Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad

The end of June is always exciting because it heralds the beginning of cherry season in the Northwest, and this year’s (farmer direct) crop is as delicious as ever.  Although I demo’d a salad for my last blog post, summer is all about salads so I decided to try another one – Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa salad.

This salad is very easy to make, tastes great, and looks pretty as well.  I started with a recipe from the May/June 2012 issue of Eating Well magazine and adapted it to my liking.  I had never had wild rice and quinoa together before, and I’ve got to say that they taste fabulous.  The original recipe had you cooking the wild rice for a half hour and then adding the quinoa and cooking for another 15 minutes, but I’m in the habit of cooking quinoa with short grain brown rice for a full hour when I make it at home (in a pressure cooker, no less).  I cooked both grains together for 40 minutes and they both turned out tender and delicious!

Along with the WA cherries, I also used our locally grown and roasted hazelnuts from Holmquist Orchards in Lynden as well as Beecher’s Smoked Flagship Cheddar, made in Seattle at the world-famous Pike Place Market.  Both added a delicious element to the salad, along with the celery and apple cider vinegar dressing.  All in all, customers thought the salad had a nutty, smoky flavor made richer with sweet cherries…and I heartily agree!

Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad © 2013 Sassy Sampler

Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad © 2013 Sassy Sampler

Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad

Makes eight 3/4 c servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 c wild rice
  • 1/2 c red quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 c halved & pitted fresh sweet cherries
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3/4 c coarse grated aged goat cheese or smoked cheddar (or you can dice it)
  • 1/2 c roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add wild rice and quinoa, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.
  3. While the rice is cooking, whisk oil, vinegar, sea salt, and pepper in a measuring cup and prep your other ingredients.
  4. Drain grains and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch; make sure you drain the grains well.
  5. Once cooled, add the rice/quinoa mixture to a large bowl.
  6. Add the cherries, celery, cheese, and hazelnuts and toss to combine.
  7. Add the dressing and toss to combine.
  8. Serve at room temperature, or cold from the fridge.

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is an ancient grain and was a staple in the ancient Incas’ diet.  Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin that needs to be rinsed off the grain before cooking (it can upset your stomach).  Rinse quinoa in cool water until the water is clear.  This is easiest done in a very fine sieve.

Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad PDF

Balsamic Rice and Bean Salad

triple choco mousse cake

Triple Chocolate Mousse cake

May is always a month of chocolate for me – both my husband’s and my birthdays are in May, along with five other family members (plus both of our cats) and everyone is a chocolate fan. For my husband, I made a truly scrumptious triple chocolate mousse cake, and for myself I made ganache filled “ultimate” chocolate cupcakes.   Both recipes came from Cook’s Illustrated and turned out fantastic.  If you would like a copy of either then let me know!  The mousse is (naturally) gluten-free and I adapted the cupcake recipe to be gluten-free.

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

Due to my sweet-filled month, for my first demo in a while I thought it might be good to prepare and share a more wholesome recipe, and I found it in Tracy Hill’s cookbook Delightfully Free (she’ll be at Seattle’s Pike Place market today signing copies, and you can also buy it at the Cordata store).  Not only are the photos mouth-watering, but the recipes are pretty awesome too, and they are all gluten, dairy, and refined sugar-free!  I knew when I saw the photo for this salad that I wanted to prepare it – it would be a great salad to bring to a graduation party or BBQ, and would also serve as a well-rounded main course because of the combination of brown rice, beans, nuts/seeds, and vegetables.

We’re still at the beginning of our growing season here in the great Northwest, but I was able to purchase some local garlic scape to use instead of the green onions in the original recipe – I sliced them very thin (garlic scapes are typically cooked, but if you don’t overdo it then they are great in a salad) and they added just the right amount of fresh tasting garlicy-ness.  We have local basil in stock, and I also used some of the local roasted hazelnuts that we carry in our bulk department.

The salad was very popular with customers and those that tasted it wanted to know how soon they could buy it pre-made in the deli (I did give a sample to our Cordata Deli Manager with the feedback…hopefully you’ll see our version soon!).  I’ve included instructions on how to cook brown rice and beans from scratch, but you can always grab some pre-cooked rice from the Deli’s Grab and Go section and a can of beans to cut down on your time in the kitchen.

