Arugula Salad with Pickled Beets and Preserved-Lemon Vinaigrette

Arugula Salad

The holidays are great, and simply over abundant with food! I like to cut the heaviness of a meal by adding a fresh vegetable to the mix, often in the way of a salad. This one has the added bonus of having beets, which are one of the symbolic foods that we eat. In Hebrew, the word for Beet is סלקא, is closely related to סלק —meaning to depart. So we partake of beets, so that our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us shall depart. This recipe will serve up to 8 guests, and they will depart with nothing but good feelings for the chef! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the pickled beets:
2 large red beets (about 6 ounces each), scrubbed
2 large yellow beets (about 6 ounces each), scrubbed
2 cups rice-wine vinegar
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water

For the spiced pistachios:
2 egg whites
1 cup shelled raw pistachios
1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning

For the preserved-lemon vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons minced preserved lemon
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped*
2 pinches salt

For the salad:
10 ounces (16 cups) arugula*
¼ cup good-quality aged balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving

*Click here to learn how to clean thyme and arugula

Directions:

To make the pickled beets:
Place each type of beet in its own small pot, cover with water, and simmer until a paring knife can easily pierce the beets, about 30 minutes. Cool the beets, peel, and slice into thin half-moons. Reserve each beet in a separate bowl to ensure that the red beet slices don’t stain the yellow ones. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, sugar, and 2 cups of water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and divide the hot brine among the beets. Then let the beets sit at room temperature until pickled, 3 to 4 hours.

To make the pistachios:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy, then add the pistachios and spices, tossing to coat. Spread the nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Nuts will crisp as they cool.

To make the preserved-lemon vinaigrette:
In a medium bowl, mix together the preserved lemon, lemon juice, red pepper flakes (if using), thyme and salt. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Whisk until fully combined.

To assemble the salad:
Arrange the pickled beets on a serving platter. Toss the arugula in the preserved-lemon vinaigrette and place on top of the beets. Sprinkle with the spiced pistachios, drizzle with balsamic, and top with fresh black pepper. Serve immediately.

Macarpone Semifreddo with Pistachios and Biscotti

SemifreddoSemifreddo is Italian for half cold, or in other words, what we call a Canadian Spring! (Ba-dum-bah! Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week!) Okay, back to food… So, semifreddos are a class of semi-frozen desserts, typically things like ice-cream cakes, semi-frozen custards, or the frozen chocolate mousse cake that an old kosher Toronto restaurant used to serve. Usually, it is made by combining equal parts of ice cream (or gelato in Italian cuisine) and whipping cream. In today’s recipe, we’re doing things a bit differently, by combining mascarpone cheese, Greek yogourt and whipped egg whites. Your guests will be molto impressionato (very impressed) with this dessert! This dish will serve 8 to 10 people.

Ingredients:

1 orange*
¼ cup sugar
2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 cup plain Greek-style yogourt
1 ½ cups (375 mL) store-bought almond biscotti, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons honey, plus extra for garnish
¼ cup shelled unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 egg whites

* Click here for my tips on zesting citrus.

Directions:

Zest an orange with a peeler and cut into thin strips. Squeeze out the juice and put it aside for now. Place the zest in a saucepan, covering it with water and bring it to a boil. Drain the zest and then put back in the saucepan with ⅓ cup water and the sugar. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, as this will candy the zest. After the ten minutes, drain the zest and reserve the syrup.

In a large bowl, mix the mascarpone with the yogourt and the reserved orange juice. Add the candied orange zest, biscotti, honey and pistachios. Mix together to combine.

In another bowl, beat egg whites with the reserved syrup until soft peaks form. It will help if you use an electric mixer to do this, but it can be done by hand (with a little elbow grease). Incorporate the whipped egg white mixture into the mascarpone mixture. Pour into a 9 x 5-inch (23 x 13 cm) silicone loaf pan or a loaf pan lined with parchment paper (see note below).

