If you are up on your leafy green trends or just caught this scathing kale obituary in The Atlantic last month, you might be convinced that kale has had its day in the sun. If kale-bully Amanda Mull is to be believed, nobody really liked it anyway. As a pro-bono promoter of kale, I’d like to speak to my client’s intentions. Chock full of vitamins, with nutrient-rich fiber and low calorie to boot, kale has always had your back. I particularly love Tuscan kale. It’s much less bristle-y and mouth-scratchy than curly kale which can be downright aggressive from plate to mouth. I, a committed kale-lover, find myself begging kale to just get new handlers. Or more accurately, to stop crying out to be handled. Let’s face it – we’d rather get a massage than give a massage, and all those needy recipes calling out for massaging kale were just a bit too much! #AmIRight? Bad PR, in my mind, is the ONLY reason kale gets the cold shoulder. We are smart enough to eat ugly fruits and vegetables to minimize food waste. We should be able to dismiss this nay-sayer dissing my beloved leafy green.
This time of year (actually most times of year, but it goes so well with fall dishes that it’s more noticeable now), Tuscan kale pops up on every menu. To my tongue, Tuscan or black kale is less woody than curly kale and less in need of a massage…though my pal Mike swears he enjoys beating the kale into submission with a meat mallet. (It’s not entirely clear to me that this is really just about the kale.) Simply trim the stems and remove the rib from the lower end of the leaf, then stack and roll into a tight bundle and cut thinly cross-wise. That’s called a chiffonade. Voilà! Now you speak French. You’re welcome. I recently came across a bag of pre-chopped Tuscan kale at Trader Joe’s, and it was not salad-worthy. The chop was too coarse and it made for quite an unrefined salad. Save the pre-chop for a soup or stirfry.
You may also know this dark, wrinkly leaf with a blue-green cast by names other than Tuscan: Lacinato, dino, dinosaur, Cavolo Nero…..even palm tree kale, because the growth pattern resembles the fronds atop a palm tree. It’s been grown in Tuscany for centuries and is a key ingredient in the Italian soups ribollita and minestrone.
Creamy Avocado Dressing
All the nooks and crannies cry out for a creamy dressing that will gently nap the leaves. I grew up with Seven Seas Green Goddess, but have never actually tracked down an authentic recipe for one made from scratch. I, as always, simply grab what is on hand. It won’t keep long with the acids taking their turn on all things that start out green, so just make it with what you have today and make it differently tomorrow. With so much flavor in the dressing, I keep salad toppings to a minimum – some sliced radishes for a color contrast and a handful of croutons for added crunch. Tasty!!
Tuscan kale, very thinly sliced, is the perfect dark, leafy green with nooks and crannies to grab this tasty, creamy avocado dressing. Add a few colorful and crunchy garnishes and you have yourself a salad.
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream (non-fat, full-fat, etc. – your choice)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
4 sprigs parsley
3 scallions, cut into 1” pieces
2 Tablespoons extra virgen olive oil
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped chives
1 clove of garlic (or more to taste)
Handful of arugula
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
bunch of Tuscan kale, very thinly sliced
radishes, thinly sliced – watermelon radishes if you can find them
Make the Dressing:
Put the dressing ingredients, and/or anything else green and flavorful you have on hand, in the Vitamix or food processor and let ‘er rip. Scrape down the sides as needed, and taste and adjust seasoning.
It will keep in the fridge for a few days before losing its bright green. Simply press plastic wrap directly on the surface and seal tightly.
Make the Salad:
Thinly slice the kale by trimming the stems and removing the ribs from the lower end of the leaves. Stack and roll into a tight bundle and cut thinly cross-wise.
Top with sliced radishes and toss with dressing. (You will have dressing left over.)
Garnish with croutons before serving.
Without the croutons, the kale, even when dressed, will keep for one to two days in the refrigerator. Enjoy your sturdy salad greens!
Prep Time:10 minutes
Keywords: Tuscan Kale Salad, Creamy Avocado Dressing
Listen to the applause circle the globe as I am FINALLY posting the recipe for the Green Machine Salsa Verde. This recipe starting making the rounds with the Fajita Pot Lucky two years ago and has appeared in various iterations ever since, most recently at the All American BBQ Pot Lucky. Requested on the reg, I found when trying to share the recipe that I had continually been reinventing the ratios and ingredients. This is finally the definitive formula which I tested again just this week for another Pot Lucky, to be posted very soon.
