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

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

Spinach, Barley and Gruyere Timbale on Marinara

Are you totally intimated by my use of big cooking words? Better yet, are you impressed?

Ha. Timbale is just another way of saying molded custard, like a quiche without a crust.

I love this dish. It is filling and satisfying and not a million calories. I feel better, richer and happier every time I serve it. The textures, the various tastes all simple and complex depending on the bite… The homemade marinara underneath perfectly complements the dish. And it looks fucking awesome. Just make sure you butter the ramekins well. And a baking pan large and deep enough to use as a water bath for the ramekins.

For the uninitiated, the tasks at hand may be intimidating but fear not. It is a bit labor intensive but it is worth it. I have done this so many times that I deem this one an easy dish. Not because I am so talented but because I have enough practice. And dammit, I am talented, even if it is just a little bit.

The first few times I made this dish, I served it as one of the many courses… Since then, I bought much smaller ramekins so people don’t get so full. The way I have outlined the recipe here, I would suggest serving this as a main course. And it is vegetarian to boot.

Ingredients

For the Marinara

  • 28 oz of diced tomatoes (2 cans)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. sugar
  • 2-3 sprigs of basil leaves

For the Timbale

  • Butter for ramekins
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups tightly packed blanched spinach (from 1.5 lbs of baby spinach or 3 lbs from fresh on stem), finely chopped
  • 2 tsps. fresh thyme, chopped 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 3 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated (in a tight spot, use Parmesan)
  • 2/3 cup 2% milk
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Several basil leaves, julienned, to dress the plate

Makes 6 1-cup ramekins or 8 5-0z ones. Prepping the ingredients will take about 30 minutes. Cooking and baking time will add up to 2 non-consecutive hours, without needing much attention.

Make the marinara. In a blender or food processor, pulse the tomatoes.

In a 4-quart sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic to the pan and let it get only just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato, sugar, salt and the basil to the pan and bring to a gentle boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer and let simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring once in a while. When done, remove the basil sprigs. You can prepare the marinara a day ahead and keep it in the refrigerator.

Start making the timbale. To blanch the spinach, first wash the spinach well if using from a bunch (rather than out of a pre-washed bag). Fill a large bowl with 20-30 cubes of ice and then fill the rest with cold water. Bring a large pot of water to boil and using a strainer or steamer basket, boil the spinach in batches, no more than 20 seconds per batch. Transfer immediately to the cold water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. I leave the spinach in another strainer over a bowl so it drains as I prepare other stuff.

Butter 6 1-cup ramekins (or 8 5-oz ones), making sure the sides and bottom get generously ‘oiled.’

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and stir in rest of the ingredients and add 3/4 tsp of salt. Scrape the mixture into the ramekins, filling them only 3/4th of the way and no more. Place the ramekins in a large baking pan deep enough and fill it with enough hot or boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Place the baking pan in the oven and reduce heat to 325 degrees. Bake for 30-40 minutes until set and a skewer inserted in the center of a ramekin is almost clean.

While the timbale is baking, reheat the marinara sauce. When it is time to serve, spoon 3-4 tbsp of the marinara on each plate. Run a knife around each ramekin and unmold on to plates. Ramekins will be hot so be careful. Dress up with julienned basil leaves.

Here is the nutrition information on this recipe:

spinach timbale nutrition facts 2

Arugula and Watermelon Salad (with Goat Cheese or Feta)

There are a million arugula salad recipes on the web. I asked myself… Do we really need another one? Well, I think we do. If I browse the recipes I find, I see that most are drenched in oil and cheese. Well, with that much oil and cheese – topped with watermelon – any old crap will taste great. How about making something healthy out of it, without sacrificing the taste? That was the idea of coming up with this particular recipe. I did a version of this 2 weeks ago and another version this week. I like this week’s version better so here is the recipe…

Arugula and Watermelon Salad (with Goat Cheese or Feta)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 Tbsp honey (1.5 tbsp if the arugula is from a farmer’s market since organic ones tend to be sharper)
  • 1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cups arugula, loosely packed
  • 2 cups watermelon, diced to chunks and loosely packed
  • 4 oz goat cheese or feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Cherry tomatoes (OPTIONAL)

Prepare the vinaigrette by first combining the orange juice, lemon juice, honey, shallots with a whisk and then drizzling the olive oil in as you whisk to form an emulsion. In a large bowl, combine the arugula, watermelon, mint and the cheese. Coat with the vinaigrette and toss well. Adjust salt and pepper. If you’d like, you can dress it up with cherry tomatoes as you serve.

Makes 6 servings. Here are the nutritional facts:

Arugula Watermelon Salad Nutrition Facts

Gruyere and Kalamata Olive Bread

OK, if you are looking at this, you are looking for trouble. This is an easy recipe and it is a great company to grilled meat dishes and it is high in fat content. If you like Gruyere and olives, at least try it once to see why you should not be baking this often. You have been warned (but it is so good, especially when fresh).

Gruyere and Kalamata Olive Bread

Ingredients

  • Olive oil, for greasing pan
  • 1 and 3/4 cups  All-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 c mayonnaise (I make my own fatty mayo but you can use fat free or low fat off-the shelf ones)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (1 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp Kalamata olives, pitted, chopped

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch glass loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, egg and milk. Fold the wet mixture into the dry until just combined. Fold in the cheese and olives.
Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake until golden and firm, 45-50 minutes. Let bread cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and over turn onto a wire rack. Cool 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Makes 10 servings. Here are the nutritional facts:

Gruyere Olive Bread Nutrition Facts

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