Roasted Beet Salad Recipe

Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola & Toasted Hazelnuts
Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola & Toasted Hazelnuts

The Virginia branch of the family gathered at my nephew’s beautiful new house on Smith Mountain Lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

No one but my sister and brother-in-law knew I was joining 3 generations for this Thanksgiving gathering. As each wave of the family arrived at the lake taking in their surprised reaction upon seeing me for the first time was priceless.

Thinking I was in San Francisco my nephew emailed me on Tuesday as we were driving to the lake from Richmond.

“Hi John. I hope all is well. I wanted you to know I watched the video with your ribs hotness challenge and will make those for mom and dad over Thanksgiving. Looks awesome and perfect for a late fall ribs at the lake. Hope to catch up soon.”

“You’ll love these Greg. Happy Thanksgiving,” I replied. Little did he know that we would cook them up together that night to feed the first wave of family to arrive. 2 pounds of imported penne pasta and 3 full racks of ribs in a San Marzano tomato sauce doused with hot oil were quickly devoured by the crowd at the table.

3 generations pitched in to cook up a fantastic southern Thanksgiving dinner. There were so many side dishes I had to fill up my plate twice to get a taste of everything.

I’m eating light now that I’m back home. Here’s an updated version of my family’s favorite beet salad. Nothing concentrates the sweet beet flavor than roasting them in their jackets but in a pinch you can use canned beets too.

The tender butter lettuce is a perfect base for the sweet beets bathed in an olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano & shallot dressing. Gorgonzola adds a zesty flavor note and crunchy hazelnuts add texture to this simple delicious salad.

Buon appetito!

Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Sweet roasted beets served over butter lettuce with an olive oil, red wine vinegar & oregano dressing dotted with gorgonzola & toasted hazelnuts
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 red beets
  • 2 gold beets
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • gorgonzola, diced into small pieces
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Wash the beets and do not peel them.
  3. Brush the beets with olive oil and put them in a baking dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with foil for easy clean-up.
  4. Roast the beets until they are knife-tender, about 20-30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, put the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl and whisk well. Add the shallots and set the bowl with the dressing aside.
  6. Lightly toast the hazelnuts in a saute pan to bring out their rich flavor. Roughly chop the hazelnuts and set them aside.
  7. When the beets are cool enough to handle, trim the top and bottom and remove the skin.
  8. Cut the beets in small wedges and put them in the bowl with the dressing and mix well to coat the beets with the dressing.
  9. Lay the lettuce leaves on a large platter and cover them with the beets.
  10. Drizzle the dressing remaining in the bowl all over.
  11. Dot the beets with small gorgonzola cubes and sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts all over.
  12. Serve the beet salad chilled or at room temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calamari Salad

Calamari Salad
Calamari Salad

I’m cooking dinner as a birthday gift for a friend and I’m in the mood for this calamari salad as part of the antipasti.

The steamed calamari is sweet and tender bathed in the zesty olive oil and lemon dressing. The celery and onion add a crunchy textural note. The mellow roasted pepper strips and buttery Castelvetrano olives fill out the flavor palette.

You can make calamari salad in about 20 minutes. Just chill it in the fridge and you’re ready to eat.

Buon appetito!

Calamari Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Sweet tender calamari with a zesty lemon-olive oil dressing with celery and onion adding a crunch.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • The whole peel and juice of ½ lemon
  • 1½ pounds calamari bodies and tentacles, cleaned and bodies cut into ½ inch rings
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • ½ cup pitted Castelvetrano or other green olives, cut in slivers
  • 4 celery stalks with leaves, sliced thin (I like to use the tender, pale green inner stalks.)
  • ½ cup roasted red bell peppers, cut in strips
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dry oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon hot chili flakes
Instructions
  1. Put 2 inches of water in a Dutch oven or pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add the bay leaves and lemon peel and boil for a few minutes until they release their aromas.
  3. Set a colander or steamer over but not touching the water.
  4. Add the calamari rings and tentacles into colander or steamer lower the heat so the water is simmering. Cover the pot and cook until calamari is just cooked through and is opaque, about 5 to 6 minutes. (I taste the calamari to ensure that I take them out when they are cooked but tender. Don't over cook the calamari or it will toughen.)
  5. In the meantime in a large bowl combine the onion, olives, celery, roasted pepper, parsley, salt, oregano, peperoncino, olive oil and lemon juice.
  6. Add the cooked calamari to the bowl and mix well with the other ingredients and olive oil and lemon dressing.
  7. Chill the calamari salad before serving.

