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Archive for the ‘Salads 'n' Stuff’ Category

Chicken Caesar on a Bread Platter

In Breads / Grains, Chicken, Salads 'n' Stuff on March 4, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Who needs bread with their salad if the darn PLATE is made of bread?

Okay – due to the OVERWHELMING response I got from the Eggs in Bread Bowls post, I felt I should expand the concept to the Bread Platter. It’s like a bread bowl, but it’s flat, you see, like a plate. A plate that you can eat! Awesome!

So, what does one serve on this edible plate? Well, it should be something with lots of drippy juices that doesn’t need to be cut. Juices because that way when the food’s gone, you have a nice juicy hunk of bread to eat. No cutting, because bread platters are not Chinette. They will not stand up to your steak knife. Of course, you can do like Mr. Gorilla did and cut it anyway, so you get a bite of bread in every mouthful, but most less-advanced folks tend to eat the food off of the plate, and then eat the plate. Kind of like a waffle bowl situation. Or a taco salad. Select your edible tableware of choice.

For this one, I made both the bread and the dressing myself. You need a very dense, heavy bread that won’t go to pieces. And fresh caesar dressing is always way better than bottled – this one is eggless, too, because raw chicken and raw egg is too high on the freak-out scale for one night. The whole recipe is very quick and easy, except for the bread. The bread can, however, be made the day before. Even the week before, if you freeze it. See? Awesome and convenient.

Chicken Caesar Salad on a Bread Platter

Ingredients:

2 chicken leg quarters, skinless and boneless

1 large head Romaine lettuce

1 loaf bread (recipe below)

1 recipe Eggless Caesar dressing (recipe below)

Directions:

Slice loaf of bread in half horizontally, and carefully scoop out the insides to form a hollow. It should look something like this:

Yeah, like this.

Set it aside.

Pound the chicken as thin as you can get it without totally destroying it, and put it in a Ziploc bag. Add 1/4 cup of the dressing, and marinate for about an hour.

While that’s happening, wash and chop the lettuce, and put it all in a large bowl. Set aside.

Grill the chicken about 5 minutes on both sides, or until done. Discard the marinade.

Pour the remaining dressing and the chicken into the bowl with the salad. Toss to coat, and sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Eggless Caesar Dressing

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 can anchovy fillets, drained (flat packed, not rolled) – I know you don’t like anchovies, but you’ll like them in the dressing, I promise.

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine the mustard, Worcestershire, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, and anchovies in a blender or food processor, and pulse until smooth.

While blending, add the olive oil in a slow stream, and process until smooth.

Add the parmesan, and pulse until well mixed.

This dressing will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge, but you’ll eat it before then, I promise.

This boring-looking loaf is capable of great things!

Bread for Bread Platter

Ingredients:

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cups bread flour

cornmeal

1 egg

1 teaspoon cold water

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the warm water and the yeast. Let sit for about 10 minutes, or until frothy.

Add the sugar, oil, salt, and 1/2 of the flour – mix well.

Stir in remaining flour to form a stiff dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. I use my oven with the light on – it seems to work well.

Punch down, cover, and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees – if you have a pizza stone, put it inside the oven as it heats.

Remove the stone from the oven (once it’s hot, of course), and sprinkle with cornmeal. Or, if you are not lucky enough to have a stone, grease a baking sheet and sprinkle it with cornmeal.

Form the dough into a ball and place it on the stone or sheet. Using a sharp knife, make 3 slashes in the top of the loaf, cover with the bowl, and let rise for 30 minutes or until doubled.

Mix the egg and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, spread the mixture all over the loaf – don’t forget the sides!

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Darlings, I know it looks like a lot of work, but it’s really not. You could use store-bought bread and dressing, really. I won’t be mad. But try the bread platter thing – I promise it will be one of your new favorite things!

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Shrimp and Asparagus Salad

In Salads 'n' Stuff, Seafood on March 2, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Okay, this one really is healthy, I swear!

I found another great salad recipe! Aren’t I awesome? It’s almost spring – well, not really, but it’s not February anymore, so we’re getting closer. Don’t you want to have an arsenal of nice, fresh meals to break out once the weather breaks? I thought so. This would be one of them. It screams spring. I mean, it’s 80 degrees and pouring here right now, so the weather is also screaming spring, but this salad trumps even South Florida humidity in its springness.  Try it! You’ll see what I mean.

I found it on ShrimpRecipes.org – this website reminds be of Bubba from Forrest Gump, I swear. Steamed shrimp, boiled shrimp, fried shrimp, shrimp creole, shrimp kebabs…shrimp and asparagus salad! It’s light and refreshing, but still plenty filling. Although we had it for dinner, I can see it making a great weekday lunch, too – just keep the hot part, the salad part, and the dressing separate until you’re ready to eat it so it doesn’t get soggy. Actually, the hot part is supposed to be chilled before you mix it with the salad part, but I served it hot because I dislike cold dinners. But it’s convenient that way!

The recipe was great as written, but you know me – I had to make some changes. Find the original on the link, or use my adapted version. Whatever makes your mouth water.

Shrimp and Asparagus Salad

(adapted from ShrimpRecipes.org)

Ingredients:

Salad-

1 pound asparagus, chopped

1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined

6 leaves Romaine lettuce

3 cups mixed greens

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

3 scallions, chopped

2 ounces aged white cheddar cheese, grated

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Dressing-

1/2 cup olive oil

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons fresh parsley

3 tablespoons fresh basil

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

dash cayenne

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine all dressing ingredients in chopper or food processor. Process until herbs are chopped but still recognizable – do not puree. Set aside to let flavors mingle.

