Tag Archives: Caesar Salad

Winter Salads

13 Dec

Even though it is freezing cold and there are no fresh spring or summer vegetables flooding farmers’ markets and grocery stores, you can still enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures: the salad.

I’ve been a fanatic for salad as long as I can remember, all kinds. Even the simplest of salads, correctly prepared, can be sublime. One of my favorite dishes in all the world, for instance, is Union Square Cafe’s  Bibb & Red Oak Leaf Lettuce Salad, their version of a dinner salad that thankfully never leaves the menu. I dined there once with a friend who is not partial to salad. Given my raves about the salad, she decided to order it, figuring she might as well try one of the world’s best dinner salads to see if her mind might be changed.

She tasted it, waved down the waiter and ordered a second one before continuing. Her reaction for the next few minutes eating the salad was not unlike Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

That’s what can happen when you have good salad.

You can always make a simple, wonderful green salad with fresh lettuces any time of year. Add a few herbs and toss with a wonderful vinaigrette (never ever store bought, learn to make a great one, with variations, here) and you will have the perfect start, or end, to any meal.  Let me also, however, give you two salads tailored specifically for the ingredients and tastes of winter: a fantastic Raw Kale Caesar (with video!) as well as a delicious and crunchy Nutty Pesto Vegetable Salad.

RAW KALE CAESAR

Here is a video demo I did with some friends prepping a few videos to use for the website. I of course left out the anchovy when I made it! See the additional notes and written recipe below for more details:

NOTE: When you make this, be sure to add the anchovy! Sautéed pancetta is a wonderful addition I often toss into the salad, particularly if I omit the rustic croutons. If you want the salad really healthy, add no croutons, no pancetta and very little cheese… it’s still terrific. But a touch of cheese and pancetta won’t kill you! Those are tastes where a little goes a long way and does not get in the way of healthy eating.

Click here to get the full recipe: Raw Kale Caesar recipe.

PESTO VEGETABLE SALAD

Cabbage Salad

The next winter salad has become one of my favorite dishes to make. It’s my own version of a salad I had at one of my favorite places in the world, Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. This rustic inn, located in one of the most beautiful locales imaginable, is one of the best havens from the outside world you can find. While the inn is down the road from a couple of the most expensive hotels in the world, Deetjen’s itself is very reasonable. And romantic. And relaxing. No phones, no TV’s, not even locks on the doors. Comfortable beds, a glorious woody setting right across from the Pacific… I get lost there for days.

Deetjen’s has a terrific restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner, both glorious. The restaurant’s Eggs Benedict are the best I’ve ever had. Ditto their Blueberry Pancakes. Best ever as well. At night, the restaurant is soft lit, warm, romantic and, again, rustic. Oh, and wonderful food. For me, Deetjen’s is heaven on earth.

The last time I was lucky enough to stay there a few nights, they offered a special salad made with cabbage, zucchini, tomatoes and a variety of nuts, lightly tossed in a wonderful pesto vinaigrette. I liked it so much I ordered it two nights in a row then came home and figured out my own version.

This is a terrific salad, very much a ‘throw together’ salad that is virtually impossible to mess up. Just be sure to include a variety of nuts and don’t miss using the peanuts: they help give the salad a wonderful, salty kick. While you can make this any time of year, I make it all summer, it’s great on a cold winter’s night as a starter to your dinner. Or as part of a buffet with other winter salads and dishes. Or, if you are eating light, a solid meal on its own. Get the recipe here: Nutty Pesto Vegetable Salad.

Food for your 4th

27 Jun

Ah, the 4th of July. Fireworks, friends, family… and food. What can be better? Particularly when the 4th is on a Thursday, which means you will probably take off Friday, which means a four day weekend, which means four full days of fireworks, friends, family and food. So with out my usual prefatory rambling, I give you a plethora of food (and drink) for your holiday weekend.

DRINKS

* POMEGRANATE COSMOS

While I myself am partial to a Martini (click here!) or a Manhattan, I came up with this twist on a regular cosmopolitan for friends who like something a little less intense than either of my favorites but not as icky sweet as most “fru-fru” cocktails. These Pomegranate Cosmos are very tasty with a nice surprise kick from Limoncello. They are also gorgeous to present. I usually make a pitcher full, they go that quickly, but you can make them one at a time. Be sure to use fresh pomegranate juice. I once used juice from a jar and the result was terrible. Pom Wonderful is indeed wonderful and worth getting for this drink. 

Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

How to:

Mix 1 part vodka with 2 parts Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice.  (I usually do half and half but let’s start easy.)

