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So you might know that I work at Terlato Wines.  And a few weeks ago, we had some guests in for a tasting.  They happened to be from Canlis restaurant in Seattle, a legendary family-owned restaurant renowned for, among other things, its salad.  I’ve read about this salad in various magazines and newspapers – but had never made it.  So what’s a hungry and curious girl to do but make it?  And I just happened to have a bottle of Protea Chenin Blanc, so I had a glass of that with the salad.  And then: my head started spinning with delight!  I could not believe how the wine made the salad taste even better and the salad made the wine taste even better – exactly what good wine and good food are meant to do!  When you hit that perfect combination, it’s bliss!

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The wine is a South African Chenin Blanc – in the most gorgeous bottle ever (which, after you’ve enjoyed every last sip, makes an ideal bottle for olive oil, vinegar or other stuff – you could even serve water out of it.)  It’s lush with pear, citrus and honeysuckle notes and medium-bodied.  And the salad – loaded with crisp lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, scallions and chopped fresh mint and dressed with a tangy, lemony dressing – is the perfect complement!  Oh, I could have this every night for dinner and be a happy girl!  Want to know how to make the salad?  I’ll show you:

Canlis Salad (adapted from The New York Times)

Ingredients (serves two, or one if you’re really hungry – and the dressing recipe makes a lot, but the acidity in it means it’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks – for more salad!)

1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped

2 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and chopped

1/2 C. cubed fresh Italian bread

1/4 C. scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 C. fresh mint, chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 C. cucumber, (not in the original recipe – my addition; it adds crunch and I like cucumbers)

A bunch of grated Romano cheese (I buy the containers of finely grated Romano at Trader Joe’s)

For the Dressing:

1 egg, at room temperature

1/4 C. fresh lemon juice

1/2 C. extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepp, to taste

What You Do

1. Fry your bacon and remove it to a plate.  Save one Tbl of fat.  Or, if you’re like me, use bacon you already baked in the oven on the weekend and tap your reserves of bacon fat, stored in a ramekin in the fridge.

2. Make the croutons — heat a blob (like, a Tbl or two) of bacon fat in a cast iron pan over medium heat (or any skillet, really) and add the bread cubes to coat.  Over low heat, toast those cute little nubbins of bread in the yummy bacon fat til they’re golden – then remove them to a plate or cutting board or whatever.

3. Make the dressing.  First, mix your lemon juice and olive oil in a jar – add a bunch of salt and pepper until it tastes good.  And now for the cool part: take your room temp egg and put it WHOLE (do not crack the egg) into a Pyrex measuring cup or coffee cup.  Pour boiling water over it and let it sit for 1 minute.  Pour the boiling water off and crack that egg into your lemon juice-olive oil mixture.  Shake, shake, shake – WITH A LID ON OBVIOUSLY – and then taste it.  The egg helps emulsify the whole mess into a creamy-ish, slightly rich dressing.  God, it’s good. Super lemony. MmmmmmMM!!

4. Okay, time to assemble your salad.  Into a salad bowl, put the chopped lettuce, tomatoes, scallions, mint, oregano, croutons and pour some dressing in.  Toss to coat and then shower on the Romano cheese (as much as you want; I’m pretty generous – maybe an 1/8 of cup or a little more).

5. Pour the Protea and enjoy!  Cheers!

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So, say you come home on a Friday night and you’re like, “I just want a glass of red and something good to eat while I watch ‘Project Runway’ and maybe talk to my sister on the phone for a catch-up?” And you look in your fridge and freezer for a little food survey and you come up with a frozen hamburger, a head of baby leaf lettuce from Harvest Moon (my CSA) and eggs (also from Harvest Moon).  Well, you defrost the burger (which you infused with shallotts and Worcestershire sauce when you made ’em), make a little green salad, dressed with your French vinaigrette (which I always have some of in a jar) and throw that hamburger on top and top that with a fried egg!  And it’s delicious!

