A Wedgeless Wedge Salad, the Glover Gardens Way

The Grill-Meister and I love wedge salads. You know, the traditional steakhouse-style that unapologetically showcases iceberg lettuce and blue (bleu) cheese, with ample garnishes of bright red tomato and crunchy bacon?

One version that we really liked (from a steakhouse, of course) added balsamic vinegar syrup. Yeah, baby! That addition took the wedge up to a whole ‘nother level.  It is really simple to make a balsamic syrup – or rather, a balsamic reduction sauce, to use proper cooking terminology.  All you have to do is use twice as much as you want to end up with and cook it in a saucepan, low and slow, ’til it reduces by half. But not longer, or else you’ll end up with balsamic caramel candy. (I know this from personal experience.) Some recipes will tell you to add brown sugar or some nonsense like that – don’t believe ’em! There is plenty of sugar in vinegar already.

123037_640x428
Photo from Kraft Recipes; looks good, but not enough goodies!

We’re kind of picky, and don’t really like the iceberg lettuce to be a big ol’ single wedge.  It looks great, but once you slice into it, there is a lot more lettuce than goodies and you end up wishing you could have more of everything but the lettuce. There just isn’t enough surface space for yummies add-ons with the traditional big wedge. So we split the wedge and arrange them side by side in the salad bowl, waiting to accept all of the lovely goodness this traditional salad has to offer. Photos are at the bottom of the post.

 

We had ribeyes recently, and what goes better with a ribeye than a wedge salad? Am I right? Here is our take on it, the wedgeless wedge.

Glover Gardens Wedgeless Wedge Salad for 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 2 thick slices of red onion, cut in half and separated
  • 12 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (preferably several colors)
  • 4 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
  • blue cheese dressing (purchased or homemade; I used this recipe from Epicurious.com – ingredients below)
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (“lite” is ok, homemade is better if you have it on hand)
    • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 4 oz blue cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives (or green onion tops)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk (or more; this dressing is pretty thick)
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

Put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and cook on medium low for 20 minutes or more until thickened and reduced by half.  Set aside. If you are making the dressing yourself, combine all of the ingredients and whisk until smooth.

Arrange the lettuce in two salad bowls so that it covers the whole surface. Distribute the tomato halves, and then arrange slivers of the red onion in a pinwheel (see below). Put a big dollop of the dressing in the middle of each salad, then drizzle the balsamic reduction around the edge of the salad bowl (don’t be stingy with it).

Sprinkle the bacon, green onions and blue cheese crumbles atop the salad, then add a little salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Glover Gardens "Wedge" Salad
The foundation layer, before all the goodies.
fullsizeoutput_21b9.jpeg
The finished product, after the goodies and balsamic glaze.

We served the wedgeless wedge alongside grilled ribeyes, but they could truly be main course salads. You could add grilled chicken, shrimp or even tofu to amp up the protein.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

 

Root Vegetable Salad with 3-1-2 Balsamic Honey Dijon Dressing

I shared our recipe for the spicy-tangy-easy 3-1-1 Balsamic Honey Dijon salad dressing yesterday and one of you told me privately that you’ll be making it in the next few days. Yay! (I love this validation.)

fullsizeoutput_1f62
Yesterday’s simple salad with the 3-1-1 dressing

We had some dressing left over and here’s what we did with it today.

 

I gathered some random root vegetables that were left over from holiday meals, some toasted pecans, and about a half cup of chopped bell pepper that didn’t get used in last night’s Lobster and Shrimp Pasta Carbonara (another story!). The root vegetables were fennel, a radish, a bit of cauliflower, 1½ carrots and a clove of garlic. I knew these crunchy superstars would be great when paired with the tangy dressing – and I desperately needed a healthy, high-fiber salad to go with our creamy and decadent Lobster and Shrimp Pasta Carbonara.

fullsizeoutput_1f6e
The crunch and tang of the root vegetable salad was perfect with the carbonara

I didn’t jot down the ingredients exactly, but here’s the gist of the salad. It rocked! It was a perfect compliment to the very rich main course.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of sliced fennel bulb
  • 2 tbsp chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 large radish, halved and sliced thinly
  • ½ cup roughly chopped bell pepper
  • ¼ cup sliced cauliflower
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp 3-1-1 dressing – or the 3-1-2 version if you want spicy
  • ½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, then season with salt and pepper.

fullsizeoutput_1f65
The root vegetables and leftover chopped bell pepper
fullsizeoutput_1f68
Chopped veggies, nuts and fennel fronds wait for the dressing
fullsizeoutput_1f6a
This salad feeds about 4 very happy people as a side dish

While this was a throw-down salad to use what we already had, it could star in its own show by accompanying a protein like grilled or seared scallops, grilled chicken breast (drizzle more dressing over the chicken!), grilled shrimp, or even grilled tofu for a vegan meal.

Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens

3-1-1 Balsamic-Honey-Dijon Dressing, or 3-1-2 for the Kicked Up Version

The Grill-Meister and I had a salad at a Landry’s restaurant recently and really loved the dressing. We did some Googling, got some tips, and came up with our own version.  It is super-simple and really, really good, with a tangy kick that gets your taste buds to sit up and take notice.

You can make the 3-1-1 Balsamic-Honey-Dijon in 3 minutes or less, and everyone will rave about it.  The name of the dressing is basically the recipe, and is how we remember the ratios of the ingredients, as in: “Let’s have a salad with that 3-1-1 dressing tonight”.  Until now, of course, when we can look it up here.  Documenting recipes in the Glover Gardens blog is making it so much easier to repeat culinary successes these days.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp excellent quality balsamic vinegar (we get ours at the farmers market)
  • 1 tbsp honey (we also get that at the farmers market)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, or 2 tbsp if you want an extra-spicy version
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cooking Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to mix well. Taste and decide if you want to max out the Dijon.


We serve the 3-1-1 dressing with a very minimalist salad, just mixed greens, halved grape tomatoes and toasted nuts, with more freshly ground pepper. You’ll have some dressing left over unless you’re making salad for a crowd, but it will keep well in the refrigerator.

This versatile dressing is also fantastic drizzled over a chicken breast, used as a marinade for grilled shrimp, tossed with heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers, or…there are a myriad of culinary uses for it. Let me know what you come up with!

fullsizeoutput_1f62

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens

“College Student Comes Home” Dinner: ‘Normal’ Risotto, Chicken Piccata and a Perky Salad

fullsizeoutput_34016Our college student, the musician (majoring in Jazz Composition and having a great time at the University of Texas at Austin), was coming home for the weekend. I called him earlier in the week to find out his requested meal for our quiet dinner at home on Saturday night. It seems like there is usually a big event going on when he comes home, so it was nice to plan on just chilling out, having a family dinner, and watching our Houston Astros play (if they managed to stay alive in the American League Championship Series).

Me: “Did you decide on your meal request?”

My son: “Risotto.”

Me: “What kind of risotto?”

My son: “Well, I don’t really like shrimp in risotto…just the normal kind.”

Me (wondering what ‘normal’ means in the risotto context): “Well, without a protein in it, it’s a side dish, not a main dish. Do you mean the kind with garlic and lemon and capers?”

My son: “Capers…oh, Mom! I know what we can for the main dish…”

In unison: “Chicken Piccata!”

We hung up happy, as we love, love, love piccata-anything. We had a plan.

With the menu chosen, I still needed to understand what “normal” risotto is; I haven’t made risotto without some kind of protein in it for years.  I know from listening to my son rave that his Dad (my ex-husband and friend) makes a killer risotto, so I went right to the source: “how do you make your risotto? The main ingredients, I mean.” He answered right away:

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 11.29.25 AM

Excellent! Now that I understood the “normal” context, I was able to concoct something lovely following his framework, sautéing about 1 1/2 cups of cremini mushrooms and a couple of chopped green onions in butter first, separately, and setting them aside, then, in a deep and heavy-bottomed pan, sautéed half a yellow onion and a ton of garlic, adding the arborio and toasting it quickly before beginning the time-consuming process of adding stock a bit at a time, which I had boiling on the back burner.

After all the stock was absorbed and the rice had turned creamy, I added the mushrooms, grated a bit of hard cheese from the fridge which might have been Parmesan or Romano, but I think it was more likely Manchego (it was in a baggie but not labelled, which is how we roll here at Glover Gardens and I hope you can still respect me). Rummaging around, I found the rest of a container of Boursin cheese, about 1/4 cup, and then threw it in for good measure. Some salt and freshly ground pepper, and then – Yum!!!

chicken-piccata
Chicken Piccata photo from Epicurious

I turned to Epicurious for the Chicken Piccata recipe, using this one. It was great, and all I did to enhance it was to double the lemon and capers.  That’s also how we roll here at Glover Gardens.

