Walnut Tartine with Whipped Blue Cheese and Fennel Apple Slaw
*This year I’ve teamed with California Walnuts to bring you several walnut studded recipes that I’m certain you will love. I mean have you seen our walnut cake?! Walnuts are full of good fats (2.5g/oz omega-3 ALA) and also offer protein (4g/oz), fiber (2g/oz) and antioxidants.* But my favorite thing about walnuts? They’re delicious. As always anything you see and read here are my opinions, words and imagery but we so appreciate you supporting the brands that support the work we do. Great partnerships equals many more great recipes for all of us.
Things in the Rodriguez household have gotten a bit more complicated when it comes to food. Our tender-hearted 10 year old decided he wanted to be a pescatarian after studying about the impact much of the meat industry has on our environment. While Gabe has been put on a low-fat diet (which really is against everything I stand for – perhaps a bit dramatic, but I really am a strong believer in fat) for health related issues. And for myself, after months of feeling lethargic, foggy brained, tired, depressed and anxious I got a full lab done which revealed I’m deficient in so many many areas.
Now all of this is quite possibly more information than you bargained for if you’ve simply landed here for a recipe but if you’ve been here for longer than ten minutes you know by know that we go there. While this is indeed a food blog, what we talk about here are the things I imagine we’d discuss while sitting around my dining room table.
I’m incredibly grateful for our health, and all the things we are dealing with regarding our diets can easily be remedied, but I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t rattled me a bit. I’ve never been one to cook several different meals for dinner for the sake of satisfying each individual in the family, but I’ve yet to really reconcile what these changes will look like at the table.
But right now it’s just me at the table. It’s lunchtime, the pescatarian is at school (although he would happily eat what’s in front of me right now), and the low-fat dieter is away working. Lunch is my time to satisfy my own needs both for nourishment and pleasure. And while sometimes I admit, lunch for one is a scoop of peanut butter and a banana, today it’s a thick slice of homemade walnut bread still warm from the oven topped with blue cheese whipped until a blue streaked cloud forms then topped with a sweet, tart and licorice tinged slaw heavily laced with dill and lemon. This is lunch for one, and it is healing for so many reasons.
Walnut Tartine with Whipped Blue Cheese and Fennel Apple Slaw
2 thick-cut slices of walnut bread
4 ounces blue cheese, room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 green apple, cut into matchsticks
1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped dill
Zest and juice from 1 small lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
In the bowl of a food processor combine the blue cheese and cream cheese. Process until creamy and light. You may need to scrape down the bowl a couple of times to make sure everything is well combined.In a medium bowl combine the apple, fennel, scallion, dill, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and a hearty pinch of salt (I like flake salt here for the crunch) and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.Slather the bread (toasted or untoasted - the choice is yours) with half of the blue cheese mixture then top with slaw and walnuts. Enjoy immediately. Save the rest for tomorrow’s lunch.
Toasted Walnut BreadFrom Date Night IN
3 1/4 cups/1 pound all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups/ 400 g lukewarm water
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon yeast
1 cup / 3 ounces toasted walnuts
In a large bowl stir together the flour, yeast, salt, 1 3/4 cups/ 400 g lukewarm water, and walnuts. It will be slumped and very wet.Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let sit overnight. You can also refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days.Grab a bowl a bit larger than the volume of the bread dough. Lay a clean towel in the bowl and cover the towel generously with flour.Dump your dough onto a heavily floured surface and add more flour to the top of the dough so your hands don’t stick. The wetness of the dough creates a light and almost velvety texture to the final bread but don’t be afraid of using flour here so you aren’t covered in wet dough.Form the dough into a round by gently tucking the edges under while turning the dough.Lay the round into the bowl with the floured cloth so the seam is exposed. Cover the dough and let rise for an hour or until it feels airy, light and slowly springs back when gently pressed. While it rises, place a 3 or 4 quart oven safe lidded pot in the oven and preheat to 450°F for one hour.Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. Place the round of bread into the pan seam side down.There’s no way to avoid this being a messy and awkward step. I assure you that even after dozens of homemade loaves I still look a bit disheveled in this.Give the pan a gentle tap on the counter to distribute the dough. Cover and return to the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow and looming when tapped.
