Friday, May 27, 2011

Frisee Salad with Poached Eggs and Bacon

I'm going to deviate from the light/healthy/summer dishes I promised you for a quick minute.  John and I celebrated our 4th Anniversary last weekend and we toasted the occasion with our favorite bottle of champagne.  French champagne of course goes perfectly with classic French bistro fare so I decided to recreate one of our favorite bistro dishes, a frisee salad tossed with an sherry orange vinaigrette, some toasted hazelnuts and topped with some crunchy bacon and a perfectly poached egg.

For 2 generous starter-size portions, you'll need:

2 super fresh eggs, poached
4-6 cups of frisee or a blend of baby greens and frisee
3 slices of thick, center cut bacon, sliced into half inch pieces
2 tablespoons of hazelnuts, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted
4-6 tablespoons of your favorite vinaigrette or see the recipe below

If you're thinking about closing your browser because you're afraid of egg poaching, I ask you to hear me out.  I've only poached eggs 3 or 4 times in my life up until now however I happened upon a simple, fool proof method (you can read about here) that will make these a regular item on the Lacy kitchen menu.

The eggs can be poached earlier in the day or just before serving- either way its best to let them cool on a papertowel lined plate for at least 20 minutes in the fridge.

The vinaigrette can also be made in advance:

1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of honey
2 teaspoons of minced shallot
3 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a glass measuring cup.  Whisk well with a fork until emulsified (the oil and vinegar no longer separate.)

Fry the bacon in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil until perfectly crispy and brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a papertowel.

Toss the greens with the vinaigrette in a bowl before plating.  Sprinkle with the hazelnuts and bacon and then top with the poached egg.

The subtle orange flavor of the vinaigrette works very well with the toasted hazelnuts and the runny yolk of the egg creates a silky sauce that begs for a crusty piece of french bread for dipping.

As simple as it is to prepare, it would make for a great lunch or a quick weeknight dinner, but as we'll attest, it also stands up to a great bottle of champagne on a special occasion as well.  There is something about pairing rustic classic dishes at home with a super bottle of wine or champagne that makes me happy.

Along with the salad, we enjoyed a simple (and decadent) take on a croque monsieur.  I toasted thick slices of rustic whole wheat bread, topped them with a slice of prosciutto and a velvety cheese sauce made with a high quality French Comte (gruyere cheese).   I then put them under the broiler for a couple of minutes to toast the cheese.  Yummm....

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Berry Pecan Granola Bars

Hello readers! Hopefully you haven't completely forsaken me given my lack of posting activity. I promise I'm picking up the pace over the next few weeks! As I mentioned, I'm attempting to focus on lighter more nutritious fare as we move into summer. Homemade granola bars are both a satisfying sweet treat AND a healthy alternative to a grab-and-go muffin or processed meal bar (though there some nutritious version of those too.)

Makes 12 bars. Recipe adapted from Ina Garten,'The Barefoot Contessa'

2 cups of old fashioned oats
1 cup of pecan pieces
1 cup of shredded coconut
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons of butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the oats, pecans and coconut together in a bowl and then transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

While the oat mixture bakes, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and let boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Turn the oven down to 300 degrees. Transfer the toasted oat, pecan and coconut mixture to a large bowl and pour the honey mixture over. Add the dried fruit and flax seed (optional) and toss to combine. Press the mixture into a 9x13 pan coated with nonstick spray and lined with parchment paper. It is very sticky so I used the bottom of a metal measuring cup (also coated with nonstick spray) to press the mixture down and into the corners of the pan. You want to pack it down well so the bars don't crumble apart later.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden brown. Let cool for 2-3 hours before you try to cut them. I was able to lift the whole thing out of the pan using the parchment paper. I then cut them into 12 bars. I used muffin liners to separate them in an airtight container.

They are absolutely delicious as is or you can crumble them up like granola as I did here with some fresh berries and plain Fage yogurt sweetened with a drizzle of honey and a bit of vanilla bean paste. I can't wait to try some different variations on this recipe. I would probably go a little lighter on the dried fruit next time.

