Curry Cilantro Vinaigrette for a Winter Salad

Yesterday, I wrote about winter salads and in that post I mentioned using a robust dressing…one that can stand up to the bulky textures and flavors of cabbages and kale.

To follow up on that note, I decided to write about making a basic food processor vinaigrette in today’s post. Admittedly, I use bottled dressings in my kitchen. They add incredible convenience and if I choose carefully, they add flavor without a ton of fat. (I prefer the nonfat balsamic dressing from Trader Joe’s.)

However, there are many days when I make my own vinaigrette and without a doubt my trusty Cuisinart food processor or mini chopper is the tool for the task. Whisking the mixture in a bowl can do the trick but I find that my food processor lightens my dicing load and blends everything together beautifully.  I also like making my own vinaigrette because it saves me money and lets me tweak to my preference.

The basic approach is to use one part vinegar (or acid) to three parts oil. It’s then important to add an emulsifier, or blending agent, like mustard or garlic to hold the mixture together. I vary my vinaigrettes seasonally. In the summer when I make a rice and black bean salad, I make a garlic, cilantro and cumin-laced dressing. For those days when I am craving classic French salads, I make a tarragon shallot vinaigrette. Right now, because my garden is producing winter cabbages and kale, I am making hearty salads and reaching for robust vinaigrettes.

This morning, I made one of my favorites–a Curry Cilantro Vinaigrette. Using fresh ginger, lime, cilantro and curry powder, this concoction brings the warm flavors of curry and ginger to big bowls of crunchy seasonal produce. Here’s the recipe. Feel free to tweak it to your taste:

Curry Cilantro Vinaigrette

one 1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peel and chopped into chunks

2 teaspoons curry powder

juice of 1 lime

1 Tablespoon honey

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems included

In a mini chopper fitted with the metal blade, put the ginger root, curry powder, lime juice, and  honey. Blend for 30 seconds to chop the ginger root and combine the ingredients. Add the oils and the salt and process for 30 seconds to combine. Add the cilantro and process for another 15 t0 20 seconds to chop the cilantro. Transfer to a small jar and keep refrigerated. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Note: When using this vinaigrette, use a big bowl, toss well, add toasted seeds or nuts to the mix and toss in fresh seasonal fruit or  a little cheese if that suits your taste.

 

 

 

 

Warm up to Winter Salads!

Let’s face it.  Salad doesn’t get a lot of press during the dark days of winter. For sure it’s the stews, chowders and chilis that hog the limelight for much of the colder months of the year.

That being said, I still eat salad during the winter and the fact of the matter is that I simply craft my winter salads differently than my summer ones. In the summer, tender refreshing cucumbers, homegrown tomatoes, aromatic basil and light dressings rule the roost.

During January and February, I sharpen my chef’s knife and hunker down to use heartier produce like cabbage, kale, chard, carrots, red onions, apples, and pears. Over the years, I’ve learned that a winter salad can be downright satisfying when dressed with a more robust dressing and served with a warm soup.

Here are some tips on how to create and compose a satisfying winter salad:

Use the Boxed Mixed Lettuces as a Base

During the winter, I can’t grow enough lettuce to meet my  family’s salad needs so I rely on the large boxes of mixed organic greens or spinach sold at Sam’s and Costco. These lettuces offer tons of convenience because they are pre washed and make a solid foundation for building my salad. To prevent the greens from going mushy, I’ve learned to pull some out of the big  box and store them in separate plastic bag. By aerating and fluffing the greens I find that the greens keep better overall.

 

Winter Salad Kale Chard 2016Go for Color

We all need more color in our lives during the winter months so when you start to plan a winter salad, seriously consider adding items like red cabbage, dark green kale, or colorful chard. The trick to using these sturdier brassicas is to sharpen your knife and slice them thinly. This can take some practice but it makes a huge difference. When working with chard or kale, stack the leaves, roll them up like a cigar and slice them crosswise, which will result in an array of thin ribbons. As for cabbage, cut the head into smaller manageable hunks and slice thinly over the leaves.

Add Some Crunch

Create some crunch by adding croutons, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and even chow mein noodles. This might seem like an obvious tip but items like sunflower and pumpkin seeds can add a significant nutritional boost and a welcome nutty flavor that complement the whole shebang.

Winter salad wooden bowl 2016

Get a Big Bowl and Toss

Don’t underestimate the power of a big wooden salad bowl and an energetic salad toss. Yes, you can make a salad in a small bowl but during the winter months it’s a lot more fun to do it in a large bowl. After all, all of the winter salad ingredients are more robust than those found in a summer salad and they can certainly take the heat of a few hefty heave hos with the salad tongs. Furthermore, the added value of using a big bowl is that the salad dressing gets distributed more evenly and you thus have to use less salad dressing!

