My Favorite Salad

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I eat a lot of salads throughout the year, even in the winter. I love all salad ingredients – lettuces, avocados, beets, raw vegetables, grilled meat or fish, some nuts or seeds and cheese… I love to mix them up and also pay great attention to my vinaigrettes.

But then, there’s this one salad I’ve actually made multiple times for friends. (My husband doesn’t eat salads.) I don’t remember the source of the recipe, because mine was a magazine recipe cut and glued to an index card from decades ago.

It’s a composed salad, and these are the ingredients: Barley, purple cabbage, carrots, celery, dried cherries, and feta cheese. Intrigued? I was, and now I’m hooked.

It’s very pretty served layered in a trifle dish, or any deep clear bowl. Each component is treated separately for maximum flavor.

The recipe is really in two parts. One part, the vinaigrette. The other part, the salad itself.

My Favorite Salad

vinaigrette:
In a small blender, combine
1 cup of good olive oil
1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
Juice of 2 large lemons
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of Dijon-style mustard
Salt
Blend until smooth.

salad:
2 cups hulled barley
Grated carrots, about 5 cups
1 whole purple cabbage, thinly sliced, about 5 cups
1/2 head celery, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
12 ounces crumbled goat cheese

First prepare the vinaigrette. Set aside at room temperature.


Cook the barley in 4 cups of water or broth if you prefer. Let cool. Once it’s almost room temperature, mix the barley with about 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and set aside.

Place the grated carrots in a small bowl and add about 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette, stir well, and set aside.

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and toss with about 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette. Have the rest of the ingredients handy.

Place the sliced celery in a smaller bowl and add a tablespoon of vinaigrette. Toss well and set aside.


Layer half of the barley in the bottom of your salad serving bowl or dish. Cover with the celery.

Then add half of the cherries. And top with half of the goat cheese.

Then cover with 1/2 of the cabbage. Then all of the carrots.

Then the remaining barley.

Top off with the last of the dried cherries and goat cheese.

Let the salad sit for at least an hour. Or, make it the day before and refrigerate it overnight, letting all of the flavors meld together. But serve at room temperature.


I also serve this salad with extra vinaigrette for those who want that extra hit of vinegar.

And, if this salad is for those who require protein, it is fabulous with added grilled chicken or avocado.

Mix and match your favorite ingredients – lentils would work instead of barley, for example – and I’m not a huge celery fan, which is why I only allowed one layer of it. But do include the dried cherries and goat cheese!

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!

Quesadillas

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It was my mother who first made a quesadilla in our home about the time I was in high school. Of course, she was the one who did the cooking, but there had never been Mexican food prepared in our home before. She cooked food from a lot of international cuisines, like Greece, Russia, France, India, Ethiopia, and China, but somehow had never been exposed to Mexican. Which is funny to me, because she really loves everything spicy. I think she eats more jalapenos than I do, and I love jalapenos!

The way we all discovered Mexican food was at a restaurant in Park City, Utah. It was there where we fell in love with cheesy quesadillas, as well as other Mexican and Southwestern specialties.

And being my mother, she went home and made them herself. So this is recipe I’m presenting for quesadillas is how I learned how to make them, from copying my mother’s technique. I honestly think they’re better than in any restaurant – browned, crispy, with cheesy wonderful goodness inside. Whatever ingredients you choose will work, I promise you, as long as there’s enough cheese to hold everything together!

And that’s the fun part. Today I’m simply using chicken, purple onion, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, cilantro, and lots of Monterey jack cheese. Plus tortillas, of course. But you can add any meat, any kind of cheese, and any accessory ingredients.

On two different occasions, back when I catered, I made quesadillas to order at parties. I had 2 skillets going, and used smaller tortillas, since one larger one can easily fill a person to the brim! The guests got to pick their ingredients. I even had chopped mango, which I love to mix with spicy beef and cilantro in quesadillas. Avocados work well, and are a good meat substitute, if necessary. It’s a really fun thing to do, even at your own party. For a smaller group, of course.

In any case, today I present to you my way of making quesadillas. This will hopefully inspire you to try your own, using your favorite ingredients!

Quesadillas

Olive oil
Red bell pepper, diced
Poblano pepper, diced
Purple onion, diced
Tortillas, I used a multi-grain variety
Grilled chicken, I used one I’d marinated in a lime-garlic marinade, then grilled, sliced thinly
Butter
Grated cheese, I used Monterey jack
Chopped cilantro
Hot sauce or salsa for serving


Heat a little olive oil over medium heat in a skillet, then add all of the peppers and onion. Saute just until soft and set aside.

Get out another skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Have all of the ingredients nearby; the quesadilla cooking process goes fairly quickly.

First begin by adding about 1 tablespoon of butter to the hot skillet. It will brown, but that’s good. Place the tortilla in the skillet.

Working quickly, place half of the cheese allotted per quesadilla on top of the tortilla, then place the chicken slices over the top.

Quickly add the chopped cilantro and the remaining cheese. Top with another tortilla. Press down on it, then reduce the heat to practically nothing, and place a lid on the skillet.

After a few minutes, flip over the quesadilla. That’s why it’s important to lower the heat, because you need the cheese to be melted to keep the two tortillas sticking together. Otherwise you won’t be able to successfully flip it.

Raise the heat just a little bit to get some browning on the other side, but leave the lid on to heat everything through on the inside. Remove the quesadilla from the skillet and let it rest for about 5 minutes on a cutting board. It will cut better when you rest it.

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Continue with remaining tortillas if you’re making more.
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I am a huge fan of salsa, but for these quesadillas, I used green and red hot sauces that were given to me by Richard, from REM Cooks, when I met him in Dallas. He has recipes on his blog for both of these hot sauces, so if you have an abundance of chile peppers coming up in your garden, check them out.

Quesadillas are best hot or warm, when they’re really crispy. The butter really does the trick in this recipe, but making adjustments with the flames help as well. If you have an electric stove – I’m sorry, I can’t help you. You probably have to be a little more careful!