Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

We had a small tasting of a similar dish at a backyard wedding we recently attended.  The original was made with red and yellow beets, and butternut squash with a lemony vinaigrette with a hint of truffle oil.  The salad was very tasty, but a little mushy from the butternut squash.   So while I was consuming my large plate of food [It was, in fact, a very large plate of food... my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  But what's new?], a light bulb came on… roasted sweet potatoes.  It would be the perfect substitution flavor- and texture-wise.  And so what did I do two days after the wedding?  Well, I recreated this dish, of course, and it was perfect.

Inspiration.  It such a lovely thing.

What inspires you in the kitchen?

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

4 large beets
3 large sweet potatoes, skinned and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 small shallot, finely diced
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon truffle oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. [I usually like to double wrap mine in foil.] Drizzle the sweet potatoes with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a singe layer on the baking sheet. Place the foil-wrapped beets on the same baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender, but slightly crispy in the outside. Stir the sweet potatoes once or twice during roasting. [Watch the sweet potatoes closely, because they can go from perfectly roasted to imperfectly burnt.] Roast the beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the shallots, lemon, olive oil, and truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Remove the sweet potatoes firstly from oven, followed by the beets when they have cooked through, and allow to cool just enough to be easily handled. Once cooled, peel “skin” off the beets. [They'll come off easily with just your hands... no need for a paring knife.] Slice beets into 1 inch cubes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the beets, sweet potatoes, and vinaigrette. Gently toss to combine all the ingredients. Divide onto small plates, sprinkle with chives, and drizzle with a little truffle oil, and enjoy!

Makes 4 to 6 small salad servings.

Creamy Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette

I think I over did it with my caesar salads for lunch.  I ate that particular salad for about two weeks straight.  When I like something, I obsess over it until I get sick of it.  I definitely reached that point with the caesar salads.  I think my partner reached that point even earlier than I did, but she was definitely a champ!  She didn’t complain about the salads, but I could tell that she was losing her pizazz with the daily caesar salad lunches I was packing her for work.

So here I am now, continuing on the path to expand my salad vinaigrette repertoire.  I wanted to create something with a southwestern flare.  My partner has been requesting a southwestern salad for some time now.  She’s my guinea pig for the recipes I create, and really value her constructive criticism.  So I brought her a salad at work ad it was a big hit with her.  Yay!  It went really well with a black bean, corn, tomato, avocado salad with baked tortilla chips.  All it was missing was some blackened chicken, four-blend Mexican cheese and olives to make it the perfect taco salad.

Creamy Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette

2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
2 tablespoons plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons honey (if you prefer a more tart dressing, add less honey)
Salt, to taste

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk all the ingredients together until the dressing has combined and emulsified.

Pour dressing over your favorite southwestern or taco salad.

Makes dressing enough for 4 salads.

Calories per serving: 170

The Real Deal (with eggs and anchovies) Classic Caesar Salad with Sirloin Steak

I’ve been on a recent obsession with classic caesar salads with anchovies and all.  I know some would turn their noses to anchovies, but I love those little suckers.  Salty and fishy.  Yum.  It’s the anchovies that make the caesar salad dressing.  Not the shaved parmesan.  Not the croutons.  It’s the anchovies.  I think it’s blasphemy to call a caesar salad dressing when the little fishies are omitted.  I just doesn’t taste the same.  Caesar salads are nostalgic to me.  It reminds me of our days living in the Parnassus library at the UCSF campus studying pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology, and pharmcotherapeutics.  We would be the first ones there and the last ones to close down the library.  And like any library, we weren’t allowed to eat there (at least not to their knowledge).  We definitely had our fair share of Pringles chips, coca-cola flavored gummies, boba tea, sodas, coffee, chocolate, chips, and more.  When we were finally craving real food , we walked down to Pluto’s on Irving and 8th Avenue, and I always ordered the steak caesar salad.  The steak was over cooked and tough, but the dressing.  Wow.  And when the croutons soaked up all the dressing at the bottom.  Oh em gee.

Classic Caesar Salad with Steak

1 teaspoon garlic, smashed into a paste
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 anchovy fillets, mashed into a paste with fork
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 large raw or coddled egg yolks
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 romaine hearts, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices, rinsed, and dried very well
Croutons

If you can’t stomach the raw egg component of this recipe, try making a coddled egg, which essentially is an egg cooked briefly in boiling water. The taste of coddled egg yolks is similar to that of a raw egg. It’s just not as raw as a raw egg :) To make a coddled egg, place whole eggs into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 1 minute. Crack eggs and separate whites from yolks.

