Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Prosciutto, Peach, and Sweet Lettuce Salad

September 6, 2010
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After eating some spectacular South Carolina peaches while vacationing in Charleston, I wasn’t sure if Georgia peaches were going to stack up.  However, on a subsequent trip to Whole Foods, Georgia peaches were on special and looking mighty fine.  I picked up a metric buttload and planned a few recipes around the sweet, summery treat.

First up was this salad, from Cooking Light magazine.  It couldn’t be simpler – if you can whisk together a dressing, you can make this dish.  With as simple as the preparation is, though, you have to make certain that you have top-notch ingredients.  I opted for fresh butter lettuce instead of the bagged mix, and I subbed goat cheese for ricotta salata because I always have it on hand.  The salad really hits every possible flavor and texture note – sweet peaches, salty sunflower seeds, crunchy lettuce, creamy goat cheese.  Even with just a small amount of prosciutto, the dish was satisfying enough to serve as a main course (and you could certainly pair it with some crusty bread for a little extra oomph).


  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 2  teaspoons  honey
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  tablespoon  finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1  (6.5-ounce) package sweet butter lettuce mix
  • 2  large ripe peaches, cut into wedges
  • 3  ounces  very thin slices prosciutto, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3  ounces  ricotta salata cheese, divided into 4 equal pieces
  • 2  tablespoons  dry-roasted sunflower seed kernels
  • Small mint leaves (optional)

Combine first 4 ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Gradually drizzle in olive oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in chopped mint.2. Combine lettuce mix and peach wedges in a large bowl. Drizzle lettuce mixture with dressing; toss gently to coat. Arrange about 2 cups salad in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 3/4 ounce prosciutto, 1 piece of ricotta salata, and about 2 teaspoons sunflower seed kernels. Garnish with small mint leaves, if desired.


Recipe: Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken

August 25, 2010
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Here’s another summer salad that I’ve enjoyed recently – you can tell that it was delicious (or that I was REALLY hungry) by the lack of pictures.

I always keep orzo in my pantry (usually the whole wheat variety, if I can find it), as it is a very versatile ingredient.  Yeah, I know it’s just teeny tiny rice-shaped pasta, but for some reason, it seems to lend itself well to salad preparations.  This version comes from Cooking Light, and it is satisfying AND simple to throw together after a long day.  The lemon-honey “dressing” is nice and acidic, which balances well with the creamy goat cheese.  As someone who cooks quite a bit with basil and cilantro, the addition of dill was a treat – I always forget how much I love it.

This salad works well as an entree, but you could always leave off the chicken and use it as a side dish.  Also, you can serve it warm or cold, and it will be delicious either way.  Enjoy!

  • 3/4  cup  uncooked orzo
  • 1/4  teaspoon  grated lemon rind
  • 3  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1  tablespoon  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  minced garlic
  • 1/4  teaspoon  honey
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup  shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • 1/2  cup  diced English cucumber
  • 1/2  cup  chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3  cup  thinly sliced green onions
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain and place in a large bowl.

While orzo cooks, combine lemon rind and next 6 ingredients (through black pepper), stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle juice mixture over orzo; toss to coat. Add chicken and next 4 ingredients (through dill); toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with cheese.

Recipe: Couscous Salad with Chickpeas

July 29, 2010

Here’s another recipe from the Cooking Light salad feature.  This is a vegetarian couscous salad, and it works equally well as a side salad as it does as a main course.  I served it with some store-bought rotisserie chicken, and it was a tasty, hearty meal.

The chickpeas add some heft and protein, so an animal product really isn’t necessary.  Between the sweetness of the cinnamon, the acidity of the lemon juice and tomatoes, the smokiness of the paprika, and the freshness of the mint and green onions, there is a lot going on with this simple salad – yet, it takes practically no time to throw together.  I substituted goat cheese for the feta (since I like it better and I had plenty on hand), but either would work.

The dish held up well for lunch the next day, too.  Enjoy!

