Filed under: challenge, dinner, farmers markets, local, phoenix, recipe | Tags: challenge, chickens, farmers markets, local, organic, Phoenix, recipe, salad
And away we go …
My first foray into local eating started, well, a bit chaotically. With only 30 minutes to shop at the Saturday Open-Air Phoenix Public Market I lapsed into what I can only describe as panic mode. Everything looked so good and … disjointed. Nuts in one corner, medicinal herbs in the other and somewhere in between a huge quantity of fresh produce all begging to be cooked.
Indecision was the theme of the hour, er… half hour, and after wildly swinging from idea to idea – “chevre chaud salad,” “no… roasted squash soup,” “no, something with beets!” – I finally settled on the “something with beets” choice and then racked my brain to dream up a meal involving these gorgeous vegetables. What did I decide on? Something with a little bit of everything – a Cowboy Ciao inspired chopped salad. I justified my sporadic decision with the thought, “I should celebrate the last little bit of summer before fall sets in…” and promptly purchased four beautiful tomatoes.
Everything was going according to plan until I realized that there were no dried fruits in the market, no fish and no local grain. So I improvised. After 2 panic laced phone calls to mom and $17.79 I had almost all of my ingredients, sans eggs and basil, and was on my way.
I ended up with a beautiful head of lettuce, four heirloom tomatoes, three beets, one onion, one head of garlic, local goat cheese with cranberries and pecans, a box of organic – from California – brown rice couscous and three eggs from my neighbor. Not pictured, the basil, Queen Creek extra virgin olive oil, lemon and the Trader Joe’s buttermilk which I’m pretty sure comes from an Arizona facility, although I can’t prove it.
Those beautiful eggs you see are from the neighbor’s chickens. The three hens lay different colors of eggs – brown, speckled brown and blue. The neighbors are very generous and right before I started cooking dropped by with a carton, which their son had creatively decorated to reflect their local nature. The carton reads, “Super Natural Eggs from Chickens! Uncaged, free range and angry!” Now, I’ve met these chickens and they never seemed angry to me, but clearly I was mistaken. The eggs are absolutely beautiful and I just love cooking with them. The only challenge is that the shells are much tougher than supermarket eggs, so if you’re trying to separate the yolk from the whites, it can be a little difficult to get a nice even break.
And now, onto the recipe. Anything in this recipe can be switched out according to taste or availability. It’s a very adaptable recipe, the key is to have a blend of flavors, textures and colors.
Chopped Salad with Basil Aioli Dressing
Inspired by Cowboy Ciao’s Stetson Chopped Salad
1 cup basil aioli dressing (instructions below)
2 boiled beets, diced
2 ears roasted corn, removed from cob
2 cups cooked couscous
3 tomatoes, diced
4 -5 leaves lettuce, diced
4 ounces goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing (modified from America’s Test Kitchen Aioli dressing):
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 eggs yolks
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon sugar
4-5 leaves fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
3-4 tablespoons buttermilk
salt and pepper to taste
Using a food processor, combine the garlic, egg yolks, lemon juice, sugar and basil and process for 10 seconds until combined. Then, with the food processor on, slowly drizzle in the oil until combined, be careful not to over beat, no more than 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and blend for 10 more seconds. Add in the buttermilk and blend until just mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For the salad:
Boil the beets until they can be pierced by a fork, about 45 minutes to an hour. Do not cut the tops off the beets before you boil them! While the beets are cooking, peel the husks back from the corn, remove the silk, rewrap, and soak for at least 30 minutes. Once the corn is soaking, cook the couscous by following the instructions on the box, this can take anywhere from 13 to 20 minutes. Chop the tomatoes and lettuce and set aside. While everything is simmering, soaking and boiling away, make the dressing.
When the couscous has finished cooking, season it with salt and pepper and set aside. After the corn has soaked, peel the husk back and generously coat the ears with cooking spray, salt and pepper. Grill until the corn turns golden-yellow in color and the kernels look blistered. While the corn is on the grill, start arranging the ingredients for the salad.
By this time, the beets should (hopefully) be done cooking, remove the skins and dice. Once the corn is grilled to perfection, slice the kernels off the cob. Finish arranging the ingredients, season with a little salt and pepper and drizzle the dressing on top.
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