Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Summer Salad with Tarragon Honey Mustard Vinaigrette


Just a short one today on a mini project I’ve been trying to kick into gear for a while now. I came up with the idea of an autumn salad a couple years ago now, and it’s always been one of my favorite recipes. In a few weeks when it’s more “autumn-y” out (the highs are still in the upper 80s-low 90s here!), I have to go back and tweak it and photograph it.

I love the seasonal combination of fresh fruit, dried fruit, crunchy nuts, and flavorful cheese in my autumn salad, and it’s tied together perfectly with the maple mustard vinaigrette. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to expand that to making a salad for each season. So at the tail end of the summer, here’s my summer salad!

I’m going on the same lines as the autumn salad, incorporating fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, and a good strong cheese all with a nod towards what’s in season. And thankfully, I’ve made up a template and started to plug in ideas for the other two seasons, so it shouldn’t take me as long this time to bring them to fruition. No pun intended!

For dinner, I increased the protein by adding a Gardein chick’n scallopini for each serving, and used Jarlsberg cheese for Mike’s portion because he hates blue cheese.  If you have or are a blue cheese hater, try it with goat cheese instead. Unfortunately, another thing Mike doesn’t like. Silly guy!

summer salad


Summer Salad with Tarragon Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side or starter.


1 head of butter lettuce, washed and chopped

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

1/3 cup dried cherries

1 medium nectarine, thinly sliced

2 oz blue cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup sliced almonds


3 Tbsp walnut or other nut oil

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

3 Tbsp honey

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup fresh tarragon, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


Combine first six ingredients in a large salad bowl.

Blend dressing ingredients together well, adjusting to taste (I used a mini food processor here to incorporate the tarragon). This will make more dressing than needed, so use to taste.

Toss together salad and dressing, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Caramelized Corn with Cilantro and Queso Fresco


When I was young, I liked corn – I even would mix corn kernels in with my mashed potatoes on my dinner plate to make what I called “corn mashed potatoes.” Very creative, I was.

For some reason, I stopped liking corn for a long time. Then in college I decided to force myself to like the last few veggies that I hated: corn, green beans, asparagus. I just made myself eat them over and over, in different ways, until one day I loved each one. I’m not sure if this is a technique that would work for others, but I’m glad I did it to myself – I wouldn’t have discovered the beauty of caramelized corn kernels.

I’m not sure exactly when I first browned corn at home, but I do know that it was a small life changing discovery for me. While barely steamed or boiled corn is quite nice itself, I think that browning corn over high heat really brings out the best flavors.

I usually call this esquites when I’m making it, it is a little different from traditional esquites in that I don’t add mayonnaise – I tend to be one of those anti-mayo people! Esquites is a Mexican street food that usually consists of corn kernels, lime juice, mayonnaise, chile powder, and crumbled fresh cheese served in a cup. I much prefer it minus the mayonnaise because I think the mayo tends to muddy the fresh flavors of the corn, lime juice, and cheese; it also tastes lighter and you can eat more of the beautiful corn!

This is best made with fresh corn shaved from the cob in season, one of the great things about it is that frozen corn can stand in for fresh all year round. Unlike some frozen vegetables (broccoli, I’m looking at you), corn tends to hold its structure and sweetness when frozen (as well as its nutrition, but that’s true about pretty much all frozen vegetables). You can make this with fresh corn in August or frozen corn in March and it’ll still taste pretty darn good.

The cilantro is optional because I know there are some unfortunate people out there who taste soap when they eat cilantro!


Caramelized Corn with Cilantro and Queso Fresco

Serves 4 as a side dish (or 1 corn lover)


1 tbsp peanut oil

4 medium ears of fresh corn, shucked (or one 16oz package of frozen corn kernels)

2 Serrano peppers, finely minced

1/2 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped (optional)

Juice of 1 lime

4 oz queso fresco

Salt and pepper to taste



Cut the corn kernels from the cobs over a shallow bowl or plate to catch the corn “milk.”

Heat the peanut oil in a large stainless steel skillet until the oil is shimmering. Carefully add the corn to the skillet and cook until most of the kernels are partially browned, or 5 minutes, stirring every minute. (Note: if you are using frozen corn, cover the skillet for about one minute after adding the corn to allow the kernels to defrost, then remove lid.) Keep a small amount of water next to the pan in case it browns too quickly and you need to deglaze the pan while the corn is cooking.

Stir in peppers and cilantro and turn off heat. Pour the lime juice over the corn to loosen the fond from the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle queso fresco over the corn and serve.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guilty Pleasure Salad


…aka the “Don’t Judge Me” salad. I stumbled upon this idea one time after we had people over for a barbecue. Mike and I don’t keep potato chips around the apartment to keep away temptation, but when we have some left over from having company, we feel obligated to use them.

One day last year I was making a “buffalo chick’n” chopped salad and though I usually toss in slivered or sliced almonds for a bit of a crunch, I thought to add in a small handful of crushed potato chips instead. Slightly less healthy, but wow, what a change in flavor! I only added 1/2 oz of chips for a single serving, but it made a nice change of pace for one of my favorite quick salads. To balance out the addition of chips, I try to use a lower fat salad dressing and plenty of veggies.

This weekend we had a few people over, and again have some chips leftover, so I rummaged around and put together a new version of this salad. I also gave it a quick name and decided to commit it to a recipe! It’s honestly not that unhealthy, 1/2 oz of potato chips is only about 60-80 calories, but it’s so tasty that we have to be careful about portions.

This idea can be extended to pretty much any type of chopped salad, just change the chip type accordingly! I had Kettle Sweet Onion chips and paired them with other ingredients I thought would go well. With the buffalo chick’n salad, I’ve used barbecue flavored chips and sour cream and onion chips with great success.



Guilty Pleasure Salad

Serves 2


1 tbsp grainy mustard

2 pieces Gardein chick’n scallopini

1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 oz Swiss cheese

1/2 cup green onions, sliced thinly

1 oz sliced almonds

2 Tbsp low fat ranch dressing (I love the Bolthouse yogurt ranch)

1 oz onion flavored potato chips



Spread the mustard over both sides of the Gardein chick’n and cook in a nonstick skillet according to directions.

Combine the remaining ingredients and toss well. When the chick’n is cooked, chop into small pieces and combine with the salad. Add a little cracked pepper on top and serve.


Substitute the mustard with your favorite hot sauce and the Swiss cheese with cheddar or blue cheese for a “buffalo” flavored salad.