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Archive for March 14, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: How To Make Salads Exciting

Advice from the experts: Eat more salad. Additional advice from the experts: Don’t load up the salad with fattening dressings.

Here are 10 tips to make your salads so exciting, that a small amount of olive oil and negligible-calorie vinegar (or citrus juice) is all the dressing you need.

1. Mix Your Greens. If you’re budget-conscious, use a base of the more affordable iceberg and romaine lettuces, but blend in two other salad greens. Arugula, endive, radicchio, mache, red leaf lettuce, red cabbage, spinach and watercress are generally available, or you can buy a small amount of mesclun to toss with the iceberg or romaine.

2. Add “Secondary Greens.” Choose from broccoli, broccolini, broccoli rabe (rapini), cabbage, cucumber, fennel, green beans (raw or cooked), green olives, green peas, green onions (scallions), seaweed, snap peas, snow peas, zucchini and whatever we’ve left off this list.

 

Mixed baby lettuces including red leaf lettuce, plus radicchio, sautéed red bell pepper and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Photo courtesy Bohemia Beer.

 

3. Add Fruit. A few berries or grapes give natural sweetness and a color accent to any salad. But don’t overlook chopped dried fruit, diced melon or melon balls, figs, raisins, thin-sliced (matchsticks are great) apples and pears, and orange segments. Avocado is also a fruit.

4. Use At Least Three Colors. For red accents, consider beets, cherry or grape tomatoes (larger varieties in season), fruit, red onion, red bell pepper or jarred pimento. For the yellow/orange group, try carrots (for fun, shave them into ribbons), chickpeas, corn kernels or miniature corn, diced/sliced potatoes, shredded Cheddar, summer squash, yellow beets, yellow bell pepper or yellow tomatoes. For black accents, use black beans, black olives, black sesame seeds. For white accents: crumbled cheese, diced/sliced potatoes, cannellini beans, water chestnuts.

 

How creative can you get? This “salad” combines avocado, tomato and orange bell pepper with fresh herbs and a balsamic vinaigrette. Photo by Jan Infante | IST.

 

5. Vary The Textures. Offset softer textures with some crunch (celery, Chinese noodles, croutons, fennel, iceberg lettuce, nuts, seeds, water chestnuts). Also add leftover cooked vegetables.

6. Add Leftover Proteins & Grains. Toss in a bit of beef or poultry, some cubed tofu, tuna or other fish or seafood, or sliced boiled egg. We’re not talking “dinner salad” but just small flavor accents. Also add any leftover grains or starches for flavor as well as texture.

7. Consider Some Cheese. A tablespoon of grated Parmesan, crumbled blue or goat cheese, or shredded semihard cheeses (Cheddar, Colby, Edam, Jack, provolone, ricotta salata and numerous others).

8. Think Themes. Try to come up with a different theme each week. For example, Asian-inspired salad with baby lettuces, bok choy, daikon and sesame seeds, and a rice wine vinegar/soy sauce vinaigrette; an Italian theme with radicchio, romaine, sundried tomatoes and shaved Parmesan; a Mexican theme with lettuce, black beans, green onions and a salsa dressing, topped with shredded queso blanco or Cheddar cheese.

 

9. Dress With Flavored Oils & Vinegars. Don’t be afraid of the “fat” from oil. Olive oil is a heart-healthy fat, and your body needs a tablespoon or two a day (the American Heart Association recommends two tablespoons). Spring for good vinegar; the bargain bottles can be acrid. And remember: white vinegar is for pickling, not for dressing.

10. Use fresh herbs. Some herbs make the salad sing: basil, chives, dill, parsley, sage and thyme, for starters. Snip it into the salad prior to tossing, or use as a garnish. If you like heat, add some diced fresh jalapeños (remove the seeds and ribs).

Now, we’re off to make a salad!

  

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ST. PATRICK’S DAY RECIPE: Barley “Risotto” Stuffed Cabbage

Risotto is made from rice, but you can cook other grains in a similar fashion. Here, barley, which grows well in the northern Irish climate, gets the Italian risotto treatment. To add an Irish touch, the barley risotto is used as a filling for stuffed cabbage.

The pearl barley used in this recipe has had its outer bran and husk removed, leaving a small white “pearl” of endosperm. Like white rice, pearl barley is not a whole grain.

This recipe, which serves four, is from Justin O’Connor, Executive Chef at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. It will be served at the restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day.

BARLEY RISOTTO STUFFED CABBAGE RECIPE

Ingredients For Stuffed Cabbage

  • 8 ounces pearl barley
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) vegetable stock
  • 7 ounces cream
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 large leaves of Savoy* cabbage
  •  

    Cabbage stuffed with barley risotto. Photo courtesy Guinness.

     

    *Savoy cabbage has a lovely crinkled skin. If you can’t find it, you can substitute conventional cabbage.

    Ingredients For The Tomato Sauce

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 28 ounces (800g) chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 ounces (75g) tomato purée
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup (200ml) vegetable stock
  •  
    Tomato Sauce Preparation

    1. Sweat. In a pan, sweat onion and garlic with olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Do not allow them to brown.

    2. Combine. Add the chopped tomato and tomato purée.

    3. Add. Add vegetable stock and season with salt and pepper.

    4. Cook. Cook over low heat for 7-8 minutes. Blend and serve.

    Stuffed Cabbage Preparation

    1. Blanch. Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes and cool in ice water.

    2. Sweat. In a pot, sweat the onion, mushroom and garlic with a little olive oil for 4 or 5 minutes, without turning brown.

    3. Add. Pour in the stock, barley and thyme. Cover with a lid and slow cook till barley is tender, adding more stock if needed. When barley is cooked, add the cream and Parmesan cheese and cook out for 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste.

    4. Stuff. Line 4 small teacups, acting as molds, with plastic wrap. Line each cup with a drained cabbage leaf, leaving some of the cabbage leaf extending over the edge. Fill the cups with the cooked barley risotto and cover with the overhanging cabbage. Use the plastic wrap to remove the stuffed cabbage from the cup. Twist the plastic wrap around the cabbage/risotto to form a ball.

    5. Serve. Add tomato sauce to the bottom of each dish; serve stuffed cabbage in the center. Serve while hot or reheat in the microwave.

      

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