Grilled Corn and Feta Salad with Brown Butter Roasted Garlic Jalapeno Dressing

   While thinking about tonight’s salad, I first began with wanting to use corn on the cob since its season is quite short in this part of Canada. We get a few weeks of gloriously sweet corn, then you better be ready to make cornmeal because it dries and its fresh burst of sweetness is gone for another year.

   I started veering towards a Mexican direction because I was also making quesadillas for dinner. I thought of the Mexican method of grilling corn and slathering it with a bunch of flavours: sour cream, cheese, chiles, green onions, etc. I also saw that oftentimes, they carve the corn off the cob and make a salad of sorts with these same ingredients. Depending on where you are in Mexico, it can be called Elote or Esquites. Elote is often used to describe corn on the cob itself, but can also be the name of the prepared corn dish. Esquites is a naming variablity on the corn salad in central and southern Mexico.

   The corn can be steamed or grilled on the cob, then carved with the flavours. I decided to grill my corn, then instead of sour cream, I used yogurt for a lighter, smoother tartness and feta as the cheese component to give a sharp bite. Sometimes the chiles can be dried or fresh in traditional Mexican corn salad, but I decided to pan roast a fresh jalapeno with a couple of garlic cloves in brown butter to add a deeper flavour. This created a wonderful flavour combination.

Grilled Corn and Feta Salad with Brown Butter Roasted Garlic Jalapeno Dressing

For the Brown Butter Roasted Garlic Jalapeno Dressing:

2 cloves garlic

1 whole jalapeno

3 Tbsp butter

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/2 tsp salt

   Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Remove 1 Tbsp of the melted butter and set it aside to grill the corn. In the remaining melted butter, add the garlic and whole jalapeno. Start to roast in the pan as the butter starts to brown. Turn the garlic and jalapeno every 3-4 minutes as they become golden. Set aside to cool.

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      Peel away the outer part of the garlic because the roasting process will have toughened it. Finely chop the garlic, mashing it lightly with the edge of your knife. Remove the stem and seeds of the jalapeno and finely mince the chile. If you are sensitive to heat, use only half of the roasted jalapeno and reserve the rest for another use, otherwise, add it, with the minced garlic, to a small bowl. Add the yogurt and salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes to let the flavours blend.

For the salad:

4 cobs of fresh corn, husk and silks removed

Reserved 1 Tbsp melted butter

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 green onions, finely chopped

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Reserved Brown Butter Roasted Garlic Jalapeno Dressing

   Set a grill to medium high heat. Brush the cobs of corn with melted butter and grill until golden on all sides (about 10-12 minutes). When cool enough to touch, carve the kernels off the cob into a medium bowl. Add the red and green onion with the feta cheese. Stir gently to combine. Add the dressing and fold in gently to combine completely. Divide into two bowls. Serves 2.

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Grilled Sausage and Marinated Pepper Salad with Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette

   After spending much of the day helping a friend at the farmer’s market, I wanted to make a relatively simple salad tonight. I saw that I had a leftover grilled garlic sausage from dinner the other day and thought of the classic combination of sausage and peppers. Oftentimes, this combination is on a bun with a bit of good mustard. I decided instead of grilling the peppers too, I’d keep them raw and quickly marinate them in a grainy mustard vinaigrette. It would take the raw bite out of the pepper but still keep a pleasant crunchy texture to them.

Grilled Sausage and Marinated Pepper Salad with Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette

For the Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette:

1 Tbsp grainy mustard (I used homemade, but any grainy mustard is fine)

2 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp cold pressed flax oil

   Add all of the ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk together to combine. Set aside.

For the salad:

1 cup garlic sausage, cut into thin slices, then each slice cut into julienne 1cm (1/2″) wide

2 cups bell peppers (I like two different colours for visual appeal), cut into 1 cm (1/2″) strips

4 green onions, finely sliced

1 Tbsp fresh oregano

Reserved Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette

   In the medium bowl with the vinaigrette, add the peppers and stir to coat them in the vinaigrette. Allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat each pepper. Add the sausage, green onions and oregano. Stir to coat it all in vinaigrette. Divide over 2 plates. Serves 2.

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Steak Taco Salad with Grilled Peach Pico de Gallo

   While thinking about what to make for dinner (and tonight’s salad), I started with a beautiful ribeye steak that I’d picked up the other day. I thought I’d do fajitas, so I started to make flatbreads. Regular tortillas are okay, but I prefer to make my own flatbreads, which are softer, more pillowy and I end up with leftovers that I can bake into chips or make quesadillas.

