Chopped Brussels Sprouts Salad

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Recently I had brunch at a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, and I was so intrigued by their Brussels sprouts salad, that it ended up being my brunch meal. I surprised myself, because I typically get something breakfasty for brunch, but the interesting-sounding salad won me over.

I was smart enough to snap a couple iPhone photos, shown below, so I would remember the ingredients, all of which were chopped into similar sizes except for the cheese.


So today I’m “copying” this salad to enjoy again and calling it a “chopped” salad. But I’m making one change. I’m cooking the Brussels sprouts. My pieces in the salad were at the most parboiled, and as a result, hard and bitter. It almost ruined the salad for me.

I’m still glad I ordered this unique salad, though, and was excited to try it out at home!
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Chopped Brussels Sprouts Salad

1 pound Brussels sprouts
8 ounces, approximately, grilled chicken
6 small, whole cooked beets
4 hard-boiled eggs
2 good-sized avocados
Handful of golden raisins
8 ounces Manchego or Idiazabal
4 ounces Marcona almonds

To begin, trim the ends off of the Brussels sprouts. Cut the larger ones in half, if necessary, so that they are fairly uniform in size. Place them in a steamer pan and steam them until just tender. I prefer steaming over boiling because I feel they’re less water logged.
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Place the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl and let cool. Meanwhile, cut the chicken, beets, eggs and avocado into similarly-sized pieces.

Add the chicken, beets, eggs, and avocado.



Add the raisins and the cheese. I cut the cheese in smaller pieces than the other main ingredients.

Then add the almonds. Make a light dressing of your choice. I used some olive oil and a champagne vinegar.

This is the champagne vinegar I used. If you see it, don’t buy it. I had never used it until I made this salad. As I was sprinkling it on the salad I got a whiff of it. Nasty stuff. Terrible aftertaste. I’m pretty sure I got it at Central Market.
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I quickly switched to a white balsamic vinegar, and I’m really glad I did. I actually poured that awful vinegar down the drain.

Toss the salad gently and serve at room temperature.

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You can sprinkle some finely ground almonds on the top if you wish.

This salad was even better than I remember it.
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The beets are a little problematic because they want to color the other ingredients purple. And the hard boiled eggs are impossible to cut neatly and keep from crumbling.


But flavor-wise, the salad is wonderful. I especially love the almonds and golden raisins! I will make this again!

Watermelon Pecorino Salad

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It’s been a long time since I’ve purchased a cookbook. I’m a little embarrassed at how many I own, although I do use them. So I promised myself I’d wait a while. And then there it was.

I was in a cute shop while on vacation, and the cookbook practically screamed at me. The cover was beautiful, but I’m not one to only judge books by their covers. Especially with how sophisticated food styling and photography have become.

But this book was a little different in that there was cheese in the cover photo, which always gets my attention! And right there were two of my favorites – Humboldt Fog, bottom left, and a Foja de Noce wrapped in walnut leaves, top left, a Pecorino that I discovered from the last cheese book I purchased. In any case, I couldn’t resist the book, called “The Cheesemonger’s Seasons.”
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The recipes are “cheese-centric” and range from appetizers to desserts, but what I liked most that there are four chapters – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. That’s my kind of book!

So after I returned home, I perused the summer chapter of the cookbook, and that’s when I saw this salad. A very simple one that includes watermelon (check), Pecorino (check), white balsamic vinegar (check), and mint (check). I could make it the following day!
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The salad is simple yet exquisite. It would be a wonderful first course to a summer meal. Also, if all of the major components were skewered, they would make fabulous hors d’oeuvres, drizzled with white or regular balsamic vinegar.

Watermelon with Pecorino Stravecchio and White Balsamic Vinegar
from The Cheesemonger’s Seasons

One 1-lb chunk ripe watermelon
2 ounces Pecorino Stravecchio or other aged sheep’s-milk cheese*
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon thinly sliced fresh mint
Freshly cracked black pepper

Remove the rind from the watermelon and cut the flesh into 1/2″ cubes, or use a small melon baller to make same-size balls.


Place the watermelon in a medium bowl. Cut the Pecorino into 1/4″ cubes, or break it into rougher chunks about half the size of the watermelon pieces.

Add the cheese to the watermelon and toss with the vinegar, mint, and a few grindings of pepper.


Divide among individual plates or cordial glasses and serve immediately.
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I personally think Parmesan or Manchego would work just as well as a Pecorino and more cheese needs to be used than what is shown in my photos. This is probably not the fault of the recipe, I just wasn’t going to eat a whole watermelon! (My husband wont eat vinegar.)

Although the cubed cheese looks pretty, smaller crumbles would work better. This salad, I feel, is about the combination of the watermelon and Parmesan, not alternating one bite of each.
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I also ended up using a lot more balsamic vinegar in my salad, but in any case the salad was delicious and refreshing!

note: I love this cookbook but I have two issues with it. One is the index, and the other is the lack of photos. I prefer to have a photo with each dish in order to see it plated.

