Shimmy Shimmy Ya, Ooh Baby I Like It Raw. . . A Chopped Winter Salad Recipe

 

So this isn’t exactly my mother-in-law’s winter salad recipe and not just because I can’t make it without singing a bit of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Mine is a little flashier. The flavours are brighter. The textures more varied. Nothing is grated. It also includes oven roasted nuts and goats cheese.

Each bite offers a lot of crunch and color as well as a good dose of sweet, sour, and savory. It’s a salad that’s as balanced as it is beautiful.

Ingredients:

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1/3 small red cabbage, chopped

1 tart apple, chopped (I prefer Cox. Say it again and laugh. It’s alright.)

1 bulb of fennel, chopped (fronds too)

the arils from half a pomegranate

1/2 cup pecans

1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons goats cheese (I like Moody’s Rosary Ash from Waitrose)

1 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

meyer lemon vinaigrette = 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard emulsified with 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil + 1 teaspoon honey + 1 tablespoon meyer lemon juice

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas 6/4000°F/200°C.

While you wait for it to warm, chop your vegetables and fruit. Squeeze some lemon on the chopped apple to prevent it from discoloring. Set the fruit and vegetables aside in a large bowl. Add the pomegranate, cheese, and poppy seeds.

When the oven is ready, place the pecans and pumpkin seeds on a baking tray. Pour the maple syrup on them and toss lightly to coat evenly. Salt and pepper them. Toast them for about five minutes.

Make the vinaigrette while the nuts roast. When the nuts are ready, remove them from the oven and add them to the other ingredients. Toss and serve.

 

Winter salad

Winter salad

 

 

 

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Secrets (an apple plum sauce recipe)

Not many people know but once I tried being a vegetarian.  All I can say is I was young and impressionable and that it was during my competitive figure skating years.  Lots of the girls I skated with hid their anorexia behind their vegetarianism, but that’s not why I did it.  I did it because Alicia Silverstone, the star of “Clueless,” was a vegetarian.  I tried in earnest but after a few months of eating nothing but edamame and baked potatoes with salsa, I caved.  One Saturday after ballet and running Mulholland, I downed a quart of milk then asked my mother to make me a steak.

Since then I have employed an equal opportunities approach to eating.  I love eating. Everything.  Which is why if you asked me which food I could live without–Spanish peaches, French cherries, Hungarian peppers, Sicilian tuna, Black Angus beef, Maine lobster, or Cromer crab–I wouldn’t be able to answer you.  To me, they’re all necessary and if I could never have one of them again I would mourn the fact.

CUT TO: ME IN MOURNING

I’ve been taking anticoagulants for over a month now and going in for blood work most every week.  If you saw the bruises on my arms you’d think I was an extra on Vinyl. Friday I was told that on top of whatever pulmonary problems I have, I also have high cholesterol.  Not yet high enough to be put on statins, but high enough to be categorized as high.  Anyone who reads Chagrinnamon Toast knows I’m a woman who loves a piece of pie, but I’m also a woman who soaks her own beans, makes her own stock, and eats lots of vegetable dishes.  I have to admit, this news came as a shock and the fact that I’ve been advised to cut out animal products in an effort to lower my cholesterol has me disheartened.

I feel like I have to learn to cook again.  The thing is I do have several plant based cookbooks on my shelf though I seldom use them.  Not because I don’t like the way the recipes taste, but because there is too much prep work involved.  If a recipe requires me to grind spices and chop herbs for more than an hour, I’m not going to make it.  Part of why I love roast chicken so much (or roast of any kind) is that it’s easy to prepare.  I can walk away from it as the alchemy happens in the oven.  I have yet to experience the same freedom or satisfaction when cooking vegetables.  I’ll even admit that my ratatouille recipe I love is sometimes so tedious I can’t bother.

As for vegetables masquerading as meat. . . I don’t get it.  It’s like some sort of kitchen cosplay where seitan pretends to be sausage and tofu turns into counterfeit crab.  To each their own, but personally no thank you.  In December, I went to one of Los Angeles’ best vegan restaurants.  The signature dish I was told to try was the chicken and waffles. It was alright considering it was meat free but no one at Roscoe’s, not even if blind drunk, would have mistaken it for the real thing.

But enough of feeling sorry for myself.  The fact remains, I have high cholesterol and need to adjust my diet accordingly.  So if you have any recipe recommendations that don’t require tons of prep work or pretend soy is steak, then please share them.  I’m only one week in and already bored of the meals I’ve been making.  It’s not that they aren’t nice, it’s just that they smack of medieval asceticism.  I would love bring them into the modern age.

Below is a recipe for spiced apple plum sauce.  This weekend I ate it with steel cut oats and almonds.  Today my daughter had it with yoghurt and honey as an after school snack. Until I learn how to bake without butter or coconut oil, this will remain my treat of choice.

Ingredients:

6 apples

3 plums

1/2 inch of grated ginger

2 pieces cinnamon bark

1 clove

1 star anise

1 tsp agave syrup

 

Method:

Peel and dice your fruit.  Then place it in a saucepan with the spices and syrup.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble.  Simmer until thick.  Pot in a sterilized jar and process for about 25 minutes in a water bath if you want to preserve it.  If not, put it in a container in the fridge to chill and eat it within the week.

