Posts tagged #salad

Dog days of summer: Watermelon salad recipe and how to store lettuce

It was official last week in the Northeast. The dog days of summer have arrived. Strawberries came and went at lightning speed. Too much rain, too much heat. Onward into summer. Then, just as I was getting a handle on the heat and humidity while harassing Man of the House about the air conditioners that needed to go into the bedroom windows, along comes a dreary, cool day like today that has me reaching for a pair of socks and a sweatshirt. 

No matter, the heat will return, and with it, a craving for something perky to keep the senses alert. This watermelon salad is what I crave on the hottest days. Salty feta, sweet and refreshing watermelon. sprightly mint. Every bite says, come on, wake up. It's good to eat with grilled fish. On a hot night, who wants to mess around? Just throw something on the grill and make a cool salad. Have a gin and tonic in between, and let the cold rosé flow.

Here's the rub with salad: you have to wash the lettuce. Unless you buy what a friend of mine calls "yuppie greens." I am suspicious of cellophane-wrapped produce. Full disclosure: I am occasionally seduced by it. It seems so easy! It is so easy. It also usually smells of must (don't get me started on so-called baby carrots) and contains wilted, gummy leaves, too sad to be revived. The truth is, washing lettuce is a pain in the butt. That is why I was ready to kiss the feet of the same friend (of yuppie greens fame) who went to the farmers' market, bought an assortment of lettuce, washed it, dried it and brought it to me in a box. Who does that? 

Which brings me to what you can do for yourself (or perhaps for a friend who is recovering from an illness or needing some cheering up.) That box of lettuce was incentive enough for me to follow suit this week. I stopped by the market on Sunday, and though the lettuce looked a bit flagged and uncheerful by the time I got it home, a soak in some cool water revived it. 

Here is my lettuce washing tutorial (this is a blog called Cooking Lessons, after all.)

How to wash and store lettuce. (Seriously?) Yes, seriously. Read it!

If you are using a salad spinner (I recommend it), first, remove the insert. Fill the bowl with cool water. Detach the lettuce leaves from the core, leaving them in large pieces.

This is totally backwards from the way I used my salad spinner for years.

BUT, those little gritty bits of dirt that collect at the bottom of the stems need to be swished around in a large volume of water. So swish them around (don't crowd the spinner bowl) and wait a few seconds. The dirt will sink to the bottom. Carefully lift the leaves out of the bowl and place them in the insert. Dump the water out of the bowl. Repeat if the leaves are particularly sandy or gritty. You will notice that the dirt has collected on the bottom. Rinse the bowl and replace the insert. Spin the lettuce until dry. Line a plastic shoe box with paper towels. (Square boxes fit most conveniently in the fridge.) Fill the box halfway with clean lettuce, and add another layer of paper towels. More lettuce, topped off with more paper towels. Don't over-fill the box; better to use two that are loosely filled.  Put the lid on and store in the fridge. Use as needed, tearing the leaves into bite-size pieces when you make the salad. If the leaves remain large, they are less likely to wilt and brown around the edges. The greens should last about a week. 

This is not so much a recipe as an outline for a salad. Improvise. The key elements are the watermelon, feta, mint, and lettuce. If you want to add a few more things, go ahead, but keep them to a minimum. I added black olives because I craved salt, and pumpkin seeds, well, just because. Not necessary.

Watermelon salad with feta and mint recipe

For 2 people (just make more for more people, but you knew that)

1 large handful of washed greens

About 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

2 to 3 tablespoons vinaigrette

Salt and pepper, to taste

About 1 heaping cup of watermelon cubes

About 1/3 cup crumbled feta (not too crumbled)

About 1/4 cup pitted black olives, such as Kalamata

1 to 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

1. Toss the greens and mint with vinaigrette. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a serving platter.

2. Arrange the watermelon on top of the greens. Sprinkle the feta, olives and pumpkin seeds on top. Drizzle with a little more vinaigrette. 

I never met a bottled dressing that I liked, and it is just plain crazy to buy it, when it is so easy to make. Spend a king's ransom on the vinegar and olive oil. It is a luxury that you can afford. I love all the Banyuls vinegars from Formaggio Kitchen, a local shop that ships to you if you are not close by. I also use a good Greek olive oil that I discovered at my favorite wine store. It can be ordered here. The main thing is to seek out quality producers. 

