Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: salads (page 2 of 3)

Steak Salad

Summertime is salad time. But one gets tired of the usual greens topped with dressing. So, how ’bout a steal salad? That’s right: a Steak Salad. If you like steak and who doesn’t? (Unless your a vegan). And if you like salads, this is tailor-made.

Now, for a steak salad you can use whatever steak meat you like, even chuck steak—which is perfect for this entrée, since the meat is cut thin and doesn’t need prolonged cooking. I used top round; but want to go with something fancier, no problem. The carnivores in your family will love this dish, even if it is a “salad.”

 STEAK SALAD

1 large potato, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into  1/2 to 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (can substitute mozzarella, if desired)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 pounds steak,  about 1 to 1 1/2-inches thick
2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano or 1 tablespoon dried
1 package spinach, rinsed and dried
2 large tomatoes, cut into small chunks
2 medium zucchinis. sliced into rounds, then each round sliced in half

  1. Place potatoes in a medium pan with water to cover, and boil until tender (5-6 minutes, depending on thickness of potato chunks).
  2.  Meanwhile, while potatoes are cooking, whisk together in a small bowl the vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Add the olive oil slowly in a stream, whisking it in. Whisk in the sour cream and stir in the blue cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  3.  Season steak on both sides with salt, pepper, and oregano. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add steak and cook for 5 minutes on each side for medium rare (longer for medium or well-done). Transfer the steak to a platter and let it rest for about 8 minutes. Add any juice from the steak skillet to the blue cheese dressing.  Slice the steak very thinly at an angle across the grain.
  4.  In a a large salad bowl, combine the spinach with the tomatoes and zucchini. Add the salad dressing and toss the salad. Top with the steak slices.
    Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

 

 

 

 

Dressing Up Potato Salad

 Potato salad is everywhere during the summer—in Church socials, picnics, barbecues, outdoor grilling, you name it. And usually it’s always the same: boiled and cubed potatoes drenched in mayonnaise with some salt and pepper. But there are ways to dress up this favorite so it doesn’t get boring.

Basic potato salad involves placing 1-2 pounds potatoes (could be either new potatoes, russets, or specialty potatoes) in cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender (10-15 minutes, depending on size). Drain under cold running water, cut in half, quarter or slice, and gently toss with the desired dressing. My preference is for the potatoes not be peeled. They should be cooked with their skins on. Nothing could be easier. It’s how you dress them up that counts. Following are some ways to dress up the spuds and give this common dish some new zing.

Basic Salad Dressing

In a bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried), and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the potatoes and serve.

Chimichurri Potato Salad

To the basic Salad Dressing above, add 1 small red or green chili; 1 clove minced garlic; 1/4 cup chopped scallions; and 4 strips of lemon zest, thinly sliced.

Potato Egg Salad

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons sour cream; 2 tablespoons mayonnaise; 1 teaspoon white vinegar; 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped. Stir in 4 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped; and 2 half-sour pickles, cut into 1/4-inch pieces. Toss with the potatoes, and serve.

German Potato Salad (an Old World favorite)

In a large bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Toss lightly with the potatoes and serve.
Note: In some recipes, 1 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber is added to the potatoes. Then paprika is sprinkle over the dish and served. 

Waldorf  Potato Salad

(Presumably created by chef Oscar Tschirky of the Waldorf  Astoria Hotel in New York sometime in the 1890s)

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons sour cream; 2 tablespoons mayonnaise; 1 tablespoon white vinegar; 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard. Toss with the potatoes and add 1 cup small red grapes (cut in half); 4 stalks thinly sliced celery; and 1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts.

There you have it. Go at it, and enjoy.

Aloo Ko Achar – Nepalese Potato Salad

For the record, I am not at all familiar with Nepalese cooking. Or, as it is called these days, Nepali cooking. But I did come across this one recipe from that repertoire that simply enthralled me. That is Aloo Ko Achar. Nepali cooking is a time honored Middle Asian cuisine. And, admittedly, not most of us are ignorant of it, myself included. But when I came across this gem, I was hooked.

