Posts tagged ‘Salad’

Elephant Walk Cooking Class

All cooks find themselves in a rut from time to time. In those periods, the same dishes keep appearing on the dinner table week after week – in my case, momofuku noodles (post coming soon), pasta with meat sauce, and sauteed chicken breasts with rice. One solution to this would be to open up one of my million cookbooks and find myself a recipe, clearly.  A slightly more expensive — and certainly more entertaining — fix is to find a cooking class!  Even better, find a cooking class for a cuisine with which you are unfamiliar.  This will ensure both education and several new avenues for experimentation to keep you out of that rut for a long while!

Last weekend, my mother and I attended a cooking class at a local Cambodian restaurant, The Elephant Walk.  Their courses (and food!) were recommended to us by a close friend, and how right he was.  We had a fantastic time visiting a Cambodian market and then returning to the Elephant Walk kitchen to cook up a three-course lunch, which we promptly devoured with delicious wine to accompany.

We chose the class called “Doing It All on Market Day”.  This cost a little more, but was worth every penny.  We arrived at 8:30 at the restaurant and traveled from there to Revere, one of the three largest Cambodian communities in the United States (the other two are Lowell, MA and Long Beach, CA).  A little store market there carried produce and non-perishables from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Latin America.  As Longteine de
Monteiro, Elephant Walk’s head chef, explained, as property values in neighborhoods near Boston have risen, Hispanics have moved in to places the Cambodians can no longer afford.  Thus, the market showcased Thai basil next to cilantro, tamarind alongside tomatillos, and lemongrass sidled up to habaneros.  I wish I had taken more pictures of the various exotic vegetables, like banana blossoms, khmer eggplant, and string beans that measured two feet long!  Here is Longteine showing us a fuzzy melon (which is like a spongy squash):

Notice the cactus in the bottom right!  Another “melon” to which we were introduced was called bitter melon – although this one was more like a cucumber:

With each new vegetable, she explained to us how they would be used.  Most to all of them can go into sour soup, if you’re wondering.  If you want more than my memory can provide, fear not! There’s The Elephant Walk Cookbook too.

Once we collected everything we’d need for our class (plus Mom and I picked up bean sprouts, mushroom soy sauce, and tamarind paste to make some Pad Thai later), we headed back to the restaurant.  The 10 or so participants picked partners, and each pair was assigned a course.  Mom and I chose the Spicy Beef with Peppers and camped out at a station in the kitchen. Everything was very clean and organized, and our mise had already been put en place:

Much of the above you’ll recognize: salt, sugar, fish sauce, jalapenos and cubanelle peppers.  The odd ginger-like thing at the top is called galangal or a rhizome.  It is similar in look, texture and use-value to ginger, but tastes more peppery than gingery.  At the top left, you can see the base of a container full of the most incredible ambrosia… lemongrass paste, they call it.  To make it, blend the following ingredients together for 2-3 minutes until smooth:

2 Tblsp. thinly sliced lemongrass
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 medium shallot, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons peeled, coarsely chopped galangal
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1/2 cup water

We spent about 35 minutes cooking, and then shared our dishes – green mango salad, sour soup with tilapia, and spicy stir-fried beef at a long table set for an elegant party.  I highly recommend the experience — very good food and definitely a departure from my norm.  The restaurant also offers courses in French-Asian fusion, Vegan & Vegetarian Cooking, and Pan Sauces, just to name a few.  The instruction wasn’t very comprehensive in terms of technique, especially given that in some cases the lemongrass paste was already made and the peppers already chopped, but we had a pretty well-trained group.  For me, the class was more about thinking through new flavor combinations and using ingredients I’ve never seen before.  Consider that rut a thing of the past!

I also enjoyed seeing the class through the lens of a world history teacher.  Since my last post, I have finished a master’s program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and have spent two years teaching and living at a boarding school.  No wonder I don’t have time for blogging!  But throughout my cooking class last Saturday, I couldn’t stop thinking about how none of our dishes would have been possible without the Columbian Exchange, the term used to describe the integration of crops and people from the Americas and the rest of the world.  For most of recorded history, these two hemispheres were separated by unnavigable waters.  They thus developed quite different species of flora and fauna.  In the Americas, people grew potatoes, peppers, corn, tomatoes, and pineapple – none of which had been seen before 1492 by farmers in Europe, Africa, or Asia.  Men from those continents brought wheat, rice, onions, most spices, and sugar — not to mention cows, pigs, chickens, and sheep — across the Atlantic to revolutionize agriculture in the Americas.  See how many Old World/New World interactions you can find in the below recipes!

