A Salut! to Salads

Salads. Let’s be honest, most of us avoid them at all costs. It’s hard to imagine a salad as comfort food, and without bacon, can feel like a throw away at the dinner table. Most salads tend to have the same old ingredients of Romaine lettuce (let’s not even get started on iceberg lettuce), tomatoes and maybe some onions.

Yet, despite this, salads may be one of the most underrated dishes on our tables. With the right ingredients and proper treatment of those ingredients, the boring salad may just become the star of the show, or at least a great supporting role for an entree.

One overlooked trick to salads is roasting the vegetables ahead of time. Here, we are sharing two salads that are great for any occasion. First up, an arugula and fennel salad that can complement great seafood. We served this with our Lobster Boil to great success.

The second salad features roasted beets and watermelon radishes. The roasting of these vegetables provides a depth of flavor that is lacking in their raw or pickled forms, providing for a sweet, earthy taste that can ground any salad. For this salad, we used a simple lemon vinaigrette.

Roasted Fennel & Arugula Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese (optional)
  • Shallot vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is preheating, cut off the top of the fennel bulb and remove any tough outer layers (you can reserve the tops and use them to make an amazing stock).
  2. Slice the fennel in half, lengthwise and then slice half moons out of the two fennel halves.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  4. Place in the oven for 55-60 minutes, or until fennel is tender with no resistance and fragrant.
  5. Take the roasted fennel out of the oven and allow to cool. These steps can be done a day or two ahead of time.
  6. In a large bowl, add the arugula, tomato, roasted fennel and goat cheese. Toss together gently to incorporate well.
  7. Take the dressing and with a spoon, pour some along the edge of the bowl all the way around. This will allow the dressing to also seep into the bottom to lead to a better dressed salad. Add another teaspoon or two over the center of the salad.
  8. Toss gently to dress the salad. Serve immediately.

Shallot Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • One small shallot, diced
  • 2 tbsp vinegar of your choice (we used a citrus champagne vinegar)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place the shallots and vinegar in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify the mixture.
  3. Dress your salad or save for later in the fridge.

Beet & Watermelon Radish Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium beets
  • 1 large watermelon radish, sliced into half-moons.
  • 3 cups arugula
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • Lemon vinaigrette

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, place the beats onto a foil packet and lightly coat with olive oil. Close the packet up tightly. On a sheet tray, place the watermelon radish slices and coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Place both the beets and radishes into the oven (they can be on the same sheet tray), and roast for 55-60 minutes. Cook until the beets and radishes have no resistance when tested with a knife. The radishes may be done after 45 minutes depending on how large the slices are and varying oven temperatures.
  3. Once cooked, take out of the oven and allow the vegetables to cool. Once the beets are cool to the touch, peel them. The outer layer should come out easily now. Once peeled, slice the beets into half-moons. Steps 1 through 3 may be done a day or two ahead of time.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the beets, radishes, arugula and parsley. Toss gently. Add the lemon vinaigrette and toss gently again until well incorporated. Serve immediately.

Who you gonna call? Pan-Seared Cauliflower

By Michael Araj

Comfort food can encompass all measures of ideas and concepts. Of course, most of us gravitate to the usual stars of the show. Macaroni and cheese. Pot roast dinners. Steak and potatoes. These are, of course, all great items full of memories from childhood of home cooked meals, but not always attainable in our adult lives for various reasons.

I recently got some bad medical news requiring me to change my diet, and while it is certainly disappointing that steak and potato dinners will be greatly reduced in my near future, there are other ways to get those same feelings of nostalgia and comfort. Enter: pan seared cauliflower. With its steak-like shape, beautifully colored florets, and tender texture, one can still be satisfied with a great meal.

First, we trimmed the head to make a steak. One head can usually produce two steaks, but as we were in experiment stage, we only made one steak so as to use the rest of the cauliflower for other dishes.

Next, we seasoned the cauliflower before we pan-seared it.

After we pan seared it on both sides (we used a cast iron to give it more of a grilled feel and because the heat is evenly distributed), we drizzled some vinaigrette on with it. We also served it with some roasted watermelon radishes (coming soon!) and a lemon slice.

