Salad Niçoise {FFwD}

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was a perfectly simple, perfectly composed, and perfectly delicious salad.

Salad Nicoise

See, what did I tell you? Perfect.

This salad featured Bibb lettuce, parsley, boiled potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, steamed green beans, tuna, tomatoes, capers, Niçoise olives, homemade vinaigrette, and, the star of the show, anchovies. Although there were quite a few ingredients, and the potatoes, beans, and eggs had to be prepared ahead, the salad came together very quickly with minimal fuss and almost no clean up.

It might not surprise you to learn that we served this for lunch while the kids were away at school. We all really enjoyed this salad. It was pungent, salty, and quite filling, in that wonderful, salad-full sort of way.

Another keeper from Dorie to start out year four of French Fridays.

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Refrigerator Bread-and-butter Pickles {Recipe}

Behold the pickle jar!!

This jar has been through numerous incarnations in my kitchen. It was the vessel for my failed attempt at homemade sauerkraut and my way-too-successful forray into the world of Kombucha. But now it has finally found its true calling. It is the pickle jar.

Whenever I make homemade refrigerator pickles — something that is happening with increasing frequency around here lately — they begin their pickled lives in “the jar”. After a few days, when we’ve eaten a good portion of them, I’ll move the pickles into increasingly smaller containers until, alas!, they are gone, and it’s time to get out the pickle jar again.

My most recent batch was bread-and-butter pickles, which are what a pickle should be, in my opinion. I might play with the recipe a bit with future batches — mainly trying different vinegars — but they are pretty close to perfect the way they are. Give them a try and see if you agree.

Refrigerator Bread-and-butter Pickles

Ingredients

  •  Pickling cucumbers to fill a gallon jar
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, halved, and sliced
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup Kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed

Directions

  1. Wash cucumbers. Cut off and discard ends. Cut  pickles into desired size and shape. For these pickles, I prefer 1/4-inch slices.
  2. Layer cucumbers and onions in gallon jar. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough to fill it all the way.
  3. Combine sugar, salt, and vinegars in medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar and salt dissolve and mixture clarifies somewhat.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in spices.
  5. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers and onions to cover. Push cucumbers down into liquid as much as possible
  6. Cover and refrigerate.

The pickles will be ready to eat in about 24 hours (although we always start into them sooner than that) and will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely. In our house they’re always gone within a few weeks, and the last ones are as good as the first.

As I said, I might tinker with the recipe by trying different vinegars. For the next batch, I think I’m going to substitute rice wine vinegar for some or all of the apple cider vinegar. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Chunky Beets & Icy Red Onions {FFwD}

The first French Fridays with Dorie recipe for July is a simple, delicious salad consisting of roasted beets, icy onions, and a homemade honey Dijon vinaigrette.

I began by roasting the beets in the oven with a bit of water. While the beets were roasting, I prepared the onions by slicing them thinly, rinsing them in cold water, and refrigerating them in a bowl of ice water. Rinsing the onions removes the bitterness; and the ice water makes them nice and crisp.

Once the beets were tender, I let them cool, then peeled them and cut them into small chunks. Meanwhile, I made the vinaigrette, which consisted of Dijon mustard, honey, Sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. I tossed the beets and dressing together in a bowl, then refrigerated them until dinner time.

I finished the dish by adding chopped fresh parsley and thyme to the beets, then topping them with drained icy onions.

I served the beets for dinner with next week’s salmon and tomatoes en papilotte. The beets were fresh and flavorful, and the onions were crispy, spicy, and not at all bitter.

My daughter, who talked me into sacrificing one of the beets to make pickled red beet eggs, said she liked the beet salad almost as much as the pickled beets. High praise, indeed.

Quinoa, Fruit, and Nut Salad {FFwD}

There’s something you should know about me. I’m not a bandwagon kind of guy. Other than a brief and scarring few years in the ’80s, I’ve never been one to jump at the latest fad. And even in that decade of turned up collars and horrible music, I refused to wear parachute pants or sign a petition vilifying Scorsese for The Last Temptation of Christ.

So the fact that everyone these days seems to be eating, writing about, and developing recipes for quinoa has done nothing to make me want to add it to my diet. If anything, people’s adulation for this supposed uber-grain has turned me off to the idea of even trying it. So I wasn’t all that thrilled with this pick as the first French Fridays with Dorie recipe for April. I even thought about skipping it. But in the end, I decided to try it, if for no other reason than I thought the fruit, nuts, seeds, and vinaigrette might be a nice combination for a couscous salad.

