Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A socks-rockin salad-off: The winners, and their recipes

Catch up here!

BigJeff spent awhile counting up the votes, and then we all gathered 'round to hear his pronouncement. Without further ado:

Third Place:
A goat cheese, dried cranberry, pistachio, and couscous salad. Made! I know, I know, I'm family so I probably won illegally, but I'll fight you if you try to take away my prize, a charming pair of metal tongs.

Goaty, Nutty, Fruity Whole Wheat Couscous Salad
by Soopling

2 cups whole wheat couscous (instead of the now-out-of-stock quinoa you were originally aiming for)
1.5 cups dried cranberries (from bag miraculously in pantry when you thought you'd eaten them)
1.5 cups roasted, unsalted pistachios (plus a few handfuls for snacking while you make the salad)
7 or 8 ounces, or 1 large log goat cheese (left over from a Greenteam anniversary party)
1 cup chopped scallions (which sits in your fridge, for soba)
1/2 cup lemon juice (from fresh fruit, or from a bottle when you realize you forgot to buy some)
1/2 cup good olive oil (that your friends brought back from Italy for you)
Mixed greens (that you've stolen from your roommate)
2 tablespoons sugar

Bring two cups of water and a little salt to a boil. In a large pot, measure out two cups of couscous, spilling some all over the counter as you do so. Pour the boiling water over the couscous, stir, cover, and then let stand. After five minutes, uncover and fluff up the grains using a fork. Let cool.

In the meanwhile, combine your shoddy bottled lemon juice (or your delicious, fresh-squeezed lemon juice) with olive oil, sugar, several generous grinds of black pepper, and a sprinkling of salt. Use your couscous-fluffing fork to blend together, or use an actual whisk, you lazy ass. Set aside.

Use a large knife to attempt slicing the log of goat cheese into cute little chunks and become dismayed when the cheese adheres to the knife and does not slice. Give up and break up cheese into large, ungainly chunks with your fingers instead. Set aside.

Add cranberries, pistachios, and scallions (reserving a handful of each to top the salad later) to the cooled couscous. Stir in the lemon-olive oil mixture. When well combined, add the goat cheese chunks and toss gently (again, reserve a handful of goat cheese for later).

Line the bottom and sides of your serving bowl with the mixed greens. Spoon the couscous salad on top, cursing when all the greens sink to the bottom and become obscured. Arrange some new greens around the edges of the couscous like a ridiculous wreath. Top with remaining goat cheese, pistachios, cranberries, and scallions, and a few more grinds of black pepper and salt. Serve at room temp. Feeds 8, or 30-35 rambunctious salad-off participants.

Second Place:

C-Monkey's potato salad, which boasted the addictive combination of bacon, pickled jalapeños, and cumin. He received an bright red, eco-friendly colander for his achievement.

The Squealing Kaiser
by C-Monkey

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz (half-pack) bacon
2 pounds red-skinned new potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt
4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled, coarsely chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 heaping tablespoon chopped, seeded, and drained pickled jalapeño chilies from jar, and 2 tablespoons reserved liquid

Toast cumin seeds in heavy small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and cool. Using a spice grinder, coarsely grind cumin seeds. Transfer to medium bowl. Whisk in lemon juice, then oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead; let stand at room temperature.)

Cook bacon to your preference, and chop or crumble. Set aside.

Place potatoes in large pot. Add enough cold water to cover and 1 tablespoon salt. Boil potatoes until tender when pierced with skewer, about 8 minutes. Drain. Transfer to large bowl.

To the potatoes, add eggs, green onions, red onion, cilantro, jalapeño chilies, bacon, and 2 tablespoons chili liquid. Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl.

Serve warm or at room temperature. This salad can be made 2 hours ahead; let stand at room temperature.

First Place!

Latecomer HertzSoGood slipped in with a savory barley, wild rice, and asparagus salad, and managed to take top prize, winning a pair of beautiful wooden salad servers. Hooray!

Barley, Wild Rice, and Asparagus Salad with Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette
adapted from Once Upon A Tart...
by HertzSoGood

2 cups cold salted water (for rice)
1/2 cup wild rice (rinsed in a bowl with cold water and drained)
4 cups cold salted water (for barley)
1.5 cups barley (also rinsed in a bowl with cold water and drained)
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1 pound fresh asparagus (break off tips and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces)
1 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, and diced
Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette (see below)

Place 2 cups water and rice in large saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes, until the rice is tender but still chewy. (DON'T OVERCOOK!)

While rice is cooking, put 4 cups water and barley in a separate saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, until barley is tender to the bite but not mushy. (DON'T OVERCOOK!)

Remove both pots of grain from heat and drain each separately in a colander. Then dump both together in one big bowl. Warm oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat. Add the ginger and saute until until golden brown. With flame still high, add asparagus. Stir frequently until asparagus is tender. (DON'T OVERCOOK!) When it's done, dump everything in the pan on top of the grains.

Just before you serve the
salad, pour the vinaigrette over the grains and vegetables, add the salt, and toss it all with your hands (or a large spoon if you're too wussy to use your hands). Add the avocado cubes midway through the tossing. Serve right away, at room temp.

Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons-ish)
1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

Whisk together all the ingredients except the oil in a bowl. Then add the oil in a slow, thin, steady stream while whisking. Try to form a smooth, creamy emulsion, so that the oil doesn't separate later and sink to the bottom of the

And so...
Runaway birthday balloons, floating off into the sky.

We had spent many great, joyous hours in the park, but after the winners were announced it was pretty much time to call it a day. Happy birthday BigJeff, and congratulations everyone! If there's a future salad-off in the works, you can bet I'll show up with my grain-game on. Wooden salad servers, you SHALL BE MINE.

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