Mesclun: Specialty Baby Salad Greens

Mesclun Mixes

A quick look-up in a dictionary for the word ‘mesclun’ will yield a simple definition: a salad made of greens and herbs. If you take a closer look at the different mesclun salad mixes in the produce section, you’ll find a wide array of baby lettuces and fresh herbs.

Many different greens are used in the mix. The key to mesclun mixes is that they are grown and cut as small leaf lettuces, ensuring they are tender and less bitter than their adult forms. While mesclun can be sautéed and served warm, mesclun mixed greens are often simply used as a salad base.

Growing mesclun at home is easily started and grown in a container at home, and the seed mixes vary. The manufacturer’s or grower’s mix may depend on desired salad color, texture, growing times, or the salad’s flavor profile. Check the labels of different brands for a mix that suites you and follow the recommended growing instructions.

Here is a list of five of the most popular greens that make up a general mesclun salad mix, and their daily value percentages from a single serving size.

Mesclun – Five Popular Greens Inside a Mesclun Mix

  • Endive – Leaf vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. Endive can be found as frisee (curly endive) and escarole (broad leaf endive). Endive provides both flavor and texture to the mix. Per one-half cup serving, endive adds 11% DV Vitamin A, 3% DV Vitamin C, 9% DV Folate.
  • Radicchio – Variegated colors in red or green. Gives a nice bitterness and color to a salad. Per 1 cup shredded portion, radicchio gives 6% DV Folate, 5% DV each Vitamins A and C, and has 37mg Omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Arugula – This leafy green also goes by the name of rocket or roquette, and adds spice to the salad. Per 1/2 cup serving, arugula leaves give 5% DV Vitamin A, and 2% DV each Vitamin C and Folate.
  • Chard – Also can be found as Swiss chard, chard are the leaves from the beet plant, Beta vulgaris. Per 1 cup raw serving, Swiss chard gives 44% DV Vitamin A, 18% DV Vitamin C, 3% DV Vitamin E, and has 22mg Omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Dandelion Greens – Not the typical weed, this wider leaf variety gives great flavor and texture to the mix. A 1 cup serving of chopped dandelion greens gives 112% DV Vitamin A, 32% DV Vitamin C, 10% DV Calcium, 8% DV Dietary Fiber, and gives 144mg Omega-6 fatty acids.

Sources:

Neufeldt, Victoria, Ed. Webster’s New World College Dictionary. 3rd Ed. New York: Simon, 1997.

Nutrition Facts and Analysis found on Nutritiondata.com. 

Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? Lisa Caponigri Has an Answer

I’m a sucker for old recipes, and when a new cookbook’s inside cover is littered with well-used hand written ones, I feel I’ve struck gold. Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner (Lisa Caponigri, 2012, ISBN 9781402784828) was written with the author’s belief that “the family that eats together stays together.” For families with busy schedules and uninspiring recipe boxes, the book makes it easy to create great tasting and complete dinners.

Unlike cookbooks that divide the recipes by course – like a pasta chapter or dessert chapter – it is separated by week. Each week contains everything needed for a complete dinner: an antipasto to pass at the table, a primo (first course such as a pasta, risotto or a soup), a secondo (the main course) which includes a side dish (usually a vegetable), and of course, dessert. The recipes can be made and planned as laid out or they can be switched around to revolve around farmer’s markets or grocery aisle specials.

While the recipes are simple and resulting dishes well-flavored, and the photographs make them beg to be tried, the underlying theme is an important one. Family dinners can be done, and aren’t as difficult as it may seem. Caponigri’s introduction at the beginning and her family history at the end illustrate the importance of Sunday family dinners at her house: how it impacted her as a child, and how it positively affects her children and her children’s friends. She stresses that dinners should be stress-free and can be prepped ahead of time. The dinner combinations she’s put together are relatively easy to put together.

Caponigri includes her tips for making a commitment to Sunday dinner doable in any household:

  1. Make Sunday dinner a priority – Schedule it! Talk about it! Make it clear to everyone (including all the adults) that Sunday dinner is special and reserved for family conversation at the table through dinner.
  2. Plan ahead – Similar to any weekly menu or shopping list, plan what you are going to do before hand which makes execution simple.
  3. Decide the menu and assign the chores together – Getting the whole clan on board will make it much easier to finish, but more importantly, it gets the whole family in the kitchen cooking together, at least one night a week.
  4. Keep the menu simple – Recipes don’t need fifty ingredients to taste good. Caponigri’s recipes mainly consist of standard pantry items with a few shopping list ingredients. Incorporate your family favorites with her menu elements, like a pasta dish or side dish, to make it uber-family friendly.
  5. Let go and have fun – Having everyone together should be the highlight of the week, and a time for the family to connect and have fun. Sunday dinner shouldn’t be stressful, and if it starts to feel that way, simplify the menu and delegate more giving everyone in the house something to contribute for the dinner meal.

