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Broccoli Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Broccoli Salad

I have discovered that one of the keys to eating more vegetables is having more vegetables available. And by “available” I do not mean sitting, happily dirt-encrusted, at the Farmer’s Market. Or even in the depths of my crisper drawer. I mean washed, prepped and ready to eat.

Crudites are the obvious answer, but it gets boring eating crudites. I mean, carrot sticks, in addition to winning the lifetime achievement award for “the only vegetable kids will reliably eat” have the unfortunate connotations of “diet food.” And even ranch dressing doesn’t help, as I’ve found my tolerance for bottled salad dressing has waned as I’ve gotten older. (Was that an unbearably Paltrow-esque and precious thing to say? I’m clearly channeling my inner GOOP. It’s just, well, goopy). We could (and have) roasted large amounts of vegetables on the weekend for snacking on the rest of the week, but that takes quite a bit of foresight. Salads are clearly another great answer, but lettuce can be a wee bit delicate for the depths of my crisper drawer, and don’t even think about dressing it in advance.

Broccoli salad, now, there’s the ticket.  It has the advantages of sturdiness, and anything with broccoli imparts that aura of good health.  My kids will sometimes eat it (though the Nuni’s BFF complained that it was “spicy”.  Five year olds find currants to be “spicy.”  Be warned.)  I can make it one day and the leftovers are perfect for noshing the next day, and the next.
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Meyer Lemon Kale Salad

Meyer Lemon Kale Salad

If you’re eating vegetables for their health benefits, you’d be hard-pressed to find something betthan than kale.  Low in calories, full of fiber, and rich in vitamins, A,C and K,  it’s commonly referred to as a “nutrition powerhouse.”   Of course, I’m not the first person to discover this, so there are recipes all over creation  trying to make kale, which can be challenging, palatable.  This one actually succeeds. You may think that there are no new frontiers to be conquered with regards to kale salad, but you would be mistaken. This kale salad is epic. This kale salad is the one that people go back for seconds for on a buffet. This kale salad caused my five year old to utter the words, “Sigh. MOOOOOMMM. Why can’t you just make kale salad again?” (She is five going on fifteen). This kale salad will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

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Fennel, Apple and Pear Salad

Apple Pear Fennel Salad

I know when I promised vegetable recipes, you were not thinking “salad.” Salad is boring. Salad is easy. We’ve already thought of salad. Well, salad IS easy, but it doesn’t have to be boring. The universe of salads is huge, and if recipes for salads are more ideas than recipes, well, couldn’t we all use some more ideas?

We eat salads a lot. This one takes a little more hand work than the most rushed “open a bag of lettuce, throw on some dressing” (though those feature heavily in our rotation as well), but it’s also delicate, and appealing. The Nuni loved it, the husband loved it. It’s neither all sweet nor all savory, but a lovely both/and.
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Top 25 Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Dry Brined Thanksgiving Turkey

Halloween is over, and we’ve all recovered from our sugar highs (theoretically). Now is the home stretch for home cooks – less than three weeks until Thanksgiving, and then the sprint through the December holidays into New Year, when we all collapse in a faint of exhaustion. I know you’re already planning your Thanksgiving menu, so to make it easy, I collected the The Domestic Front Thanksgiving recipes into one easy place. The best, most foolproof, most delicious, juicy, crisp-skinned roast turkey? We’ve got that. Instructions on making your own pie crust (with a bonus recipe for silky smooth, perfectly spiced pumpkin pie)? You’ll find that here. In the next few weeks I’ve got a few exciting new recipes coming up — another savory sweet potato dish, a refreshing fall salad, and new twists on old favorites like stuffing and cranberry sauce, but in the meantime, here’s the roundup of Thanksgiving recipes for your inspiration:

Turkey:
Easy, Dry-Brined Roast Turkey

You’re serving vegetarians?
Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Kale and Cabbage Gratin
Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Gratin
Onion Tarte Tatin

Your favorite thing is, of course, stuffing:
Old School Sage Stuffing

What vegetable side should you make this year? (see also, cooking for vegetarians, above)
Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts with Cream
Creamed Kale
Creamed Spinach with Jalapenos
Slow Cooked Green Beans
Creamy, Spicy Sweet Potato Gratin

It’s not Thanksgiving without pie:
Maple Walnut Pie
Vegetarian Mincemeat Pie
Nesselrode Pie
Perfect Pumpkin Pie, and a tutorial on homemade pie crust
Rice Pudding Pie

You don’t like Pie:
Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake

You’re stuck with the cranberry sauce but you still want a chance to shine:
Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Oranges and Pecans

You’re on Salad Duty:
Arugula Salad with Persimmons and Gouda
Homemade Salad Dressing

