MultiGrain Salad with Roasted Mushrooms, Walnuts and Grapes

by Caroline

The weather’s changed this week. The fog is coming with a little drizzle and the sun is sitting lower in the sky; we don’t have many autumn leaves or crisp days here in Northern California but still, it feels like fall. And so, rummaging around — in the kitchen for ingredients and online for inspiration — I pulled together this hearty autumn salad. Unlike the original, I didn’t use farro nor wild mushrooms, but I’m guessing most everyday pantries don’t stock those either. So here’s my version, which is great on its own, would be lovely on a bed of shredded raw kale or sauteed spinach, or make a nice side dish to your roast. I eyeballed the ingredients, and of course you can adjust the proportions up or down according to your taste, but here are some ballpark measurements to get you started:

2-3 cups cooked wild or brown rice, farro, Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain mix, or some combination thereof
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 lb mushrooms (button, crimini, shitake: whatever you’ve got)
1/4 lb seedless grapes
1/4 t smoked paprika
olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400.

While the oven is heating, wash the mushrooms and grapes. Halve the grapes (I know, you probably thought you were done slicing grapes when your child outgrew her highchair, but do it for this recipe: more surface area = more deliciously caramelized fruit. Plus, they won’t skate away from your fork when you try to take a bite). Chop or tear the mushrooms into large bites. Toss them onto a large roasting sheet with the grapes and walnuts, give them a good dose of olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt, some freshly ground pepper, and the smoked paprika. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the grapes are shriveled and the mushrooms and walnuts are nicely toasted (15-20 minutes). Toss with the cooked grains, return to the oven for a few minutes to warm it all, and serve.

Garbage Salad

by Caroline

critical tools for garbage salad

When I was in 3rd grade, I ate lunch with my dad nearly every weekday. Although my school day went to 3 PM, the school didn’t permit children to eat lunch at school until 4th grade. I remember my mom grumbling that this was a conspiracy to keep moms from working outside the home, and she endured it awhile, but finally when her youngest child (me) hit eight, and having been out of the workforce since her oldest child was born (sixteen years earlier) my mom was ready to get back to work. She cobbled together a schedule for me of lunchtime playdates with friends and — since her job didn’t allow her the flexibility to drive home for lunch each day, but my father’s did — Lunch with Dad.

Lunch with Dad was great. We would sit at the dining room table, he at the end and me around the corner next to him, and play double solitaire between bites. I have no recollection of my meals – a rotating menu of sandwiches, I expect — but Dad always made what he dubbed Garbage Salad. He’d start with a plate, a big carrot and maybe one of the enormous white daikon radishes he’d grown in our front yard, and the box grater. He’d grate himself a bed of vegetables, then rummage in the fridge for good-looking leftovers and toss those on top, together with perhaps a scoop of cottage cheese and a sprinkling of peanuts and a splash of vinaigrette. He ate this nearly every day when he was home, the ingredients varying with the seasons and the contents of our refrigerator. Now that I don’t have kids coming home for lunch any more (happily, mine are fed well at school, from kindergarten on), I find myself reaching for the box grater, looking for good leftovers, and composing Garbage Salad, too.

You might want to rename your version of this salad, though sentiment and honesty will always keep it Garbage Salad in my house. As for the ingredients, I find people have strong feelings about cottage cheese, and while I like it well enough I’m not going to risk family harmony by bringing any into the house. Today, my version of Dad’s salad used more salad greens, because our CSA share is bursting with lettuces, plus a shredded beet, a shredded kohlrabi, a tomato, some leftover stir-fried green beans and some toasted pumpkin seeds. Sometimes I take the time to boil an egg and chop that into the salad, sometimes I toss in some cannellini beans. Tonight, we’re roasting potatoes for dinner, so any leftovers will likely go into tomorrow’s salad. The main thing is to get out that box grater and some shreddable vegetables – carrots, summer squash, beets, kohlrabi, parsley root, radish – and start with that base, because as my Dad taught me, they soak up your vinaigrette and make a delicious bed for just about anything you find to put on top.

Learning to Eat: Kohlrabi

by Caroline

Every summer, we visit my parents so we can glory in East Coast summer weather, grandparental (and parental) affection, and the abundance of my father’s garden. Depending on when we arrive, we might be gorging on berries or potatoes, and this year my dad promised both, but he also offered kohlrabi, a crop he had tried for the first time. “I hope you will pack your favorite kohlrabi recipes,” he emailed me before we arrived.

Well. Favorite cookie recipes, favorite muffin recipes, sure, but I had to Google kohlrabi to even know what it looks like. I’ll save you that step:

kohlrabi growing

kohlrabi on the way to the kitchen

So, as it turns out, kohlrabi is something like a turnip and something like a radish: crunchy and refreshing, with a slightly sharp tang. It’s delicious, and pretty versatile: you can eat it raw, grated into salad (recipe below), you can cook and eat the leaves (which we did, flavored with a little soy sauce and sesame oil), you can cut it into sticks and roast them (we did that, too) or make it into a gratin (which we might do when it’s cooler). Because yes, our CSA is now bringing us kohlrabi every week, so it’s a good thing we’ve learned how to cook it, because now we’ve really learned to like it!

