Roast Squash and Kale Salad with Cheddar and Almonds

by Caroline

I spotted this salad on the terrific Food52 blog and had to try it. I am not yet tired of kale salad in all its variations, and this one wisely adds cheese. I’ve linked to the original recipe so that you can see some specific amounts, but this is how I did it:

For 4-6 servings
one small kabocha squash
one bunch of kale
2-3 handfuls of chopped almonds
4-6 ounces of sharp cheddar (I used a caramelized onion cheddar I find at Trader Joe’s)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 425.

Peel and seed the squash, cut it into bite-sized cubes, and toss with some olive oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and brown around the edges.

While the squash is roasting, strip the kale from its stems and slice the leaves into very thin ribbons. It’s easiest to do this by stacking up a pile of leaves, rolling them into a cylinder, and then cutting across the rolled-up leaves. Toss the leaves into a large bowl and squeeze the lemon juice over the leaves; I used a whole lemon.

When the squash is done, add that to the bowl of kale, and toss with the almonds, cheese, and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If you’re pressed for time, you can heap a couple spoonfuls of salad onto a slice of bread, smashing the squash and cheese, and make a fine bruschetta to take on the road:

Fall Fruits & Cucumber Salad

by Caroline

It’s not that often my kids come to the farmer’s market with me anymore. Our neighborhood market is Sunday morning, and it’s easier if I stock up in an early strike mission on my way home from a run, before the boys are even out of their pj’s. But we all went together recently, in combination with a stroll through the local block party, and Ben noticed the information booth stocked with recipes. He grabbed one for pumpkin pie (which I have promised to make for Thanksgiving), and then also this salad recipe. It was ages before we had all the right ingredients, ripe and ready at the same time; first we had the apples and dill but unripe pears, and by the time the pears were ripe the dill was gone and we didn’t have a cucumber. But finally, today, we had a proper alignment of produce and Ben and I shared this for lunch. It’s sweet and crunchy and delicious.

for the dressing:
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons chopped dill
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of brown sugar

Whisk together in a small bowl and set aside.

Core and slice, leaving the peel on for color and flavor:
Two crunchy tart apples
One ripe pear
One small seedless cucumber

Toss with the dressing and serve.

Warm Escarole Salad with Apples and Nuts (Success!)

by Caroline

As Tolstoy didn’t write, easygoing eaters are all the same; every picky eater is picky in his or her own way.

So I was reminded the other night when I unpacked our CSA share and pulled out a bunch of escarole bigger than my head:

“Yum!” said Ben. “What’s that?”

Can we just pause a moment to unpack those two short sentences? To marvel at the uncharacteristic enthusiasm — “Yum!” — which precedes the question? Because this cheerful reaction came from a child who generally approaches the world with a healthy dose of skepticism, and examines each bite he takes as carefully as the local health inspector. He will not tolerate butter or cheese (especially–shudder– if they are melted); frets if I put any kind of cooked dried bean (black, white, navy, garbanzo) on his plate; and rejects tomatoes in all their glorious forms (fresh, sauced, dried). On the other hand, he will eat whole wedges of lemon (rind and all), loves pickled burdock root, any manner of candied peel, and all cooked greens. The more sour and bitter, the better.

So I thought I had a good shot at getting him to eat escarole, especially when the sheet of recipes from our CSA included one for a warm salad of escarole, apples, raisins and toasted nuts. The original has cheese, which sounds delicious to me, but I didn’t have any, and Ben wouldn’t have eaten it that way, anyway. As it turned out, Ben liked it (though he found the escarole a bit chewy; I’ll tear the leaves up smaller next time), and even Eli, who of course is his own brand of picky (he doesn’t like any cooked vegetables), gave it long consideration rather than reject it automatically. So I’m calling this one a success.

