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WILD RICE + BLACKBERRY
SALAD WITH FISH SAUCE VINAIGRETTE

Sometimes the best recipes take a really windy path from inspiration to perfection. and this is one such example.

This salty, crunchy and fruity salad was born of my infatuation with this tomato farro salad which is just to die for — if you tolerate gluten and tomatoes. Turns out, I do not.

I made it in its original form a few summers ago, for a very discerning group of former restaurateurs who agreed it had the texture, freshness and complexity we crave. I made it again at home for my husband and me, subbing black rice the first time, and then later wild rice, in place of the farro. It was missing the toothsome texture of farro but was good nevertheless. But the tomatoes precipitated a migraine, so we parted ways.

This time around (summer ’17) I was intrigued by a recipe for quick-pickled blackberries which seemed totally up my alley but ultimately I wasn’t wowed. I was pretty sure I could skip the pickling step and go right to combining the two components in a salad, and I was right. The blackberries got to retain their texture and shape (which they didn’t do in the pickling liquid) and the (modified) pickling liquid became the base of my dressing.

So, that’s how this beauty came to be. It’s sort of a hybrid of the original tomato salad and the quick-pickled blackberries, and was seriously scrumptious served alongside grilled black cod. It would also be a great accompaniment for any type of grilled meat or hearty white fish such as sea bass.

Do it! You will be a better person for having experienced this salad.

ingredients

1 1/2 cups uncooked wild rice
2 – 6oz packages of blackberries (set 4 berries aside for the dressing)
2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced, preferably with a mandolin
1 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup whole tarragon leaves (stems removed)
flake salt for finishing

Dressing:
1 large garlic clove, finely grated on a microplane
4 blackberries
2 tablespoons Red Boat (brand) fish sauce
6 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
3 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil

do it

Serves 4. To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a mason jar (or container of your choosing). Using a muddler, or the tines of a fork, break up the berries as much as possible. Shake vigorously to combine and break down the berries even further. Refrigerate until use.

Cook the wild rice (according to manufacturer’s directions) in a medium pot of boiling well-salted water until tender, about 50 minutes. Be careful not to overcook, you want the rice to retain its shape and be slightly chewy. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, fluff with a fork, and refrigerate until use.

When ready to serve,  add the cucumbers, parsley, and tarragon to the bowl of rice and toss gently to combine. Add the vinaigrette and toss again to coat. Divide between 4 plates, top each salad with blackberries and sprinkle with flake salt.

notes

Lundberg Wild Blend is my favorite wild rice blend, and I have found it in the bulk bin at Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s’ wild rice blend became too fluffy and lost its shape, so I don’t recommend it for this salad

I tried subbing white wine vinegar for the Champagne vinegar, but the vinaigrette lost a little of its brightness.

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THAI HERB SALAD WITH SHREDDED CHICKEN + STRAWBERRIES

AS JUNE GLOOM GIVES WAY TO SUNNIER DAYS, I HAVE RETURNED TO THIS PERENNIAL FAVE

With its enticing contrast of flavors and textures, this boldly herbaceous salad begs to be kept a bit wild and unfussy, as summer things should be!

Tangles of cilantro stems nest among the basil and mint leaves, ripe juicy strawberries mingle with toasty flaked coconut and it’s all brought together with a sweet + savory citrus dressing.

The simple ingredient list (and the rotisserie chicken option) make for a speedy assembly…  but instead I find myself lingering, allowing the heady scent of the herbs to consume me as I carefully pluck each leaf from its stem.

This simple act reminds me that summertime brings with it a simplicity that I want to savor.

And to my comrades in clean eating, enjoy this salad with a side of moral superiority; you’ve earned it. wink.

ingredients

3/4 cup flaked unsweetened coconut, divided
12-16 ounces cold cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 jalapeno, sliced into thin rings and seeded
2 cups each, (fresh, lightly packed) cilantro sprigs, basil leaves and mint leaves
1 quart strawberries, hulled and quartered
flake salt, for finishing

Dressing:
3  large limes: use all the (finely grated) zest and 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon juice
2 tablespoons Red Boat (brand) Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

do it

Serves 4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and toast the coconut until lightly golden, about 4-5 minutes. Keep an eye on it because it can go from golden to dark very quickly. Combine zest, lime juice, (you may need to use a citrus reamer to get enough juice) fish sauce, olive oil, honey, and salt in a mason jar (or similar container) and shake vigorously.

Just before serving, combine ingredients (sliced jalapeno, shredded chicken, herbs, strawberries and half of the toasted coconut) in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing, and toss gently to thoroughly coat. Divide between plates and top with the remaining toasted coconut. Sprinkle with flake salt and serve.

notes

I find the flavor is more developed if I make the dressing a day ahead.

Use a rotisserie chicken for ease, or if you plan to roast your chicken breasts, Ina’s recipe is the best. Make sure you make them in advance so they will have time to cool.

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MEDITERRANEAN MEZZE PLATTER + CREAMY CARROT TAHINI

How could I possibly put to words, my deep, wanton affection for all things SHED…

SHED has single handedly turned my annual pilgrimage to Sonoma County for medical care into what I now consider a legit vacation and week-long trip to the culinary spa. If SHED  has yet to hit your radar, check out this feature in Martha Stewart.

One of the few items which occupies a permanent spot on their constantly changing menu is the Carrot Tahini which can be enjoyed as a component of their Mezze Platter, or purchased from their larder to take away. Despite being perpetually offended by cooked carrots, we were drawn to the bright, almost neon hue and ultimately entranced by its velvety texture.

Once home from Sonoma I set out to replicate its color and texture, while punching the delicate flavor up a notch to frankly, disguise any overt flavor of cooked carrot.

For the record, my husband and I dislike very few foods, but are in complete agreement as to which foods make the list. We consider this proof that the universe intended us to be together.

My version of Carrot Tahini has lots more tahini than the SHED version – which admittedly, does mute the bright orange hue a bit. I also added garlic which produced the balance my palate was seeking. Only then could I proclaim my mission to be accomplished as there was no longer any objectionable flavor of cooked carrots. Instead, what you have is a velvety light spread with a hint of cumin, a whiff of nuttiness, and the subtle sweetness of carrots.

I hope you will find a place for this vibrant + versatile new dip on your next mezze platter.

BTW, with ingredients this virtuous, you are off the charts on the moral superiority meter! wink.

ingredients

1 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed, and halved crosswise
1 medium garlic clove
scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini – made with roasted (not raw) sesame seeds, well stirred
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

Optional garnish: black sesame seeds

Pictured accompaniments: Jilz Crackerz, rainbow carrots, radishes, hummus, cucumbers, Castelvetrano olives, endive, watermelon radish slices.

do it

Yields 1 1/2 cups. Using a steaming basket over boiling water, (keeping the pot covered) steam the carrots until soft enough to pierce very easily with a knife, about 20-25 minutes — timing will depend on the size of your carrots. Add the carrots to your food processor and puree until velvety smooth. Remove the top of the processor to allow the steam to escape, allowing it to cool until room temperature. Add the remaining ingredients and process until combined and completely smooth. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until ready to use.  For serving, garnish with black sesame seeds if desired.

notes

This recipe only yields 1 1/2 cups so if you’re entertaining you may want to double the recipe.

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