The humble radish

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More! We were not going to let the Green Goddess go to waste.

March 21: Green Goddess Dressing on Romaine with Celery, Radishes and Croutons

I liked this salad even better with the sweet crunch of celery and the peppery crunch of radishes than with slices of red onion like the day before.

Croutons made this a more filling salad and, other than some leftover potatoes, it was all we had for dinner. (I learned how to make my own croutons on Mar. 10.)

Last time I bought radishes, they were a bit old and tired and woody. But these were fresh and crisp and reminded me what’s nice about radishes. You taste a peppery “bite” but it’s different than a hot pepper in that you feel the refreshing spicy tingle on the sides of your tongue in back. (Makes you want a sip of lager beer.) Weird, right? But eat a fresh radish and notice that it’s true.

The raw flesh has a crisp texture and a pungent, peppery flavor, caused by glucosinolates and the enzyme myrosinase which combine when chewed to form allyl isothiocyanates, also present in mustard, horseradish, and wasabi.

But the peppery flavor is less up your nose and more on your tongue than wasabi or horseradish.

Radishes are root vegetables in the Brassicacaea family, along with mustards and cabbages. They are easy to grow.

Radish can sprout from seed to small plant in as little as 3 days. The descriptive Greek name of the genus Raphanus means “quickly appearing” and refers to the rapid germination of these plants.

And…

 Radishes are rich in ascorbic acid, folic acid, and potassium. They are a good source ofvitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium.

Last year we planted Cincinnati Market and Early Scarlet Globe from Seeds Savers. It’s hard to think about planting now when the good earth is buried under 8 inches of white.

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I didn’t make a snowman, I made a radishman. It’s like a spring version of a jack-o-lantern.

I got the idea from Oaxaca, Mexico where, at Christmastime, they have a festival called the Night of the Radishes. Click for crazy-cool PHOTOS. More!.. Noche de Rábanos.

John is back to flying after being home sick with a rotten cold and cough through the middle of March. He had a layover in (stressful, dangerous) Caracas, Venezuela last night. I must increase our daily dose of antioxidants and other good vegetable things to ward off future illness.

“I am definitely getting my greens here at home,” said Laura, last night.

What do I know of man’s destiny? I could tell you more about radishes. – Samuel Beckett

Green goddess of tarragon, anchovies, and spring

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A goddess in green, from the 1940s.

March 20: Romaine Lettuce with Green Goddess Dressing

To celebrate the first day of spring, I decided to try my hand at the retro salad dressing with the evocative name.

From foodtimeline.org

Green Goddess. A salad or salad dressing made from anchovies, mayonnaise, tarragon vinegar, and other seasonings, the salad was created at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in the mid-1920s at the request of actor George Arliss, who was appearing in town in William Archer’s play The Green Goddess.

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Anchovies, a key ingredient.

Oily little ocean fish are odd thing in a salad dressing… but not uncommon, of course – they are in Caesar salad too. I guess the distinct briny fishy flavor adds some complexity to the goddess’s mayo, sour cream and chopped herbs.

The slightly anise-flavored herb tarragon (Artemisia dranunculus) is also what is distinctive about this dressing.

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Dressing ingredients arrayed before chopping and Cuisinarting.

I used this recipe from Saveur: Green Goddess Dressing.

I didn’t have tarragon vinegar so I used white wine vinegar and fresh tarragon (as I had seen in some other recipes for this dressing). I also added some scallions, for a bit of spring onion flavor.

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A pale, creamy green, this was a pretty dressing to look forward to.

Dear daughter Laura, 19, was home from Boston for spring break. She has developed a taste for salads and healthier, less “processed” eating, especially working part time as a waitress in a couple of different restaurants since September. Lots of plates of food have passed under her eyes and nose, and she has had the chance to sample many things before or after work, or on break.

“I want food that’s closer to alive,” she says.

And speaking of briny, one of the classes she is taking now is The Deep: Purity, Danger, and Metamorphosis

This comparative course examines metaphysical, mythical, and ritual responses to the sea, including its multiple and conflicting roles as arena of pilgrimage, catharsis, primordial generation, rebirth, desolation, or apocalypse.

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Green Goddess is a fairly bold dressing, so I served it on hearty romaine lettuce with some slices of red onion.

John made fried chicken and oven-roasted new potatoes. We talked about warm places, flying airplanes, jobs, and life.