Nyuom Svay (Green Mango Salad), serves 4

4 medium green mangoes, finely julienned
1 large shallot, very thinly sliced
8 oz. cooked pork belly or pork butt, very thinly julienned
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut, roasted
1/2 cup julienned red bell pepper
1 Tblsp. salt
1 Tblsp. fish sauce
3 Tblsp. sugar
1 to 2 Tblsp. fresh lime juice to taste

In a large bowl, toss all the ingredients together. Garnish with fresh mint or basil.  [The recipe book we were given suggests you need 1 cup loosely packed mint, and the same amount of Thai basil.  But if you see the photos, I don’t see anywhere near that much shown.  I think that the flecks of brown are the toasted grated coconut.]

Samalh Machou Trey (Sour Soup with Tilapia and Pineapple), serves 4
4 cups chicken broth
3 tilapia filets, cut into 2 1/2 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 Tblsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tblsp. fish sauce
2 Tblsp. fresh lime juice
8 oz. pinapple, julienned 1/2 inch thick
8 oz. fuzzy squash (see photo above), peeled and cut into the same size as pineapple
2 plum tomatoes, quartered (we used green tomatoes)
3 Tblsp. fried chopped garlic
1 cup sliced Maam, aka “French mint” or “Asian cilantro” (see image at right)

Put the chicken broth in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil.  Add the garlic, pineapple, squash, tomatoes, salt, sugar, and fish sauce.  Return to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Gently stir in the lime juice and the fish and cook for another 8 minutes.

Add the fried garlic and maam.  Serve immediately with cooked jasmine rice in the individual bowls.

Saiko Cha K’dao (Spicy Stir-fried Beef), serves 4
3/4 lb. cubanelle peppers (about 3 large)
1/4 lb. jalapeno peppers (about 5)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 recipe lemongrass paste (see above)

1 lb. boneless sirloin, cut into strips 2 inches long, 1 1/2 inches wide, and 1/4 inch thick. [she told us we had short rib meat.  Not sure if that is the case]
1 1/2 Tblsp. sugar
1 Tblsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. salt
2 cups loosely packed fresh mareh preuw (aka holy basil) or regular basil leaves (see photo)

Slice the peppers very thinly lengthwise, removing seeds and veins.  Then cut into 2 inch lengths.  Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the lemongrass paste and cook until its aroma is released, about 1 minute.

Stirring well as you go, add the beef, peppers, sugar, fish sauce and salt, and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.  Remove from the heat and add the herbs.  Serve with rice.

 

Thank you, Nyep, for the great class.  Thank you, Mom, for inviting me to the great class.  Thank you, Eric, for the gift certificates that allowed us to take the great class!

June 12, 2012 at 9:52 am Leave a comment

German Potato Salad

german potato salad

One of the many components of putting together RJ’s now-famous birthday pig roast was developing a cohesive group of side dishes to complement the main course.  We were looking for southern-inspired sides — traditional but not boring, simple but with great flavor.  My contribution was a jalapeno cornbread; my mom brought her famous coleslaw; and RJ’s aunt Jane made a delicious slow-cooked sausage appetizer that satisfied the hungry folks drooling over the rotating pig.  One of the stars of the show in my mind, however, was my mother-in-law’s potato salad.

This potato salad has made frequent appearances at large family gatherings since it is easily multiplied and contains no mayonnaise that will cause it to spoil.  Delicious served warm, cool or room temperature, German potato salad is a crowd pleaser to be sure.  The vinegary zing contrasts with and complements the sugar and this foundational pairing of sweet and sour reverberates through the layers of flavor: savory bacon with sharp mustard, creamy egg with pickles or raw onion.  The result is a balanced composition perfect for summer picnics or winter feasts.

