all-natural

Balsamic Pear & Fennel Salad

For the new year I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to shop more locally for my groceries, especially since I am less than 5 minutes from one of the best markets in Florence. During my holiday break, I was lucky enough to travel throughout Northern Italy with my parents, and eat many seasonal and locally sourced dishes that I wouldn’t normally be able to afford on my college student, study-abroad budget. Through this I was able to taste a lot of salads composed of ingredients that the Westerner in me wouldn’t recognize as components of your typical salad. There was a lot of cured meats, or salumi, wafer thing slices, not chunks, of pecorino and gruyere, and fresh, vibrant seasonal fruits. Oddly enough there were very minimal greens or other “salad staples” in these salads. Nonetheless, they were all so delicious and bursting with flavor that I was inspired to create an artisanal salad of my own!

I perused the San Lorenzo food market for a couple of days, and researched the winter produce of Northern Italy. Finally, I settled on a salad of balsamic glazed pears, sautéed fennel, and soft pecorino. Although you may read this and think “What a wimpy salad!” These 3 ingredients are so packed with flavor and pair oh so well together. In fact, this dish is the perfect example of decadent simplicity. IMG_4735 Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized pear
  • 1 fennel, sliced
  • 100-200 grams soft pecorino
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to season

If you’re making this salad as the main course, these ingredients yield about 2 servings. However, if you’re making it as a starter, you should be able to get about 3-5 servings.

Before you begin crafting this beautifully tasty dish, I suggest prepping all of your ingredients. This means thinly slicing the pears, and breaking down the fennel. Now, I have never cooked with fennel before, so preparing this foreign root vegetable took a bit of research and evaluation. I’m going to save you my butchered description of how to prep fennel, and provide you with this handy, dandy link that helped me! Feel free to shave off some pecorino now, or while the other ingredients are cooking. It’s really never a bad thing to be prepared, and be able to focus on whats in the pan!

Start by warming a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, and add about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Add your fennel, salt and pepper to taste, and lightly sauté for no more than 3 minutes, tops. Then, in a medium-sized sauté pan add the pears, spreading them out so there is little over lapping, and cover with 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Let this cook on medium-low heat, until the pears start to become translucent, and all the balsamic has reduced. You may need to add more balsamic during the cooking process if it cooks off too quickly, or hasn’t glazed the pears to your liking.

The cooking is done. Now it’s time to plate! There are so few ingredients in this dish, so I really wanted to put forth the extra effort in presentation. I placed the sautéed fennel on a bed on spinach, evenly dispersed the shavings of pecorino, and topped it off with the warm, balsamic pears and a dash of salt. I also added a little aesthetic touch with some fennels sprigs. Then, let it sit for a moment to allow the cheese to melt in between the warm layers of fennel and pear. IMG_4738 Pause for a second, step back, and appreciate this gorgeous dish you just created. This salad deserves to be eaten slowly, to truly appreciate the sweetness of the balsamic marrying with the bitterness of the fennel , and the juxtaposition of crunchy vegetables and soft, gooey cheese. Savor and enjoy!

Advertisements

Sriracha Lime Kale Chips

I have been pretty skeptical of all the pre-packaged and mass produced kale chips I have seen on the market lately, and I was totally aware of how easy they are to make from scratch, but like Pinterest Fails have proven to be true, it’s not always as easy as it looks. However, I was proved wrong when I tried out a simple spicy kale chip recipe myself a couple of weeks ago. My goal was to keep the kale pretty pure, to not lose its healthiness, but I still wanted some flavors to distract from the its bitter nature. I landed on using Sriracha and some kind of citrus as my focal flavors, and found an awesome recipe online that combined those things and more!

1403553834.759001.IMG_3212

Oven: Bake & pre-heat to 350 degrees

This recipe is very simple and takes about 30 minutes max, from start to finish. I recommend getting the fluffiest and leafiest kale you can find because the chips do shrink up quite a bit in the oven, and if you put multiple trays in at a time, keep an eye on the bottom one because it tends to cook at least 2 minutes quicker than the top! Now, down to the dressing. This delicious concoction is made up of Sriracha sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, and olive oil (measurements below)

1 Tbl Sriracha

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1 Tsp soy sauce

1 Tsp fish sauce

2 Tbl olive oil
1403553836.421061.IMG_3220

Pour the dressing over a bowl of  chip-sized kale leaves, and with clean hands (or not, totally up to you!) massage the dressing all up and into the nooks and crannies of the kale. Give it a good rub down! Then, once the leaves are fully coated lay them out on greased cookie sheets. Make sure the leaves don’t overlap and that they’re laying as flat as possible, so the chips can really crisp up.

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes, but keep an eye on ’em because they can burn pretty fast!
1403556020.783851.IMG_3221

Once the chips are all nice and crispy take the trays out of the oven and put them directly onto a paper towel covered plate or metal rack to 1) stop them from cooking anymore and 2) to soak up any extra oils, although the majority should be cooked off. The chips will be very delicate, but that’s part of their natural charm and aesthetic, so if you feel so inclined to pat them dry just be careful not to break them. Within 5 minutes they should be all set to toss into a bowl for snacking!

I like to sprinkle mine with some  garlic salt for a little extra kick, but regular salt and even as is, is just as delicious! Fair warning, these babies do have a little kick, so if you’re not a huge fan of the spicy spice I’d recommend cutting the Sriracha down to 1/2 Tbl because it still does provide some yummy flavor along with the spice!

1403556022.575183.IMG_3222

Luca & Bosco

Luca & Bosco is a local creamery pumping out ice cream flavors, sauces, and toppings that will make you reevaluate your entire outlook on the life! (Okay, well maybe not life, but definitely frozen flavor combinations) Sold in the Essex Street Market, this delicious gold mind is the workings of  Catherine Oddenino and Ruthie Vishlitzky and is made with all-nautral ingredients, organic whenever possible. Although Luca & Bosco is a small start-up, their flavors are anything but small. With exquisitely unique flavors like milky tea, goat cheese, and their superstar Drunk & Salty is impossible to pass by their cart without at least asking for a sample. They’ve also got some killer sauces which include Butterscotch Diablo, Cilantro Syrup, and the Drunk & Salty Caramel (match back to the ice cream flavor).

photo

Goat cheese ice cream w/ balsamic reduction

When I paid them a visit I was greeted by who I could imagine to be either Catherine or Ruthie, all smiles and willing to answer any questions. I sampled the Drunk & Salty and Goat Cheese. While the D&S was everything I could have wanted from a sweet and salty ice cream, the goat cheese had a unique and enticing, creamy, tangy flavor. The lovely lady behind the counter suggested I pair it with the balsamic reduction syrup, and I’m glad she did because it was fabulous! Even with my notoriously ginormous sweet tooth I was pleasantly satisfied with this tangy, savory treat!

Luca & Bosco is open Wednesday-Sunday to make all your artisanal ice cream dreams come true. You should also follow them on Instagram to get the inside scoop (sorry guys, couldn’t resist) on their newest creations!