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

ingredients

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.

rosemary

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

cucumber, mustard and dill salad


Thanksgiving 2012 came and went.  It amazes me how quickly the meal can be eaten.  All the time spent preparing for the big day – one day devoted to what recipes to try, and what ones to remove from the menu because they weren’t a hit.  One day pulling together the shopping list, dividing perishables from non-perishables for easier navigation through the mayhem that is the grocery store.  And four days of shopping and cooking as if all of New Jersey was coming to my house for dinner.  I have hosted for the past 10 years, ever since my fist child was born, bringing both sides of the family to my house.  Over the years I have tried three different turkey stuffings trying to find my own, broken potato ricers, forgotten pre-prepared dishes in the garage fridge and learned to brine a turkey.  It’s always an adventure hosting a crowd ranging from 10-15 every year but I thrive on it.  This dish is an ode to my dad’s mother who made this with cucumbers, onions and vinegar.  My mom took to making that dish herself and I continue to make that version as well.  This one is a little more dressed up I like to think, and it kicks off my Thanksgiving meal prep.  Plus it gives me an excuse to buy dill which I never do any other time of the year.  I feel a sense of accomplishment getting this one easy dish out of the way, before tackling the rest of the groceries….way too many groceries…just look at all of them.  I need a drink.

cucumber, mustard and dill salad (adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

4  tsp white wine vinegar
2  tsp Dijon mustard
1/2  tsp salt, or to taste
1  tsp sugar
2  TB olive oil
1  large seedless cucumber (usually comes plastic wrapped), peeled, halved and seeded
2  TB fresh dill, chopped

get started on the cucumber salad:

Peel cucumber and halve lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scrape down the center to remove the seeds.  Using a mandolin (or sliced manually), slice cucumbers in 3/16″ thick slices.  Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt and sugar in a bowl, and then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined.  Add cucumbers to the vinaigrette, tossing to coat.

note:  I felt 1/8″ slices were too thin and 1/4″ slices were too chunky, hence the kooky 3/16″ thickness….go with what you like.  Oh and adding crushed red pepper is always welcome!