Super Spring Salads

Early spring is not known as the season for great salad but it could be! I am giving you several salad options in this post. Try your own blends but it is best not to throw everything in the fridge in it.  Try to be selective and highlight only a couple ingredients.  Simple ones I enjoy have only three – five ingredients and I use my homemade vinaigrette dressing.   They are pretty healthy and probably fairly low in calories yet high in nutritional value.  These are basic recipes which you can tweak depending on the ingredients in your fridge

Avocado Celery Salad (serves 1)

½ an avocado

1 celery stalk

3-4 leaves of green loose leaf lettuce

2-3 tbsp. fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)

—————-

Or try this yummy salad which shows off citrus flavor and color:

Citrus Fennel Salad (serves one or two)

1 inner stalk of celery cut in 1/3 inch rounds

1 navel orange

1/2 cup fennel bulb, cut in ¼-1/3 inch slices

Peel the orange, either by hand or using a paring knife.  Cut across into rounds about ¼-1/3 inch across.  Cut again across into halves.

Fennel has a sweet crunch to it, faintly tasting of licorice, kinda sort of and it marries really well with citrus.  I also like to use tangerines, Clementines, blood orange or cara cara navel oranges in this recipe.  Even grapefruit slices are great.  Cara cara oranges have an interesting orange-pinkish cast to the fruit and a lovely sweet flavor. My local Giant grocery store has them on display right now.  You can also mix two citrus in your salad; a navel and a blood orange.  Fantastic!

I also make this same salad but instead of an orange I use a half to 3/4 cup of cubed fresh peeled ripe papaya; gives a lot of color and great flavor in this salad.

Finishing directions for these salads:

Place the salad ingredients in your salad dish; I have some very low sided ceramic bowls I got a long time ago that I love for salad. Then sprinkle the salad with vinaigrette which you just shook up one more time! Please don’t add too much salad dressing or you will have soggy salad.

Margie’s Vinaigrette

I named this after my older sister who passed away three years ago.  She made fantastic vinaigrette.  Mine is not quite like hers but close enough to masquerade as it.  She would approve….

So, I like to use one of those Good Seasoning’s jars but add my own ingredients, use a pint jar if you like; the main thing is a tight fitting lid.  Fill it to the vinegar line with red wine vinegar, not the cheap store brand (skimpy 1/4 cup).  Then some filtered water to the water line (about 1/3 inch more or two tbsp.). Next I add 1 tsp Dijon mustard, ½ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp dried oregano or dried thyme, one garlic clove (peeled and mashed down a bit to release flavor), 1 tsp mayonnaise, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper and ½ tsp sugar. Then add extra virgin olive oil, stop a bit before the oil line and finish it with lighter olive oil (1/2 cup plus one tbsp of combined olive oils).  Shake it up really well. Then shake it some more, you need to get the mayo to blend in as completely as possible. It tastes best at room temperature and plan ahead – let it rest for at least an hour before you use it the first time.  Keep it in the refrigerator if there is any left over, lasts like a month in there. The mustard adds snap and the bit of mayo helps the dressing stay emulsified (fully blended) longer than it would without the mayo.  If your salad is delicate and you don’t want as much olive oil flavor use only mild olive oil and skip the EVOL.  If you chill the dressing you will need to let it warm up before using it; ten seconds in the microwave can help with that process.

Note: You could up the nutritional value with a few almonds or walnuts if you like nuts in your salad.

More ideas: I make any number of salad combos depending on what is in my fridge.  Two of my favorite ingredient combinations are: shredded carrot, sliced radishes, chickpeas, romaine and half rounds of European cucumber or a mixture of torn kale leaves, shredded raw Brussels sprouts, scallion rounds and julienned raw summer squash.  Both mixtures are great with this vinaigrette.

Last thought: I avoid tomatoes in winter or spring although some of the grape tomatoes are decent in flavor; use them if you feel the need for tomatoes. One last note: I don’t use tomatoes with citrus or papaya; sort of weird together.

So, go get your healthy green on and enjoy a fruity salad anytime of the year.

Baked Potato Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing

Summer meals are all about easy, casual and tasty.  Not about hot kitchens and elaborate preparations.  I don’t know about your family and friends but mine seem to crave things like potato salad, grilled proteins and baked fixed up beans.  I make a lot of that all summer long.  Personally, my standard potato salad is tasty but I get tired of it, all that mayo…. It is not as good either after a day or two. Plus I have a few friends who dislike mayonnaise so this is a great alternate salad to the standard version.

So when I was trying to plan a tasty meal to take to the beach the standard potato salad just didn’t appeal.  I thought of a few past potato salads that were made with a simple vinaigrette and decided to go that route. This recipe is a riff on one I found on foodnetwork.com; by Alex Guarnaschelli, I made it a bit simpler as I was going to feed people who I thought wouldn’t want the gherkins and shallots. Plus I was out of fresh parsley; oh the shame of that!  I think you could add or subtract the fresh herbs you have on hand to make it as you like.  I used champagne vinegar as I was out of red wine vinegar; gave a nice pale color with no pink as the red wine is apt to do.

salads 007

This is made with baked potatoes.  Alex uses golden Yukon. I used some russets – both are great choices.  I baked them while making some oven fried chicken so the oven was already going full steam. Therefore I was not heating up the stove top with a big pot of potatoes boiling.  The baked potatoes are also a tad drier which is nice texturally.  I recommend them especially if you can combine with baking something else!

