October 28, 2009

Roasted Squash, Beetroot & Goat's Cheese Salad

This winter salad is bursting with flavour. It is simple, colourful and satisfying.

I love butternut squash for its nutty flavour and its tremendous versatility in the kitchen. I have prepared it in a variety of ways, sweet and savory, but I find that it is particularly yummy when roasted. Roasting butternut squash intensifies its flavour producing a wonderfully sweet and nutty taste with a deliciously silky texture. Roasted butternut squash is great in warm salads with ingredients such as goats cheese, pine nuts and peppery arugula.

So, when I came across this recipe recently, I knew I was going to love it and that it was destined to live happily on this blog. I jazzed up the dressing a little bit, added a few ingredients here and there, and as a result, was very happy with the finished dish.

I had never roasted beetroot before so I was interested to see how it came out. I didn't bother to peel it as I heard that the skin was delicious. And it was!

Feta can be substituted for goats cheese if you prefer. And to make the dish vegetarian, simply leave out the pancetta.

This salad is a great accompaniment to roast chicken. It is also pretty fantastic served with nothing more than a big glass of red wine!


Serves 4

1 large butternut squash, washed and cut into wedges (no need to peel)
4 medium beetroot, trimmed, scrubbed and cut into wedges
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
4-6 fresh sage leaves
200g (7 oz) soft goats cheese, crumbled
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted
200g diced pancetta or bacon
6 oz mixture of Spinach and Arugula/Rocket leaves

3 tbls balsamic vinegar
2 tbls olive oil
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar or splenda (less if you have a sweeter balsamic)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Place beetroot and butternut squash with the sage and thyme on a large roasting tray. Toss with 1 tbls olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 - 50 minutes (depending on the size of the pieces), turning half way through. Roast until the beetroot is tender and the squash is soft and golden.

Mix dressing ingredients together thoroughly. Refrigerate until needed. Fry pancetta or bacon until crisp, set aside.

When squash and beetroot are done, remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Arrange mixed salad leaves onto a large platter. Place butternut squash and beetroot on top.
Spoon over the crumbled goat's cheese and scatter with the pancetta and toasted pine nuts.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad or serve along side. Serve salad immediately.

October 21, 2009

French Onion Soup

My Dad's visit has come to an end, he is safely back in England and I miss him dearly. The day he left and the few days following were miserable. We had such a fantastic time. Not only did he take with him some lovely memories, pictures, and souvenirs, he also took the weather! For his entire visit the weather was beautiful. Perfectly warm and sunny during the day as well as wonderfully crisp and chilly in the evening. However, the moment he left the weather took a turn for the worse! Rain and dreariness all around!

So, to make the most of the dreary weather and to alleviate my grey mood, I am turning to pure comfort food. Otherwise known as.. French Onion Soup!

Sweet caramelized onions simmered in a rich beef stock, topped with a thick slice of french bread that is covered with ridiculous amounts of melted, bubbly cheese...Delicious!

The secret to a good French Onion Soup is 'Patience'. Caramelizing the onions is time consuming but essential to this dish. You need approximately one hour or more of cooking time for the onions to slowly release their natural sugars and to become completely caramelized.

After the caramelization process, some add Cognac, Sherry, red or white wine to deglaze the pan and to add depth of flavour to the soup. In my opinion, sherry produces the most "authentic" taste.

Another tip is to simmer the soup slowly for as long as possible to ensure all of those wonderful ingredients have plenty of time to mingle.

The type of cheese that is traditionally used in French Onion Soup is 'Gruyere'. If this is not available you could substitute sharp Cheddar or any other good melting cheese.

Chopping all of those onions can be a daunting and tearful process, but whenever I am about to get up close and personal with a large amount of onions I am always armed with a newly sharpened chef knife and my onion goggles! They may look ridiculous, but I'm telling you, they work!

Serves 4-6

3 tbls butter
6 large yellow onions, halved and sliced ( This will seem like a very large amount of onions, but once caramelized they will reduce significantly in volume. )
8 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup medium-dry sherry
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen string
2 bay leaves
4-6 slices of day old french bread
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere

Over a medium heat, melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot (I used my 7 qt Le Creuset pot). Add sliced onions and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Note: Your pot will be full with onions, however, in time they will cook down.
Cook onions, stirring occasionally for about 45-50 minutes. At this point the onions should be golden and slightly sticky. Adjust heat if necessary. Add the garlic and continue cooking for a further 20-25 minutes or until the onions are brown, sticky and the bottom of the pan has accumulated a delicious dark brown glaze.

Increase heat and add sherry scraping up all the crispy bits. Once sherry has evaporated add the beef stock, thyme and bay leaves. Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer gently for two hours, stirring every now and then. Remove and discard herbs, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Note: This part can be made up to two days ahead. Just reheat before ladling into bowls and adding croutons.

10 minutes before serving, toast the french bread. Ladle soup into ovenproof bowls and top each one with a slice of toasted bread. Top with generous amounts of cheese and broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

Serve with a small glass of Sherry if desired.

October 4, 2009

My Dad is coming to town!

I am so excited about this, I just had to share it with the world!

My father is coming to visit for the first time since I came to America! Not only is it his first time visiting me (5 years Dad..tut-tut!), it is also his very first visit to the USA! He will be here for two whole weeks!

I plan to cram as much sightseeing, walking, talking, dining and hugging as I can into those 14 precious days! So, for the next few weeks I will not be making yummy food, I will however, be making wonderful memories.

I will be back soon with recipes, pictures and more...