I’m sick as a dog. I caught that terrible flu that’s been going around. I had a fever of 103° and felt pretty darn miserable. Finally got rid of the flu, but my doctor says I now have bronchitis, not to mention I’m wheezing like an old asthmatic. Sigh….. Anyway, since I’ve been laid up in bed, I thought this would be a good time to catch up on the blog and post some of my recipes that have been sitting in draft form waiting for a little tweaking or something before being published, so don’t be surprised to see several posts come out all at once.
Salade Niçoise (pronounced ni swaz) is one of my all-time favorite salads. I believe it originated in France and my understanding is the original is made with anchovies, but neverhavingbeen to Nice, I can’t say for sure. Every time I’ve had it, it’s been made with tuna and my family likes it that way so I just keep it up — though personally, I wouldn’t mind anchovies. Hey! I happen to like the little guys! Anyway, classic niçoise salad typically has boiled potatoes, green beans, and niçoise olives, but there again from my readings it seems that boiled veggies are frowned upon in some areas of France. Whatever. I happen to think the boiled potatoes and green beans are the best part of this salad! Anyway, give it a try. I guarantee you’ll love it!
(Makes 4 servings)
12 ozs. boston, bibb, or butter lettuce
16 baby yellow potatoes
4 large eggs
10 ozs. haricots verts or slender green beans, trimmed
2 cans (5½ oz. each) tuna packed in olive oil, drained
20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup niçoise or Kalamata olives, cut in half
Fill a bowl with ice and water and set it aside. You may have to replenish the ice and/or water as needed.
Place potatoes in a medium saucepan, add enough water to cover the potatoes and add a teaspoon of salt.
Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to the ice water bath to stop cooking.
When potatoes are cool, remove from ice water, cut in half, and set aside.
Place eggs in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover eggs by one inch.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Let cook for 6-7 minutes until eggs are hard boiled.
Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.
When eggs are cool, remove from ice water, peel, and set aside.
Add fresh water to the saucepan and bring it to a boil again.
Add the green beans and blanch till they’re bright green, about 1 minute.
Remove green beans with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.
Once green beans are cool, remove from ice water, and set aside.
Divide the lettuce equally into 4 salad bowls.
Top each with 4 potatoes cut in half, 1/4 of the green beans, 5 tomatoes cut in half, 1 egg cut into 4 wedges, 1/4 of the olives, and half a can of tuna.
Drizzle lemon-thyme dressing over each salad.
zest of 1 lemon
½ cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, thyme, sugar, salt, and pepper with a wire whisk until well combined.
Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified.
Dressing will keep in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
NOTE:We like our dressing with a touch of sweetness, but if you want the dressing to be less sweet, feel free to cut the sugar in half or omit it altogether.
Wedge Salad is a typical salad served at classic American steak houses as a starter to your meal. It’s traditionally served with crumbled blue cheese and blue cheese dressing, but blue cheese isn’t one of my kids’ favorite cheeses. I love wedge salad, though, so here’s a version I make for them without any blue cheese in it. If you find you’re really missing the blue cheese flavor, go ahead and sprinkle some crumbled blue cheese on your salad. It’s all good!
(Makes 4 servings)
1 small head iceberg lettuce
6 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 slices sturdy white bread, crusts removed
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
garlic salt, to taste (optional)
1 small tomato, chopped
1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
chives, minced (for garnish)
Cut the lettuce into 4 wedges and place them in the refrigerator to keep cold until ready to use.
Fry the bacon until crisp, then transfer to paper towels to drain.
Dice the white bread into small cubes, a little less than a half-inch big.
Melt butter or margarine in a skillet and fry bread cubes, stirring often, until golden and crispy.
Season bread cubes with garlic salt to taste, if desired.
Assemble the salad by placing one wedge of lettuce on each of 4 salad plates.
Pour some dressing over each wedge.
Top with a little tomato, onion, bacon, and croutons.
Garnish with minced chives, if desired.
BACON BUTTERMILK DRESSING
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
Place all ingredients into bowl of a food processor and process until combined.
Chill until ready to serve.
NOTE: Dressing can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept chilled in the fridge.
