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marukan-seasoned-vinegar-cucumber-salad

When the kind people at Marukan sent me some product samples a couple weeks ago, I had one dish in mind: Japanese cucumber salad, a.k.a. sunomono. I wanted to use their seasoned rice vinegar to streamline the salad — instead of adding sugar, salt, and vinegar, I’d use one convenient ingredient containing all three.

This salad has only four ingredients, and comes together in about ten minutes, or as fast as you can thinly slice a pound of cucumbers! It’s the perfect first course for a sushi dinner, or as a vegetable side with miso-marinated fish and steamed rice.

I’ve given classic sunomono a little twist by adding one of my favorite ingredients, hot sesame oil. This roasted sesame oil spiked with hot chili oil is meant to be used sparingly — just a few drops adds wonderful sesame aroma and a hint of heat.

Sesame Cucumber Salad

serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin rounds
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon hot sesame oil

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving, allowing cucumbers to lightly pickle in the vinegar dressing.

Marukan rice vinegar was provided to me for review, free of charge. All opinions are my own.

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warm-farro-salad-overhead-shot

During the summer, I am all about light lunches. My midday meals often rely on vegetables and quick-cooking grains which give me energy without weighing me down or requiring too much heat in the kitchen.

Last week, I threw together a quick grain salad using my new favorite Trader Joe’s product, 10 Minute Farro. With the chew of barley and a lighter flavor than wheat berries, it’s adaptable to just about any vinaigrette or pesto you can whip up. As it’s par-cooked, it only takes, you guessed it, ten minutes to prepare — regular farro cooks up in about half an hour.

I combined my cooked farro with ribbons of romaine lettuce, which wilted slightly when mixed with the warm grains. After adding some sliced apples (stone fruits would be great here too), I topped the salad with an over-easy egg and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, making for a perfect light lunch. You can leave off the egg and cheese and serve the salad as a side dish, too — it would be great alongside a grilled dinner or as part of a picnic spread.

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Warm Farro and Romaine Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

serves 2

3/4 C. 10 Minute Farro
1 1/2 C. water

1/4 C. pine nuts

6 medium leaves romaine lettuce, sliced into 1/4″ ribbons
1 medium fuji apple, cut into eighths and sliced into 1/8″-thick pieces
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

2 large eggs

1/4 C. finely microplaned parmesan cheese
ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine farro and water in a small (1-quart) saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, turn down to low, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. While the farro is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a medium (8-inch) skillet for a few minutes, shaking often, until lightly toasted. Remove from skillet immediately to avoid burning, and set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the romaine, apple, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper.

4. When the farro has simmered for 10 minutes, drain off any additional liquid and let sit for another five minutes.

5. Add the farro and pine nuts to the bowl with the other ingredients, and toss to combine. The romaine will wilt slightly from the heat of the cooked grains. Spoon the salad onto two plates for serving.

6. In the medium skillet you used to toast the pine nuts, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Cook the eggs over-easy, taking care not to break the yolks when flipping.

7. Place one egg on top of each plate of salad, then garnish with parmesan cheese and ground pepper. Serve warm.

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Hello, everyone! I’m back in California, having just returned from the Contemporary Performance Studies program at the Vancouver International Song Institute. The week-long program consisted of back-to-back coachings, masterclasses, lectures, and a final concert, all focused on art songs from the 20th and 21st century. Highlights included lots of focused but giggly practice sessions with my pianist partner, being twirled around the UBC recital hall stage by none other than Jake Heggie, and being exposed to tons of great new repertoire. I’ve returned to the Bay Area refreshed, inspired, and excited to perform more contemporary classical music . . .

It's Jake Heggie!

It’s Jake Heggie!

