Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Salad Neighbor

Some New Recipes

The sewing circle has yielded a few new recipes. The neighbor is renowned for her salads and she keeps bringing them on sewing days. Cooking lunch is not high on my joy list. I get up and make breakfast for my children, occasionally pack a lunch for my husband, and always make a peanut butter sandwich for him to take to the office. He fills the bread machine, I empty it. After breakfast by the time I clean up, I'm interested in other pursuits. However, the lovely salads did inspire me to get out of my salad rut where every salad was served with soy sauce and sesame dressing with cucumbers and tomatoes, mainly because my kids will eat it.

Her first salad woke me up with spiced cashews baked with a pinch of cayenne pepper. I made a variation with walnuts. The dressing was honey mustard. I loved the spicy nuts combined with the cool yet slightly sweet mustard. I made a side of pan fried potatoes to swirl about in the tidbits of the dressing too. The salad works with a variety of salad greens.

This week the Salad Neighbor brought a Greek salad gone wild to the sewing circle. I say this because my idea of a Greek salad is a slice of feta drizzled with olive oil with cucumber and tomato slices with a pinch of salt and a crank of pepper. Her version packed a more nutritious wallop with the inclusion of garbanzo beans and artichokes. On the way home I stopped by the store so I could replicate it.

Drumming up a dinner option I considered my vegetable stock. Spinach is in season here in Japan so I have a bunch or two sitting about and two weeks ago a farmer at the market gave me some dill with the stems attached. It has been residing in a vase on the window ledge awaiting some kind of cooking metamorphosis. To compliment the oyshi Greek salad impulse, I made a spinach and dill quiche with feta. It's worth repeating. For winter warmth add a hot soup such as vegetable minestrone or heat up a carton of tomato soup.

I can't wait to return to the sewing circle as much for the sewing as for the cooking inspiration. That Salad Neighbor has some pretty interesting stories to tell too, but, alas, they are hers and not mine.

Idatakimasu I humbly receive,

Spiced Walnuts from the cookbook Stir: Mixing it up in the Italian Tradition by Barbara Lynch
Walnuts, 1/2 cup
Cayenne Pepper, 1/4 tsp
Canola Oil, 1/4 tsp
Kosher Salt, a pinch
Toss together and spread onto baking sheet. Bake 350ºF/170ºC for 5-10 minutes until toasted and fragrant. Cool.

Honey Mustard Dressing from the Salad Neighbor
White wine vinegar, 3 Tbsp
Honey, 2 Tbsp
Dijon Mustard, 3 Tbsp
Olive Oil, 1/2 cup
Kosher Salt, 1/2 tsp
Pepper, a grind or two

Whisk altogether or if you are high tech, blend in a blender. Serve with spiced walnuts, salad greens, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sliced apples, etc. This was great with a side of pan fried potato slices.

Greek Salad Gone Wild
Greek Salad Gone Wild
Salad Greens, about 3 cups, rinsed, drained, dried off with paper towel
Red onion, 1/4, thinly sliced, soak in cold water for 15 minutes then drain
Marinated Artichokes Hearts, quartered, 6 oz. jar, drained
Garbonzo beans, 1 can, rinsed, drained- Goya brand works
Kalamata Olives, 1/2 cup, about 18, sliced
Cherry Tomatoes, 1 pack, about 20, cut in half
Japanese Cucumber, 1 sliced (they are crispy)
Feta cheese, 1 brick, 8 oz, drained, cubed, save some for the quiche
Olive Oil, 1/2 cup
Fresh Lemon Juice, 3 Tbsp (1 lemon but if you use bottled lemon juice use only 2 Tbsp as it is more acidic than fresh)
Garlic, 1 clove, grated finely (powder in a pinch), cook in oil if you like it milder
Salt, 2/3 tsp
Pepper, 5 or 6 grinds
Mediterranean Oregano, fresh 1/4 tsp or dried 1/2 tsp if you have it

Prepare greens, onion, artichokes, beans, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, and cheese. Place in large salad bowl. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, grated garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano if you have. Pour over salad, toss, and serve.

Spinach & Dill Quiche
Prepared Pie Shell, 1, partially baked
Feta, a few pieces from block above chunked, and scattered onto pie crust
Fresh Spinach, 1 small bunch, boiled, drained, & chopped (if using frozen, drain & chop)
Fresh Dill, 2 Tbsp, chopped fine
Eggs, 4
Cream, 1 cup
Salt, 1/2 tsp
Pepper, 2-3 grinds

Place feta in pre-baked pie shell. Bring pot of water to boil, place bunch of spinach into boiling water for 1-2 minutes, until bright green, remove and plunge into cold water, drain, chop off stems, squeeze out water again, dice. Rinse, drain, and chop dill. Whisk together eggs, cream, salt, and pepper. Stir in spinach and dill. Pour mix into pie shell over feta chunks. Bake at 350ºF/170ºC for about 30 minutes or until quiche is set.

Pie Dough makes 2 shells
All-purpose flour, 2 cups
Sugar, 1 tsp
Salt, 1 tsp
Butter, 1/2 cup
Vegetable Shortening, 1/2 cup
Ice Cold water, 5 Tbsp

Mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut butter and shortening into flour until size of peas. You can use your fingers to smoosh the fat and flour together if you don't have a pastry cutter. Add water. Mix with your hands. Rub the flour against the heel of your hand as needed until just mixed. Form into roll and cut in half. Save half for another day in the fridge (1-2 days at most or prebake and save for another quiche). My house is freezing cold (50ºF!!!) so I don't have to put the pie dough in the fridge to firm up, but if you are in a warm house or it's summer, chill it for 30 minutes. Roll dough out on a floured surface until thin. Place into pie or tart pan and trim edges. Place parchment paper in center and fill with pie weights. Bake at 350ºF/170ºC for 15 minutes until just light brown. Remove pie weights and paper. Fill with quiche topping, and continue to cook at 350ºF/170ºC for 30 minutes or until filling is set. Place on cooling rack. Serve hot or cold. Excellent leftover.

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