Balsamic Glazed Strawberry and Goat Cheese Spinach Salad

Balsamic Glazed Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad
I haven’t posted in a while and I should confess that this post was really meant to go up over a month ago when strawberries were still in their prime. You may be wondering how this recipe is now relevant. The beauty of a simple salad such as this is that the fruit can easily be substituted for a seasonal selection such as peaches or plums. Balsamic vinegar reductions or glazes work well with many seasonal stone fruits as well as figs and strawberries, of course. The richness of the vinegar reduction or glaze pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the fruit while giving it just a touch of acidity. When mixed with creamy goat cheese, spinach, and walnuts, you have yourself a simple tasty summer salad.

This recipe has little relation to my grandmother’s recipes or classic recipes, in general. It is just so simple and tasty that I thought I would share it. I originally made this on a warm summer day in June when I was craving a light lunch and didn’t want to cook or turn on the oven. I had just bought a pint of juicy fresh strawberries from the farmers market and goat cheese is one of my favorite cheeses to include in a salad that contains fruit. Walnuts add a crunch and much needed substance. I could have simply used plain strawberries without the balsamic glaze, but I normally find fresh fruit almost too sweet in salads that contain leafy greens such as spinach. I happened to have a balsamic glaze in my pantry so I gave the strawberries a quick toss to coat and added them to the salad. Who really needs the salad part when you have fresh strawberries coated in sweet balsamic syrup? I could easily eat them by the bowlful or over ice cream. But in the interest of trying to be healthy, I created this light fresh salad. I’ve added instructions below to make a balsamic reduction if you don’t have or want to buy a balsamic glaze. Either one will give your fruit that extra luxurious flavor. It’s the perfect way to take that boring summer salad to the next level.

Balsamic Strawberries and Goat Cheese Salad

Balsamic Glazed Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad

Ingredients

1 pint strawberries
1/4 cup balsamic glaze or balsamic reduction (see note)
4 cups spinach leaves
4 oz crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Hull and slice strawberries. Place in a small bowl. Drizzle balsamic glaze over top and toss to combine.

Note: if making a balsamic reduction instead of using a store bought glaze, pour 1 cup balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer until balsamic vinegar is thick, about 10-15 minutes. Cool.

Combine spinach, goat cheese, and walnuts in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, add red wine vinegar. Whisk in olive oil a little at a time to emulsify. Whisk in mustard, salt, and pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to combine.

Serve salad on small plates and spoon balsamic glazed strawberries on top.

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Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins

Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry season is officially upon us and although I’m still obsessing over Rhubarb (more recipes to come!), blueberries are my favorite everyday eating fruit. Whether you buy them from a street vendor, at the grocery store, or pick your own at a farm, these healthy little juicy bursts of flavor are classic, versatile, and never seem to grow tiresome. I personally enjoy eating fresh blueberries by the handful but most people prefer them in or on a more substantive dish or dessert. One of the most obvious uses for blueberries – at least in baking – are blueberry muffins. I know what you’re thinking: “another blueberry muffin recipe, who cares” but this recipe is not just adapted from the “dean of American cookery,” it’s full of fresh blueberry flavor and cinnamon scented bread-like cake.

I adapted this recipe from the James Beard Cookbook. This classic cookbook, with its many basic recipes and cooking instructions, rarely disappoints. Similar to my grandmother’s cookbooks, many of the recipes provide great bases for multiple variations. This muffin recipe, for example, could be altered for other berries and fruit and also spiced in many different ways (I plan to try cardamom next). Berries and cinnamon are a scrumptious combo so by pumping up the cinnamon and increasing the blueberry content, this basic muffin became an even tastier treat. When you pull off a piece of the cinnamon spiced bready muffin, patches of warm fresh blueberries are displayed generously. Whether it qualifies as dessert or a breakfast bread (or both), this satisfying summer baked delight maybe the best way to eat blueberries – or at the very least, your daily serving of fruit.

Blueberry Muffins

Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins

Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients

2 cups + 2 teaspoons sifted all purpose flour
3 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup blueberries

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup regular muffin pan.

Combine 2 cups flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Combine the milk and beaten egg and mix with the dry ingredients. Add melted butter and blend thoroughly.

Add the 2 teaspoons flour to the blueberries and stir or toss lightly to ensure blueberries are coated. Fold blueberries into batter. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full of batter. Bake for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned and puffy.

Yield: 12 muffins

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crostata

Strawberry Rhubarb Crostata

What’s the best part about summer? The weather? The beach? In my opinion, it’s the abundance of fresh local fruit and veggies. I find Farmers Markets and seasonal produce more and more important (and fun!) with each passing year. Freshness can make all the difference in a good meal or dessert. For example, have you tasted a farmers market strawberry against a store bought one? They don’t even taste like the same fruit. A farmers market strawberry is so much sweeter and juicier, you will never want to buy that plastic container of grocery store ones ever again. In season strawberries and remaining spring rhubarb is one of the best seasonal pie combinations around. I usually make a strawberry rhubarb pie or crisp every spring or summer. This year I decided to go with a crostata, the rustic Italian friend of the American pie.

