Lettuce Salad with Pomegranates and Almonds

I’ve been living in Los Angeles for almost a year and a half now, but there are still some differences between California and the Midwest that catch me by surprise, like the types of produce grown in backyards. In Minnesota, my coworkers would bring in homegrown zucchini and tomatoes to share. Here, my coworkers bring meyer lemons, clementines, and figs from their backyards!

Last week I was thrilled to see almost a dozen homegrown pomegranates at my office, free for the taking. I couldn’t even tell you what a pomegranate tree looks like, but I sure do love this tart and juicy fruit. Instead of pumpkins and crunchy leaves, pomegranates are now the signal that lets me know fall is here.

This salad is bright, vibrant, and refreshing, perfect for those warmer-than-usual fall days that seem to abound in September. The hardest part is seeding the pomegranate, which isn’t too difficult if you cut it like this and then pull out the seeds in a bowl of water. Extracting the seeds under water lets the pith rise to the top so you can scoop it away, and it also reduces the likelihood that you’ll squirt your clothing with pomegranate juice, which stains like crazy!

I hope you’re all having a marvelous September!

Lettuce Salad with Pomegranates and Almonds

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Lettuce Salad with Pomegranates and Almonds

Dressing

  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard

Salad

  • 1 head green leaf or butter lettuce
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • seeds of one small-to-medium pomegranate

Make the dressing: Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Set aside.

Prepare the salad: Use a serrated knife to slice the lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Rinse and dry. Toast the almonds by placing them in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Watch the almonds like a hawk and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden brown and fragrant. (This should just take a few minutes.) Set aside to let cool.

Assemble the salad: Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Add dressing to taste and toss. Sprinkle almonds and pomegranate seeds on top.

Serves 4-6.

Source: Adapted from Epicurious

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BLT Panzanella

Summer is in full swing around here, as evidenced by my sunburned shoulders (ouch), and I’m trying to enjoy as many summery things as possible before Labor Day. Cookouts, lake trips, outdoor movies, beach days, you name it. Everything is more fun when you’re outside.

That includes eating, of course. Summer food is usually so simple, yet so rewarding. Hamburgers (or veggie burgers), sweet corn, watermelon, anything and everything on the grill. I love when it’s so warm all the time that I actually find myself craving salad!

This BLT panzanella is a fun and hearty summer salad that would be a great addition to a picnic, but it can also be a main course on its own. It’s basically a deconstructed BLT in salad form, and it’s on heavy rotation in my meal-planning schedule. Whenever I’m lucky enough to have fresh avocados on hand, I’ll chop one up and throw it on top. Hardboiled eggs are a great addition too.

I hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday weekend! Summer is fleeting, so soak it up while you can!

BLT Panzanella

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BLT Panzanella

Salad

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 small baguette, cubed (the cubes should be crouton-size, or about 1-inch square)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 6 oz. bacon
  • 1 heart of romaine, chopped, rinsed, and dried
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

Dressing

  • 3 Tbs. Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbs. buttermilk or half and half
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat oven to 425° F. Melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add the cubed baguette and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. (My go-to spice blend for croutons is Penzey’s sandwich sprinkle, but plain old salt and pepper works just fine.) Transfer the croutons to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Bake for about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through, until evenly browned and crunchy. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place the bacon in a large nonstick frying pan or griddle and place over medium-low heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until bacon is browned and crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and let cool.

To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, buttermilk, garlic, and lemon juice. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the salad, toss together romaine, tomatoes, croutons, bacon, and parmesan cheese. Serve with dressing on the side.

Source: Annie’s Eats.

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Wild Rice Gratin

Oh kale. You poor thing. First, you were a modest dietary staple. Then people kind of forgot about you because food scientists started inventing magical food like cheese puffs. But wait! You rose from obscurity to become obscenely trendy. Of course, your hipsterific popularity made it inevitable that you would eventually become a punchline.

(Exhibit A: What vegetable do only rich people eat? Upskale.)

Now that we got that history lesson out of the way, here’s yet another kale recipe. I know. Bear with me. The problem is that I get kale delivered practically every week nowadays, so I have to come up with interesting ways to eat it. Being a native midwesterner, I turned my latest bunch of kale into a hotdish, minus the tater tots and tuna-noodles.

