Double-Dressed Radish & Arugula Salad with Ramp-Ranch Dressing

In the odd moments where I’m longing for some clean eating, usually after days of fried food, red meats and dairy-laden dishes, I admit I will throw a salad together.

I urge you to try this new dressing technique next time you make any simple, garden salad. They are, after all, simple salads, so they are by definition screaming for flavor.

Dressing salads not once, but twice, is the perfect remedy to what would be an otherwise flavorless disappointment. You want each leaf to impart some tang when it hits your tongue. Dressing twice eliminates the possibility of that truly miserable, dry forkful of undressed leaves.

We’ve all been there.

It’s the same feeling when you get to the bottom of the nachos, and there’s no cheese or toppings left.

Don’t text while driving. Hold the door for moms with strollers. Pick up after your dog when they do their business in public parks.

Layer your nachos.

The first round of dressing includes the acids, salt and with a bit of olive oil to coat – whether that’s lemon juice, balsamic or wine vinegar.

Due to some lettuces’ tendencies to wilt, the heartier the leaf-base of the salad, the better. I wouldn’t try this on mixed greens. But hearty arugula, romaine, bitter greens like radicchio & endive or kale would work great.

The second dressing – you guessed it – is the headliner. Here I made a ranch-style dressing with ramps I saw at a farmer’s market. Scallions offer the near-exact same flavor, so that can and should be used in place of ramps if you can’t get your hands on them.

Radishes and arugula share a sharp, spicy undertone. I added some roughly-crushed peppercorns to bring the pepper theme home. With a buttermilk ranch to mellow out these flavors, I can absolutely guarantee you will like this.

At least once in a while. 😉

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  S a l a d

  • 2 big handfuls arugula
  • 8 – 12 radishes, tops removed & sliced
  • 6 basil leaves, chiffonaded 1 / 2 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns, for garnish

F o r  t h e  V i n a i g r e t t e  B a s e

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, or vinegar of your choosing
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pepper

F o r  t h e  R a m p – R a n c h  D r e s s i n g

  • 1 / 3 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 / 2 ramp, minced
  • 10 chive stems, minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dill, minced
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Mix the ramp-ranch ingredients in a small bowl, whisking vigorously to ensure there are no small clumps. Set both in the fridge for as long as possible (10 – 15 minutes) so flavors have a chance to blend.
  2. Rinse dirt & sand from the radishes in cold water. Dry. Cut the tops and roots off the radishes and slice thinly. Cigar roll the basil leaves and chiffonade about 1 / 2 inch thick.
  3. Serving 1 large handful of arugula per person, toss the leaves with the basil and vinaigrette base in a large bowl until all leaves are lightly coated in the vinaigrette.
  4. Plate the arugula & basil mix. Layer the sliced radishes into the arugula.
  5. Pour as much ramp-ranch dressing as you’d like over the top of each salad. Top with crushed peppercorns and a sprinkling of finishing salt.

Capered Salmon en Papillote

We’ve all heard the stereotype that French recipes are notorious for being highly complex – requiring hours and hours of preparation, expert-level tempering and knife techniques. But so much of their cooking is incredibly simple and so damn elegant.

It’s why France is arguably the global mecca for foodies. With an added emphasis on the word arguably.

One preparation they use for fish encloses it in parchment paper with aromatics and seasonings, and bakes it in the oven, often with in-season vegetables.

It makes for a beautiful presentation, and because it’s fish, there’s not much actual cooking time involved.

I had been wanting to try this technique for a while and finally got around to it. I wasn’t sure how achieve the moon-shaped package with a square piece of parchment paper, so I sourced a technique from the New York Times.

There’s an undeniable wow element when you’re served the fish enclosed in the package and opening it up to see what’s inside.

Just human nature I guess. Must be why wrapping paper exists. Or in my case, newspaper.

Because brine is life, I went hard on the capers. I mixed together a simple sauce to accompany the salmon with capers and thyme, to mirror the flavors used with the fish.

