Belgian Endive Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Grape in Dijon Agave Dressing

Don’t panic. The picture here shows only one single endive leaf, because it is an arsty fartsy shot I took. I was just trying some new lighting techniques. The image does not represent one serving. One serving contains many leaves…. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk endives.

IMG_7118_edited_smallerOr not. We can take some time to discuss the difference between an endive and a Belgian endive, but I will let you dish it out with Bing or Wikipedia to sort that out. In the meantime, check out this simple salad recipe. This is not a stand alone salad, but it is easy to make and goes really well with a wide variety of proteins. Me? I can eat this as a main course (eat three or four servings and call it done).

The agave and lemon and the Dijon in the dressing gives this salad a really nice tangy and sweet flavor, while the Grapeseed oil allows the flavors to thrive (unlike olive oil, it does not overpower them at any point, as it slides) across your taste buds.

Ingredients

  • 6 heads of Belgian endive,  oz. trimmed, and broken down to little cubbies (each endive will mak 5-7 endive boats)
  • 3/4 cup, toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup, seedless white grapes, cut into halves
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 or 1.5 Tbsp Agave syrup (or honey but 1 Tsbp honey tastes boring and cannot stand to the lemon and dijon) 
  • 2 Tbsp Grapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

On a large platter, lay down the Belgian endive boats and then fill them up with the grapes and walnuts. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, mustard, and the agave syrup until combined. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.

If serving this as part of a multiple component course (salad on one side, protein or pastry on the other), then lay the endives in individual serving dishes instead of a large platter, since transferring the individual servings from a large platter in a pleasant way is difficult. If doing the communal table, do the large platter (it will still look pretty when you serve)

Serves 8. Here are the nutrition facts, courtesy of the recipe calculator at SparkPeople:

Endive grape walnut nutrition facts

Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple, Cabbage and Teriyaki Glaze

This 475-calorie, 50+ grams of protein monster (I mean that in a good way) is hefty enough to satisfy your appetite and your eye (quantity), and it is sweet enough to satiate your cravings… It is fairly straightforward and easy as well. I usually make this when we have people coming over to watch something (when eating is not the front and center of the evening) and most of the time, they don’t even know they are eating what could be called ‘diet food.’ If this is diet food, then I know how America’s waistlines can shrink again. Trust me and try this.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. pork tenderloin trimmed, cut into 1- to 2-inch thin strips
  • 1 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups of water
  • Generous pinch of Chinese Five Spice
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (less if you are so inclined)
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sweet rice wine
  • 1 Tbsp dry white wine or cooking wine
  • 2 tsp honey
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

 

In a medium bowl, soak the pork in the water with the baking soda for 15-20 minutes. This will make sure the pork stays moist and ridiculously tender. Longer you soak, the more tender the meat will get.

In the meantime, make the teriyaki glaze. In a 1-qt pan, heat the soy sauce, rice wine, dry white wine and the honey on low heat. Once boiling, let simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered and stirring occasionally. The mixture will reduce to about 1/8 or 1/6 cup. If you have off-the-shelf glaze, use one that is not too sweet. Just 2 Tbsp should do the trick per person. I seriously recommend that you consider making your own though. Who knows what goes into those glazes? It is probably loaded with copious amounts of sodium and not the good kind. If you don’t like the look or the idea of my teriyaki glaze recipe, find your own and use it. Either way, it takes only a few minutes to put it together and it practically cooks itself while you are working on other components of this dish.

I digress… Back to the recipe.

Rinse the pork, and pat dry. In a dry, small or medium bowl, toss the pork with the generous pinch of the Chinese five spice. Set aside.

While the pork is sitting in spice, spray a non-stick large frying pan (or wok) and on medium heat over a few minutes, let it get hot. Add peppers, onion, garlic and the pineapple and cook until the bell pepper slices start browning on the edges and the onions are all wilted (8-12 minutes). Place the cooked veggies in a large bowl. Set aside.

