Category Archives: salads

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

This whole thing started with the croutons entirely because I am cheap. I cannot stand to throw food away and, dammit, onion poppy seed hamburger buns come in packages of eight. I just needed two for a sandwich project. So I had six left over, staring at me every time I opened the pantry door. Taunting me to do something with them.

CroutonsSo I made croutons. I actually have a beef with store-bought croutons and I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t make their own. Store-bought croutons are generally hard as rocks and exhibit all the taste of a hardened cube of sand. And since I have become a dedicated package ingredient reader after several alarming revelations about processed foods, I just don’t want any preservatives or other funny stuff in my croutons. Plus I have to tell you if you make these with melted butter rather than olive oil, you will just end up eating them straight out of the bag without any trip to a bowl of salad.

Once I had my croutons, I had to have something to put them on. Talk about the chicken and the egg. Decided on a Chicken Caesar Salad since that’s also a beef of mine. Why are they so bad at restaurants because they’re so good with a homemade dressing and some grilled chicken?

The croutons store in the fridge for a few weeks. They never last that long at my house. I’ve eaten two bags of them already. Without the salad.

 

Chicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
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Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Serves: 2
 

Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • BBQ rub
  • Spray oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • Dash hot sauce
  • 1 10-ounce bag romaine lettuce
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions
  1. Preheat the grill to medium.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts of any fat or cartilage and sprinkle with the BBQ rub. Spray one side of the chicken with oil and grill for 4-5 minutes, oiled side down. Spray the other side, flip and grill for an additional 4 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees as determined with a digital probe thermometer. Remove from the grill and reserve.
  3. Combine the garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Combine thoroughly and chill the dressing in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Put the romaine lettuce in a large bowl. Cut the chicken into strips or cubes and add to the lettuce along with the dressing. Toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with salad with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Homemade Croutons
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Ingredients
  • 3-4 cups leftover bread or buns
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil or melted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oregano

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the bread or buns into cubes and put on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until they are browned to the degree you like.

Notes
These croutons will store in a baggie in the fridge for a good two-three weeks.

 

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Fried apples and what goes together

Fried ApplesI was making supper the other night – pork chops, dressing and fried apples. And it occurred to me there are certain things that just “go together” – food combinations that I return to again and again.

Some of them could be considered odd or quaint. I have always served King Daddy’s favorite mustard chicken with buttered egg noodles. To do otherwise would be unthinkable. It just wouldn’t be right. On Sloppy Joe night, the Joe must be Manwich and it must lean along side Tater Tots. With ketchup. Ditto the ketchup with fried chicken livers.

Braised short ribs require mashed potatoes. Last night I was provisioning the refrigerator for KD because I am heading to Bunny’s tomorrow to help her unpack at her new home. I made the short ribs and mashed potatoes, but stuck some garlic bread in the oven for another meal. KD actually asked for garlic bread with short ribs. I was horrified. They don’t go together. Turkey sandwiches. Just turkey, mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce, salt and pepper. No cheese. Cheese and turkey don’t go together.

Fish and rice go together. Fish does not go with potatoes or pasta. Flat chicken and green noodles. Only a classic in our home, I’m sure. It’s just breaded chicken breasts and thin spaghetti with pesto. But the chicken breasts must be thin and the noodles must be thin, also. The calorie count is not thin. Corned beef hash with English muffins and blackberry jam. The hash must be from a can. And you must fry it with onions until it is crispy. The jam can be seedless or not. That’s where King Daddy and I part ways. He likes the seeds.

A wedge salad demands blue cheese dressing and bacon. Diet Coke must be present with hamburgers and French fries. Iced tea does not go with hamburgers or French fries. Iced tea does, however, go with chicken salad. I don’t know why.

So what foods “go together” for you? What are your odd and quaint combinations? I hope you disagree with me. It’s always more fun when you do.

 

Fried apples
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 4 tart apples, such as Honey Crisp or Granny Smith
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions
  1. Core and cut the apple into wedges. As you cut the apples, put them in a bowl with the lemon juice to keep them from discoloring.
  2. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar and cinnamon. Cook until the apples soften, about 10 minutes.

 

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We might starve

weather map

The Peoples of the South are, of course, petrified. As you can see from this weather map of tomorrow’s weather, there are “minus” signs. The Peoples of the South do not understand. What is a minus? And there are dangerous arrows around Memphis pointing directly in my direction. What are those arrows? I do not know, yet I am very afraid.

