Greetings from House Morell, where I’m reaching into the fridge to pop open some champagne. I just survived my yearly physical, and it seems I have not only managed to avoid contracting any ghastly ailments but have lost a surprisingly significant amount of weight since this time last year. (Yes, I understand sipping champagne with lunchtime leftovers won’t help keep off the blogger bottom, but I promise this will be a quick celebration.)
Wow, seems hanging with vegan boy has had its advantages. To be clear, he’s really a sort of 80/20 vegan. That is to say 80 percent of the time he’s feasting on fruits and veggies and whole grains. And the other 20 percent he’s sneaking a bit of steak or enjoying a slice of pizza or sampling a taste of one of my (all-butter) peach cobblers. With ice cream. Perhaps the term should be vegan-ish? That would make me vegetarian-ish I suppose, as I flatly refuse to surrender butter, yogurt, cheese, or eggs. And I’m quite happy to partake of a bit of meat from time to time.
Over the past six months, the big difference is that dinner at House Morell features a whole lot more food like this fabulous salad. This summery combo is a mashup of salads from two of my current cookbook crushes: Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden and Bringing it Home by Gail Simmons. I pulled my favorite veggies from each, tossed in a handful of farro and piled everything over a bed of darling red-striped beet leaves and deep-green baby spinach leaves. I used a bit of shaved ricotta salata for a salty contrast, but you could use any of your favorite cheeses - feta or cotija would work nicely. I then dressed that summer salad party with a smoky cajun dressing created by my youngest son - otherwise known as the perennially picky eater. The kid has always liked spice. The contrast of the sweet corn, pepper and tomato elements with the spicy smoky dressing is dreamy.
I set out to grill my corn and peppers, but seems during the two-week house party that happened at House Morell while we were romping around out west, our “roommates” ran out all the gas in the grill. (I was only mildly annoyed - I’m actually quite delighted they were cooking). In fact I received a picture of the cajun-dressed salad with the caption: “Mom! You’d be so proud - I made salad.” I was indeed.
But I digress. My corn and peppers ended up oven-roasted instead of grilled. If you have a grill pan, you can grill them indoors as well. The rest of the elements are quite flexible. I’m crushing on the peppery bite of radishes in my salads at the moment, but feel free to edit the elements according to your whims and contents of your crisper drawer. I do heartily recommend you try a batch of that spicy salad dressing though.
And with that, I offer a toast to healthier eating.
A few things I’ve been crushing on lately:
I keep chipping away at my summer reading pile and have another recommendation. I just finished The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda - It was one of those wonderful books that you didn’t want to end. I was captivated by the parallel stories of a young Indian medical resident in Houston and his childhood friend struggling through a terrifying arranged marriage back home.
While folding my piles of laundry yesterday I listened to a pair of fabulous How I Built this Podcasts - Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill (I will never buy grains from any other purveyor again) and Maureen and Tony Wheeler of Lonely Planet (I’m packing my bags…). Guy Raz rocks. He makes laundry fun.
And I know I was insanely late to the party, but we binge-watched Big Little Lies while on vacay - now we completely understand the obsession. Could Season 2 possibly be as good? I'm not so sure...
Summer Vegetable Salad with Farro and Ricotta Salata and Cajun Dressing
Serves 4 as a main course, more as a side dish
- 1 cup cooked farro
- 2 cups (loosely packed) baby beet leaves
- 2 cups (loosely packed) baby spinach leaves
- ¾ cup cherry or sun gold (or a mix) tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup ricotta salata, thinly shaved (other salty cheeses like feta or cotija would work nicely as well)
- ½ cup radishes, halved and sliced thin
- 2 ears corn on the cob
- 1 red pepper
- 1 orange pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives (optional)
The Cajun salad dressing
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 teaspoons creole spice blend (you can use your commercial favorite, or make your own)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 teaspoons whole grain mustard
- ¾ cups olive oil
- ¼ cups red wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon tabasco (or your favorite hot sauce)
Make the dressing:
- Place all the salad dressing elements in a small mason jar, shake until well combined.
Assemble the salad:
Cook the farro according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
Roast or grill your corn and peppers: Brush the shucked corn on the cob with a bit of olive oil. If you are grilling them, brush the peppers as well. Grill them over medium heat - about 8 minutes for the peppers (turn them a few times) about 12 for the corn. If you are roasting the veggies, preheat the oven to 425 F. Chop the peppers into 1 inch chunks, toss them in a bit of olive oil, and place them on one side of a cookie sheet. On the other side of the cookie sheet, place the corn. Roast the veggies for about 20-25 minutes, or until a bit charred.
Once the corn is cooled, cut it off the cob.
Toss the baby beet and/or spinach leaves in the bottom of a wide bowl. Arrange the salad elements on top of the leaves. Toss with a few tablespoons of the dressing, according to taste (careful to not use too much - it’s spicy!)