In the heart of the winter, when the icy cold blows down from the north, our minds and our bodies are looking for foods that will warm the soul. But right now, as we move toward the warmth of summer, we are looking for foods that are nourishing to our minds and cool to our bodies.
There are many cooling foods and chilled, crisp salads are one example. Salads have an abundance of variety in flavors, textures, colors and aromas. There certainly is a salad that can appeal to everyone. These days so many more restaurants are concentrating new dishes on salads. But the best salads are still made at home.
The traditional salad will have a dressing and/or vinaigrette tossed with the greens or just poured on top. My recommendation is to use approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of dressing per person tossed with the greens. In this fashion you maximize the flavor of the dressing/vinaigrette and minimize the amount of calories from fat.
In today's salad the dressing is tossed as the salad is made. This is not a traditional type of dressing, but one that you and your family will enjoy as you enjoy each other's company to share the meal.
The featured protein in this dish is poached chicken. When poaching any meats or seafood remember to add flavors to your poaching liquid. This can come in the form of some roughly chopped onion. Fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme or cilantro, any of the dried herbs or seeds like mustard seed, dill or fennel. When adding these to the poaching liquid allow them to simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, gently developing flavor in the water. Add your meat and poach until it is cooked through. Only three minutes for a nice size shrimp, or perhaps 10 minutes for a large piece of salmon or boneless skinless chicken breast. Do not aggressively boil the liquid, poaching is a mild simmer with almost no bubbles at all.
When serving the salad be sure have a side of some unique piece of bread. Such as focaccia, perhaps a buttermilk biscuit, a few crackers or a dinner roll.
Summer Fruit Chicken Salad
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, poached and cut into 1/2 inch
2 ribs of celery, cleaned and diced
1 cup seedless red grapes cleaned and halved
1/2 red grapefruit, peeled, sectioned, membranes removed
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup pecan pieces, toasted
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
large leaves of lettuce to serve the salad on
Poach the chicken in a flavored liquid about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove, allow to cool then cut into chunks.
Combine the chicken, celery, grapefruit, pecans and brown sugar in a bowl, add the sour cream, salt, pepper and lemon, toss thoroughly. Chill for several hours and serve on large lettuce leaves.
My cookbook collection is exceptionally wide and varied. I have a fine selection of very high-end and exclusive cookbooks from a number of different sources. Additionally, I have some old, tattered, almost homemade cookbooks that I have purchased when traveling or that have been given to me as gifts.
Recently I was looking through “The 1973 Calico Cook Book.” This is a series of homespun community recipes out of Owensboro, Kentucky. I have several annual editions. One of them claiming to be the 20th anniversary. So evidently this was a popular, ongoing event in Owensboro.
The cookbooks were put out by a local organization called The Spastic Guild. The 1974 addition of the Calico Cook Book was in honor of the Pantomime University Band who was a major contributor to The Spastic Guild Milk Fund. I am not entirely sure what all of this means, but I find it fascinating to contemplate the history behind these 35 to 40-year-old community cookbooks.
The following is a salad dressing recipe from their 1973 edition. This recipe was submitted by F. K. Rader. I have taken liberties to more clearly explain some of the ingredients so you readers can easily understand the recipe.
Yield about 1 1/2 cup
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground white pepper
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 raw egg, beaten
1/2 cup cream
Place all ingredients in a jar, shake well and chill.
With the addition of:
1 finely chopped hard-boiled egg
1 Tbl chives chopped
1 Tbl fresh parsley, cleaned and chopped
2 green olives, chopped
1 Tbl capers, rinsed
French dressing becomes Sauce Vinaigrette, which can be served over cold asparagus, artichokes, etc.
If you're going to make this dressing and be using a raw egg be sure to use one that's extremely fresh. I hope you enjoy.
To me French Dressing has a tomato base, usually catsup. This recipe has none, but it looks like a great combination none the less.
Today we're going to deal with picnics and summertime dishes. Our recipe will be for Hummus, a widely popular dip originating in the Middle Eastern countries. Although the ingredients for hummus have existed for centuries some believe that the first evidence of this dish came about in the 18th century, not all that long ago.
The foundation of hummus is puréed chickpeas. Different recipes call for varied amounts of several different ingredients, but the basics are puréed chickpeas, lemon juice and garlic. This recipe calls for fresh garlic, but remember you could use roasted garlic instead. If you choose to use roasted garlic, use twice as many cloves as you would fresh garlic. The reason being the flavor of the roasted garlic is far more mild than the fresh.
Hummus is high in several important nutrients and is a good source of protein and dietary fiber. Hummus is generally served with toasted wedges of pita bread. If you use chopped veggies you can even improve the nutritional value of this wonderful dish.
1 cup dried chickpeas, (garbanzo beans)
4 cups water
1/4 cup Tahini, (ground roasted sesame seeds)
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
salt to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 Tbl chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Place the chickpeas in a bowl with water enough to cover generously. Refrigerate overnight
Drain the chickpeas, reserving at least one cup of liquid, and rinse well under running water place in a 2 quart sauce pan, add the 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until very soft, about one hour or a little longer.