The vernal equinox was at 7:02 a.m. and astronomical spring began… with 8 fresh inches of snow on the ground. But with my xray spring hope vision I could look right through the snow and beneath the frozen mud to where seeds are quivering with the urge to sprout… imminent green life.

and your hands are the snow and thy
fingers are the rain
and your
feet O your feet

freakish
feet feet incorrigible

ragging the world

– e.e. cummings, spring omnipotent goddess Thou

I’m in love

mal

Dear Maldon Sea Salt,

I love you. I really do. I wish it hadn’t taken me so many years to find you. You make everything better, even – or especially – salad.

I ate the same salad yesterday as the day before (March 19: Never Mock Truffle Eaters Again Salad) but with an extra pinch of Maldon, and I’m running out of time today. In fact, it’s 5 p.m. and time to start the next salad. But I wanted to remind myself that I have discovered one of the keys to making a good salad, and loving salad, and that is salt. In particular, Maldon, my true salt love.

From Mark Bitterman: How to Salt a Salad

Salt was the original salad dressing. The word “salad” comes from Latin salata, short for herba salsata “salted vegetables,” and salad is still one of the foods that benefit most from salting.

And…

Artisan flake salt with salad is a revelation. Salt flakes are typically wide and thin, giving them a much larger surface area than fleur de sel, sel gris, or traditional salts to disperse their seasoning. As a result, flake salts release a bright, quick, snap of salt without overwhelming delicate greens. When you take a bite, the flakes explode and vanish, like all-natural Pop rocks. They spark your palate then get the hell out of the way to let the fresh, vegetal flavors rush forward for a layered, vibrant, dynamic experience.

Tossing flake salts with fresh greens allows you to remove most or all of the salt from the dressing. Greens and chopped vegetables, accompanied by an unsalted vibrant vinaigrette, and a lacework of flaky salt dancing across the surface – this is how a salad is meant to be.

Yeah! Forget the big stupid pepper grinder, waiters and waitresses, and bring me my Maldon sea salt!

Bonus: Maldon salt blog

More Bitterman…

Maldon sea salt is made from seawater collected from England ’s Blackwater river estuary and evaporated in stainless steel saltpans mounted on an intricate system of brick flues that give the specific heating pattern required for the formation of Maldon’s massive yet parchment-fine flake crystals. The Maldon Crystal Salt Company stands on what is believed to have been the site of a medieval salt works, and medieval brickwork impregnated with salt has been found on the site.

To be repetitive out of sheer enthusiasm, it can’t be stressed enough: Maldon sea salt is the ultimate salt for daily use in salads, with a texture equivalent to fireworks and a crisp, balanced flavor.

The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea. – Isak Dinesen

In which I vow never again to mock truffle-eaters

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Slender, tender and obviously fresh, asparagus and green beans (pardon moi, haricots verts) from Philbrick’s Fresh Market just before blanching.

March 18: Spring Salad with Lemon White Truffle Vinaigrette

I used this recipe, same vinaigrette but with fewer salad ingredients.

I had decided to use some of the white truffle oil we’ve had in the cabinet since Christmas, and it was the smell of the truffle oil as I began mixing and pouring that made me think I was not going to like this salad.

Truffle scent is pungent, strange, earthy, impossible to ignore. It’s almost a stink. It gets inside your head. It bothers you.

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The vinaigrette was just salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil and one-quarter cup truffle oil. But was one-quarter cup too much? The kitchen was reeking with the smell of the gourmet fungus, which is the fruiting body of a subterranean ‘shroom.

This truffle oil was from Leroux Kitchen in Portsmouth. (Love that place.)

Most truffle oils are not made with actual truffles but are a synthetic product that combines a thioether (2,4-dithiapentane), one of numerous aromas or odorants found in truffles, with an olive oil or grapeseed oil base.

But not the white truffle oil from Leroux, apparently…

This perfect finishing oil is the result of steeping premium white truffles in a lovely extra virgin olive oil. Made in Italy by the third generation of a family of truffle oil producers, this elegant oil has the distinctive, intense flavor of white truffles.

Oils|Vinegars product tags

Italian white truffles are the most valuable. They are available only in autumn, but their flavor and aroma can be preserved in oil for use out of season.

Dogs and truffle hogs hunt for truffles. Hogs find them especially sexy…

The female pig’s natural truffle seeking, as well as her usual intent to eat the truffle, is due to a compound within the truffle similar to androstenol, the sex pheromone of boar saliva, to which the sow is keenly attracted.

Hm.

John grilled the Alaskan wild salmon, I sliced some ciabatta bread and tossed the salad. It was just the blanched vegetables, a spring salad mix of baby lettuce, the white truffle vinaigrette, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top.

