31 January 2014

Snow shoeing in Northern Colorado

Winter looks like it will continue to be generous to outdoor lovers this year, and I prefer snow shoeing.  I know, it sounds incredibly sad to all you adrenaline-seeking ski bums and snowboarders, but it's terrific exercise and a great way to see things on the trails you can't enjoy during the crowded summer months.  Trekking straight up a steep hill covered in snow is comparatively easy, and you can see vistas (not to mention plants and animals) you never knew were there.  Plus, I will not break any bones, destroy cartilage in my knees, or fight through tangles of traffic to or from my destination.  You can take the girl out of the Midwest, but...

In northern Colorado, there are many great places to enjoy this under-appreciated pastime.  Some of my favorites:

Eldorado Springs: Eldorado Canyon Trail

Estes Park / Rocky Mountain National Park: Cub Lake (6 miles), Flattop Mountain (8 miles), Odessa Lake (9 miles),

Fort Collins / Poudre Canyon: Blue Lake Trail (6.9 miles), Montgomery Pass (1.9 miles), Zimmerman Pass (1 mile)

Idaho Springs: St. Mary's Glacier (1.5 miles)

Longmont: Rabbit Mountain (3 miles)

Lyons: Hall Ranch Trails

Nederland: Stop and say hello to the frozen man, and then go just about anywhere in town after the snow has fallen.  Lost Lake (3 miles) is pretty easy for all, Arapahoe Glacier Trail (1.8 miles) is a good challenge for the old ticker.

Steamboat Springs: Elk Run Trail-Stagecoach State Park (10 miles), Emerald Mountain Quarry (4 miles), Gilpin Lake (9 miles), Rabbit Ears Pass (6 miles)

28 January 2014

Non-guacamole uses for avocado

I keep buying avocados because they are always on sale.  I know they're good for you, and I know it's worth appreciating that we now have access to such great produce so far from where it's grown, and so cheaply.  But honestly, I don't get the avocado.  It's slimy and mostly flavorless, so I think it needs a lot of help.  I like to make guacamole and this pasta dish I sometimes pack for lunches or bring to potlucks, but they both get old after a while.  So imagine my delight when the January issue of Food & Wine magazine dedicated a whole page to quick recipes to try with avocado!  Two of them were pretty no-brainer (dice it into a salad with other vegetables, stir some of the mashed green stuff into an otherwise standard hummus recipe), but the other two were great, particularly the Hollandaise sauce, which is so much more practical than fussing with actual eggs.  We prefer the extra tang of Bearnaise sauce in this house, so I adapted their recipe as you see below, and the tartare is also an adaptation of F&W's original idea, but both are terrific ideas for that lonely avocado getting too soft on your counter due to your indecisiveness.

Avocado Bearnaise

Makes enough for 3-4 servings over an egg

½ avocado
½ clove garlic
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon fresh tarragon
1/3 cup hot water
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except oil in a blender or food processor.  Drizzle in the olive oil, season, and serve over poached eggs and hash.

Avocado Tartare

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced pickled jalapeno
4 drops Worcestershire sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 finely diced avocado

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except avocado. Whisk thoroughly then gently fold in the diced avocados.  Serve on toasts.

24 January 2014

You say tomay-to, I say pass the wine...

Everyone has a red sauce they swear by, and mine is probably no more special.  But, given the number of times every winter it is requested at home, I feel compelled to at least record it for posterity (or for that day when my memory finally starts failing in a major way and I have to follow recipes for everything).  This sauce has gone through many incarnations from my first attempts in grad school, which were better than Ragu but not by much (no sugar in the sauce for this girl!) to what I think is finally the right balance of spicy, bright, and earthy.  I learned the red wine trick (cook some in, add some at the end) from an Italian friend and think it makes the sauce exponentially better than it ever was before.

I use this for everything--over pasta or all kinds, in lasagna, and little spoonfuls added to soup bases--so I always make a big pot and freeze it in variously sized containers.  It will keep in the freezer for up to 4 months and thaws in a big pot over medium heat in about 15 minutes when you have surprise company for dinner.

