A Simple Salad and its Complexities

A Simple SaladWhen I started writing this post, I thought that there wouldn’t be much to say about this simple salad.  After all, it’s lettuce, an easy vinaigrette, croutons and Parmesan shavings, but then I started jotting down what I wanted to share and I realized that even the most simple salad has a lot going on behind the scenes.

Bibb Lettuce

What a makes a salad extraordinary?  High quality ingredients are a good start and here is a list of ten tips, tricks, and tools for making your simple salad great.  Happy cooking!

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Sweet Potato & Country Ham Ravioli with a Brown Butter & Sage Sauce

Sweet Potato and Country Ham RavioliHave you ever imagined something only to find that reality doesn’t add up?  That’s how it has been with this sweet potato ravioli recipe.  I’ve wanted to nail it for years.  I’ve tested it with ricotta cheese, added cinnamon then omitted it, altered the amount of Parmesan, and tweaked the pasta recipe over and over and over again.  Each time, before I begin to make it, my mouth is salivating over just how good it’s going to be, and that first bite, every time, is just OK.  It’s terribly disappointing.

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Ajiaco: Colombian Stew of Chicken, Potatoes, and Corn

Colombian Ajiaco with Toppings

In the fall of 2001, during my junior year abroad, some girlfriends and I backpacked from northwestern Argentina through Bolivia on our way to Machu Picchu.   With a trail of dust whipping up behind us, we traveled by bus on a dirt road that wound around mountains, skirted precipitous drops, and passed by the most desolate country I have ever seen.  Later, I would learn that this seemingly uninhabitable area, known as the high Altiplano, is the origin of more kinds of root vegetables than any other place on earth.

Potatoes, Avocado & White Onion

The root vegetables, grown in this inhospitable landscape, helped support the rise of the Inca empire and to this day, potatoes and other root vegetables like yuca and maca (now notorious for its supposed aphrodisiac properties favored by the Chinese) continue to shape the economy and define the cuisine of the Andean nations.

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On TV: Ice Cream Profiteroles

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 3.16.39 PMRight out of college, I taught English as a Second Language in the coastal town of Manta, Ecuador.  My roommate was an eccentric Ecuadorian artist who enjoyed imparting advice to my young twenty-something self.  Some was useful, most, like recommending that I play paddle ball daily to get in excellent physical shape, was not.

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Curried Cauliflower Soup

Curried Cauliflower SoupI just completed my list of resolutions for 2015.  Categorized into personal, business, and family goals my list is extensive. It’s clear that I’m going to have to go without sleep one night a week to accomplish a fraction of my goals, but just looking at this list of industrious possibility fills me with energy for 2015.  Fresh starts are good, aren’t they?

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Reflecting on a Busy Year of Good Eats & Getting Hungry for 2015

It’s true what they say about babies taking a lot of time. I thought I was going to be immune.  I’m super-organized, efficient, and not prone to waste time which are good qualities for still accomplishing things even in the midst of total chaos.  Yet even I found myself stunned by how time disappeared in 2014.

For regular followers of this blog, you may remember that my husband and I adopted a beautiful baby girl in January of this past year.  It was certainly the highlight of our year and we’ve loved the past 11 months of baby giggles, first steps, and open-mouthed kisses.  While the joys are too many to count, the time crunch remains a challenge and we are still figuring out how to get everything done as hours disappear between feedings, naps, and diaper changes.

In what has to be a law of the universe, when long naps are needed babies don’t sleep and my cooking, which use to be a leisurely pursuit with NPR and no timeline involved, now involves me pleading with my little one to put on the brakes as I peel carrots into a sink still full of dirty breakfast dishes.  If I’m lucky, my baby will stop to consider my request (buying me a few extra precious seconds) before plunging herself into our dog’s water bowl.   From there, hands must be washed, the floor dried, and baby must be strategically placed in a location that will allow me to chop an onion before she pulls herself up on a floor lamp.

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Brussels Sprout Slaw with Dried Cranberries, Pecans, and Bacon

Brussels Sprout Slaw with Cranberries, Bacon & Pecans

Many people do not like Brussels Sprouts.  This is a fact.  I teach cooking classes and offer in-home catering and one byproduct of this is that I learn a lot about what people like and don’t like to eat.   List broccoli, sweet potatoes, or green beans on a menu and a client won’t bat an eye; suggest Brussels Sprouts and you get an earful.

Brussels Sprouts

Professions of hate, tales of mothers standing over cauldrons of simmering Brussels Sprouts for hours at a time to make sure they are mush, and my favorite, the clarifying statement that they love Brussels sprouts, but don’t want to offend any guests by having them on their table, are all laments from clients that I have heard over the years.

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