When my friends hear me describe myself as an introvert, they’re always a bit surprised. Among my friends and coworkers, I’m outgoing and outspoken. But in a room full of people I don’t know? I’m suddenly as quiet as a mouse. Small talk isn’t my forte, so I really have to work hard to meet and engage with new people.
I felt very much like that when I arrived at my first foodie conference a couple of years ago. It was a little easier for me to reach out to people since it was guaranteed that everyone there would love food as much as I do. While everyone was amazing, and I made a lot of close foodie friends that trip, Katie from Katie’s Cucina was one of the people that I remembered the most. Her warm, bubbly personality shown through each and every day. She was always there with a smile.
I was excited for Katie when she announced that she was pregnant with her first child, and flattered when she asked me to guest post for her. Today’s that day. Today, you can find me over at Katie’s Cucina, where I’m sharing a Salad with Pear Vinaigrette. Head over, check out the salad recipe and Katie’s fabulous blog. And if you’re lucky, there may be a few photos of her new little one to fawn over. 🙂
I haven’t really been very inspired in the kitchen lately. We’re still putting our house back together from 2 weeks of travel, 1 week of company, and 1 week without power. It’s too hot to cook. Actually, the heat makes me not want to eat much at all. This summer salad has been just about the only thing that’s been of interest to me – sweet strawberries, salty feta… it hits the spot. I’ve made it plenty of times with an Italian vinaigrette but the poppy seed vinaigrette below is a nice change.
Strawberry-Feta Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
Ingredients for the Salad:
- 1 bag/package of spinach (or desired salad green)
- 2 c. strawberries, sliced
- 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss or serve with poppy seed vinaigrette.
Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
Dressing recipe adapted from Food Network’s Amy John
Ingredients for the Poppy Seed Vinaigrette:
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
- 1/8 c. granulated sugar
- 1 Tbs. poppy seeds
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground mustard
- 1/2 tsp. celery seed
- 1 Tbs. light corn syrup
Combine all ingredients in a tupperware. Share vigorously until completely combined.
Store at room temperature until serving.
When I was little, my mom spoiled me. She worked nights, sleeping in the morning and up by lunchtime. That meant that almost every day, Mom made me a hot lunch. No sandwiches for me and my brothers. We got pierogis and potato pancakes and mini pizzas. To this day, I still prefer a hot lunch to sandwiches. I usually resort to leftovers, soups, and frozen meals.
This chicken salad is one of the more traditional lunch items that has made it into my lunch rotation. I originally made it for a pig-in at work and loved it. The apples made the salad slightly sweet, distinguishing it from other chicken salad recipes. But my favorites part was the almonds – I loved the crunch of the almonds. I’ve enjoyed this chicken salad for lunch several ways: straight-up, on toasted bread, and on a green salad.
Apple Almond Chicken Salad
Adapted from The Pastry Queen
Yields enough for 4-6 sandwiches or salads
Ingredients for the Mayo:
~ 2 large eggs
~ 1 large egg yolk
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
~ 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
~ 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
~ 1/3 c. olive oil
~ 2/3 c. vegetable oil
Ingredients for the Chicken Salad:
~ 1 c. slivered blanched almonds
~ 2 whole boneless chicken breasts, boiled, shredded, and cooled (may use leftover grilled or roasted chicken)
~ 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 1 scallion, minced OR 1/2 c. diced red onion
~ 1/4 c. parsley, chopped
~ 1/2 – 3/4 c. homemade mayo
~ kosher salt & pepper, to taste
Make the Mayo: In a blender or food processor, combine eggs, yolk, salt, pepper, mustard, and lemon juice. Very slowly, with the mixer still running, add oils. You’ll be adding the oils almost a drop at a time, until thickened. If you mayo didn’t thicken up as much as it should (like mine), try refrigerating it for an hour or so. It’s not foolproof, but I was able to salvage my mayo with a brief trip to the fridge.
Store extra mayo in an airtight container for a couple weeks.
Make the Salad: Toast almonds in a 350F oven for 7-9 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, toss chicken, apple, celery, onions and parsley. Add just enough mayo to bind the salad, 1/2 – 3/4 c. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Refrigerate until serving. Add almonds just before serving so that they don’t lose their crunch.
