Versatile Summer Crunch Salad

I think it is safe to say that summer has finally arrived here in the Northeast. We wait long and patiently. I’ve finally put away my heavy sweaters and traded cozy fireplace nights with dreams of warm days and cool nights. I also started dreaming up dishes that cool the palate and refresh during those toasty days. Chalk it up to another one of those times when I just started pulling whatever I had to create a salad for lunch. Now remember, salad is a term that sums up any combination of food that is cut up in small pieces, and can be served cold, room temp or even warm. Think about it; a salad can be of fruit or lettuce. It can be potato or pasta. Bean or tabouleh. You get the picture. The word salad is probably one of the most versatile words I know in the culinary world. So why not create a versatile salad, one that can be used in a variety of ways.

Here goes. As you know from other salads I’ve made, I cut each ingredient in ways that combine well for that particular salad. Some items sliced, others diced. In this salad, in order to create a chunky bite- ful, cut all the veg to approximately the same size.

The line up: Fennel, red onion, scallions, mini bell  peppers, English cucumber, celery.

The line up: Fennel, red onion, scallions, mini bell peppers, English cucumber, celery.

Ingredients

1 English cucumber, seeds removed, cut in cubes
7 mini bell peppers*, seeds removed, cut in pieces
1 heaping c fennel, stalks & bulb, cut in chunks
2 scallion, sliced
1/4 c red onion, diced
3 celery stalks, cut in pieces

* If you don’t have the mini peppers, use one regular sized red pepper

Dressing
3 T fresh lemon juice
1.5 T fennel fronds, minced
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

I feel silly even writing the title ‘Instructions’ and giving a step by step since all this is chop and dress. Maybe I should just leave it at that. Chop. Whisk. Dress.

For some salads I leave the seeds in an English cucumber. For this one, no seeds. I use a demitasse spoon to scrap the seeds because it’s the perfect size. Then I cut down the center lengthwise and then cut cubes.

For some salads I leave the seeds in an English cucumber. For this one, no seeds. I use a demitasse spoon to scrap the seeds because it’s the perfect size. Then I cut down the center lengthwise and then cut cubes.

Chop all your vegetables and place in a bowl. As I mentioned, for this salad, the key is chopping everything into bite sized chunks. That helps to create the crunch factor.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Mini bell peppers

Mini bell peppers

Red onion

Red onion

Scallions

Scallions

I used both the fennel stalks and the bulb, chopping them in chunky rounds.

I used both the fennel stalks and the bulb, chopping them in chunky rounds.

For the dressing, just whisk together all the ingredients and pour over.

Super simple, fresh mix of lemon juice, fennel fronds, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Super simple, fresh mix of lemon juice, fennel fronds, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Pour and mix and sit and think of all the ways you will use this salad.

Pour and mix and sit and think of all the ways you will use this salad.

Chunky, crisp, refreshing with lots of flavors mixed up in every bite.

Chunky, crisp, refreshing with lots of flavors mixed up in every bite.

So why is this versatile? Because it can be the base to bigger salads or to fill out a lunch plate as I did. I grilled up some asparagus, sliced some avocado and spooned a heaping of this crunch salad for a satisfying lunch.

Then the next day I included it on a lunch plate for JuanCarlos which featured salmon, arugula as a base with the crunch salad on top alongside some store bought tabouleh. Now that is a lunch for a king. King JuanCarlos.

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But in case you need a few other ideas:

  • Add chick peas, or make it a multi bean salad adding black beans and cannellini

  • Add tuna and stuff the whole kit and kaboodle into a pita

  • Cook up some pasta shells and toss them all together

  • Use the full leaves of Boston or Romaine and fill them with this mixture

Ok, you get it. That’s a start. I trust you will come up with a few of your own. For now, start with the base and build from there. Salad: versatile no matter how you dice it.

Happy Summer!

 

A Pork Full Sandwich & More

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You may remember way, way back I wrote about our travels to Chile and the biggest, sloppiest, oddest pork sandwich we encountered, Germany in Chile - A Super(bowl) Pork Sandwich. Thanks to the advice of the dearly missed, uber-talent of Anthony Bourdain, JuanCarlos and I visited one of his restaurant recommendations. The draw to the unusual German spot was a pork sandwich called the ‘lomito’; for what Tony described as a ‘towering monument all its own’ and delicious. And it was. (To watch the episode, and you should, visit Anthony Bourdain No Reservations. I miss him and his thoughtful insights into cultures around the world. A moment of pause for his passing.)

