It’s one that requires no stove, oven, microwave, or any other sort of heating device. It doesn’t require any special equipment or power tools. All you need is a can opener, a knife, a cutting board, and a big ol’ mixing bowl. I guess most people would want a spoon, but in a pinch you can just use your hands to mix.
It’s a very zen thing, making this salad. It comes together as fast as you choose to chop. There’s no worry about over-cooking or under-cooking. No pressure at all.
A main feature of this salad is the harissa. You can tell because it is the first word in the title. I know, I just know someone out there is wondering what can be used instead of harissa because who on god’s green earth has harissa sitting around and where can you get it and what is it even.
If you can’t find harissa (or can’t be bothered, and girl I feel you), remember that it is red and spicy. Use something else red and spicy and understand that it won’t be the same but this is not always bad.
Taste your harissa. If it tastes good, congratulations! You’re well on your way to a delicious salad. If it tastes musty or weird or off, you might want to consider a different brand next time. Or try cutting it with sriracha, which fixes any number of ills.
Are we still talking about kale? Has kale jumped the shark yet?
Whatever. I don’t think I could ever get sick of greens of any sort. Kale, chard, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens… they just do it for me. Kale in particular has this wonderful texture, much like your workaday cabbage, that’s just as good cooked as it is raw.
Passion for kale notwithstanding, this recipe was born out of desperation, as so many of my recipes are. My traditional post-Christmas detox* this year resulted in a steady supply of fresh greens in the fridge, and not much else.
Needing protein, I added almonds and tahini. Kale screams for garlic; I obliged. A handful of currants made for a Middle-Eastern sweetness. And I couldn’t help but add some heat via fresh chile.
The overall flavor hinted at peanut butter on celery sticks, but way more soigné. It was one of those times where I took a taste, then grabbed a pen and some paper to feverishly try to remember what the hell I did to make it. It’s all slightly al dente kale, nutty tahini, sharp garlic and lemon, jammy currants. It’s flippin’ awesome.
*It’s not so much a detox as an “oh god I might actually die unless I eat the most healthy things I can for about three weeks, so fetch me all the kale”. Fixes me right up.
I used regular curly-leaf kale, which stayed reasonably al dente in this preparation. This was enough for two light lunches, served with bread and fruit on the side. A drizzle of olive oil over the top is not out of place here.
Olive oil, as needed
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh chile pepper (or to taste), such as Serrano
1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped roasted almonds (1 large handful)
2 tablespoons dried currants (1 small handful)
Salt and pepper, as needed
1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and chile; cook until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Add the kale, in batches if necessary, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. As it wilts, stir to coat with the oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.
3. Drizzle the tahini and lemon juice over the kale, and stir to incorporate. Add a spoonful of water if needed to thin the sauce. Heat briefly to warm through, then remove from heat.
4. Stir in the currants and almonds. Taste, and correct seasoning as needed with salt, pepper, and additional olive oil and/or lemon juice. Serve warm.
You know the old trope, “write what you know”. And most of the time, the things closest to you are too close to notice. There are those things that you do and see every day, and you’re too familiar with them to even notice what they are anymore, let alone that they might be special or interesting outside of your narrow view of them.
So it is with this salad.
It’s so stupidly simple, I’m almost embarrassed to tell you about it. But I eat it nearly every day with dinner, I adore it, and I thought I should probably mention it sometime.
It’s three ingredients: arugula, olive oil, salt. And, as is the case with such simple food, the quality of each of those is important. But don’t let that hold you back.
I’ve made this salad with some seriously on-the-way-out arugula, all fainting and half-yellow, and the cheapo olive oil I cook with. It was fine. Was it better with the aquaponically-grown hyper-local arugula, and the Very Special and Very Pricey olive oil in the tiny bottle? Of course. But y’all, it’s just salad. Let’s not overthink things.
We’re all using Kosher salt, yes? Lovely. Do you happen to have some sort of fancy-pants special salt, from some exotic provenance? Maybe something flavored? Even better. I’d avoid table salt, though; it tastes a little… dirty, somehow.
There is no vinegar in this salad. You can add some if you feel awkward eating an acid-less salad, but I prefer it without. Stupid. Simple. It’s my favorite.
Recently, a dinner party client requested a strawberry salad for the meal I was cooking for him. And I don’t know the last time you searched for “strawberry salad”, but 99.99% of the recipes out there involve two things:
2. Poppy seeds
Not that there’s a thing in the world wrong with a good strawberry-spinach-poppy seed salad. It’s a lovely little thing, simple, tasty, and pretty, which is why it’s ubiquitous.
But my clients don’t pay me to make exactly what the next guy is serving. My clients hire me because they want something bespoke, something more thoughtful. And I thought I could do better.
