Salad

Winter Soba Salad with Miso-Grapefruit Dressing

Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake.  I recently just had soba for the first time, and I don't know why I waited so long to try them, but I'm very glad that I did.  Soba is Japanese for buckwheat, and that's exactly what these noodles are.  The thin, chewy, buckwheat noodles have a distinctly nutty flavor, unlike any other noodle that I had tasted before.  Needless to say, I was hooked at first bite.  Traditionally soba is served in a hot broth, or cold with a light dressing or dipping sauce.  I chose to take the cold route for the colorful winter salad.

Hearty greens and citrus are bountiful at our local farmers market this time of year, and while I tend to easily grow tired of what seems to be an eternity of kale,  this salad rejuvenates my love for all the great produce that winter has to offer.  I should also mention, although I hate to admit it, that this dish is 100% vegan.  It felt wrong just typing the word,  but I promise you that this recipe is so packed full of flavor that you'll forget all about that steak you wanted to eat for dinner tonight.

This winter soba salad is made of several components, all with different flavors and textures.  Roasted butternut squash adds sweetness to the tangy, pickled watermelon radish and umami flavor of the sautéed shiitake and yellow oyster mushrooms.  Throw in some baked tofu and kale for crunch, top it all off with a sweet and salty miso-grapefruit dressing, and your soba noodles were never in such good company.

Winter Soba Salad with Miso-Grapefruit Dressing

 

Ingredients:

Salad

  • 1 1/2 cups diced (roughly 1/2" cubes) squash
  • 6 ounces firm tofu, cubed (roughly 1/2" cubes)
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 cup very thinly-sliced watermelon radish (regular radish will work if you can't find watermelon radish)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon rice vinegar 
  • 3 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cups yellow oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 3-3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 4 cups chopped Lacinato kale (also called "dinosaur" kale)
  • 6 ounces of soba noodles
  • 2 green onions, diced, for garnish
  • Black sesame seeds (optional), for garnish

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Make the Dressing

In a small mixing bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients except the oil. Then, slowly whisk in the oil until combined.  Set aside to let the flavors meld until the salad is ready to be assembled.

Assemble the Salad

Preheat oven to 375. 

In a bowl, dissolve 1 1/2 cups of salt in hot water.  Place the tofu in the saltwater, and set aside for 15-20 minutes.  Discard the water, and pat the tofu dry with paper towels. 

In a small bowl combine the rice vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon of salt.  Stir until the salt has completely dissolved.  Place the sliced radish in the vinegar/salt mixture, and set aside until ready to assemble the salad. 

In a large bowl toss the tofu and squash in a small amount of olive oil (approximately 1-1 1/2 tablespoons), and arrange the pieces on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally, until the tofu and squash are brown and crispy on all sides.  Remove from heat and set aside until salad is ready to be assembled.

While the squash and tofu are cooking, sauté the mushrooms.  In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms, and 

sauté for 5-6 minutes, until browned on all sides.  Next, add soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar and sherry, and cook mushrooms until the liquid is gone.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  Remove from heat and set aside until salad is ready to be assembled. 

In large bowl season kale with salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Massage the oil into the kale until all the leaves are evenly coated.  Next, drain the radish and discard the pickling liquid.  Set aside until the salad is ready to be assembled.  

Boil and drain the soba noodles according to the instructions on the package.

While the cooked ingredients are still warm, toss the noodles, tofu, squash, mushrooms, pickled radish, and kale in a large salad bowl.  Add the dressing to the salad mixture a little at a time, until everything is well coated.

Arrange the salad on a large serving plate, and garnish with the black sesame seeds and sliced green onion.

Summer Panzanella Salad

Untitled

Growing up in the midwest, summer was filled with hot sun, Cubs baseball, and my Grandmother's homegrown tomatoes.  She had a small garden in her backyard where tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and bell peppers would grow plentifully every year.  The tomatoes were so sweet you could eat them like apples.  

This Summer panzanella salad takes me right back to that place.  It is fresh, bright, and packed full of all the wonderful flavors Summer has to offer.  My little spin on this classic bread salad is the addition of a basil and chive pesto.  The pesto brings an herby punch to the sweet tomatoes, smoky zucchini, and tangy vinaigrette.  The key to making this recipe is using the freshest ingredients you can find.  I really can't stress this enough. Take advantage of your local farmers market or your own backyard garden, because Summer will be gone just as quickly as it came, and it's just too sweet to let pass by. 

Untitled

Summer Panzanella Salad

Ingredients:

1 1/2-2 lbs zucchini

1 1/2-2 lbs tomatoes

1 large sour baguette

parmesan cheese

2 cups chives, loosely packed

2 cups basil, loosely packed

Juice of 1 lemon

1 2/3 cups olive oil

1/2 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

salt

pepper

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.  Cut baguette into 1" cubes and spread evenly onto a baking sheet.  Toast bread cubes in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the bread is slightly dried out and crunchy on the outside.  This step is very important.  If the bread is too soft it will become soggy once tossed in the dressing.  

Untitled

While the bread is toasting, prepare the basil and chive pesto.  Puree basil, chives, lemon juice, and 2/3 cup of olive oil in a food processor until a smooth paste forms.  Season to taste with salt, about 1-2 good pinches.  This yields about 1 cup of pesto.

