Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Menu Mimicry, part 2

Roasted beet salad with candied pecans and blue cheese

Last week I mentioned some of the dishes we recreated from reading menus of the best restaurants in Portland. We finished out the week with some outstanding salads. I feel like I did a good job of recreating the Insalata Nostrana’s creamy Caesar dressing and Trevor made a really good version of clarklewis’ roasted beet salad. We used Persephone Farm fennel, beets and radicchio. Here’s how we did it.

Radicchio Caesar salad with herbed croutons
Please be aware that this recipe uses a raw egg yolk, so eat at your own risk. Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems definitely shouldn’t consume raw eggs.
Serves 6 to 8

1 head radicchio (preferably from Persephone Farm), halved
6 to 8 slices of day-old white bread
6 fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
cooking spray or olive oil
1 egg yolk
¼ to ½ cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup to ¾ cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place radicchio in a large bowl of cold water and allow to soak for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 400˚. Rub 4 sage leaves on the bread slices. Cut bread into small cubes, spray with cooking spray or brush lightly with olive oil. Finely chop 2 remaining sage leaves. Place bread cubes on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray or brushed with olive oil. Sprinkle sage and rosemary over bread cubes. Season lightly with salt. Bake for 5 minutes, toss bread cubes and bake for another 5 minutes until cubes are lightly browned and crunchy. Cool and set aside.

To make dressing, place egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese and Dijon in a food processor or blender. Turn on food processor and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Once dressing becomes thick and creamy (almost like mayonnaise), you can stop adding olive oil and stop the food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more garlic, Dijon or lemon juice if desired and pulse a few more times.
Rinse radicchio, chop and spin to dry. Place in a large serving bowl. Add enough dressing to lightly coat the radicchio and toss. Top with Parmesan and croutons.

Roasted beet salad with candied pecans and blue cheese
We used a sweet (dolce) Italian Gorgonzola, but you can use whatever kind of blue cheese you like. Oregonzola blue cheese, is also a great choice.
Serves 4
1 bunch beets, (preferably from Persephone Farm) stems and roots cut off
1 bunch arugula, washed and dried with stems cut off
1 cup of fennel, (preferably from Persephone Farm) very thinly sliced
½ cup pecan halves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
sherry vinegar
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 ounces of Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, crumbled into small pieces

Preheat oven to 425˚. Place beets in squares of aluminum foil, sprinkle with olive oil and wrap up tightly. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, until fork tender. Allow beets to cool enough to handle, then slip skins off using paper towels to keep your hands from turning red. Chop beets into bite-size pieces.

While beets are cooking, mix together brown sugar and water. Toss mixture with pecans making sure each piece is coated. Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray, place pecans on foil, sprinkle lightly with salt, and bake on a baking sheet in a small toaster oven at 350˚ for 6 to 10 minutes. Check on the pecans after 5 minutes, toss and allow to bake until a pecan piece broken in half is golden brown. (You can also bake the pecans in the oven with the beets, but you will need to cook them for less time and watch them more carefully. Pecans and other nuts can go from not quite done to blackened very quickly.)

Assemble salad by tossing arugula and fennel with sherry vinegar and olive oil and seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Divide arugula and fennel into bowls, top with beets, pecans and cheese. Enjoy.


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