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Just finished The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

Read Grace Unshakled, by Irene Huising. From Amazon’s page, it says: “In the year 2025, 17-year-old Grace Duncan finds herself in shackles because of her faith in Christ. An obedient daughter and stellar student, doing time in jail was never on her mental radar, despite the changes in religious laws [this takes place here in the United States] over the past few years. Through twists and turns in circumstances, Grace and a small band of Christians in Newport Beach, California begin a journey to discover what it means to follow Christ with unwavering faith in the midst of increasing persecution. Facing the potential loss of all her hopes and dreams, would Christ be enough?” We read this for one of my book clubs, and it’s a scary thought about what it could mean if we take God out of our country. The author is a friend of a friend and she attended our book club meeting to share about how she came to write this book. I don’t often share my faith here on my website, but this book made me stop and think about the direction our government is going, removing more and more our ability to worship God. Or to worship in any religion. Will this book ever make waves in the book world? Probably not. My copy may be a pre-edited version, as it contained numerous typos and formatting errors. But they didn’t detract from the subject, just the cosmetics. The book doesn’t come to a resolution; in fact it leaves you hanging, as some books do. It was intentional (obviously), but left me wondering about the “end of the story.”

Also just finished reading The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Read The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome (the Pope) – he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of Margaret of York (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine),  who was a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Salads, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on January 31st, 2016.

basmati_wild_rice_golden_raisins_salad

What a lovely side dish this is – or it could be a vegetarian entrée, it’s so filling and complete with nutrition! Technically, I  used golden raisins since I didn’t have any currants. It was just fabulous!

Looking for a variety-packed side dish (a carb) to serve with the big family dinner I did recently, I decided to try this wild  and basmati rice (my favorite kind of white rice) side salad. My cousin, who has to eat GF, was all over it (1 1/2 teaspoons of flour is called for in the recipe, to coat the onion topping, so I used his GF flour instead). My D-I-L thought it was a great find, and one she could make and pack small cups into her son’s lunch. I don’t think anyone didn’t like it, and I certainly heard only positive descriptors, so I’d say this dish was a hit. I’d definitely make it again.

Wild rice features in this, and I used one of those already-cooked packets. If you don’t have that, just make it from scratch as instructed in the recipe.

RICE CONUNDRUM: The rice is a bit of a perplexing method. Well, let’s just say that I doubted the accuracy of the recipe when I began making it . . . for over 2 cups of white rice you used just 1 1/2 cups of water? Eh what? Surely I thought that was a typo. You need more water than rice, making it in a traditional method. I went back to the recipe in Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottalenghi. Nope, it was right. So I went on the ‘net, thinking there would be others who had posted this recipe. Yes, but the few there all showed using the same amount of water. I went to Ottolenghi’s website, thinking there might be an errata page (book errors), but no, there wasn’t. I went to my food chemistry book, Harold McGee’s small encyclopedia, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. He has no less than 6 pages of info about rice (no recipes) and in one section it did elaborate that different cultures/cuisines use different proportions of water (no specifics) and he briefly discussed the Middle East’s penchant for flavorings, and the use of oil and butter. No help there. I did a google search on “how to slow steam rice” and that brought up about 100 slow-cooker methods. I took out the “slow” and then got dozens of youtube links to show me exactly how to steam rice. Not what I needed. I even went to the publisher’s website (Random House) hoping for an errata page. I couldn’t find one. What’s with that? Publishers always used to have an errata page.

So, what did I do? I cooked the rice according to the directions, but were I to make this again, I would increase the water by about half. Usually rice needs twice as much water to rice. I’d make it with 1 1/2 times the amount of water to see if that works. The rice is slow-slow cooked on the cooktop – I used my risottos cooker on its slow cooker setting and in the allotted 15 minutes it ran out of water. I let it sit for a bit, thinking that the grains would cook a bit more. I tasted it. It was okay – just a bit crunchy. Surprise. And yet, to me, the rice was on the firm side, for sure.

Once both rices are ready, you begin adding ingredients – herbs, spices, then the raisins. The chickpeas (garbanzos) are sautéed in some oil and spices too (so the flavorings stick to the beans) and those are added in. The onion is a common thread in Middle Eastern rice and grain salads, and not just onion added to the carb, but prepared separately. I didn’t deep fry the onion as the recipe indicated as I was using my cousin’s GF flour and wasn’t certain how it would react to frying, so I just used a few tablespoons of oil and did it that way. Next time I think I’d make more onions and I’d caramelize them, since that adds so much flavor. And I’d leave out the flour – some people made the onions like onion rings, but I prefer the full-bodied flavor of caramelized onions and would mix them in. I added in a bit more olive oil at the end because I thought the dish was very (too) dry, but you can go without that.

What’s GOOD: this was a wonderful side dish. I still question the quantity of water to rice and will alter the recipe if/when I make it again. The flavors were wonderful. The golden raisins (or currants) add such a surprise taste in the savory rice. It’s colorful and everyone liked it a lot.

What’s NOT: it does take a bit more time than some dishes, but none of it was difficult or all that time consuming. If I made caramelized onions next time, THAT would take some extra time.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Basmati and Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants and Herbs

Recipe By: Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Ottolenghi
Serving Size: 6

1/3 cup wild rice
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/4 cups basmati rice
1 1/2 cups boiling water [my opinion – it needs more water]
2/3 cup currants
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley — chopped
1 tablespoon dill weed — minced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Drizzle more oil before serving if salad seems dry
GARBANZO BEANS:
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 cups garbanzo beans, canned — drained, rinsed, towel dried
FRIED ONIONS:
3/4 cup sunflower oil, for frying the onions (or other vegetable oil) [I used about 2 T. instead]
1 medium onion — thinly sliced * see notes
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1. Start by putting the wild rice in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, and leave to simmer for about 40 minutes, until the rice is cooked but still quite firm. Drain and set aside.
2. To cook the basmati rice, pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a medium saucepan with a tightly fitting lid and place over high heat. Add the rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir as you warm up the rice. Carefully add the boiling water, decrease the heat to very low, cover the pan with the lid, and leave to cook for 15 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a clean tea towel and then the lid, and leave off the heat for 10 minutes.
4. While the rice is cooking, prepare the chickpeas. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over high heat. Add the cumin seeds and curry powder, wait for a couple seconds, and then add the chickpeas and 1/4 teaspoon salt; make sure you do this quickly or the spices may burn in the oil. Stir over the heat for a minute or two, just to heat the chickpeas, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
5. ONION: Wipe the saucepan clean, pour in the sunflower oil, and place over high heat. Make sure the oil is hot by throwing in a small piece of onion; it should sizzle vigorously. Use your hands to mix the onion with the flour to coat it slightly. Take some of the onion and carefully (it may spit!) place it in the oil. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown, then transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt. Repeat in batches until all the onion is fried. *NOTE: next time I would use twice as much onion and I’d caramelize it in oil rather than batter and fry them, only to chop them up to add to the rice mixture.
6. Finally, add both types of rice to the chickpeas and then add the currants, herbs, and fried onion. Stir, taste, and add salt and pepper as you like. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per Serving (altogether incorrect because it assumes you consume the oil you fry the onions in): 445 Calories; 8g Fat (16.4% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 83g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 232mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on January 7th, 2016.