Warm Escarole, Apple and Walnut Salad (adapted from a recipe by Jonathan Miller):

1/4 c raisins
1 apple, peeled and cut into wedges
1 head of escarole (my bunch was so big, I used less than half, which turned out to be one pound)
1 lemon
1/4 c chopped walnuts or pecans
2 oz gruyere
butter or olive oil

Cover the raisins with boiling water and let sit while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Zest the lemon and then squeeze out the juice. Keep them separate.
Wash the escarole and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Heat a large skillet with a couple tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Add the apples and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until the apples have softened. Put in a large serving bowl with a splash of the lemon juice.

In the same skillet, toast the nuts until they’re dark brown and fragrant. Remove from the pan and set aside (don’t put them in with the apples just yet, or they’ll get soggy).

Now add a bit more olive oil or butter to the pan, the lemon zest, the remaining lemon juice, the escarole and a splash of water; cover the pan and let the escarole cook. As soon as the water begins to steam, uncover the pan and continue to cook, stirring, until the escarole is just wilted. Transfer to the serving bowl with the apples. Drain the raisins and sprinkle both those and the toasted nuts on top. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the gruyere on top and serve.

Click here for other escarole recipes.

Lemony Zucchini Carpaccio

by Caroline

When Tony and I were first dating, we used to eat at a wonderfully low-key Italian place, Jackson Fillmore, with the most delicious zucchini carpaccio, light and fresh with parmesan, toasted almonds and parsley. We’ve tried to replicate it a number of times but never quite gotten it right. So when this recipe appeared in my inbox this morning from Food 52, I thought it was time to try again. I thought the crunch of the raw zucchini and almonds would appeal to my son Eli, who doesn’t like cooked vegetables, and knew the zesty hit of lemon in this recipe would appeal to my lemon-loving son, Ben.

Personal preference and our pantry dictated a number of changes to the recipe; we all like almonds, so I used those, slightly toasted, in lieu of pistachios, and we didn’t have any thyme. My sea salt isn’t fine, and my grinder is full of coffee beans, so I just did a rough chop of lemon zest with coarse sea salt, which worked out fine (and the extra has now become my sons’ favorite topping for vegetables and pasta). I don’t have a mandoline, but a vegetable peeler achieves the same effect: lovely fresh ribbons of zucchini.

Click here for the original recipe; here’s how I did it:

First make the lemon zest salt by combining
• 1 tablespoon lemon zest
• 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
Mince or grind in a spice grinder and set aside. (Store the extra, sealed in a small jar, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. After that the lemon flavor will begin to fade.)

Next prepare the salad:
• 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest salt
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 4 small, fresh zucchini (about 4 ounces each), rinsed and trimmed at both ends
• 1 large ripe avocado
• 1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

1. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest salt. Add the oil and whisk to blend.
2. With a mandoline, vegetable peeler, or very sharp chef’s knife slice the zucchini lengthwise as thin as possible. Arrange the slices on a platter and pour the dressing over them. Tilt the platter back and forth to coat the slices evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, so the zucchini absorbs the dressing and does not dry out.
3. Halve, pit, and peel the avocado, and cut it lengthwise into very thin slices. Arrange the slices of marinated zucchini on individual salad plates, alternating with the avocado slices, slightly overlapping them. Sprinkle with the almonds. Garnish with another sprinkle of lemon zest salt, and serve.

Sushi Salad

by Caroline

A pretty common weekend dinner for us is homemade sushi and lately I’ve purposefully prepped enough of the ingredients that I can make a sushi salad for lunch the next day.

Our garden is producing a lot of arugula and mustard greens right now, so I picked a plateful, topped it with a scoop of sushi rice, then added chopped roasted sweet potato, fried tofu, and pickled vegetables. A sprinkle of peanuts (garbage salad-style) or sesame seeds adds some extra protein and crunch, then I dressed it with a sesame-soy vinaigrette. Delicious!

Sesame-Soy Vinaigrette
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 cup light sesame oil

Salt and pepper to taste