Category Archives: Salads

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Paula Wolfert’s Mint and Egg Salad

Fresh mint, and easy-to-grow!

Fresh mint, and easy-to-grow!

     Paula Wolfert is a culinary icon, and one I admire greatly.  You’ve seen her inspired recipes from me before, as her focus has been flavors of the Mediterranean; a climate much like ours here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paula has been a long-time resident of Sonoma County, so many of her ingredients, originally discovered during her travels in the Mediterranean, also capitalize on our bountiful, local harvests.

     This latest cookbook of Paula’s recipes, Unforgettable:  The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life by Berkeley-ite, Emily Thelin, is a compilation of Paula’s previous recipes.  Moreover, it is a heartfelt biography of Paula’s journeys in travel and life.  It is an interesting read, and generous in photos of Paula, her past travels, and the amazing recipes.

Pastured eggs from Capay Valley

     Out of so many recipes, I chose this simple egg salad.  It’s spring now, and this salad is a light, fresh bite of the season.  Fresh mint abounds in my backyard.  It is paired aptly with spring onions (scallions) and grated eggs for a sophisticated combination that’s simple to prepare.

     Please give this a try with mint, even if you haven’t thought to use this much mint with eggs.  If you must, substitute some flat-leaf parsley for some of the mint.  Or take it in a slightly new direction and use tender, spring watercress.  It will be different, still delicious.

     In addition to enjoying this recipe as a first course, you might also want to serve it up on your favorite crusty bread, or planks of sliced cucumber.

Mint & Egg Salad Plated 1

Mint and Egg Salad

Adapted from Unforgettable:  The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life

Serves 4 as a light, first course

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 to 2 cups slivered mint leaves, depending on the intensity of the mint
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons mild red pepper flakes, preferably Marash (substitute piment d’esplette)
  • Juice of 1/ 2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Boil the eggs: Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water to cover by one inch and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  When the water boils, turn off the heat and set a timer for 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes, drain the hot water and run cool water over the eggs to prevent further cooking.  Peel the eggs and set aside.
  1. Assemble the salad: Using the large holes of a box grater, and working over a large bowl, grate the eggs.  Add the mint, green onions and red pepper flakes; mix well.  In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice to taste; then drizzle over the egg mixture.  Toss to coat lightly and evenly.  Season with salt.
  1. Serve immediately at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Note:  It’s easy to upsize this recipe.  The number of eggs in it will provide a clear indication of portions.  Make more, you will be glad you did!

Grating eggs results in crazy-light textured salad

Grating eggs results in crazy-light textured salad

From Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life

From Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life

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broccoli-apricot-salad-close

Broccoli Apricot Salad

four-salad-ingredients     In the deep of winter, this broccoli salad will surely brighten your plate and palate both.  By now I’m hard pressed to face yet another serving of winter greens with much enthusiasm.  This salad is a spark to brightness and crunch – and it’s been seeing a lot of “plate time” at our house.

     The genesis of this recipe was a plan to both simplify and lighten up traditional broccoli salad, using ingredients that are my son’s favorites.  Broccoli, check.  Apricots, check.  Marinated red onion, check.  Balsamic vinaigrette, check.  Yes, even as a young boy, my son’s favorite vegetable was broccoli!

     Too often broccoli salads involve a long list of ingredients and are laden with a heavy, mayonnaise-based dressing.  I was after a version that would be more refreshing and an antidote to the heavy foods of winter.  And wanted to incorporate the apricot flavors of warmer days!salad-ingredients-sliced

     This is salad, not science.  I encourage you to fiddle with it and make it your own winner.  But by all means use this as a proven starting point – even if your adaptation is into a kale salad!

