Thursday, November 04, 2010

Mini Chef's Salad

I have been running low on chicken broth but haven't been cooking much chicken so I haven't had any chicken bones lying around to make some. I keep thinking I will just buy some and be done with it, but it is so easy to make my own that I just can't do it. So I went to the Apple Market and bought some chicken legs and poached them for the broth.

I thought I might make chicken salad with the chicken so I hard boiled some eggs, but I didn't really have anything with which to eat it and I didn't feel like making bread. It did occur to me that it might be nice to serve it in a lovely lettuce wrap, and out of that small thought a beautiful salad was born.

The red-leaf lettuce was beautiful at Treasure Island the next day so I bought that, a red pepper, a cucumber and some Campari tomatoes. If I had been thinking I would have grabbed a red onion or some scallions, but I wasn't so I didn't. At least I still had a regular onion on hand. There are some items I always have on hand. Onions and garlic are two of them, because they have a long shelf life and they make everything taste better. Everything savory, that is.

So here's what I did: I shredded, washed, and spun dry the lettuce and put it in a big plastic bag with a few paper towels to soak up any excess moisture that might make it go bad sooner. I peeled the cucumber, sliced it lengthwise, and spooned out the seeds, then sliced it and added it to the lettuce. Then I cut up the red pepper, a few stalks of celery and some onion and added that to the bag as well. I put it in the crisper of my refrigerator and had my own home-made instant salad. I did not put the tomatoes in the bag because they start to go bad the minute you cut them, and they do not do well in the refrigerator.

I put the hard-boiled eggs in a bowl in the refrigerator. I basically shredded the chicken from the bone and put it in a container in the refrigerator as well.

Come the next morning, I got out one of my disposable containers and put a healthy amount of the salad in it. I peeled an egg, quartered it, and spread it evenly around the edges. I quartered a few Campari tomatoes and spread them out over the top. Next came the chicken, laid over the tomatoes. After that, I sprinkled some gruyere cheese I had shredded earlier over the chicken. Finally, a healthy dose of chopped cilantro. There would have been parsley as well if I had any, but you go with what you have.

I had fresh ginger in the crisper that I had bought for some forgotten reason, so I decided to make an Asian-themed dressing. I put that in a small pimento jar I had saved for just such a use, and I took it all to work with me.

I hope the picture shows how fresh all of the ingredients were. I had enough of everything for four lunches. Leaving out the chicken, eggs, tomato and cheese until I was making each individual salad kept everything fresh longer, so the fourth salad was just as fresh and delicious as the first one was.

Doesn't that look much better than those pre-packaged salads? I probably paid as much for my four as one of those costs, too. It takes just a little effort and provides such a huge pay-off, you should really think about taking your own salad to work for lunch. It makes a nice quick dinner as well.

What's that? How did I make the dressing? It was easy - here's how you can make it too:

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I used my own and it was marvelous!)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar)
5 Tbsp white wine vinegar (or any vinegar)
1 Tbsp honey (or to taste)
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp grated ginger (or to taste)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup grapeseed oil (or any vegetable oil)

Combine mustard, vinegars, and honey in a small sturdy bowl. Whisk together until all of the liquids are well combined. Add garlic, salt and pepper and whisk again.

Whisk continuously while slowly adding the olive oil, then the grapeseed oil. Taste and adjust for sweetness, tartness, and seasoning.

Store in the refrigerator. Will last for a couple of weeks at least. (I usually keep condiments, etc., longer than the recommended times and I haven't regretted it yet.)

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