red leaf lettuce salad with prosciutto and goat cheese spirals

Prosciutto & goat cheese spirals

I wasn’t going to serve a salad at Thanksgiving this year.  It’s unnecessary really, with the amount of food that gets served.  My husband would say that it just equals more plates to wash.    But there is a comfort level for me, of sitting down for a few minutes and gathering my thoughts before serving the whole meal.  This year was no different.  I was super organized given how late I shopped for everything.  Maybe it is because I have gotten more comfortable with hosting Thanksgiving over the years.  But inevitably, something goes awry, and this year it was my new oven.  At some point between heating up the cranberry sauce in the microwave (which doubles as a convection oven I have yet to use), and checking on the turkey in the regular oven, the display message on my oven panel decided to change.  It wanted to know what my probing temperature was.  The jokes ensued, but I wasn’t laughing.  We couldn’t shut it off or cancel out of it.  I mean really, now?  My husband and my sister were hovering over the panel, and if I kept hearing that damn beep one more time I was going to lose it.  It was like a button that said ‘press me‘ and that they did – over and over and over again.  So I tried the circuit breaker and shut the oven down, only to be faced with it remembering what it was doing prior to being shut down when I reset the circuit.  So I retreated to my office to look for the stupid user’s manual, but I couldn’t find anything on probing temperatures.  I went downstairs to find my husband and my sister now with their heads in the oven, cracking jokes about looking for probes and if the probe looked big enough….I think the exact term was “prob-y enough”…shoot me now.  I finally found one line in the manual – not on how to cancel out of this mess – but how to enter the non-existent probing temperature and hit bake, then off, and just like that, we were back to normal.  My side dishes then got to finish heating up, and so it was time to sit at the table.  I was so happy to just serve a nice salad that didn’t need to be heated or baked – just served.  And I had my two minutes of sanity back.

prosciutto and goat cheese spirals (adapted from Bon Appetit)

8  oz. plain goat cheese
2  TB, plus 1/2 cup hazelnut oil
1  tsp fresh rosemary, minced and divided
2  tsp freshly grated lemon peel, divided
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
red pepper flakes
10-12  imported prosciutto (aiming for nice 3 inch wide by 7 inches long slices), thinly sliced
1  cup stemmed baby spinach leaves
3  TB sherry wine vinegar
3  TB shallots, minced
1  tsp sugar
10  cups red leaf lettuce, coarsely chopped and cleaned


get started on the salad:

note:  I wash my chopped lettuce in the salad spinner and divide onto the 8 plates.  I have been serving the dressing at the table so people can decide how much or how little they want.  The original recipe calls for you tear the lettuce and dress the salad before serving.  Either way is fine.

Coarsely chop the lettuce and clean in a salad spinner or colander.  Dry on paper towels if needed.  Divide lettuce onto 8 plates.
In a medium bowl, stir together the goat cheese, 2 TB hazelnut oil, 1/2 tsp of rosemary and 1 tsp of lemon peel.  Season with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.


goat cheese mixture
Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter.  Place 1 slice of prosciutto in center of plastic wrap.  (If slices are torn or too thin, add a second slice to add stability to the roll – which is a good reason to get more prosciutto than you need).  Spread evenly, about 2 TB of goat cheese mixture over the prosciutto slice, covering as much as you can.  Add a single layer of stemmed baby spinach on top of the goat cheese mixture.  Place another slice of prosciutto on top of the layer of spinach.  Repeat the cheese and spinach and prosciutto layers twice more, ending with a prosciutto slice.  Starting at the long side, lift the plastic wrap up and over the layer to start rolling up jelly roll style.  This can be done with quarter turns.  Add a final slice of prosciutto, if needed, to cover the seam of exposed cheese and spinach.  Wrap up tightly in the plastic wrap.  Proceed with remaining prosciutto, cheese and spinach to make a second roll.  Chill until firm, about six hours.

layerswrapped roll

Whisk together the sherry vinegar, shallots, sugar and remaining rosemary, lemon peel and 1/2 cup hazelnut oil.  Season with salt and pepper.
Unwrap rolls and slice each of the rolls into twelve spirals, about 1/2 inch thick.  Place three rolls onto each of the eight plates of lettuce and serve with the dressing.


