Monday, April 26, 2010

Fajita Salad with Avocado-Cilantro Dressing

Sometimes I just want a big salad for dinner (especially in the spring and summer). However, for my meat-and-potato-loving husband, if I make only a salad for dinner it better be hearty. This one passed with flying colors. Well, except for the dressing of which my husband wasn't "too fond" but I loved. I didn't tell him that it was made with avocado and mayonnaise (both of which he doesn't like - I first mentioned his dislike of mayonnaise back in my Turkey Roll-ups post).

So, my husband finished his salad and said "thanks honey, that was really good." - period end of story. The second time I made this salad he said the same thing but also added that he wasn't "too fond" of the dressing. Well, considering he doesn't like the main ingredients of the dressing I wasn't surprised, but this was a huge victory that he even ate the dressing - twice! The second time I made this salad he may have suspected mayonnaise was in the dressing since he heard me making it. I wonder because he liked the salad just fine the first time. I took a big risk by mixing the dressing into the salad instead of leaving it on the table for him to mix in, and it paid off. Just writing this post makes me giggle that I was able to sneak in ingredients that he doesn't like. And, no, he still doesn't know. That may change if he reads this post;-)

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Fajita Salad with Avocado-Cilantro Dressing

For the salad
1/2 pound of leftover flank steak (I usually broil flank steak as shown in this recipe - even if I serve it with different sides, like potatoes and vegetables)
1 small head of iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup black beans
1/4 cup finely shredded mexican blend cheese
1/4 cup pico de gallo

For the dressing
1/2 avocado
1/2 cup mayonnaise - I used homemade mayonnaise (hoping he would like that better than store bought, sigh)
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
2-3 Tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1) Place all dressing ingredients in a blender or deep container to use with an immersion blender. Blend until smooth.

2) Rinse and chop iceberg lettuce and place in salad spinner or cotton salad bag to absorb water.
3) Toss lettuce with desired amount of dressing and divide the lettuce between plates. (This can serve as two large entree sized salads or several smaller salads as part of a few courses.)
4) Sprinkle beans and cheese over the lettuce.
5) Arrange flank steak pieces on top of salad.
6) Top with pico de gallo.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Garden-Fresh Pico de Gallo

While I was grocery shopping in the produce section - I noticed that the pico de gallo was 3.99 for an 8 oz tub. Now it is not beyond me to pay for something chopped up and ready made once in a while for a quick convenient short cut, but it didn't look fresh. So, I checked the ingredient list and bought those items. The result yielded twice as much for half the cost and was super fresh. No, it wasn't convenient, but yes it was worth it.

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Pico de Gallo
2 medium tomatoes
1 jalapeno
1 medium to small onion
1 bunch fresh cilantro (1/2 cup of leaves)
1 lime
1 clove of garlic

1) Core and dice tomatoes pushing aside the seeds during the process, and place diced tomatoes in a bowl.
2) Chop onion and add to the bowl.
3) Mince jalapeno and add to the bowl.
4) Remove enough leaves from a larch bunch of cilantro - enough for a loosely packed 1/2 cup. Finely mince cilantro leaves and add to the tomato mixture.
5) Press garlic through garlic press into the bowl.
6) Juice the lime with citrus press and add to the mixture.
7) Mix and serve with tortilla chips, or use as a condiment with chili, fajitas, or any Mexican dish.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Strawberry, Basil & Romaine Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Yesterday, I found organic strawberries on sale - 3 pints for $6.00 and I couldn't pass that up. While at the grocery store my husband and I decided to invite some friends over for a casual dinner and a movie. With our usual dinner-for-two bumped up to four, I had two hours to decide what to make. I had one ingredient down - Strawberries. I tend to cook to fulfill my cravings and for some inexplicable reason I was craving hamburgers. Hamburgers with all the fixings sounded good for a casual dinner. Should I make caesar salad as a side? I was sure that there would be some snacking going on during the movie so I didn't want dinner to be too heavy. Eureka! What if I use the strawberries in the salad? Result: an awesome light side dish that works well with burgers!

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Strawberry, Basil & Romaine Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the Salad
3 hearts of romaine, rinsed
2 pints of strawberries, rinsed
large bunch of fresh basil, 20 leaves

For the Dressing
3/4 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon minced red onion
freshly ground pepper

1) Chop romaine into bite sized pieces and place in salad bowl.
2) Cut tops off of the strawberries and slice in quarters. Mix strawberries into romaine - leaving some to decorate the top of the bowl.
3) Role basil leaves into a tube shape and slice thin strips. Mix basil into the romaine and strawberries - leaving some to decorate the top of the bowl.
4) Assemble all of the dressing ingredients in a seperate bowl -- so everyone can use their own desired amount of dressing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tomato Sandwich

Now that I have homemade mayonnaise, I have three days to use the batch. To begin with, my craving to make the mayonnaise started with my craving for a tomato sandwich. A what? Yes, a tomato sandwich. I must have had a hundred of these while growing up from junior high until now. My mom made these all the time during the summer, and one day I wanted one too, I guess. Now, I'm not talking about some mealy, pale-faced, flavorless tomato; I'm talking about a deep-red, farm-fresh, ripe piece of fruit. My mom and dad have always kept a nice garden, and tomatoes were a big part. I think that is why I appreciate a wide variety of vegetables as an adult because after caring for the plants it was exciting to taste the end result (even if I didn't like it). So, a tomato sandwich -- nothing could be easier and more simply delicious. Hey, it's just a BLT without the B & L.

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Tomato Sandwich

2 slices of good sandwich bread
1-2 ripe red tomatoes
mayonnaise (preferably homemade mayonnaise)
basil (optional)

1. Slice tomatoes into thick round slices - about 3/4 of an inch
2. Lightly toast bread
3. Slather with desired amount of mayonnaise. Add several fresh basil leaves if you have them, and enjoy the fresh flavors of summer.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Homemade Mayonnaise

Years ago I read an article about how the taste of homemade mayonnaise is worth the extra effort. I filed that away in the back of my mind on the "to-do-someday" list. Years later I ran across a recipe. I tried it. I crashed and burned.  I ended up with some concoction that looked like salad dressing. Frustrated, I didn't try to make mayonnaise again for months. One day, feeling confident I visited YouTube and searched "homemade mayonnaise." I thought if I could just watch someone make mayonnaise, then certainly I would be able make it. And, there are several YouTube videos showing how to whip up mayonnaise in a snap. Armed with a new confidence, I tried again and ended up making more salad dressing. I had never been more frustrated trying to make something. Finally, I ran across a tip that now makes mayonnaise making foolproof for me. The first 7 minutes of hand whipping is the most important and will make or break the results. All the recipes I've seen for mayonnaise use language like "pour oil slowly," or "add oil slowly in a thin stream," etc. My mayonnaise breakthrough came when I added the first 1/4 cup of oil in 1/4 teaspoon increments. That's the secret! My other tip - "if at first you don't succeed try try again."

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Homemade Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of prepared mustard
3/4 cup canola oil

1. Place first 4 ingredients in a bowl and whip until blended together

2. Add 1/4 cup of the oil in 1/4 teaspoon increments whipping constantly (about 7 to 10 minutes)

NOTE: this step was the key to my ultimate success in making homemade mayonnaise. When recipes tell you to add oil slow they really mean extremely slow. Adding oil in 1/4 teaspoon increments finally made me realize just how slow I needed to add oil. I don't think I can pour a thin stream slow enough. Maybe someday.

3. Add the rest of the oil in a very slow stream or 1 tablespoon increments and continue
whipping by hand or switch to immersion blender.

Use within 3 days.


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