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Archive for the ‘Salads’ Category

There’s a place we like to go for dinner that’s right down the hill from our house called the Buckeye Roadhouse. It opened in 1937, the same year as the Golden Gate Bridge, perfectly positioned to take advantage of all those extra day-trippers heading to and from San Francisco. It’s been through a few incarnations since then, but retains a certain old school charm to this day. The dining room is a grand place with high ceilings and a big, stone fireplace that lends just the right weight to special occasions.

But me and Matt, we prefer dining at the bar. Cozy red leather banquettes and paned windows make it feel like a hide-away. The Buckeye is known for its comfort food and is the perfect spot for a martini and a big, juicy steak with potatoes au gratin. Throw-back dishes like “oysters bingo” and wedge salad never disappoint. But sprinkled among the classics, there are a few new California twists, and I’ve recently become quite smitten with their kale salad. So smitten, that I just had to figure out how to make it, and after peppering the bartender with questions for the chef, was able to get pretty close.

It’s listed on the menu as “Dino Kale with Ricotta Salata, Shaved Fennel, Black Radish, Croutons and Lemon”. Croutons sound so unassuming, but these are really the secret weapon. In fact, they’re not really croutons at all, but delicate, buttery bread crumbs made from brioche bread.

The other secret, as I learned from the bartender, is letting the kale marinate in lemon juice for a few hours, which starts to break down the fibers a bit and make it more tender. The one secret that evidently shall remain a secret is the black radishes. They’re stunning on the plate–round paper-thin slivers with black edges and white centers. I hear the chef gets them from a special source in Napa. I’ve been keeping my eye out at the farmer’s market, but alas, have been unable to find them in the Bay Area. But white radishes will do, and in any case, not being able to replicate the dish to a T gives me an excuse to go back to the Buckeye for dinner (or to Napa for a radish run? who’s with me?).

We planted kale in our little raised bed garden this year, and the bugs seemed to like it better than anything else we were growing. They were quickly making lace of it, so I harvested the whole crop hastily, in order to beat the insects to the chomp. Inspired by the restaurant in our “backyard” and made with the kale literally from our backyard (+ a lemon from our tree) makes this “the Local Local Special”.

The Buckeye Kale Salad with Brioche Bread Crumbs

Serves 4.

1 bunch of fresh, tender Dino kale. Ribs removed, cut into bite-sized pieces.
juice from one lemon
4 slices brioche bread with crusts removed (about 8 oz.)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 radishes (Black if you can find them), sliced paper-thin with a mandoline
1 small fennel bulb, shaved
Shaved ricotta salata (this is the slightly dry, crumbly kind. I didn’t measure, so just use whatever amount feels right to you.)
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Toss kale with lemon juice in a large bowl, cover and marinate in fridge for 2-3 hours.

Pulse slices of bread 3-4x in a food processor to shred into coarse bread crumbs. Heat butter and olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and toast, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until golden brown and slightly crispy. About 15-20 min. Set aside.

Toss marinated kale with sliced radishes, fennel, bread crumbs and shaved ricotta salata. Season with salt and pepper. If needed, add an extra sprinkle of olive oil. Enjoy!

 

 

 

PS on 7/22- Doh! A week after I published this post, I discovered a whole bunch of photos of the kale salad on my camera that I had forgotten about. I’ve edited the post above to include a few of my favorites. This is what happens when I go three months without posting.

 

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It all started with preserved Meyer lemons. I tried making them a couple years ago, and I was smitten. So enchanting, so unforgettable, like the taste of sunshine and ocean combined. A secret ingredient to bring soups, salads and countless other dishes to life. Alas, that first jar of lemons went way too quickly, swallowed into big bowl of orzo salad that didn’t last through the end of the party. For months afterwards, I scanned the farmer’s markets and grocery stores for Meyer lemons, hoping to re-stock my supply. But the season is fleeting, and I had to wait longingly for spring to arrive again.

Now I know better. When I catch my first glimpse of those deep gold treasures at the farmer’s market in February, I go into full-fledged hoarder mode. I’ve been known to clean out the citrus lady entirely, and shamelessly come back the following week for more. Meyer lemons are wonderful fresh, of course, but preserving them allows me to savor their delightful flavor long after the season has passed. And I’m a sucker for ingredients that have crossover appeal from sweet to savory. Preserved lemons are easy to make. You basically just put them in a jar with salt and lemon juice and let them sit for 30 days. I more or less use this recipe as a guide, except I skip the spices because I prefer to have a more versatile condiment that I can take in various flavor directions depending on the dish I’m using them in. Why should Moroccans have all the fun?

Of course, the hard part is waiting 30 days. I started my first batch of the season in February, and have been religiously shaking the jar in my pantry every day like a good girl, and counting the days. So when the time was finally up, I was chomping at the bit to showcase my finely aged beauties in a dish that would celebrate spring.

