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Archive for the ‘Salads’ Category

A composed salad served over mixed lettuce with a Dijon Vinaigrette

A composed salad served over mixed lettuce with a Dijon Vinaigrette

As a Singleton, I used to eat little pieces of this, bits of that for dinner. Standing at the fridge, I’d grab a jar of olives, tub of hummus to go with pitas in the pantry, maybe a hunk of cheese. Voila! Dinner! Perhaps that is why I have an affinity for composed salads? A little of this, a little of that. Enter Salad Nicoise – the Queen of all composed salads.

I’m sure that traditionally, Salad Nicoise is composed of a particular set of ingredients – and most often I’ve seen canned Tuna, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, hard boiled eggs and Nicoise olives – but I think the genious in these types of salads is that you can use whatever you have on-hand that is fresh and good (ok, regardless, I’m pretty much sticking with the aforementioned list because it is just so good as is).

A really sweet trick

Tomatoes aren’t quite ripe here in the Midwest, so I’m using a pint of grape tomatoes. Halving an entire pint of grape tomatoes is a ROYAL PITA. But I recently learned a cool trick from non other than Rachel Ray when I was home sick a few weeks ago – so I can no longer say she’s taught me nothing (I kid! Personalityquirks aside, she’s actually done some rather admirable things).

Anyway, here’s the trick to slicing an entire pint of grape tomatoes in 1 minute flat:

1. Grab a small tupperware lid (takeout containers from the deli would work well) and place it with rim side up.

2. Place your tomatoes on the lid – the rim will keep them contained.

3. Put another tupperware lid on top of the tomatoes.

4. Press down pretty firmly with one hand and with your other hand, take your SHARP knive and CAREFULLY slice horizontally through the middle of the tomatoes. You may have to saw back and forth a little to get it going, but once it goes, your knife will slide through all the tomatoes at once.

How flipping cool is that??!! Ok, I thought it was. I used to slice them individually like an idiot and bemoan how long it took.

First contain your tomatoes so they don't roll around.

First contain your tomatoes so they don't roll around.

Then put a lid on them before slicing horizontally through the middle.

Then put a lid on them before slicing horizontally through the middle.

Ok, back on track

So back to the salad. You could used canned tuna for this recipe. I was a little overwhelmed in the canned tuna section at the store – so many options! – and I knew I should really get some imported brand packed in oil. But alas, my store didn’t carry that and there was no way I was going anywhere else. So I thought I’d grab a cheap tuna steak and throw it on the grill. You could get a really nice piece and sear it on each side, or be cheap like me and get a not-so-nice piece and cook it all the way through. Your choice!

Grilled Tuna Salad Nicoise

Serves 2-4 (depending on if you serve anything else with it)
Salad Ingredients:
2 lb potatoes
1/2 lb green beans
1 pint grape tomatoes – halved
6 hard boiled eggs – sliced
6 oz tuna steak
olives – I only used enough for me cause my husband hates them. Use your own discretion.
salt and pepper to taste
serve over – 5oz mixed greens

Salad Dressing Ingredients:
1/3 cup minced chives or green onions (less elegant, but it’s what I had on hand)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 t kosher salt
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t honey
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup olive oil
1 T chopped fresh basil (kind of optional, but I threw it in)
1 t chopped fresh thyme (again, optional)

Steps:
Get your grill ready
1. Make vinaigrette – in a bowl, whisk together vinegar, garlic, honey, and mustard till well combined. Add oil in a small stream while continuing to whisk until emulsified. Add basil, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Boil potatoes till desired doneness – approximately 15 minutes. Drain and when cool enough to touch, quarter and toss with 2 T of vinaigrette. Set aside.
3. Steam green beans till desired doneness – maybe 5 minutes. Transfer to ice bath to stop cooking process. Drain, dry, toss with 1 T of vinaigrette and set aside.
4. Salt and pepper tuna steak and grill over high heat till desired doneness. Depends on how rare you want your tuna and how thick it is – maybe 4 min ea side for medium. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice.
5. Compose your salad – toss lettuce with 2 T of vinaigrette and arrange on dinner plates. Place tuna, eggs, green beans, tomatoes, and olives on a serving platter. Add bits and pieces to your dinner plate as desired. Toss with more vinaigrette on your plate if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Use half the lemon in your salad, half in your vinaigrette. No waste!

Use half the lemon in your salad, half in your vinaigrette. No waste!

So it’s almost the end of Meyer Lemon season sniff sniff. Since this year seems to be the year of the Meyer Lemon for me, I thought I’d say goodbye with just a few more dishes using the fruit – if I can sneak them in before it’s too late (is it too late? Admitted – I made this a week or two ago). Today we are showcasing a fresh salad perfect for celebrating the best produce of spring.

Did you know you can eat the rind of Meyer Lemons? Well, now you do. They make for a pretty presentation in your salads. One I made recently consisted of paper thin slices of meyer lemon, asparagus spears, leaf lettuce and a lemon walnut vinaigrette. The whole thing just screams SPRING!

