Thursday, January 29, 2009

Butterhead Lettuce and Orange salad with Pepitas and Cranberries

I was in Orlando, Florida for a brief couple of days in January, before my final semester of graduate school began. While I was there I went by the local citrus shack with my Grandmother to pick up some fresh squeezed orange juice. The place is nothing more than a little wooden building and gravel parking lot with sacks of enormous oranges and grapefruits displayed on rough wood stands next to the doorway. Out back the packing shed attaches right onto the retail store, which contains fresh citrus of all kinds, bottled key lime juice, marmalade, fresh juices and kitschy coconut and seashell themed food gifts for those deprived of the Florida sunshine. They have free juice samples and cut up fruit to try, which we always do, and they ship boxes of fruit all over the country.

My Grandmother regularly ships grapefruit and oranges to her ice-bound offspring in the far north. I thought this was a good idea and so I ordered half a bushel of oranges for myself while I was there. They arrived in DC about 3 days after my return and you could smell them through the heavy corrugated cardboard as I lugged them from the front desk of my apartment building.

I unloaded them in my kitchen-huge navels the size of mutant softballs, heavy with juice. Soon every nook and corner of my fridge was stacked high, but I still had half a box sitting open on the floor. For the last 2 and half weeks I have been eating oranges everyday, starting my morning off with a big bowl of the cut up fruit. Faced with a surfeit of quality citrus, I did the only thing I could do-began inventing recipes.

I know it is the depth of winter for those of us in the cold north, and salads are probably the last thing on your mind. But this salad is a flu-preventative all by itself. Packed with flavour and colour, vitamin C, fiber and healthy fats from the pumpkin seeds and olive oil, this salad will cure what ails you and is a great way to use the nice oranges that can be found in most markets this time of year.

Butterhead Lettuce and Orange Salad with Pepitas and Dried Cranberries

Serves two generously, 4 as a side salad.

Roughly 4 ounces of butterhead lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces (about 1 medium or half a large head of lettuce)

8 ounces of orange, either supremed or merely peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces.

2 ounces of red onion, thinly sliced. (about half a medium-small onion)

3 tbsp dried cranberries

2 tbsp toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds-you can use your own or buy them shelled if you prefer)

1 tsp olive oil

Juice of half a large lemon

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

About 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (to taste)

Optional: 2 ounces of feta (I use fat free. This makes for a more substantial, meal-like salad)


1. Tear up your lettuce and place it in a large bowl. Cut up and add the oranges and any juice that comes with them. Thinly slice and add the onion. Generously salt and pepper your salad.

2. Toast your pepitas in a frying pan or cast iron pot over medium heat until them begin to smell good and make popping noises. Add them and the dried cranberries to the salad.

3. Squeeze over the lemon juice, add the olive oil and smoked paprika and the feta cheese if you are using it. Toss the salad well and serve. The orange tends to migrate towards the bottom of the bowl, so make sure to dig deep so everyone gets the citrusy goodness.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blueberries and Malt?

Seems a strange combination, you might say. But I'm addicted to it and I blame it all on the King Arthur Flour Company and all those Dori Greenspan recipes out there featuring malted milk powder. Well, maybe there was only one Dori Greenspan recipe, but those Chocolate Malted Whopper Cookies sure got a lot of press! All the articles reminded me of how much I love malt and malted milkshakes-my absolutely favorite way of using ice cream in a dessert. Plus, I wanted to make the bagels featured in Peter Reinhart's great bread book, the Breadbakers Apprentice.

So I just went ahead and bought malted milk powder for dessert purposes and diastatic malt for bagel making. You can learn all about the differences between the two here. I couldn't find either of them at the grocery stores near me, so I popped onto the King Arthur Flour website, which I had never been on before, and ordered a pound of each. Since then I haven't made a single bagel (I will sometime, I promise), but I have discovered a new and gorgeous ice cream flavour combination.

Some of you may recall my penchant for making frozen yogurt with that already sweetened non-fat vanilla yogurt (organic of course) that you can find in most stores. Well, since I love all things ice-cream and am always looking for frozen treats that are low in saturated fat (no french custard creams in my house), it wasn't long before I started adding malt to my standard frozen yogurt recipe. At that point I had been making it with tiny frozen blueberries from Trader Joe's. These little blueberries (grown organically in Quebec) have much more flavour and less water in them than the huge ones you usually see, and they mixed deliciously with my vanilla frozen yogurt. But the addition of malted milk powder took the whole thing to a new level of yumminess-to the point where I eat some of this concoction almost every day for dessert.

