From-scratch chipotle mayonnaise, the best condiment

What’s the deal with everyone dipping everything in ranch dressing? I mean, I like ranch dressing, but when did it sneak in and become The Condiment?

I guess I understand; it’s creamy, it’s mild. It’s inoffensive enough to put on anything, and you get the extra fatty calories that make anything taste better.

Well, I am suggesting an update to The Condiment. Not to something healthier — of course not. But to something tastier. Something with a little bit of a kick to it. Something that still goes well with everything, but with an extra spicy boost.

Something like chipotle mayonnaise.

from-scratch chipotle mayonnaise

Who’s with me?

I’ll start off by saying, this recipe requires an immersion blender. I have this one, but they can be found for cheaper and they’re all pretty much the same. The price doesn’t even matter, because it will be worth it even if you only use it to make mayonnaise — it makes the process so much quicker. Seriously, the first time I made mayo from scratch, I figured it’d just be once for kicks. Lo and behold, I make it all the time. It’s so much better and it’s so quick and easy with a stick blender. Buy one. You won’t regret it. Also, you can use it to make pureed soups!

This recipe uses raw egg, which means two things:

Use fresh, local eggs if you can get ‘em. An excuse to go to the farmer’s market! The incidence of Salmonella poisoning from raw or undercooked eggs is very low (something like 1 in 30,000) but if you’re buying from a small farmer who cares about their chickens, you’re better off than buying from a factory farm. I’ve also seen the recommendation, since Salmonella usually lives on the shell rather than inside the egg, to put your egg in boiling water for five seconds before cracking it.

Children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems may want to avoid eating your amazing mayo. You should disclose the raw egg status and let people decide on their own whether they want to take the (really tiny!) risk.

From-Scratch Chipotle Mayonnaise

1 egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon mustard, room temperature
1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
a wedge of lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canola oil
2 chipotle peppers from the can
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the can the peppers were in)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Get yourself a clean and dry glass jar with a widemouth opening. I love the jars that roasted red peppers often come in — the head of my immersion blender fits perfectly. If you can’t find a jar that will accommodate yours, just make it in the beaker that came with your blender and transfer it when you’re done.

So throw your egg in there. Some people just use the yolk, I use the whole thing because I don’t have time for all this separating business — who does? Anyway, it works either way. Also, the finished product will look less yellow if you use the whole egg.

Add the mustard, vinegar, a couple squeezes of your lime wedge, salt, and oil. You can use up to a cup of oil if you want more mayonnaise. Unless I’m truly feeding a crowd, I make as little as possible to ensure I can get through it all. (If you use more oil, you’ll want to add more chipotles, adobo, garlic powder, and oregano to taste.)

An egg has a lot of water in it, and as we know, water and oil do not mix. So your oil will just sit there, separated, on top of everything else in the jar. Put your stick blender down to the very bottom of the jar. Turn that sucker on and watch the miracle of science right before your eyes.

The bottom of the contents of the jar will begun to emulsify, creating a thick, white, mayonnaise. Slowly raise the blender up out of the jar, bit by bit by bit and be amazed as the oil is incorporated and you’re left with a jar full of creamy mayo. You can obviously stop right here to have good old fashioned mayo (though I usually use lemon juice instead of lime for that).

But remember? Chipotle mayo!

Throw in the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, garlic powder, and oregano, and go to town again with the immersion blender. Make sure you get the peppers finely chopped and everything is evenly distributed.

Now, this is the most important part. Taste it. Add freshly ground black pepper and/or more adobo sauce if you’d like to amp up the heat, and more of any of the seasonings if you feel they are underrepresented. Add more lime juice if you’d like to loosen up the consistency. Mix it all up and you’re good to go.

It really does taste the best if you give it at least 30 minutes to chill. Store it in your tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator. Use within 4 days ideally, but use your best judgment in how it looks and smells and sometimes you can get a week out of it if you’re lucky (or desperate). The good news is, it’s so easy to whip up a new batch that you don’t have to take the risk!

Serve as a dip with pretty much any kind of fried food. Spread on a sandwich. Use it to make egg or chickpea salad. Make my fabulous chipotle cheddar deviled eggs. Or just lick a little bit right off the spoon when nobody’s looking.