Aloo Ko Achar (or Aaloo Ko Achar/ Aalu Ko Achar) is a popular Nepali dish that is normally served as an appetizer or with a main course. I’ve discover, as many have others, that it makes a great vegetarian meal. It’s  mainly a spicy potato salad. In some versions it’s pickled potatoes, inclusive of asafoetida powder (heeng) to give it that extra tang. In other variations, cucumber is added to make it a spicy-cucumber potato salad. I decided to experiment by adding onions and tomatoes to it, and the result is the recipe given below. To purists, it may not be a true Aloo Ko Achar, but to my palate it’s a great vegetarian dish which (sacrilege!) can be served over steamed white rice for a great veggie dinner.

ALOO KO ACHAR (my version)

3 large potatoes
1/2 cup sesame seeds
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (found in Asian, Indian, or other food markets)
2 green chilies, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (optional, unless you want it real spicy)
Salt to taste
1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
2 large tomatoes cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Juice of 1 lime
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish (about 1/4 cup)

1. Cut potatoes into cubes and boil until tender. If organic, do not peel.
2. In a medium pan or skillet (I use cast-iron), roast sesame seeds unto they turn light brown and start to crackle and pop (just like the cereal). Place in a small dish or cup and set aside.
3. In the same pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add fenugreek seeds and cook until seeds turn dark brown (2-3 minutes).
4. Add green chilies and stir fry for about 20 seconds.
5. Add coriander, cumin, turmeric, red chili powder (if using), sesame seeds, and salt. Lower heat and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
6. Add onion, potatoes, tomatoes, and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
7. Add lime juice and mix to combine.
8. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve.
    Yield 4 or more servings.

Chick Pea Salad

The endless summer continues, and cool salads are still the preference. Following that vein, chick peas or garbanzos, as we call ’em, is one of my favorite dishes. Traditionally, we serve chick peas as a stewed bean dish over rice. Everyone these days is familiar with hummus, that versatile appetizer made with chick peas. Chick peas are also great in salads, as in the famous Three Bean Salad. I make a different chick pea salad. Here, it is paired with olives and fennel.

Now, fennel is something that I discovered back in my young manhood. We never heard of it in East Harlem. Once I discovered it, I fell in love with the thing. It is a flowering plant that yields a pale green bulb with a fragrance akin to anise (as in anisette). It is crunchy and slightly sweet, and very popular in Mediterranean cuisine. It’s health benefits are legion. In the past, fennel was used as a cure for indigestion, constipation, and flatulence. I don’t know about its curative effects, but is it high in Vitamin C, fiber and potassium. The thing is good for you.

This is the archetypical summer recipe. No need to light up the stove, or heat anything. Canned chick peas are fine. The whole thing takes less that 20 minutes to prepare.

CHICK PEA SALAD

3 cups chick peas (if canned, rinsed and drained)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
18 large black olives, pitted and halved
2/3 cup finely diced fresh fennel
2 tablespoons minced scallions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon black olive paste (available in fancy food shops or stores)
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 medium tomato, sliced in 1/2-moon shapes (for garnish)
1 hard-boil egg, sliced (for garnish)

1. Place the chick peas in a serving bowl. Add the garlic, oregano, olives, fennel, scallions and parsley. Mix to combine.
2. In a cruet or small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the olives, olive paste and olive oil. Pour over the chick pea mix and toss gently.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir to mix again. Garnish with tomato and egg, and serve.
    Yield: 6 servings.

Marinated Fish Salad

It has been a hot, lengthy Summer on the East Coast, and cool salad meals still reign. But one can have just so many vegetable and pasta salads. So how about a fish salad for a change? And I don’t mean canned tuna fish either, or herring in cream. I’m talking a marinated fish salad. In Puerto Rican cuisine the most popular marinated fish is pescado en escabeche or pickled fish. This is fish marinated overnight in herbs and spices and served at room temperature. In our cooking, it’s not actually considered a salad dish as such, but more of a great entrée for summer.