Enjoy!

Balsamic Rice and Bean Salad © 2013 Sassy Sampler

Balsamic Rice and Bean Salad © 2013 Sassy Sampler

Balsamic Rice and Bean Salad

adapted from Delightfully Free by Tracy Hill

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 c cooked (and cooled) brown rice
  • 1 1/2 c navy or cannellini beans, cooked from dry or 1 can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 c chopped celery (I sliced them pretty thin)
  • 1 1/2 c chopped yellow or orange bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
  • 1/3 c chopped green onion or garlic scapes
  • 1/2 c fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped (or chiffonade cut)
  • 1 c halved cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 c Balsamic Dressing, or more to taste
  • 2/3 c chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, and/or pumpkin seeds

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing  (makes about 1 1/2 c)

  • 1/4 c red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 c grapeseed oil
  • 1/8 t sea salt
  • 1 t agave nectar
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed or minced
  • 2 T water
  • Small pinch of paprika
  • Pinch of xanthan gum

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Shake all dressing ingredients together, except xanthan gum, in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Add the xanthan gum and shake again.  For smoother flavors, emulsify the dressing by mixing all ingredients, except xanthan gum, in a blender on high for 30 seconds.  Add the xanthan gum and blend again for 10 seconds.  Store in the refrigerator.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients, with the exception of the nuts/seeds and dressing.
  3. Toss salad with about 3/4 cup of dressing (or more if you like!) – be sure to give it a few good shakes to re-mix.
  4. Sprinkle the salad with the nuts/seeds when it is served, or you can mix them in just before serving.

Note from the cookbook author — This salad is extra tasty made a day ahead of time (keep the nuts/seeds set aside until you serve).  It is also a great topper for green salad.

Note from the Sassy Sampler – Customers commented that this salad would be great with parboiled green beans or with feta cheese sprinkled on top…and I agree!

To cook short grain brown rice:

Thoroughly rinse 3/4 c rice.  Add to a small bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid and cover with 1.5 cups of water and sprinkle about 1/2 t of sea salt.  Allow to come to a boil and then cover with the lid, turn heat down to low and allow to cook undisturbed for 1 hour.  Remove from heat and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes, remove the lid, fluff, and enjoy!

To cook navy/cannellini beans:

Note—beans will expand to 2.5 times their normal size, so you will only need to cook 1/2 c beans for this recipe

  1. Go through the beans on a plate to remove any stones, dirty or damaged beans, etc.
  2. Pour the beans into a medium bowl and cover with water—remove any “floaters”.
  3. Drain beans and cover with at least 1 1/2 c of COLD water.  Soak the beans overnight (you can do this on the counter), or at least six hours.
  4. Rinse the beans three or four times until the water runs clear.
  5. Put beans in a pot and cover with fresh water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 60-90 minutes, until beans are tender.  Add salt (if desired) only in the last few minutes of cooking time or your beans will take longer to cook.
  6. Cooked beans are best the next day and can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Visit Tracy’s website at www.delightfullyfree.com and check out her cookbook of the same name!

Balsamic Rice and Bean Salad PDF

Carrot Ginger Salad

April can be hit or miss in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and luckily this year is more of a hit – we have had great luck with beautiful weather on the weekends this month and it’s making all of us excited for summertime.  For my recipe this week, I wanted to pick something that tasted fresh and summery and I found what I was looking for in Organic Farm & Garden magazine (a Popular Gardening Series “magabook” by Hobby Farms.com).  They offer several recipes in this issue (along with great organic gardening advice) and I thought their recipe for Carrot Ginger Salad would be a winner.  (Note – we are sold out of the magazine at the Co-op, but you can get it online at either of the links above.)

Photo courtesy of Jerry Janeway © 2012

We still have delicious and sweet  local carrots from Hedlin Family Farm, a third generation organic farm in the waterfront town of La Conner (home to author Tom Robbins).  The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is in full swing right now, and this would be a perfect weekend to spend some time outside tiptoeing through the tulips (they won’t actually let you do that, but you get the idea).  But I digress…back to the carrots!

