Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An 'American Grown' White House Recipe: Summer Chopped Salad

Seasonal bounty makes "something special" in this recipe from the First Lady's new book...
The talents of the White House chefs are on full display in First Lady Michelle Obama's new book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, now available in bookstores. Against a backdrop of lush photographs, Mrs. Obama tells the story of her garden and her childhood obesity initiative, offering plenty of advice on creating gardens of all sizes, cooking, healthy eating, and fitness. Recipes from Executive Chef Cris Comerford and other White House chefs are included in the book, as are personal essays about their work with Mrs. Obama as ambassadors for her Let's Move! campaign. Click here for a book excerpt. (Above: Comerford cooking with the First Lady in a photo from the book)

Comerford has been Top Toque since 2005, and she created eight new recipes for American Grown. She is also a mother, so her advice about cooking, getting kids interested in healthy eating, and nutrition has a personal angle. Her recipe for Summer Chopped Salad should appeal to kids, Comerford wrote, because it's colorful in addition to being tasty. It uses summer lettuces, pecans with Cajun spice, radishes, corn, and green beans, topped with a savory tarragon dressing.

"This colorful, refreshing salad makes use of summer produce at its peak, and the variety of ingredients, the sweet and spicy pecans, and the fresh tarragon dressing make this something special," Comerford wrote. "Adjust the proportions to your personal taste. I find the more colors in the salad, the more kids like it."

"If you don't love tarragon, substitute parsley, cilantro, or dill," Comerford advised about the dressing.

The corn and green beans are briefly cooked before being added to the salad, which serves 4-6 people, depending on portion size.

CLICK HERE for a full post about American Grown, Mrs. Obama's debut as an author. Check the sidebar of the blog for all previously released White House recipes.  Click here for 'American Grown' recipes.

White House Summer Chopped Salad

1 Cup fresh corn kernels

1/2 Pound green beans, trimmed

1 Pound assorted summer lettuces, such as Bibb, Romaine, and Red Leaf, well washed and dried

1/2 Cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/2–inch cubes

2 mild radishes, such as breakfast radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 ripe tomato, cut into 1/2–inch cubes

1/2 bell pepper, cut into 1/2–inch cubes

3 to 4 scallions (white part only), chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pecans
1/2 Cup pecan halves

1 Tablespoon honey

1 1/2 Teaspoons brown sugar

1 1/2 Teaspoons melted unsalted butter

1/2 Teaspoon Cajun spice mixture

For the dressing
1/4 Cup white wine vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 shallot, minced (about 1 Tablespoon)

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1/2 Cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. For the corn: Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Heat the pan over medium-high heat and add the corn kernels. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the corn is brown in spots. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for 1 to 3 minutes; be sure that you don't overcook them—they should still be a little bit crisp. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water. Drain, pat dry, and slice into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

3. Make the pecans: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. In a small bowl, toss together the pecans, honey, sugar, melted butter, and Cajun spice mixture. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing the nuts every 10 minutes, until fragrant and caramelized. Set aside to cool.

4. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, and tarragon. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste.

5. In a large mixing bowl, place the salad greens, cucumber, radishes, tomatoes, bell pepper, green beans, corn, scallions, and spiced pecans. Pour the dressing over and toss lightly. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6 depending on portion size.

CLICK HERE for links to all posts about American Grown. CLICK HERE for links to all posts about the Kitchen Garden. CLICK HERE for all Let's Move! posts.

Photos by Quentin Bacon, courtesy of Crown. Reprinted from American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama. Copyright © 2012 by the National Park Foundation. Published by Crown, a division of Random House, Inc.