Cheese Log with Walnuts

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It seems like I’ve been entertaining a lot lately. A little bit more than usual. Which is good – I love having company. But what that means is that I have a lot of extra cheese on hand, because I invariably purchase good cheeses for hors d’oeuvres when friends are coming.

Inspired by a recipe by Jacques Pepin, I decided to use all of the cheeses together and make a cheese log of sorts. Jacques Pepin calls this fromage fort, which literally translates to “strong” cheese.

That’s really a misnomer because there’s nothing strong about this cheese unless you choose to make it strong. It’s all about your choice of cheeses. I used goat cheese, Manchego, and Fontina.

In his book, Chez Jacques, Jacques tells the story about how his father always made crocks of cheeses created by whatever leftover cheeses they had on hand. He also included other things like wine and sometimes garlic. His father’s cheese creations were definitely strong because he aged them for about 1 1/2 weeks in the cellar before serving.

Mrs. Pepin follows the same method of combining leftover cheese to make fromage fort, but unlike the “old” days, uses a food processor. She also adds some cream cheese or cottage cheese if the cheeses are on the dry side. I used some butter, but it’s the same principle.

Cheese Log with Walnuts

Goat cheese
Manchego
Fontina
Butter
Walnuts

I’m not including the weights of the cheeses because the whole point of making this fromage fort, or potted cheese, is using what you have on hand.

I placed the goat cheese and the grated Manchego and Fontina in a large bowl. Then I added some butter just to make things a little softer and smoother. Then I let things set until everything was at room temperature.

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I toasted the walnuts. Then I chopped them on a cutting board.
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I layed out a piece of plastic wrap on my workspace, and then carefully placed some of the chopped walnuts on the plastic wrap. I did this instead of just pouring the walnuts onto the plastic, because I didn’t want to include the walnut “powder” that comes from chopping the walnuts. I wanted the bigger, cleaner pieces.

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I used my hands to mix everything together – it was almost like kneading a greasy bread.

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Then I formed a log of sorts and pressed it down onto the stretch of walnuts.
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Then I added more walnuts, and kept turning over the log until all sides were completely covered with walnuts.

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Wrap the log securely and store in the refrigerator.

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At least 2 hours before serving, remove the log from the fridge and place on the serving plate. Then let it come to room temperature. Serve with crackers or bread.
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This is really good cheese to serve with charcuterie and olives, as well as other cheeses.

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note: You don’t have to turn your cheeses into a log. If you prefer, just place the mixture in a crock. But if you stick to the log idea, different nuts can be used with this recipe just as well as different cheeses. Instead of nuts you could use only chopped herbs in the summer. And, you could use dried fruit as well – think dried cranberries and pistachios for the holidays!!

Tomato Jam

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This recipe is based on one from the beautiful blog, Fleur de Sel. Before coming across the post for tomato jam, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before. Where have I been?!!

But it was so intriguing to me, I couldn’t quit thinking about it. What a wonderful addition to a grilled cheese sandwich or served on a cheese platter. Yum.

So, I decided it was time to make my own. I altered Lindsay’s recipe slightly, mostly by omitting the Herbes de Provence. I just wanted to find out what the tomato jam tasted like on its own.

So here’s what I did.

Tomato Jam

3-4 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 green apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 small onion, diced
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Sprinkles of cayenne pepper, optional
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon

Place the tomatoes, apple, onion, brown sugar, salt and cayenne in a large enamel pot.
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Cover, and bring everything to a simmer.

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Then cook for about 2 1/2 hours over low heat until most all of the liquid has evaporated. Add the cider vinegar and cook for another minute, then stir in the lemon juice.

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After the jam had cooled, I blended it to smooth things out a bit, but without making a puree. Then I poured the jam into 2 – 12 ounce jars that were sterilized.
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The color of the jam is beautiful and it tasted delightful. Next time I want to add some orange zest.

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I proceeded to waterbath the two jars and I’m saving them up for the holidays!

With a little bit of the leftover jam in the blender, I whipped up a little sandwich with the jam and some buffalo mozzarella. It was delicious. I can’t wait to get more creative with it!

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verdict: The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of white sugar. I cut the total amount of sugar from 1 cup to 3/4 of a cup. It’s just hard for me psychologically to use a lot of sugar. But perhaps that’s why my jam doesn’t look as “sticky” as it does in Lindsay’s photos. Or, I perhaps didn’t allow for enough evaporation. We’ll see what happens when I go to use it….

Which I did when my kids were in town and I served the tomato jam with a giant chunk of Manchego (featured photo). Sticky or not sticky, it was a fabulous pairing.