28 Days of Classy and Fabulous Things: Day 22 – Have a Signature Dish

22/02/2011 § Leave a comment

**QC’s 28 Days**
In February I will be bringing you daily tips
to cultivate more classiness and fabulousness in daily life!
Image via LIFE

Day 22: Have a Signature Dish
I was recently discussing the “28 Days” list with a good friend who aptly pointed out that I had made it all the way to day 22 and I was yet to discuss food or cooking.  Epiphany!  Have you guessed we’ve happened upon another topic that yours truly needs to work on?

A classy and fabulous life of course includes the enjoyment of good food, preferably paired with copious amounts of cocktails, friends and atmosphere.  But how does one get good food?  Cherie, I’m not a great chef, it’s true.  I cannot share with you wonderful tips on how to make a souffle or Baked Alaska, because I simply don’t have the knowledge — which is why today’s tip is a very important to me!  Whether you are a culinary virtuoso or a sometimes sous chef, you must have a signature dish — at least one “go to” up your fabulous sleeve.  It’s not especially important what it is — be it an amazing frittata or a fantastic cobbler — if you take the time to perfect it, people will notice and beg for more.  To go to a dinner party is plenty of fun, but to go to a dinner party and bring along a dish you are well-known for?  Pure class.

What I handle beautifully is salads — laugh if you will, my darling! — but an excellent salad is probably my most favorite part of a meal.  My current signature salad is quite easy, and was lifted with love from Williams-Sonoma.

Baby Spinach Salad with Roasted Strawberries

2 pints large strawberries (1 lb. total)
8 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
4 tsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted
9 cups baby spinach
5 oz. pecorino romano cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400°F. Using a paring knife, hull the strawberries and cut them in half lengthwise. Spread the berries on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil and sprinkle with the 2 tsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. of the salt and several grinds of pepper. Toss to coat the berries evenly, then spread them out again. Roast until softened, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

In a small nonreactive bowl, whisk together the vinegar, orange juice, tarragon, the 1 Tbs. sugar, 3/4 tsp. of the salt and several grinds of pepper until the sugar dissolves. Slowly whisk in the remaining 6 Tbs. olive oil until well blended to make a vinaigrette. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

In a small bowl, stir together the almonds and 1/4 tsp. of the salt. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and several grinds of pepper. Whisk the vinaigrette to recombine, drizzle about one-third of it over the spinach and toss well (reserve the remaining vinaigrette for another use). Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Divide the dressed spinach evenly among individual plates, top each serving with an equal amount of the roasted strawberries, and sprinkle with the almonds and cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

I’ve actually simplified this already simple recipe in a few different ways to great success.  I’ve omitted roasting the strawberries (which cuts down on the sugar), and simply used fresh ones.  I’ve omitted making the vinaigrette, and simply dressed the salad with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Is this “cooking”?  Perhaps not, but I am quite fine with that because so many have loved this salad.  C’est la vie!

As I continue my culinary exploration, I would love to hear what your signature dish is!  Just make sure it isn’t too hard or this girl is apt to lose her head…

Earlier: Quite Continental’s 28 Days of Classy and Fabulous Things

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