Tuesday, February 26, 2013

moroccan carrot salad with citrus and spice

oh hey, look, it's almost march. time flies when you're unemployed! (no it doesn't) 

i've been trying to make the most of this interlude of working part-time. i tend to be one of those people who really doesn't do that well with enforced time off (i get antsy), but it's been nice to have time to do various cooking-related projects (i seasoned a new wok!), take the dogs on long walks, and finally get around to planting a small herb garden. actually "herb garden" sounds fancier than it is - it's just a couple of plastic bins, really. but i'm super-excited about the culinary possibilities of my new endeavor - now i'll have italian parsley, basil, oregano, chives, orange and chocolate mints, pineapple sage, and mexican tarragon (aka mexican mint marigold) at my fingertips. 

unfortunately the garden came about after i made this moroccan-y carrot salad, or i'd definitely have used some of the orange mint in it. even sans orange (or any) mint, though, it was well worth making and it brightened up an otherwise dreary february day with its citrus-spicy carrot ribbons and non-homegrown herbs.

i tend to keep a lot of dried spices around, as they're easy to get in small amounts in the bulk section of our fancy local supermarket. if i could only get whole bottles at a time, i'd probably have fewer. so if you don't have some of these, nbd. just leave them out or add more of what you do have, to taste.

here i used about 1/8 of a teaspoon each of ginger, cinnamon, cumin, sumac, and coriander and perhaps 1/4 teaspoon each of za'atar and kosher salt.

then i added juice from 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 a small orange and a couple of teaspoons (aka a "glug") of olive oil and maybe a teaspoon each of honey and pomegranate molasses. ta da! dressing! it's totally to taste, though, so play with it a bit.

you could cut the carrots in whatever way you prefer. i was going to grate/julienne them with my mandoline, but i can't find it and now i'm not sure if i've even seen it since we left portland. it's possible that my mom threw/gave it away, as i'm not sure she's forgiven it for chopping the tip of my finger off a couple of years ago (lesson: be so SO careful with those things. they WANT to hurt you. also brussels sprouts are hard to cut on a mandoline.). 

so i used a peeler to cut them into long ribbons instead. because pretty!

a little bit of chopped shallot or scallions wouldn't be out of place here in addition to the herbs, but not having any, i just tossed in a big handful each of chopped parsley and cilantro. because in adversity we make do. just like the pioneers.

this will keep well in the fridge for at least a few days. the dressing pools in the bottom of the bowl a bit, but you could add some chickpeas or other beans or some chicken or hard-boiled eggs  or feta and make a very pleasant little lunch for yourself.

*ingredients* for maybe 4 servings
4 large carrots
1/8 teaspoon or so cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, sumac
1/4 teaspoon or so za'atar and kosher salt
2-3 teaspoons olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon and 1/2 small orange (~1/4 cup or less total)
1 teaspoon  honey and 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (or just 1-2 teaspoons honey)
1 handful each chopped parsley and cilantro (and/or mint) - maybe 1/2 cup total

listening to: a pandora station for MIA's paper planes, so kate nash, lily allen (wow, do not cross that kid) and (perhaps inevitably) MIA herself.

Friday, February 1, 2013

breakfast salad - kale, avocado, bacon & egg

i'm basically endlessly interested in what people are eating at any given time. i was actually excited when people initially thought that twitter was just going to be a bunch of people yapping about what sandwich they had for lunch. 

especially interesting to me are regional differences in what's considered "breakfast food." in the united states in general, we tend to think of things like omelets, pancakes, or oatmeal, but here in austin, breakfast tacos or migas are among the most popular ways to start the day. when i lived in portland, we swooned over wild salmon hash. i guess in pennsylvania they eat scrapple? etc, etc. and of course outside the united states there are as many favored breakfasts as there are people - kaya toast in singapore, ful medames in egypt - you get the idea.

all this by way of saying that it's not totally out of the bounds of normalcy to eat salad for breakfast. personally, i can't handle sweet or overly bread-y-based breakfasts - i like protein and savoriness to start my day. this salad hits all the right breakfast buttons for me, with a creamy avocado and yogurt dressing, vibrant raw kale and a bit of bacon and a fried egg to keep you sated and happy until you have a sandwich to tweet about.

kale kale kale. everyone's talking about it. i like it in salads mostly, though sometimes i cook it like other greens - with olive oil, garlic and chili flakes. for this iteration i used the regular curly kale, though the flatter darker lacinato kale would be good as well. just take the stems out by holding the stem end in one hand and running your index finger and thumb along the stem to the top of the leaf - the non-stem part should come off pretty easily. then pile the leaves up and slice very thinly - as thin as possible. this keeps it from being too tough.

put the leaves in a large bowl, add two tablespoons of olive oil and massage the oil into the leaves. the oil apparently softens the cuticle of the leaf, making it more tender. i don't really find tenderness to be a problem with the lacinato kale, but with the curly stuff, you definitely want to do this step.

the dressing comes together quickly in a food processor - half an avocado, 1/4 cup of greek yogurt, the zest of 1/2 - 1 whole lemon, the juice of same, a teaspoon or so of salt and a small-medium clove of garlic. you want to cut the garlic up a bit so that it blends in nicely. or you could use shallot. or regular yogurt. it is, after all, your thing. do what you want to do. once the dressing's nicely blended up, you might as well use your hands again to make sure that each leaf-bit is coated. it's messy but effective.

you can eat it like this and it's a good salad. it'll last for awhile (~4 days, at least) in the fridge with no ill effects. i like to dress it up a bit for breakfast, though, with the addition of some turkey bacon and a fried egg. clearly one could also use regular bacon. i just don't dig on swine, that's all (though because of their cuteness and intelligence, rather than their apocryphal filthiness).

surely everyone knows how to make bacon and a fried egg, but just in case - i like to cut the bacon up into little pseudo-lardons, then cook over medium-high heat until cooked through and crispy (it should take perhaps 5 minutes or probably less). then you can cook the egg(s) in the bacon fat! yeah! i like to put the egg in an already-hot pan over medium heat and salt and pepper it well. then put a lid on it so that the yolk cooks as the bottom is getting all frilly and crisp. different people have different fried egg preferences, so just cook as you see fit. i like it when the white is fully opaque and the yolk is still runny.

then just add the bacon to the salad, slide an egg on top and you're golden. if you're not eating all of the salad immediately, you could keep the bacon and kale separate until you're ready for it. it might stay crisper. and i would only do the egg when you're just about to eat. no one wants cold old eggs.

this also makes a fine dinner or lunch salad, if you roll like that.

*ingredients* makes 3-4 servings, depending on how much kale you want

1 bunch kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large avocado
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 small-medium clove garlic
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
3 or 4 strips of bacon (i used turkey bacon) *optional
eggs (probably like 1 per serving, so 3-4 total) *optional

listening to: my main jams these days are kishi bashi and the new st. vincent and david byrne album. lots of strings and horns (respectively) get me every time.