Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Classical Lettuce Play - Part 6

Cobb Out

Cobb Salad Ingredients

When I first start researching Cobb Salad, I took one look at the qualifying ingredients and thought:

"Too much stuff! This'll never work!"

And then I tried it and fell in love.

It's got everything one would want in a salad: loads of protein, crunchy veggies, and creamy elements, all tied together with a classic tangy dressing.

In order to be a considered a Cobb Salad, it must have Chicken, Bacon, Blue Cheese, Avocado, some kind of Salad Green or Greens, and Tomatoes. The cook can add any other ingredients and it will still qualify as a Cobb Salad. The dressing, near as I can tell, is up to the cook, though a red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing  seems to be traditional.

Although most salads can be served as either appetizer, meal, or side dish, depending on the quantity, I find Cobb Salad is best served as a meal given how complete it is.

I thought about doing two versions of this salad but after looking at several recipes to get a feel for the common ingredients, I realised that this is one of those salads that really doesn't need much tweaking, so I opted to keep my version as simple as possible.

Serves 4 people.

Here's How You Do It



Ingredients

1 Head of Iceberg Lettuce - Rinsed and cut into bite size pieces. Iceberg lettuce gets a bum rap as being bland and not particularly nutritious. It's actually crunchy, refreshing, low in cholesterol, and a great source of Iron, Fiber, and Vitamins A and C, just to name a few. Kids love it, too.

1 Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast - these are pricey, but one is big enough to serve four people if you slice it right, due to all the other ingredients in this salad. Be sure to remove the tough white tendon sticking out of that long strip of flesh (the tender) at the back of the breast. You can either cook the chicken breast whole, or if you want to save cooking time, CAREFULLY slice the breast by placing your hand on the flat of the chicken breast and slicing along the thickness. See the drawing below. You should get at least 2 slices from 1 chicken breast. Another option would be to simply cut the breast into cubes  or strips and cook it. However you slice it, BE CAREFUL HANDLING CHICKEN AS THE RAW MEAT CARRIES THE RISK OF SALMONELLA POISONING. To avoid this, wash everything that came in contact with the raw chicken with a solution of about 2 cups of water mixed with a tablespoon of bleach, and then with regular dish soap and water. Be sure to wash your hands too.



1 Avocado - sliced, and coated with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Avocados are a tricky vegetable as they're often sold under ripe, forcing the buyer to leave them on their kitchen counter for a few days until they're ripe enough for use. Once peeled, they also turn brown very quickly, going from bright green to something that looks like the contents of a baby's diaper. The way to check if your avocado is ripe is to give it a little squeeze with your thumb and finger tips. If the flesh has some give to it, it's probably ready to eat.  You peel the avocado by cutting it lengthwise in the middle, making the slit deep enough that it reaches the pit, and going all around the length with your knife. Grab one half of the avocado and twist. The other half should pop right off. To get the pit out, CAREFULLY whack the center of the pit with your knife, twist your wrist and the pit should come away with the knife. If you're afraid of doing this  - and I don't blame you - you can always scoop the pit out with a spoon. Once all that's done, make slits in the flesh of the avocado length wise and press the skin inward with your thumbs or scoop it out with a spoon. Once the flesh is free of the skin, squeeze some lemon juice (you could also use lime juice) over it to keep it from turning brown.  

3 Slices of Bacon

2 Eggs

16 Cherry Tomatoes - rinsed

At least 4 Tablespoons of Blue Cheese - crumbled or chopped into little pieces. I like my blue cheese, so I tend to use a little more, despite the fact that a little goes a long way.

3 Teaspoons of Lemon Juice - divided - 2 teaspoons are for your avocado, the other is for your dressing

2 Tablespoons of Vinegar - Red Wine Vinegar is ideal, but you could use white or apple cider vinegar

4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Heaping Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard

1 Clove of Garlic - peeled and smushed with either the flat of your knife or with the base of your palm - the latter move also happens to be used in martial arts

Salt and Pepper

Equipment

1 Knife

1 Cutting Board

1 Jar with tight fitting lid or Clean Water Bottle - for mixing your salad dressing

Measuring Spoons

1 Frying Pan or baking sheet

1 Small Pot

Paper towels

Plates or Salad Bowls

Pour the vinegar, mustard, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, garlic, and the olive oil into your jar or bottle, seal it, and shake to combine. Taste it, and then season it with salt and pepper to your taste.