   As I was rolling out each flatbread, it gave me time to think and formulate my salad. As I rolled my last flatbread and griddled them, I decided to make a taco salad with peach pico de gallo. While grilling the steak, I put all of the pico de gallo ingredients on there with it and by the time the steak was done and resting, I could quickly assemble the pico de gallo. An easy solution to a dinner dilemma.

Steak Taco Salad with Grilled Peach Pico de Gallo

For the Grilled Peach Pico de Gallo:

1 Tbsp cold pressed canola oil

1 peach, halved and pitted

3 green onions

1 small red bell pepper

1 jalapeno pepper

1/4 tsp salt

   Preheat a grill to medium high heat. Drizzle oil over the peach halves, green onions, bell pepper and jalapeno. Grill for 12-14 minutes or until golden on all sides. Remove from the grill and allow to cool for a few minutes. Peel the peach, chop all of the ingredients roughly and toss together in a medium bowl. Add the salt and toss again gently. Set aside.

For the salad:

1-225g/8oz beef ribeye steak (or strip loin/New York strip if you’d rather)

1/2 tsp salt

2-15cm/6″ flatbreads

1/2 cup mixed greens

2 Tbsp feta cheese

2 Tbsp sour cream or Greek yogurt

Reserved Grilled Peach Pico de Gallo

   Preheat a grill to medium high heat. Grill the steak to desired doneness (10-12 minutes total for a medium to medium well steak). Take off the grill and allow to rest for 7-10 minutes. Grill the flatbreads for 2-3 minutes per side.

   To serve, lay a grilled flatbread in the centre of two plates. Spread a little bit of sour cream in the centre of each flatbread. Add a small handful of mixed green on top of the sour cream. Spread some Grilled Peach Pico de Gallo over the middle of the mound of mixed greens. Cut the steak into 1cm (1/2″) thick slices and top the pico de gallo. Sprinkle with feta cheese and a little bit more pico de gallo on top for garnish. Serves 2.

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For a recipe to my homemade flatbreads, see here. Today I used 100% spelt flour in the recipe.

Chilli Coronation Grape Dressed Broccoli Cauliflower Salad on Mixed Greens

   I’ve been focusing a lot on showcasing specific ingredients as the salad itself, but this time, I wanted to showcase a specific ingredient in a dressing. I happened to use a beautiful salad green mix I bought at the market today,

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but any green mix or spinach would be fine as a platform for the dressing. Even the broccoli and cauliflower component could be any number of your favourite salad vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, kohlrabi, corn kernels, etc.

   The ingredient I wanted to focus on? The Coronation grape.

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   This grape has a buttery interior with a chewy, thick skin. The thicker skin adds complexity to the grape’s overall flavour. Tart, slightly bitter and the flavours keep opening up, the more you chew. Many bold wines are pressed from thicker skinned grapes for this very reason: the character and personality it would add to a potential wine.

   I wanted to maintain as much of the purity of flavour in the grape as I could, but perhaps fill in some flavour profiles that may not be there, namely savoury and spicy notes. This was done through softly sautéed onion and red chilli.

   In the meantime, pour a glass of wine and think about the grape that went into that glass, what qualities and had…and make salad! (or you know…drink it…it’s up to you) 😉

Chilli Coronation Grape-Dressed Broccoli Cauliflower Salad on Mixed Greens

For the Chilli Coronation Grape Dressing:

1 Tbsp cold pressed canola oil

4 spring onions, chopped finely, white part only (reserve green parts, some for the dressing, some for the salad)

1 red finger chilli, chopped finely, seeds kept or removed depending on how spicy you like it

1 cup Coronation grapes (or other thick-skinned grapes)

1/2 tsp salt

   In a small pan off the heat, add the oil, spring onions and chilli. Gradually bring the heat up to medium, softly sautéeing until the onions and chilli just soften but not brown (about 3-4 minutes). Remove from the pan and cool in a small bowl.

   Purée the grapes in a blender until nearly smooth. A few tiny bits of skin is fine. Add the cooled onion-chilli-oil mixture, along with the salt and half of the green parts of the spring onions, and stir to combine. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavours to combine.

