Nothing makes me feel more rabbit-like than a bowl of lettuce, poorly dressed and carelessly presented. Sadly, I could feed an entire colony of rabbits with all of the uninspiring salads I’ve been served. Their usual lack of nutrition makes me dislike them even more when offered as the ‘vegetarian option’. Cake is a vegetarian option.
I got particularly distressed when I had a long, hot Georgia summer of CSA boxes loaded with lettuce. This prompted a salad making frenzy that enabled me to grow out of my silly exasperation and embrace their raw, crunchy temperament. I still don’t order lettuce-y salads in restaurants but I make them a few times a week in the hopes of clearing out the fridge.
Making salads can be extremely rewarding once the craft of it gets into your bones. It’s a chance to paint with texture. Naturally you’d want to work with only local, seasonal, and fresh ingredients, but aside from the obvious factors, I think they are about as fun as anything improvisational gets.
This shaved cauliflower salad was inspired by Nigel Slater’s Fennel and Green Bean Salad in his epic vegetable book, Tender. I’ve made significant changes to the original, but I still liken this to his because I can’t stop putting green beans in my salad since. Also, I can’t live without cauliflower – when these cruciferous vegetables are shaved, they are subtle and delightful; a perfect backdrop for tomatoes, green beans, parsley, and toasted almonds.
2 c. shaved cauliflower
1 c. green beans, blanched for 3 mins and cooled in ice water
1. cherry tomatoes
1 c. loosely packed parsley leaves
1/4 c. toasted, sliced almonds
1 egg yolk
1 TB sherry vinegar
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB dijon mustard
1/2 c. olive oil
3 TB finely grated parmesan
+ Whisk dressing ingredients together well and toss half of the dressing with shaved cauliflower, blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes, and parsley. Top with almonds. Drizzle additional dressing on top right before serving.
The San Francisco’s library collection of cookbooks is quite impressive, but let’s not tell anyone. I think I made off with at least 3 more books than I had originally intended thus looking quite homeless on my walk home with an enormous bag. I get that desperate feeling on market street sometimes when I am carrying a heavy load for seven blocks… those shopping carts do look enticing after all.
Anyways, I’m not really that into Martha Stewart. She uses a little too much turquoise and teal in everything. Also, her recipes seem so matronly. Of course I am being completely condescending and dismissive. Martha and I ought to be the best of pals because what I found in her Pies & Tart book was a challenge to friendship in the form of my favorite Brassica -Cauliflower Hand Pies! Back in the days when I had a small command of the French language, I became enamored with the chou-fleur. Chou was a French term of endearment and you can’t endear that much closer to my heart than a creamy chou-fleur soup du jour! Let’s just say I’m like the Cat Lady of cauliflower recipes.
I was determined to make a savory hand pie after reading and baking the Peach and Bourbon Hand Pies from Smitten Kitchen. Unfortunately, that impeccable flaky dough did not hold up the next day. It is really intended to be eaten immediately, because it was soaking up every ounce of humidity in the hair and was getting moist and limp with every aching minute. Further, this short crust recipe uses egg yolk and shredded cheese, a combination I’ve yet to try. I’m making a meal of them with a creamy and chunky mushroom barley soup (half of the mushrooms are pureed to give the broth some thickness). This combination was pretty hefty so a salad wouldn’t hurt.
Cauliflower Hand Pie Recipe
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts
2 1/4 c. Flour
1/2 c. Grated Manchego Cheese
1/8 ts. Sugar
1 ts. Fine sea salt
3/4 c. Butter, cut into cubes and chilled in freezer
1 Egg Yolk
1/2 c. Ice Cold Water
1 small cauliflower, sliced thinly
5 oz of sliced Machego cheese
2/3 c. Hazelnuts, roasted and skinned
1 garlic glove
1 ts. grated lemon zest
2 ts. chopped rosemary
1/4 c. olive oil
1 egg yolk
1 TB cream
+ Make Pastry Dough: Sift flour, sugar and salt together. Add flour mixture, grated cheese and chilled butter in to a food processor. Pulse into a coarse meal with pea sized butter. Pulse into the flour and butter mixture 1 egg yolk, and then slowly add the ice water to the mix. Divide dough into two equal portions and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and place into fridge for a minimum of one hour.
+ While the dough is chilling, roast the cauliflower. First, brush them with a bit of olive oil on both sides and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Roast one side for 7 minutes and then flip and roast the other side for 5 minutes.
+ Make the Hazelnut spread in your food processor by chopping up the hazelnuts finely. Next, add lemon zest and rosemary. With the processor still running slowly add olive oil until the mixture resembles a wet peanut butter.
+ Remove chilled pastry disks from the fridge and roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/4″. With the first dough batch, cut eight 4″ circles and eight little flowers (decorative). Roll out the remaining dough disk and cut a 4 1/4″ or 4 1/2″ disk (these are the tops). I like to use a larger circle on the top as it allows me to put more fillings into the hand pies. Otherwise, sealing them can be difficult if you are prone to overstuffing.
+ Evenly place 8 4″bottom disks onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Fill your bottom disks with 2 ts. of hazelnut spread, some cauliflower, and a slice or two of cheese (leaving at least 1/4″ space around the edges). You’ll have to be judicious with these amounts because after sealing one or two, you may find that it is possible to add or remove fillings in order to seal the pastries. Brush edges liberally with a mixture of 1 egg yolk and 1 TB of heavy cream wash. Press the top disks onto your bottom edges using a fork. I do four perpendicular corners and then press the remainder. Attach the decorative flowers using egg wash. Use the remainder of the egg wash to cover the hand pies. Chill in the fridge (I think these would freeze well at this point) for one hour.
+ Bake in a 375 °F oven for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve when the hand pies are at room temperature.
Chunky Mushroom Barley Soup (I puree half of the mushrooms to give the broth a lot of texture without having to use a thickener)
2 TB olive oil
1 small sweet onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ts. finely chopped dried thyme
1 ts. finely chopped fresh rosemary
6 c. stock ( I used this sparingly as it tends to be salty, which is available at whole foods for about $5)
1 c. barley
6 c. mushrooms, sliced
4 TB butter
1 c. cream
+ In your soup pot, sautee the onions, garlic, thyme, and rosemary on medium low heat with the olive oil until the onions are translucent . Once the onions are translucent and tender, add 6 cups of broth and 1 cup of barley to the pot. Bring the broth to a slow simmer and allow to cook until the barley is tender, approximately 40 minutes (longer if you want them more tender). Turn off your heat.
+Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pan and cook the mushrooms on medium heat until they start to absorb all of their moisture. Mushrooms first release moisture when cooked but it will eventually evaporate as you continue to apply heat. This took me about 30 – 40 minutes.
+ Place half of the cooked mushrooms into the soup and puree the other in a food processor until a smooth consistency. Add this to the broth along with the cream to the soup. At this time, I added hot water until I got a consistency I liked. Salt to taste.