So – it’s been a while. I took a break from my computer for most of our Christmas break which was good and a little weird. I focused on spending time with people I love and see too little of. I was cooking with my parents, gossiping with my sister, visiting friends, playing card games with my children, taking walks with Remco and reading to my niece and nephew every night. My nephew who is six wanted me to tell him stories and so I told stories until I was hoarse. About the (long ago) time his mom and I were young and I had to make her school lunch and she would complain that I did not spread the butter properly (she still does), so I would give her bread without any butter. About the treasure hunt we organized for Sebastiaan’s birthday party. About my first day at high school when I discovered our teacher’s first name was Bruno – the same as our beloved and very stubborn dachshund. And how one of my classmates used to give me old tennis balls for our dog to play with because of that.
It was fun.
It was less fun trying to cook for my sister’s children though. They are three and six years old and this is how it went when I asked them about their preferences:
Me: So – what do you like to eat?
She: Rice and meat.
He: I don’t like rice. I like potato mash.
Me: And your sister?
He: She does not eat potatoes.
Me: What about some vegetables?
She: I like red peppers.
He: I like yellow peppers.
Me: Some other vegetables?
I gave up.
I am so glad my children eat just about every salad I make! Even Sebastiaan who has issues with certain vegetables, will gobble down a Brussels sprouts and kale salad. He will also eat any leaves, hot or bitter, as long as he’s allowed to drizzle a generous amount of balsamic reduction over them. Which is good because most of the leaves left in the garden now have quite strong taste – there is the peppery rocket and other mustards, earthy chard, bitter radicchio…
They all make excellent salads at this time of year. Mostly I just toss the leaves with a simple dressing but every now and than I make a more elaborate salad, such as this one Esther and I had for lunch today. The idea came from a book I cannot recommend highly enough:The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook. I have been re-reading the first part about gardening in bed as a preparation for the new gardening season. There is so much excellent gardening advice, especially on cold season gardening. (If you want to know more about the book, have a look at the spinach quiche in buckwheat crust recipe).
With this salad it was the idea of roasting the pears in butter that caught my eye. The pears are sauteed until golden and then the pan juices are used to make a dressing for the salad. Simple and delicious. I have substituted the lettuce in the recipe for radicchio which I harvested this week from our allotment. I think it may work even better because its bitterness offsets the sweetness of the pears and the leaves do not wilt as fast as lettuce when you pour the warm dressing over them.
I hope Barbara would not mind my substitution since she encourages you to vary her recipes according to what’s available from the garden.
Radicchio and chicory with pan roasted pears
Adapted from The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook
1 radicchio ( I grow “Di Treviso”)
1 large or 2 smaller chicons of Belgian chicory
120 g (4 ounces) mild blue cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp olive oil
4 medium size, firm but ripe pears (I used Conference), cored and quartered
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (from about ½ lemon)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50 g (½ cup) walnuts
Separate the leaves of the two kinds of chicory. Tear the larger ones into pieces but leave the smaller ones whole. Arrange the leaves on a large platter. Scatter the cheese over the leaves.
Melt the butter together with 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Wait until the foam subsides, about 2 minutes.
Add the quartered pears and sauté them on both flat sides until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Take out the roasted pears and range them on top of the chicory leaves.
Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil and the lemon juice to the oil in the pan. Simmer over medium heat for about a minute, stirring with a spatula and scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the brown bits. Add salt and pepper, stir and pour over the salad. Scatter the walnuts on top and serve immediately.