Remember last week when I suggested that you spend one million dollars at the farmers market to build a delicious salad? I complained that there was no possible way to recreate such deliciousness from a regular, old supermarket salad? That if you cared about your taste buds, then you should hand over your Benjamins for some mixed greens, or else. That if you are a true foodie, you will remortgage your house for rocket and mesculen.
Want to keep it real? How about this whammy: I heart iceberg lettuce. I love the light, fresh, crispy crunch of each nutrient void bite.
You know what impresses me? When someone creates a delicious, Natalie-Cole-style salad. As in: unforgettable. Yes, that unforgettable. Unforgettable, in every way. The lettuce. The dressing. The little gems of fruit and beads of salt.
An extrodinary salad is not something one throws together at the last minute. It takes great care and attention to detail. It also costs a few bucks. If you have a garden, then you are on your way. Otherwise, make your way to the local farmers market. It's summer. Get. Out. Side. (Or, as my favorite writer would say to me: Mary, leave your natural habitat-- the couch--behind).
I singled this dish out at a work potluck. It was a holiday party so it's no surprise that it was the lone dish on the conference room table that actually included vegetables. I had a bite and immediately fell in love with it. I'm sold because, while it appears healthy (and, for the most part, is healthy), it actually includes Ramen as one of the main ingredients. Which is, of course, not healthy. But, oh well, at least you get some cabbage, carrots, and almonds. What's the saying...just a spoon full of Ramen?
By the way, when I asked my co-worker for the recipe she called the dish "Chinese Coleslaw," which I found odd because I've always thought of Ramen as Japanese. After some extensive internet research on Wikipedia I found that ramen noodles actually originated in China, not Japan. Who knew. Anyway, I place quotes around the name of the dish because no matter where ramen noodles come from, no one in China is eating this cole slaw. Plus, I like to put quotes around things; especially air quotes. And sometimes I get carried away and use air quotes when they are not really called for. Yes, I'm one of those people.
I recently made this dish for dinner on New Year's Eve. It paired nicely with homemade egg rolls and crab rangoon.
I started planning this meal with one request in mind: please, no more lasagna. I wanted to make the antithesis of a winter casserole without going too far astray from the season. I would make a salad. And there would be fruit in it.
Winter has plenty to offer by way of fruit. And not just apples. Feast on citrus! But hold your clementines because my favorite winter citrus, blood oranges, are not ready to make an appearance quite yet. So I picked up a few mangoes at the super market. Are mangoes in season? I'm not even sure. But I do know that mangoes know how to rock a salad, especially if they share the stage with cilantro and mint. This salad is practically tropical. The dressing is tangy and spicy, the mango is fresh and light, and the crab makes it special.
Take that, winter casserole.
Since I knew I would spend a lot of time in Josie's nursery --sitting, singing, soothing--I required a comfortable chair. The problem with nursery gliders are that most of them are dumpy and unattractive. I wanted a pretty chair that could serve as starship baby, a command center I could sit in comfortably for hours. After what seemed like an eternity shopping around, I finally found one I liked at Pink and Brown, "an organic trendy children's boutique" in Old Town Alexandria. Those are not fake quotes. As in, their words, not mine. The store is absurd. I say absurd, not because of their tagline (which is absurd), but because the store is absurdly expensive. But also, they sell absurdly cute things, like onsies so tiny a medium sized pear would complain it was too tight.
Wait, why am I talking about baby stuff again? I'm getting to the food part, soon, I swear.
I used to think salad was boring. More boring than watching the Super Bowl. That changed when I started making dressing from scratch and adding "star" ingredients. I love fruity salads. In the winter, it's mostly apples or pears. Now that citrus is abundant, oranges or grapefruit. This salad features the seasonal object of my culinary affection: blood oranges. As Emeril says, BAM, the citrus flavor gives you a big punch in the taste buds.
Yes, I know. Recipes for salad are absurd. Think of this as an endorsement of a set of ingredients that go really well together, rather than a recipe. It's my favorite fall salad and I can't get enough of it. Start with a big bowl of arugula (naturally), add thinly sliced Honey Crisp apples, a handful of chopped cilantro, handful of chopped mint, then top with sliced almonds and a balsamic vinaigrette (3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar, salt and pepper, thyme if you have it). Then toss. What a flavor combination. The mint is best part, so don't skip it.
I crave this salad.
Yesterday, I had a salad with squash and pears; it was a little too sweet for my taste. How about you? What are you favorite fall ingredients that work well in salads?