spinach_jicama_orange_saladAn absolutely lovely spinach salad. A special occasion salad, for sure – lovely for the holidays, although I’m not posting this until now, in January. With the fruit in it (and the pomegranate molasses in the dressing), it has a nice sweet tinge to it. It’s beautiful, too. The photo was Phillis’ from the class. My photo was good, but hers is better.

Last month my friend Cherrie and I attended a bonanza cooking class in San Diego. The venue where our favorite cooking teacher, Phillis Carey, taught, closed a couple of months ago. That was a sad day.

Once a year Phillis and Diane Phillips taught a double class, usually in December, that were recipes for the holidays. So Phillis and Diane found a new venue, although I think it may be the only time they teach there, so I won’t even tell you about it. Where it was held was not important anyway.

Diane prepared an Italian inspired menu. I’ll share 2 recipes from that one – a delish gratin, and some Brussels sprouts. Oh, and a very nice filet mignon. Later on those . . .

Phillis did a more California-ish menu – a shrimp cocktail, this salad, a buttermilk-brined pork tenderloin that was to die for, a really fantastic savory bread pudding, some unusual green beans with a tomatillo salsa, and the finale was a chocolate tres leches tiramisu. Oh my gosh, was it wonderful.

But today we’re just going to talk about this salad. Luscious salad. I think I could eat this salad at least once a week, but it takes a bit of prep, so no, I won’t be doing that. If somebody would make it for me, then absolutely, I’d be asking for it on the menu every week.

Tip: buy pomegranate molasses to make the vinaigrette if at all possible. Otherwise you can boil down pomegranate juice to make it yourself. The vinaigrette for this salad is just so good – the pomegranate molasses gives it the sweetness, but it’s tempered by balsamic vinegar and white wine vinegar. The salad itself is just spinach, jicama that’s julienned into itty-bitty pieces, a red onion that’s soaked in acidulated water (to take the sharpness and heat out of it), fresh oranges (or use mandarin oranges, canned) and a modicum of fresh pomegranate seeds that you can buy at Trader Joe’s already prepped. So easy.

Phillis prepared a candied pecan to go on this, but I’m giving you the recipe for the peppered pecans that have been a big-time favorite of mine for years. You can make those a day or so ahead of time. This is a sturdy salad (from the spinach) so you could get everything ready ahead of time and just toss it all at the last minute.

What’s GOOD: this salad is special. A real special-occasion type salad, but if you had the dressing made and the pecans already prepared, well, you could throw this together in no time. The jicama takes a bit of time to prepare – if you have a mandoline, then you could do it in a flash. Jicama is a bit unwieldy to work on, but it added a really nice crunchy texture. The jicama soaked up the red colored dressing, so it was also juice and tasty. Altogether delicious salad. A winner.

What’s NOT: well, all I can say is the time it takes to prepare. More than a normal green salad for sure. But you’ll be wowed when you eat it, so it might make all the effort worthwhile.
printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spinach, Jicama, Red Onion and Orange Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 12/2015
Serving Size: 8

VINAIGRETTE:
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
PEPPERED PECANS:
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pecan halves
SALAD:
16 ounces spinach leaves
1 cup jicama — julienned
1 whole red onion — sliced and soaked in vinegar water for one hour, then drained
4 whole navel oranges — or substitute mandarin oranges (easier)
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

NOTES : If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, use 2 cups pomegranate juice and boil it down until you have about 1/3 cup – it’ll be thick and full of flavor. Don’t let it burn.
1. VINAIGRETTE: Combine in a bowl the pomegranate molasses, olive oil, honey, vinegar, mustard, pepper and salt. Can be made ahead by 3 days.
2. PECANS: Place a baking sheet or jelly roll pan next to your range before you start.
3. In a small bowl combine sugar, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
4. Heat a large wok or heavy skillet over high heat. Add pecans and toss until pecans are warm, about 1 minute.
5. Sprinkle pecans with HALF of the sugar mixture and toss until the sugar melts. Add remaining sugar mixture and toss again until sugar melts, then IMMEDIATELY pour out onto the baking sheet. Spread nuts out and allow to cool. These will keep, stored in a plastic bag, for about 3-4 weeks.
6. SALAD: In a large bowl toss together the spinach, jicama, drained red onion slices, oranges and enough vinaigrette to coat all the spinach. Plate the salads and top with pomegranate seeds and peppered pecans. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 352 Calories; 27g Fat (66.6% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 286mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, Veggies/sides, on December 17th, 2015.

tomato_corn_salad_shallot_vinaigrette

We still have some fairly nice tomatoes at our farmer’s markets, and even in the grocery stores. Do make this if you still have some with bright, fresh available produce.

Last month one of my book clubs chose to read Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage , the memoir written by Molly Wizenberg, of Orangette fame (her blog that I’ve been reading for years). It’s a very cute book – about Molly’s journey from single woman, to meeting the man of her dreams and then the rocky road of opening a pizza restaurant in Seattle. The rocky road was about pouring all their hard earned savings into it, even when Molly wasn’t so sure it was a good idea, but she wanted to support her hubby in fulfilling HIS dream of making pizza like he remembered from a Brooklyn restaurant that makes, to this day, some amazing pizza (so we read in the book, anyway). Delancey was almost an overnight success (fortunately) but it was almost Molly’s undoing. She tells it all, sharing her innermost fears almost from day one.

