I Dare You To Eat Bottled Salad Dressing Again

roasted garlic salad dressing 
In no other dish does the condiment take center stage as it does in salad.  With a billion varieties of dressings out there, it’s easy to be tempted by a bottle of Hidden Valley (or Annie’s, if you drive a Volkswagen).  But, most of that bottled junk is full of calories and fat so it will have a long shelf life.  This recipe is the base for most of the salad dressings I make.  It takes all of 90 seconds, and it beats the pantaloons of anything I’ve had from a store. 

Makes: 1/4 cup, enough for 2 dinner salads, or 4 side salads
Total kitchen time: 90 seconds

Shopping list:

  • 1/4 cup roasted garlic olive oil (homemade, or premade.  I’m currently loving my bottle from the Temecula Olive Oil Company, $17)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or cup and whisk with a fork until emulsified. 

Done!  What makes this dressing really shine is starting with a great olive oil.  Oh, and if you’re curious about the salad in the picture, it’s field greens, goat’s cheese, candied walnuts and dried cranberries.

Roasted Endive Salad with Prosciutto, Figs and Pistachios

roasted endive salad
Admittedly, this salad may be trying a little too hard (or perhaps I’ve been watching too much Top Chef).  In any case, if you’re looking for a sophisticated, unique way to start off a dinner party, this is just the trick.  The key to this dish is balance.  Endive is naturally very bitter, but is offset by drizzling honey over the whole plate.  The figs and pistachios add texture, and the fried prosciutto… well, who doesn’t love crispy pork?

Makes: 4 fancy “salads”
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 6 heads of endive (green, red or both)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (an infused oil, such as roasted garlic olive oil, works great here)
  • 2 slices prosciutto
  • 1 cup dried figs, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 1/2 cup pistachio nuts, shells removed
  • 1/4 cup organic honey
  1. Preheat your oven (*ding, this is a great toaster oven candidate) to 350°F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Wash the endive and remove any unsightly outer leaves.  Slice each endive head in half from the stem to the tip.  Arrange the endive cut side up on the foil-lined baking sheet.  Coat the endive generously with olive oil.  Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, or until the outer edges are golden brown.
  3. Meanwhile, fry the prosciutto in a skillet until crispy.  Drain onto paper towels, then crumble the prosciutto and set it aside.
  4. When the endive is done roasting, arrange three pieces on a plate alongside a handful of sliced dried figs and pistachio nuts.  Drizzle a spoonful of honey over the plate, then sprinkle the endive with about 1/4th of the crumbled prosciutto.

If sliced figs and pistachios don’t suit your dinner crowd, you can always drown the plate in blue cheese ;-) 

Roasted Beet Salad With Cornichon

roasted beet salad 
Words can’t express my passion for beets.  They’re sweet, tender, and are versatile enough to accompany a myriad of other flavors – mild chèvre, sharp vinegar, smooth olive oil (I could keep going for a while). I know that you’re supposed to cook (boil or roast) beets with the skins on, but I never knew why… before now.  Thanks Wikipedia:

The [red beet] pigments are contained in cell vacuoles. Beetroot cells are quite unstable and will ‘leak’ when cut, heated, or when in contact with air or sunlight. This is why red beetroots leave a purple stain. Leaving the skin on when cooking, however, will maintain the integrity of the cells and therefore minimise leakage.

Makes: 6 salad-size servings
Total kitchen time: 2 hours + marinating time

Shopping list:

  • 5 large red beets (skins on), stems trimmed to a small nub
  • 2 large sweet onions (such as Vidalia)
  • 1/4 cup cornichon, sliced into thin discs
  • 3 tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp. finely chopped tarragon
  • ooks&fgbp
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. 
  2. Create a double-layer aluminum foil pouch large enough to hold all the beets.  Arrange the beets in the pouch and drizzle to coat with olive oil.  Add a generous pinch of kosher salt and pepper, plus about 3 tbsp. of water.  The water will create steam, helping the beets stay moist and also loosening the skins from the beet meat.  Seal the foil pouch tightly and roast for about 90 minutes.  Remove from the oven and open the pouch to vent the steam.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the onion and slice it into 1/4" thick discs.  Separate each disc into rings (like when they make the onion volcano at Benihana.  Come on, it’s pretty cool).  Since I’m a little OCD, I only like to use the rings that are smaller in diameter than the largest beet.  Which means the outer 4-5 rings are usually discarded.  That’s up to you, though.
  4. Toss the onion rings (the ones you want to use) in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and add to the bottom of your oven during the last 15 minutes of the beets roasting.  This will soften and sweeten the onions just slightly, without taking away their great crunch.
  5. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, rub the outsides with a paper towel to remove the skins.  Quarter the beets, then slice each quarter into 1/4" sections. 
  6. In a non-reactive dish, combine the beets, onions and cornichon.  Toss with enough olive oil to just barely coat, then season with kosher salt and pepper.  Add the vinegar and orange juice, and stir to mix.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes up to 24 hours. 
  7. Just before serving, top with the chopped tarragon and garnish with another pinch of salt (sea salt is best).

Although this dish (or some variation) has deep roots in traditional French cuisine, I must pay credit to Thomas Keller for inspiring this version.  He doesn’t use cornichon, but I think he’s missing out.