So I brainstormed. At the top of the page, I wrote “NO GODDAMN SPINACH OR POPPY SEEDS”, just in case I needed a reminder. I laid out some flavors: watermelon, arugula, pistachios, lime, balsamic vinegar, mint, shallot, cardamom, vanilla.
Peppery arugula made the base of the salad, while chopped watermelon and strawberries marinated in a bath of lime, herbs, shallot, olive oil, a splash of vanilla, and this incredibleStrawberry White Balsamic Vinegar that I discovered from Our Dearly Departed Gourmet Magazine. If you try nothing else from this recipe, make that. You could practically drink it.
(Note to self: develop cocktail recipe using Strawberry White Balsamic Vinegar.)
The pistachios got candied with some egg white, sugar, and a heavy dose of cardamom. They might seem like a fussy afterthought, but they go a long way towards tying everything together. Besides, crunchy bits are requisite on moderately-fussy salads like this. (And they’re a lovely little snack to boot, if you happen to make extra.)
These pictures are from the test run I did many weeks ago, and I can just about smell it through the screen. This is one super fragrant salad, y’all.
We paired it with a punchy rosé, and oh my goodness if you make this salad, you really ought to have a bottle of rosé on hand. It was one of those situations where one legitimately could not tell if the wine was making the food better, or the food was making the wine better. There was a lovely roasted salmon too, but it became incidental.
My client, by the way, was thrilled. And so was I. I think you will be too.
Strawberry, Watermelon, & Arugula Salad with Cardamom-Candied Pistachios
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
If you choose to make the Strawberry Vinegar (which you absolutely should; recipe linked below), plan a little in advance, as it requires at least 1 hour to make. You can make it well in advance, and it's wildly versatile, so you have very little excuse.
If you don't have time for that, though, I specify white balsamic vinegar, only because regular balsamic vinegar will muddy the appearance a little. If that doesn't bother you, by all means use regular balsamic vinegar.
This strikes me as an ideal picnic salad, or contribution to a potluck dinner. While the strawberries and watermelon marinate in the dressing, that gives you ample time to get to, you know, wherever you're going. Once there, serve them with the arugula and the pistachios. Wham. You look like Martha Stewart.
1. Preheat oven to 300° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, whisk the egg white with the water until foamy. Whisk in the sugars, cardamom, salt, and pepper until combined.
3. Add the pistachios and mix until coated.
4. LIft the pistachios out of the bowl, letting any excess liquid remain in the bowl, and spread in an even layer on the prepared pan. Do not crowd the nuts (use a second pan if necessary).
5. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until the nuts look dry, 20 to 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking and clumping together. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
To Make the Dressing:
1. In a large bowl, combine the Strawberry Vinegar (or white balsamic), shallot, mint, basil, lime zest and juice, vanilla, and cardamom. Add a three-fingered pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
2. Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil (it's okay if it doesn't emulsify). Taste. If the dressing seems too tart, add additional olive oil one tablespoon at a time until it tastes more balanced. When it tastes good to you, proceed with the recipe.
To Finish the Salad:
1. Toss the quartered strawberries and diced watermelon with the dressing in the bowl. Let stand for at least 10 minutes at room temperature, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
2. When ready to serve, add arugula and toss to coat with the dressing. Divide into bowls or plates, top with Cardamom-Candied Pistachios, and serve.
Dinner, from the book I cannot stop using: Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. I must be sounding like a broken record, but that cookbook has majorly influenced the way I cook, both at home and for clients.
This is his Beet, Orange, and Black Olive Salad (and I didn’t send you, but you can find the recipe here). The flavors in this one are not shy, but much more toned-down than you’d think by looking at the ingredient list. Overall, it’s extremely well balanced, a little unusual, and absolutely fabulous.
I modified the recipe by roasting (not boiling) the 4 smallish beets for 45 minutes at 425° F, and serving it over a mixture of quinoa and red rice (1/2 cup and 1/3 cup respectively, by dry measure, cooked separately but concurrently).
The (ahem) red salad green was something I picked up at the farmers’ market, and which nomenclature I promptly forgot. It looked like a cross between frisée and some spindly arugula, and had a lovely bitterness.
For the olives, I used the wrinkly oil-cured type because that’s what I had. Those are super-pungent and normally bully past every other flavor, but here, they were actually subdued. I might chop them a little smaller next time (I basically just halved them here), but not by much. The saltiness jumping out every so often, not in every bite, was excellent.
Oh yes, and it’s scallions instead of red onion. I forgot the red onion at the store.
I don’t typically travel a heck of a lot. Most of the time, you’ll find me within a five-mile radius of my kitchen.