I always think of my daughter, Tissi, when I make this salad. Tissi and a friend of hers were discussing vegetarianism one day and he made her a bet that she couldn’t go without eating meat for more than 2 days. Tissi decided to take him up on it and she won the bet! The funny thing is, while she was trying to be all vegetarian in order to win, she realized she didn’t miss meat at all! So after her 2 days were up, she decided to just go on eating the way she was and she became a vegetarian for real! Has been for a couple of years now. Isn’t that funny? Anyway, when I make this salad and see all the colorful rows of veggies, I always think of my Tissi. You wouldn’t miss meat either when faced with a healthy, delicious salad like this one!
That being said, the “Tex-Mex” flavor of this salad makes it a great accompaniment to barbecued meat or chicken. It’s delicious alongside a pulled pork sandwich or some tender slices of smoked beef brisket. Sometimes I add crumbled bacon to it which makes it extra yummy in my book. After all, everything is better with bacon, right? (As you might have guessed, I’m not a vegetarian.) If you’re looking for a heartier, more filling salad that could stand alone as a light lunch or brunch dish, you could toss in some chopped grilled chicken.
The dressing for this salad has very little oil which makes it less fattening than other dressings, albeit rather thin. If you want a thicker, creamier dressing, try whisking in a half cup of plain greek yogurt.
SANTA FE CHOPPED SALAD
1 large head romaine lettuce or 2 romaine hearts, washed and roughly chopped
2 small (2.25 oz.) cans sliced black olives, drained
Summer has kicked in with a vengeance! Boy is it Hot!….. with a capital H! We’ve been experiencing some triple digit days these past couple of weeks. Believe me, 108 degrees is no picnic! This kind of heat makes me think of long, tall drinks, big bowls of ice cream, and cool refreshing salads.
This salad is a play on my friend Cyndi’s winter fruit salad. I thought why not do the same thing for the summer except using fresh berries? I had some leftover shredded rotisserie chicken so I added it in for some healthy protein. The salad made a great lunch served with some of No. 1’s homemade french bread and a cool glass of crisp white wine. Mm… mm… mm…..
SUMMER BERRY AND CHICKEN SALAD WITH LEMON POPPY SEED DRESSING
⅓ cup lemon juice
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. finely chopped onion
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
⅔ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp. poppy seeds
Combine lemon juice, sugar, onion, mustard and salt in the container of a food processor or blender; process until smooth.
With the machine running, add oil in a slow, steady stream and process until thick and smooth.
Add the poppy seeds and pulse a few times to mix.
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup quartered strawberries
½ cup blueberries
½ cup pineapple tidbits (or pineapple chunks cut in half)
½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)
Place the lettuce, chicken, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and nuts in a large salad bowl.
Oh my gosh, is it HOT outside! We hit 104º today! Whew! It’s even too hot to expend the energy fanning yourself! I needed to prepare something cool and refreshing for dinner but I didn’t want to work hard making it. Something quick and easy was in order. Enter my “Quick and Easy Chinese Chicken Salad.” What I love best about this salad is there’s very little prep needed if you buy pre-shredded rotisserie chicken, pre-cut lettuce, shredded carrots, and bottled dressing like I did! Then you literally just need to stack the water chestnut slices to cut them in half, and chop up the cilantro. Easy, peasy!
The dressing recipe I have here is a pretty simple one to make but if you really want to save time and effort, there are a lot of excellent bottled Chinese Chicken Salad Dressings out on the market. Just buy yourself a bottle and skip making it from scratch. Trust me, it’ll turn out just fine.
QUICK AND EASY CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD
For the Salad:
1 rotisserie chicken, or 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1 large head romaine lettuce, cut into bite sized pieces
¾ cup shredded carrots
1 small can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, drained and cut in half
1 small can (11 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup canned crunchy chow mein noodles (can substitute ⅔ cup slivered almonds)
2-3 tbsps. toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
For the Dressing:
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup rice vinegar (plain or seasoned)
3 tbsps. soy sauce
1½ tbsps. sesame oil
1 tbsp. honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger
½ tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
If using rotisserie chicken: Remove chicken meat from the bones and shred into bite-sized pieces. (I buy it already pre-shredded at Costco.) If using boneless, skinless chicken breasts: Drizzle chicken with olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and bake at 350ºF until chicken is just cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces.
Make dressing by whisking together all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl.