So I went to stock up at my beloved Publix and I could see that other Peoples of the South had seen the same map. We understand these life and death situations better than most. A few weeks ago we had flurries. I don’t even want to talk about it.

Storm 1As you can see, there are exactly three buggies at the Publix where there are usually about 180. Yes, that means others sense the impending disaster. And they’re all inside. I think I hear screaming.

Storm 2It’s just as I feared. The Peoples of the South are most fearful of running out of milk and bread during a disaster. The woman next to me fainted when she realized there was no 2 percent left. Fortunately, the paramedics revived her and assured her she could get by on skim until the thaw.Storm 5

Eggs. The symbol of life. And death. Death by starvation. I take the last carton, even though I already have two in my refrigerator. Perhaps I will attempt to whip up a frittata as my frigid hands grasp the cold handle of a cast iron skillet never to be warmed again because the power is now off and my life is ebbing away. Oh, the iron. Or irony.

Storm 4But I must live on for King Daddy, for he would surely starve without me. So I load my buggy with staples such as cornbread mix, chili fixin’s, bacon, lingonberry preserves, Smokehouse Almonds and the latest issue of People magazine. As I said, the Peoples of the South have our priorities straight. As I huddle under a blanket with my dying flashlight, I will at least dimly perceive the brilliance of Kim Kardashian’s make-up tips.

 

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International day with Noah

How many of these foods do you recognize?

How many of these foods do you recognize?

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

Which is how Noah and I visited six countries in less than two hours without ever leaving Nashville.

Noah’s in town for the weekend and he wanted to go to the Farmer’s Market for some of West Wind Farms’ super yummy sausage. That boy’s a smart one. He may shop the “manager’s special” in the meat case at the Kroger in Knoxville, but he knows quality and when The Bank is in close proximity he will not hesitate to make a withdrawal on his own behalf. The Bank goes along with this cheerfully. Noah wants to know where his food comes from. That works 100 percent of the time at the Farmer’s Market.

But he also wants to know where other people’s food comes from, as in people from other countries and cultures. Which led to our little thing that I will remember as a big thing.

“You want to go to the Russian store?” I ask as we’re pulling out of the market. Noah has taken Russian three years at the University of Tennessee and he adores Russian food. I cannot tell you how happy I am that there’s a Russian store in Nashville. We head down the interstate to Aleksey’s Market in Berry Hill. Russian butter, cheese, rye bread, pelmeni (sort of like tortellini) and birch juice (a traditional Russian soft drink) go into the basket. We are happy.

“Hey, you know the Mexican place I get chorizo is pretty close,” I say as we load our stash into the car. “You want to head over there?” Of course, he does.

Five minutes later we are walking into the Super Mercado at La Hacienda. LaHa, as it’s known around here, was one of the first authentic Mexican restaurants in Nashville and the grocery next door carries all the good stuff.  Chorizo, an uncooked loose sausage with a spectacular red chile flavor, has seen many a pizza at the Mayhew homestead and has also found its way wrapped into tortillas mixed with scrambled eggs. Mexican melting cheese is a modern (or maybe not so modern) miracle. We buy both.

Bun Thit Heo Quay

Bun Thit Heo Quay

“Have you ever had a Banh Mi?” I ask Noah. “You know, the Asian grocery store is just down the street. And on the weekends, they have special Vietnamese meals, too.” He has never had a Banh Mi, which is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich with roasted pork and pickled vegetables on crunchy French rolls. Another two minutes and we are walking into the wondrous InterAsian Market. One Banh Mi, please, and a container of Bun Thit Heo Quay (crispy roast pork with fresh shrimp over a bed of rice noodles with fresh herbs, peanuts and a spicy sauce).

I am very proud of the boy. He’s gone up and down every aisle at every market we’ve been to, marveling at the diversity of ingredients and sad that he doesn’t know what to do with most of them. Nor do I. But I love the opportunity to learn.

“Well, Noah , if you want to see the Mac Daddy of international markets we need to make one more stop,” I tell him. A few minutes later we pull into the K&S World Market, which has no website and why should it? Everyone in the international community shops there already. From exotic produce to meats hoof to tail to fish so fresh they’re still swimming in tanks, K&S has everything. Since Noah can’t figure out how to transport a live fish from Nashville to Knoxville, he settles on some Pocky (chocolate-covered biscuit sticks from Thailand) and Cholula hot sauce from Mexico.

