Caesar Salad – A Fresh Look

Caesar Salads have long been popular both in the restaurant scene and at home. I love a good Caesar Salad especially if you add some Caesar Saladgrilled chicken to it and lots of Parmesan cheese.

The dressing here is a low-fat version of a traditional Caesar. This maintains the flavor of the dressing the same as a traditional Caesar dressing, yet with far less fat. So you will find a stray from the traditional Caesar Dressing ingredients, but try this, you’d never know the difference!

Plating the salad becomes a real presentation. Take your time and you will be rewarded with not only a nice visual but also something that will satisfy your taste buds on many levels.

For the Salad:

      • Romaine Hearts – each one makes 1-2 servings; 3 for an appetizer or side salad
          • Keep the lettuce in tact!
  • Good quality bread for the “croutons”
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded or shaved off a block with a vegetable peeler
  • Anchovy fillets – white anchovies are a gourmet treat, but everyday anchovies will do also
  • Dressing (recipe follows)
  • Add Grilled chicken or shrimp if desired.

To make the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup low or non-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup low or non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (use the best quality you can buy!)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 oil packed anchovy fillets (or more if you like)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 -2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

Put it all in the blender and process until smooth. Taste it, you may want more anchovy or garlic or cheese. If you do, add it and process again until smooth. If it gets too thick, thin with water.

Wash the lettuce, carefully remove any dirt or debris while keeping the head in tact. Turn the romaine heart upside down to drip dry or pat it dry with a paper towel.

Holding the romaine heart upright in a clean bowl, drizzle the leaves with the dressing, use about 1-2 ounces per heart.

Wrap tightly into a log shape

Wrap tightly into a log shape

Wrap the lettuce tightly in a log shape in plastic wrap. When you do this, arrange the leaves so they don’t break. You want to be able to wrap it together really tight.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Brush the bread with olive oil, grill each side for 1-2 minutes.

Roll the anchovy fillets into ‘mini-flowers’.

Make Crispy Parmesan Chips

Rolled anchovy fillets

Rolled anchovy fillets

Make some crispy Parmesan chips by placing freshly shredded (grated cheese does not work) onto a piece of oiled parchment in a circle.

Use a ring mold for even shapes

Use a ring mold for even shapes

Use a ring mold to make even sized circles. Bake them in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

Remove when the cheese gets golden brown

Remove when the cheese gets golden brown

Remove from the oven and using a spatula, remove them from the parchment immediately as the cheese cools rapidly. At this point, they will retain any shape you give them. but you have to move fast, once they cool they become crisp.

For this presentation, instead of making croutons, I cut the bread into a long rectangle, oiled it and then put it on the grill for a few minutes.

Plate Presentation:

Lay two lengths of bread on the base of the plate.

With the plastic wrap still on the lettuce, slice the lettuce into rounds about 2″ wide.

Slice the lettuce with the plastic wrap still on. Of course, remove it as you bring the lettuce to the plate.

Slice the lettuce with the plastic wrap still on. Of course, remove it as you bring the lettuce to the plate.

Remove the plastic wrap and place them on the bread. Stand them up with the cut side down. Do this carefully and they will hold together.

Place a crispy cheese round on top of the cut lettuce, then add the rolled anchovies.

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Place either the grilled chicken or shrimp along side of the bread, sprinkle with Parmesan. Drizzle some dressing onto the plate and serve.

The presentation is nice because when you want to eat the lettuce, it falls apart easily with your fork and does not require further cutting unless you cut them too wide. 2 inches is the perfect size for this presentation.

Enjoy this Caesar!

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Raw Kale Salad – Give it a Massage!

I was reading a recipe the other day on the Food Network website regarding a Massaged Kale Salad from the Aarti Party Show.

Kale is on the edge of being overdone but this is worth exploring. Give it a try before you get sick of eating so much kale!

Kale saladPrevious thoughts had me thinking kale was too tough to eat raw. A quick saute, dip in hot oil, plunge into a hot oven or dropped into soup is how I prepared it before this recipe caught my eye.

So I tried it. Massage your kale, sounds kinky right?!

I had to come up with another way of massaging the kale as not everyone likes to have their food handled to this extent by someone else’s bare hands.

Use a dough hook instead of your hands

Use a dough hook instead of your hands

Bare hand contact can be a health issue if the person touching the food does not wash their hands correctly or is carrying some kind of germ.

While the recipe wasn’t followed, the massage technique was. The result is an addicting, tender kale salad that can be dressed in so many ways.

After massaging the kale, create your salad. All you need to add is other ingredients and the salad is already dressed.

Choose a toasted nut and a favorite fruit, fresh or dried. Add some cheese and you can go forever with the combinations that can be created as additions for this most excellent salad.

This is what I did last night:

Kale Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts, Dried Cranberries and Shaved Parmesan

  • 1 pound kale
  • Juice from 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • A light sprinkle of salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Trim the stems from the leaves

Trim the stems from the leaves

Trim leaves from the stems, wash thoroughly in cool water to remove any garden friends, sand and dirt.

