Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘salad’

Here’s the report I promised, last week, on what Tom and I ate on our trip to Honduras. It’s a little disappointing: the meals were abundant and edible, but not thrilling. Most were at the lodge where we stayed, and its restaurant was heavy on choices like Eggs Benedict, French Toast, Fettuccini Alfredo, Caesar Salad, Chicken Cordon Bleu, and Rack of Lamb. Moreover, too often the menu’s reach exceeded the chef’s grasp.

However, we did manage to get some reasonable Latin American dishes. There was this Catracho Breakfast: an omelette with onions, refried beans with cheese and sour cream, sautéed plantains, avocado, and warm tortillas. (Hondurans call themselves “Catrachos.”)

???????????????????????????????

.

Huevos Rancheros were attractive, but much too bland for our taste. Otherwise-good Fish Tacos could have used more zip, too. Guess the kitchen was afraid to frighten off the gringos.

two dishes

.

On the other hand, this Tortilla Soup was the best I’ve ever eaten. We both started several dinners with it. I couldn’t figure out what exactly was in it, but I’m going to have to try various recipes soon to see if I can recreate those flavors.

???????????????????????????????

.

Another extremely good starter, seemingly very simple, was a corn tamale that tasted mostly of sweet fresh corn. I ate it with such enthusiasm I completely forgot about taking a photo of it!

.

The Fish of the Day was always good, once we could get the kitchen to just grill it, not serve it blackened, with garlic, or with basil. This one was a sea bass, we were told.

???????????????????????????????

.

I approached the Tequila Shrimp with some suspicion, but it was fine too. The shrimp were very fresh, and the sauce very good over rice, though I couldn’t really discern any tequila flavor in it.

???????????????????????????????

.

We had one lunch at a beachfront restaurant, where I had an excellent conch salad. You can’t see the conch very well, but there was a lot of it: tender and flavorful, with a light, creamy dressing. Tom’s lunch was a generous plate of grilled fish with a topping of sauteed onions and tomatoes, a mound of rice and black beans, and a raft of fried plantains. With that meal (and with many others, truth to tell) we drank Salva Vida, Honduras’s beer, an icy-cold bottle of which is truly a Life Saver in this tropical climate.

triple pic

.

The major gastronomical disappointment of the trip was the almost complete absence of mangoes. We had many fruit plates with papayas, pineapples, and bananas, all more richly flavorful than anything we get in in this country. All along the highways were huge, gorgeous trees just dripping with ripe mangoes; some of the trails we walked were littered with fallen fruits that the birds and other animals had enjoyed, but our lodge just didn’t serve them.

By special request, we did get a few tastes, but apparently Hondurans appreciate unripe mangoes – green mangoes, they proudly announced. We just don’t understand that particular preference. Ironically, the juiciest mango we had was in the tiny fruit plate served on the airplane on our way home.  Oh, well – the sidewalk fruit stands in our neighborhood all have mangoes now, so we won’t be totally bereft.

???????????????????????????????

 

Read Full Post »

It’s ramp season again. I particularly wanted to do something with ramps this spring, after having cooked them for the first and only time in my life at the very end of last year’s season. That initial foray turned out quite well, so I went back to the cookbook I used for it, Elizabeth Schneider’s Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini.

Ramps in Walnut Vinaigrette with Orange Zest is a recipe for a fancy composed salad. This was quite unusual for me. My notion of salads is pretty basic: mostly just green leafy things; sometimes tomatoes and/or onions; very occasionally a few other simple raw vegetables, all tossed together in a bowl. My vinaigrettes are made with nothing more recondite than olive oil, and I’ve never put orange zest on a salad.

But I’m not too old to try something different – am I?

Schneider’s recipe looked promising – not too elaborate and extremely well written, as all of hers are (a blessing in these days of increasingly sloppy website recipes) – and I happened to have some walnut oil in my refrigerator, which I hardly ever use. So I headed off to my local greenmarket and bought two nice bunches of fresh ramps.

They lived up to their reputed pungency as I trimmed off their roots and separated bulbs and leaves, but – also as reputed – they tamed right down with cooking. However, they required quite a bit of prep. First the bulbs had to be simmered until just tender. This required repeatedly testing each one by piercing it with a small knife blade to see if it had softened (mine took longer than the recipe suggested); and then removing them individually.

When the bulbs were all done and set on paper towels to dry, the leaves went into the boiling water for 30 seconds.Then the leaves had to be drained and laid out to dry. They were reluctant to cooperate. Unrolling and unfolding them all without tearing the delicate membranes took a while.

While the ramps were drying I grated orange zest, toasted and chopped walnuts, and made the dressing: walnut oil, olive oil, wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and salt.

I arranged a few whole leaves around the rim of the serving plate, chopped the remaining greens to make a bed in the center, moistened them with a little of the dressing, set the bulbs on top, and chilled the whole dish in the refrigerator. At serving time I added more dressing and sprinkled on the nuts and zest.

Well, the ramps certainly were mild – the bulbs were almost tasteless, the greens like very young spinach.

I’m not normally a big fan of walnut oil, but its strong presence was very welcome here. The toasted walnuts and orange zest made a nice textural contrast, and they lifted the dish into an interesting combination of flavors. I should note a dissenting opinion: devoted husband – no big fan of salads in the first place – found the dish boring and not worth the effort of eating, much less preparing.

So I don’t think this is a salad I’ll ever make again. The labor-to-pleasure ratio is not favorable enough. The most I can say for it is that it’s something I might choose in a restaurant; once in a blue moon.

Read Full Post »