First I cooked the kale with onions, garlic, and butternut squash until the veggies were soft. Then I tossed in some cooked wild rice and stirred in a creamy homemade cheese sauce, using gruyere and comté because I’m fancy like that. I also had parsley from my CSA box so I added that to the breadcrumb topping. As it emerged from the oven, the final dish was a cheesy, nutty, indulgent yet vegetable-packed meal that let me conquer one more week’s worth of kale. Victory was mine! Until next time.

Butternut squash, kale, and wild rice gratin

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Butternut Squash, Kale, and Wild Rice Gratin

  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. bunch of curly kale, stemmed and roughly chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup freshly shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded comté cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2-3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 400° F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish and set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, squash, garlic, and kale, and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the wild rice.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a 2-quart sauce pan over medium heat. Add flour and stir for about 1-2 minutes, until it’s a light golden color and forms a thick paste. Slowly whisk in milk and keep stirring until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and whisk in gruyere and comté until melted. Stir in 3/4 tsp. kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce over the vegetable/rice mixture and stir until evenly coated. Taste the mixture and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Transfer mixture to the prepared casserole dish.

In a small bowl, stir together 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil, panko, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Evenly sprinkle mixture over the casserole. (You might not need all the topping.)

Bake at 400° F for 20-25 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Source: A Lingonberry Jam original, inspired by The Well-Cooked Life and Smitten Kitchen.

Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

The calendar says it’s fall, but I’m quickly realizing that plays out a lot differently in Southern California. Growing up in Minnesota, I was always sad to see fall arrive. Sure, September and October brought a few gorgeous weeks of shockingly bright maple trees, fresh apple cider, and haunted corn mazes, but they flew by way too quickly. I was always sad to put away my summery dresses and haul out the scarves.

Oh how quickly things have changed. I understand this is the equivalent of complaining about first world problems, but this is the first year I’ve lived in LA and I miss fall! Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to live in a place that doesn’t have winter, but could we dial down the regional thermostat juuuuust a little bit please? I’m very confused by 80° temps alongside pumpkin spice lattes, and I’m sick and tired of my summer clothes.

Okay, I promise I’m done now. And instead of complaining too much, I’ve been bringing autumn into my life through food. I’ve been busy making things like butternut squash soup, pumpkin gnocchi, and homemade candy corn. I made refrigerator pickles, and then I canned 2 1/2 pounds of green beans as if fresh veggies would never be in season again. After that, I covered the apartment with mini gourds. Autumn has arrived!

Another seasonally-inspired dish I whipped up recently was this delicious kale salad. It’s strikingly beautiful (can you say that about a salad?) with autumnal colors of deep green, purple, and orange. Candied pecans and roasted sweet potatoes nicely offset the bitterness of the radicchio, and the tangy pomegranate vinaigrette makes the whole dish crave-worthy. (Note: if your grocery store doesn’t carry pomegranate molasses you can easily find it online.) No matter what fall looks like in your part of the country, I suggest you make this salad soon!

Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

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Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Salad

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 ounces Lacinato kale, stemmed and sliced into 1/2-inch-wide strips
  • 1/2 head radicchio, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1/2 to 1 cup candied pecans
  • shaved parmesan cheese

Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. pomegranate molasses
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400° F. On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, place kale in a large bowl and massage it for about a minute, squeezing with your hands until the leaves slightly wilt and soften. Don’t be afraid to be rough with it; the kale needs help to become nice and tender. Set aside.

Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together water, pomegranate molasses, honey, vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt, and pepper. Whisk in olive oil, taste the dressing, and add more salt or pepper if desired.

Add radicchio and sweet potatoes to the bowl with the kale and toss until combined. Add dressing to taste and toss until the salad is evenly coated. Top with candied pecans and shaved parmesan, and serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.”

Arugula Pesto

Greetings from sunny southern California! Yep, we made the move. It’s been a hectic few weeks of packing, traveling, waiting, unpacking, organizing, and reorganizing, but I’m starting to feel much more settled in our new home.

