Lentil Salad with Arugula and Feta (And a Warm Honey Vinaigrette to Make Your Heart Melt)

Just a few things I’d like to say to you.  Firstly, thank you so much for actually trying these recipes.  While I try to take myself seriously as much as possible, I’m always surprised when other people do, so thank you.

Secondly, as you may have surmised sometimes it’s hard for me to know if these recipes are worth your time, because the only palate I have to rely on is my own.  And while I am constantly aiming for improvements in said palate, it’s always comforting when there are others to confirm the deliciousness (or lack thereof) of the food I make.  So when I made this salad for my family, I was doing secret self-high fives when it turned into an “ooh” “yum” “I can’t stop sticking my fork straight in the plate” kind of moment.  I’m especially flattered when these moments come from my sister, whose opinion I value immensely. My dad made roast chicken, and I served this up along with some grilled fennel.

A few notes on the salad. If you’re wondering why I ask you to chop the arugula, it’s because I’d rather the lettuce be reduced to more manageable pieces which will fit onto a fork nicely with the lentils.

The dressing: it’s a big deal for me.  I’ve recently come to the conclusion that warm dressings are to salads what iPhones are to adults: in no way necessary but a whole lot of fun. Please play around with all of the ingredient quantities – I know what I like, but perhaps you like things a touch sweeter or a tad more acidic.  Change accordingly. It might taste bad at one point (mine did) but keep playing around and I guarantee it will turn into something outrageous.

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My Go-To Salad – Arugula with White Beans and Parm

Happy holidays to you!

Do you like the red bowl I used as seasonal embellishment? Ok ok, it’s actually a popcorn bowl :)

This is the salad I make when I don’t want to think about what to make. I first made a similar version of this about 5 years ago, based on a recipe from Boston chef Michael Schlow’s cookbook It’s About Time. My mom and sister liked it a lot too, so we’ve kept it around, even though we’ve altered a bit over the years.

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Chicken, Cheddar, and Apple Salad with Ginger-Lime Dressing

I hope the combination of cheddar cheese with ginger-lime dressing doesn’t deter you from making this, because I didn’t realize right away that the combination could seem unlikely and even unpleasant.  However, I loved the use of cheddar cheese in my salad, and I actually found it to be the star ingredient: by the time the salad was mostly eaten, I found myself scraping the bowl with disappointment, unable to find anymore matchstick morsels of dairy goodness.

My suggestion, if you make this salad, is to buy great quality cheddar.  Now is the moment I’ve been waiting for, when I can bring up the one place in New York that feels like a second home to me, mainly because it is a shrine to all things delicious and gourmet.  I am speaking of none other than Chelsea Market, an indoor artisanal market of sorts where I would set up a bed and live if that were socially acceptable.  Long story short, Lucy’s Whey opened up in Chelsea Market about a year ago, and I admire their mission and purpose, which is to sell artisanal and delicious cheeses that are only made in America.  After I told the saleswoman what type of salad I wanted to prepare, she helped me select a cheddar from Cellar’s at Jasper Hill in Vermont which is the perfect blend of nutty, sharp, and rich.

There are two things about this salad that I should mention.  Firstly, if I were to do it again I would probably replace the granny smith apple with a pear, just because I’ve never really liked apples in my salad and I don’t know what I was thinking.  Secondly, this recipe requires shredded chicken.  To easily shred chicken: put the chicken breast in a pot and fill it with enough water or chicken broth to just cover the chicken.  Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until chicken’s center is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit in the pot for 10 minutes.  Shred chicken using two forks or your hands.

If you decide to play around with the dressing, please let me know what you come up with!

Chicken and Apple Salad with Cheddar and Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette – serves 1
For the salad:
1 small head boston lettuce or butter lettuce
2.5 ounces/70 grams sharp cheddar cheese
1 granny smith apple
1/2-cup loosely packed bean sprouts
1 chicken breast, shredded
1/4-cup roasted peanuts
1-2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as sunflower or canola
1 tablespoon honey
1/2-teaspoon freshly minced ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime
1.  Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves.  Discard any lettuce tops that are wilted.  Slice each lettuce leaf lengthwise into 1/2-inch slivers (you can stack them on top of each other and cut several at a time to make this easier).  Place in a salad bowl.
2.  Cut cheese into matchstick-sized pieces, roughly 1/4- to 1/2-inch in thickness.
3.  Wash and dry the apple.  Cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Cut one half of the apple into thin slices, then cut each slice lengthwise into matchstick-sized pieces (similar to the cheese). Save the other apple half for another use, or eat it for dessert!
4.  Add bean sprouts, chicken, and peanuts to salad.
5.  Make dressing: combine oil and honey in a small bowl and whisk together.  Slowly add in ginger and cilantro while whisking all the while.  Add lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6.  Sprinkle dressing over salad; garnish with roughly chopped cilantro.