If you never had a vinaigrette potato salad you are in for a revelation of how different it will be.  All the herbs make it so fresh tasting and light compared to mayo based salad. Here’s hoping you enjoy some soon for your next picnic or barbecue.

salads 009

Baked potato salad served with an oven fried chicken thigh

Vinaigrette Herbed Baked Potato Salad

6 russet potatoes or 12 golden Yukon potatoes (roughly 2 to 2.5 lbs)

1 tbsp. capers

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 -3 sprigs fresh oregano

2-3 stalks garlic or regular chives

3-4 stalks fresh dill

Dressing:

5 to 6 tbsp. white or red wine or champagne vinegar, divided

1 tbsp. whole grain mustard or  Dijon mustard

½ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

½ cup extra virgin olive oil, can use part lighter olive oil

Set aside 2 tbsp of vinegar to put right on the hot potatoes.  Mix the rest and shake it up really well.

Directions:

Bake potatoes at 375 or 400 degrees until a fork pieces them; 45 minutes to an hour.  Let them cool a few minutes before peeling.  Peel and slice while still warm into a bowl.  Sprinkle with the 2 tbsp. vinegar and then the fresh herbs which you have minced. I have this cool herb scissors I got for Christmas that does the job fast and easy.  If preferred, you could sub in some fresh basil and or parsley for some of those fresh herbs I used.

herb scissors Sprinkle on the capers. Use the small kind, not those big over-sized critters!  You can add the gherkins and shallots Alex likes if you want; see her recipe if you want that extra zing. Pour the dressing over; like two thirds of it; stir it gently and add more until it is as moist as you want.  Add salt and black pepper to taste; maybe ½ to 1 tsp. salt and a good sprinkle of pepper.

It was still wonderful the next day for lunch; not much leftover though. Great with grilled or fried chicken.

Micro Greens Are In My Salad!

microgreensMicrogreens…what the heck is that?  Well…it is just basically sprouts grown in dirt.  Today for my lunch salad I used some baby kale and the first of my micro greens which I started a couple weeks ago.  As well as some burpless cucumber and cauliflower.  I poured some homemade olive oil vinaigrette over it.  It was awesome!

kale and micro greens 024

This post is a revised version of one I posted last May. Being as it is still too cold to even plant my peas I am very glad for my microgreen crop which is growing in a tin can that once held bamboo shoots! Just poke a few holes in the bottom and you have the perfect shallow container to grow them.

I got my seed mix from superseeds.com a/k/a Pinetree Seeds of Maine, a family business which has been around since 1979.  I have found it to be a great place for inexpensive, good quality seeds and plants.  I get most of my seeds there. They happen to have a book on sale there about microgreens; see picture in this post.

Anyhow, last winter I bought a packet of these microgreens from Pinetree. I chose the kitchen sink variety; a mixture of many greens and veggies.  I planted them 1/3-1/2 inch deep in seed starter medium.  Watered them well, and waited. In just 7-8 days the first shoots appeared.  I made one for my neighbor Grace who’s house is warmer than mine and hers sprouted in only 4-5 days! I was thrilled with the more than 95% germination rate.  That meant that my pot was packed solidly with tiny shoots.  Maybe a tad too tightly……. I put them in the kitchen window sill.  Watered them almost daily and turned them around every other day. Some grew extra fast; pea shoots that were nearly 2 inches taller than the rest of the plants.

Grace’s plants grow much faster in her warm kitchen and were soon ready to snip but I had a bit of a time getting her to see that they were for eating now! Grace, a retired florist is elderly and must not have heard my initial directions fully as she thought they were for planting out in the garden.  Eventually she took my advice and snipped off the pea shoots which were like 6 inches tall and enjoyed them in salads. micro greens, orchids, lemon coolers 009

In less than three weeks I was getting out my kitchen scissors and snipping off a section of my shoots to toss on a just made salad. This boosted the nutritional value of my salad considerably.  Not to mention the interesting flavor of all those tangy sprouts!

Sprinkled on my salad they added lots of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals.  They are a great flavor booster for your side or main salad.

Phytonutrients are what you say?  Well, one definition, courtesy of Wiki links is this:

The term is generally used to refer to those chemicals that may have biological significance, for example antioxidants, but are not established as essential nutrients.[1] Scientists estimate[citation needed] that there may be as many as 10,000 different phytochemicals having the potential to affect diseases such as cancerstroke or metabolic syndrome.   From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytonutrients.  FYI: Wiki Links uses phytochemicals as a synonym of phytonutrients.