A few advance notes:

  1. I used a specialty white balsamic vinegar infused with Blenheim apricots.  Naturally this amplifies the apricot-i-ness of the salad.  I get it at Amphora Nueva, in their original shop in Berkeley.  If you are in the Bay Area, they have expanded into San Anselmo in Marin County and Lafayette, Contra Costa County, too.  You can find them online and order. (I’m a huge fan and I hope you’ll check them out!)
  2. Substituting in plain white balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar will also produce delicious results.
  3. I prefer slicing the broccoli by hand to control the size of the broccoli florets. You want them small, bite-sized, but still recognizable and not a mass of mush-buds.
  4. Using the broccoli stalk provides important crunchy texture, and their sweetness helps to offset the potential bitterness of the florets. And they are good for you!  Be sure to use a vegetable peeler to remove any tough outer layer of the stalk.
  5. Select an extra virgin olive oil that tastes “fruity”; and avoid ones that are too “peppery” or “grassy”.
  6. Plan in advance to serve this salad. It requires several hours of marinating to bring out the best flavor.  So prepare in the morning for dinner, or even the night before.  It’s all good.

broccoli-apricot-salad

Broccoli-Apricot Salad

INGREDIENTS

Salad

  • 4 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces, about 3/ 4”-ish
  • Approximately 1 cup of tender broccoli stalk, sliced into 1/ 8” x 3/ 4” strips
  • 1/ 2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/ 2 cup dried apricots, cut into about 1/ 2” pieces
  • 1/ 2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons Blenheim apricot-infused white balsamic vinegar, or see advance notes
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, a “fruitier” one, not a “peppery” one. (I use less as I like more acidity for this salad.)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare the salad dressing.  Combine the vinegar, lemon juice and mustard in a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well-incorporated and hopefully slightly holding together (emulsified).  Add salt and pepper and taste.  You will want this dressing to be acidic to spark up the broccoli.
  2. Add the diced red onions and broccoli to the dressing and stir to combine.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for several hours minimum.
  3. When ready to serve, toss in the dried apricot pieces and toasted almonds.

Note:  The easiest way to toast sliced almonds is on the stove top, over medium heat, in a small , shallow pan.  It will only take about 4 to 5 minutes.  Begin stirring constantly once the almonds begin to brown; and toast until most are a nice golden hue.  Reduce the heat to low if they are browning too quickly or unevenly; and stir more frequently.  Do not step away from the pan during this toasting process.

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asian-pear-chicory-salad-close-2

Asian Pear and Chicory Salad

Asian pears have a light, crispy texture and are VERY jucy

A light, crispy texture and VERY juicy

     Whenever I see an Asian pear, I’m transported back to my youth and the pear farms near my family’s home in southern Placer County.  Rocklin, California, to be precise.  We were fortunate to have many Japanese friends, who brought Asian pears to the area, and who had plenty of harvest to share with us.

     Eaten out-of-hand, the Asian pear’s unmistakable crunch is quickly followed by the burst of sweet juices so abundant they run down your chin if you aren’t quick enough to catch them all.  Common Asian pears are typically round and a bit squat.  The skin can range from pale yellow, to light green to russet.

     There are several varieties, made more prolific now they have become more popular.  Commonly found varieties include “Hosui”, “Kosui” and “Shinko”.  As with different apple varieties, each Asian pear type has unique properties:  sweet, tart, light and crisp, dense, etc.

     Now I’m a city gal, so I depend on my favorite farmers at the market for my supply of Asian pears.  If this scrumptious fruit is new to you, I highly recommend you seek them out!  Your local farmers market is an ideal place to try them, as farmers will be sampling a wide range of available varieties for you to taste.

     Asian pears are best eaten fresh.  They are light and crisp, more like an apple, but with a distinctive pear taste.   Do not let them ripen to the point they become soft, as  you might enjoy a Bartlett pear.  If an Asian pear becomes soft, it is well past its peak.

     The fancy chicories I’ve pictured here are most likely only found at a farmers market.  You might find more common varieties such as Belgian endive or radicchio at well-stocked produce aisles.  It’s all good!

Fancy chicories at the Grand Lake Farmers Market

Fancy chicories at the Grand Lake Farmers Market

     The accompanying salad dressing recipe is in frequent rotation at our house lately.  Its lemon-y, honey brightness is perfect with salad greens that tend toward slightly bitter.  The freshly grated ginger adds a warming note, very timely for an autumn salad.

     By all means, take this idea and make it your own!  Possibilities for substitutions are nearly unlimited:  kale, spinach or dandelion greens would be delicious in any combination; other types of pears, apples or crunchy Fuyu persimmons are a likely substitution for the Asian pears.  Additions might include avocado and even roasted winter squash.  Fancy it up with pomegranate seeds.  Oh my!

asian-pear-chicory-salad-close

Asian Pear and Chicory Salad

For the Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, mild flavored
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/ 4 cup shallot, thinly sliced or minced

Combine lemon juice, ginger, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk in the olive oil until combined.  Add the shallots and stir to ensure they are well covered with the dressing.  Set aside at least 15-20 minutes until the shallots soften a bit.

