Salad

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

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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Sometimes You Want Other People to Do the Cooking (Even though I Contributed a Side Dish)

Raise your hand if someone else cooking for you sounds like a good idea. I’m glad you agree.

The gentlemen in our apartment went on a massive Costco run, leaving me to fend for myself for a few hours. Uncertain about the evening’s plans, I picked up a few standards at the market and chose to bide my time until it was time to unload. This translates to eating rice cakes and falling asleep while watching “How I Met Your Mother” reruns. Upon their return, I was told Awesome Roommate would be preparing salmon with a cucumber salad side for dinner.

Awesome Roommate’s salmon was fantastic. He marinated the fish for about 2 hours in sesame oil, maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, and red pepper flakes, squeezing lemon juice on top after it came off the grill. It’s simple, and maybe it has to do with him knowing the contents of our fridge and pantry (and being able to reach all of them, being almost a foot taller than me) – but he’s got the most fantastic culinary knee-jerk inclinations with flavor and technique.

There’s a food version of trivial pursuit, and he’s the only one who’s ever beat me.

I contributed a simple salad (NOT part of the 50 Shades of Salad entries) that intrigued me to use caraway seeds for the first time. If you’re wondering what caraway seeds taste like, think of a bitter version of cumin, with an aroma like dill.

Caraway is from the carrot family – no, I didn’t know this before I liberally sprinkled the seeds all over my roasting vegetables – but the irony of using something from the carrot family to season carrots is not lost on me.

I’m probably the only one who actually thinks the above joke is funny. No matter.

Roasted Carrot and Mushroom Salad

Turn an oven to 450.

Put 1 and 1/2 pounds of sliced carrots (I just bought the bag. Like I mentioned above – I wasn’t in the mood for putting forth much effort.) and 10 ounces of halved mushrooms on a baking sheet.

Drizzle with 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, toss on two cloves of mashed garlic and three sprigs of fresh thyme, then sprinkle to taste with caraway seeds, kosher salt, and paprika.

Roast for 30 minutes until tender, then squeeze one lemon’s worth of juice over the top.

It looks like something to be eaten in autumn, but I promise it’s very light.

Other people doing the bulk of the cooking can lead to fantastic discoveries. Or something charred and inedible. (The Awesome Roommate makes killer salmon, by the way. Definitely try the simple marinade above.) Moral of the story: cook with friends. Regardless of what happens, I’ve never encountered that couldn’t be solved with good company and good wine.

You had me at Bourbon: Melon Salad with Bourbon-Maple Vinaigrette

I have too many magazine subscriptions. My problem isn’t the lack of time to read them (sometimes), but reading in too much detail. All my university textbooks were filled with writing: notes in the margins, underlined things for personal reference, highlighted things for class, doodles based on content, doodles based on nothing at all….you get the point. Karma forbid anyone besides Mr. Right has to share magazines with me, because I have no idea how the hell he puts up with constantly having to look through a horde of sharpie ink to read everything.

I’m one of those girls who gets excited for seasonal changes. No, this doesn’t mean I’m going to trot up to you in Lululemon yoga shorts and an off-the-shoulder sweatshirt to list all my favorite seasonal Starbucks drinks, accessories like legwarmers and headbands, or that I add “<3” to the end of my photos. I have plenty of ladies in my life already doing that so I don’t have to. Just hear me out when I say I’m excited about fall. Pumpkin jargon at Starbucks, boots with legwarmers, and headbands that cover my ears have all been established. Right now, I’m talking about maple syrup.

I’m also talking about bridging the weird gap between summer and fall by incorporating fruit into a plate of food with maple syrup. Oh, and bourbon. When the temperature drops outside, I can’t get enough of bourbon. Okay, let’s be real, I can’t get enough of bourbon at any time of the year. I digress.

Make this and savor the in-between (the liminal, for my friends from the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures.) Halloween is coming up too fast (at least according to my Martha Stewart magazine that just came in the mail), and this middle ground is going to be happening until then.

