Weekly Winner: Sensational Simple Salmon Salad (with substitution)!

salmon saladWhen it’s hot and sticky in Chicago, I love a salad for dinner.  I also love salmon.  It is one of the few proteins that I don’t mind eating cold or at room temperature which makes it great for salads.  What I don’t love; however is watercress.  I find that it totally takes over a dish – much stronger than its delicate little leaves would lead you to believe!  So when I came across Nigella Lawson‘s Salmon, Avocado, Watercress and Pumpkin Seed Salad, I knew I’d give it a try — with one slight alteration. Now, without further ado, I present Salmon, Avocado, Arugula and Pumpkin Seed Salad.

Salmon, Avocado, Arugula and Pumpkin Seed Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the salmon:

2 salmon filets (approx. 8 oz total)

2 spring onions, trimmed

1 tsp black peppercorns

2-1/2 tsp lime juice

2 tsp sea salt flakes

For the salad:

3 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

5 oz arugula

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 ripe avocado

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt flakes (or to taste)

Procedure:

  1. Put the salmon filets in a small frying pan and cover with cold water.  Add the whole spring onions and peppercorns, squeeze in the lime juice and sprinkle in the salt, then bring to a boil, uncovered.  When the pan is bubbling, turn the filets over, then remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 7 minutes. Take the filets out of the liquid and leave to cool completely.  Once cool, the salmon will be cooked through.
  2. While the salmon is cooking, start on the salad.  Toast the pumpkin seeds by tossing them in a dry frying pan on high heat.  They will start jumping a little, and will darken and get a smokier taste.  When toasted, transfer to a cold plate.
  3. When you are ready to make the salad, put the arugula into a large shallow bowl (or split between 2 bowls), sprinkle with the vinegar and toss.  Add the salmon, removing the skin and tearing the fish into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Halve the avocado and remove the pit.  Spoon the flesh out onto the salmon and arugula.  Drizzle the oil over the salad, sprinkle with the salt and half of the toasted pumpkin seeds, and toss gently to mix.  Scatter the remaining pumpkin seeds on top and serve.

Weekly Winner: Reworking the Waldorf

farro waldorfI gotta admit, I do love a retro salad.  Crab Louie, Ham Salad, and perhaps my all-time favorite in this classic category: The Waldorf.  Apples, grapes, walnuts, raisins, celery (not a fan but it’s got to be there!) all combined in a tangy mayonnaise-based dressing.  Seriously, what’s not to love??  Well, for starters the calories.  Yes, you’re getting all sorts of healthy things in there but usually the dressing is so thick that it overwhelms everything and wilts the bed of salad greens the whole thing is served on.

What about lightening up the dressing, and rather than putting it on lettuce, build some whole-grain goodness into the mix as well?  Now, we’re talking!  That’s exactly what attracted me to Food Network Magazine‘s Farro Waldorf Salad.  I took the revamp a step further and swapped out the sour cream for plain yogurt in the dressing.  I also found that I only needed about 1/2 the amount of dressing called for.  Don’t use it all at first — start with half and work from there.

This should be the new standard for Waldorf Salad….and it definitely will be the only version served around here!

Farro Waldorf Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 cup farro

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 scallion, sliced

3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

2 apples, chopped

1 cup halved seedless grapes

3 stalks celery, sliced, plus 1 cup chopped celery leaves

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1/4 cup golden raisins

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

Procedure:

  • Cook the farro as the label directs, then spread on a baking sheet and let cool.
  • Make the dressing: Whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt, buttermilk, vinegar, scallion and dill in a large bowl
  • Add the apples ,grapes, celery ,walnuts, raisins and farro to the bowl with the dressing; toss.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the parsley and celery leaves

Weekly Winner: Pork and Pears Perfect a Salad

pork saladThis time of year, weather in Chicago is somewhat psychotic.  One minute it’s still blazing hot, the next a cool, autumnal breeze is blowing and you can just tell fall is around the corner (yay!).

