This past weekend, I think the husband and I started training our tummies for Thanksgiving.
Our friends, Kacy and Brian, hosted a fall harvest dinner last night, and my goodness! The food just kept coming! Remember in this post when I said that all I want to do in the fall is gather around the table with good food, good wine, and good friends? Done, done, and done. It was phenomenal.
On Friday night, we had a big family birthday party for my newly 3-year-old niece, Elliana.
I come from a family of foodies and we have a tendency to "go all out" from time to time. My sister-in-law, Julia, prepared a fantastic fennel roasted pork tenderloin with a sauce made from roasted root vegetables and cream reduction. Absolutely to die for. There were also sweet potatoes with two different spice combinations, lots of wine, AND a horsey cake with homemade buttercream frosting.
I brought this salad.
It seems to me that greens might be the best thing to grow in Seattle. I planted an ambitious amount in the late spring and they are still thriving in mid-November. The husband and I didn't need to buy a single bunch of greens during the entire summer. That's saying something because we are greens people!
Now, I know all dietitians tell you to eat your greens. I'm not going to tell you any differently because greens are positively bursting with nutrition, but I am going to show you a way to make even the most bitter ones taste delicious. You know, the ones we all accidently pushed off our plate and accidently fed to the dog as a child. This salad will turn you into a greens believer.
A simple math equation: sweet, salty, sour > bitter
While studying nutrition, I learned that bitter flavors can be balanced with sweet, salty, or sour/tangy flavors. We've got all three working for us in this recipe.
Since I still have arugula making its way through a blanket of frost in my garden, I decided on arugula for this salad. But any seasonal winter greens would be perfect here, like chard or lacinato kale. They are a bit more robust (they can survive into the winter, afterall) but can be softened into a silky texture and made more delicate by cutting the leaves into ribbons and gently massaging them with the dressing until tender.
For a burst of color, this salad is also peppered with treviso, which is a thin, elegant variety of radicchio. I love its bitter bite in contrast to the sweet citrus vinaigrette. Any red or white endive will do if you can't find treviso.
And the manchego?
We all know how I feel about cheese. It's made from sheep's milk and boasts the most incredible buttery and nutty flavor. The sensation of sweet vinaigrette on each salty shaving will make you swoon.
At first, I wondered if this salad would have too many strong tastes for our little guest of honor. But then I remembered that this is the girl who asked for beets and goat cheese for breakfast on the morning of her birthday. And she adores dipping baguette into vinegar. I'd say our little foodie fits right in.
arugula salad with orange vinaigrette + manchego // serves 6-8
adapted from Bon Appetit
1/2 cup pecans
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
sea salt + freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 pound baby arugula or winter greens such as chard or lacinato kale
4 large leaves treviso or radicchio, torn into small pieces
1 4-ounce wedge manchego cheese
1/4 cup coarsley chopped flat-leaf parsley
zest of 1 orange
Warm a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add pecans and toast, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally until they smell nutty and fragrant. Remove from heat and sprinkle them onto a cutting board. Allow them to cool before chopping into small pieces.
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, honey, and vinegar. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.
If using arugula: Add arugula and treviso to the bowl. Just before serving, toss with vinaigrette to coat and follow one of the serving suggestions below.
If using winter greens: Remove center stems. For a polished look, stack several of the leaves on top of each other and cut them into medium-thick ribbons. For shorter ribbons, cut the stack in half lengthwise and then slice the ribbons crosswise. For a rustic look, coarsley chop or tear the leaves into small pieces. Add greens to the bowl. Gently massage the greens by tossing the leaves around with the vinaigrette and gently rubbing them together until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Shortly before serving, add the Treviso and toss well to coat. Follow one of the serving suggestions below.
Depending on the occasion, serve in one of the following ways:
For hosting a dinner party: Scatter the dressed greens onto plates. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans. Using a vegetable peeler or small knife, shave thin slices of manchego into each salad, using as much of the wedge as desired. Garnish with parsley and orange zest.
For a potluck or self-serve: Add parsley, chopped pecans, and orange zest to the salad. Using a vegetable peeler or small knife, shave thin slices of manchego into salad, using as much of the wedge as desired. Toss well to combine.