Thursday, February 24, 2011

French Salad from Katharine the Great... Imitator!

My husband and I have spent about half our married life together talking about what we are going to eat, where we are going to eat and when we are going to eat it… Needless to say when we plan a weekend or a vacation we research the best local culinary treats. It’s always ALL about the food. What’s even better than that, is that we’ll go somewhere, Ill fall in love with meal and then proclaim that I need to eat it again.

Let me introduce myself…. 1) When I was little I thought that If I married an Italian it meant I could eat pasta every day 2) I married an Italian 3) He went to cooking school 4) The way to my heart is definitely thru my stomach 5) Have you ever seen the movie Shallow Hal? Well, I am kind of like Gwyneth Paltrow in that movie: tall and thin. But I am telling you, I can eat like the bigger version of Gwyneth.

So my husband says, “No problem, I can make that.” And, so he does… he makes his version of whatever IT may be that I just have to have…

Recently, I fell in love with a salad called "The French Connection" at a local bakery/eatery. I raved about this salad, craved it and couldn’t get enough of it (this all occurred several months ago when, I was, admittedly pregnant). Well this one particular Sunday I had to have it… So I drove to the bakery thinking I’d buy each of us a salad but the place had closed at 4pm. I was too late but I had to have it!

So my husband came to the rescue and set about making his version of The French Connection. It was amazing. The absolute highlight of the dish was the homemade candied pecans. They were amazing--- the culinary version of crack--- I had to have more! So, we bought more nuts and candied them. However, in the midst of our pre-baby fog we realized we were candying walnuts, not pecans; as we had originally thought. Walnuts hold the spices better and have a better crunch. Now, we make candied walnuts on a regular basis with our salad, which we ripped off (and modified, for the better, if I do say so myself) from the bakery.

We have become such good rip-off-cooks that I swear I am going to make a cook book filled with our version of recipes from the restaurants, eateries and bakeries we spend a lot of our time eating in and even more time talking about… I am going to call it The Great Imitator. And, Katharine’s Candied Walnut French Salad will definitely make it into the book… Keep reading for the recipe!

Katharine’s Candied Walnut French Salad

Combine in a big salad bowl:

Lettuce – I recommend organic baby romaine mix

Candied walnuts *

1-2 thinly sliced, ripe pears

String Beans**

1-2 sliced, grilled chicken breasts***

Shred good quality Parmesan cheese on top of salad (while I prefer Parmesan with this salad Blue cheese or Gorgonzola works as well).

Exact amount of each ingredient varies depending on personal taste and how many servings you desire. The below makes 2 big servings.


Dress the salad with a sprinkle of salt and fresh ground pepper

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then toss.

*Candied Walnuts:

8 ounces of Walnuts

Combine a half a cup of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and cayenne (to taste) in a bowl.

In another bowl whip the whites of one egg.

Pour walnuts into the egg white bowl and coat the pecans. Then transfer pecans to spice bowl and combine.

Bake on parchment paper at 250 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat.

**String Beans:

Cut or break off the ends of the string beans

Bring pot of water to boil

Add in string beans and boil for 3 minutes

Strain String beans and place in Tupperware container

Season to taste with salt, pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. Stir.

Place in refrigerator to cool (placing them in the refrigerator stops cooking process).

These can be made in advance and you can make extra to have for another salad, another day.

***Grilled Chicken:

Marinate skinless, boneless chicken breasts in salt, pepper, oregano, cayenne (just a hint), lemon juice (about half a lemon) and extra virgin olive oil.

Grill chicken approximately 5 minutes on each side. Let the chicken cool to room temperature, then slice and serve. Or, chicken can be grilled ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.

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