Melon Salad with Bourbon-Maple Vinaigrette

For the Pecans:

  • 1/2 cup pecans (duh)
  • 1 slice thick cut double smoked bacon – diced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • A few healthy dashes of Old Bay Spice or Emeril’s Essence seasoning. (No, this is not a plug for Emeril. The market was out of Old Bay.)

For the Salad:

  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bunch green onions – finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cantaloupe – peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Turn an oven to 350 and spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast them up for 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned and delicious.

(Bonus Point: I got this tip from Giada de Laurentiis via Twitter, and haven’t looked back. I’m also going to keep mentioning this until you try it for yourself. If you sprinkle a dash of ground cinnamon over the bacon in the pan while the fat is rendering out…..holy cow. If you didn’t think bacon could get more delicious. Oh man….I just…..Think again. Okay?)

When the bacon is browned (hopefully you’ve decided to take my advice about the cinnamon), add the maple syrup and vinegar portions from the pecan ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick (2 -3 is h minutes.)

Take the pan off the heat – no one likes burned bacon.

Stir in the pecans and Old Bay/Emeril’s Essence and spread on the baking sheet to cool.

These will also make your entire kitchen/dining/living room area smell like some sort of cracked out orchard. Delicious.

Simmer the bourbon portion from the salad ingredients over medium low heat. Let this reduce to about one-third of its side (3-4 minutes? Maybe longer. You judge.) Next, whisk in the maple syrup and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Let this reduce to about one-half of its size (3 minutes ish, pending on how hot the pan is.)

Remove from heat, stir in the green onion, and let cool before whisking in the thyme, salt, and oil.

To plate this up, sprinkle the melon with salt to taste, spoon the bourbon glaze over the top, and sprinkle with pecans and cilantro.

And okay, if you want to drink a pumpkin spice latte while eating this, I won’t stop you.

Fifty Shades of Salad #3: Roasted Garlic Salad Dressing

October 2013: The Month of Garlic. At least that’s what it seems to be turning into. I realize the month is just beginning, but I’ve been craving strong, garlicky flavor with everything…..on fries….on macaroni and cheese recipe….and in salad dressing. I’m not fighting any vampires, and at least the person most likely to smell my garlic breath is consuming all these things with me?

I’m ordinarily strongly opposed to salad dressings that take longer than one minute to make. I made an exception for this one because I wanted an excuse to roast garlic. If you’ve never tried roasted garlic, there’s no time like the present. Our Awesome Former Roommate and I have both admitted to eating an entire head of roasted garlic by ourselves. Because we’re awesome.

(And vampire slayers.)

Oh, right. You’re here for the salad. Go make the vinaigrette, already.

Instructions:

Slice the top off 1 head of garlic and drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Wrap in foil and roast at 400 degrees until tender (about 35 minutes). Place a baking sheet underneath the foil ball of garlic love in case any of the oil drips out. Once tender, let cool and squeeze out the cloves – they should be golden brown and delicious looking.

Combine 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 in a blender, food processor, or magic bullet until smooth.

Add the peeled roasted garlic cloves and 3 tablespoons grated parmesan and blend again.

No vampire or wooden stake necessary for serving.

No Edward Cullen in sight.

Fifty Shades of Salad #2: Scallion White Wine Vinaigrette

Maybe I’m not the biggest White Wine Vinegar fan? Maybe I’m craving whole grain mustard instead of a singular texture? I’ll try again with my work salad today. Regardless of my “meh” feeling, this one got the seal of approval from various gentlemen visiting our apartment – all claiming willingness to have this dressing again.

While I’m thinking of it: what are your opinions on bottling homemade salad dressings for Christmas gifts? I’m not trying to start a holiday panic; I’m trying to think ahead. I always see the most interesting glass bottles and other eclectic craftsy things on sale during the summer. Is it because people are too busy flocking to beaches and vacation destinations to craft things? People who are talented at this sort of thing (crafting), please fill me in….