Our book club doesn’t usually read food related books, or restaurant memoirs, so I was surprised when Peggy suggested it. Not that I didn’t want to read the book – I did – but wasn’t sure the other gals in the group, who aren’t all foodies necessarily, would. But yet, the book isn’t all about food – it’s about Molly’s journey. And interspersed in the book are recipes. This one you won’t find on her blog, Orangette. That’s kind of a cardinal rule in blogging – if you’re one of the fortunates, who has become a published author, you don’t write up the book recipes on the blog – why would people buy the book then?

Peggy & her husband Gary came to one of our gourmet group dinners recently, and she brought the salad – the one we’d read about in the book. And gosh, was it ever good. It’s a sterling recipe for showcasing good tomatoes. Don’t even think about making this if you can’t find good tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. These days we seem to be able to get corn on the cob year ‘round, so that’s not a problem. And basil is ever present too. It’s just the tomatoes you’ll have to be careful about.

The shallot vinaigrette is shaken in a glass jar – nothing difficult about it, and any left overs will keep for a few days. I was delighted to use the dressing on a salad a few days later. And actually the tomatoes themselves, the ones left over from the dinner, were still glorious 2 days later since they’d marinated in the dressing. Peggy said she added a little more salt and sugar to the dressing, so I’ve included that change in the recipe below. Taste the dressing to make sure it meets your approval – and add more sugar if it tastes too tart. Molly suggested having fresh bread to mop up the good juices – we didn’t do that, and I wished we’d had some, but we had a full meal without having any bread. This might make a lovely lunch salad with some bread.

What’s GOOD: it’s an easy recipe to make – it’s all about the tomatoes. But yet, the corn adds a very nice texture to the salad. There isn’t all that much of the corn, but it’s a lovely addition. And then, the shallot vinaigrette is really, really good. Nothing all that unusual about it, but I thought it was perfect for the tomatoes. It will keep a day or so, although I wouldn’t serve it to guests after the first time probably. Definitely a keeper.

What’s NOT: only if you can’t get good tomatoes – don’t even try making this if that’s the case.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Tomato and Fresh Corn Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Molly Wizenberg’s memoir, Delancey
Serving Size: 4

VINAIGRETTE:
1/2 extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot — minced
2 pinches salt — or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon sugar — or more to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
SALAD:
4 large tomatoes — sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes — halved
3/4 cup fresh corn — cut off the cob
6 whole basil leaves — thinly sliced
Fleur de sel or sea salt flakes — to taste

1. DRESSING: Put all ingredients in a screw top glass jar. Tightly close the jar and shake vigorously. Put aside until ready to dress the salad, or store in the fridge if you’re making it ahead of time.
2. SALAD: Place the sliced tomatoes on a large serving platter (or divide between individual serving plates). Scatter corn kernels over the tomatoes. Season with fleur de sel, then drizzle generously with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the fresh basil. Serve immediately with crusty bread to mop up the juices.
Per Serving: 304 Calories; 28g Fat (78.6% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 102mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on July 18th, 2015.

italian_basil_salad_parmIf you need a refreshing salad – with greens of all kinds, and some lovely basil leaves – this may be one you’ll want to try. It’s loaded with goodness, and the star of the show are the little crumbles of baked Parmesan. Ever made them before? Easy. And it will make the salad very special.

I just posted about a trip I took in May (no, not the Europe trip, this was one to Northern California), one I will write up one of these days. There were lots of photos to share of the California coastline, wildlife, flowers at a Botanical Garden in Ft. Bragg (way up north) and my older granddaughter’s graduation from high school.

Anyway, while visiting in the Bay Area I went to see old friends I’d not seen for some years. The last time was several years ago when they were living in Pennsylvania and Dave and I stayed with them. Now Karen, Phil and their 2 sons, Cameron and Ryan are back on home (California) turf again and Phil’s got a new very high-powered job in the tech industry. Phil used to work for Intel, my DH’s employer. When Phil was almost fresh out of MBA school and came to work for Intel, he spent some weeks shadowing Dave in outside sales. Most of the new kids on the block did that when they were first sent to this local SoCal office.

the_salad_chefPhil & Karen invited me to their home in Pleasanton – a gorgeous house set amongst a winery enclave. They grilled thick halibut steaks (and we talked about what a real treat halibut is these days at upwards of $20/pound). And their son Cameron (pictured at right) made this marvelous salad. Cameron likes to cook – isn’t it wonderful when your kids take an interest and really want to help in the kitchen?

The recipe came from Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen: 100 of My Favorite Easy Recipes.

A few hours before you want to serve the salad (or even a day or so ahead) you need to make the Parmesan crisps. Click here if you want to see Ina Garten’s video of how to make the crisps. Super easy. But do start with the good stuff, Parmigiano-Reggiano or maybe a very good Pecorino. Nothing less will do. Once baked and cooled, keep them in an airtight container.

The dressing is very easy – it’s the usual salad dressing stuff with a tetch of honey to give it some sweetness. I liked that about this recipe, and not one you often see in an Italian dressing. Usually they’re acid-heavy and consequently, very tart. This one is lovely – smooth and nice. And truly, the Parm crisps make it. Thank you, Cameron, for sharing your recipe with me!

What’s GOOD: the Parmesan crisps are the best part about the salad, no question. They add texture and wonderful deep flavor, so don’t under any circumstances skip that part of it. Have everything else all ready to go and the salad is done in a flash.

What’s NOT: really nothing, unless you can’t set aside the time to make the crisps – that would make this salad very ordinary!

printer-friendly PDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Italian Basil Salad with Crispy Parmesan and Oregano Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen (cookbook)
Serving Size: 4

4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — (125 g) grated
6 ounces baby greens — (175 g)
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes — (500 mL)
1 cup fresh basil leaves — whole (250 mL)
1 cup Italian parsley — leaves and tender stems (250mL)
2 whole green onions — thinly sliced
A sprinkle or two of salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
DRESSING:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil — (30 mL)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar — (15 mL)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard — (15 mL)
1 tablespoon honey — (15 mL)
1 teaspoon dried oregano — (5 mL)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (190°C).
2. Lightly oil a baking sheet, then evenly sprinkle on a thin layer of the Parmesan cheese, forming a circle 8 inches (20 cm) or so wide.
3. Bake until golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Set the baking sheet on a rack to cool. Break the cheese into large chunks. (You can crisp the cheese several days in advance and store in an airtight container at room temperature.)
4. Just before serving, in a festive salad bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, and oregano until they form a smooth vinaigrette. Add the greens, tomatoes, basil leaves, parsley leaves, and green onions.
5. Season to your taste with salt and pepper. Toss everything together and top with the crispy Parmesan.
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 7g Fat (52.8% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 76mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on July 6th, 2015.

tuna_pasta_mint_greenbean_salad

Need a refreshing salad for a warm/hot summer night? The humidity in our neck of the woods has been pretty much in the 70s and 80s in recent weeks, which is very unusual for California. Perhaps you folks in the East scoff at 70% humidity. At any rate, if you want a cold salad that’s filling and delicious, and really simple, just have on hand some canned tuna, green beans, some eggs, mint, basil and some kind of pasta.

