Acorn Squash and Kale Salad with Lavender, Walnut Caramelized Onions

Enjoyed cold or warm, this salad combines autumn colors and fragrant flavors. It is easy to prepare the ingredients individually ahead of time and assemble them at the last minute for a Thanksgiving dinner or other get together. You can also add a few dried cranberries if you wish to make it a bit more festive.

20131122-053413.jpgIf you do not have lavender leaves, you can substitute for sage. A different flavor but one that also harmonizes well with the acorn squash.

20131122-053548.jpgIngredients:
1 1/2-1 3/4 lbs acorn squash
1/2 lb kale
1.5 lbs white onions
2 oz walnuts
6 Tbsp olive oil for vinaigrette + 2 Tbsp for caramelized onions and acorn squash
3 tsps balsamic vinegar for vinaigrette
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar for caramelized onions
1/8 oz lavender
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven 400F.

20131122-053804.jpgWash and cut the acorn squash in half. Remove the seeds with a large spoon.

20131122-053950.jpgBrush a little olive oil on the cut sides.

20131122-054133.jpgPlace the acorn squash cut side down in a baking pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes. The squash is cooked when it is slightly soft to the touch, but still somewhat firm.  You do not want to fully cook the squash as if you were making soup as the flesh will not hold well for the purpose of the salad and rather it would become pureed.

20131122-054323.jpgPeel the onions, cut in half and slice thinly.

20131122-054424.jpgHeat olive oil on medium high heat in a heavy cast iron pan and pour in the onions.  Reduce the heat to low. Mix well to coat them with the olive oil thoroughly. Simmer for about an hour, tossing periodically.

20131122-054531.jpgSeparate the stems from the lavender leaves.

20131122-070232.jpgChop the lavender leaves finely. Set aside.

20131122-131132.jpgChop the walnuts medium-coarse. Set aside.

20131122-131802.jpgRinse the kale carefully.  Gather the leaves together, with the stems on one end.  Cut off and discard the hard part of the stems and chop the leaves very finely.  Set aside.

20131122-132537.jpgMake a balsamic vinaigrette in a bowl large enough to contain the chopped kale. Whisk together the vinegar, salt and pepper.

20131122-150822.jpgAdd the olive oil in a stream slowly and continue whisking vigorously to transform the mixture into a well homogenized sauce. Set aside.

20131122-203927.jpgWhen the acorn squash is cooked, turn each half upside down to release the steam and let cool for handling.

20131122-204023.jpgPlacing each half of the acorn squash cut side down onto a cutting board, cut through the skin using a serrated knife into thick slices.

20131122-204158.jpgPeel each slice carefully.  Set aside.

20131122-204314.jpgBy now, the onions should have mostly caramelized. Add the walnuts to the pan and keep on low heat for a few minutes longer.

20131122-204413.jpgAdd the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan and turn off the heat.

20131122-204512.jpgPlace a few slices of acorn squash on each plate and brush a little bit of the vinaigrette on the top of each slice.

20131122-204601.jpgToss the sliced kale in the large bowl with the vinaigrette and display the kale around each acorn squash slice for presentation.

20131122-204943.jpgSprinkle with the caramelized onions and walnut mixture. Add the fresh lavender.  Enjoy!

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Red Snapper with Fennel, Tomatoes and Tapenade

Baking a whole fish is an easy way to enjoy a healthy, fat-free and delicious main dish.  As much as I am a proponent of olive oil in almost all my recipes (even in baking at times), I do not use any oil to bake this fish.  Rather, the flavors of the vegetables, olives, herbs and garlic mix in the covered fish pan and infuse the flesh.

20131116-141318.jpgHere, I used a red snapper, but feel free to use other similar fish that you might find at your local fish market.  This is a great dish to serve with some roasted sweet potatoes.

The baking time depends on the weight of the fish. For a 2.5 lbs. fish, I baked it for about 45-50 minutes at a high temperature (425F).  You can prepare the recipe all the way to the point where you would normally put it in the oven but refrigerate it instead for a few hours until you are ready to bake it.

20131116-141417.jpgIngredients:

2.5 lb red snapper
1 fennel bulb
1 large red onion
1.5 lb. tomatoes
1 cup black olives, pitted
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, peeled, halved, center removed
6 rosemary springs
1 lemon, sliced, for presentation.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

20131116-141600.jpgPlace the water and vinegar at the bottom of the fish baking pan.

20131116-141651.jpgWash and trim the fennel.  Slice it lengthwise. Peel and slice the onion.

20131116-141736.jpgLayer the onion slices and fennel slices on the rack sitting above the vinegar water.  Add 3 springs of rosemary.

20131116-141843.jpgCut the tomatoes in half or quarters depending on size. Reserve.

20131116-141925.jpgPlace black olives, the leaves of 3 rosemary springs and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

20131116-142007.jpgProcess until the mixture is smooth to obtain a tapenade.

20131116-142059.jpgAfter scaling the fish and cleaning the inside, make three deep incisions on either side, all the way down to the bone.

20131116-142156.jpgFill the inside and each incision with the tapenade.

20131116-142243.jpgPlace the fish on top of the bed of vegetables.  Add a little sea salt and ground pepper.

20131116-142340.jpgAdd the tomatoes and grind a little sea salt on the tomatoes. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes.

20131116-142441.jpgTo serve, lift the rack out of the fish pan and transfer the fish onto a presentation platter.  Surround it by the vegetables, decorate with a few slices of lemon and some of the fennel leaves. Enjoy!

Roasted Root Vegetables with Caramelized Onions

The fall season brings so many root vegetables from the farm to our table, that I relish in selecting which ones to combine and simply roasting them.  Their flesh becomes tender and they exude a very sweet, subtle, roasted scent.  Oh! The house smells so good while they cook!  A delicious welcome when guests arrive. Here, I prepared them with caramelized onions and my inherited Provençal tradition of enhancing dishes with garlic and oil cured black olives.

20131108-214726.jpgVery simple to prepare and easy to present with a bit of chopped fresh parsley.  In this preparation, the most essential ingredient is: TIME! You just can’t skip a step or hasten the process. You need time to slowly let the onions cook down and caramelize, and time to soften the root vegetables without burning them.

20131108-214824.jpgIngredients for 4 servings:
For the root vegetables
3 large carrots (or 6-8 smaller ones)
2-3 large parsnips
1 large rutabaga
1 large yam
4 dozens oil cured black olives
6 garlic cloves
2-3 Tbsps. olive oil
A few springs of parsley, chopped
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

For the caramelized onions
2-3 red onions
2 Tbps. olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground salt

Preheat oven to 375F.

20131108-214906.jpgStart with the caramelized onions. Cut the onions in half. Trim the tips (not the roots) and peel them. Slice them thinly from the tip to the root. Discard the root.

20131108-214953.jpgHeat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and stir to coat them with the olive oil. Reduce the heat to low-simmer and cook for about one hour until the onions caramelized, checking periodically (see below check points).

20131108-215141.jpg20 minute check. The onions have softened.

20131108-215301.jpg40 minute check. The onions started to shrink and scarcely caramelize.

20131108-215356.jpg60 minute check. The onions have shrunken further and caramelized more.

20131108-215450.jpgWhen the onions are caramelized, pour the balsamic vinegar at once to deglaze the pan. Season with a bit of sea salt. Set aside.

20131108-215557.jpgMeanwhile, peel and cut the carrots and parsnips evenly.

20131108-215646.jpgToss in a bowl with1 Tbsp. of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a baking dish and place in the oven for about 20 minutes.

20131108-215740.jpgPeel and cut the rutabaga and yam evenly. Place in a bowl. Peel and cut the garlic in half. Remove the center of the garlic. Add to the bowl with the yam and rutabaga.  Add the black olives and toss with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

20131108-215905.jpgAdd to the other root vegetables in the oven and continue baking for about 30-35 minutes. Check and toss the vegetables, then keep baking for another 15 minutes.

20131108-221220.jpgWhen the root vegetables are finished cooking, transfer the caramelized onions into the baking dish and toss to mix.

20131108-220120.jpgServe immediately, topped with some chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Wild Mushroom Quiche

Quiches are very versatile and once you are comfortable making one, the possibilities are limitless: you can change the filling to pretty much anything you like or have on hand. In this recipe I use a combination of Chanterelle, Shiitake and Brown Button mushrooms, but feel free to use other types of mushroom that might be available in your area.  This is a lactose-free version of the traditional recipe, using almond milk.

20131103-140018.jpgGreat as an appetizer along side a plain green salad (frisée or mâche are my favorites), or as a side dish to accompany an entrée, or even as a main dish for a luncheon. Most steps can be prepared ahead of time so you can assemble it and bake it later.

20131103-140505.jpgIngredients for about 6 servings:
For the filling:
1 1/4 lb mushrooms, mixed variety
1/2 onion
3 eggs
3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic
3/4 oz chopped chives
Reserve a few springs of chives for decoration
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil for cooking

For the olive oil dough:
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup olive oil + 1 Tbsp
1/2 cup hot water +1 Tbsp
1/4 tsp salt

A rolling pin
9-inch tart dish

Preheat oven to 325F.
20131103-145747.jpgStart with the dough. Place the flour on a flat surface and create a well in the center. Add the salt, olive oil and hot water.

20131103-145838.jpgWork the ingredients together with your fingertips.

20131103-180459.jpgForm a ball, lightly flour it so it does not stick.

20131103-181333.jpgRoll it out on a lightly floured surface in the shape of the tart mold.  Pick it up by rolling it onto the pin and then lay it into the tart mold.  No need to oil/butter and flour the bottom of the mold. Adjust the edges.  Reserve.

20131104-064542.jpgFor the filling, clean, trim and cut the mushrooms in fairly even bite-sizes.

20131104-064634.jpgChop the onion. Reserve.

20131104-064741.jpgChop the garlic. Reserve.

20131104-064856.jpgChop the chives. Reserve.

20131104-064956.jpgHeat a bout 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and reduce the heat to low.  Cook the onion until soft and translucent, tossing occasionally.

20131104-065105.jpgAdd the mushrooms and garlic to the skillet and turn up the heat to medium. Toss occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.  When the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and reserve.

20131104-065201.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the custard. Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk till blended. Then, whisk in the almond milk.

20131104-065246.jpgSeason with salt and pepper.

20131104-065402.jpgAdd the chives and mix well.

20131104-065448.jpgSpread the mushrooms on the bottom of the tart crust.

20131104-065552.jpgPour the custard evenly over the mushrooms. Bake for about one hour to one hour and twenty minutes, until lightly golden.

20131104-065724.jpgServe warm and enjoy!