about bliss

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

summer kitchen sink salads

One of my favorite vendors at our farmers' markets is a young couple, just graduated from college. They grow interesting and heirloom varieties of all crops, and I always stop by their stand first. For the past month, their table has been filled with head lettuces of all textures, colors, and sizes. From crunchy Ice Queen (a flavorful and crisp iceberg style lettuce) to frilly Lolla Rosa, to baby romaine, all of the lettuces are delicious, and provide a perfect bed for "kitchen sink" style salads.

Every Saturday, I buy three or four heads, and come home and wash, de-slug, and spin the tender leaves. Every weekday at lunchtime, I haul out the salad spinner and fill a small serving bowl with lettuce before contemplating my next toppings. I've let the farmers' market offerings guide my toppings, which means I've been incorporating strawberries, cherries, sugar snap peas, scallions, carrots, and radishes into the salads. I've added avocado, various cheeses, pecans, chickpeas, and/or pan fried tofu for protein and complexity.

I always make my own dressings, a single serving at a time. With a variety of vinegars, several olive oils, citrus, and sweeteners to choose from, I craft tangy, light, and satisfying vinaigrettes.

vinaigrette fixins from Michigan, Italy, and Wisconsin
Here are a few particularly winning combinations for inspiration. Let your fridge and pantry, as well as your taste and cravings, guide you:

Strawberry-Avocado-Carrot-Cucumber-Sugar Snap Pea-Scallion-Pecan-Bel Gioso Four Cheese Blend with Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

 [no photo of this one. sorry!]

Cherry-Avocado-Feta-Pecan-Carrot-Scallion-Chickpea with Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Juicy Michigan cherries are the star of this salad. 
Sugar Snap Pea-Carrot-Scallion-Tofu with Spicy Peanut Dressing

A glamour shot of Ice Queen lettuce, which holds up particularly well to this heavier spicy peanut dressing in this Thai-influenced salad.

These salads make lunch different and delicious everyday. Filled with several servings of fruits and vegetables, and lean protein, these salads are nutritional powerhouses...that taste decadent, and provide lasting satisfaction and fullness, especially when paired with a homemade roll or buttered honey whole wheat toast. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

new recipe challenge: falafel

So often, I read food blogs and swoon over the gorgeous photography, the featured edibles glistening in the perfect natural light, the prepared dish clearly a flawless execution of the recipe.

This is not one of those blogs.

I'm being authentic.

A month or so ago I read this post on lifestyle blogs from Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan. I love her honesty, the glimpses of a real family home. While I wish I had a Pinterest-worthy workspace, I am a cluttery person. Give me a desk or table or dresser and you'll find the top strewn with the random detritus of my daily life. Currently, at my home desk you'll find projects in process: my new (pink!) filing cabinet waiting to be filled; the vintage St. Vinnie's photo frames from our wedding waiting for fabulous photos; the sweet daily yellow notes from G waiting to be filed; lipstick, bracelets, aromatherapy mist, books (always books) waiting to be properly relocated, stored, stacked.

You should see my desk at work.

But I love this space, the light pouring in from the East facing window, the succulent terrarium I made (pinterest-inspired) a few weeks ago, my vintage desk and filing cabinet, my bulletin board, and photos from Paris (c. 2010).

But I digress.

What does this creative clutter have to do with falafel?

Let's turn to photo inspiration:

I used a recipe from Olives, Lemon, and Za'atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking, by Rawia Bishara, which I checked out from the public library. Like most falafel recipes, this one calls for chickpeas that have been soaked, but not cooked. I used chickpeas I had previously cooked and froze in their own luscious broth. They were too wet, and the first patties oozed and defied crisping.

I added panko to the rest of the batter, which helped firm the patties, but they still resisted a deep crispiness, largely due to my minimal-oil pan frying technique.

And yet, the flavor was amazing—fresh, spicy, comforting and thrilling all at once. We tucked them into pita with a thick tahini sauce as suggested by Bishara.

Less than photogenic, but adventurous and delicious. 

Messy and satisfying.

My kind of world.