So while it still can be considered “salad weather”, I also find that for dinner at least, a simple salad doesn’t cut it.  I need more.  I need….. pork!  Raspberry-Walnut Pork Salad is the perfect season-changing dinner.  The recipe comes from Taste of Home Magazine (which, by the way has come a long way since I last perused the recipes.  I’m glad I gave it another look!)

Now, back to the recipe:  Coating the pork in a mix of flour and ground walnuts give it a nice crunch and nutty taste.  All in all, this is one of those fabulous salads that give you a different taste with each bite – there’s a lot going on here.  And all of it is super tasty!

Raspberry-Walnut Pork Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 pork tenderloins (3/4 lb each), cut into 1 inch slices

1/3 cup ground walnuts

2 Tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt, divided

1/2 tsp pepper, divided

4-1/2 tsp walnut oil

1/3 cup chopped shallot

1 medium pear, chopped

3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves

1/3 cup raspberry vinegar

2 tsp minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed

2 tsp minced fresh sage

2 pkgs (6 oz each) fresh baby spinach

1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Procedure:

  1. Flatten tenderloin slices to 1/2 inch thickness. In a large bowl, combine the ground walnuts, flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Add the pork, a few pieces at a time, and turn to coat.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook pork in oil in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned.  Remove and keep warm
  3. In the same skillet, sauté shallot until tender.  Add pear; cook 1 minute longer.  Add the chicken broth, preserves and vinegar.  Bring to a boil; cook until slightly thickened, 6-8 minutes.  Stir in rosemary, sage and the remaining salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
  4. Place spinach in a large bowl.  Add pear mixture; toss to coat.  Divide among six plates; top each with pork.  Sprinkle with cheese and chopped walnuts.

Weekly Winner: Apparently it is easy (and tasty) being green.

Parsley IMG_0835gets a bad rap. Actually, I take that back — parsley gets no rap at all — it’s totally overlooked and ignored.  That’s a shame.  This bright, verdant herb really adds a lot more than simple “curb appeal” to a recipe.

Take this salad for example:  Chicken & Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto.  The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine and if you’re looking for a hearty, healthy, very “green” salad, then this one is for you!

Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (from one bunch)

1 cup fresh baby spinach

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp toasted pine nuts

1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1 medium garlic clove, smashed

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

2 cups cooked, shelled edamame

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped English cucumber

4 cups loosely packed arugula

Procedure:

  1. Combine parsley, spinach, lemon juice, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper in bowl of a food processor; process until smooth, about 1 minute.  With processor running, add oil; process until smooth, about 1 minute
  2. Stir together chicken, edamame, chickpeas, and cucumber in a large bowl.  Add pesto; toss to combine.
  3. Place 2/3 cup arugula in each of 6 bowls; top each with 1 cup chicken salad mixture.

Weekly Winner: Sensational, Subtle, Salmon Salad

IMG_0468Sometimes food doesn’t have to smack you in the face.  As much as I like big, bold flavors, spice-encrusted meats, tangy sauces and a big ‘ol punch of garlic; occasionally I find beauty and comfort in subtlety.  Salmon, Radish, and Bibb Salad is that dish.

I found this winner in Real Simple Magazine.  Honestly, I was just looking for a different, simple salad to throw together for a midweek lunch.  Salmon had been on sale and, as we discussed in an earlier post I do love me a creamy dressing.  As I continued to eat this salad, picking along and marveling at how tasty it was with such few actual ingredients, the word “elegant” kept coming to mind.  This was definitely an elegant salad.  But that isn’t alliterative and you all know how much I love alliteration.   So serve up this salmon salad and savor the subtle simplicity of such a super selection. (Sorry, I’ll stop now… here’s the recipe)

Salmon, Radish, and Bibb Salad with herby buttermilk dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 16-oz. skin-on salmon fillet (about 1 in. thick)
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, plus leaves for serving
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, plus leaves for serving
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • 1 4-oz. head Bibb lettuce, leaves torn in half
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)

Procedure:

Season salmon with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Cook salmon, skin side down, until opaque and cooked most of the way through, about 7 minutes. Flip and cook to desired doneness, about 3 minutes for medium-well. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Break into large pieces and discard the skin.