Place chicken, lettuce, carrots, water chestnuts, mandarin oranges, cilantro and chow mein noodles in a large salad bowl.
Pour dressing over everything and toss together gently.
Serve in individual salad bowls and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
Salad can be served cold or at room temperature.
Note: For those of you who’ve asked me, one of my favorite bottled chinese chicken salad dressings is “Joey D’s Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing & Marinade.” It’s really good, but I’m sure there are others just as good out there. Use your favorite one.
La Bou is a local bakery cafe chain. They opened their first store in 1981 and it was a huge success with people lined up outside to buy their delicious handmade croissants. Since then, they’ve expanded to open several stores in the greater Sacramento area serving wonderful salads, sandwiches, soups, pastries and espresso drinks. But what they’ve really become famous for is something that’s not even listed as a choice on their menu. I’m talking about their baguette bread that they serve with a creamy dill dipping sauce. I know it sounds weird to dip slices of bread in what is essentially a salad dressing, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. It is so addictive that every time you go there, you’ll find yourself ordering a full or half baguette with dill sauce to take home.
Anyway, it’s with extreme sadness that I report that our local La Bou in town has just closed its doors. Everyone at work was so dismayed to hear the news. They were right down the street from the office and were a favorite lunch time spot. I can’t understand why they closed. To mark this sad occasion, I’m making a copycat version of their dill dressing for the family to eat with some baguette bread this evening. I don’t know how La Bou makes their actual dressing, but this tastes just like it and will hit the spot whenever you need a La Bou fix.
COPYCAT LA BOU CREAMY DILL DRESSING
1½ cups mayonnaise
1 pkg. Hidden Valley buttermilk ranch dressing mix
¼ cup fresh dill, minced
1¼ cups water
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.
(If you don’t want to mince the dill by hand, you could place all the ingredients into a food processor and process until dill is finely minced.)
Refrigerate until ready to use.
NOTE: If you make this in a food processor, the dip will seem frothy and bubbly immediately after mixing, but don’t worry. The bubbles will settle down and disappear after the dip has sat for a while. It will also seem very watery at first, but will thicken a bit in the refrigerator. La Bou’s dipping sauce is really pretty thin but if you want yours to be thicker, feel free to cut down on the amount of water you add.
My friend, Pooh, told me about this salad that she and her daughter tried making for dinner one night. It was from a Williams Sonoma cookbook and it sounded really good so I decided that I would try it, too. The salad ingredients were delicious, but I didn’t care too much for the dressing so I altered it to come up with a creamy dressing that was more to my liking. The family liked it better with my dressing, too.
BLT SALAD (Serves 4)
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
8 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups croutons, homemade or store bought
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Spread out the bacon pieces on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake the bacon pieces until crisp, about 12-15 minutes.
When the bacon pieces are ready, remove them from the oven and transfer to paper towels to drain and cool.
Make the dressing by combining mayonnaise, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and blending until well-combined.
Place the lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and croutons into a large salad bowl.
Drizzle with dressing and toss to mix well.
VARIATION: You could make a BLTA salad, as pictured below, by adding one avocado to the recipe. Cut the avocado into cubes, squeeze a little lemon juice over the cubes to keep them from darkening, and then toss the avocado into your salad. Yum!
[Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking Together, by Erin & Tatum Quon (Oxmoor House, 2009)]
Old Goat loves Caesar Salad. He could eat it every week! Thankfully, it’s very easy to make. All you need is some romaine lettuce, a few croutons, fresh parmesan cheese, et voilà! The secret is in the delicious dressing which in some fancy restaurants, is served with quite a bit of fanfare as the waiter expertly prepares your dressing tableside.
Traditionally, caesar dressing is made with raw egg yolks. But if you’re worried about the safety of using raw eggs, then this is the recipe for you! I started doing the dressing this way because there’s no raw egg in it. Instead it uses mayonnaise so it’s safe for the whole family.
CAESAR MAYONNAISE DRESSING
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and minced
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. anchovy paste
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a bowl, mash the minced garlic and salt together into a paste.
Add the rest of the ingredients.
Whisk all together until well combined.
Toss dressing with romaine lettuce.
NOTE: This dressing keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.
