Weekly Winner: Salvation found in a Fabulously Fortifying and Stunning Salmon Salad

SalmonKaleSaladSalmon is my go-to salvation dish.  When I need to reset and rebalance, I inevitably turn to my favorite fish.  It is so versatile and incredibly easy to cook.  Since the temperatures are (finally) starting to rise here in Chicago and its beginning to feel like summer, an entrée salad is definitely the way to go.  I got this winner of a dish from Cooking Light Magazine.

Roasted Pistachio-Crusted Salmon and Kale Salad hits all the right notes.  It’s healthy and hearty all at the same time.  The nuts on the salmon add fabulous crunch and even more omega-3 fatty acids, the baby kale and red onion provide  crisp freshness, and the beets ground the dish in wonderful earthiness.  This salad will set you right with only about a half-hour’s worth of work. I streamlined this a bit further by getting pre-cooked beets.  Ain’t nobody got time to roast and peel beets for a mid-week dinner!

Roasted Pistachio-Crusted Salmon and Kale Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-size pre-cooked beets
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped unsalted pistachios, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 (1 1/2-lb.) skin-on salmon fillet (about 1 1/2 inches thick)
  • 7/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups baby kale and spinach mix
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Stir together pistachios, mustard, and lemon zest in a small bowl.  Place salmon on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Spoon pistachio mixture on top of salmon; pat into an even layer.
  2. Bake at 425 until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 130F, 15-16 minutes.
  3. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, remaining 1/2 tsp salt and remaining 1/4 tsp pepper in a large bowl; reserve 3 tbsp. of the dressing.  Add beets, kale-spinach mix, and onion to bowl with dressing, and toss to coat. Place salmon fillet on salad.  Drizzle with reserved dressing.
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Weekly Winner: Whatever You Call It – It’s Tasty!

What constitutes a salad? I know there are “entrée” salads and “side” salads and “grain” salads. But what, exactly makes said dish a “salad”? These are the deep thoughts and nagging questions that keep me up at night. (OK, actually nothing keeps me up at night – I sleep like the dead. But it makes for a good post so just go with it.). The dictionary tells me that it has to be a cold dish to be a salad, but if that’s the case, what about warm potato salad? Is it the dressing that makes a plate or bowl of ingredients into a salad? I honestly don’t know. And you know what? I don’t care, either. When I can compose a dish this drop-dead gorgeous, interesting, and healthy and…. oh yeah, crazy delicious… then you can call it whatever you want.

According to Cooking Light Magazine, this is Chicken with Broccolini and Farro-Beet Salad. According to me, however, it was a spectacular dinner. I did make just a couple changes to the recipe. First of all I had regular broccoli on hand rather than Broccolini so I used that. Secondly, I did not buy raw beets and microwave them — I bought already cooked beets and used that — ain’t nobody got time to cook and peel beets if you don’t need to! Also the recipe calls for pre-cooked farro. Really people, just cook your own, it takes no time at all and is far tastier. Hey, but other than that I followed this recipe exactly!

Chicken with Broccolini (or broccoli) and Farro-Beet Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2/3 cup water

2/3 cup plus 1-1/2 tsp cider vinegar, divided

1 cup vertically sliced red onion

4 small red beets, trimmed (11 oz) [or one package pre-cooked red beets]

3/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1-1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided

4 (6 oz) skinless, boneless chicken breasts

6 Tbsp olive oil, divided

12 oz broccolini, trimmed [or regular broccoli]

1 garlic clove

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves

1 (8.5 oz) pkg precooked farro (such as Simply Balanced) [or cook your own!]

2 navel oranges, peeled and sliced

Chopped fresh dill

Procedure:

  1. Bring 2/3 cup water and 2/3 cup vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Add onion; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes. Drain.
  2. While onion stands, pierce beets a few times with a knife; wrap in a large piece of microwave-safe parchment paper. Microwave at high until tender, about 8 minutes. Cool slightly; rub off skins with a paper towel. Cut beets into wedges. [if using pre-cooked beets, simply open package and cut into wedges — see? Isn’t that much easier? You can use this time to cook your own farro which only takes about 15 minutes]
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Combine garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and 1/4 tsp salt; rub over chicken. Add 1 Tbsp oil to pan; swirl. Add chicken; cook until done, 6 minutes per side. Place on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into slices
  4. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add broccolini, and cook until just crisp-tender, about 2 minutes; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain.
  5. Place garlic in a mini food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Add parsley; pulse until chopped. Add remaining 5 Tbsp oil, remaining 1-1/2 tsp vinegar, and 1/2 tsp salt; process until well blended.
  6. Heat farro according to package directions. Combine beet wedges, farro, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Divide farro mixture and broccolini evenly among 4 plates; top evenly with onion, orange slices, and chicken. Drizzle each serving with about 2 Tbsp parsley sauce; if desired, sprinkle with dill.

Weekly Winner:  Another Fabulous Foray into Farro

Can I just say that farro rocks??  I am beginning to realize that I have a serious crush on this grain.  While it makes a perfectly fine side dish, I prefer to make it the star and that usually means some sort of grain salad that lets the farro shine.  This is that salad.

Farro, Chicken and Grape Salad comes from Fine Cooking and it is perfect for this time of year.  It can be eaten with the farro and chicken warm for a dinner as we did this week or chilled and taken to work for a hearty lunch.  I suspect I’ll be making this a lot in the coming months — for myself and for several of my clients.

Farro, Chicken and Grape Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 cups pearled farro, rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp mirin

3 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp Asian (toasted) sesame oil

1-1/2 Tbsp minced jalapeño

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

1-1/2 cups green seedless grapes, halved

1-1/2 cups small-diced seedless cucumber

1-1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Procedure:

  • In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the farro with enough water to cover.  Add 1/2 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the farro is tender but still slightly chewy, 15 to 18 minutes.  Drain.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mirin, lemon juice, sesame oil, jalapeño, 1-1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, flipping once, until brown on both sides and just cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes total.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Add the chicken and any accumulated juice, the farro, grapes cucumber and dill to the vinaigrette.  Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Weekly Winner:  All Hail Kale (again)

When you make a new kale salad for lunch and your husband not only willingly eats it but comments “Oh, wow this is good!” You know you’ve got a winner of a recipe.  That’s exactly what happened this past week.  Now granted, the name of this recipe gives great insight as to why we thought it was so spectacular:  Steak House Kale Salad With Hot Bacon Vinaigrette. Boo yah!

Yes it contained bacon and yes, that makes it tasty.  But this salad is one of those magical combinations of ingredients that just work.  Everything comes together beautifully for a yummy addictive salad.  And in my view, the kale and other veggies cancel out the three slices of bacon used in this substantial salad that feeds four.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

The only problem is that, for the life of me, I can’t determine where I pulled the recipe from so I am unable to give proper credit.  But regardless, this is a salad that I will be making year-round on a very regular basis.

Steak House Kale Salad with hot bacon vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced

3 Tbsp canola oil

1 Tbsp minced shallots

1 tsp minced fresh garlic

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp dried thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

6 cups baby kale salad mix

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup slivered red onion

1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 hard-cooked egg, grated

Procedure:

  • Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and discard drippings.  Heat oil in same skillet; add shallots and garlic and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes.
  • Whisk in vinegar, sugar, Dijon, and thyme; season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and keep vinaigrette warm.
  • Toss kale mix, carrot, and onion with vinaigrette to coat.  Garnish servings with pumpkin seeds and egg.