Salad Dressing of the Week: Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette (with a hint of white pepper)

Roasted Strawberry Balsamic vinaigrette-2


Make this right now, with all those plump ephemeral strawberries lurking around.   (If you are making this out of season--gasp--consider adding a small pinch of sugar to the berry puree to help boost the flavorless winter berries).

If you can make it past eating it directly from the mixing bowl, serve this dressing over a spinach salad with toasted pecans or walnuts and some crumbly goat cheese.  Or dip some grilled chicken into it.  Or grilled pork.  Or duck.  Or heck, put that on the salad too.

Oh, and do yourself a favor: get some really good balsamic vinegar.

Roasted Strawberry and Balsamic Vinaigrette
by Catie Baumer Schwalb

yeilds about 1/4 cup, for two servings.

2 tablespoons roasted strawberry puree, from about 6 medium strawberries (Make extra.  Trust me.)
1 1/2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinaigrette
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
white pepper, ground, small pinch, to taste
salt, to taste

Heat the oven to 375º F.  Halve washed strawberries and roast on a baking sheet for 10-12 minutes until soft and fragrant.  The time will depend greatly on the ripeness.  Watch the berries closely so they don't burn.

Remove the berries from the oven and puree in a blender or food processor.

In a small bowl combine berry puree, balsamic vinegar, a slight pinch of ground white pepper and salt.  Whisk to combine.   In a very thin, slow and steady stream, pour the olive oil into the berry mixture, while whisking continually.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper.  Serve immediately or chill briefly.

Indian Spiced Winter Squash with Goat Cheese and Pomegranate

My dear friend from graduate school, January LaVoy, just opened her luminous performance in Arthur Kopit's Wings, off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theater this past weekend.  When I had the chance to see the show, I thought, "Anyone can bring flowers...I'll lug down a just-picked squash from our garden."  I mean, who wouldn't want to be greeted with that in the lobby???  (and have to deal with it on the subway home?)

This particular winter squash is an heirloom variety, called Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash.  I bought these seeds specifically because it was described by Seed Savers' Exchange as their "favorite two-serving baking squash".  I envisioned romantic squash dates all winter long.  It is pale orange like a butternut, but tear-shaped and ribbed like an acorn.  It has a creamy, golden flesh, that works in recipes for either variety.

So, as promised, here is a recipe of something to do with said squash, especially for our big star.  And Wings runs through November 21st.  If you are in NYC, don't miss this one.

by Catie
Serves 4-6

1 Acorn-type winter squash
Garam Masala, 3/4 tsp
Salt, 1/2 tsp, or to taste
Olive Oil, 3-4 TBS, depending on size of squash, plus more for drizzling to finish
Chevre, soft goat cheese, 4 oz, crumbled
Pomegranate Seeds, from one pomegranate
Fresh Parsley, 2 TBS, chopped finely

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and pulp. Cut into 1/2" slices, the length of the squash. When in strips, peel squash with a carrot peeler to remove outer skin. (The slices can alternatively be cubed at this point.) Toss squash in a bowl with garam masala, salt, and olive oil.

Spread out on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Turn over gently and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the pieces are tender and the edges have caramelized a bit.

While the squash is baking, cut the pomegranate in quarters. Peel back the tough outer peel and remove the seeds from white pith, careful not to puncture them.

Arrange the squash on a plate, sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, and parsley. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. If the squash was cubed, toss all ingredients gently in a bowl together for a salad.

Polenta with Goat Cheese, Shallots, and Greens recipe
On a trip to the farmers market it doesn't serve you to bring a list or to have rigid expectations.  The most effective shopping there is always done by just discovering what is the very best of this week's offerings.  As mentioned before, that can sometime be rough in the less produce-friendly times of year.

This week the stars, or farmers, seemed to align.  There are a few bonuses of spring starting to show up, and enough cold storage winter vegetables left to anchor a recipe.

I found sweet, plump shallots, an abundance of hearty greens, luscious queso blanc made from goats milk, and had a few bags of organic polenta from a farm in Ithaca, NY, I had stocked up on during a previous market day.  They all came together beautifully in this comforting, yet bright dish.  A great vegetarian meal, or elegant side dish, that could be easily expanded to a more substantial meal by adding some braised chicken thighs or aromatic local sausages to the mix on top.

By Catie
Serves 4

2 Cups coarse-ground polenta (not instant), from Cayuga Pure Organics
4 Cups homemade stock, chicken, turkey or vegetable
6-8 large shallots, cut in wedges, from Muddy River Farm
4 oz goat cheese (I used a goat queso blanc), from Patches of Star Dairy Farm
2 large bunches of greens (spinach, dandelion, tatsoi, kale, chard), about 12 oz, from Two Guys from Woodbridge, roughly chopped

Bring the stock to a boil.  Gradually whisk in polenta, and return to a gentle boil.  Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until grains are at desired softness, polenta has thickened, and excess liquid has been absorbed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  You may add a tablespoon or two of butter or olive oil to add some richness.

Heat a tablespoon of cooking oil in a wide pan.  Add shallots and cook over medium-low heat, slowly, until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Increase heat and add greens, and saute just until wilted.  Season with salt.

Spoon polenta on plates.  Top with greens and shallots.  Crumble goat cheese on top.

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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