Marinated fennel and grapefruit salad

April 10, 2013 § 23 Comments

fennel grapefruit salad serving

I have been having an absolute love affair with raw fennel lately.  Every night and/or every time I’m at the market my little conversation with myself goes, “what kind of vegetable should we have with dinner?  Broccoli?  Nah.  Cabbage? Not today.  Kale?  Meh.  Ooh, how about a salad with shaved fennel.  Oh, yes that sounds perfect.”  And it keeps happening.  Over and over.  So what if I just ate a whole bulb?  More fennel please.

It could just be one of my recent cravings.  Or perhaps it’s because it’s the closest we’re getting to spring here right now.  Still.  (Not talking about the weather. I’m not talking about the weather.  I’ll just put on another sweater, and not mention the weather.)  But, on the whole, I’d say the jag started with this salad.

sliced fennel for grapefruit saladleftover fennel fronds

Fennel salad with burrata?  Sign me up, and then give me seconds!  Anything that includes buratta tends to be my dream meal.  But, the fennel, with its sleek coat of lemon and olive oil and the icy cool of mint leaves was no second fiddle to the burrata’s main act (or what I thought would be the main act, before I sat down to eat).

And, that, in sum, is why I can’t stop eating fennel.  I mean, a) I get to use my mandoline, which is always an exciting process because you flirt with losing your fingertips but then get parchment thin delicate sheets of fennel, all in a noodle-like tangle, out of the deal.  And then, b) the 15 minute waiting period where the fennel bathes in a lemony dressing ever so slightly softens its crunch and freshens its flavor with the brightness of the lemon – both in juice and zest form – bolstering the anise notes of the vegetable.  I fall for lemon-in-both-juice-and-zest-form’s show every time.

This salad, with grapefruit and curds of soft goat cheese is my most recent use of lemony fennel.  There is nothing new about combining fennel’s sweetness with the juicy bittersweet of grapefruit.  I feel like I have seen it in many a restaurant in past years at this very time of year, the transition time where we start picking up spring while still trailing a few threads of winter along with us.  (Once I even had it as a fennel grapefruit salad with pine nuts and chunks of salted brittle candy.  That was pretty tasty.)  But, look at the word “marinated” there.  Marinated makes it different!  And new! « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted strawberries with whipped, honeyed chevre

May 14, 2012 § 35 Comments

The past couple of semesters, I’ve taught a graduate class on theories of behavior change in nutrition and public health promotion.  (Talk about a mouthful of a course name, right?!)  One of my favorite theories we cover in this class is one called Self Determination Theory.

I like it because in many fields, health promotion most definitely among them, we spend a lot of time thinking about what people are doing wrong and trying to figure out how we can convince them to do what we think is best for them based on what we (the experts, that is) think is important.  And, when you spend a whole lot of energy focusing on the many things people aren’t doing or don’t really want to do, it’s easy to forget that people are also capable of amazing joy, creativity, curiosity, and completely intrinsic motivation.

Self Determination Theory is exactly about that.  About where people’s motivation comes from and how the more they can connect a behavior with things that intrinsically motivate them, the more they will internalize that behavior, and the more likely they are to keep doing it.

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A happy hour beet and fig tart

June 21, 2011 § 26 Comments

Is it just me, or does the advent of summer put you the mood for happy hour too? Potentially even a daily happy hour. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? 😉

I suppose that, technically, happy hours are called happy because of the inclusion of alcohol, but I think they’re happy in so many other ways. It’s a celebration of porches or patios! And evening breezes! And of the fact that you can laze about for an hour (or two) after work, enjoying some ridiculously buttery cheeses and crisp breads and a little glass of wine, and it will still be light out when you get around to dinner!

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Sweet potato and avocado panini

March 10, 2011 § 8 Comments

When we go out to eat, I have a habit of getting sidetracked by certain ingredients while I am perusing the menu.  Wild mushrooms is one, for example, and duck confit.  And bacon is usually on the list, though that depends on my mood.  If a dish contains one of these ingredients I tend to stop at it and read no further.  My decision is made.  Well, unless there are two or more different menu items that each contain one or more of the hallowed pantheon of can’t-pass-ups.  Then I find myself in a state of indecisive paralysis, completely unable to make up my mind, usually asking the server to come to my rescue with advice, and then more often than not rejecting that advice and ordering something else.  (I hope this isn’t too annoying to them!)

