The colder and nastier it gets outside, the more often my mind wanders off to about 2,800km west-southwest of here, to Madeira. Since there’s nothing I can do about shortening the actual distance on the spot, I can only tap into my recently refilled inner reserve of Madeira-Zen, roll up my sleeves and start cooking to bring a delicious little piece of the island into our corner of the world instead~!
As I’ve said before, most Madeiran dishes are of the non-fussy, unpretentious, honest kind that highlight the exceptional quality of the few ingredients used to make them. One of those “wow this is so simple but sooooo good” kind of dishes was placed in front of Hubby during our first trip to Funchal at the Beef & Wines Restaurant as a starter…
…and it kind of stuck with the both of us – my version of it has been hitting our table quite frequently ever since~ As you may have already gathered from the look of my version of this dish, I found myself in a rather whimsical mood today, going a little nuts with my cute cherry blossom cookie cutters, but hey, that’s what happens when I start to think about turning a salad into something fingerfood’able for any kind of Holiday or New Years shindig that doesn’t involve a a lot of sitting down. To be honest though, even this toothpickable/eye-candy/party-tray version of it is a real quick fix and, more importantly, delicious! So, the decision of how to serve it is up to you! My personal, not-so-flashy favorite comes with a healthy serving of the island’s signature garlic bread Bolo do Caco as a light lunch or dinner~ Here’s what you’ll need for 2 caprese-style servings – or roundabout 15-20 mini-stacks.
The Avocado-Beetroot and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad
1 large/2 small Ripe Hass Avocados
Opt: 1 small Braeburn Apple – if prepping the stacks in advance, thin slices of apple will help you to separate the beet slices from the rest, keeping the humble bulb from turning everything into a hot pink mess
1 Large – 2 small Precooked Beetroots – as usual, the cooked & sealed storebought ones work perfectly fine. If you frequently prep fresh beets at home, make a couple too many when next going with the tinfoil-wrap and bake to perfection style of root veggies and use them for this salad~! Mmmmh!
Alt: Golden Beets work deliciously well too!
2 Tbsp of Shallot, very finely diced
Alt: 2 Tbsp of Garden- or Red Radish Cress
For the Caprese-Style Version: 2 Orbs of Buffalo Mozzarella – if you can’t get the Buffalo variety of Mozzarella, I recommend going with the options below since plain cow’s milk mozzarella has absolutely nothing to add to the beets and avocado.
For the Party Stack Version: 6-8 Thin Sliced of Firm Goat’s Cheese or Scamorza – since fresh Buffalo Mozzarella isn’t exactly famous for keeping its shape once sliced into thin’ish disks or other, finer shapes
2-3 Tbsp of Pine Nuts, freshly toasted
Well. How do I put this… basically you’re done already!
1) Thinly slice the avocados, apples, beets and cheese – preferably into disks or ribbons of about the same thickness.
2) Arrange them, alternating the different colors, in an overlapping Caprese-Style on your plates or serving dishes.
3) If you’re gunning for the mini-stacks, I’d recommend using a veggie peeler instead of a knife to get long, cookie-cutter’able ribbons and avoid the usual pit/seed roadbumps.
4) Smooth the ribbons out on a cutting board lined with clingfilm and go to town with your pick of cutter – since the pieces you’ll be looking at will most likely be very thin, a dull-edged palette knife will be your best friend when it comes to lifting and then stacking the individual pieces on top of each other.
5) No matter which way you went, once you’ve arrived at the end, scatter your work with the shallots and toasted pine nuts and move on to the dressing.
The Orange-Basil Vinaigrette
4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Orange Juice, freshly squeezed
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
1 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Honey
½ Bunch of Basil
¼ Lemon, Zest
½ Tsp Salt
1 Generous Crack of Black Pepper
1) Place all of the ingredients except for the basil in a mixing bowl and have a look at your watch.
2) If you need the dressing right away, finely chop the basil, leaves only, and whisk it into the liquids.
3) Drizzle if over your servings with a flourish and get ready to dig in~!
4) If you’re in advance-prep mode, pick a few decorative leaflets of basil and set them aside before roughly chopping up the rest, stems and all.
5) Pop the lot onto your dressing, cover it with clingfilm, place it in the fridge and allow it to soak up the basil’y goodness for 2-3 hours.
6) Strain out the basil and drizzle your stacks just before carrying them out to wow your crowd.
And that’s it~! A bite of Madeira in Mid-December-Mainland-Ick~ While it’s not the original Beef & Wines (which it was never supposed to be, anyways) it’s exactly the right thing to bring a little sunshine to the table right before the Holidays~! And on that note: Happy Holidays, everyone! Let the feast begin~