Here are the two recipes I demoed at the Toronto Women's Show that are perfect first courses to serve up over the holiday season.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
In this salad roasted beets give a luscious depth of flavour. Look for baby greens or use mesclun mix for the greens in this salad for the delicate background for this tasty first course.

4 beets, stems removed
Extra virgin olive oil
1 orange
6 cups (1.5 L) mixed baby greens
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ cup (50 mL) chopped toasted pecans
4 oz (125 g) goat cheese
3 tbsp (45 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp (25 mL) white wine vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
½ tsp (2 mL) grated orange rind
2 tbsp (25 mL) orange juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

Toss beets with a little oil. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast in 425 F (220 C) oven for about 1 hour or until beets are tender when pierced with a knife. Let cool. Peel and slice beets into ½ inch (1 cm) thick wedges; set aside.

Meanwhile, cut top and bottom ends of orange off. Using serrated motion cut skin and white pith from orange starting at top to bottom. Slice orange crosswise into thin slices; set aside.

Dressing: In small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, orange rind and juice, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

In bowl, combine greens, shallot and pecans. Pour dressing over greens; toss to coat. Divide among 4 plates. Arrange beet wedges and orange slices around greens. Top with sprinkling of goat cheese.
Makes 4 servings.

Crusted Goat Cheese Variation: Slice goat cheese log into 8 equal rounds. Brush with oil. Dip into fresh breadcrumbs with a touch of grated Parmesan and parsley. In non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat pan fry goat cheese rounds for about 3 minutes, turning once or until golden brown.
Make Your Own Mesclun Mix: Look for baby spinach, frisee, red oak leaves, red leaf lettuce and arugula. Buy a small head or bag of each and combine them to have your own customized mixed green bag.

Roasted Grape Tomato Soup
Grape tomatoes are sweet all year round so they are the perfect choice for tomato soup in colder months when fresh ripe tomatoes are not in season. Roasting the tomatoes only adds to their sweetness. With a hint of whipping cream this soup is creamy and rich but not heavy so the perfect match up with crusty artisan bread.

2 containers grape tomatoes
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
3 tbsp (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
3 cups (750 mL) vegetable stock
1/2 cup (125 mL) whipping cream
Pinch each salt and pepper

In bowl, combine tomatoes and garlic, oil, parsley, rosemary, and a pinch each salt and pepper. Spread onto parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast in a 400F (200C) oven for about 12 minutes or until golden and soft.

Scrape into blender and puree until smooth. Place in saucepan and add stock and cream. Bring to a gentle boil and let simmer for 10 minutes or until flavours develop.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Tip: Let soup cool completely and freeze in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


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