Add Roses Lime and Limoncello. If you are making a single drink, a healthy splash of each will do. If you are making a pitcher, a few healthy glugs of each is called for. Then add fresh lime juice following the same principle.

Stir it up and taste!  If you want it sweeter, add more Roses. If you want more of a kick, which people like, add limoncello. If you want it, um, stronger, add vodka. Stir and taste, stir and taste, it’s part of the fun of making this drink.

If you are making a pitcher, mix it early and stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Then you can pour right out of the pitcher… or go ahead and cocktail shaker each drink anyway to get it freezing cold and impress your guests. Definitely use a shaker for single servings. Don’t forget the fresh squeezed lime juice in the drink and a lime wedge as a garnish. Fresh pomegranate seeds are an excellent garnish in the drink, just three or four per cocktail.

MAIN DISHES

* GRILLED MEATS

Most people will be grilling, of course. I love grilling sausages and/or baby lamb chops. If you do lamb chops, find a rack of lamb you can cut into individual riblets. Cut them into the riblets then marinate them overnight in olive oil, salt and pepper, minced garlic, lemon juice and thyme. Then grill… not too much! Simplicity is always best and lamb chops/riblets prepared this way are divine. If you grill sausages, get a bunch of different kinds. And be sure to make aioli on the side. This is a must. If you watch the video below, you will see it can be ridiculously easy. I used to make aioli by hand, which takes a lot of effort but the result was worth it, so I suffered through it weekly. Now I get the same wonderful result in less than a minute. Check this video:

If you want to make something amazing that takes a little more effort than grilling sausages and lamb chops, make

* SUZANNE GOIN’S PORK BURGERS

I posted about these once before but they are so good, I am posting the recipe again because they are the perfect 4th of July food and because you simply must try these. I’ve made these pork burgers every 4th of July the last few years. They are amazing. I’ll say it a third time… these are amazing. Be sure to make the Romesco, it’s a must and I always add aioli to the burgers. Just make the damn aioli. The recipe for these burgers can be found at another wonderful food blog I encourage you to check out, Food Gal, written by the extremely talented Carolyn Jung:

Pork Burger Recipe

Burger

** Here is another good look at this amazing way to make Aioli.

SIDES

* WHEAT BERRY SALAD

Another favorite of mine. This Wheat Berry Salad is fresh, healthy, tastes great and is an excellent base for all kinds of variations. I love using wheat berries because even when fully cooked, wheat berries have a soft but hearty pop in your mouth.  You can easily substitute barley or farro, or any grain you like. If you are gluten-free, try quinoa… or just eliminate the grain and make a tossed vegetable salad. 

You can also substitute your own favorite herbs and vegetables. The recipe below is a guideline, though if you follow it you will get a wonderful salad. Note: I tend to do all my vegetables raw in this salad, but feel free to roast the peppers and asparagus first. Just not too much. You want a good crunch.

WheatBerry1

Wheat Berry Salad ingredients

How to:

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The Cornbread of My Dreams

9 Mar

Certain dishes seem to have no middle ground. They’re either incredibly good or absolutely suck. This is not always true! While every prepared food certainly has great and bad versions, most can also have serviceable versions that do the job. Take the caesar salad. I’ve had a few out of this world caesar salads, like the tableside caesar at the Dal Rae  in Pico Rivera. Wow. I’ve had a few terrible caesars, too, that no one should ever have to eat. Most caesars, though, fall somewhere pleasantly in the middle. Not the best but easy and enjoyable to eat. Cheeseburgers (not talking fast food here! stay away, people) are the same. They can be great, they can be bad but usually they’re pretty good. This is why we see certain foods on just about every menu. A cook might not be able to craft a brilliant version, but chances are the cook won’t blow it terribly.

Other dishes, though, don’t have that serviceable in-between version. Meatloaf comes to mind. It seems always to be either wonderful — moist, spicy, delicious — or completely inedible — dry, tasteless, yuck. I rarely order meatloaf. The odds are too great it won’t be good. Cake is another. Has anyone here ever had “cake in the middle”? It’s always at either extreme. When you get a slice of incredibly moist cake with a great frosting, there doesn’t seem to be much better on the planet. But most cake is awful. There’s a magic to making cake most people don’t seem to be able to create, myself included. (I tend to be a disaster when it comes to baking.) Perhaps worst of all is gnocci. I hated gnocchi most of my life and couldn’t understand why anyone ate it because any time I tried gnocchi it was gummy, pasty, gross. Gnocci? Seriously? Then one day I had an amazing gnocchi — off someone else’s plate of course, they made me try —  and a light went off. Gnocci!  Seriously!

Click here for the rest of the post… and the best cornbread of your life