What’s in the kitchen? Pear & Fennel Salad

I figured that since I like to cook and that I remodel kitchens quite frequently, I should share some of the recipes I find enjoyable. So that’s what I’m doing. The recipes will not be exclusively mine, but rather my version of someone elses creativity. So here we go….stay tuned for more….( to steal a line from a Food Network Star)…good eats.

Pear & Fennel Salad: Recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine

This is a recipe I’ve made twice now, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how it would taste based on the ingredients. Initially, I had no idea what a fennel was. Wikipedia says fennel is:

“Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a plant species in the genus Foeniculum (treated as the sole species in the genus by most botanists). It is a member of the family Apiaceae (formerly the Umbelliferae). It is a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks.

It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses, and, along with the similar-tasting anise, is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Florence fennel or finocchio is a selection with a swollen, bulb-like stem base that is used as a vegetable.”

And it looks like this:

The recipe goes as follows: Whisk 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar with ½ teaspoon anise seed, salt, and pepper in a serving bowl, then whisk slowly in 1/3 cup olive oil. Add one thinly sliced fennel bulb, two thinly sliced pears, and some parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Top with shaved pecorino.

This is a great summer recipe and goes well with other citrus-themed meals (i.e. fish). I use extra virgin olive oil instead of regular olive oil. I also found that using pears that are on the green side is actually better. (I found that out by accident- there were no ripe pears available when I made this the first time.) The firmness of the pears adds crispness and the pears hold up better for tossing and eating. I let the salad rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Do not let the salad rest too long though or the fennel will start to wilt.


Good Luck

Jason Myrlie- J Carsten Homes & Remodeling


What is Soapstone?

Soapstone (staetite) is a naturally occuring metamorphic rock made up of mineral deposits created by nature and quarried from the earth.  The main mineral components in soapstone include talc, chlorite, dolomite and magnesite, giving a warm, soft feeling to the touch.  When cut, it oxidizes from light grey to dark charcoal in color. A light coat of mineral oil or soapstone wax makes its color and subtle flowing veins even more dramatic.


Practically indestructible, soapstone is an excellent alternative natural stone to use in place of granite or marble. Soapstone is naturally antibacterial, will not burn or stain and requires very little maintenance. Acids and alkalis will not etch soapstone as they will other stones. Soapstone has been a part of American homes since the early 1800’s; many homes today still contain working soapstone sinks and wood stoves built over 100 years ago!

Soapstone is a perfect choice for countertops, backsplashes and islands.
Its durable and dense surface possesses all the beauty of granite or marble with none of
the drawbacks. Acidic food and wine won’t etch soapstone as they will other stone surfaces. Hot pots can be placed directly on the surface, and soapstone is non-porous making it naturally antibacterial.

Customers choosing soapstone should be aware that while soapstone is very dense and non porous it is still likely that it will scratch.  Soapstone is best used in a setting where the distressed look is desirable.   The good news is that if you don’t like the scratches, they can be buffed out with fine grit sandpaper.  It is stongly recommended to mineral oil or wax after the scratches are buffed.  After the mineral oil or wax application the area should be much less conspicuous or completely gone.  Often what appears to be a scratch is actually the mineral oil or wax being removed from the surface.  Usually the “scratch” can be removed just by applying mineral oil to the area.  Many of our customers like the patina that develops over time with their soapstone countertops.  The mineral oil and wax will not rub off on your clothes or other material if wiped clean.

Care and Maintenance
There is actually no special maintenance required for soapstone.  Most of our customers choose to apply mineral oil or soapstone wax to the surface of their soapstone countertops, but it is not necessary.  These products are applied to the surface only to darken the stone and enhance its natural beauty.  Soapstone appears naturally as a light grey, chalky looking surface (see photo to right).  When mineral oil or wax is applied to the soapstone, the surface will darken to dark charcoals and black, and the veining in the soapstone will really come to life.  Neither the mineral oil nor wax are sealing the soapstone or protecting the soapstone, but merely darkening it.

We recommend applying a light coat of mineral oil or soapstone wax to all sinks and countertops upon installation. These products can both enhance the inherent natural veining characteristics and crystallization detail of the stone.  Mineral oil can be found in any drug store and the soapstone wax can be purchased through Stone Countertop Outlet. 

