This Burgundian classic dish combines fresh braised or boiled leeks with a tangy Dijon vinaigrette. It can be served as a starter prior to a full-bodied stew like coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon. I particularly enjoy serving it as a main lunch course with a crusty warm baguette. Afterwards I enjoy my favorite pungent cheese from the Burgundy region, Epoisses.The Dijon vinaigrette is enhanced with minced shallots and S&T Elegant Salad Blend. Leeks can be found year round in grocery stores making this recipe appropriate for all seasons. Serve with a simple French Chardonnay.
Recipe for Poireaux Vinaigrette (Braised Leek Salad)
4 large leeks, trimmed of rough ends – halved lengthwise
2 cups of water
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 shallot, minced
1 tbsp S&T Elegant Salad Blend
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Pommery grainy mustard
1 TBSP white wine vinegar or lemon juice
Clean trimmed leeks well by soaking in cold water. Rinse. Place leeks in boiling salted water, reduce to simmer, cover and braise for approx 15 minutes until cooked but still retain some texture integrity. If serving warm, set aside covered. If serving cold, shock the cooked leeks in a bowl of ice water. Drain well. Mix remaining ingredients to compose the vinaigrette. Plate the leeks and top with vinaigrette. Serves 2.
One of my favorite bistro dishes in Paris is Salade aux Chevre Chaud(warm goat cheese salad). The crunchy herb-breadcrumb coating, the tangy warm goat cheese, the crispy cool greens and savory crostini just take me to another place. Being born and bred American, imagine my utter delight when this dish was routinely prepared for me,at home, by the French family. The matriarch, Mutti, and her “to die for” mustard vinaigrette, the nostalgia of beloved Mishka’s favorite dish and S&T’s elegant Salad Blend combine to make this particular recipe a special version for our family. Serve it to those you love for lunch, brunch or as an elegant evening appetizer.
Recipe for Salade Chevre Chaud (Warm Goat Cheese Salad)
12 oz fresh goat cheese log, firmly chilled
2 tbsp fresh italian parsley, chopped
1 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp S&T Elegant Salad Blend
4-6 cups baby arugula or mesclun mixed greens
1 endive, halved lengthwise and sliced (chiffonade style)
16 grape tomatoes, halved
10-12 radishes, sliced
1 shallot, minced
2 tbsp dijon mustard (Maille)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup sherry or red wine vinegar (start with 1/4 cup….test and add in drops to balance acidity)
* Apparently the key to a proper French vinaigrette is to use no more than a “baby” third of vinegar vis-a-vis the oil *
Fleur de Sel
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, pepper and S&T Elegant Salad Blend in bowl. Cut chilled goat cheese log in 4 equal round slices. Place each round in breadcrumb mixture, one at a time, and coat all sides well. Place on a place and chill to keep firm for 10 minutes. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in an ovenproof skillet on medium high. Brown the goat cheese rounds 1-2 minutes each side to crisp. Place skillet in oven for 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, assemble the vinaigrette in the bottom of a salad bowl: combine shallots, mustard, salt, pepper, vinegar first and finally whisk in the olive oil. Add all the greens plus radishes and coat them lightly by tossing in the vinaigrette.
Plate the dressed greens and top with a warm goat cheese mound. Dress with grape tomato halves and warm baguette/crostini slices.
The March/April season always remind me of my son’s first trip to France. Only 5 months old at the time, it was a joyous trip to see the grandparents. Subsequent years we have been fortunate to spend Easter celebrations together – either in Cannes or on this side of the Atlantic. One special family dish usually graces the table as the first course:crab rice salad with crevettes. Wonderful in its simplicity and elegance, the key to this recipe is always to use the best quality crabmeat one can find. Whether it be top quality canned crab from Russia, from Phillips Crab House in Baltimore or directly out of the Chesapeake Bay itself, rich premium crabmeat makes all the difference. A good hit of cayenne pepper (or other type such as szechuan pepper) adds the needed note of heat and complexity. Serve on a platter encircled with sunny yellow deviled eggs or shape the salad into the form of a fish for Easter (use a black olive slice to make an eye) and surround with cherry tomato halves.
