Watercress Composed Salad with Citrus Dressing ~ March Daring Cooks

Salad

I haven’t been living in one place for a long enough period of to really concentrate on joining any cook-alongs. It’s been over 6 months with this back and forth stuff! I’m so excited t his month to not join one of The Daring Kitchen’s challenges, but TWO!

For March’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge, Ruth, Shelley and Sawsan asked us to totally veg out! We made salads and dressings, letting the sky be the limit as we created new flavors and combinations that reflect our own unique tastes.

I’ve always made my own dressing. Probably because my mother always made her own dressing and my grandmother always made her own dressing. I will occasionally buy a dressing in a bottle, if I want a quick marinade for something, but otherwise I just find them … hmmm, ICKY! Thick and gloppy and off-tasting.

This challenge was right up my alley!

Many, many moons ago, Erie and I went to a Spanish restaurant in Queens (the name escapes me at the moment and perhaps she will chime in and let us know). We had the most wonderful composed salad – and I was surprised as I’m not usually a fan of composed salads.

Since then, this is my go to company is coming, steak themed dinner, salad. It’s simple with lots of great ingredients.

  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1 can hearts of palm
  • 1 shallot
  • juice from 1/2 an orange, lime and lemon
  • 3 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t oregano
  • s&p

NOTE: I used plum tomatoes, use whatever tomatoes make you happy.

Watercress

Wash watercress thoroughly and cut off stems. Place watercress on a platter

Quarter hard boiled eggs into wedges.  Scatter over watercress.

If using Roma tomatoes, cut into wedges. If using other tomatoes, cut into chunks. Scatter over watercress.

Slice hearts of palm into 1/4″ rings. Again, scatter over watercress.

Thinly slice shallot into rings. Scatter over salad.

Dressing salad

In a bowl, whisk together citrus juices, oregano and s&p to taste. While whisking, stream in olive oil. When ready to serve salad, drizzle dressing over the top.

Hasselback Potatoes with Bacon

Potatoes Finished
A side dish. A side dish. Don’t you just find yourself making the same ones over and over again? Rice, potatoes, orzo (no comments, Marg!) I find that particularly true with POTATOES … mashed, baked, roasted, baked, mashed, roasted, and roasted again … B-O-R-I-N-G.
If this dinner was going all the way, the potato had to go all the way as well.  I had seen Nigella make these years ago and had tagged them in Forever Summer to try one of these days.
Always to be one to gild the lily, I added BACON. Bacon makes everything better!
  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon, cut crosswise into 9 pieces
  • 2+ tablespoons butter, melted
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375º.

After peeling potatoes, place them in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning.

Lay the bacon pieces on a baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 30 minutes. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Cutting Potatoes

Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and carefully transfer to a baking sheet; let cool slightly.

NOTE: This just gets them started cooking a little faster.

One at a time place potato lengthwise on a cutting board. Place wooden spoons lengthwise along the potato. Cut slices across the short side of the potato, about 1/8 inch apart. The wooden spoons will prevent your knife from cutting completely through the potato. You don’t want to cut through to the bottom of the potato.

Stuffed with Bacon

Once cut,place potatoes on a baking sheet and insert 3 pieces of the frozen bacon into the cuts of each potato, spacing the bacon evenly and letting it poke out of the top. Melt 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter and brush generously over the potatoes and in the cuts. Reserve any excess butter for basting. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.

NOTE: Okay, so I used more than THREE pieces in each potato. THREE? Seriously?

Transfer the potatoes to the oven and bake until the outsides are browned and crisp, about 40 minutes, basting halfway through with the reserved melted butter.

Season with salt and pepper.

Baked Orzo with Vegetables

Ready to serve

So you move to a new place (or are in the process of moving) and you know one person. Granted it’s a person you’ve known since you were 10 or 11, and the sole reason for moving to this far, far away, freezing cold land. And he knows plenty of people – though you wouldn’t necessarily think so listening to him at times!

Now, I am by nature, basically, a very shy person (Now, stop laughing. I can hear you from here), and don’t make friends easily (No, really, stop laughing!) Always afraid I won’t fit in or that people won’t like me. That shyness can at times be perceived as snobbiness, but really it isn’t.

So, how to make a good impression?

Well, when you’re a foodie, it’s simple, FEED THEM! But what? When you have big eaters and small eaters and flesh eaters and non-flesh eaters and who doesn’t like this, that or the other thing, it ain’t easy!

This particular night I decided I wanted to try not ONE, not TWO, but THREE new recipes. I should have had my head examined. Not that anything was particularly difficult, but it was the first time out of the gate with these so there was an unknown factor. There was lots of chopping and grating and mincing and almost every bowl and utensil in the kitchen was in the sink by the time things started to cook, and I couldn’t have done any of this without my favorite kitchen sidekick. Thank you, dear man.

But, truly, there is something to be said for a partner who will roll up his sleeves, pick up a knife and do any task barked asked of him, and then wash all the dishes!

So, this recipe for my dear, new friend, Lisa, the vegetarian, was adapted from both Yotam Ottolenghi and the Smitten Kitchen. I came across this recipe a couple of months ago and knew I had to make this for her! It was fabulous!

Serves 6

  • 2 large eggplant, (about 2 pounds) cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 celery stalks, in a 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ozs orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 t tomato paste
  • 2 1/4 C vegetable stock
  • 1 to 3 T fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 t grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
  • 6 ozs mozzarella, firmer is better here, cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 3/4 C parmesan, grated
  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced

NOTE: The original recipe was for 4. We were going to be 6, so I made a 1 1/2 times recipe which reflects in the measurements above.  Also, I lessened the number of carrots and amount of celery

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Eggplant

Sprinkle your eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. I used this time to get the rest of my ingredients ready. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry on towels.

Place eggplant cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and a splash of olive oil. Roast until golden brown at the edges, about 20, 25 minutes.

NOTE: The original recipe calls for frying the eggplant. I really couldn’t deal with frying the eggplant, so I put the cubes on a cookie sheet, salt and peppered them, a splosh of olive oil and let them roast until golden brown at the edges. About 20 minutes.

Carrots and celery

While the eggplant is roasting, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the celery and carrots and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat.

Toasting orzo

Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more. Off the heat, add the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, eggplant, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon table salt, many grinds of black pepper and the stock and mix well.

NOTE: The original recipe called for putting the tomatoes in thin slices over the top before baking. I chopped them up and mixed them in.  Instead of mixing everything in the pan I put everything in a large bowl to mix. By this time, I had used EVERY pot, pan, mixing bowl and counter space in our kitchen, so what was one more! (Oh, my dear dish washer, you are so appreciated for putting up with a Tasmanian Devil in the kitchen!)

Ready to bake

Transfer mixture to an 8×11-inch (about 2 quarts) ovenproof baking dish (I used a 3 quart dish here).

Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. (You can increase the ration of foil-on to foil-off time if you don’t like a crunchy pasta lid.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

NOTE: We had more folks over the next night and there was enough left over to serve the same meal again! I just stirred in a little more mozzarella and poured in a little vegetable stock to make sure it didn’t dry out too much in the oven.

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