Wedge Salad with Bacon Buttermilk Dressing

Wedge Salad | Pinky's PantryWedge 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!

WEDGE SALAD

(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)
  1. Cut the lettuce into 4 wedges and place them in the refrigerator to keep cold until ready to use.
  2. Fry the bacon until crisp, then transfer to paper towels to drain.
  3. Dice the white bread into small cubes, a little less than a half-inch big.
  4. Melt butter or margarine in a skillet and fry bread cubes, stirring often, until golden and crispy.
  5. Season bread cubes with garlic salt to taste, if desired.
  6. Assemble the salad by placing one wedge of lettuce on each of 4 salad plates.
  7. Pour some dressing over each wedge.
  8. Top with a little tomato, onion, bacon, and croutons.
  9. 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
  1. Place all ingredients into bowl of a food processor and process until combined.
  2. Chill until ready to serve.

NOTE:  Dressing can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept chilled in the fridge.

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Santa Fe Chopped Salad with Cilantro Citrus Vinaigrette

Santa Fe Chopped Salad | Pinky's Pantry
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 | Pinky's Pantry

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
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 can (15.25 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1½ cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup tortilla strips
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • half of a small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  1. Place chopped lettuce in a bowl.
  2. Arrange remaining ingredients in rows on top of lettuce.
  3. Just before serving, drizzle with Cilantro Citrus Vinaigrette.
  4. Toss and serve.

Cilantro Citrus Vinaigrette | Pinky's Pantry

CILANTRO CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • juice from 2 limes (about 3½ – 4 Tbsp.)
  • 2 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ⅛ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil (can substitute canola oil)
  1. Place cilantro, orange juice, lime juice, honey, cumin, salt and pepper in bowl of food processor or blender and pulse until well-combined.
  2. Then gradually stream in the oil while processing until oil is completely incorporated. Dressing is thin and light.

Summer Berry and Chicken Salad

Summer Berry and Chicken Salad | Pinky's Pantry
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 | Pinky's Pantry

SUMMER BERRY AND CHICKEN SALAD WITH LEMON POPPY SEED DRESSING

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
  1. Combine lemon juice, sugar, onion, mustard and salt in the container of a food processor or blender; process until smooth.
  2. With the machine running, add oil in a slow, steady stream and process until thick and smooth.
  3. Add the poppy seeds and pulse a few times to mix.

Salad:

  • 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)
  1. Place the lettuce, chicken, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and nuts in a large salad bowl.
  2. Pour the poppy seed dressing over the salad.
  3. Toss to coat evenly.

 

Quick and Easy Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese Chicken Salad | Pinky's Pantry
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!
Chinese Chicken Salad | Pinky's Pantry
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
  1. 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.
  2. Make dressing by whisking together all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Place chicken, lettuce, carrots, water chestnuts, mandarin oranges, cilantro and chow mein noodles in a large salad bowl.
  4. Pour dressing over everything and toss together gently.
  5. Serve in individual salad bowls and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
  6. 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.

Copycat La Bou Creamy Dill Dressing

Dill Dressing | Pinky's Pantry
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
  1. 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.)
  2. 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.

Basic Vinaigrette

Basic Vinaigrette | Pinky's Pantry
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!

BASIC VINAIGRETTE

  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking constantly.
  3. Taste. If vinaigrette seems too sharp, whisk in a little more oil or even water.
  4. Let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.
  5. 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.

Salad of Spring Greens with Warm Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates

Spring Greens with Warm Stuffed Dates | Pinky's Pantry
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!
Pomegranate Arils | Pinky's Pantry
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!
Spring Greens with Warm Stuffed Dates | Pinky's Pantry

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)
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Cut a slit on the side of each date from end to end.
  3. 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.
  4. Place the stuffed dates on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese just begins to brown.
  5. 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)
  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. 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

  1. Toss spring greens with as much salad dressing as you want. Do not over dress!
  2. Place about 1½ cups of salad onto each of 4 salad plates.
  3. Sprinkle about 2 or 3 tablespoons of pomegranate arils over salad.
  4. Arrange 4 or 5 warm stuffed dates on top.
  5. Serve immediately.

Green Goddess Dressing

Green Goddess Dressing | Pinky's Pantry
In the early 1920’s, there was a play called “The Green Goddess” that was a hugely successful hit. The lead role in the play was held by George Arliss, a prominent British actor who moved to the United States during the turn of the century. The story goes that Chef Philip Roemer, the executive chef at the beautiful Palace Hotel in San Francisco, created the salad dressing for a banquet held at the Palace in 1923 in honor of George Arliss. Chef Roemer named it Green Goddess Dressing after Arliss’ play.

The delicious, creamy salad dressing quickly became famous, gaining popularity all through the 1920’s and well into the 70’s when it suddenly began disappearing from the restaurant scene. I don’t remember where I got my recipe from, nor do I know how close in flavor it is to Chef Roemer’s original recipe which I understand contained anchovies and vinegar. Still, this is a delicious dressing and is well worth trying. It makes a great dip for chips or crudités, too.

GREEN GODDESS DRESSING

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. firmly packed fresh dill leaves
  • 1 tbsp. fresh tarragon leaves
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  1. Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Chill at least one hour before serving.

NOTE:  This dressing may be stored for up to one week in the refrigerator.