Mayan Jaguar Lettuce Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

The Mayan Jaguar lettuce lends itself to salads with strong, sharp flavors. Add some chicken (or more cheese, if you’re a vegetarian) and you’ve got a main dish salad. Note, this will serve 6 as a side dish

What You’ll Need

  • knife and chopping board
  • whisk
  • immersion blender, aka hand or stick blender
  • measuring cup and spoons
  • large bowl
  • salad tongs

Ingredients for the Salad

  • 1 head Mayan Jaguar lettuce (or other romaine)
  • ¼ cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded

Ingredients for the Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2/3-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp walnut or regular Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

How to Make the Vinaigrette

  1. Pour the vinegar into a bowl or tall container and add the salt. Whisk until the salt is dissolved
  2. Add the mustard, shallot, oil, and pepper. Using your immersion blender, blend the ingredients until emulsified and well mixed.
  3. Taste and add salt or pepper as necessary. The vinaigrette will keep, refrigerated, for a week.

How to Make the Salad

  1. Add the salad ingredients to a bowl.
  2. Toss with the about 1/3-1/2 of the vinaigrette. Add a little more if you like it more fully dressed.
  3. Serve immediately.
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Farmers Market Finds: Mayan Jaguar Lettuce

The Start of the Season and the Start of Discovery

With the advent of my local farmers market (Minnetrista in Muncie, Indiana) holding weekly markets, I look forward to the thrill of culinary discovery, of the delight of finding a new-to-me variety of vegetable or fruit, or of a vendor offering me new locally produced treats. This past Saturday, I ventured to (and through) the market, with its wares. The pickings, and the number of vendors, were rather slim—it’s been a very challenging spring for planting. The average high temperature in February was followed by a lower one in March. Following on the heels of a relatively colder March, April turned warm again. May, what few days of it we’ve had, had been a cold, soggy, sodden mess. Copious amounts of rain interspersed with frost. As an organic farmer I know said, it’s been a most challenging spring for a farmer.

Still, on that morning of May 6, it wasn’t raining, despite being forecast. I ventured over to one of my favorite produce stands (Christopher Farms, a local organic operation), so see what farmer and all around wonderful person Wendy Carpenter had to present to her customers, both loyal and new. Knowing that I was looking to eat more salads, I was drawn to one of the more striking lettuces I’ve ever seen—Mayan Jaguar.

Mayan Jaguar Lettuce

With its dappled maroon and green, a head of Mayan Jaguar lettuce certainly commands a second look. This has the ability to form the foundation of a seriously interesting looking salad (interesting as in good, not weird). So naturally, I had to buy some.

Mayan Jaguar lettuce belongs in the romaine/cos family. The head is tall and the spines of the leaves have that characteristic romaine crunch. Its leaves are gorgeously ruffled. It is a beautiful lettuce.

Flavor-wise, Mayan Jaguar is sweet with a hint of bitterness. In a salad, it pairs nicely with balsamic vinegar and walnuts. Add some dried fruit and blue or goat cheese for a delicious dish. I will share a salad recipe which uses Mayan lettuce to its advantage in my next post.

Start Your Own Voyage of Discovery

If you have a local and treasured farmers market, find a vendor with unusual varieties of produce. In my experience, I’ve found that organic farmers are likelier to offer something different than conventional farmers (but I am a sample size of one). If you are unsure, just ask—most farmers would love a chance to talk about their products! It’s a great chance to break out of a standard-supermarket-variety rut.

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Coming Soon–The Farmers Market!

I look forward to this every year—the start of the weekly farmers market season. My local market operates weekly from the first Saturday in May through the last Saturday in October. Monthly indoor markets occur during the months of November through April. So it’s May 1 and this Saturday (May 6) will be the first weekly market of 2017! I look forward to regional goodness and talking to farmers with whom I’m on a first-name basis.

And I’ll be blogging here at Flyovertapas again. Now, I won’t have a set schedule like my market, but I’ll be sure to post a couple of times per month, especially once my semester ends. In the meantime, I hope you have a local market of your own to enjoy!

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Ravishing Radishes

Eavesdropping on a Farmers Market Conversation

Late May in Indiana can be a time of real produce anticipation. Unlike early May, when bedding plants and a few lettuces form the bulk of offered wares, late May brings us a peek into the summer ahead, when fruits and vegetables from local farmers overflow the vendor stands. It’s when my Flyover cooking imagination really starts taking hold.

I was in line at the Christopher Farm stand (run by organic farmer extraordinaire Wendy Carpenter) on Saturday, as a market trip is part of my Saturday morning routine. I overheard a customer in front of me ask Wendy if she knew of Dan Barber (the celebrated chef and sustainable foods advocate). Wendy hadn’t heard of him, but the customer, no doubt looking at her delicious carrots and beets, mentioned that Barber believed the Midwest’s root crops were the best, given the cold winters. I have no idea if Barber ever said that (and while I did read his eye-opening tome The Third Plate, I don’t remember if he discussed them or not). But certainly, many root crops are sweeter after a frost, because they process their starches into sugars. That said, root vegetables are hardly limited to the midlatitudes; cassava (aka manioc—it’s the source of tapioca) is a staple food in places like Nigeria, Brazil, and other low-latitude countries.

