And this, friends, would be an example of an AHubb meal. Or, an AHubb meal following a couple of weeks of BHubb meals, multiple food-centered editorial assignments, and a day-long photoshoot involving roughly 800oz of potato chips. Which, yes, we kept and distributed [mostly] to friends and family. With the fast approach of the holiday season and even heavier meals for impending Winter days, I've decided to challenge myself to create an interesting salad each week. To keep me on track, grounded, and hopefully in my current jeans. Not that I'll share each of them here. I know...you all really enjoy recipes more closely aligned with orecchiette carbonara and peach cakes. Who doesn't? But I thought, maybe, some of you might appreciate a few healthier options sprinkled here and there.
We all have those days when our jeans fit just a little tighter than the last, when we are craving something complex and hearty and cheesy for lunch but know we should choose the green salad instead. This recipe is my compromise. With a healthy dose of greens and apples, and a modest sprinkling of blue cheese and candied walnuts, it satisfies without the guilt. Make it lighter by omitting the candied walnuts and just sprinkling them on raw...but gosh, they sure are tasty.
Never fear...I'll be back tomorrow with a recipe for apple torte. :)
The combination of apples, blue cheese, and candied walnuts is well-loved and known for salads. Sometimes you just need a little reminder about an old favorite.
Autumn Salad with Apples, Blue Cheese, + Candied Walnuts
4 cups fresh spinach
2 cups fresh arugula
1 tart apple, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Candied Walnut Ingredients
1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
large pinch of salt
1-1/2 cups halved walnuts
Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette Ingredients
2 tbsp grain mustard
4 tbsp golden balsamic vinegar (or champagne vinegar if you can't find golden balsamic)
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
First, candy the walnuts. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a heavy skillet. Bring to a boil, whisking, and allow to boil for 1 minute. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Continue tossing until the syrup forms a glaze on the nuts, about 3 minutes. Transfer nuts to sheet of foil and quickly separate them with forks.
Second, make the vinaigrette. Combine the mustard, vinegar, and honey in the small bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil to emulsify, processing for about 1 minute.
Toss together the spinach and arugula. Place in a shallow serving dish. Add the apples and walnuts evenly across the top of the greens, then the crumbled blue cheese. Dress the salad on individual plates.
The mosquitoes are out in full force, covering my skin with pink welts each time I venture into our overgrown garden. My hair frizzes to twice its volume as soon as I consider stepping outside. I can’t walk down the block without tiny beads of sweat popping up on the back of my neck, yet my office is frigid enough to require a sweater. Spring seems to have moved on early this year, leaving in her wake an abrasive and demanding Summer.
But, despite all of this personal discomfort, I love this time of year. Truly, I do.
I love the thunderstorms that sweep in like clockwork each afternoon, lending the sky an ominous tone and the air an electric buzz. I love the booths at the farmer’s market, the tables full of greens and berries and cucumbers and beets. I love that the water is warm enough to take the dogs swimming at the reservoir, and that those trips are the perfect opportunity for a picnic. I love drinking Moscow Mules on the back deck while watching fireflies glow in the trees, and the smell of sun screen and citronella and bug spray made sweeter by the intoxicating aroma of freshly-mown grass and trampled mint.
Those are all compelling arguments, I know, but what I love most about this Almost-Summer time of year is the local Virginia fruit. Those few days where I find myself wandering between tidy rows of strawberries, or ducking under tree branches dripping with both rainwater and cherries, are worth every welt on my itchy legs. Filling our basket with blueberries and melons at Charlottesville's City Market makes the sweltering heat just bearable as we make our way between stalls. And folding homegrown raspberries into whipped buttercream...oh my. There aren't many discomforts that fresh raspberry buttercream can't fix.
But today, let's focus on those cherries. Ten-year-old Andrea would probably tell you that they are her favorite fruit...ever...for their appearance at the grocery store was always perfectly timed with the end of school and the beginning of Summer vacation. My momma, a teacher and just as excited for the break, would plan day trips to Florida’s fresh water springs for my friends and me. A bag full of sweet cherries was always packed as part of our lunch. After a few hours of swimming and snorkeling and sharks’ tooth hunting the dark-skinned globes would come out of the cooler, icy cold and immediately covered in tiny beads of condensation.
We’d find a spot in the grass, out of the shade of our claimed pavilion. The spring water was frigid, and the sun felt good on our skin as we spread a blanket and chose our places for the competition that was sure to follow. Small hands reached into the Ziplock bag, pulling out handfuls of tangled fruit to place in cross-legged laps. One-by-one, plucked from the mass by rubbery stems, the cherries were popped into eager mouths. Rolled around and around the tongue, the pit was picked clean before being spat from juice-stained lips across the sun-soaked lawn.
I won't deny that my adult days have seen the occasional cherry-pit-spitting contest. Yes, I do that. But 28-year-old Andrea has also learned how to bake and how to make jam, and that cherries pair well with savory partners as well as sweet. Take this dish, for instance, a variation on the classic tomato and basil bread salad. In it, sweet cherries are paired with the tang of balsamic vinegar and spicy arugula, all held together by a base of crisped bread and a topping of creamy chevre. It is a very adult meal, a lovely, rustic dinner for two on the back deck that is complimented nicely by an effervescent vinho verde.
