Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In Which We Eat Salad

Okay, so I'll be honest, I'm not really much of a salad-y person. I know that salads are healthy (if you use a darker leafy vegetable like kale or spinach instead of just iceberg lettuce, and hold back on the creamy dressings. I do my homework) and I'm supposed to be trying to eat healthily. But while I have nothing against salads, exactly, I'm much more of a meat-and-potatoes person. I would pick a burger (rare, please!) over a nice green salad any day. But recently, I have been making a lot of salads. First there was the tomato-avocado salad from last week (the chicken salad does not count, as in my opinion it is not a "real" salad). And this past weekend, on my camping trip with The Boyfriend, I encountered a salad that I just did not want to stop eating. Here it is--

DSC_0904 by you.

Isn't it pretty? I didn't make it, but here are the ingredients, as far as I can tell:

kidney beans
yellow, orange, and red bell peppers
and...cilantro? I think.

At first, I only took some because of the bright colors. Then I went back for a second serving. And a third. There would have been a fourth, except The Boyfriend was starting to get annoyed because I'd told him we could leave the campsite to go elsewhere after I finished eating. Oh well. I'm going to the grocery store on Thursday (?) and I fully intend on getting the ingredients so I can recreate it.

When I got home from camping, I discovered that a few of my mother's friends had dropped by for a visit, bringing with them many offerings. Delicious offerings. Chief among them, KFC (which I promptly devoured), a cake, a HUGE carton of organic baby spinach, several packets of instant ramen, and...a rotisserie chicken. The last of the chicken was made into dinner tonight, and I'm making stock with the remains as we speak...meanwhile, here are last week's efforts.

DSC_0899 by you.
This is essence of chicken.

My second time making stock, I've chosen not to put the skins in the stock pot...because my first chicken-stock attempt turned out great, but after refrigeration there was about half a centimeter of fat floating at the top that had to be skimmed off. So while I stripped the chicken, I fed the fatty skin to my dog.


DSC_0942 by you.

Salad. I had difficulty giving this a name, because all of the ingredients have equal attention in this bowl. Cucumber-Tomato-Carrot-Kielbasa salad. Nothing fancy, just a quartered Japanese cucumber, the rest of the grape tomatoes from last week, halved, two carrots cut into coins, and about a third of quartered kielbasa. Tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. Yummy.

Next on the menu last night was soup. Yesterday, I learned something extremely important. And that thing was, rotting asparagus is really gross. I'd bought a bunch of nice, tender asparagus spears when I was at the grocery store last Wednesday, meaning to cook them right away, sauteed with some beef. But of course nothing ever goes according to plan, and that bundle of asparagus was forgotten in the back of the fridge until yesterday. When I pulled it out, the middle few spears were disgustingly slimy. I was both revolted and saddened. I love asparagus, screw whatever it does to my urine. Still, I tried to salvage as much as I could, discarding the slimy bits and carefully sorting through the spears. In the end I managed to save most of it, and with my surviving asparagus, I made this:

DSC_0960 by you.

Spinach-Asparagus Soup

2 lb of asparagus
1 bunch of baby spinach
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

~Break the woody ends off the asparagus and chop the rest into 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside.
~Melt 1 tbsp butter in a pot and add the diced onion. Saute until translucent.
~Add the rest of the butter and the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until the asparagus is bright green.
~Add the chicken stock and simmer, covered, until the asparagus is tender.
~Force the baby spinach leaves into the pot, and stir them into the broth so they wilt.
~Puree the soup in 2 batches in a blender until smooth.
~Return the soup to the pot on low heat and stir in the heavy cream.
~Adjust seasonings and serve.

The result? Good, if you like asparagus. My brother finished his bowl, although I get the impression he didn't think much of it. My mother and I both had two servings. My sister refused to try any. Oh well. She is 3 years old and a terribly picky eater.


DSC_0954 by you.

I'm not sure what to call this either. It's the rotisserie chicken meat I stripped off the chicken carcass, stir-fried with onions and garlic and then cooked in tomato sauce until the sauce either evaporated into thin air or was sucked into the chicken. Either way, it was delicious. Albeit a bit salty. Oops.

DSC_0946 by you.

This is my bastardized version of Tammy Donroe's Indian Cauliflower, in which I basically omitted things and screwed up the remainder. Just to go her blog for the recipe, and do a better job of following it than me.

One more dish--Potato salad. This time I decided to deviate from my standard recipe and try a different approach, the idea for which I got from Tammy (again). I also added a super secret ingredient to it. Can you guess what it is?

DSC_0943 by you.

That's riiiiiight. I couldn't resist. I don't understand why I never thought of it before. In any case, the bacon would be overwhelmed by the other ingredients in my original potato salad. But for this one, it's just right.

DSC_0952 by you.

Potato Salad v2
Inspired by Tammy Donroe's Potato Salad for the People.

8 medium red-skinned potatoes
5 strips of bacon
1/2 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

~Boil the potatoes whole and unpeeled. When they're soft enough to easily stab with a fork, drain and let them cool.
~Mash half the potatoes well, like mashed potatoes.
~With the other half, mash them gently so they break into chunks. I got too into the whole "being Chris Kimball" thing and accidentally mashed them too well, so they're more like super-chunky mashed potatoes than potato salad. Ah well.
~Microwave the bacon on a folded paper towel for 4 minutes or until crispy.
~Break the bacon up into little chips and add them to the potatoes.
~Add the mayonnaise and mix it all up carefully.
~Salt and pepper it to your liking and serve it up in giant scoops.