This past weekend, Michael and I celebrated out 1 year anniversary. Our anniversary is on Cinco de Mayo, and I kind of love that we share our anniversary with a silly, happy, tequila drinking, mexican food eating holiday. I cannot believe it has been one year already, this has undoubtedly been the fastest year of my life. Well ... know what they say .......
We didn't make a big deal over our anniversary. We spent the day attending a culinary class that Michael had gotten me for Christmas. For dinner, we had sushi at a no-frills, hole-in-the-wall sushi place down the street from us. It was peaceful, perfect, exactly how I wanted it to be.
In celebration, I thought about posting a fun cupcake recipe for you here, or maybe even a mexican-themed dish, but I just wasn't feeling it. I have been really into spring vegetables and salads recently, so instead I thought I would go with one of my newest and prettiest salads.
Simple, perfect, not over the top, just how our anniversary was spent.
We are in the height of asparagus season right now, and the asparagus that I've been finding at the markets have been so good that they are just as deliciuos raw as they are cooked. If you can find them, the white asparagus are a real treat. They have a slightly brighter taste than the green, and they go so well together in this salad, visually and taste-ually (is that a word? I don't think so).
The carrots add another layer of taste and color to the dish. I looked for colorful carrots, and could not find any, but if you are lucky enough to find some I am sure they would make for a stunning presentation.
Thinly slicing and marinating vegetables has a way of making raw vegetables taste "cooked". You can eat this totally raw, or if you want a little more umph to it you can add in rice, quinoa, millet, or any grain or you like. I loved the look of the red rice. I'm big into color coordination here if you haven't been able to tell.
I know I've been harping on the weather a bit lately, but ... I'm optimistic this will be my last real wintry recipe. I am so ready for artichokes, spring peas, and ramps, but until it gets a little warmer outside I'm braising. Lentils.
Braising is one of my favorite words in the culinary vocabulary. I love everything about it. I love what it stands for, I love to braise foods, and I love to eat braised foods. It's one of the laziest methods of cooking, and yet produces some of the most flavorful results.
When you hear the word braise, the first thing that might come to mind is meat. But not here, not today. Today we're braising lentils. Because braised lentils are delicious. They get the same amount of love and red wine that anything else that is braised would get. With a slightly healthier result.
I was inspired to braise lentils after reading Melissa's Clark recipe for braised beans in dining section of the New York Times. It sounded like such a warm, hearty, good wintry dish, and when I made her braised beans and they definitely hit all of those notes. Then I tried a version with black lentils that were just as satisfying, and a little easier to prepare in a pinch since black lentils do not need to be soaked.
To make this a complete meal that would satisfy the gamut from vegans to carnivores, they needed a little something more. A dense pieces of grilled polenta to soak up all the delicious braising juices does the trick. Some kale or spinach as the base adds some bite and some green. I cannot think of a more satisfying and complete dinner for a chilly evening.
Yes. I am sharing two salads with you in a row.
You see, there is something I have to tell you ... salads are my thing. My speciality. My jam.
I know, It is not exactly the most exciting thing in the world.
Some people are really good at making awesome, fancy things like creme brulee or pot pie. I am really good at making salads.
I always wanted to be really good at making one thing. You know, so Bobby Flay would come knocking on my door to do a throwdown. Being the veggie lover that I am, I guess it was natural that salads became my thing. I'm ready for my salad throwdown Bobby. Bring it.
You might be thinking, what's so special about making salads? Isn't making salads really easy. Well, yes, it is. But anyone who is really good at making one thing puts a lot of love into making that one thing.
I put a lot of love into my salads.
I love to make my own dressing, I love to incorporate a good balance of ingredients, I love to use only what's fresh and seasonal, and I love to add unexpected things.
It's all about the love and the ingredients.
As always, whenever I post a salad recipe, I like to think of it more as a guideline or an inspiration for your own salad creations. If you've never used sautéed fennel in a salad, maybe you will try it sometime. If you've only had ginger dressing at a japanese restaurant, maybe now you'll be tempted to make your own at home.
Or maybe you will try this just as I made it. I sure hope you do.
Back when I worked in the corporate world, things were a little different.
I had to wake up about 30 minutes before my body wanted to every morning.
I wore high heels and starched shirts.
I would have breakfast at my desk, lunch at my desk, and I would prepare both in the little kitchen our office provided (sometimes getting odd glares from my co-workers who usually got take-out or ordered in).
On days that I was busy I would never leave my desk, and on days that I was bored I would find every excuse leave my desk.
In the winter, I would leave the office an hour or two (or three) after the sun went down. Michael and I would often get home at the same time, and on most nights we would cook.
I didn’t have as much time to get creative in the kitchen on the weeknights. Most nights I would stick to one of the several classic recipes that I knew well.
Roasted vegetables were a staple.
When I took a bite of a roasted carrot the other night, it reminded me of something. It took me a minute to pinpoint it. Usually food can take you back to a lovely place, a fond childhood memory, a memory of a beloved family member, but not this roasted carrot. This roasted carrot reminded me of my old job. It was strange. It was not necessarily a bad memory, but not a picturesque one either.
It got me thinking.
Sometimes we cook things because they are simple and easy to make. Sometimes we cook things because they taste good. Sometimes we cook things because they remind us of a person a place or a memory.
I realized, roasted vegetables are all of those things to me.
They are easy to prepare, they taste really good, and now that I've thought about it, they remind me of cold, quite nights at home with Michael when we would change into comfy clothes and catch up on our days. Maybe it is a pretty fond memory after all.
Roasted vegetable in the wintertime are good for the soul.
Kale is good for the soul too.
Marinated kale is just really good period. The marinating breaks the kale down into tender bites that are easier to eat and digest. Massaging the kale helps the process of breaking it down as well. This technique is not only good for this kale salad, but for anytime you want to eat kale raw.
The roasted vegetables make a hearty addition to the raw kale. Winter salads are best with some kind of warm element. Roasted vegetables not only warm up this salad, but they give it that nostalgic roasted taste that hopefully (for you) has a fond winter memory attached to it.