OK, so I asked at the beginning of this post how many products you recognized. Here are the answers:

How many of these foods do you recognize?

From left to right, rye bread (Russia), Rossiyskiy cheese (Russia), Russian butter, birch juice (Russia), Pocky (Thailand), Kirin beer (Japan), chorizo (Mexico), Bun Thit Heo Quay (Vietnamese), Banh Mi (Vietnamese), pelmeni (Russia), West Wind Farms sausage (America), Kale (America) and Mexican melting cheese.

Enjoy the little things. And get out of your comfort zone. There’s a world of flavor out there, folks. And sometimes you don’t even have to leave home to taste it.

 

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The Wedge

Wedge salad

King Daddy and I were having a discussion about 1950s food the other day. Who didn’t love the “salad” with a pear half, cottage cheese plopped in the middle and shredded Cheddar cheese dusting the top? Or Chicken A La King, which has actually been around since the turn of the last century but reached its zenith, on toast points, in the ’50s. Or the Wedge. My beloved Wedge.

Behold the iceberg lettuce, kicked to the curb in the last two decades as being bland and not very nutritional. There was no mesclun salad mix when Ike was president. Sissy food, I’m sure he might have thought. You practically have to chase the stuff around the plate just to get a forkful. Flimsy. And if you dress it too soon, it just wilts under the slightest pressure. Who needs that.

Iceberg is sturdy and crunchy and a wedge of it is the perfect platform for a lovely blue cheese dressing, crispy bacon and croutons. You know you want the Wedge right now, along with a Pat Boone record and a couple of I Love Lucy episodes on DVD. There’s a reason it’s showing up on chef’s menus all over the country today. It was good then and it’s good now.

The Wedge deserves only the best blue cheese dressing, and I have a quibble with the bottled kind.  It’s too sweet. And it’s so easy to make you’re own without having to deal with all the processed crud in bottled salad dressing.

So go forth and create the Wedge. Back to the Future.

Blue Cheese Dressing
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Prep time: 
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup blue cheese crumbles (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
  1. Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, blue cheese crumbles, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
  2. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

 

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Three bean salad with grilled corn

Three bean and grilled corn saladSo I am making lunch for a vegan tomorrow. I cannot tell you the extent to which that terrifies me. Veganism (is that a word?) goes against everything I hold sacred in this life.

I get the vegetarian thing. I could probably live without meat. Maybe. No, not really. OK, I don’t get that either. But no cheese, eggs or milk? I am not wired for that.

So all afternoon, I’ve been fighting my natural instincts while preparing this three bean salad and a couscous salad.

Grill the corn (Wouldn’t a little sprinkle of Mexican cheese just make this perfect? No, back away from the cheese!) Add the olive oil and lime juice (A nice vinaigrette would work well here. I’ll just grab an egg. No!)  Blend the couscous with diced peppers, tomatoes and green onions (Where is that mozzarella? It would be a nice addition. No!)

It is difficult editing yourself every moment to leave out ingredients that I hold dear. In fact, I am cradling a block of sharp Cheddar cheese in my arms as I write this. Tomorrow’s lunch is for seven volunteers from HCA who are coming to CRC to sort donations. Only one is a vegan. And yet, I have spent all afternoon fighting my natural inclinations to produce two vegan salads while I battled my other inclination to make everything homemade by picking up some chicken salad at the Costco for everyone else.

I have to admit that both salads ended up being delicious (No, they would be better with cheese and eggs!)  Stop it. Get a grip and move on.

Make the salad. Don’t let the voices in your head get to you.

 

Three bean salad with grilled corn
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Prep time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 12
 

Ingredients
  • 4 ears of fresh corn, shucked
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 banana pepper, seeded, deveined and diced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
  1. Preheat the grill to high. Put the corn on the grill and turn frequently until all sides are slightly charred. Cool and remove corn kernels from the cob.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the corn, pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans and banana peppers. Add the olive oil, lime juice, cumin and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Taste again before serving and adjust seasonings to taste.