A good vinaigrette is a simple thing to make. Sure it’s easy to pick up a bottle of dressing at the grocery store, but they’re usually high in sodium and lord knows what other chemical additives or preservatives. It’s much healthier to just whisk up your own fresh batch and it really doesn’t take that long to do.
The classic ratio for a vinaigrette is 3:1, meaning 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. You can then vary it in a myriad of ways. You could use different kinds of oil like walnut oil or even ordinary salad oil. You could use different vinegars (one of my favorite things to use is seasoned rice vinegar) or replace the vinegar entirely with a citrus juice like lemon or grapefruit. You could add all sorts of flavor enhancers besides the classic minced shallot, like minced garlic, or red onion. You could also add an herb or a blend of herbs like oregano, basil, or thyme. Give it an Asian flair by adding a little soy sauce, sesame oil, and minced ginger. And who does’t love a good raspberry or strawberry vinaigrette? The possibilities are endless!
Armed with a good vinaigrette, you can turn any lettuce into a bright, perky salad, or enhance the flavor of meat, chicken or fish with a little marinating time, or even wake up plain veggies and bring them to glorious, tangy life!
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil or other oil of your choice
¼ cup vinegar of your choice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. add-in, like minced shallot or red onion, herbs like tarragon or chives, even a tablespoon of jam works
Whisk vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, pepper and any add-ins together in a glass bowl. You can adjust the sugar, salt, and pepper, adding more or less to your taste.
Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking constantly.
Taste. If vinaigrette seems too sharp, whisk in a little more oil or even water.
Let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.
Whisk again before using.
NOTE: In lieu of a bowl and a wire whisk, you could place all the ingredients into a jar, screw the lid tightly closed, and shake well. You could also use a blender which works especially well if you’re making a fruit vinaigrette that needs pureed fruit, like raspberry or strawberry vinaigrette.
Vinaigrettes can be made ahead of time. Place in an airtight container, cover, and keep chilled in refrigerator for up to one week.
Old Goat and I decided to go to lunch at one of our little local restaurants in town. It was a lovely day for a date. The weather was perfect for strolling past the lake and sitting down outside to enjoy a leisurely lunch. I ordered the salad special-of-the-day and boy did I love it! So much so that I just had to try and recreate it at home a couple of days later for the fam-bam to try. They loved it, too.
The salad wasn’t anything really fancy. In fact, it was incredibly simple with nothing but spring greens and pomegranate arils lightly dressed in a sherry vinaigrette. But it had these warm dates that were stuffed with melty, creamy blue cheese. You cut a little piece of stuffed date and ate it with a bite of salad and suddenly you were transported to culinary heaven! The warm dates contrasting with the cold salad, the burst of sweet, sour, and salty flavors, it was unexpected and delicious! There are several different ways to get the juicy, red arils out of a pomegranate, ranging from picking them out with your fingers to whacking them out with the back of a wooden spoon. There’s a good post on how to cut and seed a pomegranate here. But I’m lucky. My local grocery store sells little plastic containers of ready-to-eat pomegranate arils which sure makes life easy and stain-free!
SALAD OF SPRING GREENS WITH WARM BLUE CHEESE STUFFED DATES (Makes 4 Servings)
6 cups spring greens
arils from 1 or 2 pomegranates
16-20 pitted dates
4 ozs. blue cheese
4 ozs. cream cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Cut a slit on the side of each date from end to end.
Fill the cavity of each date with blue cheese. If like mine, your kids don’t like the flavor of blue cheese, you can make it less pungent by blending it with cream cheese. I find that a 50/50 blend of blue cheese and cream cheese goes over well with the picky eaters in your life.
Place the stuffed dates on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese just begins to brown.
While dates are baking, make the dressing.
SHERRY VINAIGRETTE (Makes about 1 cup dressing)
⅓ cup sherry wine vinegar
⅔ cup olive oil
½ tsp. sugar or splenda
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ small shallot, finely minced (optional)
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.
Refrigerate until ready to use. Whisk again before using.
NOTE: Vinaigrette can be made ahead of time. Place in an airtight container, cover, and keep chilled in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
TO ASSEMBLE SALAD
Toss spring greens with as much salad dressing as you want. Do not over dress!
Place about 1½ cups of salad onto each of 4 salad plates.
Sprinkle about 2 or 3 tablespoons of pomegranate arils over salad.