parmesan radicchio salad

last week's post left me reminiscing about wonderful dishes i've had at restaurants that i filed away into my memory in order to recreate at a later date. i was thinking back to our last trip to portland, and remembered a simple, yet delicious salad from tasty n sons. it was a torn radicchio salad, with a few croutons and a heap of parmesan. goodness, i loved that salad. we head back to portland in a few weeks for a bouldering competing david is partaking in. i can't wait to go back to tasty n sons for their to-die-for biscuits and bloody mary menu, but also to see if this salad is still on their menu.

this week at the farmers market, i picked up a few heads of radicchio and went to work recreating the dish. i skipped the croutons, doused whole leaves of raddichio in my favorite basic vinaigrette, piled on the parmesan, and added a few capers. it was messy, dripping with vinaigrette, and parmesan flying off my plate, but it was perfection.

parmesan radicchio salad ~ serves 2
1 small head radicchio
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 cup parmesan
1/4 cup vinaigrette 

tear radicchio or leave them as whole leaves, drizzle with vinaigrette and top with a heavy portion of shaved parmesan and a sprinkling of capers. note: i used a microplane to grate my parmesan, but whatever you use, be sure to buy fresh, real parmesan! 

my favorite vinaigrette ~ serves 6 (ish) 
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste 
small clove garlic, crushed (optional) 
fresh or dried herbs (optional) 

blend together with a whisk. keeps well in a jar on the countertop for a few days. excellent also for dipping raw vegetables or steamed artichoke into as well! 

roasted grapes

sometimes i sit back and look at a meal i've prepare for myself and wonder how much it could be sold for in a restaurant. can you even put a price on a lovely meal prepared with compassion for yourself and those you are sharing it with? when i was younger, my family lived two blocks away from my grandfather. he would join us for dinner every week, and my dad would cook up something fantastic, as he always did. my grandfather would sit at the table at the end of the meal and ask "if this is what we are eating, i wonder what the rich people are eating?!" 

when i'm out enjoying a bite at a swanky restaurant, i'm constantly filing away recipe ideas and inspiration for flavor combinations. it's a wonderful thing to be able to recreate something you enjoyed out, from your home kitchen! not only will it cost you a fraction of the menu price, but you get to put your own spin on it, save it in your repertoire of recipes, and share the pleasure whenever and with whomever! 

my grandfather would have enjoyed this recipe - a recreation of an appetizer at terra plata in capitol hill, made personal with concord grapes growing in the yard of my bandmate and his wife. this is fantastic as a small amuse-bouche or appetizer with some red wine. or, throw it on top of a greens salad with blue cheese and a vinaigrette! oh so good! 

notes: you could use any variety of grapes - concord grapes are very sweet and have a great texture to them. they turn a lovely fuchsia color after roasted! however, you could play with mixing red and green grapes. for an appetizer, i like having pits in my olives. but for making into a salad, i would suggest pitted cured olives.

2 cups grapes, remove stems
1 tablespoon olive oil
several sprigs of fresh thyme, remove stems
1 cup cured black olives
1 cup walnut halves
salt & pepper

preheat oven to 400. place walnuts on one small baking sheet or roasting pan and bake in oven until fragrant and lightly toasted. on another baking sheet, spread out the grapes. drizzle with olive oil and toss around with thyme. roast in the oven for 8 minutes. grapes will start to shrivel slightly, but pull them out of the oven before they start to split and pop. let cool to room temperature. once cooled, combine grapes in a bowl with walnuts and cured olives. salt and pepper to taste. 

goat cheese & summer squash risotto

it has been a bizarre week of thunderstorms, downpours and misty rain. i spent one rainy day at the russian spa in seattle, soaking in tubs and melting away in the sauna. another rainy day, i sat on our balcony while it thundered and dumped buckets of rain from the sky - yet still warm and humid, it was quite an experience just reading my book while listening to thunder roll through the city. it doesn't feel like fall has crept in yet. just strange weather worthy of a cozy bowl of creamy risotto and summer squash. this next week promises warmer weather. nevertheless, i am still fully enjoying my risotto leftovers (which, by the way, are best re-heated over a stove with an additional splash of broth and a fresh sprinkling of parmesan). 

goat cheese & summer squash risotto ~ serves 6

2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
6-8 cups homemade broth 
2 shallots
1 large clove garlic
2 small zucchini 
several sprigs fresh thyme
5 oz chevre goat cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3-5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

note: i happened to have an excessive amount of home-made chicken broth i had made the previous week, which was fabulous in this dish. if you don't have homemade broth on hand, use any type of broth you prefer. 

start by heating your broth in a saucepan. bring to a simmer and turn heat off to low. 

cut washed zucchini in half lengthwise, and slice into quarter-inch thick half moons. peel and finely mince 1 glove of garlic. in a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. add zucchini and garlic and saute until zucchini is fully cooked. add more oil if necessary. once cooked, remove from heat and set zucchini aside in a small bowl. 

thinly slice shallots and pick the thyme away from the stems. using the same saute pan, heat an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and saute shallots with the fresh thyme until the shallots translucent. add uncooked rice, and fry for 2 minutes, stirring frequently - coating the rice with oil. add more oil if needed to keep rice from burning. deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup white wine. add a ladle full of hot broth to the rice and stir constantly until it is almost fully absorbed. continue adding a ladle of broth at a time, allowing the rice to absorb most of the moisture before adding more fluid. continue cooking and stirring for about 20-30 minutes until desired consistency. the rice should not be overcooked or overly mushy, but the starches from the rice should release into the broth creating a creamy, saucy texture. once the rice is fully cooked, stir in crumbled goat cheese and the pre-cooked zucchini. salt and pepper to taste. serve with a sprinkling of grated parmesan. 

spiced white melon salad

it's hard to believe that today is labor day! summer has flown by - a fact that i am grappling with. i only read two books. i worked all but one weekend. never jumped into a lake. only took one camping trip. maybe there is still time to tuck in a few more summer activities this month while the weather is still warm. but i also happen to love the fall for its colors and flavors. so not to fret. there are other things to look forward to. 

this snow leopard melon has been sitting in my fridge for a week or so. and while it is a fashion faux pas to wear white after labor day, i don't see why i can't eat a white mellon salad. hmm? i recently had a cocktail at joule that had white rum, lime and sumac. now i know i had sumac in my spice drawer, and have used it to make za'atar (a middle eastern spice mixture of sumac, thyme and sesame seeds) but have rarely used it on it's own for flavor. the cocktail was unusual and amazing. sumac is tangy and tart, with a flavor unlike anything else i can think of. while sipping my cocktail, i was imagining what other flavors would go along with sumac and melon came to mind. so here you have it: a white melon salad spiced with sumac and aleppo pepper. 

white melon salad ~ serves 2
half of a small white melon (or other melon varieties)
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 large pinches of sumac
1 pinch aleppo pepper
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

chill your melon for at least an hour or more. slice melon in half. remove seeds and pith with a wide metal spoon. slice melon as you like, small bites or larger thin triangle shapes. place in bowl and toss with rice vinegar and spices. top with crumbled feta and a drizzle of olive oil. serve chilled. optionally: let melon pickle slightly in vinegar for an hour or two before serving. 

*be sure to use unseasoned rice wine vinegar. you don't need the added sugar that 'seasoned' vinegars have... the melon is plenty sweet enough!