SouthWestern Salad

South Western SaladSunshine! Spring is showing its face here in the Pacific NorthWest, and it is far too warm to resist the urge to make salad, today. I’ve made variations of this salad over the last year, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that less is more when it comes to the dressing for this flag-bearer of a salad. Here we have the quintessential SouthWestern ingredients, all dressed in little more than the sharp floral flavors of fresh squeezed lime. If you love avocado the way we do, add an additional one (in cubes) to the salad before using the final one to decorate the top. I’ve not given a quantity for the chili, as different chilis have such a variation in heat, and different people have such a variation in desire for heat. You should add enough chili to just feel the heat, here, but not overpower all the other flavors. I’ve been using 1-3 tsp of minced, fresh/frozen Hatch chilis, which seems to be about right for my family.

1 cup frozen sweet corn, defrosted
2 14oz tins of black beans, drained
minced fresh chili, to taste
2 spring onions, cleaned
7-8 small red/yellow/orange bell peppers
3 salad tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 a fresh lime (or more, to taste)
1 small head cos/romaine lettuce
1 large avocado (or 2, if your budget copes with it)

Mix the corn and black beans together in a large bowl.

Stir the minced chili into the beans.

Slice the spring onions on the diagonal into 1/2″ pieces, and the bell peppers, and tomatoes into cubes.

Mix these into the corn and beans, stir in the chopped cilantro, and dress with the lime juice.

Rip the bigger leaves of the cos/romain lettuce into bite-sized pieces and form all the lettuce into a bed in a large (or individual) bowl/s.

Pile the bean mixture onto the lettuce bed, decorate with the avocado, and squeeze some additional lime over the top, if desired.

Serve as is, or with tortilla chips or in GF tortilla shells.

Kale and edamame salad

O.K., I know that this is going to sound gruelingly virtuous, but this salad is actually really rather good. The kale has a fairly astonishing nutritional profile, but it can have a rather assertive flavor, too, so I wanted a dressing that would tame it somewhat. I experimented with various dressings (including orange mayonnaise!), but in the end fell back on my old reliable vinaigrette, and really that’s all that it needed.

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Kale, edamame, cranberry, and brussels sprout salad. Healthy, filling, and loaded with nutrients! A real tonic for the post-holiday season fallout.

Although the ingredients don’t look as if they make much salad, this is one of those strangely filling foods that demand time taken to eat. I munch on this and feel as if I’ve (temporarily) joined the ranks of those virtuous salad eaters that you see sitting outside cafes on a sunny lunch time, making one feel like a nutritional neanderthal with no willpower to resist <insert addictive food substance here>. However, I don’t feel unhappily virtuous when I eat it. Sliced brussels sprouts are surprisingly sweet and tasty, raw, and the cranberries give intermittent pockets of intensity against the generally green tasting background of the kale. The salad dressing moistens and brings it all together.

For a bit of variation (or if you’re a little wary of kale), substitute finely sliced white cabbage (the stuff used for making coleslaw) for half of the kale.

Serves 4 as a side salad

2 recipes of slightly sweetened vinaigrette
2 cups (16 fl oz) kale
10 brussels sprouts
8 oz edamame (fresh, shelled, soy beans)
1 cup (8 fl oz) dried cranberries

Use a sharp knife to strip the kale greenery off any stalks; discard the stalks, and finely slice the green.

Clean the sprouts, and slice.

Toss all ingredients together in a large salad bowl, and serve.

Orange, Cranberry, and Walnut Salad

California is in the clutches of a drought, even by our normal standards. Humidity levels have been down below 20% for ages, and temperatures are hovering around the 80’s (26-32C). We’ve had less than 1/3 of our normal rainy season precipitation ….. so we’re eating salads.

There’s something rather attractive about this leafy salad, speckled with gold and crimson fruit. It’s a good salad for warmer, late winter days, when oranges are fresh off the trees.

Orange, Cranberry, and Walnut Salad with black olive hummus.

Orange, Cranberry, and Walnut Salad with black olive hummus.

1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp orange muscat champagne vinegar (or this homemade version)
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 – 3 oz baby lettuce leaves
2 oranges
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts (lightly candied, if liked)

Vigorously beat together the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and maple syrup with a fork to make an emulsion.

Wash and dry the lettuce, and put into a large bowl.

Peel the oranges, cut the flesh into dice, and mix with the cranberries and walnuts.

Add half the fruit/nuts to the lettuce with half of the dressing, and toss with hands or salad servers to combine.

Sprinkle the remainder of the fruit/nuts and dressing over the top, and serve immediately.

Orange Salad or Dipping Vinegar

A lot of my salad recipes call for Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar as sold by Trader Joe’s. Unfortunately, much of the world is deprived of my favorite store, so I decided to mix up a more accessible alternative. I asked daughter #1 to taste test the two side by side (to make sure I wasn’t fooling myself that the mixture tasted great), and her reaction was “Wow!”

Orange Salad VinegarThe mixture is thicker than regular vinegar, but this is not a disadvantage when making salad dressings. The orange flavor is quite pronounced and fresher than the original, but the clean cutting properties of the vinegar are preserved. Although I figured this as an alternative to vinegar for salad dressings, it would work really well as a dip for bread cubes, too, much as you get balsamic vinegar and olive oil in fancy Italian restaurants … though you’d have to double or triple the recipe!

