Monday, November 29, 2010

Salad Days: Beets, Pears, & Clementines

Salad days: What does that phrase even mean? For us, it means eating seasonal produce and putting more green than ever on our plates. In this post-Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas world we are living in, it just seemed right to eat a little lighter than usual. So we had salad for dinner both Friday and Saturday night after our big Thanksgiving feast on Thursday.

Here in the South, we can grow delicious greens in the fall and winter, and at the market, farmers are selling arugula, watercress, mesclun, and the like right now. In addition, the fall has some really wonderful produce to offer like beets, clementines, and pears.

I keep my salad dressing pretty simple in order to allow the flavor of the ingredients to shine through. You want a good olive oil to add some richness, a nice vinegar to add some acidity, and something to add a bit of sweetness and balance. It's simple to adjust this basic champagne vinaigrette recipe to fit almost any salad. If your greens are more bitter than you like, add more honey. If you are using citrus in your salad, back off the vinegar by half. It's important to taste to see how all of your ingredients go together and adjust your dressing accordingly.

Champagne vinaigrette:
Whisk together equal parts olive oil and champagne vinegar, add a spoonful of local honey, one diced shallot, salt, and pepper. This dressing can be enhanced by adding herbs such as thyme or a few strands of lemon zest.

Beet, Arugula, and Almond-Pepita Granola Salad:
2 cups small beets (peeled, quartered, sautéed in olive oil over medium heat until soft)
arugula (cleaned, dried)
8 sprigs fresh chervil
2 tablespoons granola (it's good, trust me)
4 thin slices aged white cheddar

Spinach, Pear, and Bleu Cheese Salad:
champagne vinaigrette
2 pears (sliced and placed into the dressing)
spinach (cleaned, dried)
1/4 cup chopped almonds
2-3 ounces blue cheese (crumbled)

Marinated Clementine and Pea Tendrils:
champagne vinaigrette
4 supremed clementines (sliced and placed into the dressing)
pea tendrils
2 slices of aged goat cheese

P.S. I'm running the Memphis Marathon in less than a week. As St. Jude Heroes, my brother, brother-in-law, and I are raising money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. Every dollar I raise will be matched up to $2000. So if you can donate to a worthwhile cause, or if you want to learn more about why I run, please click HERE. No amount is too small. Thank you for reading!