I have a pretty serious thing for cookbooks and nothing makes my heart go pitter-pat (other than dogs and good wine) like a gorgeous cookbook. David Tanis, a chef at Chez Panisse, has two cookbooks— A Platter of Figs and Heart of an Artichoke and they are drop dead gorgeous books with delicious recipes. It has been cloudy here and I grabbed the Heart of an Artichoke book for inspiration and color for my sensory deprived brain. We were having friends over for dinner and I needed something to get my creative juices flowing.
There is a Sicilian Salad in David's cookbook with oranges, fennel, spinach and radishes, it sounded like the perfect spring salad. I decided to introduce Sicily to Morocco and added some oil cured olives and cilantro. The fennel went in the oven to be roasted with the brussel sprouts (roasted fennel is one of my favorites) and I whipped up a vinaigrette. I am a firm believer in bright, acidic vinaigrettes and used raspberry and white wine vinegar as well as a healthy dollop of Dijon mustard. Dinner was looking better and better. I felt my brain fog start to lift. Everything was going along swimmingly until I opened the fridge to look for the orange, the shining star of my salad. I had grapefruits galore but not one orange. Grapefruit is round, grows on trees in Florida and is kind of orange-colored— a perfectly suitable substitute, right?? It turned out to be a fortuitous detour, the pink grapefruit was beautiful against the green spinach and it's acidity was well suited for the salad dressing and olives. The case of the missing oranges is still unsolved. I guess I should be happy the kids are eating fruit and not Doritos.
Of course, there was wine involved. Bob is one of my favorite dinner guests. He loves Pinot Noir as much as I do and always brings a couple good bottles to share. Bergstrom Pinot Noir is a typical Willamette Valley Pinot— cranberries, strawberries, spice and earth. A classic combination of strength and elegance that defines truly great Pinot Noir. It was a pleasure to drink and probably would have benefitted from a brief stay in the decanter but we were on a roll and popped and poured. We drank the Vietti Roero Arneis with dinner (we had roast chicken with lemons, herbs and kalamata olives). I am not the biggest white wine fan but I tend to like Italian white wines as a rule. This Vietti is a super food friendly wine with a lot of bright, fresh acidity with pears and green apple in your mouth and a nice floral nose. Plus, I love the label. The guy has such a beleaguered look on his face— winemaking must be hard work.
Moroccan Grapefruit Salad
A couple handfuls of baby spinach
2 grapefruits peeled, quartered and sliced
1 red onion sliced and placed in ice water for 10 - 15 minutes (removes the acidity from the onion)
1/4 cup pitted and chopped oil cured olives
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp raspberry vinegar
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Assemble the spinach, grapefruit, red onion, olives and cilantro in a bowl. Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a container and pour over the salad. I always salt my salad greens with Maldon Sea Salt before adding the dressing.