Chopped Brussels Sprouts Salad

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Recently I had brunch at a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, and I was so intrigued by their Brussels sprouts salad, that it ended up being my brunch meal. I surprised myself, because I typically get something breakfasty for brunch, but the interesting-sounding salad won me over.

I was smart enough to snap a couple iPhone photos, shown below, so I would remember the ingredients, all of which were chopped into similar sizes except for the cheese.

So today I’m “copying” this salad to enjoy again and calling it a “chopped” salad. But I’m making one change. I’m cooking the Brussels sprouts. My pieces in the salad were at the most parboiled, and as a result, hard and bitter. It almost ruined the salad for me.

I’m still glad I ordered this unique salad, though, and was excited to try it out at home!

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Chopped Brussels Sprouts Salad

1 pound Brussels sprouts
8 ounces, approximately, grilled chicken
6 small, whole cooked beets
4 hard-boiled eggs
2 good-sized avocados
Handful of golden raisins
8 ounces Manchego or Idiazabal
4 ounces Marcona almonds

To begin, trim the ends off of the Brussels sprouts. Cut the larger ones in half, if necessary, so that they are fairly uniform in size. Place them in a steamer pan and steam them until just tender. I prefer steaming over boiling because I feel they’re less water logged.

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Place the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl and let cool. Meanwhile, cut the chicken, beets, eggs and avocado into similarly-sized pieces.

Add the chicken, beets, eggs, and avocado.

Add the raisins and the cheese. I cut the cheese in smaller pieces than the other main ingredients.

Then add the almonds. Make a light dressing of your choice. I used some olive oil and a champagne vinegar.

This is the champagne vinegar I used. If you see it, don’t buy it. I had never used it until I made this salad. As I was sprinkling it on the salad I got a whiff of it. Nasty stuff. Terrible aftertaste. I’m pretty sure I got it at Central Market.

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I quickly switched to a white balsamic vinegar, and I’m really glad I did. I actually poured that awful vinegar down the drain.

Toss the salad gently and serve at room temperature.

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You can sprinkle some finely ground almonds on the top if you wish.

This salad was even better than I remember it.

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The beets are a little problematic because they want to color the other ingredients purple. And the hard boiled eggs are impossible to cut neatly and keep from crumbling.

But flavor-wise, the salad is wonderful. I especially love the almonds and golden raisins! I will make this again!

Black Bean Salad

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Last week on the blog I cooked a pound of dried beans to show how easy and inexpensive it is to prepare beans. But I also wanted to show what you can do with a pot of beans, such as use the beans in other dishes.

It’s easy to use the beans in soups and stews and even pastas. I love the idea of stretching dishes, especially those heavy with protein, in order to make them healthier. But there are also so many other ways to use cooked beans.

Today I’m going to make a bean salad. This is not an exceptional or “gourmet” recipe; in fact, you can really change it up to make it your own. But it’s a hearty, healthy, satisfying salad. I must say that whenever I’ve taken a bean salad to parties, people go nuts over them. And they’re so simple!

So hopefully this is a dish that you’ve never thought of making before, and are willing to try it out! It’s definitely wonderful to take to a pot luck, and it can be made ahead of time.

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Plus, you can use many different kinds of vinaigrettes or citrus-based dressing with bean salads. I even posted a bean salad on the blog a while back using a home-made green goddess dressing. So the options are endless!

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Black Bean Salad

Black beans, no liquid included
Raw zucchini, chopped
Fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
Onion, finely chopped
Chile peppers, finely chopped
Fresh cilantro leaves
Dressing (see below)

Begin by placing cooked beans in a medium-sized bowl. Then begin adding what you want to the beans. I’ve listed what I used, but the fun thing about these bean salads, is that you can use what you like.

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Continue to add the ingredients, then pour in the dressing and give everything a toss.

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I served my salad with some pickled jalapenos on the side, but you can offer anything you’d like.

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And that’s it! Think about how you can make this salad your own with your favorite ingredients, like including avocado, corn, and bell peppers, for example. It all works, and it’s all wonderful!

Lemon Garlic Dressing

Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil, about 1/3 cup
1 clove fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Salt, to taste

Place everything in a blender jar and puree until smooth. If you don’t want a Southwestern-flavored dressing, omit the cumin and oregano.

Summer Sea Bass

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I actually went to the store to purchase salmon, because I promised Stefan, from the blog Stefan Gourmet, that I would sous vide salmon. I’ve used my beloved sous vide demi for a variety of meats, but never fish. When I met Stefan in person, he made me promise I’d try salmon.