I remember to tell myself – simple can be incredibly elegant. The French taught us that much. I hope you enjoy this. Let me know what your other go-to herbs, vegetables and seasonings you like to use on salmon –  I bet they’d be great here.

I’m thinking an Asian-inspired version? Soy sauce, chili oil, scallions & sesame seeds?

Bon Appetit!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 6 – 8 oz. filets salmon, silver skin removed
  • I small shallot, sliced thinly
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small bunch thyme
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  C a p e r  S a u c e

  • 3 oz. crème fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon capers, minced
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon minced thyme
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *400.
  2. Cut two pieces of parchment paper, about 1 1 / 2 foot long, into large heart-shaped pieces.
  3. Place the salmon filets on one half of the parchment paper, folding over to ensure there’s enough paper to completely enclose the fish.
  4. Once it’s correctly placed, sprinkle the filets with salt and pepper.
  5. Top with slices of shallot, capers, several springs of thyme, and 1 tablespoon of butter per filet.
  6. Fold over the edges of the parchment paper starting at the bottom of the heart shape, until the fish is completely enclosed. It’s a similar technique you would use to crimp the edges of a pie so that the filling doesn’t escape while baking.
  7. Cook the fish for 12 minutes for medium-rarish, 15 minutes for well-done.
  8. In the meantime, combine the caper sauce ingredients. Serve in small ramekins.
  9. Remove the salmon from the oven & serve it immediately plating it, parchment and all, with sauce on the side.
  10. IMPORTANT: Stick your nose in and inhale that first whiff when you tear open the package.

Cheeseburger à la Big Mac

I have a love connection with Big Macs from McDonald’s.

Who doesn’t.

I rarely let myself indulge because I tend to feel sick afterward. And that was even before I watched Super Size Me. But I still crave them all the time.

Which has motivated me to find a way to recreate the same mouth-watering, sans-additive version that can be made at home, where you know full-well what foods and ingredients you are ingesting.

The key is to up the fat and salt factor as much as possible. Warning. This is not healthy. I repeat. Not healthy.

There is a fun, trendy ingredient I included as well. Black garlic. It elevates the standard Big Mac sauce into smokey, ferment-y & slightly funky sauce.  I wouldn’t use in place of fresh garlic, but since I’m big into funky foods, I will be experimenting more with it. It certainly worked here.

A cast-iron pan works just as well as a griddle that may be used at Micky D’s, especially a nicely, seasoned worn-in one that you barely (or never) wash with detergent soap.

I did not know this was a thing at first.

Lodge, a great brand that I buy from, has a guide on how to properly maintain your cast iron cookware. It involves just gentle scrubbing, rinsing with water, drying immediately afterward and applying a bit of whatever neutral cooking oil you have on hand to prevent rusting and discoloration.

In my case, my pan has built up so many layers of savory flavor that the foods I cook on it taste more complex and developed. Like a fine cheese or wine, it just gets better with time (in this case, usage).

So go with me on this one – live your best life and pig out. At least it’s “healthy” because you’re not eating the McDonald’s, right?

Here is a picture of my sweet puppy, Ina. Her favorite toy is her squeaky cheeseburger. I bet she wishes she could have one of these cheeseburgers, but she’ll have to stick with her puppy chow instead. For now. 😊

Ina

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4.

  • 1 1 / 2 lbs. ground beef, 80% lean to 20% fat ratio
  • Sesame seed hamburger buns
  • 1 / 8 head iceberg lettuce, sliced to a chiffonade
  • 8 slices American Kraft Singles
  • 1 / 2 small white onion, minced finely
  • 1 jar kosher dill pickle chips
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional as needed
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted

F o r  t h e  S p e c i a l  S a u c e

  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 teaspoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 pickle chips, minced finely
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pickle juice
  • 2 dashes Tabasco hot sauce
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