 

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Chicken couscous salad

Chicken Couscous Salad

I have consumed far too much funeral food as of late. Sadly, there have been multiple occasions over the last few weeks to provide funeral food and my will power has not been the best. Not only did I make a lot of it, I ate a lot of it and funeral food is seldom slenderizing. Just yesterday, I ate half a pan of blond brownies I was taking to a friend. A few days before that it was a tub of Blue Moon cheese spread (yes, you want the recipe – here it is). Oh, and add to that the bacon cheeseburger on a pretzel bun King Daddy and I just had to try at Wendy’s and the leftover fried chicken from my beloved Publix that we fed the inmates with last week (yes, actual inmates who work for us for free at the Community Resource Center).

So I am going to have to do some penance. I am going to have to pretend it’s Lent right now and give up something – like fattening food. I have already stocked the refrigerator with hummus and carrot sticks. I have homemade granola. And I am making chicken couscous salad because it’s good for me and I actually like it. Even King Daddy will eat it and he is not a salad kind of guy.

Chicken couscous salad
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Prep time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 2
 

Ingredients
  • 1 5.4-ounce box of couscous, prepared according to the package directions
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 small cucumber, skin and seeds removed, and diced
  • ½ orange pepper, seeded and diced
  • Half a container of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
  • ⅓ cup diced Monterey Jack cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
  1. Combine everything in a mixing bowl. Taste and add more lemon juice if you think the salad needs more acidity.

 

 

 

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Arugula salad with crispy tomato croutons

Rocket Salad with Crispy Tomato CroutonsThis is really a story about my failed summer as a vegetable gardener, something Southerners hate, hate, hate to admit. But this summer has confounded me. Which is why I had to come up with a way to use green cherry tomatoes.  By the way, do birds get hot? It’s hotter than blazes here right now, but the birds seem unaware.

But I digress. So I started my garden in late April with great anticipation for a bumper crop. Last year, I practically had to use a machete to cut my way through the tomato plants. I planted. I watered. I watched. Nothing happened. They did not grow an inch. They died – the tomato plants, that is. Damn that Lowe’s, selling me defective tomato plants. I bought some at the Ace Hardware. I planted them. Watered. Watched. Died. The pepper plants produced peppers the size of thimbles. And died.

tomato plantSo it’s got to be something with the soil. I have poison soil. And I don’t know how to go about correcting that. In the meantime, I buy a cherry tomato plant already in a stylish plastic pot. I’ll just grow that and have a small, elite crop of cherry tomatoes. Physics, however, is working against me. This plant is growing. And at every growth spurt, becomes top heavy. It falls over, always when I’m not looking. Knocking all the green tomatoes off the plant.

I am depressed now and travel to my beloved Publix for fried chicken and macaroni salad. Who needs fresh vegetables? I’ll just carb load and have another glass of Chardonnay. But King Daddy gathers up all my sad, hard, green cherry tomatoes and, in a time-honored Southern tradition, offers this: “Let’s fry them!”

Alrighty then. By any standards, and especially considering the hardship involved on my part, this is a very good salad. The base is peppery arugula. It’s topped with green onions, raw Silver Queen corn, bacon, the crispy tomato croutons and a buttermilk dressing I totally stole from Food and Wine magazine and is labeled “healthy”, although it decidedly is not.

Arugula salad with crispy tomato croutons
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Prep time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 2
 

Ingredients
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 3 green onions, sliced (including green tops)
  • Freshly sliced Silver Queen corn, from two cobs
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
  • 10 green cherry tomatoes
  • Milk or buttermilk
  • Cornmeal
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (from Food and Wine magazine)

Instructions
  1. Divide the arugula between two plates. Top with the green onions, corn kernels and bacon.
  2. Slice the cherry tomatoes into thin rounds and soak in the milk or buttermilk for a few minutes. Put about a cup of cornmeal into a bowl, drain the tomatoes and add to the bowl. Toss to cover the slices liberally with the cornmeal.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil to medium high. Add the tomatoes and fry until the cornmeal begins to turn brown. Drain and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Put the tomatoes on the salad and drizzle with the buttermilk dressing.

Notes
Sliced okra fried in the same manner as the cherry tomatoes would also be delicious.

Buttermilk Dressing
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Prep time: 
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Ingredients
  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • Freshly ground pepper

Instructions
  1. Sprinkle the garlic with a pinch of salt and mash to a paste.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the garlic, sour cream, mayonnaise and vinegar. Whisk in the buttermilk and season with pepper.

