Posts tagged ‘vinaigrette’

January 31, 2012

Salad Series {Post #8} Winter Panzanella AKA Italian bread salad

Pottery handmade by Catalina Aguirre Hoffman

Winter Panzanella – well, my interpretation anyway…

French and sprouted green lentils, roasted butternut squash, dandelion greens, whole wheat raisin croutons with a lemon-thyme vinaigrette.
One of my favorite salads is a summer panzanella, super ripe tomatoes, basil, maybe a little mozzarella and day old bread to mop up all the tomato nectar – it doesn’t get better.  I guess the only traditional ingredients that overlap between the summer and my “winter” panzanella are the bread and onions. This is a great example taking a classic recipe and making it through the seasons, with what’s in season. Instead of the tomatoes and basil I used dandelion greens and squash. I used a whole wheat raisin loaf I didn’t get to finish before it staled. Because this is such a healthy salad I felt it justified to saute the croutons in a pan with a little butter and olive oil – my favorite way to enjoy croutons. Although I don’t think traditionally the bread is toasted, I like the extra crunch and it keeps the bread from getting too soggy (which is one of my least favorite things, ewww). This is also a very hearty salad, it’ll fill your belly and warm your soul in the cool of winter. Not that we see very cool weather here in South Florida, I guess that’s why I’m making salads, not stews!  I used Feta, which is what I had on hand, but I would love this salad with goat cheese. Use whatever leftover bread you have, though I really liked the sweetness the raisins added. If you don’t use raisin bread, I’d toss in a few raisins or dried fruit of some kind, soaked in warm water for a few minutes to soften them. Dandelion greens aren’t for everyone, especially when their more mature = pretty bitter, but they sure are good for you! The slight bitterness plays really well with the other ingredients in this salad. If they’re too earthy for you, arugula, spinach or frisse would be a great substitute. Just about any squash or root vegetable will work in this recipe – just don’t over cook them, you want them to have a slight bite and hold their shape. Using a few different types lentils made this salad extra interesting. This is the first time I’ve used sprouted lentils – if you can get your hands on some,  their wonderful.

November 8, 2011

Salad Series {post #1} Wheat Berry Salad and the Elusive Vinaigrette

We eat a salad of some sort just about every day at our house. I’ve been told it’s a particular strength of mine to compose a salad, I just think we excel in things we love to eat. Funny though, back in culinary school I struggled most with making a vinaigrette – it just seemed impossible to balance just enough acid with the oil. Drop by drop we would add the oil into the bowl while the other would vigorously whisk in fear of breaking the emulsion. We would all stand around the bowl with our plastic spoons tasting and re-tasting this terribly flat or lip puckering concoction – “maybe a little more oil” – “no, maybe a bit more acid” – “maybe it needs more salt” – “I just don’t know!” It’s so funny to think about it now. One day it just clicked. I remember the moment I finally started to understand the vinaigrette. I was working my internship in Los Angeles, at Ciudad (owned and operated by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger AKA The Two Hot Tamales). Before service each day, Susan would grab a handful of spoons and walk through the line and taste everything that we were about to send out to the guests, I mean everything! At that point I was just moved up from prep to working the salad/hot appetizer station. Prep cooks work behind the scenes, usually off the line. They peel potatoes, chop onions, slice mushrooms – pretty much anything and everything that makes the chefs and line cooks life easier. The dishwashers and prep cooks are the true backbone of any restaurant, they make us all look better.  In the beginning Susan would comment to me that my salads needed more vinegar/acid (or salt!), even after painstakingly making the dressings. This made me really stop and think about what I was trying to achieve, and in turn brought me back to culinary school and the vinaigrette recipe standard of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid . If you can keep this formula in the back of your mind you are well on your way to making great vinaigrettes. Vinegars and citrus such as lemons have different levels of tartness, so depending on what your acid of choice is, you may have to slightly adjust the amount oil. For me it’s more like a 2:1 ratio, I like a little extra punch, but everyone’s tastes are different. It’s not a science, it’s a subtle balance – you want your tongue to tingle ever so slightly. The acid will hit you in the back sides of your tongue, just enough to make your mouth water a bit. Pay attention, close your eyes and taste – you’ll know when you have the right balance when you say to yourself “damn, that’s really good”.

I’ve been looking forward to diving into this Salad “Series” with you. Salads, vinaigrettes and dressing – there are no limits to the flavors and combinations – so let’s get crazy and creative! Well, at least creative.

