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.

A Father’s Grief & Sunday Brunch

Father's Day Brunch

Father’s Day Brunch

Recently, I was asked if I thought there were gender differences in the way one grieves? Honestly, I have not delved into the subject and I am no expert on the matter. I can say, however, from experience that my husband and I certainly grieve differently. Turns out, I am a sharer–as if you didn’t know that already. My husband, on the other hand, is not. He bottles in his sadness and then when it gets to be too much cries alone. He prefers it that way and I know to give him his space.

Proud dad and son

Proud dad and son

He mourns alone, too. There are things and places that are special to a father and son. Hunting and fishing were activities that they enjoyed together. Scattering a bit of William’s ashes in the forest or at the edge of a trout stream was not an unusual thing for Bill to do on his own. Nor was I surprised to discover that he had left out a small camping flashlight, “in case William needs light to find his way back to us”. That’s Bill’s version of stepping outside himself and I love him for it. He knows he is not alone, but there are just things he needs to do alone and that is OK.

hunting

Gender differences or people differences? Not sure that it matters as long as we all are putting one foot in front of the other in any way we can. Next Sunday is Father’s Day. If you have lost a child you may feel a little upsurge in your grief. It’s normal.

 Today’s recipe is meant to offer some comfort. Dress it up with a side salad and some fresh fruit for a complete brunch menu sure to please your favorite father.

unbaked filled crepe cups

Bacon & Egg Scallion Crepe Cups

Crepes

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch salt

2 eggs

1 tablespoons melted butter

1 scallion, chopped

Just Baked

Just Baked

Filling

12 (1-inch) squares smoked gouda or brie cheese

8 strips cooked crumbled bacon

6 eggs

1 ¼ cups milk

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 green onions, thinly sliced for garnish

Combine all crepe ingredients in a blender; blend until smooth. Let crepe batter stand for 15 minutes. On a lightly greased crepe pan or skillet, over medium heat, swirl 2 tablespoons of batter (for each crepe) forming a 6-inch circle. Cook about 1 minute or until crepe edges look dry. Flip and cook another 30 seconds. Transfer crepe to cooling rack. Repeat with remaining batter until you have 12 crepes total. Cut each crepe into an even 5-inch round using a pastry cutter or…(I used the top of a jar as a template and just cut around it with a knife). Heat oven 375F. Spray a standard 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick spray. Press 1 crepe into each cup ruffling edges to fit. Place 1 square of cheese in the bottom of each crepe. Sprinkle with half the bacon. Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well blended. Pour egg mixture evenly over filling to just below the rim of the muffin cup. Sprinkle with remaining bacon. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until eggs are just set. Cool slightly. With the edge of a knife carefully loosen crepe cups from muffin tins and lift out with a spoon. Arrange on serving platter. Sprinkle with green onions.

Commitment & Torta Rustica

Italian Easter Pie

Italian Easter Pie

Honor, Courage, Commitment. This is the Navy motto. Inspiring words and guiding principles. Imagine what the world would be like if we all valued these three traits in ourselves and in each other. If you follow this blog you’ve already read my views on honor and courage. Today is about commitment and how it helps keep our loved ones alive.

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Great Lakes, IL U.S. Navy boot camp

While sailors pledge to keep our country safe grievers can commit to keeping memories of the deceased safe and alive. A healthy way to do this is to continue treasured traditions. Don’t be afraid. It is OK to rummage through old photos talking about your loved one and how much you enjoyed doing certain things with him or her. Really, it is OK. You are not alone in this pursuit.

I have already shared one of my favorite rituals; hiding the pickle ornament in the Christmas tree. It’s a time honored tradition in our home and one that my William loved. I have committed to hiding the pickle every Christmas and remembering the light in his eyes as he discovers it hidden in the tree.

Further, I will continue to bake a birthday cake to honor him on April 22nd. William loved a good birthday cake. Plus baking is so very therapeutic. It’s a simple expression of love. So go ahead. Bake a birthday cake. Light a candle and make a wish. Cut the cake and with each sweet bite, remember how lucky to have had this person in your life.

Recently, my friend Rich wrote about the ritual of coloring Easter eggs with his daughter Meghan. Even though Meghan is gone, just a few short months, Rich found the courage and felt it important to continue the tradition of coloring eggs. He made beautiful eggs in honor of Meghan and his wife Eileen and nested them at their grave site. What a wonderful connection and expression of love.

Torta Rustica

Torta Rustica

Commitment to keeping traditions alive extends into my kitchen. Tomorrow is Easter. Typically, the Italian feast includes ravioli or manicotti in addition to a baked ham or leg of lamb. My mom would also bake rice pies, a sweet bread that contained colored Easter eggs and my favorite….”pizza-gain”. It’s a calorie laden, dough wrapped, cheese-filled meat pie that goes back a long way. Every Italian household has their own version and theirs is the absolute best.

nice slice

nice slice

The following recipe is  a version from Cook’s Country Magazine. I tweaked it here and there to suit my tastes and do recommend testing for doneness with an instant read themometer. I had to bake it an additional 15 minutes to get a nice brown crust and internal temperature of 150F.

Torta Rustica

Dough

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons cold water

3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled (I used lard)

Filling

1 tablespoon olive oil

12 ounces broccoli rabe, trimmed and chopped (I used 1 bunch broccolini)

8 ounces hot Italian sausage, casings removed (I used sweet)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound (2 cups) whole-milk ricotta cheese (I used part skim)

4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (2 cups)

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces thinly sliced aged provolone cheese (I used sharp)

6 ounces thinly sliced hot capicola

1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

FOR THE DOUGH: Whisk eggs and cold water together in bowl; set aside. Process flour and salt in food processor until combined, about 3 seconds. Scatter butter and shortening over top and pulse until only pea-size pieces remain, about 10 pulses. Add egg mixture and pulse until dough ball forms, about 20 pulses. Turn out dough onto lightly floured counter and knead until smooth and elastic, about 20 turns. Divide dough into one 1-pound ball and one 10-ounce ball (roughly into two-thirds and one-third) and form each into 6-inch disk. Wrap disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

FOR THE FILLING: Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add broccoli rabe, sausage, and salt and cook, breaking up sausage with spoon, until sausage is cooked through and broccoli rabe is tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to plate and let cool completely, about 15 minutes. Whisk ricotta, Pecorino, eggs, and pepper together in large bowl. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease  9-inch round cake pan. Roll 1-pound disk of dough into 14-inch circle on well-floured counter. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto prepared pan, letting excess dough hang over edge. Ease dough into pan by gently lifting and supporting edge of dough with your hand while pressing into pan bottom and sides with your other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place. Shingle half of provolone in bottom of dough-lined pan. Spread ricotta mixture over provolone. Scatter sausage mixture over ricotta mixture and press lightly into even layer. Shingle capicola over sausage mixture, followed by remaining provolone. Roll remaining disk of dough into 10-inch circle on well-floured counter. Brush overhanging dough of bottom crust with egg wash. Loosely roll 10-inch circle around rolling pin and gently unroll it over filling. Trim overhanging top and bottom doughs to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pan and pinch firmly together. Fold overhanging dough inward so folded edge is flush with edge of pan. Crimp dough evenly around edge of pan with tines of fork. Brush top of pie liberally with egg wash. Using paring knife, cut eight 1-inch vents in top of dough in circular pattern. Bake until filling registers 150 degrees in center of pie and crust is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer pie to wire rack and let cool for at least 4 hours or refrigerate for up to 2 days. Remove pie from pan, slice into wedges, and serve.