A lot of carrot salads are soaked in mayonnaise and have added sugar, and I didn’t want to go in that direction; this recipe is flavorful, fresh, and tastes like summer – the carrots give a nice sweet crunch and the dressing and fresh ginger add a dimension that you wouldn’t expect, as it leaves you with a subtle succession of flavors. I was hesitant to combine some of the ingredients that were listed – cumin and mint with ginger…are they crazy?  Turns out they are brilliant, as the flavors work really well within the acidic dressing and compliment the carrots and ginger perfectly.  This salad is also really simple to make and would be perfect to bring to a potluck or gathering, as it keeps at room temperature for several hours.  Enjoy!

Carrot Ginger Salad © Sassy Sampler 2012

Carrot Ginger Salad

Serves 6

adapted from Organic Farm & Garden magazine, Volume 1, 2nd edition

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 large carrots (about 2.5-3#) , grated diagonally or cut julienne
  • 1 T fresh grated ginger

Dressing:

  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 heaping T  fresh mint, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, combine carrots and grated ginger.  Cover and refrigerate for about a half hour so the flavors can combine.
  2. In a jar with a lid, mix lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper and cumin, and the mint.  Shake to combine.
  3. Add dressing to carrots and mix well.  If time permits, allow the salad to sit on the counter for about half an hour before serving so the flavors can combine.

For best flavor, allow the salad to come to room temperature before serving.  (Dressed) salad will keep for several days in the fridge.  Cover tightly.  You can also double the dressing recipe if you want a spicier version.

You may be hesitant to add the cumin and mint to this salad, but don’t skip (or substitute) those ingredients—they add complexity to the salad and are an important factor in the overall flavor.

Carrot Ginger Salad PDF

Spinach and Strawberry Daiquiri Salad

This week while searching for a recipe to sample for customers, I came across an intriguing sounding one, once again sourced from Yummly. If you haven’t checked out this website yet you really should – you can set up a profile where you can list foods you are allergic/intolerant of, foods you just don’t like, and whether you are following a specific diet (vegan, etc.). Once you have your profile set up, you can search for recipes using filters that will only show ones that fit the bill. You can also search the recipes according to taste (salty, sweet, savory, etc.), cuisine, preparation time, and course, as well as enter ingredients (one at a time) that you already have and it will find recipes to fit those parameters. You can also post photos of the dishes you make (I submitted a photo of the pesto I made last week and you can now find it on their website). It really is the best recipe website I have run across.

I found a recipe for Spinach and Strawberry Daiquiri Salad, and knew I had to try it. We currently have local bulk baby spinach (the same as I used for the Spinach Pesto last week), and some beautiful California strawberries (we won’t see local strawberries for a couple of weeks as least – check out the article in this month’s Co-op Community News). The recipe originally came from Allrecipes and had gotten really great reviews.

This is a really festive salad that would be great for summer potlucks (and the recipe is large enough to serve a small crowd) – the bright green of the spinach mixed with the vibrant red of the strawberries makes your mouth water, and everyone will be pleasantly surprised at the complexity of its flavor.

The daiquiri inspiration comes not from alcohol, but from the honey-lime dressing and toasted unsweetened coconut flakes (although if you were going to an adults-only potluck, a shot of tequila or rum might be a fun addition to the dressing!). The salad also includes some lightly candied almonds to add a little crunch and to compliment the sweetness of the strawberries. While the combinations may sound a little strange, everyone who tried it loved it, and someone even said it was the best salad ever!

As for execution, it was pretty simple to make, although more involved than tossing together a green salad. You have to candy the sliced almonds, which takes about 10 minutes (watch that you don’t heat the sugar too fast or it will form hard little sugar nuggets that will break someone’s tooth!) and you have to toast the coconut flakes (unless you have access to toasted flaked coconut, but it is a really simple process nonetheless). A little slicing and dicing, and you have the perfect summer celebration salad!

