Category Archives: Salads

Baby Spinach as a Blank Canvas

At Poppy’s house, we start most meals with a salad. More often than not, the greens used are baby spinach or a blend of baby spinach and spring mix. Spinach ranks number 2, right below kale as the healthiest salad greens. But unlike kale, spinach doesn’t constantly remind you how healthy it is while you’re eating it.

If we are making even a pretense of eating healthy, the last thing you want to do is use some store-bought dressing packed with calories and chemicals, especially since making a basic salad dressing is so simple and quick. If you have the ingredients handy, I would say 30 seconds, maybe a minute if you’re listening to some good jazz, having a glass of wine and dancing around the kitchen (just sayin’).

My go-to dressing is a variation on the basic Balsamic Vinaigrette:

3 parts good quality EVOO to 1 part balsamic vinegar – use more or less vinegar depending on your “tart tolerance”.
1 or 2 teaspoons of Dijon Mustard.
This is where Poppy (sometimes), steers this recipe away from the traditional version … I add enough fresh ground Parmesan (whisking the dressing briskly) till it becomes a slurry.
You can take it a step further by adding some chopped red onion.

Sometimes I toss the greens with the dressing, sometimes I just drizzle it over the top … can’t miss.

Lets jump to the fun part. We have stretched our canvas (the greens), primed the canvas (the dressing), now it’s time to get out our paints.

  • cheeses: Parmesan, Feta, Mozzarella, etc.
  • halved grape tomatoes
  • peeled sliced cucumber
  • orange or tangerine chunks
  • pine nuts
  • almond slivers
  • grilled Piquillo peppers
  • red onion
  • strawberries
  • watermelon chunks
  • olives: green, ripe or Kalamata
  • coarse ground black pepper

You can mix these any way you want, some pair very naturally (Feta cheese and Kalamata olives for example), but don’t hesitate to experiment. If you keep enough of these paints (ingredients) on hand, your salads will never be boring.

I’m strong to the fin-ich, Cause I eats me spin-ach– (sorry couldn’t resist)

Leave a comment

Filed under Salads, Uncategorized

Get a “wedgie”, Wedge Salad that is!

GreenLeafSalad

True confession time… I love cooking, but I’m easily bored if I feel like I’m making the same thing over and over again. Poppy’s “go-to salad” is well received and lends itself to subtle variations, but I’ve made it at least a bazillion times. (OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration)

I was looking to do something a little different that would make a good presentation, quick to assemble and tasty.

This is Poppy’s take on the wedge salad –

First an editorial comment on lettuce … I’m sure there’s a more boring vegetable than iceberg lettuce, but I can’t think of one right now. Even our humble Ferguson Shop N’ Save has a good variety of lettuces to choose from … don’t be boring people!

For this salad I grabbed a head of green leaf lettuce. It was a good-sized head so quartering it yielded an ample serving for everyone.

I wanted a warm dressing for this salad. Bacon drippings are the common ingredient for warm dressings but I didn’t want to go to the trouble of cooking bacon. Fortunately I’ve been cooking bacon in the oven on a foiled-lined baking sheet for several years now and made it a practice to keep a ceramic bowl in the freezer to receive the hot drippings. The frozen bacon drippings come in handy for a lot of things.

With a sturdy knife I chiseled out a few good chunks of solid bacon drippings and started melting them in a small saucepan. To convince myself that I was eating healthy, I mixed in an equal amount of EVOO to dilute the fat content, without losing too much of the flavor.

Next in the saucepan went several tablespoons of Julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil.

I let them simmer for a few minutes and gave them time to get acquainted with the bacon drippings and olive oil.

While they were sharing secrets and flavors, I took the opportunity to grate some parmesan cheese.

After drizzling the lettuce with the warm dressing, I topped it with a little coarse ground black pepper and the grated parmesan.

Guaranteed  the best “wedgie” you’ve ever had!

EasyTastyHealthy

If you do have time to cook up some bacon, a little crumbled on top of this salad would be divine!

