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In Season Salad

So apparently THE Ina Garten was in DC this week. I must have missed her invite for lunch this week 😀 hahaha. One can dream. I’m not sure what she was up to as she used to live in the area before she bought the Barefoot Contessa, so maybe she was visiting for old times’ sake or maybe she was here for her show. DC could be on the map on her next season of Barefoot Contessa! That’s exciting!  DC is really becoming a foodie paradise and is very up-and-coming with new restaurants, stores and bars popping up all over the place. One thing I love about DC is the weekly Farmer’s Market that they hold at City Center every Tuesday. This allows me to get out and see what seasonal items are available from local stores and farms mid-week so that I can pick up something to make versus having to plan it on the weekend.

All the pears

All the pears

Today I stopped by at lunch and noticed tons of pears. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it is also mentioned in Back to Basics and is stated by Ina many, many times in her shows. In season fruits and veggies are always the best. Sure you can get them from a store any time of year and they are good, but they are REALLY good when they are from a local farm when the season is ripe. When I saw this plethora of semi-ripe pears available, I knew that I’d have to find a recipe to utilize them. Luckily, in Back to Basics, Ina included a recipe that takes a simple pear and turns it over the top into a simple, arguably elegant and extremely delicious lunch or dinner.

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I feel like pear, blue cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberry salads are a staple at many restaurants. In fact, I feel like it is a very British thing – possibly because of the blue cheese? Don’t get me wrong, the flavors are delicious, but this is not your typical salad. The pears are halved and hulled and filled with a mixture of dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese. When I was shopping around for blue cheese, I spotted some Roquefort from France at the store and though I’ve never had it, I knew I had to try it. It’s definitely better than any other blue cheese I’ve had. It still had the signature pungency that is well known throughout the blue cheese family. However this had a more fresh and sharp flavor, similar to cheddar to me. Note: If you can’t stand blue cheese, you could easily sub it out for some diced sharp white cheddar cheese. It’s more to balance out the sweet from the pear and cranberries.

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Once filled, the pears are basted with a syrup made of apple cider, port and brown sugar. I’m using a port that I got from a local Virginia Winery, Barrel Oak. This port is aged in whiskey barrels so it has an extra depth of flavor. Also, if you’re wondering how to open a wine bottle with a wax coating, it’s extremely simple. Just open it like you would a normal wine bottle and the cork will pop right through the wax coating. It does make a little bit of a mess though.

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While baking, I basted the pears with the liquid a few times to make sure they absorbed all the delicious flavor from the port and apple cider. Once finished and cooled, don’t throw away that basting syrup in the bottom of the pan. It gets used for the dressing of the salad, which is just some simple arugula. This is probably my favorite part of the salad. A mixture of the port basting liquid, lemon juice and olive oil with some salt and pepper is FANTASTIC on basically any salad. In fact, I used it all week for lunches at work.

I highly recommend this salad and play around with the ingredients. You could use apples instead of pears, any kind of dried fruit for the cranberries, cheddar or even gouda for the blue cheese, and if you don’t have port or wish to not use it, use all apple cider. I think that food and recipes should be easy and stress-free and I certainly don’t believe in making a special trip to a wine store to get a whole bottle of port if you know that you’ll never use it again. Cook to taste and personal preference and don’t be afraid to deviate from the recipes a little.

I hope you all enjoy and have a great week!

Print Recipe
Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese
From Back to Basics, by Ina Garten, page 96
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel the pears (or not if you wish to leave the skins on like I did) and slice them lengthwise into halves. With a small knife or melon baller, remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling. Trim a small slice away from the founded sides of each pear half so that they will sit in the baking dish without wobbling. Toss the pears with some lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Arrange them, well side up, in a baking dish.
  3. Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts together in a small bowl. Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it in the well.
  4. In the same bowl, combine the apple cider, port, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over and around the pears. Bake, basting occasionally with the cider mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Set aside for about 30 minutes until warm or room temp.
  5. Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the basting liquid into a bowl with some salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the arugula and divide among 6 plates and top each with a pear half. Drizzle each pear with some of the basting liquid and serve.
Recipe Notes

You can honestly swap out the cheese in this recipe with some sharp cheddar or leave it out. I also tried this recipe with some apples instead of pears and it works perfectly!

