I live right outside Parma, the land of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The cheese in the stores is sold in ENORMOUS hunks because no one can imagine making do with anything under a kilo. Awhile ago, my friend Kate brought a really great apple & arugula salad to dinner one night. It was simple and flavorful and just delightful in every way. I started mulling over that delicious combo and created my own slightly fancy Parma-riffic version served in mini salad bowls made of cheese. All bowls should be made of out cheese, and now that I’m thinking about it, plates too.
Arugula, White Bean & Apple Salad in Parmesan Bowls
(Serves 2 if you each get two bowls, or 4 if you want small side dish/fancy first course portions)
12 tbs grated parmigiano-reggiano (3 for each bowl)
1 1/2 cups arugula
1 cup mache (also known as valerianella or lambs lettuce)
1 yellow apple, washed
1/2 of a 15 oz. can of cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Zest the lemon and set aside. Juice the lemon and put the juice in a large bowl. Mix in the 1/2 tsp of zest and salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in the 1.5 tbs of olive oil. Stir in the white beans and let marinate for 30 minutes or so. This step adds a little extra flavor to the beans but it does tend to make them a little mushier so be careful when tossing the salad later. If you’re pinched for time, no worries you can always just dump the beans in and continue on without letting them marinate. Set the bowl aside.
2. Line up 4 large, clean glasses of the same size. Rip a sheet of parchment paper in half and place in a 9x13 baking pan. Put a mound of 3 tbs of grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese on each piece. Pat gently so that the cheese makes lacy circles.
3. Bake in the oven for approximately 7-8 minutes until they are golden and crisp. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on them starting around the 5 minute mark.
4. Remove from oven and using a spatula and an oven mitt (the parchment and cheese are very hot) immediately place each cheese circle over the bottom of one of the cups and gently press to mold it into a bowl shape. Let cool and harden on top of the cups. Make the other two cups in the same way.
5. Wash and dry 1 1/2 cups arugula and 1 cup mache. Core 1 yellow apple and cut into thin slices (you could even shave it if you wanted to get really fancy). Stir the greens and the apple slices into the bowl with the beans and lemon vinaigrette. Stir together gently to coat the greens but be careful not to squash the beans too much.
6. Gently remove the parmesan cups from the drinking glasses and I suggest placing each one on the plate they will be served on in order to avoid breakage during transfer. Carefully fill each cup with salad and serve.
Note: If you’re not allergic as I am, I would imagine that a few toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds on top would be awesome. I sprinkled a little extra grated cheese and lemon zest on top as garnish and it worked just fine as well.