Sunday, April 26, 2009

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Spinach and strawberry season is coming. While they overlap, I love making this salad. The flavours meld so beautifully.

Strawberry-Spinach Salad

Spinach leaves, washed, trimmed and sliced or torn
Fresh strawberries, washed and tops removed. Halve the berries.
Goat cheese (Chevre)
Freshly snipped chives

Amounts depend on how many people you want to serve. I make individual plates these days, placing first the spinach, then the berries, then crumble a little goat cheese on top. Sprinkle with chives after drizzling a little of the following dressing on top.

Raspberry-Poppy Seed Dressing

2 T raspberry vinegar (or use cider or champagne vinegar)
1 T sugar (if desired, I leave out)
1 tsp poppy seed
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil

Whisk all together then drizzle over salad.

You can also add toasted almonds or pecans to this salad. The combination of the creamy goat cheese, sweet strawberries and crunchy spinach is one of life's little pleasures. Enjoy!

Cherry Season - Cherry Clafoutis

This was posted on my other blog last summer - I just copied it here.

I do love cherries. The season is so short, which makes me eat all I can, while I can. My mom used to can cherries in sugar syrup when I was a child, but I never liked them that way - only fresh. So I was a little hesitant to try this recipe, since it involves cooking the cherries. But, oh my goodness - it's delicious. We had it for dessert last night and then I ate the rest for breakfast.

The recipe is adapted from the Chez Panisse Cookbook, by Alice Waters. The sauce that goes with it makes the dessert, in my opinion. Sweet cherry flavour with a bit of sharp lemon in contrast. So very good.

Cherry Clafoutis
1 pound sweet cherries (preferably Bing), washed and pitted ( I used about 1 1/2 cups)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
pinch ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon kirsch (optional)
1/3 cup cream
a pinch salt
powdered (confectioners') sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a baking pan large enough to hold the cherries loosely in a single layer. Prepare the cherries and arrange them in the pan. Sprinkle with with lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, and (1/4 cup) sugar. Bake until the fruit is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Butter another gratin dish large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer, or use four individual gratin dishes. Drain the cooked cherries, reserving their juice in a small saucepan. Arrange the cherries in the bottom of the baking dish. Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Beat in the flour, vanilla, almond extract, and cream. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Stir a little of the whites into the batter, and then carefully fold in the rest. Pour the batter over the fruit in the baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes, until browned on top. Dust it with powdered sugar and serve warm. (Or cold for breakfast!)

For the sauce, use the drained juices from roasting the cherries. If it seems too thin, reduce the sauce in a pan. The consistency was just right for me without any reduction.

Just a note - I found the recipe quite sweet and would use less sugar in the batter - maybe 1 Tablespoon, or none at all because the cherries are sweet.
Posted by Picasa

Cherry Tomato Appetizers

I like rich and buttery appetizers, but my waistline does not. So I'm continually trying out new ways of delicious healthy bites. This is one I'm working on. It's okay as is, but I've thought of a few ways to kick it up a little.

Cherry Tomato Appetizers

Cherry tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcino)
Basil Pesto (I make mine in the summer and freeze it in small containers. It keeps beautifully and tastes like a bit of summer in the dead of winter)
Fresh basil
Freshly ground pepper

Slice tops off cherry tomatoes, then hollow out, being careful not to tear through the skin. A melon baller works wonderfully for this. Turn the tomatoes upside down on a clean tea towel or a couple of thicknesses of paper towel. (A tea towel is greener, paper towel means you can throw it away) Drain for a couple of hours. Also drain the bocconcino.
Spoon a small amount of pesto into the bottom of the cherry tomatoes. Fill with bocconcino, then sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and minced fresh basil.

You can tell from the photo that no pepper was used in the preparation of the tomatoes, and I thought they were a little flat. I might add some salt next time, too, since the cheese is fresh and unsalted. But would that take away from the fresh flavour? If I find out, I'll amend the recipe.
Posted by Picasa

Spinach Gratin

I know that gratins usually involve making a type of white sauce, but I've been reading some French cookbooks lately and that's not always the case. I looked up the word "gratin" in my big French dictionary and discovered that gratin simply means to finish a dish by putting grated cheese on top and running it under the broiler or a hot oven.

Since making a white sauce takes time, and contains more carbs than I need, I made this dish the other night. It's fast and tasted delicious.

Spinach Gratin

1 onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed, stemmed and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
2 Tablespoons cream (half and half or heavy)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup (or more) grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in frying pan, saute onion until tender. Add spinach and garlic and saute, tossing lightly, until the spinach is wilted and most of the water has evaporated from it. Season to taste. Place in a shallow ovenproof casserole. Drizzle the cream over top, sprinkle on the cheese and bake at 425 degrees for about 5 minutes. Or run under the broiler until the cheese is toasty.

This can be done ahead and then baked at the last minute before serving. Just add a few minutes more baking time.

The photo was taken before baking, hence the "untoasted" cheese.