Remembering Autumn Salad

radicchio | citrus | shaved fennel | toasted hazelnuts

I was in Italy early October, on Lake Bolsena, with my father and brothers and sister, and all the children.  They rented a big house.  Every day, we went somewhere, walked around, and ate lunch out.  Every evening, we came home and made a big family dinner with whatever looked fresh at the village greengrocer.  So you buy what’s in season, and then you have to figure out what to do with it… I think this was night #4.  (Along with some lake fish, bean soup, and pasta for the kids).

Everyone will love this salad – even people who “don’t love fennel” and “don’t love radicchio.” Like autumn itself, this dish is complex and bittersweet. You can, of course, adjust proportions if you want to play up any one flavor or texture. But really, this one is about balance.

I’ve seen fennel-radicchio salads before, usually with honey-and-vinegar dressings. But I’d rather not go in so heavy-handed. The citrus drips in some nice flavor, almost by accident. Then a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, and plenty of coarse black pepper is all I need. Maybe some flaky salt.

Serves 6-ish

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head radicchio about the size of a baseball
  • 1 large or two small fennel bulbs
  • 2 sweet oranges
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 1 Tbsp very good olive oil
  • ½ C toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • very coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • Optional: flaky salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Shave the fennel very thin. Slice the radicchio into thick ribbons. Section the citrus.
  2. Toss everything together, except the hazelnuts and salt. Don’t skimp on the black pepper. If your fennel bulb came with fronds green dilly fronds, you can chop and sprinkle a little on top now.
  3.  This salad can keep for days and days in the fridge. When ready to serve, add the hazelnuts and flaky salt, so they don’t lose their crunch.

Za’atar Grilled Summer Squash

You don’t need to toil away in the kitchen: if you throw beautiful things on a beautiful plate, you have a beautiful meal. Even if none of it requires skill, dexterity, or any meaningful effort!

(See alternate Japanese-ish version here citrusy-seaweedy-spicy Shichimi Togarishi).

Easy, breezy, backyard casual!  All it takes is 3 minutes to prep, another 8 on the grill. Your squash comes off flavorful and tender. It has grill marks. It’s vegan. Everyone is happy.

And you can do so much with it! Plate your squash with other Mediterranean goodies, like in the photo (feta, olives, chopped salad, hummus), or alongside grilled merguez sausage. Or chop it up, and toss onto a salad. Or stuff it in a pita bread with some tahini sauce and pickles. Or make a sandwich, with Bulgarian ajvar spread, and melted cheddar.  

What’s Za’atar? Za’atar is a Middle Eastern seasoning blend, ubiquitous across Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt. Not all za’atar is the same, but a good one will be tangy and herbaceous, redolent of herbs, sumac berries and toasted sesame. Some za’atar is salted. I’ll recommend you get one that isn’t — or that’s salted only very lightly. (I’ll also add that the za’atar we sill in our bulk bins in the refillery is excellent, and very fresh). 

Traditionally you sprinkle za’atar on hummus (with a generous drizzle of olive oil), or thick yogurt-like labneh cheese (with a generous drizzle of olive oil). Or just mix it with straight-up olive oil, and dip bread. It’s also excellent on eggs, and chopped tomatoes. A sprinkle makes avocado toast sublime. 

 Ingredients 

6 medium summer squash¼ – ½  C nice olive oil
 ¼ cup Za’atar2-3 cloves garlic (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cut the squash lengthwise into planks, roughly as thick as a pencil.
  2. Press or very finely mince the garlic into the oil with the Za’atar
  3. Coat the squash with the oil-za’atar mix. You can either toss and mix it in a big bowl, or brush it on with a pastry brush. I prefer the pastry brush, as it’s hard not to break the squash otherwise. Add salt as desired. 
  4. Grill about four minutes per side, on medium flame, on a preheated grill. (Flip with tongs). 

Smashed Potato Salad with Tahini-Maple-Ginger Dressing

As someone who is honestly not usually a fan of potatoes, the flavors and textures in this potato salad make it a winner for me. The potatoes are soft on the inside, have a crisp texture on the outside, and are topped with a deliciously savory tahini dressing with pops of garlic and ginger. To really set it over the edge, it’s then loaded with roasted peanuts, cilantro, mint, scallion, and some thin sliced jalapeno. Basil would also be a great addition. This is a salad that will have people scratching their heads and then devouring every bite!