Makes about 2-3 tbsp of ‘vinegar’.

1 medium size orange, juiced
1 tbsp white salad vinegar (such as white balsamic)

Thick, reduced orange juice.

Thick, reduced, orange juice.

Boil up the orange juice in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes until reduced to about 2 tbsp in volume and thick enough to leave a trail when the spatula is dragged through it.

Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the white salad vinegar. Use within a day or two in salad dressings and such like.

Home Fried Potatoes

I rather figured that everyone in the US knew how to cook home fries, and felt that putting them on the blog was daft of me, despite the fact that they’re normally gluten free, and my kids love them. However, it would appear that I am wrong. An American friend of mine just asked for my recipe for them, and my daughter said she needed a recipe for when she left home (and yes, this is a repository of recipes for my girls), and they’re not so common in England anyway, so perhaps a recipe is needed! For the Brits: these are like mini, pan-fried, roast potatoes.

Homefries

Lightly browned breakfast potatoes (homefries). It’s easy to crisp them up further, but my daughter likes them a little softer.

Note: In my opinion, this is easiest to make if the surfaces of the potatoes are dry before they are fried. I will usually cook them as jacket/baked potatoes in the oven/microwave, then peel and cut into cubes before frying. Make sure the fat is good and hot before adding the potatoes in order to avoid having the potatoes soak up too much of it.

Another option is to peel and dice the potatoes, then simmer in salted water until just cooked, then drain and allow to cool slightly (and dry) before continuing to fry them. Obviously, left over potatoes work well here.

I did try cooking the potatoes from scratch with the onions and peppers, but the onions/peppers had a tendency to burn if cooked before as well as with the potatoes, or didn’t brown at all if added after the potatoes had crowded the pan.

Oh, and as an aside: if you ever find you have left overs, these are excellent thrown into creamy broccoli soup as lumpy bits after the soup has been blended.

1 lb potatoes, cooked and cubed (see note, above)
1 + 1 tbsp vegan margarine (Earth Balance) OR canola (rapeseed) oil
1/4 large onion, diced
1 cup (8 oz) red/orange/yellow pepper strips
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
paprika/cayenne pepper (optional)

Warm the first half of the fat in a large frying pan.

Cook the onion and red/orange/yellow pepper strips in the fat until they’re soft and starting to brown. Remove from the pan, and put to one side.

Add the remainder of the fat to the pan, and once it is hot, add the potatoes. Keep them moving around with a metal spatula/fish slice, to reduce sticking, scraping the bottom of the pan as necessary (those crispy bits are tasty, but also stop the potato cubes from browning further, if not scraped off).

Fry until they start to brown on all sides (this will be quite quick, if the surface of the potatoes is dry and the fat is hot). Add the onion and peppers back into the hot pan to reheat, sprinkle salt and pepper (and paprika or cayenne pepper, if liked) over the vegetables, and serve hot for breakfast, with scrambled tofu and some ranchero sauce (for example).

Mala Femmina

Autumn is hanging on by its fingernails here in California. We’re still having gloriously sunny days (with the odd showery one), and cool nights. It’s a very short season, being only about 4 – 6 weeks long, so I don’t think it will be more than another couple of weeks before I’ll be wanting to light the fire in the family room. However, as yet, it’s not too late to be eating salads. There’s nothing quite like a looming deadline for motivation!

This is a salad version of Pasta Puttanesca.

malfemina

Gluten free vegan pasta salad.

4 salad tomatoes
6 – 8 oz dry GF penne pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp finely chopped onion
2 medium sized cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp capers, drained and roughly chopped
3/4 cup (~30) black olives, halved
~14 large basil leaves, torn to small shreds

Cook the pasta in plenty of  salted water according to packet instructions, until just cooked, but not fragile.

While the pasta is boiling, use a sharp knife to make a small gash in the skin of each of the tomatoes; use a slotted spoon to add the tomatoes to the boiling pasta water for about 60 seconds each, so that their skins start to peel back from the gash.

Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water with the slotted spoon, and peel off (and discard) the skins (which should pretty much slip off on their own).

Dice the tomato flesh.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it, and toss gently in a large bowl with the olive oil.

Add the remaining ingredients; stir to combine.

Check for salt, adjust if necessary. If your stomach can stand it, you can drizzle this with a little more olive oil.

Refrigerate until required (this can help the flavors develop), but no more than about an hour, as you don’t want the basil to go brown.

Caesar Salad Dressing

Making the most of the vestiges of the summer, I wanted to get at least one more salad related blog written before hotter dishes are required. Traditional Caesar salad contains both cheese and anchovies, neither of which I will eat. This version is slightly cheesy, and very garlicky. It is not for the faint of heart nor for delicately flavored salads …. by which I mean, I like it just served with crispy lettuce leaves (Romaine or cos) to dip in it, and both girls gave me the thumbs up, when I gave it to them on baked potato. If you are a lover of garlic as I am, you can use large cloves of garlic; if you have to be sociable the day after, try smaller cloves …. and if you want to drizzle the dressing over shredded lettuce and cubes of fried GF bread, slacken the dressing off with a tablespoon of rice milk first.

Ceasar Salad

1/2 cup mild flavored mayonnaise (Soy Vegan Mayonnaise is good)
1/4 tsp mild, light colored miso
1 tsp nutritional yeast
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground seaweed

Stir all ingredients together with a non-metal utensil, and use immediately.