Green on Green Salad

green on green 2

It’s the first day of Spring!  I used to be a complete fall/winter gal, and as far as loving cardigans to a fault, I still am.  But the new mother side of my life has made me  crave warmer weather, the ability to leave the screen door open so we can hear the birds, and not worrying if my kid is constantly too cold.  This time last year, I had a two week old baby in the house.  We were scared and bewildered, yet happy to have her as a part of our pack.  It’s been such a learning process.  Is there a “right” way to do things?  Well, if there is, I was sure on the hunt this year.  I asked every person I knew who might have an ounce of understanding or empathy, what they thought the “right” way was to feed/sleep/play/instruct my baby.  I’m sure they, like me, are breathing a sigh of slight relief that along with her first birthday passing, so has a large amount of my questions.  I think part of me craves that close knit village type atmosphere of raising a baby.  Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins; all within arms reach of advice.  While that isn’t our reality, I am very thankful for technology that has made virtual villages out of our spread-apart lives.

One of my favorite parts of this “virtual village” is the way in the short time this blog has been up and running, I’ve been able to answer questions of fellow moms across several states on the basics of cooking, what to cook for baby, where on earth do you get Chinese 5 Spice?! and so on.  I love cooking so much and I hope that along the way, I can make at least one other person excited to cook a meal for their family or try something new.  I love when someone tells me, “I salt my pasta water because of you” (which is funny because at least three people have told me this, and I learned it from Mario Batali. Salty like the ocean!) I feel useful, even though I might be stuck in this house (or feel stuck from time to time), I feel knit together with so many by a common ambition for the quest for good food and a simple sense of accomplishment.

This salad is once again, from THE best cookbook of my year, so far, The Bonne Femme cookbook.  I served this salad with the broccoli and cauliflower recipe from Monday and seared chicken breasts with a simple pan sauce  (butter, chicken stock, pan drippings, reduce, reduce, reduce) and sliced, toasted almonds.  Very filling meal, very heart healthy – no one felt deprived!  (baby side note: Olive didn’t try this.  She was still sickly when I made it.  Will try again with her soon)

Green on Green Salad

serves 4

1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (about 1/4 tsp each)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
a few drops of Tabasco, Cholula, Tapatio, or whatever peppe sauce you like best
4 cups baby arugula or just a bag of mixed greens
1/2 cup, halved, thinly sliced cucumber
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 avocado, peeled and sliced

In a small bowl, use the back of a spoon (or I use a drink muddler) to mash the garlic clove with the salt and pepper.  Add the lime juice and whisk until the salt is dissolved.  Add the olive oil, whisking until incorporated.  Whisk in the honey and red pepper sauce.

In a large bowl, toss the greens with enough dressing to make the leaves coated, but not too heavy.  Arrange the arugula on a large platter.  Toss the cucumber and scallions with a bit of the dressing and arrange them on top of the greens.  Arrange the avocado slices across the top of the salad.  Drizzle just a little more dressing on top of the avocado and serve.

green on green 3

 

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Confession Time and a Side Dish You Never Thought You’d Love

roasted broccoli

I said I’d be honest on this blog and today is just such a post.  Last week, a sweet friend of mine said, ” You are officially one of those moms that makes me question my ability to fully parent and live well/completely.” I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with that comment, but I think I know, now.  It’s time to be honest!  Last week wasn’t good.  Olive got sick on Tuesday with her first stomach bug in her little year on this earth.  It wrecked her appetite, needless to say, and she subsisted for the rest of the week on mostly bananas, bits of bread, small bites of chicken and forced bites of a few benign vegetables like carrots and…carrots.  My little super-eater turned into the “picky eater” kid and even today, isn’t back at full steam.  She plays fine, acts fine, but when it comes to eating – it’s a fight.