Really good vinaigrette recipe

Makes about 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, such as Banyuls muscat vinegar (very mild)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 to 6 tablespoons olive oil

1. Whisk the vinegar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, to taste.

You may also want to try

Green goddess dressing from 

Simply Recipes

Caesar salad from

A Food Centric Life

Ginger sesame miso dressing from

Beyond Salmon

Posted on June 25, 2012 and filed under Salad, Salad Dressing, Summer food.

Fennel and citrus salad and a new book by Beatrice Peltre

Putting chocolate behind us, (hey! Valentine’s day was just last week, did you forget already?) I’m looking forward to some serious palate cleansing. I’ve had this salad on my mind for weeks, and now that citrus season is in full swing, I finally got around to making it.

My craving for this salad was brought to a head during a recent book signing I attended for La Tartine Gourmande, the new book by beloved blogger .

I have been fortunate to get to know Béa a little—we both write for the Boston Globe and also share a favorite local woodsy walking place. Let me tell you, she is as lovely as her gorgeous, colorful photographs. In fact, if you are a blogger and an aspiring food photographer, you must add this book to your library. I literally lay awake most of the night after I brought the book home. Looking at the light-filled, drool-worthy pictures of her food, I was in turn acutely excited and inspired and then suicidally discouraged as a would-be photographer. No, I am not bi-polar, but that’s what happens when something really exhilarating comes along.

Béatrice Peltre has a Matisse-like sense of color and pattern that make you happy just looking at her photos. Her recipes are original, healthy, and reliable. In short: they work! They are imaginative! She brings her French sensibility to her recipes and a distinctive individuality to her style. You will certainly find many things you will want to cook to lift your spirits inside the cover. And even if you never cook anything from her book (which would be a terrible waste) you will certainly be cheered by the summery brightness on every page. One of the best ways to learn photography is to really study (and perhaps even copy as an exercise) photos you like. You can find her book .

The salad in Béatrice’s book inspired the one I made (you will have to go to her book for her version). I purposely did not read her recipe closely, to avoid leaning too heavily on her idea. I know that it did not have fennel. But there is not much latitude here—fennel and oranges are a classic combination.

Fennel, like cilantro, is one of those flavors that arouse strong love-hate feelings. When it comes to the delicious crispy licorice-ness of this winter vegetable, I say: Bring it! I love it raw doused with a bit of olive oil and lemon, or baked in a tian with white wine, Parmesan and bread crumbs. Perhaps because it is underappreciated in this country, it seems exotic and therefore elegant; but it is quite common in Mediterranean cooking. Don’t be a hater.

Choose bulbs that are pale green and firm, with stalks and fronds still attached. Pass on split, yellowed, or spotty bulbs. The sometimes-tough outer layer, as well as minor brown spots, can be peeled easily with a vegetable peeler. Save a few of the feathery fronds to decorate your salad.

Fennel and citrus salad with citrus vinaigrette

Serves 2 to 3

This salad has perky winter flavors: fruit that is all at once sweet, juicy and tart, paired with crisp anise-scented fennel and crunchy radishes. First, prepare the fruit and set it aside. Save the juices to make the vinaigrette; then make the vinaigrette. Finally assemble the salad. It makes an ideal accompaniment to any plain fish dish, like Ken Rivard’s and Jody Adams’ broiled whole fish, for example.

For the vinaigrette:

Makes 2/3 cups dressing (save extra for another green salad)

1/4 cup citrus juice

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup olive oil

Whisk the citrus juice, lime juice, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper together. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if you like.

For the salad:

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed (save a few fronds, freeze the stalks for making fish stock)

2 oranges, rind removed with a knife (see below), and cut crosswise into circles

2 blood oranges, rind removed with a knife (see below), and cut crosswise into circles

2 grapefruits, rind removed with a knife (see below), and cut into “supremes”

5 to 6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 handful of Italian parsley, leaves picked from the stems

Fennel fronds

Citrus vinaigrette

Salt and pepper, to taste

1  1/2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

1. Use a mandoline or a very sharp knife and a lot of patience to slice the fennel very thinly. Cut out the core as you slice. Toss the fennel with 2 to 3 tablespoons of vinaigrette and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on 2 or 3 plates, or on one large plate.