But tomorrow (Thursday), I’m jetting off to my hometown, New Orleans. First I’ll be attending the International Food Blogger Conference (and if you’re going too, I’d love to meet up with you!). After that, I’ll be helping my family through one surgery (which I’m trying to not worry about obsessively). I’m going away for eleven days, which isn’t very long, but it’s long enough that I couldn’t leave my sweetheart behind without some home-cooked food.
I have dug my own grave on this one, and absolutely crippled my boyfriend in the kitchen. Not that he can’t or won’t cook, it’s just that… well, we have an unspoken understanding that dinner is probably going to be better if, you know, the professional chef cooks it. He does help.
Also, I was only slightly afraid that he might subsist purely on cereal and take-out for eleven days if I hadn’t made a little something nutritious to tuck in the fridge.
Okay, fine. If I’m honest, this was all a fine excuse for a blog post.
Drawing inspiration from my latest favorite cookbook and chef, Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi, I made for him two grain-based and vegetable-heavy salads, one with carrots, quinoa, lime, and cilantro, the other with quinoa, red rice, pistachios, and dried apricots. These two dishes are exactly the kind of thing I could eat quite happily for the rest of my life, day in, day out.
The one word that comes to mind when I think about Chef Ottolenghi’s food is “generosity”. Often, there isn’t just one type of grain, but two. Or, occasionally, more. (Shock! Eyes widen!) Flavors aren’t delicate or precious, but bold and effluent. Herbs, in particular, are used with a hand so heavy it borders on leaden. It just feels downright generous to pile mounds of herbs onto big heaps of vegetables and grains, and mix it all up in your largest bowl, using your entire arm to stir.
This is the sort of thing that’s been heavily influencing my cooking of late. In-season vegetables, fresh herbs, whole grains, unrestrained flavors, always a hit of citrus. This is also the sort of thing that is ridiculously good for you, which is great, because I could eat buckets of it.
I hope to see you at IFBC, but if I don’t, maybe one of these salads will make your weekend a little more generous. Even if you just make it for your blog.
Carrot and Quinoa Salad with Almonds, Lime, and Cilantro Inspired by Richard Blais, via Food & Wine Magazine Makes 6 to 8 servings
I neglected to note how many pounds of carrots I used, but I know there were 10 of them, and they were on the smaller side. If you love carrots, use more. If you don’t, use less. Either way, use your judgement.
3/4 cup whole almonds, toasted
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional as needed
10 medium-sized carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional as needed
1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
Pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha, or to taste
1 bunch cilantro (yes, a whole bunch), chopped
1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon furikake (optional; see this post for a recipe), or black sesame seeds
Salt and black pepper to taste
1. To toast almonds, heat oven to 350º F. Spread in an even layer on a sheet pan, and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Chop roughly while still warm, and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve until the water runs clear, swirling with fingers to help agitate the grains. (This rinses off a natural coating that, when cooked, tastes bitter.) Let drain a bit.
3. Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat. Stirring constantly to prevent burning, toast the quinoa until fragrant, and grains dry and separate, about 3 minutes. You should not hear any sizzling when the water has fully evaporated. Add the water and salt, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Place a clean towel between pan and lid (to help absorb excess moisture), and let stand 5 to 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
3. While quinoa cooks, prepare the carrots. Peel, halve lengthwise, and chop into roughly 1 inch lengths (on a bias if you want to be fancy). Mince or grate the ginger and garlic.
4. In a large skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Toss to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Do not brown. Add the chicken stock, and cover the pan. Cook until the carrots are just tender, 3 to 5 more minutes. Remove the lid, and let any remaining liquid reduce until thick. Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and Sriracha. Let cool briefly.
5. Zest and juice the lime into a large bowl. Add the carrots, and toss. Mix in the cooked quinoa, toasted almonds, cilantro, water chestnuts, and furikake (if using). Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed with salt, black pepper, and olive oil. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.
Red Rice and Quinoa Salad with Orange and Pistachio Yotam Ottolenghi
Makes 6 servings
Recipe can be found here. I changed (practically) nothing, aside from wilting the arugula slightly so it would keep longer, and mixing it in. Don’t be hesitant to use two grains in one salad; the variance in texture is delightful, and it’s scarcely any more trouble.
Also, I took some pictures of the ingredients, and I’m darn well going to use them.
I haven’t done one of these in ages. Embarrassingly, it’s mostly due to the fact that I haven’t been making myself proper lunches. Time for a change!
This is a bed of red leaf lettuce, topped with a bit of chopped jicama and avocado, shaved red onion, and a red miso-mustard dressing with plenty of black pepper. Whole wheat flatbread rounds out the quick lunch for two.
Creamy, crunchy, tangy, and surprisingly filling. Just what I wanted.