The Green Machine, while technically a Salsa Verde that can be used on its own in the traditional green sauce way, is so named because it’s a workhorse. Check out the laundry list of possibilities below. I’m not suggesting you try all these things at once – that’s for professionals, kids! – but this fajita above has the Salsa Verde as a marinade for both chicken and veg; it’s mixed with sour cream for the grand dollop, and it’s kicking up the guacamole. Try any one or two at a time, but pace it out.
What is Salsa Verde?
Unless you are living under a rock, you have no doubt come across this delicious dazzler. Every country has its own version: Italy has pesto, but also a parsley-based verde with capers and anchovies; Mexico’s includes cilantro and chilis; in various Asian countries you will find green curries; and of course, Argentina’s famous chimichurri is chockablock with parsley. The name chimichurri came with the arrival of the Basques in the late 19th century and their word tximitxurri, meaning a mixture of things in no particular order. This, too, is a sort of no rules recipe!
The recipe featured here is Mexican-based. Lots of cilantro, roasted chilis, tomatillos and lime juice. I used Hatch chilis, which are just starting to come into the market right now. They are exclusive to the Hatch Valley in New Mexico, and if you are lucky enough, your local store may have a few days or a week of offering them, most likely from the good people at Melissa’s Produce. Check their site to see if there are any stores near you. (They are at D&W in Grand Haven today!) The chilis, which have an earthy taste and varying degrees of heat, mature in a very short window in late August and September. My store roasts them for me, but I clean off the char and pull out the seeds and stems before zipping to freeze. It makes it infinitely easier to just pull out a few at a time all winter to throw into soups and stews, and, yes, more Salsa Verde, should I run out.
If you don’t get them, feel free to roast some poblanos or even use fresh jalapenos should you be grill-averse after a summer of BBQs.
How do you thicken Salsa Verde?
Some versions of this yummy sauce may have you reducing down the mixture on the stove to thicken. Me: “Just say no!” I feel that kills all those bright and beautiful greens and turns it to a dull olive drab. I have two hacks to help with this. First I add a ripe avocado to thicken things up, and second I add a slow drizzle of olive oil with the processor running to emulsify the sauce. The avo may shorten the life a skosh, but you will go through it quickly so that’s never been a problem. You can also divvy it up into smaller containers and freeze small batches of it. You might even consider an ice cube tray to create portioned cubes of the saucy wonder. I have some in my shop that make large cubes and are covered for both easy stacking and keeping the freezer burn at bay.
Salsa Verde Uses
Here are just a few of the many ways you can mix this green goodness into your daily life:
On the table as a condiment (photo below) – amazing with grilled meats
As a drizzle on cheeses (above on a Caprese) How about a burrata drizzle?
Mixed with sour cream for a dip or dollop (Mexican condiment tray at bottom)
Stirred into guacamole for a kick up
Mixed with yogurt as a spread (I just used it on steak sliders)
Marinade for vegetables, chicken, fish, or meats (vegetables below)
Glaze to brush on dishes just before they come off the grill
Spice up a tortilla soup …..or any other soup or stew
Eggs, hell yaas! How about that Mexican egg layered number, the chilaquiles?
Salad dressing – mix with buttermilk and make it creamy
Drizzle on a citrus salad? Grilled fish! Sauteed scallops! Steaks!
Anything tortilla based – Tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, y mas!
Cocktails! Shake it up with some lime juice and tequila! How about adding an oyster shooter to that combo? Oh yeah!
However you chose to use it, please report back. Comments and shares keep this blog going. I know you are going to love this and can’t wait to hear how you put this to use. Enjoy!
The Green Machine, while technically a Salsa Verde that can be used on its own in the traditional green sauce way, is so-named because it’s a workhorse. Check out the laundry list of possible ideas from marinade, to dip, to dressing, to cocktails.
2 cloves garlic
2 roasted Hatch or poblanos chilis, seeds and ribs removed
3 cups arugula, tightly packed
1 bunch of Italian parsley, bottom stems discarded
1 bunch cilantro, bottom stems discarded
juice of 4 limes (1/2 cup)
3 medium tomatillos, husks removed and quartered
1 avocado, scooped from the skin
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup olive oil plus 1/4 cup water
With the motor running, drop the garlic in the work bowl of a food processor until minced.
Add the chilis, arugula, parsley and cilantro in batches, pulsing as you add to create enough room and to chop finely.
