Saturday, 24 August 2013

A True Garden Salad

You know those salads normally called "garden" salads? The ones they sell at the grocery store made of limp iceberg lettuce, anemic tomatoes grown halfway around the world or in Florida by slaves (really! read the book Tomatoland), cucumbers, and maybe some chunks of dry carrots? Why are they allowed to call these "garden" salads? Nothing comes from a garden! It's blasphemy, I say! Okay, not really, but it annoys me. And carrots in salads should never be in chunks, they should always be shredded. Except for chopped salad. But never in normal green salads. Never.

Make a real garden salad. It tastes better and is healthier too. By "real" I mean actually from a garden, either yours or a friend's. Although it's always very satisfying to eat something you've grown.

A real garden salad doesn't need cucumbers, tomato, carrot, or even lettuce. To qualify as a garden salad, you just need garden vegetables! This is even better, because you can change your salads with the seasons instead of eating the same boring one throughout the year. In the spring, you could have a salad made of young and tender dark, leafy greens, radishes, herbs, steamed asparagus, and snow/snap/steamed green peas. Summer salads can have tons of different things, like lettuce, hearty greens (thinly sliced), tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, kohlrabi, zucchini, stone fruit, cherries, berries, melon, early carrots, etc! A really delicious salad is lettuce topped with grilled eggplant, peppers, onion, and chicken thighs. Personally, my favourite produce season is fall. You can make kale salads with shredded beets, carrots and apples, fall spinach salads with roasted squash and fried onions, coleslaw, kale salad with shredded cabbage and carrots; so many things! It's easy to tell I like vegetables :).

So yeah, just pick what ya got, chop, toss, dress, and eat! The dressing's a freebie, it doesn't need to be grown by you. (Although if you can grow and make your own olive oil and have a lemon tree, then I am very jealous!)

The stuff I'm currently getting from my garden includes: lettuce, kale, swiss chard, beans, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes (my first few, I planted them late), quinoa leaves, and herbs. Beans were out for my salad, as were the kale and swiss chard, since I like saving those for cooking or just-kale salads (as in, no lettuce), so that left me with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, radishes, quinoa leaves, and herbs for my garden salad. Herbs make salads taste great.

The cherry tomatoes are so tiny, aren't they cute? :D

 I used basil for my fresh herb, and I also decided to throw some dandelion leaves into my salad because it was on my lawn, it's super healthy, and it adds a nice bitterness. So not really from a garden, but seeing as my lawn's only a few feet away, I figure it's close enough :).

A delicious and beautiful salad perfect for lunch at the beach!

Watermelon radishes and edible flowers make salads beautiful. The violas pictured are definitely edible, although I'm not so sure about the arugula, mustard, and broccoli flowers also pictured. They didn't kill me though, so they must be safe. I didn't have enough violas since the ones I planted in the front are dying a horrible death, although the ones that have popped up in the grass in my backyard seem to be doing wonderful :P.

Just dress with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and serve with some grilled meat for the perfect summer lunch! It's just so wonderful to be able to eat and enjoy something you've grown yourself. It's good for the soul :).

Tomorrow I'm heading off to math camp, so I won't be posting for a few days, but as soon as I get back I'll start making ice cream!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Tarragon Pesto

Summer's almost over! :'( It seems as though every year, summer just passes me by without being able to fully enjoy it. I've been to the farmer's market twice, and I've also only been to the beach twice. Twice! This entire summer! I also haven't gotten around to collecting any dock or cattail roots. I will, however, have an ice cream party at the beginning of September (when my whole30 is over). I've been enjoying summer fruit, but only from the grocery store. Today it was 31 degrees, and I was working so I couldn't enjoy the heat. It was so hot, my swiss chard was wilting in the garden. At least tomorrow's also supposed to be warm, and I'm not working, so maybe I'll be able to go to the beach!

Yes, this beautiful cherry tomato did come from my garden :)

The inspiration for this recipe comes from my massive tarragon plant. Pesto is the best way to use up large amounts of herbs, plus it just tastes delicious. This goes best with fish, but would probably also work with chicken, eggs, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini pasta, etc. Or eat it with all those things together. Mmmm, that sounds good!

