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- Des, The Grommet

Salads

Shrimp and White Bean Salad with Citrus-Mint Dressing

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While a chilly winter day complete with snow flurries is thrilling in November or December, by March who needs it, especially a late season blizzard or ice storm! And it isn’t just the weather. Market produce looks tired (except for the kale and cabbage), and finding good lettuce can be a fantasy . While I now live near America’s “salad bowl,” I was born in Cleveland, so I know how winter can drag on and on.

Smoked Rainbow Trout and Endive Salad

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Just a few weeks ago I’m sure I came across a recipe for Smoked Trout and Endive Salad. It was posted by someone who said she had discovered the recipe in Alice Waters’ American Vegetable Cookbook. It sounded like a great base for a full meal salad. Later, when I attempted to check on the dressing ingredients, I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere, including Alice’s cookbook, which leads me to wonder if I dreamed it.

Stylish, Delicious Winter Salads

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Love salads as an entree but when the weather turns cold, not so much? That’s my problem. Easy to make, they can be as simple or complex as your mood or time allows, they’re healthy and, if you’re clever, you can get in your days’ worth of greens at one sitting. The problem? Facing a crisp, cold green salad on a cold, wet or snowy day! So, what’s the alternative?

Persimmon and Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Pecans

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When the weather outside is cold and damp, salad isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind when I’m planning a meal. That said, salads are a refreshing contrast to a rich, heavy stew, a hearty grain dish, or roasted meat. I like the subtle sweetness and crispness of Fuyu persimmons and Japanese pears, but if neither is available or you prefer, substitute firm, crisp apples and grapes. The salty, sharp character of blue cheese balances the sweetness of the fruit. A good appetite stimulator! And trust me on the vanilla. It always brightens salads.

Celery Walnut Salad

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Summer has arrived, which translates to grilling, barbecue and outdoor parties and activities. In other words, keep the food part quick and simple. That’s precisely what this salad is: Simple, crunchy, absolutely delicious.

Celery has a number of major health benefits,  it’s low calorie, and combined with toasted walnuts, red onion or shallots and an oil and lemon vinaigrette with just a drop or two of vanilla, it’s an easy, light salad.

Fava and White Bean Salad With Mint, Vanilla and Pistachios

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Every spring I look forward to at least one dish that includes fava beans. Like artichokes and asparagus, favas burst delicious green energy flavor. Truthfully, I never tasted favas until well into adulthood as my mother, who spent summers on her grandparents’ farm in Canada, always said that fava beans were animal feed. To that I say, “It’s good to be a cow.”

Fig and Berry Salad with Port-Balsamic-Vanilla Glaze

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Late July heralds the beginning of the US fig season. In Europe, most especially Italy, everyone who can, has a fig tree. Italian immigrants who came to the US in the late 19th and early 20th century, planted them in barrels in apartment courtyards and cottage gardens, holding onto the memory of warm figs harvested from trees in sun-baked gardens and hillsides. Although I love fresh figs, they aren’t on the radar of many Americans. When I offered some of this spectacular salad to my neighbors, several said they had never eaten figs or they tried them as kids and didn’t like them though after sampling this dish, they converted. Granted, their texture isn’t the most child-friendly, but if this was your experience, I highly recommend trying them again as an adult as you may discover how special they actually are.

Caprese Salad

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 The summer tomatoes are in – the small, intensely flavored dry-farmed ones, heirlooms of all sizes, colors and stripes and the tiny little cherry tomatoes— all soooo delicious! It’s hard to beat a combination of really ripe tomatoes, fresh, soft mozzarella, lots of basil and maybe a bed of crispy Romaine or tender butter lettuces to soak up the juices. Simple and delicious.

Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings

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Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings: 60 Sensational Recipes to Liven up Greens, Grains, Slaws and Every kind of Salad by Michele Anna Jordan; The Harvard Common Press; 2013-07-19

Although I can’t remember quite how I first  met Michele Anna Jordan, I have been a fan of hers for decades. She stayed overnight at my home years ago when she did a reading at a local bookstore, and I remember being entranced by her knowledge of wine and food. We both also share a love of vanilla though Michele is a savory food and good wine gal (but always wears a vanilla-based perfume), and I’m a “Sure I like savory foods but I also want dessert!” queen.

Avocado and Green Peppercorn Cream

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Avocado and Green Peppercorn Cream
Courtesy of Michele Anna Jordan; Vinaigrettes; Harvard Common Press

Michele says about this recipe: Early one morning in the mid 1980s, I accompanied some friends while they took their VW bus to be repaired at a dealership on the outskirts of La Paz, in central Baja California. As we left to walk into town to wait, we spotted a young boy, possibly in his early teens, wheeling a cart under a tree across from the shop. He quickly unfolded the equipment and before long was serving carnitas tacos that couldn’t have been simpler or more delicious. Two very small corn tortillas, heated on a propane-fired grill, were topped with chunks of succulent meat and then slathered with the most extraordinary avocado sauce I’d ever tasted. I stood there in the morning sun and devoured five tacos, stopping only for the sake of decorum. I’ve been making a version of that sauce ever since, and this one is my current favorite.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

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This delicious dressing recipe comes from Michele Anna Jordan’s book, Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings: 60 Sensational Recipes to Liven up Greens, Grains, Slaws and Every kind of Salad. Here’s what she says about Balsamic dressings: The simplest balsamic vinaigrette requires nothing more than good vinegar, good olive oil, a bit of salt, and a few turns of black pepper; it’s a perfect daily salad dressing, if your preferences lean toward this popular vinegar. This version is richer than that simple mixture with a layering of flavors that is quite compelling, especially when made with excellent ingredients.

Couscous Waldorf Salad

 

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Several years ago I created this spin on Waldorf Salad for a natural foods market. It was an immediate hit. What I like about it is that you can easily adapt it. Instead of blue cheese, use chevre or feta. Substitute dried cranberries or apricots for dates. You can turn it into an entrée by sauteing chicken breast, tofu or tempe then adding some of the salad dressing to the saute pan to intensify the flavor. If you want this recipe gluten-free, I suggest using quinoa as a substitute.

Orange and Avocado Salad with Citrus, Mint and Vanilla Dressing

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This is a good late winter recipe when the navel oranges are in season. If Cara Cara oranges are available, they’re wonderful! Some people believe they are a cross between a grapefruit and an orange. They aren’t, so don’t worry if you can’t eat grapefruit. Also, any of the mandarin family are good in this salad as well. Feel free to mix up the greens however you’d like. If you have access to watercress, for instance, it would add a nice peppery flavor. You may also substitute thinly sliced fennel instead of cucumber.

Tomatoes, Preserved Lemons, and Sweet Red Peppers

 

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Adapted from The Food of Morocco, by Paula Wolfert

In Morocco as in many Mediterranean countries, the salad course includes a variety of salads, and this lovely salad is a classic in that respect. It’s simple and delicious. However, as I was making this as a stand-alone salad, I added Greek olives. Olives, almonds or pistachios, cheeses, hummus and other salads would be included in a Moroccan spread, so adding a goat or sheep’s milk feta to this salad would be in keeping with Moroccan food. The vanilla? Not so much, but as it’s the theme of our site and because it actually does add a subtle boost to the cumin and red peppers in the salad, I’ve included it in this recipe. Feel free to use it or not.

Couscous Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Smoked Turkey

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 Every November I dust this recipe off. This is a great way to use up turkey leftovers as the turkey in the salad can be made with or without smoked turkey. You can also substitute chicken or smoked tofu. Because the smoked turkey makes the salad pop, I use leftovers and pick up a small package of smoked turkey and add a couple of slices. This way even picky eaters won’t notice the leftover turkey.

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For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

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