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Archive for the ‘Salads’ Category

I recently had really good food on an airplane.

Really.

Well, to be honest, I bought it at the airport, and ate it on the airplane.  Unless you fly first class, you don’t get real meals from the airlines anymore.  Which is just as well, when you can buy yummy things like this and eat them in flight.  I remember what they used to serve, and, believe me, this is a big, big improvement.  In fact, I liked it so much, I tried to memorize the list of ingredients to recreate the dish at home.  Here’s my best approximation…

It starts with couscous, but you could up the nutritional content and make this with quinoa or millet or even brown rice, and it would be higher in fiber and virtue.  But the original was made with couscous, so I started there.  Cook the couscous as you normally would (1 cup dry couscous to 1 1/2 cups boiling water), but add curry powder or curry paste (my favorite) to the water.  Add chopped vegetables, diced dried apricots, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped fresh herbs.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss a few cashews on top for crunch.  And sit down to a fabulous light lunch, with plenty of leg room to spare.

Curried Couscous Salad with Apricots and Garbanzo Beans

Ingredients:

3 cups dry couscous

4 1/2 cups water, brought to a boil

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp curry paste, or curry powder, to taste

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup dried apricots, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 large shallot, minced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1-2 lemons

Olive oil for drizzling on top

Directions:

Place dry couscous in a shallow casserole or 9 x 13 pan.  Cover with boiling water, which you have added the salt, oil and curry paste (or powder).  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork.  While you allow this to come to room temperature, diced and chop the celery, pepper, apricots, shallots and herbs.  Add these and garbanzo beans to the cooled couscous, tossing gently to combine.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.

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According to the calendar, Spring is nearly here. Nevermind that it was snowing here yesterday, or that we still have substantial mounds of white stuff in our front yard which first arrived in October to great fanfare.  This snow is like the guest who wouldn’t leave. [Does anyone remember that Saturday Night Live sketch?]  You were delighted to see them when they arrived, all fresh and new and exciting.  But now, you are tired and they have grown tedious and annoying. We wish it’d take the hint and melt already.

In a similar vein, I’m getting weary of winter foods. Enough with the squash and beans and hearty stews. Time for baby greens and bright clean flavors. This salad fits the bill, and can be made with ingredients easily found at the supermarket this time of year. It may seem silly to have a recipe for salad, but it’s possible you are like me and could use a bit of inspiration right about now.

Ingredients:

Baby spinach, washed and trimmed

A lovely ripe but still firm Barlett pear, in bite-size chunks

An ounce of your favorite goat cheese (chevre or bucheron are both delicious)

A small handful of dried cranberries or dried cherries, if you prefer

Raspberry vinaigrette or honey mustard vinaigrette

Directions:

Toss the spinach with the vinaigrette.  Layer the other ingredients on top, so that it is visually appealing.  (I believe it’s true that we eat with our eyes first.)  Perhaps you should set out some crusty bread, a glass of sauvignon blanc, and a pretty cloth napkin.

And while you eat, look out the window and dream about Spring.  It’s coming, they say.

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Being known as a good cook is sometimes embarrassing. In this day and age, when chefs are celebrities and a home cooked meal is often warmed-up takeout, people can put good cooks on a pedestal. They seem to think that cooking regularly involves hard work, complicated techniques, or some sort of secret knowledge. I think that being a good cook is more about practice and a willingness to try and fail and learn from mistakes. It also helps to have found a few good recipes, and maybe to have stumbled into some products that add flavor without adding any extra work.

The secret to this great chicken salad recipe rests in two wonderful products: seasoned rice vinegar and curry paste. The seasoned vinegar has a perfect balance of sweet and sour, provides another subtle layer of flavor, and, very importantly, thins the mayonnaise out so the sauce just coats the chicken.  The curry paste adds terrific complex flavor to what is often a bland dish. The addition of juicy sweet grapes and crunchy toasted cashews adds texture, making this a lovely balanced salad overall.

Serve it over greens or as a sandwich filling.  I know you’ll love it.  But, beware, you might get a reputation as being a good cook…

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb. chicken, cooked and diced

1/2 cup Celery, diced

1/2 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced

1/4 Sweet Onion, minced

1/2 cup Red Grapes, halved

1/2 cup Toasted and salted cashews

1/2 cup Mayonnaise (light mayo works great)

1/4 cup Seasoned Rice Vinegar

1 Tbsp. Patak’s Mild Curry Paste, more or less to taste

Handful of chopped cilantro

Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix mayonnaise, vinegar and curry paste in small bowl.  Pour over chicken, celery, pepper and onion in larger bowl, tossing to coat.  Shortly before serving, add grapes and cashews and gently combine.  Can be served as a sandwich filling or on a bed of dressed greens for a delicious light lunch.

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