Last month I was excited to receive a review copy of Aaron McCargo Jr’s debut cookbook “Simply Done, Well Done” . I even took to Twitter  to share my delight 🙂 I am not ashamed to state that I have been a fan of his ever since he competed in (and won) the 2008 run of “The Next Food Network Star” . I have also thoroughly enjoyed each episode of “Big Daddy’s House”  that I have been able to catch.
Well known for his love of bold American flavours and straightforward approach, it was no surprise to see that these two qualities define the heart of “Simply Done, Well Done” . What is a surprise though are the many multi-cultural elements that are dotted throughout. They both excited and inspired me as I flipped through. Titles such as “Coconut-Ginger Chicken Skewers with Sriracha -Honey Butter”, “Tempting Tempura Fried Okra with Sweet and Sticky Honey-Scallion Dipping Sauce” and “Tiramisu Cupcakes” show McCargo’s growing internationally-inspired repertoire and sweeter, softer side 🙂 It’s a direction that I definitely hope will appear more in future seasons of “Big Daddy’s House” !
For my first effort from “Simply Done, Well Done” , I chose to go with a salad that caught my eye. Titled “Summer Grapefruit Salad with Spicy Walnuts and Honey-Mint Dressing”, its over-the-top combination of sweet, salty, and tart flavours had me wondering if it would end up a disaster or divine. As much as McCargo is known for his meaty entreés it was really impressive to see that the salad section of “Simply Done, Well Done”  offered a wide variety of taste profiles and ingredients. I made a few substitutions along the way based on what I had on hand, but I don’t believe my variations had a negative impact as the salad was such a hit with everyone, I didn’t even have a chance to have seconds! I loved how the smoky heat and crunch of the walnuts offset the creaminess of the cheese. The result could have been heavy and overpowering but the sweet citrus bursts of fruit and dressing, as well as tangy cranberries, kept everything light and exciting! I must state though that the amounts given for the dressing were much too generous for my needs. I usually only dress a salad to glaze. As a result I had much more than a cup left over. Fortunately, it was no extra effort to store it and use during the week as needed 🙂 With recipes like these, who needs storebought dressing anyway? I already have several other recipes bookmarked, and hope to continue to share the results with you throughout May.
Want more Big Daddy?
All in all “Simply Done, Well Done”  is a very solid debut from this still emerging TV chef. It emphasizes his skills and strengths through easy to follow and beautifully photographed recipes and the array of influences presented provide a solid platform on which he can build and diversify re: future ventures. For those who thought he may have been a fluke or strictly about beef and burgers, “Simply Done, Well Done”  will surely surprise and impress.
You can buy “Simply Done, Well Done” via my Amazon store , but I also have one copy up for grabs in this month’s giveaway! To find out how to enter, keep reading! 🙂
Summer Grapefruit Salad with Spicy Walnuts and Honey-Mint Dressing
Don’t let the multiple steps, deter you. They are really quick and simple, and the whole thing comes together in little time 🙂
SOURCE: Simply Done, Well Done 
1 cup sugar
1 cup walnut halves
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons diced shallot
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups spring greens salad mix
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced (double the amount of green salad if you’re unable to find)
1 cup dried cranberries
2 grapefruits, peeled and cut into sections (I used tinned mandarin orange segments)
1 cup crumbled goat cheese (I used some Danish Blue I had on hand)
To Make The Walnuts:
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of water and the sugar to a boil over high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the walnuts to the syrup and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Drain the walnuts and transfer them to a medium bowl.
Sprinkle the nuts with the cayenne, salt , and paprika and toss well. Spread the walnuts on the prepared baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, for 14 to 16 minutes, until the walnuts deepen a shade or two and are fragrant. Slide the walnuts onto a plate to cool.
To Make The Dressing:
Put the lime juice in the blender and with the machine running, slowly drizzle the canola oil into the canister. When the canola oil is added, add the olive oil in the same slow manner, increasing the speed towards the end of blending.
Add the shallots, mint, honey, lime zest, salt, and pepper and pulse for about 2 minutes, or until incorporated and blended. There will be visible pieces of mint and lime zest in the dressing which is fine.
To Make The Salad:
In a large serving bowl, toss the greens with the fennel, cranberries and dressing. Top with the grapefruit sections, goat cheese, and walnuts. Serve immediately.
Win A Copy of Aaron McCargo’s “Simply Done, Well Done”!
Here’s How To Enter:
1. Post an Aaron McCargo recipe to your blog by May 20th. You can find an extensive listing of his recipes here .
2. Mention “Trinigourmet” in your post and link to this page.
3. Email your post’s URL along with your name, name of blog and location to firstname.lastname@example.org  by 11:59 p.m. EST May 20th.
4. On May 23rd I will post the roundup and open it to your votes.
5. Voting ends May 27th at noon EST.
6. The entrant with the most votes will receive a copy of Aaron McCargo’s “Simply Done, Well Done” .
7. The winner will be announced and contacted May 27th, 1 p.m. EST. If their details are not received by 11:59 p.m. May 30th, the runner will be contacted.
Good Luck! 🙂