Spinach and Strawberry Daiquiri Salad Photo © Sassy Sampler 2011

Spinach and Strawberry Daiquiri Salad

INGREDIENTS

Dressing:

  • 1/4 c lime juice
  • 1/4 c honey (use agave syrup if you are vegan)
  • 1/4 t poppy seeds
  • 1/4 t Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c canola oil

Candied Almonds:

  • 1 c sliced almonds
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 c sugar

Salad:

  • ~ 10 oz baby spinach, washed and dried
  • 1 # strawberries, sliced
  • 1 c flaked coconut, toasted
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine the almonds, salt and sugar in a large skillet.  Stir constantly (especially once sugar starts to melt) over medium heat until the almonds are light golden brown and sugar has melted, about 10 minutes.  Remove nuts from the skillet to cool.
  2. Wipe out the skillet.  Toast the coconut flakes over medium-low heat until lightly toasted.  Remove coconut from skillet to cool.
  3. Combine the lime juice, honey (or agave), poppy seeds, and mustard in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in the oil and set aside.
  4. Toss the spinach, strawberries, coconut, onions, and cooled almonds in a large bowl.
  5. Top with prepared dressing, and toss to coat.

You can also make the salad ahead of time: toss spinach, strawberries and onions in a large bowl and refrigerate.  When you are ready to serve, add the coconut, almonds and dressing and toss.

Spinach and Strawberry Daiquiri Salad PDF


Watermelon Tomato Salad – say what?

That’s right, you read that correctly!  I made a huge batch of Watermelon Tomato Salad (Tomelon Salad?) and it wasn’t even a Friday the 13th punk!

I knew the weather was going to be warm today, and since we have such glorious local produce, I knew a refreshing salad would be the ticket.  I know what you’re thinking – how could watermelon and tomato (with green onions no less!) be combined into anything that anyone would want to eat?  I found the “recipe” in this month’s Bon Appétit magazine and had to try it.  I figured that since it was Bon Appétit that it had to be good, right?

Everyone who approached my sample station today was skeptical (well, except for the one customer who got all excited when he saw what I was sampling – he said his mom used to make a salad like this), and it was really fun to see their looks of wonder once they had tasted this unique concoction.  A coworker even told me that he doesn’t like watermelon OR tomatoes, yet was pleasantly surprised that he liked this salad.

Here is the recipe – I think it would be riot to take to a potluck with no explanation (it is technically a fruit salad after all, and it does taste great!).  It got a big thumbs up from the more than 40 people who sampled it, so take a chance!  I used local organic tomatoes from The Growing Garden, local organic green onions, seedless watermelon from Oregon, and goat feta cheese (which is a little milder).

Watermelon Tomato Salad Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Watermelon Tomato Salad

INGREDIENTS

2 c Watermelon

2 c Tomatoes

~ 1/4 c  green onions

1 T Lemon juice

2 T Extra-virgin olive oil

Feta cheese (to taste)

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

1. Cut (seeded) watermelon and tomatoes into equal sized chunks until you have 2 cups of each.

2. Finely chop green onions until you have about a ¼ c.

3. Gently toss the watermelon, tomatoes, and green onions together in a bowl.

4. Refrigerate salad until you are ready to eat (chill at least a ½ hour or so).

5. Measure olive oil in a measuring cup and whisk in the fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Gently mix into the salad.

6. Sprinkle feta cheese on top (either on top of each serving or over the whole dish).

7. Enjoy!

Leftover watermelon?  Make some easy watermelon ice pops!  Simply fill your blender with chunks of watermelon (there is no need to remove the seeds).  Puree the fruit then pour it through a sieve, discarding the solids.  Add fresh lemon juice and sugar to taste, and then freeze them in molds.

Watermelon and Tomato Salad PDF

Homemade Mozzarella..sometimes you win, sometimes you gain experience!to

Almost every Spring I read Barbara Kingslover’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.  If you are unfamiliar with the book, Barbara and her family decided to eat locally and seasonally for one full year by growing their own vegetables and fruits, preserving, freezing, and utilizing their local resources. The only things they made exceptions for were olive oil, spices, and the fact that the wheat for their flour was not grown in their county (but it was milled there!).  I love to read it because it is so inspiring, and it has some great seasonal recipes.  Both her oldest daughter and husband also wrote for the book: Camille provided the recipes and related commentary, and Steven supplied background information on various food issues.  I have always wanted to try making cheese, and the mozzarella recipe they offer (from Ricki Carroll of Home Cheese Making) seemed really simple for a cheese novice!

