What We’re Cooking Now: Lighten Up

I am a salad queen….I love a good salad and am constantly trying different combinations of ingredients to find new combos and flavors that go well together.  I love making dressings, again to find new flavors combinations that I otherwise wouldn’t find together, and I try to have a very light hand with dressing, allowing the true flavors of the salad to shine.  I am also a bread girl…though I know the Atkin’s lovers curse a warm piece of baguette right out of the oven.  I saw life is too short to not enjoy the things you love….but you can do so healthfully and in moderation.  These recipes are great go to any time of the year, but the crostini really excels in the middle of the summer when locally grown tomatoes are available in abundance.   You can also use firm Roma tomatoes for the crostini if that is the best available. 


Roasted Fennel Salad with Arugula and a Champagne-Tarragon Dressing
2 large fennel bulbs – sliced very thin, reserve about 3 tablespoons fennel frawns
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced very thin
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 large bunches baby arugula – washed 
3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced shallot
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss fennel with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes until well caramelized.  Meanwhile make the dressing by whisking together all ingredients.  Set aside.  Once the fennel is roasted set aside and let cool.  Once cooled combined with arugula, cheese and fennel frawns.   Toss lightly with just enough dressing to coat the salad (maybe 2-3 tablespoons for a light coating.)  Season with salt and pepper and serve. 

Goat Cheese Crostini with Tomato and Basil

1 fresh baguette – sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
Olive oil
6 oz fresh goat cheese
1-2 tablespoons skim milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large beefsteak tomatoes or 6 Roma tomatoes – chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1/2 – 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on your taste)
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil

Lightly brush baguette slices with olive oil and toast on a medium grill for about 1 minute on each side.  Combine goat cheese with just enough milk to make it easy to spread.  Spread goat cheese lightly on 1 side of each baguette slice.  Season with freshly ground pepper.  Set aside.  In a mixing bowl combine chopped tomatoes with garlic, red pepper flakes, shallot, basil, parsley, lemon zest and juice, vinegar and oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spoon into a serving bowl and serve on a platter surrounded by the goat cheese crostini.  If you make the tomato mixture a few hours ahead of time the flavors will have time to really come together.  Just cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve the crostini warm.