Asparagus chicken and penne salad

Asparagus, chicken, and penne salad

Here’s a light, refreshing pasta salad that still has enough substance to make it a meal. It is simple and easy to make and very flavorful.

The idea for this salad, like some of my other pasta salads, came from the deli section of the supermarket where I shopped back in Indiana. They had a large selection of interesting pasta salads which I looked over as I waited for meat to be sliced. I never actually bought any of the salads for a number of reasons: Most did not have meat or seafood, and I was interested in pasta salads as a main course. I’m sure their salads had too much salt. And if I made the salad myself, I could include more of the good stuff, as with this salad. More asparagus, less pasta.

I usually have clear preferences for the types of pasta to be used for each of my salads. The shrimp pasta salad needed the tri-color rotini to go with the colors of the shrimp, scallions, and green and red pepper. Farfalla seems to have the right shape to go with the pieces of romaine in the pasta Caesar salad. And for this salad, the shape of the pieces of asparagus absolutely requires the penne pasta.

Asparagus, chicken, and penne salad

1 cup cooked chicken breast in bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup penne pasta
1–1/2 cups asparagus, 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 small or 1/2 clove garlic, pressed
1/8 teaspoon herbes de Provence
fresh ground pepper

freshly grated Parmesan

Some time before serving, cook the pasta following package directions. Drain and rinse.

Put the asparagus into boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking and keep green color.

Put pasta, asparagus, and chicken in a bowl and chill.

When ready to serve, whisk or shake in a small jar the oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices. Pour over salad and mix. Put the salad on the serving plate and top with freshly grated Parmesan.

Advertisements
Green and red pepper and bacon frittata

Green pepper, roasted red pepper, and bacon frittata

This frittata was conceived as a juxtaposition of textures and flavors. The softness of the roasted red pepper contrasts with the crunchiness of the green bell pepper while the crisp bacon adds another aspect. Likewise, the mild red pepper, the stronger green pepper, and the smoky bacon offer very different flavors.

A note on the preparation. I briefly cooked the green pepper in the bacon fat for just 30 seconds. The idea was not to actually cook the pepper–I didn’t want to lose the crispness and dark green color. Instead, the purpose was to just take the edge off the grassy, mildly bitter flavor of green bell peppers. I think this worked.

Green pepper, roasted red pepper, and bacon frittata

4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 cup green bell pepper, sliced and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup roasted red pepper, sliced and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 eggs
vegetable oil

Cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on a papper towel.

Keeping the bacon fat in the pan, while still hot, add the green bell pepper pieces and cook for just 30 seconds and remove from the pan.

Pour out the bacon fat and wipe 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 peppers and bacon 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.

Ham and cheese salad

Ham and cheese salad

A very simple salad that just sounded good.

Ham and cheese is a classic sandwich combination. So why not for a salad? And mustard is standard for the sandwich, so I did a vinaigrette heavy on the mustard.

Ham and cheese salad

romaine lettuce, chopped into smaller pieces
1/3–1/2 cup ham, cubes
1/3–1/2 cup medium cheddar, cubes
carrots, sliced
green bell pepper, cut-up strips

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1–1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
fresh ground pepper

Put the ham, cheese, and vegetables on the romaine. Whsk or shake in a small jar the oil, vinegar, mustard, and pepper. Spoon over the salad.

Antipasto pasta salad

Antipasto pasta salad

I wanted to make a pasta salad with a lot of different ingredients and a lot of flavor. I thought of my antipasto salad. This is essentially the same salad but substituting the farfalla for the romaine lettuce. It worked well.

Antipasto pasta salad

3/4 cup farfalla

1/3–1/2 cup salami in bite-sized pieces
1/3–1/2 cup provolone in bite-sized pieces
4 artichoke hearts, cut in quarters
8 grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2–3/4 roasted red pepper, sliced and cut into smaller pieces
8 Kalamata olives, cut in half lengthwise
8 green olives, cut in half lengthwise
8 basil leaves, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspooon oregano
1 small clove garlic, pressed
fresh ground pepper

Cook pasta following package directions. Rinse, drain, and let cool.

Combine other ingredients with pasta in a bowl. Add the salami and provolone small amounts at a time and mix to keep pieces from sticking together. Add artichoke hearts last to minimize breaking them up.