Nicole's Spicy Marinara

Makes about 12 cups (½ cup is a serving over pasta)

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes in their juice
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 4-oz. can tomato paste
1 small yellow onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons dried oregano (adjust to taste)
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup pimento-stuffed olives roughly chopped
1 cup + ½ cup dry red wine (preferably the same you'll drink with this meal)
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a Dutch oven or large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.  Add the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and 1 cup of the red wine and stir to combine.  Stir in the salt, oregano, bay leaves, capers, and olives, lower to a simmer, and cover.  Allow to cook at least 20 minutes (but no more than 30), then stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.  Cook another 20-2 minutes; you don’t want the garlic flavor to disappear.  When it’s done cooking, turn off the heat and stir in the final ½ cup of red wine.  Season to taste and remove the bay leaves.

21 January 2014

What am I supposed to do with that?

Ever end up with a little bit of something in your fridge that seems destined to become a pretty blue-and-green science experiment?  Maybe it's part of a can of tomato paste or a little bit of coconut milk. Or perhaps you think it will make you a better person to snack on cottage cheese until you realize you're not quite that lactose tolerant anymore (true story). Here are some items that always end up abandoned in my fridge with some simple ideas for using every last drop.

Tomato paste: I truly detest the useless size of these little cans; you never need this much at a time. But I hate them a lot less now that I realize I can do other things besides make spaghetti sauce or chili with it.

It's great for adding richness and thickening up any Italian-flavored soup, but I particularly like it in this quick and simple Miso-Tomato Soup from an earlier post.

You can also freeze it into ice cubes, place cubes in a large zip-top freezer weight bag, and use later.

Cottage cheese: Really, what is with the size of these containers?  I am not Catholic or a Mormon.

Quiches: Replace the milk in your egg mixture with cottage cheese for a fluffy and incredibly moist filling.  I generally use 1 heaping tablespoon per two eggs.

Replacement for ricotta in lasagna: if you're from the Midwest or near West, this is standard procedure. Ricotta is too sweet and feels like a lump of sand in your mouth, anyway. Gross.

Make a casserole: Don't forget, this is cheese!  When it's cooked, it gets reasonably melty while retaining some firmness and structure to the individual curds.  It's great mixed into a casserole dish with other leftovers, like this fantastic one from 101 Cookbooks.

Coconut Milk:  I often end up with a little extra after making a 4-serving batch of Thai curry. Here's what I do:

Add to soups for a Thai twist (along with some lime juice and chopped cilantro, perhaps).  Or make a batch of Brazilian Vatapa Soup

Replace the milk in no-cook overnight oatmeal.  Throw in some shredded coconut while you're at it, too.

Make this amazing smoothie: Pineapple-Coconut Smoothie.

And like the tomato paste, you can also freeze it into ice cubes, place cubes in a large zip-top freezer weight bag, and use later.

Tomato juice, Bloody Mary mix, or V8: I occasionally buy this for brunch with friends, but I can never get through all of it before it goes bad.  Bloody Marys are great fun in theory, but they're so heavy, and I'm trying not to replace meals entirely with vodka based drinks (anymore).

Use as a base for soup.  1/3 V-8 or BM mix to 2/3 vegetable or chicken stock makes a great base for both Mexican tortilla soup and any host of Italian pasta e fagioli kinds of recipes.  If you've got plain tomato juice, just throw in some chopped garlic and  Italian seasoning or pesto.  But be forewarned: most of these products are pretty high in sodium, so use low-sodium broth whenever possible.

Thicken with tomato paste (see above) for a tomato sauce.  Just experiment until the thickness seems right to you and season as you normally would.  And don't forget a generous splash of red wine at the end.

Did I mention you can freeze these types of things? Then you could use them later in the next round of Bloody Marys!

Packets of soy sauce, ketchup, etc. leftover from last week's takeout:  No.  Throw that shit away.  You are not a hoarder.

