CHILE-LIME MELON SALAD

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen – one of my favorite cooking sites – and prepared it recently for my people.

This tasty side dish really is as refreshing as it looks.

I altered the original recipe a bit to fit my preferences – I added more cheese, more lime, and a dash of cayenne pepper for more heat.

And I altered it to fit my patience – I don’t want to take the time to form perfect melon balls…chopped chunks is faster and works just as well.

In my opinion the freedom to alter recipes to match personal tastes and styles is one of the joys of homecooking.

This recipe also doubles, triples, or quadruples well to feed a crowd.  But when multiplying spices, always do so gradually, tasting along the way.  Quadrupling spices and the lime juice will likely overpower the flavor even if you’ve quadrupled the fruit.

Let me know in the comments if you discover a way to improve on this zesty salad.

Enjoy!

CHILE-LIME MELON SALAD

ingredients:

  • Approximently 4 cups chopped melon (fruit from half of 1 seeded cantaloupe, half of 1 seeded honeydew, and half of 1 mini, seedless watermelon)
  • Juice of one lime
  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • A dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely crumbled cotija or feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon toasted, salted pepitas
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, plus more to taste

directions:

  • Place chopped melon in a large mixing bowl.
  • Squeeze lime juice over.
  • Sprinkle with salt, chili powder, and cayenne pepper.  Toss gently.
  • Scatter with cheese, pepitas, and cilantro.  Toss gently.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl or platter.
  • Serve immediately.

ROASTED BROCCOLI & WHITE BEAN SALAD with DIJON-CAPER DRESSING

Photo courtesy of Erin Thompson
Photo courtesy of Erin Thompson

I found this recipe in the “Easy Dinners” section of the March 2016 issue of Real Simple Magazine.  I added rotisserie chicken to the original recipe to make it a heartier meal.  Thankfully this recipe adapts easily to feed a crowd because it is filling and delicious.

ROASTED BROCCOLI & WHITE BEAN SALAD with DIJON-CAPER DRESSING

ingredients

  • Approximately 4 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken (1 large or 2 small chickens)
  • 4 large heads of broccoli, trimmed and cut into large spears
  • 1 cup, plus 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 4 teaspoons freshly ground salt
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard (I prefer Grey Poupon)
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 8 hard boiled eggs (I place eggs in a pot and cover with one inch of water.  Bring to a boil.  Cover pot and turn off heat.  Let eggs sit in covered pot for 12 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cool water.)
  • 3/4 cup capers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 4-15 oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 10 oz of mixed greens (I prefer the herb blend, but any variety will work)
  • Freshly ground salt & pepper

directions

  • Preheat over to 450.  Divide broccoli spears into two rimmed baking pans.  Drizzle broccoli with 1/2 cup of olive oil and sprinkle with salt (2 tablespoons oil and 1 teaspoon of salt per broccoli head).  Toss to evenly coat.  Roast for about 20 minutes until browned on the edges and tender, stirring halfway through.
  • Meanwhile combine the lemon juice, mustard, peeled eggs, and 1/4 cup of water in a food processor.  Pulse to combine.
  • With the machine on, slowly drizzle the remaining 1 cup of oil into the egg mixture until the dressing is smooth.
  • Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the capers and the dill.
  • Scrape half of the dressing into a large bowl.  Add the chicken, broccoli, beans.  Toss to coat.
  • Add mixed greens and freshly ground salt & pepper.  Toss again to coat, adding more dressing or salt & pepper if needed.  Serve any remaining dressing on the side.

This salad is amazing – packed with protein and big flavors.  Comfort food that is satisfying and healthy.  To complete the meal I served it with big chucks of warmed baguettes and butter.

Enjoy!

CHICKEN CURRY SALAD

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There is a quaint European-style bistro near my home that has quickly become one of my favorite lunch spots.  The food and the ambiance are lovely, and their chicken curry salad is delightful.  The flavors remind me of wonderful childhood memory –  celebrating special occasions by gathering with my family around my parent’s legit fondue pot that they had purchased in 1969.  I fondued with my family growing up in the 80’s before it was trendy again to fondue!  Their fondue pot came with a simple cookbook called “Cooking Fondue Style“, written by George & Lorena Buschbaum, that is filled with a treasure of recipes.  One of my favorites was a curry dipping sauce.

I gratefully inherited my parents fondue pot and the accompanying cookbook years ago when they were cleaning out their kitchen.  After a recent lunch date at The Little Lion, I came home and pulled out this tried & true cookbook.

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I decided to attempt to recreate their chicken curry salad for a Monday night community dinner (aka “the girls”) using this flavorful recipe as the base for the chicken mixture.  The results were very pleasing.

This recipe and a batch of Gruyere Rolls served 12 ladies.

CURRY CHICKEN SALAD

ingredients for sauce:

  • 1/4 c onion, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 c red apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 c milk, heated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter

directions for sauce:

  • Pulse onion & apple in a food processor until very fine and soft.
  • Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat.
  • Add onion/apple mixture and saute (for 3-5 minutes) until very soft and cooked through.
  • Combine flour and curry, sprinkle over cooked onion/apple mixture.
  • Blend well, cooking and stirring for 1 minute while mixture becomes very fragrant.
  • Gradually add milk, blending with a whisk.
  • Add salt and peanut butter, stirring constantly until sauce is smooth and thickened.
  • Remove from heat and let cool.

ingredients for salad:

  • 1 large rotisserie chicken, meat cut or torn into bite-sized chunks.
  • Homemade curry sauce
  • 2 red apples, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 large container of spring mix salad greens (approx 11 oz)
  • Homemade simple vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • Freshly ground salt & pepper

directions for salad:

  • Gently fold chicken, sauce, apples, and raisins until just combined.  (Over mixing will result in finely shredded chicken, and a salad mixture that is too mushy.)
  • Combine salad greens with dressing and salt & pepper according to taste.
  • For a sit-down dinner, serve plated food with the chicken salad neatly placed on top of dressed salad greens.  Or for a potluck meal, serve the dressed salad and the chicken mixture in separate bowls so guest can prepare their own plates.
  • If you are cooking for a crowd, this recipe doubles nicely.

