Mimi’s Chicken Salad

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Years ago, I visited a girlfriend in Texas to help with her daughter’s baby shower. She lives just outside of Austin, so it’s always fun to visit. (Think Texas Hill/Wine Country!)

One of the dishes planned for the shower luncheon was “Mimi’s Chicken Salad.” I had no idea what that was, but she told me that it was my recipe, thus the name!

Recently I was reflecting on my “namesake” chicken salad, but couldn’t remember what the heck was in it. I emailed my friend, and she sent me back a photograph of my recipe. In a cookbook.

The cookbook is “Cooking by the Bootstraps: A Taste of Oklahoma Heaven Cooked Up by the Junior Welfare League of Enid, Oklahoma, published in 2002.

So not only did I forget how to make my own chicken salad, I didn’t remember it was a recipe I created, nor did I remember that it is in this cookbook – which I own!

I’ll just chalk this up to (older) age.

Here’s the recipe, although somewhat adapted, because I can’t even leave my own recipes alone!

Mimi’s Chicken Salad, or Mango Chutney Chicken Salad

Chicken tenders, about 1.2 pounds
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped nuts, I used pistachios
1/2 cup chopped mangoes
1/3 cup mango chutney
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon curry powder, I recommend Penzey’s sweet curry powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Grill the chicken tenders in a skillet, with a little oil, seasoned first with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken just till barely pink so as to keep them tender. Set them aside to cool slightly.

Cut the chicken into small pieces and place in a medium bowl. Add the sour cream and mayonnaise and stir until the chicken is well incorporated.

You can adjust the volume of sour cream and mayo mixture to suit your taste. I prefer chicken salad just creamy enough, but not drowning in the mayo.

Add the remaining ingredients together in a bowl and stir gently.

Add the mixture to the chicken and combine them well.

Refrigerate the chicken salad if not serving immediately. Serve chilled or at room temperature on a platter of lettuce leaves; I prefer this salad at room temperature.

Alternatively, make chicken salad sandwiches with sliced croissants or your favorite soft bread.

I actually prefer making roll-ups with tender butter lettuce instead of sandwiches.


What’s fun about this recipe is that you can mix up the nuts and add fruits – even dried fruits. Think about chopped macadamias and dried cherries!

I’m really appreciative of the local Junior Welfare League of Enid, Oklahoma for including some of my recipes in this cookbook. It was an honor.

Barbeque Eggplant Sandwiches

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A while back I browsed through sandwiches on Epicurious.com, which is odd for me as they are not something I think about. Nothing against sandwiches, but I have only one sandwich post on this blog, out of 500 posts! So that says something…

However, I was planning food for a get-together where I needed a make-ahead, picnic-type, easy-to-eat food. I thought that a sandwich, perhaps in the barbecue category, wrapped in foil and kept warm, would be the easiest for me; the sides could be made the day ahead.

And there it was, while I was browsing – a barbecue eggplant sandwich. I had to click on it – the name was so intriguing.

Plus, I have Japanese Ichiban eggplants growing in my garden.

What a unique way to use eggplant, besides eggplant parmesan, ratatouille, and baba ganoush.

Barbecue Eggplant Sandwich
Adapted from Epicurious

Eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds total), trimmed and sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick planks
1/2 cup BBQ sauce*, divided
1 teaspoon garlic pepper, or favorite seasoning
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 small red onion, halved and sliced into thin wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices provolone cheese
4 soft rolls
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Pepperoncini peppers

Position oven rack six inches from the heat source and preheat broiler.

Brush eggplant slices on both sides with 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce and season with 1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper. Arrange slices on a sheet pan.

Broil eggplant until browned and soft, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss mushrooms and red onion with oil, remaining garlic pepper and reserve.

Remove broiler pan from oven, flip eggplant slices, and brush with 2 more tablespoons BBQ sauce.

Scatter mushroom mixture around the eggplant on the pan and broil until browned and soft, about 3 minutes more.

To assemble the sandwiches, first toast the rolls using a little butter and a hot skillet.

Then brush the top toasted half of each roll with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise.

Lay the cheese on the rolls. Because provolone are circular, I cut them into narrow slices.

Layer an eggplant slice and some mushroom mixture on the bottom of each roll.


Close the sandwiches and serve immediately. You can drizzle a little more barbeque sauce in the sandwiches if desired.

The original recipe suggests using some thinly sliced pepperoncini inside the sandwiches, but I prefer them on the side.

Once I bit into this sandwich I knew I’d be making it again. Especially with a vegetarian in the family.

An added slice of bacon would please anyone insisting on a non-vegetarian sandwich.

But seriously, with the meaty eggplant and mushrooms, meat will most likely not be missed.

* Typically I make my own barbecue sauce, but there is one jarred product which I sincerely love, and that is Head Country, made right here in Oklahoma. The original is wonderful – not vinegary, not sweet – and now there are other varieties as well. The hot and spicy is incredible. Just use the barbecue sauce that’s your fave!

Also, if you ever need to keep sandwiches warm in an oven or warming drawer, try these foil wrappers. I used them when I was catering large, casual events, and they are a perfect size for a sandwich like this!