17 January 2014

Day trip: beer appreciation day in Colorado

I'm done with posts about healthier eating in 2014 (I think I only managed one, actually).  What I really want is a good beer.  And since I live in Colorado, my only problem is limiting my options into a single day that doesn't result in a black-out!  Wherever you are along the I-25 corridor, there's bound to be something appropriate for your tastes; here is a list of my favorites.

Northern Colorado
Longmont: Left Hand Brewery
1265 Boston Ave, Longmont, CO 80501

A better place to actually try their beers with some great pub grub is The Pumphouse in downtown Longmont, but a trip to the brewery is also worthwhile if you want to learn how things are made.  Good old fashioned American craft beers are done well here, and you'll see a whole lot of bumper stickers expressing appreciation all over Weld and Boulder Counties.

Loveland: Verboten Brewery
1550 Taurus Ct, Loveland, CO 80537

Please, please, please go to this brewery.  The name sounds like you'll be stuck with traditional German flavors, but this is actually one of the most innovative breweries north of Denver.  Killer Boots is a caramelly English-style porter, Angry Banjo is brewed in bourbon barrels from the distillery across the street, and the chicory espresso stout is amazing.  They employ creative combinations not for the sake of being different, but because they are delicious.

Lyons: Oskar Blues Grill & Brew
303 Main St, Lyons, CO 80540

The brewery is actually in Longmont, but the restaurant has everything on tap and some good, junky bar food, along with a run-down Southern vibe that really fits this goofy hippy town.  Visit their website for the calendar of live music; the blues bands, as you can imagine, come from all over and are often incredible. 

Windsor: High Hops Brewery
6461 Colorado 392, Windsor, CO 80550

This quaint little brew pub is located inside the local nursery, where they grow their own hops and other ingredients they use in their beers.  There's a nice variety in range, with something to please everyone, and they're expanding their menu all the time.  The bar keeps tend to be a little douchy and very beer-nerdy, so you'll definitely get a lot of information out of them about the products, be but prepared to be patronized.

Off I-25: Denver Beer Company
1695 Platte Street, Denver, CO 80202

These guys do great, creative flavors.  My favorites are the smoked lager, graham cracker porter, and the keffir lime wheat. There's nothing but beer here, and the atmosphere is relaxed and non-snobby.  Also walking distance from...

Prost Brewing Company
2540 19th Street, Denver, CO 80211

Traditional German-style beers in a pretty authentic (for Colorado) German-style beer hall.  These guys are more recreators than they are creators, but what they brew really tastes like you're in Germany.  And the pretzels and spicy mustard are to die for.

Five Points/Rino 'hoodsGreat Divide Brewery
2201 Arapahoe Street, Denver, CO 80205

The beer here is generally light and refreshing, and the atmosphere is still grubby little start-up, even after a few years of succeeding.  They're like the little engine that could!  The flavors are not terribly inventive, but for a pleasant, palate-cleansing lager, their rice beer is great. 

South of ColfaxBreckenridge Brewing 
471 Kalamath Street and other locations

These guys have been around long enough to be seen as the establishment, but, as a transplant, I can appreciate their delicious beer and very consistent quality. Besides, they're not the establishment just because they've existed for more than 6 months--they're still a Colorado craft brewery, to all the beer snobs who are rolling their eyes right now.  And no, I am not defensive. 

Copper Kettle Brewery
1338 S. Valentia Street, Unit 100, Denver, CO 80247

I love this place.  I think about it for days after I go.  Everything they do is just right, the Bavarian Helles, the Tequila Barrel Imperial Vienna Lager, the rich Mexican Chocolate Stout...it's all fantastic.  It's a bit far from things, but go.  

Strange Brewing Company
1330 Zuni, Unit M, Denver, Colorado 80204

This is another "little guys" brewery with some nice dark beers and a very scrappy, friendly vibe.  And you will get all of the appreciative attention you want from the bar keeps, who are usually also the brewers. 

Now that's the spirit!