I decided that for my recipe demo this week I would try my hand at their 30-Minutes Mozzarella recipe.  I have never made cheese before, and this seemed like a good place to start.  I have talked to a couple of shoppers who make mozzarella regularly, and they also said how simple it was.  I figured I was up to the challenge.

I armed myself with the recipe, and got to shopping.  We only carry one kind of rennet, and we have citric acid in bulk, so those were no-brainers.  I waffled back and forth between which local milk to use (isn’t it great that we have a choice!), and settled on the Fresh Breeze Organic 2%, mostly because it is the organic option and I always try to go that route.

After citric acid addition.

After I had made what turned out to be my first batch, I couldn’t figure out why the milk was not curdling like it was supposed to.  I assumed it had something to do with the temperature of the milk when I added the citric acid (the recipe indicated to add it at 55 degrees, and it heated up a lot faster than I thought it would and I ended up adding it at 66 degrees), so I went and bought another gallon and tried it again.

Testing for a clean break.

The same thing happened!  I got online and started to look and see which of my ingredients was the culprit, because I had followed the recipe to a tee this time.  I finally figured out that the Junket rennet was the issue – the recipe called for liquid rennet, and we only carry the Junket tablets at the Co-op, so that is what I used.  I did do a little sleuthing before starting and found many recipes that used tablets that were very similar to the recipe I was using, so I figured I was all good.  I wasn’t all good.  Apparently when you use the Junket, you have to let the milk sit for 1-2 hours to form a “clean break“, which coincidentally was turning my 30 minute cheese into four-hour cheese!

I realized that I shouldn’t sample the cheese at this point because it was taking way too long and I wasn’t satisfied with the rennet that was available to me (I will be looking into the Co-op carrying a more-cheese making friendly rennet option!), but I was still going to finish the cheese!

Oh my curd!

After achieving what I supposed was a close-enough clean break, I continued with the process.  I spooned out the curd with a slotted spoon, but that proved to be very time-consuming as well, so I got a very fine metal colander and unceremoniously dumped the contents of the pot into it.  The above photo is what I was left with.  I know that I lost a decent amount of usable curd by doing it this way, but I just had to finish what I started and figured that as long as I had some cheese to try at the end, I didn’t care how much I lost!

After the microwave portion was finished, this is what I had!

After collecting my curd, I dumped it into a glass dish and stuck it in the microwave for one minute.  I squeezed and kneaded the curd briefly and poured out the whey that was extracted, then microwaved it again for about 25 more seconds.  By this time, I knew I was actually going to get some cheese out my experiment, so I was getting excited!

Cheese!

At this point I needed to add some salt and stretch the cheese until it was like taffy (shiny, smooth, and rope-like).  This happened very quickly.  All of a sudden I had cheese!  I had about the amount you would buy pre-made in the specialty cheese section, but doggone it, I had made this all by myself and was pretty happy (so happy I forgot to take a photo of the little mozza balls I formed with the finished product!).

If you are adventurous, I do recommend trying this recipe (although I hate to say this, but try to find some liquid rennet to use unless you have some time on your hands!  Like I said earlier, I’ll see what I can do to get some cheese-making rennet on the shelves at the Co-op!).  I’m definitely not going to give up myself – once I master this, I really would love to try my hand at making some cheddar!

Fresh Mozzarella PDF

FYI – I’m still working on a GF chocolate butter cake recipe…once I’m happy I’ll let everyone know!

Bocconcini (Mozzarella) and Tomato Salad Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Also, here is the recipe that I ended up demoing yesterday (with fresh mozzarella from the specialty cheese case!).  It is a super simple recipe that people loved sampling (I asked one young shopper what she thought, and she said it was delicious and promptly brought her father and brother over to try it!).  Enjoy! Bocconcini and Tomato Salad PDF