Deconstructed BLT salad is easy to assemble

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This protein-packed salad is a filling meal that’s easy to assemble if you prepare each component ahead of time. It’s like a deconstructed BLT or club sandwich, and just as delicious. It’s another gem from “Raising the Salad Bar,” which I’ve been using a lot more lately for fresh salads for weeknight dinners.

I’ve found that I enjoy salads for dinner instead of lunch because I can assemble them instead of combining them in a tupperware to sit for hours before lunch rolls around. Heartier salads such as this are a great meal to come home to after a long day.

Ingredients
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
5 slices bacon, cooked
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pesto
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups garlic croutons (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise and pesto until well combined. Add the chicken and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes, bacon, and croutons. Add lettuce and toss thoroughly.

A classic treat for sharing

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If you’ve been invited to a barbecue this weekend, you’re probably thinking about what you can bring. Look no further than the original recipe for Rice Krispies treats.

Every time I’ve had a prepackaged Rice Krispies treat, I’ve been disappointed. They’re often too hard and a little bit stale, which is unfortunate because it’s so easy to make these correctly. You just need the recipe below, and about 20 minutes.

Whether or not you’re headed to a barbecue for summer’s last hurrah, this is a good one to have on file for when you need to contribute to your child’s class party or just want to have an after-school treat on hand.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
40 marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies

Grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with butter. Set aside.

In large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add Rice Krispies cereal. Stir until well coated.

Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into pan. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

Perfectly balanced pear salad

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Let’s face it: Salad can be boring. The run-of-the-mill salad — bibb lettuce with chopped carrots and tomatoes, topped with thousand island dressing — that I grew up with never made me too enthusiastic. Then, years ago, I purchased a copy of “Raising the Salad Bar” after reading a review of it in The San Francisco Chronicle. This book has had a home among my cookbooks since then, and I find myself turning to it more frequently during summer months, when I am less inclined to turn on my oven.

The thing I like about this book is that it has salads of all types. Whether you want a summer salad with fruit, like this Mixed Greens and Roasted Pear Salad, or something more substantial with steak, they’ve got it. And every recipe I’ve tried from this book has been good.

This pear salad has a nice sweet flavor accented by crunchy walnuts and cheese that has a bite to it. You can use whatever greens you’d like, and make substitutions as you see fit. I leave the red onions off because they tend to be too harsh for my taste. If you don’t have a food processor for the vinaigrette, you can mash the pear with a fork and stir everything together.

In any case, this was a nice dinner on a hot night. It’s one worth adding to your file.

Ingredients
3 pears, peeled, halved, and cored
Olive oil
1 small head red leaf or bibb lettuce, washed and dried
1 bunch arugula, large stems removed, washed and dried
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 ounces gorgonzola, crumbled
1/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Pear Vinaigrette
1/2 roasted pear (of the three called for above)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, sherry, or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the pears with a little olive oil, place them on a baking sheet cut sides down, and bake for 20-25 minutes. The pears should be browned on the bottom and easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool. Reserve half of one pear for the dressing.

In a large bowl, mix the lettuce, arugula, and red onion.

To make the vinaigrette, place the reserved roasted pear half, oil, apple or pear juice, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Process until mixture is pureed. Add a little more oil or juice to thin the mixture, if necessary. Add enough dressing to coat the salad; mix well, then divide the salad among individual plates. Top each serving with a roasted pear half and sprinkle goat or blue cheese over all. Top with toasted walnuts.

A stunning way to use summer berries

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Summer is a great time to find new ways to use the abundance of berries available in stores. One of my favorite things I’ve made with blueberries is this pie. The combination of citrus, cinnamon, and fresh fruit made the flavor spot-on, and the lattice crust made for a stunning finished product.

If you haven’t attempted to make a lattice crust before, don’t fret. Roll the dough into a circle large enough to cover the top of the pie, then cut it into strips using a knife. Overlap them on the filled bottom crust before popping it into the oven. I recommend checking on the crust about halfway through baking to make sure it’s not burning. If it’s getting brown sooner than you want it to, you can brush it with eggwash.

It’s a beautiful dessert to share.

Crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter or shortening + 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
6 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon ice water

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Combine the flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut half of the butter into the mixture, working it in with the tips of your fingers until it has the consistency of cornmeal. Cut the rest of the butter into the dough and work in until the dough turns into pea-sized balls. Sprinkle the dough with 6 tablespoons of ice water.

Using a fork, blend the water into the dough. If needed to hold the ingredients together, add the remaining water.

Line a 9-inch pan with half the dough. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Combine in a bowl and let sit for 15 minutes:

Ingredients
5 cups blueberries, picked over
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Pour the mixture into the bottom crust and dot with 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces. Shape the remaining dough into a top crust or cut into strips and form a lattice crust. Place on top of pie.

Bake for one hour. Cool completely on a rack.

Fudgy brownies for a friend’s birthday

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When it comes to brownies, most people have a preference: cakey or fudgy. My co-worker, whose birthday is today, prefers the latter. Lucky for her, I have a great recipe for people who like fudgy brownies. I found it in the Spring 2008 edition of Cook’s Illustrated Light Recipes and have used it ever since. It’s also a great recipe to use when you want to experiment with flavors in brownies — whether that means adding mint flavoring, caramel streaks, or using it for a base layer of a more decadent bar.

The article that ran with this low-fat recipe said that the fudgy texture can be attributed to the sour cream used in the recipe — which, unlike many brownie recipes, doesn’t use much butter. In a couple instances where I didn’t have sour cream, I substituted Greek yogurt, which added a slight tang to the finished product. But, it will do in a pinch.

These decadent brownies really hit the spot when you’re particular about the consistency. You can also easily add nuts or chocolate chips. I hope you enjoy them as much as the birthday girl did.

Ingredients
Nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup (or light corn syrup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
1 cup sugar

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Fold two 12-inch pieces of foil lengthwise so that each measures 7 inches wide. Fit one sheet into an 8-inch-square baking dish, pushing foil into corners and up sides of pan (overhang will help in removal of brownies). Repeat with second sheet, placing in pan perpendicular to first sheet. Coat foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Melt chocolate and butter together in bowl set oven pan of simmering water or in microwave set to medium power. Cool 2 to 3 minutes, then whisk in sour cream, chocolate syrup, vanilla, egg, egg white, and sugar. Using rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into chocolate mixture until combined.

Pour batter into pan, spread into corners, and level surface with spatula. Bake until slightly puffed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with sticky crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Cool brownies completely in pan on wire rack, at least one hour. Remove brownies from pan using foil handles. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.To keep brownies moist, do not cut until ready to serve.