All the Colors of the Rainbow (Chip) Cake

So, my friend Liz loves rainbow chip cake.

all the colors of the rainbow (chip) cakeLiz is one of my best friends, and the list of things I wouldn’t do for her is short. I recommended her for a job at my office, which she subsequently got hired for and of course excels at. I give her advice when she asks for it, and try very hard to shut up when it’s not wanted. I’m always willing to lend her money if needed, which is not something I do lightly. But one thing I cannot do for her is make a Betty Crocker box mix cake. Even for her birthday.

I just can’t.

This is not the first time I attempted to make her box-mix fantasy a from-scratch reality. A few years ago, I made her a Funfetti cake. Because she had told me her favorite cake was Funfetti. She kept going on and on about the “little balls” for the frosting. “That’s the best part!” Having always been more of a chocolate girl myself, I don’t have any childhood memories of Funfetti cake. I knew Funfetti was sprinkles, so I picked up a bottle of those jumbo rainbow nonpareils to sprinkle on top. Funfetti = sprinkles. “Little balls” = jumbo nonpareils, right?

So, I whipped up a basic white cake with rainbow jimmies mixed into the batter, and frosted it with a basic buttercream. I piped “friends love Liz” on the top in green icing (we had been re-watching Arrested Development around this time — “Take a look at banner, Michael!”). And topped the whole dang thing with those jumbo nonpareils. I even made a homemade cake topper re-enacting the time her cat got his head stuck in a jar! (It’s a long story, but the high point is my mister rolling over and groggily telling me to “go be a hero” at two o’clock in the morning when this occurred.)

Anyway, this cake was perfect! Just perfect! Except for two things: 1) Liz had said her favorite cake was Funfetti, which is the Pillsbury white cake with sprinkles. In fact, her favorite cake is Rainbow Chip, the Betty Crocker white cake with colored, soft candy chips mixed into both the batter and frosting. Those candy chips, I now know, are the “little balls” she kept going on about. 2) Before Liz had a chance to actually eat any, someone started a cake fight. Yeah. I was not enthused to scrape cake and frosting off of all the surfaces of my kitchen. But the silver lining was that Liz didn’t get to taste my completely wrong cake and demand that I never defile her precious “Funfetti” (read: Rainbow Chip) box mix with a homemade version again.

For my second chance, I was prepared. I was inspired by this post — homemade rainbow chips are clearly the only way this cake can work. But I can’t get behind seized chocolate. I knew Liz would be a stickler for texture. The chips in the frosting are supposed to be velvety soft and easy to bite into, a mouthfeel that regular white chocolate cannot provide. Enter modeling chocolate. A bit of work? Yes. Exactly what this recipe needs? Also yes.

If you have any trouble with the modeling chocolate portion, you should really just hop on over to Hungry Happenings. Beth has great step-by-step photos and troubleshooting tips. I’ll admit, on my first attempt at this, I had… a bit of trouble. It’s been pretty hot here lately, and my mister is very… frugal… so he doesn’t like to crank the A/C. So it was very hot in the kitchen when I attempted this, and I had the problem of the oil separating out of the cocoa butter. I kneaded and kneaded but it was just getting worse and worse, because it was So. Damn. Hot. I decided it was a lost cause, threw it in a container in the fridge to deal with later, and consoled myself with the fact that at least my hands were incredibly moisturized as a result of my failure. After a night in the fridge, my chocolatesque mess had hardened into a layer of solid cocoa butter on top of a layer of the rest of the stuff. I decided to see if it could be saved. I broke the cocoa butter into chunks and massaged it so it melted slowly, all the while kneading it back into the dough. It took a long time, but it worked eventually. The resulting modeling chocolate would probably not have been ideal for most modeling chocolate purposes, but for the rainbow chips it was workable. If you want to avoid the potential nightmare of making your own modeling chocolate, you can also buy it online. Then you just have to deal with the tediousness of making the chips from it!

In case you hadn’t figured this out already, this cake is a labor of love. Have a good podcast to listen to or something to watch on Netflix while you’re prepping all those rainbow chips, is all I’m saying.

