Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

We had a small tasting of a similar dish at a backyard wedding we recently attended.  The original was made with red and yellow beets, and butternut squash with a lemony vinaigrette with a hint of truffle oil.  The salad was very tasty, but a little mushy from the butternut squash.   So while I was consuming my large plate of food [It was, in fact, a very large plate of food... my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  But what's new?], a light bulb came on… roasted sweet potatoes.  It would be the perfect substitution flavor- and texture-wise.  And so what did I do two days after the wedding?  Well, I recreated this dish, of course, and it was perfect.

Inspiration.  It such a lovely thing.

What inspires you in the kitchen?

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

4 large beets
3 large sweet potatoes, skinned and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 small shallot, finely diced
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon truffle oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. [I usually like to double wrap mine in foil.] Drizzle the sweet potatoes with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a singe layer on the baking sheet. Place the foil-wrapped beets on the same baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender, but slightly crispy in the outside. Stir the sweet potatoes once or twice during roasting. [Watch the sweet potatoes closely, because they can go from perfectly roasted to imperfectly burnt.] Roast the beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the shallots, lemon, olive oil, and truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Remove the sweet potatoes firstly from oven, followed by the beets when they have cooked through, and allow to cool just enough to be easily handled. Once cooled, peel “skin” off the beets. [They'll come off easily with just your hands... no need for a paring knife.] Slice beets into 1 inch cubes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the beets, sweet potatoes, and vinaigrette. Gently toss to combine all the ingredients. Divide onto small plates, sprinkle with chives, and drizzle with a little truffle oil, and enjoy!

Makes 4 to 6 small salad servings.

Roasted Asparagus and Enoki Salad Drizzled with Truffle Oil

We had the best wood-fire wild mushroom pizza drizzled with truffle oil during our vacation week of gluttony.  It was to die for.  I’ve been craving that pizza since, but because we are on our quest to lose the weight that we gained from our vacation, I wanted to cook something that involved mushrooms and truffle oil minus the carbs.

On our way back home from vacation, we stopped by the Korean market and got some beautiful oyster and enoki mushrooms.  I was so excited to make my asparagus and oyster mushroom salad (the enoki mushrooms were reserved for miso soup tomorrow), but to my dismay, the oyster mushrooms started to grow fungus on itself and not in a good way :(  I was so distraught.  [Yes.  Distraught.  Haven't you learned that I'm a bit of a drama queen, yet? :)]  I really, really wanted that warm salad tonight with the truffle oil.  Actually, I just really wanted the truffle oil.  So fortunately I still had the enoki mushrooms and thought I’d give it a try instead, and sure enough it tasted just as good!

Roasted Asparagus and Enoki Salad Drizzled with Truffle Oil

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmedd and cut to 3-inch lengths
2 packages enoki mushrooms, cut 2 inches off the base and pull/shred apart
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small block of parmesan cheese
Truffle oil, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss asparagus and enoki mushrooms with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread onto a cookie sheet and roast for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms start to brown and the asparagus spears are tender. Remove from oven.

Toss the roasted asparagus and mushrooms with the lemon juice and arrange onto a platter. Shave the parmesan over the salad, and finish with a drizzle of truffle oil.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4 side salads.

The Real Deal (with eggs and anchovies) Classic Caesar Salad with Sirloin Steak

I’ve been on a recent obsession with classic caesar salads with anchovies and all.  I know some would turn their noses to anchovies, but I love those little suckers.  Salty and fishy.  Yum.  It’s the anchovies that make the caesar salad dressing.  Not the shaved parmesan.  Not the croutons.  It’s the anchovies.  I think it’s blasphemy to call a caesar salad dressing when the little fishies are omitted.  I just doesn’t taste the same.  Caesar salads are nostalgic to me.  It reminds me of our days living in the Parnassus library at the UCSF campus studying pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology, and pharmcotherapeutics.  We would be the first ones there and the last ones to close down the library.  And like any library, we weren’t allowed to eat there (at least not to their knowledge).  We definitely had our fair share of Pringles chips, coca-cola flavored gummies, boba tea, sodas, coffee, chocolate, chips, and more.  When we were finally craving real food , we walked down to Pluto’s on Irving and 8th Avenue, and I always ordered the steak caesar salad.  The steak was over cooked and tough, but the dressing.  Wow.  And when the croutons soaked up all the dressing at the bottom.  Oh em gee.

Classic Caesar Salad with Steak

1 teaspoon garlic, smashed into a paste
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 anchovy fillets, mashed into a paste with fork
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 large raw or coddled egg yolks
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 romaine hearts, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices, rinsed, and dried very well
Croutons

If you can’t stomach the raw egg component of this recipe, try making a coddled egg, which essentially is an egg cooked briefly in boiling water. The taste of coddled egg yolks is similar to that of a raw egg. It’s just not as raw as a raw egg :) To make a coddled egg, place whole eggs into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 1 minute. Crack eggs and separate whites from yolks.

Mince the garlic, and then sprinkle a little salt over the minced garlic on your cutting board. With your chef’s knife in hand, press and crush the garlic with the knife on an angle. The salt draws out the liquid from the garlic, but also acts as an abrasive to mash the garlic into a paste. Continue this until a paste is formed.

Finely chop or mince the anchovy filets. Mash the anchovies into a fine paste using the back of a fork. Continue doing this until you have a smooth anchovy paste to work with.

In a large bowl, whisk together garlic paste, anchovy paste, and lemon juice. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in Worcestershire, dijon mustard, and egg yolks. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until the dressing has completely emulsified. Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, then whisk until completely combined.