“This smells really strange. I’m not sure we’re going to like this,” I warned.

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But the potent oil was strangely delicious in combination with the robust flavor of the asparagus, the tang of parmesan, the sweet-sour lemon, and the sprinkling of crackly Maldon sea salt I added. Every bite made me hungry for more and immensely satisfied… at the same time.

Not just delicious, but weirdly intoxicating – like the aroma was going straight through my nose, deep into my skull, and hitting some primitive hunter-gatherer sensory and emotional part of my brain. I didn’t just smell and taste truffles, I felt them.

I get it,” I thought. “I get truffles. I will never mock truffle-eaters again.”

In fact, I will use up that truffle oil on other things (French fries?) and look for white truffles in season now, some day, and splurge to get that weird little Neanderthal hit again.

Whosoever says truffle, utters a grand word, which awakens erotic and gastronomic ideas…. – Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Since, during storms, flames leap from the humid vapors and dark clouds emit deafening noises, is it surprising the lightning, when it strikes the ground, gives rise to truffles, which do not resemble plants? – Plutarch

The most learned men have been questioned as to the nature of this tuber, and after two thousand years of argument and discussion their answer is the same as it was on the first day: we do not know. The truffles themselves have been interrogated, and have answered simply: eat us and praise the Lord. – Alexander Dumas

Off the boat

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What does a fishing vessel have to do with salad?

Scallops!

March 17: Seared Scallops with Spicy Honey-Citrus Glaze on Celery-Bell Pepper Salad

Having “liked” the F/V Rimrack on Facebook, I like to keep an eye on what they’re catching and when the catch is coming in. Yesterday some freshly harvested sea scallops arrived at Rye Harbor at 3 p.m. We cruised a few miles up the coast to pick up some special dinner salad ingredients.

In the bright sun, scouring wind and raw cold of a classic coastal New England March day, we lined up at the back of a pickup truck on the dock near the boat. (It’s not the one pictured above – I took that photo away from the 20 or so people waiting for scallops so I wasn’t snapping pics in anyone’s face.)

We bought a pound of shucked scallops for $18. I think they’re around $25 in markets now.

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Raw scallops, back at home. Well, not “whole” scallops – just the part we eat, the adductor muscle of the tasty bivalve. Scallops are active swimmers, and the only migratory bivalve. (See ’em swim.)

We picked up a couple of sea scallop shells off the dock too.

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Glaze ingredients orange blossom honey, orange juice, lemon and lime zest, and sriracha sauce, plus the printed out Epicurious recipe.

I made the glaze and chopped the veggies for the salad while John pan-seared the scallops in butter, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

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Good with the skillet. He’s cookin’.

After pan-searing, the scallops were brushed with the citrusy and spicy (thanks to sriracha) glaze and broiled for a couple of minutes.

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The colorful “salad” was just chopped celery, red and yellow bell peppers, and one quarter cup apple cider vinegar.

The crunchy, sweet vegetables tasted pretty good with just the vinegar.

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Scallops seared and glazed and served atop the celery and peppers. Delicious!

Easily the best scallops we have ever had, we concurred. And the salad added a nice balance of crunch, tart and sweet.

Yesterday’s scallop quest and creative recipe prepared together was a happy salad adventure, though it took me a while to get around to blogging about it today.

No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time. – Lewis Carroll

Chicken salad (it’s not what you think)

Lucy

Here is Lucy the Rhode Island Red free-ranging the backyard yesterday afternoon.

The days are growing longer, the snow is islanded in white patches, temperatures are well below freezing at night but climb into the 30s or 40s during the day and the sun, when it shines, is distinctly warm.

When I let them out of the chicken run to free range, the chickens are roaming and digging and pecking and finding things to eat again. (I’m not sure what.)

5 eggs

Yesterday was a five egg day.

Most days in winter I have gathered three or four eggs from the nest boxes. From what I’ve read, it’s not unusual for chickens to drop below even these numbers in the shorter, colder days. But my birds are well-fed and doted on. We are clearly not running a money-making operation here. My cost per egg? Don’t ask.

But I do love the way leftover human food can become chicken food (which can become eggs).

chickies

Yesterday, I made them a special chicken salad – as in salad for chickens.

It was chopped up old iceberg lettuce and cabbage, wilty spinach, overly-soft strawberries, cooked beets, and a toss of goat cheese on top just because I’m nice.

Every good food thing like this is eaten as fast as possible, because they are in competition with each other. There is no room in a chicken brain for the concept that “there’s enough for us all, I don’t have to gobble my food.”