Return pan to the stove and spray more oil if you like. With heat still on medium, add the pork and cook, until it’s done to your liking: I usually cook a total of 4-5 minutes until all pork looses its pink.

Place the pork in the large bowl with the veggies. Toss everything together with 4 Tbsp of the glaze.

Return pan to stove and increase heat to high. Add the cabbage to the pan and cook for approximately 1-2 minutes, until cabbage wilts. You are not cooking them, you are just seasoning them with the leftover pork juices (I am sure I can articulate that better but pork juice sounded disgusting and I could not resist the wordplay) and taking away the harsh edge of cabbage, without losing its crunch.

On a dinner plate, lay down half of the cabbage, and then top it with the half of the pork, veggie and glaze mixture. Repeat. Done.

You will be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised how much food 475 calories can offer. And how delicious.

Serves 2. Here are the nutritional facts, courtesy of SparkPeople:


Pork Stir Fry with Pineapples and Teriyaki Glaze

Chicken Apple Salad (Not as Dull as It Sounds)

Chicken Apple Salad… I am not scoring any winning points with that title, am I?

Hear me out: This is a delicious recipe that offers full satisfaction, great nutrition and pretty colors on the plate. What else do you want?

I consume about 1,700-2,000 calories daily (except on those days I drink wine) and this makes a phenomenal dinner or lunch. The dish tastes fresh and it fills up a plate. So, you get the satisfaction of good taste, volume and color.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into 1- to 2-inch thin strips
  • 1 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 small apples (any kind… I use one granny smith and a sweeter kind for the other), sliced thin (no need to peel)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, juiced and zest
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil (reduce this to 1 Tbsp if you are watching fat grams)
  • 1 Tbsp. mixed nuts (OPTIONAL… The nutrition facts assume you are using them… hence the higher fat content. Skip if fat gram conscious)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Soak the chicken in the water with the baking soda for 15-20 minutes. This will make the chicken ridiculously tender. Baking soda soak is the secret to the tender meats in Chinese restaurants. They soak their meats in soda (sounded dirty, didn’t it?) for at least an hour to achieve than silky yet crunchy taste. For the soak to work, the chicken has to be in small bite size chunks. So do not get lazy. If you have a full hour to soak, you can reduce the baking soda to 1 tsp instead.

Rinse the chicken well.  Pat dry.

Spray a non-stick pan with oil and heat until hot on medium heat. Cook the chicken until well done, approximately 8-10 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, mix the lime juice, zest, jalapeno, olive oil in a small bowl to make the dressing.

Combine the chicken, all other ingredients in a large bowl and then toss with dressing. Serves 2.

Here are the nutrition facts, courtesy of the recipe calculator at SparkPeople:

 

Chicken Apple Salad nutrition facts

Bourbon Bread Pudding (with Bourbon Sauce)

Bread puddings are boring, right? Well, they are. Ever since the restaurants ruined them by overdoing it (on every menu in mid- to low-end restaurants and practically all diners), or doing it wrong (soggy, disgusting messes), or re-engineering it too much (pumpkin sage bread pudding).

I like my bread pudding simple and straightforward.

I think that simplicity and straightforwardness in this Fine Cooking recipe have converted people who would not eat bread pudding (or are total bread pudding snobs) into bread pudding lovers. But beware of the calories. I know that something like this does not belong in a blog like this but life is not about deprivation and if you don’t occasionally treat yourself, then you will over do it in other ways. Believe me I know what I am talking about.

Anyway, I digress. I make this in small ramekins for the most part because when done in 6-oz ramekins, the calories add up and very quickly.