But than,  what if you dug deep in your cupboard and found that little jar of truffle salt to sprinkle on top? Uh huh. That takes it up a notch to “Friday night special” level.

Because the Crazy Cook is here to tell you: never underestimate the crazy amount of deliciousness you have in your own fridge and pantry with things like a humble hamburger, some lively lettuce and an excellent egg (sorry, I have a penchant for alliteration).

I love being inspired with what I have on hand to make a crazy good meal – for one, or a ton.  Bon appetite and happy weekend to you all!

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Hi, Friends.  Today I had a delightful brunch with my old friend Billy Dec at his restaurant, Sunda, and we ate pretty much the whole menu (if you are in Chicago – GO! It’s a fabulous Asian-fusion place — think poached eggs on braised pork belly on a crispy rice cake … uh huh….it’s good.)  And we also drank a lot of Moet Ice Imperial, their new Champagne that you drink on the rocks (delightful!).  So I thought I would eat a bowl of air for dinner.  But then I got a little hungry.  So I found some beets in the fridge from Harvest Moon, my CSA.  And I had some walnuts. And some goat cheese. And some greens. Ta dah!  One of my faves, roasted beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts.  A perfect light dinner.  Want to make it?  Come on!

It’s easy.  All you do is roast some beets (takes about 45 minutes), and then assemble it.  And eat it!

Ingredients (serves 1, double or triple or whatever, as you wish)

2 medium-size (2-inch diameter or so) beets

A bunch of salad greens (I used a mix of red leaf lettuce and some mustard greens I got from Harvest Moon – they’re great in a salad)

About 1/8 C. of walnut halves/pieces

French vinaigrette (I keep a batch in my fridge at all times – it’s not only delish on salads, but also on steamed veg of all types, like green beans, broccoli, snow peas, etc.)

A few tablespoons of goat cheese (I used Chavrie, and I love it)

What You Do

1) Roast the beets!  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Then all you do is trim the tops off and trim the little root end.  Rub them with a little bit of olive oil and wrap each beet in foil.  Set them on a baking sheet and pop ’em in the oven for 45 minutes.  Take them out and you can let ’em sit a bit while you have a glass of wine and gab on the phone with a friend.

2) Assemble!  Dress your greens with vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette is easy.  For a big batch, mix 1 C. extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 C. Champagne vinegar, 1 Tbl. Dijon mustard, a fair amount of salt (at least 1 tsp), some fresh-ground pepper, and toss in a whole, peeled garlic clove.  I make it in a jelly jar and shake it up.  Taste it – if it needs more salt, oil or vinegar, adjust to your liking.

3) When the beets are cool enough to handle, unwrap the foil and just peel off the skins with your hands (you don’t even need a peeler).  Handy tip: do it over the sink and do not have a white top on!  Beet juice is a killer.  Slice them onto your dressed greens.

4) Toast your walnuts in a non-stick pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, tossing them about with a wooden spoon – makes them crispy and brings out their nutty personality. Toss those onto the salad.  Then throw on a few blobs of goat cheese (it’s a little messy – I just fling it on as best I can).

Enjoy!  It’s easy, it’s summer, it’s light and I love it.  Hope you do, too!

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Thanks to Foodbuzz,  Buitoni sent me a coupon for some of its new Buitoni Riserva Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. And they asked this: what kind of salad might one pair with this new product?  Well, the Crazy Cook here is always up for a challenge.   Bring it!  First I considered the wild mushroom filling, spiked with parmesan.  It would be a bit rich.  So I considered a variety of lettuces, a variety of dressings.  And then I said, “No! Not lettuce!  Come on, let’s think of something more interesting!”  Caesar, schmaesar.  I needed something earthy, something fresh, something summery and savory that would cut through the richness of the agnolotti and lend a light, Italian touch to an easy summer dinner.  And I think I nailed it.  Ready?

