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Bacon Cauliflower Wheat Berry Salad

Bacon Cauliflower Wheat Berry Salad - anneliesz Sometimes where we end up isn’t where we thought we’d go. There was a season in my life where I refused to cave into procuring a leather jacket because I wanted to be able to live overseas at a moment’s notice. Somehow that jacket unwittingly became the symbol of not settling down into a lifestyle in the U.S. At the time, South Asia held my focus, even if I didn’t know exactly how to make that move a reality.
 
We moved last week. But instead of crossing the Pacific Ocean, we crossed the nearest freeway driving south. Reasons like a string of yarn that’s still unspooling went into us making the move.
 
As a working artist, we wanted a space big enough to water small ideas and let them stretch and grow. Upon entering houses 1, 2, 3, and finally 4, I envisioned the books I might write at the desk facing a mature Meyer Lemon tree, the photos I might take from the single pane window with its yummy West-facing light. I even caught a glimpse of the poems to be penned in the sunny Bay window of a kitchen. Finding the right space for us felt like a scavenger hunt except instead of looking for clues in the open, I hunted consistent patches of light and considered the bones of the building itself. We would be leaving an apartment that sometimes gobsmacked visitors with its bright disposition of long French windows, light filtering into each room.
 
It’s an interesting thing, thinking about the constraints of creativity. When given a small canvas, you make the most of its surface space, but a large canvas requires something different from the painter. Musically, Nathan’s band of disparate intellectuals are gelling and sounding in sync in a way that it might be time soon to lay down permanent tracks of their progress. The notion that he can play plugged in without disturbing neighbors down the hall or downstairs is a kind of freedom. As I write this, my office is in cardboard boxes, the wall of the room itself getting scraped, primed and then ready to open for the business of unboxing its bits. This too is an exercise in patience, of a perseverance in writing even when the conditions of the writing is not optimal. Where I knew the windows best for setting up foodscapes in my former dwelling, I have yet to discover which window and time will become my favorite retreat for interesting light.
 
In December, we visited Edgar Allan Poe’s house and it inspired us in two very distinct ways that played out as we looked for our first house. First, his study and bedroom were almost inter-connected. I could envision him lying on his bed, a line coming to mind and leaping up to walk the short distance from leisure to livelihood. Secondly, his home informed his writing and specifically one room spoke into the idea behind one of his stories (more of this in an upcoming post). It fascinated me to think how a space can worm its way into your work. How the space in which we create is part of the toolkit joining the camera, notebook, or guitar.
 
Most days the feel and groove of the new neighborhood makes it seem like we moved to a new city. It’s been only a week and still the sounds surprise me. A rooster crows down the street in the morning and afternoon. Hens gab engulfed in the gossip of backyard goings-on next door. The booming bass of music rattles the window up front as a car passes by. A seagull screeches in its circle above the tops of the trees.

 

Bacon Cauliflower Wheat Berry Salad - anneliesz
When the move began to seem imminent, I began scouring our pantry for foods better eaten now than packed in one of the many cardboard boxes and reusable cloth bags. And, there they were, gleaming pearls in the shelf of whole grain filled jars. Wheat berries offer a hefty chew and hearty addition to a lunchtime salad. Though we are certainly in the throes of Spring, the humble and under-appreciated turnip turned up into this February salad too. I’m harboring plans for fall and winter to pursue the potential in this root vegetable even as we are decidedly in asparagus and pea season.
 
But like a good poem, a recipe is never too late in arriving. It comes just when it needs to, even after a gestation period that turned out to be longer than intended. Even after we end up surprising ourselves with the courage required to take our creative work deeper by rooting down and filling new rooms with ideas. Even if there’s still no room for a leather jacket.
 
