I’m sure when I grew up in the “olden days” there was a variety of apples available, but really, all I remember was the Red Delicious Apple. Now I certainly don’t want to offend any apple growers out there who grow the Red Delicious, or insult avid fans of the Red Delicious, but it’s because of that particular fruit that I never really took a liking to apples. Unfortunately the Red Delicious is a mealy apple that’s not crisp or sweet or appealing in any way. Please don’t be mad at me for saying this, but I think it’s the truth.
Okay, fast forward to modern times. So, I walk into my local Whole Foods the other day and was overwhelmed by the sheer variety of apples they had for sale. You name it, Gala, Fuji, Jazz, Honeycrisp and Ambrosia, just to name a few. I couldn’t decide which variety to go with, so I bought them all.
Now, armed with a plethora of fall apples, came the decision of what to do with them. I had been to a restaurant the day before call Gjelina in Venice, California (which was quite hip and happening, I must say) and had their apple salad. I loved it so much I decided to recreate it at home. This Apple & Cheddar Salad is the perfect beginning to an autumn dinner or a Saturday brunch. The sweet crunch of the apples goes perfectly with the saltiness of the cheese.
Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
- 2 large crisp apples, any variety
- 2 stalks of celery
- 4 ounces of good quality cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1 head of mustard greens
- Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- pinch of sugar
- 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Place first 6 ingredients in a small jar and shake real well. Add in the olive oil and shake vigorously again so that dressing begins to thicken. I make the dressing a day in advance so that the flavors meld together. Refrigerate for up to one week.
- Place pine nuts in a small, frying pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until nuts begin to brown and release their natural oils. Place in a small dish to cool and set aside.
- With a sharp knife, chop your celery stalks crosswise into thin slices, or use a mandolin. Set aside.
- Thinly chop your mustard greens (chiffonade) and toss into a bowl or your can individually plate 4 separate salads.
- With a sharp knife, thinly slice the cheddar cheese and set aside.
- You can use a mandolin to slice the apples in round slices, or use a sharp knife to slice the apples into thin wedges, removing the core and seeds. Place the apple slices into a bowl of acidulated water. When you’re ready to plate your salad, take slices out of water, and pat dry.
- Plate all ingredients onto individual plates, or combine into a large bowl and toss with vinaigrette.
Makes 4 appetizer sized salads
To stop fruit from oxidizing, place fruit in a bowl of 1 cup cold water to 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice. Increase the amount of water/juice depending on how much fruit you are using. When you’re ready to use the fruit, just pat dry with a paper towel.
There’s something to be said for fresh vegetables. Like the one’s that you get at the farmer’s market that look like they’ve just been pulled out of the ground because they still have dirt on them and all that green leafy matter attached. I love all the bright colors of vegetables, their earthiness, the smell and texture. Living in Southern California, and having a weekly farmer’s market five minutes away from my house, I’m never deprived of the best vegetables each season has to offer. On this week’s trip to the market I was presented with a bounty of juicy tomatoes, ripe California avocados and sweet bell peppers in glorious shades of red, yellow and orange.
When I returned home, I knew immediately what I was going to do with my bulging bag of veggies. Make gazpacho of course! For those of you not familiar with gazpacho, it is a cold, tomato-based soup which has it’s origins in Spain and is best served during the summer months (when tomatoes are their freshest) because it’s so darn refreshing. Gazpacho is a bowl of “earthy goodness”. It’s simple, straight forward, with nothing refined or processed…just good stuff from the ground.
Yes, there is something to be said for fresh vegetables. I don’t know what it is but I just feel smarter when I eat veggies. I notice a certain spring in my step upon consuming large quantities of vitamins and minerals. If you give this recipe a try, write back and let me know if you think your IQ just went up a couple of points. I bet it will.
Adapted From Pascal Lorange of Le Pain Quotidien
- 1 medium red bell pepper (70g)
- 2 ounces sourdough baguette, cut into small pieces (50g)
- 1 1/4 cups cold water (300ml)
- *3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced (100g)
- 3 radishes, sliced
- 1/2 red onion, cut into slices
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, minced (or whatever fresh herb you have in the fridge)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- avocado slices
- radish, thinly sliced into matchsticks
- cucumber, thinly sliced into matchsticks
- scallion, thinly sliced
- extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place your bell pepper in the center of a metal baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, turning the pepper every 10 minutes so that all sides will turn black and blistered. Remove from the oven and let cool. When you’re able to handle it, remove the skin from the pepper and take the seeds out. Cut the pepper into strips and set aside 1/3 (3 ounces/70g).
- Take the small baguette slices and place them in a large bowl filled with the cold water so that it may soak for an hour..
- Take the roasted pepper strips and the remaining ingredients, and add them to the large bowl containing the soaked bread. I then took the entire mixture and transferred it to my blender and mixed it on the puree setting until I had a smooth consistency. Then place the gazpacho into a covered container to sit in the refrigerator for about 4 hours to chill. As the mixture sits in the fridge, the flavors will develop.
- When you’re ready to serve the gazpacho, stir it well and pour into bowls. I like to garnish each bowl with scallion, cucumber, chunks of avocado, radish and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Then give a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper.
A quick and easy way to peel your tomatoes. Using a sharp knife, slice and “X” on the bottom of your tomato. Submerge the tomato in a pot of boiling water for about 20-30 seconds. Remove and let cool for a few minutes. The skin will gently peel away from the area where you made the “X”.
