The salad days of summer
Many of us enjoy eating a salad, especially on a hot, humid day. How do you define a salad? Caesar, Waldorf, potato, tuna, pasta?
Some consider it as rabbit food, which recalls how salads were prepared back in the day — iceberg lettuce, a slice of onion and cucumber, a wedge of tomato, some shredded carrots, and perhaps an olive or two. Today, many restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants, serve this type of basic garden salad.
In years past, salad was an appetizer or side dish, with little creativity in its preparation. Remember the salads that included cubes of gelatin?
Fast-forward and salad has become center stage of the meal using a variety of greens.
Peppery arugula seems to be popular. Watercress, bok choy, endive, kale and a variety of lettuces have usurped plain old iceberg lettuce.
Fruits, both fresh and dried, heirloom vegetables — roasting adds great flavor — seeds, beans, grains, nuts, meats, fish, cheese and easily made dressings are part of the ingredient repertoire.
Salads are a time-limited cook’s secret weapon for putting a healthful meal on the table.
Salads offer endless possibilities; go to your local farmers market and introduce yourself to some unfamiliar greens and vegetables. Ask the farmer for some suggestions, too.
With some creativity, a simple, easy to prepare dish becomes an anticipated lunch or dinner. Careful with salad dressings, as some can sneak in extra calories. It is easy to make your own dressing, so you can control the ingredients.
Nearly a decade ago, I met Wiley Mullins, author of “Salad Makes the Meal.” His book inspired me to add more dinner and lunch salads to my diet.
A new cookbook, “Salad Feasts: How to Assemble the Perfect Meal,” by Jessica Elliott Dennison (2018, Hardie Grant Books, $24.99) offers the tools to create heartfriendly, flavor-packed, hot and cold salads intended to be the star of the meal.
She offers tips on picking the leading-role vegetables, choosing something interesting and unexpected to add contrast, plus adding crunch and texture and the right dressing.
She divides prep time by chapter — “Quick Assembly” (10-20 minutes); “A Bit More Time” (25-45 minutes) — and menus focused on seasons and regional cuisines. Each recipe includes ingredient substitutions.
Don’t worry if you don’t have chickpeas, substitute cannellini beans. No spelt? Substitute barley, farro or couscous.
With the easy-to-assemble-andadapt recipes, you will have the skills to create substantial meals.
For the recipe for Avocado and Coconut Noodles with Edamame beans, lime and ginger, visit bit.ly/2KldvWj.
Fig, radicchio and halloumi with basil oil and pistachios
The headnote says, “When you can get your hands on perfectly ripe, in-season figs, it’s only right to enjoy them very simply, with a few additional ingredients on the plate working to highlight their magnificence.
“Grated, naturally salty halloumi contrasts with the figs’ sweet juices, while the toasted pistachios and greens bring some fresh crunch.
“A spoonful of the ridiculously easy basil oil brings the whole plate alive. This really is no-fuss, simple, seasonal eating.” 2 ounces shelled pistachios
3 ½ ounces red butterhead (Boston)
3 ½ ounces radicchio
1 serving basil oil (recipe follows) 8 ripe figs
6 ounces halloumi (grilling cheese) 4 slices sourdough or rye bread Toast the pistachios in a dry frying pan over a high heat for 1-2 minutes to release their natural oils. Transfer to the corner of your chopping board. Once cool, roughly chop.
Wash the lettuce and radicchio in a basin of cold water to freshen and crisp the leaves, pat dry, then tear and put into a large mixing bowl. Pour half the basil oil over the lettuce and radicchio, then, using your hands, gently toss to evenly coat. Transfer to a platter.
To assemble, roughly tear the figs and place over the leaves. Using the large side of a box grater, grate the halloumi over the leaves. Scatter the toasted chopped pistachios, then drizzle the remaining basil oil over the salad to finish. Serve immediately, using the bread to mop up the herbacious oil and fig juices.
To substitute for the pistachios, use hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds; for the Boston lettuce, use frisée, oak leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce; for the radicchio, use chicory (endive).