The original version of this recipe in my notes called for one raw shallot, but multiple years of avoiding green onions in my stereotypically-Japanese-American favorite childhood snack of miso soup has made me use them in en masse.

P.S. If you chop an onion while it’s submerged in water, your eyes won’t tear up. Stay happy! Cooking is fun!

Scallion White Wine Vinaigrette

Whisk together 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar + 2 teaspoons Dijon + 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + pepper to taste + 3 green onions, tips cut off, thinly sliced + 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

That Week I Obsessed Over Whole Grain Mustard and Thyme Led to Fun with Chicken and a Healthy Potato Salad

The problem with going to the market immediately after work without a plan is bringing home the most random combinations of ingredients. This should technically push me to try cooking new things. I understand it is important to grow as a person and home cook, but one of my biggest annoyances is coming home with multiple bags of groceries and discovering I need to go back to the store for something else.

This happens much more often than it should.

I call people from the grocery store if I’m not with Mr. Right. There’s something comforting in moseying through the aisles while catching up with someone I want to see much more often than I actually get to. Wait….maybe this is the reason I come home with such random things….

This week, I was on the phone with my mother. I found myself pausing in my usual haunts – cheese counter (for black olive Mediterranean goat cheese), meat counter (damn, scallops were expensive this week, but Santa Monica Seafood is so far away during 5:00 PM traffic). Somehow, I ended up examining condiments.

I love condiments. I carry sea salt, Tapatio, and Sriracha in my purse. That’s how much I love them. Maybe I’d seen Grey Poupon being passed out of a car window too many times, but I found myself fascinated by the multitude of mustards in front of me.

I could have been reminiscing about the time I stumbled through West Hollywood from street hot dog vendor to street hot dog vendor in search of “regular yellow mustard, not Dijon mustard.” (A wasted – in slang terms and psychologically – two hours of my life.)

I ended up purchasing a jar of Whole Grain Garlic Mustard. I also accidentally bought fresh thyme when it was already in my fridge. Whoops.

Baked Chicken Breasts with Parmesan Crust
Shout out to “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” Alum Ted Allen for the recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • salt
  • cayenne
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves – sliced lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Pre-heat your oven to 450 and cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Combine the mustard, chopped fresh thyme, and salt to taste in one bowl. Combine the cheese and bread crumbs in another bowl.

Coat the chicken breast halves in the mustard/thyme mixture first, then the cheese/bread crumb combination. Place on the foil-covered baking sheet and sprinkle with cayenne to taste.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Thanks, crappy fluorescent kitchen lights for making my chicken look a strange shade of orange. It still looks pretty damn good though, no?

Nicoise Potato Salad
For once, Martha Stewart sent me to the races with a good idea. ALSO, the dressing in this recipe is good on any salad, not just this one.

Ingredients:

  • Bag of new/small/baby/nugget/snack-size potatoes – try to find one with purple potatoes, if you can. They’re ridiculously pretty once they’re cooked
  • Green Beans
  • 1/2 Red Onion – finely diced
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 4 teaspoons whole grain mustard (my nemesis at this point)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and prepare a bowl of ice water. (BTW: what you’re about to do is blanch, for those of you who like the sound of chefly verbs.)

Prepare the green beans by rinsing them with water and snapping off the ends (they’re like asparagus, they’ll tell you where they want to be snapped off magically.) Immerse them in the boiling water and let them hang out there until they’re bright green (7-10 minutes.)

Remove the beans from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and dunk in the bowl of ice water. (This is blanching. It preserves the pretty color and stops the cooking process.)

Now add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook until they’re soft enough to pierce very easily with a fork (10-15 minutes.)

While the potatoes are boiling, dice up the red onion and slice the green beans in half. Then, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, and thyme in the bottom of whatever large bowl you’ll be tossing your salad in.

Drain the potatoes and toss together with the onion, green beans, and dressing in the large bowl.

I brought this salad to work and someone in the museum clique stole it. At least that meant it was good? Beware the lunch thieves, people!