Anyway, avocados and roasted sweet potatoes are two more of my choice ingredients.  There’s nothing particularly exotic or hard to make at home about them, but they’re still up at the top of the list because they are so darn wonderful.  I think if I were to be any food, I would be an avocado.  Really.  They seem so jovial with their portly little figures and wrinkly, knobbly skin.  I bet they could tell good jokes.  And they’re all about the message that beauty is not what’s on the surface because underneath that gnarled exterior is a silky smooth nutty delicious interior.  And then, roasted sweet potatoes  are my second favorite food! (After whipped cream, which usually doesn’t appear on dinner menus anyway, and if it does it’s on some weird Finnish beet dish or something else that I’m just not in the mood for.)

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Spinach, balsamic onion, and goat cheese galette

April 1, 2010 § 4 Comments

It’s plausible (actually, make that highly probable) that I have talked your ear off about galettes before, in the guise of rustic tarts that is.  But, I simply have to do it again because I’m practically giddy with how great they are!  I mean look at them!  They look lovely – fancy even!  They taste amazing, with unbeatably flaky, buttery crusts and complex, savory fillings.  And what are they doing?  They’re using up my leftovers!!  At the moment I’m kind of feeling like this is the cleverest way ever to use up leftovers, so please forgive me if I’m practically crowing, er, and using excessive quantities of exclamation points. (!!)

Also, I used a new galette dough recipe (I felt adventurous, otherwise I just make pie crust) that I made up by looking at several recipes specifically for galettes.  I noticed that several recipes called for sour cream and lemon juice.  I didn’t have either of those, but I had Greek yogurt, which is similar in texture and function (tangy, cultured dairy), and I had rice vinegar, which provides acid like lemon juice.  I am never going back!!!  Flaky beyond belief people!  It was almost more like having a croissant for a crust, which is a very, very good thing.

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Ricotta gnocchi with goat cheese and artichoke sauce

February 3, 2010 § 2 Comments

It is February in Boston.  It is incessantly grey.  Moldy grey.  Grey beyond grey.  It is during short grey days like these that I am so very appreciative of simply having supper with people.  Whether it’s just Joel and me, or dinner with friends, that little evening ritual of sitting in each other’s company and sharing a meal together really keeps me going.  This weekend we were lucky enough to have dinner with friends both Saturday and Sunday (especially lucky because we’re painting the kitchen, which is going at about the rate of cold molasses, and it was pretty out of commission on Saturday).  On Saturday we were treated to the most spectacular meal!  Our friend Jamie must have spent the entire day in the kitchen.  Maybe the day before too.  While we sat like lumps – albeit talkative, appreciative, hungry lumps – he paraded out pizzas, artfully topped with creative combinations of fine cheeses, greens, and nuts; homemade sweet potato ravioli with brown butter, crème fraiche, and prosciutto; and dense, decadent chocolate pots de crème dribbled with freshly made caramel sauce, dollopped with caramel whipped cream, and dusted with just a hint of fleur de sel.  I mean seriously!  Wow!  Thank goodness we at least we brought a nice bottle of wine.  I decided right then and there a) I might just refuse to leave, or at least show up every evening for the rest of my life demanding to be fed, b) his wife is really lucky she has a fast metabolism, c) I really need (not want, need) to buy The French Laundry Cookbook, d) there’s really something to putting a lot of time and care into preparing food for friends.  Although the meal was transcendently delicious because the combination of ingredients and preparation were so perfectly executed, I am absolutely convinced that it also tasted that good because it had been sprinkled with the fairy dust of care. « Read the rest of this entry »

What to bring to a potluck with foodies – rustic butternut squash tart

December 11, 2009 § 9 Comments

No, I don’t consider myself a foodie. Seriously, I don’t.  Sure I like to eat, but come on, that’s just human nature. The species wouldn’t have survived very long if we were anti-eating. I like to eat good, high quality food, but I’m not going to freak if the texture or flavor of something I make doesn’t measure up to an ideal standard in my head. And I like to cook (well, on my good days), but I think I have too utilitarian of an approach to food preparation to be a foodie. Most of my cooking adventures are born out of the desire to make something that will taste good and be nourishing, without having to make an extra trip to the grocery store. And, If I see a recipe that looks inspiring, my first step is usually to figure out how I can do it with fewer steps, less complicated techniques, and fewer dirty bowls.

That said, now and then we all want to be a little bit impressive, whether it’s cooking for a date, a special party, or as was my case yesterday, for a potluck for a bunch of friends who actually are foodies. For these occasions, I have discovered that the best ways of being impressive are: making something actually complicated and unbelievable – probably involving phyllo dough, bringing a really nice big salad because that’s really hard to screw up, or making something that is visually impressive but is quite easy to make like a trifle (ie. layers of whipped cream, cake chunks, and berries) or a rustic tart.

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