 

Raw & Cooked Salad

A simple and complex salad to welcome summer
Raw & Cooked Salad

Summer just arrived and I’m starting to get in the mood for the bounty slowly hitting the market.

This simple yet complex salad is my bridge to the new season.

Insalata cruda e cotta is an interesting mix of fresh and cooked vegetables and will be on your table in about 30 minutes.

Sweet roasted onions, just tender green beans, crunchy lettuce, ripe tomatoes, and exploding creamy potatoes, complex flavor and texture in every bite. The oil and vinegar dressing with perky capers and briny black olives elevates this simple salad to a whole new level.

Serve insalata cruda e cotta as part of an antipasti course , a light lunch or as a side for meat or fish.

Buon appetito!

Raw & Cooked Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Cooked and raw vegetables tossed together with black olives, capers, oregano, extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. A perfect simple summer treat.
Author:
Recipe type: Italian
Cuisine: salad
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound sweet onions
  • ½ pound red potatoes
  • ½ pound green beans
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 head butter or Bibb lettuce
  • ½ cup black olives, pitted and roughly chopped (I like Gaeta or oil-cured olives)
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ⅓ teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel the onion and cut into ¾ inch slices.
  3. Brush both sides of the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes until the onion is softened and lightly carmelized on the edges, turning them over once at midpoint.
  5. Break the slices into rings and put them in a large mixing bowl.
  6. Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with water.
  7. Bring the pot to a boil and cook just until the potatoes are knife tender.
  8. Take the potatoes out of the water and cut into 2 inch wedges.
  9. Put the potatoes in the bowl.
  10. Trim the beans and cook them in the boiling water until they just start to soften, about 4 minutes.
  11. Strain the beans, cut into 2 inch pieces and put them in the bowl.
  12. Put the olives, capers, the rest of the olive oil, vinegar in the bowl.
  13. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste and mix all the ingredients well.
  14. Cut the tomatoes into 2 inch wedges and add them to the bowl.
  15. Rip the lettuce leaves into bite size pieces and add them to the bowl.
  16. Toss with the other ingredients to coat everything well with the dressing.

 

 

White Bean & Tuna Salad

Cannellini beans and canned Sicilian tuna salad with olives and red onion
Cannellini beans and canned Sicilian tuna salad with olives and red onion

I love cannellini beans and Sicilian canned tuna. Putting these 2 pantry staples together in this salad makes me very happy.

You can use canned beans but since there are only 2 main ingredients in the salad I like to use dry beans. They aren’t mushy like the ones in the can and don’t break apart as you mix the salad together.

Soak the beans overnight. But, if you’re like me and didn’t plan ahead use my speedy method to prepare the dried beans for the salad in about 2 minutes.

The creamy beans infused with celery, onion and bay leaf are the perfect base for the briny tuna, sweet red onion and tangy olives. Every bite is a delight.

Serve the white bean and tuna salad as part of your antipasti platter or on a bed of lettuce as a light meal with a hunk of crusty bread.

Buon appetito!

White Bean & Tuna Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Combine 2 of my favorite ingredients, cannellini beans and Sicilian canned tuna, to create a full-flavored salad.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried cannellini beans
  • 1 celery stalk with top leaves, cut in large pieces
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 7-ounce can Sicilian tuna packed in olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • ⅓ cup Gaeta olives
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup Italian flat parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Soak the beans in cold water to cover overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans
  3. (If you forgot to soak the beans overnight put the beans in a pot and cover with water at least 2 inches above the beans. Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Take the pot off the heat, cover and let the beans soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse and continue with the recipe. If you're really desperate use canned beans. Be sure to rinse them well.)
  4. Put the soaked beans in a large pot and cover with cold water by 2 inches and bring the pot to a boil.
  5. Add the celery, onion and bay leaf, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes or longer until the beans are tender.
  6. While the beans are cooking, put the red onion in a large bowl and cover with the vinegar. Let the onions sit in the vinegar for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the olives to the bowl.
  8. When the beans are cooked add them to the bowl.
  9. Add the olive oil and parsley to bowl. Gently mix the beans to coat the beans with the olive oil.
  10. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix the beans gently.
  11. Break the tuna into small pieces and add the tuna to the bowl. Mix the beans gently to distribute the tuna.
  12. Let the salad sit for about an hour before serving.

 

Escarole 2 Ways

Escarole sauteed in olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and sea salt
Escarole sauteed in olive oil with garlic, chili flakes and sea salt

The escarole in the market today was gorgeous, light green heads with fresh, tender leaves. I get 2 uses from a head of escarole.