Add the lime juice, tomatillos, avocado and salt. Pulse all ingredients until pureed.
With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and water. Scrape down the sides as needed.
Taste to adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper, lime juice or olive oil to balance the flavor. Final seasoning will depend on the chilis used and the “flavorfulness” of your herbs and arugula.
If you don’t have roasted Hatch chilis in your freezer (autumn is the time to buy them fresh, possibly already roasted by your local store, and stock your freezer for the coming months) nor feel like firing up the grill to roast poblanos, substitute 1-2 fresh jalapeños, ribs and seeds removed
Serve as a dressing, marinade, salsa or sauce. If needed, you can thin with additional lime juice or water. Mix with sour cream or Greek yogurt to make a sauce or dip. Add to guacamole to kick up the guac heat. If using as a marinade, use 1 1/2 Tablespoons per chicken breast or per half-pound of meat.
It isn’t summer without a Pot Lucky or two….or three. And just in time for Labor Day, here’s some inspo for the All American BBQ! I rounded up the troops – you must subscribe to the blog and you MUST be game to try something new – and as usual, they did not disappoint! Let’s kick it off with just three of the meats………..are you hungry yet?
Meat, meat and more meat: Hickory smoked chicken with Alabama white BBQ sauce, Asian pork popsicles, ribs with Gilligan sauce (a lot of Ginger and a little Mary Ann).
It was a perfect storm. Beautiful house, beautiful hosts, amazing food and a fun group of Pot Lucky-ers with overactive imaginations. Culinary A game. A+!!
What’s a Pot Lucky?
If you are new to this, a Pot Lucky is my take on what I fear might be a culinary wasteland – the dreaded pot luck. Let’s put the LUCKY in Pot Luck, I say. I create a theme – All American BBQ this time – and ask guests to curate their dishes around it, avoiding the store-bought. Now, with a number of these under my belt, I’m finding more and more dishes that require an alarm set for 1 am to get the chicken out of the brine. Or one that gets started on Monday with sous vide so the ribs are smoked by Thursday. We are talking commitment here! I am not saying you can’t have a super simple Pot Lucky, but no matter your preference – simplicity or extravaganza – having your guests help with the heavy lifting can result in a stunning spread.
We’ve done about a dozen or more Pot Luckys so far with a good list of more to come. Some of my favorites include the salad palooza, fajitas, sliders, and a nautical theme. For details on how to host your own, link here. Depending on the party (8 kinds of meatloaf or 6 flavors of soup), you can plan on leftovers for your freezer. But for other themes, like the tropical-styled Swish Kabobs aka Food on a Stick, it’s more likely that the last pineapple will be licked right off the plate. The All American BBQ could have gone either way. Lots of food, lots of leftovers…..or A+ menu, A++ appetites. It was closer to the latter.
Atmosphere was easy to come by. Between the hosts’ Lake Michigan views and a smattering of red, white & blue on the tables, all was set. Add some killer BBQ, and you have yourself a party.
As is now my tradition, I use this app to track the menu and help guests decide on a dish not already claimed. The categories for this were Meat, Meat, & Meat; Sassy Sides, All about the Sauce, and Blue Ribbon Desserts. Since there are always last minute changes, I let guests create their own signage on arrival. This time I found some little chalkboards on a stand………..and I think they will be showing up again in the future.
Stuffed Pesto Tomatoes and Roasted Shrimp with Orzo
Also new to this round was a Best of Show Award. Who’d a thunk a salad could win this meat extravaganza? But that’s what happened! I let people decide what the category was they were voting for – presentation, use of theme, taste, all of the above – and aside from some sassy and irreverent votes (see the bottom of this post), the clear winner was the Grilled Peach, Blueberry, & Goat Cheese Salad. I think the red, white & blue ribbons tied around the bowl’s pedestal helped tipped the balance. While I say it was a clear winner, truth be told, there were three tied for a very close second. They were all winners in my book.
A special thank you to those that brought the meat. There is no shortage of ideas here and we are always long on laughs. Brett’s Butt! For real?? I loved the presentation on the lemon chicken tenders, and huge props to the four-day sous vide and smoking St. Louis (you are reading that as St. Louie, right?) ribs prep. That was some real commitment. At the top of this post, I shared a snap of the hickory smoked chicken (with 1am alarm to remove from the brine), the Asian pork popsicles, and the Gilligan sauce on the classic ribs – lots and lots of Ginger, with a dash of Mary Ann and the Professor.
