Saturday Salad

Most Saturdays around lunchtime you’ll probably find my family chomping on pho, tortas, tacos, dim sum or about a million other delicious things we did not cook. Saturday lunches out with the fam are the best — cheap and low key, a little treat to ourselves for making it through another week.

As much as we love eating great food and not doing the dishes, once in a while we do find ourselves at home on a Saturday at the stroke of lunch o’clock. Thankfully Tim, our resident expert omelet maker, is usually happy to oblige us with his Jacques Pepin-like skills. If left to me, I usually gather whatever hodge podge leftovers we have in the fridge and call it a day. But once in a while inspiration strikes like this salad which was so, so good that I just had to share it. A happy accident of random ingredients in our refrigerator (vegetables, good sour dough bread, grapefruit juice) — I know I will make this one again… but this time on purpose.

Here’s to Saturdays!

Saturday Salad

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Carrots: Pre-heat a lightly oiled cookie sheet in a hot oven (425 degrees). The vegetables (halved brussels sprouts and carrots cut on the bias – both tossed with olive oil and a pinch of sugar) will sizzle as they hit the pan. Start checking them after 2o minutes and remove them when they are tender and golden around the edges. Hit them with a sprinkle of kosher salt and some finely minced parsley and mint. To help you roast each vegetable to perfection, you can cook the brussels sprouts and carrots on two separate baking sheets or at either end of one large cookie sheet.

Rustic Breadcrumbs: Grab a few slices of bread (a rustic loaf is best, we like sourdough) and tear them up by hand into smaller than crouton-sized pieces. Toss them lightly with olive oil then place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and your favorite spices (sumac and paprika in our case). Put them in the oven alongside the vegetables, checking and tossing them every 5 minutes or so and removing them when they are dry and crisped. Break up any too-chunky bits into smaller pieces.

Grapefruit-Shallot Vinaigrette: Finely mince one small shallot and place it in a bowl along with 1 Tablespoon of champagne vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of grapefruit juice and a 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard, as well as a big pinch of salt and pepper. Let it sit to macerate for about 15 minutes. While you whisk, slowly drizzle in about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Keep whisking until your dressing comes together and is nicely emulsified. Taste and adjust to your liking adding more salt, oil, grapefruit juice, vinegar or a pinch of sugar as needed.

Assemble the Salad: This salad benefits from being  layered vs. being tossed in a big salad bowl. Artfully arrange your baby spinach leaves, roasted vegetables, and breadcrumbs on a big platter or individual plates, drizzling with dressing as you go.

You might also like: Crispy Caramelized Cauliflower (aka “vegetable candy”); Jumping on the Crispy Kale Bandwagon; Hurray for Brussels Sprouts

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Spring at the Alemany Farmers Market

A few of our favorite finds at the farmers market. We’re loving the spring onions, baby carrots, asparagus and citrus. We were particularly amazed by the variety of walnuts in season right now. Check out the beautiful shades of red, black and brown. We’re thinking this might be just the occasion to give Simran’s Honey Walnut Cake a try.

And as for the carrots… If you know any kids on the fence about carrots, these might just be the ones to make full-fledged carrot lovers out of them. We loaded up on a ridiculously large haul and have been trying all sorts of new carrot recipes but in the end, it’s pretty hard to improve on the good old carrot stick when they are this sweet and delicious.

How to Make Carrots and Peas Cool

We love the Charlie and Lola book series. One of our favorites is “I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato” (the pop-up version!) in which Charlie tries to coax his little sister into eating her dinner using some creative packaging. Carrots are orange twiglets from Jupiter, mashed potato is cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji, fish sticks are ocean nibbles, peas are green drops from Greenland and tomatoes are moon squirters. [You can watch the animated version here]

So when we threw together a quickie dinner of peas, carrots and fish — I had that feeling of deja vu. Luca got the reference right away, reciting lines from the book and digging into his dinner with unusual gusto. Usually when Luca has peas for dinner, they have a bad habit of rolling out of his mouth before he can actually eat them (strangely he does not have this problem with grapes or raspberries!). But as for the official Charlie and Lola “Green Drops from Greenland”… well, they cooperated quite nicely. It’s nice to see peas and carrots getting the benefit of a little PR. Good work Charlie and Lola!

By the way, we have been collecting a list of our favorite kids’ books about food which you can find here…. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, take a look and share your favorites. Would love to hear about great foodie books for older kids too. Happy reading!

Curried Carrot Soup

It is strange to post a soup recipe in the middle of summer but if you live in San Francisco, summer with all the fog is the best time to have some soup. If you reduce the amount of spices this is really good for younger kids.  I introduced Ria to flavors/spices at a young age by adding small amounts of spices to the purees I made for her.  This was after we were done with the introduction of solids and one new food at a time.  I often made a thick soup of mixed vegetables with onions and some basic spices.  This recipe is inspired by those “baby soups”.  Great for cold, foggy and rainy days served with a grilled cheese sandwich and some in season heirloom tomatoes.

