Archive for the ‘7) Spices’ Category

Lunch salad prep time: early morning, fridge full of goodies, ideas swirling in my head… I improvise more than I plan. This time, I didn’t even have a clear theme, unless you call balsamic vinaigrette a theme. I grabbed what looked good, put it all together, and declared it a salad.

Golden Beet, Fennel, and Kidney Beans

The ingredients are ready for chopping.

Golden Beet, Fennel and Kidney Beans: Grated Beet

Golden beet, grated and ready to be sprinkled into the salad.

(Serves one as a lunch salad.)
1 romaine heart, chopped.
3 mushrooms, sliced.
1 scallion, sliced.
2 sprigs of basil, leaves removed and chopped, stalk discarded.
1 sprig of marjoram, leaves stripped, stalk discarded.
1/2 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained.
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced.
1/2 cup grated golden beet.
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate the rest for several days.)
1 T balsamic vinegar.
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1/2 clove of garlic, smashed and minced.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
1 pinch of salt, to taste.

I was making two salads, as usual, so I doubled all of the ingredients listed above. I started by rinsing the kidney beans and leaving them in a sieve to drain. Then I chopped the lettuce and made a nice bed for the vegetables. I rinsed and chopped and sliced until both bowls were vibrantly full of flavorful bite sized bits. I grated the golden beet, a trick I learned from a good friend, and generously sprinkled a handful over each salad. Then I added the beans, and dusted the salads with freshly ground black pepper. Finally, I whipped up the balsamic vinaigrette, slipped a jar of it into my husband’s salad, and popped the lid on the container. My salad and my jar of dressing went into the fridge for later.

Golden Beet, Fennel and Kidney Beats: Ready to eat.

Ready to eat!

The Verdict:
These textures really worked well together. I loved the crunchy fennel with the creamy beans, the little mushrooms sponging up the vinaigrette, and the delicious nibbles of beet clinging to the crispy romaine. The flavors were mostly perfect — basil and balsamic vinegar are made for each other. I think the marjoram was a bit heavy handed, so I recommend using about half of what I used. It might even be wiser to use about a fourth, and to include it directly in the dressing, so that it’s subtle and infused throughout instead of big punches of flavor. This is definitely worth playing with again.

Golden Beet, Fennel, and Kidney Beans: Packed to go.

Packed to go!

Make it a meal:

Pack it to Go:
Done. Just keep the dressing separate until you’re ready to eat, then add only as much as you need, fork toss (or put the lid back on and give it a few quick shakes), and enjoy.


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Early morning, making lunch, I scanned the fridge and the cupboards and decided to make a southwestern salad. I didn’t have the radishes I love in those, or any oranges, or jicama, but I had cilantro and pinto beans. A scallion would help round it out, and the very last of our amazingly crisp apples from my mother-in-law’s tree would make up for the deficit of sweetness and crunch.

Greens for Cal-Mex with Apple and Pinto Beans

A gorgeous bed of mixed greens.

(Lunch salad, serves one.)
4 cups of mache and mixed greens (including radicchio and frisee).
1/2 can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained.
1/3 apple, sliced into bite sized pieces.
1 scallion, chopped.
1 fistful of cilantro, chopped.
Zest of 1/2 lime.
Zest of 1/2 lemon.

Ingredients for Cal-Mex with Apple and Pinto Beans

Beautifully simple ingredients, ready to join the greens.

(Use only what you need, save the rest in the fridge and use within a few days.)
1 T lime juice.
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1/2 clove of garlic, smashed and minced.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
1/4 tsp cumin.
1/4 tsp smoked paprika.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

I doubled the ingredients listed above (for the citronette as well as for the salad) and made two lunches, one packed up for my husband to take to work, and one in a bowl for me to enjoy later in the day.

I started by rinsing the pinto beans and leaving them in a strainer to drain. Then I laid down a nice, hearty bed of mixed greens. I zested the citrus fruits over the greens. I mixed up two jars of citronette, tasted them, and set them aside. I chopped the cilantro and the scallions and tossed them in with the greens. After slicing the apple, I added it to the dressing jars so that it wouldn’t brown, screwed on the lids, and shook each jar up so that the citronette coated the apple pieces. Finally, I added the drained beans to the salads, nestled the dressing jar into my husbands large salad container, covered my salad and stuck it in the fridge, and cleaned up.