If the kale is very sandy or has a lot of soil on it, soak it in a deep bath of salty water. Dip and lift the kale from the water so the soil is left behind in the bottom of the soaking bowl. You may need to do this several times to get rid of all the dirt.

Chop the kale leaves small, but not too tiny; bite size is perfect.

Place the chopped kale into a bowl. Drizzle the kale with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. The amount you use depends on how much kale you use. Only use enough to lightly coat the leaves, you don’t want anything on the bottom of the bowl.

Using your hands (washed of course! and wear gloves) or in a stand mixer on low with the dough hook, massage the greens for 2-3 minutes.

You will notice the leaves changing texture, becoming more tender and turning a brighter green as well.

Peel Parmesan into the salad with a peeler.

Peel Parmesan into the salad with a peeler.

After 2-3 minutes of massage, add toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries and use a peeler to shave Parmesan into the salad.

The above amounts can be adjusted to your liking.

Try other fruits, nuts and cheese in this salad, avocado is amazing too.

Top the salad with beef, grilled chicken, shrimp or fish to make it an entrée salad.

Serve and enjoy!

eating kale saladThis salad was so good, I came back down and scarfed another bowl in the middle of the night and another after breakfast.

Now I need to go buy more kale.

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What do you Keep in your Pantry?

Let’s talk about kitchen staples. I think it would be fascinating to see what other cultures and kitchens around the world always keep in their pantries.

Depending upon your cultural background, your staples will be different. Being located in the American South there is some influence of region like grits and corn meal and green tomatoes.

I am studying Nutrition Concepts and Medical Nutrition Therapy to gain a Certified Dietary Manager Certification. One of the concepts we study is the difference in food choices based upon religious or cultural influences.

Having lived in many places in the world, there are things I reach for and things that are added due to a cultural influence, like couscous and preserved lemons for instance.

However, there are things that are always there, ready to make something to eat.

  • Fresh garlic – if I get too much, I confit the garlic and reach for that too.
  • Onions – from red to sweet to shallots and scallions
  • Parmesan cheese – a block so it can be shredded, peeled or grated
    Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the true "par...

    Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the true “parmesan” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     

  • Eggs – large organic ones. I love Araucana eggs which are also known as “Easter Egg chickens” since their eggs are colored pink, blue and green naturally
  • Canned organic tomatoes and tomato sauce
  • Potatoes – both russet and new potatoes; sometimes sweet potatoes, but not always
  • Basmati rice and brown rice blends
  • Fat free milk – I like to drink it (yes, still!)
  • Half and half – for coffee and tea
  • Fresh European Butter – Plugra is my brand of choiceHomemade Lime Tart Butter & Eggs
  • AP and Bread Flour – for making breads, tarts and dredging
  • Canned beans – black, dark red kidney, garbanzo, white kidney beans
  • A variety of vinegar – apple cider, rice wine, red wine, white wine, balsamic (expensive and less so) and basic white vinegar
  • Oils – olive, vegetable and toasted sesame (because I like Asian food so much!)
  • Chicken stock
  • Chicken and Turkey meat
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Anchovies and sardines
  • Dijon mustard
    English: Dijon mustard Maille Originale, 213 g

    Dijon mustard Maille Originale, 213 g (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     

  • Yeast
  • A variety of pasta shapes – spaghetti
  • A jar of Dukes Mayonnaise – yes, I should make my own but this is so I don’t have to
    Only Duke's for Tomato Pie.
  • Some kind of pickle or pickles – either I make them of buy some. Gotta have a pickle with a sandwich
  • and new to my pantry is Coconut oil for saute
  • Last but not least, a variety of salt and pepper

.

What do you keep in your pantry? Please share!

Mushroom Risotto

I made mushroom risotto just to see if there could be any left over to make the risotto balls Frugal Feeding made. Only he called them Rosemary and Garlic Arancini. I suppose that is the correct Italian name for them more than “risotto balls.”

By any other name they are still just as good.

Let’s make  Mushroom Risotto and if you have any left, you can hop over to Frugals site and make the Arancini.

But first a note on how to clean mushrooms:

Think of them like little sponges. if you run them under water or (horrors!) soak them in a bowl of water to ‘clean’ them, you are water logging the poor little mushroom. The mushroom will release that water while you cook, you will not get a good color on them when cooking. Instead of saute, you will be braising them.

Instead, wipe them with a clean towel, trim the tough part of the stem (shiitake – remove the entire stem, it is tough) your are ready to go.

Portobello mushrooms can be ‘peeled’ to create a prettier mushroom. Use a spoon to scrape out the gills and then peel the lip of the mushroom to remove the top layer, peeling towards the top middle of the mushroom cap.

Save the scraps for flavoring stocks for soup or sauces.