2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 garlic clove (optional) pinch of sea salt flakes large bunch (1 ounce )fresh basil,
including stalks juice of one-half lemon
Process all of the ingredients in a food processor. Once you have a pourable consistency, have a taste; you may want to add more lemon juice. Store in a jar or airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Orange-carrot freekeh with cranberries and walnuts
7 ounces freekeh zest and juice of 1 orange
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 ½ ounces walnuts
5 carrots peeled or 10 ½ ounces of
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ ounce fresh ginger, peeled and
1 small bunch (¾ ounces) dill, leaves
1 ½ teaspoons red wine or cider
1 ounce dried cranberries
Farik or freekeh is made from green durum wheat that is roasted and rubbed to create its flavor.
Place the freekeh in a medium pan. Top with three times the volume of water, bring to boil and cook over a high heat until tender but still retaining some bite (check the packet instructions for exact cooking times, around 13-15 minutes). Refresh under plenty of cold water, drain, then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the orange zest and salt.
While freekeh is cooking, toast the walnuts in a large frying pan over a high heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and releasing their natural oils. Transfer to a plate to cool. Slice the carrots into ¾-inch thick coins on an angle. If using baby carrots, leave them whole. Heat the oil in the frying pan then cook the carrots for 2 minutes until beginning to color at the edges. Pour in 4 ounces of water and the orange juice and ginger, and boil for 4-5 minutes, or until the water has evaporated into a sticky glaze. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
To assemble, finely chop the dill and walnuts, then toss with the freekeh along with the vinegar and cranberries. Transfer to a large platter then top with the sticky carrots and glaze to finish.
To substitute for the freekeh, use brown rice, quinoa, pearl barley; for the carrots, use radishes or precooked beets and for the cranberries, use golden raisins or sour cherries.
Elana Keyes, of Guilford, wrote, “How do you season a cast iron frying pan? I’ve tried several different methods and to no avail; everything sticks. I’ve tries oiling the pans in the oven for an hour at 500 degrees and inverting the pan. I’ve tried it on the top of the stove. Please help!
Does anyone have any suggestions for Elana? Please write to me with you suggestions.
Kids Cooking Camp — Little Italy: Through Aug. 10, 10 a.m.noon. Chef’s Emporium, 449 Boston Post Road, Orange, $200. Reservations 203-799-2665. Children (ages 5-11) A similar class is offered for teens (12 years +) from 1-3 p.m. For information, visit https:// bit.ly/2LHwYVF.
Wines of Galicia: Aug. 8, 6:30 p.m., Bistro Basque, 13 River St., Milford, Reservations 203-469-4218. 866-945-9708 $83. Enjoy eight wines paired with small plates from the kitchen wizardry of Bistro Basque.
Consiglio’s Cooking Demonstration and Dinner: Aug. 9 or Aug. 23, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Learn to make eggplant rollatini, cavatelli with fresh pesto and summer tomatoes, chicken Anna — wild mushrooms, roasted red peppers, gorgonzola sauce and Godiva tiramisu.
Consiglio’s Murder Mystery Dinner: “Temperatures and Tempers” Aug. 10, doors at 6 p.m., dinner and show at 7, Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, http://bit.ly/2cyB02Y, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included).
Shoreline Wine Festival: Aug. 11 (noon-7 p.m.), Aug. 12 (noon-6 p.m.), Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market & Winery, 1355 Boston Post Road, Guilford, 203-453-2338. Celebrate fine wines from Connecticut wineries and vineyards. Pair with some of the area’s finest foods, with the backdrop setting of a farm orchard and music. For tickets and details visit https://bit.ly/2K0gm6A.
44th annual Milford Oyster Festival: Aug. 18, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., downtown Milford; 40,000 oysters (21 varieties from 8 states) and 6,000 clams from East Coast Shellfish Growers Association. Food for purchase, craft beer and wine garden, oyster shucking and eating competitions, children’s entertainment, schooner cruises and live music. For details, visit milfordoysterfestival.com.
Fig, radicchio and halloumi with basil oil and pistachios.
Orange-carrot freekeh with cranberries and walnuts.
“Salad Feasts” by Jessica Elliott Dennison, published by Hardie Grant Books, July 2018.