Sunday, June 29, 2014

summer salad template: warm asparagus kale salad

Salad doesn't interest me very much.

Usually, I just think, hmmm, fresh vegetables, nice. At home, we make perfectly nice lettuce salads with a simple vinaigrette . . . but I almost never go back for seconds.

Occasionally, and I mean occasionally, a salad makes me sit up straight and look at the big blue glass salad bowl to make sure I can eat some more.

Tonight, we happened upon one of those salads.

We had tender young kale and some local asparagus that needed to be eaten stat. I ripped up the raw kale and tossed it in the bowl, while I set the asparagus to boiling in salted water.

While the asparagus was simmering away, I pulled out a mug and made the vinaigrette. I wanted fairly strong flavours since I knew the asparagus would be sturdy and assertive.

I pulled out the Japanese ume plum vinegar from the back of the cupboard because it has a special kind of round salty flavour to it. Put a splash of that in the mug  maybe one tablespoon? Pulled out the grainy mustard and dropped in a teaspoon or so. Ground salt and pepper over. Drizzled as much maple syrup as I could get from the end of the syrup bottle  maybe three teaspoons?

Whisked it all together and started drizzling in fruity olive oil. I would say I used about three tablespoons of oil all together. Tasted and added another teaspoon of grainy mustard. Tasted again.

When the asparagus was bright green and tender-crisp, I chopped it into inch-long lengths and threw it on the kale. Spooned some vinaigrette over and sent it to the table.

It was absolutely heavenly. Suddenly we had a new summer salad template: raw kale with something steamed or boiled or roasted thrown on top and mixed with vinaigrette. I remembered to take a picture about 30 seconds before we ate it all.

With our bumper crop of kale, we will do this throughout the summer. I think you should, too.

You can make endless variations on the vinaigrette. Start with some kind of vinegar  red wine, sherry, rice  and mix it bit with a bit of mustard and something sweet, like maple syrup, honey or sugar. Grind a good amount of salt and pepper over it. Then slowly whisk in any kind of oil you like, about three times as much as the vinegar you used. Taste, season again, and toss with your summer salad.

Here's to summer salads!

Bonus photo!
North Saskatchewan River at 10:15 p.m. on the summer solstice.

one year ago: chewy granola bars and longest day link love
two years ago: hop & go fetch it: pacific rim edition and penne with sausage and greens
three years ago: tomato cheddar soufflé with asparagus and kathleen claiborne's hot cakes
four years ago: chilli pasta

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

quick zucchini sauté

I first learned to cook zucchini this way last November.

Now   boom!   I can't seem to cook it any other way.

I was hosting a book club potluck dinner where we were reading (that means cooking) Deb Perelman's recipes from Smitten Kitchen. I already make lots of Deb's recipes (hello, dilled potato and cucumber salad!) but I wanted to try something new for the potluck.

At the same time, I was short on time and ingredients. I was also busy cleaning the house and setting the table for eleven. I had a zucchini in the fridge and found what looked like the easiest recipe on the site.

I was doubtful. I mean, four ingredients and you think it will be amazing? I threw it all together on the stove as the first book clubbers trickled in and set up their dishes.

It took all of five minutes and it changed my world when it comes to zucchini. I don't quite know how to describe it but to say that just a few slivers of toasty almonds really set off the zucchini and the shavings of parmesan make it feel very chic.

It is a very pleasing dish and possibly the best part   besides how it tastes   is that it's equally good at room temperature. That's right: you can make this a few minutes before your guests arrive for a dinner party and you will all be happy campers.

one year ago: chewy granola bars and longest day link love
two years ago: hop & go fetch it: pacific rim edition and penne with sausage and greens
three years ago: tomato cheddar soufflé with asparagus and kathleen claiborne's hot cakes
four years ago: chilli pasta

quick zucchini sauté
via smitten kitchen inspired by the red cat, nyc
as deb notes, you don't really need to measure anything here  just throw it in

  2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. sliced almonds
  2 small zucchini, chopped into small matchsticks
salt and pepper
a few shavings of parmesan cheese*

Heat your skillet or heavy-duty frying pan over medium. Add the olive oil and swirl to warm it up. Stand back (in case the oil spatters) and throw in the almonds. Give them a few stirs. Cook for 1   2 minutes until toasted. Throw in the zucchini and grind a bit of salt and pepper over it. Give them a few quick stirs and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending how big your zucchini is: you're really just warming the zucchini, not cooking it.

Serve hot or at room temperature with a few thin shavings of parmesan cheese.

*I find a sharp vegetable peeler works very well for shaving the parmesan

Thursday, June 12, 2014

penne with smoked trout and asparagus

Thirty-six minutes.

I timed myself twice and that's how long it takes me to make this dinner.

I hope it's still asparagus season where you live, so you can see if you can make it in 36 minutes, too.

And if it's not, maybe you could cheat and buy some California asparagus?

I won't tell.

I would never have thought of combining asparagus, smoked trout and dill with horseradish, but let me tell you: it works.

It all comes together in a tasty, summer-is-so-close-I-can-feel-it kind of way. And did I mention the 36 minutes?

Now, perhaps like me, you're also new to the world of smoked trout.

Good news! We discovered smoked trout at the grocery store a few months ago because it's half the price of smoked salmon . . . and turns out to be equally good with cream cheese on bagels. It also freezes beautifully (yes, I am turning into my mother), so we usually use half the package and freeze the rest.

Turns out, half a package of smoked trout is exactly what you need to make this for dinner. Tonight. In 36 minutes.

one year ago: asparagus and cheese sauce on toast
two years ago: chinese-canadian lettuce wraps and loganberry vinegar
three years ago: oregon hazelnut salad and blueberry rhubarb rum jam
four years ago: chocolate peanut butter oatcakes

penne with smoked trout and asparagus
slightly adapted from canadian living
serves 4

450 g. (1 lb.) asparagus
340 g. (12 oz.) penne
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. (about 115 g./4oz.) smoked trout or smoked salmon, chopped 
1/4 c. fresh dill or parsley, minced
2 tbsp. prepared horseradish
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. thick plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
splash of white wine

Snap the old ends off the aparagus and cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) pieces. Set aside.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and salt it well. Cook the pasta for about 9 minutes, until it's about 2 minutes from being cooked to al dente. Throw in the asparagus and peas; cook until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Scoop out 1 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta, peas and asparagus and put back in the pot.

Stir in the reserved cooking water, trout, dill, horseradish, olive oil and yogurt. Add a splash of white wine and stir in. Season to taste with salt and pepper.