All about the Sauce
I thought this feast would be all about the sauce, but things have a way of morphing. There were some really delicious offerings, says the woman who brought two. 🙂 If you had the Mango Habanero BBQ that I brought to the party, don’t judge. I have completely redone it since then. In my haste to pull this together, I didn’t quite get what I wanted. But that is the way it is in cooking. You learn from your mistakes, or improve your near misses. Nobody will complain about the one listed below. Just the right amount of heat and sweet. Brush that on anything – toward the end of your cooking, though, so the sugar doesn’t burn. The other sauce I brought was the Green Machine Salsa Verde. It’s officially my most requested recipe and it will be in a second post later this week. Stay tuned. The Alabama White BBQ Sauce came with the smoked chicken, and there was also an Asian Orange Sesame Sauce, that was marked Agent Orange by some ne’er do well.
All about the Sauce: Green Machine, Alabama White BBQ & Mango Habanero BBQ
Bringing people together to break bread like this is one of the great joys of entertaining, perhaps life. Spirits are high and friendships are forged. How amazing when you get a chance to meet someone new. In fact at this very party, I made a new friend from SF that I had long known about through NY friends, who was also a friend of a Michigan Pot Lucky charter member. Funny how that all comes full circle. Nobody is stealing our joy!
Save Room for Dessert
Even with the bountiful meat feast and all those sides, save room for dessert. And, since it’s summer in Michigan, berries are the….”super stah”.
Blueberry Creme Brulee, Becca’s Famous Cheesecake and Peach & Blueberry Cobbler. Yum!
And the Grand Prize – a bottle of “saucy” BBQ Sauce, the coveted blue ribbon and bragging rights – goes to Gayle for that lovely salad. Who will win the title next time???
There’s one (or two, judging by the handwriting) in every crowd!!!!! And we are so grateful for them!
Having an All American BBQ? Give this Mango Habanero BBQ Sauce a whirl. The char of deep molasses is a perfect counter to the sweet mango and the heat of Ancho and Habanero. Slather it on your meat, chicken, fish or veg toward the end of the grilling time so as not to burn the sugars. It’s a real crowd pleaser!
1 cup ketchup
8-ounce pack chile spiced mangos (At Trader Joe’s, they are called Sweetened Dried Mango with Chile Seasoning)
8 ounces chopped frozen mango (fresh, if ripe)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon Mango Habanero spice
2 teaspoons Ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic, or four cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
Add all ingredients, except lime juice, to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring.
Set aside. When cool enough, transfer to the work bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Add the lime juice and puree until incorporated and smooth.
Store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
I used the chili spiced mangoes from Trader Joe’s, but you can use any dried mangoes. They are similar in texture to a dried apricot, not a freeze-dried or dehydrated fruit. If you can’t find the chili mangoes, consider adding a bit more (to taste) Ancho powder to make up for plain dried mangoes.
The Spice Hunter makes a terrific Global Fusion Rub in Mango Habanero. Just be sure to take a deep breath and hold before opening the jar. It’s wonderfully potent. Avoid sniffing!!
Keywords: BBQ sauce
BBQ Final Planning Note
Some Pot Luckys, like the one for pizzas or burgers, get cooked at the party. This time, since it wasn’t my house, I asked for the food to be ready-to-serve. Either way you need to be clear about expectations. Be sure to let your guests know that quantity is not a concern, because there are so many dishes from which to choose. I try not to focus on head count as a guideline, because I know with all that food, not all guests will try each dish, especially when you have 20+ items. I just ask that they fill their serving dish. But then again, there are those who will try every single one. Why are you looking at ME? It’s my job.
Thanks to all my Pot Lucky-ers for continuing on this journey and being intrepid voyagers. Are you game to try your hand at a Pot Lucky? Let me know how it goes. Tag me with #PotLucky & #PalatePassionPurpose. And as always, I love to get your comments below.
It’s no secret that Cobb Salad is a personal fave. But how to turn up the flavors, yet keep the bacon, egg, and cheese goodness? Enter Sriracha Grilled Shrimp and Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing. Say hello to your new best friend – the Southwestern Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad. Perfection!
If you only need to know one thing about me, know this. I am mad for late summer farmers’ markets. I will probably go to five this week. Okay, I agree…..a little obsessive. But, I have a favorite farmer (plus The Cheese Lady) for every ingredient in this salad. I’m not saying you have to do the same – or that you can’t just go to the supermarket for all this – but I AM SAYING you have to make this NOW. Southwestern Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad is all about the season at hand! Fresh sweet corn. Heirloom tomatoes. Sprouts. Flowers. Herbs. Oh my!
