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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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, 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.

printer-friendly PDF

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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.

Posted in Salads, Veggies/sides, on November 15th, 2014.

butternut_squash_kale_salad

Kale Salad with butternut squash and a warm cider vinaigrette. Delicious!

Has kale salad reached its zenith? Perhaps. And waning? Or not? I really don’t know. We realize, because it’s shouted from the magazine rooftops, that it’s one of those super foods, so very good for us. And there are recipes by the gazillion on the internet for it. So, here’s one more!

There are 4 couples of us – oh, see, there I go – I still think of myself as part of a couple – probably always will – so there are 3 couples and me, the widow, who meet for a gourmet dinner, lunch or brunch every few months. We have plenty of good laughter, conversation about food, travel, sports, etc. You know, the usual, when any group gathers. Except that this group says a prayer before every dinner, which is really nice. And we have wonderful food. So I’m sharing the recipes for a couple of the dishes from that last gathering. It was a brunch. This salad is served cold, not hot. Hence it’s a salad, of course, not a hot side dish. Silly me! Anyway, Dianne made this salad and we all loved it. It’s a slight riff on an Ina Garten recipe. Ina’s called for arugula, and her version is tossed with the dressing just before serving.

This riff on Ina’s salad is made with baby kale (if you can find it – it’s a bit softer and not quite so chewy) and Dianne allowed the dressing to sit on the greens for awhile (so technically it’s no longer a “warm” salad dressing) to help soften up the kale, then she added in the other ingredients and garnished with shaved Parm.

What’s GOOD: loved the color, for sure. The slightly bitter, from the kale, and sweet, from the squash, made a lovely taste in the mouth. A different side dish. Very nice. I liked it.

What’s NOT: nothing really – finding baby kale can sometimes be a challenge (I’d  use arugula if you can’t find the baby kale, but if you really like the regular kale, go for it).

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Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from an Ina Garten recipe
Serving Size: 6

1 butternut squash — (1 1/2-pound) peeled and 3/4-inch) diced
Good olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
3/4 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces kale — baby kale, if possible, or use baby arugula
1/2 cup walnuts — toasted
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated or shaved

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.
3. While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
4. Cut out the ribs of the kale, cut into small bite-sized pieces and rub/massage it just a little bit – it helps break down the toughness of kale. Place it in a large salad bowl and add most of the dressing an hour or so before you’re going to serve it. Then add the roasted squash, the walnuts, and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then taste it to see if it needs more dressing and add if necessary. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan on top. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 274 Calories; 9g Fat (28.3% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 228mg Sodium.

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