Whisk or shake in a small jar the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic, and pepper. Pour over the salad and lightly mix.

Balsamic brussel sprout and chicken salad

Balsamic brussel sprout and chicken salad

I wanted to try a salad with brussel sprouts in place of the traditional lettuce. I have seen bags of shaved brussel sprouts in several stores, making this very easy. (You could, of course, cut up whole brussel sprouts. If using a mandolin, watch your fingers!) Having had brussel sprouts with balsamic vinegar, I immediately thought of a balsamic vinaigrette as the dressing. I made the same dressing I used for the beet salad.

For an additional vegetable both for variety in taste and for appearance, I chose radishes. Brussel sprouts are strongly flavored. I wanted something that could stand up and complement that.

Likewise, for the chicken I chose to use the thighs as being more full-flavored than the breasts. And a balsamic and honey sauce continued the tastes from the rest of the salad.

Balsamic brussel sprout and chicken salad

1 or 2 boneless skinless chicken thighs (depending on size and appetite)
olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey

shaved brussel sprouts
radishes, sliced

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

Heat olive oil in a pan. Cook the chicken thigh(s) until nicely browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and let it rest for a few minutes. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Put the chicken back in the pan with the balsamic vinegar and honey. Heat through, turning the chicken pieces so they are thoroughly coated with the balsamic and honey.

Combine shaved brussel sprouts with most of the sliced radishes. Shake in a small jar the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, and pepper. Pour as much as desired over the brussel sprouts and radishes and toss to get everything coated with the dressing. Top the brussel sprouts with a few radish slices as a garnish, drizzling additional vinaigrette over the radishes. Add the chicken.

New Orleans frittata

New Orleans frittata

The New Orleans tostada got me thinking about making a New Orleans frittata. (It was also the case that I had some of the andouille sausage left in the freezer from making the tostada.) In making the tostada, I couldn’t make up my mind and ended up topping the tostada with both andouille sausage and cajun shrimp. This worked because I could put the sausage on one tortilla and the shrimp on the other. But I didn’t think combining the sausage and shrimp in a frittata made sense. So I decided to go with just the sausage. (I’ll be making a cajun shrimp frittata sometime in the future to make up for not including the shrimp here.)

Then as far as other ingredients for the frittata, the red beans for the tostada included onion, green pepper, and garlic. These sounded good for the frittata as well. And some cayenne pepper.

New Orleans frittata

1 to 1–1/2 andouille sausages sliced in half lengthwise and then sliced, 3/4 to 1 cup
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
olive oil

3 eggs
olive oil

Brown the sausage in olive oil. Add onions, green pepper, and cayenne pepper, reduce heat and cook until softened, adding garlic for the last minute. Remove from 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 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 sausage, onions, and pepper into the eggs and 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.

Ham and bean tostada

Ham and bean tostada

Ham and beans are a classic soup combination. And beans suggest to me a possible tostada. Here is a ham and bean tostada with the tortilla topped with a ham, carrot, and bean mixture made much like the soup but without the excess broth.

As with the New Orleans tostada I’m using canned beans rather than going through the effort of using dry beans. The beans I found were simply labeled white beans, but great northern beans or navy beans are very similar. Ham and bean soups typically have carrots, so those are included as well.

For the ham, I found a small bag of cubed ham which was just perfect. Some markets sell individual ham steaks which could be cut into cubes. Or you could get a very thick slice of ham at the deli counter.

For topping the frittata, I chose to add more ham and sliced carrots (raw here, of coures). And for the vinaigrette, vinegar is often served as a condiment with ham and bean soup. So I made the proportion vinegar higher than in a typical vinaigrette and included no additional flavorings, as I wanted the vinegar to be the focus. I think that worked well.

Ham and bean tostada

1 can great northern, navy, or other white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup carrots, small pieces
1/4 cup ham, small cubes
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 bay leaf
oil

2 corn tortillas
oil

romaine lettuce, chopped
ham, cubes or other small pieces
carrots, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Saute the onion in oil, adding garlic for the last minute. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth, ham, carrots, and spices. Cook for 30 minutes, adding more chicken broth as necessary to just keep from drying out.

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 the ham and bean mixture. Put the romaine, ham, and carrots on the beans. Whisk or shake in a small jar the oil and vinegar. Spoon the vinaigrette over the salad.