Due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s travel restrictions, TheTravelingBornsteins are focusing their attention on notable chefs and recipes. Visitors to TheTravelingBornsteins site can hopscotch from one region to another by trying a variety of recipes and also learning about notable chefs and restaurant owners. Food is often Sandy and Ira’s gateway to unfamiliar cultures. Stories from pre and post pandemic adventures and culinary experiences will continue to be posted on this site. Like many travel and food writers, Sandy and Ira look forward to traveling when it is safe again.
Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch
Denver’s Larimer Square is where chef/co-owner Jennifer Jasinski’s seasonal Mediterranean inspired recipes shine. While Denver foodies are aware of Jasinski’s and co-owner, Beth Gruitch well deserved reputations, others may not be as well informed. Their five exceptional restaurants—Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall, Rioja, Stoic & Genuine, and Ultreia—consistently appear on Colorado’s best restaurant lists.
Jasinski was named the 2004 Colorado Chef of the Year, the 2005 Western Regional Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation, and also appeared on The Food Network’s “ 2005 Thanksgiving Challenge.
The James Beard Foundation has recognized Jasinski’s culinary skills numerous times—Semifinalist, Outstanding Chef 2016; Winner, Best Southwest Chef in America 2013; Nominee Best Chefs in America 2012; Semifinalist Best Chefs in America 2011; and Semifinalist Best Chefs in America 2010.
Here is the link to The Traveling Bornsteins interview with Jasinski and Gruitch.
Today, Jasinski shares her recipe for Rioja’s House Salad.
When asked to say something about this recipe, Jasinski said,
While Rioja was being built, there was a new salad place down the street that Beth and I would go to for lunch. It was the type of place where you could build your own salad, and I got the idea for this recipe at this restaurant while staring at almonds, dates, Gorgonzola and arugula. Something crunchy, something peppery, something sweet and something creamy: Our house salad was born.
JASINSKI’S RIOJA HOUSE SALAD
INGREDIENTS FOR TOASTED ALMOND VINAIGRETTE —Serves 8
- 1 cup whole almonds (with skin)
- 1/4 cup chopped shallot
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped thyme
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 cups pure olive oil
- Kosher salt, black pepper and sugar, to taste
INGREDIENTS FOR RIOJA HOUSE SALAD
- 16 organic Medjool dates
- 1 1/2 cups Maytag blue cheese or good-quality Gorgonzola
- About 1 pound (8 large handfuls) organic baby arugula*
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
*When it is available, use the roquette variety. This wild arugula has tightly curled leaves and is incredibly crunchy and peppery.
PREPARING THE TOASTED ALMOND VINAIGRETTE
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the almonds on a sheet pan and toast them in the 350-degree oven until golden brown. Allow them to cool a bit. Next, transfer the nuts to a food processor and pulse them so that they remain slightly chunky but certainly aren’t whole. (You still want them chopped pretty well but not ground to a fine powder.)
Place the almonds in a bowl and add the shallot, thyme, vinegar and mustard. Whisk in the oil and try to emulsify the mixture as well as possible. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.
FINAL STEPS FOR ASSEMBLY AND PLATING OF RIOJA HOUSE SALAD
To pit the dates, use a paring knife to make a slit along the top half of each date. Next, push in to open the hole. Remove the pit. Flatten them slightly and cut into strips.
Crumble the cheese finely with your hands.
For each salad, place a large handful of arugula in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the crumbled cheese. Add 6-8 slices of the dates and 2 tablespoons toasted almond vinaigrette. Season to taste with pinches of salt and pepper. Toss lightly and plate.
CHEF JASINSKI’S NOTES
You can make the toasted almond vinaigrette in advance.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?
Tag @thetravelingbornsteins on Instagram and hashtag it #toppickrecipe
When Sandy isn’t trekking or writing in the Colorado, she is traveling. She has visited more than 40 countries and lived as an international teacher in Bangalore, India. Sandy’s award-winning book, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, is a resource for people contemplating an expat lifestyle and living outside their comfort zone.
Sandy’s lifestyle and travel experiences are frequently shared with international and domestic online sites and print media. She has contributed stories to Hemispheres, Destinations Magazine, KUHL’s Born in the Mountain blog, Grand Magazine, Wandering Educators, Golden Living, AARP, Hadassah magazine, Localliz, One Travel, Miles Away, Canadian Jewish News, Getting On Travel, Far and Wide, Colorado Parent, Traveler Confidential, Family Circle- Momster, and others.