Cuke Salad with Feta and Walnuts

I don’t know exactly how or when it started, but I believe any of the food lovers in Paris can attest to the fact that there is an onslaught of Mexican restaurant openings currently taking place in France’s capital, from the Mexican diner/trendy cocktail bar combo to the upcoming opening of Chipotle in the 9th arrondissement.  Please don’t interpret this statement as a complaint:  spicy food and pulled pork are two things I miss the most in Paris and which I am more than happy to reintroduce to my diet on a regular basis.  I have to admit that I get a guilty pleasure every time I step into one of these establishments (the majority of which are run or co-run by Americans) only to find fellow expats reveling in the glory of freshly made soft-shell tacos, endless guacamole and the ultimate food accompaniments utterly lacking in French food: hot sauce, spicy sauce, and hot peppers.  One look at each other and no words need to be spoken to establish what we’re thinking - living this far away from good Mexican food has been hard on us all, and we’re only too happy to find it again.

Maybe this recent craze over Mexican food is why I was keen on making this salsa-cum-salad, which I was introduced to thanks to a Mexican -themed dinner at my friend Erin’s apartment last month.  After one bite I was shocked by how much flavor such a simple dish could have, considering its short list of ingredients (she made it as a salsa, without the walnuts and feta, using only 5 ingredients). The secret definitely seems to be the importance of letting the flavors marinate for as long as possible, preferably for 24 hours, in order to give the dish more depth and to let the flavors marry. The touch of sugar helps to add a slight hint of sweetness without overpowering the freshness of the vegetables.  Since I loved this salsa so much I decided i wanted to transform it into a salad by adding a little fat and protein.  It is still extremely healthy, as there is no oil used and the only fat comes from the feta cheese and walnuts.  As usual, please feel free to play around with the nuts, maybe substituting chopped peanuts or toasted pine nuts.  In fact, now that I’m writing this, I believe peanuts would be a wonderful contrast to the acidity of cucumbers and bell peppers. Feel free as well to add other fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, or mint.

I also want to mention that I just added a rating system, made possible in just 3 mouse clicks thanks to the highly customized and user-friendly WordPress blog system, so now you can rate any of the recipes you have tried on this website. Rating systems are great and they are the reason why Epicurious.com remains my favorite cooking website - I can categorize recipes by their ratings and easily check which ones are most popular.  To rate a recipe, simply click on the recipe title, and click on the number of stars you would like to assign to it. I won’t be offended if you give something few or no stars, the whole point of this blog is to help you make food that you think tastes good and that is easy to make!

So please feel free to rate this or any other recipe – happy cooking!

Cuke Salad with Feta and Walnuts – serves 1
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons sugar
3-4 tablespoons rice wine, cider, or red wine vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta
1/4-cup chopped, toasted walnuts
optional: a pinch of cayenne pepper
1.  Combine the cucumber, bell pepper, and cilantro in a medium bowl; toss to combine.  Add the sugar and vinegar and toss again to combine all ingredients.  Let sit in the fridge for at least one hour, preferably for 1 day.
2.  When ready to eat, combine with crumbled feta, toasted walnuts, and a the cayenne pepper if using.

Avocado, Smoked Salmon, and Grapefruit Salad

I don’t think I’m the only one in Paris who feels it, and I’ve noticed the change taking place very gradually.  After months of grey sky, moody waiters, and an overall grim outlook on life, the sun has finally graced us with her presence and Parisians from all corners have decided to come out of hibernation for endless cafés and the chance to  flâner (a particular word, hard to translate, generally meaning to stroll with no purpose).  It has been a particularly cold winter here, and after a consistent week of sun, I get the feeling that Paris will soon again be the  friendly and jovial place we know and love, rife with lovers embracing in parks and groups of friends sitting along the Seine around a bottle of wine, a baguette, and some fabulously stinky cheese.

This dish came to be born on a whim, when I myself was flâner-ing down rue de Bretagne in the 3rd arrondissement, trying to figure out what I would make my friend and I for dinner.  Since smoked salmon is extremely popular here (and considered quite the luxury), I decided that it would have to go in the mix.  A craving for an avocado here, and an urge to eat some grapefruit there, and voila! So is born a new recipe. 

This salad is at once light and refreshing, simultaneously satisfying that creamy craving, thanks to the avocado, and the desire to eat something healthy during the generally heavier winter months.  Plus, it’s a great way to make use of winter vegetables and fruits.

