Treasure Chest Thursday: Any Season Salad

IMG_3737Being a salad person, I have about ten salads that we rotate through as main meal salads depending on the season and the local produce available.  In a recent post, I told of never having made a chopped salad until recently.  I need to apologize as apparently I told a small little story.  I have been making a chopped style salad for years without realizing it and this is a salad that can be made any season.

Many years ago, when valentine’s day was more about two of us than three of us, I planned out Valentine’s Date.  It was actually an evening at home.  I happened upon a cookbook that sort of set the evenings plans into play.  Intercourses, yes go ahead laugh a little as we have, but that is the name of the book.  It is a cookbook that focuses on aphrodisiac foods and recipes that incorporate them.   I am not sure how much I believe in the power of food in romance, but the book includes a lot of my favorite foods – avocado, chilis, pine nuts, strawberries, and more.

Anyway cute little me thought how fun to cook a meal based on some of these recipes and give the book as a gift.

Over the years we have tried several of the recipes in the book.  There are others that I have not been brave enough to try, partly due to their uniqueness and my uneasiness that Mr. Mixture wouldn’t enjoy.  Mr. Mixture’s taste have definitely grown and he is always willing to try new things I make, so maybe I will get adventurous.  Anyway one of the first recipes, I tried was a salad that included pine nuts.

Pine nuts are said to be “a deft kernel of love.”  Apparently the northwestern Himalayas are said to have one of the highest birthrates and they relate it to pine nuts and their power to increase fertility.

Being that I can never follow a recipe or so Mr. mixture seems to think, dinner became this one night.  It began as a side salad, but I turned it into a wonderful main meal.  A salad that would become a treasure chest recipe for us.

Any Season Salad

3-4 Cups Mixed Greens, Dark Leaf Lettuce, or Butter Lettuce, Chopped

1 avocado, peeled and chopped

1 tomato, chopped

4 Tbsp. Toasted Pine Nuts

1/2 cup Alfalfa Sprouts

1/4 cup minced Red Onion

1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped

3 Tbsp. Mozzarella Cheese, grated or chopped

1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped

1-2 Chicken Breast, grilled or baked and cut into chunks*

* I marinate the chicken in olive oil, fresh ground black pepper, dried basil, lemon juice

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Toss all ingredients into a large salad bowl and toss well.  You can either add the chicken to the salad or top individual salads as desired.  This salad is also versatile in the moisture from the vegetables allows the salad to toss nicely and decrease the amount of dressing needed.  You can choose to toss with the dressing to serve or allow individuals to dress to their desired taste.

Dressing 

2 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar

4 tsp Dijon Mustard

2 tsp Honey

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

6 Tbsp Olive Oil

Whisk all ingredients together.

Printable Recipe and Nutrition info here

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CHOPPED and so happy about it

You are CHOPPED!  

Do you watch this show?

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I go through phases with food tv, recently I am not really into the shows that come on when I seem to have time to watch television or have it on in the background.  I like competition shows and there are quite a few out there.  I was a big Top Chef fan at first, but sadly my DVR still holds the last seasons episode as I was not that into it.  In fact I completely stopped following it when I was more into other shows and have no idea who the last Top Chef was.  I personally think I was turned off because it became more about the people and the drama (ie. Josie – I was never a fan the first time, so a second time was too much).  I liked it when it really spotlighted more the food being prepared and the different challenges.  Chopped is a show that my daughter got into a couple of years ago and I still find it entertaining to watch.  I especially like that each episode is its own so I can randomly watch it when I want and not be lost or behind in a series.

Enough about my random television habits, the reason I am on this Chopped tangent is I finally made a chopped salad and we loved it.  I love a good entree salad.  In fact I could eat meals like this multiple times a week though to be fair to the other family members I make other things.  I have always been a fan of a good salad.  There are only a handful of restaurants that in my opinion have always had a good entree salad.  They are definitely more widespread these days, but fifteen years ago when we were younger and eating out more it was not so common.

I have never really been a huge fan of chopped salads.  That is not to say I avoided them.  I just have always gravitated toward certain types of salads.  I used to order salads with chicken tenders just as a change when eating out.  They seem to always have the good stuff – bacon, avocado, and cheese on them.  I am a huge mexican fan so any salad with a mexican flair catches my eye.  For years I have been a fan of a good caesar salad, especially at a restaurant because up until this year I had never attempted to make one at home.  As a dietitian I have known even before the dark green veggies became fashionable that these were better for you, so spinach based or mixed green salads have always had a place in my diet.  When I was living on my own or eating alone since Mr. Mixture used to work a lot of evenings, I would just make a big salad using whatever protein we had in the house – leftover meat from another dinner, beans, cheese, or a combination of them all.  Over the years I have come up with a lot of great combinations and learned many different flavor profiles and what dressings and things work well together.

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Last summer there was a pin that kept showing up in my pinterest home for a Summer Chopped Salad.  It looked good and did a nice job of incorporating fresh vegetables and fruit.  I tried it as my first chopped attempt, but for our family it just did not have enough flavor or wow.  I never removed the pin from my salad board, so I decided to give it another try but find a dressing that would work better for our taste.  Well I had the ingredients to make the pictured salad, but I got side tracked after making a dressing and ended up with something a little different… a chopped salad that was a hit.  Phew this dinner did not get the chopping block.  It has been added to my recipe book. 

