices. You’ve got the lightness of the bulgur, the crunch of the lightly cooked green beans, and a pop of sweetness from the raisins. It’s unexpected. It’s filling yet light as a feather. It’s delicious.

I envisioned a quick and easy dinner, which this is, but I somehow managed to dirty more dishes than I like in a simple meal. But never fear, for you who don’t want to cook in the Summertime heat, for you who don’t have a dishwasher, there are variations. If you like raw tomatoes and vegetables, there’s no need to saute them. Just stir them in to the bulgur once it’s done. I can imagine diced cucumber or bell pepper would be right at home here, as well as those tomatoes. If you’d rather not turn on the oven, you can skip the roasting of the chickpeas and just rinse then use them straight from the can. For an even lighter version, you can leave them out altogether.

However, if you are ready for the full experience, you won’t be disappointed. The chickpeas are coated in a spice blend, then roasted until shrunken and crunchy. (If nothing else, just make these for a snack) The bulgur and raisins are soaked in boiling water until tender. Regular raisins, or other chopped dried fruit (apricots, maybe) would also work. While all that is going on, you can prep and cook the veggies. That’s the real timesaver in this recipe. You may even have time to check your e-mail (or take pictures).

 Bulgur Salad with Roasted Chickpeas & Golden Raisins

Roasted Chickpeas:
1 15 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed OR 1 1/2 c. cooked chickpeas
1 T. olive oil
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. crushed cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Bulgur Salad:
1 c. medium grind bulgur
1/3 c. golden raisins (or regular raisins, or chopped dried fruit)
3 T. olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. fresh green beans (or a combination of green and yellow), trimmed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
juice of one lemon
salt to taste
1/2 c. fresh leafy herbs, chopped (parsley, cilantro or mint would be great)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put on some water to boil, preferably in a tea kettle, but a pot works too.

Dry the chickpeas well, and mix them with the oil, spices and salt. Spread them on a baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until shrunken and crunchy.

Meanwhile, combine the bulgur and raisins in a large bowl. When the water is boiling, pour 2 1/2 cups of it over the bulgur, cover with a towel, and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain and return to bowl.

While all this is going on, you can prep your veggies. I like to use a small serrated knife to cut tomatoes. It cuts clean through the skin without crushing the inside.  Snap the ends off the green beans. I like mine to be in smaller pieces for ease of eating, but you can leave them long if you like. Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Throw in the garlic, then add the tomatoes and green beans. Cook them for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes start to collapse. Don’t let the beans get mushy or the garlic burn.

To serve, stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, tomato mixture, and half the herbs into the bulgur. Top with the chickpeas and the rest of the herbs.

servers 4 as a main, more as a side.

 

Salad with Strawberry-Lime Tempeh

Last Saturday the Farmer’s Market was just exploding with strawberries!  I snatched up 2 quarts of the bright red, glistening berries for snacking and cooking all week. I also picked up a big bag full of fresh spring lettuces that had been all mixed together. So, a salad with strawberries was definitely in order for the week.

I took the berries, along with some lime and chili, and ground them into a marinade for tempeh – to create the protein base for this salad. The tempeh broiled in the oven, while the leftover marinade became the dressing for some lovely mixed lettuce, toasted pumpkin seeds and some cheese, if you so desire. You could also use tofu, or your protein of choice.

These days I purchase much of the produce I eat from the farmer’s market. Especially all my fruit. Fresh, local fruit that’s allowed to ripen on the “vine” (or tree, etc…) and trucked in the day it’s picked can’t even be compared to it’s grocery store counterpart. Strawberries are no exception. You’ve never even tasted a strawberry until you’ve had a small, plump, sweet berry, pink all the way through. Seriously. Try it. Sooo worth it!

Today’s Food Matters Project is “Mexican Fruit Salad with Broiled Fish”. This is my take.

Salad with Strawberry-Lime Tempeh

1 pint strawberries
juice of 1 lime
1 jalepeno, seeded
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. olive oil
8 oz. tempeh
enough salad greens for 2 big salads
2 T. pumpkin seeds
2 oz. cheese (I used cheddar, feta or goat would be delish)

Preheat the oven to 400.

Combine most of the strawberries, lime juice, jalepeno, salt and oil in the food processor or blender, and pulse until it turns into a chunky liquid. Set aside.

Cut the tempeh in quarters. Slice each piece like a hamburger bun to make eight skinny slices. Lay them on a baking sheet and brush them on both sides with the strawberry mixture. Let them sit for 10 minutes, then brush them again with the strawberries and slide them in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping and basting once or twice. You will use about half the marinade for this.

While the tempeh bakes, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they start to pop. Slice the rest of the strawberries.

To serve, combine the salad greens, seeds, sliced strawberries and cheese if you’re using. Drizzle with the leftover marinade and top with a few tempeh pieces.

serves 2 as a full meal, 4 as a side

Farro Salad with Walnuts and Cilantro

When I walked into the kitchen to make lunch, I thought I was going in to make some penne with a cilantro and walnut pesto. But then I got lazy, and what I ended up with is actually way better than that pasta dish would’ve been. Quicker than making pasta, I just pulled out some leftover cooked farro that was hanging out in the fridge. Instead of hauling out the Cuisinart to make pesto, then cleaning the Cuisinart (those of you with small kitchens and no dishwashers feel me), I pounded the walnuts roughly with the mortar and pestle, chopped up the cilantro with a knife, and made up a simple dressing with oil and lemon. Oh, and there were also some greens that were about to go bad, so I threw those in too. Bada-bing bada-boom, there was lunch.

As you can see in the recipe below, making your own salad dressing is sooo easy, and so much healthier than store bought. I encourage you to double the amount in the recipe, and use it on your other salads. Try adding finely chopped herbs or ground spices, a drizzle of honey, or a little yogurt to customize it to your liking. And I love the fresh, grassy taste that the flax oil brings, as well as all those much needed omega-3′s. Make sure you’re buying your flax oil fresh, from the refrigerator section, and always keep it in the fridge. This is one oil that’s very delicate and can go rancid quickly. Also, you could sub another oil (walnut comes to mind) or just use more olive oil.

This salad would be great for traveling, or making ahead. Just prepare each ingredient and store them all separately until it’s eating time. You can also turn it into a full meal by adding some browned tofu or chickpeas. Goat cheese or feta would be a great substitute for the mozzarella. And for you vegans out there – just leave out the cheese, it’ll still be great. 

Farro Salad with Walnuts and Cilantro

1/2 c. raw walnuts
3 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. sea salt (or more to taste)
2 T. olive oil
1 T. flax seed oil (or other oil) 
a few big handfuls of salad greens 
2 c. cooked farro*, room temperature
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
1/2 c. fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces

Toast the walnuts by spreading them evenly into a dry skillet, and heating them on medium heat until brown and fragrant. Stir or toss a few times for even browning. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and pound them into small pieces (or you could just chop them).  Set aside.

Combine lemon juice and salt in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the oils. Or you could put all the dressing ingredients into a jar (I use an old salsa jar) and shake vigorously until emulsified. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Place the salad greens in a large bowl. Pour a few tablespoons of the dressing in and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving dish. Using the same bowl, combine the farro and most of the pounded walnuts, cilantro and cheese. Add a few more tablespoons of dressing and mix well. I ended up having a little dressing left over, but use however much you like. 

Place farro mixture on top of greens, and garnish with the rest of the walnuts, cilantro and mozzarella.

serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

* To make 2 c. cooked farro combine 2 c. water, 1 c. dry farro and a pinch of salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Drain any excess water.