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Saturday, April 28, 2012

salade nicoise

snowy, sunny spring!

My friend Nancy asked me to ski with her across Eklutna Lake up to the glacier last week. What a great adventure! It was a beautiful sunshiney day, with absolutely no wind! The skiing was really fast on the huge frozen lake, and then when we got to the river valley, we had some interesting bushwhacking through tangled saplings and branches to avoid the open water. We only had to splash across one stream.

On the way back down, we found a rutted snowmachine trail to follow. When Nancy asked whether I’d prefer “roots or ruts?” I quickly chose ruts. Nancy, light, quick, agile and strong, makes much better progress through the deep, soft snow, slipping neatly around and between trees, bushes and shrubs. I feel more like a large mama moose wallowing through the deep snow, with skis to hamper my progress by getting caught under loops of branches and on the wrong side of small trees.

With the ice melting and the snow softening, I think this might have been the last possible day of the season to make this ski trip. I’m so glad we caught it! Thanks, Nancy!!!

salade nicoise

When I find myself with a refrigerator full of beautiful Alaskan produce (and sometimes, some fresh seafood), I often prepare this salad to make a big dent in it. Just pick several of the vegetables to prepare. I usually make a huge salad and invite friends over to help eat it, since it’s so beautiful—I just have to share it! You can make one giant salad, or make each person their own individual composed salad.

I also make this salad when I have lots of little odds and ends of things in the refrigerator—leftover roasted potatoes, a few white beans from another project, some grape tomatoes…  In that case, after making the dressing, I just cook some green beans from the freezer, hard boil some eggs, grate some carrots, and I’ve got a great, easy meal!  You can make this meal as simple or as complicated as you like.

And one more thing—you can make a big batch of this dressing and put a jar in the freezer for later.  Then you can REALLY make a fast salad!

lemony vinaigrette

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red onion, minced fine
juice of one lemon
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (if you have grainy mustard too, you can use 1 tablespoon of each)
1 tablespoon honey
½ to 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cracked pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients, except the oil, in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking. Season with salt and honey to taste, then set aside.
vegetables (pick 5 or 6 of the following to prepare)

2 pounds garlic-roasted potatoes (see following recipe)
1 pound green beans, blanched in salted water until just tender. Drain the beans and immediately spread them out on a baking sheet spread with a dishtowel. (This allows extra water to evaporate, and the beans stop cooking almost immediately.)
1 pound roasted beets (see following recipe), peeled, sliced into wedges, and tossed with some of the lemony vinaigrette
1 pint cherry tomatoes or several slow-roasted tomatoes (see “tomatoes” section)
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered (See perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs in the “sandwiches and things to eat on toast” section.)
1 pound grilled asparagus (see “asparagus” section)
4 roasted red peppers (see following recipe)
1 large cucumber, sliced thin and tossed with some of the lemony vinaigrette
3 large carrots, grated and tossed with some of the lemony vinaigrette
2 cups cooked white beans

optional fish (pick one if you’d like to include fish in your salad)

fresh Alaskan scallops, threaded on skewers, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and grilled on a clean, oiled rack just until done
kippered salmon, flaked
fresh salmon, seasoned with salt and pepper or lemon pepper, and grilled
fresh halibut, seasoned with salt and pepper or lemon pepper, and grilled


½ cup kalamata olives, pitted
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
12 cups of assorted salad greens
cracked pepper

Compose this salad on a large serving platter, or make each person their own plate of composed salad. Toss the salad greens with some of the lemony vinaigrette, and make a bed of lettuce on the platter. Attractively group each vegetable on the lettuce. Have fun with all those colors! Drizzle vinaigrette over all the vegetables. Scatter the olives and capers over all, and sprinkle cracked pepper over the top. Enjoy!!

garlic-roasted potatoes

2 pounds small Butterball potatoes (or other yellow, waxy potato)
garlic oil (recipe in Step 1.)
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper

1. Make garlic oil: Mash or mince 3 or 4 garlic cloves and cover with ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil. Let steep for 30 minutes if you have time. Strain out the garlic and store the oil in the refrigerator.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the potatoes into halves or quarters. Toss them in a bowl with a few spoonfuls of garlic oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss again.
3. Lightly oil a large baking dish or sheet pan, and transfer the potatoes onto it, making sure that a cut side of each potato is touching the pan. (The side touching the pan will brown nicely). Roast the potatoes until tender and browned, 35 to 40 minutes.

roasted beets
1. Put the beets (unpeeled) in a baking dish or oven-proof casserole and put ¼” of water in the dish. Cover with foil (or a tight, oven-proof lid), and bake them at 375 or 400 degrees until tender when stabbed with a paring knife. Usually they take 40 minutes or longer, but young beets might be quicker, depending on how big they are. In the fall, when the beets are bigger, they may take much longer—up to an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can pick them up without burning yourself.
2. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip their skins off. Cut in halves lengthwise and then crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices, or in wedges—as you prefer.

roasted red peppers
1. Preheat your grill or broiler. Roast the red peppers, turning them as each side gets blackened.
2. When they are blackened all the way around, place them in a big bowl and cover it with a lid or a plate until the peppers are fairly cool (this steams and cooks the peppers the rest of the way).
3. Peel the skins from the peppers and remove the seeds, but don’t rinse the peppers—just rinse your fingers as you peel the skins off. Slice the peppers into ½” wide pieces.

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