Archive of ‘salads’ category

Broccoli and Soba with Toasted Sesame Seed Sauce, the Gift of Improvisation & Snarky Cats

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This was so good that I licked the plate.  As I was licking the plate, a Mira-cat was eating near me.  She turned toward me and gave me side-eye and I’m pretty sure that if she could talk, she’d have said “At least I eat daintily out of the bowl like a civilized person. Peasant.”  After retorting that at least I don’t lick my own ass, I realized that I’m really glad my cats can’t talk. One, because I’m pretty sure they’re snarky jerks but two, you all would think I was crazier than I already am.  My cats keep my secrets but only because they can’t verbally negotiate deals to sell them to the highest bidder.

One of the skills you need to develop when you belong to a CSA is the ability to trust yourself to improvise.  Note – I did not say that you need to learn how to improvise.  Because you already know how to do this.  Yes.  You do.  No arguing.  What you need to learn how to do is to let yourself improvise.

Eating locally and seasonally is delicious and being part of a CSA will give you produce that is fresher than you can imagine.  But it’s very different from planning a menu and going to the grocery store to get those groceries.  Or even going to the farmer’s market to get the produce you need.  You need to learn to be flexible. You need to let yourself improvise.

So improvise.  Make mistakes.  Know that it won’t always work out but that’s OK.  It will probably be edible and you’ve learned what not to do.  A lot of times that’s just more important than knowing what to do.

This is the frittata I made the other day.  It stuck to the pan.  I don’t care.  It’s delicious and allowed me to use up some yellow zucchini, onions and the lardons I had left over from the salad I made the other night.

Risottos, pasta dishes, egg rolls, stir-frys, salads, pizzas, fritters – all of these recipes can be played without a lot of trouble.  Change out cheeses, vegetables, spices, meats, etc.  You can even create your own recipes.

This is not a recipe for exact amounts and ingredients.  Instead of broccoli, put blanched asparagus or cauliflower in it.  Or barely blanched summer squash.  Or sliced cucumbers.  Or lightly steamed and chopped greens.  Have a fresh turnip that needs to be used?  Dice that up and throw it in.  Are you out of soba?  Spaghetti noodles would work. I love ginger and garlic and I wouldn’t hesitate to add more.  More scallions would be a lovely touch as well.  Cilantro sprinkled across the top would be delicious.  Add in diced chicken, shrimp or tofu.  I had no hulled white sesame seeds so I used brown, unhulled ones.  Next time I make this, I’ll probably double the broccoli and use half the noodles. Play with this.  It’s hard to screw up.

Broccoli & Soba with Toasted Sesame Seed Sauce
Adapted from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons
Serves 2-3

1/2 cup white sesame seeds
8 ounces dried soba noodles
4 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
4 – 6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 T minced fresh ginger
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
5 scallions, chopped fine, both white and green parts
4 heaping cups small broccoli pieces, blanched

Preheat oven to 375. Pour the sesame seeds onto a rimmed baking sheet. Toast the seeds in the oven until they are a rich brown color on the edges.  The recipe said 10 minutes but this took only 5 minutes in my oven.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the soba noodles and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the noodles are just tender.  Drain them, rinse well with cold water and drain them again.

In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and scallions.  Add the noodles.  Stir well.  Add the sesame seeds.  Stir well again.  Add the broccoli, stir well and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Pan-Crisped Deviled Eggs Salad & Welcoming Spring

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It’s been beyond gorgeous here in Knox Vegas.  A purple carpet of crocuses have already taken over my neighbors’ lawn, incited a bee orgy and faded quietly away.

Bulbs are coming up everywhere I look with some already in bloom.

Forsythia is blooming all around, causing me to break out in my usual tirade against the people who prune them into little squares or balls.  Why, for the love of all that is holy, do people plant a shrub that is notorious for it’s sprawling growth habit and then prune it to within an inch of its life?  They look ridiculous – like the Iggy Pops of the shrub world have been shaved, shorn and popped into 3-piece suits with Dexter Poindexter glasses.  And I’m going to stop now before I start ranting about people who top trees and prune crepe myrtles into little stubs.

