Friday, July 23, 2010

Arugula Salad and Roasted Potatoes--Simple Beginnings

It may seem odd to propagate such an ordinary food as potatoes and salad on a culinary blog that aspires to be sophisticated. But those who just start their culinary adventure may need to be made aware of such simple dishes. If done properly, they can enhance any dinner. They are perfect for a vegetarian palate but will also bring out the taste of any meat dishes

To start with, just a green salad. Arugula is my favorite: rich in iron and a with a characteristic peppery, strong flavor.

This salad can be eaten just with bread and prosciutto or served with dinner: at the beginning--the German way, as an accompaniment--the way we do it in Poland, or afterward--as it is done in France.

I have read and tried many methods of preparing arugula. In my view, any dressing with mustard kills the subtlety of its taste. And although the Italians serve arugula with balsamic vinegar, I prefer to use lemon juice instead. Walnut oil is the other important ingredient I use to bring out all its valor.

I also tried replacing walnut oil with hazelnut oil. Since it is less aromatic I topped it up with split roasted hazelnuts.

Please try it, both versions. I hope you like at least one and if anyone knows better way of serving it, please share it here.

Arugula Salad

1 pack (about 4 oz) of arugula, preferably wild,
1/2 lemon,
3-5 tbsp of walnut oil; the best is from roasted nuts,
2 tbsp or shredded Parmesan cheese,
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste,
2 tbsp of roasted almonds or pine nuts.

1. Place arugula in a salad bowl.
2. Squeeze lemon juice into a small bowl, add salt and pepper and walnut oil.
3. Blend them together with a fork or a small whisker.
4. Pour dressing over arugula, mix gently.
5. Using a vegetable peeler shred a little bit of Parmesan cheese on the salad and top with roasted almonds or pine nuts.
6. Serve immediately or salad will darken as the leaves will absorb the oil.

Roasted Potatoes

There is nothing simpler than baking potatoes, but to make them really soft and still looking appetizing may be a challenge. I heard about a method of soaking potatoes in water before baking, but doing this for longer than 15 minutes washes out important minerals, like potassium, from them.

Not to talk for too long about such a simple subject, here is method that always works. I try to use baby or finger potatoes, which look nicest. For more bland dishes I bake them with garlic cloves and rosemary, for more spicy ones just in oil and salt. I believe that the pictures of what comes out from my oven can speak for themselves.

1 lb baby potatoes,
8-12 garlic cloves, depending on taste,
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil,
1 tsp of sea salt,
1 branch of rosemary or 1 tsp dried.

1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Wash and dry the potatoes, cut them in halves.
3. Place potatoes in the oven-proof dish, sprinkle with oil, salt, and rosemary.
4. Using hands toss the potatoes to make sure that they are evenly covered with oil.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes (until gold and soft); turn them over at least once to prevent burning.

Chilled Lemon Possets--Three-Ingredients Refreshing Dessert

Summer encourages social events. Kids are out of school. They do not need to be in bed early. There is no need to rush in the morning. There are no after school activities. There is no after work traffic surge. It is a good time, although the weather is exceptionally hot this summer, for a no hassle deck barbecue. Perfect time for casual meetings with friends. Fresh vegetables are at their perfect peak arvest taste which comes out best in simple dishes. All you need is grilled meat, cold salad, a glass of beer or chilled Prosecco and a simple dessert. It is all about spending time with friends at a leisurely conversation.

In that relaxed mood I think about one of the simplest and surprising desserts from my recipe book. It is of English origin. Unfortunately, I have it in a hand-written copy and cannot give an exact source.

It is easy and perfect for such a laid back event. It requires three basic ingredients, which blend nicely into a surprisingly delicious dessert. It can, or rather should, be made a day ahead.

Judge for yourself.

Chilled Lemon Possets

2 lemons,
3 cups extra heavy cream,
11/4 cup sugar.

1. Stir together cream and sugar and bring it to a boil.
2. Boil for 3 minutes carefully as it may spill; stir continuously.
3. Take off the burner and pour in all the lemon juice.
4. Stir again.
4. Cool down the mixture.
5. Stir one more time and finally divide between 6 to 8 small ramekins; this desert is very sweet and tart at the same time so even a small amount can be satisfying.
6. Chill in a refrigerator for a minimum 4 hours, preferably over night.
7. Before serving decorate with grated lemon peel and biscuits.