Untitled
Untitled

Next, make the dressing by combining the shallot, garlic, dijon mustard and vinegar in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and then slowly drizzle in 1 cup of olive oil, whisking vigorously, until the dressing emulsifies.  Set aside and let the flavors meld, about a half hour or so.  This yields approximately 1 1/2 cups of vinaigrette.  

Untitled

Once the pesto and dressing is made, prep the veggies.  Cut the tomatoes into small wedges and slice the zucchini on a diagonal into 1/4" slices.  In a large bowl lightly coat zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss until all of the zucchini is coated evenly.  Heat up a grill pan on high until almost smoking.  Cook zucchini for 2-3 minutes per side, or until nice brown grill marks are made.

Untitled
Untitled

In a large bowl combine bread cubes, tomatoes, and grilled zucchini.  Toss with about 1/2 cup of vinaigrette until everything is well coated.  Place salad onto a large, flat serving tray.  Drizzle on some of the pesto and garnish with parmesan shavings. 

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

I can't believe that it's April.  Wasn't it just Christmas?  The days have been blurring together while trying to keep up with the projects I have going on right now.  The 25 lb. box of chocolate sitting in my living room has basically taken over my life.  I have been running a chocolate factory in my kitchen, but without the help of those little Keebler elves, who would really come in handy right now.  My moonlighting career as a chocolatier doesn't allow for many other activities, and I only have a month left before my edible sculpture debut. Needless to say, anything I have to do outside of making golden chocolate bars or making paintings has to be done quickly, including weeknight dinners.  My go to meal this week has been a simple couscous salad studded with tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh parsley and mint, and comes together with a quick dressing of lemon juice, za'atar and olive oil.  This is basically a chop and dump recipe, and in less than a half hour you have a healthy and hearty salad that can be a stand alone meal or make a great side dish to grilled meat or fish.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

1 box couscous made according to box instructions

1 1/2 cups English cucumber, diced

1 1/2 cups tomato, diced

1 cup red onion, diced

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1 1/4 cups mint, chopped

4 tablespoons za'atar 

2 1/2 lemons juiced

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 

Make 1 box of couscous according to package directions.  Let cool completely. Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.  Makes approximately 6-8 servings.

Food Yenta

The majority of my friends are dudes.  I've always seemed to get along with men better and my best girl friends are exactly the same way.  Perhaps this is because I swear like a sailor, prefer whisky to cosmos, and love a good fart joke.  Don't get me wrong, I also love shoes.  OMG Shoes!  And makeup, and shopping, and all that other girlie shit.  I probably just have more testosterone than your average female.  Having lots of male friends is also very entertaining.  Oh, the girls they bring home!  Over the years I have become the go-to person for clothing advice, taking them on shopping excursions to help pick out the very best tie that will land them a hot bridesmaid at the next wedding they're going to.  And when they finally do get that hot bridesmaid, and really want to impress the socks off her, I help plan a menu for a romantic dinner for two.  I have become the Food Yenta.  

I should also mention that not all of my guy friends use my culinary talents for sealing the deal.  A good majority of them are quite gentlemanly, and just want to do something nice for their special lady friend with only the best intentions in mind.  Recently a very good friend of mine came to me with such a request.  I decided to share a recipe for my new favorite spring-time dish, a grilled asparagus salad with goat cheese crostini.  You start off with a bed of baby arugula and watercress, lightly tossed in a lemony vinegarette, topped off with toasty grilled bread covered in a thick schmear of lemon peppered goat cheese that serves as a bed for grilled asparagus and a chopped hard boiled egg.  The peppery flavor of the arugula and watercress compliment the zingy lemon dressing and the tangy goat cheese perfectly.  And how can you go wrong with grilled asparagus?!  The best thing about this salad is how quickly it comes together and how adaptable it is.  Don't like goat cheese- give blue cheese or feta a try.  I've always wanted to try topping the salad with a poached egg, but I will admit that the poached egg and I have had many battles and I have yet to be victorious.    

As for my friend's romantic dinner, well, they're still dating so I'm assuming everything went off without a hitch.

Grilled Asparagus and Goat Cheese Crostini Salad

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Goat Cheese Crostini

Ingredients:

1 bunch of asparagus

2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

1/3 cup olive oil + 3 tablespoons

salt

pepper

1 loaf rustic bread

3-4 oz. of goat cheese

zest of 1/2 a lemon

juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of dijon mustard

1/4 teasopoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon honey

1 bunch baby arugula

1 bunch watercress

Trim and wash the asparagus.  Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill asparagus for 5 minutes on high in a grill pan or on a proper grill.  Set aside.  Next mix goat cheese, lemon zest, pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl.  Combine until the cheese is smooth and creamy. Slice the bread into 1/2 inch thick slices and brush with olive oil on both sides.  Grill bread for approximately 3 minutes, turning halfway through, until crispy and brown.  Once bread has cooled slightly, spread a generous amount of the goat cheese mixture onto the the bread.

Next, prepare the vinegarette.  Combine lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard, and garlic powder in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Slowly stream 1/3 cup of olive oil and whisk vigorously until the dressing emulsifies. Lightly coat the greens with the some of the dressing, being careful not to add too much.  

Put a small amount of greens on the center of the plate.  Top with the goat cheese crostini, placing it at an angle.  Lay about 6 pieces of asparagus on top of the crostini and sprinkle with chopped hard boiled egg.