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Food for a Summer Cold

Being sick in summer is the worst.  Especially if you live in England where blue skies and sunshine are rare.  When my Casablanca lilies are in bloom and the berries out back are ripe, I want to be outside.  Not tucked up in bed surrounded by Kleenex, wearing socks,  and smelling of menthol.

To me, summer means swings on which to swing.  Or if you’re Southern, swangs on which to swang.  A boat pond begging for paper schooners to sail across its surface.  Berries for crumble and cobbler that won’t pick themselves.  Bubbles to blow, daisy chains to make, and roses that I want in my cheeks instead of just in a bedside vase.

That’s why this weekend I said chest colds be damned and made a delicious lunch to heal all the family.

If you’re like me you might not think much of celery on its own.  Sure it’s great for adding depth to things like chicken stock or bolognese, but by itself I’m never tempted.  Unless it’s in a soup.  Which is exactly what I made.  My recipe is as simple as it is savory and equally delicious.

The other thing I made was a drink I call Hot Ginger & Dynamite.  It’s a potent hot lemonade with a fiery kick that’ll burn whatever ails you.  Ginger to heal, honey to soothe, and lots of lemon for vitamin C.  Cold medicine’s never tasted so good.  Except maybe at night when I like to add a splash of whisky to it.

Below are my recipes.  Though they have healing powers they’re also great to make when you just want to eat something good and clean.  I hope you enjoy them.

Celery Soup

Ingredients:

2 bunches of celery (with leaves–that’s where the flavor is), washed and chopped

1 onion, chopped

chicken or vegetable stock (or just water)

2 Tbsp olive oil + 1Tbsp butter

Marigold stock powder (optional)

Method:

Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Sauté the onions and celery until soft.

celeryonion Sautéing

Here is where I stir in a tablespoon or two of Marigold powder for a extra depth, but you certainly don’t have to.

Add the stock or water.  I put in enough to cover the celery by half an inch.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Lastly, blend until smooth then serve.  If you haven’t used Marigold powder, do be sure to season with salt.

simmer bowl of soup

Hot Ginger & Dynamite

Ingredients:

the juice of 3 lemons

1-2square inches of freshly grated ginger

2 mug fulls of water

1/4 cup honey and then some to taste

Method:

Bring the lemon juice, ginger, and water to a boil.  Turn down and simmer for at least 10 minutes.  Stir in the 1/4 cup honey until dissolved.  If you want it sweeter, add more 1 tablespoon at a time to suit your taste.

ginger lemon tincture

Light Pasta Lunch

Once when I was home from college for winter holidays, my mother served the most delicious green beans I’d ever tasted.  I asked her what the sauce was.  She laughed and said “butter.”  Growing up in Los Angeles, I wasn’t raised eating butter.  It’s not that we never had it in the house, but if we did it was for cooking.  It was because a recipe called for it, not because anyone in our family ate buttered toast with jam.  The other thing we never ate was bacon, proper pork bacon.  I specify as I, like many children in Southern California, was raised on turkey bacon.  Not until moving to London five years ago did bacon become part of my diet.  I confess.  I went a little pork crazy.  That said, I still love the wholesome flavors of home.  I genuinely enjoy the slight nuttiness of whole wheat and I love a light lunch especially as summer approaches.  Below is a pasta recipe from my California days.  I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

whole wheat pasta

1/2 kilo plum or cherry tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 avocado

a handful of ripped basil leaves

olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Method:

Make your pasta according to the packet instructions.

Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on a roasting dish.  Rub them with olive oil and some salt.  Place them under the broiler/grill until they start to blacken a bit.

Add the chopped garlic to the tomatoes and put back under the heat for no more than a minute.

Remove them from the broiler/grill and set aside.

Cut the avocado into chunks.

Smash the tomatoes with a fork.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the tomatoes to the pasta.  Mix thoroughly then add the avocado and basil.

 

avocado tomato basil pasta

Black Bean Chipotle Chili

I don’t smoke.  I never have.  By which I mean sure I’ve had the occasional cigarette–I’ve even bought packs–I’ve just never finished them.  Not once in my life have I ever woken up and longed for a smoke.  That said, parenthood changes a person.  While I love my three year old and am convinced she hung the moon, there are days I long for a tall drink and a moment of smokey silence.  And since these days I’m a few thousand miles from my favorite cigarette, a Nat Sherman Black and Gold, my smoke of choice has become chipotle.

Chipotle chiles are peppers from Mexico that have been dried and smoked.  Sometimes they are dried by smoking.  Either way, they are imbued with a wonderful flavor.  I love to keep a jar of chipotles en adobo at all times.  That spicy jar in the back of my fridge is like my secret stash.  When I have a craving, I know right where to go.  It’s delicious stuff and lasts for ages.  If you want to make your own, follow my basic recipe.  Of course, adjust it to suit your taste.