Initially, I planned to use the homemade rainbow chips in both the frosting and the cake. I coated the rainbow chips in flour before mixing them into the batter to prevent them from sinking to the bottom… this was a failure. My first attempt ended up as more of a white cake with a kaleidoscope bottom; not so much a rainbow chip cake. So, given that they just melt into indistinguishable color splotches in the cake anyway, I decided that using plain old rainbow jimmies would be fine as long as the frosting was right. Those little balls.

Anyway, while it may be homemade, there’s nothing nutritionally defensible about this cake. It’s filled with super bleached cake flour and corn syrup. But at least it’s not a box mix, right? Right??

all the colors of the rainbow (chip) cake All the Colors of the Rainbow (Chip) Cake

Inspired by Homemade Rainbow Chip Cake by Not Without Salt
Various parts and portions adapted from or instructed by King Arthur’s Elegant White Cake by Cookie Madness, Modeling Chocolate by Joy of Baking, and Chocolate Basics by Hungry Happenings

Rainbow Chips:
16 ounces white chocolate
1/3 cup light corn syrup
gel food coloring

Cake:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature heaping
1/4 cup jimmies, rainbow or in any color(s) you want

Frosting:
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
heaping 3/4 cup rainbow chips

Melt your white chocolate in a double boiler (or if you’re classy like me, a metal bowl over a saucepan). I generally put the chocolate in the bowl, the bowl on top of the pot and keep the stove on until the chocolate just starts to melt. Then cut the flame and stir the chocolate around. Once it’s almost melted with just a few bits, move the bowl over to the counter (away from the pot) and continue to stir, letting the residual heat melt the last bit of the chocolate. Pop your thermometer in there, and continue stirring until it cools to around 91 degrees. If you haven’t heated the heck out of it in the first place, it shouldn’t take too long. Really. Don’t keep it on the double boiler until it’s molten lava. Let residual heat do the work for you. If you do not have a thermometer, Beth of Hungry Happenings recommends putting a smidge on your lip — it should feel cool, unless you are some kind of weird medical marvel or a snake/lizard.

Add corn syrup, and stir (quickly!) to combine. It will thicken up very fast. Scrape the mixture onto a counter top or cutting board. Knead until smooth.

So you’ve got your giant ball of modeling chocolate. Split it into as many equal portions as colors you want to use. The original rainbow chip cake has pastel pink, blue, yellow, and green, so stick with those if you’re a traditionalist. You could also do just a few contrasting or coordinating colors — wedding colors for a bridal shower, sport team or school colors, or just the favorite colors of whomever you’re making it for. But I wanted to go all out and use all the colors of the rainbow. You ask me to make you a rainbow chip cake? I will make you a rainbow chip cake.

Using a fresh toothpick each time, drag some gel color onto your first ball of chocolate. I’m not going to give exact measurements because it will depend on your gel and your preference, but start with less than you think you need! Knead until all the color is incorporated and it’s not streaky, and add more gel as needed until you are happy with what you’ve got. Roll it into a ball, flatten into a disc, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Repeat for each color.

You can make this well ahead of time (a couple of months, even), and just throw the plastic wrapped discs into a zip top baggie in the fridge. You should plan on making your chips at least a week or so before your bake time, because it will probably take longer than you think. My original plan was to roll the modeling chocolate into long, skinny snakes, and chop them up to get cylindrical bits. However, the combination of my questionable modeling chocolate and my superheated house, it was just not cooperating with that. You might try this, but if it doesn’t work out, you’ll have to do like I did: Watch a few episodes of The X-Files and roll little balls from your modeling chocolate. Mine were about the size of brown lentils, maybe a tad bigger. I put them on a cookie sheet as I rolled them, and once one was filled I put it in the freezer. Then, once I had filled another, I took the original one from the freezer, used a spatula to pry them all up, and put them in a storage container to return to the freezer. Repeat until you’ve used up your chocolate, and store the completed rainbow chips in your freezer until ready for use.

Oh my god, this recipe is already so long and we haven’t even gotten to the cake. I will try to keep the rest of this brief.

Prep two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans: spray or butter the bottom and sides, throw a parchment paper circle on the bottom, then spray or butter the parchment. You are all using Alton Brown’s fabulous tip for cutting parchment circles, right?

