Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Baby Romaine Salad with Creamy Pistachio Dressing

Can it be August already? I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful summer!

A couple of weeks ago, we hosted our Gourmet Group of 5 couples.  It's always a challenge to come up with a delicious and unique menu from year to year as everyone loves to cook and the menus are always top-notch.  The host and hostess send each couple the entire menu with recipes. Each couple is assigned one recipe to prepare and bring to the dinner and the host and hostess provide the main course, a side dish and all the wine and beverages.

After the first course, which was a refreshing Spanish almond, cucumber and grape gazpacho, this delightful salad was served. Not too difficult to prepare, it was not only delicious but the baby romaine, or Little Gem lettuce, looked adorable on the plate.  The creamy pistachio dressing, toasted pistachios and sliced radishes added even more crunch and was a delightful combination of flavors.

I found the salad recipe in the cookbook "Taste and Technique" by Naomi Pomeroy, which was a birthday gift from a friend this past spring.  The cookbook is loaded with great recipes that I can't wait to try and I was delighted when I found this special salad recipe to add to our Gourmet Group menu!  I hope to bring you at least one or two more recipes from our gourmet menu soon!

So what else have I been doing since my last post?  Hosting our three grandsons numerous times for swimming and overnights...

Celebrating our anniversary at a wonderful seafood restaurant on the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee.  It was a lovely summer evening on the patio with a view to the west of the Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum and, to the east, of the inner Lake Michigan harbor...

And, of course, I've been enjoying my garden and all the sunny yellow blooms this year :)

Baby Romaine Salad with Creamy Pistachio Dressing

Serves 4

For the Vinaigrette:

3 teaspoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup raw, unsalted shelled pistachios (regular salted, shelled pistachios work fine but cut back on additional salt)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1-1/4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 cup aioli (mix 1/3 cup mayonnaise with 1 minced garlic clove and 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice)
3 tablespoons pistachio oil (optional)
1/3 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1-1/2 teaspoons minced tarragon
3 teaspoons minced chives
3 teaspoons minced flat-leaf parsley
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar

To make the vinaigrette:

Preheat the oven to 325F. Place the shallot in a small mixing bowl, cover with the vinegar. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and set aside to macerate for about 10 minutes.

Spread the pistachios on a small baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Roughly chop the pistachios and divide them into two batches of 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the macerated shallot and its liquid, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, the lemon zest and juice, the aioli, the pistachio oil, and the crème fraiche or sour cream.

At this point, the salad can be refrigerated until ready to use.

Before serving, add the minced herbs and whisk again. Taste and season with pepper and sugar, if necessary.

For the Salad:

2 large or 4 small heads Little Gem Lettuce (regular romaine would also work using the pale, inner head)
2 radishes
Flaky finishing salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the Salad:

Trim off the base of each lettuce leaving the head intact. Cut each head of lettuce in half vertically and place in a large bowl of water to clean thoroughly. Drain on paper towels and spin out any remaining water in a salad spinner.

Slice the radishes thinly and place in a bowl of ice water. Store in refrigerator. Dry well with paper toweling before serving.

To serve, stir 1/2 cup of the chopped pistachios into the vinaigrette. Arrange lettuces on plates and spoon the vinaigrette equally over each lettuce half. Top with the radish slices, remaining chopped pistachios.  Add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and some freshly ground pepper and serve.

Adapted from Taste and Technique by Naomi Pomeroy.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rhubarb and Strawberry Pie with Almonds

Hello! How's your summer going?

I posted this pie on Instagram a while back and had hoped to post the recipe here sooner but my computer has had some serious issues.  I swear there was a Gremlin living inside my computer!  It may have been caused by a nearby lighting strike but it kept shutting itself down and restarting ALL THE TIME.  After 3 trips to the computer doctor I finally have a totally rebuilt computer.  Would you believe it was a problem in the case?  Something about a ground loop if you have any idea what that means. I know I don't.  I could still get my personal emails and search the web on my tablet but I hate doing any kind of lengthy typing on it.  Too frustrating.

So, following the old adage of "Better Late than Never" I bring you Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie!  

My little rhubarb patch has been going strong since spring (probably due to all the cool, rainy days we've had) and I may be able to get a few more stalks before I need to give it a rest for the remainder of the summer so it comes back next spring in good health.  A good rule of thumb is that when the stalks start getting thin you should stop picking.  

I adapted this recipe from my ages-old Betty Crocker cookbook.  It's the very first cookbook I owned and was given to me by my late sister ♥  I added some strawberries and decided to sprinkle the top of the pie with sliced almonds and a little Swedish Pearl Sugar before baking - a delicious combination!  I love the added crunch the almonds give to the pie.

Sadly, rhubarb season and my peas may be ending but Clematis season in my garden is at its peak. Tomatoes and zucchini will be arriving soon, if it ever stops raining. Has anyone else been getting tons of rain this summer? We had almost 2" or rain last night into this morning!

Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie with Almonds

Printable Recipe
Makes one 9" pie (amounts for 8" pie in parentheses)

Rhubarb-Strawberry Filling

1-1/3 (1) cups sugar
1/3 (1/4) cup all-purpose flour
4 (3) cups diced fresh rhubarb
1 (1/2) cups diced fresh strawberries
1-1/2 (1) tablespoons butter

3 (2) tablespoons sliced almonds, for garnish
Swedish Pearl Sugar or regular baking sugar, for garnish

2 crust pastry (recipe follows) or you may use store-bought refrigerated pie crusts

Preheat oven to 425F

Place rhubarb in a large bowl. Mix sugar and flour together and add to rhubarb in bowl. Toss together with rhubarb.

Pour rhubarb mixture into a pastry-lined pie plate and dot with butter. Cover with top crust and make slits in dough. Flute crust edge with your fingers or score with a fork to seal. Sprinkle top with almonds and sugar.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until crust is nicely browned and juice begins to bubble through slits. Cover edge of pastry with strips of aluminum or use a silicone pie crust shield during the last 20 minutes to prevent burning.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pastry for a 9" Two Crust Pie (8" pie amounts in parentheses)

2 cups (1-1/2) cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (3/4) teaspoon salt
2/3 (1/2) cups shortening (such as Crisco)
1/4 (3 tablespoons) cold water, more or less

Measure flour by dip and level method and place in large bowl. Add salt and blend. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until the consistency is like small peas.

Sprinkle flour mixture with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with a fork until all flour is moistened. Bring dough together with your hands and press into a ball. Cut into two pieces and form into discs.

On a lightly floured surface roll out dough, one piece at a time, covering unrolled piece with plastic wrap until ready to roll out. Roll pastry about 1-inch larger than the pie plate's largest diameter, about 1/8-inch thick. Fold pastry in half and transfer to pie plate. Unfold and press into place. Fill and cover pie with second piece of rolled dough and follow directions above finishing and baking.

Adapted from "Rhubarb Pie' in my vintage Betty Crocker Cookbook.