This recipe is quick, easy, and great for weeknight cooking. Plus side, it’s extremely healthy so you won’t have to feel guilty for going back for seconds!

Pan Seared Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower (white, purple, or other color)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • Parsley (for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Cut the cauliflower to make two “steaks” out of the head (see picture), and trim off any greens.
  2. Coat each side of the cauliflower using one tbsp of the olive oil in total, and season with salt, pepper, and paprika (we went heavy handed on paprika because we love it so much)
  3. Heat a cast iron pan on medium high heat with the remaining olive oil. Once the pan is hot, sear the steaks on each side for approximately 4-5 minutes or until a knife pierces through easily with no resistance. Work in batches if needed.
  4. While the cauliflower rests, make the lemon vinaigrette.
  5. Plate the cauliflower, drizzle the vinaigrette on top and garnish with chopped parsley and a lemon wedge if desired. Serve immediately.

Lemon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the lemon juice in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil so as to emulsify the mixture.
  3. Once emulsified and incorporated, the dressing is ready to use. You can add shallots, or lemon zest in the first step to vamp up some new flavors. If the vinaigrette is too bitter for your liking, try adding a teaspoon of honey with the lemon juice.

First Watch: A Refresher Course in Breakfast

By Michael Araj

In my recent business trip to Omaha, Nebraska, where I previously lived for three years, the changes to the city cannot adequately be enumerated in one post. Omaha, a barren and spread out city eight years ago, has exploded and continued on the culinary journey it had begun when I left it.

Enter: First Watch. A farm to table, breakfast and brunch focused restaurant that puts a healthy spin on some classical dishes, an uphill battle when dealing with southern comfort food like pancakes and biscuits.

For the first day, we had a leisurely breakfast, and the eclectic, modern vibe with current pop music caught my attention first. The place started out leisurely enough, but became more crowded towards the tail end of our meal.

Our very friendly wait staff started us out with hot coffee for me and cold brew for my friend. The coffee tasted well roasted, but the cold brew left much to be desired with an overtly bitter taste. One person opined that it may have been burnt; in the alternative, perhaps the proportions to the water were just off.

While not a great way to start the meal, First Watch soon redeemed itself, and in spectacular fashion. The Farmhouse Skillet Molly had looked amazing and expertly executed; my lemon ricotta pancakes left no complaints. The fluffiness and delicateness of the pancake with the richness of the ricotta proved to be delectable. The homemade lemon curd and fresh strawberries became streams of sunshine in the pillows of delight below, necessitating no syrup (this, too, was expertly provided, warmed up).

I returned two days later to explore the menu further. This time, I opted for one of the juice blends they promote, seasonally named “Summer Blush.” Light, refreshing and crisp, the apple flavor proved to be the main melody in a balanced harmony of watermelon and lemon and a light percussion of mint. It would be difficult to find a complaint with this drink; if it has any faults, it may hint towards being too sweet. However, overall, it is well balanced and the herbal earthiness cuts through the natural sweetness of the fruits perfectly.

I also opted to try two Southern staples: cheesy grits and biscuits and gravy. Don’t order the grits – they are nothing special. Do they taste good? Yes, though slightly bland, they are executed well texture-wise and the butteriness is nice. Save the room for something more special like the bacon, which is singularly excellent.

The biscuits and gravy are a revelation. The use of turkey sausage lightens up this classic dish enough to prevent you from going into an immediate food coma. A Southern grandmother could not make better biscuits. I do not say this lightly being a Southerner, but they are fluffy, buttery and flaky as all good biscuits should be. The lift on the biscuits is just right.

The over medium eggs were ever slightly overcooked, but the main complaint is the presentation of this dish. The biscuits and gravy come in their own vessel, necessitating lifting the eggs into the vessel (because what’s better than a runny yolk adding another dimension to your biscuits and gravy?). The potato hash that came on the side came also expertly cooked with the crispy exterior masking tender bites of love.

Overall, this is a great place for breakfast or brunch in Omaha, living up to the high standards set by Dixie Quicks before it. Next time I return to Omaha, this will certainly be on the short list for revisits.