14 January 2014

Soups for a busy day

A good friend in Chicago suggested that I post some new soup recipes to help take the chill out of January. She is not only an excellent human being, but a busy freelance musician and mom to a one-year old, so I'm guessing she doesn't have all day to sit around making the perfectly crafted work of art.  So, here are some soups, for Stephanie and all the rest of you busy people out there in cold climes, that should be easy to put together in a hurry after a long day of commutes, music lessons with babbling little kids, and the rest.  (These also freeze well for later.)

Tomato-Miso Soup

Serves 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 1/2 cups water
2 large tomatoes—peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup miso paste 
1 teaspoon soy sauce
3/4 pound soft tofu, cut into 1-inch dice (cooked chicken would work, too)
2 large scallions, thinly sliced
4 small to medium radishes, thinly sliced

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring a few times, until the mushrooms are tender, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour in the water, stir well and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Whisk in the miso and soy sauce and return to a simmer. Add the tofu and simmer for 2 minutes. Ladle into bowls, garnish with the scallions and radishes and serve.

White Bean and Roasted Mushroom Soup

Serves 8

16 oz. mushrooms, halved or quartered
2 large sweet onions, quartered
3 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ teaspoon salt, divided
1½ teaspoon pepper, divided
8-10 fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoon dried thyme
48 oz. chicken or vegetable broth
3 – 15 oz. cans white beans, not drained
Additional salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Toss mushrooms, garlic and onion in olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. (You may want to keep mushrooms separate on baking sheet for roasting, because you’ll have to separate later. So, separate now, or later.) Spread on baking sheet. Add sage leaves and thyme. Roast in 450° F oven for 10 minutes, toss and roast for additional 15 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, add broth, beans, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves to a large stock pot over medium heat and simmer.

When vegetables are done roasting, let cool slightly. Separate mushrooms from other roasted vegetables (if not already separated).

Retrieve 2 cups of the white beans, and 1 cup of broth from the stock pot, add to a blender along with the roasted onions, garlic and herbs. Cover and blend until smooth.

Add pureed bean mixture back to stock pot, whisking in until smooth. Add roasted mushrooms to soup. Salt and pepper to taste.

Warm over low heat until ready to serve.

Sweet Potato-Cauliflower Soup

Serves 8

1 large head cauliflower
olive oil for drizzling
Few dashes garam masala (optional)
3 medium to large sized peeled sweet potatoes, cut into 1″ pieces
1 sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
7 cups water

First, preheat your oven to 400 °F and cut up your cauliflower into bite sized pieces. Sprinkle cauliflower lightly with garam masala. Place cauliflower onto ungreased cookie sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Place in oven and let roast until golden brown on the tops and tender, but not mushy, about 20-30 minutes. There’s no need to flip ‘em. Just remove from oven and let cool while you cook the rest of the soup.
In large stockpot, bring sweet potato, onion, garlic and water to a boil. Salt (abt 3/4 tsp) and stir. Reduce heat and allow to remain at a constant simmer until sweet potatoes are tender. Add in cooked cauliflower and divide soup into 2 parts.
Let soup cool and then blend one part soup in blender until very smooth. Combine with second part soup and stir. Salt to taste and warm up over stovetop if needed.

Fire Roasted Tomato and Mushroom Soup

Serves 6

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced finely
2 garlic cloves, roasted and chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
1 lb mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped into small pieces
1 - 28 oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
4 cups broth
3/4 - 1 cup of cream or milk
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place 2 cloves of garlic, in their skin, onto a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a large soup pot, fry the onions in olive oil, on medium heat, until soft and translucent.

Remove the garlic from its skin, and then chop. Add the garlic, rosemary, and mushrooms, to the pot. Continue to cook until the mushrooms begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes and broth. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The soup is ready when it has thickened slightly and the mushrooms are soft and flavorful. You should no longer see raw flecks of rosemary floating on the surface.

Remove the soup from the heat. Add the cream and salt. Stir.

