Pretty in Pink Salad

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Inspiration can leap out at you from anywhere.  Literally, anywhere.  And in any form.  Sometimes I spot something curious and it motivates me to write a children's stories.  Other times I see items and envision how I can transform them into something useful.  Then, there is of course, the spying of food that inspires me. And that's how it went down this past week while shopping in our local Italian specialty market, where I happened upon the most stunning lettuces.  I had never before seen pink lettuce. Or white lettuce with magenta flecks. 

Did you ever???

Did you ever???

Figs upon figs. There was not a one leftover.

Figs upon figs. There was not a one leftover.

I was intrigued. I was compelled. I just had to have them.  In my basket they went.  I figured I would make a big lunch salad for myself.  But as I waited, patiently, on the line of inefficiency, (remember, this is the same Italian market where we picked up the rack of pork the week before. Slow and slower is their mantra.) I spotted burrata. The lettuces seemed delicate and a good potential partner for burrata.  A few dishes down in the same case I eyed imported figs. My dad simply adores figs, so those were a must buy whether for the salad or just for him to eat.  But I pondered this combo more as I noticed a nearby plate of roasted beets.  And there is was, laid out before me, one piece of this salad puzzle fitting together with every step I took.  Inspiration leaped out in front of me with an exact plan for how I would showcase these lettuces.  Lettuces that seemed more like flowers than vegetables.  This would be a dainty palette blend of soft pinks and magentas.

The additional line up to accompany the lettuces.

The additional line up to accompany the lettuces.

Ingredients

Baby lettuces (if you can find these pink hued ones, great.  If not, go with softer ones like Butter lettuce)
3-4 beets, roasted
2 pints of fresh figs, halved
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1 Burrata cheese
The Big 3 (olive oil, salt, pepper)
Dressing
3 figs
2 t Champagne vinegar
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 t lemon zest
1 small garlic clove
1.5 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/2 c olive oil 

 
They literally look like flowers. So stunning, I can't take my eyes off of them.

They literally look like flowers. So stunning, I can't take my eyes off of them.

instructions

Start with the beets because they will take the longest.  You can even do this part the morning of or the day before.  Cut off the long leaves and scrub the beets.  Place them in tin foil on a baking sheet, then season with the Big 3. Close up the tin foil to create a package.  Roast at 375 for 1-1.5 hrs, depending on the size of the beets. They should be fork tender. 

Beets awaiting their steam bath by way of oven roasting.

Beets awaiting their steam bath by way of oven roasting.

While those are roasting, you can prepare your salad platter.  With such strong and gorgeous colors, it would be a shame to mix them all together.  These need to stand on the own to showcase their beauty. Color blocking was the way to go.  Arrange how you like but here is how I played it. I let the shape of the leaves help dictate the form, which naturally mimicked flowers.  

Look at those colors. Sweet and pink and oh so dainty.

Look at those colors. Sweet and pink and oh so dainty.

Since burrata is an extremely fresh cheese, it's best to place this in a separate small bowl, then nestle it in between the lettuces.  Once your guests cut into it, the creamy center will gush all over.  

The burrata looks like a big ball of mozzarella, however, it's creamy insides are the best surprise.

The burrata looks like a big ball of mozzarella, however, it's creamy insides are the best surprise.

Make the dressing in a mini blender by placing the figs, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice and zest and buzz together.  Add salt, pepper and oil for the final buzz.  Set aside until ready to dress the salad.

After the beets are done, let them cool so you can peel their outer skin off and slice them.  Arrange in a fan like fashion, and then tuck them into the salad, around the bowl of burrata.  Then place the figs around. 

Roasted to perfection, beets are hearty yet mild enough for this salad.

Roasted to perfection, beets are hearty yet mild enough for this salad.

Slice them and then fan them out to follow in that flower like theme.

Slice them and then fan them out to follow in that flower like theme.

Color blocking making it's statement.

Color blocking making it's statement.

Once you have the salad arranged as you like, pour the dressing over top.  Then drizzle with an aged balsamic. 

Photo Credit: lookasithappens.me

Photo Credit: lookasithappens.me

Of course, you could just cut up all the lettuce, beets and figs and toss them all together.  I think it would be lovely that way too.  I just felt like having each color burst off the plate, spring-ing to life with joy.

