A Big Bowl of Salad Could Change Your World

Salad

Homer Simpson says, “You don’t make friends with salad,” but I’d like to counter that with this- if you eat lots of salads you will probably be more likeable in the eyes of others and therefore, you just might make new friends. Salads are a good way to put tons of vitamins and nutrients into your body all at once. They can make you feel so good which will make you be happier (Umm, this statement has definitely not been approved by any medical or government organization.), which will therefore make people want to be friends with you. Adding more salads to your diet and eating less non-salad foods can make you sexier and Lord knows, we could all use some more sexy in this world. And let’s face it, salads are delicious. They really are. If you don’t like salads, maybe you’ve just never had a good salad.

This first salad, I came up with, like many recipes in our house, because I had these ingredients on hand and already in my kitchen. But it was so good, I made it again. It has lots of herbs that are really yummy with the Manchego cheese. It’s a little bit Mexican and a little bit Spanish and a whole lot of tasty. It’s a meal in a bowl, however, it would also be great as a side salad with grilled fish or meat.

Manchego Salad

Veggie Salad with Manchego and Cilantro Lime Dressing
(These portions are enough to serve two or me.)
Salad:
A Good Mix of Lettuces and Greens
Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half
¼ Red Bell Pepper, cut into small pieces
½ Avocado, cut into cubes
1-2 Red Potatoes, diced and cooked in water until done, then drained and cooled
1 Green Onion, chopped
1 medium sized piece of Manchego Cheese, cut into small pieces

Dressing:
1 medium sized Bunch Fresh Cilantro
1 small Bunch Fresh Oregano
1 clove Garlic
Juice of ½ a Lime
⅓ Jalapeno, seeded
2 Glugs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Water
Sea Salt to taste

Mix all the salad ingredients together in a medium bowl. Blend all the dressing ingredients together in a blender or little food processor. Pour dressing over and toss.

This next salad is an adaptation of a Hugh Acheson recipe for Dill Pickle Vinaigrette, which he pairs with a salad of local lettuces, feta, and radishes. We made this for our cookbook club and it was great, however, this dressing really made me crave a salad of potatoes and asparagus so I made it again, changing it a bit, and served it as such.

Dill Pickle Dressing

Potato & Asparagus Salad w/ Dill Pickle Vinaigrette
Spring Lettuces
3-4 Red Potatoes, cubed and cooked in water, drained, and cooled
1 bunch Steamed Asparagus, cooled

Vinaigrette:
3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Grainy Mustard
1 Clove Garlic
1 cup Sliced Kosher Dill Pickles
3 Tbsp Fresh Dill
1 Tbsp Fresh Tarragon
Red Pepper Flakes

Mix all vinaigrette ingredients together in a blender or small food processor. Pour over salad and toss.

Dill Pickle Salad

This next salad was featured on a post for my friend Dolan’s blog recently but I really enjoyed it and wanted to share it here as well. For a meal suggestion with this slaw (yes, slaws are salads, too), you can visit the original post here.

Slaw

Ginger Pear Slaw
1 Bartlett Pear, cored and then cut in slices and then thin 1” pieces
1 small Green Cabbage, thinly chopped
1 bunch fresh Cilantro, chopped
1” piece of fresh Ginger, peeled
1 Shallot, peeled
Juice of 1 Lime
½ cup Brown Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Honey
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix the pear, cabbage, and cilantro together. Mix remaining ingredients together in a food processor or blender to form the dressing. Pour over the cabbage, pear, cilantro mixture and stir.

I used to get so bored with salads but that was because I just wasn’t being creative with them and adding variety into how I made them. Once I realized that you can make any raw veggies into a salad, a whole new way of eating opens up. Raw food doesn’t have to be some new age, crazy way of eating and altering your life. It can be as simple as stopping at the farmer’s market on your way home, buying a few incredible veggies from the farmer who grew them, chopping them up and throwing in a bowl with some herbs and seasonings. A big bowl of color. See, even before it hits your mouth, it makes you happy. Eat up!