The sandwich was not just good because we were tired, starving and practically had lost hope on finding a place to eat. It was good because it was filled with individually good foods that seemingly didn’t go together, but somehow worked.

I promised way back then that I would try to recreate it. It may have taken awhile, but JC and I finally did. Mind you, this was not exactly that sandwich but it was our homage to the lomito. Nothing truly can ever be the original experience. But according to our guests, ours was delicious.

First you have to make the pork. Or you can buy cooked pork from a specialty market. You can go two different avenues - the pulled pork kind or roast pork slices. Here is what we did with JuanCarlos leading the charge on the pork as I captured his messy hands along the way. If you make your own pork, bare in mind that you have to start a day (or 2 depending on what time you need to serve it) ahead of time because once the pork is marinated it needs rest in the fridge for several hours or overnight, plus the cook time of an additional 7 hours. So, this is not one of those “let’s make pork” tonight recipes.

The spice rub line up.

The spice rub line up.

The pork shoulder. Definitely a piece of meat you can lean on.

The pork shoulder. Definitely a piece of meat you can lean on.

Ingredients

We used Ree Drummond Pork Recipe as a guide, but added a few of our own ingredients. Below were the amounts we used. Follow the linked recipe for cooking. JC made two modifications. He didn’t refrigerate overnight, and he cooked the pork for only 6 hours. This gave us pork slices instead of shreds but I would be careful doing it this way as it is easy to run the risk of the pork not being tender. If you are experienced with cooking pork shoulder, go ahead. If not, I would recommend cooking it according to the Ree’s recipe to get the pull of the pork. Also, we did not use BBQ sauce. We only used the luscious juices that it produced along with the onions.

For the Pork Roast

1 Pork Shoulder roast
1 t Cayenne
1 T Chili Pepper
1 t Cumin
2 T Anise Seeds
1 T Paprika
Bay Leaves
1/3 c Garlic
1/2 c Sugar in the Raw
1 heaping T salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
4 onions, cut into halves

 

For the Sandwich Fixings

Spicy Slaw
Guacamole (store bought)
Mayo or Yogurt Lemon Sauce
Sautéed Peppers & Onions
Buns

We used fresh garlic.

We used fresh garlic.

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After you have all the ingredients mixed together, lovingly rub the mixture ALL over (front and back) the pork. Then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Rub-a-dub-dub, Rub it with love.

Rub-a-dub-dub, Rub it with love.

Then place the pork in a large roasting pan on a bed of the onion halves and cook in a 300 degrees F. Roast until fork-tender and falling apart, about 7 hours. Remove the pork from the pot and set it on a cutting board. Slice some of the onion.

While you are waiting for the pork to cook, move on to making all the fillings. I decided that instead of the limp string beans, I would make a slaw. I used my Spicy Crunch Slaw recipe which I knew both the crunch and spice would work well with the pork. I bought guacamole because frankly I had way too many other things to make, and a good store bought one can be delicious. I made caramelized peppers and onions, and created my own type of ‘mayo’. I used half mayo, half greek yogurt with lemon juice to thin it a bit, salt and pepper, but you can use mayo if that’s your groove. Once I gathered all the ingredients, all that was left to do was to pile them onto a soft bun.

Everyone was ready and waiting to be piled on.

Everyone was ready and waiting to be piled on.

Guac first

Guac first

Start piling on the flavors. I think the slaw works nicely with the guacamole.

Start piling on the flavors. I think the slaw works nicely with the guacamole.

Pork and onions.

Pork and onions.

Creamy and tangy mixture of mayo, yogurt, salt and pepper.

Creamy and tangy mixture of mayo, yogurt, salt and pepper.

Sautéed peppers & onions.Simply slice them thin and slowly sauté them in oil and butter until they are soft and caramelized. Salt/pepper, too.

Sautéed peppers & onions.Simply slice them thin and slowly sauté them in oil and butter until they are soft and caramelized. Salt/pepper, too.

A platter full of pork with luscious juices and soft, flavorful onions.

A platter full of pork with luscious juices and soft, flavorful onions.

