Butter Lettuce Salad with Pear and Gorgonzola

Fall is upon us and here, in Central Texas, it is pear season.  My neighbor brought me some beautiful Kieffer pears from his tree.  They inspired me to make this salad.

INGREDIENTS:Butter Lettuce Salad PearsButter Lettuce Salad Ingredients

  • 3 hard pears (Kieffer pears are hard and sweet)
  • 2 heads of butter lettuce
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 8 ounces of gorgonzola cheese
  • 3 sprigs each of oregano and thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of agave nectar
  • red vine vinegar (3 tablespoons for soaking the onion + 1/4 cup for the dressing)
  • Gravenstein apple balsamic vinegar (3 tablespoons for coating the pears + 1/4 cup for the dressing.)  The vinegar I used is from CONOLIOS.COM.  It is really delicious.  You can substitute white balsamic.
  • Pecan oil–1/4 cup for the dressing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

PREP:Butter Lettuce Salad Prep

  • Peel the onion and slice it thinly.  Place in a bowl.  Add 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Toss together and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  This will allow the sharpness of the onion to mellow out.
  • Peel and core the pears.  Cut into thin strips.  Place in a bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the Gravenstein apple cider vinegar.  Set aside until you are ready to assemble the salad.
  • Crumble the blue cheese.  Place in the frig until you are ready to assemble the salad.
  • Toast the pecans.  Let them cool. SET ASIDE 6 WHOLE PECANS FOR GARNISH. Rough chop the rest.
  • Pull the herb leaves off their stems.  You should have 1/2 tablespoon of fresh herbs.
  • Clean the lettuce as needed.  I used a living hydroponic lettuce so there was not much cleaning to do.  Tear the lettuce into bite sized pieces.

RECIPE TIP–notice that I have seasoned each component of the salad separately.  I always do this because it makes the salad taste better.  Each component has its own flavor so nothing is bland.  The individual flavors play off of each other to create harmony.

Next, I will make the salad dressing and use it to coat just the lettuce leaves before assembling the salad.

PREPARING THE DRESSING:

Butter Lettuce Salad Dressing

  • In a ball jar, add the 1/4 cup of each of the vinegars and 1/4 cup of pecan oil.  Grind in a bit of salt and pepper.  Add the herbs and the Agave nectar.  Shake vigorously.
  • Taste the dressing, add more red wine vinegar if you need more acid.  Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

ASSEMBLING THE SALAD:

Butter Lettuce Salad Feature

  • In a large bowl, add the lettuce leaves and sprinkle on half the dressing.  Toss and taste.  Add more dressing if you need it.  Put the rest of the dressing in a gravy boat for the table.  This way your guests can add more dressing if they need it.
  • Next add the onions, pears and 1/3 of the chopped pecans.  Toss gently.  Place the mixture on your serving platter.
  • Sprinkle the salad with 1/2 the cheese crumbles.  Put the rest of the crumbles in a bowl for the table.  This way if anyone wants extra gorgonzola cheese they can have it.
  • Lastly sprinkle on the rest of the chopped pecans and use the whole ones to make a little flower in the center of the salad platter.

This salad is almost a cheese and fruit course.  I like to serve it at the end of a meal with a glass of French Sauterne or Canadian Ice Wine.

Enjoy and please leave your feedback in the comment section.  I love hearing from you!!!

 

Spicy Eggplant Dip (Baba Ganoush with a Texan Kick)

I learned how to make Lebanese food when I was visiting Acapulco, Mexico in 1990.  Sounds odd that I would learn to make Lebanese food in Mexico.  Here is the story.

I went to Acapulco in 1990 to present a research paper at a conference.  I was vegetarian at the time and this was my first visit to Mexico.  I found a Lebanese restaurant with a large vegetarian menu right next to our hotel.  The food was so good that I ate every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner there.  I asked the waiter to introduce me to the cook.  He told me that his mother was doing the cooking and she would love to meet me since I kept coming back for every meal.  When I met his mother, I asked if she would teach me how to cook Lebanese food.  She said yes and taught me how to make many of her dishes.

This was so much fun.  My scientific conference turned into an unexpected culinary adventure.  I live in Texas now and I put a spicy Texan kick on this recipe.  Following are a few ways to serve Baba Ganoush.

