Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The inspiration for the blog- warm spinach salad and vanilla aprium jam

I love to cook.  It's that simple.  And I love to come up with new meals- cooking the same thing week after week is mind-numbingly boring to me.  My poor family is constantly being subjected to new dishes, some they love and some that are destined to be quickly forgotten.  A few make it into regular rotation, but that doesn't happen very often.  My husband says that his standards have now been set very high by me, so much so that it's hard for me to top myself and every meal I make gets compared to the previous ones.  But I welcome the challenge.  To add to the difficulty, I recently signed up for a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) box that supplies me with most of my produce for the week, and I don't get to pick what I want.  I have a feeling we're going to need a lot of ways to use up all that summer squash.  My first box led to two new recipes that my family just loved- warm spinach salad and vanilla aprium jam.  My plan is to share the recipes that I come up with as well as some classics from my Italian heritage and maybe even a few of my hubby's favorites from growing up.  As Julia Child would say- Bon Apetit!

Warm Spinach Salad

9 ounces spinach
4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
handful of candied pecans

Place spinach in a large bowl.  In a medium skillet, cook bacon until browned.  Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.  Pour off all but two tablespoons of the bacon drippings from the skillet.  Add shallots to the skillet and saute until softened, 2 minutes.  Add vinegar to the skillet to warm, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Toss together the spinach, bacon, feta cheese, pecans, and vinegar/shallot dressing and serve.

Vanilla Aprium Jam

3 pounds ripe apriums (or other stone fruit such as plums or nectarines)
2 cups sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbs butter
1/2 vanilla bean

Pit and coarsely chop the apriums.  Place fruit, sugar, butter and lemon juice in a large pot.  With a knife, halve the vanilla bean.  Scrape the seeds from the bean with the back of the knife.  Place seeds and bean in the pot.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat then turn down to medium and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Be sure to stir often so that the bottom doesn't scorch.  The fruit should soften and the mixture will thicken.

Cool, then place in jars and refrigerate.  Jam will keep refrigerated for two or three weeks.  Makes 3 1/2 pints.

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