As a vegetarian, I'm often told at restaurants "Well, there's always a salad for you to eat." Not true! The vast majority of salads served at restaurants contain meat or have meat in the dressing (e.g., Caesar Dressing has anchovies). Sometimes the meat can be left off, but not always.
But seriously - what is a salad?
This question came up a few weeks ago when I first made a Roasted Eggplant Salad. The roasted veggies are warm, I serve it over warm couscous, and yet I'm calling it a salad. Why?
I did some internet searching and some stomach searching and decided a salad is the catchall phrase for whatever you want. Um... Jello Salad anyone?
It's not just raw foods (potato salad) and it's not just cold (Roasted Eggplant Salad, hot potato salad). Maybe it's a combination of raw and cooked ingredients melded together with a dressing. I'm not sure. What I do know is that I'm calling this recipe a salad. As a bonus, it happens to be vegan and have cocoa in the dressing. What!?
In other news, the remodel project continues.
New Bed (with drawers!) Oreo approves.
We have shelves up, and now I'm playing around with different arrangements of my things on the shelves. The mirrors will eventually be hung on the wall above the long gray DVD case.
New Living Room Shelving
I also started to improve the wooden table. I used the magic substance aptly named "Liquid Gold" to make the table sparkle again. OMG this stuff is AMAZING! I also removed the top of the table since it was rotten. The next step is to make a beautiful mosaic pattern on the top. Crafting in February - the perfect Minnesotan activity!
With all the redecoration work, I treated myself to a mouthwateringly good cake from my favorite bakery in town: Patisserie 46.
Flourless Chocolate Cake from Patisserie 46. I should have bought two...
I have been doing more cooking now that the redecorating has slowed down. One recent meal consisted of Creamy Celery Risotto (seriously, this tasted like cream of celery soup but better!) and roasted beets - chioggia beets that is.
I love this variety of beets because they don't bleed beet juice all over everything and they have a lovely sweet flavor that is more mild than the traditional beet variety. On the outside, they look like large pink turnips. On the inside, they look like candy canes!
I also tried a variation on my Blueberry Bliss recipe that I call Cranberry Bliss.
I think I like this version better! A friend of mine gave me the idea of the Cranberry Bliss variation, and I brought it over to a party the other day. They were a huge hit. Plus, they can be made several days in advance! I'm have a stockpile in the freezer - they are perfect for a little energy boost. These little balls also happen to be vegan.
If you have other variation ideas, I'd love to hear them!
Cranberry Bliss Makes 30+ balls (depending on the size), 30 minutes
2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup almonds (I used slivered; use what you have on hand)
4 teaspoons maple syrup
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (unsalted preferably)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 orange, zest only
Add the cranberries and almonds to a food processor and blend for a couple of minutes. You want the pieces to be minced and almost blending together but yet not forming a paste or a nut butter.
Add the maple syrup, sunflower seeds, shredded coconut, and the zest of the orange. Blend again until all the seeds are small pieces and the mixture starts to stick together a bit. Don't worry about getting this perfect. As long as the mixture sticks together, you are good.
Place a teaspoon of the mixture into your hands and roll into balls. If you want, you can roll the balls in some additional shredded coconut, but that isn't necessary.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. I like them best chilled or even frozen.
1 fennel bulb
1 cup diced tomato
1 tablespoon fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fennel fronds
1/2 cup couscous
3/4 cup vegetable broth or water
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more for greasing the pan)
Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil. Brush lightly with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Slice off the ends of the eggplant and cut into 1 inch cubes. Place in a medium mixing bowl and pour 1/4 cup of olive oil over the eggplant. Mix well. Eggplant is like a sponge and will soak up the olive oil in a second, so pour slowly and mix often to ensure all the eggplant is evenly covered with the oil. Spread eggplant on the prepared pan and lightly salt.
Slice the ends off the fennel. Slice the bulb in half. Thinly slice the bulb and place the sliced in the same mixing bowl you used for the eggplant. Stir to cover with the olive oil (if needed, add a teaspoon or two of oil to the bowl). Place the fennel on one end of the prepared pan and lightly salt. Depending on the size of your eggplant cubes and fennel slices, the fennel may cook at a different rate than the eggplant. Keep all the fennel together so you can easily remove it from the pan early if needed.
Place the pan in the oven and roast until the veggies are cooked, stirring occasionally to ensure the eggplant isn't sticking to the pan. The fennel will be browned on the edges and soft when finished. The eggplant will be shrunken and brown on the edges when finished. Estimated cooking time: 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Put all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well to combine. This may take a few minutes to incorporate the cocoa powder.
Bring the vegetable broth (or water) to boil. Add the couscous, stir well, cover, and set aside.
When the veggies are done roasting, place in the same medium mixing bowl as before and add the dressing. Stir well. Slowly the eggplant will absorb the majority of the dressing. I like to use a rubber spatula to stir so I don't break the eggplant. Add the tomatoes, basil, and fennel fronds to the bowl and gently stir to combine.
Fluff the couscous with a fork and serve the salad over the warm couscous. Basmati rice is also delicious with this salad. The salad will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator, but I prefer it on the first day since the eggplant and fennel are warm and contrast well with the room temperature dressing and tomato.