Any Kitchen Will Do

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Archive for the category “salad”

Chef Salad

chef salad

I am avoiding a serious subject. A hot oven. I try to avoid it as much as possible in the Takoma Kitchen.  For one, it is an electric oven, which heats up very differently than gas, and regardless of electric or gas, it also makes our little place pretty warm. Here is one of the concoctions I do that does not take much stove or oven heat. The original chef salad is very American, originating in Pennsylvania or New York, depending on which claims you believe, first created in the 1930s or ’40s. Throw a few types of meat and cheese on a plate with a boiled egg and dressing and there you have it, a salad with a bunch of stuff on it so you don’t have to make a bunch of choices. I like the approach on a hot summer evening, and the reduced exposure to even more heat is a plus. Technically, the bacon and eggs require heat to prepare, but they are often left over and already in the fridge. That, or I send a heads up message to Big D and he takes a break from work and cooks up a pan of rashers while boiling some eggs ‘the way grandma did them’, with the shells practically falling off in the pan. Dinner can be custom made on each plate and put together pretty quickly – Little B gets eggs, bacon, cucumber and tomato, while Big D gets an extra pile of meat with ranch dressing, and I get a little bit of everything, especially the pepper jack cheese.

Chef Salad

6 ounces thin cut roast beef
6 ounces thin cut roast turkey
6 ounces thin cut virginia baked ham
4 ounces sliced swiss cheese
4 ounces sliced medium cheddar cheese
4 ounces sliced pepper jack cheese
8 ounces grape tomatoes
2 ounces baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
2 mini cucumbers, sliced into coins
2 – 4 medium boiled eggs, sliced in half
6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
8 ounces raw baby spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
4 – 6 ounces salad dressing (traditionally French or Thousand Islands)

On two large dinner plates divide the spinach and spread evenly. Slice cheese into ¼ inch wide strips. Roll each slice of meat individually. Alternate cheese strips and meat rolls in a circle on top of the spinach bed.  Arrange the mushrooms, tomatoes and cucumber coins between the cheese and meat. In the center of the salad place the egg halves. Sprinkle bacon over top of salad. Serve immediately after drizzling with preferred dressing.

Caprese Salad

caprese

Basil always reminds me of Italy. In 2004 Big D and I explored Rome and Tuscany with another couple. There were, as always, some ups and downs during the trip. Big D’s luggage was not found until halfway through the trip, the pool at our villa was too darned cold for midnight skinny dipping, and cheap grappa is nasty when imbibed warm and straight. The luggage was finally found and took forever because the villa was not easy to find and the local washer/dryer machine was not really a dryer. No solution about the pool, except for some teeth chattering. The grappa was resolved with ice and mixing it with Coke Light (Italy’s version of Diet Coke). Very potent. The reminder basil gives me relates to the week we spent at the little villa. It had three bedrooms upstairs, a dining area and living area downstairs. There was also a lovely, large kitchen. Right outside the kitchen was an herb garden. Even being early summer, it overflowed with rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley and of course basil. Most nights Big D and I would walk to the co-op in the nearby village, pick out fresh beef and vegetables, walk home, pick a collection of herbs and cook cook cook! The couple we traveled with often went out to eat at one restaurant or another, so we had the place to ourselves for the night. It was a wonderful, quiet time of day after exploring Siena, Pisa, Florence, Rome…. When I smell basil I think of the quiet evenings, fresh steaks and veal, and another, funny and memorable element – frogs croaking in the pond below our bedroom window all night. Believe it or not it was like an elixer, lulling us to sleep. On to the salad. I almost called it insalata caprese, but decided not to because of the – dum dum dum – basalmic vinegar. I loved salad when made with fresh ingredients and high quality olive oil, but never recall seeing the basalmic vinegar offered in Italy, only in the US. My research was consistent. Insalata caprese is typically seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Caprese Salad

1 large red tomato
1 ball fresh mozzarella
1 large stem fresh basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Aged Basalmic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice tomato and mozzarella into slices of equal thickness. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper. Layer slices with leaves of basil. Sprinkle salad with olive oil and basalmic vinegar. Serve immediately.

