Greek Farro Salad

While Greece has made its way into the news within the last 8 years for aspects they’d prefer to move past, it will always be a place that for me is filled with friendly, welcoming people, thousands of years of history, small towns tucked into mountains, and my first real taste of adventure. And I will always remember it and be thankful to this place for turning my fear of food completely around. I realized here what good, fresh food actually tastes like and to not fear gaining a few pounds because life is more important than the size of the waist band on your jeans. In the three months I spent there in 2008, I learned a lot about food – but most importantly that it doesn’t need to be extravagant to be good.

Enter the Greek salad.

Although I like to experiment with making new foods, I find that I sort of stay in a recurring pattern for the lunches I take to work. If I can, I try to make it revolve around a salad or vegetable of some kind. Ideally a salad with a whole lot of protein and healthy fats.

La Pepita Salad usually enters the rotation every other month or so, then occasionally a roasted vegetable and tortellini salad, and then I tended to have a Greek themed salad about every 2-3 months. For the longest time I kept it like a pasta salad with orzo, but after finding whole wheat orzo became too challenging, I began to branch into other similar shaped grains. I landed on farro being the best option. It’s full of fiber and more protein than orzo, and has a great chewy texture while the orzo used to get really mushy soaking up all of the dressing.

Greek Farro Salad

Makes 4 large portions or 6 smaller

Ingredients

  • 1 cup farro, cooked
  • 1 can/15oz garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • 1 large cucumber, quartered and sliced
  • 3 small or 2 medium tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 4oz feta, crumbled
  • 10oz can sliced black olives, drained
  • 1/2 red onion (optional)

Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 c red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cook the farro – in a large pot, bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil (it doesn’t matter the amount as long as it is at least 2 times as much farro). Add in one cup of farro and cook until farro is tender yet chewy. Most grains will not split open.
  2. While the farro is cooking,  wash and chop the vegetables and place in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Drain excess water and rinse farro under cold water. Dump into the mixing bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients.
  4. Toss to combine.
  5. In a mason jar or other sealable container, shake up the vinaigrette ingredients until well combined.
  6. Pour about half of the dressing over the salad and mix together. Add in as much of the rest of the dressing as you would like to suit your tastes.
  7. The salad holds well for a few days and potentially longer if you dress is on the day you will be eating it.

And although I like black olives, if you want a bit more authenticity, go for some kalamata. For ease of eating lunch, I go with what is already pitted.

The flavors definitely bring me back to those vegetable salads I ate while studying there almost 10 years ago. (Has it already been that long!?) Contrary to what you will see on Greek restaurant menus here in the US, the typical salads did not have lettuce – unless you ordered a green salad which was different than the regular salad of quartered tomatoes, red onions, cucumber, and a block of feta on top.

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The authentic Greek Salad – and dinning alfresco is imperative.

Most often if you want the traditional style someplace other than Greece, they may call it a village salad or something to that effect. But whatever you decide to do, get as close to the farm fresh vegetables as you can get – they will make all of the difference.

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Greece, I love you and some day I’ll be back. And until that time, I’ll try to recreate some of my favorites to the best of my ability.

What are some favorite foods from your travels and have you tried to re-create them?


Fall Kale Butternut Squash and Pear Salad with a Cider Viniagrette 

We’re now past Halloween but I’m still in the pumpkin mood. I loved this display at the Sprouts a couple weeks back. I even pick up a few for the front door – obviously they were the edible kind. And because Halloween is past I’m thinking of baking up a few of my pumpkins  – hopefully I’ll get a couple new recipes.

I dreamt of this salad when I was trying to figure out something else to do with a kale salad that wasn’t savory. Then it hit me – squash doesn’t need to be savory (although sage and squash is pretty tasty). And wanting another more tender alternative to apple, I turned to the pear. If you’re looking for a fresh bite of fall, this definitely hits the spot and you can do it warm too.

Notable Nutrition – Kale/dark green and squash. Both have fantastic vitamin A. So this salad is a treasure trove of that all too important for hair, skin, and nail nutrient.

Kale, Butternut Squash and Pear Salad

Serves 4 large salads

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of curly kale, chopped fine
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 Bartlett pears, diced
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • 1/3 c chopped, toasted walnuts

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1/2 c olive oil

Directions

  1. Peel, de-seed, and cube butternut squash (dice size). Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet and roast squash at 375F for 30 minutes or until soft and can be pierced with a fork.
  2. In a mason jar, mix the vinaigrette ingredients and shake to combine.
  3. In a large bowl toss together the finely chopped kale, pears, squash, and cranberries.
  4. Plate the salad, sprinkle with walnuts (divided between plates), and drizzle with vinaigrette.

