Posted in Food Favorites, Freedom Friday

Salads

Summer’s almost over. I know, I know. Where are the fanfares to send the kids back to school? All joking aside though, what I’ll miss the most from the hottest season of the year are the salads. Some may say BBQ, which is cool and all, but for me, a fresh salad with assorted ingredients makes my summer. I’m going to give you a few quick tips about salad preparation for Freedom Friday, and I hope your next experience with the delectable greenery is a delicious one!

Our feta, onions, cucumber salad, Apr. 2013.
Our feta, onions, cucumber salad, Apr. 2013.

Living in one of the most agriculturally diverse provinces in Canada, Ontario, our backyard has gone through various transformations throughout the years. When I say our backyard, I mean Casa Flacco’s backyard, as in, behind-our-house backyard. This year, we have made the most ambitious attempt at farming yet. In past years, we’ve had a small strip of land by the side of a fence dedicated to vegetables and salads. This year we’ve increased the size of the original and added two more sections, each section separated by green space.

I don’t know what it is with our backyard. Somehow, whatever we plant turns into these gianormous jungles we attempt to tame but bless us with a bounty of crops we never had intentions of growing.

At the beginning of the season, my wife asks, “What do you think we should grow this year?”

I typically answer, while flipping the channels, “I don’t know. Tomatoes would be good. Cucumbers. Salads. We have to have salads. Definitely have to have salads.”

That’s how it starts. Next thing you know, near the middle of the season, our salads look like leaves from the Cretaceous Period. Our tomatoes look like pumpkins that need trucks to transport. And our zucchinis like, well, I’m not sure. Take a look at the photo.

Zucchini plant in our garden, Aug. 2009.
Zucchini plant in our garden, Aug. 2009.
Zucchini from our garden, Aug. 2009.
Zucchini from our garden, Aug. 2009.
Tomato from our garden, Sep. 2008.
Tomato from our garden, Sep. 2008.

Seriously, sometimes I feel as if our yard has radioactive soil. If you ever hear reports of a man climbing buildings in Toronto and spinning webs, you’ll know what happened to me. Anyway, talk about getting caught up in the moment, let’s get back to the point of this post—salads.

We grow radicchio and the regular garden-variety salad. The radicchio is my favorite because it’s easy to prepare and mouth-watering on its own.

Here’s what we do:

  • Cut the leaves from the garden, plopping them in a pot or bowl, dirt, grime, slugs and all—yes, slugs
  • Take it into the house, wash the leaves thoroughly, getting rid of the slugs—you didn’t think we’d eat those things, did you?
  • Add some olive oil and salt
  • Munchtime!

Radicchio is a naturally bitter salad. The salt accentuates the flavor along with the olive oil. Fresh from the garden is something special to savor in the summer. Can’t be beat.

Now, as for the long-leaf salad, which is oh, so sweet and crunchy to the taste buds, the washing prep is pretty much the same as the radicchio. So, I’ll just give you the recipe we have year-round.

Ingredients:

  • A generous amount of crumpled feta cheese
  • Half a sweet white onion chopped
  • 1 peeled and sliced cucumber
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Directions:

  • Make sure you wash and dry the leaves properly. Invest in a good salad strainer; it makes life so much easier. Besides, leaves will not come out all soggy. You want them to crunch.
  • Add in your ingredients except the feta and olive oil.
  • Before serving, add your olive oil, toss the salad, then add your feta on top otherwise the feta becomes mushy and disappears in the salad as a nice white coat over the leaves.

And there you have it. Casa Flacco’s two salad recipes I’m sure you’ll enjoy trying before the summer’s over.

Buon appetito!

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Do you have any salad recipes you’d like sharing? How about ingredients? What do you like putting in your salads?

Posted in Food Favorites, Freedom Friday

Avocados

Did you know avocados are a fruit? I didn’t know that for a long time. Much like tomatoes, they have a seed inside. According to science, that’s what makes it a fruit. In cooking, however, it’s a different matter. Served in delicious savory meals, chefs define it more as a vegetable. Avocados also provide an enjoyable snack for the health conscious.

Avocado & Lemon
Avocado & Lemon

For my Freedom Friday series, I would like to show you how easy it is to make avocados a part of a nutritious, balanced diet.

When my wife first introduced avocados in our diet a few years ago, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I trusted her sense of flavor, but as in all things borne from the unknown, I still had my reservations. She got the idea from watching someone. And one day she brought a bag full of the Persea americana from the grocery store. From there, as my sense of curiosity got the best of me, she went on to show me how to eat it.

This is the easiest avocado recipe in the world. Anyone can make it. With a handful of ingredients, guaranteed you’ll like it too!

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lemon (you really don’t need a whole lemon, or half a lemon for that matter)
  • salt

Directions:

  • Cut the avocado lengthwise exposing the seed as an oval. I usually use a steak knife, but you can use any ol’ knife. Just make sure it’s sharp and can penetrate the avocado’s hard skin. To remove the seed, I always stab it in the center with the knife, jostle it a bit, and it should pop right out of there.
  • Once you’ve removed the seed, with the same knife gently poke holes into the avocado’s meat. They don’t have to go all the way to the bottom. And you don’t have to poke a million holes. Just enough for the next step.
  • Squeeze some lemon on the meat. All that lemon juice will then seep into the holes from the previous step. This way a balanced coat of flavor covers the meat.
  • Sprinkle salt to taste
Avocado Ingredients & Utensils
Avocado Ingredients & Utensils

To eat it, all you need is a spoon. Believe me when I say it’s a refreshingly delicious snack!

For those wondering the health benefits of avocados:

Do you like avocados? Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?