Greek chicken tostada

Greek chicken tostada

The idea for this salad came from a (very Mexican) tostada I had for lunch recently at the Huntington Library and Gardens near Pasadena. Most tostadas top the tortillas with the standard refried beans made with pinto beans. This tostada used black beans instead, making it distinctive and very good.

This got me thinking about whether some other types of beans might also be used to make a tostada. How about garbonzo beans/chickpeas? And you can buy this with the beans already mashed up and seasoned, ready to use: hummus.

Once I decided to make a tostada with hummus, an Eastern Mediterranean theme was obvious. I chose Greek, with feta cheese and Kalamata olives, but I wanted something else. Since I was already using one dip from that part of the world, I thought about tzatziki, the Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce/dip, which I really like. But it didn’t seem to be quite right putting dollops of tzatziki on the tostada. Instead, I put cucumber pieces on the salad and made a dressing based on the ingredients in tzatziki.

I started the dressing with my standard vinaigrette ingredients of 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, to which I added 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt. This produces a slightly thickened dressing that you might call a tzatziki vinaigrette and would be one option. I decided I wanted a thicker, creamier dressing more like tzatziki and added a third tablespoon of yogurt and then a fourth. My suggestion is to proceed in this way, stopping when you get a consistency that you like.

I think the key to this salad is moderation and balance. You don’t want too much of any one ingredient such that it dominates.

Greek chicken tostada

4- or 5-ounce piece of chicken breast
2 corn tortillas
vegetable oil
hummus
spinach, chopped
1 cup (or so) cucumber, in small pieces
Kalamata olives, cut in half
feta cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 to 4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill

Bake the chicken breast in advance. When cool, pull it apart to make shredded chicken.

So the dressing can be well chilled, an hour or so before serving, mix the olive oil, lemon juice garlic, dill, and the yogurt. Start with 2 tablespoons yogurt and whisk everthing together to see the consistency. If desired, add more yogurt to get your preferred consistency. Refrigerate the dressing, as it should be well-chilled before serving.

Going in the other direction on temperature, I think the hummus and chicken, which will top the cooked tortillas, should be closer to room temperature, so take them out of the refrigerator an hour or so before making the salad.

Heat a thin layer of oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, put in a tortilla, cook for about 30 seconds on each side until it starts to crisp up. You want it a little crispy but not as hard as a tortilla chip. Repeat with the second tortilla.

Put the tortillas side-by-side on a plate. Spread on a thin layer of hummus. Add the shredded chicken, then the chopped spinach, and on top of that the cucumber pieces.

Whisk the previously made dressing and spoon on top the salad. Top with a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese and the Kalamata olives.

Advertisements
Mac and cheese frittata

Mac and cheese frittata

You may think this sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Comfort food. Simple, familiar, satisfying. I think a basic frittata can be comfort food. But what is perhaps the ultimate comfort food? Macaroni and cheese. So why not make a macaroni and cheese frittata?

I like to use a mix of cheeses. This time it was cheddar, Gruyere, and Parmesan. The previous time I made this I used some goat cheese rather than the Parmesan. So use what you have and what sounds good.

Macaroni and cheese is often made with a crumb crust, so this time I topped the frittata with some buttered bread crumbs. Or you can just top with some extra cheese, which I have also done.

Mac and cheese frittata

3/4 cup cooked macaroni (about 1/3 cup or a bit more uncooked)
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

3 eggs
oil

1/2 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespooons bread crumbs

Put the eggs into a good-sized mixing bowl and beat just to mix them up. Add a bit of oil to the pan and let it get hot. Add a small amount of the eggs to the pan to set the bottom of the frittata to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to medium low. Mix the macaroni and the cheese into the eggs. Pour the mixture into the pan. Cook this for about 5 minutes to set the bottom and sides.

Preheat the broiler. Mix the bread crumbs with the melted butter. When the 5 minutes cooking on the stove are up, sprinkle on the buttered bread crumbs and place the pan under the broiler, about 6 to 7 inches below. Cook until the top is set and just starts to brown. This is about 1–1/2 to 2 minutes for me, but watch closely.

Remove from the broiler, loosen up the sides with a spatula if necessary, and slide the frittata out onto the serving plate.

Spinach, artichoke, and shrimp salad

Spinach, artichoke, and shrimp salad

This salad was directly adapted from a great side salad that came from one of the Le Cordon Bleu cookbooks. My daughter has made it multiple times with meals, and so have I. It occurred to me that this would also work great as a main course salad with something added. Shrimp seemed to be just the thing to go with this salad.