  • 1  cup  uncooked whole-wheat couscous
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  black pepper, divided
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1  cup  boiling water
  • 3  tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  minced garlic
  • Dash of sugar
  • 1/3  cup  chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4  cup  thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/8  teaspoon  smoked paprika
  • 1  (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1  large ripe tomato, chopped
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Place couscous, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir in boiling water; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Combine oil, juice, garlic, and sugar.

Add oil mixture, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, mint, and next 4 ingredients (through tomato). Sprinkle with cheese.

Recipe: Seashell Salad with Buttermilk Chive Dressing

July 28, 2010
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In a recent issue of Cooking Light, there was a feature on summer entree salads that caught my eye.  They all looked delicious, but this one stood out and wound up being the first one I tried – probably because it’s the least “salad-y” of them all.

Due to the buttermilk dressing and the fresh herbs, this dish tastes quite indulgent and rich.  The pasta gives it a little carby “oomph” (which I appreciate, as I am in the throes of marathon training), and of course the prosciutto adds a nice salty finish.  It’s not a meatless dish, obviously, but it certainly could be.  I’d suggest making extra dressing and saving it for later (or at least stashing the extra ingredients for use in another salad) – it’s really delicious!

  • 8  ounces  uncooked seashell pasta
  • 1  cup  frozen green peas
  • 1/4  cup  organic canola mayonnaise
  • 1/4  cup  fat-free buttermilk
  • 1  tablespoon  minced fresh chives
  • 1  teaspoon  chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  cups  loosely packed baby arugula
  • 1  teaspoon  olive oil
  • 2  ounces  finely chopped prosciutto (about 1/2 cup)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Add peas to pasta during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well.

While pasta cooks, combine mayonnaise and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a large bowl. Add pasta mixture and arugula; toss to coat.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto; sauté 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle prosciutto over salad.

Recipe: Shrimp, Pink Grapefruit, and Avocado Salad

March 24, 2010

I was pretty excited to post about this salad, but then on Monday night in Salt Lake City, I had the best salad of recent memory (at Bambara, recently voted the best restaurant and best chef of SLC).  It was a roasted beet salad, which isn’t really noteworthy on its own – I mean, come on, everyone and their brother has a beet salad on the menu these days – but the dish was striking in that each and every element was perfectly executed.  The red and yellow beets were impeccably roasted, the goat cheese was beyond creamy and decadent, the greens were fresh, the blood orange vinaigrette was really nicely seasoned (and the salad wasn’t dripping with it), the orange supremes were a delicious citrusy touch, and the toasted hazelnuts on top delivered a much-appreciated crunch and nuttiness.  The salad was also beautifully plated, which I’ve come to appreciate even more after attending a recent food styling workshop.  Anyway, it was quite impressive, especially since I don’t normally get excited about restaurant salads.

Back to MY salad…I made this a couple of weeks ago, when I saw avocados on sale and was determined to find a way to use them.  The dish isn’t a culinary inspiration like my salad at Bambara, but it’s a satisfying and healthy meal (and definitely substantial enough to serve as a main-course dinner, as it did for me).  The crunch of the hearts of palm balances out the soft avocados and grapefruit, and the flavors are nice and balanced (though my hubs said he wanted some sort of spicy element in the dish).  It’s easy to make and tasty to eat, so give it a go!

  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 1 teaspoon grated zest and 1 tablespoon juice from 1 orange
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 14-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, rinsed, and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted, skinned, and sliced thin
  • 2 heads Bibb lettuce, leaves separated

Cut ends from grapefruit.  Slice off rind and white pith by cutting from top to bottom of fruit.  Holding grapefruit over bowl to catch juices, cut between membrane and pulp of each segment.  Set aside segments and transfer 3 tablespoons juice to large bowl.

Add orange zest, orange juice, shallots, and cumin to large bowl with grapefruit juice.  Slowly whisk in oil until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.