Ingredients:

100 g chipotle chiles

1 onion, chopped

1 bulb of garlic, chopped

1 bunch of oregano, chopped,

1/2 bunch of thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted then crushed with a pestle and mortar

1 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp Demerar sugar

1 tbsp salt

olive oil

 

Method:

Rinse the chipotles with cold water.  Snip off the stalk ends and discard.  Put the chipotles in a saucepan and cover with water.  Simmer them for about 45 minutes or until they are soft.  Once they have reached desired tenderness, rinse off extra seeds and drain.

In a blender, combine the onion, garlic, herbs, spices, chiles and a few tablespoons of water.  Blend until you have a smooth paste.

Heat some olive oil in your heaviest bottom pan.  Add the chile paste and sauté for a few minutes.  Stir constantly to avoid sticking and burning.

Add the vinegars, tomato paste, sugar, salt, and a bit more water to achieve the thickness you desire.  Stir and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Flavor with more salt or sugar as you deem necessary.  Also, dilute with water if you think it’s too strong.  Pack in clean preserving jars and store.

I use this chipotle sauce as a salsa or in soups and stews.  It’s one of my favorite ingredients when making black bean chili, the recipe for which is below.

 

Ingredients:

2 small onions, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, grated

2 cans cherry tomatoes

3 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup cider vinegar

3 heaping tbsp of cumin seeds

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 cup chipotle sauce

2 tsp sea salt

 

Method:

Toast the cumin seeds over low heat.  Smash them in a molcajete (mortar and pestle).  Set them aside.

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In a large pot, add some olive oil and warm over medium heat.  Sauté the onions and garlic until soft.

In a small bowl combine the vinegar, paprika, and cayenne.  Add this to the onions and garlic, along with the tomatoes and chipotle.  Simmer and reduce for about 20 minutes.

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Finally, stir in the black beans.  Cook for another ten minutes just so the beans warm through and flavors emulsify.  I like to serve this with Greek yogurt and avocado.

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RRRRatatouille

My husband’s Auntie M. is extremely grand.  She is the kind of woman who has a favorite table at The Wolseley.  Ditto J. Sheekey’s.  Ditto Ronnie Scott’s.  Of course she hasn’t been to the latter since the late 60s.  Why should she?  Mose Allison hasn’t been in years.  And though she is a woman, she has celebrated more than a few of her birthdays with private parties at Boodle’s.  The smoked eel there is wonderful.  Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.  Did I mention Auntie M. is extremely grand?  She is.  She has the diction of a Mitford and better posture than the queen.

On my 30th birthday, Auntie M. gave me an Hermès scarf.  She told me now that I was a woman of a certain age, my wardrobe required it.  

Last week, I saw Auntie M. and she gave me a few heads of wild French garlic.  She had just been to her home in the Languedoc and picked up several beautiful bunches before crossing the channel back to Angleterre.

garlic from Pomerols

This gift inspired me to make an enormous pot of ratatouille.  Not only because it’s delicious but because I can’t wait to tell Auntie M.  I always smile at the way she rrrrolls her posh Scottish Rs.

 

Ingredients:   

7 cloves of garlic, grated

2 onions, chopped

2 medium eggplant (aubergines), chopped

3 zucchini (courgettes), chopped

4 bell peppers, I like to get all different colors

600 grams piccolo tomatoes, quartered and de-seeded

1 bunch of thyme, chopped

1 bunch of basil, chopped

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons tomato paste

salt and pepper

olive oil

 

Method:

In a large pot, heat about a 1/4 cup of olive oil over a medium low flame.  Then add the onions and garlic.

saute onions and garlic

Stir constantly, making sure nothing burns.  When they start to caramelize, add the eggplant and thyme.

eggplant eggplant and thyme

 

When that starts to go soft, add the peppers, zucchini, and half the basil.  

peppers and courgettes

When those start to go soft, add the tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir to incorporate.  

650 g tomatoescooking

Season with salt and pepper and don’t be precious with the salt.  You’ll need quite a bit.  Garnish with the remaining basil and serve.

serving

This goes so well with Bandol Rosé or a Picpoul de Pinet, my favorite being from Domaine La Grangette as my husband recently wrote about.  

  

 

Beet Greens Salad

Some people love beetroot.  I am not one of them.  Though I have always loved a good borscht, I have never loved beets.  In fact there was a time when I wouldn’t even eat them.  Not until I was 25 and my kid sister’s nanny always made them for her–roasted and served with balsamic vinegar, was I able to eat them without grimacing or furtively giving them to the dog under the table.  But what I have always loved are beet greens.  Sweet and delicious and packed full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and protein.  They’re also really pretty with bright purple veins running throughout.  It’s a shame but most supermarkets sell beetroot without the greens attached.  To get them go to a farmer’s market or just grow them yourself.  You won’t regret it.

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Ingredients:

1 bunch of beet greens, washed and chopped

a bunch of dill, chopped

1/4 cup toasted chopped almonds

the juice of 1 lemon

a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper

 

Method:  Put all the ingredients into a large dish, toss ,and serve.

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