Blueberry Malt Frozen Yogurt
Makes 4 servings, 135 calories each.

This recipe is simplicity itself. All you need are:

2 cups of non-fat vanilla yogurt (if you want to use part or full-fat you are certainly welcome to do so)

1 cup of frozen blueberries (or you may use fresh if they are in season, but keep in mind that room temperature berries will cause the ice cream to take longer to churn-freezing or chilling them makes the most sense)

1/4 cup of malted milk powder (do NOT use chocolate malt powder- you want plain malted milk powder for this recipe)


1. Dump the yogurt in a bowl and thoroughly stir in the malted milk powder.

2. Place the mixture in your ice cream machine and turn it on.

3. When the mixture is partially frozen, add the blueberries. Churn until thick.

4. Be aware that because this is fat free, it will freeze completely solid if you don't use it within an hour or two. I usually just make it when I plan to eat it immediately. Plus, the flavour is best if the ice cream is served straight from the machine, when it is still at the soft-serve stage. If you want to keep the ice cream, try adding a couple tablespoons of vodka to the mixture while it is churning (vanilla flavoured vodka would be especially good). The alcohol will help prevent the yogurt from freezing solid even without any fat. If you use full fat vanilla yogurt, the fat may help prevent it from freezing hard, but I only make the fat-free version so I don't have any personal experience trying that out.
Give it a try and let me know what you think-am I crazy or is blueberry malt just a fabulous combination that will sweep the restaurants and recipe books of 2010?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Couscous, Fennel and Cannolini Bean Salad

Ok folks, I know I haven't posted in a long time, nor answered emails, messages or even read other peoples' blogs. As we know this is a constant problem with me. After my last post on December 11 I was plunged into the heady chaos of final exams in statistics, final project papers in statistics, final qualifying exams in Anthropology and a general haze of academic overload through Monday the 15th of December, when my PhD applications were due, my qualifying Anthropology paper was due and my statistics final took place. After which I had 48 hours to buy Christmas presents and get on a plane for Belize.

But this is all far in the past now. I am returned, relaxed and refreshed after two weeks of cloudy, rainy, but at least WARM weather and time spent in the company of my wonderful family, eating black fruitcake, drinking rum and reading Terry Pratchett novels out loud to each other. I begin my final semester of graduate school on Monday, but for now, I am relatively undisturbed by work, stress or paper writing.

So I thought I really should post about this awesome salad, which I mentioned about 2 months ago but never got around to writing about in detail. This salad combines quick cooking whole wheat couscous with cannolini beans, frisee, tomato, red onion, a touch of fennel, feta cheese, lemon juice and olive oil to create a light but filling salad that makes a meal or a delicious side. With the beans and feta you get plenty of protein, whole grains with the couscous and a nice large serving of vegetables.

Frankly this salad is a late summer creation, best made when frisee and fennel have appeared in the market, but tomatoes are still lingering on before the first frost. But you can make it anytime and vary the ingredients to taste. The frisee is not strictly necessary although it adds a nice touch to the plate, and the fennel can be omitted if desired although I think it adds an important note of flavour to the whole dish.

Couscous, Fennel and Cannolini Bean Salad

Makes about two good sized servings. About 580 calories for the whole salad, 290 per serving.

1-1/2 cup cooked whole wheat couscous

1 cup cooked white northern (cannolini) beans (you may use canned, but make sure to rinse them well)

1 ounce fat free feta cheese ( Or more to taste. I use fat free feta, but if you aren't watching your saturated fat intake feel free to use partial or full fat feta cheese.)

1/2 ounce (about two tbsp) finely minced red onion (or more to taste)

1/2 ounce (2-3 tbsp) finely minced fresh fennel bulb

Several leaves of frisee for serving, plus about half a cup finely chopped for the salad. (optional)

1 small/medium ripe tomato, about 2.5 ounces

1/2 to 1 tsp olive oil (may use more to taste)

juice and zest of 1/2 large lemon or 1 small lemon (may need more juice to taste)

salt and pepper to taste


1. Mince onion, fennel and frisee if using. Finely chop the ripe tomato.

2. Toss cooked couscous, beans, and feta cheese together with the olive oil, lemon zest and juice.

3. Gently stir in the onion, fennel, frisee and tomato. Taste, add salt and pepper and more lemon juice/olive oil as desired.

4. Serve on a bed of frisee.