Spiced Eggplant Salad

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Every relationship has rules. For example, in some relationships the person who makes dinner doesn’t have to do the dishes. In others, the person who cleans the bathroom doesn’t have to take out the garbage. In my relationship with Craig, there’s one overriding rule that must be obeyed or everything will crumble to pieces. That rule is: “Adam, don’t buy any more cookbooks.”

My cookbook shelf is positively bursting with cookbooks. 60% are cookbooks I purchased before meeting Craig, but the other 40% are books that are sent to me by eager publicists who, much like my publicist when my book came out, want maximum exposure for their books. I can’t say no: my policy is, I’ll accept the book (assuming it’s a book I think I’ll be interested in) and if I like it I’ll write about it. But the truth is, if it’s a text-based book there’s no way I’m reading it before the year 2020–I’m a slow reader and for me to spend time reading a book, I have to really, really, really want to read it. If it’s a cookbook, I’ll flip through it when it arrives and if I like something in it I’ll cook it and if it comes out well, I’ll blog about it. Obviously, that doesn’t happen too often because how many posts can you recall from recent memory that I cooked from a new cookbook? I can only recall one, and that wasn’t even a cookbook: it was a promotion for an upcoming cookbook.

All of that’s to say, I’m not allowed to buy cookbooks. “You don’t need any more cookbooks,” Craig will say when I’m tempted. “Where will you put it anyway? There’s no room.”

He makes very good points. And I’ve been good, I’ve followed the rule pretty dutifully for the past year. Only, over the past few months, I slowly fell for a book I flipped through again and again in the bookstore. Finally, after months of flipping, I decided to break the sacred rule. I bought it. I took it home. I hid it under the mattress. Craig didn’t know, he still doesn’t know. Thank God he doesn’t read my blog (well he does occasionally.) What book was it that made me break my pact? You must click to find out….(unless you’re reading this in some kind of reader, in which case the answer is right below this sentence….)

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Killer Salads

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I’ve been making some killer dinner salads lately and I’d like to share with you my technique.

I subscribe to the “stuff” philosophy of salad-making which is, essentially, that the best part of a salad is the “stuff,” not the lettuce. So my salads have no lettuce: just lots of stuff mixed together in a bowl with a homemade vinaigrette. The salad above, for example, has chopped up carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, bacon, avocado and blue cheese. The salad below, on the other hand, has peppers, carrots, onions, green beans, and chickpeas:

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So here’s how I make a great salad. Buy your ingredients–they don’t have to be fancy or even from the farmer’s market, I got mine from my crappy Key Foods–bring them home and wash them and dry them well. Then cut your ingredients into big pieces and throw them into a bowl.

In a smaller bowl, place an egg yolk (that’s my dressing secret), a big spoonful of spicy French mustard and about 2 Tbs of balsamic vinegar with salt and pepper and whisk together. Then, slowly, drizzle in–drop by drop–your favorite olive oil, whisking all the time. If you do it correctly, it’ll stay thick and emulsified and you’ll ahve a creamy, tangy, colorful dressing for which to dress your salad.

Then pour about half the dressing over the vegetables, crumble on some really good blue cheese (the kind that has a name–like Danish Blue, which I used), grind some pepper over the bowl and mix it all together with a big spoon. Taste a bite and see if it needs more dressing, if it needs more cheese. Adjust accordingly and serve with some crusty bread which you’ve heated in the oven.

It may not be the healthiest salad on the block, but its certainly a healthier alternative to that fast food burger you were thinking of scarfing down from immoral cows.

Bon appetit.

Orangette’s Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini

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Going through old pictures, just now, I found the picture you see above and smacked my lips at the memory: “Hey!” my brain sang out. “That’s that delicious butternut squash and chickpea salad with tahini you made from Orangette’s website.”

According to the picture, I made this on December 19th. So please follow this link to Orangette’s recipe (it’s an adapted recipe, so lets not give her ALL the credit) and take a picture, date it, and bury it away so you can have the same experience I just had. Then make it again as I plan to make it again quite soon.

Spring To Summer Salad

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Summer is here, and yet spring is still finishing it’s run at the farmer’s market. Featured in the bowl above you will see my favorite springtime vegetable: sugar snap peas. I bought a whole bunch Saturday at Union Square and created my new signature Spring To Summer Salad. To make the salad, I just stringed the snap peas (you pull the little tail across the pea until the string is gone), boiled some beets (I know chefs love to roast them, but I like boiling better and think the result is just the same–you drop in boiling water (with some vinegar and salt) and then, when you can get a knife through the beet, it’s done), peeled some carrots, sliced some radishes and then hard boiled those eggs. To get your eggs pretty like mine, just place the eggs at the bottom of a saucepan, cover with cold water, put on the heat, when it comes just to the boil, put the lid on, turn the heat off and wait 15 minutes. Then drop the eggs in ice water, peel under a faucet, and wha-la: pretty eggs. I tossed all those vegetables with really good olive oil, some balsamic vinegar (and a splash of red when I ran out of balsamic), salt, pepper and it was quite a feast. But to gild the lily, I placed a giant wedge of Cato Farm’s blue cheese on top and served with some olive bread. And that’s what I call a Spring to Summer Salad.

I invented a salad.

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The inspiration came from my stomach: after making a BLT for dinner (an awesome BLT, inspired by Nancy Silverton’s sandwich book, with avocado instead of tomato and tarragon in the mayonnaise) i was still hungry. I opened my fridge and saw fresh cut pineapple I’d bought earlier in the day. So I removed that, I removed the tarragon, I dug in and found a big leftover chunk of ricotta salata, half a Vidalia onion, and–most notably–the jar of June Taylor’s Meyer Lemon & Rosemary Marmalade which I purchased at the San Francisco Ferry Building:

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I sliced the pineapple uniformly, I diced the onion into a small dice, and shredded the tarragon. Then I tossed them all on a plate with some olive oil, salt and pepper, crumbled over the ricotta salata and–in a move inspired by David Chang’s use of lychee gele in the glorious apple salad I had at Ssam bar–spooned the Meyer Lemon marmalade on top.

The result was surprising and exciting. The tartness of the lemon balanced the sweetness of the pineapple, offset by the creaminess of the cheese and the herbiness of the tarragon. I felt like a 3-star chef primed for my very own James Beard award. I applauded myself voraciously, devoured the salad, cleaned up the mess, watched “The View” on Tivo and went to bed. It was a magical night.

The Salad In Winter

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After reading Regina Schrambling’s L.A. Times piece on winter salads last week, I was inspired to make this fennel, green apple and watercress salad from A Voce. There are many wonderful things about this salad, most of all the lemon zest: it makes it so zingy and bright you’ll forget it’s winter (as if the 80 degree weather hasn’t already done that.) I tweaked the salad and used arugula instead of watercress but that’s just because I’m lazy and pre-washed arugula is more user-friendly that dirty, sandy watercress that you have to wash yourself. Don’t skimp on the golden raisins, though, or the fresh Parmesan. I’m also proud of my restraint, here. I used the smallest amount of olive oil I could–usually I pour with a heavy hand–and it worked wonders. It’s a winter salad for the ages.

Another Summer Salad

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Heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market, green basil, purple basil, fresh feta cheese, olive oil, balsamic, sea salt and homemade garlic croutons… What can I say? I accept your standing ovation.