Birds wake us up every morning in the noisy mating ritual.  And since I live in the city, our favorite mockingbird has been sitting outside our bedroom window every morning, doing his best impersonation of a car alarm.  It’s beautiful – this music of springtime.  Sometimes he gets really creative and throws in a firetruck siren.

The air feels soft, warm and moist.  You can almost hear things growing.  When I walk through the lawn, I can smell the crush of violets, wild onions, parsley, catnip and other herbs that have escaped their garden confines and help me disguise the fact that we have all of 3 blades of real grass growing in our “lawn”.

East Tennessee is getting the Crayola haze – everything looks a bit misty and colored by my favorite colors in the crayon box.  It’s almost a cliche how green things look but I know it’s only going to get more breath taking

It’s been in the 60s every day and as I stand outside on my concrete patio, feeling the warmth of the sun soaking into my feet, I’m looking forward to the fresh peas that I’ll be harvesting from my garden in the next weeks.  That is, if dogwood winter doesn’t get us.

Spring is teasing us, murmuring to us with a husky come hither tone but I’m trying not to be too tempted by its siren song.  East Tennessee Spring has suckered us in before, teasing us with her husky warm breath before slamming the door in our face like a petulant lover.

I think of the spring several years ago where Marcus and I decided to eat only local fruit. We were blessed with an early spring and we watched our strawberry patch flower more profusely than it ever had before.  That was the same strawberry patch we coated in row cover fabric & plastic, finally resorting to sticking actual lamps in the bed to coax it through the 12 degree night.  That was the summer we refer to as the Melon Summer.

I am a sucker for anything that involves, includes, alludes or even hints of deviled eggs.  They’re like the cupcakes of the egg world.  I’ve actually heard people squeal out loud at parties when they realize deviled eggs are being served.  I’m actually chagrined that I don’t have a proper platter for serving deviled eggs.  My excuse is that my kitchen is in a crazy state of transition and there’s no room for it but the Southern woman in me weeps at my disgrace.

But as awesome as deviled eggs are, imagine them crisped up a bit and caramelized around the edges.  Imagine a tiny bit of resistance on your teeth before you bite down into that buttery, sun-shiny yellow of a yolk.  And imagine a deviled egg that’s been souped up – Spring-style with garlicky overtones and the greenness of parsley.  When I bite into these eggs, it reminds me of my lawn with all of its wild onion and parsley seedlings.  These yolks taste like a dandelion should taste – all buttery and full of springtime.  And if you scatter them on a carpet of fresh greens dressed with a piquant vinaigrette?  Dogwood winter – do your worst.  Spring is here to stay in my kitchen.

PS – As I hit publish on this post, I’m giggling because there’s a winter storm warning in the mountains tonight.  BRING IT DOGWOOD WINTER!!!!

Pan-Crisped Deviled Eggs Salad
Serves 2
Adapted from The Splendid Table’s How To Eat Supper

EGGS:
4 large eggs, hard-cooked and peeled
1/2 scant teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons minced onion
1 1/2 tightly packed tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 1/4 teaspoons mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DRESSING:
Leftover egg stuffing
1 1/2 extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/4 tablespoons milk
1 1/4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Salt & fresh-ground black pepper

SALAD:
4 generous handfuls mixed greens

Cut eggs in half lengthwise.  Remove yolks and place the yolks in a bowl and set whites aside.  Add mustard through vinegar and mash and mix thoroughly.  I usually use a regular fork for this.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the mixture into the hollows of the reserved egg whites.  Make sure you don’t mound them up, the mixture should come to the top of the whites but not  above.  You will have some of the yolk mixture left over.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat.  Place eggs stuffed side down in the pan.  Cook for around 5 minutes or until browned.  Mine cooked for just over 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with 1/8 tsp of salt and a few grinds of pepper as they cook.

While the eggs are sauteing in a large bowl, mix the leftover egg yolk mixture with the dressing ingredients.  Whisk together thoroughly.  Toss the salad greens with the dressing.  Divide greens onto two plates.  Remove the egg halves from the pan (4 halves per plate) then serve.

Please click here for a printable recipe!