Happy New Year! I hope you said a proper goodbye to 2011, and thank you for continuing to read my blog. I know I only post sporadically, but perhaps in 2012 I will be better about it. I don’t make resolutions (mostly because I never keep them), but if I did I am sure blogging more would be at the top of the list. The good news is that I’m not cooking any less, just really busy with my day job and finding less and less time in my day. But, since I own my own small business I guess being busy is a good thing, especially in this economy.
Since I saw you last I have been cooking up a storm from Plenty, the latest cookbook from London chef Ottolenghi. The recipes are all vegetarian, but they are designed to be filling and hearty and attractive to carnivores as well. This salad would be an excellent accompaniment to anything, from fish to chicken to beef and pork. Quince are my new favorite fruit, and though they require some cooking time to make them easily edible, they are such a fragrant, delightful treat that I can’t resist any recipe that contains them.
One caveat: quince are only in season through February, and may be hard to find if your grocery store doesn’t have them. We get ours from our CSA, and I just got these last week so I know there are still some out there. Many people actually have quince trees and don’t have any idea what to do with the fruit. Friend one of these people, and “help” take some off their hands.
Quince and Sweet Gorgonzola Salad
1 3/4 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
15 black peppercorns
4 strips orange zest
2 bay leaves
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup red wine
2 medium quinces
1 tsp grainy mustard
2 tsp cider vinegar
4 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups mixed greens
4-5 ounces sweet gorgonzola
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted, some whole and some roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 275. Take a medium-sized heavy pan that can go in the oven and for which you have a tight-fitting lid. Place inside the water, sugar, peppercorns, orange zest, bay leaves, lemon juice and red wine. Set on the stove and bring to a light simmer. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from heat.
Meanwhile, peel the quinces; keep the skin. Cut the fruit vertically into quarters and remove the core; keep this too. Cut each quarter into two segments. Place the quince segments, plus the skin and cores, in the sugar syrup. Cover the pan and put it into the over to cook for about two hours. After this time the quince should be completely tender. Remove from over and leave to cool, uncovered.
Whisk together until smooth the mustard, vinegar, 4tbs of the quince cooking liquid, 1/2 tsp salt and a good grind of black pepper.
To finish the salad, place some salad leaves on 4 serving plates. Arrange four quince sergments per portion and some hand-broken pieces of gorgonzola on the leaves. Try to build the salad up. Place a few more leaves on top. Spoon the dressing over and scatter over the pistachios. Finish with a light drizzle of olive oil. Alternatively, arrange similarly in a large central mixing bowl and bring to the table.