. . . and also in need of a big ol’ salad or two. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are lots of great salads in Canada, but I didn’t manage to eat a single one while I was there, nor did I cook a single meal during my nine day stay in the Great North. My wonderful host served me yogurt and berries in the mornings, and then I’d run off the UBC for 12-hour days of intense programming, arriving back home after dark. My diet consisted almost entirely of meals purchased from the Student Union Building’s downstairs cafeteria. After a week of grab-and-go sandwiches, sushi, and bananas, I could not wait to get back into the kitchen.

My pianist partner Amy Lee, practicing before one of our coachings.

My pianist partner Amy Lee, practicing before one of our coachings.

Inspired by a hearty chopped salad at my friend Emma’s last dinner party (look for her recipe on TheKitchn next week!), I decided to make one of my own. I threw in some leftover cooked chicken breast and quinoa to add lots of protein — it’s filling enough to be a one-dish meal, but still bright and summery with the addition of a chopped nectarine, one of my favorite summer stone fruits. Ribbons of tender red lettuce, cubes of crunchy celery, and a handful of fresh cilantro round things out, and all of the ingredients are gently tossed in kicky and sweet Honey Lemon Vinaigrette. Serve this salad at a luncheon or potluck, or pack it along for an easy picnic dish.

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Chopped Salad with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette (printer-friendly version)

serves 4

1/2 C. quinoa
3/4 C. water

1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. clover honey
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1 head red leaf lettuce, cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
3 ribs celery, diced small
1 nectarine, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 C. cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 cooked chicken breast halves (1/2 pound), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1. Combine quinoa and water in a small (1-quart) saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn down to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off and let sit for another 5 minutes.

2. While the quinoa is simmering, make the vinaigrette: In an 8-ounce jar or small tupperware, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, pepper, and salt. Shake to mix until the honey is thoroughly blended into the other ingredients.

2. Spoon the cooked quinoa into a large bowl, and let cool for a few minutes. Add the lettuce, celery, nectarine, cilantro, and cooked chicken. Pour in the vinaigrette, then toss gently to thoroughly coat all of the ingredients evenly.

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white-bean-and-tuna-salad-recipe

Happy Friday, Dear Readers! I hope you’ve got some fun weekend plans. I’m looking forward to a couple days of yoga, singing, and hopefully recovering from a rather atrocious head cold.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about today’s recipe for White Bean and Tuna Salad, a popular antipasto dish. It’s one of my favorite salads to order at restaurants, but I’d never thought to make it at home until now.

My version does away with the usual raw onions or shallots — instead, I added thinly sliced celery for a little extra crunch. Be sure to use the inner leaves of the celery stalk, too, as they add a nice hit of spingy flavor. Dress your salad with some fresh lemon juice and zingy extra virgin olive oil, toss gently, and you’re done!

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White Bean and Tuna Salad (printer-friendly version)

serves 4

2 (15-ounce) cans Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (6-ounce) can oil-packed yellowfin tuna
3 ribs celery plus inner leaves, sliced thinly
5 large sprigs flatleaf parsley, chiffonaded
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Mix gently with a large spoon, taking care not to smash the beans.

2. Serve on a bed of arugula or other lettuce. Garnish with tomatoes and parsley and serve.

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Happy Holy Week, Dear Readers! Easterpalooza has begun.

pews at Saint Agnes Catholic Church in SF

pews at Saint Agnes Catholic Church in SF

Just the other week, I was having a grand old time in Austin, visiting friends and taking in all of the SXSW madness. Foodie higlights included a seriously loaded sausage sandwich at Frank:

the Texilana, a sausage topped with grilled cole slaw, bbq sauce, and white cheddar cheese

the Texilana, a sausage topped with grilled cole slaw, bbq sauce, and white cheddar cheese

classic Tex-Mex at Güero’s,

the enchiladas are layered, not rolled. grilled chicken with avocado cream sauce, and borracho beans on the side.

the enchiladas are layered, not rolled. grilled chicken with avocado cream sauce, and borracho beans on the side.

