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Archive for January, 2011

Crispy bits of applewood smoked bacon and chunks of chicken breast nestled in a lush bed of mixed greens.

Two mushrooms.

A small fistful of fresh basil.

Three radishes.

A jar of leftover balsamic vinaigrette.

Can you taste it?

Teaser Salad with Bacon and Chicken

You know what comes next.

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I was in the midst of preparing a very rich meal. I had two plump chickens roasting in the oven, a pot of rice simmering in garlic chicken broth on the stove, and a bowl of sliced leeks ready to add to the saucepan of chanterelles I was stirring on the front burner. I wanted a salad to round out this meal, and I wanted it to be assertive and bright. Something explosive, with strong, clean citrus juiciness to complement the chicken and mushrooms.

I grabbed one of each kind of citrus fruit I had in the house, and a large fistful of mint. I added lots of radishes for crunch, and some scallions for flavor, and I got to work.

Ingredients for Triple Citrus Side Salad

Time to slice and chop.


Greens for Triple Citrus Side Salad

A bed of greens, ready for the triple citrus zest.

Ingredients:
(Serves three or four as a side salad.)
4 cups of mache and mixed greens, including frisee and radicchio.
6 radishes, sliced.
3 scallions, sliced.
1/2 cup of grated golden beet.
1 navel orange, peel sliced off, quartered and sliced.
1 lime, peel sliced off, quartered and sliced.
1 large fistful of mint, chopped.
Zest of one orange.
Zest of one lemon.
Zest of one lime.

Citronette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
1 T lemon juice.
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
1 small clove of garlic, crushed and minced.
1 pinch of salt, to taste.

Triple Citrus Side Salad, Orange and Lime

The orange peel is sliced off, and the lime is in step one of peel removal.


Triple Citrus Side Salad, Lime

The lime peel is now completely sliced off.


I started with a gorgeous bed of mache, radicchio, and frisee. Then I zested the citrus over the greens. Once the zest was safely in the salad, I juiced a lemon and prepared my citronette, giving the garlic time to mellow.

I sliced up my radishes and scallions, and turned to the lime and the orange.

I love slicing the peel off of citrus fruits and exposing the bright, jeweled fruit. I did this for the lime and the navel orange, and added them to the salad just before it was time to serve it, since mache wilts easily.

Triple Citrus Side Salad

Ready to serve!


The Verdict:
This salad was exactly what I wanted. My verdict? Amazing. It was quite sour, which I loved. My husband, on the other hand, was less impressed. He wound up leaving a little pile of pretty lime bits on his plate, and it was far too sour for the kids. Make this if you’re a fan of sour deliciousness. If not, move on.
Triple Citrus Side Salad, Plated

Time to eat!

Make it a Meal:
Garbanzo beans, chicken, or any kind of seafood would work very well with this salad.

Pack it to Go:
Citronette in a jar with all the cut fruit. The rest of the salad ingredients in a large glass or stainless steel container with a tupperware-style lid. Shake up the dressing and pour as much as you need over the salad before eating it.

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Shared lunch! I love it when we’re both home at lunch time, and I can mix up a huge salad in one big bowl, and we can snuggle up and eat it together. We were out of lettuce, so I turned to my favorite lettuce stand-in, celery. I figured out a while back that celery salads are really incredible. Super crunchy, so you can go a little crazier with the beans, avocado, and other creamy ingredients. Celery also doesn’t wilt, so the leftovers are tasty, and you can play with dressing it when you make it instead of carting the dressing along. The flavor of celery works particularly well with lemon, but I didn’t have any. I didn’t even have a lime or a grapefruit to substitute, so I decided to try a simple rice wine vinaigrette instead. I added garbanzo beans, lots of mint and parsley, scallions, and an apple for a little sweetness.

Salad with Celery, Garbanzo Beans, Mint, and Apple

Let the chopping begin!

Ingredients:
(Serves two for lunch.)
1 head of celery, chopped.
1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained.
1 apple, quartered, cored, and chopped.
3 scallions, chopped.
1 fistful of mint, chopped.
1 fistful of parsley, chopped.

Rice Wine Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for several days.)
1T rice wine vinegar.
3T extra virgin olive oil.
1 clove of garlic, smashed and minced.
1/4 tsp maple syrup.
1 pinch of salt, to taste.

This was a chopping frenzy. I started by rinsing the garbanzo beans and setting them aside to drain. I prepared my rice wine vinaigrette in a small jar. Then I turned berserker with my favorite knife. I transferred my mountains of chopped celery and apple and scallions and herbs to the big bowl as I went, adding the drained garbanzo beans just before shaking up the vinaigrette and drizzling it over the salad.

Please note that this salad serves two, and use half the main ingredients if you’re fixing it for one. Feel free to make a normal batch of vinaigrette, since it keep well for several days.

Salad with Celery, Garbanzo Beans, Mint, and Apple

Time to eat.

The Verdict:
I was surprised by how delightful the rice wine vinaigrette and apple were. They worked incredibly well — it was more delicate than the bright lemon version I usually make, and I loved it. The apple was a great addition, with it’s sweetness and the contrasting crunch. The fresh herbs brought the salad to life, and the creamy garbanzo beans made it remarkably filling, even hearty. My husband and I ate every bite. It was just that yummy.

Make it a Meal:
Done.

Pack it to Go:
This is the easiest salad to pack to go — it is actually fine to dress it when you pack it. I like how the celery soaks up the vinaigrette. If it will be sitting for more than a few hours, the herbs will wilt, so if that bothers you, keep the dressing in a separate jar, and combine before you eat it.

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We’d all had a big lunch, so I wanted a simple dinner. The kids were happy with sandwiches and fruit, but I craved vegetables. I decided to make a slightly elegant salad — less is more — drenched in a good balsamic vinaigrette.

Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Red Bell Pepper, Basil, and Chicken

The red bell pepper and basil are ready -- time to chop.

Ingredients:
(Serves one as a meal.)
3-4 cups mache and mixed greens.
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced.
1/2 fistful of basil, chopped.
Freshly ground pepper, to taste.
2 small chicken tenderloins (fresh or frozen).
1T butter for cooking the chicken.
Garlic powder for the chicken, to taste.
Pinch of salt for the chicken, to taste.

Balsamic vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need, refrigerate extra for several days.)
1 T balsamic vinegar.
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced.
1 pinch of salt, to taste.

I doubled all of the ingredients listed above and made two salads. First I mixed up the vinaigrette, giving the garlic time to mellow and infuse the salad dressing with flavor.

Then I cooked the chicken. I keep a bag of the Trader Joe’s frozen chicken breast tenderloins in the freezer, and I use the following method when I don’t have time to bother with defrosting the chicken. I melted the butter in a stainless steel frying pan over medium heat, and added the frozen chicken just as the butter began bubbling. I sprinkled salt and garlic powder over the chicken tenderloins, and let them cook while I chopped the bell pepper.

When the chicken was nice and brown on the bottom, I flipped the tenderloins over and lightly seasoned the other side. I chopped up the basil and cleaned up my salad prep area, and then I checked on the chicken. Once it had browned on the other side, I used a pair of kitchen shears to snip it into bite-sized pieces. My chicken was still raw in the center, so I stirred it around a bit, turned the heat to low, and covered it. If you use fresh chicken instead of frozen, you can probably skip that last step. After a few minutes on low, I took off the lid and turned off the heat. I added the vinaigrette, a dusting of freshly cracked black pepper, and the hot, juicy chicken to the salads, and served them right away.

Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Red Bell Pepper, Basil, and Chicken

Time to eat!


The Verdict:
Yum!

There is nothing like homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It was my gateway salad dressing — the one I absolutely had to learn how to make, and the one I spent years playing with and refining. It’s friendly, and works well with all kinds of fruits, vegetables and flavor palettes, but sometimes, I have to make a salad where the balsamic vinaigrette is the star. This was one of those salads. It all worked very well together. The juicy chicken soaked up just enough dressing to really sparkle. The tender mache paired nicely with the crispy red bell peppers, and the basil brought all the flavors together.

If the ingredients in my fridge ever align just right, I will happily make this salad again.

Make it a Meal:
Done. For a vegetarian version, replace the chicken with either kidney beans, goat cheese, or feta cheese.