Drain the chickpeas reserving any liquid and transfer to a food processor. Pulse to purée. Add the Tahini, garlic and lemon juice, continue to purée. Add just enough of the reserved liquid to achieve a spreadable consistency. Season with salt to taste and a pinch of cayenne.
If serving immediately, spread the purée onto a shallow plate and smooth the top with a spoon. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a little fresh chopped parsley. Or you can transfer the purée to a bowl, cover and keep at room temperature for up to three hours or in the refrigerator for up to two days. Bring back to room temperature before serving and adding the garnish. The mixture may have thickened upon standing, you may thin it out with a little water or some of the reserved cooking liquid.
Summertime is BBQ time and when we think BBQ we often think about dry rubs. Dry rubs are those wonderful concoctions of herbs and spices that add complementary and contrasting flavors to our foods. When you're in the spice aisle of your local grocery store you will see dozens of pre-mixed dry rubs.
All grocery stores have a wide selection of spices. So many choices that it gets confusing for the home cook to understand what works well with different foods. This confusion then drives the shopper to buy one of the pre-mix spice jars and therefore let someone else decide how our food will taste.
Some of these pre-mix seasonings are very good, however many of them are overloaded with salt, MSG, gluten and/or other chemical flavorings or additives that do justice to the manufacturers bottom line, but are not much help to you in your kitchen.
One thing I always write about is high quality ingredients, and fresh ingredients. If you start making your own spice rubs you will go through all those spices in your pantry and therefore keep them fresher by using them quicker. It is also less expensive to mix your own spice rubs and then you have complete control of your flavor and ingredients.
Here are three recipes to get you started.
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbl dried thyme, crushed between your palms (mmm, now smell your hands)
2 tbl ground allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbl fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground cloves
Add a tsp of salt if you want, you’ll need some later anyway
Combine all ingredients
Makes about 3/4 cup, enough for one large chicken
Rub the outside of your bird lightly with vegetable oil and then sprinkle liberally with this spice rub. Bake or grill and enjoy.
BBQ All Purpose Rub
2 Tbl dry mustard
2 Tbl garlic powder
2 Tbl onion powder
3 Tbl file powder
3 Tbl dried basil, (crushed between your palms)
4 Tbl kosher salt
3 Tbl fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbl oregano
2 Tbl thyme
1 Tbl cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients. Store in an air tight container.
2 tbl paprika
1 tbl chili powder
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients
This good for all cuts of pork, rub a little oil over the pork and sprinkle with rub.
All of these can be used on chicken beef or pork, yes one of them is named “Pork Rub” but it can be used elsewhere. Feel free to adjust these seasonings to your own tastes. Such as, in my house we wouldn’t use so much cayenne pepper as the BBQ Rub calls for.
Once you’ve seasoned your food allow it to sit for up to an hour so the flavors can penetrate. You can allow it to sit for longer, just pop it back in the refrigerator. Sometimes I’ll season some meat then freeze it, so when I thaw it for use it is all ready to go.
Salads are a traditional dish often served at the beginning of a meal. But there are so many different kinds of salads that they really can fit in anywhere.
This particular Carrot Avocado Salad will go nicely as a side dish. Carrots are a wonderful vegetable with their distinctive color and lovely sweet, crunchy flavor.
Carrots originated in Holland and, it is said, up until about 500 years ago were always purple. Has anyone seen a purple carrot in their lifetime? Carrots are quite nutritious containing large amounts vitamin A and decent amounts of B3, C and E. If you eat them raw they also contain potassium, calcium, iron and zinc; but these are partially destroyed when cooked.
So be sure to add raw carrots to your salads.
When buying carrots organic is particularly important as they will have a much finer flavor than non-organic. Also, look for very thin carrots with the top greens still attached. They will keep in your refrigerators vegetable drawer for several days.
Valuable nutrients lie just below the skin in carrots. So when preparing for cooking or eating raw follow these guidelines. If they are young and pencil thin just scrub them. Older bigger carrots can be scraped with a knife or peeled. Don’t forget to nip off each end.
To boil carrots cut them into the shape you want, such 1/8” to 1/4” slices cut on the bias, (at an angle). Boil a pot of water with a little salt and a touch of sugar. Drop in your carrots being careful not to splash yourself. Cook them for the time it takes to be aldente, still slightly crunchy. Remove to a colander to drain. For this recipe stop the cooking process by placing them in an ice water bath for just a few minutes. Then drain them again.
Carrot Avocado Salad
2 limes, zested then juiced
3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbl agave nectar, (or honey)
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 1/4 lb carrots
1avocado, small diced
3 green onions, cleaned and chopped
Salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Lightly toss the avocado dice with 1/2 of the lime juice.
Place the rest of the lime juice in a small pot with the extra virgin olive oil, agave nectar, lime zest, red pepper and dry mustard. Heat until hot, remove from heat and let stand.
Cook carrots according to the paragraph above. When cooled pat dry and add them to a large mixing bowl. Toss carrots with the warm dressing; add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Lightly toss with the avocado and place in a serving bowl. Garnish with the chopped green onion.
American Culinary Federation
Growing up in a family of talented cooks, Chef Darrel was introduced to the wonders of the kitchen as a child. Going on to earn a degree in culinary arts, he studied in the U.S. and Italy. He is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the American Culinary Federation.