Blueberry Barley and Mint Salad.

The last couple of days have been both joyful and deeply sad.  We celebrated our friends’ marriage over the weekend with a beautiful ceremony in Brooklyn, and today, I turn 31.

We also lost my husband’s grandmother this past weekend.  Mimi, as we all called her, has acted as a stand-in grandmother for me over the past decade.  She made us hand-knit slippers at Christmas and cooked the best French toast man has ever tasted.  She stocked her freezer with Peppermint Patties for the women in the family and her fridge with Yuenglings for the men.  She was an amazing mother, grandmother, and all-around person.

Last night, we made this salad, inspired by Cooking Light, as a way to nurture the soul a little bit.

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Blueberry Barley and Mint Salad

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley
  • about 1 cup mint leaves
  • about 1/3 cup olive oil
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries
  • about 5 oz arugula
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes (removes some of the sting!)
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  1. Salt the water, add the apple cider vinegar, and bring to a boil.  Add barley and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, chop all of your vegetables and place in a large salad bowl with the arugula.
  3. Add mint, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. Add hot barley to the vegetable mixture, add goat cheese, and toss thoroughly with dressing.

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The Verdict:

Even if you think this is weird – especially if you think this is weird – give this a try.  THe Husband, who doesn’t like blueberries or red onions, (& doesn’t think of salad as a “real” meal), went for seconds.  And then brought the rest for lunch.

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Spicy Sesame Turkey Meatballs & Smashed Chickpeas with Tzatziki

I’ve been waiting all week to post these bad boys.

This past weekend, Husband and I hosted my parents.  Normally, this is a good excuse to shuttle off to that restaurant we’ve been dying to try but can’t quite justify the expense…but since my parents were coming off a 3-day Civil War/college reunion tour, they wanted some home-cooked food. Enter sandman Deb Perelman.

Tip: next time your parents are coming off a 3-day Civil War tour (I’ll let you all ponder that in your heads.  Parental units hopping on and off a bus, checking out battlefields, dressed in orange and/or tiger stripes, chanting about Old Nassau.  My dad , the civil war buff, bopping about in his Abe Lincoln t-shirt.  My mom, the bewildered German, wondering when the part is when she gets to see her kids.  Makes me giggle.) make them this.

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Spicy Sesame Turkey Meatballs & Smashed Chickpeas with Tzatziki (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

for your meatballs

  • 1 pound ground turkey (use a mixture of lean and fatty meat, so it does not dry out)
  • about 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • small handful cumin
  • small handful coriander
  • large pinch of salt & pepper
  • about a tablespoon of crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (better if toasted quickly)

for your chickpeas

  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • small handful sumac
  • a big bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • a bit of lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch salt, pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper
  • olive oil
  • optional: olives (blech) or anchovy paste (yum), to add brininess

for your tzatziki sauce

  • about two cups plain Greek yogurt
  • about 1/2 cucumber, finely diced
  • juice from 1/2 lemon, plus a little grated zest
  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • optional: fresh dill, 1 clove minced garlic (there’s lots of garlic in the rest of this recipe, so I omitted it, or I should say, Husband omitted it, since he’s in charge of tzatsiki in our house!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Comine all of your meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly, using your hands, but do not overwork the meat.  Shape the meat into little golf balls.
  3. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large saute pan and brown the meatballs.  Do not overcrowd the pan.
  4. On a large pan covered with aluminum foil (to make your cleanup easier!), bake the meatballs for about 10 – 13 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, get your smashed chickpea salad going.  Combine all of the chickpea ingredients in one bowl, minus olive oil.  Mash (a potato masher works well!) together – leave it a big chunky.  Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.
  6. Finally, mix all of your tzatziki ingredients together in another bowl.  Season to taste.
  7. Serve everything together, all at once, and let the praise wash over you like a college fight song.

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The Verdict:

I know it LOOKS like a lot, but if you have the ingredients, this is easy-peasy and oh-so-good.  Mom, Dad & Husband all raved about this little combination, which we also served with salad and pita bread…tiding us all over until the next Civil War battlefield tour.

Warm Quinoa Chickpea Salad

It’s official: I’m starting to feel like a human being again.  After nearly five days of not changing out of my pajamas, I finally put on real people clothes this morning and even dragged myself to work. I do feel sort of sorry for my colleagues, who are giving me a wide berth.  I promise…I’m packing Purell.

Feeling human again started with making this salad.  There are so many strong flavors in here you can’t help but wake up the taste buds.  And let’s face it: when you start tasting again – you start feeling and thinking again.  Or at least I do.  Recipe inspired by Food and Wine, but really, you can do this with anything you have in your fridge.