Great brewpub cuisine and beers at Black Star Co-Op,

a flight of beers, arugula salad, and impeccable fish and chips with aioli

a flight of beers, arugula salad, and impeccable fish and chips with aioli

a homemade meal at Chris and Polina’s place, featuring a whole lot of Garlic Gold Oil and Parmesan Nuggets,

long-simmered meatballs in tomato-pepper sauce.

and our last meal of the trip at Uncle Billie’s, which included BBQ brisket and sides of bacon-spiked green beans and tangy-sweet coleslaw.

more beer, brisket, green beans, and cole slaw

another flight of beers, brisket, green beans, potato salad, and coleslaw

Once I got back to California, that coleslaw was still on my mind. Sweet and sour vinager-based dressing, sliced hot peppers, and green cabbage made for a perfectly balanced slaw, and I wanted to make something similar in my own kitchen.

But as these things usually go, I get distracted by all the beautiful produce we have around here. And in my quest to recreate some traditional dish from another cuisine, I end up adding my own Californian twist. What started out as a simple recipe ended up as a colorful confetti of crunchy vegetables and sweet, ripe pieces of mango, dressed with a sweet and sour honey mustard vinaigrette.

Unlike traditional, mayo-based coleslaws, this one is perky and tangy, with a little spicy kick. It’s great alongside your favorite BBQ meal, piled on top of a chicken sandwich, or tucked into a buffet amid the ham, biscuits, and potato salad.

sweet-sour-slaw

Sweet Sour and Spicy Slaw (printer-friendly version)

serves 6-8

1/4 C. honey (any mild variety)
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. powdered yellow mustard
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

4 medium red radishes, halved and sliced into thin half-moons
4 small green onions, sliced thinly
3 small carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced into thin half-moons
2 small mangoes, peeled and sliced into thin, 1/2-inch pieces
1 large jalapeno pepper, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and sliced thinly.
1/2 small red cabbage, cored and sliced into thin ribbons
1/2 small green cabbage, cored and sliced into thin ribbons

1. Combine the honey, vinegar, powdered mustard, and salt in a small bowl. Stir until thoroughly mixed.

2. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the dressing mixture, then toss gently until thoroughly mixed. Let sit for 1 hour before serving.

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winter-frise-salad-recipe-side

Happy 2013, Dear Readers!

I hope the first few days of the new year have treated you well. I’m finally settling back into my normal routines after a fun holiday season. Highlights of the past couple weeks include: a whole lot of Christmas-related singing, meet-ups with friends who make their annual trip back to the Bay each year, a raucous New Year’s Eve in the East Bay, and, and finally, one glorious day of skiing in Tahoe.

And now, it’s time for a bloggy resolution. Starting with today’s recipe, I’d like to get more creative with produce, giving you more veggie-centric recipes that, while healthy, are far from ascetic or boring. In short, I play to play with my food. Have more fun in the kitchen. Invoke more curiosity and less routine.

This week’s salad gets things off to a great start, thanks to a varied selection of ingredients I picked up at last weekend’s farmers market. After poring over the produce, I decided on a wintery salad taking advantage of California’s impressive array of cold weather fruits and vegetables.

We’re lucky to have beautiful lettuces and greens even in the January chill — Frisée lettuce is surprisingly mellow this time of year, lacking its often bitter edge. Chantenay carrots are fat and sweet, looking like something out of a Wallace and Gromit cartoon. Pomegranates are perfectly ripe, yielding dark red arils (those miracles of nature!) that add pop and color to any recipe. Citrus has come into its own as well — the dark yellow Meyer lemons are juicy and plump.