 

 

 

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Bacon, arugula and shrimp salad – buy the book

Arugula, bacon and shrimp salad

I am a sucker for a community cookbook. Those are the cookbooks written by your grandmothers, aunts, garden club members and church ladies. I love them because I know all those women are bringing their A game. The directions may be a little spotty – after all, many of these women have never actually written down their best recipes before. And there may be ingredients that some food snobs find offensive. Oh, you know where I’m going here. Velveeta, Rotel Tomatoes, lots of cream cheese and the occasional use of Spam. Bring it. Bring it all.

So, since I can not resist a community cookbook, I was an easy mark for Ralph Cole, the proprietor of West Wind Farms (buy the sausage!) and the head of the Franklin Farmer’s Market board. “Hey, have you seen our new cookbook?” he asked as I was narrowing my choices down to maple bratwurst or chipotle sausage. “It’s right across the way. Have a look.”

Franklin Farmer's Market CookbookDang it. I have a stack of cookbooks of which I’ve barely cracked the covers and now I have another one. At least this one will benefit the Franklin Farmer’s Market, which I believe is the single greatest farmer’s market on the planet or at least in Middle Tennessee (no, not the Nashville Farmer’s Market – that is an outdoor grocery store where you can procure those famous native Tennessee crops, bananas and lemons). The book is divided into the growing seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter. And, of course, you’d be embarrassed to cook out of the wrong season since that would mean you had to buy your ingredients at the grocery store where there are no seasons.

So, it being spring at the time of my purchase, I cooked the very first recipe in the book – a bacon, arugula and shrimp salad. Very unusual and healthy dressing and super yummy with the bacon (which is organic if you buy it from an organic producer even though it costs $30 a strip (kidding…kind of).

So. Buy the book: “Eating in Season.” It’s on sale at the Franklin Farmer’s Market every Saturday. Fifteen bucks plus tax. Support the Franklin Farmer’s Market. Don’t make me come after you.

Bacon, arugula and shrimp salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Contemporary
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4
 

A refreshing salad with the spicy arugula playing nicely with the salty bacon and sweet shrimp
Ingredients
Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons plain, low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Salad
  • 2 slices center-cut bacon
  • 1½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 cups arugula or a mixture of arugula and other spring lettuces
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

Instructions
  1. Combine yogurt, vinegar, oil and pepper in a small bowl, stirring well to make dressing and set aside.
  2. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in the pan. Crumble bacon and set aside. Add shrimp to the drippings in the pan and saute 5 minutes or just until the shrimp are pink. Do not overcook the shrimp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a large bowl. Add arugula and halved cherry tomatoes. Toss gently.
  3. Divide salad mixture among four plates; sprinkle crumbled bacon evenly over the salads and drizzle the dressing over the top.

Notes
I seasoned the shrimp with some BBQ rub before sauteing in the pan.

 

 

 

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Tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with chimichurri

chimichurri tomatoes and mozzarellaThe happy accidents that occur when you have leftovers you don’t know what to do with. That is the topic for discussion today.

I am not speaking of composed leftovers, as in when you make a composed dish and there is more than you can eat in one sitting. Such as a casserole. That would be King Daddy’s department. That man can eat leftovers like nobody’s business. No, I am speaking of the odd bit of leftover steak, the small chunk of Parmesan cheese or the half a bunch of parsley. I tend to let those kinds of things sit in the fridge until…oh, oh…they’re moldy or wilted or have solidified into a paleolithic rock.

So, here in Week 4 of being a vegetarian for three days during Lent, I had these things left over: some chimichurri from a Char-Broil recipe that I will unveil in mid-April (nothing like writing about a cheap meal on income tax day when you haven’t even filed your own taxes, yet), some fresh mozzarella from the previous night’s eggplant Parmesan, and some cherry tomatoes. I don’t know why nobody’s thought of this until now (and apparently nobody has because I Googled it and nothing came up), but chimichurri, mozzarella and tomatoes is delicious!

I cannot give you my top secret chimichurri recipe until April, but I can give you Michelle Bernstein’s recipe, which is pretty darn tasty. Chimichurri is an Argentinian parsley-based sauce with lots of garlic and olive oil. Once you make this, you may never go back to pesto again. Here’s the recipe from a post I did a couple of years ago.

 

 

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