Who Knew?

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A while back, I saw a carrot salad somewhere that had these thin strands of–well–carrots. It looked like an interesting way to prepare them. I then promptly forgot about it and went on with my life…until a few days ago when I started this new unit on salad and dressing. Before even knowing what assignments I might have, I started searching for the gadget that provides these thought-to-be tasty tendrils. It didn’t take long to find it: the Spiralizer. It was reasonably priced so I purchased it and patiently waited for it to arrive. More…

A while back, I saw a carrot salad somewhere that had these thin strands of–well–carrots. It looked like an interesting way to prepare them. I then promptly forgot about it and went on with my life…until a few days ago when I started this new unit on salad and dressing. Before even knowing what assignments I might have, I started searching for the gadget that provides these thought-to-be tasty tendrils. It didn’t take long to find it: the Spiralizer. It was reasonably priced so I purchased it and patiently waited for it to arrive.Once it did, I was in the kitchen spinning proverbial straw into gold–or in this case maybe copper. While it took a bit of effort, the carrots came out nicely and we snacked on carrot and apple salad with a splash of Mandarin orange Bai 5 juice (don’t ask). Strangely, it actually tasted really good. In the future, I would recommend real orange juice; maybe with some lemon and oil as well.  The machine itself is not that heavy-duty and if you have a lot to ingredients to turn into spirals, I would not recommend this as the best product, but for small scale cookery, it works just fine.

As it turned out, I did have to turn in a salad assignment in which I was to make a simple salad with no more than five ingredients and make a vinaigrette to pair with it. I debated between making an upscale version of my Bai 5 carrot & apple salad and a zucchini salad. I ended up choosing the latter as it gave me an opportunity to marrying some new flavors. I used zucchini, peas, mint, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. I chose to spiral cut the zucchini with the Spiralizer which mimicked pasta and added an interesting textural component. In addition to the zucchini, I added peas for a nice pop both in flavor and texture. I paired both with mint as I like mint with both peas and zucchini, and  lemon zest to provide some continuity between the salad and the vinaigrette. The red pepper flakes added a bit of heat and needed color.

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I chose to use lemon, extra virgin olive oil, jalapeno, and garlic in my vinaigrette as I am a bit new to dressing my salads (as I mentioned in my last post, normally I eat dry or with lemon only) and thought that these ingredients marry well with cooked vegetables so they might work well here. I basically prepared my mise en place and then added all the ingredients to a bowl and whisked until all the ingredients came together. I then tasted the vinaigrette to make sure it was balanced, added salt and pepper, and tasted again. A dash more salt was added and it was ready to go.

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I was really happy with final product of the Zucchini Salad with Lemon/Garlic Vinaigrette. This all-raw dish came together rather well. The zucchini’s texture made the salad seem heartier than it actually was which allowed for it to be satisfying as complete meal. As I thought, the mint paired well with the veg; although I was a bit heavy-handed with it. Next time, I will not add so much as it can overpower other more delicate flavors. The peas offered a slight crunch/pop that I thought worked well in the salad. And the jalapeno and red pepper flakes provided a bit of heat, which I appreciated. The vinaigrette was actually better than I thought it would be (given my aversion to salad dressings). Dressing the salad actually brought the flavors together without muddying them. The lemon worked well with all the fresh flavors and actually intensified them; this was especially true with the zucchini. Overall, I was happy with the salad; albeit the abundance of mint. We had it for lunch and it provided a satisfying meal all on its own.

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My instructor was happy with my photo uploads, felt that I did a good job of keeping the salad simple and elegant using seasonal vegetables that showcase a variety of colors and textures. He felt that my vinaigrette utilized flavors that enhanced the overall dish. His feedback was in-depth and I appreciated his input. I did well on this assignment and my current grade is a high A. Can not really complain, can I?

Oh, Lucky Me!

I wrapped up the third unit on knives and am now on to Unit Four: Salads & Dressings. Here’s the thing; I love salads. I just also happen to have an aversion to dressings. Maybe I should rephrase that; I actually hate vinegar which happened to be in most vinaigrette and dressing. Before I had started this cookery school, I had decided that I was going to take this opportunity to try a few things that I had swore off. This was one of ingredients on my hit list to try, so I really should have been more excited, right? I even went out of my way to pick vinaigrette options that had vinegar in them as part of my practice assignments. I went to the store and purchased a white wine variety and still feeling positive began making my salad. When the time came to make the mise en place for the dressing, I knew in my heart that I couldn’t do it. The smell…ugh! More…
I wrapped up the third unit on knives and am now on to Unit Four: Salads & Dressings. Here’s the thing; I love salads. I just also happen to have an aversion to dressings. Maybe I should rephrase that; I actually hate vinegar which happened to be in most vinaigrette and dressing. Before I had started this cookery school, I had decided that I was going to take this opportunity to try a few things that I had swore off. This was one of ingredients on my hit list to try, so I really should have been more excited, right? I even went out of my way to pick vinaigrette options that had vinegar in them as part of my practice assignments. I went to the store and purchased a white wine variety and still feeling positive began making my salad. When the time came to make the mise en place for the dressing, I knew in my heart that I couldn’t do it. The smell…ugh!Regardless, the practice recipes included Belgian Endive Salad, Spinach Salad w/ Goat Cheese and a Maple Walnut Vinaigrette, and Salade Lyonnaise. I chose to make Belgian Endive Salad first. I actually wanted to make Salade Lyonnaise, but I did not think I would have any luck finding frisée greens at my local store so that would have to wait until I could go to a real store across the pond. I toasted the walnuts and actually found that they tasted very nice after their time in the oven. I will probably toast them again for other uses. On a side note, I also recently found out that soaking walnuts takes the bitterness away, so if that has been keeping you from eating these nutritional snacks–take them for a dip! Anyway, while the walnuts were toasting, I made the vinaigrette. It consisted of diced shallot mixed with Dijon mustard, sea salt, white pepper, sugar, white wine vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil. It was really easy to come together. To serve, I simply placed the endive leaves on a plate, sprinkled with the walnuts, crumbled some blue cheese on top, and drizzled the vinaigrette atop. While I did not try the completed salad, those who did found it palatable. So while I did not thoroughly enjoy this exercise, I did still learn a few things: toasted walnuts are yummie and dressings and vinaigrettes come together rather easily. If dressing were something I used; I would never buy pre-made again!