O p t i o n a l

  • 1 clove black garlic, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Prepare the beef patties. Take portions of the ground beef, rolling each to the size of a large golf ball and place on a plate.
  2. Chiffonade the iceberg lettuce very finely. Mince the white onion. Prepare to have 2 pickle chips per cheeseburger. Unwrap the American Kraft Singles and have on hand nearby.
  3. For the special sauce, combine all ingredients and set in the fridge to chill. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt (or hot sauce 😊) if desired.
  4. Heat the cast iron skillet with one tablespoon of butter. Make sure the pan is searing hot, but not so hot that the butter begins to burn.
  5. Place as many halved buns as possible in the skillet and allow to soak up the butter and brown, probably 2 – 3 minutes per batch, making sure they do not burn. Repeat with 1 tablespoon of butter as necessary until all are toasted. Once toasted, remove the buns from the skillet to another plate.
  6. To cook the patties, add yet another tablespoon of butter. Once heated through, place two rounds of beef in the skillet, and flatten with all the strength you have with a metal spatula. Sprinkle both with 1 /4 teaspoon (a dash or so) of salt. The irregular shape will not matter. Just make sure the patty is as flat as possible, while still being thick enough to hold together.
  7. After 2 – 3 minutes, flip the burgers. Place the cheese on top of each. Allow the cheese to melt completely so it oozes over the edges, cooking for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. Once cooked, set aside to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  8. Continue to cook the patties in batches until all are done, adding a tablespoon of butter to the pan before each new batch. There should be two cheese-covered patties per cheeseburger.
  9. To arrange the cheeseburgers, spread 1 tablespoon of the special sauce on the bottom of the bun. Place two pickle chips on top. Then add the first cheese-covered patty, and then the second. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of minced white onion, then a thin layer of iceberg lettuce. Top with another 1 tablespoon of the special sauce.
  10. Smush the cheeseburgers down a bit so that the cheese and special sauce have a chance to ooze together and mingle.
  11. Serve immediately. You know you can’t wait any longer!

Norwegian Breakfast Bagel

If you’re like me, over the course of your life you’ll cycle between getting queasy at the thought of eating anything before 3 PM, and waking up so hungry you shun all life responsibilities (I mean you, office job) until you have eaten.

This recipe is for those of you in the latter camp.

Since I’m a sweet food hater, my go-to in the morning is a super-savory bagel that’s way too heavy on cream cheese and piled high with something like $17 worth of smoked salmon.

To give you a sense of “too heavy,” I have unabashedly piled on a solid three vertical inches of cream cheese on a bagel before.

Smoked salmon and fish in general, being a big diet staple in the Nordic region, tends to go best with the flavors that have been mingled in dishes together there, well, since forever. What’s the saying? What grows (and lives) together, goes together.

I think of the characteristic lemon, dill & red onion combo, pickled everything, seafood, eggs, gamey meats, shellfish and lots of dairy. All the best foods, all the time.

This is how much the Swedes like seafood: they sell fish roe from a tube. I, obviously, will end up buying this.

With this being a bagel and all, there’s not much cooking involved, but it doesn’t make the outcome any less delicious. Get yourself as good a quality of bagel as you can. Do rye bagels exist? If so, they’d be perfect here.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 sandwich.

  • 1 bagel, flavor of your choosing (I went for poppyseed, onion or a grainy whole wheat)
  • 4 oz. smoked salmon
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 oz. high-quality Nordic pickled herring from a can OR smoked & peppered Norwegian salmon
  • 4 oz. cream cheese (or double that amount, if you’d like 😉)
  • 1 / 4 medium red onion, minced
  • 1 / 4  lemon, squeezed
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

O p t i o n a l

If you want to up the fishiness factor, spread a tablespoon of salmon roe on the bagel in addition to the other ingredients, before you press the two halves together.

D I R E C T I O N S

1. Cut the bagel in half. Toast, if desired, to your preference.
2. To make the cream cheese spread, combine the cream cheese, whole grain mustard, horseradish, dill and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a small bowl.
3.  Layer half of the cream cheese on both sides of the bagel. On one half, place the smoked salmon, then the minced red onion.
4. On the other half, place the pickled herring or the smoked & peppered Norwegian salmon, and top with a squeeze of lemon. Press sandwich together.