I’ve been reading a new blog – well, it’s not a new blog, but it’s new to me. It’s called Manger, written by Mimi Thorisson. Among other things, her photographs are stunning. She lives in Médoc, France with her husband and 2 children. She’s written a cookbook too. I haven’t gone back into her recipe archives much, but I noticed a recipe she made that looked really nice for a warm summer evening. I cooked the green beans earlier in the day when it was cool in the kitchen. I did cook the pasta right before dinner, but that’s because I decided to add it. Mimi didn’t have pasta in her salad, nor did she include basil, or any mayo in the dressing. Or lemon juice, either So, I kind of improvised. I’d been hankering to make my favorite tuna salad, one that’s been in my recipe archive for a long time, credited to Joanne Weir, but Joanne says it’s not really her recipe. I swear it came from a cooking class I took decades ago at Sur la Table, and it was a compilation of some of the favorites from the Sur la Table kitchen school pros, recipes from a variety of different instructors, Joanne being one of them. You can find that recipe here on my blog too. It’s a pasta and tuna mixture, Sicilian Tuna Salad –  that’s been a long time favorite. So I’d gathered up some of the ingredients, because I was going to make it, and then this salad stepped in front of my view, and it became my dinner.

I guess I should say – has it supplanted the Sicilian salad? No, I still like the Sicilian one better, but it’s definitely a pasta salad, whereas this one is more veggies and tuna with a few little pieces of pasta thrown in for texture. This one is very simple to make – prepare the dressing, but add some lemon juice – either in the dressing or drizzle some on the finished salad. Cook the green beans. Chop up the eggs, crumble the canned tuna, chop up some mint and basil and kind of layer the whole thing on a plate then drizzle the dressing on top. Done. Easy.

What’s GOOD: I liked how simple it was to make, and the addition of the green beans put it way up there in my estimation. You can leave out the pasta if you don’t want it. You’ve got protein and vegetables, then, and a drizzle of dressing and some powerful herbs (mint and basil) to give it tons of flavor. I put on lots of black pepper, and it needed some salt at the end also. But you could put this dinner together in less than 20 minutes including cooking the pasta and the green beans.

What’s NOT: It’s not a wow salad – not everything can be a wow. It was good. It was flavorful. It had lots of texture, and it was satisfying. All good enough reasons to make it.

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Tuna, Egg, Mint and Pasta Salad

Recipe By: Inspired by a recipe at Manger (blog)
Serving Size: 2

2 large hard boiled eggs
1 cup haricots verts — cooked, shocked in ice water
1/3 cup mint — chopped
3 tablespoons fresh basil — sliced thinly
2/3 cup cooked pasta
6 ounces canned tuna — [use really good quality tuna], drained, crumbled
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice — approximately, enough to suit your taste
A dash of celery salt
Several dashes of pepper

1. Cut the stem end off the green beans, rinse well and cook for 4-5 minutes in salted boiling water, until just barely tender. Drain and set aside to cool. Chop into small bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
2. Prepare vinaigrette – mix olive oil, celery salt, pepper, mayo and balsamic vinegar . You can add more or less balsamic vinegar to your liking. Set aside.
3. Assemble salad with pasta on the bottom, tuna in the center, a layer of chopped eggs, then a layer of green beans. Sprinkle with chopped mint and basil just before serving and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately with more lemon juice squeezed over the top if desired. (You won’t use all the salad dressing.)
Per Serving (it’s high because there is more dressing than you’ll use): 495 Calories; 32g Fat (58.3% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 240mg Cholesterol; 405mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Salads, on April 25th, 2015.

zuni_cafe_roast_chicken_easy

Oh my gracious! This salad. This salad is going to knock your socks off! Trust me. Bread salad with lots of nice greens, some pine nuts, a few chopped raisins, a tart vinaigrette, and on top – well, just the most delicious chicken I think I’ve ever had. Bar none.

Having guests over for dinner a week before I left on my trip was maybe not the best idea I’ve ever had – I was kind of frantic getting everything done, items packed, friends and neighbors notified, bills paid, taxes done and paid for, and yet, I’d been wanting to have these friends over, and figured oh well, a week before my trip I’ll be fine. And really, it was. Joan brought marinated tomatoes. Jackie brought a delicious blueberry custard dessert. I made the main dish and an appetizer. I brought out one of Dave’s favorite wines from the cellar, an Amavi Syrah, which was wonderful with the chicken. Also served a Zaca Mesa Viognier for two of the guests who preferred white wine. I set the table, of course, chilled the water, made the appetizer the day before, and did the shopping 3 days before.

There is a caveat, however, about this recipe. You absolutely MUST start this at least 24 hours before you want to serve it. And 48 hours are still okay too. It’s not hard to do that step, but it’s imperative you do it. The whole chicken is drained, dried off, salted and peppered and a few sprigs of fresh herbs gently slid underneath the breast skin and the thigh skin. Then it’s left to sit in the refrigerator with just a paper towel over the top. It’s like dry brining. It just sits. See, I said that part was easy. It probably took about 10 minutes of prep to find the right dish to hold 2 chickens that would fit in my garage refrigerator. And 4-5 minutes to dry off the birds and pat the salt all over them. The cold air in the frig helps dry out the skin, but then the salt helps protect it and hug in the juices. Such a chemical term – hug in the juices. I don’t know how else to describe it.

