Tag Archives: salad

Surf & Turf Salad: Thai Style Quinoa Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Thai style surf & turf quinoa salad

Upon returning home after traveling and dining out for a few days I was looking very much forward to a home cooked meal last night! After rustling through the cupboards and the freezer I settled on surf and turf in the form of a grouper fillet from my last trip to the Florida Keys, complimented by a small skirt steak. Neither was quite enough for a meal by itself but together I thought I could come up with something special for the two of us.

While exploring the fridge I also stumbled upon a bottle of Thai style peanut dressing I had made just before leaving town and that got me thinking salad would be just the ticket! The first order of business was making a Thai style marinade for the steak and a batch of quinoa that would complement those flavors. For the dressing I had used This Recipe from a blog that I follow and added only a teaspoon of tamarind paste and a splash of fresh coconut milk for a flavor boost.

The salad itself was simply ingredients I had on hand; the base was a “Power Greens” salad mix with chopped red cabbage, grated carrots, and chopped celery. I tossed each portion gently with ½ cup each of the quinoa and garnished the salad with cucumber slices, fresh parsley, and some pickled baby beets that were also on hand. After dressing the salad I set the cooked fish and sliced steak on top and sprinkled everything with a few black and white sesame seeds. I also added a few raw cashews at the table as an afterthought (not in picture).

Thai Marinade for Steak or Fish

2 – Scallions, chopped
1 – 3 inch piece of Lemon Grass stalk, pounded to release flavor
¼ Cup Light Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp – Grape Seed Oil
1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp – Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp – Fresh Garlic, Minced
1 Tbsp – Fresh Ginger, Minced
1 Tbsp – Fresh Lime juice (about ½ of a lime)
1 Tbsp – Fresh lime zest (also about ½ of a lime)
½ Tsp – Sriracha or similar (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients and whisk to combine.  Soak steak until ready to grill (at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours). Soak fish for no more than 20 minutes for best grilling results.

To prepare the meats: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and the grill pan over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Brush the grill pan with a little grape seed oil and place the fish at an angle to the ridges in the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes (depending on thickness), turn and cook 2 minutes more. Place the fish on an oven proof dish and finish in the oven just until the flesh flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is in the oven wipe the grill pan, heat the pan over medium high heat until smoking hot, brush the surface with a little more oil. Make sure your steak is trimmed of any excess fat or silverskin and and place the steak at an angle to the ridges in the pan. Cook without moving for 2-3 minutes, turn and cook 2-3 minutes more (depending on thickness). Rest the steak on a plate for at least 5 minutes before slicing ACROSS the grain.

Thai Flavored Quinoa

1 Cup – Quinoa, rinsed (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Tri Colored Quinoa)
2 Cups – Water
1 Tbsp – Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil
1 Clove – Garlic, whole
2 – 3 inch pieces of Lemon Grass stalk, pounded to release flavor
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Warm a medium saucepan over medium heat, swirl in the sesame oil then stir in the quinoa, garlic, and lemon grass. Toast gently for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally or if you hear popping. Dissolve the dark soy sauce in the water then pour, while stirring, over the quinoa. Raise the heat to medium high and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook 15 minutes more. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and allow it to cool before tossing into your salad, remove the lemon grass and garlic before serving.

To serve prepare your salad base of mixed greens (use your imagination!), grated carrots, cut celery, and red cabbage. Toss gently with ½ cup of quinoa per serving and garnish with sliced cucumbers, radishes, pickled beets or whatever else you like. Drizzle the salad with dressing, place your fish and sliced
steak on top and garnish with sesame seeds and a little sliced scallion.


Mother’s Day Brunch – Tzatziki Chicken Mousse

This is the second in my Mother’s Day brunch series. Although it is not truly a mousse; the term does describe the airy and light consistency. Basically a whipped chicken salad, served with celery sticks or crackers, this is a nice savory “munchie” for in between courses. If you prefer, it would also make a nice tea sandwich or canapé garnished with capers or gherkins. Because of the whipped consistency this dish is best served right away, fresh out of the processor. (Note: This recipe came out quite good using the meat from a rotisserie chicken.)