10 January 2014

Breakfast for dinner: souped-up hash browns

It's cold outside, and I think we can all agree that low temps lead to comfort food cravings.  I have had a hankering for hash browns, something I ate very little of in my youth, but which covers all the comfort bases of starchy, salty, and greasy.  These incorporate some other vegetables for a little less guilt (though I don't think you should feel bad about eating potatoes--they're full of nutrients). As described below, I like to serves these topped with my favorite oven-roasted Brussels Sprouts and a fried egg on top and liberal dashes of hot sauce. And if the patties don't stay together for you in the skillet, just fry it up loose like a hash--it's delicious either way (exhibit B, below).

Mixed Veggie Hash browns

Serves 4

2 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 medium rutabaga, peeled
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 egg, beaten
Canola or peanut oil for frying
Salt and black pepper to taste

Roughly chop all veggies and pulse in a food processor until you have a fine dice or shredded look.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine shredded veggies with the egg and salt and pepper taste.  The mixture will be wet and loose.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Drop tablespoonfuls of the potato mixture into the skillet and flatten into thin patties.  Fry until golden, about 5 minutes, then carefully flip and fry another 2-3 minutes or until golden on both sides.

These can be eaten on their own, served with a dollop or sour cream or plain yogurt, or they can be topped with steamed vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, something green) and topped with a fried egg.

07 January 2014

Your Food New Year's Resolutions Made Easy

January blogs, magazines, and newspapers are littered with self-help style recipes and exercises tips.  I could scoff, but after the gluttony that was late November through December, I feel the same way: it's time to simplify, clean up, and get back to normal.  It's also time to go back to working long days without breaks in the middle of the week now that the holidays are over, which makes cooking those halo-bequeathing meals a little more challenging.  So, here's my plan for making separate ingredients ahead and adding various flavors quickly and easily throughout the week.  I can knock out these basics on a Saturday afternoon if I multi-task and stay focused by not drinking too many work beers. I'd love to see some of your ideas/favorites to have on hand, too--add to the comment section, please!

Goal: Eat healthy, filling breakfasts with a minimum of time in the morning.

Make-ahead fixes: 

  • Keep at least 6 hard-boiled eggs in the fridge--just peel and season in the in the morning.
  • Keep fresh or frozen fruit on hand (freeze fresh fruit by laying out on a baking sheet in a single layer and placing in the freezer at least 4 hours; then toss in a zip-top bag and keep frozen until ready to use).  You can use these in smoothies or as stir-ins for your yogurt or oatmeal.
  • Make overnight steel-cut oats. All you have to do is dump everything into a container before bed, give it a stir, and it's ready in the morning.  
  • And of course, revisit my "Cook, freeze, and pack it for later: breakfasts" post for more healthy recipes you can make ahead.  I always have breakfast burritos and muffins in my freezer.

Always have in the pantry: multi-grain bread for toast, mustard and capers for the eggs, nuts and seeds to stir in to oatmeal and yogurt, Greek yogurt

My favorite way to start the day!

Goal: Eat more fiber

Make-ahead fixes:

  • Make a big pot of beans with minimal seasoning: black beans, garbanzos, pintos, mung beans, and lentils are particularly versatile and fiber-rich.  Freeze portions (for two people, I usually freeze 1 cup servings) in small zip-top bags and you can toss them straight into stir fries, soups, or just serve with seasoned rice and hot sauce. Keep a small amount in the refrigerator for up to a week to toss into salads. 
  • Make a big pot of grains to replace white rice in your recipes (though you can also do this with white rice). Quick-cooking quinoa, bulgar, millet, and couscous can be "cooked" overnight by soaking in equal parts grain and water, so those don't need to be cooked far in advance.  But wheat berries, farro, barley, and the like all freeze beautifully as described in the bean method above.  
  • Keep plenty of fresh and frozen veggies on hand.  Freeze fresh veggies by blanching them in boiling water for about 30 seconds to a minute and spreading out on a tray as described above with fruit. 
  • Single portions of grains, beans, and veggies can be combined in a bowl and heated quickly in the microwave, then seasoned to taste, for a quick, filling, and very healthy lunch or dinner.  In fact, you can even pop the frozen stuff in a container the night before, refrigerate until you head to work the next morning, and then everything will be thawed and ready to eat as a cold salad by lunchtime.  Hot or cold, you can toss everything with a dressing below for a really brainless meal when you're exhausted...
Farro with asparagus, almonds, feta, and Mustard and Caper Vinaigrette.
The farro and asparagus were frozen and reheated together in the bowl. 