Jalapenos concerning you? Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be spicy! You can opt to take out the seeds of the jalapeno for a much milder spice or even toss in some sliced small snacking peppers for no spice at all. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cooking Time: 25 minutes | Serves: 8

for the TOPPINGSthe GINGER-TAHINI SAUCE
3# mini-potatoes, mixed colors2 Tbsp lime juice
4-5 Tbsp high quality olive oil1½ Tbsp toasted sesame oil
¼ cup tahini
the TOPPINGS1 Tbsp tamari or coconut amino
2 scallion, thin-sliced on the bias2 tsp maple syrup
1 jalapeno or sweet pepper, thinly sliced1- inch piece ginger, grated
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, torn3 garlic cloves, finely minced
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped2 tablespoons ice water
¼ cup roasted peanuts


Directions:

  1. Cover potatoes with cold water, add 2 Tbsp salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer until tender but not soft, around 12-15 minutes. Drain, and pat dry. 
  2. Smash – not mash – the potatoes with half the oil. Place in an edged pan with about half the oil and press (not poke!) with a fork so the sides burst but they’re still mostly intact. Toss with remaining oil.  
  3. Crisp the potatoes under the broiler for 8-10 minutes, or bake at 425 30 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients except until relatively smooth. Add the ice water and whisk again until thick but pourable. Salt as needed. 
  5. Let potatoes cool slightly and then toss with dressing. Place on your serving platter and scatter the toppings. Enjoy!

Dilly Egg Salad

I feel stronger, better, when I eat eggs (good eggs, from happy chickens). Maybe it’s because the protein in eggs is second only to mother’s milk for human nutrition. Their sulfur content, however, makes hardboiled eggs smell, and it’s the sulfur, the third most abundant element in our body, that helps make healthy skin and hair. Guess what else has lots of sulfur? Radishes! Here they add crunch and a pop of color.

8 large eggs1 C diced pink radish
¼-½ C mayo (choose good fats, sugar-free)1 Tbsp salt-cured capers
1 C chopped celery1 C sliced scallions OR ½ C minced red onion
½ C finely chopped fresh dill2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp coarse prepared mustard1 tsp good salt like Celtic or Himalayan
1 tsp ground black pepper

Hard-boil the eggs. How I do it? I place eggs in a pot and cover them with cold water by 1 inch. Turn on med-high heat. When water comes to a boil, I turn the heat off, and cover the pot. I leave the eggs in the hot water for 10-12 minutes. 10-minute eggs have creamy yolks, while 12-minute yolks will be paler, with a chalkier texture. Drain eggs and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Leave eggs there at least 15 minutes. The ice bath stops the eggs from cooking anymore and makes them easier to peel. (You could leave eggs in the fridge overnight before using.)

While eggs are chilling, put the remaining salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix everything together.

To peel eggs, tap each on the counter all over. Starting at the top of the eggs, peel shell away. Sometimes I’m lucky and the entire egg peels easily. Other times, peeling under running water is the trick. Chop eggs. Add to salad. Toss everything again. Taste, adjust seasoning. Dots all.

Miso Vegan Caesar w/ Crispy Walnuts + Golden Roast Butternut

I adapted this salad from a recipe by Mariela Alvarez, a chef in Brooklyn. The walnuts are the best! If you can’t do walnuts or other nuts, try using seeds like pumpkin. I added butternut squash because ‘tis the season, and I liked the juxtaposition of crunchy, chewy, tender, sweet, savory. I used lots of escarole (and have used chicory) because the tougher greens hold up well with this dressing. Baby kale is great. So is some baby chard.

Serves 4. Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

8 C peeled, cubed butternut squash6 cups mixed winter greens like escarole
1 C walnuts½ +¼ C extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
¼ C white or chickpea miso2 Tbsp salt-pack capers
1 Tbsp lemon zest2 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch good salt & pepper1 tsp ground cumin

Preheat oven to 400.

In a blender, blend until smooth ½ C oil, and all the miso, cumin, and both lemon ingredients. (Whisking by hand took me 5 minutes, and the dressing never got really smooth.) I suggest making double or triple the dressing and saving most in a jar in the frig.

Toss walnuts with ¼ C of the dressing. In a large skillet, stir walnuts over medium heat until fragrant, about two minutes.

Place prepared butternut squash on baking pan and toss with the other ¼ C EVOO and big pinch of salt and pepper. Roast about 25 minutes, until the squash can be easily be pierced by a knife. Remove squash from oven and cool completely. (Hot squash will wilt the greens; you don’t want that!)

Wash salad greens and spin dry. Put into large salad bowl. Add the cooled squash and the capers. Toss salad with ½ C dressing. Taste. Add a pinch more good salt and pepper if you like, or another glug of EVOO.

