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: Pistachio-Pesto Pappardelle Perfection (with poultry)

I am not easily surprised by pasta. I think that’s because, while I dearly love pasta, I find it difficult to do something surprising with it. There’s not much I don’t like in my pasta but you always kind of know what you’re getting into and what it’s going to taste like. Until last night.

I decided to try Pappardelle with Chicken and Pistachio-Mint Pesto simply because it looked, well… different. I love pistachios and am always anxious to try out a new pesto. Pappardelle is one of my favorite pasta types and you can’t go wrong with chicken and tomatoes. It seemed like a no-brainer.  The zucchini and yellow squash were really the only wild cards here because, while I don’t mind them, I don’t generally seek out recipes with them. If I do eat them, I prefer them raw, which is exactly how they are served in this pasta.

In a word, this dish was amazing! So easy to make and so different from anything else I make on a regular basis. It was bright and hearty yet tasted like you were eating something healthy and nourishing because, well… it is healthy and nourishing. The recipe comes from Food & Wine magazine and is the perfect quick, guilt-free pasta for a satisfying weeknight meal.

Pappardelle with Chicken and Pistachio-Mint Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups lightly packed mint leaves

1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (I️ used lightly salted)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

8 oz pappardelle pasta

12 oz shredded rotisserie chicken (3 cups)

1 small zucchini, very thinly sliced or shaved

1 small yellow squash, very thinly sliced or shaved

1-1/2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes, halved, or quartered if large

Procedure:

1. In a food processor, combine the mint with the pistachios and lemon juice and pulse until finely chopped. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil until incorporated and the pesto is nearly smooth. Scrape into a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta, chicken,zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes and reserved cooking water to the pesto and toss well. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss again.

Weekly Winner:  A Clean Start to the New Year with some Nutty Chicken

It has taken me a while, but I finally think I have figured out the Food God’s evil, master plan.  It makes you crave – then gorge on – all of that excessive, sugar-laden, rich, gooey, nostalgic food over the holidays simply so that come New Year’s, you actually crave healthy, clean meals. And it works…..every time.

Last night was the first night we either weren’t traveling, entertaining house guests, eating out with friends, or simply trying to clear out the fridge of the holiday dregs that still lingered..tempting us.  We needed a clean break, literally and figuratively from all the crap we’d been eating (and loving, I might add).  The problem is, after such a gluttonous long week, bland boring “diet food” would not cut it.  I wanted something healthy-tasting but with loads of flavor. Something that felt hearty yet wouldn’t weigh me down.  My “dinner in shining armor” arrived in the form of Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Warm Barley Salad.  Since hubby prefers farro to barley (and yes, I take full credit and much pride in that fact!), I made that swap.  The dish is amazing.  Perhaps the best testament is that even though its insanely healthy, I’ll gladly make and eat this dish anytime — not just when trying to cut back and clean up my act.  The recipe comes from Eating Well and is a wonderful mix of flavors, textures and all-around wholesome yumminess.

Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Warm Barley Farro Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Olive oil or canola oil cooking spray

2 cups water plus 1 Tbsp, divided

1/2 cup quick barley (or pearled farro)

1 cup salted shelled pistachios, divided

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp orange zest

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 large egg white

2 8-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut in half crosswise

1/2 tsp salt, divided

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 Tbsp white-wine vinegar

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.  Coat a wire rack with cooking spray and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. Bring 2 cups water and barley or farro to a boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10-12 minutes.  Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, pulse 3/4 cup pistachios, breadcrumbs, orange zest and garlic powder in a food processor until the pistachios are coarsely chopped.  Transfer to a shallow dish.  Whisk egg white and the remaining 1 Tbsp water in another shallow dish.
  4. Place chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap.  Pound with the smooth side of a meat mallet to an even 1/2-inch thickness.  Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 tsp salt, coat with the egg mixture and dredge in the pistachio mixture, patting to adhere.  Place on the prepared rack.  Coat both sides of the chicken with cooking spray.
  5. Bake the chicken until and instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165F, about 15 minutes.
  6. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add tomatoes and vinegar.  Cook until the tomatoes just start to collapse, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.
  7. Drain barley or farro, if necessary, and stir into the tomatoes along with the remaining 1/4 cup pistachios, 1/4 teaspoon salt and parsley.  Serve with the chicken.