According to medterms.com:

Currently, the terms “phytonutrient” and “phytochemical” are being used interchangeably to describe those plant compounds which are thought to have health-protecting qualities.

Anyhow, definitions aside, microgreens are chock full of those healthy phytonutrients as well as crunch and flavor.  A small handful would be perfect in a spring salad or on top of a burger.

So, if you are not much of a gardener but want fresh salad stuff that is cheaper, fresher and healthier for your body than you can buy just about anywhere, get some packets of microgreens and start planting!

If you don’t have any pots lying around most any container with drainage will do.  I used a shallow empty tin can from oriental veggies. Last winter I used a half and half container scrubbed clean and laid on its side with the uppermost side cut off and a few holes punched in the bottom.  I filled it with potting soil.  Do avoid soil mixtures with Miracle Grow in them.  In a few short weeks you will be able to cut and enjoy your own super sprouted greens. Go forth and sprout!

Two Fantastic Winter Salads

Winter is not known as the season for great salad but it could be! I am giving you two salads for this post. Try your own blends but it is best not to throw everything in the fridge in it.  Try to be selective and highlight one or two ingredients.  Simple ones I like have only three – five ingredients and I mostly use my homemade vinaigrette dressing.   Salad can be pretty healthy and fairly low in calories yet high in nutritional value if you avoid fatty dressings.  These are basic recipes which you can tweak depending on the ingredients in your fridge.   Here are two February versions of my winter salad. Avocados are really good for you as are the celery and pomegranate seeds.

hass avocadopomegranate

Super Winter Salad (serves 1)

½ an avocado

1 celery stalk

3-4 leaves of green loose leaf lettuce

2-3 tbsp. fresh pomegranate seeds

sandwich bread, winter salad 008

Or try a very different but still yummy winter salad which shows off citrus flavor and color:

Citrus Fennel Salad (serves 1)

1 inner stalk of celery cut in 1/3 inch rounds

1 navel orange

¼ cup fennel bulb, cut in ¼-1/3 inch slices

cara cut

Peel the orange, either by hand or using a paring knife.  Cut across into rounds about ¼-1/3 inch across.  Cut again across into halves.

winter salad, apple pie 007

Fennel has a sweet crunch to it, faintly tasting of licorice, kinda sort of and it marries really well with citrus.  I also like to use blood orange or cara cara navel oranges in this recipe.  Even grapefruit slices are great.  Cara cara oranges have an interesting orange-pinkish cast to the fruit and a lovely sweet flavor.  The local Giant grocery store has them on display right now.  You can also mix two citrus in your salad; a navel and a blood orange.  Fantastic!

cara cara orange blood orange

Finishing directions for both salads:

Place the salad ingredients in your salad dish; I have some very low sided ceramic bowls I got a long time ago that I love for salad. Then sprinkle the salad with vinaigrette which you just shook up one last time! Please don’t add too much salad dressing or you will have soggy salad.

Margie’s Vinaigrette

I named this after my older sister who passed away nearly two years ago.  She made fantastic vinaigrette.  Mine is not quite like hers but close enough to masquerade as it.  She would approve….

My preference is to use one of those Good Seasoning’s salad dressing jars but I add my own ingredients, if you don’t have one, use a pint jar; the main thing is a tight fitting lid.  Fill it to the vinegar line with red wine vinegar, not the cheap store brand (skimpy 1/4 cup).  Then some filtered water to the water line (about 1/3 inch more or two tbsp.). Next I add ½ tsp Dijon mustard, ½ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp dried oregano, a sprinkle of dried thyme, one garlic clove (peeled and mashed down a bit to release flavor), 1 tsp mayonnaise, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper and ½ tsp sugar. Then add extra virgin olive oil, stop a bit before the oil line and finish it with lighter olive oil (1/2 cup plus one tbsp of combined olive oils).  Shake it up really well. Then shake it some more, you need to get the mayo to blend in as completely as possible. It tastes best at room temperature and plan ahead – let it rest for at least an hour before you use it the first time.  Keep it in the refrigerator if there is any left over, lasts like a month in there. The mustard adds snap and the bit of mayo helps the dressing stay emulsified (fully blended) longer than it would without the mayo.  If your salad is delicate and you don’t want as much olive oil flavor use only mild olive oil and skip the EVOL.  If you chill the dressing you will need to let it warm up before using it; ten seconds in the microwave can help with that process.

Note: You could up the nutritional value with a few almonds or walnuts if you like nuts in your salad.

More thoughts: I make any number of salad combos.  Two of my favorite ingredient combinations are: shredded carrot, sliced radishes, chickpeas, romaine and half rounds of European cucumber or a mixture of torn kale leaves, shredded raw Brussels sprouts, scallion rounds and julienned raw summer squash.  Both mixtures are great with this vinaigrette.

Last thought: I avoid tomatoes in winter although some of the grape tomatoes are pretty tasty; use them if you feel the need for tomatoes.

So, go get your healthy green on and enjoy a fruity salad, even in the winter.