Save the yellow-green inner leaves for a simple salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon or red wine vinegar and sea salt. Serve the escarole salad as a first course or as an accompaniment for meat, fish or pasta.

Another favorite for the rest of the darker green outer leaves is to quickly saute the escarole with olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and sea salt (scarola in padella).

The escarole is sweet and tender bathed in the garlic-infused olive oil with a bit of chili heat. Healthy and delicious. Serve the sauteed escarole as a side for meat or fish.

Sometimes for a light meal, I’ll just have a bowl of sauteed escarole with a hunk of crusty bread that I dip in the olive oil broth.

This is an easy dish and a universal cooking method for most green leafy vegetables that I use often. Add it to your repertoire.

Buon appetito!

Escarole 2 Ways
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 head escarole, remove the core, (optional: save the tender yellow-green inner leaves for a salad), cut the head in half, and cut in 2 inch ribbons
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
  • ¼ cup water (if needed)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Put the EVOO, garlic and red chili flakes in a cold pan.
  2. Heat over medium-high until the garlic takes on a bit of golden color.
  3. Add the escarole and toss so that all the leaves wilt.
  4. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  5. If there is no liquid in the pan add some water to help steam the escarole.
  6. Saute for 3 minutes or until the escarole is tender.
  7. Place the escarole in a bowl and drizzle with a little very good EVOO.
  8. Serve immediately.

 

Steak and Mushrooms with Baby Arugula

Tender sauteed steak "rags" and mushrooms atop arugula dressed with a pan sauce.
Straccetti di manzo, tender sauteed steak “rags” and mushrooms atop baby arugula.

You may see a theme in my upcoming recipes. I’m celebrating the food of Rome, the first stop on my upcoming trip to Italia.

A popular dish found in restaurants all over Rome, straccetti di manzo is a quick sauté of thinly sliced steak and mushrooms served over a bed of arugula.

The dish is called “stracetti” or “little rags” because the thinly sliced lean filet or steak is torn into small bite-sized pieces that resemble rags.

If you enjoy a salad topped by grilled steak, try this quick dish to satisfy your desires. It’s full of flavor and will be on your table in about 30 minutes. Just right for lunch or a light dinner all on one plate.

The boys at Little City suggested beef filet or a strip steak for this dish. I wanted buttery beef so I picked the filet and it works beautifully. The big heap of baby arugula at Union Produce caught my eye. It was a perfect base for the dish.

The tender filet rags and nutty mushrooms are bathed in the buttery pan sauce with sweet balsamic notes. The arugula adds a crunchy, peppery finish to each bite. Simple, healthy and delicious.

Buon appetito!

Sauteed Beef and Mushrooms with Arugula
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A quick and delicious dish of tender steak sliced the size of "little rags" sauteed with mushrooms and served over a bed of baby arugula.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound thinly sliced filet or steak
  • 6 ounces crimini mushrooms
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon flour
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups arugula
Instructions
  1. Slice the filet or steak with the grain into very thin slices (or ask you butcher to do it.)
  2. Cut or tear apart the slices with a fork into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Put the sliced beef into a bowl and add 4 tablespoons EVOO and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Mix well and set the beef aside for about 15 minutes.
  5. Cut the mushrooms into small wedges.
  6. Put 2 tablespoons of EVOO into a large saute pan and heat it over medium-high.
  7. When the oil is hot add the sliced beef to the pan. Reserve the EVOO in the bowl.
  8. Saute the sliced beef to your desired doneness. (I like to get some color on one side.)
  9. Transfer the beef to a dish and set aside.
  10. Add the reserved EVOO from the dish the beef was in to the pan. (You need about 2 tablespoons of oil so add more if necessary.)
  11. When the oil is hot add the mushrooms and cook to evaporate their moisture and to pick up a golden brown color, about 3 minutes.
  12. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the beef.
  13. Add the butter and flour to the hot pan. Whisk the butter and flour briskly so the flour doesn't clump.
  14. Add the white wine and stir frequently. Cook until the sauce thickens and reduces in volume, about 2 minutes.
  15. Add the beef and mushrooms to the sauce and mix well. Cook briefly to heat the beef and mushrooms and coat them well with the pan sauce.
  16. Off the heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar.
  17. Put a bed of arugula on a serving platter or individual plates, top with the the beef and mushrooms and their juices.
  18. Sprinkle a few leaves of arugula on top and serve immediately.