Season shrimp with salt and pepper and saute in olive oil over medium high heat.  They cook quickly, so pay attention!

Add shrimp, hearts of palm, avocado, grapefruit sections, and lettuce to bowl with dressing and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange salad on individual plates and top with remaining ingredients.

Barley Salad with Apples, Cranberries, and Pine Nuts

March 15, 2010

I’ve been keeping a food and exercise diary for a while now, and as I reviewed my entries the other day, I noticed that there was a direct correlation between my weight fluctuations and my carb intake.  I’m not going to go all Atkins on your asses, have no fear – after all, it is triathlon training season, and I need proper fuel – but I realized that I should be incorporating more complex carbs and healthier grains into my diet in order to satisfy my starchy cravings.

This recipe from Food & Wine magazine came at the perfect time.  It’s a great make-ahead base for really delicious meals – just grill some chicken breast or bake some fish, and voila, you’ve got a balanced lunch that will make your co-workers jealous.  The first step is when you cook the barley and scent it with the thyme and onions (and you could certainly serve it just like that, if you prefer).  Then you add the “dressing” and the mix-ins (for flavor and texture), and the dish really comes together.  The original recipe calls for pomegranate seeds, but I couldn’t find any – and actually, the dried cranberries made a wonderful substitution, as there was plenty of juicy crunch from the apples.  This should keep for about a week in the fridge – if it dries out a bit, just add a little more oil and vinegar to spruce it up.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups pearled barley
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 3/4 cups water
  • Kosher salt

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the barley and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly toasted; the grains will turn slightly opaque just before browning. Add the onion and thyme and cook over low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat until the water is absorbed and the grains are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Fluff the grains and discard the thyme sprigs. Season the grains with salt.  Allow to cool completely.

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, preferably from Italy (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups thyme-scented
  • 1 large tart apple, such as Honeycrisp, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

In a bowl, whisk the oil with the vinegar and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Add the Thyme-Scented Short-Grain Brown Rice, pine nuts, apple, pomegranate seeds and parsley; toss before serving.

Weeknight mish-mosh salad

July 22, 2009

One night last week, I was at a loss.  I had a relatively full fridge, yet I didn’t really have any specific recipes in mind, nor did I feel particularly excited about making a big mess (and then subsequently cleaning said mess) in the kitchen.  So, I decided to make a couple of salads.

On cooking shows, particularly of the reality TV variety, much snootery abounds when a chef tries to pass off a salad as a culinary work of art.  While I generally agree that a salad is simpler to prepare than, say, a perfect consomme or bread from scratch, I do admit that I have had some really superb versions and some truly dreadful ones.  For me, the key to a good salad is textural variety.  I don’t want to break my jaw with all of the crunching, but I also don’t want a pile of mush.

For this salad, the greens (mostly spinach) and tomatoes were soft, so I added crunch with carrots, radishes, and cukes.  For a meaty protein punch, I sliced half of a chicken breast I had cooked earlier in the week.  For sweetness, I caramelized an onion.  For tanginess, I just whipped up a basic balsamic vinegrette.  Finally, for richness–and just because I can–I placed an over-easy egg right on top.  Yum!

Instead of the chicken and the egg, Jason’s salad got sauteed shrimp, smoked mozzarella (a strange combo, but he liked it), and croutons.

What is on YOUR perfect salad?

Thrown together salad

Recipe: Pot Sticker Salad with Sugar Snap Peas

August 12, 2008
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Way back in the beginning of my relationship with Jason, he surprised me with a beautiful Calphalon steamer. I was absolutely giddy–I believe the first words out of my mouth (after giving my oh-so-thoughtful man some hot lovin’, of course) were, “Now I can make dumplings!”

