• Posted by Califia Suntree on July 22nd, 2014, 1:25 PM

    It goes without saying that there is no better time than summer to make and eat salads—cool, refreshing, requiring no heat to prepare, and light enough to keep you feeling good. Salads are particularly welcome at lunchtime in the hotter times of year, but lunch salads also present a huge challenge. Namely, the dreaded limp lettuce syndrome, combined with leaky tomato-itis, browning and pervasive sog. For my forthcoming book, Bring Your Lunch!, I tested countless systems and ingredients for lunch salads, and came up with a few hard truths. It’s easy and quick to make salads for lunch, but you do have to follow the rules. Here’s what I learned, plus an easy, lunch-friendly salad to try.

    * Get your container dialed. You need a spacious, leak-proof container plus a teeny one to put in there that holds your dressing, if you are needing to dress last-minute (more on that later). I mostly avoid plastic (just in case!) and use either a lightweight stainless steel or glass container with a snap lid; for dressing I like a baby food jar or a 4-ounce canning jar.

    * Keep it cold: The enemy of crispness is warmth. If you have a standard-length commute, throw your container and an ice pack into an insulated bag (there are oodles, but I love the classic/classy Gourmet Getaway Tote by Built). If it will be more than an hour, or if you don’t have a fridge at work, you’ll need a legit cooler. (How cute is this mini Playmate?!)

    * Forget lettuce. If you are dressing in the morning and eating mid-day, which is greatly more convenient than transporting salad dressing, you can’t make that arugula and tomato salad with balsamic vinaigrette. It will be inedible, watery mess after 4-6 hours. What you need is a salad base that withstands–nay, welcomes–marination. Raw kale or chard, green or red cabbage (my personal favorite), mature spinach, fennel and Brussels sprouts are rather potent freshly shredded, but delightful after a few hours soaking in salad dressing. And who says it has to be leafy? Build your salad on shredded carrots, beets, shaved raw zucchini, or grains. (This farro salad from Tasting Table would make a superb gourmet lunch.) On days that you simply must have a tender pile of raddichio, baby spinach, or red-leaf, tote the dressing separately (see above). Read on… »

  • Posted by Califia Suntree on April 25th, 2011, 6:13 PM

    For the third installation of my series in honor of Grilled Cheese Month, I decided to bring spring into the picture with pan-roasted asparagus and fresh herbs from the garden.

    Asparagus is popping up all over right now, and what better way to enjoy it than encased in ciabatta and melty young Asiago cheese? Exactly.

    To make the sandwich, start with five or six asparagus stalks, and remove the tough ends. Heat olive oil in a medium-sized skillet and grill the asparagus in the hot pan until it is blistered and softened (this takes just a few minutes). Remove it from the pan and sprinkle it with a little salt. Chop up a handful of kalamata olives and whatever fresh herbs you have handy. I used mint and garlic chives, but basil, green garlic, tarragon, and parsley all would work well.

    Slice a nice chunk of ciabatta in half and pile it high with young Asiago pressato–it’s soft and mild, but with that characteristic tang that is accentuated in the aged version (vecchio). Add the asparagus and chopped olives and herbs, and grill the sandwich in your oiled skillet. Remember to put another skillet on top to get it nice and pressed! If you were one those who succumbed to Williams-Sonoma back in 2004, use your panini press.

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