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

grilled eggplant + hummus

I have this little blue notebook where I write my recipes. It’s filled with lists of ingredients, and quick bulleted instructions that probably only make sense to me. Every page shows evidence of ingredients past — a splatter of red wine stains the page that reads “risotto”, a smear of oil on the one marked “beet greens pesto”. There are scribbles and question marks, cross outs and ripped corners, and dark circles around the ingredients I often forget. Some pages are ripped out, signs of disappointments and failed attempts, while others are dog-eared and faded from constant use. 

Some days, when my mind feels too jumbled from the seemingly unending feeds of beautifully prepared dishes and innovative recipes in the media, I find myself referring back to my blue book, as a way to center myself. The other day proved to be one of those times. As I flipped through its stained and crumpled pages, I came to a page that caught my attention. In stark contrast to the pages surrounding it, this one appeared almost empty, save for a few lines and a simple title that read, “hummus”.  

Armed with my book, and the ingredients I had on hand, I went about preparing that hummus — nothing more than some chickpeas, a few spoonfuls of tahini, a drizzle of garlic infused olive oil and a whirl in the blender. I grabbed a few eggplants that I had picked up a few days earlier at the market, speckled lavender and white, and cut them into spears to grill. I threw everything on a board, added a drizzle of tahini, a few vibrant herbs, and some naan bread warmed in the oven, and paused briefly to remind myself: simple is best. Simple is what inspires you. 


grilled eggplant + hummus

I’ve never been a huge fan of eggplant, as I find it lacks flavor without its skin, but I often find the skin tough and unappetizing. I recently discovered these lavender and white speckled, delicate-skinned varietals at the farmers market, however, which I love. When grilled, they still hold their shape, but become soft and creamy on the inside, making for a delicious preparation and a beautiful presentation. Paired with some vibrant herbs and creamy hummus, this dish is perfect for a casual, light dinner, or for a fun appetizer. The hummus recipe can easily be doubled if you are making this for a party! 

 

for the eggplant:

4 small eggplants (preferably Antigua eggplants, or another delicate-skinned, non-bitter varietal)

extra virgin olive oil

salt, to taste

2 tablespoons tahini paste

1 teaspoon sesame seeds, for garnish

a few handfuls of fresh mint and parsley, for garnish

 

for the hummus:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 – 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 tablespoons tahini paste

1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons water

squeeze of lemon juice

sesame seeds and chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

naan bread for serving

 

First, prepare the eggplant: trim the ends and cut into long spears. If your eggplant has a lot of seeds, make sure to only use the outermost flesh with the least amount of seeds [the seeds are often bitter]. Line a sheet pan with paper towel and spread the eggplant over it in an even layer. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and allow to rest while you prepare the hummus. *This step is optional, but I find that eggplant does not absorb as much olive oil when they are salted first.

Next, prepare the hummus: in a small sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once warm, add the crushed garlic and sauté until fragrant [about 2-3 minutes]. Remove from heat. 

In a blender or food processor, add the chickpeas, olive oil and garlic, tahini paste, salt, water, and squeeze of lemon juice. Blend until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to transfer hummus to a bowl and taste for seasoning. 

Once eggplant has rested for about 15 – 20 minutes, pat it dry with paper towels to absorb all of the moisture that has beaded at the surface and to rub off any excess salt. Drizzle eggplant very generously with extra virgin olive oil. Preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat and brush grates with olive oil. Working in batches [making sure not to overcrowd the grill or pan], grill the eggplant on all sides until golden brown on the outside and very soft when touched [the length of time will depend on how thick your spears are. For reference, mine took 6 – 8 minutes each]. Make sure to give them time, as there is nothing worse than undercooked eggplant! If you are working in a grill pan, you may have to drizzle the pan with more olive oil between batches. 

Once cooked, remove the eggplant from the grill and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with tahini paste, and garnish with mint, parsley, sesame seeds, and coarse salt [if needed]. Top hummus with a drizzle of olive oil, and chopped parley and sesame seeds as garnish. Serve the grilled eggplant + hummus with warmed naan bread for dipping. It’s especially delicious if you add some hummus and eggplant to a piece of naan and eat it like crostini!

 

serves 4 as an appetizer

 

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