Word of warning, this is a semi-mammoth post!
I had quite the foodie-forager adventure this past weekend and even got two incredible spring salads out of it -- both of which will most definitely be reappearing in the near future. They're perfect for a dinner party when you're looking to impress with something as "simple" as a salad. But before the salad recipes, here's a quick run-down of this foodie-nutritionist's Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday, April 3rd
10am - 10K run in Central Park for charity...and yes, I'm still sore, but you couldn't have begged for better running weather
11:30am - hit the Union Square farmers market & grocery store on my way back from the run to grab ingredients for the beet salad I was tasked with bringing to a friend's dinner party that evening. A standard beet-goat salad? Far from it. Keep on reading for the recipe and to see how I made things a little more intriguing.
2pm - Met up with my friend David Malosh, who's quite the talented (and very humble) food photographer and stylist. Rocking my Ray-Bans in the sunny weather, David and I were bound for a fun-filled foodie tour of hipster Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Couldn't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.
2:30pm - First stop, a late lunch at Marlow & Sons. D - licious. I love the menu focus on daily specials depending on what's in season and what's available. I went with a sunny-side up egg served with greens, a few potatoes and of course I had to try out their infamous house-made sausage - made that long morning run totally worth it. (I'm a sucker for sausage, I know, it defies all "nutritionist" logic....thank goodness!).
3:30pm - A quick pop into Marlow & Daughters up the street (their sister marketplace and butcher). I snagged a tub of Salvatore's fresh ricotta cheese to pair with olive oil, red pepper flakes, fresh mint and fresh bread -- an easy, delightful appetizer for the Easter Sunday lunch/dinner I was invited to the following day. Phenomenal ricotta, though David makes his own apparently and could prove a serious threat.
4pm - Swing by the Bedford Cheese shop for a quick sniff (no matter how often I go in, it's still incredibly pungent). David insists I taste-test the Australian feta cheese. He knows his stuff, so it's in my fridge waiting to be used.
4:30pm - Last stop at The Meat Hook (aka "Brooklyn's Local Butcher") which boasts custom cuts of meat, house-made sausage and more. They're in partnership with The Brooklyn Kitchen (great kitchenware and sundries) and Brooklyn Kitchen Labs (cooking, baking and butchering classes). What'd I walk away with? A bottle of house-made balsamic and red wine vinegar - amazing and so cheap! - one of their infamous sausage links, had to try to it, and a baguette from Roberta's, the carb-worthy pizza/Italian joint in Buschwick. (I served the bread up with the fresh ricotta for Sunday's dinner and it was killer).
8pm -- Taking my friend's spacious open-kitchen by storm, I used my lovely beets to their max capacity. A perfect pairing with beef tenderloin and roasted fingerling potatoes dusted with truffle salt (my secret weapon)! Photo and recipe below.
Roasted Beet Salad with Pistachios and Creme Fraiche Dressing
Preheat oven to 425. Clean and trim 6 medium beets (I used 3 red and 3 yellow for color contrast). Place in a small roasting pan with 1 inch water and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes. Allow beets to cool and rub off skins with your fingers or a paper towel (no one likes purple-stained fingers!). Cut beets into quarters or chunks and set aside.
Creme fraiche dressing: creme fraiche is a nice alternative to standard goat cheese. It's so light and creamy, you just a little to get a lot flavor and taste. Mix together 1/4 cup of creme fraiche, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, the juice of one lemon, 2 teaspoons of minced shallot, one tablespoon of minced chives, salt and pepper to taste and the zest of one lemon. Slowly whisk in 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.
Watercress puree: this is somewhat of an extraneous step (ditch it if you're time crunched), but it adds a nice flair and great color when garnishing the salad. Watercress is at its peak in the spring and gives a great herby, fresh kick to a dish. Blanch 1/4 bunch of watercress in boiling water for 1 minute. In a blender, combine, watercress 2 tablespoons of olive oil, one tablespoon water, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon minced shallot and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.
Now for the assembly...on a large serving platter or in a large salad bowl, place the remaining 3/4 bunch of watercress (tossed with 2 teaspoons olive oil and salt) on the bottom. Arrange roasted beets on bed of watercress and sprinkle 1/4 cup chopped and toasted pistachios on top. Drizzle the creme fraiche dressing lightly over top in a circular motion -- you'll have about a third of the dressing leftover. Finish with a few small dollops of the watercress puree and garnish with additional lemon zest and minced chives. Finito. Spring beauty fresh on your plate!
Sunday-Funday, April 4th
After a morning pilates class, I headed home to prepare a lovely, sunny-fresh salad to bring to my friend Jen's Easter afternoon get-together. I knew herb-crusted rack of lamb would be on the menu and the prosecco would most definitely be flowing, so I figured a light salad would help keep things healthfully in check. I love the combo of fresh fennel and oranges, so that's what I went with. If you've never worked with fennel before, it's got a slight licorice flavor and is packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. It's great roasted or raw.
Roberta's bread and Salvatore's fresh ricotta with olive oil, fresh mint and red pepper flakes kicked things off with a simple afternoon appetizer.
Fennel, Endive and Orange Salad with Ricotta Salata
1 bulb fennel, green stalks cut off (use the white bulb only)
1 head of endive, thinly sliced
3 oranges, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced (I used a combo of blood oranges and navel - packed with vitamin C and fiber)
1/2 cup fresh grated ricotta salata (it's a hard cheese that's slightly salty...great flavor and texture!)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots
1 tablespoon minced chives
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced shallots
juice of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk (yes, raw egg yolk...you'll end up with a smooth, creamier dressing without adding a ton of calories or fat --remember you're dividing it by 8 servings)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the vinaigrette, whisk together mustard through salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking. Toss fennel, endive and oranges with 1/2 of vinaigrette in a large salad or serving bowl. Sprinkle ricotta salata and chives over top and serve.