I enjoyed Caponigri’s recipes and the color photos, but in the end Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? was a reminder for our family to continue cooking together, no matter how busy our work/school/sports/scouting lives may be. Our kids have chefs as parents, and I know when they are all grown up they will care little of our job titles and what they did in school, but remember all those meals we stood around the kitchen counters creating together.

roasted-plum-tomates

For a sample recipe, here is the Pomodori Arrostiti con Aglio – Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Garlic, used with permission by the publisher. It’s a good representative of the type of recipes found in the cookbook: simple, delicious, and adaptable to other family menus.

Pomodori Arrostiti con Aglio - Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Garlic
This dish is all about fresh flavors—ripe tomatoes, garlic, oregano, bay, and olive oil. Roasting accentuates the sweetness of the tomatoes and transforms the garlic cloves into savory softness—diners squeeze the cloves out onto slices of bread to spread.
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Ingredients
  1. 8 plum tomatoes, cut in half
  2. 12 cloves garlic, left unpeeled
  3. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  4. 3 bay leaves
  5. Freshly ground black pepper
  6. Sea salt
  7. 3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  8. Italian bread for serving
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
  2. Select a baking dish that will hold all the tomatoes snugly in a single layer.
  3. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in the dish and push the garlic cloves between them.
  4. Brush the tomatoes with the olive oil, add the bay leaves, and sprinkle pepper over the top.
  5. Bake until the tomatoes have softened and are sizzling in the pan; they should be charred around the edges.
  6. Season the tomatoes with sea salt and a little more pepper, if you like.
  7. Sprinkle with the oregano and serve with bread (your guests and family squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their wrappers onto the bread for spreading).
Sand & Succotash http://www.sandandsuccotash.com/

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Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own.

Red Wine Braised Eggplant with Yogurt and Herb Tomatoes

Market Black Box: Surplus of eggplant.

What I did with it: Braised with red wine, and served them with yogurt and herb tomatoes.

Eggplant and tomatoes. I love cooking with both, and they pair up nicely. If you do a quick search in a search engine for ‘eggplant and tomatoes’, you’ll get all kinds of recipes – from bruschetta appetizers to dinner casseroles.

This simple braised eggplant dish is topped with yogurt and tomatoes for an easy meatless meal, but it goes equally well with grilled meats. Leftovers are great when used to stuff pita pocket sandwiches.

Red Wine Braised Eggplant with Yogurt Herb Tomatoes
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Ingredients
  1. 1 medium eggplant, diced, see recipe
  2. 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 cup sliced bell peppers (use green, or a mixture of red, yellow and green)
  4. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  5. 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  6. 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian blend mixed herbs
  7. 1/2 cup dry red wine
  8. 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  9. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  10. Freshly ground black pepper, or cracked black pepper
For the Yogurt Herb Tomatoes
  1. 3 Roma tomatoes
  2. 1/2 cup plain low fat yogurt
  3. 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  4. 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Instructions
  1. Cut the eggplant into cubes about 3/4-inch in size. Leave the skins on for the recipe. If desired, they may be removed.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a rondeau or large saucepan with a lid (Dutch oven can also be used) over medium heat.
  3. Add in the diced eggplant, yellow onion, and sliced bell peppers. Stir to combine, and cover the pan with a lid. Continue to cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so, replacing lid after each stirring.
  4. Sprinkle in the dried basil and Italian herb mixture. Drizzle over the red wine and stir to combine. Continue to cook the vegetable mixture for another 10 minutes, covered, stirring frequently.
  5. When the vegetables have been cooked down and the eggplant is tender, add in the chopped parsley, salt, and black pepper. Stir, taste, and add in additional seasoning if necessary. For low-salt diets, omit salt all together.
  6. To serve on its own as pictured above, place in a pastry ring (or use a large, tall round cookie cutter) in the middle of a dinner plate. Using a spoon, take the eggplant and place the vegetables inside the pastry ring until the serving size has been met. Carefully remove the pastry ring and a perfectly round portion will be left. It may help to lift slowly while pressing the edges of the eggplant to keep it in place. Spoon some of the Yogurt Herb Tomatoes over the top and serve.
For the Yogurt Herb Tomatoes
  1. Core the tomatoes, and cut them into a small, even dice.
  2. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and add in the plain low-fat yogurt and fresh herbs.
  3. Stir to combine, and serve with braised recipe above.
Sand & Succotash http://www.sandandsuccotash.com/