Whisk buttermilk, mayonnaise, chopped basil, chopped mint, garlic, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Toss together lettuce, radishes, basil leaves, mint leaves, and remaining teaspoon pepper in a large salad bowl. Top with salmon and drizzle with dressing.

Weekly Winner: Green Goddess Goes Hipster

IMG_0459People generally fall into two categories with salad dressing: you’re either on Team Vinaigrette or Team Creamy.  Me? Definitely Team Creamy — ranch, blue cheese, French, Thousand Island (don’t judge!), I love them all.  Perhaps my favorite is Green Goddess.  This rich, herbaceous dressing is not as widely known or used as others, but to me, it just screams “Spring”.

I’m still waiting for Spring here in Chicago, so this recipe served as a nice reminder that yes, eventually, warmer weather will arrive.

Chicken-Quinoa Salad with Green Goddess Dressing comes from Southern Living magazine.  It’s very light and fresh-tasting and the quinoa and chicken both add substance to make it more filling.  Then there’s the fabulous, herby, dressing — no need to feel guilty about drizzling on this rich dressing since it is only enhancing all the healthy goodness in the salad itself.  And should you feel the slightest bit guilty about using rotisserie chicken, just stop!  It’s my secret weapon.  Cheap, delicious and ready instantly.  Honestly, if you’re picky about where you get your rotisserie chicken, I dare say you can’t make it better yourself, so why even try??

Chicken-Quinoa Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 Tbsp. fresh juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, divided
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh tarragon leaves, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 5 cups torn butter lettuce or butter lettuce mix
  • 3 cups pulled rotisserie chicken (from 1 chicken)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced English cucumber (from 1 cucumber)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes (about 5 radishes)

Procedure:

Process mayonnaise, chives, vinegar, anchovy paste, lemon zest, lemon juice, black pepper, 1⁄4 cup of the fresh parsley leaves, 1 tablespoon of the fresh tarragon leaves, and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the salt in a food processor until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

Bring water, quinoa, and remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Stir and cover. Reduce heat to low, and cook until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Remove lid, and fluff with a fork.

Toss together butter lettuce and remaining 1⁄4 cup each fresh parsley leaves and fresh tarragon leaves. Toss lettuce mixture lightly with about 1⁄4 cup dressing. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle cooked quinoa over lettuce mixture; top with pulled rotisserie chicken. Arrange thinly sliced English cucumbers and thinly sliced radishes on top and around sides. Drizzle salad with an additional 1⁄4 cup dressing, and serve remaining dressing on the side, if desired.

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:  Pure Invigoration … and drop dead gorgeous!

Sometimes you just need a break.  As good as all the summer grilled meats, potato salads, hot dogs and ice cream treats are (and I don’t regret one of them) you need to cut through all that richness occasionally and just lighten up.  And when the salad is as beautiful as this one and makes you feel incredibly good both while eating it and afterwards, you’ve got yourself one heck of a Weekly Winner.

Rice Noodle Salad with Avocado, Mango, and Chile is that dish. It’s the one I’m going to start craving when I’ve overdone it a bit. It’s amazingly refreshing and the chile gives just the perfect kick. The recipe, which comes from Fine Cooking is so easy that literally, if you can boil water, you can make it.  So no excuses….make this dish!

Rice Noodle Salad with Avocado, Mango, and Chile

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup mirin

4 tsp Asian toasted sesame oil

2 tsp minced fresh Thai bird chile or similar

8 oz rice noodles (not vermicelli)

2 firm-ripe Hass avocados, diced

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced

2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil; more for garnish

1/3 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving

Procedure:

  • In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, lime juice, mirin, sesame oil, chile and 1 tsp salt
  • Prepare the noodles according to package directions, drain, and rinse with cold water.
  • In a medium bowl, gently toss the avocados, mango, and basil with enough of the vinaigrette to coat lightly.  In a large bowl, toss the noodles with enough of the remaining vinaigrette to moisten well.
  • Serve the noodles topped with the avocado mixture, peanuts, and basil.  Pass the lime wedges and any remaining vinaigrette at the table.