You’re keeping the relatives happy (aka mixing drinks):
The Perfect Manhattan
Champagne Cocktail

Aunt Helen won’t let you set foot in the kitchen, but you still want to help:
Polishing Silver
Five Easy DIY Holiday Centerpieces

You’re panicking:
Last Minute Tips on Hosting Thanksgiving

Essential Potato Salad

Potato Salad

Labor Day weekend is bittersweet, like the end of an affair. Three days of sunshine, of flip-flops, of beaches and barbecue. But Tuesday lurks around the corner, like a raincloud with the smell of ozone to the air. There’s almost a sense of desperation — just one more cookout! — before fall settles in, with its dark evenings, the smell of cinnamon and freshly-sharpened pencils, and its long march to winter.

I’ve been busy collecting summer, whether it’s making just one more fresh fruit pie, canning a batch of tomato jam, downing bottles of rose, or just sneaking outside to enjoy the sunset. I keep getting ideas and checking them off the list: Hollywood Bowl tickets, picnics, Lemonade! And one of my favorite summer foods is potato salad. I wanted to get in one more potato salad before roast potatoes become de rigueur.

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Japanese Ramen Salad

Japanese Ramen Salad

It’s far too cold in Los Angeles this week to even think of having a picnic, or eating a salad. We’ve had rain and fog and nighttime temperatures in the 40’s. I’ve been digging out my thick sweaters and my boots and thinking of building a fire in the fireplace. It’s MAY, people! I live in Los Angeles! Apparently Mother Nature didn’t get the message.

Regardless of the weather, Memorial Day is around the corner! Which means PICNICS! And POTLUCKS! Or mayonnaise slowly congealing in the hot sun until it becomes liquid death, and “I’m a vegetarian/lactose intolerant/in a neurotic relationship with pasta.” Well, given these parameters, have I got the dish for you. I got it from my friend Corrine (of the apparently departed casavillecooking) who deals with dairy and egg allergies in her family, and is therefore a great source of vegan and dairy-free recipes. This dish is a perfect potluck dish — it’s vegan (or not, depending on your additions), dairy-free, egg-free, and not too starchy. You can make it gluten-free by replacing the ramen noodles with rice noodles fried in a little oil. It’s also easy and quick to make, can be scaled up or down, and can be adapted to suit your tastes and your audience. With no mayonnaise, it will hold for a few hours without refrigeration (it also makes a great brown bag lunch dish). And did I mention it’s delicious? Flavorful, kid friendly — it even features healthy vegetables!
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California Pizza Kitchen Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad

CPK Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad

Back in the day when I lived in New York, I was more than a little homesick. I pined and yearned for my home state of California, and pounced on everything I could find that reminded me of home. I wore flipflops at the very first sign of spring in the city (and narrowly avoided frostbite in the process), I saw the movie Sideways 3 times in the theaters, and bought the DVD when it was released; I traveled all the way to TENTH AVENUE to find a tiny taqueria in the back of a bodega that sold real tacos; I listened to the Beach Boys on repeat. So you can imagine how happy I was when the last apartment we lived in in Manhattan was right next door to a California Pizza Kitchen (it also had a balcony, which means my poor husband was sent outside to grill in 50 degree weather. He was happy when we finally moved to California because I immediately started wearing black and wanting to see foreign films in a desperate cling to my New York days). Now I realize that California Pizza Kitchen is about as truly Californian as Red Lobster is truly a restaurant of Maine, but I was desperate.

And the truth is, I kind of liked their food. Sure, peanut butter is not my FAVORITE topping on pizza, and some of those combinations were just weird, but the barbecue chicken chopped salad was quite tasty and quickly became my go to order.

CPK Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad

And then I moved to L.A., and I could get REAL Mexican food, and if I want fancy pizza I could go to Spago, where it all began. And California Pizza Kitchen was no longer convenient, and when you actually live in California, it’s probably not something you’re going to go out of your way to visit. So no more CPK for me.

But I missed that chicken salad. Salty, crunchy, a little sweet, with the tang of barbecue sauce and the mellowness of ranch dressing. I WANTED that chicken salad. So I decided to make my own.
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Giveaway, The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth and Endive Salad with Bacon

Endive Salad 2

As I may have mentioned before, I generally receive a several cookbooks for major gift-giving occasions. This isn’t surprising; after all, I have a known cookbook problem, and I have several cookbooks on my Amazon wishlist. I’m fairly familiar with the major cookbooks that are released, what the buzz is, and what the classics are. But this Christmas my aunt (who is a fantastic cook) gave me a book I had never heard of — the Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, by Roy Andries De Groot. “It’s the book that inspired Alice Waters,” she told me. I thanked her politely and added the book to my already crowded shelf of food and cookbooks.