Tzatziki Chicken Mousse

1 Cup – Cooked chicken meat, white & dark, cubed
1 – Small Shallot, chopped
1 – Celery stick, chopped
¼ Cup – Tzatziki Sauce
1 Tablespoon – Mayo
1/2 tsp – Dried Tarragon
1/2 tsp – fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Pulse the chicken in a food processor until crumbly and continue pulsing while adding the shallot and celery. Add the Tzatziki, mayo, tarragon, and lemon juice and process until quite smooth and fluffy. Check for seasoning and add salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately with celery sticks and crackers.



Mother’s Day Brunch – Shaved Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

I have plans to spend Mothers Day with my mom this year but I won’t have the opportunity to cook for her. For those of you that will, and with Mothers Day a little more than a week away, I wanted to come up with a couple of recipes on a brunch theme with just the touch of class that moms so much deserve.

This simple but classy salad will be the first of several Mothers Day recipes and although it is intended as a salad course for a brunch menu…with a poached egg perched on top (and a warm crusty baguette) this salad made for an elegant yet light dinner entrée for my wife and I last night.

After first slicing the whole tips off of the asparagus spears, I used a vegetable peeler to “whittle” the rest of the stem into shavings. This was a little awkward at first but once I got the hang of it I breezed through the bunch almost before the pot of water even came to the boil. Don’t fuss too much with this step; the rusticity of the shavings add to the appeal of this dish.

I make it a point to mention not to over-dress the salad because last night, I pretty much did just that. I think our dish would have been perfect with a little less of the dressing. This too isn’t complicated, just add the dressing a little at a time until the asparagus is “just” coated. This is also why I emphasize getting the asparagus as dry as possible after blanching it. The point is simply; this salad is best if you don’t drench it with the dressing…use a gentle touch and all will be good!

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

1 Bunch – Asparagus (about 1 Lb.), tough bottoms trimmed away
1 – Med Shallot, diced small
¼ Cup – Prosciutto, thin sliced and cut into (roughly) 1/8” wide strips
¼ Cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of – 1 Fresh Lemon
1 Tbsp – Sherry Vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Asiago Cheese, for garnish
Green Onion, green parts only, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil along with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Meanwhile, cutting at a sharp angle, slice the tips off of the asparagus then using a vegetable peeler, shave the remaining stems into roughly 1 to 2 inch pieces. Place all of the asparagus into a sieve or strainer (that will fit into the pot) and lower it into the boiling water to blanch for 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water and rinse under cold water for at least 1 minute to stop the cooking process. Discard the water.

Spread the asparagus on a paper towel lined cookie sheet and pat dry then move the asparagus to another paper towel lined cookie sheet to make sure excess water is removed. Allow to air dry 10 to 15 minutes before placing it in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and when hot add the olive oil. Stir in the prosciutto strips and cook until dark (but not too dark), 1 to 2 minutes. Strain the prosciutto, reserving the oil. Spread the prosciutto on a paper towel to crisp and return the oil to the pan.

Sauté the shallots about 1 minute, until they just begin to turn transparent, then add a few good grinds of fresh black pepper and the lemon juice. Boil and reduce until the lemon juice begins to turn syrupy, about one minute more. Add the vinegar, return to a boil while stirring, then remove the pan from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon remove most of the shallots from the pan and transfer these to the bowl of asparagus. Set aside some of the prosciutto for garnish then stir the rest into the asparagus. Toss gently to mix the ingredients while adding just enough of the pan juices to moisten the asparagus throughout…do not over dress! (You should have just enough dressing to coat the asparagus but not enough to pool in the bottom of the bowl.)

