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The first of the locally-grown greenhouse tomatoes and cukes and romaine are here! We’ve even eaten our first asparagus stalks. In April! So crazy, this year. I know you probably don’t need a recipe for a salad, but you might like the idea of it – fattoush is a Mediterranean toasted pita salad that’s easy to assemble and makes the most of spring greens and those first pops of mint in the garden. Romaine is typical, as is cucumber, tomatoes and purple onion. I like making mine with ribbons of cucumber – simply use a peeler to cut it into thin ribbons – and fresh cilantro. And instead of the usual croutons, you bash up toasted pitas into the mix, adding a satisfying, toasty crunch.

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Who needs a healthy dose of veggies after that long weekend chocopalooza? (I do.) Something crunchy and cruciferous, to give my jaw a workout. Something to provide a nutritional ballast against all that ham, all those cinnamon buns, and so many handfuls of eggies. And so it was good timing that a few food blogging friends had organized a virtual cookbook launch for our mutual pal Mairlyn, who recently launched a cookbook of Canadiana, Homegrown.

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I know – it’s even more cliché to compound quinoa with kale when January is still in single digits, but having eaten my way through most of the holiday leftovers, I’m now attempting to fill my bowl with things that are better for me than cheese and chocolate. (OK, I’m keeping the cheese.) Pomegranate arils (the juicy seeds, which you can eat whole) are common in grainy middle eastern salads, which I find gratifying to put together, and I’ve found if I have some quinoa (or barley, rice, wheat berries) precooked in the fridge, I’m more likely to use it. Don’t think of it as leftovers so much as dinner insurance. Or your own homemade convenience food. A ripe avocado in the bowl demanded to be used immediately, and kale is good and cheap right now – I keep buying bundles, then have to use it in order to reclaim precious fridge space.

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I know… it’s such a cliche to be serving up kale on the first Monday of January. But I had a bundle of dinosaur (or lacinato) kale in the fridge that needed using before I head out of town. I realize the last thing the internet needs is another kale salad, but I needed a kale salad. And I like kale. And I love roasted squash. And I love chopped, salted, toasted almonds scattered by the handful over things. And I had a jar of ginger-miso dressing on account of a magazine story I’m working on about miso. This is how dinner comes to be around here.

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Having grown up in generation Earls, I’ve always been a fan of the chicken Caesar. Even so, it’s not the sort of thing I generally make at home. But I saw a technique years ago in which chicken was roasted atop chunks of bread to produce croutons infused with chicken drippings – which is essentially those crispy bits of stuffing you pick at and eat yourself as the turkey comes out of the oven, which is the very best part of Thanksgiving dinner. And you wind up with a whole sheet of it. So in this salad, which I learned from one J.O., you roast the chicken and the croutons together, which makes sense time-wise but also makes them spectacularly delicious, then lay a few strips of bacon over the lot to up the ante, pull and chop up the lot and scatter it over a platter of crunchy romaine, then douse it all in garlicky dressing and Parmesan. A proper Caesar salad it is.Continue reading

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Those of you who have spent some time here (thank you!) know that I am prone to making recipes just because I love their names. (Case in point: this is really just a cake, but don’t you just want to make it immediately?) I’m not sure what ‘bang bang’ means in this case; it’s not that I actually want to off the turkey. (Except maybe I do. Enough already.) I’m a (big) fan of the turkey sandwich, on homemade buttered bread with cranberry sauce, but by this time in the program any turkey I have lingering in my fridge or freezer I’d rather not resemble the original meal, thank you. Also, I’m about ready for a break from bread and cheese, and maybe a big, crunchy salad – so long as it’s one with personality, and dousing it in peanut sauce with a bit of a chili kick instead of dressing can’t hurt.

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We’re back in the city, back to eating on the back porch where all the appliances and boxes and torn-out stuff isn’t, back to walking Lou on the sidewalk instead of the beach. What I miss most about having a stove on this particular day is the ability to cook potatoes – the new ones with the thin skins that are just being pulled out of the dirt and sold in farmers’ markets. I could live on these sweet baby potatoes, for awhile, anyway – forked and doused in butter and lemon, with steak and gremolata, or in an uber-creamy potato salad. (It’s not just for picnics anymore.) My pal Chef Michael Allemeier, one of the best chefs around, the guy who taught me to proof bread in a warm, steamy dishwasher after it finishes a load, came up with this recipe. It has blackberries (!) and fresh mint, along with all the other things that make a potato salad great, plus a hit ofContinue reading

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That’s charred, as opposed to chard, which would likely also be delicious. I just made this for lunch, and wanted to share it right away. It was a spur-of-the-moment salad, made because it occurred to me that such a combo would be delicious, and because I’m making a concerted effort to not fill up on banana muffins and toast and eat mostly things that are nutrient-dense (and delicious), even if it requires a lot of chopping and our kitchen counters are currently torn out. (One of the pieces landed on our back porch, and has been turned into an outdoor kitchen of sorts. The barbecue is earning its keep. Our new dining table is outside, and it’s called laps. What do people do when they renovate in the midwinter? Takeout?) As a salad, this is open to interpretation. And the measurements are pretty lax. I’ve been on a bit of a homemade salsa kick this week (a result of a story I was working on),Continue reading

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I know, I need to back away from the kale. It’s so 2013. Retro, almost? Can’t. Stop. The thing about big salads is that when I make them they tend to wind up with loads of cheese, or bacon, or eggs, or other things that have more business being on a burger than atop a salad. Here, I mulched together only good things – kale, carrots, baby bok choy, broccoli slaw, red peppers, pea pods, cilantro, sunflower seeds – and tossed it all with sweet-tanginess spiked with sesame oil. I could feel myself becoming more virtuous as I ate it. And I’m pretty sure I can see better in the dark. I’ve eaten versions of it for three days now – leftovers do just fine with kale as a backbone – and today I drizzled the peanut sauce from our pork satay overtop, and YES. If I’m stingy with my words this week, it’s because I have a cookbook manuscript due in a little overContinue reading

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