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.

Hard Crunchy Pretzels

Done 2
So what’s your favorite snack, I ask? I know my answer already ~ hands down, potato chips. I cannot even trust myself to buy them. On the rare occasion that I do I am either (a) really upset at someone or something or (b) just really, really wanting them! And then I buy the smallest bag I can find and stuff them all in my face at once ~ naturally washing it down with a Diet Coke to negate the calories!
Not so for the Dear One. Pretzels. Those Hard Sourdough Pretzels are his absolute favorite snacking thing – well, next to Cheez-Its (and I made those again for him recently).
So here I am in Maine, and bored, and waiting for him to come home and watching flight after flight be cancelled. I know! I’ll make hard pretzels to take to the airport – if he can EVER get on a plane and if it EVER stops snowing!
Once I, I could hear Ernie shouting – BUY THEM! BUY THEM, YOU TWIT!
I was a little wary about trying this recipe. Things raising, cutting them into strips, rolling it into long tubes, FORMING pretzel shapes, dropping them into a baking soda bath … YIKES … but once started, the fear washed away … a few sips of wine didn’t hurt … this was pretty easy to do.
And they tasted great. Definitely to be done again – with a little tweaking.
  • 4 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 C lukewarm water
  • 2 pkgs active dry yeast
  • 3 T butter
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling

Soda Bath

  • 1/2 C baking soda
  • 2 quarts water

Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water.

Fkour

Mix flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the flour mixture then add the sugar to the center of the well. Pour the yeast/water mixture into the well. Let it rest for 15 minutes before mixing.

Add the softened butter to the mixing bowl and knead everything to a smooth dough.

Dough

NOTE: Use the dough hook for about 6 minutes on speed #2. If it’s too dry add about a tablespoon of additional water so you can gather all the dry ingredients. Remove the dough hook and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Rolling

Cut the dough into twelve equal parts, then roll each piece on the table (don’t flour the surface, you shouldn’t need it) to about 20 inches, tapered toward the ends.

Knotting

 

Shape pretzels.

NOTE: Don’t make it smaller than 20 inches as it’s impossible to get a good shape with a short, thick rope of dough. The dough should not get too warm as you roll it out, or it might tear. The warmer it gets, the harder it is to roll. Also, my ropes were too thick. Made it harder for me to get that crunchy texture I was seeking.

Place the pretzels without covering them in the fridge for about an hour. This helps build a skin that will absorb the dipping solution better and make a beautiful shiny crust.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

NOTE: Pretzel recipes usually call for a lye solution, but baking soda is a perfectly acceptable and widely used substitute. LYE? Nope, not going there!

Ready to boil

Fill large stock or pasta pot 3/4 full and bring the water to a boil. Carefully and slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Add the baking soda a little at a time.

NOTE: There will be a bubbling up reaction when the baking soda hits the water but it’s just for a moment and then it stops. Stand back a bit just to be safe.

Boiling

Using a slotted spoon, gently drop each pretzel into the bath for 10 seconds, then turn over for another

Score the dough once like for a baguette with a razor blade or sharp knife.

NOTE: This step may have been part of my mistake. I think scoring it made them softer for a longer period of time so they had to bake for a longer period of time to get the crunch factor. Well, that and my ropes were too thick!

Ready to bake

Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake the pretzels for about 15 to 20 minutes (mine took almost 30 minutes for a nice dark crust), depending on how dark you like them.

NOTE: I ended up baking them a second time because they were too soft in spots. Don’t let them touch when baking, those spots will be soft.

Done

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Baked

We’ve had snow. We’ve had rain. We’ve actually had SLUSH fall out of the sky. Windy … well, all I could think upon opening one eye one morning was ‘Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!’ Ice everywhere. So much ice our friends won’t all drive down our driveway, and I find myself praying as I drive up the driveway, please make it, please make it, so that I don’t suffer the INDIGNITY of being watched as I don’t quite make it to the top of the hill!

Welcome to Maine! Seems to be the mantra here of fellow sufferers, or perhaps it’s a condolence from another who has not managed to escape.

As we stand outside, the Dear One keeps looking at me, mostly smiling, an occasional grimace as a blast of arctic wind finds a tiny speck of skin not covered, and asks, ‘You will be here when I get back, right?’  Ask me again when I’m not shivering in my boots … well, truthfully, the answer will be the same, yes, I’ll be here when you get back, and if I can manage the driveway, I’ll even pick you up at the airport.

(As an aside … I have spent two weeks either in slippers or my Bean boots. I have had a line from a movie constantly floating around in my head. Remember the Goldie Hawn movie Private Benjamin? The scene where she’s marching around in a circle out in the pouring rain wailing  “I WANNA WEAR MY SANDALS! I WANNA GO OUT TO LUNCH!” All I keep thinking is … I want to wear shoes! I want to wear a cute pair of heels!)

But when it’s too frigid to go outside. Well, too frigid for me to go outside, I get bored. We’ve watched all of Sherlock, The Tudors, House of Cards, Jon Stewart, every decent movie on Hulu, Netflix and Crackle. Bookshelves have been built. Every single bit of laundry done. It’s 9:00 am … NOW WHAT!?

When cabin fever sets in I only have a few things on my mind … cooking and eating (oh, what did you think I was going to say!!). If I cook or bake, I don’t want to eat. So better to cook than graze. But what to make?

Baking is more time consuming than cooking. You have to pay attention to every ingredient and it takes time. Cookies are always good. The Dear One LOVES chocolate chip cookies, and he did build a bookshelf in the kitchen for all most of my cookbooks. SO chocolate chip cookies it is! This recipe has been calling to me for quite some time, what better time to try it!?

  • 6 T unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 C packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t coarse salt
  • 1 C semisweet chocolate chips

NOTE: Room temperature is really subjective. Room temperature, in Maine, is not the same as it was in NYC. A little zap in the microwave did the trick.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Creaming

In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars with a wooden spoon.

NOTE: The allure of this recipe, besides one ginormous chocolate chip cookie, was not using baking sheets AND the Kitchen Aid AND making a huge pile of bowls and pans, etc., BUT, that being said, creaming sugar and butter together by hand is for the birds!

Stir in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt.

Adding chips

Stir in chips.

Transfer to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet; smooth top.

Ready to Bake

NOTE: A glob. A glob, I tell you. It’s the same as cookie dough that you would scoop for individual cookies. Getting it into all ends of the pan is tough. And smoothing it? HA! I tried flouring my fingers, no. I wet my fingers with cold water and that let me push the dough around to get the job done. But ICK!

Bake until cookie is golden brown and just set in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes.

I cut this into wedges to serve.

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