Monday, April 1, 2013

A Few Versions of a Quick Spring Salad

It is 85 degrees out!! And that's no April Fool joke! A cool front is supposed to move in tomorrow and even bring some much needed rain, so this morning I put a big pot on the stove and filled it with 2 chickens leftover from our Easter celebration yesterday, tons of veggies, some dried morel mushrooms foraged here on the ranch and wild rice from my sweet friend Jan in Minnesota. It smells delicious and I predict we will eat chicken soup the next few days. But today, on this bright, warm lovely Spring day, I wanted veggies and as close to their raw state as possible. Yesterday, one of my contributions to our Easter party was a Brussels sprout salad that was so satisfying and SO easy that I could have eaten just that and been quite happy.

I would have loved to recreate that salad for lunch today, but alas, all the Brussels sprouts were used yesterday. But I did have a few bundles of asparagus and so did a slightly different version. It was equally delicious. Here are both recipes!
Our Easter Salad:
Brussels Sprouts, Dried Cherries, Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad
serves about 6-8 as a side
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, stem end trimmed and cut in half
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 Tablespoons balsamic syrup or balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add Brussels sprouts. Cook about 8-10 minutes until slightly tender-they should still have a bit of a bite. If your Brussels sprouts are small it will take only about 5 minutes. Mine were huge and 10 minutes was about right. Drain and put in a bowl to cool. Cut each sprout in half again (so now you have quartered Brussels sprouts) and place in a serving bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix. Serve.
Yes, that's it. So very easy. It can be refrigerated to serve cold (in this case I would add the pecans just before serving so they stay crunchy) or serve it with the Brussels sprouts still quite warm. We ate it room temp and it was very tasty. The blue cheese was the perfect foil to the strong tasting sprouts, the dried cherries a burst of sweet/tart and the pecans added a crunchy richness.
Today's Salad:
Asparagus, Dried Cherries, Pecan and Parmesan Salad
serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a side
1 bunch (about 3/4 pound) fresh asparagus, ends snapped
1/4 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup toasted pecan pieces
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic syrup or good aged balsamic vinegar
1/2 orange, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add asparagus spears in a single layer (I had to do this in 2 batches) and let them sit for a few minutes. They will blister and slightly blacken in spots on the underside. Shake the pan to turn them over and cook one more minute. Remove from the pan with tongs and repeat with remaining asparagus. Let cool until you can handle them and cut in inch long pieces. Place in serving bowl and add remaining ingredients. Toss to mix. Serve!
These salads are so quick to make. You could change this recipe up easily-use green beans instead of asparagus or Brussels sprouts, currants or dried cranberries instead of cherries, toasted walnuts or macadamias or sunflower seeds instead of pecans, feta or Gorgonzola instead of blue or Parmesan. You could even add chopped crispy bacon which I think would be especially good with the Brussels sprouts version.
I hope to be back to posting regularly-at least monthly if not more frequently-as my "work travel season" is about to begin. And in June, my sister Doreen and I are traveling to Finland and Lithuania for a month to meet relatives we've never known. We will travel to towns where our ancestors lived and bask in discoveries of our own personal history. I will blog throughout the trip. I am above and beyond excited!
Enjoy your Spring!