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Soups & Salads

Soups & Salads

Cucumber Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Pickled Onion

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Earlier this summer we joined Comeback Creek Farms Summer CSA Program. For eight weeks, I drove to Local Restaurant in Deep Ellum and picked up my assorted produce box. June, July, and August were known as the months of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini. Lots and lots and lots of zucchini.

One dish I made that I just loved was this Cucumber Salad from Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2015 issue. The minds behind this simple yet delicious dish are chefs Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas of Olamaie in Austin. Like all great working relationships, the chefs met while cooking together at L.A.’s Son of a Gun where they shared their passion for classic Southern cooking.

Texas is meat country, so eating composed vegetable dishes like this is a real treat for me. I loved everything about it: cool refreshing cucumbers, buttermilk dressing, pickled onions, and sunflower seeds. It’s crunchy, creamy, and the perfect dish to make when it’s 100+ degrees outside and you don’t want to turn on your oven.

Cucumber Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Pickled Onion:

Ingredients:

Pickled Onion:

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Salad:

  • 3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 3 Kirby cucumbers, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Sunflower sprouts, roasted sunflower seeds, and tarragon leaves, for garnish.

Instructions:

For the pickled onion: In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, water, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat; add the onion. Allow to cool in the warm liquid, then refrigerate until chilled.

For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the salad: In a medium bowl, toss all of the cucumbers with the vinegar and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the cucumbers with salt and pepper and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

Spoon the dressing into the bottom of a shallow serving bowl, and top with the dressed cucumber salad. Drain the onions from the pickling liquid and scatter over the cucumbers. Garnish with sunflower sprouts (if you’re using them, I found them hard to find at the grocery store), sunflower seeds, and tarragon leaves. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and top with finishing salt. Serve immediately.

Soups & Salads

Kale and White Bean Soup

DSC_0192This soup is my take on a Winter Minestrone, minus the pasta and potatoes.

Soup was never something I craved, but as I get older it’s all I want to eat. Doesn’t matter if it’s a puree of winter squash and sweet potato, or a bowl of pho or ramen from one of my favorite spots in the city. I can’t think of a single food that is more therapeutic and comforting than soup. Especially during these chilly winter months.

I searched our cabinets high and low for foods I could put together to make a pantry meal, and two small bunches of kale, canned tomatoes, white beans, chicken stock, bacon, and mirepoix is what I ended up with. I wanted to add some complexity and flavor to the broth, so I grabbed a rind of Grana Padano from my freezer and added it to the soup while it simmered.
DSC_0206If there’s one thing you should start adding to all of your hearty braises and soups, it’s a Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano rind. It elevates everything. I have a pretty serious surplus of them in my freezer, so I’m planning to make this Parm Broth in the near future.

You can easily build on this recipe. Want sausage or pancetta instead of bacon? Brown the sausage first before you add the onions and rest of mirepoix. Want to add fresh herbs? A sprig of rosemary would make this sing. You can also add pasta.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the cheese rind. Without it, I’m certain this soup would have fallen flat.

DSC_0230Kale and White Bean Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 slices of bacon, finely chopped
  • 2 small bunches of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1-14 ounce can fire roasted or diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano rind
  • 1-15½ ounce can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • minced parsley and grated cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

In a large dutch oven add the olive oil and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, carrots, celery, bacon, and garlic and simmer until the onions are translucent and soft, and the bacon has rendered some of its fat, about 10 minutes.

Add the kale and season with salt, and cook for about 2 minutes until wilted. Add the tomatoes and increase heat to medium high and cook until the tomatoes caramelize and most of the water has evaporated, making sure to stir occasionally. Adjust heat to medium or medium low if the paste is starting to over caramelize and burn.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans and add 3/4 of the beans to a blender, along with 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Blend for a minute or so until extremely smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining chicken stock, and cheese rind to the kale mixture and bring up to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The soup is done when the kale is tender to your liking. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Ladle into bowl and top with minced parsley and grated cheese. Serve hot.

Soups & Salads

Pozole Rojo (Pork and Hominy Soup with Red Chilies)

Holy Shit Can We Be Done With The Soup Photos Already k thx bye-1

When the temperature begins to cool I often find myself craving bowls of soul warming soups and stews. It wasn’t always this way. After culinary school, I obtained a line cook position that put me squarely in charge of making large batches of soup for the lunch shift. I hated the stuff back then, often associating it with something only old people wanted to eat.

Man was I wrong. I grew to eventually learn that soup is one of the most delicious, satisfying dishes on the planet. I made borscht in the winter, parsnip apple soup in the fall, and chilled cucumber soup in the summertime. I was amazed at my handiwork. It was also when I began cooking intuitively, without a recipe. I never felt so free.

One of my favorite soups in the world to eat is a big bowl of Pozole Rojo with all the fixins. I made it countless times when I was a teenager, always asking advice from experts (usually my boyfriend’s grandmothers), and I quickly learned that everyone had a different way of making it. Some suggested pigs feet and neck bones to enrich the broth, and some created intensely personal combinations of chilies for the puree. No matter what pathway I took, it was always delicious.