While this is not my mother-in-law’s recipe, the results tasted very similar.  Hers has an oil vinaigrette base and less of the optional add-ons.  Play with the recipe to your heart’s content — you won’t be disappointed.

german-potato-salad

German Potato Salad, adapted from Gourmet magazine, January 1990

(serves 8 )

3 lb. large boiling potatoes (about 6), such as Yukon gold
6 slices of lean bacon
1 c. finely chopped onion
1 c. thinly sliced celery
1 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 Tbs. Dijon-style mustard
6 Tbs. cider or champagne vinegar
1/2 c. thinly sliced scallion greens
3 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped (optional)
1/3 c. chopped dill pickles (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Drop the whole potatoes into the pot and cook for 18 minutes or just until cooked through (you want them to still be firm but not completely crunchy).  Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook the bacon strips over moderate heat until it is crisp and transfer it to paper towels to drain. Crumble or chop the bacon strips into pieces.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat; to the skillet add the onion and the celery, and cook the mixture over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened. Add the sugar, the flour, and the celery seeds, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the mustard, the vinegar, and 1/2 cup water, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, and simmer until it is thickened (this took me about 40 seconds but make take up to 2 minutes). Season the dressing with salt and pepper, pour it over the potatoes, and stir in the scallion greens, eggs, and/or pickles.  This may be served warm, room temp or cold.

german-potato-salad

September 6, 2009 at 2:38 pm 1 comment

Shaved Fennel and Mushroom Salad

Shaved Final Salad

After a wonderful three week vacation, I have returned to Boston to start a whole new adventure — graduate school.  Who knows what this will do to my cooking habit… Will I have so many hours in the house that I can finally make some headway on my Cookbook Challenge?  Or will the piles of books form a barricade between my  study and the kitchen across the hall, severely affecting my ability to prepare any sustenance beyond Red Bull and Power Bars?  Only time will tell.

Does that mean that today I have a spectacular three course meal to share — one that will hold everyone over until next May?  Nope!  We’ve got a heat wave going on in Boston, and I’m not turning on the oven for any reason!  So instead, I am featuring another wonderful summer salad — one that laughs in the face of all the lettuce-obsessed acacia wood bowls out there.  Rather than start with leafy greens and haphazardly add ornamental tomatoes or what have you, this salad rests on a far more flavorful and refreshing foundation.

When I was first introduced to this atypical salad — during a cooking course in Paris — I thought I would hate it.  To me, fennel meant ‘licorice-flavored’ and white mushrooms were meant to be eaten cooked in a pound of butter, if at all.  Yet somehow this combination just works.  Simple, elegant and refreshing.  To jazz it up a bit, though, I would consider adding some chopped hard-boiled egg or a drizzle of premium balsamic vinegar.

Shaved fennel salad 2

Shaved Fennel and Mushroom Salad
(Serves 2-3)

1 bulb fennel, cored then sliced as thinly as possible with a knife or mandoline
4 large white mushrooms, sliced as thinly as possible with a knife or mandoline
Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved with a vegetable peeler, to taste
Juice of 1/2 a large lemon (or more to taste)
Fleur du sel or other good sea salt, to taste
A couple of tablespoons of fruity, rich olive oil

Mix and toss ingredients together. Garnish with a couple of fennel fronds, if desired.

Shaved fennel and mushroom salad

August 25, 2009 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

Suffering? Succotash!

Edamame succotash

After over a month of awful, rainy weather, summer has come on us full-bore.  We are finally seeing the sun, and feeling the heat and humidity that is so familiar to those of us in the Northeast.  Yet after this year’s June, I truly welcome a bit of sweltering.  Especially since I’m able to escape to the cool breezes of the coast for a sail or a dip in the Atlantic as often as I want.  Trust me, I am savoring the dwindling days of my vacation…

When I think about this time last year, I remember how lucky RJ and I were to have had access to plenty of fresh bluefin tuna — the perfect summer entree.  We grilled it, poached it in olive oil, made it into burgers and, of course, ate it raw.  Despite the many blog posts, I have not yet broached the topic of side dishes.  When straight-off-the-boat tuna comes your way, you don’t want your side dish to overpower the subtleties of the fish or contrast unfortunately with your chosen flavor profiles.  Our first tuna of 2009 came to us a couple weeks ago.  I had just arrived home after work, and RJ got ‘the call’ — we had bluefin to collect!  My sweet husband drove an hour north and an hour back to deliver the sweet red meat to our table.  I called my sister and her girlfriend over, and whipped up the following salad.  I have never appreciated summer so thoroughly.