Recipe for Crab Rice Salad with Baby Shrimp
1 cup dry white rice, cooked but still “toothsome”
10 oz good quality lump or backfin crabmeat, well drained and picked for shells
4 TBSP mayonnaise
1/2 scant TBSP Dijon mustard
2-3 dashescayenne or szechuan pepper (go very easy first, you can add more in need)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 lb baby shrimp, cooked
2 TBSP flat leaf Italian parsley, minced (garnish)
Cook 1 cup dry white rice as per usual. When still warm (but not hot), add crabmeat, mayo, Dijon, lemon juice and pepper (to taste). Crab already has a nice “sea salt” flavor but add salt to taste if needed. Check consistency and add more mayo a tsp at a time if needed. Arrange in a mound on an oval platter. Top with cooked shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until serving. When ready to eat, surround with deviled eggs or cherry tomato halves and sprinkle with parsley. Makes 5/6 appetizer portions.
One of the most interesting, versatile spices is the earthy nutmeg. It is the kernel of a fruit grown in the Spice Islands and the outside lace covering is called mace. It enhances egg dishes, sweet baked goods, sauces, Jamaican/island recipes and is a key ingredient of the centuries old Middle Eastern spice blend, raz al hanout. In Europe, particularly Italy, this nutty spice it is added to wilted leafy greens to offset any bitterness. No doubt, freshly grated nutmeg just adds dimension to recipes like no other.
As we anxiously await the first green shoots of spring, I admit I have entirely lost my excitement for root vegetables. So in this “in-between” month of March, I look to the Belgian endive to tide me over. A classic French bistro dish of Gratin d’Endives au Jambon just hits the spot. TheComte cheese gives it the mouth feel of a comfort food yet the dish is lighter due to the vegetable base. The salty ham layer adds the meaty bit needed. And talk about the fresh nutmeg balancing out the bitter roasted endives! The simple 5 minute prep and quick unattended oven time make this dish a winner in this busy mom’s recipe book. Enjoy it today.
Recipe for Gratin d’Endives au Jambon
4 large Belgian endive, sliced in half lengthwise
4 slices of Comte or Gruyere cheese, 4-6 oz
4 slices boiled ham
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a gratin dish, add melted butter plus 1/2 cup of water. Add endive halves cut side up. Season with pepper. Cover and bake for 20-25 minutes until the endive is tender but still firm. Layer the ham on top then add the cheese layer. Liberally grate fresh nutmeg on the top. Bake uncovered for approx 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serves 4
Note: For a more decadent version, add a bechamel sauce layer after the endive is roasted (prior to adding the ham and cheese).
The evening before Thanksgiving is the busiest pizza delivery day of the entire year. Skip that 45 minute wait and prepare this zingy, hearty and healthy Za ‘atar Spinach Feta Pizza in half that time. The citrusy sumac, oregano, thyme and sesame seeds in the za’atar give the pizza its Middle Eastern flair. The tangy herbed feta and lemon brighten it up. It’s the perfect prelude pizza to the anticipated next day feast!
Recipe for Za’atar Spinach Feta Pizza
Pizza dough (refrigerated or bought from pizzeria) 1 tbsp cornmeal 5 tbsp olive oil 2 tbsp za’atar juice of half a lemon 12 oz baby spinach 2 garlic cloves, smashed 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced 5-6 oz herbed feta, crumbed 4 oz goat cheese (aged or fresh)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine olive oil, za’atar and lemon juice in small bowl. Dust cornmeal on a baking sheet. Stretch the pizza dough into a rectangle to fit the baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Saute spinach in pan on stove with 1 tbsp water and smashed garlic for 1-3 minutes until just wilted. Remove crust from oven and prick with a fork to release the heat if puffed up. Spread the za’atar mixture generously over the crust. Top with spinach (minus garlic), cheeses and finally tomatoes. Bake 12-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and crust edges are browned. Serves 6