Today’s salad combines all of the ingredients mentioned above, plus a few shavings of umami-rich Grana Padano cheese and a handful of toasted sliced almonds. It’s dressed with a simple combination of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. There’s no need to make a classic vinaigrette here — just add your dressing ingredients to the lettuce and carrot ribbons, tossing until everything is evenly covered. You can even use your [impeccably clean] hands if you’re game — trust me, it’s a lot more fun! Next, pile the lettuce and carrots onto a plate, then sprinkle on the pomegranate arils, almonds, and cheese. This recipe serves one as a light lunch, or two for an elegant first course.

winter-frise-salad-recipe-overhead

Winter Frise Salad (printer-friendly version)

Serves 1-2

4 C. frise lettuce, torn into 2″ pieces
1 small chantenay carrot, peeled into ribbons
2 tsp. meyer lemon juice
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch sea salt

2 Tbsp. pomegranate arils
2 Tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted
2 Tbsp. shaved Grana Padano cheese, crumbled into shards
2 grinds freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the lettuce, carrot ribbons, lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt in a medium mixing bowl. Use your hands to toss the ingredients together until the olive oil and lemon juice have evenly coated the lettuce and carrots.

2. Pile the dressed lettuce and carrots onto a serving plate. Top with pomegranate arils, almonds, cheese, and black pepper.

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On my final evening in Paris, I arrived at the train station completely bushed after a day full of solo sightseeing. I’d taken the gluten-filled route to an afternoon coma, eating mostly baked goods and foregoing my usual healthy salads and snacks. In retrospect, this was kind of a terrible idea — a bread-filled day doesn’t really treat my body that well, and I was groggy and out of sorts for a whole day afterward!

Regrets aside, the breadth of carby goodness I managed to tackle was pretty impressive. In the space of 10 hours, I tried a baguette and croissant from a tiny artisan bakery, a nutella/coconut crepe from one of Paris’ numerous creperies, and my favorite indulgence of all, a salted butter kouginette from Larnicol. What can I say, I didn’t want to leave Paris without having tried the world-famous pastries and breads.

(On a gluten-free note, Larnicol makes an incredible cookie using 100% buckwheat flour. They’re labeled “sarassin,” and are sold in packages of a dozen or so in cellophane sleeves. Salted butter is the first ingredient — they are anything but healthy, extremely rich, and totally worth it.)

By the time I got to the Gare du Nord, I was a tired little butterball, and utterly bread-ed out. I didn’t think I’d ever be interested in eating again, and yet I couldn’t resist buying a beautiful French food magazine, perfect reading material for the Eurostar train to London. Even better, the magazine had a special summer recipe insert, including the one I’ve adapted/translated for today’s post.

I’d never eaten fennel and apples together before making this recipe, and I’m so glad to have been introduced to the combination! Their flavors and textures play off of each other incredibly well, especially when complemented by rich, toasty pine nuts, tangy Pecorino Romano cheese and a bright, simple lemon vinaigrette. Serve this salad atop lettuce leaves for a beautiful first course to a fancy dinner, or enjoy it with poultry or fish as a surprising and light side dish.

Fennel and Apple Salad with Pine Nuts and Romano Cheese (printer-friendly version)

serves 4-6

1/2 C (70 g.) pine nuts
2 medium-sized bulbs fennel
2 large fuji apples
130 g. (about 1/4 lb) Pecorino Romano cheese
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 a large lemon (about 2 Tbsp.)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt

1. In a medium (10″) saucepan over medium heat, toast the pine nuts until aromatic and just beginning to brown. Once they are just toasted, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2. Remove the green tops from the fennel, and peel away any brown or bruised layers. Quarter the bulbs, then use a knife to remove the tough inner cores. Slice into thin pieces, about 1/8″ thick. Place in a large mixing bowl.

3. Quarter and core the apples, then cut into 8ths. Slice the 8ths into thin slices, of equal thickness to the fennel. Add to the bowl with the fennel.

4. Slice the Romano cheese into 1/8″ slices, stack them up, then cut into small matchstick pieces (1/4″ by 1″). Add to the bowl with apples and fennel.

5. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Stir until mixed thoroughly, then pour into the bowl with the other ingredients.

6. Add the pine nuts to the bowl, then stir everything to combine.

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