 

 

 

Jumbleberry Jam Bars-A Simple and Thrifty Baked Good!

Jumbleberry Jam Bars

A simple bar made from a jumble of jam! A thrifty family favorite!

Note: This blog post and recipe originally appeared on my old website on September 1, 2010. Indeed, this simple concoction has withstood the test of time and remains a family favorite. My daughter is now in college and loves sharing these sweet bars with her college buddies! One boy said he’d buy a whole tray JUST so he could eat them ALL by himself!

What do you make with a couple of half empty jars of jam?   Jumbleberry Jam Bars, of course!

Earlier this week, I was clearing the pantry and the fridge. Many items were being evicted simply because they were past their prime.  When I surveyed the “jam department” on the top shelf of my fridge, I realized I had quite a collection of jam at hand– Bonne Maman blueberry preserves, Bonne Maman strawberry preserves, Huckleberry Haven Wild Huckleberry Jam, and Maury Island Boysenberry Jam!  I decided that I needed to deal with this motley collection of rather expensive jam.  Jumbleberry Jam Bars were the simple sensible  solution for my no nonsense housekeeping task.

When I make jam bars, I like to use my 8-inch-square Pyrex Storables pan with lid. The pan bakes the bars beautifully. The lid makes it easy to store the bars right in the pan.

Missy’s Jumbleberry Jam Bars

2 ½  cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter, at room temperature

1 egg

½ cup miscellaneous jam, such as blueberry, boysenberry, huckleberry, and strawberry

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan.

In the bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse together the flour, sugar, and butter until it resembles coarse meal. Add the egg and pulse a couple more times.

Pour half the mixture into the baking pan and press the mixture into the pan.   Spread the jam over the crumb crust, being careful not to reach all the way to the sides or the jam will burn during baking.

Add the cinnamon and the pecans to the other half of the mixture, which is still in the food processor work bowl. Pulse four or five times to chop the pecans. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the jam.

Bake the jumbleberry jam bars in the middle of the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the crumb topping is brown.  Let the jam bars cool completely before cutting into 24 bar.

Note: I think ½ cup jam is about right, but some other members of my family think I could increase the jam quantity even further. It’s your choice.

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip
Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

My husband and sons love to fish in the Puget Sound throughout the summer. As a result, we enjoy locally caught salmon-King, Coho, and Pink-year round.

We freeze lots of it using our Food Saver but we also cart quite a bit of it to Jensen’s Old-Fashioned Smokehouse here in Seattle where it is cold and hot smoked, vacuum packed and flash frozen to our specifications. We have a fair amount of that smoked salmon in the freezer, and I’ve decided it’s time to start cranking through it. Afterall, summer IS just around the corner!

Just before New Year’s Day, I decided to redesign my favorite smoked salmon recipe, one that I clipped from a magazine years ago. Basically, that one is a traditional cream cheese based rendition. Over the years,  I adapted the technique so I could make it in the food processor. I also tweaked the basic ingredients according to whim.

For 2014, I decided to do a complete overhaul by removing the cream cheese and replacing it with Fage Nonfat Greek yogurt. After numerous attempts and adjustments, I’ve finally landed on a slimmer smoked salmon dip that can be made quickly and easily in the food processor and weighs in with a minimum of belly busting fat. For my Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip, I also added red onion, fresh dill, and capers…most of the basic components found in myBristol Bay Sockeye Platter recipe.

The recipe was “family tested,” which means it was served in the midst of kitchen chaos with spouse and kids at hand. Everyone gave it their seal of approval and said it was better than the original. Reviews included commentary on the freshness, the lightness, the flavor factor and the ease of use. It was served on crackers, dolloped onto sliced fresh tomatoes, and swiped into celery sticks. It could easily just be served with crudité or used with whole grain bread and lettuce to make a quick healthy sandwich rich in Omega Three fatty acids.

It’s worth noting that when I entered my new recipe into the Weight Watchers recipe tracker online, it revealed that a 1/4 cup serving totaled only 1 point in their Points Tracker. So, indeed, it’s a lighter leaner version.

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

¼ small red onion, cut into chunks

1 Tablespoon capers, drained

2 Tablespoons fresh dill

8 ounces hot smoked salmon, skin removed

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Put onion, capers, and dill in a food processor fitted with steel blade. Pulse 10 times to chop and combine. Crumble salmon and add to food processor. Add yogurt, lemon juice, and horseradish. Process for 30 seconds, scraping down bowl if necessary to combine.

Yield: About 2 cups or 8 servings.
Source: Melissa A. Trainer www.melissatrainer.com