Category Archives: Super Easy

Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

This recipe comes from week 6 class of Pro Chef classes at New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA. We made 11 salads that week, and this one was just exceptional in my book. I actually thought I didn’t like fennel until I tasted this. If you aren’t a fan of fennel… I dare you to try this one.

Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

From New School of Cooking
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 fennel bulbs, tough outer leaves discarded, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 Belgian endives, stem ends trimmed, cut lengwise into julienne
  • 1 bunch radishes, ends trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Reggiano parmesan shavings

Directions
Combine all ingredients except the parmesan cheese in a large bowl and toss.  Serve on a large brightly colored platter with parmesan cheese shavings scattered over the salad.

Let me know if you make it and what your thoughts are one this one.

 

a date with ginger…
guaranteed to please!

Ginger Spiked Dates

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

To date or not to date… that is the question. After trying today’s recipe, you will no longer have to ask. Dates are an intoxicating indulgence of the senses by way of a sugar rush. This is brilliant, considering they’re a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates; AND they’re virtually free of fat, cholesterol and sodium! Warning – after I’ve had my way with them… that all changes.

The Virtuous Date:

Dates come from the date palm. They’ve been instrumental to humans since the beginning of time and believed to have originated near the Persian Gulf.

Primeval Mesopotamians capitalized on the tree’s versatility and value. They felt the palm offered 360 uses including needles, thread, lumber, mattresses, rope, baskets and other household items; as well as food and beverage.

Ancient literature praise the merits of the date’s diverse powers – from an aphrodisiac to a contraceptive. Wow… I don’t even want to know how they figured that one out. Probably while on a date of some kind.

Egypt is currently the top producer of dates followed by Iran.

If you can’t find dates at your local store they are readily available online. Medjool are my favorites as they are plump, deep in color, soft in texture and rich in flavor. Dates can also be kept frozen for up to a year with no loss of taste or quality.

shepaused4thought_line-NEW

Today’s Featured Recipe:

These engorged delights are perfect for picnics,
afternoon tea and The Hollywood Bowl.

Just ask Sophia!

 

Ginger Spiked Stuffed Dates
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup mascarpone cheese*
  • 1 teaspoon crystallized ginger, minced
  • 10 Medjool dates pitted|
  • 10 walnuts or pecans
  • fresh mint sprigs
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl mix the mascarpone cheese and ginger until combined.
  2. Using a small spoon, spoon about ½ tsp of the mixture into the date
  3. Top with walnut and decorate with a mint sprig
Notes
*Substitute goat cheese, blue cheese, neufchatel cheese (cream cheese) or almond butter. Serves: 2-3

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

Date-licious!

Special thanks to Yodi & Rikki for the beautiful Wedgewood tea set!

I have already put it
to good use.

 

Quote of the day:

If the heavens throw you dates, you got to keep your mouth open.
– Navjot Singh Sidhu

….and then, she paused for thought.

 

 

creative carrots…
and their ingenious usages

Vanilla Roasted Carrots

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

I love the resourcefulness of people when it comes to food and its’ utilizations. Here are surprising places that carrots have shown up in: bio fuel, warding off the devil, coffee substitutes, lasers, hat decor, antifreeze, wine, & hangovers (for too much carrot wine).

 “The day is coming when a single carrot freshly observed will set off a revolution.”
– Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

And you might of thought they were something you dipped in ranch dressing.  So here is to a crazy carrot history that warrants its own Carrot History Museum in the U.K.
(Information was gathered from their site unless otherwise linked)

Carrot’s Eccentric Past

Carrots are speculated to originate in Afghanistan. Wild carrots were purple, red, white, and yellow, but never orange.  It is rumored that we can thank the Dutch for the cheery orange color. In the 16th century, Dutch carrot growers created the orange carrot in honor of the House of Orange (the Dutch Royal Family) by cross breeding yellow carrots with red carrots.

The newly born orange carrots made their way to England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  The British adopted the crunchy veggie with arms wide open. At one point there was a glut of them, and the Government campaigned that carotene, which is believed to help night vision was largely responsible for the Royal Air Force’s increasing success in shooting down enemy bombers.

“This is a food war. Every extra row of vegetables in allotments saves shipping… the battle on the kitchen front cannot be won without help from the kitchen garden.” – Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, 1941 – So much for urban gardening being a new trend.

People bought this concept hook, line and sinker. This ruse not only reduced the surplus vegetables but also helped to mask the chief reason for England’s RAF’s success – radar. Imagine…. deception from the government that was beneficial for the public!

Britain continues the fun by manufacturing carrot wine. And…not wanting to be wasteful, carrot leaves were worn in ladies hats as decoration in the fashions of 17th C England.

Just across the English Channel, the Germans used finely chopped roasted carrots for a coffee substitute.

twisted carrotsThe Greeks also have their place in carrot history.  They called the carrot a philtron, which translates to “love charm.” The Greek foot soldiers that hid in the Trojan Horse were said to have consumed ample quantities of raw carrots to inactivate their bowels. Why haven’t the airlines taken this concept and run with it?  They should hand out bags of carrots instead of pretzels.

The packaging is already in place for the airlines. In what may be the best marketing campaign for vegetables since Popeye, baby carrots have been transformed into junk food. Well you just have to see this $25M ad campaign to believe it.
“Eat ‘em like junk food”

Wait…there is more! The Anglo-Saxons included carrots as an ingredient in a medicinal drink against the devil and insanity.  Ok, forget the airlines serving them as a snack…they should be serving them as a drink.