Nearly three years later, I love Jason more than ever, and I’ve treated him to many varieties of steamed veggies–but I’ve never made dumplings. Sue me. I did, however, use the steamer to HEAT some pre-made dumplings for this delicious and simple summer salad from Real Simple magazine. Even my ghetto Kroger had some good frozen pot sticker choices, and the snap peas and carrots were tender-crisp and perfectly sweet. If you like, and if you’re not allergic like me, add some chopped peanuts for extra flavor and crunch. Enjoy!

  • 1 one-pound bag frozen pot stickers
    3/4 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed (about 4 cups)
    2 medium carrots, sliced
    1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
    1 tablespoon sesame oil
    1/4 pound bean sprouts (about 1 1/2 cups)
    2 scallions, sliced

Fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of water and fit with a steamer basket (or fill a large skillet with 1/2 inch of water). Bring the water to a boil. Place the pot stickers in the basket (or skillet), cover, and steam for 4 minutes. Add the snap peas and carrots, cover, and steam until the pot stickers are cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 4 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce and sesame oil. Divide the bean sprouts among bowls and top with the pot stickers and vegetables. Sprinkle with scallions. Serve with the sauce.

Recipe: Chicken Salad with Potatoes and Arugula

August 6, 2008

Air travel pretty much sucks. The airport has no good food, security lines are long and full of frickin’ idiots, departing and/or arriving on time pretty much requires an act of God, and you can’t even borrow a blanket if you’re chilly.

On my way back from Baltimore last week, however, I ended up having a pretty good experience. Because my travel plans were flexible, I not only scored a free round-trip ticket for taking a later flight, but I also splurged on some killer food magazines to read while I waited. The former is excellent because it will allow me to visit my sis in San Francisco. The latter is excellent because it provided the inspiration for last night’s supper.

This meal (from Real Simple magazine) couldn’t be simpler–seriously, the hardest thing about it is boiling potatoes–but it was tasty, fresh, and satisfying. You could certainly roast your own chicken or use grilled breasts, but for a busy weeknight dinner, a store-bought rotisserie bird does the trick nicely.

  • 1 pound new potatoes
    Kosher salt and pepper
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    1 rotisserie chicken (about 2-3 pounds)
    6 cups arugula
    1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, chopped (note: I left this out, as my local supermarket was out of tarragon)
    1/2 cup shaved Parmesan (note: I left this out, as I am a bonehead and forgot I had it)

Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain, run under cold water to cool, and slice. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Using a fork or your fingers, shred the chicken, discarding the skin and bones. In individual bowls, combine the arugula, chicken, tarragon, and potatoes. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Recipe: Grilled Peaches over Arugula with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

June 10, 2008

After eating a heavy lunch at Ted’s Montana Grill (don’t judge me for eating at a chain–the bison burgers are actually damn good), I didn’t want to go overboard for dinner. However, as I only have a few more days to cook in my parents’ massive and well-stocked kitchen, I wanted to be a little creative. Specifically, I wanted to find a way to use the grill without having to deal with a major protein source. This lovely summer salad was the perfect solution! The balsamic reduction was VERY sweet, so I think next time I’ll skip the honey and the reducing and just drizzle some good vinegar on top of the whole shebang. The peaches were also a little under ripe, but it worked out well, since they probably would have been too sweet if they were any more developed. The grill softened them up and gave them a great charred flavor–yum. Oh, the recipe is from Cooking Light magazine, and all of the ingredients (save for the pantry staples) came from the Dekalb Farmers Market.

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    2 tablespoons honey
    3 peaches, pitted and each cut into 6 wedges
    Cooking spray
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    Dash of kosher salt
    10 cup trimmed arugula (about 10 ounces)
    2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch strips
    2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese

Bring vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer until vinegar is reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in honey. Cool to room temperature.

Prepare grill to high heat. Place peach wedges on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 30 seconds on each side or until grill marks appear but peaches are still firm. Remove from grill; set aside.

Combine oil, pepper, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add arugula, tossing gently to coat. Arrange arugula mixture on a platter. Top with peach wedges and prosciutto. Drizzle with balsamic syrup; sprinkle with cheese.