Healthy Eats

Fifty Shades of Salad: #30 Buttermilk-Goat Cheese Dressing

Everyone around me seems to be giving up meat and alcohol until Easter. This leaves me with a seemingly endless amount of time to experiment with cooking meat, provided I can keep thinking of ways to prepare it. As such, I’ve been having an affair with steak salad. I’m also in a fair amount of trouble, because I have no idea what type of dressing goes with steak salad.

The majority of my salad-eating friends don’t take their dressing on the side. They’re a one-stop-shop for creamy dressings, meat, and the occasional poached egg on top. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s the high-quality call girl version of a salad, and her name isn’t “Ginger,” “Belle,” or “Bambi.” This dressing is worth every penny paid for the ingredients, just like that hooker. (Not that I condone anything illegal. I would never.)

I should tell you up-front there’s horseradish in this dressing. I wanted to incorporate a classic steak garnish into a new version of creamy salad dressing. The balance and proportions are up to you when it comes to the horseradish. Taste your food, people. I’m not going to leave you alone until you taste your food.

Making this salad dressing was a journey. It’s just a couple of ingredients, nothing major, but there’s just enough of a twist in flavor and texture to bring up questions you’ll want answers to. “What is that tang?”; “Where is that heat coming from?” (FYI: The goat cheese is the tang. The horseradish is the heat.)

Don’t get flustered if the proportions don’t taste clear the first time you try making this. For me, this started as two sentences in a pamphlet from an old Food Network Magazine, and turned into something I’d want to eat weekly. Besides, standard vinaigrettes feel like ordering your coffee black for a walk through the park after you’ve made this dressing. I can vouch for it, because I threw up my hands in frustration while trying to figure out the ratios of this and broodingly whisked together red wine vinegar, dijon, and olive oil to prove I wasn’t completely useless.

Buttermilk Goat-Cheese Dressing

Puree 2/3 cup Buttermilk (you can buy it in the dairy section; and no, low-fat or skim milk won’t cut it); 5 ounces Goat Cheese (look on the package for reference); 3 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar; 1 tablespoon horseradish (NOT a heaping tablespoon); and 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a blender/food processor/Vitamix/Magic Bullet/etc. until smooth. Stir in chopped fresh dill and chives to taste.

Steak Salad

No Muss, Some Fuss: Cumin and Citrus Roasted Carrots

One of the reasons self-diagnosed lachanophobics still risk the possible horror of eating vegetables is the possible magic of beautiful and delicate flavor. Sometimes it’s best to steer into the curve and forgo meat in favor of vegetable authenticity. Plus it couldn’t hurt to throw the vegan, gluten-free members of my core a bone. Or carrot top, since nothing they eat involves bones. Hey! No judgment. This recipe is warm and luscious with a spicy edge, just like that George Clooney scene in “Out of Sight.” See below for reference.

As an alternative, I also present a synonym to this level of steaminess: Jessica Alba and Paul Walker in “Into the Blue.”

This recipe is from a Jean-Georges cookbook, which makes it elegant and flavorful, with a hint of food-snob. Get “kinda interested,” in this one. I know you’re probably not in the market for a celebrity chef commitment, but this recipe takes less than an hour to throw together. That’s not even enough time for two episodes of “Friends” on Netflix.

The light-hearted references aside, this is one of those perfect recipes that will make you look like a more talented cook than you actually are. Your day will change. And don’t worry, it’s not always perfect in Curating My Cooking Land. Later this week, I’ll update you on what happened when I tried to mess with creamy salad dressing. For now, just make these carrots.

Roasted Carrots with Whole Cumin and Citrus

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound medium carrots – peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves – finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds aka “Whole Cumin” if you shop at Vons or Whole Foods
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Red Chili Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Equal parts (about 1 to 2 tablespoons each) Red Wine Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and boil the carrots for 20 minutes.

While the carrots are boiling, combine the garlic, cumin seeds, thyme, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Whisk in the red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Remove the carrots from the boiling water with tongs, so they keep their pretty shape. Place in a small baking dish, and pour the cumin seed dressing/marinade thing over the top. Slice the orange and lemon in half – squeeze the juice on top of the carrots, and leave the halves resting on top during the roasting process to infuse the flavor.

Roast for 25 minutes.

Shazam. Flavor.

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Wake Me Up When September Ends: Denial of Summer Growing Season Ending Charred Corn Salad

“Don’t you love New York [i.e. Los Angeles] in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I’d send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

-Meg Ryan (sort of) in, “You’ve Got Mail”

Things that excite me about September:

  • Not being socially shunned for drinking hot coffee
  • Festive legwarmers and boots
  • Soup, Stew, Chili, and every other warm, hearty comfort food

Things that are the opposite of exciting in September:

  • Pumpkin mania – Thanks, Starbucks for killing my soul by offering Pumpkin Spice Lattes in 95-Degree August Los Angeles weather
  • The implication of everything becoming serious again, i.e. school beginning for those still doing that sort of thing and work vacation time elapsed with no end in sight until Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • The end of the summer growing season

I love so many things about autumn, but I’m definitely attempting to ignore summer being over like a parent dealing with a bratty child….which is not unlike how decent human beings treat ratchet girls at the club…..I digress.