The crust of this crostata is my favorite, always reliable rich tart pastry dough recipe from “The Art of Fine Baking,” by my grandmother Paula Peck. If you read this blog regularly, you’re probably thinking “she’s using that dough again?!” Yes, I’ve used it A LOT but it really is the best. I’ve tried many pie doughs and even learned some good ones from The International Culinary Center. But this rich tart pastry dough beats the others in flavor and versatility, hands down. The richness of the citrus scented dough is the perfect compliment to juicy sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb. No need to worry about lining a pie plate or creating a pretty lattice top, the benefit of a crostata is it’s rustic simplicity. Just roll out the dough, place the filling in the center, and fold up the edges. About 35 minutes later you will have a mouth-watering luscious baked strawberry rhubarb dessert you will repeat seasonally for years to come.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crostata

Strawberry Rhubarb Crostata

Strawberry Rhubarb Crostata

Ingredients

Rich Tart Pastry Dough
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 hard cooked egg yolks, mashed 2 raw egg yolks
 
Filling
3 cups rhubarb, cut in 1 inch pieces
3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons flour
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch
 
1 beaten egg mixed with
1 tablespoon milk

Instructions

To make the rich tart pastry dough:

Place flour in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Add all ingredients to the well. The butter should not be ice cold, nor should it be so soft that it is oily.

With fingertips, make a paste of the center ingredients, gradually incorporating flour to make a smooth, firm ball of dough. Work quickly, so butter does not become oily. When sides of bowl are left clean, the pastry is finished. Wrap in wax paper and chill until dough is firm enough to roll.

Line or grease a baking sheet and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together, rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cinnamon sugar, zest, flour, and cornstarch.

Roll out pastry on a floured surface until just under 1/4 of an inch thick and at least 11 inches round. Pile filling in the center of the dough round. Fold and pleat dough evenly up around filling. Brush dough with egg milk mixture.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until juices are bubbling and the top is lightly browned.

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Cardamom Coriander Chicken Wrap

Indian Spiced Chicken Wrap

Almost anything can be made into a wrap. When I came across a recipe titled “Tangore Chicken” in my grandmother’s cookbook, “The Art of Good Cooking,” the spices and ambiguity of the titled seemed to lend itself well to a simple wrap. I’m familiar with Tandoori chicken and I’ve even seen a few recipes for Tanjore chicken but I’m not sure where Tangore chicken came from. My guess is that this is a hybrid word my grandmother used for this Indian inspired poultry. This is similar to other ethnic recipes from her book that were so new and different in the 1960’s no one was quite sure of the correct terminology or what to call these dishes. So I decided to re-name this chicken and turn it into a tasty little wrap. When in doubt, wrap it.

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Baked Brown Sugar Rhubarb with Blood Orange

Baked Sugared Rhubarb

Rhubarb, one of the best parts about spring, is late this year in the Northeast. We just started seeing this perfect pie fruit at farmers markets within the last week or so – I’ve been looking for it since mid-April! Rhubarb is definitely a favorite of mine. Always a fan of tart and tangy, rhubarb is juicy, sweet, yet slightly sour when baked with sugar. Although my grandmother didn’t have many recipes for it, her mentor, James Beard has a few in “The James Beard Cookbook,” which is where I got the idea for this super simple baked rhubarb recipe.

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Coconut Green Beans and Peas

Coconut Green Beans and Peas

Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines. It’s also becoming quite trendy. In New York, Whole Foods has even included a hot bar/buffet of Indian Food in their prepared food section. There is still room for improvement in the quality of mainstream Indian food but I think my grandmother would have been as pleased as I am to see this flavorful cuisine take off. There are a few Indian style recipes in her book, “The Art of Good Cooking,” such as Curried Carrots and Peppers and Indian Beef Curry which I’ve done for this blog. Like many of her international recipes, these were unique and practically ground breaking when they were written in the 1960’s – before what some may consider the food revolution. The availability of spices like ground coriander, turmeric, cumin seeds, or garam masala have come a long way since then. I, however; didn’t begin to enjoy Indian food until my late teens when my step mother introduced healthy and flavorful north Indian style recipes such as this coconut green bean and peas dish.