Other combinations to try:
*Almond Apricot
*Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
*Trail Mix (sunflower seeds, m&m's, peanuts, pretzel pieces)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Citrus Avocado Salad with Toasted Almonds

John and I just returned from a fantastic vacation week in Charleston, SC- our old stomping grounds- and I am still full from a week jam packed with eating and drinking. We're on operation "eat light" this week and ironically I am still dreaming of this Citrus and Avocado Salad that I had for lunch at the Hominy Grill so I decided to recreate it to the best of my ability. They served the salad with a light Ginger Vinaigrette however I adapted my own dressing that had a punch of sherry vinegar in it as well. The rich and buttery avocado is the perfect compliment to the sweet and tart citrus fruits. It is light and refreshing yet substantial enough for a hearty lunch or dinner. Especially if you make them as large as I did.

Serves 2 as an entree or 4 as a starter. Salad: One bag of Butter lettuce blend salad (or two heads of bibb lettuce, cleaned well) One navel orange, peeled and segmented* One pink grapefruit, peeled and segmented* One avocado, peeled and sliced 1/4 cup toasted almond slices or slivers *Click here to watch a quick tutorial on how to segment your citrus fruits. If you are serving the salad as an entree- you can top it with 1 small grilled chicken breast per person (I like to use a couple of tenders-you can cook them quickly on the stove top). Grilled shrimp or salmon would be delicious as well. Dressing: 1 1/2 tablespoon of sherry vinegar (you can substitute red or white wine vinegar) 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons of fresh orange/grapefruit juice* 3 tablespoons of olive oil 1 heaping teaspoon of honey 1 heaping teaspoon of dijon mustard pinch of salt and pepper *I just squeezed the remaining juice out of the fruit flesh after cutting the segments out. You don't need to use another whole fruit. Pour the ingredients into a small bowl or measuring cup and mix together with a fork until emulsified. To assemble the salad, divide the lettuce and the other ingredients among the plates (chilled plates if you have time and want to impress company) and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Tuna Melt Panini

A love a classic tuna salad or tuna melt sandwich for lunch. (Who doesn't?) It takes me back to my childhood when Mom would make lunch for us during the week. However this recipe... "is not yo mama's tuna sandwich" as they say. Cheap, fast and healthy (kinda), this is quickly becoming a dinner staple at the Lacy house. I have started to collect the Annual Food and Wine Magazine cookbooks that come out at the end of each year and I found an intriguing recipe for this Italian-flavored tuna panini. They season plain old canned tuna with a basil- balsamic vinaigrette instead of any mayonnaise and the flavors are so much more exciting. The fresh tuna salad is then pressed and toasted between buttered ciabatta bread with melty mozzarella and a tangy crispy pickle slice... to die for! Tuna Salad: (serves 2 to 3 people) 12 ounces of canned Albacore tuna 1 large shallot (or 1/4 cup red onion), minced 1/4 cup good quality olive oil (I went a little lighter) 1 generous tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (I added a bit more) 1 tablespoon of freshly sliced basil 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes salt and pepper Drain the canned tuna well and transfer to a medium to large glass bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and blend together with fork. For each sandwich you'll need: 1 ciabatta roll sliced in half (or a ciabatta loaf cut into individual sandwich pieces) 2 large dill pickle slices (I like Claussen) 1-2 slices of mozzarella cheese a schmear of dijon mustard If you have a panini press (on my wish list)- that would of course work great. If not, you can use the griddle or skillet method as I did. Assemble the sandwiches and then melt one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place the sandwiches in the skillet and then use a large cast iron skillet/pot/some combination of heavy things on top of the sandwiches to give them a good press. I lined the bottom of the pot/skillet touching the food with foil first. Grill for 3-4 minutes per side until toasty brown. Add an additional tablespoon of butter when you flip the sandwiches over.
I served the sandwiches hot with a simple arugula and parmesan salad on the side. (Dressed with just some fresh lemon juice and olive oil.) Truly truly yummy I tell you. **If you don't like tuna- you could use some shredded chicken breast in its place.