citrus + fennel winter salad

citrus + fennel winter salad

This salad is so simple, yet so good that I’ve already made it twice this week. Its flavors are clean and bright, making it an especially nice pairing with the otherwise heavy, slow-cooked dishes of the winter. Better yet, it will be on the table in just around 15 minutes, including the time it takes to toast the nuts. I find that macadamia nuts are really worth using here — they have a rich, toasty sweetness that other nuts simply cannot replicate. You should be able to find them in the self-serve bins at any specialty market. 

The best thing about this salad is how versatile it is. If you have leftovers and are looking for something a bit heartier, like I was the other day, try adding some chopped Tuscan Kale and a spoonful of tahini to the dressing. Enjoy!

ingredients:

1/2 cup whole macadamia nuts

1 white grapefruit

1 blood orange

1 small bulb of fennel

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the macadamia nuts in a single layer on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven, shaking the pan periodically, until browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cool, chop coarsely.

While the nuts are toasting, cut the top and bottom from the grapefruit and rest it on end. Run a sharp knife down the sides of the fruit, starting at its top and following its curve to the bottom, to remove the skin and pith and expose the fruit. Once you have completely removed the skin, cut the grapefruit into supremes by slicing into the fruit in between each membrane, until you’ve removed all of its segments. Squeeze the leftover membrane into a bowl to catch any juice and reserve. Repeat process with the blood orange.

Remove the fennel tops from the bulb. Reserve a few fronds for garnish and discard the stems (or save for vegetable broth)! Using a mandolin on its thinnest setting, slice the bulb into fine shavings. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of the reserved grapefruit juice with the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

In a large bowl, gently toss the grapefruit and orange supremes and fennel shavings. Dress lightly with the vinaigrette. Garnish with the chopped, toasted macadamia nuts and fennel fronds.

lima bean + beet salad

Life has been really busy lately. I have a few projects I’ve been working on [more on that soon], and school is demanding more and more of my energy. That being said, I feel like I’ve been a bit neglectful of this space, so I wanted to check in briefly.

I came across these lima beans during my weekly visit to the farmer’s market yesterday, still in their shells, and was immediately inspired by the prospect of a earthy, fall salad. It ended up working out beautifully, and so despite the simplicity, I wanted to share it with you.

The beans are sautéed over high heat in a cast iron skillet [after blanching], giving them a crisp exterior to their otherwise creamy, meaty interior. And, for some textural contrast, I made some beet chips, which add a bit of crunch and earthiness. Everything is tossed in a simple vinaigrette, meant to bring the flavors together, but definitely not to overshadow them. I think it would work beautifully served alongside something light for dinner, like a broiled salmon with lemon, although I just ate it by itself for lunch which was lovely as well.

I’m off to finish up some chores, and am looking forward a nice glass of wine and the new episode of Homeland tonight. Wishing you all a relaxing and peaceful Sunday evening.

 

lima bean + beet salad

Despite being vegetarian, this salad offers a heartiness that is perfect for crisp, fall temperatures. The lima beans impart a meaty texture, while the beet chips add a slight crunch for textural contrast. This dish would be delicious as a light lunch, or served along something light — like a broiled salmon — for dinner.

for the salad:

1 beet, peeled and green tops removed

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

8 ounces shelled fresh lima beans

1 cup mixed greens

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

coarse salt, to taste

 

for the vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the beet on a mandolin into 1/16-inch-thick medallions. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the olive and oil and season with salt to taste. Toss to combine. Arrange beet slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan, making sure to leave space in between each one. Transfer to the oven and bake, flipping chips halfway through, until crisp and golden on the edges, about 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Fill a stock pot or large sauce pan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the shelled lima beans and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for two minutes, drain, and shock beans in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain on paper towels.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet. Add the blanched lima beans and season with salt. Cook, stirring only occasionally, until just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and transfer beans to a serving bowl.

Next, make the vinaigrette: in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the mixed greens to the bowl with the lima beans and drizzle over half of the vinaigrette. Toss to combine. [Add additional vinaigrette if desired]. Garnish with the beet chips and the ricotta cheese.

Yield: serves 2

heirloom tomato + watermelon salad

Three weeks have passed since the start of culinary school. In some ways the time has flown — some days I wake up feeling as though I have yet to begin, until I flex my feet against the steady ache that I can’t seem to shake, and realize that I already have. Other times, especially when I’m in the kitchen, I feel as though I’ve been there forever, so far removed from the massive uncertainty and apprehension that I felt in the beginning.

It has been quite the experience so far, and we have learned more than I could have ever anticipated learning in a few short weeks. We’ve made stocks, gallons of stocks, from veal to fish fumet and everything in between, and have learned the power they hold in elevating a sauce from something good, to something truly exceptional. We’ve made the mother sauces — béchamel, velouté, espagnole, hollandaise, and tomato — and many of their variations. We’ve made mayonnaises and sabayons, soups and consommés, perserved lemons and cured salmon. We’ve fileted fish, butchered chickens and ducks, stuffed quail until they were plump and roasted them until browned and juicy. We’ve shucked oysters and clams, carefully shelled lobster, and sauteéd mussels until they released their salty brine. We’ve made the most succulent duck confit of my life in a rondeau that I’m pretty sure weighed more than I do, and braised duck legs in a rich brown veal stock until tender and rich with flavor. We’ve made more variations of potatoes than I thought possible, including a gratin dauphinois that consisted of not much more than cream, gruyere, and potatoes, but that blew my mind. My knife is starting to feel more like an appendage than a tool, and the red, raw spot that I formed on the inside of my index finger from days and nights filled with slicing, cutting and shaping has already formed a hard callous. I still come home exhausted, and my feet ache from all of the hours standing, but I’m sure that adjustment will come too, with time.