Simple salad of tomatoes, cukes, avocado, herbs, salt & pepper. Perfect summertime side or light lunch!

Simple salad of tomatoes, cukes, avocado, herbs, salt & pepper.

Oh, and with spring almost gone and summer creeping up on us, I’d like to mention that salads are excellent with French  Rosés. You know, wine. Oh, I know how much disrespect Rosé gets. Pull out a Rosé and you get a similar reaction that you get when you try to discuss Quiche with boys. Real men don’t eat quiche just as wine drinkers turn their noses up at Rosé. Well, I know lots of real wine folks and they all drink Rosé. I’m not talking about the super sweet cheap American version of pink wine that your granny used to sneak. I am referring to the dry French style. These are delicious and go great with salads and most all of those early summer foods! So, drink up! If you don’t want to believe me, go ask someone here or here. They can advise you and help you find just the right one to help you enjoy all these salads a wee bit more.

Rose

And while you eat your salads, you might enjoy this…

Our buddies and fellow Nashvillians, Los Colognes, have a new album out called, Working Together. Get it now! Not only is it awesome, these guys are really good people. And they appreciate good food, in case you were wondering. Win-win, all around I’d say. See how that works? You give them your money so they can buy good food and their hard work makes you happy and your salads more palatable.

Anxiously Awaiting Those Summer Vegetables…

Spring is rapidly moving into Summer as the cicada songs continue to fill the Nashville air and last evening, one lone lightning bug appeared in our yard. The local neighborhood farmer’s markets are just starting up and now we sit and anxiously await as the summer produce comes rolling in! Here’s a sampling of what we’ve been cooking up in the mean time…

I’ve really been on a salad dressing kick lately.

Beet & Humboldt Fog cheese salad with Herby Tangerine Vinaigrette

As a child growing up in South Carolina, we spent many weekends and weeks during the summer visiting my grandparents in rural Virginia. Papa had a huge farm with lots of yummy vegetables. Nana made a big pan of cornbread and cooked up all those veggies every day at noon for dinner. (Super was a snack and usually eaten around 5pm). On Sundays she even made homemade fried chicken! One thing she always had was a simple salad made of fresh lettuce from the garden and spring onions with a drizzle of warm vinaigrette consisting of apple cider vinegar, a little sugar, vegetable oil, salt and pepper. The warm vinaigrette would very gently wilt some of the lettuce. This always smelled so good to me but as a child yet I never ate it because I wouldn’t eat raw onions. As an adult, I have often thought back on that simple salad as I would really enjoy it now. Last weekend while visiting my Mom, she had lettuce from Mary Bauld’s garden and some spring onions from her garden so I suggested she make it as I wasn’t even really sure how Nana made the vinaigrette. It was delicious! We added cucumbers at my request.


A simple delight and a nice accompaniment to all those great summer vegetables. The vinegar just feels so cleansing, too. It is so easy to eat a more vegetarian diet during the summer.

What’s delicious with grilled meat, almost as tasty as mashed potatoes but way more nutritious, and orange all over? Butternut Squash Mash! I keep trying to come up with delicious and different ways to enjoy squash. I dearly love yellow summer squash but I am not a huge fan of other squash and neither is Grant, yet, squash is so nutritious and very plentiful and it is easy to find locally grown so we really want to incorporate more into our diet. Here’s a super easy, delicious side dish that lends itself easily to many exciting variations. The squash gets so soft when roasted that it isn’t even necessary to add stock or milk to thin it out before mashing. I used herbs and roasted garlic to spice it up but you could also use some blue cheese or gruyere, add some caramelized sweet onions, etc…

Butternut Squash Mash

1 butternut squash, cut in half with seeds scooped out
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 cloves roasted garlic
herbs de Provence
sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 450. Place squash halves face down in an oven proof baking dish and fill with about 1” water. Roast in oven for about 45 minutes. About 15 minutes into the roasting, place a head of garlic (with the top cut off and a little olive oil drizzled over) into the oven on a piece of foil, a dish or on a cookie sheet. Remove squash and garlic from oven and discard the remaining water from the dish. Turn the squash over, let cool a little. Be careful, it will be very hot. Scoop out the insides of the squash into a bowl. Add butter, 5 cloves of the roasted garlic. Toss in a few pinches of herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Mash squash and stir to mix it all together.

