Saturday, July 3, 2010

Nutty salad

Ok, maybe you don't really need a salad recipe. I mean, it's just lettuce, dressing, and other stuff, right? But maybe you do need some inspiration to go out a make one. This is a little salad I whipped up with the spiced nuts I made the other day (ok, I didn't actually use those spiced nuts, but I could have -- these were from another batch and a different recipe that didn't achieve total awesomeness like the one I posted.)

First step: make a Key lime pie and use the leftover egg whites to make spiced nuts.

Next step: clean your lettuce. (Ugh, this is the reason I put off making salads more than I should. It's no fun. But there's no way around it, so SOLDIER ON!) It's a good idea to dry your lettuce after you wash it, othewise your salad will suck.
Back in a former life, I grew salad greens on top of a warehouse in Toronto. I had set up a little feasibility study to see if I could make a buck at it. It worked out pretty well, but I realised I was out of my league when the owner of an Italian restaurant, after sampling my arugula and declaring it the best he'd ever tasted, asked me how many crates I could get him (my scale was of the ziploc freezer bag magnitude, so that was pretty much that). ANYWAY, cleaning greens was a big part of the operation (maybe that's why I don't like doing it anymore?).  Just rinse the leaves in a big bowl with a couple changes of water. Then spin them in a salad spinner, or, if you don't have one, or if you do but are prone to theatrics, put them in a teatowel (or even better, an old onion sac -- you know, the mesh ones) and go outside and swing the package of greens around in a big circle until all the water flies away (I'm beginning to see why I don't make salad much -- this is a major production!).

I make my vinaigrettes on the fly by squeezing a lime or some lemon into a bowl. Then I pour enough olive oil in so there is a 50-50 or 3 to 1 ratio (depending on how zippy I'm feeling). Then a blob of mustard goes in (I like Meaux in those cool clay pots with the cork and the wax lid), add some salt and pepper, and I`whisk it all up.

Next step is to dump the shredded greens into the vinaigrette and mix them all around. I use my hands for this, since they are, as I've mentioned before, the best tools in the kitchen.

I put some avocado in this salad. Here's a nifty way to prepare them. First slice them in half and pop out the pit.

Then slice a grid pattern into each half (careful, your hand's under there!).

And finally, spoon it out into nice little cubes. Nice and tidy -- those dudes are slimy, messy city on a cutting board, so this is a good way to avoid that whole scene (you can makes slices the same way too).

Here's the final product. Some chopped tomato, the avocado, a bit of Reggiano, and the spiced nuts all tossed in after the greens were dressed. Well worth the effort. I've posted this so that when I feel salad laziness coming, I can come and check out the picture and remember that it's all worth it.

Buon appetito!


  1. Hey Joe!
    I love your blog - it's like food and garden porn. Corey Stewart (hi Corey) suggested I look to your writing when I had a few gardening problems. I still do and was wondering if you have any advice. I'm a first-timer veggie gardener - loving it so far! I've had great success with snow peas, many many beans, lettuces and radishes. Now my cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and carrots are doing well too. My only problem veggie is my patty pan squashes. The flowers keep falling off before producing any fruit. The first 8 or so flowers would bloom, shrivel and fall off in one day. I read that these are just the male flowers and that will happen - the females come later I guess? But I just wanted to get any squash advice from a pro like you.
    I love reading your blog!
    Thanks again

  2. Hey Jess, thanks for the kudos! Glad to see someone else has the garden virus! You're right that squash have male and female blooms. The males are on long thin stalks, and the females are on short ones that usually show a little green bulb at the bottom where the fruit will grow. If your female flowers aren't setting fruit, you may not have any bees around to do the job. If that's the case you can do it yourself. Just get a feather or paintbrush and swirl it around in a male flower to pick up the yellow pollen, then swish it around in a female flower to transfer the pollen (the receptacle is at the top of the thing in the middle of the female flower -- stigma and style if you want the technical terms.) Good luck. Happy test-tube squashing!!