Goal: Use less salt without sacrificing flavor

Solution: Make dressings!  These may have originally been intended as salad dressings, but they can be used over veggies and pasta, beans and rice (or other grain), and just about anything else you can think of. These are some of my favorites right now--they'll all keep a couple of weeks in the refrigerator:

Tahini-Lemon Dressing: whisk together

1/2 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1 scant tablespoon tahini (for a milder flavor, use almond butter)
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

I love this on steamed potatoes, green beans, and kalamata olives.

Mustard and Caper Vinaigrette: whisk together 

1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1 teaspoon capers, chopped
1 teaspoon mustard
pinch sugar (optional)
4 tablespoons vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

This keeps for weeks on the countertop; refrigerating makes it gloppy. Different vinegars will give a different level of acidity, with apple cider being the most intense I ever want, and balsamic being the mildest, so experiment. This is clearly a standard salad dressing, but it is also delicious on hot foods.  I like it on pasta with steamed broccoli.

Miso-Ginger Dressing: blend in a food processor

1/4 cup peanut oil 
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mild or sweet miso, like yellow or white
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 inchlong piece fresh ginger, chopped OR 1 heaping teaspoon minced ginger form the jar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Obviously, this works well in stir-fries, but it's also surprisingly perfect over steamed greens like kale or collards, along with a little hot sauce on the side. 

"Ranch" Dressing: whisk together

1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup milk (any kind will do)
½ teaspoon dried summer savory
½ teaspoon dried dill
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon dried onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

If you're from the Midwest like me, you already know that Ranch dressing is not only a salad condiment, but a replacement for sour cream, a dip, and a general salve for life.  

Dinner tonight: quinoa, frozen Sante Fe veggie blend, 
and Tahini-Lemon Dressing

03 January 2014

A salad that isn't too salad-y...

I guess I'm getting old, but there is a limit to how many heavy, spicy meals I can eat at night and still manage to fall asleep and avoid the dreaded heartburn attack at 3am. Or maybe it's all the booze I had on New Year's Eve.  In the summer, this problem is easily remedied but just grazing in the garden and composing a plate of fruits and vegetables for dinner, but in the winter, salad supplies are pretty boring at the grocery store, and it's just too cold to eat cold things.  So, I've been experimenting with warm salads, which means the vegetables have been cooked to some extent.  This particular concoction also satisfies those damnable winter cravings for fat, salt, and junk with bacon, the most perfect fatty, salty junk that occurs in nature.  Don't like cabbage?  use any green you can cook, or a combination of greens.  You could also do this with a vegetarian bacon alternative, like Morning Star breakfast strips, smoky seitan, BBQ tempeh...

BLT Salad

Serves 2 as a dinner salad, 4 as a side

1 medium head green cabbage, thinly sliced
6 strips bacon
2-3 medium sized tomatoes (or 5-6 romas)

1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup milk (any kind will do)
½ teaspoon dried summer savory
½ teaspoon dried dill
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon dried onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Set the oven at 325°F.  Cut the bacon into small pieces and spread out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet; season with freshly ground black pepper.  Cut the tomatoes into large chunks (or into quarters if you’re using romas), lay out on a separate baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt.  Bake both in the oven until the bacon is very crisp and the tomatoes look roasty, about 30 minutes.  Stir the tomatoes occasionally so they don’t get burned in any spots.  Drain the bacon on paper towel when it’s done.

Meanwhile, steam the cabbage until crisp-tender, 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of slices.  Combine all dressing ingredients together into a small bowl.

To construct, spread steamed cabbage onto a plate, followed by tomatoes, bacon, and drizzled dressing.