 

Baked Ziti for Valentine’s Day?

A quick, rich baked pasta dish from beautiful Sorrento on the Bay of Naples.
A quick, rich baked pasta dish from beautiful Sorrento on the Bay of Naples.

Why go out for a “romantic” dinner on Valentine’s Day? The restaurants are crazy busy. Why tolerate the hassle of overbooked places and food pouring out of an overworked kitchen? All you’ll get is agita (heartburn).

Don’t go out. Stay home and cook Valentine’s Day dinner together. Start a new tradition. Enjoy your time cooking together and share food made with love.

A fresh, crunchy and complex Fennel & Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives is a perfect first course. Prosecco or Pinot Grigio pairs well with the salad in a citrus vinaigrette.

Baked Ziti alla Sorrento is the star of this special dinner. It’s an Italian version of mac ‘n cheese from the sunny coast of the Bay of Naples.

The small pasta tubes are coated in creamy ricotta, soft melted mozzarella and marinara sauce then baked in the oven. I can’t resist picking off the nutty toasted ziti on top. Save the leftovers. Baked ziti is even better the next day. Aglianico, Nero d’Avola or Chianti go well with the ziti.

By making the marinara while the pasta water comes to a boil and the salad as the ziti bakes, dinner will be ready in about an hour.

And for dessert, top a big scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of limoncello or your favorite liqueur. Who knows, after all that wine this might be just what you both need to get lucky.

Still want to go out for Valentine’s Day dinner? Try one of these North Beach restaurants.

Buon appetito! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Baked Ziti alla Sorrentino
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Easy baked ziti is sumptuous. The pasta is coasted with creamy ricotta, mozzarella and marinara then baked in the oven until crispy on top.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • Marinara Sauce
  • 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 large branch of fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Baked Ziti
  • 1 pound ziti
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 5 basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano, pecorino or grana padano
Instructions
  1. Before you get started put a large pot of well salted water to boil over high heat. (Use about 5 quarts of water and at least 1 tablespoon of sea salt for a pound of pasta.) Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Marinara Sauce
  3. Put the olive oil and garlic in a pan and over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic until it starts to take on some color.
  4. Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir occasionally and cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
  6. Set the sauce aside.
  7. Baked Ziti
  8. Cut the mozzarella into 1-inch cubes.
  9. Put the ricotta in a strainer to drain.
  10. Cook the ziti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water. Drain the ziti just as it reaches al dente, about 10 minutes.
  11. Put the ziti in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, mozzarella, ½ cup grated cheese, 2 cups of marinara sauce and basil leaves ripped in small pieces. Mix to coat the pasta well,
  12. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with marinara sauce.
  13. Spread the ziti evenly in the baking dish.
  14. Top the ziti with the remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
  15. Bake in the oven until the top of the baked ziti starts to turn golden, about 30 minutes.
  16. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fennel & Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives

Fennel and Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives
Fennel and Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives

I’m hoping for spring. The quince blossoms are in bloom so spring can’t be far away. For me, this classic salad from Sicily is a prelude to the change of seasons.

Start or end your meal with this perky salad. The licorice and sweet orange notes float in the citrus vinaigrette. The intense wrinkled, meaty, oil-cured olives add surprising complexity to this crunchy salad.

Usually I eat salad at the end of a meal but this one goes to the top. It’s fresh and complex and easily fills the bill as a simple first course or add it to your antipasti platter.

Buon appetito!

Fennel & Orange Salad with Olives
 
Prep time
Total time
 
A simple, complex from Sicily. The fennel's anise flavor enhances the orange sweetness and the oil-cured olives add intensity to the crunch.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 large fresh fennel bulbs, about a pound
  • 2 oranges
  • ½ cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and sliced in half
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut off the top of the fennel and the stalks where they connect to the bulb.
  2. Cut the bulb in half and remove the tough outer leaves.
  3. Cut out the core.
  4. Slice the fennel very thin or use a mandolin.
  5. Put the fennel in a bowl.
  6. Cut off the top and bottom of the orange.
  7. With a cut end on the work surface cut off the rind. Be sure you remove all of the bitter white pith.
  8. Holding the peeled orange over the bowl with the fennel cut out each section of the orange by running a sharp knife close to the membrane. (You can cut the orange in slices instead.)
  9. Put the orange sections in the bowl with the fennel. Squeeze the juice from the membranes into the bowl.
  10. Add the salt, black pepper, olive oil and lemon juice and toss well.
  11. Serve chilled or at room temperature.