Friday, March 16, 2018

Giada's Kale Salsa Verde Bruschetta with Fresh Mozzarella and 10 Other Favorite "Greens" Recipes

Kale... people tend to love it or hate it. I am in the first camp, but even if you hate kale, you should try Giada De Laurentiis's Kale Salsa Verde spooned onto crisp, toasted ciabatta bread and topped with pieces of fresh burrata or mozzarella and toasted pine nuts. The bruschetta makes a great light lunch or appetizer and is a tasty way to sneak some greens into your day.

I made a few changes to Giada's recipe--mainly reducing the amount of olive oil to reduce the fat and calories. I grabbed the sun-dried tomatoes from the olive bar of my local grocery store where I ciabatta in 'rolls' that I split in half and worked just as well as a full loaf. Although I adore burrata, a small ball of it was $12 and a bigger piece of fresh mozzarella was $7, so that's what I used. My changes are noted in red below. 

Kale Salsa Verde Bruschetta with Fresh Mozzarella
Slightly Adapted from Burrata & Kale Salsa Verde by Giada De Laurentiis,
(Serves 6)

Salsa Verde:
1 1/2 cups chopped Tuscan kale (about 8 large leaves)
1 clove garlic, smashed (I used a really large clove)
3 Tbsp capers, drained and rinsed (I didn't drain and rinse them)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
kosher salt (see note below)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used 2 Tbsp--see notes below)

1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally 
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used about 2 Tbsp)
8 oz burrata or fresh mozzarella (about 2 medium balls)
3 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
8 oil-marinated sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

For the salsa verde: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the kale and garlic until roughly chopped. Add the capers, vinegar, Dijon mustard, anchovy paste and 3/8 teaspoon salt and pulse 1 or 2 times more. Add the olive oil and run the processor for 5 seconds. Set aside to let the flavors marry. (In order to have enough liquid to loosen the kale but not have to use all of the oil, I used a trick I use when I make pesto. After washing the kale well, I don't drain it and instead of cutting it, I tear it with my hands as I put it in the food processor. Enough water usually clings to the curled leaves to make the salsa verde smooth, but you can also add a little extra water if needed. I also don't rinse and drain the capers as I like the briny taste. Giada adds 3/8 of a teaspoon of salt but with the anchovy paste, un-drained capers and other ingredients, I found it didn't need much salt and used just a small pinch of sea salt.)

To assemble the bruschetta: Preheat a grill pan over high heat. Drizzle both halves of the bread evenly with the olive oil. (Rather than drizzle all of the oil, I used a little olive oil, brushed on with a pastry brush.) Grill on each side until golden brown and charred in a few spots, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the bread to a cutting board. Spoon the salsa verde evenly over each half of the bread. Tear the burrata over the salsa verde and sprinkle the pine nuts and tomatoes evenly over the tops. Cut each bread half into slices and serve.

Notes/Results: Bright and colorful and lots of delicious flavor,this is a yummy bruschetta that I think even kale-haters will enjoy (if you don't tell them there's kale in it!). ;-) It really tastes like a spinach pesto and any bitterness of the kale is disguised by the other ingredients. I like the pop of acidity and brine from the capers, vinegar and mustard and the garlic and anchovy paste add a depth of flavor. With the creamy cheese, toasty nuts and slightly sweet tomatoes on top, it hits all of the buttons. I didn't miss the extra olive oil I omitted and I think my leftover salsa verde (I only made a couple of the ciabatta rolls into bruschetta) would also be delicious stirred into rice or pasta. I will happily make these again.

In honor of tomorrow being St. Patrick's Day, here are ten of my favorite recipes featuring kale or other greens:

Giada knows her greens and sandwiches, her Grilled Cheese with Spinach is ridiculously good.

Diana Henry's Salmon Hash has a spinach in with the chunks of potato and salmon--so delicious!

I added kale to Diana Henry's buttery Cabbage and Leek Colcannon. A great recipe to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with. 

Heidi Swanson's 5-Minute (Egg) Breakfast Tacos have micro-greens in them. I make these often for a quick breakfast.

