Happy Food Day, everyone!
Well, it’s time to kick off our virtual, progressive dinner party in honor of the day. Let’s head into to the kitchen, where I’m making our first course.
For tonight’s party, I knew I wanted to make something “autumnal” and also vegetarian. Celebrating Food Day means different things to different people and one way my family has been thinking a lot more about our food is by eating less meat. (We hardly ever ate red meat at home anyway, nor do I serve pork or shellfish, but we’re now down to only about two nights a week eating either poultry or fish.) It’s been relatively easy to make the transition and the change has everyone, including my kids, thinking more about where our food comes from, its impact on our health and how it affects the environment.
I was torn between two recipes that have been very popular Thanksgiving starter courses in my house – one a soup, the other a salad. I decided that salads sometimes get overlooked in the food blogosphere and this one is so good that it deserves a spotlight. (But as a bonus prize for stopping by, I’m sharing the other recipe, too: Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup from the U.S.A. Cookbook, written by the late, great Sheila Lukins. I substitute vegetable broth for the chicken stock called for in the recipe.)
The salad is a Spinach Salad with Bosc Pears, Cranberries, Red Onions and Toasted Hazelnuts from Epicurious, courtesy of The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan. The name pretty much tells you all you need to know – a fall-inspired melange of fresh spinach leaves, cranberries, pears and hazelnuts. (I’ll admit this salad isn’t entirely “local” as some of the ingredients didn’t come from my farmer’s market – I hope you’ll forgive!)
The salad takes more prep work than the usual tossing of lettuce and veggies in a bowl, but I think you’ll agree it’s worth the effort. First you roast some hazelnuts . . .
And then peel off the skins by vigorously rubbing them in a dark towel (they stain) while the nuts are still very hot . . .
. . .until they look like this:
(You can never get all the skins off, so don’t torture yourself.) Then chop them coarsely and hold them in reserve.
Next you make the dressing – a simple balsamic vinaigrette rounded out with some whole grain mustard and a little sweetener. (The recipe calls for white sugar but since we’re emphasizing “real food” on Food Day, I substituted local honey and it’s just as good.)
Make the dressing first because you’ll need it for softening and plumping up the dried cranberries. (I used organic cranberries, sweetened with evaporated cane juice) . . .
Meanwhile, place the sliced red onions in a bowl of cold water to crisp them up and reduce their sharpness. . . .
Once all that prep work is done, everything comes together quite easily. Just toss the dressing with fresh spinach leaves, the onions, the softened cranberries and thinly sliced Bosc pears, and then sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts on top. And here it is . . .
Simple, slightly sweet, nutty and really good!
Now, before you head off for your entree at Red, Round or Green tomorrow (followed by a side dish at Eat Dinner.org on Wednesday and dessert at The Jolly Tomato on Thursday), take a moment to leave a comment below. You can share what you’re doing to commemorate Food Day, a favorite recipe of your own, or just say hi! I’ll use a random number generator at noon CST tomorrow (Tuesday, October 25th) to choose one lucky winner of this Food Day t-shirt in the size of your choice.
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