Author Archives: John Ottensmann

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.

Corn succotash frittata

Corn succotash frittata

First, about the name. I had always understood that succotash was a mixture of corn and lima beans (and dictionaries do too). So when I encountered “corn succotash” describing an accompaniment to an entree on a restaurant menu, my first thought was that this seemed redundant. Succotash includes corn, so why do you need to call a dish corn succotash? When it arrived, another surprise: The corn succotash did not include any lima beans or other shell beans that are sometimes substituted. It did include the corn, of course, along with bacon, spinach, and feta cheese, among other things. It was delicious and served as the inspiration for this frittata. But what about having succotash without the lima beans? I googled for corn succotash recipes and found a variety of dishes, many without beans of any kind, that were described as corn succotash. It seems that this term is used for mixtures of corn with ingredients other than lima beans, with the adjective “corn” added to the succotash to distinguish it from “corn and lima bean” succotash. I still think this is a strange name. But since it is common, I’ll use it here.

As I mentioned, the corn succotash was very tasty. I attempted to recreate it, making it an entree by adding chicken. It came out well, and I’ve made it several times. It occurred to me that the same ingredients, less the chicken, could be included to make a corn succotash frittata. And it was delicious!

Corn succotash frittata

2 strips of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
1–1/2 tablespoons chopped onion
3 tablespoons diced red bell pepper
1 small clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
3/4 cup spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons feta cheese plus more for the top

3 eggs
oil, if needed

Cook the bacon in skillet until crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Cook the onion and red pepper over medium heat in bacon fat until they start to soften. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add the corn and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to cook the corn and combine the flavors. Add the spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted.

Put the eggs into a good-sized mixing bowl and beat just to mix them up. Add a bit of oil to the pan if needed 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 corn mixture, the bacon, and the feta 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, sprinkle on additional feta 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.

Mushroom truffle salad

Mushroom truffle salad

This was directly inspired by my mushroom truffle frittata. I am essentially substituting the lettuce for the eggs and adding chicken to make it a main course salad. I am using plain chicken breast, at room temperature, putting it off to the side, and topping with the vinaigrette along with the lettuce. The goal is for the hot mushrooms to be the star of the salad, with the chicken playing a supporting role.

Mushroom truffle salad

1–1/4 cup shitake mushrooms (caps), sliced
1–1/4 cup crimini mushrooms (caps), sliced
vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon truffle oil

cooked chicken breast, sliced, at room temperature
baby romaine lettuce
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled or in small pieces, depending on consistency

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon truffle oil

Cook the mushrooms in oil over medium heat at least 10 minutes until nicely browned.

While the mushrooms are cooking, arrange the lettuce on the plate with the chicken off to the side. Whisk or shake in a jar the oil, vinegar, and truffle oil, adding the truffle oil to taste. Pour over the lettuce and the chicken.

When the mushrooms are browned, add the truffle oil and cook one more minute. Put the mushrooms on the salad and add the goat cheese.

Croque Monsieur frittata

Croque Monsieur (or Madame?) frittata

Croque Monsieur is a French bistro classic. This is a sandwich made with ham and cheese (often Gruyere) that is topped with Béchamel sauce. I have already made a ham and Gruyere frittata, so I thought why not top it with some Béchamel sauce to make a Croque Monsiuer frittata? It may seem unusual to top a frittata with the sauce. But after all, how unusual is it to top a sandwich with the sauce?

A note about my ambiguity regarding the name. A variant of the Croque Monsieur has a fried egg added on top. This is called a Croque Madame. This frittata doesn’t have a fried egg, but given this is a frittata, the ham and cheese are inside of the egg. So maybe it should be called a Croque Madame frittata. I’ll leave the choice up to you.

Croque Monsieur (or Madame?) frittata

1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup hot milk
2 tablespoons grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
dash of white pepper
dash of nutmeg

3/4 cup ham cut into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

3 eggs
oil

grated Gruyere cheese to sprinkle on top

I make the Béchamel sauce first because I don’t seem to have quite enough time while the frittata is cooking on the stove. If you’re quicker, you could do it after you start cooking the frittata. But the finished sauce holds fine while the frittata is cooking.

To make Béchamel sauce, put the butter and flour in a small saucepan over fairly low heat. Stir the flour in as the butter melts and continue to cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the hot milk, whisking everything together. Place back on the stove, raise the heat to get the sauce bubbling, and cook to thicken, continuing to stir with the whisk or a wooden spoon. This will take about a minute or so. Add the cheese, mustard, pepper, and nutmeg. Continue heating and stirring for a minute to get the cheese melted and mixed through.

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 egg mixture to the pan to set the bottom of the frittata to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to medium low. Mix the ham and Gruyere cheese into the eggs and pour the mixture into the pan. (It will help to add the ham a few pieces at a time, as the pieces can stick together.) 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, spoon the (thick) Béchamel sauce over the top of the frittata. You want to distribute the sauce over the top, but there is no need to spread the spoonfuls of sauce out to make sure the entire top is covered. As the sauce heats under the broiler, it will soften and spread out evenly by itself. Sprinkle on the additional Gruyere. Place the pan under the broiler, about 6 to 7 inches below. Cook until the top 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.

Chicken adobo salad

Chicken adobo salad

Chicken adobo is often called the national dish of the Phillipines. The chicken is cooked with soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic. I thought this would be good for a salad.

The first recipe I found when looking for ideas online said that a distinctive aspect of adobo chicken is that the chicken is cooked in the liquid first and then browned at the end. This is just the opposite of many dishes such as chicken fricasee and coq au vin where the chicken is browned first. But other recipes did have you browning the chicken first, and still others didn’t brown at all. I decided to cook in the liquid and then finish with a quick browning under the broiler.

Then came the the question of what to do with the rest of the salad. I know nothing about Filipino cuisine, so back to Google for ideas. I found recipes for just about any kind of salad, many using familiar ingredients. I saw several recipes that combined cucumbers and carrots, both in a straight cucumber salad (with red onions) and in a slaw, with cabbage. I thought these would go well.

Vinegar is a primary ingredient for the dressings for some cucumber salads, so having the cucumber with the adobo chicken with the vinegar was a good choice. To emphasize the vinegar on the salad, I altered the proportions for my dressing, using equal amounts of oil and the soy-vinegar mixture from the chicken.

Chicken adobo salad

2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup white vinegar
5–6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
fresh ground pepper

spring mix lettuce and spinach
cucumber, sliced thin
carrots, sliced thin
red onion, sliced very thin

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Put the chicken thighs in a pan with the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and pepper. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, turning the chicken over once about half way through.

Remove the chicken thighs. Place them under the broiler for 2 or 3 minutes to brown. Then let them rest a few minutes before slicing.

Take 2 tablespoons of the soy-vinegar cooking liquid and combine with the oil for the dressing. Boil the remainder of the liquid down by at least half, until it starts to thicken, to concentrate the sauce for spooning over the chicken.

Arrange the cucumber, carrots, and onions on the lettuce and spinach. Whisk or shake in a small jar the oil and soy-vinegar mixture. Spoon the dressing over the salad.

Slice the chicken. Place in the middle of the salad. Spoon the reduced cooking liquid over the chicken.