Speaking of her talent with greens and eggs, Heidi Swanson's Kale Rice Bowl with Egg and Fried Capers is marvelous. 

Tessa Kiros's Portuguese Purslane Soup is a delicious use of a unique green--I still dream about this soup. ;-)

Mark Bittman's Chinese-Style Peanut Soup with Tofu and Bok Choy is the perfect way to enjoy Asian greens.

One of my favorite Ottolenghi soups was his tasty Swiss Chard-filled Herb, Chard and Feta Soup

You can't do a greens roundup without a green juice recipe and Curtis Stone's Ginger-Apple Green Juice is one of my favorites. 

Finally, I can't leave out Nigel Slater's Pan-Fried Apple and Cheese Salad--served on a bed of spinach. Still one of my all-time favorite salads.

I'm linking this post up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where it this week is our Monthly Featured Ingredient Challenge -- Greens!

Because bruschetta is like a mini open-faced sandwich, I'm also linking it up to Souper Sundays, here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup 


Happy Aloha Friday and have a Happy St. Patrick's Day tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "I'll Be Your Blue Sky" by Marisa de los Santos, Served with a Recipe for Dark Chocolate Blueberry Bites

I am very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos. Not only did this book give me a chance to revisit some favorite characters, it inspired some delicious Dark Chocolate Blueberry Bites.

Publisher's Blurb:

The New York Times bestselling author revisits the characters from her beloved novels Love Walked In and Belong to Me in this captivating, beautifully written drama involving family, friendship, secrets, sacrifice, courage, and true love for fans of Jojo Moyes, Elin Hilderbrand, and Nancy Thayer.

On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming—yet overly possessive—fiancé.

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined. As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.

Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (March 6, 2018)

My Review:

I have been a fan of Marisa de los Santos's books since stumbling across Love Walked In and Belong to Me several years ago. The eclectic group of characters that somehow came together as a large, strange, extended family--by birth and by choice, captured my heart. de los Santos writes characters that are not perfect but are immensely likable and memorable, so when I found out that I'll Be Your Blue Sky would give me a chance to spend time with some of my favorites from those two books, I was excited to sign on to this book tour. You don't need to have read the first two books to love and appreciate this one (and I say that as someone who usually insists on reading series or related books 'in order') but I heartily recommend them and I think it makes reading I'll Be Your Blue Sky all the better.

In this book the story is focused on Clare, who was eleven in Love Walked In and is now in her twenties and about to marry Zach, but is having second (and third and fourth) thoughts and in fact, is spending the day before her wedding compiling a mental list of ten reasons why she should marry him. That she gets stuck at nine and that the reasons range from how he cooks eggs to how he doesn't tailgate, make it pretty clear that this marriage would be a mistake, but it takes a stranger to prompt Clare to call off the wedding. That stranger is Edith, an elderly woman staying at the resort where Clare's wedding will take place. In addition to saving her from a huge mistake, Edith dies soon after their conversation and unexpectedly leaves Clare a house on the Delaware coast--"a place to breathe easily" and feel safe--something Edith sees she needs. Finding two hidden ledgers at the house and wanting to know more about the mysterious Edith and Blue Sky House, Clare begins to investigate. 

The story unfolds through Clare and Edith's points of view, Edith's past in the 1950s and Clare's experiences in present day. de los Santos weaves both time and perspective pretty seamlessly and I found myself equally caught up in both stories. There are secrets and twists, some a bit more obvious than others but still a few surprises. There are tougher subjects covered--primarily domestic violence and abusive relationships, but there are plenty of lighter moments with family and love and humor--especially between Clare and Dev, her longtime friend and former boyfriend. Warm and witty, I'll Be Your Blue Sky is the kind of book you want to curl up with or crawl into and spend time with the characters. I was sorry to turn the last page and it made me want to go back and reread the first two books. If you enjoy great and lovable characters, women's fiction, contemporary fiction, romance, or any and all of the above, you will enjoy this one.


