Simple + Seasonal on Second City Soiree: Sunchokes

Come on over to Second City Soiree and check out my most recent Simple + Seasonal post. This month– sunchokes! Ugly little buggers but oh so delicious, especially roasted, as in this simple salad, the recipe for which you can find if you click on over. And did I mention that this salad is vegan too? Check it out!

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Snow Pea & Radish Salad

I bet that this post won’t get many hits. Snow peas? Radishes? Sounds boring right?

But in this salad’s defense, I’ll say that I was surprisingly pleased. For one thing, this salad is so refreshing on a hot day: chilled in the fridge, the snap peas and radishes stay crisp and are full of cool, hydrating water.  The lemony dressing and grassy dill are bright in flavors, pairing nicely with tangy, creamy blue cheese.

Then there are the colors: vibrant magenta and purple from the Easter egg radishes pop against that deep jade green of the snow peas. It’s a feast for the eyes, making this salad look and taste more exciting than what you’d expect from just hearing the ingredients. During these hot, late summer days, try a scoop of this salad next to food fresh off your grill. You’ll be pleasantly surprised too.

Note: Snow peas have to be trimmed of the tough fiber that holds the pod together, unless you want to see your fellow diners spitting out chunks of the pod. Simply twist the flowering end of the pod and peel down. If there’s no flower end, peel along the side where you can see the peas are attached inside the pod.

  • 3/4 lb snow peas, ends trimmed and fiber removed
  • 2 large Easter egg radishes, ends trimmed and sliced into match sticks
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh chopped chives and dill
  • blue cheese crumbles to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and honey. Add in the snow peas and radish match sticks and toss to coat. Mix in chives and dill then plate. Add blue cheese crumbles to taste.

CSA Count: 4

Snow peas, Easter egg radishes, chives, dill

Sweet & Spicy Beet Salad

John and I have been eating a ton of salads with dinner lately. It’s in part due to an abundance of salad greens from our CSA, also in part due to visiting family bringing prepared salads, and also due to its being a fast way to get a vegetable in with our pre-prepared meals before one of us has to dash off to feed or comfort a newborn baby. This has meant that the vegetables that need to be cooked, beets and turnips, from the last two weeks’ shares have been neglected. Given the choice between a beet and a turnip, I opted for the beets.

I know that this blog is chocked full of beets, to the point of them having their own search category. So this salad isn’t really anything new as far as experimenting with ideas is concerned, but I thought it was worth writing about for the reason that this salad was both delicious and easy enough to make while exhausted from newborn-induced sleep deprivation.

I sliced my beets and started to roast them my usual way: foil wrapped, dressed simply with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme sprigs. Then I thought, why not add other spices to the beets to see if it makes the flavors more complex. These beets then got sprinkled with chili powder, curry powder, and cinnamon. Into the oven they went while I nursed the baby. The baby went back to sleep by the time the beets were done, giving me a chance to rummage through the dregs of salad greens left in our refrigerator. We had some red oak leaf lettuce, but sadly, the arugula that I had hoped to use for some peppery flavor was wilted and half rotten. No problem– I just tore up the beet green leaves themselves to supplement the lettuce. A quick dressing was thrown together, using balsamic vinegar, olive oil, then for sweetness and added viscosity, I decided to use some maple syrup instead of the honey I normally would use. To play off the spices from the beets, I added some cinnamon and fennel seeds before pouring in the juices from my roasting foil packet. The greens and beets got tossed with the dressing then plated before getting topped with crumbled Danish bleu cheese. Sweet, complexly spiced, juicy, crisp and refreshing. Enough to wake us up until the next round of baby feeding/fussing.

  • 1 bunch red ace beets
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: chili powder, yellow curry powder, and cinnamon
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 small head red oak leaf lettuce
  • bleu cheese to taste

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • juices from roasted beets
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim beet tops and root ends from beets. Reserve the beet greens. Split each beet in half lengthwise then lay out on a piece of foil, about 1 foot long. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper along with the cinnamon, curry, and chili powder. Lay the thyme sprigs on top then fold up foil into a tight packet. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until beets are tender, when you can pierce them with a knife. Carefully unwrap the foil packet to avoid being scalded by the steam, and let cool while you wash and spin the salad greens and make the dressing.

Strip the beet green leaves from any tough stems and tear to bite size pieces. You can leave any beet leaves that are on a more tender stem in tact. Add these to torn lettuce in a salad spinner, wash and spin dry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients then add the salad greens and toss to coat. When beets are cool enough to touch, peel away the beet skins then cut each beet half into thirds lengthwise. Plate salad greens with beets then crumble bleu cheese to taste.