Mince the garlic, and then sprinkle a little salt over the minced garlic on your cutting board. With your chef’s knife in hand, press and crush the garlic with the knife on an angle. The salt draws out the liquid from the garlic, but also acts as an abrasive to mash the garlic into a paste. Continue this until a paste is formed.

Finely chop or mince the anchovy filets. Mash the anchovies into a fine paste using the back of a fork. Continue doing this until you have a smooth anchovy paste to work with.

In a large bowl, whisk together garlic paste, anchovy paste, and lemon juice. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in Worcestershire, dijon mustard, and egg yolks. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until the dressing has completely emulsified. Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, then whisk until completely combined.

To serve, plate the romaine lettuce and croutons. Drizzle dressing overtop each serving, then sprinkle liberally with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Roasted Beet, D’Anjou Pear, Mache Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Sleeeeeeeeeeeepy. I can barely focus.  You know what’s worse than not being able to cook and practice food photography?  Restless, sleepless nights.  Ones where you don’t fall asleep at all.  Tossing and turning, keeping yourself entertained with your laptop, iPhone, or TV to pass time.  Trying to lay still to not stir anyone from their dreamy night by counting sheep, but your mind races with thoughts that don’t make sense so you can’t really focus on the sheep.  Wanting to try a hot cup of almond milk to soothe and calm yourself, but it’s too damn cold to get out of bed.

I’ve had a lot of those nights lately.  So what do I do to remedy that?  Prescription sleep pills.  Something I didn’t think I ever needed.  Ever.  I was and still am a light sleeper, but I never had problems falling and staying asleep until the last few years, but it’s only gotten worse.  I used to poke fun at friends who couldn’t sleep without a prescription sleep aid.  Karma sucks.  I finally broke down and asked my nurse practitioner for a prescription sleep aid.  I told myself it was only going to be for when I absolutely needed it… like trying to fall asleep, but after an hour of trying and failing, then I could take the pill.  But then it got to the point where I would anticipate possibly not falling asleep, so I used it as a crutch.

I’ve recently decided to wean myself from the prescription sleep aid, and the result of this is lack of sleep.  I think this is going to be a long, painful process of little to no sleep for a long time while my body adjusts to the change.  It’s very interesting how your body can adapt and change to something easily, but takes a long time to adjust back.

So while I lay sleepless the other night, I came across a recipe calling for roasted beets with a honey roast garlic dressing that looked mouthwatering.  I thought it was going to be a great recipe to adapt with all the red beets that I just purchased from the farmers market.

Roasted Beet, D’Anjou Pear, Mache Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette (adapted from No Recipes)

For roasting:
2 beets
1 head garlic, top cut off

For salad:
2 D’Anjou Pears, sliced into O’s, core ones with seeds, and then slice in half
3 cups of Mache salad
Blue Cheese
Candied Walnuts

For vinaigrette:
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. I usually like to double wrap mine in foil. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a little salt onto the garlic bulb, and wrap tightly in foil. Place both the beets and garlic on a baking sheet. Roast garlic for about 30-40 minutes, and beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

While the beets and garlic are roasting, prepare the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Once cool to handle, peel “skin” off the beets. Slice beets into 1/8-inch slices. Dress the beets with enough vinaigrette to coat in a separate bowl. Do not do this in the same bowl where the vinaigrette was prepared, or else you’ll have a purple dressing. But if that’s okay with you, then by all means, go for it!

To assemble the salad, place three slices of beets on a plate. Place three slices of the pears onto each slice of beet, with the round shape of the pear facing out. Lightly dress the mache lettuce with the vinaigrette, and place a handful on top of the beets and pears. Top with some crumbled blue cheese and candied walnuts. Repeat the same process for three more plates.

Makes 4 servings.

I’ve Lost that Love and Feeling, and Lebanese Fattoush Salad

lebanese fattoush salad, fattoush salad, pita bread salad, lebanese bread salad, lemon vinaigrette, vegetarian, salad
It’s true.  I’ve lost that love and feeling for my job.  Have you ever wondered why you are in the profession that you are in?  Or have/had feelings of being “stuck” or stagnate?  Not feeling as satisfied and excited about your job as you once did?

Well, I’ve been feeling this way for some time now about my job.  I used to be so passionate about what I do.  I used to wake up in the mornings excited about going to work.  I would be upset when it was 30 minutes until I had to leave because I knew I was going to miss interesting patient cases that I could learn from and assist with.  I was like a dry sponge waiting to expand with knowledge of cases that I had only read about in textbooks.  Work was like my playground for a few years.  I loved the excitement and (organized) chaos in the ED.  I loved the challenges presented to me on a day-to-day basis.  I especially loved the feeling at the end of the day of knowing that I made a positive difference in the patient’s care with other members of the multidisciplinary team.