I’ve been experimenting with marinated fish as a genuine salad dish. And this is a recipe I came up with. In pescado en escabeche the fish used is kingfish or swordfish steaks. In this dish I use halibut fillets. But any firm fleshed fish can be had, be it turbot, cod, pollock, haddock, tilapia, even sole. Here, the fish is steamed briefly then marinated in the veggies and spices given; and finally served on a bed of lettuce leaves. With a good hunk of bread, a light white wine or rosé, or even a good beer on a hot day, it can’t be beat.

MARINATED FISH SALAD

1 pound halibut
1 medium green or red bell pepper, cut itno thin strips, then strips cut in half
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 medium oion, cut into thin strips
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
Salt and black ground pepper to tatse
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup lemon juice
Lettuce leaves (for sreving with fish)
1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2 moon shapes

1. Wash fish fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.2.  Cut fish into 1-inch cubes. Place in a steamer (either bamboo or other), or in a pan with water barley to cover, and steam briefly until cooked. Allow about 10 minutes per inch thickness of fish. Do not overcook.
3. Place cooked fish in a glass bowl. Add bell pepper, parsley, onion, cucumber, garlic, salt and pepper.
4. Combine remaining ingredients (except for lettuce); and pour marinade over fish-vegetable mix. Marinate for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
5. To serve, arrange lettuce leaves on a plate. Using a slotted spoon, place the fish salad on the lettuce; and garnish with tomato slices.
    Yield: 4 servings.
    

Salad Dressings

Summertime is salad time, we all know that. The problem has always been salad dressings. Back on the block, when I was coming up, there was no such thing as exclusive salad dressings. It was just plain ole olive oil and vinegar drizzled over the greens. Even in Spanish Harlem in the 50s and 60s this was the norm. Then, like everybody else, we started getting into the fancy individualized dressings: Russian, French, Ranch-Style, 1,000 Island, etc. But, you know what?—in my family it was still the old standby of oil and vinegar.

Now, I know times have changed, and even an old dinosaur like me recognizes that. Still, to me, salad dressings are a goof. Go to the supermarket and you are inundated by every type and blend— everything from the regulars, like Italian, Blue Cheese, Caesar, to Raspberry Walnut, Chipotle Ranch, Guacamole Ranch, Ginger-Mandarin, Lime-Basil, Sun-Dried Tomato, Santa Fe Blend, and specialty premium types like Champagne Dressing and something called “Goddess”  Dressing. All well and good. However, most are loaded with chemicals and ersatz ingredients. I discovered long ago that you can make fine dressings at home, and usually with stuff already in your cupboard. I stopped buying the fancy-dan specimens a while back. Plain, good ingredients, and in a few moments of your time you have best, nutritious and delicious backdrop to any salad.

Below are given five of my favorites. Why spend money on pseudo stuff, when you can whip up the genuine article?

BASIC DRESSING
Combine in a small bowl or cruet: 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar (distilled white, cider or red wine), 1/2 teaspoon mustard (dry or prepared), salt and pepper to tatse. Blend with a fork or small whisk. Stir in 1 teaspoon of crumbled herbs (basil or thyme, or oregano, or parsley, or dill). Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

SESAME DRESSING
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar (distille white or red wine). Stir in 2 small thinly sliced scallions, and season with pepper to taste. This is normally used over steamed vegetables or fish.

CREAMY SALAD DRESSING
Combine until smooth in a blender or food processor, 1 medium peeled cucumber, 1 scallion, 2 tablespoons fresh mint, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon sesame tahini.

YOGURT-DILL DRESSING
Combine until smooth in a blender of food processor: 1 cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons fresh dillweed, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 small yellow onion or 1 scallion. Chill and serve over cooked vegetables or fish.

TOMATO-TAHINI DRESSING
Stir together in a small bowl until well blended: 3/4 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon sesame tahini, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon white vinegar. Serve chilled over toss salad or in tuna, macaroni or chicken salad.

Following in this vein, some friends have asked me how to infuse or flavor olive oil. You know what I mean: you go into a fancy store and you see bottles of olive oil with all kinds of things growing in them. You can have the same affect at home for 1/3 of the cost.