 

Cucumber Goat Cheese Bites

cucumber goat cheese bites

I always love goat cheese, but somehow missed eating it lately. I recently tried to remember the first time I had it – the tart, smooth experience flirting with my tongue. I think it was in Golden, Colorado, while lunching in a little cafe in the historic downtown area. For the life of me I cannot remember the name. I would know it if I saw it again, but since I am Maryland at the moment, such an ability is not very helpful. It was spread on a chicken sandwich, in lieu of mustard or other condiments. I remember leaning on the table with my eyes closed, staring at it, wondering where the cheese had been all my life. Granted, I was only 25 or so, but it seemed such a long time to have been without goat cheese! I may have eaten it before, but passed it off as some other ingredient. Since that chicken sandwich I scour menus for it and grab packages now and then from the store. I get unreasonably excited when a restaurant offers a dollop on top of an otherwise basic green salad, or includes it in a cheesy dippy appetizer. My friend over at What’s For Dinner started on a goat cheese kick recently and, inspired, I now eagerly follow suit. On top of the goat cheesiness hankering, the warmer weather is upon us and I am looking to make some cold dishes. Here is a simple cold appetizer, or green salad substitute, that combines flavors my family and I love. The black olives are especially for Little B, who has adored them ever since Great Aunt Debby stuck them on her chubby little one-year-old fingertips.

Cucumber Goat Cheese Bites

1 English cucumber, washed with peel on
5 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 tsp dried parsley leaves
½ tsp dried basil leaves
½ tsp garlic powder
5 – 8 extra large black olives, drained and patted dry
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut cucumber on the perpendicular, to create 1/3 to ½ inch thick slices. Scoop out an indentation about ¼ inch deep on one side of each slice, allowing for the cheese filling to anchor itself. You can use a small melon baller or 1/2 teaspoon scoop. Stir together cheese, parsley, basil and garlic. Sprinkle indentation and top of cucumber slices with salt and pepper. Using a spoon place some goat cheese mixture on top of each slice, filling the indentation and creating a smooth mound on top. Slice olives in half lengthwise, then place a half on top of each cucumber slice. Chill until served.

Don’t Have To Choose Salad

donthavetochoosesalad

My food hankering today was conflicting. Do I want egg salad, tuna salad or guacamole? To take full advantage of my indecisiveness I decided to combine them all. I have never combined the three dishes before, so why not now? I wanted the flavor of all three to be present and also work together. I think I did a pretty good job, and it was a great way to use up the last avocado sitting on the counter – not enough for guacamole, or for topping a batch of chicken, but such a delicious thing shouldn’t go to waste. Tuna is a great way to add protein to a dish, even if there is already protein eking out of the avocado and egg. This salad was delicious sitting atop toasted Julian’s paleo bread. Reminded me of egg salad sandwiches on Lenten Fridays when I was a kid. We would have macaroni and cheese, salmon patties, tuna or egg salad. I understand the symbolism of no meat on Fridays, but feeling less lust or anger in the absence of meat on my part was not actually achieved. Feeling an excess of either was not an issue when I was a child, but one day a week is not what I consider an actual test. To get away from the nostalgic and dogmatic reasons for making the salad, it met my hankering and indecisive needs.

Don’t Have To Choose Salad

1 large ripe avocado
8 – 10 hard boiled eggs
1 5-ounce can tuna packed in water, drained
½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp stone ground mustard
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp chili powder
Sprinkle of ground black pepper

In a large bowl mix yogurt, juice, mustard, salt, cumin, chili powder and pepper. Roughly chop eggs and avocado into pieces about the same size. Gently mix the tuna, avocado and eggs with the dressing, trying not to smash much of it. Chill for about an hour before serving.

 

Greek Salad Dressing

greek salad dressing_edited-1This post is the beginning of a short Greek-themed series resulting from a feast Big D and I made recently. It is all Big D’s fault. He brought home some beautiful lamb chops one evening and it started us talking about how good they would be marinated in some olive oil, lemon juice and mint. That conversation reminded us about how much we like tzatziki and dipping dolmas in it. Besides grumbling tummies we also reminisced about John the Greek’s Dressing from a restaurant of the same name we like in San Antonio, Texas. The restauruant dressing is great, and I think we figured out a pretty good version. This dressing is tangy with oregano, thyme and lemon dancing around together in my mouth! Not exactly like the stuff by John, but so much better, in my opinion, than Italian dressing, which tends to be sweeter, or straight oil and vinegar. I am still deprived of actually having a salad in Greece, much less experience the dressings used  there, so I am relying on my experiences with family-owned Greek restaurants I have frequented in the U.S. Whenever I come across one I duck in for a good meal. This dressing really stands up to a salad full of strong flavors like roasted peppers, feta and olives. The dressing also works well as a meat marinade.