Divide salad evenly among 4 plates. Top with crunchy miso walnuts. Oh my gosh, this is just delicious!

Corn Salad with Almost Everything

September is often fall-ish, and tomatoes have almost stopped producing. Corn, however, relishes the end of summer and onset of fall. So, for me, September is all about corn salads. This one has fun in every bite!

4 cups raw corn kernels (from about 5 fresh ears)1 C chopped tomato, or halved cherry tomatoes
1 C chopped purple or sweet onion¼ C dark, earthy oil (see below)
1 C halved, sliced cuke (peel on)2 C chopped garden herbs (see below)
½ diced pink radish4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 smallish jalapeño, seeded and sliced1 Tbsp red wine vinegar or lime juice
1 tsp Celtic grey or Himalayan pink salt½ coarse black pepper
OPTIONAL mix-ins: ½ C crumbled feta, Nicoise olives, avocado

First, let’s talk about herbs. I like using whatever is most bountiful from my garden, mix-and-match. Basil, parsley, cilantro and dill are the usual suspects. But you could use dark red shiso leaf or Thai basil. Or whatever you love! As for the oil, I really, really love the Austrian pumpkinseed oil in the photo. It’s so dark and earthy — it doesn’t take a back seat to anything! Otherwise, I like a good smoked olive oil. These days, I’m using the Holy Smokes brand.

I’m going to recommend fresh corn, cut off the cob. Although you can use frozen. There are many different ways to cut corn off the cob. Safest is probably laying corn down on a cutting board and slicing corn off lengthwise with a sharp knife. Rotate ear onto cut side, slice more, repeat. When I use frozen corn, I don’t use it raw. I stir it in a skillet until it browns slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the mix-ins. Toss with a rubber spatula. Add mix-ins and toss again. Serve room temp or chill for later. This salad keeps (without the avocado) for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, covered. If you’re using avocado, add that just before serving. Enjoy, hombres.

White Bean Salad with Zucchini and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Five minutes is all you need for this satisfying salad. That is if you use healthy shortcuts like organic canned beans and our sun-dried tomatoes. If you want to cook your own beans and sun-dry your own tomatoes, you’ll need advance prep. I may have some jars of home-cooked beans in my freezer, but if I don’t, I’m going to open a can of Eden beans!

This salad can absorb so many other ingredients. When I made it the other day, I threw in some capers and roasted beets I had left in the fridge. I used the Les Moulins Mahjoub brand from Tunisia, which is cured in salt instead of vinegar. Yum

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side

2 C cooked cannellini (1 standard can)2 C diced young zucchini
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil (or try smoked olive oil, or Austrain pumpkinseeed oil)1 C crumbled feta, blue cheese or
“Perlini” fresh mozzarella
½ C sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely sliced1 C minced onion or scallions
1 Tbsp dried dill weed or 3 Tbsp fresh2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fennel seeds or 1 C diced fresh vegetable1 tsp minced or pressed fresh garlic
¼ tsp dried oregano, or 1 tsp fresh¼ tsp dried tarragon
¼ tsp allspice

Combine everything in a large bowl and toss with a rubber spatula to mix. Here I have to admit, I often add an extra glug of oil because I love all that good fat.

What other ingredients can you add? Artichoke hearts. Pitted Nicoise olives, steamed wax beans, hard-boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, the beets and Les Moulins Mahjoub capers I mentioned above. Anything else that your heart desires!

I didn’t list salt or pepper in ingredients because the amount is so variable. If you’re using salty ingredients like capers, cheese, or olives, you may be fine without any. Your taste buds. Your choice!

Potato Salad with Herbs, Olives & Artichoke Hearts

I always share a potato salad recipe in summertime because I love potatoes, and potato salad says “summer has arrived!” Even in 2020 with the coronavirus. Like all my potato salads, this one is doused with rich, golden or green extra virgin olive oil, not mayo.

Made this way, this salad keeps for days. Refrigerate, of course, but bring to room temp to enjoy.

Serves 4

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes4 medium red or purple potatoes
1.5 C artichoke hearts, sliced*2 C thinly sliced cabbage
1 C pitted black Niçoise olives1 C thinly sliced onion
1 C chopped dill weed1 C chopped flat parsley
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil*3 Tbsp red wine vinegar*
2 cloves garlic, smashed2 tsp unrefined dark salt
1 tsp black pepper

*I love the artichoke hearts preserved in extra virgin olive oil by the Tunisian brand Les Moulins Mahjoub. If you use a brand preserved in brine instead of olive oil (don’t! but if you do…), you may want to increase the added olive oil, and decrease the added vinegar.