The thing that attracted me the most to the ED was the chaos and working under extreme pressure in an emergent manner.  Unfortunately, that honeymoon period has been long gone.  The funny thing is that I tend to get bored easily with projects, tasks, work, really just about anything, so the ED was originally a right fit for my personality.  But now I’m bored.  I don’t feel challenged.  I don’t feel like things are as intense and under pressure as they used to be.  I’m getting too comfortable and that scares me.  My mentor once mentioned to me before I finished my residency training, and it was that you open yourself to mistakes at the patient’s expense when you get too comfortable.  It is a critical piece of information that has been engrained into my brain, and it holds much value especially in the medical profession.

But something changed recently.  A patient case that sparked, recharged, rekindled the passion that I once had for my job.  It was a feeling that I had been longing for a very long time. An attending ED physician requested my immediate attention on a little boy who was given a foreign medication to help treat his diarrhea by his grandmother. The little boy was very sick. Foreign medications can be difficult to identify, especially since they do not require the stringent identification codes that are required by the US FDA on OTC and prescription medications. A quick side note, vitamins and herbals do not adhere to the same laws as OTC and prescription medications because these products are NOT regulated by the FDA. Interesting, right? So you could be taking echinacea because that’s what the label says, but one formulation can vastly differ from the next echinacea product because it’s not standardized and/or regulated by the FDA.

Getting back to my story… foreign medications can sometimes be the same thing as a medication prescribed in the US with the same generic name, but different brand name. Majority of the times, foreign medications will differ completely all together from what we have here. luckily, Mom came in with the little boy and was able to tell us the brand name of the pill he was given. She was a very reliable historian, which was a relief, because the patients I see in the ED will have no clue what medications they are on. I was given the task to identify or do what ever I could to find something on what the pill could possibly be. After a few minutes of going through my resources, I found the answer! I was able to identify the pill, AND was able to give a recommendation on how to treat the toxicity. A few minutes after administering the treatment, the little boy was 95% recovered from what he originally came in for. The ED is such a fascinating place to work for because you get to see the positive changes from the treatments initiated right then and there. You get to see how medicine works. That my friend, is why I enjoy doing what I do.

Lebanese Fattoush Salad

3 whole wheat pita pocket breads, cut into strips about 3/4 inch wide
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white onion, minced
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (if you find it is too acidic for your taste, add a little less lemon juice and use red wine or pomegranate vinegar in place)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons powdered or ground Sumac, plus more for sprinkling on individual salads if desired
2 heads Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced tomatoes (let drain a minute or two if extra juicy)
1 cup diced cucumber (same size as tomatoes)

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees F.

Mash together the minced garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle, or on the cutting board, into a paste. Put garlic-salt paste into a small bowl, and add to it the minced onion, lemon juice and sumac. Whisk in the olive oil until the dressing has emulsified.

Cut whole wheat pita into strips about 3/4 inch wide and arrange on baking sheet. Bake until pita strips are crisp but only barely starting to brown, less than 10 minutes. Once the toasted pita breads are cool enough to handle, crumble in medium-sized pieces.

Remove the outer leaves from the romaine lettuce, trim off the stem end, and then wash. Chop lettuce into small pieces. Dry the washed lettuce in a salad spinner. If you don’t have a salad spinner, dry the lettuce leaves with a paper towel before chopping. Put chopped romaine lettuce into salad bowl large enough to toss all the ingredients.

Chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers, and add to the lettuce. Add about half of the dressing and toss. Then add crumbled pita chips and toss again with more dressing. Let the salads sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to blend, but also so that the pita chips can absorb some of the dressing. To serve, arrange salad on individual plates and sprinkle with a little more sumac.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Pistachios

We love roasted beets.  We also love goat cheese.  We especially love when the two ingredients are combined to yield the yummiest result… roasted beet and goat cheese salad.  It’s the perfect pairing of the two ingredients.  If it’s on the menu, it’ll end up on our table for us to enjoy!

I’m always on the lookout for a recipe to one-up the last beet and goat cheese salad.  Before finding this recipe, I always found roasting beets to be time consuming because I always thought you had to remove the outer skin before roasting.  And the task was always seemed so daunting with a vegetable peeler!  After peeling the skin, I sliced the raw beets (which are hard to slice uniformly in it’s raw form!) very carefully not to cut myself into 1/2-inch slices, drizzled a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and threw it into the oven at 400 degrees.  I thought roasted beets should be a little crispy, and well, they always came out burnt and crispy.  Blech.  So I gave up making roasted beet salads and left it to the experts.  Well, I stumbled across this recipe and it was like magic.  A sense of cooking clarity.  You roast the beets with skin and all, and you can just simply “slip off” the skin once the beets are cool to handle!!  What?!  I wish I discovered this technique a few years ago!