Place in the freezer for at least 4 hours before unmoulding. Let the semifreddo stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This will help soften it before slicing to serve it “semi-frozen.” Serve slices of the semifreddo with a drizzle of honey if desired.

Note: If using a non-silicone loaf pan, you want to line it completely with parchment paper first, so that it can be removed easily once frozen.

Step 1: Grease your pan with a little butter or non-stick cooking spray, then trim your parchment paper to fit your pan (use the pan as a guide) leaving enough of a border to come up all four sides, leaving at least 1 inch of overhang. Cut in at all four corners, diagonally, toward the corners of your pan.
Step 2: Carefully fit your parchment into your pan — the cuts will allow the corner flaps to overlap and the paper to sit neatly inside.
Step 3: Trim the top, if necessary, so you don’t have too much of an overhang, and use a little butter or non-stick spray to stick down any paper that has come away from the tin.
Step 4: Ta-dah! You have a beautifully lined loaf pan!

Lemony Almond Macaroons

Lemony Almond MacaroonsAdmittedly, these are not Manischewitz macaroons, but I think you’ll forgive me. That, and those that don’t like the store bought kind, may in fact like these type instead! This recipe will make 30-35 macaroons and can be used as a base for other flavours. Just leave out the lemon and add cocoa for chocolate almond ones! The possibilities for the creative cook are endless!

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups shredded coconut flakes
1 ½ cups blanched skinless almond slivers
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 large egg whites
Pinch of salt

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. In this recipe, you can use either grated fresh coconut or dried coconut flakes. If using dried coconut, rehydrate it by pouring it into a bowl and covering it with warm water. Let the coconut soak for 5 minutes, then drain. Squeeze all the excess liquid out firmly with your fingers. Proceed with recipe. If using fresh coconut, no need to prep it– simply proceed with recipe.

Place almond slivers and coconut in a food processor, pulse into fine crumbs. Add the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, almond extract, vanilla, egg and salt to the food processor. Process for about 1 minute until the mixture becomes a sticky mixture of fine crumbles. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Place rounded tablespoonfuls of the coconut mixture onto the baking sheet, evenly spaced, forming the mounds into haystack-like shapes.

Place the macaroons in the oven and let them bake for 30-40 minutes, till the tops of the haystacks turn golden brown. Remove the macaroons from the oven and allow to cool directly on the baking sheet. Do not try to remove them before they’ll cool; when hot, they are delicate and prone to crumbling. They become firmer as they cool.

When cooled completely, gently pull them from the baking sheet. The bottoms should be golden brown. Store macaroons in a sealed, airtight plastic container. When fresh from the oven, the macaroons will be crisp on the outside, soft inside. They become softer over time when stored in a sealed container.

Mini-Smoked Salmon Frittatas

Smoked Salmon FrittatasThis dish is designed to make 6 individual mini frittatas, but you can always just make one large one instead. To do this, instead of dividing the recipe into little ramekins, you can let it cook in the oven in a oven-safe skillet or pan. Just adjust your baking time, as it will take longer for the centre of the dish to set up. This recipe makes 6 servings (serving size: 1 frittata)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup diced onion
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into ¼ -inch pieces
6 large eggs
8 large egg whites
1 tablespoon half-and-half
3 tablespoons 1% milk
3 ounces low-fat cream cheese, cubed
2 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet, and sauté the onion for 2–3 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the salt, pepper, and salmon to the skillet, and toss to combine. Remove the pan from stove top, and let the mixture cool.

Next, combine the eggs, egg whites, half-and-half and milk in a bowl. Stir in the cubes of cream cheese. You are not trying to incorporate this fully with the egg and milk mixture. There will be chunks of cheese in the final frittata. Lightly coat 6 (8-ounce) ramekins with cooking spray. Add 2 tablespoons of salmon mixture to each ramekin. Pour ¾ cup egg mixture into each ramekin. (Do not overfill.)

Place ramekins on baking sheet; bake 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Garnish with green onions, if desired.