The Classic Cobb Salad
Instead of debating where this salad came from and why it is so called (almost certainly a 20s- or 30s-era salad from Hollywood’s Brown Derby, owned by Robert Cobb), what do you say we just dive in? The classic has greens – often iceberg or romaine, chicken, tomatoes, avocado, hard boiled egg, Roquefort and bacon. In other words, what could be bad? You may find it already tossed, as well as deconstructed with tidy little rows of ingredients. While it barely needs a dressing, the rich cheese and bacon beg for a quiet whisper of shallot vinaigrette.
The Shrimp Cobb Salad
I’m not gonna lie. I am a bit conflicted here. I have a passion for spins and tweaks and making the old new again. But the Classic Cobb is pretty much as good as it gets. I was having a party and wanted a make-ahead all-in-one salad-entree and I thought this would fit the bill….a real crowd-pleaser. But I decided as long as I keep all the favorite components, I could give it a global palate spin. Enter shrimp, corn, and chipotle. Some of the ingredients were direct swaps – chicken for shrimp, roasted for marinated and grilled, Roquefort for Hatch Gouda, and shallot vinaigrette for Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing. Others were too good to mess with – bacon, eggs, tomatoes, and avocado. Then there were a few things I decided to slide in because I could.
Look at these stunningly gorgeous plums. What a perfect sweet and juicy foil to all that buttermilk tang and chipotle smoke! Michigan produces a wide range of both Japanese and European varieties. Those yellow/green beauties are Shiros; the golden/orange-ish rounds are Bubblegum; the small red orbs are Methley; and the violet-blue ovals are Vibrants. I also added some corn which brought some more lovely sweetness, but bonus……….a nice crunch and texture contrast, as well.
I think deconstructed salads are among the few places where more is more. Most often in food, less is more. But if you are going to let people decide what to add to their plate, why not give them a variety to chose from?
Marinating the Shrimp
Shrimp is an-oh-so simple thing to throw on the grill, and of course is good grilled and chilled, making this the perfect make-ahead entree. The marinade is dead easy – lime juice, olive oil, Sriracha, Tabasco and some spices. If you haven’t tried the Chipotle Tabasco, give it a whirl. It adds a nice smokiness to the marinade. I never like to marinate any seafood or fish for too long, because the acid will start to “cook” it. If you prep the marinade first, and add the shrimp while prepping the rest of the salad and getting the grill ready, you will time it just right. Then only a few minutes on the fire for each side, and you and your shrimp will be ready to chill.
Composing the Salad
The directions for the marinade and creamy dressing are sufficiently detailed, but I am leaving the quantities for the fixin’s – or even whether or not to add them at all – up to you. How big is your platter? How many are you serving? How much do you love/hate sprouts?
Just keep in mind colors and textures as you go to arrange your platter. It’s a bounty of beautiful ingredients so this should be the fun part once your chopping is done. If you need to prep things further ahead than when you want to compose it, just bag each ingredient separately and arrange closer to serving time. Your guests will be dazzled! Enjoy!!
This Southwestern Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad is a kicked up spin on an old classic. A few simple ingredient swaps, along with a zesty marinade for the shrimp and a creamy Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing, and this one-platter-is-a-meal comes together quickly. What a great way to celebrate with the bounty of late summer!
Marinade (makes enough for two pounds of shrimp):
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon Chipotle Tabasco
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing (makes 2 1/2 cups):
1 cup Greek non-fat plain yogurt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
chipotles in adobo – one big and one small, more or less to taste
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
Salad fixin’s (mains):
shrimp, raw, deveined, peeled and tail on
Little Gems, baby Romaine lettuce, trimmed and halved
heirloom cherry and grape tomatoes, halved
eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and halved
bacon, crispy and crumbled
avocado, peeled and chopped
Southwestern cheese, grated (I found Hatch Chili Gouda)
corn, shucked, boiled, and cut from the cob
plums (or other stone fruit), pitted and sliced
Salad fixin’s (garnishes):
limes, cut in wedges or halved, if small
edible flowers, like Nasturtium
fresh sprouts, like radish, watercress and sunflower
crunchy topper (see note)
Prepare the marinade: Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate, up to one hour, while you prepare the other ingredients.