Risotto-Stuffed Tomatoes

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Recently I was browsing through a little cookbook I’d been gifted, Risotto, published by Williams-Sonoma.

It’s a sweet, unassuming cookbook, only 119 pages, published in 2002. The first chapter covers classic risottos, and following chapters discuss vegetable, meat, seafood, and even dessert risottos. It’s a great cookbook, especially if you’re a risotto virgin.

For me, risotto has never been a big deal. The main reason is that I’ve never been fearful of cooking. It’s not because I’m fearless, it’s because I was naïve!

When I began cooking regularly 40 years ago, I had no idea that certain recipes might be complicated or challenging. I just dove in head first and started learning and cooking.

Not to say that risotto is hard to make, because it isn’t. But yes, you have to give it some attention. And it involves standing at the stove for about an hour.

I know “quick and easy” meals will always be popular, but anyone can make an outstanding and satisfying dish like this mushroom risotto.

In this W-S cookbook I saw a recipe for baked risotto-stuffed tomatoes, and with my ripe garden tomatoes and herbs, I knew that this would be a really nice side dish for some grilled chicken, white fish, or even steak.

And, you can even use leftover risotto for this dish, instead of making risotto first.

Risotto-Stuffed Tomatoes
Slightly Adapted

6 ripe but firm tomatoes, about 8 ounces each
Salt
Risotto, freshly prepared or leftover
1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
Chopped fresh parsley
Chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8″ baking dish.

Cut the top off each tomato. With a small spoon, carefully scoop out the insides, leaving walls thick enough for the tomato to hold its shape.

Reserve the pulp.

Salt the inside of each tomato and turn them upside down on paper towels to drain for 5 minutes.

In a food processor, purée the tomato pulp until smooth. I used the processed pulp as part of my risotto liquid, and seasoned the risotto with dried sweet basil, salt, and white pepper.

The tomato purée added a lovely peachy hue to the risotto.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and garlic; set aside.

Put the tomatoes in the prepared dish and fill the tomatoes with the risotto, patting it down.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the tomatoes are softened, about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the foil, and top the tomatoes with the bread crumb mixture.

Turn on the broiler and place the tomatoes 4″ from the heat source. Broil until the tops are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.

Serve at once.

I sprinkled chopped parsley and a chiffonade of basil over the top of these stuffed tomatoes.

Cutting open a tomato was a delight, with the risotto’s fragrance emanating from inside.

Just a little salt and some cayenne pepper… or not.

This was perfection. And just to make sure the risotto-stuffed tomato was really good, I had a second one. But they would make a lovely side dish!

Salmon Crudo

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Facebook is something I check on a daily basis. There, I said it. Mostly because I can keep up with friends and their families. But it’s truly entertaining as well, like when puppy-chimpanzee videos pop up on my feed.

And then there are the food-related posts, not surprisingly, like this one that recently showed up from Williams-Sonoma Taste, which is the W-S blog.

Salmon Crudo with Red Onion and Fried Capers. What? I’ve never heard of salmon crudo, which in Italian means raw salmon. So I knew I just had to make it.

Fortunately, I happened upon a fresh piece of wild salmon at my grocery store. It was like this was all meant to be!

Here’s the recipe from Williams-Sonoma.

Salmon Crudo with Red Onion and Fried Capers

1/2 pound fresh sushi-grade salmon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup red onion, very thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving

First wrap the rinsed and dried salmon in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, skin the salmon, then slice the it against the grain into very thin slices. Arrange the slices on a serving platter, overlapping them slightly.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Carefully add the capers to the oil; they will splatter.

Fry, swirling the pan gently to move the capers around until they are golden brown, 30-60 seconds. Transfer the capers to a paper towel-lined plate, and let the olive oil cool for 5 minutes.

Add the lemon juice and parsley to the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is emulsified.

Arrange the red onion on top of the salmon and drizzle with the dressing. I also added some extra fresh parsley.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Scatter the capers on top and serve with lemon wedges.

The recipe serves four people.

Or one, in my case.

I enjoyed the salmon crudo on water crackers. And a little salt was definitely necessary.

I can honestly say that eating this salmon was an incredible experience. I’d have it any day over sashimi, and I love sashimi.

Avocado on Grilled Bread

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In 2012, my husband and I were visiting my daughter in London and we went out for breakfast. This is what my daughter ordered.

I took a photo of it because that’s always what I’ve done, even before blogging. It was just so pretty: mashed avocado spread on grilled bread, topped with oven-roasted tomatoes and feta cheese. My introduction to avocado toast.

So although slow to embrace food trends, like zoodles and cauliflower rice, I decided to (FINALLY) make avocado toast. It’s not like I knew it wouldn’t be wonderful! Avocados are one of my favorite foods.

Too bad I’m not super artistic, or I could jump on another trend and create art from avocados…

Here’s how I made mine.

Avocado on Grilled Bread

4 tablespoons oil, I used walnut oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Few sprigs of thyme
6 slices good bread, like Ciabatta
2 ripe but not over-ripe avocados
Fresh tomato slices
Salt
Pepper
Goat cheese
Fresh thyme leaves, optional

Warm the olive oil in a butter warmer with the garlic and thyme. Do not let the garlic brown or burn.