Lemon Walnut Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 T) – this works out great cause you can slice up the other half for your salad
3 T Walnut oil
1 t dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Steps:
1. Whisk lemon juice, 1 T of the oil and mustard till an emulsion forms.
2. Slowly whisk in the remaining 2 T of oil.
3. Salt and pepper to taste

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Trust me, this dish is fabulous. I just have really shoddy camera skills. 

Trust me, this dish is fabulous. I just have really shoddy camera skills.

I love reading cookbooks written by chefs. Interesting ingredients and techniques enthrall me. More often than not though, these books aren’t translated for the home cook. Take the Alinea cookbook – I know there is probably just ONE recipe in the entire book I could make at home without expending major effort.  And trust me, it’s not that lavender smoke pillow thingy.

Restaurant recipes dumbed down (well…sorta)

So what’s a home cook to do? I’ve come across a couple of books which help translate restaurant recipes for the home – Chef Interrupted by Melissa Clark and Restaurant Favorites at Home by the Editors at Cook’s Illustrated (aka America’s Test Kitchen, aka ATK). Trust me though, the recipes in each of these books are still quite time consuming – but always worth it. 

Oh yeah, did I ever mention Nuevo Latino cuisine is my absolute favorite? Do we use that term anymore? Latin fusion? Was that totally random and seemingly off-topic? Whatever. Maybe you’ve forgotten the title of this post. I’m just saying I love food with Latin and Caribbean flavors more than just about anything else. Give me a fried plantain any day of the week and I will be one happy girl (I feel a craving coming on!).

One of the most stellar recipes of all-time

The one recipe that I make over and over again that is based on Latin flavors is the Grilled Lime Chicken out of the Restaurant Favorites book. There are a bunch of accompaniments listed in the book, but I never bother with them any more. It’s the cilantro lime sauce that I covet. It’s a perfect blend of spicy, sweet and tangy. The chicken is bathed in this superb sauce post cooking so it retains all its fresh flavors. It is, without a doubt, the best chicken grilling sauce there is. And it’s the freaking easiest thing you’ll ever make.  Oh yeah, and it makes a fantastic salad dressing too.

So don’t delay. Make this today. Unless…you don’t like cilantro. And if that is the case, I feel for you. I really and truly do.

Still not enticing you? Yeah... I can understand that. Just make the dish already!

Still not enticing you? Yeah... I can understand that. Quit picking apart my crappy photos and just make the dish already!

I mean, this is what I had to work with people. Do they even TRAIN butchers anymore?

I mean, this is what I had to work with people. Do they even TRAIN butchers anymore?

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Rewritten from Restaurant Favorites at Home
Makes about a cup of sauce

Ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
4 chiles de arbol (or 1.5 t red pepper flakes)
3 medium garlic cloves
1 small shallot roughly chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1 bunch fresh cilantro – leaves and some stems – roughly chopped (about 1.5 cups)
3/4 cup vegetable (or other mild flavored) oil

Whatever the heck you want to grill. The book recommends 6 8-10 oz bone in, skin on chicken breasts.

Steps:
1. This couldn’t be easier – take all the ingredients (minus the thing you are grilling) and stick in mini food processor, blender, whatever. Pulse till combined. OR, if you insist on doing things the hard way, chop them up. Put in a large bowl and set aside. That’s it!

2. Grill your meat (or veg! I suppose you could do that too). If you were going to do bone in skin on chicken, my method in the Pomegranate Chicken recipe works well – basicallly, 10 minutes skin down, 15 minutes skin up. Set aside to rest.

3. Dip your grilled whatever into the big bowl of sauce – make sure it is well coated. Remove and…

4. Serve!

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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  Winter Caprese Salad - how to use those nasty, mealy hothouse tomatoes.
 

Winter Caprese Salad - how to use those nasty, mealy hothouse tomatoes.

Well, I know we on the cusp of spring, but we are months from decent tomatoes and I’m craving them. This  Winter Caprese salad makes use of oven roasted tomatoes, which are so sweet and flavorful, I’m just sure you will fall in love with them. They are much different than their chewy sun-dried counterparts. If you haven’t already, give them a whirl. 

Of course, fresh basil is, strictly speaking, not to be had in winter either. You can make yourself feel better by turning the basil into a pesto, but since I just love the taste of fresh basil at any time of year, I’ve left it as is. Served over a little fresh mozzerella, a spritz of good vinegar and olive oil, smidge of sea salt and voila! It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy!

Winter Caprese Salad

Adapted from Gourmet mag
Ingredients

Makes 4 servings.

1 pound plum tomatoes, quarted lengthwise.
2T olive oil (plus more for drizzling over salad)
1/2 pound fresh mozzerella sliced  1/4 inch thick.
a handful of fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar (for drizzling over salad)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

    Steps

    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the middle.
    • Toss tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
    • Place tomatoes on baking sheet (with sides to catch the juices) cut side up and roast in oven for 45 minutes or until the skins are wrinkly and the bottoms start to brown.
    • Remove from oven and cool completely.
    • Slice basil thinly.
    • Assemble cheese and roasted tomatoes on a plate, sprinkle with basil.
    • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season with freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!


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