Author Notes: Marisa de los Santos is a  New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing, Marisa de los Santos lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her family.
Connect with Marisa on Facebook and Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

Although there's not a lot of it, there is food to be found in I'll Be Your Blue Sky--some of it included: green apples in a glass bowl, French toast decorated with edible flowers, a "perfect egg over easy"--striped with sriracha, tomato tart, champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, turkey, pecan pie, The Home Book of French Cookery, bowls of berries and pitchers of juice, mini cinnamon roles and mention of 'undersized hotcakes,' deviled eggs, Butterscotch Krimpets, drop biscuits, jam and butter, bowls of cut fruit, coffee, blueberry-peach pie with lattice crust, sandwiches, scallops on the half-shell with a drop of cocktail sauce, watermelon, falafel, tahini, taboon bread (pita), lox and bagel, gin and tonic, fig newtons and cheddar cheese, apple pie, toast buttered to the edges, donuts, Thai food, blueberries,lobster, banana split, bacon and eggs, a platter of cheeses, prosciutto, and baguette, bowls of blueberries, strawberries, olives, and a big plate of molasses cookies, sour cherry pie, and tea with lemon.

No single food or dish  called out to me as central to the story and characters so I decided to put a few things together--the bowls of fruit, the blueberries mentioned in a few places, and the chocolate-covered strawberries that Dev 'scarfs' with "the happy oblivion of a six-year-old" at Clare's rehearsal dinner. 

If we were closer to the season for good strawberries, I would have dipped some in chocolate, but instead I decided to go with dark chocolate and blueberries which are mentioned in the book, and also a nod to the 'blue' in the book's title. Looking for ways to display the pretty blueberries, I decided to top dark chocolates with them, using a mini-muffin tin and blue and yellow mini cupcake liners.

Dark Chocolate Blueberry Bites
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12)

1 cup fresh blueberries, washed well and patted dry
5 oz dark chocolate

Place liners into a mini muffin pan, set aside.

Break chocolate into small pieces and melt--either in a microwave safe bowl (or measuring cup) or with a double-boiler on the stove. stirring until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the paper liners--filling them about half-way. Sprinkle blueberries into each of the melted chocolate-filled liners. Some of the berries will sink into the chocolate and some will remain on top. Lightly tap and gently shake the pan to remove any air bubbles.

Place in the freezer for 15 minutes to harden. Remove and place in fridge for another 30 minutes before serving.

Keep in an airtight container in the fridge. With the fresh fruit, chocolates should be consumed within 3 to 4 days. 

Notes/Results: There is just something about the combination of good dark chocolate and berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries) that is especially delicious and the firm bite of the creamy chocolate with the burst of the fresh blueberries, both on top and inside, is really appealing. I used a combination of Lindt dark chocolate in both 70% and 78% cacao--which runs to the bittersweet side of things, but is still creamy and sweet enough for the berries. If I had thought of it before, I might have picked up some dried blueberries at the store and dropped them in the melted chocolate first for a contrast in textures, but otherwise I wouldn't change a thing. These chocolate treats are quick to make (except for the chilling/firming time) and taste great. They also provide lots of antioxidants with the blueberries and dark chocolate, so they make for a relatively healthy treat. ;-) I will happily make them again.

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "I'll Be Your Blue Sky" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Carrot Soup with Chives and Popcorn for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I say it all the time, the soup topping is my favorite part of the soup. That's why with a bunch of delicious-sounding recipes in Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite by Sarah Copeland, I picked the Carrot Soup with Chives and Popcorn to try first. It's sunny color makes it perfect for a cool, breezy day and popcorn makes me happy.

Feast is gorgeous and I feel (almost) guilty that it only cost me a dollar at the library bookstore a few months ago. (And it looks brand new!) I am looking forward to cooking more from it as I have quite a few recipes tagged. 

Feast says, "At the world's greatest restaurants, the soup, no matter how simple it is, is always garnished in a way that makes it seem so much greater than the sum of its parts. And usually, it is. This soup is the perfect example of how easy it can be to do that at home. A simple carrot soup, inspired by a hearty bunch of young carrots from the garden, came together one night in my kitchen right before popcorn and a movie. A few plucky kernels made their way to the top of the soup, along with chives and a drizzle of olive oil, and the memorable little combo stuck. This is now our house carrot soup."