Serves: 2-4

CSA Count: 2

Beets (beets and their greens), red oak lettuce

Three Rhubarb Recipes on Second City Soiree

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be a regular contributor on Second City Soiree. Second City Soiree is brought to you by Chicago hostess, lifestyle writer, and my high school friend, Jennifer Dunham Luby. Every other month, I hope to bring you information about seasonal ingredients along with easy and impressive ideas for using them. First up:

That’s right– rhubarb! Please stop by Second City Soiree for three simple yet surprising ideas for using honey-roasted rhubarb, and not a single one is that old standby, pie. (Not that I have any problem with pie…)

Poached Egg & Bacon Salad

As I write this, it is bright and sunny outside. Sadly, I’m listening to NPR talk about nuclear radiation exposure but the sun light, instead of the days of grey and rain that were predicted for this week, is making me happy. So to keep up the good, positive feelings, I’m thinking about other things that make me happy: lazy Sunday visits to the farmer’s market, my dog sitting by my side, resting his head on my lap, this salad…

This is my all time favorite salad. French in origin, Lyon, I suppose if you want to be exact, it’s one I turn to again and again for dinners since it’s hearty, combining proteins and salad greens all in one dish. It’s great for cold winter and early spring nights when you need something comforting but long for the bright colors of summer. It traditionally calls for the soft creams and greens of frisee, but I love the versatility of this salad, using whatever greens you have on hand. In this instance, I used some mache, or lamb’s lettuce, found at the farmer’s market one Sunday afternoon in West Seattle.

Mache is a tender but oh so pretty salad green. It makes me think of fields of clover and its taste to me is a blend of floral and bitter notes. I decided to keep playing on the springness of this salad by using green onions instead of the traditional shallot slices. With some bright red teardrop grape tomatoes on hand, I halved them and sprinkled them raw on this salad instead of sauteeing them with mushrooms in the rendered bacon fat like I would with a more wintery version of this salad. A quick dressing of mustard, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar, was made and drizzled on top of the vegetables before topping each plate with crumbles of bacon and two poached eggs, yolks still heavenly runny.

Think salad can’t make you happy? I instantly feel better just looking at this salad. Think how much better it feels to dig in, breaking that yolk and letting it softly enfold each tender lettuce green.

Note: Normally I top this salad with homemade garlicky croutons, but I thought that the toasted bread cubes might clash with how delicate the mache was in this salad. No worries– I just served some crusty garlic bread on the side. This makes two entree-sized salads.

  • 1 large bunch mache, stems trimmed of root ends if still attached, lightly washed and spun dry
  • 4 strips thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch wide lardons
  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • splash red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 eggs
  • splash white wine vinegar

Add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a medium skillet. Coat the pan with the oil then add the bacon lardons. Cook over medium heat until bacon is crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Whisk together lemon juice, honey, mustard, red wine vinegar, thyme, about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking until dressing emulsifies, about 4-5 tablespoons. Plate the mache and sprinkle green onions and tomato halves on top. Drizzle with most of the dressing.

Crack the eggs carefully, one in each of 4 small bowls. Fill a large skillet about 3/4 of the way and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt and a splash of white wine vinegar. Turn off the heat, and carefully, but quickly add the eggs to the hot water, spacing them apart so that the whites of each egg can congeal around their own yolks. Place a tight fitting lid on the skillet and set timer for just shy of three minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs, in order of how you set them, and carefully place eggs, drained of excess cooking water on salad greens, two per plate. Sprinkle bacon on top and drizzle with a little more dressing before serving.

Delicata Squash Salad

Happy New Year! I don’t know about you but with all the cooking and eating that goes on during the holidays, I tend to suffer from food fatigue. I can’t seem to get excited about talking or thinking about food. But like the bright sun that’s been shining here in Seattle for the last few days after a cold and rainy holiday, I’m back and ready to pick up things with this blog again. Let’s start by talking about this delicata squash salad.

Anyone who knows me personally or reads this blog regularly should know by now that I am not a fan of winter squashes. I like their taste fine enough, I suppose, but it’s just so much trouble trying to cut through their thick skins and painstakingly scrape out the seeds and strings that often, I’m just not sure if it’s worth it in the end. However, if you remind me that roasted squash often involves butter, delicious spices like cinnamon and cardamom, and pairs nicely with a variety of cheeses, well, then you can get me to take on the effort of prepping it.

