Favorite salad of all time

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Today’s food moment was something of an experiment. Some of my friends out there will know that I’m a little bit smitten by the Verdure menu at Chicago’s Eataly. Verdure is the vegetarian restaurant inside Eataly and I can’t get enough of it. The first time I ate there we had chosen it because all of the other restaurants had a line for a table. Verdure was wide open and almost always is. I can’t understand it. Actually, I can. The other restaurants are the pasta place, the pizza place, the fish place, and the meat place. I wish more people could understand that vegetables can rock your socks off when prepared in a healthy and delicious way. I always order at least two different dishes to share with whoever I’m with. However, I can’t keep myself from ordering their Scarola alla Griglia every single time. And why shouldn’t I? It’s delicious! Grilled lettuces and balsamic vinegar. Winning combination.

Time to plan dinner at my house. I realize I have pine nuts and a container of dried currants I used to make a granola. What else is served with pine nuts and currants? Scarola alla Griglia! Only my favorite salad of all time! I decided to make this happen. How hard could it be? Since I’ve eaten this dish at Eataly so many times I didn’t even need to look at the restaurant’s menu for a reminder of the ingredients; romaine lettuce, radicchio, Belgian endive ( I think…why not?), pine nuts, dried currants, balsamic vinegar, and parmesan cheese. Preparation? Drizzle some olive oil on the greens, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, grill. Done. Sprinkle over the pine nuts and currants and drizzle over some balsamic vinegar. I purposefully omitted the cheese only because after our 14 day detox diet I’m really trying to stick with the guidelines as much as possible in our everyday eating. The salad was still great without it.

What does the Scarola alla Griglia taste like? Grilling the lettuce gives it a smoky, charred crust that contrasts beautifully with the usual crispness of the lettuce. Be sure not to grill them too long. You don’t want a wilty mess of lettuce. The romaine keeps its delicate flavor while the bitterness of the radicchio and endive is bathed in the tangy sweetness of the balsamic vinegar. The creamy, nutty bite of the pine nuts and the chewy, fruity currants put this salad over the edge. It’s that good. Also, I chopped up my lettuce after grilling them. At Verdure they are served more intact and while it looks beautiful it can be a pain to cut into. It seems my experiment was successful. A salad is a good start at attempting to remake restaurant dishes at home. I’m going to need to think about my next recreation attempt…

Simple and satisfying salad

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First of all, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Lori at Creating Beauty in the Kitchen for nominating me for the Liebster Award! What an incredible honor! There are few fun things I need to do before I can accept the nomination but I want to take my time doing them so I will put aside some time this weekend and report back on it soon.

As far as today’s food moment (or last night’s, rather), it was a first for me. Two nights ago I was in bed just about to fall into a blissful deep sleep when out of nowhere Kevin whispered, “Hey, I saw them cook a recipe on the Today show this morning and it looked really good. Do you think you could make that for us?” I have cooked Kevin many a meal but he’s never before asked me to make anything specific. It was completely adorable, how could I not make it for him? So the next day I hit up the grocery store and collected all I needed for, what turned out to be, a simple and satisfying salad. I was actually a little surprised this recipe had jumped out at him. I think he’s been craving fresh spring food as much as me. The dish could only have been better had we been able to walk down to the farmer’s market (which hasn’t opened yet) in the warm spring sunshine (which hasn’t arrived yet) to buy fresh vegetables.

The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I bought a loaf of sourdough bread to make croutons. These days most health conscious people think about how to remove carbs from a meal…I think about how to include them in an otherwise carb-free dish. Bread and pasta are a weakness. So is cheese. And chocolate. When I got home from the store I cut up a few cubes of the bread, removed the crust, and spread them out on a baking sheet to dry up for a few hours. Then I threw them in the oven before cooking the shallots and eggs and let them get nice and toasty for perfectly delicious homemade croutons. They added a nice crunch to the salad, too. As for the greens, I couldn’t find frisee at the store so I used escarole instead. Use whatever your heart desires. Just a quick note: make sure you let the egg whites just set. You want the yolk to be nice and runny to give the salad a golden glaze of the rich yolk when you cut into it.

Kevin was very pleased with the outcome and commented on how this version had to be better than the one he saw on TV. I just love feeding him.

Asparagus and proscuitto salad with egg, mustard, shallots and frisee

7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced into 4 thick slice
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons grain mustard
8 ounces asparagus, peeled if thick, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable stock or water
2 heads frisee, washed and cut into small pieces
8 slices of proscuitto
Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small ovenproof sauté pan. Put shallots in pan and sprinkle with salt. Turn stove on high and cook until shallots begin to sizzle. Cover with a lid or foil and place in oven until tender but not falling apart, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

For the eggs:

Place a pan large enough to hold 4 eggs on medium high heat. After a minute, spray the pan with vegetable spray to coat the bottom and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the eggs and immediately place in the oven to cook. After about 3-4 minutes when the whites are set, they are ready.