Go ahead and preheat your oven to 350, too.

In your mixer with the whisk attachment, cream butter, shortening, sugar, baking powder, salt, and extracts on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until light in color. Add egg whites one at a time, allowing each to be fully integrated before adding the next. Add one third of the flour, then stir on low to combine. Same deal with half the milk. Scrape down the sides as necessary. Repeat: flour, milk. Then top it all off with the last of the flour.

You don’t want to over mix — that will overdevelop the gluten which will give you a tough cake. It’s better to err on the side of caution and turn it off while there are still some lumps and streaks. They’ll get mixed in while you fold in the jimmies. Which you should do now.

Pour batter into pans, pop in the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Once you’re getting close, check that sucker often. White cake can dry out so easily, so you’ve got to get it out when it’s just barely done. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pans on a wire rack, then remove from the pans and let cool completely.

Frosting! This is pretty similar to the frosting I use on the Carrot Cake for Someone Special, only with the cream cheese dialed down — it’s not a cream cheese frosting, it’s a buttercream frosting with a tang. So, follow the same procedure there: mix butter and cream cheese with whisk attachment until fully combined, add the sifted powdered sugar in increments to prevent dusting your entire kitchen in it, add vanilla extract, whip until fluffy. I didn’t do this, but I’d highly recommend setting aside some of the plain frosting to do a crumb coat with.

But then! Those little balls. Gently fold in your painstakingly created rainbow chips. I did this before a five hour drive to beach, with the frosting in a cooler. Then the cake ended up being stored overnight in the fridge after being frosted, because everyone got too full/inebriated to eat it. The colors from the chips didn’t bleed. I don’t know how long it would be before they started to. I’m just giving you the information I have.

Now, you know what to do! Plop the first layer down, frost the top almost out to the edge, plop the second layer, and frost the top and sides. (Like I said, a crumb coat with the plain frosting is recommended.) Be sure to put strips of parchment paper underneath your cake while you’re frosting — when you’re done you just pull them away and your plate/pedestal is pristine! If you have any leftover modeling chocolate, you don’t have to let it go to waste. Modeling chocolate is also known as chocolate clay, which is quite the accurate name for it. You can sculpt or cut out anything that tickles your fancy and throw it on top of the cake as an edible decoration.

Lentil taco filling

Whenever we go to the beach and have to cook for a crowd, I always go for lentil tacos. I bring my trusty taco seasoning, I cook up a mess of lentils and my mister cooks up a mess of meat, we have toppings galore, and everyone’s happy.

This lentil taco filling is high protein and delicious; even omnis will want to add it to their tacos. Not to mention, it’s quick and easy. You can easily double or triple it if you are cooking for a lot of veg*ns.

lentil taco filling

Lentil Taco Filling
Serves 5-6

1 cup dried lentils
2 cups water
3 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, corn, grapeseed)
1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce*
3/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste

Bring water to a boil over high heat. While waiting, rinse and sort dried lentils to remove any damaged legumes or debris.

When water has come to a boil, add lentils. Reduce heat to low so your water is just barely simmering. Simmer lentils for 12-15 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Older lentils may take longer to cook, so your best bet is to taste them as they’re cooking to see when they’re done.

Once tender, drain excess water from lentils and set aside.

Add oil to a cast iron skillet over medium heat. If you’re on the burner next to your partner who’s cooking a pan of ground beef, be sure to give him or her a withering look when they accidentally fling a piece of meat into your pan. Once pan is hot and oil is shimmering, add lentils. If you’re not sure, just toss one lentil in and see if it sizzles. If it does, you’re good to go.

Cook lentils, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom with a metal spatula, until oil is absorbed and the lentils have picked up a bit of color. You’re not browning them to a crisp, but a bit of color is delicious.

Add Worcestershire, liquid smoke, taco seasoning, and salt. Toss to combine, then taste. Add more taco seasoning or salt to taste as desired.

Toss on a tortilla and dress as desired. I like: freshly shredded sharp cheddar, chopped romaine, avocado cubes, oven-roasted corn, salsa, hot sauce, and a bit of sour cream.

*Bourbon Barrel is the best vegan Worcestershire sauce, but Annie’s is also good.

