So, here’s a little secret to boost just about any soup (or even stew) you make—add some salad dressing. Yes, really. The acidity from the vinegar has a magical way of pulling all the flavors together, and perking them up. A tablespoon or two makes almost any soup superb, especially hearty fall and winter ones like this Slow Cooker Lentil Soup. Enjoy!
Right about now tomatoes are flooding farmers’ markets, and just like that, they’ll be gone in a few weeks. That’s just the way it goes as summer fades into fall. Canning is one way to extend the season, but that takes a bit of time not everyone has available. Another way, and one that can take your salad to the next level, is to slow roast them.
Slow roasting takes some time, but it’s all hands off. Pop them in the oven while your doing another project around the house, and you’ll be rewarded for weeks, and months to come. Stored in the fridge, with a thick layer of olive oil, these Slow Roasted Tomatoes will last for up to 2 months. That is, if you can resist eating them all at once.
I’m one of those people that loves rosemary and thinks there are places it just belongs: potatoes, bread, Ina Garten’s toasted cashew recipe. It brings a smell before it brings a taste, becoming a double sensory delight.
Having made the Barefoot Contessa recipe for cashews numerous times, I decided to apply the same principle to roasting chickpeas. They replace croutons in my salads most days, and are easy as can be to make in a variety of different flavors. They’re also great for snacking on as-is.
I thought roasting chickpeas was one of the simplest most delightful things you could do in the kitchen, until I met the lovely Jennifer Perillo who asked, “Do you peal the skins off the chickpeas?” No! I didn’t. I have 3 minutes to devote to the task of roasting the little gems, so there is no peeling. That’s when I learned that for the crispiest, crunchiest chick peas, you have to take the skin off.
Whether or not you choose to take this extra step, I leave to you. I won’t ask; you needn’t tell. (I know what I do. And I know what I’ll do when Jennifer’s coming over).
In this case, it was the birthday that was big, but the salad could be, too.
You have to admire a woman who insists on making the salad herself at her own catered birthday party, as my friend Lisa did. Especially when she also chooses to use our dressing!
The salad can be any size you want, it’s just that easy. If there’s one particular ingredient you like a lot – heap it in. You don’t like another – leave it out.
But the key here is the combination of the flavors – the aromatic fennel, the sweet oranges – and all the while the spinach provides a mellow base, the perfect canvas on which all the other ingredients can shine. It’s also beyond easy, so great for a party where you can keep making more as it is gobbled up (which is exactly what happened at Lisa’s party).
This salad was originally made to serve a big crowd. I’ve scaled it down in size to feed a family of four. Even though it’s a smaller version of what Lisa served at her party, this is forever known as the BIG Birthday Salad.
(Whether she was celebrating her 21st, 30th, 40th or 50th birthday, I’ll never tell!)
Slowing down, and savoring the moment is key to feeling balance (though we know the slowing down part is often easier said than done). It’s also the secret to enjoying this salad since the window for enjoying fresh figs seems to close as quick as it opens. On the surface, this is a ridiculously simple salad. No fuss, just our Blackberry Vinaigrette paired with peppery baby arugula, fresh figs, and tendrils of shaved Pecorino cheese (Parmigiana works beautifully, too). It offers a lovely way to end the meal, but also works well as a side salad, served with grilled fish.