1 Comment

Filed under Salads

Summertime Greek Salad

SummerGreekSalad1

Summer has finally arrived in famous Ferguson. The past month has seen several of us flipping to the book of Genesis looking up plans to build an ark, but today was hot and steamy like we would expect a July day to be in the midwest. Unfortunately a month of rainy days and a lack of sun resulted in an unprecedented crop of mildew on the clapboards and beadboard underneath the  front porch roof that runs the entire length of our 1890 home.

So Poppy spent the day removing shutters and furniture from the porch, then armed with a 5 gallon bucket filled with a bleach-water-detergent mixture, a pressurized sprayer loaded with the same, a deck brush, safety goggles, while dressed in the oldest, rattiest clothes I could find, commenced doing battle with the mildew.

By late afternoon, Poopy had won, the mildew was banished and I was famished!

Porch

What to make … it had to be cool, it had to be tasty, it had to be easy!

Enter Poppy’s take on the Greek salad with some summertime touches.

A bed of baby spinach provided the foundation, followed by chunks of cold peeled cucumber, diced ripe tomatoes, halved Kalamata olives, cubes of seedless watermelon all drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil mixed with a little garlic salt and pepper then topped with crumbled feta cheese. I served the salad with strips of lightly toasted naan bread.

The resulting flavors and freshness were the perfect end to a day that had me thinking about the joys of condo ownership more than once.

(tip: if your olives were packed in olive oil, use some of that oil for extra flavor)

SummerGreekSalad2

EasyTastyHealthy

2 Comments

Filed under Salads

Poppy’s “go-to” salad

Remember when “salad” meant a head of iceberg lettuce chopped up then drenched in some type of heavy dressing? That was lazy!

This is the new lazy … walk into the grocery store, head for the produce section and grab a container of fresh, washed, delicious greens.

Spring Mix Salad

I usually go for the “Spring Mix”, it will contain all or most of these; Baby Lettuces (Red & Green Romaine, Red & Green Oak Leaf, Red Leaf, Lollo Rosa, Tango, Butter Lettuce), Red & Green Chard, Mizuna, Arugula, Radicchio, and Baby Spinach.

This becomes your canvas, not a blank canvas, but a very colorful canvas … wonderful shades of green, red and even a little white. This earthy palette is especially appreciated during those bleak winter months here in the midwest when the predominant colors outside are grey and brown. Even the name, “Spring Mix”, gives us hope.

Now we start moving the dial from totally lazy and start heading toward the gourmet side.

I mix up a very simple dressing of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

“Poppy, how much EVOO and balsamic vinegar do you use”?

That’s a good question. Of course it depends on the quantity of greens used!

Perhaps more important than the quantity is the proportions. I like the bite of the vinegar, so my mix is close to 1 part vinegar to 2 parts EVOO. You may prefer something closer to a 3-1 ratio. Next I add a pinch of garlic salt or sometimes Cajun seasoning. All of this is mixed in a coffee mug.

“Poppy, why do you use a coffee mug”?

That’s a good question and it involves the next step in our salad prep, adding the red onion. For a small container of Spring Mix, I will slice half of a medium-sized red onion, cut the longer slices in half then drop the onion into the coffee mug and stir everything together. Since I mix up the dressing before beginning any other food prep, this gives the onions, vinegar, EVOO and spices time to hang out together, get acquainted, talk about old times, where they went to high school and talk trash about the jalapenos and banana peppers. By the time the salad is ready for tossing they are the best of friends.

Add the contents of your coffee mug to the salad right before serving and start tossing.

Next up is the cheese, most nights this is simply parmesan, a good wedge grated either fine or coarse, your choice. You could go the lazy route and just shake the cheese out of a plastic container ( I have done this ), but fresh grated cheese is much more flavorful and doesn’t contain extras like powdered cellulose, added to prevent the cheese from caking. Of course you are not limited to parmesan … experiment with other cheeses like crumbled feta or goat cheese. Toss again and add some fresh ground black pepper.

If you do nothing else, this will give you a great salad, but remember, this is a canvas, try some marinated artichoke hearts, or tomatoes, or toasted pine nuts, or brandy poached pears, or rotisserie chicken … or all of the above!

Zsa-Zsa the pug approves of this blog and would eat everything if allowed!

Zsa-Zsa the pug approves of this post and would eat everything if allowed!

2 Comments

Filed under Salads