For the Salad:

  • 4-5 cups chicory leaves, torn into large, bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Asian pears, sliced into 1/ 4-inch wedges
  • 1/ 2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Combine the chicory and Asian pears in a large salad bowl.  Add in the dressing and toss to evenly coat the chicory and Asian pears.  Sprinkle on the toasted, sliced almonds and enjoy!

Asian pears grown at Inzana Ranch

Asian pears grown at Inzana Ranch

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Spring in a Bowl

Spring Peas and Asparagus Salad

Spring Vegetables     New crops of English peas, snap peas and asparagus herald the arrival of spring here in the Bay Area.  By the time they hit the farmers’ market scene, I’m ready for a break from winter greens — done 101 ways and then some.

     Ledesma Family Farm is a popular stand at Grand Lake Farmers Market; and has been overflowing with peas from their Hollister farm.  Patriarch, Javier Ledesma, knows many of us regulars by name and is always generous when calculating the price of my overflowing bags.  Often it’s his son, Noel, who is at the helm and passing tasty samples; along with Brenda who is keen to keep on top of the steady line of appreciative customers.

Ledesma Family Farms Stand - Grand Lake Farmers Market

     What makes me a regular at their stand is their variety of organic produce.  They farm one of the widest arrays of organic vegetables and fruits available; and they are always the cream of the crop.  They actually farm in both Hollister and Gustine, so have the benefit of both coastal and Central Valley climates.  Plus they are a genuinely lovely family.

     This salad is how I honor their peas’ sweet freshness:  easy on the dressing and extra flavor boosts, taking care to let the distinctive and delicate flavors shine.  I also go easy on the pre-cooking, with just a hint of steam to capture the height of flavor.  And verdant color.  Some may opt to keep the salad all raw, which is okay too.  It’s salad, and there is w-i-d-e latitude to prepare this to suit your preferences.

     Postscript:  I would be remiss if I didn’t add that a generous flourish of crisp bacon is perfectly at home atop this salad.

Bowl of Spring Close

Spring Peas and Asparagus Salad

Serves 4 – 6

INGREDIENTS

For the dressing

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/ 4 cup shallots, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon spearmint, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon basil, finely minced (tarragon is a delicious substitute)
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/ 4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

For the salad

  • 1 cup fresh, shelled English peas
  • 2 cups fresh sugar snap peas (edible pod)
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 1/ 2 cup sliced radishes
  • Additional mint and basil leaves

INSTRUCTIONS

For the dressing:  Combine the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking all the while to help emulsify the mixture.  Stir in the shallots and minced herbs.  Set aside while you prepare the vegetables.

For the salad

  1. Set up a vegetable steamer with at least 1-inch of water.  Steam the vegetables in batches until they just turn bright green:  first the asparagus, then the snap peas and finally the shelled peas.  After each batch, rinse the vegetables in cold water to stop the cooking.  I do this by transferring them into a large colander and running cold water onto them, stirring the vegetable a bit to circulate the water.  Toss on a handful of ice cubes to expedite the process.   I prefer this method as I think steaming retains optimal flavor; and uses less water.  (We’re still conserving, right?)
  2. Alternatively, bring about 2-quarts of salted water to a boil.  Briefly blanch the vegetables, only 1 – 2 minutes, then drain into a colander.  Rinse with cold water to stop their cooking.  Toss on a handful of ice cubes to expedite the process.
  3. After the peas and asparagus have been steamed and cooled, make sure to pat them dry with paper or cloth toweling.  Slice the asparagus spears into about 1-1/ 2” pieces; about the length of the sugar snap peas.
  4. Slice the radishes.  Mince or slice (chiffonade if you want to get a bit fancy) additional mint and basil leaves; total about 1/ 4 cup, or to taste.
  5. Transfer the steamed vegetables and radishes into a large bowl.  Add the dressing and stir to evenly coat the vegetables.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  Transfer to a serving bowl, or plates, and sprinkle liberally with the additional minced herbs.
Spring Lunch

Spring Lunch

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