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Funny enough, my original blog post suggested that this was a Super(bowl) of a sandwich and I posted right before SuperBowl Sunday thinking you might serve it for the big game. And now, I am posting my recreation again right before the SuperBowl. So, now you can serve up this ‘towering monument’ of pork to your cheering fans. You may also want to include a charcuterie/cheese platter, as I did. A few other ideas for game day; maybe make my 3 Dips or my Tapenesto. Great choices for a crowd. No matter what you serve, you are a winner in my book.

 

Rice Noodle Rags with Stir Fry Veggies

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Yes, noodles again. It should be abundantly clear by now that I like noodles. It goes deep, my friends. My love for the noodle is profoundly imbedded in my DNA, pulling me toward them. A comfort that wraps me up like a warm blanket. And so, I am forever toying around with combinations of ingredients to conceal… I mean, accompany the noodle.

I resemble that joke about “have some coffee with your sugar.” That is my philosophy with noodles. If left to my own devices, I would eat them straight up plain. Not extra items need be added. However, I will admit that the other ingredients do enrich their flavor and bring more nutrients to the table. And for those reasons, I chop, dice and cook up noodle-enhancing ideas.

Let us start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. It didn’t actually start with the noodle. But instead, with pan on which I would be cooking. This stir fry noodle story actually was spawned by my husband’s complete and utter obsession with the Chef Frances Mallman. He is a world renown chef and an outdoorsman who loves to cook in the wild, and therefore has big grills and planchas. Thus the impetus for us buying a plancha.

What is a plancha, you ask? It is basically a flat metal plate for cooking. We purchased ours online from Little Griddle.

Funny thing is, I have used this plancha more frequently than my grilling, outdoorsman-mimicking husband. And that is how I came up with this stir fry a la plancha style dish. I was keen on using it, so I grabbed all my veggies and started thinking about what I would stir… fry up with love.

Don’t ask me why I had all these veggies in the house. That answer should be completely known to you all by now. I see it. It looks good. I get excited. I buy it. (It is then my job to figure out what to do with them once home.)

Now with the plancha perfectly situated on my stovetop (I’m less the outdoorswoman grilling type so I brought it indoors), I began stir frying up a storm.

I’m not going to give you amounts. This truly is about pulling out what you love and using it in whatever quantities you have or making it for the amount of people you need. (Hint, you can get an idea of amounts by looking at the photos.)

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ingredients

Baby Bok Choy, leaves separated
White or Nappa Cabbage, sliced
Purple Cabbage, sliced
Yellow & Orange Pepper, bite sized pieces
Bean Sprouts
Long Hot Pepper, sliced
scallions, thick slice
Red Onions, large dice
cilantro, chopped
Rice Noodle Rags
Turmeric
Cayenne Pepper, optional
Olive oil, salt, pepper

 
A bounty of good nutrients to counterbalance my rice noodle addiction.

A bounty of good nutrients to counterbalance my rice noodle addiction.

instructions

Chop and dice vegetables in bite sized pieces. Clearly you might not have a plancha like ours, so you can use an equivalent. A wok, of course, would be perfect or a large grill pan. Use what you have, the idea is to sauté/stir fry the vegetables over medium high heat. Meanwhile, soak the rice noodles in warm water for 15 minutes. Then submerge them in boiling water for another 5 minutes, and set aside.

Rice noodle rags soaking in warm water.

Rice noodle rags soaking in warm water.

I combined the sweet and hot peppers with the onions and scallions. Then add oil to the plancha and began stirring.

Look at that rainbow of colors. Also know as nutrients.

Rainbow equals nourishment for your body and soul.

Rainbow equals nourishment for your body and soul.

Then I add some turmeric and dash of cayenne pepper to the cabbage. If you don’t want any more heat, leave the cayenne out. There is spice in the long, hot peppers. Or make it spicier. Your call.

Cabbages getting turmeric-ed and spiced.

Cabbages getting turmeric-ed and spiced.

Remove the other veggies, then stir fry the cabbage separately, and do the same with the bok choy.

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The bok choy leaves are more tender than their stems which is why I didn’t cook these with the cabbage. I felt that each needed care with their cooking times to keep the veggies crisp but tender enough. Also, there was about 8 cups of bok choy, so the plancha would have been too crowded.

Bok Choy, bright green and vibrant.

Bok Choy, bright green and vibrant.

Once all the veggies are cooked, put them all back on the plancha and add the cooked rice noodles. Stir in the bean sprouts to warm through and stir all together. Top with freshly chopped cilantro, or if by chance you have made my tahini-peanut sauce, this would be a great place to use it. If not, this is great just as is.