I had intended to round out this classic meal with steamed broccoli and more lemon, but forgot to buy it during the Saturday grocery run.  What to do? I needed something bright, with acidity, crunch and contrasting flavors to complement the richness of the risotto. Rummaging again, I found a fresh jalapeño and one lonely carrot and decided gather a few more strange bedfellows and throw together a quick and perky salad for three.

Perky Salad (serves 3)

Ingredients

  • 1 small green apple, chopped in small pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and then shredded with the peeler
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 10 grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1 1/2 TBSP white balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and toss.

The result of this college-student-comes-home requested dinner was delightful, and I’m very grateful to be reacquainted with “normal” (delicious!) risotto. I’ll be making the crazy Perky Salad again soon – it was a wonderful foil to the warm richness of the risotto and the chicken and would go very well with grilled meats, too. The white balsamic vinegar is a real winner, adding the perfect tanginess.

Chicken Piccata, Risotto and Perky Salad.jpg

And finally, the whole evening was made perfect by the results of the Astros-Yankees Game 7 of the National League Championship Series we watched together – Go Astros!!! The video below is from USA Today Sports, and beware if you visit – the haters are already hating that they Yankees didn’t win and ensure the “perfect” World Series matchup with the Dodgers, and their comments are really nasty.  Sigh.

Well, haters or not, World Series, here we come!!!

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

Fruit Salad Slaw (not as weird as it sounds)

The Grill-Meister isn’t a big fan of most vegetables, but I’m on a lifelong mission to pull him over to the bright side.  One way I’ve been successful in this mission over the past few years has been with slaws.  I can throw together a quick slaw as a side dish, and he’ll usually eat it without grumbling (much).  But he came to love, love, love slaws after having the Mango Coleslaw at Peli Peli, an upscale Houston-area eatery that serves South African food with a twist. The twist being…”fusion”, including the use of marinades and spices that have Dutch, Asian and Portuguese roots, alongside big American meats and seafood. It works! I could go on and on about Peli Peli, one of my favorite restaurants, but this isn’t a restaurant review post, it’s a recipe post.

One of the best things about Peli Peli is that it moved the Grill-Meister from slaw-tolerant to slaw-loving. Adding those dried mangoes did it.

Of course, now that he is a slaw connoisseur, the Grill-Meister gets a little more involved in the slaw assembly, or would that be slaw-sembly? After tasting my latest, in which I dutifully added dried fruit and a little fresh fruit, too, he frowned, paused thoughtfully, and said, “Pretty good. Would be awesome if you added toasted pecans.”

So I did. And he was right. The recipe is below. I decided to call it Fruit Salad Slaw, because without a few of the ingredients, it would be a lovely fruit salad.

Ingredients

Salad

  • 6 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit (see notes below)
  • 1 cup chopped tart green apple, cored and seeded but not peeled
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans (click here for instructions)

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup orange juice (fresh if possible)
  • 2 tbsp high quality extra virgin olive oil (plain is ok, but if you have fruit-infused oil, it will be even better)
  • 2 tbsp high-quality balsamic vinegar (white balsamic would be prettier)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

Cooking Instructions

Combine the slaw ingredients in a medium serving bowl and stir to distribute.  Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, then pour over the slaw ingredients, tossing to combine well.

fullsizeoutput_15ef
This is a half recipe, for the Grill-Meister and I are empty-nesters; see how vibrant the colors are before the dressing is added?
fullsizeoutput_1626
The Fruit Salad Slaw was wonderful! But the dark balsamic vinegar gave it a bit of a dingy look

We served the Fruit Salad Slaw alongside Blackened Tilapia, and it was a perfect complement for the crisp, spicy fish. The other side is halved grape tomatoes, halved fresh mozzarella (cherry sized) and green onions, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I usually serve them as an appetizer.

Notes (Lots of Notes)

You’ll see in the quick pic above of the finished product that the balsamic vinegar – which tasted wonderful – gave the slaw a bit of a dingy look. I’m going to invest in a good-quality white balsamic this Saturday during my farmers market run and make it again.

Also, I had on had some blood orange-infused olive oil, and it really jazzed up the dressing. The Fruit Salad Slaw would still be good without it, but you might want to grate a bit of orange zest on it if you are using plain olive oil.