FRESH-HERB DRESSING
Wash and dry a large bunch of fresh herbs (such as basil, cilantro, tarragon, dill, etc.) Fill a bottle with half of the leaves, and then fill with olive oil. For more flavor, you can add some whole peppercorns, 1 clove garlic (smashed), and (if you’re really adventurous) one red or green hot pickled pepper (or 1 chili pepper). Cover and store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. For a stronger flavor, remove the basil leaves and replace with more leaves. Cover and steep for another week. Strain the oil

Roman Pasta Salad

In the U.S., summer pasta salads have become ubiquitous (I love them $20 words, as my father would say). You see them at every outing or function. And it’s usually the same deal: chilled macaroni or ziti floating in a mound of mayonnaise or bottled Italian dressing, with some greens or cherry tomatoes added for color. That’s what I experienced during my youth until I took a trip to Italy—and discovered pasta salads unlike anything I had back home. No mayo, no bottled dressing, and simple, fresh ingredients. In fact, no chilling in the fridge. Back in the old days, refrigeration was at a premium, and pasta salads were made and served as is.

The recipe given follows that concept. I first had it in Naples, even though it’s commonly known as Roman Pasta Salad. If it were up to me I would call it Napoli Pasta Salad or Neopolitan Pasta Salad, but, then, what do I know? The salad works best with tubular pasta or shells. You can use rotini, penne, whatever. I used rigatoni. The dish is simplicity itself. Basically the cooked pasta is marinated in onion, basil, tomato, and black olives. If desired, you can add grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese—although this wasn’t done when I first had the dish. Also, as they do in Naples, serve at room temperature. Add a good hunk of bread, some light red wine, and you’re set.

ROMAN PASTA SALAD

5 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
1 bunch basil, rinsed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 16-ounce can black pitted olives, drained and halved
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound rigatoni

1. In a large bowl, toss and mix together the tomatoes, onion, basil, olives, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Let stand at least 2 hours for flavors to develop.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and toss the warm pasta into the salad, season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
    Yield: 6 main courses or 12 side-dish servings.   

Asparagus Salad

Summer is archetypical salad time. But in my culture we never actually considered salads as a main dish. Back on the block, when I was growing up, salad was the side dish, not even the first course. This is common to Puerto Rican cuisine. We would never dream up such a thing as a huge chef’s salad. The idea of salad as a main course never entered out vocabulary until we reached the mainland. Back in the island of Puerto Rico a salad was considered nothing more than a simple amassing of greens served along with the main course. The arrangement was simple: lettuce and tomatoes slices drizzled with olive oil and vinegar. Party salads and such were the province of San Juan debutante society. Today, of course after three generations of Americanization, our salad repertoire is as vast and various as anyone’s. 

Thus in this vein, in my family we’re always experimenting. We’ve come up with salad dishes that to some may seem more like vegetable dishes, for example using broccoli and artichokes as a main ingredient. The following recipe is within that category: an asparagus salad. I’ve always like asparagus, even as a kid. The salad given has a definitive classical influence. It consists simple of a vinaigrette spooned over the asparagus. The salad calls for raw onion rings (which in my family we love). If you don’t like eating raw onions, then soak the slices in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes, drain, pat dry, and then serve with the salad. Add some crusty bread, a light red or white wine, and you’ve got a fabulous summer meal.

ASPARAGUS SALAD

1 pound fresh thin asparagus
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon-style or whole grain mustard
2 medium tomatoes, cut into half-moon shapes
1 small or 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 hard boil egg, sliced into half-moon shapes
2 ounces fresh shaved Parmesan or Romano cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
2. Meanwhile, using sharp knife, trim and discard any tough asparagus stem ends.
3. Place the asparagus in the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes or just until the vegetable is bright green and tender but not soft.
4. Drain and transfer to a serving plate or platter.
5. Whisk together the lemon juice, oil and mustard in a salad cruet or measuring cup. Blend well to form a vinaigrette.
6. Arrange the tomatoes around the asparagus. Top with the onion and cheese. Spoon the vinaigrette over the vegetables.
7. Garnish with the egg slices and serve at room temperature.
    Yield: 2-3 servings.

