Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Salad for Lunch

Rachel here: Ok, so after your delicious breakfast of muffins, why not do a little bit of cooking ahead over the weekend to give yourself an equally special lunch? I don't know about you, but lunch is sometimes the only pause in my day where I can regroup and touch base with myself. For this reason, I usually try to bring myself something that I both enjoy and provides a good amount of fuel for the second half of my day. In this regard, I am looking for a good balance of protein, carbs and good fat to tide me over until dinner. Anyway, this week I head back to school and so I wanted to come up with something that would brighten my spirits and give me some energy mid-day, but that would also be easy to bring along with me. Hence, we're doing lunch salads for this post.

So, before I give you this recipe, I should confess that I strayed ever so slightly from the recipe in a way that I would not advise (although only for aesthetic purposes). The recipe advises that you cook each type of bean separately. In a moment of moving-induced hubris/laziness, I opted to throw all of my dried beans in one pot. The end result is that all of my beans got mashed except the biggest ones (pinto in my case). It tastes completely fine (the partner even had seconds last night), but when I make this dish for company (which I most certainly will because it is such a fabulous blend of flavors) I will take the time to cook each bean to perfection in its own little pot. Anyway, here's the recipe from Chez Panisse Cooking by Paul Bertolli with Alice Waters.

Salad of String Beans, Shell Beans, and Tomatoes
serves 6

3 c. fresh shell beans (the more variety you use, the more colorful your salad will be)
4 oz. mixed string beans
2 small red tomatoes, diced (the official recipe calls for you to peel the tomatoes, too, but I didn't and I can't see why you would in this scenario)
1 large yellow tomato, diced (again with the call for peeling that I, again, opted out of)
3 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
8 salt-packed anchovy filets, soaked, squeezed dry, cut in half lengthwise and tossed in 2 tspn. olive oil

For the dressing:
1 small red onion (4 oz.), finely diced
3 T. red wine vinegar
1/4 tspn. salt
1/8 tspn. freshly ground pepper
1 small clove garlic
4 salt-packed anchovy filets, soaked and squeezed dry
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the vinaigrette in a small bowl. First, combine the onion and the vinegar. Add salt and let it dissolve before adding the pepper. Pound the garlic and anchovies into a paste in a mortar and then add to the rest of the dressing ingredients. Add in olive oil. Set aside until after the rest of the salad is finished.

Cook each type of shell bean in its own pot with 1 quart of water and 1 tspn. of salt. When tender, remove from heat. Combine all of the shell beans in one container and leave enough cooking water in just to cover the beans. Place in refrigerator until cooled.

Parboil your string beans. Cook each type separately if there is significant variation in size; if not you can throw them in one pot together. Remove from water with a slotted spoon once they are tender but still holding their crunch. Place on a plate to cool (cooked string beans are like sponges so definitely do not leave them in water as they will turn to mush) and put in refrigerator.

Once all of your beans are cooled, drain off all water and combine beans in one bowl. Season the tomatoes with 2 T. of the vinaigrette and 1 T. of the parsley. Add salt, pepper and vinegar to taste (beans can handle a strong vinaigrette!). Pour the rest of the dressing over the beans, garnish with the remaining parsley. Arrange the tomatoes over the beans. Pour any remaining juices over everything and add anchovy strips to the top.

In the picture above you will see my alternate approach to serving this salad. I kept the string and shell beans separate, as well as the tomatoes and anchovies so I can assemble the salad in portions as I want to eat it. Pretty easy to make and you have a delicious and very healthy lunch for the week! I plan on bringing a piece of crusty bread along with me to soak up the dressing this week.

Janet here: The first time I made this recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Parties!was for a crowd of colleagues who were at my house for a brainstorming retreat about what we wanted to do next with our publications during the next year. Everyone loved this salad, and the ideas we came up with innovative and interesting. Was it the food? Who can say for sure, but I personally believe food can have that kind of impact on what happens. I mean, how many magical dinner parties can you remember where the food was sub-standard? I can't think of a one. Take it for what it's worth. This much is certain: You won't go wrong with this one.

Chinese Chicken Salad
serves 12 (but you can easily halve so you don't have to wait for a throng to make this tasty dish)

8 split chicken breasts (bone in, skin on)
good olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound asparagus, ends removed, cut into thirds diagonally
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeed
4 scallions (White and green parts, sliced diagonally)
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds toasted (Toast by placing on dry saute pan and cooking over medium heat for five minutes or until browned)

for the Dressing
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin (hard to do I know) and shred the chicken in large, bite-size pieces.

Blanch the asparagus in a pot of boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes until crisp yet tender. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain. Cut the peppers into strips about the size of the asparagus pieces. Combine the shredded chicken, asparagus and peppers in a large bowl.

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Add the scallions and sesame seeds and season to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Happy eating!

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