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.

Hummus meatballs

Meatballs

As a single person, it’s easy to fall into the trap of heating up microwavable meals on a regular basis. Lately, I’ve been avoiding that by broadening my cooking repertoire and finding recipes that are simple enough to make when I get home from a day of deadlines. This week, I needed to make something that would work with the pita I made last weekend. I saw a recipe for Hummus Meatballs in Associated Press Food Editor J.M. Hirsch’s “High Flavor, Low Labor” cookbook — which is loaded with great recipes that are easy to make when you don’t have a lot of time — and decided they would fit the bill.

A few years ago, when I first started teaching myself how to cook, I’d buy every ingredient listed in the recipe I wanted to try. That habit left my cabinets littered with partially full jars of curry paste and specialty spices and ingredients for which I otherwise had no use. I’ve since abandoned that tendency and tried to use what’s already in my kitchen.

For this recipe, I didn’t have a red onion, parsley, cilantro or cumin. I used basil-flavored hummus, which I felt incorporated the herb flavor I might otherwise have missed. I only had white pearl onions, so I chopped a handful of those and substituted them for the red onion. As long as you have the hummus, bread and meat, you can substitute whatever you’d like in this recipe.

I cooked the meatballs for 20 minutes and they ended up being tender and slightly charred on the bottom, which actually tasted pretty good. Next time I make these, I’ll likely add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes because I felt the end result was a little bland.

Ingredients
3 slices whole-wheat bread
1/2 small red onion
1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup prepared or homemade hummus
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground beef (ground turkey could be substituted)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray

In a food processor, pulse the bread until it is finely ground. Add the onion and pulse until it is finely chopped and blended with the bread.

Add the parsley, cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and paprika. Pulse several times, or until thoroughly blended. Add the hummus, egg, salt and pepper, then pulse until blended.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the beef, then mix well.

Use your hands to form the mixture into balls by the tablespoonful. Arrange them on the prepared baking sheet, Spritz the meatballs with cooking spray.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through.

Makes about three dozen meatballs.