Avocado-Crabmeat Salad

Summer is upon us, and it’s salad time again. In our family, the favorite salad ingredient (apart from lettuce and tomatoes) is the avocado. A good, ripe avocado to us is a measure of heaven. And we prefer the big smooth ones rather than the small, pitted pear shape kinds. Think of Haas avocados. Nothing wrong with them, but being Nuyorican, we prefer the Caribbean variety.

In the old days, before we all became more knowledgeable of things culinary, the basic Puerto Rican salad was lettuce, tomato and avocado slices drizzled with olive oil and vinegar. Or we would have the avocado separately as a side dish in itself. Party salads and such were the province of San Juan debutante society. Today, in our household, we have a salad repertoire that is vast and various, ranging from from hot and cold to pasta and buffet salads. But we still hark back to the avocado as a mainstay. The recipe given below exemplifies that ideal. It’s Ensalada de Aguacate y Juevjes or avocado-crabmeat salad. It can be served as a meal in itself with a crusty loaf of  bread, or as a salad course. Take you pick. By the way, if you’re interested in more ingenious avocado offerings, you can always pick up my cookbook Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Running Press, Perseus Books). It’s chock-full of avocado inspired salads.

ENSALADA DE AGUACATE Y JUEYES

1 pound fresh lump crabmeat or 4 6-ounce cans crabmeat, drained
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 lemon, cut in half
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 fully ripened avocados
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into slender wedges
Extra salt for sprinkling
Parsley sprigs for garnish

1. If fresh, pick over crabmeat to remove any shell or cartilage.
2. In a bowl, combine crabmeat, mayonnaise, juice of 1/2 lemon, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix lightly.
3. Cut each avocado in half, peel and remove the pit. Cut each half into 6 or 8 wedges. Squeeze remaining lemon half over the avocado to prevent discoloration.
4. Place crabmeat in the center of a serving platter. Arrange avocado and tomato wedges alternately around the crabmeat. Sprinkle wedges lightly with salt.
5. Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings. 

Heirloom Tomato with Swiss Chard and Avocado

Summer is the time to enjoy delicious red tomatoes. In winter, we are bereft. What you see in the supermarket are mealy, bland versions packed in cellophane. They are tasteless and meager. Summer comes, and tomatoes, fresh and ripe, are in profusion again. One of my favorite varieties is heirloom tomatoes. They are plentiful now. The only problem I see with heirlooms is that they have shorter shelf-life than other commercial tomatoes. But that’s no problem in the Rivera household.We eat the tomatoes as soon as we get them, knowing that come winter, we’ll be in the doldrums again.

I use heirlooms in various ways, from sauces to entrees; but mainly in salads, as is called for in this season. Recently I was at the farmer’s market and I saw some Swiss chard. Now, truthfully, I am not familiar with this green. I heard it’s considered one of the most nutritious vegetables around, ranking second only to spinach. And I’m willing to experiment. So I decided to whipped up a tomato and Swiss chard salad, just for the hell of it. And it came out pretty good. To the mix I added an avocado, which are also in profusion right now. The result: an easy, quick and delicious meal. With a crusty bread and a light wine, you can’t go wrong.  

HEIRLOOM TOMATO WITH SWISS CHARD AND AVOCADO

1 bunch Swiss Chard

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 small tomatoes, ripe but firm
1 medium avocado, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons chopped scallions

1. Rinse the Swiss chard under cold running water; and tear into bite-sized pieces.
2. In a deep skillet or pan, bring 2-3 quarts water to a boil. Add the Swiss chard and cook for 1-2 minutes. Immediately rinse in cold water and drain on paper towels.
3. Make the marinade: in a bowl, combine the olive oil and vinegar. Add salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano. Stir to to mix.
4. Wash the tomatoes and cut into small wedges. Add to marinade and let stand 10-15 minutes.
5. Place the Swiss chard in a platter or salad bowl. Pour some of the tomato marinade over them. Dress by layering tomatoes and avocado. Season with the remaining marinade. Sprinkle with scallions and serve. 
   Yield: 4 servings.

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