Tale of Two Salads

If all you are required to bring to your hosts’ house for Thanksgiving this year is a salad to add to the menu, consider preparing one of these beautiful versions that celebrate the most amazing flavors fall has to offer.

One serves as a hearty first-course salad; the other a nice palate-cleanser.

Remember this great vinaigrette video?  It certainly comes in handy for these salads!

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Spinach with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Serves 4 to 6

4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon stone-ground mustard

¼ teaspoon minced shallot

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar

¼ teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Granny Smith Apple, diced

1 cup walnut halves, toasted

¼ cup dried cranberries

4 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and spun dry

¼ cup crumbled bleu cheese

Cook the bacon:  In a medium skillet over medium flame, cook the bacon until crispy.  Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.

Make the vinaigrette:  Pour as much of the bacon grease into a clean glass measuring cup and add additional olive oil to make up ¾ cup.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, shallot, vinegar and thyme.  Add a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour the oil mixture in a thin, steady stream as you whisk the vinegar mixture together.  Alternatively, you can add all of the ingredients into a jar and shake vigorously.

Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, toss together the bacon, diced apple, walnuts, dried cranberries and spinach with a drizzle of the vinaigrette. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Divide the salad evenly among the serving plates and top with the bleu cheese.

Frisee with Orange and Pomegranate and Hazelnut Vinaigrette

Serves 4 to 6

¼ cup sherry vinegar

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon minced shallot

¼ teaspoon minced thyme leaves

Kosher salt and freshy ground black pepper

½ cup hazelnut oil

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 head frisee lettuce, trimmed

2 navel oranges, segmented

½ cup pomegranate seeds

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

Make the vinaigrette:  In a mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard, shallot, thyme and salt and pepper.  Mix together until smooth.  In a slow, steady stream, pour in the oils while whisking constantly until the vinaigrette is thickened.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the frisee, orange segments and half the pomegranate seeds.  Toss with ¼ cup of the dressing and salt and pepper.  Evenly divide the salad among the serving plates and top with the remaining pomegranate seeds and the hazelnuts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Cranberry Sauce, DearMartini-style

I know we’ve all got meaningful traditions that honestly make it THANKSGIVING for us.  If it’s not prepared a certain way, served in a specific dish, or if a recipe isn’t made, then to quote my friend Glenn, “Thanksgiving is RUINED.”  Yes, we are all set in our ways.  When we were kids, my cousin, Rita had this amazing ability to get the cranberry jelly out of the can and onto a serving plate so that the jelly retained the perfect shape of the can, ridges and all, with no marks whatsoever.  To this day, I still have no idea how she got it out so perfectly.

In our house, it’s not Thanksgiving without my mom’s chestnut stuffing.  For Rita, it’s not Thanksgiving without that perfectly-shaped can of cranberry jelly.  And for my husband’s family, it’s not Thanksgiving without Nonna’s handmade gnocchi.

We’d like to inspire you to make a NEW Thanksgiving tradition this time; by making a fresh cranberry sauce to serve alongside your feast.  It’s so easy to make an SO MUCH HEALTHIER for you than the store-bought stuff.  For those die-hards, serve this next to the canned stuff and see which one wins out (we’ve got our money on this one).

* Be sure to click on the blue links to see all the helpful videos we’ve prepared to guide you along!  Subscribe  to our YouTube Channel for more bite-sized technique videos!

Cranberry Sauce, DearMartini-style

Makes 2 cups

Cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving should be the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  We use dark brown sugar for a deeper sweetness, and orange juice to round out the sharpness of the berries.  Our secret ingredient:  crystallized ginger.  The ginger brings depth and a surprise of heat at the end.

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries, washed and picked through
Zest of 1 orange
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Stir together cranberries, orange zest, juice, sugar, and salt and pepper in a saucepan.  Simmer the mixture stirring occasionally over medium heat until the cranberries start to pop.  Remove from heat and stir in the ginger.