Pottery handmade by Catalina Aguirre Hoffman

Wheat Berry Salad with ginger and citrus.
I’ve dubbed this salad “the kitchen sink”, make at the end of the week when you have bits and pieces of things left over that you need to use up. When I’m thinking about a salad, I want to hit all the senses. Is there something crunchy, something a little sweet, salty, something peppery, astringent, a little acidic, something chewy (and this wheat berry salad is definitely chewy!). Sometimes you can achieve this in just a few ingredients – some mixed greens, a few seeds or nuts and a fantastic vinaigrette. Well, this Wheat Berry Salad has more than a few ingredients, but so good! Remember “kitchen sink”, throw in what you have on hand – a handful of nuts, some dried fruit, left over veggies, that little chunk of cheese that’s been sitting in the fridge waiting for a purpose…

April 21, 2011

Steak & Potato Finger Food – Apple Crostata with a Cheddar and Goat Cheese Crust

Apple Crostata
Aged cheddar and goat cheese Crostata crust? Yes, you read it right. I know what you are thinking…goat cheese in an apple tart crust?! I actually thought it might be a little crazy too. I usually make a sour cream crust with my fruit tarts, I like the subtle tang. I didn’t have any sour cream and rarely make a special trip to the market for an ingredient – I didn’t have any buttermilk either (does anyone REALLY keep buttermilk in their fridge? The only one I can think of that could reach into the fridge for a cold glass of buttermilk was Gramps (((shiver))). I don’t know how he did it, maybe it was one of those old school secret remedies that made him so strong and healthy. The only dairy thing I had in my fridge that was even remotely thicker than the milk was goat cheese – hmmmm, it has the tang of sour cream and buttermilk, why not. Back in the early days when I was serving up eggs at the local truck stop (pretty much the only gig in town for a young teenager). Sometimes guests would come in and ask me to warm them a piece of apple pie WITH A PIECE OF CHEDDAR CHEESE ON TOP! I thought this was quite strange. But hey, what ever they wanted – who was I to question it. Turns out they were on to something, its fabulous! I love the bit of salty with the sweet apples, and it makes the crust a bit crispier. For this tart, the cooking time may vary slightly depending on which apples you use and how soft you like them.  I like mine slightly firm, not too soft. If the apples aren’t cooked enough for you and the crust is done, just lower the oven temperature to 350 and drape a piece of foil over the top to finish cooking. Although the goat cheese is very subtle, you can use buttermilk or sour cream, you may have to add a bit more flour.

Twice Baked Baby Sweet Potatoes & Beef Ribeye Bites Wrapped with Prosciutto, Pomegranate Molasses and Blue Cheese Crust
I received some beautiful baby sweet potatoes in my CSA (community supported Agriculture) share this week and thought they would be perfect to use as hors d’oeuvres, and what goes better with potatoes than steak? We don’t eat a lot of beef, but when we do I usually make something like this. I think the original recipe came from my brother K (my twin actually), who’s an amazing cook. Or we wrote it together over the phone as he’s blazing through grocery store planning for a last minute dinner party. The conversation goes something like this; Rinnngggg – hello? “So I’m having some friends over tonight, I’m doing a cedar planked Salmon….and I want to do a really yummy sauce, what do you think?” We’ll write a menu on the spot as he grabs the ingredients, and it’s always a big hit. His version uses beef tenderloin, bacon, blue cheese crumbles, a balsamic reduction and grills them. All I have to say is, YUM.
Both these starters can be made ahead and put into a hot oven just before you serve them. If you do the beef ahead, prep it up until you top it with the blue cheese crust, then finish it in the broiler just before your ready to serve. While the steak is resting you can lower the oven to 400 and warm up the potatoes and serve everything at the same time. If you can’t find baby sweet potatoes use fingerlings and a sweet potato instead of the white potato.
If you can’t find Pomegranate Molasses you can make your own.

Homemade Pomegranate Molasses
3 C. “POM” juice (not sure what this is? Click here for info)
1/2 C. lemon juice
sugar to taste

Place all the ingredients in a non reactive sauce pan. Bring to a slight boil, then reduce and simmer. Reduce by 1/3.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

April 13, 2011

Vietnamese Turkey Meatball Sandwiches (Banh Mi) – Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Candied Bacon and Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette – Mango Jellies (Pate de Fruits)

Vietnamese Turkey Meatball Sandwich (Banh Mi)

Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Candied Bacon and Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Mango Jellies (Pate de Fruits)