In other news, at the beginning of November C and I celebrated our 4-year anniversary. It’s been a good few years – lots of travel and adventure (one of the things we both like best to do with each other), growth as people (me, I’ve definitely grown to accept that someone else can help take care of me sometimes), learning each others quirks, and finding how to best compliment each other. I don’t think complete would be the right word because we were both very whole people when we met (and wouldn’t have worked if we weren’t) – very individualistic. And one of the things I still really value is our ability to remain individuals and know that we don’t need to have the same hobbies and activities.

Although I will always contest that we make our own decisions and that you can rebel against fate, I do have to believe some people were meant to come into your life for some purpose or period of time. Throughout my life I’ve met some people that upon a closer look have nearly met at different times (usually at opposite sides of the country). C happens to be one of those people where the 4th time was the charm. In chronological order – both had plans/dreams of doing undergrad at Johns Hopkins 04/05(we both made other decisions), we both almost moved to Boston in 08/09 (again life took us other places), while life took me to UIUC – it also took one of C’s good friends there for grad school where C happened visit and be at an event I distinctly remember running past one Saturday (but I didn’t stop that day), and finally life took us both to Albuquerque. I think life is funny sometimes.

Have you ever had any weird “should have met” coincidences?

One of our next adventures will be to Portland. Any advice on places to eat?


Roasted Peach and Blackberry Salad

Is anyone else sad that summer is almost over? I know, technically not until later September, but Labor Day really signifies the end for many of us. While I absolutely love cool evenings and signs that fall is coming, I still miss the carefree feeling of summer. Sweaters are my favorite type of clothing, but I would wear shorts year round if I could (with a sweater though – shorts and sweaters are fine together right?). Oh, and I can’t forget about boots either! Maybe I am ready for fall?

 

But before we jump too quickly into fall, lets talk about the fresh produce – the end of summer usually means stone fruits and I am beyond excited that peaches are finally ripe on the tree. We trimmed back our peach tree a lot this year and only got four extra large peaches but if you can find some at a farmer’s market they typically taste just as good.

I was dreaming of this salad after seeing it on a menu a couple weeks ago – roasted peaches, blackberries, and a local feta. Since I didn’t order it that evening I wanted to see what I could come up with myself.

I would say that it turned out pretty good! I added some pomegranate seeds for an extra pop of color and crunch in addition to the pumpkin seeds. And naturally arugula because I just love spicy greens or at least those with more flavor!

Roasted Peach and Blackberry Salad

Serves 4 large or 6 medium salads (and is easily scaled!)

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-to-large peaches
  • 2-3 cups of blackberries
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded or ~1 cup of seeds
  • 1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 8 oz feta cheese
  • 8 cups arugula or other spring mix
  • Your favorite vinegar for dressing

Directions

  1. Prepare two large sheet pans with parchment paper and preheat oven to 425F (option to use broiler at 500F too – but watch carefully).
  2. Wash and dry all produce. Cut peaches into slices and arrange on one baking sheet. Evenly distribute blackberries on the other.
  3. Roast peaches and blackberries in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 425F or until tender and slightly “toasted”. If you choose to broil, this will be closer to 5-7 minutes. (Roasting on the grill is also a great summer option!).
  4. While fruit is roasting, arrange greens on plates or in a large bowl.
  5. Remove fruit from oven and let cool slightly.
  6. To arrange the salad, layer peaches first, then blackberries, feta, pomegranate seeds, and pepitas.
  7. Drizzle with your favorite vinegar or dressing. I personally love just a 18 year thick aged balsamic.

Time to eat!

This is a great salad served with salmon or other heartier fish. Since I’m a bread-aholic, I would also accompany this with a biscuit, light scone, or toast. You could take this for lunch by mixing the toppings together in one container and then topping the greens once your ready to eat. If you mix the arugula with everything and have it sit too long, the arugula will not be the freshest.

What are your favorite end of summer fruits and vegetables? Are you looking forward to fall or mourning summer? 


Berry Fruit and Green Salad

Want to know a secret for getting non-veggie lovers to eat more greens? Fruit! Ok, so I guess that’s not really a secret but it does work. I brought this salad to a potluck recently and even with all the sweets around, I took an empty bowl home, it was a hit! Strawberries are a common addition to spinach salad, but I love how blueberries and oranges add that extra pop!

But since I’m already 2 days late in getting this recipe posted (oops), I’m going to hurry along to why this salad is so nutritious and give you the recipe.

1 – spinach, obviously vitamin A, some iron, fiber, niacin, zinc, and the list goes on – bottom line, it’s really good for you.

2 – strawberries and oranges – lots of vitamin C

3 – blueberries for antioxidants

4 – goat cheese and almonds for calcium and health fats

It’s a pretty nutrient packed meal. You can serve it as a main and even add chicken for extra protein or as your side salad.