2. Arrange the oranges and grapefruit over and around the fennel and top with the radishes. Sprinkle the parsley, fennel fronds, and pumpkin seeds over the salad. Drizzle with more vinaigrette and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

How to peel citrus with a knife to make "supremes"

The first time I realized there was another way to peel citrus I was so excited! No more pesky pith to ruin the look (and taste) of the fruit sections, or 'supremes'.

First, cut off the top and bottom of the fruit to expose the flesh.

Use a sawing motion with a sharp knife to cut away the rind and pith. Curve your knife as you go from top to bottom. Trim off any places you missed once you have gone all the way around the fruit. Cut it crosswise to make circles, or proceed to make 'supremes'.

Cut alongside each membrane to extract the section.

Another way to cut: after you cut along one side of a section, flip your knife angle and cut along the other side from the bottom up (this will go faster once you get the hang of it.)

Don't forget to squeeze all the juice from the 'carcass'. Use some of it for the citrus vinaigrette.

It's summer; eat like an Italian: tomato bruschetta recipe

When summer finally hits its stride, you begin to understand Italian food. What’s all the fuss about? Think figs, arranged on a pretty plate and drizzled with honey, perfect peaches macerated in white wine and strewn with lavender, freshly picked, fat asparagus, peeled, steamed, doused with fruity olive oil and topped with finely shaved shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano. This is heady stuff. Food for kings. At its core, Italian food only asks for simple ingredients at the peak of perfection served up without fuss. Ingredients now available in the good ol’ USA at your local farmers’ market.

We pay the farmer more than the grocer and we should. They work hard to bring their gardens to us. We could live on their vegetables for months on end. And maybe we will. What more do we need? Zucchini still warm from the field, beets smelling of the earth they came from, delicate greens and lettuces that, once washed will last for weeks on end in the fridge if we don’t eat them first.

Our backdoor neighbor once handed me a head of lettuce he had just picked from his garden. He couldn’t see the car out front, motor running and crammed to the gills with suitcases, beach chairs, and surfboards. I didn’t have the heart to refuse him, so I hastily ran into the kitchen, rinsed off the grit and toweled off every little drop of moisture. Packed in a heavy plastic bag lined with paper towels, that lettuce greeted us upon our return from vacation with smiling, tender leaves, fresher than any grocery store excuse for lettuce encased in cellophane.

I’d like to go to Italy this summer, but it’s not in the cards. No matter. I feel my heart swell to a few stanzas of Puccini in this blissfully simple assembly of sun-warmed tomatoes, fragrant olive oil, fresh basil and parsley and a few hunks of good bread. Carpe diem! Get thee to a farmer’s market!

Tomato Brushcetta

Serves 4 as an appetizer,  2 for lunch

1 large ripe tomato, at room temperature

1/2 pint multicolored cherry tomatoes,  cut in half, or in quarters if large

A small handful of basil leaves, torn in pieces

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley

Feur de sel or Maldon sea salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled

4 (1/2-inch thick) slices from a rustic loaf of bread

1. Core the tomatoes and cut them in half horizontally. Hold each half over a bowl and gently squeeze to release the seeds and excess juice. Discard the seeds and juice. Dice the tomatoes in small (3/8-inch) pieces and transfer them to a bowl.

2. Stir the cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt, pepper, vinegar and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil into the bowl of diced tomatoes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Leave them to marinate while you toast the bread.

3. Adjust an oven rack 4 inches from the broiler element and turn on the broiler. Set the bread on a baking sheet and broil for 20 to 40 seconds on each side, or until toasty. Watch carefully. The bread should be crisp and golden on the outside and still a little chewy on the inside. If you happen to be grilling, toast the slices on the grill.

4. Give each warm toast a couple of swipes with the garlic clove and drizzle with more olive oil. Spoon the tomatoes and their juices over the bread. Be prepared to swoon.


Posted on August 8, 2011 and filed under Appetizers, Bread, Summer food.