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Chopped, a salad that deserves to stay on the Chopping Block

Romaine Lettuce, 1-2 heads

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Grilled Corn, 1 ear cut off the cob

Avocado, 1

Cucumber, 1 kirby

Red Pepper, 1/2

Tomato, 1 medium ( I prefer heirloom for the flavor when available)

Mozzarella Cheese

Bacon, 2 slices

Salami, 6 slices

Poached Chicken, 1 breast

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All ingredients should be chopped to a similar size, about 1/2″ to 1 inch pieces work best depending on the ingredient.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour dressing over and toss the salad, ensuring even coating and serve.

Chopped Salad Dressing (* adapted from a recipe for California Pizza Kitchen Chopped Salad Dressing)

1 tsp. fresh garlic, minced

2 tsp. fresh shallots, minced

3 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

2 tsp Italian Herb Mixture (This particular mixture was a gift and is from a restaurant in Alabama) The mixture is basil, parsley, rosemary, garlic, oregano, pepper, salt)

1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar

1 1/3 cups Olive Oil

3 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese

Combine all ingredients in a glass container and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Shake well and pour over salad.  This recipe makes enough for two family size chopped salads.  I always make extra dressing when I make salads so I can use it throughout the next week on small lunch salads or dinner salads.

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This is a great salad.  A mixture of a lot of foods.  You could easily make some changes to this salad and use up some leftovers that may not be enough for an serving or meal .  I can see putting grilled zucchini or roasted peppers in the salad, just as easily as leftover boiled corn or grilled chicken could be tossed in.  In fact this could just as easily be made similar to our dinner a couple of weeks ago which really was a salad from leftovers and it was fabulous.

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Want a different type of salad.  Try one of these.

Caesar Salad

Mixed Greens with Grilled Peaches

Blackberry, Yellow Squash and Goat Cheese

Grilled Fattoush 

 

 

 

 

Blackberry, Yellow Squash & Goat Cheese Salad

IMG_3216We have had some great salad meals recently.  I love salads as a main meal and summer is the perfect time to take advantage of the fresh produce and fill your bowl.  It also is a great alternative for dinner since it requires minimal cooking and the less I use the stovetop or oven in the summer the happier I am.  Fire up the grill and toss the items on a bed of greens and I am a happy girl.

I have a couple of salad combinations that I have been putting together for years.  One of my favorites in the middle of July is Grilled Peaches and Chicken.  This is a perfect entree salad when the freestone peaches are ripe.  We had this recently, but my blogger brain was not on as I forgot to snap any pictures.  However, I do have the recipe on my site – Mixed Greens with Grilled Peaches & Chicken. 

As we we browsing the farmer’s market the other day, Little Miss Mixture and I decided to make a big salad for dinner.  As I mention in the Mixed Greens and Grilled Peaches recipe, the dressing is quite versatile.  I find it to be the base of my favorite type of balsamic.  I knew blackberries and goat cheese would blend well with a balsamic, so I began gathering items to create dinner.

The blackberries are fabulous right now.  I knew I had a salad recipe that blackberries were used, so I referred to that as the base of our meal once I got home.  While at the market, I had picked up some local yellow squash, corn.  As I was preparing my balsamic, I noticed I had a brioche roll that had not been used.  I quickly cut it into 1 inch cubes, tossed it with some melted butter in a cast iron skillet and then placed them in the oven for about 12 minutes.  Homemade croutons are a great way to use up rolls or breads.

 

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Blackberry, Grilled Squash & Goat Cheese Salad

Ingredients
Mixed Greens
1 Yellow Squash, sliced lengthwise
Mushrooms (Freshly Sliced)
Goat Cheese, crumbled
fresh blackberries
Croutons
avocado, diced
Shrimp, peeled, deveined

Directions
Preheat grill to 350 degrees. Marinate shrimp in olive oil and creole seasonings. Marinate squash in olive oil and some fresh ground pepper.
While squash and shrimp are on grill. Place mixed greens in all bowls. Top with sliced mushrooms, avocado, and goat cheese.
Wash and gently dry fresh blackberries
Top salad with shrimp, grilled squash and blackberries. Top with dressing and croutons and enjoy.
Dressing should be a Dijon balsamic for best flavor

 

Mixed Greens with Grilled Peaches & Chicken

DSC_3170Mixed Greens with Grilled Peaches & Chicken

Ingredients

2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp garlic clove, minced
1 Pinch salt & pepper
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 Peaches, halved and peeled
1/4 Red onion, sliced
3 Cups Mesculan Mix
1/2 Avocado
1/2 Red Pepper
Goat cheese
Corn, grilled and cut off the cob
4 baby bella mushrooms, sliced

Dressing/Marinade

2/3 Cup Olive oil
4 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 Cup Balsamic vinegar
1 Peach, peeled, cored

Directions

Marinate chicken prior to cooking in garlic, pepper, and oil or you can use a small amount of the dressing.
Dressing
Combine oil, mustard, vinegar, and peach in food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Over medium heat, grill chicken about 5 minutes on ach side. Grill red pepper and corn. Brush peaches with dressing and grill about 2 minutes, brush the other side and grill an additional minute or two. Top mesclun mix with chicken, peaches, onion. Top with dressing

* the recipe for the dressing/marinade has been doubled as I like to have enough to marinade the chicken and it keeps well an is a versatile balsamic dressing.