We also had leftovers…

salad

March 16: Spinach with golden beets, strawberries, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette

The beets had been boiled for dinner the night before and there were a few left, so I saved them for salad. Otherwise, it was the same salad as the day before.

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found. – Calvin Trillin

Balsami-therapy

salad

The spinach was tender and darkly green, the strawberries were soft and sweet and perfectly ripe, the goat cheese was super-creamy, the almonds were nutty and crunchy, the balsamic vinaigrette was fragrant and delicious – and the combination of all these ingredients was more than the sum of its parts.

Salad win!

March 15: Baby spinach with strawberries, goat cheese, almonds and balsamic vinaigrette

It was the Ides of Salad Month and I was feeling lazy and lacking in creativity. Plus we spent the afternoon working on the taxes, which is never going to put anybody in a good mood. When I totalled how much (little) money I earned last year from freelance writing, I wanted to knock my head gently yet repeatedly on the desk (covered in receipts).

I thought about just eating leftovers and blogging about my dispiritedness. (Because that always makes for such great reading.)

But then I started to think about balsamic vinegar.

balsamic vinegar

I opened this bottle and sniffed. Aromatherapy! Instantly I felt like cooking and eating. I tied on an apron and stepped up to the plate.

What is it about balsamic vinegar? According to Cook’s Illustrated

Thirty years ago, almost no one in America had ever heard of (never mind tasted) balsamic vinegar. It was an obscure product made in northern Italy and so highly valued that many families passed along barrels of aged vinegar as part of a wedding dowry. Fast-forward a generation, and balsamic is now the best-selling vinegar in America, accounting for 45 percent of all supermarket vinegar sales. Intoxicated by its big, sweet, caramel flavor, Americans mix it in salad dressing; drizzle it on meat, fish, and vegetables; and add it to sauces, soups, and desserts.

I am intoxicated by its flavor. But not all balsamic vinegar is equal. Read on…

It turns out there are two kinds of balsamic vinegar, and they’re made by entirely different processes. The traditional technique takes a minimum of 12 years; the modern industrial method as little as a few hours. (Read the rest.)

But good news from America’s test kitchen:

Don’t waste your money on pricey traditional balsamic vinegar if you’re going to toss it on salad or cook with it. The good stuff works best uncooked, as a drizzle to finish a dish. In vinaigrette or cooked sauce, the sharpness of a supermarket balsamic adds a pleasingly bright contrast to the vinegar’s natural sweetness.

For the vinaigrette, I used this recipe: The BEST Balsamic Vinaigrette, from Barefeet in the Kitchen.

This dressing is so versatile, I’ve used it on salads, roasted vegetables, and drizzled it over chicken in a wrap. Just a touch of sweetness with the tang of the balsamic, I imagine this is going to be a staple in my home for years to come.

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Eat your different colors every day.

I bought these (organic) strawberries at Philbrick’s. They did not disappoint, as so many supermarket strawberries do. Most supermarket strawberries are not worth the price or effort to eat out of season. But these were sweet and perfect, except for a few just starting to rot, oh well.

There are always a few rotty ones hiding in there with the good ones.

I liked all of the individual foods that went into this salad but, as I said, they were even better together. And even even better when served with lemon pepper chicken cutlets and this pasta recipe prepared by John: Cacio e Pape, Cheese and Pepper Pasta.

It was a fine meal that saved the day.

All sorrows are less with bread. – Miguel de Cervantes

Crisp

salad prep

Preparing a very crunchy salad.

March 14: Radish, Celery and Apple Salad

Yesterday’s salad was basically this recipe from Seven Spoons, minus the parsley.

In a medium bowl, toss together the radishes, apple, celery and parsley. Squeeze over a bit of lemon juice, a fine drizzle of honey, and a larger splash of olive oil. Toss gently, so that everything is well coated, then add a sprinkle of sea salt and a good grind of pepper. Toss again and taste for seasoning.

Easy peasy.

quiche

It paired nicely with bacon and baby spinach quiche with creme fraiche and cheddar cheese… recipe my own invention.

I wish the radishes had been freshly pulled from our garden. These tasted a bit old and tired from a long travel. But it was roaringly windy last night and the temperature this morning was 17 degrees. Garden season seems far away.

This is the first salad this month with celery – lovely, crisp and green. When I think of celery, I remember this wonderful essay by A.A. Milne, A Word for Autumn, written in the day when vegetables were grown and served strictly seasonally.

Last night the waiter put the celery on with the cheese, and I knew that summer was indeed dead.