Peeling a Portobello

Use a spoon to scrape out the gills

1 peeled Portobello and 1 not peeled ; see the difference?
Save those scraps! Freeze them.

Mushroom Risotto

1 cup arborio rice

2 tablespoons finely minced shallots

1 tablespoon  fresh minced garlic

1 cup cleaned and sliced fresh mushrooms of your choice

White button and shiitake mushrooms

If you use Portobello mushrooms, be sure to clean the gills out from under the cap. They turn everything a dark, almost black color.


1 up to 1 quart of warm chicken stock

If you use a stock that has salt in it, adjust your salt flavor at the end. Salt concentrates as liquids evaporate.

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded, not graded

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the mushrooms first in the same pan you will cook the risotto. This allows the mushrooms to develop that deep flavor for which mushrooms are so famous.

Sautéed Mushrooms

  • 1 pound mushrooms of your choice, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oil or clarified butter
  • 1 shallot sliced
  • 2 clove fresh garlic smashed and minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the pan over high heat, add oil.

Add mushrooms sliced shallots, garlic saute until they begin to develop color and start to release their juices. Add white wine to deglaze and cook until the pan is nearly dry.

Now add the rice and continue with the risotto recipe below.

Note: This is a great way to saute mushrooms for any other way you want to eat mushrooms, steak, Quiche, soup

  • Heat the chicken stock in a pot and have it nearby with a ladle.
  • In the same pan you cooked the mushrooms above, add the rice.
  • Saute for 2 minutes. Stir to coat the rice with the mushroom goodness in the pan.
  • Ladle about 8 ounces of warm stock into the rice pan.
  • Stir to combine and continue stirring until the stock has been absorbed.
  • Repeat 3 more times.
  • Taste the rice, there should be a slight bite to the grain, known as “al-dente.”
  • The last addition will be 1/2 cup white wine, stir until the wine has been absorbed.
  • Stir in the Parmesan cheese and the butter.
  • Adjust seasonings and serve.

Warm chicken stock, have a ladle handy

Saute the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, thyme and wine to develop flavor in the mushrooms before adding rice. Cook down to nearly dry again.

Add rice, saute to coat the rice with oil and mushroom jus

Add warm stock and stir until absorbed

Stir until all stock has been absorbed; add more stock

Add more stock and keep stirring

I learned to make risotto the old-fashioned way; by stirring a lot. Stirring makes it creamy. There are some methods where you cook it much like you do plain rice. I don’t find the results as creamy as the stir-like-a-madman method.

Besides, it gives your arms a decent work out.

If you want to make risotto and hold it for serving later, take it only half way through the steps of adding stock. Cool it down.

When you are ready to finish, heat more stock, add the rice and finish the cooking process.

Serve immediately as risotto can get quite gluey as it cools down after it finishes cooking.

I made enough to have some leftover for the Arancini but when I went to make them, there was no leftover risotto.

So the myth continues, there is no such thing as leftover risotto.

I haven’t seen much leftover wine either.

Why is that?

Robert said to just make more risotto and make the Arancini immediately.

I think he just wants more risotto.

Mushroom Risotto

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

Ahh! One of my favorite vegetables is Brussels sprouts. These little green cabbage looking things are wonderful as long as they aren’t over cooked.

Truth is you either love them or hate them. I stand firmly in the love category.

They grow on a large stalk and if you can find them on the stalk, buy them that way. The first time I found them on the stalk, I grabbed it, brought it home only to realize the stalk was way too big to fit into my refrigerator. Considering the size of the stalk, I must have been insane at the market when I thought it would definitely fit into the fridge.

Later I realized the stalk can sit on the counter in the kitchen for a few days, while they get eaten up in various dishes.

Brussels sprouts can be steamed, sautéed, baked or roasted, or pickled.  You can use them in soup, as a side dish and in salads. I adore them with Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese.

You can cook them whole, cut them in half or “shave” or shred them into thin slices. There are even Brussels Sprouts with chocolate. And of course, don’t forget, you can always add bacon.

My preference is to use fresh sprouts but if you can’t find fresh one and you absolutely need to have Brussels sprouts, frozen will do in a pinch, although not nearly as wonderful as fresh.

The following recipe is a simple delicious way of serving Brussels Sprouts.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup pecans – halves or pieces
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Trim sprouts and cut in half. Rinse under cool water.

Heat a saute pan, add oil. Place the sprouts cut side down in the pan. Allow the cut sides of the sprouts to become golden brown, not black and not pale green but a nice golden color.

Place the pecans over the sprouts as they are browning. Once the sprouts have  developed the color, stir the pan and add the water to steam the sprouts.

Simmer until the water has evaporated; add butter and stir to glaze the nuts and Brussels sprouts.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Trim and wash the sprouts

Place cut side down in a hot saute pan

Put pecans on top

Add water and simmer until water is gone

Serve and enjoy!

Eat More Brussels Sprouts!