Anyhow, this recipe is the perfect salad prescription to impress your dinner guests!

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad (adapted from Epicurious)

3 large red beets (1 2/3 lbs without greens)
2 large golden beets (1 lb without greens)
1/4 cup minced shallot
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces soft mild goat cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 ounce mache (aka, lamb’s lettuce) or watercress, trimmed (4 cups)

Special equipment: a 2.5 inch round cookie cutter (without handle; at least 2 inches high)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Separately wrap red and golden beets tightly in double layers of foil and roast in middle of oven until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Unwrap beets.

While beets are cooling slightly, whisk together shallot, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then add oil in a stream, whisking.

When beets are cool enough to handle, slip off and discard skins.  Separately cut red and golden beets into 1/4-inch dice and put in separate bowls.  Add 2 1/2 tablespoons dressing to each bowl and toss to coat.

Place cookie cutter in center of 1 of 8 salad plates. Put one eighth of red beets in cutter and pack down with your fingertips.  Crumble 2 teaspoons goat cheese on top, then one eighth of golden beets, packing them down.  Gently lift cutter up and away from stack.  Make 7 more servings in same manner.  Drizzle each plate with 1 teaspoon dressing and scatter with some pistachios.

Toss mâche or watercress with just enough remaining dressing to coat and gently mound on top of beets.  Serve immediately.

Note: beets can be roasted and diced one day ahead and chilled, covered, in two separate bowls.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  If you will not be serving all 8 salads, only dress the amount you need because I found that the already dressed beets were a little mushy the day after as leftovers.

Makes 8 servings.

Orange, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad

I’ve been on a salad kick for the last few months because I enjoy eating them for lunch, but also because I’m watching my calorie intake to lose weight.  I’ve been addicted to my blue cheese, cranberries, and candied walnut salad for the last few weeks.  Actually, maybe even longer.  Although I haven’t gotten tired of eating it YET, I feel like I am heading in that direction very soon.  So I’ve been on the look out for new salads to mix things up a bit.  Unfortunately, my salad recipe index is very limited as making salads and wanting to eat them is a whole new adventure for me.  If you haven’t read my previous posts, I was anti-vegetables for the majority of my life.  I wanted meat and starch, and the occasional vegetable, if kimchee and pickled spicy radishes can fall into that category.  I always thought salads were a waste of stomach space, when it could rather be filled with other delicious non-vegetable foods.  Like I said before, I ate very unhealthy foods and was completely sedentary; that is, until I met my partner.

My second time visiting her (aka, our second date) in Oakland, I was greeted with a “detox salad.”  I had just finished a busy work week with lunches that consisted of either McDonald’s or Taco Bell, and she was horrified by how I ate.  So she made this salad for dinner with crusty bread.  No meat?!  I was initially disappointed, but once I delved into the salad I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it.  With a few pieces of buttered bread and a plate of salad, I was surprisingly full and felt refreshed.  And that was the beginning of my departure from just meat and starch to an enjoyment and crave for vegetables, albeit it took some time to get to this place.  But who’s keeping track anyways, right?

I came across a recipe that called for orange slices, thinly sliced fennel, and a salad topped with pomegranate seeds that immediately called for my attention.  We love oranges, we’re always looking for things that use fennel (again, limited fennel recipe index), and recipes that call for pomegranate seeds (not just to make POM juice)… so this was perfect!  We made this for our small dinner party, and the salad was a huge success.  The mixture of flavors really compliment one another.  In fact, this may just be my new favorite salad.  Yay!

Orange, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad (adapted from Good Life Eats)

Your favorite spring salad mix
2 medium oranges
1 carton of fresh pomegranate seeds (available at Whole Foods, or one whole pomegranate with seeds removed)
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Honey or agave syrup

Combine the vinegar, juice, oil, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.  Add honey or agave syrup to sweeten the dressing just a little bit.  Whisk all the ingredients together and set aside.  Add a little more extra virgin olive oil if you’d like, and conversely, decrease the amount of orange juice.  We like our dressing on the citrus-y, but on the light oily side.

Remove the peel and pith from the orange by cutting the top and bottom off, and the outside perimeter of the orange.  Cut the orange into into rounds.

Prepare salad on individual serving plates.  Arrange the salad with the lettuce, fennel slices, orange, and topped with pomegranate seeds.  Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy!

Serving size: 2 individual salads

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