Just a note: I know that while endives are a dime a dozen here in Paris, and are used as commonly as celery is in America, it is not as easy to get in other parts of the world.  If you can’t find endives, you can easily substitute iceberg lettuce for the endive (that is actually what I had originally intended to use).  Just chop up the lettuce finely, and ignore the bit about placing it on an endive boat.

I am confident in this dish mainly because I’ve made it three times now, once for myself and two more times for my friends Diana and Annette, and we all agreed that this recipe is a keeper.  Although the list of ingredients is on the longer side (but sill reasonable), this salad is a cinch to pull together and will likely leave you feeling content yet not overly full.

Although I have said it before I believe there is no harm in saying it again: when making salads, please don’t skimp on the quality of the olive oil.  I personally bought a fruity olive oil coming from the Provence region of France, at a store here in Paris called Premiere Pression Provence.  Although it is impossible to say for sure, I am certain that this olive oil helped the salad go from tasty to something truly memorable.  So please, spend the extra few dollars/euros/currency to treat yourself to something grand!

Avocado, Grapefruit, and Smoked Salmon Salad – serves 1
1 endive
2 slices smoked salmon
1 handful toasted walnuts or slivered almonds, or both
1 small grapefruit
1 avocado
1-2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons olive oil

1.  Peel out the outer two layers of the endive (optional); set aside. Cut off the root and tip of the endive, and roughly chop the rest.  Place in a medium bowl.
2.  Dice the smoked salmon into small pieces, roughly equivalent of the endive pieces, and add to the bowl.
3.  Roughly chop the walnuts (or almonds if using), and toast in the oven at 400°F/200°C for 5 minutes or on the stove in a skillet. Once slightly cooled, add to the bowl with the salmon and endive.
4.  Cut a grapefruit in half.  Peel one of the halves, and remove the segments from the skin.  Chop the grapefruit segments and add to the medium bowl. 
5. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, and remove the pit.  With a paring knife, divide the avocado halves (while still in the skin) into small cubes, and scoop it out with a spoon.  Place in the medium bowl.
6.  Make the sauce:  squeeze the juice of the remaining grapefruit half into a small bowl.  Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and freshly chopped dill.  Slowly whisk in olive oil until you have a consistency and taste that you like (probably 2 tablespoons).
7.  Toss the sauce and the remaining dill in with the ingredients in the medium bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. If using, place the salad on the endive leaves for a prettier presentation.
Bon appétit!

Salade de Noix, Oranges Sanguines, et Anchois (Mesclun Greens with Walnuts, Blood Oranges, and Anchovies)

 

SCROLL DOWN FOR ENGLISH.

Tout d’un coup j’ai envie d’écrire en français, juste pour voir s’il y aurait éventuellement des français intéressés à ce que j’écris.   En fait la vraie raison pour laquelle j’avais envie d’écrire à vous mes chers français, c’est parce que l’inspiration pour cette recette vient d’un petit plat que j’ai mangé l’autre jour dans un resto très tendance en ce moment à Paris, un endroit sicilien n’ayant qu’une table et qui est à la base une épicerie.  Vous avez déjà deviné de quelle adresse je parle?  Ca ne m’étonnerait pas, mais sinon je vous le dit: La Tête dans les Olives, le “it” resto du 11ème arrondissement, ne servant que 5 individus maximum chaque soir, et utilisant uniquement des produits vendus dans le magasin.  Le concept m’a assez gêné au début; je ne voyais pas très bien comment cet établissement, qui fait vraiment le minimum pour préparer des plats (il y a deux plaques à chauffer et rien d’autre – pas de four, pas de micro-onde, sûrement pas de lave-vaisselle), pourrait demander 150 euros pour toute la table, sans pouvoir servir du vin. 

J’ai été donc très surprise d’y aller et de voir que ce restaurant tient à mes propres idéales dans la cuisine: c’est-à-dire qu’on n’a mangé que des choses simples et que des produits de la meilleure qualité.  Cédric, le propriétaire du resto, comprend bien ce concept et ne pourvoit que des produits siciliens qui sont conservés au meilleur moment: une variété énorme d’huiles d’olive, des tomates et des aubergines séchees, du miel sicilien et même de la ricotta salée. 

En entrée, j’étais ravie de goûter une combinaison d’ingrédients que je ne penserais jamais à mettre ensemble moi-même, celle des oranges sanguines et des anchois.  Ce mélange vous shoque peut-être, mais je vous garantie que le résultat est juste magnifique, l’harmonie parfaite entre sucré-salé.  Pour cette raison je savais qu’il fallait absolument refaire de ma propre manière cette combinaison, et ainsi est née cette salade, mettant en valeur cette harmonie idéale.