Roasted Corn and Edamame Salad, from Epicurious.com via Self Magazine [Printable Recipe]

2 ears fresh corn, unhusked, or 1 1/4 cups cooked corn kernels (I used defrosted frozen ones)
1/2 c. shelled edamame
1/4 c. chopped red onion
1/4 c. small-diced red bell pepper
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs. light mayonnaise
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped or grated ginger
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

If using fresh corn ears, soak them in cold water about 30 minutes. Heat grill on high. Grill corn in husk, 10 to 15 minutes, turning once. Let cool. Remove husks. Cut corn from cob into a bowl; combine with remaining ingredients. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Edamame-final

August 11, 2009 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Panzanella Salad

panzanella

When I wrote my recent post about my “Hearty and Refreshing” Arugula Salad, I definitely struggled over the title.  Are “hearty” and “refreshing” oxymoronic?  And if so, how better to describe a salad which is at once light, zesty and supremely satisfying?  And now, I give you another data point to consider: a hearty salad with a cornucopia of flavors, all harmonizing beautifully, which both sates and invigorates.

Panzanella is a wonderful concept — using day-old or even stale bread to make a fantastic and substantial salad — and can be endlessly varied.  A former classmate of mine from Needham (another Sweet Basil adherent, perhaps?) offers both a traditional recipe and some ideas for variants on her blog, Two Blue Lemons.  As for me, I don’t see much need for tweaking with this recipe, which combines savory roasted garlic, tangy marinated onions, sweet mozzarella and lots of fresh herbs.  While both the garlic and the onions take their own time and instructions to make, I recommend making the full batches outlined below and saving any extras for future creations.

Panzanella, from The Sweet Basil Cookbook – [Printable Recipe]
(serves 4-6)

1 recipe balsamic vinaigrette


6 generous handfuls mixed greens
1 cup roasted garlic

2 (8 oz) balls fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1 Tbs. marinated onions

2 vine-ripened tomatoes, wedged [I used cherry tomatoes]
2 roasted red peppers, sliced in 1/4 inch strips
1 c. kalamata olives, pitted
1 c. croutons

Fresh basil, chiffonade, for garnish
Fresh parsley, chiffonade, for garnish
Shaved cheese (such as Asiago or Parmesan) for garnish

Follow the instructions to prepare the balsamic vinaigrette. In a large bowl, toss the greens with one-half of the balsamic vinaigrette. Then, in a separate bowl, toss the remaining vinaigrette with the roasted garlic, mozzarella, marinated onions, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, olives and croutons. Add this mixture to the mixed greens, tossing to combine.

Evenly distribute the dressed greens among serving plates, and then garnish with the basil, parsley, and cheese. Serve immediately.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
In a mixing bowl, whisk together 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard and 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar. Once they are well combined, slowly whisk in 2/3 c. olive oil until it is incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roasted GarlicRoasted Garlic
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place 4 garlic bulbs [each bulb yields approximately 1/2 cup roasted garlic] with their tops trimmed off by 1/2 inch, cut-side-up, in a casserole dish just big enough to hold the bulbs comfortably. Cover the garlic with 4 cups olive oil, cover the dish with aluminum foil, and then roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. Remove the dish from the oven and allow the garlic to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oil, and then squeeze the garlic cloves out of the skin, reserving the oil for cooking.

Marinated onionsMarinated Onions
Combine 1 red onion, as thinly sliced as possible, 1 clove of garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.), 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. fresh basil chiffonade, 1 Tbs. fresh parsley chiffonade, kosher salt and pepper in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to an airtight container.

Croutons
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Arrange 1 pound bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, on a baking sheet, drizzle with some olive oil, and then top with a few pinches of butter and a couple sprinkles of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the bread is brown and crispy, flipping periodically to avoid burning.panz-bread
If serving the croutons immediately, sprinkle them with a bit of grated parmesan cheese; if saving the croutons for later, transfer them to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week.

Panzanella Salad

July 8, 2009 at 8:47 am 1 comment

Hearty and Refreshing Arugula Salad

Arugula and White Bean Salad
I don’t know how the weather looks where you are, but Massachusetts has been chilly and rainy for weeks now – not proper June behavior, to be sure. This morning we’ve been looking at intermittent bursts of sun and watching over our shoulder for the oncoming thunderclouds.  We’re hoping for summer to come on strong any day now, but she’s being reluctant.