Than is a boat load of goodness.

Than is a boat load of goodness.

Turned into a bowl full of yum.

Turned into a bowl full of yum.

Plancha or no plancha, find a way to stir fry up some nutrient packed veggies and toss in rice noodles for that warm blanket comfort feel. I promise you will continue to find ways to stir up noodles. If not, then you can add noodles to your veggies!

Salmon Burgers - San Gluten & Eggs... WHAT?

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Some of you know that I have an allergic reaction to wheat, yeast and eggs (plus a few other foods). So I try to eliminate those as much as possible.  Which means even foods containing just a smidge of bread or eggs to hold them together are quite literally my unraveling.  And thus, blacklisted from my repertoire.  Seriously, how much deprivation can one woman withstand?   I love me a fish burger, but alas most use bread or bread crumbs, and almost all use eggs. What's a gal to do?  Being stubborn and wanting what I want is when the thinking cap needs to be fully stretched and used to its fullest. Unscramble the mystery and find another way to hold the darn thing together.

I remember seeing a recipe a while back that whizzed up part of the protein to make a paste.  Paste... that definitely holds shit together.  So, with the sticky part done I needed to fill up the rest.  Here is the fun part.  You can, seriously, add a long list of accompaniments like; kale, spinach, corn, mushrooms and so on.  Alas, I only had some basics on hand:  onions, celery, peppers, scallions. So, that's what I used, and they worked out just fine. (Next time I will share experimenting with other fillings. Heck, don't wait for me. Be daring and test on your own.)

The setup of what was to become a really tasty salmon burger.

The setup of what was to become a really tasty salmon burger.

Ingredients   

Burgers - Makes 6
1 lb Salmon, skin removed
1 c celery, chopped
1/3 c yellow pepper, small dice
1/3 c orange pepper, small dice
1/4 c red onion, small dice
1/4 c yellow onion, small dice
1/4 c + 2 T scallions, sliced
2 T oil
2 T capers
1 T parsley, chopped
1 t mustard
1/2 t whole grain mustard
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
corn meal, potato flour optional

 

 

Relish
2/3 c yogurt
2 T Kosher dill pickles, chopped
1 T parsley, chopped
1 t capers
1. 5 T lemon juice
1 T lemon zest
1/3 c sauté mixture
salt to taste

Instructions

Mise en place all the vegetables as directed.  Then in a cast iron pan or skillet, sauté onions, celery, peppers, 1/4 c scallions in oil, season with salt and pepper.

Mise en place is French for "everything in place", meaning prep all your ingredients so they are ready to go.

Mise en place is French for "everything in place", meaning prep all your ingredients so they are ready to go.

They sure look pretty like this but go ahead and mix them together for even sautéing.

They sure look pretty like this but go ahead and mix them together for even sautéing.

 Let them cook slowly over low heat until softened. When done, set aside and let cool.

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Meanwhile, cut the salmon into 3 equal parts.  One part cut into 3/4" cubes. One part cut into 1/4" cubes. One part pulse in a mini food processor to create a paste. 

Salmon paste that will be the glue to hold the other two together.

Salmon paste that will be the glue to hold the other two together.

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Next chop the parsley and rest of scallions.  In a bowl, add all three portions of salmon. Then begin adding all filling ingredients:  1/2 c of the cooled sauté mixture, capers, the mustards, 2 T scallions and parsley.  Mix together until well combined, then form patties, and refrigerate for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour.  

Salmon prepped in 3 sizes: Big cubes, smaller cubes and a paste.

Salmon prepped in 3 sizes: Big cubes, smaller cubes and a paste.

Start building the burger flavors by adding the vegetable sauté.

Start building the burger flavors by adding the vegetable sauté.

In go the capers.

In go the capers.

Then the mustard, and so on.

Then the mustard, and so on.

Then form your patties. This makes 6 medium burgers.

Then form your patties. This makes 6 medium burgers.

While the burgers are chilling out, move onto the relish. All it takes is a bowl to combine all the ingredients together, stirring until well incorporated.  Then refrigerate until ready to serve.

The lineup for the relish.

The lineup for the relish.

Homemade relish is so fresh and delicious. It can be used on baked potatoes, or over rice even.

Homemade relish is so fresh and delicious. It can be used on baked potatoes, or over rice even.

