Waldorf Salad Refresh with California Walnuts

get your creative juices flowing

Get your creative juices flowing

You all know me by now. I just can’t resist a recipe contest that requires me to think way outside the box. Add in the fact that I am required to use ingredients that I already know and love and I am all in. Ingredients like healthy California walnuts, crisp sweet-tart apples and crunchy celery are already in my fridge and pantry, so let’s get started recreating a something new and different Waldorf salad.

California walnuts, apples and celery add healthy crunch

California walnuts, apples and celery add healthy crunch

The Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City is well-known for its luxury accommodations as well as its famous salad. Checking out their restaurant menu the current version of the salad includes apples, candied walnuts and celeriac which got me to thinking how to re-mix, remake and refresh those ingredients into something unexpected and delicious.

building the perfect sandwich

building the perfect sandwich

Like I said you all know me by now, so I bet you’re not surprised I created a fantastic grilled cheese featuring some fresh ingredients. Doesn’t every restaurant menu need the perfect grilled cheese sandwich? Don’t you just love to order that soup and sandwich combo like grilled cheese and tomato soup. It’s such a classic. What makes mine Waldorf Astoria worthy? Without a doubt it is the candied California walnut pesto that makes this “refresh” fantastic.

The Waldorf Salad Grilled Cheese with Candied Walnut Pesto

The Waldorf Grilled Cheese with Candied Walnut Pesto

The Waldorf Grilled Cheese Salad Sandwich with Candied Walnut Pesto

1 small clove garlic

3/4 cup packed basil leaves

¼ cup fresh celery leaves

2 tablespoons walnut oil

¼ cup California Walnuts

½ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 slices firm white bread

1/3 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped celery

½ pink lady apple or apple of your choice, thinly sliced

1/3 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

2 grapes, optional

With food processor running drop garlic through feed tube and process until finely minced. Add basil, celery leaves and oil; pulse until combined. Add walnuts, sugar and salt; blend until smooth scraping down sides of bowl, if needed. Spread candied walnut pesto evenly on 1 side of each bread slice. On top of the pesto on 1 slice of bread, evenly layer the smoked gouda, celery, apple slices and gruyere. Cover sandwich with remaining bread slice, pesto side down. Gently press sandwich together. Spread half of the mayonnaise over top of sandwich and place mayonnaise side down on non-stick griddle. Grill sandwich, over medium-low heat, for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Spread remaining mayonnaise over bread before flipping to brown the other side. Sandwich is ready when both sides are golden brown and cheese is melted. Top with a skewered grapes, if desired.

Waldorf Salad Grilled Cheese

PS: For the carnivores in the group…if you must…add some high quality cooked crispy bacon on top of the apples. Or get your own creative juices flowing and refresh your own Waldorf salad.

Happy Father’s Day Pizza Mattina

pizza mattina

pizza mattina

Some say my parents were the original recyclers. Nothing ever went to waste and when it came to food it meant preparing leftover spaghetti into a tasty frittata and vegetables into savory soups and stews. Much to my mother’s dismay my dad recycled day old Italian bread into bread crumbs sailing bits of hard bread all over the kitchen as the crusts pinged off the old box grater. He made a mean panzanella with that same old bread back in the day before this bread salad was ever cool and trendy.

Of all his delicious dishes, it is the memory of his homemade pizza that has me salivating. When the breadboard (handmade by his father) came out I knew we were all in for a treat. My dad, dusted with flour, gave the task of mashing the leftover baked potato to me. The “recycled” potato was the secret to making his yeasty dough bake up crisp and delicious on the outside and tender on the inside. I am among the few who know the secret of the potato. All were welcome to the table for pizza, but if you could not make it my dad would deliver.

My dad in Sicily

My dad in Sicily

My dad died at the ripe old age of 86. He was tired and ready to go. He had worked hard, lived the American dream and was proud of the business and family he had built. As an insulin dependant diabetic he pretty much defied the odds of living such a long and healthy life, but all along the way I felt like he was preparing me for the day he would eventually go. As I watched him push his insulin needle, yet, another time, through his clothing into his body I would scream in horror…..he would calmly respond, “What? You want me to live forever?” He was a character to say the least.

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my dad with young Will & Cait

I miss my dad, but I resolved my grief within a day of his death. My dad’s passing, unlike my son, was the natural order of things. My dad was done and ready to go. He went peacefully into the night and I was prepared for it. Just a completely different experience.