Vous pouvez évidemment modifier cette salade selon vos préférences, ajoutant par exemple des pignons de pin au lieu des noix.  Pour la sauce vous pouvez également remplacer l’huile d’olive par l’huile des noix.  Elle est très facile à préparer et c’est le repas parfait pour ceux qui en ont marre de manger des plats consistents d’hiver.  Bonne dégustation mes amis!

Salade de Noix, Oranges Sanguines, et Anchois  – pour 1 personne

1 poignée de noix
1 grosse orange sanguine
1 citron
Huile d’olive de bonne qualité
200 grammes de mesclun
4 filets d’anchois
1 cuillerée à café d’herbes de provence sechées

1. Hacher grossièrement les noix et les faire toaster dans un four ou dans une casserole jusqu’a ce qu’elles soient dorées.
2. Hacher un des filet d’anchois; réserver les 3 autres filets pour plus tard.
3. Couper l’orange en deux à la longueur. Dans un petit bol, mettre le jus d’une moitié de l’orange. Ajouter au bol 1 cuillerée à café de jus de citron et l’anchois haché. Ajouter 1 cuillère à soupe à la fois d’huile d’olive et mélanger jusqu’à ce que vous obtienniez une sauce qui vous plaît (il faudra ajouter à peu près 2-3 cuillerées à soupe d’huile d’olive). Assasionner avec du sel et du poivre.
4.  Verser la sauce sur la salade, les mettre sur une assiette. Parsemer avec des noix hachées.
5. Eplucher l’autre moitié de l’orange, et détailler en segments (voir la photo d’au-dessus). Mettre les segments sur la salade.
6. Couper les 3 autres filets d’anchois en 3 morceaux chacun, et les mettre sur les segments d’orange. Parsemez la salade avec les herbes de provence.

NOW IN ENGLISH!

Part of the reason I decided to write this post in French in addition to English is because, knowing that most people who read this blog are living in the United States, I sensed that this recipe may not be so well received on the other side of the Atlantic.  I, like most people living in the Americas, grew up with an aversion to anchovies, those hairy and sur-salé litte fish that I would find usually on a salad niçoise and which I would conveniently place on the edge of my plate, so it would not touch and contaminate the other ingredients.

However, upon my arrival in France I happened to try a dish which stole my heart and forever changed my opinion of these hairy sea creatures: pissaladiere, a dish hailing from the Provence region of France which ceremoniously marries caramelized onions, black niçoise olives, and anchovy fillets in a pie tart, and which is divine (I posted a recipe for pissaladière last year, but only in a large serving size, so I will try to toy around with it and reduce it down for one person). 

Since eating and making this pissaladiere several times, I now welcome anchovies with open arms and willing taste buds.  And it’s a good thing I changed my ways because if I hadn’t I would have missed out on the phenomenal flavor combination that I include in this salad.  A little background, if you will: after a 40-email long discussion with the owner of La Tête Dans les Olives, a Sicilian restaurant in Paris whose name translates to “head in the olives,” I was able to get a reservation for 4 friends and myself.  This restaurant, which is actually a Sicilian gourmet produce store and which installs one 5-person table for lunch and dinner in the middle of the tiny establishment, only serves food made with products they sell.  So for a night my friends and I travelled to southern Italy, enjoying salted ricotta, dried eggplants and tomatoes, a multitude of black and green olives, dried oregano, sautéed greens wrapped in zucchini and topped with pecorino-romano cheeese.

Photo Courtesy of Gina Anderson

For one of the starters, we enjoyed something I had never tried before: blood oranges cut up into segments, topped with anchovies and sprinkled with dried oregano and olive oil.  I was so impressed by the simplicity of this dish, which nonetheless packed in so much bite, that I set out almost immediately to adapt it to something more substantial in my apartment.  Thus was born this salad for which I give you the recipe below.  I added some chopped walnuts and made a dressing for the salad using orange juice, lemon juice, and 1 chopped anchovy (hey, don’t look at my like that, don’t you know that the best Greek salad dressings are made with chopped anchovies?).  However, feel free to adapt this as you wish: omit the anchovy filet or the lemon juice, and add white wine vinegar.  You could also substitute the olive oil for a nut oil, I’m thinking specifically of walnut oil in this case.

Either way, I hope you too will open up your mind and try using anchovies in your food, they add the perfect amount of saltiness without taking over the whole show.  Bon appétit, bonne dégustation, et surtout have a wonderful Wednesday! 