That’s when I stumbled onto the idea of a shaved asparagus salad. Another ingredient that’s just starting to make its springtime debut, calling for a play date with my preserved lemons. I took my inspiration for the salad from this lovely Shaved Asparagus & Mint Salad by Meatballs&Milkshakes on Food52, and for the dressing from a recipe for Asparagus & Bulgur with Preserved Lemon Dressing in The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser. With these two recipes as my jumping off point, I improvised. When I saw watermelon radishes at the store, I couldn’t resist adding them to the mix simply for the joyful contrast of their pink slices against the green shavings of asparagus–this was a salad intended for a ladies’ luncheon after all. Before I knew it, I had a bright confetti of a salad that seemed to be doing a little happy dance that daylight’s savings has finally turned our clocks to the hopeful up-swing leading towards summer.

Shaved Asparagus & Watermelon Radish Salad with Preserved Meyer Lemon Dressing
Serves 4.

For the dressing:
1 preserved Meyer lemon
7 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground
freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the preserved lemon with cold water, and the cut it in half (if it’s not already cut into halves or quarters). Chop one half coarsely and place in a blender. Use a spoon to remove the pulp from the remaining half and add only the pulp to the blender, taking care to discard any seeds. Dice the remaining rind into small bits and set aside to garnish the salad. Add the oil and spices to blender and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed.

For the salad:
1 bunch (about a pound) of very fresh asparagus, the thicker the better
1 small fennel bulb
1 handful fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 oz mild goat cheese, crumbled
1 watermelon radish, scrubbed
A few bits of preserved Meyer lemon rind, diced (leftover from dressing–see above)

Cut off the tough ends and the tips of your asparagus stalks at an angle and set the tips aside. If they are big, fat stalks, like mine were, blanch the tips in a pot of salted boiling water for 30 seconds, plunge them into an ice-water bath, drain and set aside. (As promised, here are some more tips I learned at my CIA boot camp: when boiling water for vegetables or pasta, add enough salt until the water is “salty like the sea”. This will add flavor more evenly to the item you’re cooking than if you simply salt the cooked food. Always leave the lid off when you are boiling vegetables, because they release acid as they cook, which can turn them brown. An ice bath is a great way to stop the cooking and keep your veggies al dente until you’re ready to finish your dish. Make sure to drain them immediately after they’ve completely chilled in the ice bath, so they don’t absorb water and get soggy.)

Use a vegetable peeler (working lengthwise from root end to tip end) to create thin strips of asparagus. You’ll have some scraps leftover that are too hard to work with. You can either compost them or save them for a soup, like this one. Place the strips in a bowl. Remove the tough outer layer of fennel bulb and trim off both ends, and use a mandolin to slice thin rounds of fennel, adding them to the bowl with asparagus. Trim the ends of the ends of the radish and slice into thin rounds with the mandolin. Toss radish slices into the bowl, or layer them around the perimeter of your salad plates (see photos). Tear mint leaves and add them to the bowl. Toss salad with dressing. The recipe I’ve listed here will make more dressing than you need for this salad (which is a good thing, because it’s delicious and will keep in your fridge for a week or two). So add dressing to your salad a few spoonfuls at a time, to your taste. Keep in mind that the asparagus will release moisture as it sits, so you’ll want to go pretty light on the dressing. Taste and add salt if needed.

Place salad on plates and top with pine nuts, goat cheese and preserved lemon rind. Enjoy!

Notes from my tasters: The goat cheese added a nice creaminess, but wasn’t entirely necessary given all the other flavors. You could easily skip it and it would still be good. The fennel flavor also got a little lost–you could probably choose fennel or radish (for crunch), but don’t really need both. Don’t forget to taste the asparagus mixture and add salt if needed. I think my final dish could have used a little more acid. A squeeze of lemon (Meyer or regular) would be a nice finishing touch.

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This recipe is from my friend Sandra, who brought it to our cooking club one time, and it instantly became one of my favorite summer dishes. Great for a picnic or dinner party because you can make it ahead of time.

6 ears of corn
6 slices pancetta
1 large red onion or 2 small ones, diced
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
salt and pepper

Cook corn on the cob in a pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain and set aside to cool completely.

Dice pancetta and cook in a heavy skillet over medium heat until brown and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Pour off most of the bacon fat from pan, leaving a little goodness left in the pan for cooking your onions. Add onions, oil, vinegar, sugar, and dash of salt to pan, and cook over medium-low heat for about 20-25 minutes until caramelized, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Cut corn kernels off of the cobs and place in a large bowl. Add onion mixture and cilantro and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and if it seems dry, add a little more olive oil. If you’re making this ahead of time, cover and put it in the fridge. Take salad out about 3o minutes before serving to bring closer to room temp. Stir in crumbled pancetta just before serving.

Serves 6.

From the “Close Your Eyes and Pretend It’s Summer” Feast.

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