Getting all my cooking gear off the moving truck was the first step in feeling at home. Of course I was most anxious about my stand mixer, but I was also excited to see our pizza stone made the 2000-mile journey intact. Gabe and I make pizza together quite frequently, because it’s easy, delicious, and endlessly versatile. Cranking the oven up to 500° and rolling out a fresh batch of dough was a surefire way for us to feel more at home.

Last week, I made a pizza topped with caramelized onions, ricotta, and arugula– and I was left with a boatload of arugula. Not wanting to let those lovely greens go to waste, I used my magical food processor to whirl up some pesto. Pesto is one of my favorite things to make. Greens, garlic, parmesan, nuts, olive oil, and lemon juice. So simple. So good. Arugula pesto has a delightfully peppery flavor that distinguishes it from standard basil pesto, but it can be used in similar ways. Toss it with pasta or fresh veggies. Or eat it as I do: on top of toast slathered with ricotta. Mmm, mmm good.

Arugula pesto

Arugula Pesto

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  •  1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a food processor, combine pine nuts, garlic, arugula, parmesan, and salt. Chop until coarsely chopped and blended. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and lemon juice, and blend until creamy.  (Add more olive oil if needed to make the mixture smooth.) Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if desired.

Makes about one cup.

Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week, or in the freezer for up to six months. I like to freeze it in an ice cube tray and then save the cubes of pesto in a plastic freezer bag to use as needed.

Source: Adapted from Max Sussman and Eli Sussman via Epicurious.

Smooth and Creamy Hummus

I first tried this hummus recipe from the Jerusalem cookbook a few months ago, and it was delicious. Then I remembered seeing Smitten Kitchen‘s quirky take on the recipe, which involved peeling the skin off each chickpea to achieve a super creamy consistency.

Say what? Sure, it seemed slightly crazy, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time shelling pistachios or trying (with much angst) to remove hazelnut skins for homemade nutella. (So sorry to disappoint you; that recipe is still in the works.) So popping the skins off a few chickpeas didn’t seem like that big a deal. And truly, it wasn’t. It took about 10 minutes, and the only side effect was that my fingers felt a little starchy at the end.

So if you’re crunched for time, this recipe is just fine with the chickpea skins included. But if you have a few more minutes, try removing them. The results are truly worth it. As Gabe told me between bites this afternoon, “This hummus is unbe-(expletive)-lievable.” That good.

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and Creamy Hummus

  • 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (from one 15-oz. can)
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice (plus more, if desired)
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tsp. kosher flake salt (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • garnishes (optional): pine nuts, olive oil, dried sumac or paprika

Rinse and drain chickpeas. Carefully remove the skins by holding a chickpea between your thumb, index, and middle fingers and gently squeezing until the skin pops off. Discard skins.

Place chickpeas in a food processor and blend for about one minute. Scrape down the sides and add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Blend again until well combined. Slowly add the water and puree until very smooth. Taste and add more lemon juice (I added an additional 2 tsp.) and/or salt as needed.

Let stand for about 30 minutes and then serve, or refrigerate if you’re not going to serve right away. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sumac or paprika. If using pine nuts as garnish, first sauté them in a bit of unsalted butter until lightly browned. Serve hummus with pita, tortilla chips, carrot sticks, or whatever you like!

Source: Slightly adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, via Smitten Kitchen.

Israeli Salad

Alright friends, it’s time for my latest composite recipe post. Today I’m writing about Israeli salad, that lovely mix of tomatoes and cucumbers that accompanies many dishes in Jerusalem. (And believe it or not, this salad also starred alongside some dishes in the cafeteria of my Norwegian-Lutheran alma mater. That’s a big hint there, Oles.)

As this long winter has drawn to a close, I’ve found myself craving the colorful produce of summer. Remember those days? When I was actually growing fresh dill, mint, and jalapeños on my tiny city balcony? Kirby misses the catnip, for sure, and I miss everything else. Alas, winter tomatoes are not the same as summer tomatoes, so I swapped out some nice looking cherry tomatoes from the grocery store in this dish. Extra points to whoever can guess what I served with this Israeli salad on a recent sunny-and-getting-sunnier March evening!

Israeli salad

 Israeli Salad

  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 10 oz. cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 5 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In large bowl, stir together cucumber, tomatoes, red bell pepper, red onion, and parsley.

In small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, sugar, mustard, and salt and pepper, to taste. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to coat well. Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.