Raw Kohlrabi Salad

First, make your vinaigrette; I like Deborah Madison’s mustard vinaigrette, from the indispensable Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone:

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Combine the vinegar, shallots, garlic and 1/4 t salt in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes, then whisk in the mustard, sour cream or yogurt, and oil until thick and smooth. Grind in a little pepper, then stir in the herbs and capers. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Then, peel and grate a pound or two of fresh raw kohlrabi, or use a mix of kohlrabi, parsley root, carrots, and beets — whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand. Dress with the vinaigrette and serve.

Salads, fast

by Lisa

Summer makes it easy to feed your family fast, fresh, healthy food that also should be really good-tasting.  It makes it easy to offer your kids a pre-dinner snack or an appetizer masquerading as a snack.  It’s become nearly ritual here, as I finish the “main” part of dinner, for the kids to sit at the bar, where we often eat, and tuck into the salads, which I prepare beforehand (sometimes at lunch, or right after school, or any fifteen minutes I have to wash and chop and toss the produce with some kind of dressing….) and set out in mini-bowls.

In summer, we like a lot of variety. Small dishes, lots of variety. This makes our market haul last longer, gives the kids a sense of choice and power and just looks prettier on the table. Last Sunday, I set out three side salads, which took maybe ten minutes to prepare, total:

White bean with olive oil, salt, fresh garlic, fresh sage

Cucumber with olive oil, salt, white balsamic, sugar, fresh dill

“Caprese” with baby tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil, salt, balsamic

We had a large green salad, dressed with my go-to mix of olive oil and white balsamic and lemon pepper, to which I’ve been obsessively adding basil and cilantro. I think cilantro is the new tarragon.

These were to go with a few links of grilled wild boar sausage (Thank you, thank you Holding Ranch! ) and grilled italian bread grilled with olive oil and salt.

All you need to keep on hand to make a range of salads are some

  • good olive oil
  • different salts (herbed, hawaiian, kosher, sea, black, etc.)
  • a range of vinegars (red wine, white balsamic, balsamic, rice wine, anything fancier that you like)
  • mustards (yellow, dijon, country..)
  • lemons and meyer lemon
  • fresh herbs
  • fresh garlic

Keep a light hand with salt, don’t pepper everything, mix acids to oil in about a  1 to 2 ratio (as in 1 part vinegar to 2 parts olive oil) and experiment.

Three Lovely Salads

by Caroline

As I approach my tenth wedding anniversary, I’ve been reminiscing about our extravagant celebration of my parents’ fiftieth, a cruise in southern France, guided over by a wonderful crew, including the inimitable Chef Charlie. Charlie made every meal an event, and now when Eli asks to light the candles or Ben folds all our napkins in a new way, I think about what we all learned at Charlie’s table.

Of course, life is not a cruise through southern France, and there is no Chef Charlie here to make one of the things I loved most about this trip: our daily lunch of les trois salades. Here, it is just me with my vegetables, but with the farmer’s market and the CSA ramping up, I’m doing pretty well with some new combinations. Check these out:

wild rice salad with oranges & pumpkin seeds

The recipe came in our CSA box, and is credited to Jonathan Miller:

2 c cooked rice (I used a mix of brown and wild rices; this is, of course, a perfect use for leftovers)
the zest and juice of one orange
3-4 more oranges, peeled, sectioned, and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/3 c toasted pumpkin seeds
a handful of chopped cilantro or parsley
a handful of spinach leaves

Toss all the ingredients in a bowl, and season with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. You could also add some grilled fish or chicken to this, or crumble in some feta or ricotta salata.

Salad #2

chickpea and dried cherry salad

This one came from Real Simple magazine; the amounts are for 4-5 people, but, like any salad, it scales up and down easily, and to taste.

6 cups of mesclun (I had baby romaine, arugula flowers, and miner’s lettuce, so it was particularly pretty)
2 carrots, scrubbed or peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 c dried cherries (a staple in my house since I discovered this recipe)
1/4 c fresh dill sprigs
4 – 5 T vinaigrette

Toss all the ingredients together, season to taste with salt & pepper, and serve.

And finally, courtesy of one of my food heroes, Jamie Oliver, comes the tarragon salad.

tarragon salad with grapes & shallots

Again, the measurements aren’t entirely precise here (I’m sure my handfuls are smaller than Jamie Oliver’s) but it’s a salad: use amounts that look good to you.

2 shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced
a pinch of sugar
4 T white wine vinegar
4 small bunches of fresh tarragon, leaves picked from the stems
4 handfuls of green and red seedless grapes, sliced in half
ricotta salata or pecorino cheese, grated on top, to taste

salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste

Toss the shallots with the sugar and vinegar and let sit a few minutes, while you pick over the tarragon and slice the grapes. Toss the tarragon with the grapes, shallots, and some of the shallot-y vinegar. Grate cheese over the top, and season with salt, pepper and olive oil.

If you don’t have lots of tarragon, or don’t want a full salad of it, by all means augment with other greens. But try it just once with nothing but tarragon; it’s delicious, and truly, you will feel transported. Perhaps not all the way to southern France, but pour a crisp white wine and slice some crusty bread, and you’re almost there…