For the salad:

1 cup cauliflower, florets cut into 1cm (1/2″) pieces

1 cup broccoli, florets cut into 1cm (1/2″) pieces

Reserved Chilli Coronation Grape Dressing

4 cups mixed greens (or spinach)

12-14 Coronation grapes, for garnish

1 yellow carrot, peeled and shaved, for garnish

Reserved green part of spring onions, for garnish

   In a medium bowl, combine the broccoli, cauliflower and Chilli Coronation Grape Dressing. Allow to sit and marinate for at least 10 minutes (leaving it longer with soften the vegetables more, so if you want a softer vegetable marinate for an hour or more). Mound half of the mixed greens in the centre of two plates. Top with the dressed broccoli and cauliflower, setting it in the centre of the greens. Scatter the grapes, shaved carrot and green onion over the top. Serves 2.

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Warm Sour Cherry and Apple Salad with Bacon and Feta

   With chanterelle mushroom season coming to a close, I wanted to use this wonderful mushroom one last time before it shrinks back into the earth and disappears for another year. Sour cherries recently have come to ripeness and apples always complement mushrooms beautifully so my warm salad idea had a fixed structure very quickly.

   I also like to add a salty element through a cheese or cured meat of some kind instead of just salt itself. I don’t like to simply add salt. Salt on its own is rather one dimensional even if you’re using some rare salt from the top of some oddball mountain on the other side of the world. The complexity of artisanal cheese or a flavourful bacon adds more dimension than any single salt could. The little bit that I use in this recipe is certainly used like a seasoning rather than a main ingredient, but its impact is evident with each bite as you enjoy it…and speaking of which, enjoy!

Warm Sour Cherry and Apple Salad with Bacon and Feta

2 slices bacon, cut into thin strips

225g chanterelle mushrooms, or other mushrooms, coarsely chopped

2 tsp butter

1/2 cup sour cherries, halved and pitted

1/2 cup chopped leeks (white part only with a small amount of the light green part)

1 medium apple, cored, cut into thin strips

1 Tbsp feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

   In a large nonstick pan, fry the bacon strips until crisp. Remove the crispy bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour out all but 1 Tbsp rendered bacon fat. Sauté the mushrooms over medium high heat until golden on all sides, add the butter and leeks and sauté for 2-3 minutes to soften the leeks. Add the sour cherries and toss while sautéing over medium high heat to slightly soften the cherries. Add the apple strips and toss over the heat, but the pan not quite on the heat, allowing the residual heat to slightly soften the apple.

   To serve, divide the warm salad between two bowls and sprinkle the top of each with reserved crispy bacon and feta cheese. Finish with ground black pepper. Serves 2.

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Roasted Cauliflower Potato Salad with Crispy Salami Chips

   Yesterday, I was chatting on Twitter with someone about cauliflower: how people were grinding it into pizza crust or morphing it into bread for grilled cheese sandwiches and we both agreed that it seemed a bit far from cauliflower’s nature. Cauliflower is a wonderful vegetable on its own and I understand these recipes are for people with genuine health concerns, but I prefer showing off the vegetable’s versatility with different cooking methods. The most vibrant way to cook cauliflower? Roasting of course and along with roasted potatoes in a potato salad, it’s the perfect flavour combination….ok, fried crispy strips of salami helps too 😉

Roasted Cauliflower Potato Salad with Crispy Salami Strips

For the Roasted Potato and Cauliflower:

2 tsp cold pressed canola oil

1 cup new potatoes, cut into 2cm/1″ chunks

1 cup cauliflower florets, cut into 1cm (1/2″) chunks

   Preheat a large nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat until smouldering but not smoking. Add the potato chunks and allow to pan fry on one side for 4-5 minutes or until golden. Turn the potato chunks and pan-roast for a further 3-4 minutes. Add the cauliflower to the pan and, if the pan isn’t big enough for one single layer, start to edge the potatoes to one side of the pan to accommodate the cauliflower. As the cauliflower starts to roast in the pan with the potatoes (another 5-7 minutes), add 1/4 cup of water. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until the water absorbs into the cauliflower and potatoes and evaporates completely. Remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl to cool.

For the Crispy Salami Strips

Residual oil in the pan from Roasted Potato and Cauliflower

4 slices Hungarian salami (or any favourite salami with a peppery bite), cut into 1cm (1/2″) strips

   In the pan used above to roast the cauliflower and potatoes, add the salami strips in a single layer over medium heat (you may need to do it in batches). Fry very quickly, about 30-45 seconds per side and remove from the pan immediately to cool and drain on paper towels. Be very careful, the salami strips can go from beautifully golden brown to black in a matter of seconds. Err on the side of light brown versus dark brown. The resting on the paper towels with the salami’s residual heat will ensure a perfect crispness without going bitter and blackened.