But, they had no salmon. Not really surprising. I kind of live in the middle of nowhere. We’re landlocked here, so seafood is always a challenging purchase. But I also remember going to the store in this town many years ago with two different grocery lists. If I was having company, I planned two different menus, because most likely a significant ingredient was not available. Like, green beans or cilantro. Or pork.

Fortunately, grocery shopping has improved from those days, but honestly, I shouldn’t have high expectations from the seafood department.

So, no salmon. But I spotted a beautiful filet of sea bass. I always remember Julia Child suggesting that you ask the guy who works seafood who doesn’t really care about seafood fish monger to smell the fish you want to buy, to make sure that it is fresh. Great advice, but I’ve never been brave enough to do this. Fortunately the bass smelled really good when I got a piece of the filet home.

It’s a truly beautiful white fish. I got Stefan’s recommendation for sous vide’ing the filet. After all, he is the King of Sous Vide. Water temperature 118 degrees Farenheit, for 20 minutes. One end of the filet was quite thick, otherwise 10-15 minutes will do it.

It’s quite simple. You set the temperature, vacuum seal the fish, and watch the time.

Afterwards, pat the fish filet with paper towels.

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Meanwhile, make a topping for the fish. This really isn’t a salsa, or even Southwestern, in my mind, mostly because I didn’t use hot sauce or chile peppers. To me, I wanted the flavors of summer to shine with the sea bass.

I mixed together purple onion, avocado, freshly cooked corn, tomatoes, and cilantro. Plus a squeeze of lime. Simple. Mango or peach would have worked with the other ingredients, but I hadn’t planned ahead when I purchased the sea bass. Stir the ingredients well and set aside.

To prepare the fish to serve, only a slight bit or searing is necessary, since the sous vide does the cooking. The searing just adds a little color. You can sear as much as you wish; I went for a modest sear.

I love fish cooked in butter, but because of the summer-inspired topping, I decided on olive oil. Simply add about 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet and turn on the heat to its maximum. You might want to turn on your ventilation system as well.

Add the fish, which I cut into four pieces to make things easier, to the skillet. Stefan suggested only searing on the skin side, but I did both. The fish flesh was very firm, so I knew it wouldn’t fall apart from being flipped over in the skillet.

Serve the sea bass immediately along with the summer-inspired topping.

I paired the meal with a Tecate, which is one of my favorite beers. A crisp Riesling or Pinot Blanc would be wonderful as well.

As you can see, the fish is glistening. It’s perfectly cooked – tender and moist.

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This was so successful and impressive. I will definitely use my sous vide machine for more fish experiments. After all, we must eat!!!

Strawberry Salad

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As I mentioned in my strawberry vinegar post, a green salad topped with fresh strawberries is extraordinary, but only in the springtime when it’s strawberry season. Any other time of year it just doesn’t seem right to me.

It was because of strawberry-topped salads that I was inspired to make a strawberry vinegar. I thought the layered effect of the strawberry-infused balsamic vinegar, along with the ripened strawberries would be a nice complement to greens.

For some crunch, you can add toasted walnuts or pecans, like I did, and crumbled bleu cheese or feta for extra deliciousness. Today I chose feta. I also included avocado slices for protein, plus a few radish slices for even more color. But other than that, I kept the salad simple in order for the ingredients to shine.

If you don’t have a strawberry-infused vinegar, but want to make the salad, I’d keep the dressing simple. No strong-flavored dressings, just oil and vinegar. But you have choices there as well. You can use a good olive oil, like I did, or even a nut oil, like hazelnut or walnut. These oils are not only for autumnal salads because their flavors are mild. Even an orange-infused oil would be good in this salad, since it’s also mild. Vinegar-wise, I’d use a light-flavored vinegar, like a red wine or apple cider variety.

After one week of the fresh strawberries infusing white balsamic vinegar, it was time to decant. I tasted the vinegar first to make sure the flavor was right, and indeed it was. And just like the sweet strawberry vodka I made last strawberry season, the color of the strawberries drained into the vinegar, so it’s really a lovely vinegar to use as well.

For the salad, I used a butter lettuce – the kind that you can buy with the roots attached. I have some lettuce growing outside, but just not enough yet, thanks to our extended winter. I added the avocado, sliced strawberries, toasted pecans, and then sprinkled the feta on top.

Then I simply drizzled olive oil and the strawberry vinegar on top.


Plus a sprinkle of coarse salt.

You can always add black pepper as well.

Verdict: Fabulous! I will definitely keep making strawberry-infused vinegar and use it on my spring and summer salads. I can imagine it on grilled vegetables as well!