To serve plate the salad, topped with a poached egg if desired. Garnish with shaved Asiago cheese, some of the crispy prosciutto and green onion tops sliced lengthwise into approximately 1-1/2 X 1/8 inch strips.



Chicken Milanese

How to stretch those dinner dollars – Part 2

Last week when I made the Chicken Casserole I set out to demonstrate a use for my homemade chicken stock. Tonight when I rustled up one of my favorite quick dinners I realized that I was using the second of three large chicken breasts that came in a package my wife bought. The thought occurred to me that it was a great way to demonstrate getting a real value for your food dollar.

Kat picked up a package of boneless chicken breasts at Aldi last week. There were 3 large breast halves in the package weighing in at 2.43 pounds (or about ¾ pounds each) for $6.05. If I could use each of the 3 breasts for the basis for 3 different dinners for two that’s just over a dollar per plate! Sure I use other ingredients in the preparation but the protein is often the most expensive element of a meal. When you’re on a budget and trying to stretch your dinner dollars…a buck a person is an awesome start!

So once again I find myself posting a less than glamorous recipe but hey it’s Monday night after a tough day at work, after the NFL playoffs yesterday. I didn’t feel like spending all night in the kitchen and yes, at the risk of sounding silly I’ll say it again; this too is a Recipe Randy Cooks. It also happens to be one of my favorite ways to use boneless, skinless, chicken breasts.

Because I was using an extra-large chicken breast half I was able to get 4 nice pieces out of one breast by first butterflying it, then dividing it into 4 equal pieces. Here is a video that shows how to butterfly a chicken breast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySB2jgO1ljU&feature=fvw . For this recipe the breasts should be pounded very thin, no thicker than ¼ inch at the very thickest part.

Note that I dump out the oil and wipe the pan after cooking each batch of chicken. This is my secret method of ensuring a perfectly and evenly browned cutlet every time. Oh, and lest I forget… Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette is my favorite salad dressing and it’s a perfect choice in this dish. Traditionally the cutlet is buried under the salad but Kat and I both prefer it alongside so the chicken stays nice and crispy even after drizzling on a little fresh lemon juice.

Chicken Milanese

1 – Large Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast, butterflied and divided into 4 pieces, then pounded to ¼ thickness or less.
2 – Eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp – Water
2 Cups – Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Cup – Whole Wheat or Unbleached Flour
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive or Canola Oil

Salad of Green Leaf Lettuce with Grape Tomatoes and Celery slices.
Salad Dressing
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
Lemon Wedges

In one bowl, season the flour well with salt and pepper and stir to blend. In another bowl, gently beat the eggs and water to combine. Place the Panko Crumbs in a third bowl. One at a time dredge the chicken pieces first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg, then finally in the Panko Crumbs to coat evenly. Place the chicken in a single layer on a foil or parchment lined sheet pan to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.

Warm two tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering hot cook two pieces of the chicken, turning only once, until “light” golden brown on each side. Move the cooked chicken to a paper towel to wick away any excess oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Discard any oil left in the pan and carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then add 2 more tablespoons of oil and repeat the process, cooking the other two chicken pieces.

To serve, toss the salad, tomatoes, and celery with the dressing being careful to use only enough dressing to coat the greens. Place the chicken on the plate and cover partly (or not) with the salad. Top with shaved Parmesan and garnish with lemon slices to finish.



Menu – Fresh Fish Francese with Cool Beans Salad, Zucchini and Yellow Squash

I actually made the dish in the photo one evening while my wife was out of town. After a couple of nights of take-out food I was ready for a real meal so I stopped by Costco on my way home from work. I was happy to find they had one of my favorite fish in the fresh fish section, Corvina! With this beautiful fish and the fresh lemons I already had on hand it wasn’t hard to decide on a theme for my dinner for one.