zucchini and summer squash salad

squash salad

Ah yes, there are those foods that garner immediate food porn photos, the dramatic drooling and the obvious filling of one’s plate.  Then there is squash salad.  Recently, when planning an informal dinner party at the house, I told my husband that I would be making a squash salad.  Talk about a lukewarm response, followed by “…and?”.  That made me really want to try this and see if it could pass the party test.  I had a similar recipe from Tyler Florence (not personally…though, that would be SWEET)  which sounds a bit fancier – Zucchini Carpaccio.  I never made it because of how it sounds – blah.  This recipe came from Cooking Light, and intrigued me a little more – probably because of the ricotta salata and prosciutto.  Needless to say, it was a hit, and as a bonus, it’s a fairly guilt-free food.  My husband gave me the nod to add it to my index of party foods.  The following weekend, I bought the ingredients to make it at a friend’s BBQ.  But there I was again, in the kitchen, and when asked what I was making, I hesitated since it doesn’t grab your attention like other party favorites.  I went with the very formal name of “shaved summer squash with prosciutto crisps”.  Call it whatever you want, the plate will be empty sooner than THEY thought.

summer squash

shaved summer squash salad (adapted from Cooking Light)

1  medium zucchini
2  medium yellow squash
pinch of kosher salt
cracked black pepper
2  TB thinly sliced basil or mint
2  TB extra virgin olive oil
1  tsp. grated lemon rind
2  tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3  slices prosciutto, chopped
1/3  cup crumbled ricotta salata or feta cheese

shaved summer squash

pile of squash

get started on the salad:

With a good vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini and squash into strips.  Discard the strips from the center that have a lot of seeds, if you wish (compost!).  Place zucchini and squash in a medium bowl and toss with salt and pepper.  Combine basil, olive oil, lemon rind and juice and stir with a whisk.  Pour over zucchini and squash and toss to coat.  Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add prosciutto and sauté for 2 minutes, or until crisp.  Place salad on a platter and top with crumbled ricotta salata and prosciutto crisps.  Add additional olive oil or lemon juice to your liking!

prosciuttocooked prosciutto

note:  this feeds about six as a family style appetizer.  As a salad, it would feed four people.

summer squash salad

lemon calamari salad

calamari salad

This was the first year that my kids both took interest in helping me in the kitchen for Thanksgiving.  I loved it.  There has been a tendency for me to write off any help because of my control issues.  My husband loves asking the rhetorical question – often asked during my 96 hour push to put out a Thanksgiving spread – “Honey, what do you need me to do?”, to which the usual answer is, “Nothing dear”, and so he gets to go about his business.  But when my kids each asked individually at various times during my 4 day meal prep if they could help, I paused and realized that this is what the joy of cooking is all about.  Ok, so my son needs a little work using the bench scraper and that there is an art to stirring while keeping the food in the bowl, but I’m sure that will improve with time.  I got yelled at when he caught me adding more olives to the dish, because scooping them up was apparently his job now.  I would love for my kids to be able to say when they are older that they loved to help their mother and father in the kitchen ever since they were seven.  And now they can.  I hope they keep loving it because I need to relinquish some control, or else I think that my husband will have me committed.  To sit at the Thanksgiving dinner table and in the middle of the 12 conversations going on at once, hear your son say “I made that salad….and (laughing slyly) I put too much salt in it too!”, was one of the proudest moments in my life.  Proud to know that we created a memory together.  Proud that he thought enough of the memory to share it.  Proud that the salad wasn’t too salty but letting him believe that it was and that it was ok.

lemon calamari salad  (inspired by Gourmet Magazine)

2  lbs cleaned calamari tubes (if you like the tentacles go for it)
1/2  medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3/4  cup kalamata olives, sliced
4  stalks celery, thinly sliced (leaves too)
1/2  large red pepper, diced
2  small tomatoes, halved, seeded, diced
1/2  fennel bulb, thinly sliced (fronds too)
1/3  cup parsley, chopped
3  lemons, juiced
salt and pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper
extra virgin olive oil

kalamata olives

get started on the calamari salad:

Get a bowl and fill with cold water and ice and set aside.  Start a pot of salted boiling water.  Slice the calamari in 1/4″ slices.  Add calamari to the boiling water and don’t go anywhere.  In 45 seconds to 1 minute they will be opaque and done.  They should be tender, not rubber.  Taste a larger calamari at 45 seconds and determine if you should keep them on the heat for a few more seconds.  You will be inclined to let them keep cooking because you might think 1 minute isn’t enough time, but it is.  Drain in a colander and transfer to the ice bath immediately.  Let cool.  Drain cooked calamari on some paper towels.  Add the next 8 ingredients and mix together.  Add in the calamari and stir to combine.  Drizzle about 1/4 cup olive oil and stir to coat.  Taste salad to see if additional lemon or seasoning is needed.  Keep chilled until served.

fronds on salad

note:  I don’t stress too much about seeding tomatoes, but the easiest way I know is to slice them through the middle – not through the stem end – and with one hand, fit my fingers right into the chambers while slightly squeezing the tomato with the other hand and shaking the seeds out.  Also, this is enough for an army.  You can easily halve this and you will have plenty for 6-8 servings.