Prepare the Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing: Place all ingredients except the cilantro in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop, then process until creamy. Add the cilantro and pulse several times to chop roughly. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Grill the shrimp: Drain any excess marinade from the shrimp and grill over high heat for 2 – 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and reserve until cooled.
Assemble the salad: Once the shrimp is cool enough to not wilt your salad, compose the salad using all the main ingredients, with an eye toward color and textures. Arrange the garnishes on top. If you are serving later, reserve the bacon and crispy topping until serving time. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve: Add the bacon and crispy topping and serve with the Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing.
Crunchy toppers: there are a lot of different crunchy toppers available in the crouton section these days. I used the fried jalapeno slices, but you will also find the basic fried onion rings, as well as red peppers, tortillas and more. Chef’s choice.
Marinade is enough for two pounds of shrimp and Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing makes 2 1/2 cups.
Prep Time:1 hour
Cook Time:30 minutes
Keywords: Cobb Salad, Shrimp, Chipotle Dressing
I want to take a moment to send a heartfelt note of gratitude for all those that supported me spiritually, morally and physically in my Ration Challenge journey earlier this summer. Your generous financial support of this campaign put us at the very top of the fundraising leaderboard among the 40,000 challengers from around the world. Together we raised enough to feed 35 refugees for an entire year. Globally, that number is 16,829! Way to go!! With deep gratitude. xoxo, kk
Before you hit delete thinking “Who needs a Thanksgiving Harvest Salad when I can have fat, fat, and more fat on Thanksgiving?” I am here to tell you – YOU DO!! I talked my friend Cozy into this a couple years ago and I know it was a hit because she called me brilliant. I don’t often forget those who think I am brilliant. 🙂 As she quickly found out, this is all about the herbs. If I didn’t have to measure them for a printed recipe, I might just call for a crap-ton. You’ll want just that much.
The Thanksgiving Harvest Salad is everything you want in a salad, lots of green goodness with just enough rewards to make it not quite a salad and a bit more of an indulgence: fall fruit, tangy cheese, and sweet and spicy nuts. Think of it as your cheese board dumped on some greens. Genius, right?
Just as I was last making this salad, I found a new produce vendor on its maiden voyage to Michigan’s organic Sweetwater Market. I was squealingly happy! I thrived all summer on Summer Blend Gardens’ lettuce mix which included colorful nasturtium flowers and more. Highlight of the summer. But ba-bye, Marty. It’s fall now. Meet my new besties Caleb and Cindy-Beth at A Garden in the Woods. They bring the most gorgeous array of produce to this indoor winter market after spending their summer outdoors in Pentwater. How lucky am I? Even if you don’t live in the area, treat yourself by checking out their Instagram. Gorgeous. Stunningly beautiful!
For this salad, pick any assortment of greens you want, but I like a mix of colors and textures. Some salad blends at the grocery, like baby romaine, are heavy on young greens that don’t have much texture. So if that is your base, be sure to throw in some arugula or watercress. These add both pepper and bounce.
Even though I had no intention of adding radishes to the harvest salad, once Caleb told me these were not baby beets, but purple radishes, I had to. I just had to. Check out the cut radish in the salad photos – a gentle sponging of lavender fading across the cut surface.
Thanksgiving Harvest Salad
I see this wave of comprehension starting to wash over you, yet I still feel your skepticism – salad with lots and lots of herbs for Thanksgiving? I wasn’t kidding about the crap-ton of herbs. For 8 ounces of greens, I would add up to a cup of chopped, mixed herbs. I know I am still in sales mode on this herby addition, so I am ratcheting the herbiage down to a mere 1/2 cup in the recipe below. But be bold. Go for it. Add additional herbs if you are so called. Cozy reported that she ended up with arugula and spring mix with lots of fresh herbs. “You were right! The herbs made the complexity of the greens jump.” So trust us on this.
Now that you have a base in place, my go-to accoutrements are fall fruit, bits of cheese and sweet & spicy nuts. I used apples here, but if you have ripe juicy pears, they would be wonderful, as well as figs or persimmons. And while I used Barber’s Vintage Cheddar 1833 (it’s white) in small cubes (more interesting texture than grated), a perfect pearing (get it??) might include a blue like Roquefort or Stilton. Persimmons and fresh goat cheese anyone? I made that once at the request of Florence Fabricant of the New York Times, using Indiana’s Wabash Canonball, so if it’s good enough for her…………
Like most things in food and in life, winning combos are based either on similarities or contrast. Remember my celery root slaw? It was both! I made all the ingredients look the same (similarity), so you didn’t know til you tasted that there were three very different textures and tastes (contrast). Celery root, white cheddar and apple – all white, all grated. Surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrprise! Similarity and contrast all rolled into one humble slaw.