Happy Father’s Day to my biggest cheerleader. You continue to inspire me to “zig instead of zag”. Inspired by you and your name I remember how proud you were when a version of  this recipe won an award from King Arthur Flour.

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Sweet Pizza Mattina

2 cups King Arthur Flour Whole Wheat flour

1 cup King Arthur Flour Unbleached Flour

1 russett potato, roasted, peeled, grated

1- tablespoon sugar

1- teaspoon salt

1 (2 ¼ tsp.) packet instant dry yeast (quick-rise)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ¼ – cups lukewarm water

2 tablespoons butter

1 baking apple, peeled, cored, chopped

1/3- cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/3- cup orange marmalade

½ cup packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Combine flours, potato , sugar, salt, yeast, olive oil and water in a stand mixer. Mix and knead about 5 minutes or until a soft, smooth dough ball forms. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 ½ hours or place in refrigerator and let rise overnight. Just before the dough rising time is up heat oven to 425F. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add apples, cranberries and orange marmalade; cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes or until bubbly and apples are just tender.   Gently punch down dough. On a lightly buttered baking sheet, press down into a 9-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Use your fingers to gently dimple the dough all over. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch rim around the edge. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 16 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Slice into wedges. Serves 8.

 

 

Scallops, Shrimp, Calamari, Oh My!

Scallops with fennel-apple salad

scallops with fennel-apple slaw

No words of wisdom today. Just recipes from my 7 fishes Christmas Eve feast as requested by a few readers. Since there were so many courses I did small plates, so I recommend 3 scallops per person for the first dish.

Hint: only buy wild-caught “dry” sea scallops. DO NOT buy scallops sitting in a preservative. Ask your fish monger if you are not sure. The difference in taste is incredible. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Season them (both sides) with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Swirl a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil (I have been using avocado oil lately as it has a high smoke point, but vegetable oil will do) in a skillet (I like cast iron) over medium-high heat. Sear your scallops about 2 minutes per side or until just opaque. Serve with the slaw which I found on Epicurious.com. I did swap out apple cider vinegar for the rice vinegar only because I wanted the slaw to be a little sweeter. And to get really thin slices of vegetables use a mandolin if you have one. Mound some slaw in the center of the plate and place the scallops around the slaw. Your taste buds are going to be so happy. You are welcome.

Fennel-Apple-Celery Slaw

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed celery leaves
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 firm, crisp apple (such as Pink Lady, Gala, or Granny Smith), julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add celery and celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel and chopped fennel fronds, and apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shrimp & Stuffed Calamari Fra Diavolo (sauce is adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

prepare the stuffed calamari first (see recipe below)

1 1/2 pounds (26 to 30 count) shell on shrimp, peeled and deveined, reserve shells

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dry white wine (I like Bogle Chardonnay)

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (just depends how spicy you like it)

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 anchovy fillets

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Toss shrimp with salt; set aside. Pour tomatoes in a fine mesh colander set over a bowl to drain for about 5 minutes. Transfer drained tomatoes to a bowl and reserve the juice. Do not rinse colander. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add reserved shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 4 minutes or until skillet starts to turn brown. Carefully, add wine and simmer 2-4 minutes or until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Add reserved tomato juice to skillet; simmer for 5 minutes. Pour contents of skillet into colander set over a bowl. Discard shrimp shells; reserve liquid. Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and oregano, stirring for 1 minute. Add anchovies, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Add tomatoes and reserved tomato juice mixture. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add stuffed calamari, cover and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, turning once, or until tender. During last 5 minutes of cooking time add shrimp. Stir in basil and parsley. Serve over pasta or with a nice piece of crusty bread. Fry up some tentacles as a garnish to really gild the lily. Serves 6.

shrimp & calamari fra diavolo

shrimp & calamari fra diavolo

Stuffed Calamari

6 tablespoons butter

2 cloves, minced garlic

1/4 cup squid tentacles, minced

1/4 cup chopped clams

juice of 1/2 lemon

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

6 squid bodies

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Melt 5 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, tentacles and clams; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Scrape contents of skillet into a medium bowl. Add lemon juice and panko; mix well. Fill the squid bodies with stuffing (use your hands); secure ends with wooden toothpicks. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add stuffed squid and brown on both sides–just a minute or two per side.

P.S. I know you all are wondering about that framed Christmas card–it was made by my very talented friend Betsy.