I can't seem to find the paper that I wrote the recipe for this on (my guess is my brother threw it away. Nothing is safe from the garbage with him around :P), so I'm going by memory. Just taste as you go, that's what I always do anyway. Feel free to add some parsley or substitute parsley for some of the tarragon. It'll make a less tarragon-y pesto.

Tarragon Pesto

1 1/2 cups fresh tarragon
1/2 cup spinach (or more, for a milder taste)
juice of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsley chopped
1 Tbsp mustard
1 tsp fennel seeds
12 olives, or equivalent amount of capers
1/2 cup almonds
3/4 cup olive oil, or as needed
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Put all the ingredients, except for 1/2 cup of the olive oil in a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped.
2. Slowly pour in the remaining olive oil until the desired consistency is reached.
3. That's it!

Garden update: my peas are all drying up, probably just because their life span is over. I'll wait till they're dry to harvest the seeds. My beans are growing, but not too crazy. Soon I'll be able to harvest more chard, kale, and broccoli (can't wait for the broccoli!). The seed pods on my arugula and mustard are getting plump, and the lettuce and spinach that I recently planted are sprouting. A few tomatoes and cucumbers are growing, and I have tiny peppers! My parsley may actually grow something yet, and the stevia's doing great. The basil's growing, the quinoa's growing, and so are the carrots and beets, though they'll be a fall harvest. My radishes might almost be ready, although I don't have much faith in them. Lastly, I'm really anxious to see if my calendula and nasturtiums will bloom (a very late planting, I know)! So that's my garden. Ice cream recipes will be posted in the next two weeks.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Tahini Grapefruit Salad

Okay, so you've probably seen some variation of this idea before, with the grapefruit, avocado and almonds, but that's because it's such a great combination, with the crunchy/nutty almonds, bitter/sour/juicy grapefruit, and smooth/creamy avocado. It has so many complementary flavours, and it's so nice and refreshing! You could even eat it for dessert, if you add oranges and maybe honey-roast the almonds and don't mind eating salad for dessert. But who says lettuce can't be sweet? In Asia they eat beans for dessert.

Anyway, this recipe is different. Well, slightly different. But the addition of herbs, coriander, fennel, and especially tahini really makes this salad extra special.

Any tender lettuce is good, and romaine is great in this salad. I used lettuce from my garden, a mixture of cos and green leafy lettuce. Mint is the recommended fresh herb, but I have a monster tarragon plant in the front, so that's what I used. Cilantro also works if you're one of those fortunate people who enjoy the taste. I happen to be one of those people who got the genetic short end of the stick and can't stand it. These herbs work best, but I think that almost any tender fresh herbs would work. Also, make sure to save the fennel fronds!

And some of this
I used some of this

Tahini Grapefruit Salad


about 1/2 head lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 grapefruit
handful of chopped almonds
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or tarragon
juice of half a lime
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
water, as necessary, to thin
optional: sliced cucumber, sliced sugar snap peas


1. Whisk together the lime juice, tahini, olive oil, coriander, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly add water until you achieve your desired consistency. If should be fairly thick, but still pour-able.
2. Segment the grapefruit over your dressing bowl, so the juice falls into the dressing. Whisk the juice into the dressing.
3. Combine the lettuce, grapefruit segment, avocado slices, fennel, cucumber, sugar snap peas, and mint in a large bowl.
4. Pour the dressing over the salad; you may have a bit extra. Save for use as a sauce in other recipes. Toss to coat.
5. Sprinkle with almonds and fennel fronds.
6. Enjoy!

Variation: Leave out mint, fennel, and coriander. Use romaine as your lettuce and use lemon juice instead of lime. Add 1 tsp of za'atar to the dressing.

Serve with grilled chicken or fish for a meal, or enjoy as a lovely spring/summer side dish.

I will make ice cream, just as soon as I get some eggs, and post the recipe (sorry, this one won't be vegan, but it will be dairy-free!).