A month or so later, I had finished my book club book for that month and was looking for something to read, and my eye fell on the Auberge. The book is unassuming, with its seventies cover and relatively unknown author (who was at some point the President of the Gourmet Club, which I’m sure had some real meaning in 1973, but sounds made up to me, like something an enterprising high school student would use to pad their college application), but I thought it would be an excellent soothing bedtime read.
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A Controversial Classic — Caesar Salad

Well, that was a nice little break eh?  All the holiday hoopla, then a week to catch your breath before we launch right back into decadent, gooey pastries and … oh wait.  It’s January.  Everyone’s on a diet.  Real Food it is.

To be honest, although I love pulling out the stops for a meal like our New Year’s Eve feast, it’s quite a relief to get back to cooking every day food – I crave things that taste clean and are simple to prepare.   Classics that you can turn to again and again without tiring of them.  Like Caesar salad.

This is my mom’s Caesar salad, and it’s the one I grew up with, and the one she is (justly) famous for.  It’s classic, it’s simple, it’s clean, and it’s packed with flavor.  There are more versions of Caesar salad in the world than I can count, ranging from the elegant tableside preparation you can still see at some old school restaurants  (like the Athenaeum, Cal Tech’s faculty club) to the behemoth served with grilled chicken slices at the Cheesecake Factory.  You can also buy premade “Caesar” dressings at the grocery store, which often have added sugar, added preservatives, and in the case of one dressing by Kraft, added bacon.  (While I have no beef with bacon, I wouldn’t necessarily think of it in connection with a Caesar salad).  What constitutes a Caesar salad is hotly contested, but lemon, garlic, parmesan cheese and romaine lettuce are standard.  Raw egg yolk, another traditional ingredient, gives the food police heart palpitations, and then there are the dreaded anchovies, which many people and restaurants omit out of some anchovy fear or some misguided attachment to “authenticity” (the original Caesar salad, invented by Caesar Cardini in 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico had no anchovies other than those found in the Worcestershire sauce.

Caesar Salad
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Ring in the New Year with Black Eyed Pea and 3 Pepper Salsa

Black Eyed Pea Salsa

New Year’s Day is really a strange holiday. Everyone celebrates hard on New Year’s Eve, leaving the holiday itself as a day to lie around, nurse your hangover, and watch the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl on TV (which is an excellent hangover nursing activity, though perhaps I’m a little biased towards the Rose Parade since I grew up in Pasadena).

But New Year’s Day has some lovely traditions, most of which are associate with the idea of beginning the New Year as you mean to go on. My friend Rebecca spends all of New Year’s Day doing activities she hopes to do throughout the year — spending time with her family, doing the things she loves. This is a tradition I try to aim for, but I’ve already spent more time doing dishes this morning (a byproduct of the fancy New Year’s Eve dinner I cooked, which I’ll tell you about at some point) than I would like to for the rest of the year. Still, I’ve also spent time reading, talking to my husband, exercising, and calling old friends on the telephone. Later, I plan to go out to lunch with my husband and spend some quality time with my daughter and my parents, and of course, cooking.

Black Eyed Pea and 3 Pepper Salsa or Texas Caviar
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
(VERY loosely adapted from Gourmet Magazine, January 1999 Pickled Black Eyed Peas and my submission to this month's Gourmet Unbound. Also sometimes referred to as Texas caviar.)
Ingredients
  • 2 cans of cooked black eyed peas, drained and rinsed,or about 22 oz. of cooked black eyed peas
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 4-5 jarred piquillo peppers (these can be replaced with pimentos or roasted red peppers)
  • 6-7 jarred pickled guindilla peppers (These are a Spanish pepper -- I bought my stash at Trader Joe's. These can also be replaced with peperoncini or my beloved pickled jalapenos).
  • ½ bunch parsley
  • 5 scallions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp. Sriracha or a hot sauce of your choice
  • 1 T Worcestershire Sauce
Instructions
  1. Finely chop all the peppers, the parsley, the scallions, and the garlic and add to a bowl with the peas. Combine the oil and vinegar, add Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and toss with the peas and peppers. Serve with triscuits or tortilla chips.

There are also traditional foods that should be eaten on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, which are supposed to bring luck and prosperity in the New Year. Greens (to represent money) and pork (to represent progress) are often named, but it’s black eyed peas that are most often thought to bring luck, in a tradition that dates back to 500 AD. My New Year’s Day tradition, then, is to make a variant of this dish to bring luck in the New Year. It also has the added advantage of being healthy and delicious, so if I begin as I mean to go on, this is a great beginning.
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