I started by rinsing the quinoa, then cooking it in water to soften and expand the grains.

While the quinoa was cooking, I cut up some beautiful dried fruit that I got at the West Side Market in Cleveland. The mix contained kiwi, strawberry, mango, cantaloupe, papaya, starfruit, apple, craisins, pineapple, apricot, and several other fruits.

I mixed the chopped fruit with pumpkin and sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, and chopped parsley, stirred in the cooked and drained quinoa, then tossed the whole thing with an olive oil and lemon vinaigrette.

I had a picture of the finished product, but I somehow managed to delete it without first uploading it to my computer. You’ll have to trust me when I say it looked really appetizing.

And as for the taste, well, what can I say? Sometimes skepticism can be misplaced. I don’t know that I would eat quinoa plain like some people I know, but I could enjoy it with fruit, nuts, seed, and herbs anytime. It was best fresh, but even the next day, it was tasty and not all one big bowl of mush.

When Life Gives You Cranberries, Make Cranberry Walnut Bread

Here’s a familiar story in my house:  As the holiday cooking season nears, cranberries go on sale. When I see what a great price they are, I decide to stock up on them. I always use a couple bags to make my mom’s cranberry orange relish, but what to do with the rest? I usually wind up freezing them to use later.

But I can never figure out what to make with them, and before I get around to using any of them, they go on sale again. So I buy more. And take them home. And put them in the freezer for later. I estimate that it will be about two more years before I need another freezer.

In the meantime, I resolved to actually use some of the extra cranberries this year. And what better way to start than good, old-fashioned cranberry walnut bread?

Cranberry Walnut Bread

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • grated peel from one orange
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 1 12-ounce bag cranberries, chopped (see Note below)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Add orange peel, shortening, eggs, and orange juice and mix well with a dough whisk. Stir in cranberries and walnuts.
  4. Divide dough evenly between loaf pans. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and internal temperature reaches 185-190 degrees.
  5. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and finish cooling on rack.

Note:  It is easiest to chop cranberries in the food processor. If you try to chop them with a knife, you’ll end up with as many cranberries on the floor as on your cutting board. Be careful not to over-process, however. Four or five pulses should be sufficient.

So, there you have it. My first attempt to use up the world’s largest store of cranberries outside of Cape Cod. Oh, and in case you’re interested, my mom’s cranberry relish is really simple:  for every bag of cranberries, use one whole orange (peel and all) and a scant cup of sugar. Chop the cranberries and orange in the food processor or food grinder. Add sugar to taste and stir until the sugar dissolves. This cranberry relish will keep in the fridge for a long time, so make lots of it.

Oh, and if all else fails, I found one more use for cranberries. Bailey loves them.

When life gives you cranberries, eat 'em.

Recipe — Balsamic Reduction; Heirloom Tomato Stack

One of my favorite dishes at a local bistro is called the tomato stack. They alternate thick slices of different colored heirloom tomatoes with slices of fresh mozzarella, then top it with julienned basil strips and drizzled balsamic reduction.

I have wanted to try it myself for some time but could never figure out how to make the reduction. I searched online for recipes, but none of the recipes that called for a balsamic reduction told how to make it.

I finally found a couple of recipes, but each one was so different that it was hard to tell how to make it. So I experimented and found the right way to do it.

The thing that amazed me most was that all that went into it was balsamic vinegar. I figured there would be some sugar or other sweetener, but the vinegar gets incredibly sweet as it cooks down. So, here is my recipe:

Balsamic Reduction
Makes about 1/3 cup

Measure 1 cup of balsamic vinegar and pour into a saucepan.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low.
Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about 2/3.
It should be sweet and slightly thick; the reduction will thicken as it cools.
Great on Heirloom Tomato-Mozzarella-Basil Stacks (see below), grilled lamb, or fresh figs.

Heirloom Tomato Mozzarella Basil Stacks(Insalata Caprese)
Serves 4

4-5 ripe heirloom tomatoes, various colors
1 lb. fresh mozzarella (packed in water)
Fresh basil leaves
One recipe Balsamic Reduction (see recipe above)

Wash the tomatoes well and slice in thick slices (about 1/2 inch each).
Slice the mozzarella in thick slices.
Wash and dry the basil and julienne (see below).
On separate serving plates, alternate tomatoes and mozzarella .
Drizzle balsamic reduction on top and sides of stacks and around edge of plate.
Sprinkle basil on top and around plate.

Enjoy!!

To julienne basil, stack 4 or 5 washed basil leaves, then roll them up, cigar style.  Slice the rolled basil to make thin strips.