Watermelon, Figs and Feta

Watermelon, Figs and Feta

There are no real measurements for this simple salad. Cut some watermelon into one inch chunks and wash and quarter some fresh figs. Toss them in a bowl, sprinkle a bit of salt. Add a tablespoon or two of feta depending on your preferences and drizzle a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar on it. You end up with a pretty and delicious salad. The feta adds just the right amount of tartness and creaminess. The balsamic vinegar cuts the sweetness. You can’t really taste the salt, but you can taste how it brings out the flavor of the fruit.

Makes one serving.

Spinach, Pomegranate, Apple and Couscous Salad

Spinach, Apple, Pomegranate Couscous Salad

It was a hot day today. I went to the World’s Largest Louie Louie Sing-A-Long downtown so I was not interested in cooking or making anything difficult, but I wanted some rich and complex flavors. I kind of just started with some couscous and added what appealed until I ended up with something scrumptious.

  • 1/3 cup of couscous
  • 2/3rd cup of boiling water
  • Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • 1/3rd cup chopped red onion
  • 10 toasted almonds
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 granny smith apple, chopped.
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

I took 1/3 cup of couscous and poured  2/3rds cup of boiling water on top of it in a small bowl and put a lid on it. While it absorbed the boiling water, I prepped a pomegranate. I used all the seeds from half of a pomegranate.

There is a fast and easy way to prep pomegranates. Carefully cut through the skin without cutting deep, leaving the pomegranate seeds whole. Once you have cut through, give a little twist and it will separate into two halves. Take a half and pull and twist the edge a bit to loosen it, then turn it upside down in the palm of your hand and whack it hard over and over and all the seeds will fall out. I only needed half a pomegranate, but I cleaned both halves and stored half the seeds in a plastic container for another day.

I toasted some almonds in a clean dry skillet and chopped them in half after they cooled.

I cleaned and chopped a bunch of fresh spinach, chopped up some red onion and tossed them in with the pomegranates and couscous. I added some salt and pepper, the feta and toasted almonds.

I then chopped up 1/2 of a granny smith apple and tossed in some balsamic vinegar.

I put a lid on the bowl I was mixing this all up in, shook it up a bit and refrigerated for about an hour.

This was delicious and so rich in texture from the crispy apple, crunchy almonds, tender couscous and the juicy bursts of pomegranate. The flavor is grounded in the couscous, the spinach adds a nice fresh taste, the red onions a bit of heat, the apples some sweetness, the almonds some umame and the pomegranate a lovely sweet-sour tang. The feta gives a bit of richness, making it all come together in this big explosion of flavor and texture and color.

Makes two servings.

 

Couscous with Red Chard, Celery, Leeks, Tarragon, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Almonds.

Couscous with Celery, Leeks, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Almonds.

This was a fast and easy salad to make. In the morning when I made tea, I poured 2/3 cup of boiling water on 1/3 cup of couscous (tri-color couscous) and sealed the container it was in, letting it rest on the counter until I was ready to make the salad. I also toasted about a dozen almonds in a dry pan and let them cool off on the counter for later.

I got out my mandoline for fine slicing. I sliced two stalks of celery and 1/4 cup of leeks. I tossed them in with the couscous along with a  handful of dried cranberries. I cleaned two stalks of red chard and rolled them up so I could cut them into thin slices. Then I chopped them the other direction for small pieces.  I removed the leave from 1 bunch of tarragon and chopped the leaves up. I chopped the almonds in half and tossed them in. Then I added some salt and pepper and about 1 TBSP of balsamic vinegar and 1/2 TBSP of olive oil. I put the lid back on and shook it all up and let it rest in the fridge so the flavors could marry.

This made about 1.5 pints of salad, 4 servings.

There is a nice bite from the leeks, a bit of tang from the tarragon, earthiness from the chard and zingy sweetness from the dried cranberries. The balsamic blends the flavors perfectly.

Warm Mushroom and Kale Salad

Warm Kale Mushroom Salad

This was a fast and easy salad that I decided to have as an entree instead. It makes a single serving entree or two sides. The key to success is not overcooking the kale, letting it darken in color but not cooking until it wilts. That makes the rest seem more like a dressing for the kale and keeps it fresh in taste, texture and appearance.

Warm 1 TBSP of olive oil, add 1/4 cup of diced onions, 1/4 chopped red peppers and sauté until tender. Add salt and pepper. Meanwhile clean and slice 9 small mushrooms or whatever amount you need to make 1 cup of sliced mushrooms. Also mince one clove of garlic. Add the garlic and mushrooms and let cook until tender. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Finally, add 2 cups of chopped, cleaned kale and 1.5 tBSP of Balsamic Vinegar and stir. Keep stirring quickly so the kale heats evenly and quickly without steaming and wilting. Add salt and pepper to taste.

