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
1 large fennel bulb
3 cups arugula
1 large tomato, chopped
2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese (optional)
Shallot vinaigrette (recipe follows)
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).
Slice the fennel in half, lengthwise and then
slice half moons out of the two fennel halves.
Place on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil,
salt, and pepper.
Place in the oven for 55-60 minutes, or until
fennel is tender with no resistance and fragrant.
Take the roasted fennel out of the oven and
allow to cool. These steps can be done a day or two ahead of time.
In a large bowl, add the arugula, tomato,
roasted fennel and goat cheese. Toss together gently to incorporate well.
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.
Toss gently to dress the salad. Serve
One small shallot, diced
2 tbsp vinegar of your choice (we used a citrus
6 tbsp olive oil
Place the shallots and vinegar in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper.
While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify the mixture.
Dress your salad or save for later in the fridge.
Beet & Watermelon Radish Salad
3 medium beets
1 large watermelon radish, sliced into half-moons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
1 head of cauliflower (white, purple, or other
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Parsley (for garnish)
Cut the cauliflower to make two “steaks” out of
the head (see picture), and trim off any greens.
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)
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.
While the cauliflower rests, make the lemon
Plate the cauliflower, drizzle the vinaigrette
on top and garnish with chopped parsley and a lemon wedge if desired. Serve
Juice of one lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Place the lemon juice in a small bowl with a
pinch of salt and pepper.
While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil
so as to emulsify the mixture.
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.
Despite the hot heat, fall has arrived with its abundance of autumn squashes and warm flavors, not to mention the colors. This warming stew keeps quite a while and increases in flavor the longer it melds. While it’s not a quick meal to cook during the week, it’s a great Sunday prep meal, freezes well, and can be eaten throughout the week.
As always, the first step is to get all your ingredients in place, or mise en place. This helps prevent me from looking like a chicken with its head cut off in the middle of my cooking since everything is ready to use.
Now it’s time to start cooking! Let’s heat up some oil and start cooking down the jalepenos, garlic and peppers!
Now time for the squash – the ultimate feel of fall. When you add the spices, after a few minutes, your kitchen should smell like a combination of all the flavors.
Time for the tomatoes and to cook down the squash since it will take less time than the beans to cook.
After the squash is mostly cooked, we add the beans, finish cooking the squash and then reduce the liquid.
Now we can enjoy our finished stew and celebrate the colors outside with those inside our bowls!
BUTTERNUT SQUASH STEW
1 tsp jalapenos, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
4 bell peppers, diced into ½ inch pieces
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
In a large pot, heat two tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Once hot, add jalapenos. Cook until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds. Add garlic. Cook until fragrant, approximately another 30 seconds.
Add bell peppers and stir well – this will prevent the garlic and jalapenos from burning. Cook approximately 4-5 minutes until peppers are softened slightly.
Add the squash and stir gently to incorporate. Add the spices and stir again. Cook for approximately 10-15 minutes on medium heat to bloom the spices.
Add the tomatoes and stir gently to incorporate well – there should be a fair amount of liquid from the can which should also be incorporated. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered for approximately 25 minutes.
Check on the squash – it should be softened but still not fully cooked with some resistance. Once at this point, add the beans. Cook another 15-20 minutes, covered.
Check the stew and taste. Adjust seasonings as needed and desired. Cook another 10-15 minutes, uncovered, so that the stew thickens.
Serve immediately or let cool then store – the flavors will meld the longer they are together. Serve heated, garnished with chopped cilantro and a lime wedge if desired. In the alternative, top with chopped parsley and finishing salt.