Note: I’ve tagged this post as gluten-free. This is only the case if you seek out specifically certified gluten-free versions of Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, and all the spices in your taco seasoning. Not to mention serving on a gluten-free corn tortilla. They are all out there, but they are not necessarily the default. If you are cooking this for someone with Celiac’s or gluten intolerance, please check all your labels!

Homemade taco seasoning is good on everything

When I was growing up, my dad lacked two things: cooking skills and spare time. As a result, we ate a lot of tacos. A lot of tacos.

The pre-shredded cheese, salad mix, a jar of salsa, and tortillas were all ready to go out of the packages. Browning up a pound of cheap ground beef doesn’t take long, then toss the seasoning packet in and you’re good to go.

But that packet? What exactly is in that packet? Mostly maltodextrin and salt, instead of the spices that will actually give your food a real kick. A hearty amount of MSG. And something called ethoxyquin, an additive most commonly used in… pet food! And even for pets, there’s been speculation about the safety of it. It’s used in spices to prevent color loss, so the spices in your packet of taco seasoning could likely be older than they look.

Considering that a well stocked spice cabinet will already have most, if not all, of the spices needed to make your own… well, what are you waiting for?

This recipe will make quite a bit of seasoning, so you can always have it on hand. Save your spice bottle empties to put your own spice mixes in. You can drive your partner crazy just like I do!

“Hey, can I toss this empty spice bottle?”
“No!”
“But don’t you already have a bunch saved? Are you using those?”
“I might need more! You like my seasonings!”

Our kitchen may or may not be overrun with my things. I may or may not have an auxiliary shelf of kitchen junk in the basement.

You can use this on whatever protein you’d like — add to cubed tofu, beans, Quorn crumbles or “chicken” bits. Then add extra salt to taste — since the sodium content in whatever you’re putting it on can vary so much, I’ve cut it quite a bit in the mix so you can add it as you cook with it.

However, the way I usually end up using it is to make lentil taco filling. To me, they’re the best whole food for replicating the ground beef taco experience I recall from my childhood.

Aside from making tacos, this is also great sprinkled on fries or popcorn to give a bit of a kick, or my favorite quick and easy (and kind of shameful) party dip: spread a layer of cream cheese, a layer of your favorite jarred salsa (Safeway Select Southwest Salsa, surprisingly), and a layer of shredded cheddar cheese in a baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with taco seasoning, bake at 350 until cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

homemade taco seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning
Adapted (barely!) from Homemade Taco Seasoning by Food Renegade

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast

Stir all ingredients together. Store in a spice shaker jar. Put on all the things!

S’moresy Snack Mix

S’mores are a perfect food. Chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows. You can’t go wrong.

Except for one thing: they’re messy.

I’m not real big on messy foods; s’mores definitely fall in that category. For this reason, I have a bit of an obsession with making s’mores inspired desserts that are a little bit easier to eat. S’mores brownies, s’mores cookies, s’mores cakes… I’ve made them all.

But when I saw a recipe for s’mores puppy chow (aka muddy buddies), I knew I’d hit gold. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for… I didn’t want melted marshmallows, and I didn’t want to abandon the Chex. But it got the gears turning.

Luckily, I’m going to the beach this weekend with for my friend’s birthday. We’re going to have fifteen people crammed in her tiny condo. What better way to make sure people don’t kill each other than making sure they’re too full to do so?

This recipe feeds a crowd, so you might want to halve it for more modest snacking.

s'moresy snack mix

S’moresy Snack Mix
Inspired by S’mores Puppy Chow by Sally’s Baking Addiction
Adapted from Muddy Buddies by Betty Crocker

9 cups Chex cereal
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips*
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or Earth Balance vegan buttery spread
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 cups Golden Grahams*
1 bag Dandies vegan marshmallows

Measure Chex cereal into a big ole bowl. Really big. Biggest one you have.

Then prepare a zip top freezer bag with your powdered sugar.

In a microwavable bowl, combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter/Earth Balance. Microwave uncovered on high for one minute, then stir to combine. Microwave in 30 second intervals if needed to fully melt chocolate chips. Add vanilla, and stir to combine.