For the vinaigrette, I chose a lemon olive oil and a maple Balsamic. Gobble! Gobble! I have also used a pear Balsamic when using fresh pears. When using flavored Balsamics, I tend toward a one to one ratio with the olive oil because they are so much sweeter than a traditional vinegar and don’t require a lighter hand. In this case, the maple Balsamic is quite dense, so I scaled it back. If you are choosing your own flavors, start testing with a two to one oil to vinegar ratio and add more vinegar, as you need. Because this dressing is special to this menu, I am only making a small batch, and I short-cut the prep by putting it all in a bottle and shaking before serving. A proper vinaigrette, as you know, has the oil added last in a drizzle so that it can incorporate and emulsify. We are streamlining today because we are busy!! Of course you can prep all your ingredients and the dressing a day or so ahead, except any fruit that would oxidize like the apple. Just keep the ingredients wrapped separately in paper towels and zip bags, and assemble toward serving time.
Now that we have settled on this glorious, fresh and palate-cleansing salad, there are a few other things that you might need to get on that table. Perfect roast turkey and gimme-more gravy? Check. Goat cheese and thyme mashed potatoes. Done. Brussels sprouts and prosciutto. You bet. And some delish cranberry ginger kumquat chutney. Done,done, done. All that is left is a winning Tennessee whiskey pumpkin ginger cheesecake. I have got you covered. All these recipes, complete with tips and must have equipment – looking at you potato ricer – are linked below.
I will be back in a few days with another dessert idea – a Bourbon-laced Apple Crisp – so check back in. Above all, remember we are giving thanks in an extra special way right now – so take a deep breath, be grateful that you have food to cook with and people to cook for, and leave that stress at the grocery check out lane. And if Dear Abby were around, she’d probably ask you to put a basket at the door for cell phones and ask your friends and family for the gift of presence. Enjoy this week with a heart full of gratitude. Be back soon.
The Thanksgiving Harvest Salad is everything you want in a salad, lots of green goodness with just enough rewards to make it not quite a salad and a bit more of an indulgence: fall fruit, tangy cheese, and sweet and spicy nuts. Think of it as your cheese board dumped on some greens. Genius, right?
1/2 pound mixed greens, 8 cups
1/2 cup chopped mixed herbs, including parsley, cilantro, dill and mint
4 scallions, chopped
1 apple, chopped, or other fall fruit such as pears, figs, persimmons, or dates
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
1/4 pound white cheddar, cut into small cubes (I use Barber’s cheddar)
4 radishes, sliced
1/3 cup lemon olive oil
1/4 cup maple Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
5-ounce package of sweet & spicy pecans
Combine greens, herbs, scallions, apple, avocado, cheddar and radishes in a large salad bowl. Toss to combine. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.
Make the vinaigrette, by combining the lemon olive oil, maple Balsamic, salt and pepper in a bottle and shaking to emulsify.
At serving time, drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat. Top with the sweet & spicy pecans.
The herbs really define this as a special green mix, so don’t skimp here.
I always like to use a fruit for sweetness, the cheese for richness and a tang, and the nuts for crunch. All other ingredients rotate in and out depending on what I have around. The purple radishes were calling out to me and that avocado wasn’t getting any younger. Both were fresh new twists at Thanksgiving.
Trader Joe’s is a good source of several sweet & spicy nut mixes.
Oh my! Oh my! Oh my! The Salad Palooza is the mother of all Pot Luckys! What a feast! What a gathering! What fierce women bound together by emulsified vinaigrettes! Ok, there were other things to unite over and celebrate. And this GNO (Girls Night Out) took things to a whole next level. My pal and blog bestie Stacie pulled out all the stops gathering up the gals for a gorgeous summer night at her lakeside cottage. The only call to action was salads – home-made, of course – and to try and not bring duplicates. Sign Up Genius makes it easy to keep track of choices made and helps weed out repeats. Above is Amey’s yumster Charred Peaches & Onions, with watercress, candied bacon and chevre. So good!
Avocado & Tomato Salad with Almonds and a Tarragon Balsamic; Gourmet Mexican Street Corn Salad.
