Thursday, December 31, 2020

Salad Days: Radicchio Salad with Manchego and Pickled Onion Dressing


As of today, I am officially retired from Ford Motor Company after 31+ years with the company!  It's been a great run!   As a way to counteract my label as an old retiree, I am kicking off my "Salad Days" and am going to try to experiment with making as many salads as I can for a while.     First off is one I heard about first on Splendid Table.   It was a Radicchio salad with Manchego Vinaigrette from Toro Bravo.    Evidently, Toro Bravo was some kind of hipster Spanish restaurant in Portland which didn't survive the pandemic.    I gave it a shot, and came away with a couple modifications:

  • The recipe recommended soaking the radicchio in ice water to reduce it's bitterness.   I did it, and it didn't seemed to be too reduced.    I won't bother next time and besides, I like the bitterness
  • Also recommended was to soak onion and discard in the vinegar, I didn't find this all that necessary.   Next time, I will just make pickled onions in the dressing and add them to the salad
  • Typical for my taste, the recipe has way too much oil to vinegar ratio.    I suggest changing it to at least 50/50 for a better taste
  • Also, this salad needs a lot more salt than just a pinch.   Add more
  • I had some daikon radish sprouts and I thought they were a good addition
Mother's Kitchen Radicchio Salad with Manchego and Pickled Onion Dressing 

For the pickled onion dressing
1 red onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup good-quality sherry vinegar
2 heads radicchio, shredded
2 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

For the salad
2 heads radicchio, shredded
8 oz Manchego, finely grated
1 cup sprouts of your choice (I used daikon radish)

For the dressing:
Add all ingredients in a pint jar and shake.  Chill in fridge over night.

For the salad:
Mix cheese and radicchio in a big bowl, add pickled onions and dressing, toss to coat.   Top with some sprouts before serving.   But keep them separate and the salad itself will hold up for several days in the fridge because radicchio is very sturdy.   In fact, it's even better the next day!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


Back in the 1980s, pasta was really big!  I can remember buying a pasta maker from my friend Maria at work who actually got two for Christmas one year  to try to make it myself.    My old friend  and brilliant restaurant reviewer (who I have lost track of in recent times) Laura McReynolds captured the pasta craze perfectly of the time in a restaurant review of a famous Ann Arbor restaurant Pastabilities by describing it "For a while there, pasta was more than a food, it was practically a religion.  Blame it on the y-word, for over half a decade, yuspcale boomers seized on the propagated trend after embarrassing trend.  Power Breakfasts.  Yellow Ties.  A pasta machine in every condo and a Beemer in every garage".  Like many of us yuppies, after trying to make my own pasta a couple times, I realized how time consuming it was and just opted to buy it.  And Pastabilities, a cute little spot in Kerrytown  was there for us!  The brainchild of noted Ann Arborite Marguerite Bertoni Oliver, it was a huge local favorite and even got nationwide attention when it was voted "Best Pasta in America" by CNN.   I don't actually remember ever going to the restaurant, but I did buy the pasta at Merchant of Vino, a wine store we used to have on the east side of A2.   

I was reading the Ann Arbor Observer the other day and saw a small ad regarding a Pastabilities cookbook that had been published, and so I had to check it out.  Sure enough,  Marquerite's daughter Susan Marguerite Oliver (a noted chef in her own right, she was a private and charter chef aboard sail and motor yachts for over 25 years, cruising the US East Coast, Bahamas, Caribbean and Europe. )  has published a cookbook of Pastabililities favorites, plus some of her own specialties.     I love Ann Arbor cookbooks and this is one I need for my collection.   Check it out here!

We are at the lakehouse this week, and I thought I'd try my hand at one of the recipes featured in the book, but I had to make some UP modifications.   First of all, the only place I could find broccoli rabe up here is at the Keweenaw Coop, and it was a little cost prohibitive (over $6/lb) so I opted for using broccoli instead.    I also decided to use some upper peninsula style cudighi Italian sausage I picked up at Econofoods.  Here's the original recipe....and below is how I adapted it to our tastes (we like things spicy!)

Lakehouse Bowtie Pasta with Cudighi and Broccoli

1 12 oz box bowtie pasta
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 lb. cudighi (or  your favorite Italian sausage) 
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 orange bell pepper, also sliced thinly
8 oz sliced portobello mushrooms
3 garlic cloves minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes 
5 oz container shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, chopped

Prepare pasta according to package directions, except at the last 2 minutes of boiling, add broccoli to blanch it.   Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.    While pasta is cooking, brown sausage in a dutch oven and then add vegetables and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.    Add garlic, red pepper flakes, parm and basil leaves and reserved pasta water.   Heat gently until cheese is melted into a sauce with the pasta water.    Serves 4 hungry people!

The pasta fad faded, and after a while, we all started eating low carb and I have to admit I don't eat as much pasta as I used to back in those days.   But I find myself wanting to make it more often in things besides a red sauce.      I can't wait to get my copy of the cookbook to try out some more of these great recipes.    Looking through the old clippings of restaurant reviews, the desserts were highlights too and I am looking forward to trying them as well.   

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Peanut Brittle

We are moving to our lakehouse in the upper peninsula soon, so I am trying as best I can to use up whatever I have in the pantry.   I had a bag of kettle roasted salted peanuts and a jar of corn syrup. so I decided to make peanut brittle as part of my holiday baking.  Even though I am an accomplished candy maker, I don't think I have ever made peanut brittle before!  Doing some research, the recipes were all over the board.   I knew I wanted to use my instant read thermometer (a must for candy making).  I don't like to try guessing with "soft ball stage", etc.  I also wanted a recipe that used a lot of peanuts and corn syrup.   I couldn't find a recipe that had everything I was looking for, so I experimented.    

Here is what I came up with:

Peanut Brittle 

 2 cups granulated sugar
 1 cup water
 ½ cup light corn syrup
 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
 3 cups salted kettle roasted peanuts
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon water
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 200 F

Line2  rimmed baking sheets with  parchment paper that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray; place in oven to keep warm

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, 20 to 25 minutes until temp reaches 240F.  Make a mixture of vanilla, baking soda and water in a small bowl, set aside.  Stir in butter and peanuts. and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until temp reaches 300F.  

Remove pan from heat. Stir in vanilla mixture, it will foam up.   Stir until mixture is no longer bubbling and caramel is smooth, 1 minute.   Remove sheets from oven.

Pour half of the mixture into each of the sheets and quickly spread with a lightly greased spatula.  The thinner the better!   Let cool until firm, about 15 minutes. Break into pieces. The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.