Carrot Soup with Chives and Popcorn
From Feast by Sarah Copeland
(Serves 4 to 6)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic cloves, smashed (I used 3)
1 (1-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, chopped
2 lbs carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 to 5 cups vegetable stock
1 sprig fresh thyme (optional) (I used 3)
sea salt and black pepper
2 cups fresh carrot juice

To serve:
1 to 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
12 cup full fat yogurt
handful popped popcorn
3 to 4 Tbsp chopped/snipped fresh chives

In a large soup pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the carrots and enough stock to cover them (4 cups for a thicker soup, 5 if you like your soup thinner), and the thyme (if using) and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, cover loosely and reduce the heat to low.

Simmer soup until the carrots are completely tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the thyme sprig and discard. Blend the soup until smooth in a blender (in batches if necessary) or with an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the carrot juice with a wooden spoon. Reheat soup over low if needed to warm through. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with the olive oil. Top each bowl with a dollop of yogurt, pooped popcorn kernels, and a sprinkle of chives. Serve immediately. 

Notes/Results: This is a simple carrot soup with lots of carrot flavor. I used good fresh carrots with their tops still on (the tops are being turned into pesto this week) and cold-packed carrot juice from a local juice producer. I did up the garlic and thyme slightly--I like a lot of flavor, but the carrots are the star--so if you are not a fan, this is not your soup. ;-) The popcorn is a great topping although I would recommend just starting with a couple kernels on top and serving the soup with a bowl of popcorn so everyone can add their own and it remains crunchy. The chives and yogurt are a nice touch too--although you can omit the yogurt or use a non-dairy version to make the soup vegan. Simple to make, pretty to look at and good to eat--I would happily make it again.

We have some tasty dishes waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week, let's have a look!

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor is here with a delicious Chicken Taco Chili and says, "This. Is. So. Good. ... I actually prepared this in the morning while coffee was brewing, it's that easy.  If I had to cook chicken it would obviously take longer but as it happened, I had some handy so I diced it into chunks.You toss it all in one pot to heat. If you wanted a vegetarian version I'm sure you could use tofu as tofu absorbs the flavors of other ingredients."

I am so excited to have my friend Beth Fish Reads share her Tuscan White Bean Soup this week! I have been joining in her Weekend Cooking event for a while now and I am happy to welcome her to Souper Sundays. She says, "The original recipe for this delicious bean soup was written for the slow cooker, so if you don't have a pressure cooker, click the link and follow the directions. I made a few other changes, most notably, I had some chorizos to use up, so I used them instead of pancetta. Also, I didn't feel like chopping the rosemary, so I just dropped the sprigs in whole. I made this in an electric pressure cooker, but you could use a stovetop cooker."

And here at Kahakai Kitchen, I am a big fan of Ina Garten's Crunchy Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese that I made to pair with a book review this week. Instead of a wedge of lettuce, a thick slice is covered with the thick and creamy blue cheese dressing and crisp radish, celery and green onion pieces are piled on top, along with chunks of blue cheese. So much flavor and texture and so pretty on the plate too! 

Thanks to everyone who joined me this week at Souper Sundays!

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on the post you link up to be included.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a happy, healthy week!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Hot Mess" by Emily Belden, Served with a Recipe for Crunchy Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese

It's one day closer to Friday! Today I am happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for Hot Mess, a new foodie novel by Emily Belden. Accompanying my review of the book is a delicious Ina Garten recipe for Crunchy Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese that was inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

Sweetbitter meets The Devil Wears Prada in this riveting and provocative novel set in the trendy Chicago restaurant scene. 