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Most vinaigrette recipes will work well for this dish.  If you already have a recipe that you love, use that one.  The only thing to remember is that this recipe calls for a simple dressing, using white balsamic or white wine with quality olive oil without a lot of other ingredients.  Don’t get too fancy or the vinaigrette will over power the wonderful flavors of the curry.

And I think homemade salad dressing always tastes best when it’s combined by shaking it in a mason jar.  This probably is not scientifically true, but it is a fun way to cook.

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ingredients for salad dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon (I prefer Grey Poupon.)
  • 1/2 cup quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic or white wine vinegar (I used a “Pear Chardonnay Vinegar” because I had some on hand after finding a bottle on the gourmet shelves of Home Goods.  However, you do not need to go searching for a specialty ingredient for salad dressing to taste great.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

directions for salad dressing:

  • place all ingredients in a mason jar with a tightly fitted lid.
  • shake until combined.
  • dressing will keep for up to a week sitting in the jar on your counter, or longer in your refrigerator.

You can make an unlimited variety of fabulous salad dressings using quality flavored olive oils, combined with quality flavored vinegar.  Experiment with what you have on hand or what you find when you are out and about.  Don’t be afraid to be creative as long as you keep the number of ingredients in your dressing simple.  The basic formula is Dijon + oil + vinegar + salt & pepper.  That’s it.   The only other ingredient I occasionally add is fresh garlic, of course.

ENJOY!

ITALIAN TURKEY SAUSAGE & TORTELLINI SALAD

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This is one of my go-to recipes.  I found it years ago on the packaging of store bought turkey sausage.  The cut-on-the-dotted-line recipe card is now yellowed, stained, and worn from a lot of love and use.  I like to prepare this hearty salad for potlucks, company, and Sunday lunch for my family.   It is a favorite dish among the family and friends who eat at my home regularly.

After the lentil soup fiasco of the previous Monday night, this was the perfect choice for this week’s community dinner.  A safe and well-loved meal that I know I can prepare and serve without complication.  Going back to a tried and true recipe is probably the best way to get your confidence back in your kitchen after the occasional (and inevitable!) cooking failure.

This recipe is adaptable to your personal preferences, and is easy to prepare in large quantities if you’re feeding a crowd.  I made notes on how I do that at the bottom.

ENJOY!

ingredients:

  • 5 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
  • 1 pkg (5 or 6 links) Fresh Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage
  • 1 pkg (9 oz) fresh cheese-filled tortellini
  • 1 jar (6-1/2 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained (marinade reserved)
  • 1/2 Cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced in half
  • 1/2 Cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 Cup sliced green onion
  • 1/4 Cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil drained & julienned
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar (Red wine vinegar works too.)
  • 1 Clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (you can substitute 1 tsp dried basil, but it does slightly alter the flavor.)
  • 1/4 tsp dried dill weed
  • Fresh spinach leaves (5 oz pkg, or small bunch)

directions:

Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add turkey sausage and brown 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally.  Add 1/4 C water, reduce heat to low, cover and continue cooking sausage 8-10 minutes more, turning once.  Cool and then cut sausages into 1/4 inch slices.

Cook tortellini in a large pot according to package directions.  (I always cook pasta for the least amount of cooking time suggested because I don’t like mushy pasta.)  Drain, rinse with cold water, drain well and toss with 1 Tbsp oil.

In a small bowl, whisk together reserved marinade, the remaining 3 Tbsp oil, vinegar, garlic, basil and dill weed.

Combine tortellini, sausage, artichoke heats, olives, feta, onions, and tomatoes in a large bowl.  Pour dressing over the top and toss to combine.

Refrigerate for several hours.  Before serving toss in spinach and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.  (I often do not have the time and/or the space in my fridge to make this salad early.  If you are going to serve it immediately, then I suggest adding an extra clove or two of garlic.  The garlic flavors become much stronger as the salad sits, so just be prepared for very garlicky leftovers…which is never a problem for me!)

Makes 6 Servings

Notes for serving a crowd:

  • This recipe doubles proportionally very well.  
  • When I make it for our community dinners of 15 or more people, I usually triple or quadruple most of the ingredients with a few adjustments:
    • I buy a large, double pack of fresh tortellini; a large bag of baby spinach; large jars of marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil; and feta cheese from a box store (like Costco).  
    • I also purchase one sausage link per person from whatever grocery store has the best price, and buy all the other ingredients I don’t have on hand at that same store.  
    • I use all of the tortellini, spinach, and sausage; and then estimate the other salad ingredients so that what I add is close to 3x’s or 4x’s the original amount.  
    • For the dressing, I multiply the ingredients proportionally except for the basil and the oil.  I add more basil to taste so that the flavor doesn’t get lost in the spinach.  And I add less oil.  Tripling and quadrupling oil becomes way too much.  I omit the added oil from the dressing and then drizzle it to taste on the salad as I toss it.
    • At these larger proportions, it is nearly impossible to find a bowl big enough in a home kitchen to toss all of the ingredients together at the same time.  I tried serving the sausage-tortellini mixture and the spinach from separate serving bowls, but it really doesn’t come out as good.  I prefer to toss a quarter or third of the sausage-tortellini mixture with a quarter or third of the spinach at a time, and serve as a complete salad in several large bowls.  The process of tossing everything together softens and flavors the spinach in a way that is key to this dish being fabulous.

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