Fourth Course – Salad! Arugula, Radicchio, and Fennel Salad

salad startIn some establishments, the fourth course of a European Five Course Meal is a salad.   In the U.S. the salad typically comes before the main course but for this blog I’m going with the European style (actually works better with my work week and the weather around here).  I’m very excited about this Arugula, Radicchio, And Fennel Salad.  I had this salad when visiting my mom in California.  We had dinner at an Italian restaurant in her neighborhood, 54 Mint,  and I loved the salad so much we basically dissected it to figure out the recipe.  I found a recipe close to what I wanted at Saveur.com, adding the additional ingredients that were in my salad that night.   The recipe I found is as follows:

Ingredients

  • 4 cups packed baby arugula
  • 1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 small head radicchio, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄2 cup shaved Parmesan
  • 3⁄4 cup toasted walnuts

Instructions

Combine arugula, fennel, and radicchio in a bowl; set aside. Whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper; toss with salad. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and walnuts to serve.

My additions:  Baby Olives, Blue Cheese (Feta would also work) and Mandarin Oranges.Hawaiian-Black-Lava-Sea-Salt   We prefer the Plymouth Blue Cheese, the Big Blue, which is made locally.  I used 1/4 cup of Organic Balsamic Vinegar and cut down on the lemon juice – to  two tablespoons.  Spanish Melgarejo Hojiblanca Olive Oil and Hawaiian Black Lava Sea Salt were used in the dressing.   I chilled the mandarin oranges and olives before adding them to the salad.

barberaWe paired this with a Scagliola Mati Barbera.  We also tried a slightly chilled DeLoach Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir but found the complex herb essence of the Pinot Noir competed against all of the different flavors in the salad.  The licorice taste of the fennel and the licorice notes in the Pinot did compliment each other but there was too much going on in the salad to make this a really good pairing.  The Mati Barbera was the better wine pairing with this salad.  This wine had just deloachenough spice to blend with the pepper of the arugula but did not struggle against the balsamic vinegar and fennel.  As with most reds, both the Pinot Noir and Barbera were better after being opened for 20-30 minutes.  I always serve a Pinot Noir slightly chilled – about 60 degrees, especially in warm weather.

We enjoyed this salad, there is a lot going on in it but the flavors meld nicely.  The fennel, radicchio and toasted walnuts keep the crunch going, the arugula provides salad finalenough spice to blend with the cheeses and the oranges give it a touch of sweetness.

Next course is the desert!  Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese – Yum.

What Wine Will You Be Drinking Easter Sunday?

For many of us, Easter Sunday is April 5, 2015,  and we will be celebrating with family and lambfriends.  Traditionally Easter dinner is Ham, Lamb or perhaps Fish.  Even if you’re not  celebrating Easter, you may want to take advantage of the lower prices on these items this time of year.

If  you’re  serving a lamb dish, one that has garlic, velvet devilherbs and salts, or mint, or perhaps even lemon, you would do well to open a bottle of a nicely rounded Merlot.   Merlot wine will allow the seasonings of the Lamb to come forward and will not obscure the flavor of your entree.  We recently had a lovely Merlot called The Velvet Devil.  This wine is produced in Mattawa, Washington.   The price on this Merlot should run about $12.00 to $15.00.   I enjoyed this wine for the fruit forward plummy taste which was accented with a bit of chocolate.  Very soft tannins and a nice  finish on this wine.

For those of you serving Ham, I’d go with a white wine.  If you’re going with the traditional easter_hampineapple/orange sauce and brown sugar, you would do well with a medium-oaked Chardonnay or a White Burgundy.  The Chardonnay would be something along the line of  Hess, Kendal Jackson or my favorite, Reata.  Generally speaking, if your Chard comes from the Napa/Sonoma area or Lodi (Central Valley) region of California, it will have a bit more vanilla and butter flavor to it.  If  it comes from France or the California Coast, you will have more crispness to it.

These wines are dry enough to keep the sweetness of the fruit sauce from becoming too sweet.  They will counter balance your ham and the spring vegetables (Asparagus, Spring Beans, Fennel, Peas) you may be serving with your ham.   If you’re going with a spicier version of ham, one with spicy mustard, cloves and coriander, then you will want to reach for a Dry Riesling.   Make sure it is a Dry Riesling, any other Riesling will be too sweet and should be served with dessert, not the entree. Dry_Riesling My favorite Dry Riesling is  Chateau Ste. Michelle from the Columbia Valley.  This wine will hold up to any spicier dish, especially if you’re leaning towards the Asian or Indian influence in your seasonings.  It will pair beautifully with Spiral Ham with Mustard Glaze and roasted potatoes or Au Gratin Potatoes.  This is also a nice wine for an aperitif.

If you want to serve a red wine with your ham, try a Pinot Noir from Oregon or France.   The Pinot Noirs coming from Oregon or France will be subtle enough to allow the flavor of the ham to come through and not over power it.   If you’re serving a sweet, fruity ham, a dry Rosé wine (Cab Franc based)  is as red as I would go.

If fish is your entree of choice, your wine decision should be based on the style or sauce that you’re serving with your fish.  Basically, if it’s a lightly herbed or lemon based, such as a roasted salmonRoasted Salmon & Asparagus with Lemon Oil (recipe here)  then you want a light, delicate white such as a Chablis, Chenin Blanc or Steel Aged Chardonnay.  My pick fopine ridger this would be the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/ Viognier  (This is just a beautiful white to have in your house at all times).

If you’re going with a spicier style of sauce or grilled shellfish (recipe for Spicy Grilled Shrimp here) then you’ll want to go into the more complex whites such as a White Burgundy or Dry Riesling.  Finally, if you’re doing a tomato based sauce then you can get away with a Sangiovese (a true Sangiovese, not a Chianti) or perhaps a Malbec or Pinot Noir.  Choose a red that is robust in flavor but not overly tannic.  Lean towards the dark red fruits.  I would choose a Rosso di Montalcino.  The rules for a Rosso di Montalcino make it a true Sangiovese, not a Chianti which helps to keep the tannis down and the fruit forward.

Now, with all of this Easter entree talk, I don’t want to leave out the Easter brunch cbanfirowd.  Basically, if I was doing an Easter brunch, I would offer either Mimosas (Champagne and Orange Juice)  or a slightly sweet Prosecco as an aperitif before the meal.  Banfi Rosa Regale is a beautiful slightly sweet prosecco that would be a lovely way to start the day.   I like to add a clean, de-stemmed strawberry to the bottom of my glass when serving a Prosecco.

If  you’re going with the quiches, eggs, stratas, then stick with the lighter whites such as a Pinot Grigio,   If you want bubbles, then choose a dry Prosecco such as Mionetto Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut.  The flavors of this Prosecco lean towards peaches and apricots with light hints of lemon and toast. This is a very affordable option and usually available.

If you’re celebrating Easter or not, I hope you have a lovely Sunday this first week in April.  I’m serving ham, what will you be serving?