Vietnamese Turkey Meatball Sandwiches
The first time I had a Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) was about 6 years ago in San Francisco. I was immediately hooked, it had it all! Crispy-chewy-meaty-sweet-sour-warm-cold-tangy-herby-spicy! Your choice of warm slices of meat, usually braised in an amazing sauce and/or cold meats, pickled carrots and daikon, spicy jalapenos and a generous handful of cilantro neatly tucked inside a soft but crisp baguette. It was one of those meals where it was so good, and you are so stuffed, but want to eat another anyway.  There was this tiny hole in the wall shop, 3 seats in the whole place, smack in the middle of the Tenderloin District. If you’re not familiar with San Francisco, let me just say that I’m sure it won’t be on your list of places to visit along with Pier 39 and Alcatraz, but crazy and interesting in its own right – just make sure you take your extra large friend with you (as I did). At the time, I was working just blocks from this sandwich shop (the upper loin, if you will), not only was it the best sandwich I had ever eaten, it was the cheapest, at $2.99! I couldn’t believe it (I paid more for my grade school cafeteria lunch). I won’t tell you how many times I ate there that summer, but it was definitely my share – plus some. This Turkey Meatball Banh Mi is my spin on this sandwich I fell in love with many years ago. Instead of the carrots and daikon, I pickled the beautiful easter egg radishes that came in my CSA share this week, they turned the prettiest shade of pink. I replaced the jalapenos with serrano chilies, which are a bit hotter. I also used mini baguettes and hollowed out the cloudy inners, leaving the crunchy crust and plenty of room to fit more fillings!

Spinach Salad
I’m just going to say it, this spinach salad is one of the best I’ve ever made, really! And I make a salad just about every day. All the flavors play so well together. The crisp but sturdy baby spinach, with the creamy goat cheese, the chewy orange-honey candied bacon ((drool)), with the sweet and earthy roasted/marinated beets and the preserved lemon vinaigrette rounds it all off. If you’re not familiar with preserved lemons, put it on your shopping list. The taste is so special that I won’t even attempt to describe it to you. If goat cheese isn’t your favorite, you can use a creamy feta. There are a few steps to making this salad, but don’t let that discourage you (remember; best salad I’ve made), just plan ahead a bit. Make the beets early in the week so they can marinate, make the vinaigrette the next day- it gets better after a day or two in the fridge, and make the bacon the day you plan to serve the salad (or just before you serve, it goes faster than popcorn).

Mango Pate de Fruits
There must be a mango tree growing at every other house in our neighborhood, and around south Florida. Over the past several weeks I’ve watched the mango trees flower and now turn into tiny baby mangos. In the next month or two my counter will be overflowing with them, all being of different shapes, colors, sizes, texture and tastes – I think there are about 10 varieties (I’m sure I’ll be corrected by a few of my friends…..BS & WH ;-). My wonderful and generous friends and neighbors lovingly leaving them at my back door. When they start to ripen they fall from the trees by the hundreds, no joke – at least this is what I’ve heard. They are all over the neighborhood (along with star fruit, coconuts, avocados, and bananas) to pick up as you please, I figure the ones that are within arms length from the street are up for grabs. We have to get pretty creative to use them all up. I have friends that start canning their amazing mango chutney, others make mango jam for the holiday season, there’s mango cake, mango smoothies, mango ice cream, mango with your breakfast cereal…you name it, it usually gets mango in it. But what I haven’t received is mango jellies (pate de fruits). I received my first mangos of the season this week in my CSA share, and they were gorgeous. Last year my very dear friends G & R came over with many pounds from their HUGE tree, and we made lots and lots of jam. The recipe we came up with was so good that I thought the flavors would be perfect to use in these jellies.


March 23, 2011

Nicoise Salad and Quick Pickled Cucumbers

click on recipe to enlarge

Julia Child, what a true inspiration. It was her that made the Salade Nicoise famous here in America and was one of her favorite main course salads. The classic has tomato wedges, boiled new potatoes, hard boiled eggs, leafy lettuce and canned tuna. I’ve changed it up to suit my taste (and to use what came in my CSA share). I used sweet potatoes, soft boiled eggs, baby spinach, heirloom cherry tomatoes, fresh seared tuna and I added the olives and anchovy to the vinaigrette. My version may be debated by purists and not considered a true Salade Nicoise (sorry Julia), but I think she would have approved of this one. “Bon Appétit!”

I pickle anything and everything I can get my hands on. Beets, green beans, cabbage, carrots, jalapenos – sour, sweet or spicy, it doesn’t matter, it’s all good to me. At this moment I have beets, radishes and jalapenos in my fridge patiently waiting to be added to burgers, salads, a sauce or cocktail. I find myself pickling the fresh vegetables I can’t seem to eat quick enough. You know how it is to have a fridge full of beautiful vegetables knowing that it’s not humanly possible to plow through them all before you start having casualties, or to have no choice but to make yet another Ratatouille or soup surprise. So I pickle them to enjoy later – no pressure, no guilt.

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