IMG_3179Warm Quinoa Chickpea Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 bunches bok choy, chopped
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • olive oil
  • 2 oz feta cheese (goat also works)
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • a large handful parsley, chopped
  • simple vinaigrette – I like a dash of olive oil, balsamic, garlic powder, cumin, lemon juice, salt, pepper, crushed reds and just a splash of apple cider vinegar, whisked together
  1. Rinse quinoa well; cook according to directions.
  2. While quinoa cooks, prepare and chop all of your vegetables.  Whisk together your vinaigrette and set aside.
  3. With about 3-5 minutes to go on your quinoa, heat olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan.  Add minced garlic and chickpeas, cook about 2 minutes, or until chickpeas are warm.  Add bok choy and cook for a minute, then turn off the heat.
  4. In a large bowl, add all of your ingredients together – quinoa, veggies, chickpea, etc.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the salad. Add the vinaigrette last and serve warm.

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The Verdict:

This is the perfect meal.  It’s healthy, delicious, and oh-so-easy to make.  And the Husband, no quinoa lover, had TWO bowls.

Roasted Vegetable & Goat Cheese Salad

It is either a mark of supreme laziness or supreme awesomeness that with one 35 minute rotation through my oven last night, we now have the basis for a week’s worth of meals sitting pretty in our refrigerator.

Given that I was able to spend Sunday brunching with the Hubs, imbibing with our friends, and snoozing/alternately chowing down on cheese through the Oscars, I think we can all agree that supreme awesomeness is more likely.  Bonus: our grocery bill was kind to us this week, too.

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Roasted Vegetable & Goat Cheese Salad

  • assorted root vegetables, peeled & diced.  Note: you can use any variety you like (obviously).  This is what we roasted here at home:
    • 3 parsnips
    • 4 carrots
    • 1 sweet potato
    • 3 pounds or so butternut squash
    • 1 bulb fennel (quartered, not diced)
    • 1 red onion (quartered, not diced)
  • 1 bag baby spinach
  • dried cranberries
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • homemade dressing (or any dressing you like)
  • optional: nuts, prosciutto, etc.

(Do we even need directions?)

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Peel, dice and appropriately chop your vegetables and scatter in large baking dishes.  Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper; feel free to use your favorite spices, as well.  Roast for about 35 minutes.
  2. As the veggies come out of the oven, assemble your salad – the warmth of the vegetables will slightly melt the goat cheese, creating a delicious creaminess, and lightly wilt the spinach.  Spoon a little dressing over the salad and serve immediately.  Preferably with some cheese + charcuterie.

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The Verdict:

The Husband was highly skeptical of a “salad” for dinner.  I sweetened the deal with an accompanying cheese board, and we both went to bed with full & happy stomaches.  I just wish that bedtime had happened a little earlier…too much Oscars!

Salad Rules: Chickpea and Radicchio with Tahini

So we know Ina and Martha are in a battle for the number one spot in my kitchen.  But clearly, there’s another queen of daytime television (maybe not the Food Network, but she HAS been dubbed the “queen of all media”) that we’ve been neglecting.  I’m talking, of course, about Oprah.

I was never a big Oprah Winfrey Show fan.  There was something a little too voyeuristic about the emotions and tears shared and shed on air (that might be the New England in me).  But I will admit it: reading O Magazine has become a huge (if guilty) pleasure.  This recipe from the January issue (with a few tweaks, of course!).

Chickpea and Radicchio Salad with Tahini Dressing

  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly chopped (white parts discarded)
  • a big handful parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • handful ground cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons or so olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons or so tahini
  • 1 head radicchio, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced (because the number one rule about salad: it’s always better with avocado)
  1. Put chickpeas in a saute pan and pour enough water to cover them, just barely.  Bring to a simmer over low heat and heat all the way through.
  2. While chickpeas heat, combine scallions, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl.  Mix in the tahini and coat with the olive oil.  Drain the chickpeas, add them to the bowl, and give it a good toss.
  3. Add the radicchio to the bowl and toss with the chickpea mixture.  Serve with parsley, avocado, and a few turns of cracked sea salt.
avocado makes everything better.
avocado makes everything better.

The Verdict:

Um, hello, Oprah!  (Or rather, Deborah Madison, who wrote the recipe.)  I once read somewhere that radicchio is “bawlingly bitter.”  That’s a bit true – and this salad would probably be even better if I had done a quick toss of the radicchio and olive oil in a warm saute pan.  But even as is, this was completely delicious.  A definite repeat!