It’s a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. I’d heard, many years ago, about the fame of Judy Rodgers’ roasted chicken. It was epic to her San Francisco restaurant fans when she published her cookbook with the beloved recipe contained within for her roast chicken. Judy Rodgers died a couple of years ago. Chefs and fans mourned grievously. She was a rock star in the chef world. I don’t own her cookbook – The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant [Hardcover] [2002] First Edition Ed. Judy Rodgers, Gerald Asher. The link just provided goes to an older edition that isn’t available for purchase, but you can find it in hardback. Amazon’s link is broken, somehow. Her cookbook is noteworthy for chefs, and very experienced home cooks. It’s not meant for the weeknight family dinner. You can find Rodgers’ roasted chicken full recipe online.  I copied it off from the ‘net, but wasn’t so sure I’d ever make it, as it’s an extremely complex masterpiece.

But, when I found an easy version of Rodgers’ famous chicken and bread salad, I downloaded it in a jiffy from a blog called NW Edible. It’s been in my to-try file for several years. Gosh, what a shame I hadn’t made it before since it’s such a winner!

Here’s what’s involved. Once you have done the dry brine, and a couple hours before you want to eat, bring out the bird(s) to reach room temp. Chop and oil the rustic bread and broil or bake until crispy but not hard. Make the vinaigrette. Get all the other ingredients ready. NW Edible used cast iron frying pans for her chickens. I don’t own 2 of them, so I opted to use my big Teflon coated turkey roasting pan, which was a perfect fit for 2 Costco chickens I’d prepared. I pre-heated the pan to 475°F. Now, that’s not a typo. The chicken IS roasted at 475°. Really. Once the pan was heated, I took it out and plopped the 2 chickies in the pan and they did sizzle. Probably not as much as in a cast iron skillet, but it worked fine in my book.

Into the oven the birdies went and I set the timer for 80 minutes. Meanwhile, I served an appetizer and wine and we would occasionally catch a whiff of the chicken roasting away. Once out of the oven, right on time – the chicken breast was at 170°, a little high, but it was fine. With help from Joan, we each poked a utensil into each end of the chicken and allowed the juices and fat to drain out into the pan. You also slice the skin near the legs to allow all those juices to drain. Then the chickens went onto a big carving board while I worked on the salad. The big roasting pan was drained (and saved) for of all its juices. I used a fat-separator, as I didn’t want the fat, just the juices. For the 2 birds, I think there was about 1/2 cup of juices and fat. That was set aside to do it’s separating and I went back to the pan. It went onto a stovetop burner and once heated up, with the residual fat in the pan, I added fresh garlic and pine nuts and they took a minute or two to get barely golden. Then 1/4 cup of the juices were poured in. That got poured over the top of the bread croutons in a big bowl. They are allowed to just sit for a minute or two – you want those pan juices to soak into the bread. The raisins were added (currants are called for, but I didn’t have any, so I used regular raisins chopped up fine) into the vinaigrette. A couple of huge wads of salad greens were added. The recipe calls for arugula, but Trader Joe’s was all out of arugula (gosh, that stuff is popular), so I used a multi-colored greens mixture that contains quite a bit of arugula anyway.

Meanwhile, I asked one of the guys to carve, which Don did, very kindly. I could have done it, but I thought I’d ask for help. Tom was the sommelier, we decided to call him and he kept our wine glasses filled. The two husbands handily stepped in to fill Dave’s shoes. Once the salad was tossed – the greens and the soaked bread, it was all on the big white platter you can see up top, and then Don put the chicken pieces – some thick breast slices, some dark meat and a drumstick or two on top, and it was ready. Done.

Almost always when I serve dinner, I serve it buffet style in the kitchen. On my huge island. Then everyone takes their plate into the dining room. We had a lively conversation about a variety of things. Travel, politics, religion. Two of those somewhat no-no subjects. We talked about our families, grandchildren and their busy schedules, travel destinations, etc. Anyway, it was just great fun, and the chicken was magnificent.

What’s GOOD: there is absolutely nothing that isn’t GREAT about this recipe. It takes a bit more prep than some, and you do have to start at least a day in advance. The vinaigrette is fabulous. The salad and slightly soaked crispy bread is magnificent. And the chicken. Well, it’s in a league of its own. Make this. It’s going onto my Carolyn’s Favs list, if that tells you how good it is.

What’s NOT: only the part about needing to start it at least a day ahead.

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Easy Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken and Bread Salad

Recipe By: NW Edible blog, 2013
Serving Size: 9

CHICKEN:
6 pounds whole chicken — 2.5 – 3 pounds per chicken
8 sprigs thyme — soft tip-sprigs, each about 1-inch long or rosemary (or both)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
BREAD SALAD:
16 ounces bread — thick sliced, rustic style (like ciabatta)
olive oil — as needed
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 whole garlic cloves — chopped (2 to 3)
A few handfuls of arugula or similar greens washed and dried
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
VINAIGRETTE:
2 tablespoons dried currants — or raisins, chopped
2 tablespoons red onion — or shallot, finely minced
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chicken juices, drained from the hot roasted chicken