For the salad:

Prepared Roasted Potato and Cauliflower

Prepared Crispy Salami Chips

2 Tbsp sour cream

   In the bowl with the cooled, Roasted Potato and Cauliflower, add the sour cream and toss lightly to coat evenly. Mound in the centre of two plates and sprinkle each with Crispy Salami Chips. Serves 2.

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Buckwheat Pemmican Salad

   Pemmican. An idea that has sustained people in North America for centuries. Its origin is with the native peoples that inhabited central regions of North America before it was North America (Canadian Prairies and American Midwest), before European settlement of any kind. It was a means of preserving meat and keeping it portable for a largely nomadic people. It involved thin strips of meat or fish, depending on the region, being dried in the sun and subsequently pounded into a meat powder. This powder could be held as it was or mixed with rendered fat and pressed in a bag made of hide and this could be chewed on like jerky.

   The idea of adding fruit to pemmican came as European settlers began to traverse the harsh terrain of an unsettled plain. This region had long stretches of land with little to no animals or fish to hunt, so the nomadic native peoples showed European settlers how to make pemmican. Europeans found the particular blend a little harsh on their palates so they altered the meat to fat ratio and added berries. This lightweight ration helped European settlements grow and gain a foothold in a region that normally would be very difficult in which to survive.

   My family is in that long line of European immigrants that populated this region of Canada. Many came for the large stretches of land to farm and that grew the Canadian grain industry: wheat, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, mustard, legumes, canola, flax. All made possible by the kindness and resourcefulness of the native peoples who lived before us.

   As a way to honour that tradition, today’s salad uses pemmican (or a modern incarnation: beef jerky), fruit, grain and flax.

Buckwheat Pemmican Salad

1/4 cup toasted buckwheat groats (1/4 cup buckwheat groats, toasted in a dry pan over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes until deeply golden)

3/4 cup boiling water (I just use a kettle)

50g/2oz beef jerky, cut into thin strips, 1/2 cm (1/4″) thick

2 cups berries (I used raspberries, but Saskatoon berries were most traditional in the Canadian prairies throughout history)

1/2 tsp cold pressed flax oil

   In a small bowl, add the toasted buckwheat groats and boiling water. Allow to sit and steep like tea for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into a small pan, reserving the hydrated buckwheat groats. Bring the buckwheat-infused liquid to a simmer gently over medium heat. Pour the simmering liquid over the beef jerky strips and allow to soak for 30 minutes to soften the meat. Strain, reserving the hydrated meat and discard the liquid.

   To serve, scatter the berries over two plates. Loosely arrange the hydrated meat over the berries. Sprinkle a few pinches of hydrated buckwheat groats over the top (any extra is a nice snack or over yogurt instead of granola) and finish with a light drizzle of flax oil. Serves 2.

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Grilled Peach and Nectarine Omelette Noodle Salad

   While looking at the variety of fruit I bought from the market yesterday, I knew I wanted to grill the peaches and nectarines because they were a little firm. Ripe enough to eat, but a little firm to have fresh in a salad.

   Last week I had picked up sweet potato vermicelli from an Asian market because I felt like something different in the summer heat. The weather has cooled a touch, but the ease of any Asian-style noodle to cook is always handy. Usually you just cover them with boiling water from a kettle and leave it alone for 20-30 minutes. These noodles were no different.

   I had been also reading a lot about different salad ideas around the world and came upon the omelette salad idea. Basically, make a thin omelette and cut it into ribbons to have the look of noodles. The egg had a touch of soy in it to give the omelette a meat-like appearance so it was all the more fascinating to me. I decided that I liked the idea of a “meaty noodle” with another noodle and the sweet/sour interplay of grilled fruit seemed like a perfect compliment.

Grilled Peach and Nectarine Omelette Noodle Salad

For the Grilled Fruit and Onions:

1 peach, halved, pitted, cut halves into 3 wedges per half

1 nectarine, halved pitted, cut halves into 3 wedges per half

1/2 medium onion, cut into wedges and threaded on a skewer

2 Tbsp cold pressed canola oil

   Set a grill to medium high heat.

   Lightly coat the peaches, nectarines and onions in oil and grill for 5-7 minutes per side until golden on all sides. Set aside to cool.

