Monday, August 6, 2012

Asparagus Salad

When I first started cooking, I wanted to create and execute dishes top chef style.  I was always trying to think of intricate recipes with lots of ingredients that would result in some mouth explosion of culinary genius.  That's all good and great, but I'm not a top chef nor am I on a television show.  I'm just trying to cook food that tastes great and is healthy.  My adventures in the kitchen and my journey learning about food has lead me to become more of a traditionalist.  Simple food is best.  My food philosophy- choose quality food and let it shine.  Good food speaks for itself.  It doesn't need to be dressed up in a snazzy outfit.

This seasonal asparagus salad is an expression of that idea.  Seasonal food not only tastes better but is better for the environment. In addition, when you prepare food with a simplistic perspective, it's easier and faster than creating an elaborate dish. This salad takes about 15 minutes, tops.  When you make this salad take a minute to actually think about how good the asparagus tastes. It's a novel idea that we often don't consider when we are inhaling food.  Slow it down and appreciate.

What makes this bite better?
Asparagus is a super-food high in Vitamin K, folate, phytosterols, polyphenols, flavonoids, ascorbic acid and saponins.  Studies have shown these components to reduce cholesterol and increase antioxidant defense in the body. Asparagus is used in chinese medicine to purify the lungs and is a fundamental component of Ayurvedic medicine used to regulate hormones, reduce inflammation, prevent gastric ulcers, treat nervous and liver disorders and fight infection.  Plus, it's a known aphrodisiac.
Asparagus Salad
1 bunch of Asparagus
Parsley about 1 Tablespoon finely chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (about 2 tbsp)
Lemon Juice (about 1 tbsp)
Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
Walnuts (optional)

Rinse the asparagus and remove the harsh outer skin with a sharp knife or peeler.  Chop into bite size pieces, in any shape you desire.  Finely chop parsley and add to the asparagus.  Gently drizzle olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss the salad to mix.  I used my hands because it's more fun.  If desired add a sprinkle of parmigiano reggiano cheese or a handful of chopped walnuts.  Serve and enjoy :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cobb Salad

When planning a menu for a summer gathering, there are a few variables that must be taken into consideration.  Easy preparation should be a priority.  Most, if not all of the meal needs to be prepared in advance.  No one likes to spend their time in the kitchen while entertaining, especially during the summer.  In addition, it is impossible to anticipate everyone's dietary restrictions or food preferences so it's important to have a meal that is adaptable.  Leaving the assembly to your guests ensures everyone will eat what they want and like.  MYO Cobb Salad is the great way to change up the summer party offerings while keeping things delicious and light.  Plus, I can't resist the urge to use this amazing chalkboard table overlay (it's just a piece of chalkboard painted glass!).

Burgers and hotdogs, step aside.  This is perfect for this weekend's poolside party or backyard bash!

Summer Party: Make Your Own Cobb Salad
 Cobb essentials: Blue Cheese and Bacon
Vegetarian-friendly meat on the side; salt and pepper to taste

What makes this bite better?
At this point in the summer everyone has had their fill of burgers and hot dogs.  Salads can be surprisingly filling and serve as refreshing substitutes to the typical summer spread.  Substituting Balsamic Vinegar dressing instead of a heavy blue cheese dressing saves lots of calories and improves the profile of the dish.  To save a few more calories, remove the yolks of the egg whites before adding them to your salad.  This salad is full of healthy protein (grilled chicken and hard-boiled egg) as well as healthy fat (avocado).  Blue cheese and bacon can be added in small quantities to add huge flavor and great texture without tons of calories.

MYO Cobb Salad
Grilled Chicken
Applewood smoked bacon
Blue Cheese crumbles
Hard-Boiled Egg
Mixed Greens/Spinach
Balsamic Vinegar

The trick to a great cobb salad is perfectly cooked chicken and outstanding bacon (not that bacon isn't always outstanding).  All the other ingredients can be easily prepared by slicing, dicing, pouring and tossing.  

Grilled Chicken
The best way to cook chicken is to use a food thermometer to prevent it from drying out.  Trim the excess fat from each chicken breast and season each side with salt and pepper.  Heat a grill pan to high heat and cook the chicken on each side for about 3 minutes (this will create grill marks= visual appeal).  Lower the heat to medium and allow the chicken to cook about 5 more minutes.  Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken.  Remove from heat once the temperature reaches 165 degrees (this is the temperature required to kill salmonella).  Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing.

The Applewood Smoked Bacon from Whole Foods is my favorite.  It's thick cut and incredibly flavorful,  so you only need to use a small amount to gain tons of flavor and texture.