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!

Matzo Baklava

Matzo BaklavaThis dessert just gets better with time. I would always plan on serving it the next day, or even the day after that, as the longer it sits, the longer the matzo has a chance to soak up the sweet lemony syrup. This recipe will make 9 to 16 squares (depends how small you slice it).

Ingredients:

6 sheets matzo

For syrup:
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey

For assembly:
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup shelled raw unsalted natural pistachios, chopped
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine or butter, melted

Directions:

Briefly pass each sheet of matzo under cold running water until wet on all sides. Layer sheets between damp paper towels and let stand until somewhat pliable but not soggy or falling apart, about 2 hours. While matzo is softening, make syrup.

In small saucepan over moderately high heat, stir together the water and sugar. Bring to boil, then lower heat to moderate and cook, uncovered, until syrupy and thick, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and honey and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool, then chill until ready to use.

To Assemble the Dessert:

Preheat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir together walnuts, pistachios, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom. Separate out ⅙ of nut mixture and reserve for topping cooked baklava.

Transfer 1 sheet of the prepared matzo to the counter. Press a rolling pin once over the sheet from one end to other to flatten. Rotate 90 degrees and repeat. Using a pastry brush, grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with the melted butter/margarine. Lay one sheet of flattened matzo on the bottom of the pan, and then spread with more melted butter/margarine. Sprinkle the matzo with ⅕ of unreserved nut mixture. Roll out second sheet of matzo and transfer to pan. Brush with margarine and sprinkle with nut mixture. Repeat with remaining matzo sheets and remaining nut mixture, ending with matzo sheet brushed with margarine on top.

Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Keeping the baklava in the pan, place the pan on a cooling rack so that it can cool all around, and immediately pour the chilled syrup over. It may seem like a lot of syrup, but the matzo will absorb it all. Sprinkle with reserved nut mixture. Let cool, then cover and let stand at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. (Do not chill.) Cut into small squares or diamonds and serve.