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.

Cheese Crostini

Cheese Crostini | Pinky's Pantry
This recipe for cheese crostini is so simple to make and takes hardly any time. If you’re looking for a nice accompaniment to a crisp salad or a hearty bowl of soup, you need look no further than this recipe.

These crostinis are great served warm from the oven. But let them cool down for a few minutes before serving so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth. When I pull these out of the oven, the family can hardly wait for them to get to the table. I have to slap away the hands trying to sneak one off the baking sheet!

CHEESE CROSTINI

  • 1 loaf (1 lb.) Italian or french bread, sliced
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 packet (.7 ozs.) Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix
  • 1½ cups shredded mozzarella (or other white cheese like monterey jack)
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, salad dressing mix and cheese together in a medium bowl.
  3. Spread over bread slices.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes or until tops begin to brown

NOTE:  I like Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix, but you really could use any brand you like.

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.

BLT Salad

BLT Salad | Pinky's Pantry
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
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Spread out the bacon pieces on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Bake the bacon pieces until crisp, about 12-15 minutes.
  4. When the bacon pieces are ready, remove them from the oven and transfer to paper towels to drain and cool.
  5. Make the dressing by combining mayonnaise, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and blending until well-combined.
  6. Place the lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and croutons into a large salad bowl.
  7. Drizzle with dressing and toss to mix well.
  8. Serve immediately.

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!
BLTA Salad | Pinky's Pantry

[Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking Together, by Erin & Tatum Quon (Oxmoor House, 2009)]

Vietnamese Shredded Chicken Salad

Vietnamese Chicken Salad | Pinky's Pantry
My sister, Helen, got the brilliant idea that we should all do this toxin-eliminating, inflammation-reducing, cleansing diet called the Whole 30 program. The program actually sounds really good. It’s supposed to restore a healthy digestive tract, balance your immune system, and raise your metabolism.

Old Goat Honey and I decided that we would do it! It could only help us, not hurt us, and Lord knows we could both stand to lose more than a few pounds. Plus the dramatic benefits of the program sound great! Our resolve firmed up as we read accounts of “consistently high energy levels, improved athletic performance, better sleep, improved focus and mental clarity, and a sunnier disposition.” But that’s about as far as we got on the program. Somehow, we just can’t seem to get started!

ME:  Let’s start the program on Monday.

OLD GOAT:  We’re supposed to take Bashful and her friend out to dinner on Tuesday. Maybe we should start it on Friday.

ME:  We can’t! I have a Mexican potluck at work on Friday!

OLD GOAT:  Well, we’re going out to lunch with your Aunt and her boyfriend on Saturday. Maybe we should start it next Monday instead.

And that’s pretty much how it’s been going. Helen has been successfully doing the program and bugging me everyday to get started on it, while we keep guiltily putting it off for one reason or another. Sigh…….. We’ll get started on it eventually. I know we will……..eventually……

In the meantime, in an effort to at least try to have something healthy on the dinner table tonight, I made this Vietnamese Shredded Chicken Salad. The only “questionable” ingredient in it is the white sugar, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use agave syrup or some other healthy sugar substitute in its place (though I haven’t tried it myself). Also, I used shredded rotisserie chicken which made it really easy.

VIETNAMESE SHREDDED CHICKEN SALAD
(Recipe from the November 2000 issue of Saveur magazine)

  • 2 fresh Thai red chiles (can substitute serrano chiles)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp. Vietnamese fish sauce (nuó’c mam)
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 4 cups shredded napa cabbage
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned
  • ½ cup roughly chopped fresh mint
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cilantro leaves, for garnish
  1. Cut chiles in half, remove seeds, then mince.
  2. Place chiles in a large bowl.
  3. Add garlic, sugar, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, oil, and onion.
  4. Mix until sugar dissolves.
  5. Add chicken, napa cabbage, carrots, and mint.
  6. Season with freshly ground black pepper and toss well.
  7. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired.

