Thursday, August 13, 2009

Three Summer Salads

Grilled Pancetta-Wrapped Figs and Arugula with Lavender Dressing
If you're interested in a light dinner in the midst of fig season, this is just wonderful. Plenty of flavor, a delicious dressing, and the little purple flowers which are in nearly every yard during the summer.

Mustard Lavender Vinaigrette, start the day before if you have time (see recipe below)
About 6 cups arugula or other fresh greens
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted (Watch! They burn easily.)
8-12 large fresh black figs
8-12 thin slices pancetta, smoked pepper bacon, or regular bacon
Vegetable oil for brushing the grill
Fresh lavender or society garlic flowers for garnish

1. Wash, dry, and chill the greens.
2. Prepare your grill or broiler.
3. Wrap each fig with a piece of bacon or pancetta and secure with a toothpick or small metal skewer. Brush the grill or broiler rack with vegetable oil. Place figs on the rack and grill or broil, turning frequently, until the bacon is browned, about 5 minutes or a little longer.
4. Drizzle the arugula or other greens with the Mustard Lavender Vinaigrette. Divide the greens among 4-6 individual plates. Arrange 2 or 3 figs on each plate and drizzle with more vinaigrette if desired.
5. Sprinkle with pine nuts and garnish with the fresh flowers.

4-6 servings as a salad course, depending on the size of the figs and how many figs you serve/person
Adapted from James McNair’s Salads

Mustard Lavender Vinaigrette

½ cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh lavender flowers
1½ teaspoons crumbled dried lavender flowers
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard or 1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon minced or pressed garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

1. In a bowl or jar, combine the olive oil and chopped or crumbled lavender, cover, and let stand at room temperature for at least 24 hours or for up to several weeks. Strain before using.
2. Combine everything except the lavender oil in a bowl or jar. Shake or stir until combined. Add the oil and shake or stir again. Use immediately or store in the fridge. Return to room temperature before serving.

Makes ¾ - 1 cup
Adapted from James McNair’s Salads

Chicken Salad with Walnuts and Grapes
You may think I have a "thing" for roasted fruits and veggies. I must confess that I do--primarily because of the intense flavor. But also because I sometimes buy too many grapes, strawberries, or cherry tomatoes and they may be on the verge of going squishy. Roasting comes in so handy.

¾ cup mayonnaise (You can use some thick yogurt in place of some of the mayonnaise.)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice from ½ lemon
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
1/8 teaspoon pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
4 individual chicken breasts, poached or microwaved and roughly chopped or shredded
4 cups leftover roasted chicken, bones and skin removed, roughly chopped or shredded
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
½ cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
1 cup halved red seedless grapes or ½ cup Roasted Grapes, see recipe below
¾ cup roughly chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
Greens, if desired

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper. Add the chives, parsley and tarragon; mix gently.
2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, onion, celery, and grapes. Add the mayonnaise mixture and fold together to combine. Add more mayonnaise if the mixture is too dry. Season to taste. Chill until ready to serve.
3. Just before serving, stir in the toasted walnuts. If desired, serve over or surrounded by greens.

4-6 servings
Adapted from the New York Times Sunday Magazine

Oven-Roasted Grapes

2 pounds red grapes, without seeds
A slight sprinkling of sugar

1. Remove the grapes from their stems. Cut in half if large. Line a cookie sheets with a silicone mat or parchment paper and place the grapes on top in a single layer.
2. Turn the oven to 250ºF and place the pan in the oven. You can use the convection setting in your oven on either Bake or Roast and speed up the process a bit.
3. After about an hour, check to see how they are doing; move them around a bit and sprinkle with a small amount of sugar if they taste a little tart to you. Roast for an additional hour or until the grapes have lost some of their juice and shrunk some. Sort of like raisins but with more moisture.

You can use these as an accompaniment to cheese, in salads, on your Steel-Cut Oats for breakfast and in Italian Sausage with Red Grapes or Chicken Salad with Walnuts and Grapes.

Makes about 3 cups
Adapted from John Ash’s Cooking One on One

Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Cranberries
Quinoa is a grain originally from Peru that has a very high protein content. It is also delicious. This red one is from the Rancho Gordo folks in Napa, California who produce so many outstanding dried beans.

1/3 cup pistachios or slivered almonds
1 cup quinoa (red from Rancho Gordo or regular)
1½ cups water, heated in the microwave
1 teaspoon salt
2 stalks celery, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
3 scallions, sliced, including some of the green part
¼ cup dried cranberries, chop coarsely if they are big, use more if you'd like
Sherry Vinaigrette, see recipe below

1. Arrange the pistachios or almonds in a single layer in a small pan and toast at 350 F. until lightly browned, about 5 minutes or less. Let them cool to room temperature and chop coarsely.
2. Toast the quinoa in a medium skillet or pottery skillet over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally until it lightly browns, about 5 minutes or longer. It will take a little longer in the pottery skillet, keeping it on low heat. Add the water and salt, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until the quinoa is soft but still has a little bite, about 15 minutes. The water should be gone.
3. Let it cool. Add the nuts, celery, scallions, and cranberries and toss.
4. Dress with Sherry Vinaigrette. Check for salt, adding more if required.
5. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

4 servings
Adapted from Fran Gage’s The New American Olive Oil

Sherry Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking with a fork to mix. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

If you are using this for a regular salad, you can add 2 teaspoons minced shallots or green onions. The Quinoa Salad already has green onions in it so these are shallots are not necessary.

Adapted from Fran Gage’s The New American Olive Oil

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