Greek Salad Dressing

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white or red wine vinegar
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
½ tsp dried thyme leaves
½ tsp fresh dill
½ – ¾ tsp sea salt
2 pinches freshly ground black pepper

Add all ingredients except oil into a glass jar with at least a two cup capacity. Stir with a fork or whisk until well combined. Continue stirring while adding oil in a thin stream. Stir a bit more after all the oil is added. Let sit overnight in the fridge before using. About ten minutes before serving pull it out to warm up a bit, since the oil may have formed solids. Shake and serve.

Dragon Fruit Frenzy

dragon fruit salad

Dragon Fruit is the funkiest fruit I know. It is bright and crazy on the outside and and a neutral black, white and mild on the inside. It kinda tastes like kiwi fruit, but unlike the skin of the kiwi, you should shy away from eating the thick pink skin of the dragon fruit. With the single dragon fruit I got from the market I made two simple recipes – a fruit salad for Little B and a rather odd looking cocktail for myself. The meat of the dragon fruit can be sliced or cubed and looks really pretty with brightly colored fruit – in this case, strawberries. dragon fruit margaritaFor my cocktail I did a margarita-type drink (I know, blasphemy for the margarita purist), and sipped it while having a nice green salad with shrimp. The whole meal felt kind of summery, which felt odd, since it is December, but very refreshing after some of the heavier foods we are eating lately. With my eyes closed the cocktail was soft and lovely. With my eyes open it looked like a gray sludge that tasted soft and lovely. I don’t know what to do about the color, but it tastes wonderful.

Dragon Fruit Frenzy

Strawberry Dragon Fruit Salad

½ dragon fruit, meat only, cubed
¾ cup strawberries, chopped
1 Tbsp lime juice

Combine dragon fruit cubes and strawberries. Drizzle juice over fruit and gently toss. Serve immediately or chill before serving.

Dragon Fruit Cocktail

½ dragon fruit, meat only
¼ – 1/3 cup tequila
½ lime, juiced
1 – 2 tsp truvia
6 cubes ice

Add 1 tsp truvia and remaining ingredients to blender. Blend on high until ice is broken up. The sweetness of the fruit can vary, so taste the cocktail and add more truvia to preferred sweetness. Serve immediately.

Another End of Summer Salad

Okay, so I had a little of this and a little of that in the fridge (some of which was left over from making pizza (add link)) and thought they would make a wonderful end of summer salad. Again. It is a bit different from my other End of Summer Salad (add link), but I am really trying to squeeze in the summer produce, so I decided to post it. I know it was recently, like, right below, but this one has a totally different taste. I have to say right now that I absolutely adore my daughter and love how her fine motor skills are improving exponentially while helping me in the kitchen. Now I must also say that I really enjoyed making this salad all by myself – not having to lean over a footstool, without a helper who is learning to use a knife, or a munchkin putting a little too much parsley in the bowl or an imp who insists on measuring and pouring the olive oil from the huge bottle on her own and spilling about half a cup on the counter. While she watched the last bit of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 version, thank you very much) I snuck in the kitchen and whipped up the salad. I liked doing it by myself as much as I will like the next time she helps break a dozen eggs for a frittata – its just a different way of cooking. Here she comes!

Another End of Summer Salad

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt*
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dried parsley leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
Dash of dried red pepper flakes
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, rough chopped
½ large cucumber, rough chopped
1 cup artichoke hearts, rough chopped
½ cup chopped black olives
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack, Feta or Parmesan cheese

Add first seven ingredients in small bowl. While whisking the vinegar mixture gradually add olive oil until well combined. In medium bowl add tomatoes, cucumber, artichoke hearts, olives and cheese. Drizzle dressing over vegetables and stir until evenly distributed. Chill for at least 20 minutes. Toss again before serving.

*If you use Feta or Parmesan cheese you may need less than 1 tsp of sea salt, since they tend to be stronger flavored cheeses.

Japanese Eggplant Tomato Salad

The summer heat has made itself at home in Maryland, for now. I was hopeful that the triple digit temperatures had moved on earlier this week, since the highs dropped into the 80s, but alas, it was not so. They shot right back up. I know it is August, but a girl can hope! I am very much an Autumn/Winter kind of girl – wearing sweaters and pretty scarves, taking brisk walks to get the blood flowing without sweat raining off my brow. Cooler weather will come eventually – it always does – so for now I will trudge on in the heat and make some summer salads. I found some Japanese eggplant at the store this week and grabbed a few. The are longer and more narrow than the typical eggplant, and in my opinion sweeter and more tender. Maybe I need to work with it more, but the short, fat eggplant tends to be tough and lacking flavor when I have prepared it in the past. The Japanese eggplant is more appealing, but also more elusive. I wanted a cold side dish to accompany some spicy tacos for dinner, and this is what I came up with, adapted from the recipe here.