I found this Gourmet Magazine recipe last weekend while searching online for one. Instead of serving limes on the side, I added a lot of fresh juice to each batch I reheated along with a pinch of salt. It took it exactly where it needed to go.

Pozole (or any soup in general) is a great dish to consider for a party. It makes plenty. It almost always tastes better once it’s reheated, and the array of garnishes allows everyone to personalize their own bowl. I like to serve it alongside sliced radishes, minced white onion, shredded green cabbage, avocado, and fresh cilantro.

The chili paste is a melt your face off rich and spicy condiment I made out of the Pok Pok cookbook. More Thai than Mexican, I decided to use it as the spice delivery vehicle. I find myself putting it on pretty much everything lately, it’s that delicious.

SPOT FREE LOVE YOU MEAN IT-2

Pozole Rojo (Pork and Hominy Stew with Red Chilies)

adapted from Gourmet Magazine
yield: 5 quarts (about 8-10 main course servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head garlic
  • 12 cups water
  • 4 cups homemade chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
  • 3 ounces dried New Mexico red chilies
  • 1½ cups boiling-hot water
  • ¼ large white onion
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • two 25-30 ounce cans of white hominy

Accompaniments:

  • sliced radishes
  • shredded cabbage
  • minced white onion
  • diced avocado
  • minced cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • tortilla chips or fried corn tortilla strips
  • your favorite Mexican hot sauce
  • dried Mexican oregano

Instructions:

Peel garlic cloves and make sure to reserve two of them for the chili sauce. Slice the remaining peeled garlic. In an 8-quart stock pot or kettle, bring water and stock just to a boil with the pork and garlic. Skim the surface and add the crumbled oregano. Reduce the heat and allow the pork to simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it is tender enough to pull apart.

While the pork is simmering, remove the stems from the chilies and add to a bowl along with the boiling water. Soak the chilies, making sure they’re completely submerged, about 30 – 45 minutes. Seed and chop the chilies into pieces and add them to the blender with the soaking liquid, onion, garlic, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Puree on high until smooth, about 3 – 4 minutes.

Once the pork is tender, place on a cutting board and shred with two forks, discarding the bones and large pieces of fat. Add pulled pork, rinsed hominy, chili paste, and the remaining teaspoon of salt back to the broth and allow to simmer, about 30 minutes.

Taste for seasoning and balance, and add additional salt and fresh lime juice if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with prepared accompaniments.

Soups & Salads

Radicchio Apple Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

Radicchio – while amazing – can be a polarizing chicory; people either love it or loathe it. I happen to love its spicy and bitter flavor, but it wasn’t always love at first bite.

There is no shortage of amazing radicchio salads in Portland restaurants; Tasty and Sons comes to mind, as well as Nostrana. While both are delicious my favorite radicchio salad can be found at Olympic Provisions. I was a line cook at OP before I moved to Texas, and chef Alex Yoder made an amazing radicchio salad using both a sherry vinaigrette and sherry gastrique. The gastrique is the perfect balance of sour and sweet, and once combined with bitter radicchio, creamy goat cheese, fresh shallot, fried almonds, and spicy pepper the flavors are bold yet harmonious.

I decided to ride the sweet note a little further and added chopped apples and honey coated almonds to mine. I also used blue cheese for its bold, pungent flavor. The end result – garnished with lots of cracked black pepper – was the flavors of Fall on a plate. This salad is versatile, so experiment with vinegars, nuts, fruits, and cheeses to make this one your own. To say we devoured this with reckless abandon while standing in our shoebox of a kitchen would be a gross understatement.

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Radicchio and Apple Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

yield: serves 4 to 6. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 small to medium head radicchio, cored, cleaned, and thinly sliced
  • 1 gala apple, cut into half moons or match sticks
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 oz blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup honey roasted almonds, halved
  • salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Sherry Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Sherry Gastrique

  • 2:1 sugar to vinegar ratio (I used 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup sherry vinegar)

Instructions:

Core and thinly slice radicchio. Soak in very cold water to remove some bitterness. Spin dry and set aside. Wash apple, core and slice thinly. Add prepared radicchio, sliced shallots, apples, blue cheese crumbles, and nuts to bowl. Drizzle with sherry vinaigrette. Toss and season with salt and pepper.

Mound salad on plate.  Garnish with additional blue cheese or nuts (if desired) and lightly drizzle a teaspoon of sherry gastrique over the top. Garnish with a couple cracks of black pepper.

Sherry Vinaigrette:

Combine all ingredients in a squeeze bottle and shake vigorously for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Taste for seasoning. If the vinaigrette tastes flabby or oily add more salt. You want it to taste bright and vibrant.

Sherry Gastrique:

Combine sugar in a non reactive saucepan with a tablespoon or so of water and swirl the pan to combine. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once the water evaporates the sugar will begin to boil and turn amber in color. Once this happens remove it from the heat and immediately pour in the vinegar. I stand back and wait for it to stop popping and bubble. Once it stops I whisk continuously until completely incorporated. Transfer to a metal container and put in the freezer to help it set. After about a half hour in the freezer move to the fridge. The gastrique will keep for a very long time.