Serve on a roll, bread, or salad, as desired.
A simple salad topped with warm goat cheese wrapped in phyllo is an easy and yet elegant first course or accompaniment to a light lunch. We served this salad as the first course at Thanksgiving. The light and slightly sweet salad is the perfect complement to the strong goat cheese.
I did make a couple changes to the recipe, including reducing the amount of phyllo used, and the technique for wrapping the goat cheese. The original recipe called for 4 sheets of phyllo dough, sliced in half width-wise, in order to make two phyllo pockets. This seemed to be far too much phyllo to neatly wrap the goat cheese. Two sheets, sliced lengthwise once and then width-wise twice (to wrap 6 pieces of goat cheese) was much more manageable.
Salad with Goat Cheese Purses
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics,
Goat Cheese Wrapped in Phyllo
Ingredients for the Goat Cheese Wrapped in Phyllo
- 4 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted
- 1/4-1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 2-3 Tbs. plain dry bread crumbs
- 3-6 oz. fresh goat cheese cut into 1/2-1 oz. discs
Ingredients for the Salad and Vinaigrette
- 2 Tbs. champagne vinegar
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 c. olive oil
Ingredients for the Salad
- Salad greens, such as an arugula and mesclan mix
Make the Goat Cheese Purses: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Lay a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on the counter. Unroll the phyllo dough and set on top of paper. Cover with a slightly damp towel to keep the phyllo fresh (careful – if the towel is too wet, the phyllo will be sticky).
Remove once piece of phyllo dough and set on work space, replacing the paper towel over the rest of the dough. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with bread crumbs (I used about 1 tsp.). Repeat.
Cut sheets in half lengthwise. Then cut each piece in thirds, width-wise.
Put a disc of goat cheese in the center of each piece. Pull corners of phyllo together, then bring up the sides. Twist slightly and holding the center together slightly so that it sticks together. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until finished.
Using remaining butter, lightly brush each of the purses, particularly the top and where the phyllo comes together.
Bake for 20 minutes, until phyllo is browned.Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
Make the Vinaigrette: Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients except olive oil together. Add olive oil slowly while still whisking.
Assemble the Salad: In a salad bowl, toss the salad greens with vinaigrette. Place onto places and top with a goat cheese purse.
Last week was pretty awful for me – everything that could go wrong did. Come Saturday night, all I wanted to do was sit back and relax while surrounded by good friends. I got exactly what I wanted – a night filled with wine, light and summery food (this Grilled Peach & Mozzarella Salad, Greek Panzanella, Herb-Grilled Chicken and Shrimp, and frozen turtle pie), and wonderful friends. Thanks to everyone that came over for dinner this past weekend – you were the perfect remedy for a terrible week!
Now, onto this Grilled Peach and Mozzarella Salad. Tossed lightly with olive oil, the sweet grilled peaches and the sweet balsamic glaze that gets drizzled on top are a wonderful contrast to the spicy bite of the arugula and the smooth mozzarella. (Note: I let everyone drizzle the syrup on their own salad, so glaze is not in photo above). This was a nice change from the usual salad that I throw together, and can’t wait for my next bag of peaches to make it again!
Grilled Peach & Mozzarella Salad
Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 106 (p. 19)
Serves 6 as a side
- 3/4 c. balsamic vinegar
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 2+ firm-ripe peaches (12 oz. total), halved and pitted
- 4-1/2 tsp. olive oil
- 4 c. lightly packed baby arugula, spring green mix, spinach, or lettuce of choice
- 1 ball buffalo mozzarella, cut into 3/4-inch chunks (about 1 cup)
Grill the Peaches: Heat the grill on medium heat, or, if you don’t own a grill, a grill pan on the stove. Rub halved peaches with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place peaches on grill cut-side down until grill marks appear on slices, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Slice into 1-inch chunks and set aside.
Make the Balsamic Glaze: In a small saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar and thyme to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vinegar is thick and syrupy, 6-9 minutes. You’ll have about 1/4 cup of glaze. Remove from heat, discard the thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss the Salad: Just prior to serving, toss the greens with 2 tsp. of olive oil, the mozzarella and the peaches. Drizzle with balsamic glaze, or allow your guests to do glaze their own. Serve extra peaches and mozzarella in bowls on the side.