The dried fruit I used is from HEB (a wonderful grocer in Texas), and it is just “mixed dried fruit”, the mix being apricots, prunes, apples, peaches and pears. You could use any combination, or just one. Interestingly, the Grill-Meister didn’t notice that this mixture doesn’t include dried mangos, like his beloved Peli-Peli slaw.  

001178542

Resources

 

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Confetti Shells Pasta Salad

I tinker with ingredients when I need a quick side and this recipe is one of the results. After tasting it, my Bonus Son said, “Whatever you did to make this salad, you need to write it down. It’s perfect.” 

Confetti Shells Pasta Salad

Cooking Time: About 30 Minutes; Serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces small pasta shells or other small pasta, uncooked
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c. finely diced yellow bell pepper
  • 1/3 c. roasted red peppers in oil, chopped, oil reserved
  • 1/2 c. coursely chopped very ripe tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 c. petite frozen peas (they’ll thaw in the salad)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cheese (small cubes); mozzarella or gouda is quite nice

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp oil from roasted peppers
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 3 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking Instructions

Gather all ingredients, chopping, dicing and measuring as indicated.  Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package; drain. Combine all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl. Then combine the rest of the ingredient in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let it sit for a while for the flavors to “marry” and the peas to thaw.

IMG_0408
All the ingredients for this simple side
IMG_0413
This brightly-colored and easy (but sophisticated-tasting) salad is a great summer side dish
IMG_0416
We often pair the Confetti Shells Pasta Salad with Plank-Grilled Salmon, pictured above (find the recipe here).

Add grilled chicken breast slices to make this a main dish rather than a side salad.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Cool Off in the Hot Summer with Salmon Louie Salad

In the late summer when the heat is getting you down, it’s time for a gigantic salad for dinner.  The Grill-Meister is partial to Crab Louie (or is it Louis?) Salad but also loves when we have plank-grilled salmon for dinner, so one night we decided to combine the two ideas and make a Salmon Louie Salad. And we threw on some grilled shrimp, too. Yum!

fullsizeoutput_15ff.jpeg
Doesn’t that just look like it will cool you down on these blistering August days?

This is a super-easy one-dish meal, although you could serve a crusty french bread with it.  There isn’t really a firm recipe or amounts for the salad part, but I’ll talk you through it. Leave out the shrimp if you want; it’s good but not necessary for the meal to be glorious.

Ingredients

  • Your favorite salad greens (we like a mix)
  • Enough boiled eggs so that you won’t be fighting over them
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Tomato wedges or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Sliced avocado
  • Sliced bell peppers (red, green, yellow)
  • Sliced red onions
  • Croutons
  • Grilled shrimp (1 lb peeled and cleaned shrimp, 1 tbsp olive oil, seasoning mix)
  • Plank-grilled salmon (recipe here) – see ingredients list in that recipe, and don’t forget the plank!
  • Thousand Island dressing or your favorite (no need to stick with tradition here if there’s something you like better); I like this Remoulade
  • Salt and liberal amounts of freshly ground pepper

Cooking Instructions

Start with the plank-grilled salmon recipe, because you’ll have to soak the plank for at least 30 minutes, make the spice rub and apply it to the fish, and heat up the grill.

Salmon After Spice Rub
The spice rub assembles quickly and is just the right balance of sweet and spicy

Toss the shrimp with olive oil and about 2 tsp of your favorite Southwest or Cajun spice mix (we always use my Zippy Southwest); if you don’t have a spice mix on hand, try 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper).  Set aside with the fish.

Prepare the plates and start layering on the goodies, starting with a big fluffy base of greens and arranging the rest of the ingredients except the croutons all over each plate, leaving space in the middle for the salmon filet. Store the plated salads in the refrigerator until you’re ready for them.

If you’re making the remoulade, now’s the time.

img_0457
Remoulade before mixing; it goes really well with salmon

Grill the salmon according to the directions in the recipe.

Salmon in the Grill
I add a few sliced red onions and poblano peppers if there is room left on the cedar plank.

Throw the shrimp on the grill after you remove the salmon (tent foil over the salmon while it is resting and after adding the honey drizzle called for in the recipe).  The shrimp cook pretty quickly on a hot grill, about 2 minutes per side.

Add a salmon filet, some grilled shrimp and the croutons to each plate, then add a sprinkling of salt and generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Serve with the dressing of your choice; I like to serve it on the side.

fullsizeoutput_1603

This salad goes really well with a crisp Rosé or Sauvignon Blanc, if you’re a wine drinker.

Enjoy! (And cool off.)

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook