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Archive for the ‘Basil’ Category

dayfivelunchsalad

Yummy. Arugula, tomato, mozzarella, basil, shallots, avocado, balsamic vinaigrette.

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Here’s a weird one. Romaine lettuce, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, avocado, scallion, basil, rice wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. With a fried egg on top. Delicious with my coffee!

breakfastsalad

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Cheap strawberries. It must be spring.

What more can I say? I bought a lot, with this vague strawberry balsamic vinaigrette salad idea. The kids were devouring the strawberries, and fast, so I knew I needed to try my experiment or I’d miss my chance. Dinner was going to be corn chicken chowder with bacon and chives, and I thought the sweet strawberry salad would be refreshing with the thick, savory chowder.

I’d never made the chowder before — it was a dish one of the kids requested when we were sorting through cooking magazines and looking for ideas. Remember that. Never made the soup before. Inventing the salad on the fly. Improv dinner — my favorite way to cook. When it works, it’s a magical victory. When it works…

I grabbed the ingredients that appealed to me — lots of crunchy jicama and radish, fresh herbs — and started playing.

Ingredients for Recipe for Spring Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette, Avocado, Jicama, and Radishes

Ingredients, ready to go!

Ingredients:
(Side salad, serves six.)
6 cups of mixed baby greens.
1 large avocado, quartered lengthwise and sliced.
6 radishes, sliced.
1 cup diced jicama.
1 fistful of fresh mint, chopped.
1 fistful of fresh basil, chopped.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
6 large strawberries, sliced.
1 T sugar.
1 T balsamic vinegar.
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

Recipe for Spring Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette, Avocado, Jicama, and Radishes

Pretty colors.


I decided to macerate the strawberries in sugar and vinegar — my goal was a heavily infused salad dressing, so that the strawberry flavor would really permeate the salad. I started by slicing the strawberries and putting them in a large jar. I added the sugar, closed the lid and tossed the strawberries to really coat them with the sugar. I let that sit for a moment, then added the balsamic vinegar and tossed them again. While the strawberries released their juices, I began to work. I created a bed of baby greens, and chopped the jicama and the radishes. Then I added the herbs. I paused here to tend to the soup. You’ll want to let the strawberries macerate for at least twenty minutes, so plan your cooking accordingly. When the chowder was ready to dish up, I sliced open the avocado, added the oil and salt to the salad dressing, and combined it all.

Recipe for Spring Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette, Avocado, Jicama, and Radishes

It looks so good...

The Verdict:
My core idea was solid. The macerated strawberries made a truly amazing salad dressing. Basil and mint were perfect herbs to pair with the vinaigrette, and the jicama and radish worked really well.

But… It was too mushy! The combination of the tender baby greens, macerated strawberries, and that enormous avocado was just not right. Even with the jicama and radish, it was too soft and squishy. I think I should have left the avocado out. Or started with a crunchier green — romaine, or endive — and used less of the avocado. I think really good endives and just a little avocado would make this a classy, well balanced salad.

But my real error was my meal planning, or lack thereof. Corn chowder. Remember that? I honed in on the salty bacon, and thought my sweet strawberry salad would be perfect with the savory soup. But the salty bacon? It was balancing all that sweet corn! This soup and salad combination was essentially dessert for dinner.

The strawberry salad really needs to be eaten alongside something strong and savory. Smoky dry rub barbecue, or a really good pork roast, or a hefty veggie burger. Not sweet corn soup.

So, play with the vinaigrette. It really is good. But keep your crunch ratio strong, and choose your main course wisely.

Make it a Meal:
Don’t bother — too much to fix. But if you’re doing the fixing (hearty romaine or endives, skip the avocado) I’d add some crispy crunchy protein — salty nuts, or sliced up fried chicken, or leftover pork chop.

Pack it to Go:
Again, don’t bother. Of course, if you’ve fixed the flaws, then pack your salad in a large glass or stainless steel container with a well fitting lid, and your dressing (including the strawberries, of course) in a large jar. If you dare to include avocado, put it in with the dressing to prevent browning. When you’re ready to eat, shake your dressing well, and drizzle it over the salad. Use a fork to fish out all of the strawberries. Use only as much dressing as you want. Fork toss, and enjoy.

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My husband loves spicy food. I can handle it, in small doses. He also recently requested “crazier” salads. I aim to please.

I bought opal basil and young ginger at the Berkeley Bowl recently, as well as daikon and mixed asian greens. I wasn’t sure exactly how the salad would come together, but I knew I wanted to play with some slightly more unusual ingredients. We both had busy days planned, so I made two matching lunch salads, packed to go. This was a perfect opportunity to really spice up his salad, and I did. Mine stayed mild enough for me to enjoy, and I made his salad hot hot HOT.

Recipe for Salad with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil

Here are the ingredients, ready to face the blade.

Ingredients:
(Lunch salad, serves one.)
4 cups of mixed asian greens, including mizuna, tatsoi, baby mustard greens, and baby romaine.
1 fistful of opal basil, chopped.
4-5 cherry tomatoes, whole.
2 large mushrooms, sliced.
2 scallions, sliced.
1/2 cup candied walnuts.
1 knob of young ginger, peeled, sliced, and cut into small matchsticks.
9 slices of peeled daikon, halved. (Use a mandoline or a good cheese slicer to get thin slices.)
1/4 leftover roast chicken breast, cubed.
1/2 leftover roast chicken drumstick, shredded.

Spicy Sesame Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
2 T extra virgin olive oil.
1 T dark sesame oil.
1 T balsamic vinegar.
1 small shallot, diced.
1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced.
1-3 hefty pinches of red chili flakes, to taste.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

Twin Salads with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil

Twin salads ready to go!


I doubled all of the ingredients above and made two matching salads, complete with vinaigrette. I began by mixing up the vinaigrettes in little jars, giving him three big pinches of red chili flakes to my one very small pinch. I tasted my dressing, and just hoped for the best for him. Then I created a lush bed of greens for each of us, and layered all of my other ingredients in two glass bowls. I chopped and sliced and sliced and chopped, putting my knife down only to use a spoon to peel the ginger and to use a fine Norwegian cheese slicer to quickly slice the daikon into perfect, thin circles. Finally, both glass bowls were full of a colorful, hearty salad. I nestled the salad dressing jars in the larger containers, popped the lids on, and we each went off for the day.

Recipe for Salad with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil Ready to Eat

Quick snapshot taken with my phone of the glossy beauty before I devoured it.


The Verdict:
This was really amazing. Like nothing I’ve tried before, at home or in a restaurant. Full of strong, punchy flavors that worked very well together. I liked the balsamic vinegar with the sesame oil, and the bits of ginger really sparkled. The walnuts and the daikon added crunchy joy, and the sweetness of the nuts and the tomatoes worked well with the spicy dressing and the peppery greens. It was crazy, in a good way. My husband loved the chili heat, and the explosive flavor. This is one that I’m sure I’ll revisit.

Recipe for Salad with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil, To Go!

Notice the dressing jar nestled cozily in with the salad.


Make it a Meal:
Done.

Pack it to Go:
Done.

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Sesame Chicken and Asparagus Lunch Salad, prep one

Arugula, leftover chicken, asparagus, and red wine vinaigrette.

Sesame Chicken and Asparagus Lunch Salad, prep two

Basil, scallion, mushrooms and radishes ready for slicing.

Since I was supposed to be walking out the door for a homeschooling park day when I realized I hadn’t eaten yet, speediness mattered.

I raided the fridge for leftovers and found a jar of shallot red wine vinaigrette, and some sesame chicken with asparagus. I grabbed arugula, mushrooms, basil, and a scallion to make it a meal.

Salad ingredients:
3 generous cups of arugula.
4 radishes, sliced.
3 large mushrooms, sliced.
1 scallion, sliced.
1 fistful of basil, chopped.
2 small sesame chicken tenderloins, sliced.
3 fat spears of asparagus, chopped.

Red Wine Vinegar Shallot Vinaigrette:
(Mine was leftover from a double batch I’d made the day before. If you want to replicate it at home, here are the ingredients for a single batch. Use what you need, there may be extra.)
1 T of red wine vinegar.
3 T of extra virgin olive oil.
1 small shallot, diced.
1 pinch of salt, to taste.

I chopped fast, and dumped everything into the bowl. After drizzling the dressing over the top, I did a quick toss with my fork and then inhaled my lunch. Even when salad is quick to make, it’s never very quick to eat, but I did my best.

Sesame Chicken and Asparagus Lunch Salad

Dressed and ready to eat!

The Verdict:
Diverse flavors, many tasty bites, but the salad as a whole didn’t quite hang together. I think the basil and asparagus didn’t mesh as well as I’d hoped. If I’d had more time, I would’ve made a citronette instead, and replaced the basil with mint and lemon zest. I think a bright, citrus dressing would’ve been a better fit with the chicken and asparagus leftovers. Still, it was a decent lunch and provided me with plenty of energy for the park outing.

Make it a meal:
Already done!

Pack it to go:
This one would work well to go, just as-is, but why bother? Make a citronette instead, and use mint and lemon zest instead of basil. The ingredients are all hardy enough to handle spending the morning in the fridge. So, pack all the salad ingredients in a large container. The dressing goes in a small jar (I like jars that are little enough to nest inside the salad so you’ve just got one item to haul around). Add some dressing (start with a little so you don’t drown the salad), fork toss, and munch away.

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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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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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