Posts Tagged ‘celery’

This is hands down my favorite spring salad of all time, like sunshine on a plate.  I love the whisper of basil paired with strawberries and the tang of vinaigrette.  The creamy goat cheese and crunchy candied almonds are such a treat, almost like sneaking dessert.  Not today, but I often added grilled chicken or shrimp to make an entree salad.

Recipes shared with friends are so treasured.  With food, I enjoy the story almost as much as the taste.  My dear friend Peg shared this recipe with me years ago.  Every time I make the salad it evokes all these memories of the  adventures, escapades and antics we’ve shared together over the years.  I first met Peg when we both had little, bitty infants and toddlers underfoot.  I felt like I was  swimming through mud at the time trying to figure out exactly how to do this thing called life with kids.  My Mo-Jo was a little off if you know what I mean.  Peg was a breath of fresh air, we became instant, fast friends and now I had a comrade for the  journey.  It’s gone way too fast, the kids are all almost off to college now.  What will our next adventures be?  I can’t wait to see.

Strawberry Basil Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette



1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, dried and chopped

1 pint strawberries, tops removed and sliced

3 stalks celery, chopped

3 green onions, chopped

5-6 large fresh basil leafs, chiffonade (I’ll show you how)

6 oz fresh crumbled goat cheese (blue cheese works wonderful too)


1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 TBSP sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar can be substituted)

Candied Almonds

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup sugar


Layer the salad ingredients (lettuce, chopped celery, basil chiffonade, sliced strawberries, chopped green onions and goat cheese) on a platter.  This is the basil chiffonade.  Literally translated, chiffonade means “made of rags”.  In cooking it refers to thin strips or shreds of lettuce or fresh herbs.  I rolled the 5-6 fresh basil leaves up together so they looked like a cigar or log roll. Then I took a sharp knife and cut the roll horizontally to create the thin strips.  For this salad, I love to cut the Romaine lettuce the same way.

Wash the green onions.  Cut off the “beard” on the white end.  Slice horizontally about halfway up into the green part.  The top green part usually gets a little too woody to use.

To make the vinaigrette, add the salt, pepper, vinegar, sugar and oil in a cruet and shake until emulsified.  (Or whisk together in a bowl)

To make the candied almonds heat 1/4 cup sugar in a small non stick skillet over low heat until sugar begins to melt.  (I am making a double batch here so the picture actually shows 1/2 cup sugar melting)  This will take a minute or two but watch it carefully.

Once it starts to melt, whisk it over the heat until smooth.  I like mine very brown and caramel colored, however cook it for less time if you want it lighter.

Spread the slivered almonds in a thin layer and pour the caramel over them.  Toss to coat.  Cool and add to salad ingredients.

Right before it is time to serve, pour vinaigrette over the salad and gently toss.  Serve immediately and enjoy!!


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Could it be?  Yes….today is just a bolognese day.  Snuggled back home after a particularly grueling computraining session (thanks to Raouf : 856 calories burned…really?)  I had nothing else on the docket which would induce me to venture back out.  Except I forgot to stop at the grocery store.  I am not going.  It is fa-reezing out there in Chicago today.  Dinner is definitely out of the pantry tonight.

And this is why classic Bolognese Sauce is a beautiful thing.  I almost always have the ingredients to make it in the pantry.  The real deal takes 3 or 4 hours to cook but there is very little prep time involved.  You can put it on to simmer and be oh so productive while the sauce fills your house with the most amazing aroma.  You only need to stop by every so often and give it a little loving before you are back tackling the “to do” list.

The Silver Spoon has been the best-selling cookbook in Italy for over 50 years and is considered the bible of authentic Italian cooking.  It was first published in English in 2005 which was a very happy day for me.  It is a phenomenal resource but runs a little short on the directional side.  I imagine the Italian grandmas assumed the progeny already knew what to do with the ingredients and were not compelled to write overly fussy instructions.  If you ever get a chance watch Anne Burrell’s Bolognese episode on Food Network’s Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.  Anne studied in Italy and in her own words – she “rocks the sauce”.  The Italian grandmas would be proud.  So with a nod to Anne and The Silver Spoon – here we go:

Classic Bolognese Sauce

(adapted from The Silver Spoon and Anne Burrell)


2 small onions peeled and cut in large chunks

2 large carrots peeled and cut in large chunks

3 ribs celery washed, stems and leaves removed and cut in large chunks

4 whole cloves fresh peeled garlic

2-3 TBSPS olive oil

3 pounds ground beef, preferably chuck

3 small cans tomato paste

3 cups hearty Italian wine like a Chianti

3 bay leaves


1/2 cup of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese grated

1 box (1 pound) of spaghetti pasta.




In a food processor add

  • 2 small onions
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 ribs celery
  • 4 whole cloves garlic

Pulse the food processor 8-10 times to purée the vegetables

Coat a large heavy skillet with about 2-3 TBSP olive oil.   Bring to medium high heat and add the purée.  Season generously with salt.  Cook the vegetable purée for about 15-20 minutes stirring frequently.  The water will evaporate from the purée and the bottom of the pan will caramelize and be nice and brown.  The brown on the bottom of the pan is what makes the sauce so delicious so make sure to let it  develop before you go to the next step.Add

  • three pounds ground beef, preferably chuck.

Season generously with salt.  Cook the ground beef for another 15-20 minutes until it gets really brown (just like the vegetables).  Remember the brown is what makes the sauce taste so good!

It will look like this when it is ready


  • 3 small cans tomato paste

Cook over medium heat until it browns – about 5 minutes


  • 3 cups hearty Italian red wine (I use a Chianti or Barolo)

The wine deglazes the bottom of the pan and all the nice brown flavors developed are now in the sauce.

Cook for another 5 minutes and reduce the wine.  This will intensify the flavor even more.


  • water to pan until it is 1 inch over the meat (about 4 cups)
  • 3 bay leaves

Season it again with salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

About every 45 minutes or so add

  • 2-3 additional cups of water

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer , stirring occasionally.  When all the water evaporates again repeat adding water.  After 3-4 hours of repeating this process you will have a robust, hearty sauce with BIG flavor.  As the sauce is simmering and the water evaporating it permeates your house with the most amazing aroma.  Did I happen to tell you it smells really, really good?

Now here is a really fun secret I have withheld until this point!  We just made a double batch of Bolognese Sauce.  You can take half of the sauce and freeze it to enjoy later (or maybe share it with your neighbor).

It is almost time to eat!  Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook

  • 1 box (1 pound) of spaghetti pasta.


  • 1/2 cup of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Add the drained, cooked spaghetti and cheese right into the skillet with the remaining sauce.  Add a little water if it is too thick.  Toss the pasta and coat it with the cheese and sauce.

Just pinch me…..it looks delish!

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