Curried Carrot Soup

Serves 2 adults & 2 kids

Ingredients

1 lb carrots, roughly chopped (for ease you can use a bag of baby carrots)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion or 2-3 shallots, chopped
½ inch piece of ginger, minced (optional)
½ tbsp curry powder
½ tsp cumin powder (optional)
½ tsp fennel powder (optional)
½ tsp chilli powder (optional)
3 cups vegetable/chicken stock
salt & pepper
Yogurt for garnish

Method

1.    Preheat oil and sauté onions and ginger for 2-3 minutes.  Add spices, seasoning to taste and carrots and cook for a couple of minutes
2.    Add 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil.  Simmer covered for 15-20 minutes till carrots are soft (how long this takes will depend on size of carrots)
3.    Process soup using a hand blender or food processor or regular blender
4.    Garnish with yogurt and serve

Guest Recipe: Becky’s Carrot Zucchini Pineapple Muffins

My friend Becky is about as close to a “super mom” as you can get. A demanding full-time job, 3 kids, and manages to find the energy for fun adventures, running half marathons, lots of home-cooked goodness, and having a sense of humor about it all. If she wasn’t such an awesome person, I might just hate her a little.

Here’s what she says about these carrot-zucchini muffins: “We make them in mini muffin tins. Oliver (baby) loves them and the other two will eat them if they are starving, so I save them for the ride home from school. They travel well and are reasonably good for you. Nate (toddler) is a huge fan of cooking with me and he loves this because he gets to do the cuisinart and the mixer. He also likes putting the cupcake papers into the baking pans. Even though he helps me make these, it doesn’t stop him from looking at the muffins later and saying – what is this green stuff mommy? Oh well!”

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I gave them a test run recently and the kids I was with (ages 2-4) ate them right up. “Do these have vegetables in them?” asks the four year old, suspiciously.  Aren’t you amazed at the impressive power of observation that kids have when it comes to spotting that sliver of green or tiny speck of pepper? But despite the suspicion of vegetables lurking, the lure of these muffins was just too strong. Tiny nibble…. “Mmmmm these are THE BEST!”. Big bite…. “More please!”

This makes a large batch (~2 dozen standard-sized muffins), so unless you have 3 hungry kids, you might cut it in half, freeze some, or best yet share with a friend. For little hands (or messy cooks), you can scoop the batter into a large zip lock bag, snip the corner and “pipe” into the muffin tins about 2/3 full.

Shopping List: eggs; vegetable oil or unsweetened applesauce;  sugar; vanilla extract; 2 zucchini; 3 carrots; 1 can crushed pineapple in juice; salt; flour (all-purpose or can substitute 50% all purpose and 50% whole wheat); baking soda; baking powder; cinnamon; nutmeg; nut or dried fruit (optional)

  • Combine 3 eggs, 1 cup of oil (or use apple sauce or a combination), 2 cups sugar (I reduced this by about a third), 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat together until thick and foamy
  • In the cuisinart shred about 2 zucchini and 3 carrots so that you pretty well fill up a 9 cup cuisnart. Squeeze well to remove excess moisture and then stir into the to the mixture above.
  • Add 1 can of well drained crushed pineapple (Crushed is much better than cubes as no one notices them if they are crushed.)
  • In a seperate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: 1 teaspoon salt, 3 cups flour (or substitute 1.5 cups white and 1.5 wheat flour), 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Mix dry ingredients into the wet mixture, but don’t stir too much because it will make the muffins too heavy. (I usually stop using the mixer at this point and mix by hand.)
  • If you like, add 1c nuts and 1 c. raisins (My kids aren’t fans of these at all.)
  • Bake at about 350 for 15 – 25 minutes until they spring back in the center and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Reduce the baking time for mini muffins.

Quick and Fresh: Vietnamese Noodle Bowls

This is a go-to quick dinner because it doesn’t really require too much actual cooking. I also get to use my second favorite kitchen gadget, the nut mill, for chopping up the peanuts. [Chime-O-Matic rice cooker, you will always be my #1]. It’s light, refreshing and good for kids because they can pick and choose to customize their own bowl. You can also use rice noodle wrappers to make a little package instead, which is what I usually do with the leftovers. A great lunch for the next day! (The rice noodle wrappers — bahn trang, the ones you use for goi cuon–  are circular, and come dry in various sizes. You just submerge the wrapper in hot water for a few seconds until it’s soft and pliable. Fill and wrap like a burrito.)

You can include any combination of things you like, including grilled meat, seafood —  or just keep it vegetarian. Here are some of the basics we usually use:

  • Rice stick noodles boiled for ~2 minutes (until tender), then drained
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Chopped mint leaves and cilantro
  • Sliced carrots
  • Sliced cucumber (I like English Cucumbers because they’re crisper)
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Bean sprouts
  • Sliced chiles (this one’s for you, Simran)
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  • Your favorite meat or seafood: Grilled, broiled or pan fried

I often use thin slices of marinated pork, broiled until carmelized using some approximation of this marinade.

  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 minced shallot
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 1 Tbl soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass (bruise it a bit and slice into large pieces you can easily remove)
  • Ground black pepper to taste

The only other thing you need is a basic Nuoc Cham dipping sauce and whatever hot sauces or other condiments you like. Here’s a Nuoc Cham recipe I like from Viet World Kitchen. Here a spicy peanut dipping sauce from Sunday Nite Dinner that would be good as well.