Types of Root Vegetables

Perhaps Barber—if he really did say this—was referring to a category of root vegetable based on the taproot, the central root from which other roots grow. Types of taproot vegetables include carrots, parsnips, and yes, the radish (the other category, tuberous roots, would include cassava, yams, and sweet potatoes). Radishes are, to me, a sign that summer is on its way (even if it’s not here yet)–they are one of the first non-lettuce vegetables I find for sale at the farmers market.

Radishes

The Radish

The radish (Raphanus sativus) is thought to have originated in southeast Asia. They have been cultivated for millennia far from Asia (e.g. Europe). Although there are varieties that linked to various Asian cuisines (e.g. daikon radish and Japanese cookery), my focus here is mainly on those commonly seen in my Flyover farmers markets.

Although radishes with red spherical taproots (yup, that scarlet orb that you eat is the taproot) are most common, one can find radishes in a variety of colors (e.g. white, purple). Additionally, they may be shaped like stubby fingers instead of globes (such as the spicy French Breakfast radish).

Radishes are typically eaten raw, perhaps in salads, as crudites, or as part of a sandwich. Although their sharp crispness is the appeal for many a radish lover, these can actually be cooked. When subject to heat, radishes become earthy, yet sweet. Any spiciness is tamed (but in a good way!) Later this week I’ll be posting a recipe for radishes cooked in butter—you an even use the radish greens as a garnish.

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A Memorial Day Grill Fest: Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Turkish Spices

The Unofficial Start to Summer

Across the country, not just the Flyover States, Memorial Day serves as the unofficial start to the summer season. Pools open and cookouts beckon. The grills get fired up (and yes, I too plan to partake of this). In that spirit, I am sharing with you a recipe I’ll be grilling today: Lamb Kebabs with Turkish Spices. But before I do that, I want to take a look at Memorial Day, the holiday, the one without the potato salad and 40%-off sales

From Whence It Came: Decoration Day

Memorial Day got its start as Decoration Day back in the mid-1800s (May 30, 1868, to be exact). It was designed to commemorate the war dead—people were asked to decorate the graves of soldiers who’d perished in the Civil War, which ended in 1865. Approximately 20 years later, the name changed to Memorial Day, but the commemoration remained the same.

In the ensuing years, Memorial Day, which was once celebrated on May 30 but is now the last Monday in May, became associated more with the start of summer fun than a way to honor those who lost their lives in conflict. While I see nothing wrong with enjoying friends and family, I do believe it is important to remember the real reason for the holiday—a way to recall those who made the ultimate sacrifice. So, sometime this weekend, think of them, whether at a service or just a silent pause.

Grilling—The Warm-Weather Cooking Technique Returns

Okay, I haven’t fired up the grill since October, but with warm, summertime temperatures having arrived, it’s time to break out the charcoal (yes, I’m a purist—no gas for this girl!) and start generating that live-fire mojo. One of my favorite things to grill is local lamb, in this case lamb from Russell Sheep Company of Eaton, Indiana. Diane Russell’s smiling face is one of my favorite sights on my weekly trip to Minnetrista Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings. Her lamb is delicious and it’s local! I’ll write about Russell Sheep Company some other time, so you’ll learn all about it. But one form of lamb she sells is kebab meat, which I use for the kebabs (and I’ve also used it for stews and curries). And to round out my menu today, I’ll grill some local asparagus as an accompaniment.

Lamb Kebabs with Turkish Spices

Serves 4

What You’ll Need

  • measuring spoons
  • cutting board
  • sharp knife
  • bowl
  • garlic press (optional)
  • plastic wrap
  • skewers

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lamb leg or shoulder meat, cut into 1-in pieces
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
  • ¼ tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you don’t like spicy food)
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 tsp ground sumac
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste

How To Make the Kebabs

Sorry, no pictures this time! I’ll add one after I grill them!

  1. In a bowl combine all ingredients except lamb. Taste for salt/pepper (add more if necessary)
  2. Pat lamb cubes dry and add to mixture in bowl. Toss to combine. Cover and place in refrigerator for about 4 hours
  3. Start a hot charcoal fire (direct high fire)—I said I was a charcoal purist!
  4. After coals have been started but before they are ready for grilling, remove lamb and thread onto 4 skewers (the flatter kind are best). When grill is ready, place skewers on grill and cook until a little charred (about 5-10 minutes). Turn occasionally to make sure that all sides get cooked
  5. Serve immediately.

And They Were Delicious!

LambKebabs

Edited this post to show everyone my Memorial Day dinner!
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