Heat a large, flat skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brush the slices of bread with the garlic oil, and grill the bread face-down until browned. Place them on a serving plate and set aside.

Peel and de-pit the avocados. Scoop out the flesh and place in a medium bowl. Mash with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Only prepare the avocado right before serving.

To prepare the “toasts,” spread some of the mashed avocado on the grilled breads and smooth the tops.

Add sliced tomatoes, followed by a generous amount of crumbled goat cheese.

Drizzle the remaining garlic and thyme oil over the avocado toasts and serve immediately.

These are not only for breakfast or a snack or lunch. I can see these served as an hors d’oeuvres with some champagne or rosé!

Alternatively, oven roast small tomatoes in a gratin pan.

Or, use sun-dried tomatoes. It’s all wonderful!

If more protein is desired, one can always add an egg, or some smoked salmon. But I like the simplicity of this preparation.

Do not use inferior bread for these toasts. Use a ciabatta, sourdough, or a hearty multigrain.

These avocado toasts were honestly outstanding. If you love avocado, tomatoes, and feta, then you’ll love these too. Of course, you’ve probably made them already because you’re not stubborn! But I have to say that the garlic and thyme-infused walnut oil was a fantastic addition.

Spinach Pie

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It was the photo that caught my attention on the Epicurious website. I was searching for something, and this distracted me. Spinach pie. A simple, beautiful Irish recipe.

Savory tarts, pies, and quiches are some of my favorite things to serve for lunch, especially for company. They’re not much work, as long as a pie crust doesn’t worry you. Plus, they look so much more special than, say, a casserole.

On this blog there’s a leek and cilantro pesto tart, a recipe by Eugenia Bone, which is more quiche-like, marbled with a cilantro pesto.

I also have a tomato tart on the blog, a recipe by Guliano Bugliali. It’s like a cross between a quiche and a rich tomato soup.

There are just so many ways to create something savory in a crust.

Then I read the recipe through, and there’s no crust in this recipe! So there are no excuses not to make this!

Here is the recipe from Epicurious.com:

Spinach Pie
from Irish Country Cooking

1 lb. 4 ounces spinach, washed
1 onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
10 ounces cottage cheese
10 ounces Parmesan, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Steam the spinach, drain well, and roughly chop it once it cools down.

In a large bowl, mix the cooked spinach with the onion, beaten eggs, and both types of cheese. Beat well and season with pepper and nutmeg.

Transfer the mixture to one large pie dish, (9″) or individual dishes if using. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.

And that’s it!

I served the pie with a simple salted tomato salad, so as to let the pie filling shine.

If I had been thinking, I might have puréed the spinach mixture so that it was more green than mottled with the cottage cheese.

Or, maybe checked with Conor Bofin, from the blog, “One Man’s Meat,” to see if Irish cottage cheese is more like a farmers cheese or even ricotta cheese.

Nonetheless, the taste was lovely.

And I copied the purple flower idea since my borage flowers were blooming!

Reprinted with permission from Irish Country Cooking: More than 100 Recipes for Today’s Table by The Irish Countrywomen’s Association. © 2012 Irish Countrywomen’s Trust. This Sterling Epicure Edition published in 2014.

A Delightfully Decadent Potato Salad

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For Father’s Day this year I made a deliciously decadent potato and corn salad, as a side dish to barbecue pulled pork.

Typically when I make a potato salad, I use a vinaigrette as a light, zingy binder; I grew up on this more “German” version of potato salads.

But this time I wanted a creamy potato salad, more like the American version, but with delightful goodies added – hence, the name.

This potato-corn salad was so good, it was barely 2 weeks before I made it again, serving it alongside grilled flank steak.

Here’s what I did.

A Delightfully Decadent Potato Salad
serves about 12

1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
8 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
12 ounces diced, cooked bacon
10 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chili powder*
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, or to taste
6 cobs of corn, cooked
3 pounds baby potatoes
1 Vidalia onion
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

In a medium-sized bowl, add the mayonnaise, the eggs, the bacon, the feta cheese, and the seasoning.

Stir well and set aside.

Slice the corn off of the cooled cobs. Gently break into smaller pieces and set aside.


Using the bacon grease from cooking the bacon, roast the potatoes. Let cool.

Place the potatoes and corn in a large bowl. Finely chop the onion and combine.

Then gently stir the mayo-egg-bacon mixture in until it’s evenly distributed.

Now you might have noticed that this isn’t the prettiest salad. I typically never ever serve or eat anything that looks like it could have been regurgitated. But this salad, as messy as it is, is my one exception.

To serve, sprinkle a generous amount of chopped cilantro over the salad.

The saltiness from the feta and bacon is wonderful with the creamy eggs and potatoes.

I served the salad with a flank steak, medium rare, and sliced. With just a minimal of seasoning.

The potato salad is spicy. If you don’t want to use the seasoning, put that on your flank steak instead!

* If you don’t own chili powder, use 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 1/1 teaspoons paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander.