Winter Citrus and Beet Salad

Many people associate bright citrus flavors with warm summer days spent poolside with a grapefruit margarita in hand. If you’re one of those people, you may be surprised to learn that December is actually peak citrus season. There is no better time than now to stock up on oranges, grapefruits, tangelos, and tangerines. I always try to incorporate many of these summery flavors into my winter cooking as a way to lift my mood during brutal Chicago winters.

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I created this salad when I was in college and had an overabundance of Cuties lying around. I’m obsessed with those little easy-to-peel oranges and could eat 4 in one sitting. I knew that there had to be another way to eat them other than just by themselves, so I started throwing them in salads. It was then that I learned that bacon and oranges do not mix. I created this salad with what I had on hand at the time and it’s quickly evolved into my absolute favorite salad. I love the contrast of the bitter greens with the sweet juicy oranges and salty spongy feta. The red onions give a much needed spicy bite and walnuts add texture and savoriness. I know that beets aren’t for everyone, but they’re really incredible in this salad. Roasting brings out their inherent sweetness while homemade honey balsamic dressing cuts through their earthy flavor. I think this salad could turn a beet-hater into a beet-lover. I’m also really loving this salad right now because I overindulged way too much over the weekend. I celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday and my birthday on Saturday. So a healthy and delicious meal is exactly what I need!


wcs ingredients 2Winter Citrus and Beet Salad

Makes 4 side salads or 2 dinner salads.

  • 3 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 16 oz of spring mix
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • walnuts or pecans
  • 4 cuties (fresh mandarin oranges), or 1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented
  • 1/2 cup feta

Honey Balsamic Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 3 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • a pinch of sugar
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place chopped beets on the pan and coat with canola oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until they’re fork tender. Place beets in a bowl and allow to cool.

2. While the beets are roasting, assemble the dressing. Place all ingredients except for the salt and pepper into a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well. Grab a piece of lettuce and dip into the dressing to test the seasoning. Season accordingly and test again. Set the dressing aside to allow all of the flavors to meld together.

3. Place a handful of spring mix on each plate. Peel one cutie and place all segments around the outside in a circular pattern. You’ll want to use 1 entire cutie for each side salad or 2 cuties for each dinner salad. Then place a mound of beets in the center. Top it all off with a few slices of red onion followed up by a sprinkling of nuts and feta. Drizzle the honey balsamic on top and dig in!

beets finished

How could anyone not love these earthy little gems?!

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Pretty Pepper Pasta

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I had the single-greatest food experience of our lives at Eataly in Chicago. If you’ve never been, you need to drop everything you’re doing right now and go. And yes, I’m being completely serious. It’s essentially the Disney World of Italian food. The Chicago Eataly is in an old ESPN zone and is larger than the one in New York City. Which is great for Midwesterners because our appetites demand 63,000 square feet of wall to wall food. The Chicago branch is also co-owned by two of my culinary heroes, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. If you’re expecting it to look like an oversized Olive Garden, then you will be pleasantly surprised. I couldn’t believe how modern everything looked. I didn’t feel embarrassed of my Italian heritage like I do when I go to Buca Di Beppo.

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But enough about the looks! Let’s get to the good stuff. Eataly is an entirely immersive food experience. You can enjoy an exquisite charcuterie and cheese platter and then buy the exact same meats and cheeses from the deli. This is ideal for me because I’m the kind of person who loves recreating restaurant dishes at home. With that being said, there’s no way anyone could do their regular grocery shopping there. But if you’re looking for a unique treat, there’s no better place. I was amazed by the impeccable quality of all of the meat and produce. It was difficult for Max and I to leave without buying up the entire place!

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I did manage to pick up this beautiful pasta made by Afeltra, a brand that I’ve never heard of before. There were so many unique pasta shapes, I wanted to buy them all! I knew that this particular shape would be the perfect vessel for my roasted red pepper pasta sauce. This is the perfect dish to enjoy on Good Friday, the final day of Lent. It’s a fun twist on traditional pasta sauce that doesn’t use a single tomato. I also added mozzarella pearls to give the pasta a creamy and meaty texture. A tangy goat cheese would also be delicious.

ingredients 2

 

Pretty Pepper Pasta

Serves 4

  • 4 Red Bell Peppers
  • 2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
  • 1/4 c Heavy Cream
  • 1 lb of your Favorite Pasta
  • 1/4 t sugar
  • Salt and Pepper, to Taste
  • 1/2 c Basil
  • Mozzarella Pearls Sprinkled with Salt

1. Preheat broiler on high. Place red peppers on a foil lined cookie sheet. Rub liberally with olive oil. Place peppers under broiler, and cook until charred on all sides. This took me about 20 minutes. While the peppers are roasting, sauté the garlic over low heat in a pan big enough for the sauce. You’ll also want to start boiling your water.

2. Once the peppers are sufficiently charred, place in a sealed zip-lock bag. After they cool, remove the peppers from the bag. Place on a cutting board and remove the blackened skins. They should slip off very easily. Then scrape out all of the seeds from the inside. I like to rinse the peppers under water to make sure there are absolutely no seeds. After the peppers are cleaned, puree them in a blender or food processor until smooth.

3. If you haven’t already done so, drop your pasta in boiling water. Pour the pureed peppers in the pan with garlic. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Stir in heavy cream and the remaining olive oil. Add sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Slice half of the fresh basil into ribbons and add to sauce.

4. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir until it’s coated evenly. Divide the pasta into bowls. Stud the pasta with the mozzarella pearls. Garnish with the remaining basil. Serve immediately and enjoy!

charred peppers

This is what your peppers should like after they’re roasted.

steamy pasta

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Asparagus and Gorgonzola Salad

The first time I ever had this salad was last summer at my favorite Italian restaurant. I haven’t stopped dreaming about it ever since. Am I the only person who eats something once and then obsesses over it until they can have it again? Probably, but that’s just who I am. No apologies here!

There’s something about seeing asparagus in grocery stores that gets me so excited about spring. That’s how I always know that warm weather is on it’s way. Even if it’s still chilly in your neck of the woods, you’ll still enjoy this zesty salad. The asparagus,gorgonzola, and tomatoes combined with a drizzle of lemony olive oil compliment each other so well, you’ll wonder why this is your first time enjoying this flavor combination. This recipe is so simple that I almost feel silly for writing it down.

ingredients 1

Asparagus and Gorgonzola Salad

Serves 4 appetizer portions.

Ingredients

1 bunch of asparagus, woody stems removed

2 tomatoes, diced

1/4 c of gorgonzola cheese, or to taste

1 lemon

1/4 c of extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

 

1. Fill a large bowl with ice. Bring 3 inches of salted water to a boil, then boil asparagus for 5 minutes, or until tender. You want the asparagus to be tender but not limp. Once the asparagus is cooked, drain in and place in the bowl of ice to cool.

2. Combine the olive oil and juice of one lemon in a sealed container and shake until combined. Line the cooled asparagus on a plate and sprinkle diced tomatoes and crumbled gorgonzola on top. Drizzle the olive oil all over and garnish with parsley.

 

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