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Grilled Swordfish – A First

Hey there – hope you’re having a great week! 😀 I know I’m glad the weekend is almost here and things seem to be cooling down a little outside – Fall is in the air. So…I’ve been keeping this recipe in my back pocket. When I first read through the Back to Basics cookbook, the Indonesian Grilled Swordfish recipe really stuck out to me. One reason was because I was thinking that this was supposed to be a book about basics. Swordfish isn’t all that common and I was wondering what Ina Garten was thinking. Maybe in the Hamptons it is easy to obtain, but in most local grocery stores, it is a rare find. The other reason I was intrigued is because I’ve never had swordfish before. Never made it myself, never had it at a restaurant so I wasn’t sure if I’d like it or not. I was actually kind of worried because I didn’t know if I could even find swordfish, much less enjoy it. Then, a miracle happened. I was meandering around the local Whole Foods last weekend and they had a tasting table set up near the seafood section. Lo and behold, they were cooking fresh swordfish. They weren’t putting any kind of seasoning on it and were grilling it in a grill pan so it was a great opportunity to taste the raw flavor of the fish. I tried a bite and it was delish. It tasted like crab of all things and shellfish is my game. Elated, I immediately planned to make this recipe that week since I could buy the fish fresh from them. So I bought all the ingredients for the marinade and to make a salad to go with. I held off on getting the fish because I wanted to get it fresh that day.

Then the day rolls around I plan on making the swordfish. I walk down to Whole Foods, stroll back to the seafood section…no swordfish that day. Apparently (and understandably) they get it fresh daily and that means some days, it isn’t available to them. However – they do sell swordfish frozen which was like $20 for 6 steaks. Ultimately I caved and just decided that frozen was good enough. Basically this recipe is one where you’d go to a market and see what is fresh that day, buy the ingredients and make it that day. Or you can take the route I did and use frozen – it was just as good as the fresh kind I tasted.

A parade of tomatoes around a perfectly grilled piece of swordfish

A parade of tomatoes around a perfectly grilled piece of swordfish

The marinade is very delicious; the fresh ginger and lemon are key. They compliment each other very well and really permeate the meat. Instead of mincing the ginger like Ina recommends, I used a fine grater and grated it into a paste. Also – I added one of my favorite Asian ingredients – toasted sesame oil. This is the oil that is pressed out of sesame seeds that have been toasted. It basically tastes like toasted almonds and a little goes a LONG way so just about a teaspoon will do. If you’re not into fish (even though I recommend that you try it), this marinade would go great with chicken or pork.  I served this on top of a simple salad of arugula and chopped kale with some heirloom tomatoes. The vinaigrette was lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper – very easy and light.

Dining al fresco

Dining al fresco

The Winc wine choice to go with this meal was Akoya Viognier from the Central Coast of California.

Akoya Vigoner

Vigonier is similar to Sauvignon Blanc and this one is lightly aromatic, has some fruit flavors on the palate (I tasted mostly lemon and grapefruit) and a lot of crispness/acidity which goes really well with the umami flavor the marinade gives the swordfish.  I know I say this a lot – but if you want to try Winc wine (and if you enjoy wine you totally should give it a go) – use this link to get a discount on your first order: https://www.clubw.com/2lhy61q4ll7. Don’t like it? They have a satisfaction guarantee! I have liked all the wines I have received from them and I love the variety they have as well.

I love the sky's reflection on the table!

I love the sky’s reflection on the table!

Have a good weekend y’all! Grazie!

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Print Recipe
B2B# 10: Indonesian Grilled Swordfish
Asian inspired marinade that can be used for chicken or pork, but is fantastic on swordfish. From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 135.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 4.25 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 4.25 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine the soy sauce, canola oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, mustard and sesame oil (if using) in a bowl. Place the swordfish steaks in a large resealable zip-top bag and pour the marinade over ensuring to get the marinade equally distributed. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Fire up the grill (either charcoal or gas). Before placing the swordfish on the grill, dip a paper towel into a little bit of canola oil and brush it over the grates with tongs to prevent the swordfish from sticking. Remove the fish from the marinade and sprinkle with kosher salt and place on the grill. Cook for 5 minutes on each side, just until it is no longer pink on the inside. Place on a platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or hot.
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