Pour chocolate mixture over Chex, and fold with a spatula until all the cereal is covered. This might take a while. Especially if the bowl you put it in is just an teensy bit too small and you keep having to rescue Chex into your mouth.

Once all the Chex is coated, dump it into the freezer bag and shakeshakeshake until all the pieces are coated. Add more powdered sugar if needed.

Dump onto a parchment lined baking sheet or two and spread out. Let cool.

Once coated Chex is cool, add to a bowl with Golden Grahams and marshmallows. Toss until beautifully intermingled.

Stuff in your face by the fistful.

*A note about the vegan status of this recipe: As far as I can tell, there are two different varieties of Golden Grahams cereal — original, and Golden Grahams Honey Grahams. For obvious reasons, the Honey Grahams are not vegan. But the original recipe appears to be — it’s sweetened with brown sugar syrup. Read your ingredient list carefully to be sure. Same with the chocolate chips — some are vegan, some aren’t.

Marinated squash and fig summer salad and my dirty little secret

I love to cook.

You would hope so, wouldn’t you? Since I’m documenting my recipes on the internet and all.

But here’s my dirty little secret:

I buy a lunch almost every day at work.

I currently work right across the street from a Whole Foods, and their salad bar, hot bar, deli, and other prepared foods are just too convenient.

I’m one of those people who snoozes the alarm eight times and sleeps until the very last minute before scrambling to get out of the house in the morning. So I’m pretty much incapable of bringing a lunch unless it has been prepared and packaged the night before. Sometimes this happens. But more often, I forget about this crucial task and instead spend my evening working on a project, watching Doctor Who, or harassing Smells McGee.

I rationalize my lunch habit to myself by saying that it makes me eat healthier; I try to stick to the salad bar (“though that doesn’t always happen,” say my pants). I tell myself that I like variety, and if I were to buy and prep all that fresh produce that I like to load up on my salad, it’d go bad before I used it all. I tell myself that it’s really not that expensive, because at least I’m not loading up my salad with a pound of chicken breast.

These excuses have been enough for me so far. I mean, I’m still eating lunch from Whole Foods pretty much every day. But in just over a month, I am being forcibly relocated from my beautiful downtown office across the street from Whole Foods (not to mention walkable to three sushi joints, the vegetarian sandwich shop/juice bar, the tea house, the pizza place, and occasionally the cupcake truck). I’m being relocated to…

An office park in the middle of the ‘burbs. With nothing you can get to on foot. WHYYYYY??

I guess I’ll have to start bringing my lunch more often. Maybe I’ll even bring this salad, which was loosely inspired by a dish on the Whole Foods salad bar. Obviously you should be taking advantage of the summertime nectar of the gods, fresh figs, if you can get them — if you’re not so lucky, just use dried ones.

marinated squash and fig summer salad

Marinated Squash and Fig Summer Salad
Serves 4 as a main dish

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
1 heaping teaspoon fig jam
1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I like a lot)
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium zucchini
5 ounces baby spinach
5 ounces arugula
1/2 cup slivered almonds
6-12 (depending on variety) fresh figs, quartered
shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano to garnish

Stir olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, cheese, jam, salt and pepper into a storage container. Make sure the jam is fully dissolved. Remove the thyme leaves from the woody stalks, and crush slightly between your fingers before adding to the marinade.

Chop the ends off your zucchini and yellow squash, then cut lengthwise. Slice thin half moons (I like using the food processor slicing disc for this). Add to the marinade. Stir and shake to make sure all the slices are coated. Let marinate in the fridge for at least two hours, as long as overnight if you can plan that far ahead.

Mix spinach and arugula in a big bowl until integrated. Dump the marinated squash, almonds, and quartered figs on top, and toss to combine. I used Black Mission figs, which are pretty petite. If you’re using a larger variety of fig, you can use fewer and may want to dice them into eighths. Add more of the marinade as needed to fully dress the salad. Top off with some generous shavings of a good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

If you want to save leftovers to bring for lunch instead of buying your lunch out yet again: I would recommend preparing just as much as you are going to eat for the first meal. Then toss everything except the greens in a jar, and keep the greens separate to mix when you’re ready to eat.