Pack it to Go:
This would be very easy to pack to go. The chicken will be cold, but it will still taste delicious. Just keep the vinaigrette and the salad in separate containers until ready to serve (I recommend making the dressing in a small glass jar, and preparing the salad in a large glass or stainless steel container with a tupperware-style lid.) Use only as much vinaigrette as you need, fork toss or pop the salad container lid back on and give it a few good shakes, then eat and enjoy.

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I was making curried chicken with potatoes and basmati rice for dinner, and I decided to get creative. I knew I wanted a salad with a creamy dressing to help me tolerate the heat of the spicy curry. Riffing on the idea of raita, I wanted a yogurt salad dressing with lots of cucumber and mint. My plan was to turn that into a flavor base for a rich veggie salad. I pulled out all the vegetables that seemed like they might work, and I tossed in an avocado. I grabbed the cilantro on a whim, and then turned to the spice cupboard. I wanted something to round it out, and to capture a little of the delicious complexity of actual Indian food. I sniffed every jar we had of powdered yumminess from Vik’s Chaat Corner, and finally found what I needed. Fennel powder. My secret ingredient.

Salad with Kefir Rice Wine Vinaigrette with Fennel Powder

Simple veggie ingredients, ready for chopping.


Salad with Kefire Rice Wine Vinaigrette with Fennel Powder

A gorgeous green bed of romaine and arugula.

Ingredients:
(Side salad, serves four.)
1 heart of romaine, chopped.
3-4 cups of arugula.
1 red bell pepper, sliced.
1 avocado, quartered and sliced.
6 mushrooms, quartered.
1/3 of an english cucumber, quartered and sliced.
1 small shallot, chopped.
1 large fistful of mint, chopped.
1 fistful of cilantro, chopped.

Salad with Kefir Rice Wine Vinaigrette with Fennel Powder

Tossed and ready to serve!

Kefir Rice Wine Vinaigrette with Fennel Powder:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
1 T plain kefir.
1 T rice wine vinegar.
2 T extra virgin olive oil.
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
1/4 tsp fennel powder.

I mixed up the dressing first, playing with it and testing it as I worked by dipping leaves into the jar and tasting. I chopped my romaine and made my bed of greens, gently finger tossing the arugula with the romaine. I sliced, quartered, and chopped all of the vegetables and herbs, adding them while monitoring the curry and listening for the rice timer.

The Verdict:
This salad was amazing. It worked perfectly with the curry. It’s obviously not even remotely authentic Indian cuisine, but it was seriously delicious. My husband was really impressed by the unusual flavors. The creamy dressing clung to the greens, and the variety of fresh vegetables was refreshing and fun alongside the simple, hearty curry. The kids all enjoyed it as well — I thought it would be too weird for them, so we barely had enough to share.

Salad with Kefir Rice Wine Vinaigrette with Fennel Powder

Isn't it lovely on the plate with the curried chicken and potatoes?

Make it a Meal:
I think it could work as a meal as it is, but if you need more protein, I recommend adding simple chicken or garbanzo beans.

Pack it to Go:
.As always, but the avocado in with the dressing and give it a gentle shake to coat it with the acidic vinaigrette to prevent browning. Keep the dressing in a small jar, and all the rest of the salad ingredients in a large container (I recommend glass or stainless steel with a tupperware style lid). When you’re ready to eat, shake up the jar of dressing and drizzle it over the salad. Use only what you need. Fork toss, or put the lid back on the large container and give it a few good shakes to combine. Enjoy.

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Sometimes I want my salad simple, clean, maybe even elegant. Sometimes I want a hearty, filling salad. And sometimes? Sometimes, I just want a rioting mosh pit of flavors and textures. I was definitely in the mood for some crazy flavors to explode against each other in my mouth when I made this salad.

I was inspired by a bag of lime & chile mixed nuts from Trader Joe’s, and I wanted to play with that amazing hami melon again, and I had a perfectly ripe avocado sitting on the counter… I just kept adding vegetables and ginger and herbs and garlic and more and more to the cutting board, until I was satisfied. And then I got to work.

Ingredients for Salad with Chili Lime Nuts, Winter Melon, and Avocado Citronette

Bold, colorful, and soon to be delicious.