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Cookie Butter Molten Lava Cakes

Cookie Butter Molten Lava Cake

If you’re not familiar with speculoos or cookie butter, you’re missing out. This growing trend started a few years ago and is now said to be one of Trader Joe’s best selling products. Some may argue that the popularity of cookie butter peaked back in 2014 but I see more of it now, especially in baked goods, than I did then. It’s a deliciously simple concept: ground spiced shortbread cookies and oil are made into a spreadable butter, similar to peanut butter or nutella. The idea seems to have come from Belgium and Biscoff was one of the first, most recognizable brands in the US. The dessert-like spread is a wonderful nut-free alternative for those with nut allergies and although it’s easy to eat by the spoonful or simply on toast, it turns out this sweet spiced cookie spread makes an amazing molten lava cake.

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Scallop Tacos with Avocado Salsa Verde and Cumin Scented Slaw

Scallop Tacos with Salsa Verde

This dish combines two of my favorite things: seafood and tacos. I’m not sure when I became such a huge fan of seafood. Maybe the lack of availability in Minnesota, where I grew up, made me appreciate it more once I moved to the East Coast. I now cook with seafood any chance I get, especially if the seafood is caught locally or by someone I know. And this is exactly how I came up with these scallop tacos with avocado salsa verde and cumin scented slaw recipe.

The north fork of Long Island is full of wonderful fish and seafood from the surrounding Peconic bay and Long Island Sound. I often look forward to long days of clamming in the summertime or slurping fresh oysters in late fall. This year there was an abundance of bay scallops in wintertime. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to cook with these at my father’s place out on the North Fork. These fresh little bites of the sea are so tender and sweet. They are perfect in salads, soups, stews, or just by themselves but paired with creamy avocado and tangy tomatillos, they really come alive.

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Lemon Meringue Tart

Lemon Meringue Tart

When was the last time you went to a diner and had a slice of classic lemon meringue pie? The sugary lemon filling topped with mile-high meringue is a somewhat satisfying end to that all-American diner meal, usually consisting of french fries and something sandwiched. Often mediocre and overwhelmingly sweet, lemon meringue pie can easily be improved upon through a homemade version…or in this case, a French-American hybrid.

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Shrimp Parmesan with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Shrimp Parmesan

Pasta has become a classic American staple. It’s origin maybe Italian but in the past 50 years, it’s become one of the go-to easy dinners that many families enjoy at least once a week. My grandmother didn’t have many pasta recipes. The few that she had remained part of her unpublished recipe set that she developed later in her career. The trendiest dishes of the 1960’s, when her cookbooks were written, were of mostly of French origin. The pasta explosion came later. Even so, it’s become so common that there are many pasta dishes that can now be considered classics. These include dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, lasagna, and some cases chicken parmesan (or parmigiana). In most Italian red-sauce restaurants, the chicken is really the focus of this dish and pasta is really a side, if included at all. I’ve always preferred a more equal balance of protein and pasta. And although I enjoy a good chicken parm, I am also a seafood lover and found this deconstructed shrimp parmesan to be the perfect lighter alternative to the original red-sauce classic.

This recipe is fairly simple but be prepared to dirty more than a few pots and dishes. Fresh shrimp are lightly breaded and then sautéed (not fried) until just barely golden and tender. The shrimp are then mixed into al dente penne pasta (feel free to use whole wheat or grain) combined with homemade simple tomato sauce and fresh basil. Store bought tomato sauce can be used as a shortcut but making your own is so simple and inexpensive, I highly recommend it. Finally, toss in fresh mozzarella, parmesan cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes, and basil to make a caprese salad parmigiana mixture that’s not only fresh but bursting with Italian-American flavors.

Shrimp Parmigiana

 

Shrimp Parmesan with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Shrimp Parmesan with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 - 28oz can crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lb penne pasta
Handful basil leaves
1/2 cup ciliengine mozzarella, halved
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes halved

Instructions

Preheat a large wide saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When almost smoking, add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Saute for about 5 minutes, just until onion is translucent. Add crushed tomatoes and stir. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and oregano. Allow sauce to simmer over low heat while you prepare the shrimp and pasta.

Place flour with a little salt and pepper in a separate bowl or pie plate. Crack eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork to break up yolks. Place Mix bread crumbs with a ¼ cup of the parmesan in a separate bowl, pie plate, or baking dish. Working in batches, dredge shrimp in flour, then egg wash, and then in the seasoned bread crumbs, tossing to coat evening and shaking to remove any excess. Place on a plate until ready to cook.

Heat a pot of bowling water and prepare pasta according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining oil. When oil is almost smoking, add shrimp in batches. Brown 1-2 minutes on each side, careful not to overcook. Remove and place on a separate plate.

Tear or chiffonade basil leaves. Add about half to the sauce and stir. Remove sauce from heat and add drained pasta. Mix well. Stir in remaining ¼ cup parmesan cheese, ciliegine, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp.

Serve hot with remaining basil.

Serves 6.

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