Bacon Cauliflower Wheat Berry Salad - anneliesz

Bacon Cauliflower Wheat Berry Salad

Makes 4-6 servings
 
2 1/2 cups cooked wheat berries
1 cup peeled and chopped turnip
1 cup chopped cauliflower stalks
2 slices bacon
3 tablespoons sliced leeks, whites only
1 Swiss chard leaf, chiffonade
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 tablespoon tahini
1 lime, juiced
 
Place the wheat berries in a large bowl. Steam the turnip and cauliflower stalks until fork tender. Add them to the bowl with wheat berries. Meanwhile, fry the bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon. Saute the leeks, Swiss chard, salt, and pepper in the bacon fat until cooked down, about 4 minutes over medium low heat. Add the cooked Swiss chard to the bowl of wheat berries. Mix together the tahini and lime juice. If it’s too thick, add 1/2 teaspoon of water. Pour the tahini sauce over the wheat berries. Toss and serve.
 
PS- This salad is best eaten on the day it’s made. (Try to stop yourself after it’s just tossed).
 
PPS- Make this salad gluten-free by swapping out the wheat berries for brown rice. It’s got a similar grit and sense of self-import that matches the swagger of this salad.
 
PPPS- Stash the cauliflower florets to use in a different recipe. I like to take stock and provide ideas for using the less pretty bits of vegetables like cauliflower stalks. If the size shown here is too ungainly, feel free to chop them into smaller chunks.
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Lagarta Lodge Ensalada de Palmito

COSTA RICAN RECIPES- Lagarta Lodge Ensalada de Palmitos

A former roommate of mine, Lisa, first introduced me to hearts of palm years ago. Picking my way through eating all during childhood, I missed a lot. When I first caught sight of the heart of palm in one of her salads (Lisa has the gift of salad-making), I was skeptical. Perhaps downright dubious. I didn’t know what the white flecks were and bet I wouldn’t like them. But that night, she made me a believer in the beloved palmito. I might even want to name a son after it. Then again, I’m not sure how Nathan might feel about a son named “Heart of Palm” (though it sure sounds cute in Spanish). Palmito. Maybe it could be the name of a bird instead…

While celebrating the arrival of the new year with family at the Lagarta Lodge in Nosara, Costa Rica, I spotted Ensalada de Palmito on the menu. Nathan and I split this salad and wiped the dressing bowl that accompanied it, clean. I have given it my own spin by adding in the avocado, though now I can’t imagine the salad without it. Did I mention that all of us who ate heart of palm salad at Lagarta Lodge practically licked the bowl of dressing clean. Think cat to the milk bowl. This dressing is so good, you might find it becomes your new secret sauce.

The recipe makes a lot of dressing and I have a hunch it would be a fantastic twist to any of the typical prepared salads: tuna, chicken, potato or egg salad. Heck, go crazy and combine them.

A word on Palmito, compliments of my scavenging at all places, the Fancy Food show. From a piece of collateral picked up at the La Cima booth:

“In Costa Rica, it was consumed by indigenous people before Columbus even reached the continent… The heart of palm is in itself the new leaf of the palm in its formation.”

Already the indigenous people knew what it would take the rest of us so much longer to figure out: palmitos are good for you! The fiber, protein, potassium and calcium are reasons to add palmito to any salad.

One word of caution though, you might find you want to somehow add it to every salad. I would suggest moderation, if not for this reason alone, from La Cima: “The cultivated culture of Hearts of Palm diminished the exploitation of wild Hearts of Palm which year after year has devastated the forests of the tropical lands. This indiscriminate exploitation led to the extinction of some species of palms.”

That is no bueno. So as you’re shopping for palmito,  perhaps check the source. We are in an age of wanting to know, again, where our food comes from.  And maybe this salad below will have you envisioning yourself frolicking in the tropics.

 

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Lagarta Lodge Ensalada de Palmito

YIELD: 4 servings

DRESSING

  • ½ cup white onion, minced
  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 6 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

SALAD

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 12 grape tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 hearts of palm, halved and then sliced
  • 1 avocado, halved and then sliced

Mix dressing ingredients together. Set aside. Chop the lettuce and put about 1 cup on each salad plate. Add the equivalent of 3 chopped grape tomatoes per plate along with a quarter of avocado per plate. One heart of palm, halved and sliced is sufficient to add onto the salad per plate. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of dressing on each salad and serve.

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