Green bean salad with lemon-tarragon dressing

July 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

I am happy to say that I have always gotten along remarkably well with my parents.  Sure, there was the incident when I dumped an entire pitcher of juice on the kitchen floor while having a tantrum; or that time I actually peed myself in front of the people we were staying with to get back at my mom for making me go ski when I didn’t want to; or the not infrequent occasions when I “ran away” to the neighbor’s back yard, always remembering to pack my favorite Christmas ornament and a snack…But, by the time I made it to late childhood, we had managed to work out a pretty peaceable situation.  I mean, during my teen years I never even told them I hated them or accused them of trying to ruin my life (unlike some recalcitrant brothers I know of 😉 )!

At this point in my life, I’ve come to recognize that, though imperfect, my parents are pretty darn awesome and have gotten a lot of things figured out.  I feel very thankful to have them to talk to when I need a little wise counsel.   Yet I have discovered that we still have a major point of contention.  My parents, in spite of their many fine qualities, like their green beans waaaaaay over cooked.  They’ll even admit that the way they like their beans is over cooked.  I guess there’s something admirable about being able to say, “this is the way I like my beans, and I don’t care if it’s totally wrong and gross,” but whenever I have to eat them, I find it hard to appreciate this attitude.  When I cook my own green beans, I go for barely steamed, still slightly crisp.  It brings out their emerald hue, and their summery sweetness. « Read the rest of this entry »

Parmesan Tart with Caesar Salad Topping

May 21, 2010 § 2 Comments

Let’s talk salads.  I love salads.  Love, love, love them.  I’m so excited that we’re getting into the season when the vegetable garden produces lovely little baby lettuces and vegetable CSA’s send you home with more fresh salad greens than you quite know what to do with.  Now, if I’m wearing my “I studied nutrition” hat (which, by the way, I’m pretty sure is a fashionable and sleek little cloche) I will expound on how a good salad can make a very satisfying meal, just use lots of veggies, add a little protein in the form of fish, beans, nuts, or lean meat, and use a small amount of an olive oil based dressing.  A delicious meal with lots of room for mixing and matching your ingredients!

But, not today.  Today, I’m wearing my “butter is a health food!” hat (which may or may not be one of those awesome hats made out of balloons), and I’m here to make you a salad offer you can’t refuse.  An offer that includes a crumbly, buttery crust (like a giant crouton on the outside!!), a silky cheesy layer of custard, and a zesty crunchy Caesar-style topping.  An offer that looks something like this tart.

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Pumpkin, 2 ways – in salad and in bread

November 11, 2009 § 5 Comments

When I think of things that could potentially jeopardize a relationship, pumpkin is not the first thing that springs to mind. In fact, it doesn’t spring to mind at all. When I think of pumpkin, I think of a pumpkin perched decoratively on a porch along with some dried corn, maybe with a goofy face carved into it. Or I think of one being turned into a carriage for Cinderella to take to the ball. Or I think of pumpkin pie, mmmm. And that’s where the problem arose. You see, my boyfriend has many wonderful qualities but it turns out he has horribly bad taste. He doesn’t like pumpkin pie! (Feel free to gasp in horror along with me!) Not even really good ones, according to his reports! I, on the other hand, think pumpkin pie is proof that the Universe is fundamentally an okay place. Pumpkin pie is a generous gift, brought by the little angels of the-best-kind-of-pie-ever each year on Thanksgiving to make us happy.

We discovered that we were at odds regarding this jolly orange squash because I happened to have one around, sitting in the pantry, just waiting to be roasted and put to good use. Luckily for my ability to compromise, I prefer to save pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving anyway, to keep it extra special. Plus, (beware, startling admission to follow) I actually think canned pumpkin (plain with nothing added – the ingredients list should just say pumpkin) works better for pie than fresh pumpkin! All this is to say, I decided not to use my pumpkin for pie. Luckily, there are all sorts of things you can do with pumpkin. Pumpkin (and really all the rest of the winter squashes) is a nice semi-sweet, silky flavor that goes nicely in either savory or sweet dishes. Pumpkin, or pumpkin-like squash, is traditionally used in Latin American, Middle-Eastern, and Asian, (especially Thai, think pumpkin coconut curry!) cooking, so you can add any of those spice combos to it (see the spice combos on my page on basics). I’ve heard you can even stir fry pumpkin, if you peel it and chop it into chunks. On this occasion, I had winter salads on my brain, so I decided to roast the pumpkin and add chunks of it, still warm, to a salad. Thinking about how Mexican cooking uses a lot of pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas), I decided to make a Mexican-inspired vinaigrette to tie the flavors together. « Read the rest of this entry »

How to cook random greens: method 3

November 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

I’m lucky in my living situation, in that my roommates have similarly wonky tendencies to my own, most especially the tendency to cook up a storm in the morning at the same time as making and eating breakfast, in order to have food ready to go later on.  It’s not a bad approach, all things considered, and can have the added benefit (if one feels like it’s a benefit) of making the house smell like Thanksgiving…at 7 am.  For my own part, I do this most often when I’m wishing I had leftovers to bring to the office for lunch, but I don’t have any and I’m certainly not willing to spend an exorbitant sum of $8 or more to get a fancy sandwich from a café.  The thinking goes like this: “Oh gosh.  What am I going to bring for lunch today?  I suppose I could have bread and cheese again. But what am I going to do for a vegetable?  (yes, I think lunch should contain vegetables)  Ooh, I have some beets!  And some chard!  What an abundance of goodness!  I know, I’ll sautee the greens while I fry myself an egg and roast the beets in slices while I eat, then I can toss them together with herbs into a Tupperware and have them for lunch.  Brilliant!”

This particular morning, fabulous smells of frying onion wafted under my nose while I was washing my face.  I padded out of the bathroom and into the kitchen to see what my roommate, Andi, was up to.  She was monitoring a large frying pan of the most gorgeous, Technicolor, rainbow Swiss chard  I have, perhaps, ever seen.  And I’ve seen a lot of chard in my day!  When she tossed in a handful of golden raisins, I couldn’t take it any more.  “Andi!”  I cried out, “can you hold on a second and let me take a photo of what you’re cooking?  It’s too beautiful not to!”  Before she had really had the chance to answer I had grabbed my camera and started in on a full-blown photo shoot, starring the chard.  Unfortunately, photography is not one of my gifts.  But, hey, I’m trying.  And more importantly, it got me thinking about another method of dealing with your random greens, and other barely identifiable vegetables (or fully identifiable vegetables, come to think of it).  Think salad! « Read the rest of this entry »

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