Japanese Eggplant Salad

¼ cup white vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes, crushed
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/8 cup olive oil
2 Japanese eggplants
1 large tomato

Cut off ends of eggplants, cut each lengthwise into six pieces, then cross cut into cubes. Sprinkle cubes lightly with salt and let sit for about ten minutes. While waiting for the eggplant make the dressing. Combine the first five ingredients and whisk together until combined. Slowly add oil while you continue whisking until it is all added. Set aside the dressing. Heat dry skillet over medium high heat. Add eggplant and about one Tablespoon of dressing, then saute until tender, about five minutes. Transfer cubes to paper towel and let cool to room temperature, or chill until ready to serve. Cut tomatoes in half and scoop out seeds, leaving as much flesh as possible, then cube the tomatoes so they are about the same size as the cooked eggplant pieces. Combine the tomato and eggplant cubes. Drizzle with dressing and toss lightly to coat. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.

Walnut Chicken Salad

If you have ever been to Washington DC for work you probably noticed in almost every government and office building there is a little cafe on the bottom floor. These little cafes can be addicting. They usually have delicious breakfast and lunch bars that are sold by the pound, and are extremely convenient. Before going upstairs to do your business you get your little to go container and pick bits and pieces from the display of food. A little pasta salad, a bit of roast chicken, a spoonful of sauteed green beans, a pile of fruit and a couple pieces of sushi. What usually happens for me is my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I end up eating my selections for lunch over two days. Since there are little food bars in so many places they have to compete with each other, so keeping the selections flavorful and offering daily specials make you want to come back for more. This week I have meetings away from my office and for lunch I scooped up some chicken salad at one of the cafes. I expected it to be pleasant, like most food bar choices tend to be, but boy was I surprised. The light brown bits mixed with the chicken weren’t pieces of fruit like I expected, but walnuts! The sweet fruity taste I expected ended up being a nutty, savory flavor that blended wonderfully with the dressing and chicken. I don’t know what was actually in the salad, but I ate the rest of it slowly, savoring each bite and trying to figure out what else was in with the chicken. I think I figured out a pretty good replica of my lunchtime discovery, which is a good thing, because starting next week I will be back in my regular section of the metro area partaking from a completely different food bar. I may never have a chance to experience the surprising salad ever again. That is, unless I keep making it for myself.

Walnut Chicken Salad

4 – 6 cups chicken, cooked and diced
1 – 2 Tbsp broth retained from cooking the chicken*
¾ – 1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp cumin powder
1 cup raw walnuts, chopped
Salt to taste

In mixing bowl combine mayonnaise, cumin and walnuts. Add some of the broth to thin out the mixture to the consistency of thick salad dressing. Add chicken and toss with dressing. Chill overnight before serving.

*If you use the express route and dice up a quick grocery store roasted chicken, just scoop up some juice from the container, as long as it is watery and will help thin out the dressing.

Tuna Salad Sautee

To me summer means eating cool salads. Whether they are cobb, chef, walnut, chicken or tuna, the cool salad always makes me feel happy as the temperatures rise. The word sautee to me sounds like a hot dish, but after the sautee portion of this salad cools off and is chilled, you won’t think of sautee the same again. The sweet of the onion and garlic works really well with the tuna and egg. The bite added by the mustard makes you want to alternate salad bites with those of some chocolate zebra heirloom tomatoes you picked up at the farmers’ market. Oh, that is me. But if you come across some, grab them! They are dark red and purple and green and smell marvelous. The market in Silver Spring was exploding with vegetables, and we could not pass up these tomatoes, which actually taste like a soft red wine to me…kind of a pinot noir or shiraz. They were delish, and went well with my tuna salad sautee creation. Happy summer!!!

Tuna Salad Sautee

4 small cans tuna in water
4 boiled eggs
1 tsp olive oil
½ small sweet onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp horseradish mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil in small pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Sautee until browned and beginning to caramelize. Set aside to cool while the rest of the salad is prepared. Drain water from tuna into small bowl. Place tuna in mixing bowl and serve tuna liquid to eager cats. Roughly chop eggs and add them to the tuna. Add mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper to tuna. Stir ingredients until mixed. Add onion and garlic and stir some more until all the dark pieces are pretty evenly distributed. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

 

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