Archive for the ‘ Salad ’ Category

PEAR SALAD WITH BLUE CHEESE & CANDIED WALNUTS

Growing up it was this salad that my mom served to guests at dinner. Even after the main course was done and the dessert, too, it was this salad that guests talked about. Nearly two decades later when I serve it to my own group of friends — at sit-down dinners and potlucks alike — it is still subject to the same “oohs” and “aahs.” In a time when entire salads come in a bag — fruits, nuts, dressing and cheese included — this salad seems simultaneously ordinary and luxurious. But, in fact, it’s neither. Yes, fruit has become rather ubiquitous in mass-market salads — proved by a quick trip to the supermarket or a ride through the drive-thru — and yes, this salad requires a wee bit more effort, but with tender leaf lettuces, homemade candied walnuts, pungent blue cheese and juicy pieces of ripe, fresh pear gently tossed in sweet poppy seed dressing, it is certainly more than the sum of its parts.

I like to think of this salad as a reflection of the seasons. In winter it brims with pear and also citrus segments, but in summer I’ll glaze slivered almonds and toss in sliced strawberries and feta.  In fall, I serve it with tart apple slivers and spiced pecans. No matter what you use, there’s no wrong combination — this salad is timeless.

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POPPY SEED DRESSING

After a weekend of less-than-healthy eating — the Super Bowl has that effect — I figured it was high-time to post one of my all-time favorite salad dressings.  In fact, this dressing is so special that I decided to give it its own post (tune in tomorrow for the perfect salad).  While Italian, ranch and blue cheese might hold the throne as America’s favorite salad dressings, I’d like to introduce you to what you’ve been missing out on — poppy seed dressing.  I know, I know.  Poppy seeds? While you might be wondering how poppy seeds could still be relevant, especially in a salad dressing, consider the words of Kay Rentschler from her New York Times article on this misunderstood spice, “Ultimately, it is as a finely granular, dusky backdrop that poppy seeds make their point best, a point well articulated in the presence of lemon or orange peel, the smoke of sweet spices or the fragrant notes of honey or orange flower oil.”  Sounds like they might find a nice home in a unique sweet and sour salad dressing, doesn’t it?

Romanticism aside, I’ve eaten this dressing since I was a boy, on salads as varied as tender red leaf lettuce with grapefruit segments and blue cheese to sturdy spinach leaves with strawberries and feta — you really can’t go wrong.  In fact, the beauty of this dressing is its ability to compliment ripe fruit regardless of season.  Wintertime salad? Use crisp apples or tangy orange segments for a refreshing contrast to this dressing’s sweet notes.  Have pears from the farmers market lying around?  Toss them in as a sweet foil to the same tangy dressing.

As tasty as it is beautiful, this one-of-a-kind dressing is worth making for the work week when you’re in the need of something light and refreshing. Whip up a batch in the blender, throw it in your fridge and eat like a king for the week.

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GINGER PORK LETTUCE CUPS

Ginger Pork Lettuce Cups

These lettuce cups might be a little too P.F. Chang’s for some people, but this is a recipe I’ve come back to time and time again for quick, delicious results.  Big on flavor and a cinch to prepare, ginger pork lettuce cups are an amazing start to an Asian-inspired menu and have even taken center stage on more than one dinner occasion.

Here, unctuous ground pork and umami-rich oyster sauce mingle with crunchy water chestnuts and finely diced red bell pepper to create a filling that is as appealing to the eye as it is to the palate. The contrast in texture between the hot, salty filling and the cool, crispy lettuce is a combination that has me coming back to this recipe over and over again.  The best part? Once you have all the necessary ingredients in your pantry, whipping this dish up on a weeknight is as easy as it gets.

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B.E.L.T. SANDWICH

BELT Sandwich

In elementary school, showing up to the lunch table with an egg salad sandwich was almost certain social suicide. This was unfortunate for someone like myself who simply loved the stuff.  Along with tuna sandwiches (which somehow brought about an even more violent reaction in my peers), egg salad sandwiches were unfortunately an after school snack staple.

It wasn’t until I was in college, going to school at the University of California at Santa Cruz, that my girlfriend turned me on to  a version of egg salad that even picky grade schoolers would have difficult time hating. Known as the BELT at Zoccoli’s Delicatessen on Pacific Avenue, this simple, yet delicious sandwich marries the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato version with the creamy, richness of egg salad on toasted wheat bread. 

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WARM FLANK STEAK SALAD WITH MINT AND CILANTRO

Warm Marinated Flank Steak SaladI’d been eating Thai food for a while before a friend of mine insisted that we order Nua Yang Nam Tok, or Waterfall Beef Salad as a starter. While I’d had American beef salads before – usually romaine lettuces topped with freshly grilled strip steak – I had never come across one in which nearly the entire “salad” was the beef. Having already familiarized myself with the typical (and sometimes boring) Thai staples of Pad Thai and Chicken Satay, this dish caught me by surprise with its intensely refreshing impact on the palate.  Its been years now since I first experienced Thai beef salad, and there is seldom an occasion when I do not order this salty, sour, and fiery dish before a Thai feast.

I’ve sampled and cooked many versions of this salad in the past, and I can honestly say that Andy Ricker’s of Pok Pok restaurant in Portland, Oregon is one of the most authentic tasting I’ve ever come across. If you’re ever in the Portland area, do yourself a favor and stop by his restaurant for some of the most amazing Thai BBQ (and Fish Sauce Chicken Wings) you may ever enjoy in the United States.

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