To serve, plate the romaine lettuce and croutons. Drizzle dressing overtop each serving, then sprinkle liberally with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Roasted Beet, D’Anjou Pear, Mache Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Sleeeeeeeeeeeepy. I can barely focus.  You know what’s worse than not being able to cook and practice food photography?  Restless, sleepless nights.  Ones where you don’t fall asleep at all.  Tossing and turning, keeping yourself entertained with your laptop, iPhone, or TV to pass time.  Trying to lay still to not stir anyone from their dreamy night by counting sheep, but your mind races with thoughts that don’t make sense so you can’t really focus on the sheep.  Wanting to try a hot cup of almond milk to soothe and calm yourself, but it’s too damn cold to get out of bed.

I’ve had a lot of those nights lately.  So what do I do to remedy that?  Prescription sleep pills.  Something I didn’t think I ever needed.  Ever.  I was and still am a light sleeper, but I never had problems falling and staying asleep until the last few years, but it’s only gotten worse.  I used to poke fun at friends who couldn’t sleep without a prescription sleep aid.  Karma sucks.  I finally broke down and asked my nurse practitioner for a prescription sleep aid.  I told myself it was only going to be for when I absolutely needed it… like trying to fall asleep, but after an hour of trying and failing, then I could take the pill.  But then it got to the point where I would anticipate possibly not falling asleep, so I used it as a crutch.

I’ve recently decided to wean myself from the prescription sleep aid, and the result of this is lack of sleep.  I think this is going to be a long, painful process of little to no sleep for a long time while my body adjusts to the change.  It’s very interesting how your body can adapt and change to something easily, but takes a long time to adjust back.

So while I lay sleepless the other night, I came across a recipe calling for roasted beets with a honey roast garlic dressing that looked mouthwatering.  I thought it was going to be a great recipe to adapt with all the red beets that I just purchased from the farmers market.

Roasted Beet, D’Anjou Pear, Mache Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette (adapted from No Recipes)

For roasting:
2 beets
1 head garlic, top cut off

For salad:
2 D’Anjou Pears, sliced into O’s, core ones with seeds, and then slice in half
3 cups of Mache salad
Blue Cheese
Candied Walnuts

For vinaigrette:
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. I usually like to double wrap mine in foil. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a little salt onto the garlic bulb, and wrap tightly in foil. Place both the beets and garlic on a baking sheet. Roast garlic for about 30-40 minutes, and beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

While the beets and garlic are roasting, prepare the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Once cool to handle, peel “skin” off the beets. Slice beets into 1/8-inch slices. Dress the beets with enough vinaigrette to coat in a separate bowl. Do not do this in the same bowl where the vinaigrette was prepared, or else you’ll have a purple dressing. But if that’s okay with you, then by all means, go for it!

To assemble the salad, place three slices of beets on a plate. Place three slices of the pears onto each slice of beet, with the round shape of the pear facing out. Lightly dress the mache lettuce with the vinaigrette, and place a handful on top of the beets and pears. Top with some crumbled blue cheese and candied walnuts. Repeat the same process for three more plates.

Makes 4 servings.

Orange, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad

I’ve been on a salad kick for the last few months because I enjoy eating them for lunch, but also because I’m watching my calorie intake to lose weight.  I’ve been addicted to my blue cheese, cranberries, and candied walnut salad for the last few weeks.  Actually, maybe even longer.  Although I haven’t gotten tired of eating it YET, I feel like I am heading in that direction very soon.  So I’ve been on the look out for new salads to mix things up a bit.  Unfortunately, my salad recipe index is very limited as making salads and wanting to eat them is a whole new adventure for me.  If you haven’t read my previous posts, I was anti-vegetables for the majority of my life.  I wanted meat and starch, and the occasional vegetable, if kimchee and pickled spicy radishes can fall into that category.  I always thought salads were a waste of stomach space, when it could rather be filled with other delicious non-vegetable foods.  Like I said before, I ate very unhealthy foods and was completely sedentary; that is, until I met my partner.

My second time visiting her (aka, our second date) in Oakland, I was greeted with a “detox salad.”  I had just finished a busy work week with lunches that consisted of either McDonald’s or Taco Bell, and she was horrified by how I ate.  So she made this salad for dinner with crusty bread.  No meat?!  I was initially disappointed, but once I delved into the salad I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it.  With a few pieces of buttered bread and a plate of salad, I was surprisingly full and felt refreshed.  And that was the beginning of my departure from just meat and starch to an enjoyment and crave for vegetables, albeit it took some time to get to this place.  But who’s keeping track anyways, right?

I came across a recipe that called for orange slices, thinly sliced fennel, and a salad topped with pomegranate seeds that immediately called for my attention.  We love oranges, we’re always looking for things that use fennel (again, limited fennel recipe index), and recipes that call for pomegranate seeds (not just to make POM juice)… so this was perfect!  We made this for our small dinner party, and the salad was a huge success.  The mixture of flavors really compliment one another.  In fact, this may just be my new favorite salad.  Yay!

Orange, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad (adapted from Good Life Eats)

Your favorite spring salad mix
2 medium oranges
1 carton of fresh pomegranate seeds (available at Whole Foods, or one whole pomegranate with seeds removed)
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Honey or agave syrup

Combine the vinegar, juice, oil, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.  Add honey or agave syrup to sweeten the dressing just a little bit.  Whisk all the ingredients together and set aside.  Add a little more extra virgin olive oil if you’d like, and conversely, decrease the amount of orange juice.  We like our dressing on the citrus-y, but on the light oily side.

Remove the peel and pith from the orange by cutting the top and bottom off, and the outside perimeter of the orange.  Cut the orange into into rounds.

Prepare salad on individual serving plates.  Arrange the salad with the lettuce, fennel slices, orange, and topped with pomegranate seeds.  Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy!

Serving size: 2 individual salads

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