Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Put Your Hands Together Salad

When I worked in DC, my coworkers and I would sometimes venture into Georgetown to this amazing little salad shop called Cafe Tu-O-Tu (which I think is one of the cutest names in a city full of cutely named shops) (202 is DC's area code) (Forgive me, I'm feeling very parenthetical this morning.) One of the meal options was a salad sampler where you could pick two or three of their gourmet salads and get.... well.... a sampling of each.  I would typically get their Spinach and Artichoke Salad with fresh baby spinach, artichoke hearts, pine nuts and shaved Parmesan along with the Salad Nicoise with delicious, spicy arugula, tuna, olives and tomatoes. 

The other night amidst the copious baking I've been doing (I promise pictures and recipes are coming very very soon I just don't know where to start) I felt the craving hit me for one of these salads.  But I couldn't decide which one.  So as my life coach Joey Tribbiani has advised when needing to choose between two things I "put my hands together."  I checked out my pantry and decided I could pretty easily meld the two salads together and maybe add in a few of my other favorite salad toppings.  This hearty, protein rich salad was the perfect salty meal when I was surrounded (no seriously, EVERY counter top is covered) by sugary treats.

We are starting tonight with a big bowl full of fresh arugula.  I chose arugula over spinach for two reasons: 1) I love the spicy crispness of arugula where as I find that spinach is a bit bland and gets soggy really quickly.  2) I buy a big box of organic baby arugula at the grocery store near me and it lasts 2 weeks.  You really can't beat that in the realm of pre-washed lettuce. 

The first thing I pulled from my pantry that HAD to be on this Franken-salad was actually not on either of the originals.  Hearts of Palm.  I cannot look at a can of hearts of palm without thinking about my sister. One year when I was in high school, for Easter, my mother asked us what special treat we wanted in our Easter baskets (she'd let the Easter Bunny know obviously.)  I of course requested Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs since they are bar none the BEST Reeses treat out there and cannot be replicated by the pumpkins or the trees and therefore I must eat as many as I possibly can in the time span of Valentine's Day - Easter.  Meanwhile, my sister requested a can of hearts of palm.  On Easter morning when she got her basket with two big jars of hearts of palm, everyone in my family just stared.  But when the rest of us were fighting through our sugar comas, she was happily munching on her delicious treat.  From that day on, she always got a can of hearts of palm for Easter. 

What's that you say?  This is the cooking blog not the memory lane blog? Fine! Cut up the hearts of palm into slivers.  Little tip: I always get the canned HoPs, I find the jarred ones are woodier.  The way I have been taught to know which can to get is to shake them.  (Yes, I'm that weirdo in the supermarket holding up the canned vegetables and shaking them.)  If you hear a lot of rattling around, put it back.  You want your HoPs to be soft. Soft foods don't rattle against a can.  It sounds crazy, but I swear it works. 

Next I added artichoke hearts.  You want the ones that are in water, not oil.  Give them a rough chop.

To continue on this Mediterranean path I was on, I next added in some roughly chopped kalamata olives. 

At this point, the batch of cookies that had been baking were done and I needed to move the batch beforehand to the cooling racks, take the cookies out of the oven, take the next batch out of the fridge and put it into the oven and the move the last batch in the refrigerator so I forgot to take pictures.  But I sliced up some tomatoes, sprinkled on some croutons and added a can of VERY WELL DRAINED tuna (again packed in water, not oil.)  No seriously, drain the heck out of the stuff.  If you thumbs aren't aching from pressing on the top to squeeze the juice out, you haven't drained enough.

I dwelled for quite a while about what dressing to use.  I couldn't for the life of me remember what Cafe To-o-Tu used.  It shouldn't be balsamic, but maybe just some olive oil and red wine vinegar?  Nah.  Definitely not ranch.  Maybe Italian.  I eventually settled on this delicious Creamy Cilantro dressing I get from Trader Joe's.

Yep, that'll do it.  Give it a toss and it is time to dig in!

Shopping List for Melly's Franken-salad (serves 1 very hungry person)
  • Arugula
  • 1/2 can Heart of Palm
  • 1/2 can Artichoke Hearts
  • 12 - 15 Kalamata Olives
  • 2 small Tomatoes
  • Croutons (optional) (I'd probably omit them next time)
  • 1 can Very Very Very Well Drained Tuna packed in water
  • Cilantro Dressing

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