Put the eggs in a pot, add enough water to cover, and hard boil them. See Lowered Eggspectations Part 1. Peel the eggs and slice them thin. Set aside.

While the eggs are boiling, fry the bacon in the frying pan, turning once, until reddish brown and crispy around the edges, and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. You could also bake the bacon on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 F for about 5 or 10 minutes per side, just remember that this method doesn't make it as crispy as pan frying.

Season the chicken breast with a little salt and pepper and cook it in the bacon fat until the juices run clear and the chicken is no longer pink inside. Feel free to pull the thickest piece out of the pan, and cut it in half to check. The cook time will vary depending on how you sliced the chicken beforehand, if at all.

Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes or so and then thinly slice it into bite size pieces .

You can now assemble your salad by arranging or layering the bacon, chicken, eggs, tomatoes (say 4 per serving), lettuce, blue cheese, and avocado on plates or in a bowl. I arranged the ingredients separately, which allowed my taster and I to take the ingredients we wanted in the order we wanted and/or liked them.

If the dressing has separated, shake it up to combine and drizzle - meaning lightly pour a very fine stream  - over your salad or serve the dressing on the side.

You are now ready to serve!

Sick of salads?

Have no fear!

Next time I'll be doing soups!

So stick around!

- Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.








Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Classical Lettuce Play - Part 5

Hail Caesar!


North American restaurants typically offer two kinds of salad: Green Salad, typically consisting of a few greens, some lettuce and tomato, and a low fat dressing - everything new dieters loathe about salads - and Caesar salad. Everyone loves a good Caesar Salad. It's creamy, crunchy, salty, smoky, and though it gives the illusion of being healthy by containing romaine lettuce or some other salad greens - a fact that explains why so many dieters order it - it's actually pretty fattening due to the bacon, egg or mayo, cheese, and croutons - which is why it's so delicious! Caesar salad makes a great appetizer and side dish, and in a larger portion, also makes a great main meal either as is or topped with a little lean grilled or pan cooked chicken breast, steak, or fish. Taking for granted that your Classic Caesar is so unhealthy, I decided to tweak it a little to cut back on the cholesterol.  For those of you that dig the fattiness of the original, I've listed a more traditional recipe first.

Here's How You Do It Traditional


Serves 2 as a starter or side dish or 1 very hungry person as a meal.

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Egg OR 3 Tablespoons of Mayonnaise or Jarred Salad Dressing i.e. Miracle Whip - if you're a rookie when it comes to cooking, use the mayo or jarred dressing - if you want to try using the raw egg, make sure the egg is as fresh as possible

1 Teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce - a British sauce consisting of anchovies and other flavorings - it also makes a great addition to BBQ sauces - OR - 2 Anchovy fillets, finely chopped or mashed - I prefer using the anchovies

1 Large clove (the pieces that come off a bulb) of Garlic - peeled and grated - this will you give you smooth, even garlic paste without a garlic press - just be sure to watch your fingers!

3 Tablespoons of Grated Parmesan Cheese + 1 Tablespoon more for topping

1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice

Salt and Pepper - to taste - try to go easy on the salt as the bacon and cheese have plenty

1 or 2 slices of Bacon, finely chopped or cut with a clean sturdy pair of kitchen scissors - cooked in a pan with a little water. The water will allow the bacon pieces to cook evenly. Once the water evaporates, continue cooking until the bacon is reddish brown around the edges and crispy. Drain on paper towels and cool - OR - if you're Pescatarian (a vegetarian that eats fish) or a Vegetarian in denial about the anchovies - 1 or 2 Tablespoons of Fake Bacon Bits - you can find these in any grocery store - usually with the bulk spices - they are typically made of soy, but there are varieties made with flaked coconut as well. Read the label carefully.