After the patties have had their chilled rest and are firm, they are ready for frying. You have choices at this point. You can either fry as is without any coating, or dust them with either potato flour* or corn grits**. Using my 6 burgers I experimented making 2 of each kind to see which we liked best. Jill and JC liked them plain with no coating. I also liked the purity of the plain one, but I liked the corn grits coating due to the outer crunch.  And if you search your memory banks, or this blog you will remember that I love crunch.  Test which one you like best.  

NOTE:
*If you use the potato flour coating, cook these at a lower heat since the the finer powder texture cooks faster and will burn if heat is too high.
** Corn grits are a larger grain, which gives it the crunch. But if you don't want as much crunch factor, then you can use a stone ground corn meal which has a finer texture.

Corn grits. See those grains of ground corn? That's what gives it Crunch!

Corn grits. See those grains of ground corn? That's what gives it Crunch!

Potato flour is much finer, almost like talcum powder.

Potato flour is much finer, almost like talcum powder.

About to make crunchy goodness.

About to make crunchy goodness.

I like using a cast iron skillet because the pan retains the heat and gives a nice outer crust. Fry on both sides until you see the salmon turn pink, about 2-3 minutes each side, depending on thickness. 

Front left has potato flour coating. Back center has the corn grits, while front right is sans any coating.

Front left has potato flour coating. Back center has the corn grits, while front right is sans any coating.

The final lineup from left to right: Potato coated, no coating, corn grits coated. You can see how much darker the potato coating got.

The final lineup from left to right: Potato coated, no coating, corn grits coated. You can see how much darker the potato coating got.

Serve immediately with slices of tomato, arugula or boston lettuce, and some cornichons. Any lettuce works fine, but I really enjoyed how the spicy flavor of arugula plays off the salmon,  Don't forget the homemade relish. It's tangy, sweet and delicious. JC and Jill both told me that they don't usually like relish, but plopped spoonfuls of my homemade version on their burgers.  The next night we had fish. They broke out the relish again!

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Hey, since this is such a healthy version of a burger, no bread filling or bun, go ahead and splurge by serving up some fries or a baked potato.  You can even use the relish on that, too. With Memorial Day steaming down the tracks, these could be a great addition to your outdoor party.
(Note: I would not cook these directly on the grill, as they need a flat surface in order to form a crust to help hold them together.) 

Just because I need to eliminate some foods doesn't mean I can't enjoy things I love.
And just because these are sans bread and egg definitely doesn't mean they are sans flavor!

Sausage, Pepper & Onion Tart

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Oh the beauty of puff pastry.  Let me NOT count the ways, because that would be boring. But let me continue to find uses for you to try.  This one doesn't need a whole lot of intro.  This recipe is similar methodology as when making the Tarts of Summer.  Only difference, swap out the topping for this hearty, earthy and caramelized sweet combo.

I made this because I wanted something quick for an outdoor party. This is combo of sausage, peppers and onions is classic, and when also combined with cheese is a topping I love for pizza.  But I didn't want to make pizza.  I was already going to make a zucchini tart, and needed something a bit more filling for some of our guests.  Enter the sausage.  

Ingredients

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4-5 Italian sausage links (sweet or spicy, your choice)
3 Italian red peppers, sliced
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1-1.5 c cheese of choice (Fontina, Goat, Mozzarella...)
Magic 3 (salt, pepper, oil)
1 Puff Pastry sheet

 

Instructions

Defrost the puff pastry sheet.  Once defrosted, roll out to approximately 12" x 17".  Transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Dot the entire pastry with a fork leaving a 1" border all the way around. Place in refrigerator while you sauté the onions and peppers in a pan with oil, season with salt and pepper.   

Slowly sauté to release the natural sugars and let them caramelize.

Slowly sauté to release the natural sugars and let them caramelize.

While that is cooking, grate the cheese and remove the sausage from the casings .  If you want to save time, use another pan to cook the sausage.  If time is no issue, then after the peppers/onion have cooked, use the same pan. Remove the pastry from the fridge and sprinkle enough cheese to cover the forked part of the pastry.  Then add the sausage, pepper and onion.  Bake in a 425 degrees oven until pastry edges puff up and become golden brown.

Puff Pastry
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On pizza, on pasta, on an Italian roll, or puff pastry, the combo of sausage, peppers and onions is a winning one.  Add this version whenever you are making the Tarts of Summer.  The meat eaters at your party will be glad you did.

 
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