Baba Ganoush Salad
Baba Ganoush Salad

 

Baba Gonoush Crudites Crudites
Baba Ganoush Crudites

 

Baba Ganoush Platter
Baba Ganoush Platter with Eggplant Chips.  The Grilled Eggplant Chip idea came from Xanthe LeBlanc at X-Rated Food Blog

 

INGREDIENTS:

Baba Ganoush Ingredients 1

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1 cup of tomato water
  • 1 cup of Tahini (sesame seed) paste.
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat the eggplants and jalapenos and a bit extra for garnishing the platter
  • 1 teaspoon sumac (and additional for sprinkling on top)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • mint sprig for garnish
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Ingredient Note:  Traditionally this recipe is made with lemon juice instead of the sherry vinegar and tomato water.  I had no lemons available so I substituted tomato water and sherry vinegar.  If you are using the lemon juice, add the juice of one large lemon to a cup of water in place of the sherry vinegar and tomato water.

PREPPING THE EGGPLANT:

 

  • Use a small paring knife to poke holes in the eggplants and jalapenos.  This will prevent them from exploding in the oven during roasting.
  • Coat the eggplants and the jalapenos with olive oil and place in a glass baking dish.
  • Heat your oven to 450 F.  Roast the veggies until the skins are charred and the flesh is soft.  Use a pair of tongs to turn the veggies during the roasting process to ensure that the skin chars on all sides.
  • Pull out the jalapenos first since they will be done before the eggplants.  Set these aside for later in the recipe.
  • Once the eggplants are roasted.  Let them cool so you can handle them.  Peel off the skins, remove the seeds and use a cutting board and chef’s knife to finely chop up the eggplant.  Do not use a food processor because the eggplant will get gummy.

MAKING THE EGGPLANT DIP:

  • In a large food processor add, the roasted jalapenos, tomato water, sherry vinegar, sumac, smoked paprika, minced garlic and a half a teaspoon of salt and pepper.
  • Tahini is sesame seed paste.  When you open the jar you will see the sesame oil float on top like it does when you open up a jar of natural peanut butter.  Stir to mix the oil in and then add a cup of the paste to the food processor.
  • Turn the food processor on and blend until the mixture is smooth.  If the mixture is too thick add some water so that the consistency is like a thick pancake batter.
  • Taste the Tahini mixture and adjust the salt and pepper.
  • Add the eggplant mixture and pulse the food processor to combine gently.  Turn out in a glass bowl and finishing mixing by hand.  Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.  If you would like more acid then add sumac.

Turn out the dip onto a platter. Sprinkle some sumac.  Drizzle some olive oil and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Baba Ganoush Feature

RECIPE NOTE:

When my husband is firing the charcoal grill, I ask him to roast the eggplant on the charcoal.  This gives it a smokier flavor.  The oven works fine but the charcoal grill makes it extra special.

Avocado Mediterranean Salad

I found some avocados on sale at the Indian grocery store in Austin.  This is the first time that I ever saw avocados at the Indian grocery store, so I was very surprised to see them.  What surprised me even more was the low, low price.  Only 38 cents a piece!!!

When I got home, my neighbor had delivered some fresh cucumbers and tomatoes from his garden.  I already had the mint and cilantro growing in my sun room.  I feel very lucky to have such wonderful ingredients.  All these fresh ingredients inspired me to make this delightful Avocado Mediterranean Salad.

Ingredients:

Avocado Med. Salad Ingredients

  • 6 avocados
  • 4 Persian cucumbers
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 Serrano chile
  • 1 large lime
  • 1 bunch of large mint leaves
  • 1 bunch of cilantro (some people really don’t like cilantro.  If you are one of these people, use flat leaf parsley instead.)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Prep:

Avocado Med. Salad Prep

  • Cut the avocados in half.  Remove the pit.  Peel them, the peel comes off easily just with the fingers.  Sprinkle them with a little lime juice so they don’t turn brown.
  • Dice the Persian cucumbers skin and all.  This should yield 2 cups.
  • Remove the seeds from the Roma tomatoes and dice them.  This should yield 1/2 cup.
  • Finely dice the red onion.  This should yield 1/2 cup.
  • Mince the Serrano chile.
  • Tear the leaves off the cilantro.  This should yield 1/2 cup.
  • Tear the mint leaves into small pieces.  This should yield 1/4 cup.
  • Squeeze the juice of one large lime.  This should yield 1/4 cup.