Weekly Winner:  Banishing the Blahs with Bountiful Buddha Bowl

Let’s face it, grain bowls can get a bit monotonous — even downright boring.  More often than not they have some sort of Asian-based dressing and your standard-issue white or brown rice or perhaps quinoa but nothing new or exciting.

That is until I discovered the Green Goddess Buddha Bowl from Epicurious.  Having always loved Green Goddess salad dressing (even the bottled, supermarket variety) this was just the ticket to breakthrough my salad/grain bowl blahs.

This bowl uses farro as a base and an herby, garlicky dressing. Everything in this bowl seems vital to the overall yumminess and with the exception of the egg and the farro, everything in this bowl is some shade of verdant green so you know you’re eating good stuff.  I found myself getting increasingly interested in the dish the more I ate of it rather than tiring of it quickly as I do with a lot of salads.  It is also easily adaptable to your preferred veggies and herbs, however I find it rather perfect just the way it is.

Green Goddess Buddha Bowl

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound broccoli florets (about 10 cups)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

4 large eggs

8 ounces sugar snap peas

1 cup whole-milk yogurt

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, and/or tarragon

4 cups cooked farro

2 mini seedless cucumbers, halved, sliced

1/2 cup baby greens

2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, sliced

1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss broccoli with 2 Tbsp. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until charred and tender, 15–20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add eggs, cover, and cook 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice water (keep cooking water boiling) and let cool. Peel eggs.
  3. Add sugar snap peas to boiling water and cook until bright green and just slightly tender, 1–2 minutes. Transfer to bowl with ice water.
  4. Purée yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, 1 cup herbs, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a food processor until smooth.
  5. Toss grains, 1/2 cup dressing, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Divide among serving bowls. Wipe out large bowl, then toss broccoli, snap peas, cucumbers, baby greens, and remaining 1 Tbsp. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in bowl. Divide among serving bowls. Top with avocado slices, pumpkin seeds, and remaining 2 Tbsp. herbs. Slice eggs in half and add to bowls. Serve remaining dressing alongside for drizzling.

Weekly Winner – Back in Balance…with bread!

My gluttonous moment has passed and I have put away all my gooey cheese, pasta, and pork products (temporarily, of course –everything in balance).  I am back to embracing salads and my favorite type of salad is one that includes bread.  I don’t care if its croutons or a roll on the side — I’m in.  My all-time favorite, however, is a panzanella salad.  What is better than crunchy bread brought back to life with a little dressing?  OK, yes, bacon… but we’re being virtuous this week, so work with me!!

There were a couple of things that caught my interest with this recipe for Chickpea Panzanella which I found in Cooking Light magazine.  First of course, was the chickpeas.  I adore chickpeas.  The other was the fact that this salad had artichoke hearts.  I cannot say I love artichoke hearts.  I didn’t think I hated them either.  Truth be told, with the exception of spinach artichoke dip, I just haven’t had much exposure to them.  I thought this would be an excellent time to try them out.  Everything else in this salad I know I adored so perhaps this would be the vehicle to win me over.  The salad was excellent.  The artichoke hearts?  Meh.  I can honestly say I would like the salad more without them.  Maybe next time I’ll swap them out for cucumbers or roasted peppers.  My husband can have his dislike for watercress, I apparently dislike artichoke hearts.

Chickpea Panzanella

Serves 5 – (seriously, that’s what they say!)

Ingredients:

1 (8-oz.) ciabatta loaf

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 (15-oz.) can unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 (8.5-oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove and discard crust from ciabatta; cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread bread cubes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes or until toasted and golden.

Combine toasted bread, tomatoes, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, feta, onion, and basil in a large bowl.

In a separate smaller bowl, combine oil, vinegar, oregano, pepper, and salt. Stir with a whisk. Pour over salad; toss to combine. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

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