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    Entries in fancy schmancy (12)

    Friday
    Jul062012

    A Berry Summery Salad

    After last week’s Ricotta Filled Strawberries, I had a bunch of berries left over, which was good, because with the temperatures still in triple digits, I’m not turning on anything in the house that might generate heat, and berries are a great way to make a salad more interesting.  I can hear Seeley grumbling now.  She doesn’t think berries belong in a green salad.  Well, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on that one.  This salad is fabulous, and berries bring the perfect sweet tart juicy goodness to the mix. 

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • Lettuce
    • Strawberries
    • Blueberries
    • Crumbled feta
    • Nut clusters
    • Balsamic vinegar
    • Olive oil
    • Salt & pepper

    Personally, I can’t stand prewashed and processed lettuce in a bag.  If you like it, go for it, but I think it’s worth chopping your own.  That being said, lettuce really has to be washed well.  See all the dirt in there? 

    The best way to wash lettuce is to chop it into manageable pieces and then put it into a lot of water so it has plenty of room to be swished about.  I happen to have a salad spinner, which, if you make salad more than about once a year, is a must have, I think. 

    I’m pretty sure I hear Seeley grumbling again… something about “Where the hell am I going to put a salad spinner?”  Well, if it helps any, it doubles as a salad bowl when you take the strainer part out, and you could use it as a storage bowl for just about anything.  Anyway, I rinsed my lettuce 3 times to make sure all the sand was gone.  You can do that in a large bowl or even in a sink full of water.  This next part, however, you can’t do with a regular bowl.  Pop the lid on.

    And let ‘er rip! 

    Look at all the water that came off.  It must have been at least ½ cup.  I’ve heard of people putting the wet lettuce into a pillow case and spinning that by hand, but in my hands, that would just be dangerous. 

    Next up is the dressing.  For this salad, we’re making a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette.  Drop 4 large-ish strawberries into your blender or food processor.  It won’t be enough substance to make a puree just yet, but small chunks are fine at this point. 

    Add 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

    Now you should be able to get a pretty good puree.  Then, with the blender still running on a low speed, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup of olive oil. 

    Ok, dressing’s done.  How easy was that?  Now onto the berries.  How many you need, depends on the size of your salad.  For 1 whole head of lettuce, you’ll probably want about a cup of each.  Just rinse the blueberries, and then chop the strawberries into blueberry sized pieces. 

    Next are the nuts.  I absolutely love these cashew clusters from Costco.  They make a fabulous snack, so why not use them in a salad?

    The only problem is, they’re a little big, so you’ll want to chop them up a bit.  You can, of course, substitute any kind of nuts you’d like. 

    Personally, I like my salad tossed.  It just isn’t that much work, and it’s so much better that way.  Just drizzle on a little of your dressing, and toss until everything is coated. 

    Throw in the berries, nuts, and a sprinkling of feta. 

    Toss again and voilá!  A beautiful and delicious salad perfect for any hot summer day. 

    The combination of sweet berries, tangy balsamic, and cool, crisp lettuce, is definitely a treat. 

    What is your favorite summer salad?

     

     

    Tuesday
    Jul032012

    for the dudes who kicked the most balls

    Now, you may not be aware of this, but Spain just won the World Cup. Of football.

     

    You know, the game where you kick a ball with your foot. And you're not allowed to use your hands. Because it's FOOTball.

    I grew up in a household that put everything on hold during World Cup season. I'd find my step-dad watching tv at odd hours of the night so he could catch the games live. The guys at his office would not be able to talk about plays he hadn't witnessed himself. As a kid with insomnia, I suddenly had a lovely excuse to sit up at 3 am and watch tv.

    I'm not a big soccer fan myself, but I know most of the jargon and I can understand the accents of the announcers. The guys at work though, they've had the tv on in the lunchroom all day so they wouldn't miss the games. Watching youtube vids of the latest plays at your desk is apparently entirely acceptable behaviour.

    And I promised them that I'd make cookies themed to the winner of the World Cup. Of football.

    Saffron Cookies

    Saffron is the most expensive seasoning on the planet. It's practically worth its weight in gold.

    Fortunately, you don't need much of it. I bought this little box for about 8 bucks at a specialty store, and it will last a while. This recipe only needs 1/8 of a teaspoon.

    It's got a distinctly floral aroma and flavour (makes sense, it comes from a flower) but there's this underlying earthiness to it that can be overpowering if you use too much (maybe that's because it's the flower's reproductive organs).

    And because I wanted to really make sure I had the mediterranean thing down, I decided I wanted to use olive oil in the cookies instead of butter.

    Apparently some dude name Mark Bittman already came up with this combo and is regarded as somewhat of a genius for doing so. His is nearly the only recipe you can find using both saffron and olive oil. So his is where I started.

    Here's my version:

    What you need:

    • 1/8 tsp saffron
    • 1 tbsp milk or cream
    • 1/2 c olive oil
    • 1 c sugar (victory should be sweet)
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 c flour
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • bit of salt

    What you gotta do:

    Start with the saffron. It's awesome.

    Warm the milk or cream in a small bowl. I used the microwave for 20 seconds at 60% power. Add the saffron. At first it just sits there, looking kinda weird and out of place.

    Give it a bit of a stir or shake and then let it sit while you do the next few steps.

    Combine the oil, lemon juice, and sugar in a big bowl. It kinda smells like salad dressing.

    Beat in the eggs. Definitely salad dressing-like. I mean, this is practically mayo! Mix this with a whisk, or your fancy batter beater for a good two minutes. You want it nice and golden. It won't ever really get 'fluffy' because the oil acts differently than softened butter does, but it does need a good beating. Kinda like Italy got.

    Check on your saffron.

    Holy hell is that yellow.

    Artificial colours have nothing on this shit. Plus, the smell and taste of this... a tiny drop on your tongue. Seriously, you have to do it. It's strong, almost overwhelming, when its that concentrated, but it's amazing. Flowers, the earth, it's almost metallic, like the taste of blood in your mouth, but sweet and floral at the same time. It suddenly makes sense how this tiny part of a flower stands up to savoury dishes and adds delicacy to sweet ones. 

    Pour your yellow gold into the oil and sugar mixture.

    Sift on the flour, baking powder, and the salt.

    You want to just barely mix these.

    The dough is very soft, much more like a batter than your typical drop cookie. So I chilled mine for about 10 minutes. The consistency is perfect after a bit of time in the fridge. It's also freaking yellow.

    I used a 1 tsp measuring spoon to scoop the dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Smaller cookies means you can fit more on the sheet and they'll cook faster. It's way too freaking hot to have the oven on.

    TIP: Put a big pot of cold water on the element when your oven vent is. Change the water with every batch of cookies. Cover the pot to prevent evaporation and you've got yourself a great little heat sink.

    I recommend sprinkling a little sugar over the top of these. An extra bit of sweet. If you're feeling particularly generous, use the back of your wooden spoon to grind a pinch of saffron into a couple teaspoons of sugar.

    The tiny threads make for a nice bit of decoration on what looks like a plain and bland cookie.

    But oh my, they are neither plain nor bland.

    It's a subtle, delicate flavour, but so distinctive, and almost surprising the first time you try them.

     What's your favourite sweet / savour cross over ingredient?

     

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