This arugula salad is my response to this confused weather — an interpretive dance, if you will.  It sounds like it should be a summer salad but in fact the components are demonstratively wintery.  Hearty beans, parmesan cheese, and pickled onions all sound like they should be menu features in December or January, but with a substantial dose of lemon juice and the addition of cherry tomatoes, this salad is perfect for the confused days of June.

Easy Arugula and White Bean Salad

2-3 shallots
High-quality red wine vinegar
5 cups (baby) arugula greens
Cherry or grape tomatoes (optional)
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 lemon
High-quality extra virgin olive oil
14 oz. can of cannellini or other white beans
salt and pepper

Peel the shallots of their skin and slice crosswise as thinly as possible. Separate the rings and place in a ramekin or other small bowl. Pour red wine vinegar over the shallots to cover. Set aside.

Place the arugula (and cherry tomatoes, if using) in a large salad bowl and shave thin peels of parmigiano-reggiano into the bowl with a vegetable peeler, as much as you like. Then, using a grater or microplane, grate more parmesan over a separate medium-sized bowl until you have about a half a cup.

Dump the can of white beans into a strainer and rinse under running water until clean. Shake the strainer lightly to dispel excess water, and add the beans to the bowl with the grated parmesan. Gently fold the beans in with the parmesan, or lightly toss the bowl until the beans are coated.

Juice the whole lemon into the arugula salad, catching the seeds. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to the salad to lightly coat the leaves. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper to taste, then toss the greens and parmesan shavings to distribute. Add the white beans on top of the green salad, then place the vinegar-soaked shallots on top of the beans. Sometimes I sprinkle a bit of the shallot-infused vinegar over the salad, but usually the lemon provides enough acidity on its own. Enjoy!

Best Arugula Salad

June 20, 2009 at 9:37 am 4 comments

Ramen Noodle Salad

ramen-saladLeftovers Week continues… After my fancy doctored-up ramen dinner for one, I had a half-package of ramen noodles with the seasoning pack, half a head of napa cabbage, and plenty of scallions, all of which had to go before The Big Move. Fate itself can be credited with my discovery of this recipe, for in the midst of packing I happened upon a small recipe binder.

This binder was a gift from my wedding shower which was cooking-themed (go figure!). Each guest brought a dish with them to the party, along with the recipe for the dish and a gift that related to the recipe. For example, one guest made sangria and my gift was the beautiful glass pitcher she served it in. Another friend made blueberry crumb cake and gave me a beautiful pottery berry bowl.

The shower hostess (my lovely cousin Audrey who herself is now engaged and deserving of reciprocity) collected everyone’s recipe cards and put them into a binder for me to have. While I have turned to the binder several times (whenever a strong food craving reminds me of something delicious I ate at the shower), I must somehow have missed the recipe for Chinese Salad sent in from my aunt who was unable to come last June. If she had attended, I am sure I would not have been able to forget this fun and flavorful dish!

As I flipped through the binder before putting it into a cardboard moving box with the other cookbooks, I happened to fall upon Aunt Robbie’s recipe card — serendipity. Three more items saved from the rubbish bin, and in such a delicious way. I must admit I balked at the quantities on the card, but I wasn’t serving a crowd (as the card promises), so I cannot say that the amounts listed below are incorrect. All I can say is that in addition to quartering the recipe I also probably reduced the proportion of butter and sugar listed here. Nevertheless, I will report the recipe as it was given to me – to do otherwise would be to reject the wisdom passed to the new bride and I don’t need any of that bad juju.

Chinese Salad
1 stick butter
2 packages chicken-flavored Ramen noodles, broken into tiny pieces (with 1 package of the enclosed seasoning)
1 cup slivered almonds
2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1 bunch bok choy
1 bunch scallions
1 head Napa Cabbage

 Dressing
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
3/4 cup olive oil

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the noodle pieces, the 1 package of ramen seasoning, the almonds and the sesame seeds – saute until almonds and/or noodles just begin to brown.

ramen-saute

Slice the vegetables into thin slices or julienned strips and toss in a salad bowl with the noodle saute.

Whisk together the cider vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce, then mix in the olive oil slowly while whisking. Toss the salad with the dressing.

In the manner of all lovely handed-down recipes on index cards, there is a note: “Serves a crowd and is always a hit!”

May 31, 2009 at 11:01 am 5 comments

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