Twenty-something Allie Simon never imagined she’d fall for a recovering drug addict—but that was before she met Benji Zane, Chicago’s hottest up-and-coming chef, who’s known as much for his hard partying ways as for his unparalleled culinary skills. Six months into their relationship, the food and chemistry are out of this world, but the reality of living with a cooking wunderkind hasn’t exactly been all hearts and flowers. Still, Allie’s convinced that her love is the key to fixing this talented man’s broken soul—so when Benji is offered his dream job as chef de cuisine for a new restaurant opening on Randolph Street, Chicago’s foodie hot spot, Allie agrees to invest her life savings in his future. But less than a month after she goes all in, Allie learns a heartbreaking lesson: addicts lie. Benji cracks under the pressure, relapses and disappears, bagging out not only on the restaurant, but on her, too. Left with nothing but a massive withdrawal slip and a restaurant that absolutely must open in a matter of weeks, Allie finds herself thrust into a world of luxury and greed, cutthroat business and sensory delight. Lost in the mess of it all, she can either crumble completely or fight like hell for the life she wants and the love she deserves.

With razor-sharp wit and searing insight, Emily Belden serves up a deliciously dishy look behind the kitchen doors of a hot foodie town.

Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Graydon House (March 20, 2018)

My Review:

I love a good foodie novel and especially ones that are set in the world of professional chefs and restaurants. I like the ability to live vicariously through the characters as having been involved both in opening and supporting birth quick service food concepts and casual dining restaurants in my career, I know the hard work that goes into them and have no desire to actually do that work again myself. Allie Simon has no desire to be involved in the restaurant business, although she enjoys the fame that comes with being the girlfriend of Chicago's favorite bad-boy chef, Benji Zane. She also helps him with his current post-rehab venture of pop-up dinners--mainly to collect and hold onto the money so he isn't tempted to return to his old ways. When he inevitably does (not a spoiler--it's on the cover blurb) she is left with all of her savings being tied up in the new restaurant concept he was set to headline and she must jump in and learn quickly if she wants any possibility of ever recouping her money.

Hot Mess was interesting for me. I did not love the main character Allie, who at twenty-five, is a few decades younger than me. That she is a bit immature and codependent didn't help. I also was not a fan from the start of Benji and did not see his appeal. I'm not into grungy addicts with man buns. (I disagree strongly with Allie who says, "For anyone who says the man-bun trend isn't their thing, they're lying." I see a man-bun and pretty much think 'douchey!') ;-) Anyway, the first half of the book I was convinced that foodie or not, I was probably not the demographic for this novel and I found it (mainly Allie putting up with Benji) a bit annoying at times. Luckily, the second half finds Benji missing (again, not a spoiler--it's on the back cover) and Allie working with general manager (Angela) and the team to get a high profile restaurant open and I got interested and began to like and respect Allie. I enjoyed the characters involved in the restaurant--Angela, the new chef Tabitha, and the hot produce vendor Jared, and it took me back to the crazy pre-opening days of food service establishments, which was fun.

The cover tag on my ARC of the book captures it pretty well, Hot Mess is "a novel of fine dining and finer men." It's a foodie novel that is also a romantic comedy with the coveted boyfriend who turns out to be a loser and a new guy who may not be glamorous and famous, but is a solid pick and different from who Allie normally goes for. It's a bit predictable (as rom-coms tend to be) and for me the foodie aspects were more rewarding and interesting than the romance, but overall once I got into it, I found it an enjoyable and entertaining read.

Author Notes: Emily Belden is an author for powerhouse publisher, Harlequin/HarperCollins. She is represented by famed literary agency, Browne & Miller, along with 44 Blue Productions in Burbank. The SoCal studio is adapting her memoir into a comedic series.

You can connect with Emily on her website, Facebook, or Twitter


Food Inspiration

It's a novel based on the girlfriend of a bad-boy chef and the opening of a restaurant so of course Hot Mess is filled with food inspiration. I started the novel writing down all food mentions and then gave up and just noted the ones that interested me. Here's just some of what was included: chocolate soufflé, hard boiled eggs, house-made butter, caramel, avocado aioli, Sriracha Jell-O cubes, grilled fig panna cotta with bourbon honeycomb drizzle over vanilla bean gelato, deconstructed squash blossoms, Bloody Marys with a host of garnishes, a veggie omelet and hash-browns, cinnamon brioche French Toast, deconstructed elotes with yellow corn, homemade mayo, and parmesan cheese, crispy cucumber slices with homemade garlic hummus and Craisins, toast points with guacamole, ricotta pancakes, carrot mousse, "real" mac-n-cheese with a roux, ditalini pasta with cream sauce and pancetta, roasted chicken with carrots and broccoli and mashed sweet potato gnocchi, deconstructed cannoli, spaghetti with black truffles, cheese and black pepper, 'fancy' eggs Benedict, tomato bisque, prosecco and an octopus appetizer, a blue cheese burger--deconstructed and served on toast points with tomato jam and strings of onions, sweet potato mash with pecans, spinach salad with Honeycrisp apple, butternut squash soup, a variety of amuse bouches--including prawns, portobellos, and dates, burrata flatbread,  and roasted beet salad,