Another great for you but not always the tastiest of ingredients to us is quinoa. Grant, in particular, is not fond of quinoa so from time to time, I try to come up with some new way to disguise it. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) was the principal grain of the Incas. (It’s ancient!) Botanically, however, it isn’t really a grain at all. It belongs to the Chenopodium family which also includes beets, spinach, chard, and sugar beets. It is very easy and quick to prepare and it is packed with numerous health benefits. It is known as a high energy food and easy to digest. Quinoa offers a great amount of high quality protein and amino acids. It has more calcium than milk and it is rich in minerals. The below recipe even got Grant’s approval, although, I’m pretty sure one could mix any number of ingredients, stuff it in a pepper, and top with cheese and the end result would be quite satisfying.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
I cooked up the quinoa following the directions on the package. I used red quinoa, which is really pretty. I sauteed some onion and mixed it and the quinoa with the following- frozen corn, raw chopped spinach, a can of diced green chilis, chopped cherry tomatoes, sea salt and pepper, ground cumin, and some grated sharp cheddar cheese. I cut the peppers in half and then stuffed each half with the mixture. I then placed the peppers in a baking dish, covered with foil, and baked at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour. I then removed the foil and topped each with a little more shredded cheese and baked for about 10-15 minutes more. These made for a colorful and quite tasty little side dish!

Oh asparagus, how I love you! Every Spring, I can never get enough. Asparagus originated in the desert regions of North Africa and was used medicinally long before it was enjoyed as a vegetable. The Greeks and Romans used it for relieving pain from toothaches and for preventing bee stings. The actual medicinal property of asparagus is a substance called asparagine. It is nature’s most effective kidney diuretic, breaking up any oxalic and uric acid crystals stored in the kidneys and muscles and eliminating them through the urine (thus the sometimes strong odor in urine!). Asparagus helps to fight against cancer as it is chocked full of vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid and Vitamins B1, B2, and B3. That’s a lot of B! We love asparagus simply steamed with some lemon, salt and pepper but we also throw it into salads and risottos such as in this recipe below…

Seafood Risotto
serves 4-6

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small Vidalia onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken or seafood stock
12 Asparagus spears, cut in small pieces
fresh herbs (I used parsley & thyme), chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1-1 ½ cups Parmesan Reggiano, grated
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 can baby clams (mix the juice with the stock)
12-16 fresh (or freshly thawed) shrimp
½ lb fresh bay scallops
juice of half a lemon

The key to cooking risotto is to stir constantly so be sure to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Heat stock in medium sauce pan. Add sea salt and pepper and the clam juice. Stir. Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat oil in large flat pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute. Add garlic and mushrooms. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add rice. Stir. Add wine and stir until wine is absorbed. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the asparagus. Meanwhile, in another sauce pan, heat butter and add the seafood in. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped herbs, lemon zest, and parmesan to risotto and stir. Once seafood is done, add it to risotto.

Seafood Risotto served with slow cooked sliced carrots and shallots in butter.

Don’t forget that left over risotto makes yummy risotto cakes!!!

I found the first peaches of the season and made some peach and blackberry pies for my family while in S.C.!

This week we look forward to our buddy, Knut Bell’s return to Nashville. You can read more about this great big old school country voice from the Pacific Northwest on Grant’s blog here.

Knut Bell- Nashville, April 2011

For The Good Times

2009- Ray Price talking with Eddie Stubbs @ CMHF on his friendship and work with Hank Williams.

