zucchini fritti, lemon and parmesan salad

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, italian parsley,parmesan and pine nuts

This past week in the month of March has been eventful; what with the Ides of March, Saint Patrick’s Day and the Feast of San Giuseppe going on, you can’t help but notice there’s transition in the air. One foot in front of the other, steadfastly marching toward — Spring.

It’s going to be a few more weeks (at least where I live) before true, seasonal produce will start to influence the next half year of my cooking; garden seeds are starting to sprout and trees are budding somewhere with the promise of summer fruit.

Although I think of them as a full-blown summer kind of thing, at this time of year I’m not ashamed to take advantage of cute little zucchini grown in far more southern climates than the one I live in, to help bridge the gap between darkness and light; brown root vegetables and green, leafy plants.

I’ve been getting itty-bitty zucchini at my local Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods markets over the past few months and this salad has become a major craving. It’s a personal preference, but I like small zucchini best, for this recipe and in general; I find as they mature and swell to a diameter larger than about an inch and a half, the flesh will likely have more seeds and become waterlogged and soggy when cooked.

zucchini fritti salad with lemon and parmesan

It could be the inclusion of lemon that gives this combination of ingredients a spirit of freshness, making me think of impromptu, warm weather eating, something I’m looking forward to.

My appetite was sparked a while back by a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, a blog I am both inspired by and admire from afar. I appreciate Gwyneth’s obvious passion for  food. And while I can relate to her clean, modern, yet down-to-earth style aesthetic I have to leave the $150 sweat pants in a neatly folded pile at her web store. Food I will indulge in; my fashion budget is far less opulent.

Shopping aside, Gwyneth has great taste – zucchini fritti are delicious and dare I say healthy (…yes, I did). I took her idea and ran with it. A light coating of rice flour and a little hot olive oil transforms the neutral nature of zucchini and makes me think of tempura.  You could easily eat fritti all on their own as a crunchy snack, but making a salad with the hot, crisp zucchini turns this into a simple meal.

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, parsley and parmesan

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, parsley and parmesan

Serving Size: serves 2 - 4

Ingredients

  1. ¾ pound baby or small zucchini, between ½ - 1 inch in diameter
  2. ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  3. 2 – 3 tablespoons brown or white rice flour
  4. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. ½ lemon, cut into wedges
  6. Salt
  7. ¼ cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
  8. ½ cup picked Italian parsley leaves
  9. Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, for shaving

Instructions

  1. Slice the zucchini into coins about 1/2-inch wide; put them in a bowl with the onion and toss with enough rice flour to coat evenly.
  2. Heat a 12-inch (preferably non-stick) skillet over medium high heat until hot. Pour in the olive oil and heat until it just begins to shimmer.
  3. Put the zucchini-onion mixture and lemon slices into the pan, cut side down. Season with a generous pinch of salt and cook undisturbed for 2 or 3 minutes, until the zucchini turns dark golden brown on one side.
  4. Flip the zucchini over, either by shaking the pan or with a wooden spatula, to cook the other side. Add the pine nuts to the pan and sprinkle with a little more salt.
  5. Remove from the heat; stir in the parsley. Squeeze the juice from the fried lemons over the salad and serve right away topped with shaved cheese.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/zucchini-fritti-lemon-and-parmesan-salad/

escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Lentil-escarole-salad-with-roasted-sweet-potatoes

I’m on a roll with my Italian bitter greens, looks like. I grabbed a bunch of escarole yesterday while I was grocery shopping, bypassing the baby spinach-arugula-mixed lettuce I’ve gotten into the habit of buying.

Do you remember the time before prewashed salad came in plastic boxes? It seems like a lonnnnng time ago when I used to buy fresh, whole heads of lettuce, wash and dry them in my salad spinner. I know! The labor! The convenience of those containers of greens has made me lazy, I regret.

There’s a lot to be said for choosing whole heads of salad greens. For one, there are certain varieties that don’t come packaged in a little box – like Little Gem, which is like a small, tender version of Romaine. And speaking of Romaine, whenever I buy a head of it to make homemade Caesar salad instead of those bags of pale, wilted hearts, I appreciate how great Romaine is: leafy, crunchy and sweet.

escarole

But back to the subject – I didn’t mean to go off on a salad tangent. Actually, when I was growing up escarole rarely appeared raw in a salad. Rather it was the star – along with tiny meatballs – in a delicious soup my mom would make for holidays or what came before the main course at family weddings. I’m going to have to scout out that recipe…

Escarole was made for a hearty, wintery salad like this one. I cooked tiny black lentils and mixed them with some leftover roasted sweet potatoes. The contrast of colors in the bowl perked up the gray day outside, in a big way.

lentil-salad-with-escarole-and-sweet-potato

escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Serving Size: serves 4

Any size or color lentils will be great in this salad, However, I like tiny green French or black lentils because they keep their shape after cooking

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup lentils – any size or color
  2. Salt
  3. 1 shallot, finely chopped
  4. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 2 teaspoons wine or sherry vinegar
  6. Fresh ground black pepper
  7. 1 small bunch escarole, outer leaves removed
  8. 1 cup diced, roasted sweet potatoes *

Instructions

  1. Cook the lentils with 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan of boiling water about 25 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Drain the lentils and mix in a bowl with the shallot, olive oil, vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper.
  3. Trim off the stem of the escarole and slice into bite-sized pieces; add to the lentils along with the sweet potatoes and toss together.

Notes

*To roast sweet potatoes, cut into wedges or chunks (no need to peel) and toss on a baking sheet with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven about 20 minutes, until tender and lightly brown.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/escarole-lentil-salad-with-sweet-potatoes/

Toasted Orzo Salad with Lemon and Chickpeas

Toasted Orzo Salad with Lemon and Feta

I could cook pasta every night of the week and make everyone happy. But at the same time I like to make a meal that falls under my definition of “healthy” and “delicious”.

Orzo is familiar as a side dish or floating in soup, but I find that toasting it first and mixing it with lots of vegetables makes it ten times more complex and interesting.

I’ve played on the Greek heritage of orzo in this recipe and borrowed from the Mediterranean pantry by using chickpeas, cumin, lemon and tangy feta cheese. I would serve this on a pile of arugula and call it lunch or dinner.

Toasted Orzo Salad with Lemon and Chickpeas

Serving Size: serves 4

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup orzo pasta
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  4. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  5. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
  7. Freshly ground black pepper
  8. 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
  9. 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  10. ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  11. 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  12. 1/2 cup chopped seedless or Persian cucumber
  13. Baby arugula greens

Instructions

  1. Warm a dry 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat; add the orzo and toast until golden brown and nutty-smelling, about 10 minutes, tossing the pan frequently. Remove from the heat and cool.
  2. Bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente. Drain and transfer to a bowl along with the butter, stirring until butter melts completely.
  3. Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper; pour over the orzo. Add the chickpeas, pine nuts, dill and cucumber to the bowl and gently toss together. Top with the cheese and serve over the arugula.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/05/toasted-orzo-salad-with-lemon-and-chickpeas/