The Cooking Chronicles: Salads for Supper

Salads are definitely one of those things I know I should be eating more often – instead of being relegated to a side, and in place of some worse-for-me things like white rice. I’ve only made the recent discovery that salads don’t have to involve greens (read: lettuce, arugula, spinach) of any kind, and moreover, don’t have to be served cold. Imagine that!

Rice Noodle Cucumber Salad

A rice noodle cucumber salad from Rose Murray’s A Taste of Canada seemed like a great way to combine Asian pantry essentials (fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, vermicelli noodles) with fresh farmers’ market produce: I had picked up a red pepper and a cucumber from Doef’s Greenhouses, as well as ground pork from Irvings. While not as dish consuming as our asparagus and poached eggs recipe from a few weeks back, we still ran through a few pots and pans to pull everything together.

Rice noodle cucumber salad

The result? An interesting combination of flavours and textures – from the heat of red chili flakes to the salty punch of the soy and fish sauces, and the sweet crunch of the cucumber and bell pepper – it’s definitely not your typical green salad. In hindsight, I would have included more pork and vermicelli for additional protein and balance – while the salad made a light meal great for a hot summer night, by late evening, we were both looking for something to nibble on.

Warm Spinach Salad with Yankee Fish Cakes

Okay, this is a green salad. But it’s served warm! I used the balsamic dressing from Company’s Coming that I have made before (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, honey, mustard, salt pepper), as well as the idea of adding sautéed mushrooms (this time, meaty Portobello from Mo Na). They warmed – but didn’t wilt – the Sundog Organics spinach nicely.

What really made this a meal, however, were the Yankee fish cakes. Many of the recipes in Saveur’s June/July market issue caught my eye, but this one most of all. I’ve never made fish cakes before, but with such an easy and delicious recipe, I know I will be making them again soon.

While the haddock (from Ocean Odyssey) cooked down with cream, onions and celery, I was able to pull together the flavourings and binding agents – minced pickle, Tabasco, dill, mayo, lemon zest, lemon juice, an egg and breadcrumbs. We added the cooled fish mixture, combined the mixture, and formed eight fish cakes. The last step was to coat them in cornmeal, and let them set in the fridge for half an hour.

Fish cakes for the fridge

Frying them in a hot, butter-coated skillet was the easiest part…or was it eating them? Mack and I both declared the recipe a winner – I loved the cornmeal coating, for its grainy sweetness, and firm, yet textured interior (the celery, for example, retained its crunch). And the haddock definitely came through it all.

Yankee fish cakes on warm spinach salad

Eaten with the warm spinach salad, it was a really satisfying meal. Thanks, Saveur!

Salad Nights: The Greenhouse

Mack and I were attending a seminar over the supper hour on Wednesday, so needed a place near the University to grab some take-out. I remembered Chris’s post on The Greenhouse, a salad bar that shares a space with the Good Earth Cafe on campus, and after consulting their website, decided to give them a try.

Salad bars are all the rage in larger metropolises, and fall into the trend towards healthy, fresh fare. Though The Greenhouse does have an option for the “undecided”, I was impressed by their very creative menu. For example, the “Sleepless in Seattle” features a Bailey’s and espresso dressing and  white chocolate garnish. The Caribbean-inspired “You Jerk”, includes (of course) jerk chicken, mangoes and a coconut lime vinaigrette – these are definitely not your average salads! I also like their “80% healthy, 20% naughty” philosophy – in moderation, particularly when the base greens are nutritious anyway, it’s only right to include some *other* embellishments!

I called in my order about a half hour before, and when we arrived, we found our meal nearly ready, and took some time to chat with the friendly owner while waiting. They’ve been open for about four months, and though many of their customers have been calling for their expansion, he said they are still coming to terms with this location. We commented on the lovely decor – bright green walls with red accents and a cozy fireplace – he responded that they had to do quite a bit of work to liven up the space. The only change we would have recommended would have been an easier-to-read menu. Posted high above the order counter, the font size could have been increased somewhat.

Interior

Once settled into our seminar room, we opened up our boxes. Unfortunately, for the price we paid, we were expecting a larger serving. Mack had ordered a large Sol Caesar ($12), which had a blackened chicken breast, sundried tomatoes, turkey bacon, whole-wheat croutons, Pecorino cheese and a golden Caesar dressing. While he loved the croutons and the cheese, he would have preferred a more traditional creamy Caesar dressing, or to have had no dressing at all, particularly as his salad had been quite overdressed.

Sol Caesar

I had ordered a soup and salad combo ($11.50). The tomato chickpea soup (one of their two soups of the day) was disappointing – there were no chickpeas! The Greens and Protein salad was great though – the lemon and roast garlic steak (albeit a small portion) was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and I loved the inclusion of eggs (a play on steak and eggs, perhaps?), edamame beans, chickpeas, peanuts, apricots and camembert. The slightly thicker consistency of the balsamic dressing was also appreciated, even though my salad was also overdressed. The proetin variety in my salad left me completely satisfied, though it is worth noting once we returned home after the seminar, we were both hungry again.

Greens and Protein

I would consider going to The Greenhouse in the future, if not only to see what other innovative salads they have introduced to their menu (on special that day was Tandoori chicken), but I would look to supplementing the meal with something else.

The Greenhouse
8623 112 Street
(780) 757-1731
Open daily 11am-7pm