Combine all of the above ingredients EXCEPT FOR THE AVOCADOS.  Add salt and pepper  to taste. You can also adjust the acidity to your liking by adding more lime juice if you need it.  This is your Mediterranean Salad.

Avocado Med. Salad

The Mediterranean Salad can be enjoyed on its own, but it makes an elegant and delicious presentation stuffed into an avocado.

Avocado Med. Salad Plated

 

Recipe Note:

If you can’t find Persian cucumbers, use regular cucumbers, but you will have to peel and de-seed them.  Another good alternative is hot house (also called English) cucumbers.  The English cucumbers are seedless and also do not need to be peeled.

Please let me know what you think by commenting below.

Golden Beet Salad (topped with crispy goat cheese)

Ingredients:

Golden Beet Salad Ingredients

  • 9 medium golden beets (these were grown by JBG Organic Farm in East Austin)
  • 1 large bag of mixed greens (also from JBG Organic Farm)
  • fresh thyme leaves from 2 large sprigs
  • fresh oregano leaves from 1 large sprig
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • white balsamic vinegar
  • 8oz log of goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Italian Spice Mix
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepping the beets:

Golden Beets Preped for Oven

  • Remove the tops and bottoms from each beet ( if the beet greens are fresh use them in the salad with the mixed greens)  Note: these beets are so fresh that I have left the skins on.  There are a lot of nutrients and fiber in the skins, so leave them on if you can.
  • Use a damp paper towel to clean any dirt off the beets
  • Arrange them on an ovenproof baking dish
  • Coat each side with olive oil
  • Sprinkle each side with salt, pepper and my Italian Spice Mix
  • Roast in a 450 degree oven until tender
  • Slice the beets and set aside while you prep the rest of the salad components

Golden Beets Sliced

Prepping the goat cheese:

Golden Beet Salad Prep2

  • In a pie plate, mix together, 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon of my Italian Spice Mix, salt and pepper to taste
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg with a pinch of salt and my Italian Spice Mix
  • Cut the goat cheese log into 10 slices.  We will use 8 slices for frying.  Crumble up 2 slices and set aside to top the salad
  • Using a pastry brush, coat each slice of goat cheese with the egg mixture.  Then coat each slice of goat cheese with the panko breadcrumb mixture

 

  • Place in the refrigerator for an hour to chill.  This will allow you to fry the cheese without melting it
  • Coat a non-stick skillet with olive oil.  Heat the skillet to medium-high.  Fry the cheese medallions till they are golden brown

 

  • Set aside while you assemble the salad

Prepping the salad greens and dressing:

Golden Beet Salad Prep1

  • Wash the salad greens and tear them into bite size pieces.  Dry the salad greens using a salad spinner
  • The salad dressing is very simple.  In a small jar, add 1/2 cup of the best extra virgin olive oil you have, 3 table spoons of white balsamic vinegar, oregano, thyme, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.  Shake to combine.

When you are ready to serve, toss the greens with the salad and place in the center of a large platter.  Arrange the sliced beets surrounding the salad greens.  Top with the crumbled goat cheese.  Finish by arranging the crispy goat cheese medallions on top.

This is a yummy and  satisfying salad that can also be used as a vegetarian main course, along with some crusty bread and a glass of your favorite white wine.

Heirloom Caprese Salad

Ingredients:  Serves 4-6

  • 1 pound baby heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 large bunch of basil leaves (I used sweet Italian basil which I grow myself)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  • the best olive oil you can find (I drizzle it on.  I don’t measure how much I am using)
  • seal salt (to taste)
  • freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Prep:

  1. Cut tomatoes in half (use a serrated knife so the tomatoes don’t get bruised).  Put them in a bowl.  Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and olive oil.  Toss together and set aside.
  2. Cut the fresh mozzarella into pieces about the same size as the tomatoes.  Set aside in a bowl.
  3. Remove the individual leaves of basil from the stem and set aside on a plate.

Assembly:

  1. Arrange on a platter.20151105_152317
  2. Place a tomato half, then a piece of mozzarella, then a basil leaf.  Keep alternating in this fashion.  I usually start at the edge of the platter and work my way to the center.  You can use whatever pattern you like.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and enjoy.