It might sound crazy to add salt and pepper three times, but the secret of good seasoning is to season at each stage of cooking for the amount that you have in your pan. This will make your seasoning more effective and actually end up using less salt and pepper.

This is earthy with a bit of tanginess from the balsamic vinegar. The flavors blended beautifully and would make a great side dish for something like a pork chop or beef steak, but is capable of standing on its own.

Dried Cranberries, Apple & Radish Greens Salad

Dried Cranberries, Apple & Radish Greens

When I made that Red Chard & Potato Soup yesterday, I saved the stems to see if I could come up with something tasty to use them in. I made up a salad that is marinating overnight. If it does not show up on the blog next, then it failed, but I have high hopes. While I was working on that salad, I decided to clean the radishes I bought, cutting off the tops because they wilt and rot so quickly. As I cut off the tops, I nibbled on one and thought that cooked, it might just be delicious. So here’s I browsed around looking for recipes using radish greens. One sounded very intriguing, but I don’t like raisins and I don’t have any nuts or seeds, so I decided to try reworking it a bit to use what I do have.

First I put about 2 dozen dried cranberries in a small bowl and poured enough balsamic vinegar in so that they were about 2/3rds covered. I let them soak in the balsamic vinegar for most of the afternoon so they rehydrated a bit and were soft. Once they were softer, I made the salad.

When I was cleaning the radishes earlier, I washed the greens about 4 times. Veggies with lots of crinkly veins can be hard to get really clean. To clean the radishes, I put them in the plastic veggie bag from the grocery store, added cold water and twisted the bag top shut and then shook them in the water. Then I drained the water off and repeated again until they didn’t dirty the water.

I put the seeds from 2 cardamom pods (about a dozen seeds) in a dry pan with about 6 peppercorns and heated them until the popped and perfumed the air. Meanwhile I peeled a tart apple (Granny Smith) cutting it into pieces about 1/2 by 1 inch.

I added 2 tbsp of walnut oil to the pan and brought it up to a medium heat. I added the apple pieces and let them sauté for about 3 minutes. They browned slightly. Their texture was slightly softer than raw apples, but still toothsome. It is really important you don’t let them get mushy. As soon as they cooked, I removed them from the oil.

While the apples cooked, I chopped up the radish greens. I removed the stems and cut into thin ribbons of greens. After removing the apples, I turned the heat up a notch and tossed in the greens. I stirred them while they cooked for about 1 minute until tender and a rich dark green. I removed them from the pan straight into the salad bowl with the apples. I then spooned out the cranberries from the balsamic and tossed them in, mixing up the salad. With the pepper and cardamom, the salad needed no salt or pepper to finish it. I saved the balsamic to the side. I can use it to dress a lettuce salad or marinate some beef.

The balsamic from the cranberries and the oil from cooking provided plenty of dressing for the salad, so I did not add more vinegar or oil. It was perfectly dressed as is.

It was a super flavorful salad, the cardamom and apple were sweet and tart and that was doubled down by the balsamic and dried cranberries. The radish greens are slightly bitter, the apples are sweet and the cranberries slightly sour. Since bitter is balanced by sweet and by sour, they worked together perfectly. Now I wish I had bought more radishes. Made one salad entree or two side salads.

Asparagus Diablo

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I threw this together in just a few minutes and it was delicious. I decided to name it Asparagus Diablo after an alliance member in an MMO I play, but cherries do make it red, so it sort of fits.

I took 6 asparagus and sliced them vertically, then I sliced them horizontally in fourths. The bottom ends, I cut in half again so all the pieces were about the same size in order to cook evenly. I began heating water with a dash of salt. When it came to a rolling boil, I added the asparagus and let cook for 1 minute – just to parboil them. I did not want them softened and mushy, but retaining a bit of their texture. You could say they were al dente.

Meanwhile, I cut three paper-thin slices off a red onion and chopped them into small pieces. I heated 2 tsp of olive oil in a small pan and sautéed the onion. While the onion cooked, I pitted 10 cherries and cut them into quarters. When the onions were tender, I added the cherries and cooked on medium heat, smashing the cherries with my wooden spoon. When they were softened and liquefying, I added 1 tbsp  or so of balsamic vinegar and stirred it all together and let it cook for about 30 more seconds.

By now the asparagus was done, so I drained it and placed in a bowl. I poured the  cherry vinaigrette on top and added a dollop of goat cheese.

This made one serving. The asparagus tasted like spring. The cherries were a delicious mix of sweet, sour and tangy and the sweetness of the cheese balanced everything.