Cal-Mex with Apple and Pinto Beans

The finished salad, dressed and ready to eat.

The Verdict:
This was a fine, simple, hearty salad. I really enjoyed the apple in lieu of radishes and jicama. Not gourmet, but very tasty.

Make it a meal:
Done. It would also have worked well with black beans or leftover chicken in place of pinto beans.

Cal-Mex with Apple and Pinto Beans, Packed

Packed to go.

Pack it to go:
Done. Remember to put the apple in with the citronette and not directly into the salad!

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There is a taqueria I adore that makes this absolutely amazing citrus dressing. It’s simple, fresh, and just plain good. It is the reason I started playing with citronette recipes, though I’ve branched out quite a lot over the years. Still, I love the flavors of Mexican, or Southwestern, or Cal-Mex, or whatever you want to call food with heavy handed cilantro, zesty citrus, pale green avocado and fresh crunchy lettuce.

I really wanted a vegetarian salad for lunch. A can of black beans in our cupboard and a bright yellow lemon decided it for me. I pulled out romaine lettuce, scallions, avocado, mandarins, a cucumber, mushrooms, cilantro, garlic, and spices, and started chopping. I really wished for some radishes — I just love them with these flavors — but my fridge disappointed me.

I added more cucumber than I normally would in order to help make up for the absence of radish crunch, which was necessary to balance out all the creaminess from the beans and avocado. There is no substitute for radish deliciousness. I added smoked paprika to the citronette for the first time, I think just because it was red like a radish and right next to the cumin in our spice cupboard. It also smelled really good.

Southwestern Salad with Black Beans, Avocado, Mandarin, and More - Ingredients

Here are the delicious components for the salad.

(Serves two as a hearty lunch salad.)
2 hearts of romaine, chopped.
3 scallions, chopped.
1 avocado, quartered and sliced.
3/4 can of black beans, rinsed and drained.
3 mushrooms, sliced.
3 mandarins, peeled then sliced in half and into eighths.
1/2 english cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced.
1 handful of cilantro, chopped.
Zest of 1 lemon.

Southwestern Citronette:
(Use only what you need, refrigerated leftover citronette will be good for several days.)
1 T lemon juice.
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika.
1 clove of garlic, smashed and minced.
1 pinch of salt, to taste.

I made this for my husband and myself, and since we were actually both home at lunchtime I just tossed it all in one big bowl and we ate it snuggled up on the couch with two forks. Halve the recipe if you’re just feeding one person.

Southwestern Salad with Black Beans, Avocado, Mandarin, and More - Ready to Toss

The salad is ready for dressing and tossing...

I rinsed the black beans first, leaving them in a strainer so they could drain while I put the salad together. After making a mountain of lettuce in the salad bowl, I zested the lemon over the romaine, and then I made the citronette. I let the dressing sit (to give the garlic and spices time to steep) while I chopped veggies. I scooped the vegetables into the bowl, added the drained black beans, drizzled the citronette over the top, tossed it, and, well, YUM.

Southwestern Salad with Black Beans, Avocado, Mandarin, and More - Ready to Eat

And now we raise our forks and dig in!

The Verdict:

Yes, it would’ve been better with radishes. But that’s like saying a gorgeous, crisp, sunny day in Tilden would be better with butterflies. I didn’t notice they were missing, though I would’ve enjoyed them if they’d been there.

I loved the last minute addition of the smoked paprika — it gave the citronette an intense depth of flavor, and it added such pretty color. My husband was equally impressed. He knew there was something different, but he couldn’t quite place it…

Make it a Meal:
Done. Pinto beans would also work, or grilled chicken, steak, pork, or shrimp.

Pack it to Go:
If you’re making this for one, remember to halve the salad ingredients, and dress it to taste — a little at a time until it pleases you. Avocado needs to go in the dressing or stay in its skin when you pack it to go. Mandarins should be peeled and sectioned, instead of cut, so that the juices don’t wilt the lettuce. Everything else is great as described above — just keep the dressing in a jar with the avocado, and the rest of the salad in a container with a little extra space for fork-tossing.

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