Not to be outdone, Two Scottish scientists found a way to convert the vegetable into an advanced material to make products from fishing rods to warships with a product called Curran.  If the airlines won’t serve carrots, maybe they could make a plane out of them.

I love that carrots are so versatile. I ask that you keep an open mind with this tasty recipe that I believe even the biggest cooked carrot haters will appreciate.

Vanilla Roasted Carrots

Vanilla Roasted Carrots with Cumin

Recipe adapted from Staci Billis.
You will be amazed how well these flavors go together! I learned how to cut carrots in squares at a knife skills class. I thought it looked fun….my husband thought they looked unnatural. So?

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb carrots, washed and trimmed ( I cut them in squares)
  • ¼ cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave or honey (I used coconut nectar because it is low glycemic)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • fresh parsley (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place carrots on a baking sheet and toss with all other ingredients to coat thoroughly. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until carrots brown in spots and are soft throughout.
  3. Garnish with parsley and serve!

I will leave you with one last bit of carrot trivia. Did you know the last meal on the Titanic included creamed carrots in the fifth course. For a taste of the adventure, click here for the original recipe.

I wonder what else could be done with creative carrots.
…and then, she paused for thought. 

 

bodacious beets…
what they did not teach you in school

Beet Salad by Cathy Nelson Arkle

Beets belong in the category of vegetables I hated as a child. Anything that slid out of a can was high on the “yuck factor.” It was only until my girlfriend Nan gave me the “roasted beet challenge.” She said don’t tell me you hate beets until you have eaten a roasted one. Since I always enjoy a good challenge, I bought a single beet as I didn’t want to have too much to throw out. I wrapped it in foil, threw it in the oven for an hour and silently anticipated it’s doomed fate. Well the joke was on me as I devoured that tasty sweet thang with vigor.

Sweet Beets

Nutritionally speaking, the beet is a kindred spirit to the carrot, although it is much higher in sugar. In fact, of all vegetables, the beet has the highest sugar content. Not sure how I missed this opportunity to eat more sugar as a kid… oh yeah… my mother served it out of a can. It is estimated that about two-thirds of commercial beet crops end up canned. So sad.

Beets (everywhere else in the world they are called beetroot) are thought to have originated in prehistoric times in N. Africa. It is said that beetroot remains have been excavated in the Third dynasty Saqqara pyramid at Thebes, Egypt. I must of missed that when I was there.

Sand Storm at the Saqqara Pyramid in Thebes, Egypt

I couldn’t see much because I was too busy making a fashion statement in a blinding sand storm.

And the beet goes on…

Beet leaves have been eaten since before written history. The beet root was generally used medicinally and did not become a popular food until French chefs recognized their potential in the 1800’s. You have to love the French!  I wonder if they were the ones that came up with making beet wine.

Since Roman times, beet juice has been considered an aphrodisiac. Was that before or after it was made into wine?

If you are not getting your beets in wine, you might be able to get it in frozen pizza. Yep, some frozen pizzas use beet powder to color the tomato sauce.

Beets can even help melt snow! One way or another you are going to get your beets if I can help it.

Why? Because beets are loaded with lots of good stuff like antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C.

Some experts say adding beet juice to your diet could provide a performance boost even beyond the blood, sweat and tears of more training. Does this mean I don’t have to go to the gym anymore?

Don’t take my word for it. According to the NY Times Blog, beets are among the 11 best foods you aren’t eating.

Cathy’s Bodacious Beet Salad

If this recipe was a piece of art it would be mixed media. I took a little of this and a little of that from different recipes to make this as I saw it in my mind. The Santa Monica farmers market provided the fresh ingredients for this salad. I used french thyme because that what was growing in my herb garden, but use what you like. The dressing generously Serves 2.

Beet Salad Ingredients 

  • 2 fresh red or yellow beets
  • 4 ounces goat cheese – rolled into balls I used Redwood Hill Farm’s traditional chevre
  • french thyme – a couple sprigs per ball, washed well and dried
  • 2 cups micro greens or any small leaf greens – washed well and dried I used sweet baby lettuce with edible flowers from Harry’s Berries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted – I used Peacock Family Farm’s locally grown walnuts

Walnut Oil Dressing Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil – I used La Nogalera Walnut Oil I could just drink this stuff plain!
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt, pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place the beets in the pan, leaving a little of the root tail on. Rub olive oil over the beets, and sprinkle with salt. Cover the beets with another sheet of aluminum foil. Roast for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the beets and how old they are. After 1 hour, test every fifteen minutes by poking a beet with the tines of a fork. Once the fork tines go in easily, the beets are tender and cooked. Remove from the oven.
  2. While beets are roasting, mix the dressing. Whisk the dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar together.  While you are whisking or using a hand blender, slowly add the walnut oil and then olive oil to make an nice emulsification. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  3. After the beets have cooled for several minutes, peel off the outer skins and discard. If you do this under running water you will avoid staining your hands. Cut the bottom of the beet so it will sit up straight. Then cut the beets into quarters, but not all the way through.  Place on a plate and open it up like a flower.
  4. Roll the goat cheese into little balls about 1/2” in diameter and roll in the fresh thyme.
    Place ball in the middle of the beet.
  5. Add your baby lettuce around it and drizzle the walnut oil over the salad.
  6. Add toasted walnuts

Ta-da! Long live the beet season. Thanks Nan for the beet challenge. I wonder what other yucky childhood vegetable will next on my discovery list?
…and then she paused for thought.