If you can refrain from eating your gazpacho immediately upon making it, let it sit over-night in the fridge as it will get nicely chilled, and the flavors of all your fresh vegetables will meld together beautifully.
So, I’ve told you that son #1 is a professional chef, and the guy works all the time. Being in the restaurant business he never has a weekend off, and I suppose that just goes with the territory. Lucky for him he really loves his job. He did however have off the other day and decided to invite his buddies over to watch some football. They were just going to order some pizzas and drink beer, typical guy stuff. Now me, being the hovering mother that I am, felt it necessary to offer these guys a healthy snack. They’re grown men actually, and I probably should have just minded my own business, but I just couldn’t help myself.
I decided to make these zucchini fries for them. I think they’re the perfect snack for sitting around and watching football, all crispy and crunchy. It was just kind of funny when I walked into the family room holding a tray of these and said”hey guys, how about some zucchini!”, they all just looked up at me with this look on their faces like, yay, zucchini…
However, when I returned about an hour later, the tray was empty. Mom’s always right. I’m just sayin’…
- 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- ground black pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups panko or plain breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the zucchini into french fry size sticks about 3″ long.
- Arrange 3 shallow bowls or pie plates in a row. In the first bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In the second bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. In the third bowl, combine the panko, parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Working in batches, first dip the zucchini in the flour, shaking of the excess. Transfer to the egg mixture and toss until coated. Let the excess egg run off, then coat the zucchini in the panko mixture.
- Arrange zucchini, without crowding, in a single layer on the prepared pans. Bake for 15 minutes and then rotate the pans. Continue baking until panko coating is golden and crisp, 7-12 minutes more.
- Serve right from the oven.
I guess it’s just human nature, but we humans tend to take everyday things for granted, and you don’t really appreciate something until you don’t have it. We just assume things we need or want will always be there, like they had nothing better to do. That would be the case for me with vegetables. Really, how much time in my life have I devoted to thinking about a vegetable? None! I’ve never cared about their well-being, or thanked them for their years of service. I just always assumed they would always be there, just waiting for ME. Oh, how self-centered.
I broach this topic because I spent the last week visiting a small island in the Caribbean that did not grow its own vegetables. We were told that all the island’s produce had to be flown in from different places. No matter were we went to eat, lettuce was brown, cucumbers were mushy, and tomatoes had no right to call themselves tomatoes. After about day 4, my body was going through a vitamin A withdrawal. Somebody help me, please, I need my soluble fiber!
Well, when I finally returned home I vowed I would never take one of my yellow, orange or green friends for granted anymore. I made myself a batch of these Roasted Carrots with Honey and Thyme, which by the way is a favorite annual side-dish on my Thanksgiving table.
Roasted Carrots with Honey & Thyme
- 1 1/2 pounds carrots
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh, minced thyme
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon chopped, crystallized ginger (optional, but I love the spicy sweetness it adds)
- sea salt and fresh, ground pepper to taste
- Peel and trim tops off carrots. Rinse under cold water and pat dry.
- Lay carrots on a metal rimmed baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil over. Toss to coat carrots completely.
- Sprinkle carrots with the thyme, crystallized ginger, salt and pepper. Drizzle honey over top.
- Toss carrots to completely incorporate the ingredients.
- Roast on the center rack in the oven at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until you can pierce the carrots with a sharp knife.
- Serve immediately.
Make sure that all your carrots are of equal thickness to insure that the vegetables roast evenly. If some carrots are thicker, just cut them in half.
To make your dish more visually appealing, see if your local produce market sells the multi-colored or rainbow carrots. They’re just more fun!
I guess you could say I’m a real “meat and potatoes” kind of girl. Actually I can do without the meat, so possibly it’s more accurate just to say I’m a “potatoes” kind of girl. I like to incorporate potatoes into every meal whenever possible. Scrabbled eggs in the morning must be accompanied by home fries, and if you know me at all, and you do, then you know french fries have to make an appearance at lunch. But what I’m here to share with you today is more of a dinnertime potato. Now mind you, I serve these whenever I have company over, and there’s nary a potato ever left in the dish.
For these Herb Roasted Potatoes, I like to use the Yukon Gold’s because they have a buttery, creamy texture and you don’t have to peel them. You roast the potatoes at a high temperature and they come out crispy and crunchy, almost like a potato chip, and I know how you all like potato chips. The addition of the fresh herbs just brings out the potato’s earthiness. But don’t take my word for it, make them for the family and see if there’s any left.
Herb Roasted Potatoes
- 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (I used the small ones)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
- Kosher salt or sea salt, to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and spray rimmed cookie sheets with cooking spray. Using a mandolin, so that your potato slices will be uniform in size, slice your potatoes to about 1/8” thick. Place them in a large bowl.
- Add your fresh herbs to the bowl, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Drizzle enough olive oil over the mixture only to lightly coat the potatoes, and with your hands toss the ingredients until each potato slice is coated.
- Lay the potatoes out on the cookie sheets in one layer and place in the oven, on the center rack.
- About half-way through baking, using a metal spatula, flip the slices over so that the other side of the potato will brown
- Roast for about 25 minutes, or until potatoes are nice and golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional salt (if desired). Serve immediately.