2 or 3 Cups of Chopped or torn into pieces Romaine Lettuce - Romaine lettuce is one of the more popular varieties of lettuce and can be found in grocery stores and fruit stores everywhere. You can even buy it already washed - but that tends to be expensive. Better to just buy an unwashed head of romaine, separate the leaves, give 'em a good rinse and then either dry them with paper towels or in a salad spinner or give 'em a good shake.

1 Cup of Croutons - Though you can buy these, I hate store bought croutons. I find them dry, too salty, over flavored, and cut WAY too small... so I learned to make my own! All you need to do is cut your favorite bread into rectangles or cubes - I use whole wheat or multigrain - toss them in a little Olive oil, season with a dry herb of choice or a mixture (I used Mediterranean seasoning) and/or a little garlic powder, and if you wish, salt and pepper, and toss them in 350 F oven for 10 minutes, turning them after the first 5 minutes. Let 'em cool and presto! You've got croutons! See the image below.

Equipment

1 Cutting Board

1 Knife

Sturdy Scissors

1 Box Grater

1 Fork or Whisk

1 Pair of Tongs for tossing the salad

1 Frying Pan and Wooden Spoon - IF using real bacon

1 Large Bowl

Measuring Spoons

Crack your egg into the salad bowl and scoop out any shells (it happens), OR if using mayonnaise, dump it in. Add three tablespoons of parmesan cheese, the anchovies or Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice and beat the heck out of it using either a whisk or fork until everything's well combined.

Add the Olive Oil a tablespoon at a time and whisk it well after every addition. Give it a taste, remembering that the dressing is supposed to taste strong, and season with Salt and Pepper.

Dump in your lettuce, croutons, and half your bacon bits, and toss everything to coat.

Top with the remaining parmesan cheese and bacon bits and you're ready to go!

Here's How You Do It MY (low cholesterol) WAY


Serves 2 as a side dish or 1 as a meal.

Ingredients

2 Heaping Tablespoons of 2% Fat Plain Greek or Regular Yogurt - this will be the primary substitute for the egg or mayonnaise from the previous recipe. I chose it because it provides creaminess but with way less cholesterol than a large egg.

1 Teaspoon of Mayonnaise or Jarred Salad Dressing - Optional - Caesar salad has to be rich tasting, so I've included a smidgen of the mayo for texture and richness

2 Anchovy Fillets - finely chopped or mashed into a paste - OR - 1 Teaspoon of Worcestershire  Sauce

2 Tablespoons of Grated Parmesan Cheese + 1 Tablespoon more for topping - OR - To Taste

1 Large clove (the pieces that come off a bulb) of Garlic - peeled and grated

1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice

6 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper - To Taste - Try to go easy on the salt, as bacon and parmesan cheese have plenty

1 Strip of Bacon - finely chopped or cut up - cooked in a pan with a little water until said water evaporates and the bacon has released its fat and become reddish brown around the edges, drained on paper towels and cooled - OR - 1 or 2 Tablespoons of Fake Bacon Bits

2 or 3 - Depending on how dressed you like your salad - Cups of Romaine Lettuce - Washed, the leaves chopped or torn into bite sized pieces

1 Cup of Croutons - Homemade or Store bought - If you want healthy, make 'em homemade

Equipment

1 Whisk

Measuring Spoons

1 Large Bowl

1 Knife

Sturdy Scissors

1 Cutting Board

1 Frying Pan and 1 Wooden Spoon - if using Bacon

1 Baking Pan - if making your own croutons

1 Pair of Tongs

Dump the yogurt and mayo in the large bowl along with the lemon juice, anchovies, some parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the Olive oil, a tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition. If the dressing seems to thick for your taste, add a little more lemon juice and Olive Oil.

Dump in the lettuce and the croutons toss to coat.

Top with the bacon bits and remaining parmesan cheese and you're good to go!

Stay tuned for next time when I'll be showing you how to make that American classic: Cobb Salad!

Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.