Sunday, April 11, 2010


Part 3 -- What's for dinner?

My typical dinner consists of protein + salad (with protein being fish most of the time, with chicken a close second). Occasionally, grilled vegetables (or vegetable saute) may be substituted for the salad. Or I might skip the protein if it's already incorporated into the salad. I also normally cook rice or pasta or potatoes for the better half, who doesn't hate starch -- it agrees with him quite well. (Just to show that the food pyramid is by no means universal.)

My main requirement for salads is taste. Also, I'm not terribly concerned about fat content, although most of the recipes below are high in unsaturated and monounsaturated fats and low in saturated ones (exceptions: chicken salad and bacon grease version of Brussels sprout salad). I try to limit sodium primarily by making my own vinaigrette (the one in Brussels sprout recipe). It goes well over almost any salad -- potato, regular green salad, etc. Also, it's flavorful enough to allow me to skip salt. YMMV.

Here're some of my favorite salad recipes. Most are adopted from various Food Network places, Recipezaar, and random blogs. Most also contain some variations from the original recipe, due to my preferences or laziness. So, in no particular order, my top five salads. (Note: the first two are vegetarian-friendly and the third can be modified to accommodate vegetarians. The last two are meant to be an entire meal, so they incorporate animal protein).

Avocado and Bean Salad

2 ripe avocados, mushed with fork
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 small can black beans, rinsed
1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/4 cup crumbled Queso Fresco
1/4 cup mild or medium green salsa
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

Mix all the ingredients and enjoy. If keeping some for later, place saran wrap on the surface of the salad and press firmly -- it keeps avocados from turning brown with oxidation.

Mango and Tomato Salad

1 ripe mango
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon cumin
juice from 1 lime

Cut off mango sections around the pit, score with the knife into small cubes, invert and cut the cubed flesh into the bowl. Add other ingredients; no dressing is necessary besides lime juice.

Warm Brussels Sprouts and Pear

2 cups small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (either fresh or frozen will do)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 slices of thick cut bacon
1 pear (any kind works, although some people prefer Asian pear)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups chopped greens -- I prefer spring mix, but any greenery works. (Except iceberg lettuce -- that stuff isn't good for anything.)

For vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons olive oil (or 2 olive oil + 2 bacon grease)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard (I prefer coarse Dijon)

Cut bacon in small pieces, render over medium heat until the pieces are crispy and golden brown, and the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon onto a plate covered with a paper towel. Reserve two tablespoons of grease if you're planning on using it for vinaigrette.

In the same pan, saute garlic until fragrant, add Brussels sprouts (cut side down). Saute over medium heat until golden-brown; add 1/2 cup water, cover, and lower the heat. Saute for 5 min or until sprouts are tender -- do not overcook! Uncover, increase the heat until remaining water evaporates.

While the sprouts are cooking, cut tomatoes and greens, put in a bowl. Skin and quarter your pear, remove the seeds, cut each quarter into small slices; add to the bowl.

To make vinaigrette, whisk olive oil, bacon grease, vinegars and mustard until smooth.

Add warm sprouts and bacon bits to the bowl, toss with vinaigrette, serve while still warm.

Radicchio and Chicken Salad

1 chicken breast, cooked and chopped (about 2 cups). (Substitute any cooked chicken -- great use for leftovers.)
1/2 large head of radicchio, chopped
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons mayo

Mix all ingredients together. Increase honey and/or curry if necessary -- honey mellows the bitterness of radicchio, and curry makes everything more delicious. Can be eaten plain or as a sandwich.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Salad

4 oz of smoked salmon, cut into strips
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cut candied or plain walnuts
1-2 cups of young greens, chopped
raspberry vinaigrette to taste

Toss greens with goat cheese and walnuts, add vinaigrette to coat. Top with salmon strips. If desired, add raisins and/or dried cherries.

Bonus Blue Crab Salad from Paula Dean is here. It doesn't contain any butter. I occasionally make it without any modifications.

Feel free to share your favorite salad recipes in comments. I'm always looking for more.

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