Caramelized Pear Salad

picture229

I adore pears of all varieties, for they are both delicious and amazingly nutritious.  Pears are high in fiber, low in calories, and are a good source of Vitamin C.  Further, pears contain a class of phytonutrients, or natural  plant-based chemicals, called “flavonols.”  Flavonols have anti-inflammatory properties, function as antioxidants in the human body, and have even been associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Sounds good to me.

picture223 (2)For this simple, ten minute salad, I used a few cute little Seckel pears.  Seckels have a yellow-green color with occasional streaks of pink or red, are juicy and sweet when ripe, and are about the size of a kiwifruit.  Feel free to use whatever variety of pear you prefer!

~

Ingredients (makes 2 entrée size salads)

6 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and dried

2 large or 4 small ripe pears, any variety, sliced

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons chopped raw almonds

4 ounces chevre goat cheese

picture224Directions

Step 1) Melt butter in sauté pan over low heat.  Add brown sugar.  Stir over low heat for one minute.

Step 2) Add pears.  Begin caramelizing over medium heat, loosening the pears often with a nonstick spatula.

picture225Step 3) After two minutes, add almonds to sauté pan.  Cook one additional minute, then turn off heat.

Step 4) Divide spinach between two plates.  Top each plate with half of the caramelized pears.  Drizzle pan drippings (delicious!) over each plate.

picture226Step 5) Divide goat cheese in half.  Spoon bite size pieces evenly onto each salad.

Done!

The creamy tanginess of goat cheese pairs wonderfully with both the sweetness of caramelized pears and the crunch of almonds.  Enjoy!

Wild Salmon in Parchment Hearts

Shown served with Whole Wheat Molasses Bread and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc!

picture192 (2)

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, there is a lot to love about this meal.  First, wild salmon is a heart healthy delicacy with which Crowded Earth Kitchen recommends indulging as often as your budget allows.  Baked on a bed of fresh baby spinach, dressed with a bit of citrus, and served with a delicious whole wheat bread (see 2/11/14 post), this meal is a nutritional superstar.  Second, baking with parchment is the perfect combination of “really easy but looks complicated,” which makes it a perfect technique for impressing your guests without inducing a pre-dinner, kitchen meltdown.

You need exactly five items to prepare this fabulous entrée.  That’s right, five.  It’s that easy.    Have fun, and let me know how your dinner turns out!

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 Wild Salmon fillets, skinned, 6 ounces each

4 cups fresh baby spinach

1 organic orange

Coarse ground black pepper

Parchment paper

Procedure

picture176Step 1) Tear two rectangles from your roll of parchment paper, approximately 14 inches long.  Fold them in half, and trace a half heart shape on the paper, as shown.  Cut out your parchment hearts.

If you’ve never worked with parchment before, it’s sold right next to plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

picture181Step 2) Open your parchment hearts and anchor them onto your work surface, so they don’t curl up (annoying!) as you are layering your ingredients.  I find that salt and pepper shakers are just the right size for this.

~

picture182Step 3) Place two cups of fresh baby spinach on one half of each parchment heart.  It’s OK if the spinach overlaps the center of the heart a bit, but leave 2 inches of empty space around the edge.  You’ll need that space later!

~

picture183Step 4) Place a Wild Salmon fillet over the center of each spinach bed.   Sprinkle with coarse ground pepper, and top with two slices of orange.  Now comes the fun part!

~

~

picture184Step 5) Fold your empty heart half over the “stuffed” half, and begin sealing the edges by folding them tightly two or three times.  If you’d like, you may staple the fold, but count the staples (hint:  use the same number for each serving) and either remove or warn your dinner partner before serving!

picture190Step 6) Place filled parchment hearts on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated, 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  After baking, carefully cut an X shape in the top of each parchment to allow steam to escape.  The steam will curl the edges back, making a lovely presentation!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Orange Marmalade and Spinach-Pomegranate Citrus Salad

picture138Orange Marmalade

(makes 10 half pint jars)

Orange marmalade is a winter delight.  When my garden plot freezes and wears a blanket of snow, I begin looking forward to the brightly colored displays of citrus fruits at my local market.

When I first started making my own jams and jellies, I shied away from marmalade.  Many of the recipes I found were pretty, well, precious.  I wasn’t interested in the many, many steps and copious amounts of time required.  Eventually, I came up with this.  Four ingredients, ten simple steps, and maybe two hours of time.  The end result?  Ten half pint jars of tangy, citrusy goodness – perfect for spreading on toast or muffins, drizzling over a winter salad (see below), or eating right out of the jar with a spoon.  I won’t tell.

Ingredients

picture1344 pounds of organic oranges (about 8 organic oranges)*

1 1/2 cups water

6 cups white sugar

1 pouch (3 ounces) liquid pectin

*Yes, your oranges really, really do need to be organic.  Why?  Because marmalade uses the peel.  Do you want to eat orange peel that has been treated or sprayed?  Neither do I.

Directions

Step 1) Wash your oranges.  No really, WASH your oranges.  Scrub them in hot water for a few minutes.  You’re eating the peel, remember?

picture135Step 2)  Peel your oranges with a vegetable peeler.  This is surprisingly fast, and works well to separate the thin layer of bright orange zest (which you want) from the thick layer of bitter white pith (which you do NOT want).

~~~

Step 3)  Slice your orange peels into thin strips using a paring knife.  My strips ended up being about 1/4 inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long.  The dimensions aren’t terribly important.

Step 4)  Add your sliced orange peel to a large pot.  Add 1 1/2 cups of water and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Step 5) While the peels are simmering, remove the white pith from your oranges.  Pull the oranges apart into halves and remove the spongy white center.  Remove the seeds, if needed.  [It is possible to purchase organic, seedless oranges.  Just sayin’.]  The idea here is to have as much “orange” and as little “white” as possible.  As you are working with your oranges, save all the juice.  Working over a baking pan with shallow sides helps.  Chop up your oranges into little bite size pieces.

Step 6) After the peels have simmered for 20 minutes, add the chopped oranges and any juice you’ve collected.  Simmer, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.

picture136Step 7)  Add 6 cups of white sugar to the pot, keep stirring, and bring that pot to a Mad Boil… the kind of boil that is too fierce to calm down, even with stirring!

Step 8)  Once you have achieved a Mad Boil, add your pectin.  Continue stirring and boiling for one more minute.  Remove from heat.  Your kitchen will smell fantastic right about now.

Step 9)  Review Crowded Earth Kitchen’s canning guidelines, and fill your sterilized, half pint canning jars.  Be sure to leave 1/4 inch of headspace.  Place lids and bands on your jars, and process in a boiling water bath for 1o minutes.

Step 10)  Grab a big spoon and your cooking pot, which probably has a few tastes of marmalade left at the bottom.  It would be a shame to let those tastes go to waste, right?  Don’t burn yourself.

That’s it!  Now, let’s do something more respectable with our marmalade than lick the pot…

Spinach-Pomegranate Citrus Salad

(makes 4 generous servings)

picture152

This might be the world’s easiest winter salad.  It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, containing iron in addition to Vitamin C and other antioxidants.  During cold and flu season, we need all the help we can get!

Simply fill a serving bowl with 8 cups of a 50/50 mixture of baby spinach and mixed salad greens.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of fresh pomegranate arils.  Peel 2 oranges or clementines, slice, and tuck into salad.  Serve with a drizzle of orange marmalade.

Delicious!