I present to you: Zucchini Ribbon Salad.  I shaved a fresh zucchini from my Harvest Moon CSA stash with a Y-peeler, threw in some halved grape tomatoes and added a shower of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, a whisper of hearty, aged Italian balsamic vinegar (I figured the mushroom – cheese agnolotti filling would appreciate a bit of heft from the balsamic), a pinch of Maldon sea salt and a dash of fresh thyme (thyme and mushrooms are big, earthy friends) and it was DIVINE!  The fresh, raw, zucchini had just enough freshness and just enough of an “al dente” texture to complement the rich (and I must say, really delicious) pasta perfectly! Victory!

As for the agnolotti, I just dropped it in gently boiling and salted water for 6 minutes, and then transferred it to a saute pan with about 2 Tbl of butter and about a Tbl of fresh thyme leaves for about a minute, and then hit it with a small but flavorful flurry of grated Parmesan.

It was easy, it was fresh and it was delicious.  And who doesn’t want that on a hot summer night?  Buon appetito! (And thanks, Buitoni and Foodbuzz.)

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Okay, so I was a little reckless on the shopping this weekend.  Hmmm.  How to salvage Monday night dinner?  Well, let’s go do a fridge dive and see what we can make that’s good!  Yeah!  Asparagus. Yes.  Me likey asparagus.  Oh, there’s the speckled leaf lettuce from last week’s CSA drop from Harvest Moon.  And farm eggs from Harvest Moon.  I can do something with this!  Look what I did!

Yep. Steamed some asparagus.  Washed some speckled lettuce.  Plopped a poached farm egg on it, with a tangy, little river of homemade Champagne vinaigrette, some salt and pepp – and there you have a nice, light Monday night dinner with a glass (or two; okay, three, shut up, no judging on this blog) of nice South African Chardonnay.  You could add some bacon or prosciutto if you wanted (but mine’s frozen), or you could add some shaved Parm or Grana Padano (too lazy).  You could also add some roasted peppers (no peppers in this house right now).  It’s just about finding what you got, thinking for five minutes and putting it together and enjoying it. 

Here’s all I did:

Monday Night “Make it Work” Dinner

Steam asparagus for five minutes. Keep it bright green, but tender.

Poach an egg in simmering (not boiling) water for 2 min, 15 seconds

Wash some speckled leaf lettuce leaves.

The pictures pretty much tell the story.  I’m not even going to write up a “recipe” because this is about being creative.  But I will give you 3 easy steps:

1) Do a fridge dive.  Asparagus?  Snap off the tough ends, and steam for five minutes.  Let cool a bit.  No asparagus?  how ’bout some green beans?  Some broccoli?  Use it!

2) Poach an egg (or two if you’re really hungry).  Just crack an egg into a small dish, bring a pan of water to a simmer (not a boil!  eggs do not take well to boiling violence!), and ease the egg into the pan. Two minutes usually does the trick.  Retrieve the swimming egg from the simmering ocean with a slotted spoon and rest the spoon on a towel or whatever.

3) Arrange your clean, fresh lettuce leaves on a plate, top with the asparagus, drizzle with preferably homemade vinaigrette (1 C. olive oil, scant 1/2 C. champagne vinegar, a Tbl of Dijon, a small drizzle of honey, lots of salt and pepp.  This makes enough to last you a week or more.  Taste as you go to get the oil/vinegar ratio that you like).

This DMZ (Chardonnay from South Africa goes really well with this dish.

I chose this DMZ Chardonnay (De Morgenzon cellars, in the Stellenbosch area of South Africa)and it  was perfect -just enough of the classic, oakey, buttery, richness of Chardonnay – but not overkill.  I got it at Wine Styles (my new favie neighborhood wine shop.  It’s a chain, so look for one in your area.)

It’s kinda fun and satisfying to use your noodle to make something outta nothin’ — work with what you’ve got!  Bon Appetit.  Have a good week!

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