Appetizer Archive

Monday, June 2, 2014

nancy’s chopped salad

nancys chopped salad

When it comes to meal salads, I feel pretty much everything you need to know is summed up by one of my favorite commercials of all time, which assures you that no matter what’s in your bowl (deep-fried taco shell, ground beef, guacamole, sour cream and cheese), as long as it vaguely resembles a salad, it must be good for you. [“Is it healthy? Of course it is! It’s a salad, isn’t it?”]

what you'll need
chopping garlic, oregano and salt

I bring it up today because we’ve fallen madly in love with a salad that I’m not sure we’re eating for any of the earnest reasons that one usually eats a salad — a desire for leafy greens, fresh vegetables or to be enviable in a swimsuit. Nope, I’m pretty sure this is the best salad ever because it tastes exactly like an Italian sub, minus that all-too-frequently lackluster bread. Which totally makes it healthy.

whisky, whisky

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

avocado cup salads, two ways

avocado cup confetti salads

I have the most boring thing, ever, to tell you today (and clearly it’s not “how to write an enticing lede”): I tried not to eat bread for a couple months. Wait, come back! Let me explain. I don’t mean ever. I am not anti-carb or anti-dessert, nor is Wheat Belly our new idea of a good bedtime story; I am ever your gluten-full host. I remain certain that freshly-baked, crackly-crusted artisanal bread is one of the greatest things in the world; to turn it down a moderate serving of it when you’re able to enjoy it (chemically and all that) is a sacrilege. But that’s not really what most of our bread looks like, does it? Most often, bread is merely bookends on a sandwich, with the goal of making filling portable. Or, it’s toasted so that it can sop up butter, jam or a runny yolk, or crouton-ed to make a salad feel bulkier. It’s all too infrequently in and of itself noteworthy. These latter categories of bread were what I suspected I wouldn’t miss if when I challenged myself to skip them. That is, at least two meals a day: an ascetic, I am not.

rainbow of peppers, black beans
bell peppers, black beans, jalapeno, white onion

But I promise, I didn’t drag you here today to sell you on a refined carb-free life as I myself have little interest in living one. What I’d hoped to share was the neat thing that many less stubborn than myself have known of eons: when you tip the food scales away from lackluster bread-fill, a wonderful thing happens: vegetables, beans and protein come back into prominence, and it was just the cooking recharge that I needed. To wit, since the beginning of the year we’ve talked about eggs baked in a nest of spinach and mushrooms (biscuits on the side), a seasonal mayo-light riff on devilled eggs, my new favorite three-bean chili (a small amount of brown rice underneath), chicken fajitas loaded with vegetables, beans, slaw, pico, and guacamole (all perched on one or two small corn tortillas) and a kale-quinoa salad I’m so addicted to, if I don’t have it for lunch at least three days a week, I feel twitchy.

radishes, cucumbers, scallions

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

asparagus-stuffed eggs

asparagus-stuffed eggs

Deep in the Julia Child archives, past the boeuf bouguignon, onion soup, jiggling aspics and the patently untrue yarn about the chicken that fell from the counter, mid-trussing, and was dusted off and put back into use with a remark about “nobody’s in the kitchen but you,” there are recipes so low in butter and bacon that they hardly fit the stereotype of French food as gluttony, as are thus rarely mentioned. A good lot of them are in From Julia Child’s Kitchen; published in 1975, it contained recipes and kitchen wisdom that came from episodes of her PBS show. Gentler to novices than her Mastering the Art of French Cooking classics, the recipes were probably more familiar to American audiences, things like leek and potato soup, sauteed chicken breasts with tarragon and tomatoes, and, here, a riff on deviled eggs that I am making my mission to rescue from obscurity.

does anyone eat their eggs in order?
covering with cold water and ice cubes

I’m a big fan of the hard-boiled egg; I find that keeping a few in the fridge makes for an easy breakfast with a slice of whole-grain cinnamon toast, a wholesome way to add protein to a lunch salad, or for snacks. My favorite way to eat them is slightly undercooked, peeled, halved and schmeared with the thinnest film of mayo and then sharp Dijon, followed by a few flakes of sea salt, but Julia Child’s version might be their highest calling: the potential to stuff their centers with something like a balanced meal, or at least a really gush-worthy appetizer.

simmer to cook

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

garlicky party bread with cheese and herbs

garlicky party bread with herbs and cheese

My mother’s standard party donation is a boule of pumpernickel bread with the center scooped out and filled with a spinach dip that includes water chestnuts because, of course. The sides are cut into fingers that remain attached at the base (as “severed fingers” would be unsettling, yes?) and can be torn off when the urge comes to swipe one through the center. The urge will come often, so I try to position myself in any room that the boule is not. Nevertheless, I hadn’t considered that there were other approaches to party bread until I came upon this 1998 recipe for one in Taste of Home, the belly full of dip forwent for a multi-pronged attacked of butter, cheese, scallions and poppy seeds, all toasted until melted and crisp.

what you'll need (i skipped the proscuitto)
cut your loaf like this

But why stop there? You could pretty confidently argue that you’ve happened upon a lucky series of life choices when you get to spend half an hour on a Wednesday morning at Whole Foods debating what you’d like to put on your party bread in addition to butter and cheese. There was so much to consider! I considered rarebit-ing it, with a boiled mess of butter, beer, mustard powder, paprika, cayenne, Worcestershire and a scattering of cheddar that I might dream about tonight. I wondered if we ought to go French, with gruyere, shallots and herbes de provence or style it like an American baked potato, with chives and bacon, sour cream and cheese. And then I realized that I’ve never once covered garlic bread on this site and was suddenly filled with purpose and couldn’t wait to get home and start playing in the kitchen.

someone asked if I use a garlic press. yes, I do!
butter. sea salt. so much garlic.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

warm lentil and potato salad

warm lentil and potato salad

You don’t have to look at me like that. I know, I know how you and most people feel about lentils. About how they’re mealy and brown and generally lackluster, like health food putty; about how you’ll eat them, sure, but only if you must. And how if I were trying to convince you that lentils are something that you will very much love if only you could try them this way, my way, that this yellow-and-muddy-purple-brown speckled thing up top, despite the ambitious efforts of the bright green parsley chop scattered over it, is not going to be the thing to pull it off.

what you'll need
lentils cooking with bay, thyme and shallot

But I wish it would. This warm lentil salad is a perfect mid-winter everything — a gorgeous pack-for-work lunch to keep you on this side of your Resolution karma, a perfect side dish to a roast, chops or sausage, and my new favorite thing to break a softly-cooked egg over. The creamy golden potatoes nestle among the perfect discs of thyme-scented lentils and the entire salad zings with finely chopped cornichon, capers and minced shallot that’s been lightly pickled in red wine vinegar, and a good grassy/fruity olive oil. It lightly crunches when you take a bite.

cornichon

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