Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Aarti Cooks: Writer's Block Salad

I struggled to come up with a recipe this week.

Sometimes, I'm blessed with a flash of inspiration, say with last week's Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Pickled Mango Soup.

Most of the time though, I'm not. I rack my brains on Monday and Tuesday. I think about it while I'm on the treadmill, while I'm in the shower, while Bren is talking to me about his bizarre dreams last night (sorry bren!). Elena and Karen, the other members that make up our accountability group, know this quandry well; we meet every weekend to plan our week ahead, and whenever I get to Wednesday, I say "I have to put a recipe up that day and I don't know what I'm going to do".

On cue, Elena then says, "You always say that, and then you figure it out a second later. Look, I can tell by your face that you've already figured it out." And I usually have.

But this week was tougher for some reason. I hadn't visited the farmers market since we got back, so I went yesterday in search of a little pick-me-up.

Oh what bounty! Look what I got for $25!

I got:
  • 2 celeriacs (ugly duckling salad anyone?),
  • a bunch of candy striped beets with greens attached,
  • two bunchs of cavalo nero (black kale),
  • some onions and shallots,
  • 2 grapefruits,
  • 2 blood oranges,
  • a butternut squash,
  • a bunch of carrots,
  • an asian pear,
  • a cherimoya (which I suspect is the same thing, or at least related to a custard apple),
  • and 4 small heads of purple and white cauliflower!

Phew! That should last me the entire week! If you're interested, I'll let you know what I end up doing with the rest of that stuff.

And so, after considering the contents of my fridge and the carefully washed bounty before me, I came up with this week's entry. I bring you the Writer's Block Salad, a tangy, cheerfully messy meeting of salad greens, avocado, grapefruit, blood orange (if you can get one), hearts of palm and toasted sunflower seeds. Mint would be a good addition to this salad, but I didn't have any, so there you go.

Have you ever tried hearts of palm? They're fresh, softly crunchy and just a little sweet. Best of all, they're a pretty dang cheap dollop of "oooh!" in your salads. You can either find them in a jar or in a can; either kind is fine.

Here's hoping this salad unlocks any part of your brain that has been sitting dormant for a while! It worked for me; I've already figured out what I'm making next week.

Writer's Block Salad: Hearts of Palm Salad with Winter Citrus, Avocado and Sunflower Seeds

You'll need this stuff:

1 bag of mache aka lamb's lettuce (or a head of any lettuce will do, tear into bite size pieces though), washed
1 grapefruit
1 blood orange (if you can't find one, use another half a grapefruit)
1 tbsp champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Handful of sunflower seeds
Salt and pepper

1) Segment your grapefruit and blood orange: slice off the top and bottom so it sits without rolling over. Then, using a paring knife, slice the peel off, slicing only as deep as the white pith. I remember this was the first cooking technique I ever saw Jacques Pepin teach on his show. Funny what sticks with you, huh?

NOTE: If you like, you can slice off the peel in stages, first just the outer oily peel, then the white pith; you can use the peel to infuse your olive oil. I didn't do that, and now I'm slapping my forehead over the lost opportunity. D'oh!

2) Ok now, over a bowl, hold the grapefruit in the palm of your left hand and slice on either side of the membrane to extract a perfectly membrane-free segment, like so:

Continue all the way around until all you have left are the membranes. Squeeze them over the bowl. Don't waste any of this precious juice! You should have at least 1/4 cup when you're done. Measure out the 1/4 cup, save the rest for another use (or if you feel comfortable making salad dressings, use all the juice and more olive oil for a dressing that will last all week!)

3) Add the minced shallot and a good pinch of salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes, while you cut up your avocado, and chop up the flesh into either slices or chunks, whatever you like. Drain the hearts of palm, and slice them on the bias.

4) Whisk in the olive oil slowly, until it all comes together.

5) Toast the sunflower seeds in a pan over low heat.

6) Compose your salad, placing avocado and citrus segments on top of the greens, drizzling with a little dressing, and then sprinkling the sunflower seeds over the top. Enjoy!




Patte said...

Ohhhhh ... this looks really good, Aarth! I have never had hearts of palm or celeriac.

We have beautiful strawberries here in Florida right now. Sweet & luscious. I made a salad with romaine, strawbs & red onion & poured a poppyseed dressing that I added some oj concentrate to. It was VERY refreshing & yummy.

bodaat said...

You got a custard apple!! Bahhhhhhhhhh!!! I once found one once at the local grocery store and paid an extraordinarily expensive $7 for just one custard apple. And unfortunately, no it wasn't worth it. It just didn't taste the same. :(

Rosesq said...

Looks so yummy Aaru!! I envy you for all the variety of veggies you get. I bet you envy some of the veggies we get here as well. Like Okra:)

Recently I have been adding toasted sesame seeds to my salads. They taste really good and have lots of nourishment as well.


aartilla the fun said...

patte: i think you would really like hearts of palm, especially in salads.

kuv: this one wasn't that expensive, but i don't think it's exactly a custard apple; that said, i'm not sure since it's been so long since i had one!

mum: i miss those fresh butter beans. i am salivating at the thought. we don't get those here. :(

Rosesq said...

I wonder if I can pack some of those butter beans when I come in October:)
and some Custard Apple for Kuv.

A friend of a friend took a whole lot of Butter Beans from Bangalore to the US last week.

Dare I??

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