I am ready for winter to die next. March, we’re halfway through.

The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid. – Daniel Abraham

Future picnic

picnic salad

A kind of coleslaw, with cabbage, radishes, green pepper, cilantro and very good dressing.

The term “coleslaw” arose in the eighteenth century as an Anglicisation of the Dutch term “koolsla”, a shortening of “koolsalade”, which means “cabbage salad.”

March 13: Picnic (in the dining room) Salad

I was following a recipe for Napa Cabbage Picnic Salad from Simply Recipes but I couldn’t find napa cabbage or snow peas and I forgot the spring onions and I added a green pepper (to use it up). Also, I forgot to toast the almonds and just sprinkled them on at the end. I was springstruck from being outside in March sunshine all afternoon.

Anyway, the important part of this recipe was the dressing… which was very, very tasty.

dressing prep

Dressing ingredients (minus the minced garlic, which I remembered to add at the end).

Whisk rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, toasted sesame oil, garlic, ground ginger and cayenne pepper together, then add mayonnaise. The mere half teaspoon of toasted sesame oil was the key ingredient, I thought, adding distinctive, delicious fragrance and flavor to this dressing.

Sesame is a nutritious, antioxidant-rich flavor enhancer used in many Asian cuisines. It was first cultivated as an oil crop in the Indus Valley civilization and exported to Mesopotamia around 2500 B.C. The oil is used in massage and alternative healing therapies like Ayurveda “to pacify stress related symptoms.”

pretoss

Here is the salad just before tossing, which I did with my hands. Ah, salad massage!

Radishes are pretty and have a nice bite of flavor, for a vegetable. They are one of the first crops we can grow in the spring, but we have to restrain ourselves from planting our radishes too early.

It’s too early for everything here right now, even though yesterday was beautifully sunshiny and nearly 50 degrees. The snow is melting, the ground is muddy, cold seeps out from the woods, the sun is hot, the trees are still bare, but the birds are singing their spring songs and there were ducks on our pond yesterday.

We ate our picnic salad at dinnertime, in the dining room, with roast beef and roasted new potatoes dressed with a little truffle oil. We imagined picnics to come.

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.  – Charles Dickens

Youth was (too) sweet

wedge of iceberg lettuce

Yesterday’s salad was a wedge of iceberg lettuce with French dressing. But, why?

March 12: Retro Salad

It was my birthday and I decided to eat the salad of my youth for lunch (with grilled cheese).

“Salad” meant iceberg lettuce when I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s in the suburbs of Philadelphia, or visiting my grandparents at the Jersey Shore…

orange

Here I am dressed in the same color as my favorite salad dressing, making a bunny rabbit face to show off my new front teeth (for some reason).

Why did I like French dressing?

Well, gather ’round, children and let me tell you of an ancient time when salad dressing only came in bottles and there were only three or four kinds to choose from – French, Italian, Blue Cheese, maybe Russian or Thousand Island.

Maybe it was the secret ingredient in French dressing that I loved … sweet, sweet ketchup. What kid doesn’t love it?

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Martha Stewart’s recipe for French Dressing is just white wine vinegar, ketchup, sugar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, salt and olive oil. Just whisk and serve. I did.

Neither one of us, husband and wife, completely finished our salad. The dressing was a bit too sweet and strange to us now.

The history of tomato-based “French” (American) salad dressings is on Food Timeline.

Only in America? Could a convenience dressing like this happen. Arnold Shircliffe’s Edgewater Beach Hotel Salad Book [1928] offers two samples. In the orange version he adds the word “obesity” without comment. The red version features tomato ketchup. Both are creamy and sweet. In period context, these dressings make perfect sense. Prohibition recipes were generally sweeter than those of the previous generation.

We Boomers remember the tangy sweet flavor of this creamy brilliant orange dressing. For many of us, it was the only dressing we liked. Growing up, oil & vinegar dressings were called “Italian.”

viewfoodwishbone2

Wish-Bone is the brand I remember.

This is pretty funny. See the World’s Oldest Salad Dressing.

The first is a 16 fluid ounce bottle of Russian Creamy Dressing from Seven Seas®. The second flavor is not known exactly because the main front and back labels are missing. It is thought to be a 12 fluid ounce bottle of French Creamy Dressing from Pfeiffer®. Both bottles expired in March of 1976! Both bottles remain unopened.

I think we can all relate to this experience with expiration dates, maybe not in quite so extreme a form.

It’s not how old you are, it’s how you are old. – Jules Renard