1. CHICKEN PREP – A day or two before you intend to roast your chicken, sprinkle it all over with kosher salt and a little black pepper. A 3 pound bird will use about a tablespoon of kosher salt. Slide an herb sprig under the skin pocket of each breast and thigh. Tuck the wingtips behind the neck but do not truss the bird.
2. Refrigerate chicken, lightly covered with a paper towel or two, for 24 hours to 3 days. This gives the salt an opportunity to season and tenderize the meat.
3. An hour or so before you want to start roasting your chicken, and about two hours before you want to eat, preheat your oven to 475° F and bring your chicken out of the frig so it can come to room temperature.
4. Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for several minutes, until quite hot. (I used a large roasting pan, that happens to be Teflon coated and 2 chickens sat in the pan perfectly.) Place the resting chicken, breast-side-up, in the hot skillet. It should sizzle. Transfer immediately to the hot oven. If your skillet isn’t well seasoned, and you worry about sticking, add a bit of olive oil or lard to the skillet just before you add your chicken the skillet.
5. Roast chicken for about 40 minutes to an hour, until fully cooked but still juicy. (If you have a 5-pound bird, it may take 75-85 minutes.) The skin should be beautifully golden and paper thin across the thigh, and the thigh joint should feel lose.
6. When chicken is cooked, using a utensil poked into each end of the bird, carefully tip the bird so the cavity is down and drain the juices from the chicken. Slash the skin between thigh and breast to let out any trapped juices there. Transfer chicken to a platter to rest. Whisk the pan juices in the skillet to release any caramelized bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then transfer juices to a fat separator if you have one (or use a small bowl) and set aside for 5-10 minutes to allow the fat to rise to the top. You’ll use about ¼ cup reserved juices (not the fat); if you have more, save extra for another purpose.
7. SALAD: While chicken is roasting, prepare the bread salad.
8. VINAIGRETTE: For the vinaigrette, add the currants and minced red onion to a bowl. Add red and white vinegar and set aside for about ten minutes, to allow currants to plump. Then, add Dijon mustard and olive oil and whisk until well blended. Set aside. This can be made a few hours ahead.
9. BREAD: Brush all bread slices liberally with olive oil and salt to taste. Place toast slices under a preheated broiler or in a dry skillet set over medium heat and toast until golden brown. Some darker and lighter spots are fine. (I cut the bread into cubes, and toasted them, lightly tossed with some olive oil in a 375° oven for about 12 minutes until golden brown.)
10. When toasted bread is cool enough to handle, tear into rough, bite-sized hunks if you didn’t cut the bread into cubes at the beginning. Some larger and some smaller pieces are fine. Put toasted bread pieces in a large bowl. (You can make the bread a few hours ahead, but once cool, place them in a sealing plastic bag to keep them crispy.)
11. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a pan. Add the smashed garlic cloves and pine nuts and warm all over medium heat until the pine nuts are toasty but not burnt and the garlic has softened.
12. Add garlic, pine nuts and any olive oil from the pan to the bowl with the toasted bread pieces. Set aside until you are ready to finish the salad.
13. FINISHING: Gather the bowl with the toasted bread, the vinaigrette, the reserved pan juices from the roast chicken and 4-6 handfuls of arugula.
14. Toss the bread with the chicken juices and add about half of the vinaigrette and stir to combine. You want the bread to soak up those juices, so give it a minute if needed. Add in the arugula, toss, and taste for seasoning. Adjust by adding salt, pepper, more vinaigrette, or a tiny splash of red wine vinegar if needed. (Mine was perfect, using about 3/4 of the vinaigrette.)
15. Serve the chicken pulled into pieces, over the bread salad. Good hot or room temperature. If you have extra vinaigrette (I did), serve it at the table and allow guests to pour a bit of it on top of the chicken pieces, if desired.
Per Serving (disregard it all – it shows high calorie because the recipe assumes you consume all the skin, and fat and the sodium is high because of all the salt patted on the bird during its dry brining): 730 Calories; 47g Fat (58.5% calories from fat); 44g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 188mg Cholesterol; 1688mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, Salads, on February 8th, 2015.

arugula_greens_salad_oranges_peppered_walnuts

 It seems like most green salads, these days, are filled with all kinds of non-vegetable goodies. In this case, instead of tomatoes, or sugar snap peas, celery and carrots, this one has crumbles of blue cheese, peppered walnuts, some orange slices, and it’s tossed in a sweet honey and apple cider vinegar dressing.

A few weeks ago I needed to take a salad to a church event (a ladies luncheon). Most everyone brought a salad, a couple made dessert. I went through all kinds of salad recipes looking for one that interested me. Finally found one in a relatively newer cookbook I have called From Terra’s Table, featuring recipes from the author’s restaurant and some other San Diego restaurateurs. But I changed it all around. It called for arugula and radicchio. I couldn’t find the radicchio, so had to substitute greens that contained some radicchio and colorful red greenery. The recipe called for walnuts that were coated in a spice egg white mixture and baked. I decided to make my favorite Peppered Pecans, but instead of pecans (the way I usually make it) I used walnuts instead. I had mostly walnut oil for the dressing, but not enough to make this, so had to substitute hazelnut oil for part of it. I had some good Humboldt Fog blue which I did crumble in the salad, and just because I had a nice, big juicy orange in my kitchen, I decided to add that as well.

Hence, this recipe is not true (much) to the original recipe. I altered the dressing a little bit. I altered the greens. And I made different nuts. So, really, it’s almost a new recipe. I’m sorry my photo isn’t better above – I used my cell phone at the event and didn’t have the best light.

What’s GOOD: I really liked the dressing, but it is on the sweet side. I also enjoyed the orange in this, and the texture from the peppered pecans for sure. I used less of the blue cheese since I think blue can overpower a salad. I’d have liked some sturdier greens in this (maybe some Romaine, but not a lot) because those multi-colored greens are so very tender. I’ve changed that in the recipe below, but you can use your own judgment when you make it yourself. It’s very pretty – especially with the orange slices visible.

What’s NOT: nothing really, other than you do have to prepare the walnuts, the dressing, and at the last minute toss it all and peel & slice the orange. Not something I’d make for a weeknight dinner, but great to take to someone else’s home if this is all you’re making.

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Arugula and Radicchio Salad with Blue Cheese, Oranges and Peppered Walnuts

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe from (now closed) Terra Restaurant, San Diego
Serving Size: 5 (maybe more)

PEPPERED WALNUTS:
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup walnut halves
HONEY-WALNUT VINAIGRETTE:
3/8 cup honey
3/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup walnut oil — plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon shallots — minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
SALAD:
1/2 pound arugula
1/4 pound radicchio — sliced (or use multicolored greens)
2 cups Romaine lettuce — chopped
1/4 cup blue cheese — (I used Humboldt Fog)
1 whole orange — peeled, thinly sliced

1. WALNUTS: Place a baking sheet or jelly roll pan next to your range before you start.
2. In a small bowl combine sugar, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
3. Heat a large wok or heavy skillet over high heat. Add nuts and toss until walnuts are warm, about 1 minute.
4. Sprinkle nuts with HALF of the sugar mixture and toss until the sugar melts. Add remaining sugar mixture and toss again until sugar melts, then IMMEDIATELY pour out onto the baking sheet. Spread nuts out and allow to cool. The nuts won’t absorb all of the sugar mixture – it caramelizes, but just throw out the extra. The nuts will keep, stored in a plastic bag, for about 3-4 weeks. (Allow pan to cool, then fill with hot water – I use a nonstick pan for this.)
5. VINAIGRETTE: Combine the liquid ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a jar, add other ingredients, shake and set aside (extra dressing will keep for 2 weeks, refrigerated). You won’t use all the dressing on this salad.
6. SALAD: In a large bowl combine the arugula, Romaine and radicchio (or greens). Add enough salad dressing so the leaves shine. Taste for seasonings, then add the crumbled cheese on top, add peppered walnuts and orange slices. Serve immediately.
Per Serving (incorrect as you’ll have dressing left over): 611 Calories; 53g Fat (74.2% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 377mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on January 26th, 2015.

spinach_mache_plums_pears_salad

It’s been about a month ago that my friend Cherrie and I went to a cooking class at someone’s home, and Tarla Fallgatter prepared a whole bunch of appetizers and a dessert. This was the salad, and it’s a stunner. The addition of fruit to a green salad is finally coming into its own, and this one’s a really delicious rendition. Because Tarla had some cooked quinoa on hand, she tossed that into the salad as well, although that isn’t in the recipe. She also added a little bit of poached chicken to each serving, so it can be made into a complete meal.

