Salads With A Festive Twist

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Festive salads for a holiday dinner party require thoughtful composition and an impressive arrangement of texture, color and flavor.

A perfect starter before a substantial main dish is this Haricot Vert Salad With Shiitake Mushrooms served in radicchio leaves. The Christmas Roasted Beet Salad is a dream for any busy hostess. It can be made ahead, to develop the flavors, and it’s beautiful.

For the classic salad lover, the addition of frisée and pomegranate seeds to this Caesar salad elevates it from pedestrian restaurant fare to an elegant, white-gloved affair.

Bon appétit!

Haricot Vert Salad With Shiitake Mushrooms(Serves 8)1½ pounds haricot vert

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/3 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

2 shallots, minced

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 perfect radicchio leaves, washed and patted dry

For the vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, preferably aged in oak

2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Pinch of salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably from FranceTo prepare:Whisk the vinegars, mustard, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.

Slowly add oil, whisking continuously, until it becomes an emulsion.

Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Transfer to a clean glass jar.

Refrigerate.

Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before using.

Cook beans in a large pot of boiling water, until crunch tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Immediately plunge them into cold water.

Drain well.

Pat dry with paper towels.

Trim off stem ends.

Set aside.

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil.

Place over moderate-high heat.

Add mushrooms, thyme and parsley with a pinch of salt.

Sauté, stirring often, until the mushrooms are brown, about 5 minutes.

Add shallots.

Sauté, stirring until soft and aromatic, about 3 minutes longer.

Toss the beans with mushrooms in a large bowl, just before serving.

Add just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the beans.

Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Place a radicchio leaf on each salad plate.

Arrange beans in the leaves.Christmas Roasted Beet Salad(Serves 8)4 pounds fresh beets, scrubbed

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 teaspoon honey

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 medium red onion, diced

Zest of 1 navel orange, julienned

Segments of 2 navel oranges

Segments of 1 ruby red grapefruit

8 Boston lettuce leaves, unblemished, washed and patted dry

Few stalks of fresh chives, snipped, for garnishTo prepare, at least 5 days ahead:Preheat oven to 400°F.

Trim the green tops off the beets.

Scrub with a vegetable brush to remove the dirt.

If beets are large, wrap each one in aluminum foil, seal well and arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet.

If beets are small, place beets in a baking dish, drizzle a small amount of olive oil and add about 1/2 inch water in the bottom of the dish, and seal with a double thickness of aluminum foil.

Roast the beets, until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about 2 to 2½ hours.

Remove from oven.

Let stand, until cool enough to handle.

Slip the skins off the beets using rubber-gloved hands.

Dice them into 1/2-inch cubes.

Place the warm, cubed beets in a bowl.

Whisk vinegar, orange juice, and honey together in another small bowl.

Slowly add oil, salt and pepper, whisking constantly.

Combine onion, orange zest and orange segments with the beets.

Add the oil and vinegar.

Toss well.

Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Transfer beets to a glass container.

Refrigerate for up to 7 days.

Before serving, add the grapefruit sections.

Toss well.

Place a Boston lettuce leaf on salad plates.

Arrange the beets in the leaf.

Garnish with snipped chives.

Serve at once.Romaine, Frisée And Pomegranate Caesar Salad(Serves 8)1 head romaine lettuce, washed and spun dry, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 head frisée, washed and spun dry, torn into bite-sized pieces

1 pomegranate, seeds removed and washed

2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus shavings for garnish

4 slices whole-grained bread, cubed, for croutons

Olive oil, for sautéing

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

For the dressing:

1 large head garlic, unpeeled, roasted

5 anchovies, minced

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to tasteTo prepare:Preheat oven to 400°F.

Remove the outer white skin from garlic head, but keep it intact.

Wrap head of garlic in foil, sealing the sides.

Bake for 1 hour, or until it is soft.

When cool enough to handle the garlic, cut it crosswise.

Squeeze out the pulp, about 2 tablespoons.

Discard the skins.

Add garlic pulp, anchovies, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil to a food processor.

Purée until smooth.

Taste and adjust the seasonings with more lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Stir in grated Parmesan cheese.

Set aside.

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil.

Place over moderate heat.

Add sliced garlic.

Sauté, until light brown and aromatic, about 4 minutes.

Remove garlic.

Sauté bread cubes in batches, until they are brown and crisp, stirring frequently.

Remove to a paper towel.

Set aside.

Toss romaine and frisée together in a bowl.

Add pomegranate seeds.

Spoon on dressing.

Toss until greens are lightly coated.

Divide among salad plates.

Garnish with croutons and shaved Parmesan.

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