Apple-Pomegranate Salad, and a Last Minute Fix

I’ve been so busy with work lately that this blog, and cooking in general, have been seriously neglected. Yes, I got to spend a week running around New York City attending fashion shows – which was hilarious in and of itself considering I spent the last few years primarily wearing polyester chef whites – but the highlight was a delicious meal at Del Posto.

All the food was amazing, but during that meal I had my first bite of winter squash this season in the form of pumpkin ravioli. Those few bites awoke a fierce squash craving that usually comes on pretty strong once the leaves start turning, so when it came time to think of a vegetable dish (my assignment) for Yom Kippur break the fast, that was the first ingredient that came to mind.

I’d planned a delicious salad with pomegranate seeds and roasted butternut squash, among a few other key ingredients. In fact, the biggest problem I thought I was facing was cutting down the number of ingredients – sometimes I get a little carried away. It turns out that wasn’t the biggest problem, but rather it was that the damn butternut squash had NO flavor! None! Zilch! It was completely bland after roasting in the oven with salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary. I was fighting a bit of a cold so I had my sister taste to make sure, and she spit it out it was so bad!

Serious squash FAIL! There was no choice, it had to be trashed. I’ll admit I nearly shed a tear, I was just so disappointed. Plus, there wasn’t enough time to go back to the store before guests started arriving so I had to act fast and take stock of what was available in my parents’ kitchen, and quickly decided the only good option was to cut up a few Gala apples.

I tossed the apples with lemon juice to preserve the color, then with mixed greens, pomegranate seeds, toasted pecans, caramelized shallots (leftover from when I thought I was serving butternut squash), Manchego cheese, and my go-to balsamic vinaigrette. Shockingly, this somewhat last-minute salad was a HUGE hit, so much so that I actually got pulled away from my own dinner to mix up another batch. That NEVER happens with my family!

Here’s the recipe for this delicious fall salad:

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Peach Salad with Champagne Mint Dressing

Last weekend I got to experience my newish favorite summer activity: picking peaches in Michigan! A lot of peaches. And by a lot, I mean A FREAKING LOT -  something like 90 peaches! And those were just mine! My friend, Anna (known here as the Culinary School Dropout), also picked a bushel and half. It’s safe to conclude we may have gotten a little carried away, but we were having such a good time!

Two days later and I’m still up to my eyeballs in peaches despite handing them out left and right, and also trying to think of new ways to use them. I’d planned on canning most of the peaches, but it’s just so hot out that I’m still talking myself into it. However, this Peach Salad with Champagne Mint Dressing is perfect for these hot days – I even brought it to an outdoor concert last night where it was enjoyed in by all. The salad is cool and refreshing, especially with the mint and Champagne vinegar dressing and sweet-savory sauteed peaches.

Sadly, I also made the rookie mistake of not getting a good photo, so the sad shot of the salad in it’s plastic container will have to suffice. So 2008, oops.

Here’s the recipe for Peach Salad with Champagne Mint Dressing:

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Spring Green Asparagus & Arugula Salad

I’ve been craving this salad for weeks now. I’m not sure what triggered the idea, but it slowly expanded in mind, every few days mentally adding a new ingredient. Today, finally, I put pen to paper, err knife to vegetable (???) and made it happen!

The salad is the epitome of fresh, spring flavors, with a little Italian influence thrown in for good measure. The base is a bed of peppery baby arugula, topped with blanched asparagus, salty Prosciutto and Parmesan cheese, and finished with a smattering of toasted pine nuts and tart fresh lemon juice. The whole thing is a delight to the palate and to the mind, which in my case so badly wanted the weather to feel as springy as the salad tasted.

This is a must-try. It’s simple and doesn’t even require making a salad dressing. Simply drizzle a bit of olive oil and lemon juice over the top and it’s ready to serve.

Here’s the recipe for Spring Green Asparagus & Arugula Salad:

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Porcini Wild Rice

Wild Rice

Porcini Wild Rice

One of my favorite things are grain-type salads that can be eaten hot or cold. While I’m absolutely a hot-food person (have you ever seen a sandwich on this blog? uh, no), once in a while it’s nice to have something filling and healthy in the fridge that I can easily munch on. This porcini and wild rice dish fits the bill: it’s fantastic heated and served with beef, chicken or fish, and just as good chilled with a few greens.

The key to this recipe is that it’s all about texture. The silky smooth umami-esque reconstituted porcini mushrooms, the rough wild rice, chewy dried cranberries, and crunchy pecans all make for an incredible mouthful. Plus, it has that whole sweet-savory thing going on that I love so much.

I first ate the porcini wild rice salad for dinner with steelhead trout that had been marinated in a garlic and balsamic vinegar reduction, then had leftovers for lunch the next day with a piece of leftover steak. Both times it was fabulous and incredibly nutritious with a small side salad or wilted baby spinach.

Porcini Wild Rice

Porcini Wild Rice

Here’s the recipe:

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Lobsta Fest Part I: Champagne Lobster Salad

Lobster Salad

Champagne Lobster Salad

My favorite part of New Years has recently become the annual tradition of feasting on lobster, although I should probably credit the grocery store across the street that delightfully has the tradition of putting live lobsters on sale the last week of the year. Lobster isn’t something I cook often and I never order it in restaurants, which is why this once-a-year treat is so special.

This year I went all out with the lobsters, which usually comes out sounding like lobstas. Try saying it out loud like that: lob-stah. Isn’t that more fun than lobster?

Shallot for vinaigrette, before roasting Roasted shallot for vinaigrette

Anyways, I decided to make the day extra special and bought two lobsters, which I then turned into three meals eaten over four days. Of course it took all my restraint not to eat both lobsters at once, but enjoying it in three variations totally paid off.

On New Years day I cooked both lobsters and ate one whole with melted butter and served alongside rice and black eyed peas to symbolize luck in the new year. I cleaned the other lobster and reserved the meat and shells for the remaining two dishes: soup and salad, but not just any soup and salad, these were special.

Grapefruit segments Roasted Shallot Champagne Vinaigrette

The following day I used the shells from both lobsters to make an incredibly rich and fragrant soup (recipe coming soon), and finally an amazing salad, which was a wonderful contrast to the unhealthy and heavy foods I’d eaten during the holidays. The Champagne lobster salad included lobster meat, avocado, grapefruit and a roasted shallot champagne vinaigrette.

I can’t wait to make this salad again next year! In the meantime, I’ll enjoy it with crab meat or shrimp, keeping lobsta a special New Years treat!

Champagne Lobster Salad

Champagne Lobster Salad

Here’s the recipe for Champagne Lobster Salad:

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