For the vinaigrette:

Place juice, vinegar, mustard and a pinch of salt in to a mixing bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Check seasoning and reserve.

Heat a medium sauté pan on high heat and add remaining oil. When oil is just below smoking point, add asparagus and cook until lightly brown, about 3-5 minutes depending on thickness. Add shallots and toss on heat for 30 seconds. Take off the flame and add seeds and toast for about 20-30 seconds. Then add stock or water to prevent further browning.

Dress frisee with vinaigrette and divide onto 4 plates or shallow bowl. Top with 2 slices of proscuitto and 1 egg in each bowl. Spoon over asparagus and eat.

Serving Size

Serves 4

Recipe courtesy of Today show.

Warm and cozy dinner

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This winter weather isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I was in desperate need for a warm and cozy dinner last night and this menu hit the spot. I had seen this chicken recipe on TV once and remembered the simplicity of the dish and how delicious it looked. After doing a little bit of internet research I found said recipe and got to work on making my cold and miserable night a little bit better. Not only is this dish completely yummy but it is prepared in a flash and couldn’t be easier. Throw some chicken thighs, chorizo sausage, potatoes and onions on a pan and bake. Simple as that. The recipe calls for bone in, skin on chicken thighs but all they had at the store were the boneless skinless variety. If that’s all you can find, don’t worry. The dark meat still came out tender and moist. With the dusting of dried oregano and orange zest, the subtle flavoring of the chicken was a beautiful contrast to the spice of the chorizo. Oh, and how this chorizo did snap! There is such delight in biting into a snappy sausage and letting the locked-in flavor and juices pour into your mouth. The creaminess of the potatoes added yet another level of texture to the dish. And we can’t forget the red onion. Not only does the purple hue give the dish a nice pop of color but the rich sweetness of the onion cuts the heat of the chorizo. The combination of these flavors was perfection for last night. On any night, for that matter!

I needed to add something fresh and crisp to my dinner (not to mention something green) so I whipped up this easy and totally awesome salad. It’s not often a salad leaves me wanting to lick the bowl but I may have done just that. A salad can be this simple and taste like a million bucks, trust me. The recipe calls for kabocha squash but my Trader Joe’s had a bag of cubed butternut squash so I substituted that for the kabocha. It’s nice to have the work done for you sometimes. Also, I used a bag of spring mix instead of buying each lettuce individually. Finally, what better way to top off your evening meal than a glass of wine? With the weather so cold outside and the fire so warm and toasty inside, I really wanted to curl up on the couch after dinner with my half-finished glass and snuggle up. I can’t say I regret the choice. I’ve also decided that this will be a fantastic meal to throw together for my next dinner party. There is basically no prep involved and very little hands on cooking. Now that’s a recipe for an evening of good food and fun!

Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes

Serves 6

2 tablespoons regular olive oil
12 chicken thighs (bone in, with skin)
1 3/4 pounds chorizo sausages, whole if baby ones, or cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks if regular-sized
1 1/4 pounds baby white-skinned potatoes, halved
2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 orange
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the oil in the bottom of 2 shallow roasting pans or quarter sheet pans, 1 tablespoon in each. Rub the skin of the chicken in the oil, then turn skin side up and put 6 pieces in each pan.

Divide the chorizo sausages and the baby potatoes between the 2 pans. Sprinkle with the onion and the oregano, then grate the orange zest over the contents of the 2 pans.

Bake for 1 hour, but after 30 minutes, swap the top pan with the bottom pan in the oven and baste the contents with the orange-colored juices. Transfer the chicken mixture to a large serving platter and serve.

Winter Greens, Kabocha Squash and Peeled Pear Salad

1 small head of radicchio, sliced

2 handfuls of arugula

2-3 heads of endive, sliced

½ kabocha squash, sliced into ¼ inch spears

½ a pear

sea salt

freshly ground pepper

block of parmesan

1 shallot, diced

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar

½ cup olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Place kabocha slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Place in oven for about 5-8 minutes. Flip squash and cook for another 5-8 minutes, until lightly browned on each side. Remove and let cool to room temperature.

2. Place lettuces in a large serving bowl. Using a potato peeler, peel the pear into light, translucent slices over the leaves. Do the same with the parmesan, adding as much as you’d like. Add the squash, salt and pepper to taste and drizzle the dressing. Toss and serve.