Of course going into this, I had an idea of the happiness I would feel doing what I love every day. What I was unaware of, though, was how profound that sense of fulfillment would be. The boundless joy I feel in the kitchen — the sharp, methodical swishing of knives being sharpened, the clanking of pans hitting the stove top, the first, welcomed smells of sizzling onions, sauces erupting into balloons of fire with a splash of brandy — it’s all so surreal. The satisfaction I feel to get home [soreness, exhaustion, and all] after accomplishing a day of hard-earned work is unlike any I’ve ever felt. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention my classmates: my classmates who come from different continents, speak different languages, and span in age by almost 30 years. So many of us couldn’t be more dissimilar, but we are all bound by the same passion, and a drive to pursue what we love. How fitting it feels to spend my days with them.

Of course amid all of my joy, there are hard moments — like having to cancel on time with my friends, including one visiting from Wyoming, because of an all-consuming, show-stopping migraine from a hot, dehydrating day in the kitchen, or times when I question what I want to do with this when it’s all over, or if I’ll ever make enough money in this industry to justify this expense. Even still, I find myself waking up excited to start each of my days, and going to sleep knowing that I’ve made the most of them. If that is not exactly what we should reach for in life, I’m not sure what is.

It feels unfair and a bit cheap to share a dish that requires no recipe, nor cooking, after boasting about how much I’ve learned in the kitchen. But, for all the joy that a day at the stove brings me, there’s also something to be said for taking a rest every now and again. Cooking or not, I promise this dish is worth sharing.


heirloom tomato + watermelon salad

There is no real recipe to this salad, just a loose, yet beautiful combination of contrasting flavors. Salty, crumbly feta cheese is mellowed by the sugary watermelon and summer-ripened tomatoes, both bursting with juices. Fragrant basil and a drizzle floral olive oil complements everything, and brings it all together. 

 

ingredients:

4 – 5 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced or cubed

a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes

a few handfuls of ground cherries, husked

1 small or 1/4 large watermelon, cubed

4 oz full fat feta cheese, sliced or crumbled

5 – 7 basil leaves, chiffonade

extra virgin olive oil

coarse sea salt

 

In a large bowl, gently toss the tomatoes, ground cherries, watermelon, and feta. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle the basil leaves over top, drizzle with olive oil, and season with coarse sea salt to taste.

Serves 4 – 6 as a side dish


fresh pea + mint soup

Summer has arrived in whirlwind, as it always does. Our weekends have been filled with travel, loved ones’ weddings, and countless activities. But, even with the added activity, our pace is still slower and more relaxed. Every to-do is on hold because there is just too much to enjoy in the present moment. Things are busy, but life just seems simple and uncomplicated.

In the spirit of simplicity, I wanted to share this fresh pea soup that I made this past weekend. Unadorned and unfussy — just a bowl full of peas in all of their summertime glory. Shelling the peas takes a bit of time, but it’s one of those classic summertime dinner activities — much like shucking corn on the cob — that you can’t help but enjoy. And, once the peas are shelled, the soup takes less than 15 minutes to put together: just a quick sauté of some chopped onion, a swift boil of the peas in some vegetable broth until just tender, and then a spin in the blender with a handful of mint, and a few dollops of creme fraiche. If that isn’t a simple summertime meal, I’m not sure what is. I hope you give it a try.


fresh pea + mint soup

This soup is as simple as it is versatile and is delicious served both hot and chilled. Its flavor depends on the quality of its ingredients, so make sure to use fresh peas for the best possible flavor (they are everywhere this time of year).

This recipe makes a small batch (makes 1 very large bowl, or 2 smaller bowls) but can be easily doubled or tripled as you see fit.

 

a few notes: This recipe is a bit loose and depends on your personal taste. Add more vegetable broth if you prefer it thinner, less if you’d like it thicker. If you serve the soup cold, it tends to thicken a bit as it chills.

If possible, buy the peas unshelled and shell them yourself just before cooking. It requires a bit of work, but the flavor is worth it! Pre-shelled peas (even when they are fresh) tend to loose some of their flavor and sweetness over time.

 

ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds unshelled sugar snap peas

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth, plus more if needed

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup creme fraiche

1 tablespoon heavy cream + 1 tablespoon creme fraiche, combined for garnish

extra virgin olive oil, for garnish

salt to taste

First, shell the peas: snap the end of each pod and pull the string down the center seam of the pod. Use your fingers to pry open the seam and release the peas from their shell. Add peas to a bowl and set aside. *The discarded shells are delicious eaten raw as a snack while you’re cooking!

Place a small stock pot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, chopped onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add vegetable broth to the onions and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add peas and boil until just tender, about 4-5 minutes. *Don’t cook the peas for too long as they’ll lose their sweetness and vibrant green color!

Transfer soup to a blender, and add mint and creme fraiche. Blend until completely smooth. *Be careful when blending the hot liquid — make sure not to overfill your blender (if your blender is small, blend the soup in batches), and cover the top with a kitchen towel rather than a lid so that steam can escape while blending. If you find your soup to be too thick at this point, add vegetable broth, a little bit at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.

Transfer soup to a bowl and serve garnished with chopped mint, a drizzle of olive oil, and a drizzle of the creme fraiche and cream mixture. Serve hot or chilled.

serves: 2 as an appetizer, 1 as an entree