Beet, Apple & Fennel Salad with Creamy Ricotta Dressing

Beet, Apple & Fennel Salad with Creamy Ricotta Dressing

Beet, Apple & Fennel Salad with Creamy Ricotta Dressing

I love a simple, fresh and healthy salad. I try to eat salads every day at work. But if you do the math on my years at the Gap times days of work less days of vacation less cheating with a burger plus days I justify my burger by adding a side salad…well…that would be a lot of salads. And everyone who has losing weight as a New Year’s resolution (like, every woman ever) vows “salads for life” and keeps that vow for about…three days. You know why we can’t hold those resolutions longer? Yes, you know why. Salads can be so boring! Iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, the occasional broccoli floret and as much ranch dressing as you can justify to mask the boring-ness of veggies. So I set out to make a salad that would help me start that New Year resolution early. And stick with it. For at least four days this time.

This salad has a salty, creamy ricotta “dressing” that amps your salad up and makes it crave-worthy. The fennel/apple/beet combo will brighten your winter work day.  And the simpleness of the recipe will help you keep resolutions of making your own lunch. So let’s get salading…

Fennel comes in a “bulb” that looks a little like celery and onion had a baby. The “fawn” or delicate leafy pieces add flair to your presentation

These are apples….you know what they are! Choose a crisp apple such as Fuji, Braeburn, or Honeycrisp

Beet, Apple & Fennel Salad with Creamy Ricotta Dressing

Ingredients
1 1/2c ricotta
3tbs + 1/4c olive oil
1/4c hazelnuts, finely chopped
4 roasted beets*
1/2 crisp fuji apple
1 fennel bulb
arugula
2tbs champagne vinegar
cooked chicken breast (optional)
salt & pepper

*Note: To save time, I used store-bought beets, which are pretty darned decent. To roast yourself, heat an oven to 350 degrees. Toss beets in olive oil, salt, pepper and wrap in aluminum foil. Cook for 20 minutes or until soft when pierced with a fork. Let cool and peel beets.

Directions
In a mixer, add ricotta, 3tbs olive oil and salt & pepper to taste. Mix on high until creamy. If desired, increase creaminess by adding more olive oil. This creamy sauce can be made in advanced and stored in an air-tight container in the refridgerator.

Heat a saute’ pan to medium and toast hazelnuts until fragrant, about 5 minutes, staring frequently. Careful – nuts burn quickly! Set aside nuts.

Thinly slice apple. Chop off roots of fennel and reserve the “fawn”, or soft, leafy parts from the top. Cut fennel into fours and cut out the tough core. Thinly slice.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, champagne vinegar, and a pinch salt & pepper to make a light vinaigrette.

Spread ricotta mixture on the bottom of a plate. Lightly dress arugula with vinaigrette and place over ricotta. Top with beets, apples, fennel, toasted hazelnuts, (and chicken, if desired) and finish with a sprig of fennel fawn.

Eat, enjoy, and smile, knowing that you’re starting your New Year’s resolutions early – in a very delicious way.

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Crispy Prosciutto, Butternut Squash and Kale Salad

Prosciutto, Butternut Squash, and Kale Salad

Crispy Prosciutto, Butternut Squash, and Kale Salad. Bowl and plate by Crow Canyon Home.

Ahhhhh, it’s fall again! Harvest-colored leaves, fresh crisp air, winter squashes, and, if you live in San Francisco, freakishly warm weather. While it’s 80 degrees and sunny outside, my Farmer’s Market is bringing to me (and you) some delicious squashes this fall. Acorn for baking, spaghetti for pasta substitutes, and butternut for roasting. So we’ll take this gift of butternut squash from fall Farmer’s Market and pair with  late season avocado and crispy proscuitto. Finish this salad off with a little lemon zest and you have yourself a complete, perfectly balanced, Paleo salad (see!? Paleo CAN be tasty!). So whether you’re cozying-up like my sister in Portland with rain and 50 degrees or with me with sun and 80, you can feel good about this delicious, healthy fall salad. 

And now….drumroll please…the recipe.

Ingredients for crispy prosciutto, butternut squash, and kale salad

Ingredients for Crispy Prosciutto, Butternut Squash, and Kale Salad

Crispy Prosciutto, Butternut Squash, and Kale Salad

I’d like to note two things before we start this recipe to settle any angst you may have about making this gorgeous salad. One: Crispy Proscuitto is hard to spell but not hard to make. Two: I’m going to show you the easiest way to make your own salad dressing. In sum: this recipe is easy. Easy like Sunday Morning (laaaa-aaahh-aaaahhh-aaahhhh….cause I’m easaaay). Now that you have the confidence and song in your head, let’s get cooking.

Salad Ingredients
1 small butternut squash
2 tbs olive oil
salt & pepper
1 6oz package proscuitto
1 small head dinosaur kale
1 avocado
zest of 1 lemon
more salt & pepper

Salad Dressing Ingredients
1/2c olive oil
1 egg yolk
2 tbs champagne or white wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper

First, start by roasting the butternut squash. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the squashes hard outer layer, cut in half, scoop out seeds, and chop into 1/2 inch cubes. Or just buy the pre-cut stuff at Safeway. Toss the butternut squash in the olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper generously, and place squash on a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until slightly browned. Roasting not only softens the squash, it also brings out a carmel-y, sugary flavor that balances well with salty proscuitto.

I'm not roasted yet

I’m not roasted yet

I'm roasty and delicious!

I’m roasty and delicious!

Start a large pot of salted water on the stove (to use for blanching kale later) and an ice-bath in a large bowl (for cooling kale later).

Prepare the crispy proscuitto. In a non-stick pan over medium high heat, place large pieces of proscuitto and cook until slightly browned on each side. Set aside on a towel-covered plate to cool down and soak up excess oil (this is how they crisp up).

DSC_0063

It’s gettin’ hot in here

Lookit me, I'm crispy!

So take off excess oils

Wash kale and cut into small pieces. Blanch kale in boiling water for about 2 minutes or until it turns a bright green. Use a slotted spoon to remove the kale from the boiling water, then quickly “shock” the kale in the cold water and drain. This stops the cooking, cools the kale, and helps the kale retain the bright green color.

I'm washed and ready to go!

I’m washed and ready to go!

I'm blanched and shocked!

I’m blanched and shocked!

Now make the salad dressing. This is my easy, cheater emulsification. Technically, you should whisk or use a food processor to make sure all ingredients perfectly emulsify (a process whereby water-soluble ingredients surround the globules of oil-ingredients to blend together into a perfect single dressing). As you’ve found, I love shortcuts and anything that requires me to clean one fewer dish. I put all ingredients into a tupperware and shake it like a polaroid picture.

Shake it, shake shake, shake shake it

Shake it, shake shake, shake shake it

Now, to prepare the final salad. Toss kale lightly in salad dressing, place crispy proscuitto around the plate, add roasted butternut squash, avocado, and lemon zest. And wherever you are, in whatever weather, you can cozy up knowing that this salad is healthy, balanced, delicious, and bringing you all the comforts of fall and homemade cooking.

Perfectly crispy, balanced, salty, sweet, and healthy Crispy Prosciutto, Butternut Squash and Kale salad.

Perfectly crispy, balanced, salty, sweet, and healthy Crispy Prosciutto, Butternut Squash and Kale salad. Bowl and plate by Crow Canyon Home