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With all the different hues, it was pink and pretty...and good. Pretty good. 

 

5 Quick, No Bake Desserts - In a Pinch

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I realize that this title will come as a shock to those of you who know how much I love to bake, but sometimes I need a dessert in a pinch.  If I've got 5, 6 or even more appetizers to make, plus the meal; well dessert just ends up getting the short end of the stick.  With these 5 fast and easy assemble desserts, you don't have to stress about making sure there is something sweet and appealing after your meal.  Plus a few of these can easily be brought as a dessert offering when you are the one asked to bring something sweet.

 

Fresh Ricotta with Figs, Peaches & Honey

There is nothing as simple as assembling items on a board or platter.  

 

This sweet and savory offering is just that kind of dish.  Arrange seasonal fruits, like figs & peaches for the summer, on a pretty plate or a wooden board. Fill a bowl with fresh ricotta & drizzle with honey.  It's just that simple. You can toss some nuts in if you like, but for the sheer simplicity of this dish, it's not necessary.  Let the purity of these vibrant flavors speak for themselves.  The creaminess of the ricotta against the nature sweetness of the fruit with that extra sweetness from the honey is soothing combination.

 

Chocolate Dipped Fruit

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This one might take a tad more effort but not much more.  Use the fruit of your choice or the ones in season.  I had raspberries, blackberries and bananas on hand.  Dip each piece in melted dark chocolate and let cool on parchment paper.  You can roll them in crushed nuts or coconut to ratchet it up a notch.  Then arrange on a plate and watch these fly faster than they took to make.  Believe it or not, these little 'pop in your mouth' treats are so pretty that they will make an "ohh' statement on your dessert table.  So easy enough to make, you can get your kids to help.

 

Cheese Course

Cheeses with strawberries, grapes, mini  bread sticks  and  Tortas de Aceite  (Sweet Olive Oil Crackers).

Cheeses with strawberries, grapes, mini bread sticks and Tortas de Aceite (Sweet Olive Oil Crackers).

Blue cheese (such as  Cabrales ,  Valdeon,  Stilton or Gorgonzola). Add nuts, date loaf, figs in syrup, oranges.

Blue cheese (such as Cabrales, Valdeon, Stilton or Gorgonzola). Add nuts, date loaf, figs in syrup, oranges.

Ok, this is not my idea, of course, but more of a reminder in case this option was misplaced in the memory banks. Instead of serving cheese as part of your appetizers, save it for dessert and do it the French and Italian way. Enjoy it after the meal.

Fresh Fruit Lovingly bound by Chocolate

This colorful, flavorful option is similar to but slightly different to the above chocolate dipped fruit.  Instead of individual chocolate coated fruits, this version creates a bed of chocolate for the fresh fruit, nuts and sea salt to lie gently atop.  I made this on just such an occasion when I didn't have time but wanted to serve a dessert after lunch.  It was better than I thought and served the purpose beautifully.   I already had a chocolate ganache in the fridge. (Ganache is just chocolate with a tad of cream added to it.  This keeps it from getting completely hard and makes it pourable to glaze a cake or drizzle. I liked using the ganache for this version because once I refrigerated it, it became hard enough to hold the fruit together but still had a softness that added to the yumminess. A result I didn't quite realize would occur. 

Spread the ganache on parchment. Not too thin.

Spread the ganache on parchment. Not too thin.

Lovingly place the fruit in a visual manner that pleases your eye and your belly. Add nuts and sprinkle with course sea salt.

Lovingly place the fruit in a visual manner that pleases your eye and your belly. Add nuts and sprinkle with course sea salt.

 

Chocolate Bark

If you don't happen to have fresh fruit, then go the traditional chocolate bark route.  This version does not use ganache.  It is pure chocolate melted down.  I use a combo of dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate. Spread the melted mixture onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Then top with whatever suits your fancy.  I like cashews, dried apricots & dried cherries plus a healthy sprinkling of course sea salt.  That really makes the chocolate sing. Refrigerate until solid, then cut or break into shards.  No brainer of sheer joy. 

 

I hope these ideas provide you a few quick, easy but delicious desserts to have in your back pocket when you are in a pinch.  I promise you, your guests will not miss the cake or pie or any other more labor intensive sweet.