Place all ingredients except potatoes in large bowl, and mix well. Use your serving dish as the mixing bowl — it’ll be one less dish to clean.

Scrub potatoes, but do not peel, and put whole in a pot with water to cover. Slowly bring to a boil, turn down heat, cover, and simmer 10-15 minutes, until tender when poked with a knife. Time depends upon size of potatoes. Drain. Let potatoes cool until they are just warm.

Dice warm potatoes into mixing/serving bow. Toss everything together. Taste, adjust seasonings. There’s so much in here you won’t need to garnish. But if you want to, there are umpteen ways. Think cherry tomatoes, goat or feta cheese, salami rounds, hard-boiled egg, tuna ventresca, Fakin’ Bacon crumbles, avocado…

Banana Peel “Bacon”

I (Debra) keep obsessing about the subject of food waste, and even though we give all our banana peels to customers who give them to their animals, it kills me to see all those peels not being used as human food.  If you think I’m off my rocker, just read the blogs online.  In other parts of the world, people do eat the banana, peel and all.   There are recipes for vegan pulled “pork” using banana skins as the main ingredient.  You see watermelon rind curry in India.  You can absolutely eat the kiwi peel, the carrot peel, the cucumber peel, etc.

The recipes that caught my eye were those making bacon out of the peel.  And so, I did.  I brought my first try into the store for our staff to sample.  No one had taken me seriously.  And even though my first batch was slightly burned, everyone went gaga over banana peel bacon!

Here’s the recipe (I found it on many sites).  Just remember, make sure your bananas are ripe, have brown spots.  And pan fry them.  Don’t eat them raw.

Makes enough for 4 people (more if you’re only nibbling or using to crumble on top of a salad as garnish)

4 ripe banana peels (from 4 bananas) ½ tsp smoked paprika
3 Tbsp soy sauce ½ tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp maple syrup 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Rinse bananas.  Peel them.  Slice or tear each banana peel into 4 strips lengthwise.  Using a spoon, scrape off the white inside part of the peel.  We’re using the peel only.

In a dish large enough to hold your banana peels, mix soy sauce, maple syrup, paprika and garlic powder, which is your marinade.  Add peel to marinade and toss to coast.  Let peels marinade at room temperature for at least 10 minutes, but a few hours are even better.

When ready to cook bacon, heat oil over medium in a large skillet or fry pan.  I used my cast iron skillet.  Add peels and fry each a couple of minutes per side until they turn golden and the skin bubbles.  I used a pair of tongs to pick up a peel and turn it over.  Don’t overcook and burn as I did!

Remove banana bacon from pan onto serving plate.  These get crispier as they cool.

Tropical Fruit Salad

If you can get all three of these fruits: papayas, pineapple and mangoes, they make a glorious salad.  If you have only one or two of the three, proceed anyway and you will still enjoy.

I’m told that the world eats more mangoes than any other kind of fruit, and that Buddha prized mangoes so much he was given a mango grove to meditate in!

What do all three papayas, pineapples and mangoes have in common?  All three contain enzymes that help with proteins and inflammation.  Papain comes from papayas and mangos, bromelain from pineapple.  Both break down protein.  In fact, papain is the primary ingredient in supermarket “meat tenderizer.”  Mangoes contain enzymes that break down starch.  All three are rich in carotenoids than other fruits, are low in calories, and have lots of gentle fiber.

You want a ripe pineapple, and you can tell whether yours is ripe by its aroma.  Sniff the stem end.  It should smell sweet.  If there’s no scent, your pineapple isn’t ripe yet.  Give it couple of days!

Unlike pineapple, people do eat unripe, green papayas and mangos.  Green, these fruits are said to be richer in enzymes.  The green fruit won’t be good in this salad, but try it sliced and dipped in chili powder or sprinkled with soy sauce.  Try the green fruit grated into a tossed salad, or made into a traditional Indian relish or a pickle.   To be clear, you want ripe fruit for the recipe below.  You want sweet and tender.

Serves 4-6

2 C peeled pineapple chunks 1 C raspberries or blackberries
1 papaya, seeded and cut into 1” cubes 2 Tbsp lime juice
2 mangoes, cut into 1” cubes 1 finely minced jalapeno pepper, opt.
1 C kiwi slices (I peel mine) 1 Tbsp grated ginger, opt.as

Prepare fruit.  Don’t know how to cut these fruits?  Talk to me in the store! 

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Feel free to use more of an ingredient if it suits your taste!  Other mix-ins?  Some honey or maple syrup.  ½ tsp of vanilla extract. 

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