With a bulk share from the CSA that gave us 6 little delicata squash, I wanted to find a new way to eat them other than making soup. The CSA also gave us a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard and a little head of radicchio. I thought about how warm pieces of roasted squash would contrast nicely with these crisp, slightly bitter greens which would be hearty enough to not wilt and stay crunchy. I roasted the squash, rinsed the greens and made a light dressing with apple juice and cider-like spices to add sweetness and pair with the nutty squash. As if that wasn’t enough, I added some toasted pecans and chunks of tangy blue cheese. With its bright, bold colors, warm and nutty squash mixed with hearty winter greens, this salad would be the perfect meal for anyone giving a good shot at a New Year’s resolution of healthy eating. (Don’t worry– I’m sure there will be something unhealthy posted here in the next few weeks by the time you fall off the wagon.)

Salad

  • 2 small delicata squash, halved, seeded, and cut cross wise into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, mixed with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small head radicchio, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • blue cheese to taste

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons apple juice
  • 5 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the squash slices in the melted butter and olive oil mix. Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper along with the cinnamon, cardamom, and ground cloves. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned, flipping the pieces over after half the cooking time has elapsed. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

While squash cooks, wash and spin dry the chard, radicchio, and spinach leaves. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, adjusting seasoning to taste. Plate the mixed greens and add a few slices of still warm, roasted squash to each plate before drizzling with dressing and topping with pecans and cheese. Makes 4 side salads or 2 entrée salads.

CSA Count: 3

Delicata squash, rainbow chard, radicchio

Spiced Butter Beets

One of my favorite days from this past summer was when John and I used a Groupon for one of our favorite restaurants downtown then went to the New Pornographers concert which was just a couple blocks away. Delicious food followed by live music from one of my favorite bands– it’s hard to think of a more perfect evening.

At dinner, John and I shared a small plate of spiced beets. The beets were presented simply on a white, rectangular dish, garnet red with a sweet and spicy sauce. John and I tried in vain to figure out the spices, but I think my best guest might be that it was an apple cider reduction. With beets aplenty from the CSA, I thought of the beets from that night and set out on making a sweet and spicy beet dish of my own.

Only my dish? Not as simple. I had my heart set on using toasted walnuts and flecks of creamy, tangy blue cheese as I thought that those elements would have added texture to the dish of beets we ate that summer night. And as always happens when I cook beets, I saw the lonely, discarded green tops and thought, well, why not add them as a bed for my roasted beets since they would add color and a subtle, woodsy flavor. The CSA also gave us a large fennel bulb, so I sliced it and roasted it along side of the beets figuring that it’s sweet, nutty, licorice flavors would pair nicely with thebeets. As for the sauce? Well, rather than buy apple cider, my thoughts went to this spice butter recipe, one that I had obsessed about during the summer.

In the end, I had quite the complicated composed beet salad, and although Tim Gunn’s voice saying, “You need to learn to edit!” was repeating itself over and over again in my head, this jumbled mess was super delicious. The beets were sweet and firm and matched beautifully with the warm, browned butter that prickled with heat and delicious aromas from cinnamon, coriander, and ginger. The shallots that cooked in the butter were crispy and matched the hearty crunch of the toasted walnuts. And although it added yet another layer to my complex salad, the chopped fresh cilantro added the perfect amount of bright, green flavor to tie everything together.  I do love simplicity, but in this case, I had a fine mess that was, well, a very fine mess.

  • 3 medium ace beets
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of each of the following: ground ginger, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper and paprika
  • a pinch each of red pepper flakes and ground turmeric
  • chopped beet green tops
  • 1 large clove of garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 oz crumbled blue cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut beets in half lengthwise and place on a large piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Place thyme sprigs on top of beets then wrap foil tightly around the beets.

Spread fennel pieces out on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix the fennel around to coat each piece. Bake the fennel and the beets in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until beets are easily pierced with a paring knife and the fennel is light brown at the edges (note– fennel may be done sooner than beets so check on them around 30 minutes.) Remove from oven and set aside.

While the vegetables are roasting, make the spiced butter. Add the butter and olive oil to a small skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots soften and butter browns a little. Stir in the spices and season with a pinch of salt. Keep warm on low heat until ready to use.

While butter and shallots cook, saute the beet greens. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the smashed garlic clove in a medium skillet over medium heat. When garlic has lightly toasted on both sides, remove the clove and add the chopped beet greens. Saute until greens are tender and wilted, about 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, plate the greens then layer the beet and fennel slices on top. Pour on the spiced butter with the shallots then sprinkle with walnuts, blue cheese and cilantro.

CSA Count: 4

Ace beets, fennel bulb, cilantro, shallot