Mesclun Greens with Walnuts, Oranges, and Anchovies – serves 1
1 handful walnuts
1 large blood orange
1 lemon
good-quality olive oil
6-8 oz. (200 grams) mesclun greens
4 anchovy fillets (usually packed in olive oil)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, or herbes de provence
.
1. Roughly chop the walnuts, and toast them in an oven or in a medium skillet until browned evenly.
2. Roughly chop one of the anchovies, reserve the remaining three.
3. Chop the orange in half lengthwise. In a small bowl, squeeze the juice of one of the orange halves. Add about a teaspoon of lemon juice and the chopped anchovy. Slowly whisk in the olive oil about 1 tablespoon at a time, until you have a taste you like (you will probably want to add 2 to 3 tablespoons). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Toss the dressing with the mesclun and put on a plate. Sprinkle with chopped and toasted walnuts.
5. Peel the remaining orange half, and cut along the natural folds to get about six orange segments (see top photo). Arrange them over the mesclun.
5. Cut the remaining anchovy fillets into 3 smaller pieces each, and place over the orange segments. Sprinkle with the oregano, and more pepper if desired.

>Endive Salad w/ Red Wine Dijon Vinaigrette

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This dressing is a definite keeper; it’s so tangy, sweet, and rich that I think it would taste great on any lettuce, but it goes nicely with the bitterness of endives. Also, it takes about 3 minutes to put together.
I added some slivered almonds to the salad, but the beauty of this dish is that you can add so many different things which will taste great – strawberries, pears, apples, Roquefort, walnuts, or almonds. Feel free to experiment!
And again, I can’t stress enough how easy this dish is. Endives are so elegant and full of flavor that little effort is required to make them taste and look good.
To make the endive salad, wash 3 small endives (or 1 for each person, depending on how much you’re making), and slice lengthwise. In a small bowl, combine 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and ¼ cup olive oil. Whisk together with a fork, and pour over endives (if making for less than 3 people, you’ll probably have more then enough dressing – use as much as you see fit).

>Butter Lettuce w/ Lardons and Poached Eggs

> I have wanted to try and make this salad for so long, because I love all of the individal ingredients (bacon, butter lettuce, poached eggs, and red & white vinegar) and I knew that their combination would be very satisfying to my tastes. And can I say that not only is this salad very delicious, with a combination of salt and crispy from the lardons and rich and silky from the egg yolk, but it is also one of the easiest things I have made so far. To do everything, from washing the lettuce to preparing the dressing, I needed 30 minutes in the kitchen. It’s so easy, and fills a craving when you want something rich and complex in taste!

So, I’ll keep this post short, and just say that this wonderful salad can be eaten as a light lunch (with some bread, bien sûr!), or as an appetizer for dinner. Although, I guess I shouldn’t put any restrictions on this, because you should really eat this salad whenever you feel like it.

Also, one last note – I know it’s not always easy to get fresh produce, but I find that it can make a huge difference with eggs; ce n’est pas grave, but if you can, please try to get your hands on eggs from a farmer’s market or a local producer – they’ve practically just popped out of the chicken!

To make this salad, you will need a small head of lettuce (I used butter lettuce, however this salad traditionally calls for frisée). Additionally, you’ll need two bacon strips, white wine vinegar, a small shallot, and red wine vinegar.

Firstly, wash up your lettuce and arrange it however you like on a plate, either cut up into smaller pieces or left whole. Chop up the shallot and set it aside. Next cut up your bacon into little lardons (which usually are about 1/4-inch wide and 1/2-inch long), and cook in a skillet on medium heat until golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove them from heat.

Next, fill a small skillet with warm water (you’ll be putting the poached eggs in here to keep them warm while you finish the rest of the recipe). Fill a small saucepan halfway with water, and add 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar – swish it around with a wooden spoon once or twice to blend, and bring to a simmer. Now, this part can be tricky if you’ve never poached eggs before, but don’t fret because it’s super simple. Crack each egg into a teacup or a small shallow dish. Once the water and vinegar start to simmer, bring each teacup right above the waters surface and gently slip in the eggs. With your wooden spoon, lightly move the eggs back and forth for a couple of seconds, in order to make sure the whites stick to the yolk. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, then place in the skillet of warm water.

Reheat the bacon on medium heat, then add the chopped shallot. Cook for about one minute, then add 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Cook for 5 seconds (if you cook longer the vinegar will develop a nasty bitter taste), then pour over your lettuce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, then top with the two poached eggs.

Bon appétit mes chéris!!