Several ideas tempted me like the fig panna cotta, one of the several deconstructed dishes or egg and bagel sandwiches with onion bagels, cheddar and scrambled eggs (cooked with 12 cup sparkling water to make them "beyond fluffly"). I decided to go with an iceberg salad which sounds basic but it wasn't cooked by Benji, whom I didn't like and showcased the contrasting  'good guy-ness' of Jared the produce vendor, who replaced a case of iceberg lettuce that Allie let outside where it became "totally browned and wilted--not to mention half-eaten by whatever lives under the dumpster and between the cracks of the building." Allie panics when she checks the menu and sees a "Wedge of Iceberg with house-made bleu cheese dressing"  and calls Jared for help.

It gave me an immediate craving for good, homemade blue cheese dressing so I went to Ina Garten who had a couple of iceberg salad recipes. I was caught by her Crunchy Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese (from The Barefoot Contessa website)--in which the wedge is instead a thick slice of iceberg lettuce, topped with a creamy blue cheese dressing, thinly sliced crunchy veggies and small chunks of Roquefort blue cheese. It sounded delicious and the presentation looked restaurant-worthy.  

Crunchy Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese
Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten via
(Serves 4)

For the Dressing:
4 oz Roquefort blue cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup good mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

For the Salad:
4 tender inside celery stalks, trimmed and sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick
6 radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
5 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts sliced ¼ inch thick
1 large head iceberg lettuce, wilted outer leaves removed
4 to 6 oz Roquefort blue cheese, crumbled
Fleur de sel or other flaky salt

For the dressing, place 4 ounces of blue cheese in a small bowl and microwave for 15 seconds, until it begins to melt. Place the mayonnaise, yogurt, warm blue cheese, sherry vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

For the salad, combine the celery, radishes, and scallions in a bowl. Slice the whole head of lettuce across to make four ¾-inch-thick round disks and place each on a dinner plate. Spoon the dressing on the lettuce and sprinkle on a quarter of the vegetable mixture. Distribute the remaining crumbled blue cheese on the salads, sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper, and serve.

Notes/Results: I know blue cheese is a bit polarizing--people either really like it, or they really don't. I happen to love it and Ina's creamy dressing is perfect--just blue cheesy enough without being too overpowering and thick and creamy enough to be a dip or spread. In addition to going well with the lettuce, the texture and flavor of the dressing compliment the green onions, celery and radish slices piled on top, and the extra crumbles of cheese provide an extra punch making the salad a pleasure to eat. I think you could plly around with and change up the toppings--I think blueberries or sliced strawberries, chunks of avocado, and/or chopped hard-boiled egg would make nice additions. I loved this salad and will happily make it and the dressing again.

Although our theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week is Breakfast Buffet, I am always happy to have salads on any breakfast or brunch buffet, so I'm linking this Ina recipe up there. ;-)

Hot Mess is my second foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2018 event. You can check out the March 2018 Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.  

I'm also sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Finally I am linking this post up to Souper Sundays, right here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup 

Note: A review copy of "Hot Mess" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

Note: If you are reading this post anywhere other than on this blog--Kahakai Kitchen, the content has been stolen--taken and used without my permission. It is very frustrating, when people steal your hard work--writing and photos, and put it on their blog like it is their own, when it clearly is not. I am currently taking steps with the server that hosts the site that has been scraping my blog feed and stealing my work to both to get all of my work removed from that site and to deal with the troll who is stealing it (and also stealing material from other blogs) and would not take it down when asked. I am hoping that karma will come around and bite them (very hard) where it hurts.