Thursday, December 17, 2009

Adventures in Lettuce Land

I've been on a salad kick lately.  I used to pretty much hate salads - they all seemed boring with their limp lettuces and bottles of dressings in varying colors.  Now I've started playing with them and I've discovered they're so fun!

Mache salad with orange muscat vinaigrette and herb-chevre

I especially like the possibilities with changing up the lettuces.  I'd never tried Mache before (also called Lamb's Lettuce) but it is fantastic!  Small little bouquets of mild leaves with a hint of pepper.  They are especially good with avacado.

Mache with avacado, walnuts, apple, and lemon-dijon vinaigrette

I've been so inspired that I started growing some things in the garden specifically for salads (radicchio, Chinese radishes)  and I'm hoping with my spring garden I can expand a lot to include things like endive and more herbs for dressings.

Mache with avacado, radishes, pomegranate, and herb vinaigrette

Making dressings is another new fantastic world.  The possibilities for vinaigrettes are endless and now I've even started playing with buttermilk dressings.  Those might take a while to perfect though - they seem a bit more complicated than the vinaigrette.

Spinach salad with candied pecans, onion confit, and goat cheese

The winner for best salad topping has to be the onion confit that I made for the salad above.  It's the perfect mix of sweet and tangy (almost like an onion marmelade) and paired with the mild creamy fat of the goat cheese is a match made in heaven (or in my kitchen more like).

Onion Confit

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb red onions - very thinly sliced into half rounds
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp dried fruit (I used apricots)
1/2 c. good red wine
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in pan over medium.  Add onions.  Let sweat gently until onions give off their juices and become transparent.  Stir in sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper until the mixture starts to melt.  Add dried fruit and wine, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Watch and stir often, adding more wine (or water) as needed.  When onions and fruit have melted to a jam-like consistency taste and adjust for seasoning (takes at least 30 minutes).

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