Although there aren’t exactly a lot of ingredients in this salad, it does take a bit of preparation. The vinaigrette comes together quite easily (rice vinegar and raspberry vinegar in combo with olive oil and honey mustard) and could be made in advance, for sure. I’d recommend you do the prep of the salad next – this does have Belgian endive, and instead of whole leaves or chopped, they’re cut into lengthwise slivers. If you can find mache, do use it – if not, use a spring greens mixture and the baby spinach (do not use regular – large – spinach leaves). Try to find ricotta salata (it’s a specialized kind of medium-hard ricotta cheese, grate-able) or substitute Feta. Trader Joe’s sells the marcona almonds that are all ready to toss in this, since they’ve been baked with salt and rosemary.

Next would be finding fresh, ripe plums. The Asian pear is usually available year ‘round. The recipe calls for dark red grapes – if you’re lucky you might find large grapes that are seedless. If not, you’ll want to cut them in half and remove the seeds – do cut the grapes in half anyway – easier to eat. This may take a little bit of time.

The last thing you’ll do is slice the fresh fruits, then dress the salad and try to artfully arrange the fruits. You can serve this on a large platter, or on individual plates. It’s a beautiful plate either way.

What’s GOOD: the vinaigrette is really good – a bit of sweet from the raspberry vinegar and sweet from the honey mustard, but certainly counterbalanced by the rice vinegar (not the sweeter seasoned rice vinegar). The fruit is what made it for me – it was a lovely combination of them, alongside the marcona almonds and the crumbly, salty, ricotta salata cheese.

What’s NOT: only the prep time – the fruit does take some effort – especially if you must halve and de-seed the grapes. But don’t eliminate the grapes as they add a really nice balance of texture and taste.

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Green Salad with Plums, Asian Pear and Grapes

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 6

SALAD:
4 cups baby spinach — or arugula
2 cups mâche — or spring mix
3 whole Belgian endive — thinly sliced lengthwise
3 whole plums — seeded, thinly sliced
1 whole Asian pear — peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red grapes — use dark red, if available, halved, seeded
1/2 cup marcona almonds — with rosemary flavoring if possible
1/2 cup ricotta salata — or Feta
VINAIGRETTE:
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar — NOT seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 teaspoons honey mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil — (not necessary to use EVOO)
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

Notes: if you have a little bit of quinoa, or brown rice, or wild rice, it can be added to this salad to make it a bit more substantial. You might need more dressing, however. You can also add some cooked chicken and make this a meal.
1. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside. Can be made the day ahead.
2. Prepare all the fruit and drizzle a bit of the dressing on the fruit and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes.
3. In a large salad bowl toss the spinach, mâche and Belgian endives together with the vinaigrette. Add the fruit, marcona almonds and cheese. Pour out onto a large platter or on individual plates, arranging some of the fruit on top. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 310 Calories; 25g Fat (76.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 327mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on January 11th, 2015.

persimmon_orange_salad

See that little piece of persimmon hiding behind the orange? How fun this salad was – greens, but with a dressing made with persimmon as well. I’d have never thought to make a dressing using the persimmon pulp in it. But oh, was it ever good.

If you’re lucky enough to have a persimmon tree, perhaps this is a recipe you’ve not made before. This is persimmon season, so do pick up 3 Fuyu persimmons, The Fuyu is the Asian, firm fleshed type, the one you can even eat the skin. The other type, Hachiya has ultra-soft flesh (or at least you should ripen it until it is that way) and the skin is bitter, gag-worthy. My parents had a Hachiya tree in our backyard as I was growing up. It didn’t produce all that much fruit, but we never did cut it down because of that. My mom preferred to make persimmon pudding (not my fav) and persimmon cookies (ultra-soft and also not a fav of mine) or persimmon bread (that was okay). Or, we just ate them out of hand or on a cottage cheese salad.

Some of you, reading that, probably gag just because of the cottage cheese – I don’t know how long ago cottage cheese was mass produced, but my mom liked to make a quick salad with some canned fruit on top, a ring of pineapple, for instance, and that was a whole lot easier than cutting up greens and veggies for a green salad. Not something I ever – ever – make today. My DH disliked cottage cheese – he remembers many a salad made when he was growing up, same thing, a mound with a piece or two of canned fruit on top. He simply wouldn’t eat cottage cheese in any way, shape or form. I might have been able to hide it in a jello salad, but I rarely made those for him anyway, even with sugar-free jello!

Anyway, the dressing is made in a food processor or blender, has the usual ingredients but with added pine nuts, orange zest, some orange juice, and then it’s got one persimmon mixed in it. It’s kind of thick. It will keep for 3 days. If you’re not sure about this, make a half a recipe of the dressing.

The salad part has the yield from a whole pomegranate, arugula, Romaine, green onions and sliced oranges, as you can see from the photo. If you aren’t a fan of persimmons, you could use mango instead.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was good, but you can’t quite figure out the dressing (a good thing). It’s not cloyingly sweet. Trust me. I liked this a LOT. On my cooking class sheet (this was made by Phillis Carey) I wrote “fab.” That’s my highest rating.

What’s NOT: maybe the prep of the persimmon (peeling it – not hard, just a bit tedious) and prepping the orange. The dressing takes a bit of time, but hey, you’ll be glad you made it when you taste it.