Ingredients

For the Pudding

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3 Tbs. bourbon (grand marnier will do if you are in a bind)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 lb. stale white bread with crusts, preferably Italian or French, torn into 1-inch pieces

For the Bourbon Sauce

  • 1.5 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 Tbs. bourbon

First do the pudding: In a 1-quart saucepan over low heat, combine the raisins and bourbon and heat and stir until the liquid is evaporated and the raisins are plump, about 8-10  minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, vanilla, spices, and salt. Stir in the cream until well blended. Toss in the torn bread and plumped raisins and stir. Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the bread to soak up the liquid. TIP: You can make this far ahead of time and refrigerate the mixture for 3-4 hours.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter eight 6-oz. (or 10-12 4- to 5-oz ones) ramekins. Fill the ramekins about 3/4ths. Pour any remaining custard over the top of each. Set the cups in a baking pan or shallow roasting pan and add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake until the puddings are browned on top about 30-40 minutes.

While the pudding is baking, make the sauce: In another  small saucepan, combine the cinnamon, cream and sugar. Dissolve the sugar over medium heat and let the mixture come slowly to a boil. Cook, simmering gently, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon. Serve the sauce on the side.

Since the bourbon in the sauce will not burn off, you will have a somewhat lively (not strong) bourbon taste… If you are serving to kids or people who act like kids, then skip the sauce or don’t share. More for you.

Here is the nutrition information on this recipe, for both 8 servings (6-oz ramekins) or 12 servings (4-5 oz ones):

bourbon pudding 12 servings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For 8 servings using 6-oz ramekins:bourbon pudding 8 servings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chilled Beet Soup

Perfect for starting a long evening of eating and drinking. Low in calories, this modern take on borscht uses up the beets, beet green for a deep earthy flavor, that is, if you can look beyond the beautiful colors it produces. I occasionally mix and match type of beets to vary the flavor but chefs be aware: Using a combination of gold and red beets turns the soup into a muddy brown color, making it less than appetizing to the eye.

I serve this delicacy with a dollop of non-fat Greek yogurt, fresh dill and butter croutons and a splash of olive oil to complement the taste. You can use sour cream and croutons from dark rye bread as a variation. Dill remains though. It really brings out the flavors in this dish. Best to use fresh dill.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch red beets with greens intact (approximately 2 lbs)
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1.5 tsp. caraway seeds (or cumin seeds)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 5 medium cloves of garlic
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 oz. baguette slices cubed (or 1-2 thick slices of good, rustic bread)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill (or few teaspoons of dried)

Makes about 8 cups and usually serves 8-10 people. Takes about 15 minutes to do the prep work (cutting, chopping). Spare another 1.5 hours for the cooking part, although it is not hands on for the most part.

Remove the beet stems and leaves. Wash the beets and the leaves well.

In a 4- to 6-quart sauce pan, combine the beets, onion, sugar, vinegar, caraway seeds and a teaspoon of salt. Add seven cups of water, cover and bring to boil over high heat. Then lower the heat to medium and cook covered, until beets are tender (when pierced with a fork), about 45 minutes to an hour.

In the meantime, very coarsely chop the stems and leaves. Once the beets are done, remove them from the pan from a slotted spoon and rest in a bowl to cool. Add the stems and leaves as well as the garlic to the pan and cook covered until stems are tender, no more than 10 minutes.

Peel the beets and return them to the pan. In a food processor (not the one with the bowl for mixing stuff but the one that decimates/blends/grates), puree the mixture in batches. Should take about 4-5 batches.

Over a large bowl, use a medium-mesh strainer and force the puree through. If you prefer a lighter body soup (like me), then use a finer mesh strainer, like a spider one and do not force the puree. It takes slightly longer and possibly more wasteful but the juices are more potent and without any pulp.

Taste the soup and season as needed with more salt and vinegar. Let the soup come to room temperature and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, melt the butter in a 12-inch frying pan and crisp the baguette cubes to make croutons. While the croutons are still warm, plate the soup, decorate with a small dollop of yogurt, croutons, dill and drizzle of olive oil.

Here is the nutrition information on this recipe:

chilled beet soup

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