Sunday, January 18, 2009

More devilishly simple winter salads

Discover your supernatural salad powers-invite a few unusual suspects to the mix!

Go exotic and imagine yourself creating a salad with characteristic ingredients as charismatic and enigmatic as the guests you would invite to a fantasy dinner party. Begin by thinking of your salad as “insalata”, Italian for “salad”. The word sounds so devilishly close to “insolent” it will give you all the creative license you need to think beyond the usual sad-sack, pre-mixed salads in the grocery store. Next, imagine yourself in a Mediterranean light, crafting a work of art so unique and delicious your family and friends will exalt you to the heights of “Leonardo Insalata.” Start by creating a bed of greens (romaine lettuce, watercress, organic mixed greens, etc) and adding your favourite chopped fresh or grilled vegetables. To mystify and sweeten your creation, add unexpected embellishments like sliced pears, apples, or figs. Need a crispy-crunch fix? Toss in few spicy or sweet nuts or seasoned croutons. For a final mystery complement, consider inviting dashing, unusual salad guests like crumbled Stilton cheese, capers or proscuitto to prompt the question, “mmm…just who and what is this?” Drizzle your favourite oil and vinegar dressing over top and toss well or serve in a layered design.

Now set the mood and let the “insalata” begin. If weather permits, eat “al fresco”—keep your parka on—it means, to eat in the open air or outdoors. Buff up the cutlery, fill the water goblets, drape the table with a linen cloth, and light the tea lights. After ditching the dishtowel from your shoulder and casually whipping off your work-in-progress apron, place a clean, white napkin over your right forearm and go about your humble abode to personally invite each family member to an introductory dinner course of (whisper) “Insalata”. Stand back, your mystery starter will have your dinner guests scrambling for the best seat at the table, eagerly awaiting your work of art and then jumping from their chairs for more. Sotheby’s take note!

Try these salads to pique your interest:

Maple Pear and Stilton Cheese Salad

(The beauty of this recipe is its quick assembly. Many of the ingredients can be prepared in large batches and refrigerated in sealed Ziploc bags for quick salad preparation any night of the week!)

Mix together 1/3 cup maple syrup with 1 ½ tsp balsamic vinegar. Core and thinly slice 3-4 pears and place in the maple syrup mixture in a sealed container (Ziploc boxes work well.) Turn and shake the container 4-5 times to coat the pears. Set aside. These can be stored for 2-3 days, if necessary.

For the salad:

Thinly slice 3-4 dried figs and ½ of a red pepper.

Crumble up 1/3 cup Stilton cheese.

¼ cup sugared pecans* (buy at the Bulk barn or make yourself with the recipe below)

Organic PC Greens

On a large platter, place four large handfuls of organic greens. Sprinkle sliced figs and red pepper slices over top. Drizzle about 1/3 of the pear mixture juice over top. Place 8-10 pear slices on top. Sprinkle Stilton cheese over top. Finish by sprinkling ¼ cup of the cooled sugared pecans over top. Serve with a large salad spoons. Do not toss. Serve in this layered arrangement. Tip: Young children prefer this salad with green Granny Smith apples instead of pears and a mild white cheese instead of Stilton.

*Sugared pecans recipe

2 tbsp butter

2 cups pecans

1/8 tsp EACH: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg

2 tbsp sugar.

Stir nuts in melted butter in fry pan. Heat 3-4 minutes on medium heat and until heated and very light brown. Remove from heat. Mix spices and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over nuts and stir well. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place nuts in an even layer and toast at 300F for 10-12 min, stirring at 3 min intervals until brown. These burn easily so watch them carefully.

Light and Healthy Mandarin & Spinach Salad

For the salad:

1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds

1 red or orange pepper sliced into long, thin segments

1/3 of a medium-sized red onion, sliced in long thin pieces

1 small can drained Mandarin orange segments

6 –8 cups washed and trimmed spinach

For the dressing whisk together:

¼ c honey

3 tbsp cider or other fruit vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp poppy seeds

In a large salad bowl toss together all ingredients, except red peppers and nuts. Drizzle one-third of dressing (or more to taste) over top and toss. Sprinkle peppers and nuts over top and serve.

Speedy Gonzales Artichoke & Hearts of Palm Salad

2 tins whole, drained artichoke hearts – chopped in large pieces

2 tins whole, drained hearts of palm, chopped into large pieces

Use Farm Boy Lemon garlic marinade or whisk together your own:

¼ c olive oil

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix chopped artichokes and hearts of palm in lemon garlic mixture and serve in a medium sized serving bowl.


Marc said...

Thanks for the great Maple Pear and Stilton Cheese Salad recipe Marion!

This simple, tasty yet elegantly displayed salad was a huge hit with my date..."Boys: I recommend replacing the cheese with Feta..She'll appreciate it :-)"

Keep up the good wotk Marion!

Barrhaven Bites said...

Glad to hear the salad worked out for you. That's marvellous! And, a good tip about the cheese if you don't like stilton....go mild!