Batter Licker

January 23, 2011

mixed greens, chopped peanuts, farro and fruit salad with spicy banana-cilantro dressing

This salad has it all: protein and healthy fats from peanuts, fiber and protein from farro, various other nutrients from fresh mixed greens and fresh or dried fruit, and a whole lot of flavor from these healthy ingredients and the spicy-sweet dressing. And yes, I did put farro, the mother of all whole grains with a nuttier flavor and chewier texture than rice, in a salad.

I’ve praised the merits of farro before in a risotto-style dish, but this time around, you can blame my trip to Italy three years ago, where we stopped at a locals-only cafe that had an entire menu dedicated to salads that contained a large scoop of rice. While rice isn’t exactly what carb-avoiding salad-eaters are going for, it did add a great, chewy texture and some heartiness to salads that might otherwise leave you yearning for a carbalicious snack just a couple hours later. As a whole grain full of protein and fiber, farro achieves a longer-term fullness and isn’t exactly the same type of refined, carbohydrate-heavy grain as the white rice we’re now told to avoid.

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I love the contrasting textures in this salad – soft crunch from the greens, a hard crunch from the peanuts, chewiness from the farro, and (if you take my tip to not use dried sour cherries, which weren’t tangy enough to stand up to the spicy sweetness of the dressing, and to use tangerines, tangelos, or even grapefruit instead) the juicy explosion from fresh citrus.

The flavors were all incorporated to accommodate the banana, jalapeno, and cilantro flavors from the dressing. Peanuts pair exceedingly well with bananas, but also with the Thai-inspired cilantro, jalapeno, and ginger flavors. Nutty farro provides some savory, subdued relief from the sweetness of the banana and the spiciness of the jalapeno, and incorporating some purple lettuces provides a great bitter contrast to the banana’s sweetness. If you use a tangy, fresh citrus fruit, it will cut the creamy sweetness of the banana nicely. (more…)

January 20, 2011

swiss chard and potato soup spiced with cilantro, jalapeno and cumin

So when I loaded up on veggies, especially greens, at the grocery store on Sunday in preparation for a meat- and dairy-free week, I went a bit overboard. By Wednesday, it became clear that I was going to have trouble finishing all the lettuce, spinach, kale, and chard, and that the chard particularly needed some attention soon. But it was cold out, and I had a sore throat, and I just didn’t want to eat any more salad or sauteed greens or greens in any recognizable form, really. I wanted something warm, filling, and soothing for my throat. I wanted soup.

But none of that bland, watery soup. I wanted thick soup, rich with flavor. Then I remembered the whole bunch of untapped cilantro lying in wait in my refrigerator. And the potatoes. And the 6-pack of jalapenos from Trader Joe’s. And thus, this hearty, happens-to-be-vegan chard and potato soup was born.

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This soup is a great way to use up excess greens when they’re starting to look less-than-chipper but haven’t quite gone bad yet. While I chose chard, you could substitute spinach, kale, and even leftover lettuces – whatever excess greens you have on hand – but the darker ones will bring a bit more depth to the flavor. (more…)

December 16, 2010

pomegranate, persimmon, pear and goat cheese salad with orange-thyme vinaigrette

On those beautifully sunny winter days when it’s almost temperate outside, I long for the colorful, juicy produce of summer. In those moments, I often forget about the vibrant fruit available to spruce up winter salads, and I suspect others are guilty of making this same mistake.

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Tart pomegranate seeds and sweet pears bring some crunch to this salad, while the pulpy sweetness of persimmons is balanced by peppery arugula the creamy saltiness of goat cheese. Tossed with a sweet, slightly tangy and herby Orange-Thyme Vinaigrette, this salad showcases the best flavors and colors that winter has to offer and gives summer salads a run for their money.

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October 26, 2010

october feast: warm potato salad with bratwurst and kale in creamy mustard sauce

October might be on its way out the door, but that only gives me another reason to have a final hurrah in the form of an October feast. And what’s a better way to do that than with a colorful, flavorful, one-pot (and one foil sheet) warm potato salad with bratwurst and kale in creamy but spicy mustard sauce?

Traditional Oktoberfest meals are always so flavorful, but also so … brown. Nothing against brown food, but with plenty of options for colorful veggie add-ins, I can’t quite understand why fall feasts systematically embrace such monochromatic earth tones.

Here, I used a trio of mini potatoes to add an unbelievable zap of color, from the creamy light yellow flesh of the standard fingerling to the pink peel and bright white flesh of the red thumb fingerling to the dark purple peel and bright purple flesh of the purple majesty. All three held their coloring after roasting and developed slightly different flavors and creamy textures perfect for a potato salad.

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