Remove the loaf from the pan. If you want a deeper set and more intensely caramelized crust you can return the loaf to the oven outside of its pan for another 5 to 10 minutes.
*2 Walnuts offer a variety of antioxidants (3.721 mmol/oz), including polyphenols (69.3 ± 16.5 μmol catechin equivalents/g) and gamma tocopherol (5.91 mg/ounce). The data for antioxidant capacity of foods generated by test-tube methods cannot be extrapolated to human effects. Clinical trials to test benefits of dietary antioxidants have produced mixed results.
Spring Pea Salad
This morning I read Sara’s latest post on Sprouted Kitchen. It’s a beautiful reflection on 10 years of blogging and it made me realize that I’m pretty sure my 10 year anniversary came and went without fanfare. But it’s worth noting (as Sara did beautifully). This space, as we all do, has evolved. Some of its evolution has been intentional, some of it has not. As blogs have taken a dip in popularity and prominence I’ve stepped away from this space as other areas in my life have taken precedence. But I always come back here because this is where it all began for me.
In this space I found myself. I found my love of food writing, recipe development and food photography. This space taught me how to do those things. In the midst of the extremely challenging season of raising three young children this space was mine. It was my sanctuary. My creative place where I could interact with other adults and you all encouraged me in this work when the rest of my day offered very little encouragement.
While other blogs lay abandoned, I don’t want that for this space because I need it. I’m not sure how many of you are still here (I’m incredibly grateful for each and every one) but this space has always been incredibly personal for me. It’s where I sort through my thoughts, where I’ve shared incredibly intimate parts of my life and where I’ve talked about food and life intermingling. For awhile I backed away from vulnerability here as I recovered from an intense vulnerability hangover after Date Night In came out. And even today as I write this I battle the inner critic who is continually telling me to just get to the damn recipe. But this place has never just been about the recipes has it? It’s always been about the lives around the food. It’s our dining table conversations. It’s you and I at the table surrounded by food that reminds us that beauty abounds in this broken world. We talk about the brokenness and the goodness. We raise a glass and toast to our humanity. In all its imperfect glory.
I am not the same person I was when I began this blog. And I won’t be the same person five or ten years from now when I hope this place is still a part of my life.
I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this but I’m here, I hope you are too and I’m not going anywhere. Thank you for being here, for supporting this work. You all have made my passion my career. Whoa. Because of you all I get to wake up and work my ass off providing for my family doing the work I love to do and I truly feel I was created to do. Good sweet Lord, thank you.
Now let’s talk about this freaking salad because I have many people who are waiting for this recipe. I’ve made it at least a dozen times this season. Always without a recipe because that’s my favorite way to cook – relying on instinct, being present and tasting all along the way. But I come here to share this recipe because it has brought me great joy and that needs to be shared.
It’s an hommage to the humble pea in all its splendor. English peas, sugar snap peas and pea vines mingle with herbs, lemon, olive oil, pistachios and pecorino to honor spring and the peas that are among the first to sprout. It’s simple in execution and ingredients and yet people believe magic is involved. The magic is in the beauty of the ingredients themselves. Our job is simple.
Feel free to use this recipe as a guide and let your own tastebuds guide you. Trust yourself.
Spring Pea Salad
6 ounces pea vines
2 cups thinly sliced sugar snap peas
2 cups freshly shucked or frozen peas, blanched
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup pistachios
Toss the pea vines in a bit of olive oil and sea salt then grill or broil until charred in parts, about 3-4 minutes.
In a large bowl combine the sugar snap peas, blanched peas, herbs and pecorino. Toss with olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir in the pistachios and finish with flake salt. Some freshly cracked black pepper is nice too. Taste and adjust as you see fit.