Often when preparing a meal I look for one common theme that will highlight each part of the menu. Whether it’s garlic, an herb such as thyme or rosemary, or in this case fresh lemon, I use my theme ingredient in each of the dishes I serve. To my thinking this creates a common thread throughout the meal that not only links and compliments the flavors of the food…I think it makes the meal that much more interesting!

The recipes for this menu are written for two but the ingredients can easily be doubled. The Cool Beans Salad is best made ahead of time and refrigerated at least two hours.

Menu – Fresh Fish Francese with Cool Beans Salad, Zucchini and Yellow Squash

For the Cool Beans Salad…

1 – 14.5 oz Can of Cannelloni (white kidney) Beans, rinsed and drained
¼ Cup – Fresh Cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
¼ Cup – Fresh Tomato, mostly seeded, and cubed
1 Branch – Celery, diced
1 – Med Shallot, minced (Optional)
1 Tbsp – Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 Packet – Good Seasons Italian All Natural Salad Dressing Mix
½ Cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ Cup – Fresh Lemon Juice
3 Tbsp – Fresh Water

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the first 5 ingredients. Follow the directions on the package for mixing the dressing, using lemon juice in place of the vinegar. Gently toss the salad with only enough dressing to coat. (There should be very little pooling of dressing in the bottom of the bowl.) Chill before serving.

For the Squash…

Two – Med. Zucchini, Halved lengthwise then cut into roughly ¼” slices
Two- Med. Yellow Squash, Halved lengthwise then cut into roughly ¼” slices
1 – Small Onion, Quartered, then sliced
1 – Sprig Fresh Thyme
1 Tbsp – Fresh Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Warm 1 tbsp of olive oil in a 10” skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer add the onions and cook stirring often until some browning begins to occur. Add the squash (zucchini and yellow) and thyme, and continue cooking.  Stir occasionally until squash is mostly cooked but still a little firm in the center (tender crisp) then season with salt & pepper. Toss with the lemon juice, turn off the heat, and leave the skillet on the burner to stay warm until serving.

For the Fish…

2 Fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each – Fresh Corvina (Grouper, Snapper, or Tilapia may be used)
4 Tbsp – Unbleached or Whole Wheat Flour
2 – Eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
4 Tbsp – Olive Oil

¼ Cup – Dry White Wine
Juice of one half lemon
Slices of one half lemon
2 Tbsp – Unsalted Butter, chilled and cubed into 8 pieces
2 Tbsp – Fresh Herbs such as Parsley or thinly sliced Basil (Pictured)

Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Season fish pieces with salt & pepper, dust each with flour (shaking off excess), then dredge in egg to completely coat. Gently and carefully lay the fish into the pan, you should immediately hear sizzling.

Watch fish closely until you can see good browning around the edges, lifting gently after 2 minutes to check the bottom surface. After 2 to 4 minutes, or when the bottom looks nicely browned but not too brown, gently turn the fish over and repeat. Remove the fish to the serving plates. (Note: If your fish is more than ½ inch thick you may want to place it on a sheet pan in a 325 degree oven to finish cooking while you make your sauce.)

Drain any excess oil from the fish pan and discard. Back on the heat, add wine to the pan and whisk to dissolve any brown bits. Boil until about half the wine has evaporated (reduced), then add the lemon juice and 2 lemon slices. Continue boiling, whisking occasionally, until most of the total liquid has reduced and some thickening has begun. (If the liquid seems to boil too rapidly just move the pan off the heat until it is back under control.)

When the liquid has reduced to almost a syrup, remove the lemon slices and turn off the heat. Add the butter 2 or 3 pieces at a time whisking into the sauce as the butter melts. When each addition of butter has completely melted, add the next 2 or 3 pieces until all has been incorporated into the sauce. By the time the last of the butter has been melted the sauce should be just the right consistency. If it is too thick, stir in a splash of wine to loosen…if it is too liquid just let it cook with the residual heat another minute or so. Just before serving stir in the fresh herbs.

Serve the fish with a lemon slice and the sauce and enjoy!