Ingredients:
(Serves one for lunch.)
3-4 cups of arugula and asian greens.
3 mushrooms, quartered.
5 radishes, quartered.
2 scallions, sliced.
2 T dried cranberries.
2 T lime & chile mixed nuts (from Trader Joe’s).
1 fistful cilantro, chopped.
1 fistful basil, chopped.
1/2 cup hami melon, cut into bite sized pieces.
Zest of one lemon.

Avocado Citronette:
(Use only what you need. Extra can be refrigerated for a day.)
1 T lemon juice.
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1/2 avocado, spooned into the jar.
2 tsp fresh grated ginger.
1 small clove of garlic, smashed and minced.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

I was making two salads, so I doubled all of the ingredients listed above. I started by creating my beds of greens, and I zested a lemon over each container of greens. Then I juiced the lemon and made two batches of the citronette. I chopped and sliced and chopped some more, divvying the fruit, veggies, and herbs up between the two salads. Finally, I packed both up and looked forward to the wild party my mouth would have at lunch time.

Salad with Chile Lime Nuts, Winter Melon, and Avocado Citronette

Yummy crazy flavor explosion.

The Verdict:
This worked. Completely intense, and incredibly tasty. I loved the spicy nuts with the creamy avocado citronette. And I loved the crunchy radishes with the crisp melon. The mushrooms did what they always do — soaked up the dressing and exploded. It was good. Crazy good. My anticipation and excitement were so great, I completely forgot to take a picture of it before devouring it. You’ll just have to imagine it in all it’s glossily dressed splendor.

Make it a Meal:
Done.

Salad with Chile Lime Nuts, Winter Melon, and Avocado Citronette, Packed.

Packed to go.

Pack it to Go:
Done. As usual, pack your dressing in a small jar (large enough to hold the avocado) and make your salad in a large glass or stainless steel container with a good rubber lid. Add the citronette right before eating, fork-toss or put the lid back on your salad container and give it a few good shakes to help combine everything.

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We had a couple of good friends over for dinner, and an almost empty fridge. I knew I could pull a salad together, and I wanted it to have some protein so that our vegetarian friend wouldn’t feel deprived while the rest of us munched on sausages. I decided to go for the goat cheese, and I added the cranberries and olives to the salad because I adore really strong sweet and salty flavors with creamy goat cheese. Fresh herbs and balsamic vinaigrette tied it all together.

Ingredients for Salad with Goat Cheese, Cranberries, and Kalamata Olives.

Salad ingredients are ready for action!


Greens for Salad with Goat Cheese, Cranberries, and Kalamata Olives.

A gorgeous bed of mixed salad greens.

Ingredients:
(Serves 4-6 as a side salad.)
4-6 cups of arugula and mixed baby greens.
1 cup pitted kalamata olives.
2 T goat cheese.
1 T dried, sweetened cranberries.
1 fistful of basil.
1 fistful of italian parsley.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need, refrigerate the rest for several days.)
1T balsamic vinegar.
3T extra virgin olive oil.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
1/2 clove of garlic, crushed and minced.
1 pinch of salt, to taste.

This was a really easy salad to make. I mixed up my vinaigrette, and created a lush bed of greens. Then I just chopped my herbs and added everything to the greens.

We ate this with warm sourdough bread slathered with butter, chicken apple sausage wheels, and delicious mushrooms sauteed in butter with garlic.

Salad with Goat Cheese, Cranberries, and Kalamata Olives, Plated.

On the plate, ready to enjoy.

The Verdict:
The flavors here we spectacular. I broke my own rules, though, and regretted it.

Do you see what I forgot?

Crunch!

Salads really need crunch. The baby greens and arugula were incredibly tasty with the goat cheese and the rich flavors, but everything was a little on the soft side. It could have used some nuts, or maybe a lettuce with more crispiness (romaine, endive, you know what I mean). Nobody complained, and there was a little tussling over the last bits of salad in the bowl, but I noticed. I asked my husband what he thought, and first he gave me the raised eyebrow “are you crazy?” look, but then he conceded, that yes, crunchiness is good. So, I deem this salad delicious and worthy of improvement.

Make it a meal:
We had it as a side salad, but with the goat cheese (and toss some nuts in — candied pecans or something) I think it would be a very rich and delicious meal.

Pack it to go:
This would be easy to pack to go. Just keep the dressing separate, add it when you’re ready to munch, fork toss (or put the lid back on and give it a few quick shakes), and enjoy.

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