For the omelette:

1 egg

1 tsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp milk

   In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, soy sauce and milk until smooth.

   Preheat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add one teaspoon of oil, swirl it around to lightly coat the pan and add the egg mixture. Shake the pan lightly to ensure that the omelette isn’t sticking and push the edges of the forming omelette to ensure that it cooks evenly. When nearly cooked, take the pan off the heat and allow the residual heat of the pan to cook the omelette the rest of the way. Slide it from the pan and allow to cool completely.

   Roll the finished omelette loosely and cut into 1cm (1/2″) ribbons. Set aside.

For the Toasted Flax Dressing:

1 Tbsp toasted flax seeds (1 Tbsp flax seeds added to a dry pan over medium high heat and toasted for 3-4 minutes until golden on all sides)

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp cold pressed flax oil

   Place the dressing ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Set aside.

For the salad:

100g/4 oz sweet potato vermicelli (or other glass noodles), soaked in boiling water for 20-30 minutes until softened, drained, cooled

Prepared Grilled Fruit and Onion

Prepared omelette

Prepared Toasted Flax Dressing

   In a medium bowl, combine the softened noodles with the Toasted Flax Dressing. Add the Grilled Fruit and Onion and toss gently with just your fingertips. Divide the salad over two plates and scatter with the prepared omelette, broken into smaller pieces with your fingers. Serves 2.

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Melon Sausage Salad

   At this time of year, melons start to become more prominent: watermelon, musk melon, honeydew and others. Today at the market I picked up a musk melon (often mistakenly called a cantaloupe) and a snow leopard melon (a funky striped melon reminiscent of honeydew on the interior).

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   The first thing a lot of people think when serving melon is to wrap slices of melon with proscuitto. I went to an amazing local butcher shop, Acme Meat Market, the other day for some of their homemade sausages. Each week they have a different variety and this week they had their “Ultimate Breakfast Sausage.” It is a blend of pork, bacon and maple syrup. I thought this would be a great accent to a melon fruit salad so I crumbled up some sausage and fried it. If you don’t have a sausage like this available, a nice maple breakfast sausage would be ok with a few bits of crumbled bacon.

 

Melon Sausage Salad

4 cups melon (I used musk melon and snow leopard melon), peeled, seeded, roughly chopped

75g/3 oz Ultimate Breakfast Sausage, crumbled and fried until deeply golden brown

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cold pressed flax oil

   On two plates, evenly scatter the melon varieties. Top with crumbled, fried sausage and sprinkle lightly with ground black pepper. Drizzle with a bit of flax oil. Serves 2.

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Eggplant Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Roasted Eggplant Essence

   Yesterday, I blogged about how certain components of an ingredient can have different flavour qualities. Today, I’m looking at eggplant. Eggplant needs to be looked at a little deeper to find these unique flavours.

   In yesterday’s salad, grilling gives a wonderful flavour and multi-faceted texture, so I wanted to incorporate that flavour and texture again. The variability today involves roasting an eggplant until it goes completely soft and straining the roasted pulp for an intensely flavoured juice. This is eggplant essence and will dress tonight’s salad.

Eggplant Cucumber & Tomato Salad with Roasted Eggplant Essence

For the Roasted Eggplant Essence:

1/2 medium eggplant, cut from the whole eggplant lengthwise

   Preheat an oven to 190C/400F. Line a small baking sheet with foil.

   Score the cut side of the eggplant with shallow slashes using the tip of a sharp knife. Roast, cut side up, in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until golden on the cut side and very soft.

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   Scoop the roasted flesh from the skin, discarding the skin, and place the pulp in a strainer set over a bowl. Place a small plate or bowl over the pulp and weigh it down with a large can to press the juices from the pulp. Allow to strain for 30 minutes. When strained set aside the juice and reserve the pulp for another use (it freezes well and is a great neutral substitute for applesauce in a low fat muffin recipe).

For the salad:

1-1/2 cups cucumber, cut into thick strips (about 1cm x 6cm [1/2″ x 2″] pieces)

14-16 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/2 cup grilled eggplant slices, cut into rough 2cm/1″ pieces

Reserved Roasted Eggplant Essence

   In a medium bowl, combine the cucumber and tomato. Add the Roasted Eggplant Essence and allow to marinate briefly (10 minutes is fine). Gently fold in the grilled eggplant (it can go mushy if you’re too rough with it) and divide the salad between two bowls. Serves 2.

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