I tried my best to stay the course; don’t force her, don’t get stressed, if she doesn’t eat much at lunch, she’ll catch up at dinner – but I was fearful all week that this stomach bug would make her afraid of food, of eating, of trying new things and in one week, all would be lost.  You think I’m exaggerating for the sake of this blog.  I wish I was.  I guess, today, my confession is that I try too dadgum hard to make things go perfectly, and when they don’t, I feel like an utter failure.  Perhaps this isn’t the day to write because last night I slept maybe three hours (my inability to turn my brain off and relax) but I thought about my friend’s comment on my status, and I just wanted to tell her that we only show our best online.  We only write statuses we are either proud of or find ironically funny.  So no one heard all week how scared I was that Olive was sick, or how miserable I felt when she wouldn’t eat a bite all day for a couple days in a row.  And of course I didn’t write statuses about how I got angry with her and made her cry because she kept dropping food off the side of the high chair.  I don’t like writing about that part of life.  The hard part.  The part that makes you question if you’re doing everything wrong and will, inevitably, scar your child when it’s all said and done.  I thought, “How much would everyone love if Olive ended up hating a variety of food just because I want her to love food so much?”  And it’s sad, but I really do feel that most of the people I know would secretly laugh if that happened.  And I can’t say that I blame them.  I’m very passionate about cooking and food and banning “kid-food” and teaching children to eat well and have manners at the table.  I wouldn’t say that I have much camaraderie in that area, at least not locally.  Or maybe I just don’t feel it because I’m not admitting to the hard parts that happen, as well.  I’m only telling you that she ate baby bok choy with fish sauce vinaigrette last week and loved it.  Not that she cried big, fat tears today because I wouldn’t let her hold a fork while she ate (she’d just throw it or poke herself in the face).  Sigh.

Our hard week came to a head this morning as Olive had her one year check up and got 5 shots in her little legs.  So, I made a soup for her for lunch.  Cream of celery, and I pureed the heck out of it so that there’d be no chunks.  I just didn’t feel like challenging her today. She ate fine.  Not as much as last week, but enough.  And I will continue to do what I know in my heart to be best.  Let her be a person with feelings and a new found opinion on things, and try not to force her to like something just because I do.  She’ll come around.  And if today, she only wants the texture of soups and yogurt, then that’s fine.  Maybe tomorrow she’ll eat something more challenging.  The point, I think, is to get back to the heart of what makes food and cooking beautiful: it’s something to be shared.  Eating, first, should be enjoyable.  Not nutritious, not organic – but delicious.  Good for the soul.  Shared with family and friends.  Happy.  Stress-free.  Not another lesson to pass or fail.  I vow to back off in my intensity for success at having a “good eater” a bit and get back to what makes food so amazing.  It’s good.

An incredible way to enjoy a couple of vegetables that might not be everyone’s favorite is first: roast them till they’re a little crispy.  And second: toss them in a vinaigrette!  In today’s recipe, that vinaigrette is one that contains fish sauce and it’s incredible.  I know you wouldn’t typically put “fish sauce” and “incredible” in the same sentence, but you’ll start to once you try this.  Also, it’s from David Chang’s genius book, Momofuku, and I’m pretty sure he’s never made anything bad in his life.  It’s so simple and the vinaigrette recipe makes a lot, so you can save it in your fridge to toss with pretty much any roasted vegetable.  The original recipe called to toss it with roasted brussels sprouts, which is a vegetable most think they don’t like.  But I’m pretty convinced you’re always just one recipe away from liking something you thought you never would.  So!  Try this today and let me know what you think.  Fish sauce can be found in most Asian sections of supermarkets near all the soy sauce, but if you have trouble, you can definitely find it at any Asian mart in town.

roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts

 

Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinagrette

1 medium head broccoli
1/2 head cauliflower
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tbs Fish Sauce Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut up the broccoli and cauliflower into small, bite sized pieces.  I trim the “trees” in half so that they roast better.  You want to aim to make the size of your vegetables all nearly the same so they cook at the same rate.  Toss in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Don’t crowd the pan.  Put it on two pans if you need to.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about 20 minutes, or until they start to get kinda crispy and browned on the edges like in the photo above.  When they’re done, toss in a large bowl with the vinaigrette and serve immediately.  For some reason, broccoli gets cold faster than any other vegetable known to man.

Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 3 red bird’s-eye chilies, thinly sliced

Combine everything in a large mason jar with a tight fitting lid.  Or any container with a tight fitting lid that won’t leak.  Shake it all around until the sugar dissolves.  Keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Poached Egg Salad with Bacon and Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette

Poached Egg Salad with Bacon and Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette

Everything about this salad is good.  The vinaigrette is simple to make and extremely satisfying to me, a reformed cream-based dressings only kind of person.  I’m from Portales, NM – we like ranch dressing more than we should.  Any time Matt would order a vinaigrette at a restaurant, I would scoff as if he were simply trying to make a point that I should choose a healthier option because how could he really prefer a vinaigrette?  Well, I think you could easily prefer this one.  This salad has enough richness from the bacon (just one strip per person) and the poached egg that when it’s all combined, everything balances out perfectly.  This recipe is again, from the genius and simple, Bonne Femme Cookbook.  I think I’m unintentionally cooking my way through this book.  I made a diversion last week and cooked out of the Everyday Food magazine and while all the recipes were good, once I started this week cooking out of Bonne Femme again, I think Matt and I were both secretly relieved.  I can’t quite put my finger on why all the recipes work so well – I haven’t screwed up one, yet, and I’ve made nearly a dozen different recipes!  Maybe the mystery is that the French like everything to have a sauce?  It certainly creates a warmth for every meal that would be lacking otherwise.  And even with all these sauces, I’m still losing weight (down two more last week)  Woohoo!

So here’s to a salad with a sauce all its own when the yolk combines with the vinaigrette.  I made it a bit heartier by roasting some asparagus to have along side.  Asparagus and runny egg yolks are best friends, by the way.

Scared to poach an egg?  Well, you can buy one of those insert things that you put into a pot on your stove, or what I did was bring a medium saucepan to an active simmer (not boiling – I left my burner on medium heat), crack your egg into a small bowl first and then get your water swirling in a tornado fashion and then dump your egg into the middle of the swirling water.  It will look like a walleyed mess at first, but after 3-4 minutes, you can check the egg with a slotted spoon and if your whites are done and your yolk still feels jiggly to the touch, then it’s good to go.  The recipe suggests putting two tablespoons of white wine vinegar into your water to keep the whites from scattering so much. I forgot to do this, but am anxious to try again, soon.

Poached Egg Salad with Bacon and Sherry-Dijon Vinaigrette
serves 4

4 slices thick cut bacon, but into 1-inch pieces
3 cups torn mixed greens
1/2 cup sliced red onion
4 large eggs
1 recipe Sherry Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels.
Toss the greens and red onion in a medium sized salad bowl.
Poach your eggs to desired done-ness, adding 2 tbs of vinegar to the water before adding the eggs.  Here’s another tutorial on how to poach an egg.
When the eggs are almost done, toss the bacon in the bowl with the greens and add enough vinaigrette to coat the leaves well – you may not need the whole recipe and less is more – an over dressed salad gets soggy  and gross really quick.
Arrange the salad among four serving plates and top each with a poached egg.  Season the egg with salt and pepper and serve immediately.  If you want to serve it with the asparagus, I’ve got the recipe for you below.

Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette

In a small bowl, combine 1 clove of minced garlic with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Mash them together with the back of a spoon to make a rough paste.  Add 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar; whisk with a fork until the salt is dissolved.  Whisk in 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard.  Slowly add 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, whisking until incorporated.

Simple Roasted Asparagus

Wash and trim your asparagus.  Coat all the stalks in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.  Roast in a preheated 400F oven for 15 minutes.  Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over and serve!