We moved to Nashville five years ago in June. My sister got us tickets to our very first show at the Ryman Auditorium for my Birthday that July. We saw the amazing Ray Price! It was such an exciting night. We got all dressed up. Our seats were perfect- right up front on the floor and a little to the left side. As we walked in and got situated on our pew, the older woman beside me leaned over and said, “They let you in? Did they card y’all?” I have to admit, I did feel like a spring chicken in that crowd. Ray Price is one of our favorites so we knew we needed to see him but we had no idea his voice was still so strong at 80 years old (he’s 85 now and still going strong). What an amazing voice and a backing band of top notch A-list players that would have made any performer jealous. Our friend Buddy Spicher was one of several fiddle players.

Here’s a youtube find from the same year of one of my favorite Ray Price songs…

And here’s a clip I found from 1962 which features Buddy Emmons on pedal steel!

A few weeks ago, Grant got the opportunity to play with an incredible steel guitar player named Danny Muhammad. Danny Muhammad is one of Ray Price’s steel players.

Danny & Grant playing with Sarah Gayle Meech @ Bluegrass Inn

What a treat to get to see him play. He is such an amazing player and looks like he has so much fun. Danny is a little more animated than most pedal steel players. As I listened to him play, I was reminded of the very first time Grant and I saw Danny Muhammad back when we first moved to Nashville and Danny was playing in one of the honky-tonks down on Lower Broadway. He had a telecaster strapped to his chest, a pedal steel in front of him, and a sandwich in one hand. We remembered being totally impressed with his ability to multi-task AND play pedal steel so well! This, my friends, brings me to the food portion of my blog (nice transition, eh?)…

Grant just celebrated a Birthday and we have a tradition of allowing the Birthday person to make all the decisions for the whole week- the important decisions such as what to eat and what fun we should get into! Grant loves fish sandwiches so I decided it was time for me to learn how to make a good fish sandwich. They were quite delicious. Here’s what I did…

Fish Sandwiches
2-4 pieces Talapia
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup medium corn meal
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cane sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
dash Tabasco
grapeseed oil for frying

Mix flour, corn meal, and spices (salt-sugar) in a bowl. (Note: All these spices can be adjusted to your taste.) In another bowl, mix together egg, buttermilk, and hot sauce. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium high. Dip fish in buttermilk mixture and then in the flour mixture. Place in hot oil. Fry fish for about 3 minutes on each side- until coating is golden brown. Serve on a good quality bun with mustard, pickles, onion, lettuce, and tomato. Extra hot sauce is advised! 😉

And with these yummy Provence sandwich rolls left, we came up with another new sandwich, a Gruyere pickle sandwich, using cave-aged Gruyere, mini dill pickles sliced, and a good grainy mustard. It was delicious!!!

I’ve been really excited about making salad dressings lately, too. These organic Cara Cara oranges are making me really happy lately. I used these to make this delicious simple salad. I steamed some beets to accompany the salad (I didn’t want them to turn the salad red so I served them on the side). I used some of the orange in the dressing and then cut some up to throw in the salad as well. Also good with this salad was some Noble Springs Dairy’s Southall Gouda, an aged goat’s milk gouda. Deeelicious!

Citrus Vinaigrette
1 handful/ bunch fresh parsley
a few big glugs of extra virgin olive oil
juice of ¼ lemon + 3 sections of orange
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp blasamic vinegar
¼ tsp fennel seeds
grated orange zest
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients together. I used a mini food processor.

We also made a slightly different version using sultana raisins in place of the oranges and omited the lemon juice and fennel seeds. I shredded carrots in the salad which was reminiscent of the grated carrot raisin salad I remember my Mother fixing as a child.

Grant and I came up with a new biscuit, too. We added cinnamon and sugar to our usual recipe to create a yummy sweet version.

Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits
2 cups White Lily all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
2/3-3/4 cup buttermilk
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

for topping:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut butter into pieces and add to bowl. Mix with hands gently until the butter is in crumbs the size of peas. Blend in buttermilk and gently mix in but do not over mix. Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead gently 2-3 times. Roll dough to 1/2″ thickness. Cut using a biscuit cutter. Place on cookie sheet. Mix the ingredients for the topping and then brush over biscuits with a pastry brush. Bake 6-8 minutes or until golden on tops.

Mini biscuits are great to take to a brunch with friends.