I'm always looking for new twists on a green salad and was inspired by Cooking Light's "Easy Pasta Salad Recipes for 250 Calories" column in the June issue. It features some real neat combinations that I thought lent themselves just as easily to any kind of salad - tossed over greens or mixed with a grain such as bulgar, barley or farro. Cherry-Almond Crunch was the combo I chose: ¾ cup pitted halved fresh cherries + ¼ cup thinly sliced toasted almonds + 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil + 1.5 ounces crumbled goat cheese. I happened to have some cooked tri-color quinoa on hand and thought that would be a nice addition, so I mixed all these ingredients together in a separate bowl and then gently tossed them over a combination of some mixed baby greens with herbs and Mizuna lettuce - a interesting locally grown green I picked up at Whole Foods. It reminded me of arugula - with the same deep green, long, thin and spiky leaves. I did a little research on it and discovered it is a cool season Japanese mustard green often used in salads but can also be incorporated into stir-fries and other cooked dishes. For a dressing I mixed together some vanilla yogurt, mustard and lemon juice, then thinned it out with a little water. The end result was delicious!
I've mentioned before how roasting vegetables really brings out their flavor; it also softens their texture and nicely crisps or caramelizes the outside.
For this dish, I placed one yellow bell pepper (cut into strips), 1/2 of a sliced Vidalia onion and 2 garlic cloves (left whole in their skins) on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and lightly sprayed with olive oil. I gave the vegs another quick spray and sprinkled them with some seasoning salt. (Tip: get a Misto olive oil sprayer - no need to buy cooking spray anymore!). I baked them at 425 for about 15 min, turning once. Then I added some grape tomatoes to the pan and baked the mixture for another 5 min or so. At this point I removed the pepper, placed it in a zip-lock bag, and sealed it, and transferred the onion and garlic to a plate to cool. I then added about a 1/2 pound of shrimp to the pan with the tomatoes and squeezed a little lemon over them, added another spray of olive oil and a few shakes of lemon pepper. After baking for about another 5 min, I took the pan out of the oven and folded the aluminum over the tomatoes and shrimp to keep warm. I peeled the papery covering off the garlic and put it in the work bowl of my food processor with the onion. I then took the pepper out of the baggie, gently removed the charred skins and added it to food processor with about 1/4 cup pitted olives, aout 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper, a few sprigs each of basil and lemon balm, and a drizzle of olive oil. I pulsed all this together just a few times so it stayed chunky. I added this to the shrimp mixture and gently tossed it with some cooked spaghetti and garnished with a few basil leaves. Yum!
Ok, so I know I have blogged about farro before. But I really LOVE this grain. Hearty and toothsome, farro lends itself perfectly to a satisfying vegetarian meal, especially when mixed with earthy mushrooms, green garbanzo beans and some smoked sun dried tomatoes.
It has been a chilly spring here in the Northeast so I had been in the mood for some warm, rich-flavored stew. I knew I wanted to use farro, and I remembered I had a lovely package of button portobello mushrooms on hand to combine with it -So I sautéed the mushrooms with some garlic, sweet onion, and a chopped zucchini. Next I added the julienned sun-dried tomatoes to lend a complex, smoky flavor, a few ounces of green garbanzo beans, some snipped fresh rosemary and a few generous shakes of seasoning salt. Then I mixed in the farro (about a cup) to let it get a nice sizzly coating in the sauté pan. After about a minute or two I transferred the mixture to my slow cooker and added two cups of vegetable broth and set it to high. I cooked it on high for a couple hours and then cut it back to low. That's it! It made the house smell yummy and was a fitting complement for the cool evening - reminiscent to mushroom-barley soup or pilaf.
Roasted eggplant is delicious any which way you slice it. It is great for vegetarians since it has a meaty texture, and the roasting caramelizes the outside - bringing out the flavor and keeping the inside tender. I often cut an eggplant into small bites and roast it in a very hot oven with whatever vegetables I have on hand - zucchini, onion, tomatoes, etc. and serve it over pasta with some chopped mint - simple, summer, yum! It is equally good roasted whole, then peeled and the pulp whirled into a food processor with some garlic and other spices and made into baba ghanoush.
This time I thought - how can I incorporate roasted eggplant into a salad? I had picked up a couple of gorgeous Sicilian eggplants at Whole Foods. Sometimes referred to as "Zebra" or "Graffiti" eggplant, this variety is slightly smaller than the classic "black beauty" - with a wider base and purple skin streaked with white. I chopped them up along with part of a large sweet onion and some garlic. I put this mixture in a large roasting pan lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Over top I drizzled a little olive oil and snipped a sprig of fresh rosemary and some oregano. Then I sprinkled a little smoked paprika and some seasoning salt and popped it in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. At this point I then added a large chopped tomato and about half a package of thawed green garbanzo beans (another Whole Foods find - check the frozen vegetables section - these are fantastic!) I mixed it all together and then roasted for about another 15 minutes. To make the salad, I lined a salad bowl with some chopped romaine lettuce, then put the roasted vegs on top and added a peeled, sectioned clementine and some crumbled goat cheese. Then I drizzled a little citrusy yogurt dressing - plain yogurt, a little lemon juice and some honey over it all. It was great last night and even better today for lunch after the flavors got a chance to really blend!
So much of our history can be learned through food!