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Persimmon, Orange and Pomegranate Salad with Arugula and Romaine

Recipe By: Phillis Carey, cooking instructor and author
Serving Size: 6

SALAD:
1 whole pomegranate
2 large Fuyu persimmons — ripe
2 cups arugula
4 cups Romaine lettuce
6 tablespoons green onions — thinly sliced
4 medium blood oranges — or navel oranges, peeled and thinly sliced
PINE-NUT VINAIGRETTE:
1 large Fuyu persimmon — ripe
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons pine nuts — toasted
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice — blood orange or regular
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons shallots — cut up
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 dash ground cinnamon — or ground allspice
1 dash freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut pomegranate in half cross-ways. Holding a pomegranate half in your hand over a small bowl, cut side next to your palm, and using a heavy mallet or pounder, rap the outside of the hard skin. Seeds will fall out into your hand and into the bowl. Continue rapping the outside until most have fallen out. Turn it over and break apart to remove the last of the seeds. Repeat for other half. Set aside.
2. Halve each persimmon; remove and discard core. Cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices.
3. In a large bowl, combine arugula, Romaine and green onions. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette over salad; toss to coat. Serve with persimmons and oranges. Sprinkle the reserved pomegranate seeds. Pass remaining vinaigrette. Makes 6 side-dish servings.
4. VINAIGRETTE: Cut persimmon in half; remove and discard core. Scoop out pulp (should have about 1/3 cup), discard skin. Place pulp in a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth.
5. Add extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, toasted pine nuts, finely shredded blood orange or orange zest, blood orange or orange juice, honey, shallot, Dijon-style mustard, cinnamon, and black pepper.
6. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Makes about 1-1/4 cups – you’ll use a bit over 1/2 cup for a 6-serving salad.
Per Serving (not accurate as you use about 1/3 of the dressing): 276 Calories; 14g Fat (44.3% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 14mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on December 20th, 2014.

spinach salad with roasted apples and apple cider vinaigrette

Of all the recipes from this last class I went to, I think this was one of the best. What made it special were the roasted apples, and the vinaigrette. Both are different – unusual – and very, very tasty.

If you look at the apple that’s nestled at the top (center) you can see that it’s different – you can barely discern that it’s been roasted. Hard to tell with the others. And, you certainly can’t see anything about the salad dressing except that the spinach leaves glisten with it. And oh, was this good. This isn’t anything close to an easy salad to make. It has 3 prep components: the dressing, the candied pecans, and the roasted apples. But you’ll be in heaven when you taste it. The roasted apples have a wonderful sweetness, but not overly so, and the dressing contains a bit of brown sugar and is made with a reduction of apple juice, so it does have more than a little bit of sweet to it. It would have been perfect with Thanksgiving dinner. But it would be delicious any time of year. Truly.

When I make this – and I will be making it – I’m going to figure out how to use apple juice concentrate so I don’t have to boil down the juice to get a reduction. I think – and I’d have to double check the frozen can directions – but I think if you used 1 T. of apple juice concentrate you’d be all done with that step! A tablespoon of concentrate mixed with 3 parts water would = 1/4 cup apple juice, right? So you’ve saved a bit of time right there.

The spiced nuts – oh gosh were they ever good. Very easy. The only ingredient I don’t have in my kitchen is Lawry’s garlic salt. I’ll have to make do with something else as I’m not going to buy that just for this recipe. When I make this I’ll probably make more than this recipe because the nuts would be so tasty to serve to guests. Probably not in the same meal, but as an casual appetizer. The recipe makes 2 cups, and 1 cup goes into the salad, so you’ll have a cup left over anyway. You’re going to like them, I assure you!

Do buy baby spinach for this – or you could mix some field greens with spinach, which would be fine. But you don’t want regular (big) spinach leaves. And the only other comment is that you must add the poppy seeds at the last minute – on top of the salad. If you add it to the dressing, the poppy seeds clump together. Not appetizing, for sure. So just have those sitting by your bowl when you’re tossing and sprinkle them on top when you add the nuts and apples. Ideally, you’ll want to plate this salad so everyone gets an equal amount of apples and nuts, but it would be beautiful on a big platter. If you wanted to serve this as a main course, I’d add some goat cheese to it and you’d be set.

What’s GOOD: every single, solitary thing about this salad is wonderful. The apples (so different to be roasted), and the apple juice/cider vinaigrette. Oh, and the spiced pecans. Everything good.

What’s NOT: this will take you awhile to make – don’t make the day of – if you’re doing a full-on dinner yourself, although you can make the dressing ahead and the nuts. The apples can also be made ahead – so if you do make this for a dinner party, do all those steps the day before. You’ll be glad you did.

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Spinach Salad with Roasted Apples, Candied Pecans and Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Diane Phillips, cooking instructor and author
Serving Size: 8

APPLES:
4 each apples — Gala or Fuji (can substitute pears)
1/2 cup turbinado sugar — (raw sugar)
VINAIGRETTE:
1 tablespoon apple juice concentrate
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup canola oil — or grapeseed (use a neutral oil)
SALAD:
30 ounces baby spinach — or a mixture of field greens and spinach
1 cup of spiced nuts (below)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
SPICED & CANDIED PECANS:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s garlic salt
1 pinch cayenne
1 cup pecans — or walnuts
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar — raw sugar

1. APPLES: Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with silicon or foil.
2. Arrange apple slices on baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar. If you don’t put too much space between the apples, you’ll get most of the sugar on the apples, not on the baking sheet.
3. Roast for 15-20 minutes until the apples are caramelized. Cool and set aside. Apples can be made ahead and stored in refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
4. VINAIGRETTE: Whisk together the apple juice concentrate, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and oil (don’t emulsify it in a blender – gets too thick). Can be made ahead up to 2 weeks. Whisk just before serving.
5. SALAD: In a large salad bowl mix the spinach and poppy seeds with some of the dressing until greens are coated. Place salad on individual plates and garnish with roasted apples and spiced nuts.
6. SPICED NUTS: Melt butter in medium-sized nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar, seasoned salt, garlic salt and cayenne and stir until the spices give off some aroma, about 1-2 minutes. Add the nuts and toss until well coated, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and place nuts in a glass bowl (for easier clean-up). Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the nuts and toss until coated. Cool completely, then store in a ziploc plastic bag. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 2 months.
Per Serving: 435 Calories; 33g Fat (64.0% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 176mg Sodium.

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