Pot Luckys, for those readers that are new, are my answer to the dreaded pot luck. The emphasis is on the Lucky. Menus are curated around a theme and the goal is to avoid the Velveeta cube with frilly pick. Don’t think you are fooling anyone by topping that cube with a chunk of Slim Jim. That does NOT make it special. I’m on to you. I know, I know not everyone that you want (HAVE?) to invite cooks, so there are definitely jobs for them, too….How much wine CAN you carry? Do my dishes – yes, please. Set up? Break Down? Keep my drink cold? Yes, Yes, and Yes.
In addition to the main theme – salads this time – there is always room for an app or two, a signature drink and of course dessert. How much do you love these cheese wafers below? Someone does:) They remind me of Christmas parties, warm from the oven. I have a real soft spot for them.
We’ve done about a dozen Pot Luckys so far with a good list of more to come. Some of my favorites include fajitas, soup exchange, sliders, and a nautical theme. For details on how to host your own, link here. Depending on the party (8 kinds of meatloaf and 6 flavors of soup), you can plan on leftovers for your freezer. But for other themes, like salad palooza, you can expect the flowers to get licked right off the dish, with nothing but amazing memories to take away.
That middle salad in the large wooden bowl is mine. In case you missed the curried avocado dressing, I’m sharing it again below. This dressing can do just about anything – it’s a real workhorse. But keep scrolling – there are alot more great salad ideas below the recipe!
This is the kind of dressing you can slather on anything and everything. It is a game changer for a quiet romaine and it balances out the earthiness of a strong bitter green like kale. Slap it on a sammy, add it to a salad jar, or dunk your veggies in it.
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, cut into chunks
3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water, or as needed
In a small sauté pan, toast the cumin, coriander and turmeric for about one minute, until fragrant.
With the motor running, drop the garlic into the bowl of a food processor. Turn off and add the avocados, pulsing a few times to a chunky puree. Add the vinegar, toasted spices, salt and peppers and pulse several times until combined.
With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until smooth, adding water as needed to desired consistency.
Makes 2 1/2 cups. Store in the refrigerator, in an airtight container.
This dressing is designed for a hearty green and grain salad, so is aggressively seasoned. If you want to use this creamy green goodness in a more delicate dish, cut back on the spices and garlic a bit.
If you don’t have white balsamic, use another mildly flavored and light colored vinegar, like rice vinegar.
Prep Time:5 minutes
Keywords: salad, salad dressing
Meanwhile back at the party, the fun continues….
Word must have gotten out that Cobb is one of my favorites – avocado, bacon, blue cheese, cucumbers, eggs, tomatoes, chicken, spinach – what could be bad?
You will be amazed how creative guests can be when challenged to pull out all the stops. At least I was – once again! I have been to many a party where there were three or four versions of crunchy pea salad or watermelon & feta, but nothing close to overlap occurred here. In lieu of Sign Up Genius, Stacie set up a private facebook page and made a few suggestions, and then guests weighed in on what they had in mind. It really sparked the imagination. Farmers’ Market finds reigned supreme.
Penne with Chicken, Zucchini, Tomatoes and Corn; Red Skin Potato Salad with Prosciutto; 7 layer Salad.
And bacon – you can never go wrong with bacon. Lest you think these were some girly spa salads, look again. While my salad was vegan, it was hearty and robust and chock-full of plant-based protein, while still feeling indulgent. The variety of colors, textures, flavors and aromas across the buffet was extraordinary.
Go ahead and admit it: you are just a little jealous that the egss in the salad below were just laid. AmIRite?
Apple Cole Slaw; Farm Fresh (no really – straight from the hen house) Egg Salad; Grapes & Pecans.
Thanks to Stacie for hosting and recruiting so many wonderful women who know how to spin a salad.
Chicken Salad with Grapes & Pecans; Greek Zoodle Salad; Mediterranean Shrimp Salad with Artichoke Hearts.
Did you see a salad here that you’d like to try? If so, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to bring more of these recipes to life. Did you know I used to create recipes for CNN and Burt Wolf interviewing chefs around the globe? I’d watch the 60-second edited video and create a tasty recipe that matched all the action. Shhh – top secret. I’ve already said too much.
With pretty much all 19 bowls licked clean, blueberry pie sent us out and on our merry way. I’ll be dreaming about this feast for summers to come. Many thanks to all that made this night so special.
That glow is just a reflection from this sunset. I swear it!