Every year about this time, there’s a flurry of interest in fresh and easy meals — which translates to, “Let’s just have a salad.” (It happens on January 2, too!) I’m all for that, but I’d skip the word, “just,” and shout out, “SALAD!” Out of all the cooking classes I’ve taught over the last 12 years, there are the most questions about salads: what goes in them, how to make a vinaigrette, what kind of oil to buy, the sort of salt I like, and how to make salad a meal. In fact, I taught a two-hour class about making salad a couple of years ago and the fun we had together still resonates whenever I think about it. Folks want a great salad; they want easy and fresh, healthful meals, but they’re often a bit stuck in their I-buy-this-every-week greens and goodies. This summer, I decided it’s time to organize an online lesson on salad savvy and give you the skinny on how to bring it all together. As the information I wanted to sharewas entirely too much for one blog post, I’ve divided it into three (simultaneously published) posts so that you can read them all in a row if you like–or not– and then it’s off to the farmer’s market, the deck, the store, or backyard garden for you to get started! Click on the red links below and come chopping with me to make your newest stellar salad!
SUBSTANCE — Part 1 (This post–all about ingredients.)
think a long, cold and frozen day nursing a hangover and watching old movies while playing cards with the kids, right?– but since I love black-eyed peas and my folks were both raised in the deep south, I’m going with those little beauties this year. (For an interesting article on many New Year’s Day lucky food traditions, click here.)
If you’ve looked at the dessert section in my cookbook, you’ll know I’m really fond of very fast and simple sweets. Don’t get me wrong, I love to bake; I’m my mother’s daughter. But there’s something fine and easy about a really good tiny after-dinner something or other that doesn’t take a couple of hours to concoct. To say nothing of being able to pawn off the dessert “chore” to children or the beauty of keeping the heat out of the kitchen on warm days. Peach pie always sounds so wonderful until the peaches are ripe, filling the bushel basket in the mudroom with dripping goodness, and it’s 90-frigging degrees outside. Who’s turning on that oven? Not me. Heat is not Alyce’s friend. On the other hand, I have a hub who adores a dessert and I like to make this guy happy. I make a big cheesecake for him every third of July at 0’dark early for his birthday and he doles it out for himself a bit at a time to make it last a long week or more. I have one small piece and that’s about it.
But what about the rest of the time?The days when there isn’t a three-hour time frame for mixing, baking, and cooling? Or for folks who are never going to make that big cake no matter what? Or for sweet addicts who really would eat the whole cake if there weren’t individual portions? Enter these tiny bites of fruit-topped goodness that are done before you can say, “What’s for dessert?” Mixed very quickly with a hand-held or standing electric mixer or food processor (my preference), the cakes come together easily, cook for a minute in the microwave, and cool in just a few minutes as they’re so small. Who doesn’t like individual desserts? Easy to serve or transport; there’s no cutting or plates. It’s just you and your fork or spoon. Try this: Continue reading →