This recipe is ridiculously simple. Twenty minutes gate-to-gate simple. Use-up-the-last-summer-corn-before-it’s-too-late-you-fool simple. Seriously, go make it. Slice some avocado on top of it, while you’re at it.

Charred Corn Salad

  • 4 Ears of Corn, Shucked
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1/2 Small Red Onion, Thinly Sliced
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 Jalapeno, Diced
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro

Brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling over Medium-High heat for 12-ish minutes, i.e. until charred all over.

Meanwhile, let the onion sit in the lime juice for 10 minutes to mellow out the flavor. After 10 minutes have passed, add the maple syrup, jalapeno, and 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once the corn is charred to your liking, remove from the cob and toss with the dressing you’ve just made. Tear the mint, parsley, and cilantro leaves – because chopping is too much damn work when you’re hungry – and add the torn leaves to the corn mixture to your liking.

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Fifty Shades of Salad #4: I know it’s a lot, but I’m giving you bacon.

Bacon (n.) – [BAY-KON]

the back and sides of the hog, salted and dried or smoked, usually sliced thin and fried for food

Idioms:

“Bring home the bacon” – i.e. to provide for material needs, be successful or victorious

According to urbandictionary:

Delicious strips of juicy, pork heaven. Served often at breakfast with eggs, but perfectly good served alone and at any time of day.

Bacon is delicious. It’s enough to make one-night stands stick around for breakfast and keep hangovers at bay until you can sink back into the safety of your pillow. Or if you’re me, it’s enough to make the busiest week of the museum year (my Monday and Tuesday consisted of dealing with 1,168 and 1,248 visitors respectively….and that was only the beginning….) go away when eaten in bed while watching “How I Met Your Mother,” “Daria,” and “Friends.”

Try this vinaigrette for a hint of decadent happiness without compromising calories.

Whisk together 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, pepper to taste, and 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Once emulsified, whisk in 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, 3 slices of crumbled cooked bacon (try to find thick cut bacon….it’s got the best texture), and 2 tablespoons chopped green onions.

Crispy nuggets of love.

Finally getting my hair cut tomorrow. After which I plan to lounge about in the sunshine while watching 90s TV reruns on my laptop.

Within the next couple of weeks, I’ll also be filming my first video blog entry. Any suggestions for things to cook? Or advice on how to look skinny on camera?

Conquering the Artichoke

From what I’ve heard, restaurant chefs consider artichokes a layup. Clean it. Grill it. Fire-roast it. Serve with festive dipping sauces. Boom. Another customer taken care of. Simple, right? Gaze wistfully into the distance, because unfortunately, it hasn’t been as simple of a journey for me as I’m making it out to be.

I’ve tried steaming artichokes. I’ve tried cleaning artichokes. I’ve even gotten over my fear of lighting my maxi-dress on fire while attempting to grill artichokes.

My mother and Mr. Right’s mother thought I was crazy. “You can steam them in the microwave and it’s just as good.” I’m sorry ladies. Been there. Done that. I lack the patience to babysit a microwave and make sure nothing explodes. Plus I’m not entirely certain how to use one. Is that bad? Moving on…

The chefs in my life thought I was lazy. “Dude, I can turn an artichoke in like twenty seconds. Watch.” The scar on the inside of my thumb came from that one, bro.

Things were looking bleak. One evening while zoning out and watching “Top Chef” reruns, someone from Season 9: Texas called out a buzz-phrase: “Roman Style Artichoke.” I glanced up in time to see….leaves? A pan sauce?  I turned to Food Network for guidance, and oven-braised my first-ever successful artichoke.

Roman Style Artichokes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon
  • Artichokes – as many as you’re going to eat
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine – An important note about cooking with wine: Buy cheap, but not so cheap that you won’t be willing to drink whatever is left in the bottle after you’re done cooking with it. The lush in me refuses to let wine go to waste sitting in your pantry.
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup H2O – that’s water, for our less scientific-minded learners
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/3 tablespoon dry oregano)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Pre-heat oven to 350

Fill a bowl big enough to house the artichokes with water, and squeeze the lemon’s juices into it. Toss the leftover halves into the bowl when you’re done squeezing.

Partially clean the artichokes by cutting off the tops, snipping the sharp tips off the leaves with kitchen shears, and removing leaves from the steam, and any tough-looking leaves from the bottom layer. Then slice the artichokes in half and scrape out the choke (the hairy part in the center.) Put the artichoke halves into the lemon water for 2 to 5 minutes.

Remove the artichokes from the water and put into a pot with the cut side facing up (the insides should be looking at you in all their blank canvas glory.)

Add the wine, olive oil, water, salt, garlic, and herbs to the pot. Bring to a boil.

If you’re lucky enough to have a stove-to-oven pot, place the pot in the oven and cover.

If you’re a plebian like me, use tongs to place the artichokes in a baking dish, then pour the pot’s contents over the artichokes. Cover with aluminum foil and transfer to oven. Roast for 45 minutes or until the stem flesh pierces easily with a fork.

When the artichokes come out of the oven, drizzle with olive oil, pepper flakes, and the braising liquid (i.e. the juices left over in the baking dish.)

I never knew success could be so soft and herbaceous.