I’ve used the frozen artichoke hearts when making this salad. I’m usually happy with the canned, but the frozen just seem to work better here.

Spinach, artichoke, and shrimp salad

1 cup shrimp, cooked
1 cup frozen quartered artichoke hearts, cooked

baby spinach
8-10 black olives, cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons roasted pine nuts
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cook the shrimp and artichokes earlier in the day so they can cool. Cooking 2 minutes once they come to the boil is sufficient for both.

Assemble the salad with the spinach, artichokes, olives, shrimp, and pine nuts. Whisk or shake in a small jar the oil and lemon juice. Spoon the dressing over the salad. Grate Parmesan cheese over the top.

Taco frittata

Taco frittata

I wanted to keep this simple. To me, the basic ingredients of a traditional taco are the seasoned ground beef, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. So that’s what I included, except for the lettuce, of course, which I wouldn’t put in a frittata.

For the tomatoes, I find Roma tomatoes are firm and work well for cutting up for a frittata. And for the cheese, I used half sharp cheddar and half Monterey jack, as I had both in the refrigerator. You can obviously vary this. Shredded cheese mixtures specifically for Mexican food would be another possibility.

Taco frittata

1/4 pound ground beef
taco or other southwestern seasoning
oil

1/2 cup tomatoes cut into small cubes
1/2 cup shredded cheese

3 eggs
oil

Heat a bit of oil in a pan. Brown the ground beef, adding a very generous amount of the taco or other seasoning.

Clean out the pan. Put the eggs into a good-sized mixing bowl and beat just to mix them up. Add a bit of oil to the pan and let it get hot. Add a small amount of the eggs to the pan to set the bottom of the frittata to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to medium low. Mix the ground beef, tomatoes, and cheese into the eggs. Pour the mixture into the pan. Cook this for about 5 minutes to set the bottom and sides.

Preheat the broiler. When the 5 minutes cooking on the stove are up, place the pan under the broiler, about 6 to 7 inches below. Cook until the top is set and just starts to brown. This is about 1–1/2 to 2 minutes for me, but watch closely.

Remove from the broiler, loosen up the sides with a spatula if necessary, and slide the frittata out onto the serving plate. Serve with salsa.

Crab Caprese salad

Crab Caprese salad

Tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil are a classic Italian combination, as in Margherita pizza (and my Margherita frittata) and in Caprese salad. This is my take on that salad.

I wanted to add some meat or seafood and went with crab. My market sells, in the seafood case, cooked crab leg clusters that have crab legs about 8 to 10 inches long. I decided to go with those rather than getting fresh or canned crab meat in order to get actual pieces of crab leg to put on the salad. I only added about 2 ounces of crab (maybe even a little less) as the mozzarella provided plenty of additional substance for the salad. You could use crab meat instead.

For tomatoes, Trader Joe’s has those nice mini heirloom tomatoes which I used here, cut in half. Larger tomatoes, sliced, as typically used for Caprese salad would be an equally good option.

The standard Caprese salad does not include lettuce. I like lettuce. Also, larger tomatoe slices can be nicely arranged on the plate, while putting the small tomatoes down on the plain plate would look a little bare.

Then came the question of how to dress the salad. When I first had the idea of doing this salad with crab, I immediately thought about a lemon vinaigrette, as lemon juice always complements seafood nicely. But in looking at recipes online for Caprese salad, a common instruction was to only use olive oil, as vinegar would not go with the mozzarella (though there were several Caprese salad recipes featuring a balsamic reduction). I came up with a two-step compromise. I composed the salad with everything but the mozzarella. I made a vinaigrette using half the lemon juice I would normally use (1 teaspoon of lemon juice with 2 tablespoons of oil rather than 2 teaspoons, the standard 3-to–1 ratio). I put this on the salad and it gave a very subtle lemon flavor without being acidic. I then added the mozzarella and some whole basil leaves and spooned a little more olive oil over those. I think this worked well and accomplished what I had set out to do.

Crab Caprese salad

baby lettuce
tomatoes
mozzarella cheese
crab
basil, torn into pieces with some whole leaves for the top

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Arrange lettuce, tomatoes, crab, and the torn basil pieces on the plate. Whisk or shake in a small jar 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Pour over the salad. Put the mozzarella and whole basil leaves on the salad. Spoon the remaining olive oil on the mozzarella and the basil leaves.