Berry Fruit and Green Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 6-8 c baby spinach
  • 1 c sliced strawberries
  • 3/4 c blueberries
  • 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained/in its own juice
  • 4 oz goat cheese (chevre is best)
  • 3 T toasted sliced almonds

Honey Balsamic Dressing

  • 1 T finely diced shallot
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 5 T olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Mix all dressing ingredients in a mason jar. Close tightly and shake vigorously to combine. Because of the addition of the mustard, the dressing will hold its emulsification for much longer and can be stored easily in the refrigerator for a week.
  2. Place spinach in a large bowl and fluff.
  3. Layer greens with strawberries, oranges, and blueberries.
  4. Sprinkle with goat cheese and almonds.
  5. Dressing can be kept near the salad for serving of tossed in leaves if preparing right before serving. Toss to lightly coat.

This is probably the easiest summer green salad and I am in love with the colors and all of the flavor!

Who said healthy food was bland and tasteless? You can easily scale this recipe by adding as much or as little fruit as you’d like depending on amount of greens, but I wouldn’t hold this salad for more that a few hours or half a day combines or the leaves will squish and become potentially slimy. The worst this your greens can get!

Enjoy!

What are your favorite ingredients to put on salads? Are you a fruit person or strictly veggies all the way?


Wild Rice Salad with Honey Mustard Viniagrette 

As I was exploring Minnesota my internet wasn’t the greatest, so I didn’t hit publish on this post until I returned. I wanted to share one of my favorite Minnesota dishes – Wild Rice Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette.  I first had this salad at the Douglas Lodge at Itasca State Park (the headwaters of the Mississippi) and then proceeded to buy their cookbook because it had this recipe! I have preceded to change it a little and make it my own and my mom continues to make this salad every time I come to visit or we get together in the summer. It may seem like a strange combination of food and flavors, but believe me it works pretty darn well. Celery adds crunch, grapes add sweetness, rice is chewy, and the almond can be toasted too for more flavor enhancement. Wait, I almost forgot about the water chestnuts and I’m the one who throws a fit if they get left out of the actual salad – they add a refreshing crunch although not super strong in flavor.

Wild Rice Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 6 or 4 large dinner salads

Ingredients

  • 1 c dry wild rice
  • 2 c water
  • 1 c halved red grapes
  • 1/2 c craisins or raisins
  • 1/2 c sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 c chopped celery
  • 1/4 c sliced almonds

Honey Mustard Dressing

  • 1/4 c cider vinegar
  • 1 T spicy ground mustard or other grainy mustard variety
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • Pinch of Cayenne (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Pour all salad dressing into a mason jar and shake vigorously. Set aside until ready to use.
  2. Prepare wild rice: Rinse rice prior to cooking.  Bring wild rice and water to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until grains have split and rice is chewy but not hard. Rinse rice in cold water and drain.
  3. Combine the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Then add in rice and enough dressing to coat (you will not use all of it the first time. The salad gets better as it sits, but you might need to add more dressing over time as the rice and raisins tends to soak up the dressing.

Just a nice short and sweet recipe!

Although this morning I’m exhausted, vacation was a much needed break where I really tried to unplug (didn’t look at work email once!) from my normal routine, see family and friends I haven’t seen in years, and really remember what’s important in life. Now it’s back to work and back to reality for me.  Hope everyone is having a great week!


Stone Fruit and Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

By no means can I take all of the credit for this recipe, since I got all of the inspiration from Tiffani Theissen – I loved her on White Collar and Saved by the Bell I suppose. On a flight this past March (I think I was headed to or coming from Minnesota) Southwest had TV and movies you can watch on your mobile devices. Since I was looking for something to occupy the time, I decided on Travel and Food shows – finding a few I didn’t even know existed (Booze Traveler & Dinner at Tiffani’s). On an episode of Dinner at Tiffani’s,  she was making brunch with Bree Turner (who I like from Grim) and Lance Bass and his husband. While the people were lovely, the food got me thinking. She made a peach and tomato caprese salad and I knew I had to try and recreate it… Because searching for the recipe on the internet would have been difficult?

Stone fruits weren’t in season at that time – and neither were good heirlooms, so I bidded my time and waited for growing season to start. This past week, Sprouts had a great sale on produce and ripe white peaches and a few heirloom tomatoes. Naturally I snatched them up and ran home to make the salad I had been dreaming for months.

Stone Fruit and Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

Serves 2 or 4 if you’re feeling generous

Ingredients

  • 2-3 medium white peaches
  • 2 large or 3 medium heirloom tomatoes
  • 8 oz of burrata cheese
  • 10 basil leaves

Directions

  1. Wash and dry produce, then starting from the bottom, slice tomatoes horizontally about 1/4 in wide. Cut peaches into slices.
  2. Arrange tomatoes and peaches on a plate, then cut or tear burrata and nestle on top.
  3. Lastly drop basil leaves over everything and serve. This is great with an aged balsamic (what I had on hand didn’t drizzle the best, so it’s not pictured).

It’s so simple and looks (and tastes) amazing! I highly encourage you to hit up your farmer’s market this season and get some local produce to try this. For me, I’ll be picking those peaches off my tree when they’re ready – yum!