Versatility of finish is one of the great pluses of soapstone. Not everyone chooses to color enhance their soapstone. Some homeowners love the natural, untreated soft-gray look. Others choose to bring out the color with mineral oil or wax.  Some treat it with mineral oil weekly, others monthly and some treat only when company is coming. However, when treating with mineral oil, the more often you treat after installation, the sooner you will not have to do it as often.  Waxing the surface will require less applications than the mineral oil and will need to be reapplied less often to keep the stone dark.

Nothing negative will happen to your soapstone if you choose not to apply mineral oil or wax, or if you forgot to apply either of these products.  Over time the stone will darken naturally on its own.  You will notice the soapstone darkening quicker around the high use areas, such as the sink, stovetop, prep areas, etc.  If initially you leave your countertops in their natural state and months later you want to oil or wax them, that is fine.  You do not have to commit to oiling or waxing soapstone the day it is installed.

Daily Cleaning
We recommend using mild soap and water to clear your soapstone countertops.  Soapstone is dense and non-porous, it is very germ and bacteria resistant.  Soapstone is a naturally clean surface. That being said, you can use any common household cleaners on your soapstone counters.  You do not have to worry about using ammonia based cleaners like you with other natural stones.  Setting hot pots or pans directly on your soapstone countertops will not affect the surface.  In Europe, soapstone is used primarily for the manufacturing of masonry heaters and wood burning stones.  Setting hot objects on your stone will not crack, discolor or harm the stone.

Information provided by Green Mountain Soapstone and Midwest Specialty Products via Stone Countertop Outlets.The slab shown above is Mirasol Spyder Soapstone.

Good Luck

Jason Myrlie

J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

Perefect time to update your kitchen with a Free Cambria Upgrade

Now is the perfect time to remodel your kitchen. J Carsten Homes & Remodeling is offering a Free Cambria Upgrade on qualifying Kitchen Remodels. This is up to a $1500 value.

Take a closer look at the benefits of Cambria.

  • Strength & Durability– Cambria Natural Quartz Surfaces™ are stronger than granite. Cambria is a surface that is truly everlasting.
  • Maintenance Free – No sealing, polishing or reconditioning is needed. Simply wash with warm water. It’s that simple. Plus, unlike granite, Cambria will resist stains from common food items such as wine, coffee and tea.
  • Food Safe – Unlike granite, Cambria has been certified by NSF International as safe for use as a food preparation surface. Cambria is nonporous; therefore, food and moisture cannot penetrate the surface — the main source of growth for harmful bacteria.
  • All Natural – Cambria is created from pure natural quartz, an extremely hard stone. In fact, quartz is the hardest non-precious stone that can be found in the earth’s surface.
  • Everlasting Value – With its beauty and performance advantages over granite, a Cambria kitchen countertop or bathroom vanity will add value to your home.
  • Guaranteed – As the only producer of quartz surfaces in the United States, Cambria is covered by a Lifetime Limited Warranty.

Safety and Performance

Today’s busy families demand products that stand up to rigorous use. With Cambria, you can be assured of a product that is not only beautiful and elegant, but also strong, durable and safe for food preparation.

Cambria’s nonporous surface:

  • Is certified by NSF International for both Splash Zone and Food Zone
  • Is nonporous, reducing the potential for bacterial growth
  • Is as food-safe as a stainless steel countertop
  • Resists stains caused by common food items such as coffee, tea and wine
  • Is stronger than granite
  • NEVER needs sealing or refinishing to keep its natural luster
  • Is maintenance free – simply wash with warm water
  • Comes with a limited lifetime warranty

Green Story:

Quartz is a mined product. It is mined through a pipe, one vein at a time and then is back-filled to preserve the integrity of the environment. Seventy percent of the material that is taken out of that vein is used in the finished product.

Granite is also a mined product. It is mined by destroying an entire area of a mountain, rain forest, etc. Approximately only 35% of the initial material becomes the finished product.


Same price for any of the 96 colors. Same price for any of 9 edge profiles.

Good Luck

Jason Myrlie

J Carsten Homes & Remodeling