Pepperoni and artichoke frittata

Pepperoni and artichoke frittata

I love artichokes. And I find they really pair well with other foods with robust flavors such as sun-dried tomatoes in this frittata and salad or in the antipasto salad. In this frittata, the artichokes are coupled with pepperoni. Add some Italian cheeses and it makes a very tasty frittata.

A couple of notes on preparation: Pepperoni slices have a tendency to stick together and form clumps. I find it best to add these to the eggs first, a few at a time, to get them mixed in with minimum clumping. Also, I add the artichokes last to minimize stirring the eggs with them and breaking them up. I use around a half of a standard-size can of artichoke hearts. They can vary in size. Smaller ones I cut into quarters, larger ones into fifths. The way I cut into (approximate) fifths is to first cut the artichoke in half off-center. Then cut the smaller piece in half and the larger one into thirds.

Pepperoni and artichoke frittata

1/2 cup pepperoni slices cut in half
4–5 artichoke hearts cut into quarters or fifths (1/2 standard size can)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella plus more for the top
1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for the top

3 eggs
olive oil

Put the eggs into a good-sized mixing bowl and beat just to mix them up. Add a bit of oil to the pan and let it get hot. Add a small amount of the eggs to the pan to set the bottom of the frittata to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to medium low. Mix the pepperoni, cheese, and artichokes into the eggs. Pour the mixture into the pan. Cook this for about 5 minutes to set the bottom and sides.

Preheat the broiler. When the 5 minutes cooking on the stove are up, sprinkle on additional cheese and place the pan under the broiler, about 6 to 7 inches below. Cook until the top is set and just starts to brown. This is about 1–1/2 to 2 minutes for me, but watch closely.

Remove from the broiler, loosen up the sides with a spatula if necessary, and slide the frittata out onto the serving plate.

Beet salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and chicken

Beet salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and chicken

This is my take on a classic salad. The combination of ingredients is hardly original, though I haven’t seen chicken added to make it a main-course salad. I liked the dressing I came up with, a vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar, honey, and a generous amount of Dijon mustard. I think it went well here and I plan on making it for other salads. One note: I have absolutely decided that for any vinaigrette that includes honey, putting the ingredients in a jar and shaking to combine is the only way to go. Especially with the small quantity involved for a salad for one, trying to whisk the ingredients together is just too difficult.

A few other comments: I don’t give a quantity for the number of beets to use because they vary so much in size. I happened to get quite small ones and used three, but with some very large beets one would be more than enough. The same goes for how to cut the beets for the salad. With my small beets, cutting them into wedges gave pieces that were a good size and looked nice. But a large beet would have to either be diced or sliced and then the slices cut into wedges. Likewise, the length of time required for roasting will obviously depend on the size.

For the walnuts, I used the plain toasted shelled walnuts. If you like candied nuts, go ahead, but that’s not my thing. Also, I suggest going with the “whole” walnuts, not the chopped. I used the quotes because numbers of the pieces were broken, which was fine. Indeed, I broke the whole pieces in half for the salad. But I think this is better than the smaller chopped pieces.

Beet salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and chicken

beets
olive oil
salt

spring mix lettuce
cooked chicken breast, in bite-sized pieces
goat cheese
walnuts

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F for roasting the beets. (If you have an uncooked chicken breast, you can bake it at the same time.) Wash the beets and cut off most of the stems, leaving about an inch. Place the beets on a sheet of foil (I used 2 layers), sprinkle on a little olive oil and a bit of salt and roll the beets in the oil to coat. Wrap the foil tightly and put the beets in the oven. The beets are done when a knife goes in easily when you pierce a beet. You can do this through the foil without unwrapping and just put them back in the oven if they need more time. The small beets I had were done in 45 minutes. Larger beets could take an hour.

After taking the beets out of the oven, wait until the beets are cool enough to handle. Cut off the top and bottom of each beet. Remove the skins. It may work to use paper towels to rub the skins off, or you may have to use a knife to peel. I would suggest doing this right over the foil package and using disposable gloves–everything is going to get very red! Cut the beets into bite-sized pieces for the salad, doing this on a papper plate, a piece of parchment paper, or something else disposable rather than staining your cutting board.

I would suggest having this done an hour or two before you make the salad, leaving the beets and chicken out at room temperature.

Assemble the salad, putting the beets, chicken, and walnuts on the lettuce. Shake in a jar the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, and pepper. Pour over the salad. Add small pieces of goat cheese.