NOTE:  No. 1 got the idea to sprinkle chopped peanuts on top of the salad and loved it! He and Old Goat think the peanuts make the salad even better!

Cucumber Date Salad

Cucumber Date Salad | Pinky's Pantry
I was watching “The Best Thing I Ever Made” on the Food Network channel and saw Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian make Grilled Salmon with Smashed Cucumber Date Salad. It sounded really good so I thought I would try it. Wow! I was definitely impressed! It was so easy to do and the salad had such surprising flavor combinations! I loved the bite of sweet date combined with the sour lemon juice and the creaminess of the walnuts.

Chef Zakarian served the salad as a bed underneath a piece of grilled salmon. I didn’t have any salmon when I first made it, but I did have Mahi Mahi so that’s what I used. Delicious! Since then, I’ve served this salad with other fish, like cod, and even with roast chicken. It goes great with anything. Its refreshing flavor is perfect for a summer meal. It’s easy to see why Chef Zakarian is an Iron Chef. His recipe is definitely a keeper!

GEOFFREY ZAKARIAN’S CUCUMBER DATE SALAD

  • 2 English seedless cucumbers, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
  • 3/4 cup finely sliced fennel, feathery fronds reserved for garnish
  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted and sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1/2 a large lemon)
  • 4 tablespoons fruity olive oil (preferably from Spain)
  • medium-coarse sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  1. Roll the cucumber pieces up in a clean linen napkin or towel, and then smash them to release the juices, pressing down hard with the heels of your hands while ensuring the towel doesn’t unroll.
  2. Transfer the crushed cucumbers to a cutting board and then coarsely chop.
  3. Combine the cucumbers, sliced fennel, dates, walnuts, chives and some of the fennel fronds in a salad bowl and mix gently.
  4. Dress the cucumber salad with the lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of fruity olive oil.
  5. Season with sea salt and pepper.
  6. Toss the salad lightly.
  7. Arrange equal portions on each of six plates and top each portion of salad with a piece of grilled fish or chicken.
  8. Garnish each plate with fennel fronds and serve.

NOTE:  If you can’t get fennel, you can just omit it. I’ve done the salad with and without fennel and both ways are equally delicious.

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.

Thai Steak Salad

Thai Steak Salad | Pinky's PantryI had a long day at work today. It was one of those days where you’re pulled in so many directions that it feels like you can’t get anything finished. Sometimes, I think I can’t wait to retire. The thought of being able to stay home and relax, spend my days cooking and blogging, seems like such a distant fantasy. An easy dinner was in order. And what could be easier than a salad?

I had some steak in the fridge so decided to make a Thai Steak Salad for dinner tonight. The dressing for this recipe has no oil in it so if you use a lean cut of meat, the dish is virtually fat free. The lime juice adds such a bright, refreshing flavor. You can make the salad spicier by increasing the Sriracha in the dressing or omit the Sriracha entirely if you prefer. This light, delicious salad is the perfect ending to a long day.

THAI STEAK SALAD

For the Steak:

  • 1½ lbs. flank steak or sirloin steak
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Grill steak until medium or to desired degree of doneness.
  2. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes or so.
  4. Slice steak across the grain into thin slices.

For the Dressing:

  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
  1. In a small bowl, stir together the lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, and Sriracha until well combined.
  2. The dressing can be made up to a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

For the Salad:

  • 2 cups lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1¼ cups fresh bean sprouts
  • ¾ cup julienned carrots
  • ⅓ cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • ⅓ cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  1. In a large salad bowl, lightly toss the salad ingredients together.
  2. Add the dressing and toss again to combine.
  3. Place a little salad on a plate, top with some sliced steak, and serve.

NOTE:  You could also toss the steak, salad, and dressing all together in a big bowl if you like, but I think that plating the salad and topping it with some slices of steak makes for prettier-looking servings.