Early Fall Salad

Early Fall Salad {gluten-free, vegan}

Last night we brought salad to a pot-luck dinner with friends.  And don’t get me wrong, I like salads and all, but I wouldn’t say I typically sit around daydreaming about what raw veggies to mix up next. However, in the half hour I had to throw this together, I figured I could either bemoan that I didn’t get to bring dessert or go big and make a really damn good salad.

I was craving something with a hint of autumn in it: apples, roasted nuts, maple syrup, etc.

This is infinitely adaptable to one’s personal taste.  I think the caramelized nuts along with maple vinaigrette really make the dish.

EARLY FALL SALAD WITH MAPLE VINAIGRETTE
4-6 C. your preferred salad green (I used a mix of romaine, radicchio, and baby spinach)
1 medium, crisp, sweet apple like Gala or Fugi
1 small cucumber
1 C. chopped almonds or walnuts
1/3 – 1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/3 C. olive oil
4-5 T. pure maple syrup
3 T. apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or distilled vinegar
1-2 t. dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

  • Tear lettuce into bite size pieces.  Rinse and dry (a salad spinner is great here).  Mound in a large serving bowl.
  • Chop apple and cucumber into 1/2″ pieces and sprinkle atop the bed of lettuce.
  • Prepare caramelized nuts: Spread chopped nuts in a dry 8″-12″ skillet.  Sprinkle sugar on top.  Turn the stove top heat to between low and medium.  I use setting 3 or 4  on a 1-10 dial.  Take a fork and swirl the nuts in the sugar.  Don’t go anywhere.  Things can progress quickly here.  After 1-2 minutes the sugar will become wet, keep stirring.  Then the wet sugar will start turning light brown, keep stirring for just a few seconds until a nice brown color is achieved…not chocolate brown or black.  Err on the conservative side.  Quickly remove pan from heat and scrape your nuts into a glass bowl.  Let cool.  Then break up into pieces by stabbing with your fork (rather gothic sounding) and pile on top of your salad.
  • To make vinaigrette: Mix all remaining ingredients together in a small container with a lid.  Shake, shake, shake. Taste and adjust. If the flavor isn’t popping try adding a tiny squirt more of mustard and/or vinegar.  I always tend to add more maple syrup, too.
  • When ready to serve, drizzle each portion with vinaigrette.

Serves 12, approximately

Beef Kebabs with Muhammara

Cumin Kebobs with Muhammara

This meal is a real family favorite.  The combination of flavors are slightly exotic and complex. I love to make this for company because I can prep everything ahead of time and just grill the kebabs right before serving.  Guests always rave about it.  Muhammara is a Middle Eastern spread typically consisting of roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts, bread crumbs and olive oil. It makes the meal!  Don’t skip it!

ROASTED RED PEPPER AND WALNUT SPREAD
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2009

This spread is great with almost anything. Serve it up as an appetizer with fresh veggies or dollop some on your next omelette or sandwich.

2 (7-8 oz) jars roasted red peppers, sliced, drained
1-2 slices sandwich bread, enough to make 1 cup of breadcrumbs (substitute GF bread, if necessary)
1 C. chopped, toasted walnuts (350 degrees, 7 mins.)
1 T. red wine vinegar
1-2 T. tomato paste, to taste
1 T. pomegranate molasses (or honey)
1/2 t. cumin
1/4 t. sea salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil

  • Place roasted peppers, roughly torn slices of bread, and toasted walnuts in food processor or blender.  Process for a few seconds, turn off, and scrape down sides.  Process for a few seconds more.  The ingredients should resemble a thickish spread.
  • Add seasonings through pinch of cayenne. Process until incorporated.
  • With processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil and process a few seconds more.
  • With the machine off and using a spoon (never stick your fingers in a food processor unless its unplugged!), taste the spread.  What, if anything, does your muhammara need?  A touch more cumin, a dash more of red wine vinegar, a tiny bit more salt?  Use moderation in your additions.

CUMIN-SCENTED BEEF KEBABS
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2009

I like to use sirloin steaks for beef kebabs, as this cut always stays nice and moist. These are a little pricier, but well worth it. You can also skewer up some veggies (I love to use whole cherry tomatoes and zucchini slices) to make the meat go further. Note that my beef cubes aren’t bunched up too close together. For even cooking leave a little space between each piece of meat.

2 lb. beef sirloin steak (lamb would also be wonderful)
1/4 C. olive oil
1 T. dried oregano
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground coriander
1 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne

  • Cut your steak into approximately 1″ cubes, avoiding any big chunks of fat (some fat/marbling is good and keeps the meat tender). Toss in a container for marinating.
  • Add remaining ingredients to container and stir around to coat the meat, cover and refrigerate 30 mins – 2 hours (up to 8 hours).
  • Oil grill rack and then prep grill for medium-high to high heat.
  • Thread meat on skewers, leaving space between each piece.
  • Grill a couple of minutes on each side, until meat is nicely browned but still a little pink inside.
  • Serve immediately with red pepper spread on the side.

Note: Beef kebabs always cook in a flash for me. I would hang out by the grill while these are cooking.  You can also broil these in the oven on a sheet pan; adjust your oven rack to about 3 inches from your broiler.