Dinner: Impromptu ur Caesar Chicken Salad

A Caesar salad gets away with being so sparse in content because that dressing bullies anything in its path: Romaine, croutons, shavings of Parmesan, grilled chicken, all defer to that mighty dressing, and they like it that way. So it’s no surprise that the chopped Romaine in my fridge was just begging to be a Caesar salad, but I had other ideas.

I bought a bottle of Kerry Wood’s Healthy Salad Dressing recently after sampling it at Whole Foods a few weeks ago, and I’m totally in love with this dressing, big, bold flavors, New Orleans-style.

photoI marinated the chicken cutlets (purchased from one of the most amazing supermarkets I’ve ever seen, under the Queensboro Bridge, literally) in about 2 Tbls. of the dressing, more olive oil, Cayenne pepper, lemon juice, salt, pepper for about 40 minutes before cooking them in a shallow bath of sizzling-hot olive oil (a few minutes each side, or until no longer pink inside).

After the cutlets cooled, I gave them a rough chop, and tossed them in with the romaine — and more Kerry Woods’ dressing. So simple, so good.


Dinner: “This Is Where I Try To Write My First Recipe” Post (Green-Eyed Pasta Salad)

Let’s rock ‘n’ roll. If anyone tries this, let me know how it works: 

(For more on the genesis of the recipe, and the outdoor photo shoot, see my Tuesday, May 26, 2009 lunch post.)


Green-Eyed Pasta Salad

8 oz. pasta of your choice; something curly works best. Fresh, even better. 
10-ish Brussels sprouts, washed, bottoms chopped off, each sliced into four lengthwise pieces
1/3 – 1/2 lb. English peas, shelled, rinsed
4 oz. summer sausage, casing peeled, diced into strips of thickness of your choice
2 Tbls. caper berries — heaping tablespoons, if you like ’em (I used about 8 large Sicilian green olives, diced, but I think the salad would be improved with the capers. Plus, more “green eyes.”)
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil (rinse, pat dry with paper towel, pluck leaves, roll leaves into little bundle, slice lengthwise)
1 Tbls. lemon juice (start with this and taste, more can always be added)
1/3 c. (aka hefty circular drizzle) E.V.O.O. (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
Mixed lettuce greens (handful per serving; optional) 

Boil water for pasta; begin cooking pasta per directions. 

Meanwhile, prep Brussels sprouts, peas, summer sausage and basil. (It’ll make your life easier; pretend you’re the host of a cooking show).

Boil water (small saucepan) for peas. 

Microwave (aka cheating blanching) sliced Brussels sprouts 2 min with dash of water, loosely covered. 

Let cooked pasta drain in sink in colander; return pan to heat and sauté summer sausage over medium-high heat (should brown and smell damn good, but not burn, bottom of pan stickage is okay) until generally hot and visible browning. Turn out onto previous prep location. 

Add Brussles sprouts to pasta/sausage pan; cook on medium-high heat about five minutes, until fragrant and visible browning. Turn out onto previous prep location. 

Add peas to boiling water; cook until tender (about five minutes).

Return pasta to pan; drain peas.

To pasta, add: sausage, Brussels sprouts, drained peas, caper berries, hefty drizzle of E.V.O.O. and lemon juice. Mix. 

Add fresh basil. Mix.

Taste. Adjust for taste. Mix again. Serve over handful of lettuce greens (optional). 

Serves: 4

Lunch: Green-Eyed Pasta Salad (An Original Recipe)

Green-Eyed Pasta Salad

Brussels sprouts, English peas, fresh basil, Sicilian green olives and baby lettuce mix might not be the most usual bedfellows, but staring at all the green things in my fridge last night inspired me to give it a go. I added in the end of a summer sausage, which I chopped into long strips and sauteed until crispy before mixing in, and tossed it all in lemon juice and a really vibrant E.V.O.O.*

The result: A really robust, savory pasta salad. The bitterness of the Brussels sprouts play off the richness of the sausage (not unlike that famous combination, Brussels sprouts and crumbled bacon), while the lemon-y hint lurking in the oil dressing helps balance out the richness.

At lunch today, among the greenery at Penn Plaza
At lunch today, among the greenery at Penn Plaza

 Basil brings a vibrant, herbal freshness to each bite, and the Sicilian olives give a little salty punch. The one thing I might have swapped in (had I had them on hand) would be caper berries for the green olives. I chopped the olives so they’re a smallish, caper-ish size, yeah I think capers would have been just right (and more “green eyes”).

I’ll try my hand at writing up the recipe properly tonight once I’m home — will post soon. This should be interesting.

*I didn’t mix in lettuce greens until lunchtime today, just before eating.