Cool sauce and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Note:  Sauce can be prepared up to a week before Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

GAME OF SCONES

When I take an interest in something, I get obsessed with it. In this case, it was finding the recipe for The Perfect Scone. For nearly 2 months, I made a batch of scones every single day. I tried every method out there to achieve the butteriest (yes, that’s a word), flakiest, most tender melt-in-your-mouth scones ever produced on the planet.

I learned the hard way that nothing can be perfect (though our Italian Meringue Buttercream gets pretty close but that’s another blog post, of course). What I’ve developed instead, over the years of trial and error in search for the perfect scone recipe is more a fool-proof method for achieving the best results possible. To be honest, food science plays a big part. Just understand the principles of heat (and cold) management, how butter behaves, what steam brings to the party and how the slightest hint of gluten formation can wreck the tender texture of the scone.

Follow my simple rules and you can’t go wrong. I promise. It doesn’t matter which recipe you use. Just change the method to follow these principles.

Chef Terri’s Principles for the Best Possible Scones:

1) Keep your ingredients, especially the butter, as cold as possible. This is counter-intuitive, I know, when all you’ve heard all your baking life is how all ingredients must be at room temperature for good baking results. Chilled butter, not softened, is best for scones.

2) Mix your scone dough by hand with a wooden spoon instead of using a mixer. A mixer can over-mix your dough and develop that evil gluten. OK, a food processor might work well to cut the butter, but mix the wet ingredients in by hand, please.

3) Soak your dried fruit (such as raisins, cranberries, cherries or blueberries) in hot water for a few minutes. Drain them just before you add them to the dough. The dried fruits will soak up any moisture they can, robbing your scone of its precious steam during the baking process. Alternatively, the heat of the oven could dry out the fruit even more — producing hard pellets, not soft, luscious flavorful fruit.

4) Don’t use a rolling pin. There is no knead for it. ;) Instead, gently use your palms to flatten the dough into one even layer. Lift up and fold it in half, then give it a quarter-turn and pat down again to flatten. Do this 4-6 more times. Your hard work will be rewarded. Our patting-folding-turning method is great to achieve multiple layers of butter and dough with very little toughness, rewarding you later with tender flakes when it’s baked.

5) Chill your dough between every stage — even before sliding the prepared scones in the oven. In fact, the best scones I ever made were frozen before they hit the hot oven. Remember, if the dough (and consequently, the butter) is warm and soft before it goes into the oven, the butter will melt quickly and not have a chance to leave behind the flaky layers we so desperately desire. If ever you feel as if your ingredients are getting warm at any time during the scone-making process, just return everything to the fridge for a few minutes to firm up the butter. You’ll be glad you did.

Remember, when working with our recipes on the blog, simply hit the blue hyperlinks to see the technique video associated with the recipe. It’s our way of guiding you through the recipe. Alternatively, you can view our Vimeo Portfolio, where all of the scone-related videos are bundled: http://vimeopro.com/dearmartini/scones

Cranberry-Orange Scones (Makes 24 scones)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 cups plus ¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Zest of one orange

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup cold heavy cream

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (or regular sugar) (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Soak the cranberries hot water for 10 minutes, or at least as long as it takes to prepare the rest of the recipe. Drain and set aside.

Cut up the butter sticks and keep in the freezer until you are ready to use them. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest with a wooden spoon.

Add the butter. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or by rubbing the butter and flour together between your fingers. Do this very quickly and randomly. You should still have lumps of butter varying from small (pea-sized) to large (blueberry sized). Do not let the butter get soft. If it does, return the bowl to the fridge for a few minutes.

Combine the eggs and heavy cream together and add to the flour mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy, lumpy mass. It’s ok that it’s not smooth or uniformly mixed in. It’s ok to see random lumps of butter still not mixed in. Drain the cranberries and add them and the remaining cup of flour to the dough. Mix gently until the cranberries are distributed evenly in the dough.

Transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface and gently, with floured hands, pat it down into a rough rectangle shape about 1-inch thick. Use a spatula and pick up one end of the dough and fold it over in half. Pick up the entire dough piece and turn it 45-degrees. Flour your hands and pat it down into another rectangle. Pick up one end and fold it over, then pick up the entire dough piece and turn it 45-degrees again. Repeat this patting, folding, turning method 4 more times. Keep flour dusted underneath the dough as you turn it.

For the last pat-down, make sure the rectangle is about 10-12 inches long and 6 inches wide. Use a sharp knife and cut three strips of dough, each strip being about 2 inches wide and 10- 12 inches long. Cut each strip into 8 triangular pieces and lay each piece on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil. You can fit 12 pieces on one tray, and prepare another tray for the remaining 12. Refrigerate the scones for about 30 minutes to firm up the butter.

Just before baking, lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the scones and sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool.

ZEST FOR LIFE


It’s a fragrance that easily transports me… The heady aroma of lemon oil hits my nose.  I’m spiraling into a special place…  It’s the zest.  Lemon zest, to be exact, though pretty much the oils from any citrus peel will do it for me. RuBo tweets daily about the effects (benefits) of smoking tangerine zest*.

So, what is zest, anyway?  Is it an ingredient?  Is it a technique?  Is it a utensil? Here’s our first-ever compilation video treating the concept of zest.  Enjoy!

Don’t try this at home.

I used to hate to zest.  Now I live for it.

In the old days, zesting meant having to drag out that dented, rusty old box grater, dread mounting in my heart as I knew I’d also be skinning my knuckles, trying to get the treasured citrus peel off the fruit for my recipe.  Oh yes, picking out the zest from the clogged grater holes with the tip of my knife…  knowing I look like a complete idiot when I do that…  right, and then there’s that well-meaning-yet-equally-useless kitchen tip that suggests you cover the grater with a layer of parchment paper (or even more horrifically, plastic wrap) so you can “lift” up the zest from the grater … and presumably some bits of paper (or plastic) along with it.  No thanks.

But times are better now.  Now, peeling/zesting oranges (lemons, limes, tangerines… etc) is a snap.  Just make sure you’re using the right tool for the job/type of zest you need.

Why not try some for yourself?  I’ve included two of my favorite recipes.

Orange-Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies (makes about 36 cookies, depending on the size)

2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

zest of 1 orange (microplaned or minced)

3 ¼ cups all purpose flour

2-3 cookie sheets covered with parchment or foil

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 5 – 10 minutes or until the mixture is light and soft and fluffy.  Add the cinnamon and orange zest and beat for 2 minutes more to incorporate.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the flour by hand with a rubber spatula.  The dough will be soft.

Place a handful of the dough at a time on a lightly floured work surface.  Use a floured hand to press out the dough until it is about 3/8-inch thick – don’t make the dough too thin.  Cut out the shortbreads and place them on the prepared pans about 1 ½ inches apart.  They don’t spread, but they will puff up a bit during baking.

Continue until all of the dough has been rolled out and cut – you can press the scraps together and roll it out as well until all of the dough is used up.

Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes making sure they are just a very pale golden color.  Slide the parchment onto cooling racks.

Wild rice salad (serves 6-8)

1 cup wild rice

1/2 small red onion, small diced

1 stalk celery, small diced

1 small carrot, peeled and small diced

2 tablespoons julienned orange peel

½ cup dried cranberries (optional)

½ cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rinse wild rice in a sieve under cold water, then combine with cold water to cover by 2 inches in a 5-quart pot. Simmer, covered, until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Wild rice is done when all of the seeds have split open.

Rinse the cooked wild rice in a sieve under cold water and drain. Stir together rice, onion, celery, carrot, orange zest, cranberries and pecans.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a small jar, combine the garlic, vinegar, and olive oil and shake to emulsify.    Toss dressing with rice mixture and fresh parsley.  Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature.

Salad can be kept for 3 days, covered and refrigerated.

*Ruth Bourdain is a fictitious character celebritweet with an equally fictitious penchant for deep, dark vices.  Do not smoke tangerine zest. In fact, don’t smoke anything; unless it’s using one of these.