Just be sure to save some of those whole cherries for dessert...you never know when your inner child will demand a little friendly competition.
Bread Salad with Cherries, Arugula and Goat Cheese
from A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenbergmakes 4 first-course servings, or a meal for 2
6 oz rustic bread, preferably a day old (I used a whole wheat baguette)
1/2 pound cherries, halved and pitted (I used sweet cherries, and a cherry pitter was SO handy)
1/8 tsp pressed or crushed garlic
fresh chevre, coarsely crumbled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Trim crust from bread, and discard the crust. Tear the bread into rough, bite-size pieces (you should have about 4 cups, total). Dump the bread onto a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle it with olive oil. Toss to coat. Bake until crispy and golden in spots, shaking the pan once, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put about one-third of the cherries in a small bowl and mash them lightly with a fork to release their juices.
When the bread is nicely toasted, turn it into a large bowl. While it is still hot, add the crushed garlic and toss well. Set the bowl aside to cool for a minute or two, then add all of the cherries, both mashed and halved, and toss. Add 2 tsp balsamic vinegar and toss again. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch or two of salt and toss again.
Taste, and adjust the vinegar, oil and salt as needed. The bread and cherries should taste good on their own. When you're satisfied with the flavor, add about 2 handfuls of arugula and toss one last time. Finish with a generous amount of crumbled goat cheese and a few grinds of the pepper mill, and serve.
Let me start by saying that I am completely smitten with the city in which Brian and I live. Charlottesville wooed us from afar with her top-notch university, her small-town feel just two hours from Washington D.C., her close proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains and dozens of Virginia wineries. We were drawn in by the qualities of a city that look good on paper: the quaint downtown district, public parks, academic culture, good hospitals. What we received in addition to those important qualities was greater than we could have ever imagined: a strong local food movement, an impressive number of independently-owned restaurants that have kept us out of Chili's, Friday's and the like for the last five years, a health-concious population that promotes dozens of foot races year-round, like-minded classmates, co-workers and farmers who have become incredible friends. And, especially exciting for two Floridians who lived without them for the first 22 years of our lives, four distinct seasons.
Nobody could have prepared me for the magic that is October in Charlottesville, the golden light that flares through the brightly-colored leaves and the festivals that occur every weekend. And then there's April, with her daffodils and tulips and cherry trees that resemble cotton candy attached to smooth, silvery bark. Late June brings the first of the summer vegetables to the farmer's market and the intoxicating, oh-so-sweet scent of wild multiflora rose to the air. For eleven months of the year I sing the praises of this place, this gem of a city nestled into the shadow of the Blue Ridge, and am pleased to call Charlottesville my home.
But there are those other four weeks, the weeks that span the end of January and beginning of February, when the first snow of the year has melted and left the yard a muddy mess, when the cuteness of the six sweaters in my closet has worn off and I stare longingly at the bright, sleeveless tops meant for warmer months. These are the days that I resent pulling socks on instead of strappy sandals, when I crave a glass of white wine while sitting in a sunbeam on the back deck, when I'd give anything to not have skin flaking from my too-dry face. These are the days that I wish I were still a Floridian, with 70* winter days and a year-round farmer's market.
These are the days when citrus plays a prominent role in my diet, producing little sparks of Florida warmth with each juicy bite. Citrus fruit will get me through the worst days of winter, when the sky is gray and the air is moist and my boots make suction noises as I walk across my saturated front yard. There will be lemon cakes and orange juice-glazed tofu, citrus-flavored martinis and key lime pies. Clementines are tossed in my bag daily to be eaten as an afternoon snack, the draft leaking through my office window hardly noticeable as I savor each sunshine-filled wedge.
Also, there is this salad. So light, so fresh, so summer, yet made with mostly seasonal ingredients. It is a bright spot on the dreariest of winter days, sure to bring cheer and warmth to the coldest of winter nights.
The fennel provides a delightful crunch, similar to a slaw, that serves as a nice contrast to the soft oranges and the salmon that nearly melts in your mouth. Poaching the fish creates a mild flavor that is enhanced by the juice from the oranges and a hint of mint.
4 cups very thinly sliced fennel (from 2 medium bulbs)
1 cup small fresh mint leaves (I only used 1/4 cup, and it was plenty for us...)
2 tbsp olive oil
6 cups of arugula salad mix
In a large, deep skillet, combine water, sugar, vinegar and star anise. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add salmon filet, skin side up, to skillet. Cover skillet and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, turn salmon over. Cover and let stand until salmon is just opaque in center, 5 to 6 minutes longer.
Remove salmon from liquid and cool. Coarsely flake salmon into bowl, removing any bones and skin, and set aside.
Cut top and bottom 1/4-inch off each orange. Stand 1 orange on 1 flat end. Using small sharp knife, cut off peel and white pith. Working over large bowl, cut between membranes, releasing segments into bowl. Repeat with remaining orange.
Add salmon, fennel, mint and olive oil to bowl with oranges. Gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over bed of arugula.
Speaking of Florida, my good friend Jenn has started a new blog about fitness and running. She's a doll, so energetic and positive, and is sure to bring an infectious spark to the healthy living blog world. Check her out at Reason 2 Run, and take note of the helpful fitness facts that accompany each post. She's a fitness professional, runner and balanced living enthusiast, and has a wealth of knowledge to share with us all. Welcome, Jenn!