Rip Romaine into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add mixed greens and scallions. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pepper, and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the asparagus, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and tomatoes, and cook until the shrimp are pink and no longer translucent. Drain and toss with 2 tablespoons of dressing.

Toss the lettuce mixture with remaining dressing. Top with shrimp mixture, cheese, and bacon crumbles.

Dig in and enjoy! Goes well with a nice, crusty bread, if you happen to have any. Just sayin’.

Mezze for the Daring Cooks Challenge!

In Breads / Grains, Daring Cooks, Salads 'n' Stuff, Seafood, Vegetables on February 16, 2010 at 4:57 pm
pita and hummus

HOMEMADE pita and humus!

This month’s Daring Cook’s Challenge was mezze! Never heard of it? Me either, until recently. Mezze refers more to a style of eating, not a particular food. It’s kind of like tapas, only with a more Mediterranean flavor – lots of small dishes that can  be combined in a variety of ways. You can go Greek, Turkish, Moroccan, Egyptian, or any combination you can think of. And since authenticity is not really that important for our purposes (you don’t get a prize for the most authentic dinner at home), there are really no rules!

Mezze is great for cocktail parties, pool parties, or any kind of casual gathering. See, most of these dishes can be made ahead, so instead of spending the whole party in the kitchen, you actually get to socialize with the guests. To make it even easier, you can structure your mezze to include only cold dishes – that way you can make it all ahead of time, and just pull it out of the fridge when the guests arrive! Because it involves everyone clustered around a beautifully laid table, picking from communal plates, it fosters a sense of closeness, and conversation tends to flow quite nicely from there. Of course, alcohol does that too.

My particular mezze table included:

-pita

-hummus

-sulu yemek

-grilled chicken and shrimp

-marinated cucumbers

-feta

-toasted walnuts

-tzatziki

Again, you can use whatever dishes you’d like (not like, french fries and cotton candy, but you get my point). In fact, it’s a great way to experiment and try foods you’ve never had before – if it turns out you don’t like it, someone will, and they will sing your praises for days. Look around, do some research, and come up will some cool stuff to try. Broaden your horizons. Try new things. Insert cliché here.

These are fun to bake - they puff!

Homemade pits beats the pants off the stale, dried-out store-bought versions!

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

Directions:
1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

The hummus recipe is a good one, too. Although, I did make one small change – Mr. Gorilla does not like peanut butter or tahini (I know!), so I got all cheeky and used apple butter. It was actually very good! Suprising, yes! The apple cinnamon and garlic flavors actually work well together, and it didnt give me gas like hummus usually does. All this time I thought it was the chickpeas doing that, turns out to be the tahini. Go figure!

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

Directions:
1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste

This is the best veg dish ever!

I’ve already posted the recipe for my sulu yemek here. It’s such a delightful dish, and again, fully customizable. Use whatever you have lying around. I know you like that as much as I do. And it comes out so juicy and tender and fragrant! It will change the opinion of the toughest anti-vegetable person out there, I promise!

What? Yes, cucumbers!

The marinated cucumbers are so easy, and so very refreshing! Just peel, quarter, and slice a large cucumber, and marinate in olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and black pepper for about an hour. To serve, just dump it all into a bowl – liquid and all! Kids tend to like this too.

The chicken and shrimp I just marinated in Mojo seasoning (see? no rules!) for a couple of hours and grilled until done.

To toast the walnuts, you just spread them on a baking sheet and toast at 425 for about 10 minutes or so. Keep and eye on them though, and stir them often! You don’t want them to burn. Then they taste awful, and dinner is ruined. All because you burnt the walnuts.

For the feta, just crumble it into a dish straight out of the package, no other prep needed. Sure, you could drizzle it with some honey and throw in some calamata (that’s very awkward to type. try it. calamata) olives, and sprinkle it with black pepper, but I did not do that, and this is MY food blog!

Now we’ve come to the tzatziki segment of the show. Everyone thinks their tzatziki recipe is superior to everyone else’s. The tzatziki controversy is second only to the great falafel debate, which is why I did not make falafel. I like to stay out of politics. I will give you the tzatziki recipe I used because I was quite satisfied with it, and that’s the best I can do.

Tzatziki

Combine 8 ounces Greek yogurt (drained overnight) with 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon dill, 1/2 cucumber (peeled, seeded, diced), 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and about 1 teaspoon olive oil in a blender or food processor, and process until creamy. If your yogurt doesn’t seem very thick, you can knock the lemon juice down to 1/2 teaspoon, and don’t add the olive oil at all unless you need to thin it out at the end. DO NOT use Yoplait, or Dannon, or those kinds of bastardized yogurts for this. You want true Greek yogurt. Fage is nice, and pretty common in stores.

Fage is also very good with honey drizzled on it. But now my mouth is watering.

That’s all there is to it! I know, it seems like a lot of work, but there’s nothing that says you have to have this many dishes. Use what you have! Experiment! And make your table pretty and engaging. I used my belly dancing veil and coin belt as table dressing. But everyone was concentrating on the food…

My mezze table. Table for two. God, we are pigs.

Thanks for the challenge, Michelle! Everyone, stop by Veggie Num Nums to say hi to Michelle. YOU GO NOW!