Friday, April 9, 2010

Salad days

Fresh salads with crisp new greens, with just a light dressing, with nothing else to hide the taste of Mother Nature's first offerings, are truly a gift to gardeners and friends of gardeners.

You can't make a meal out of them alone, but they do make a good basis for a simple supper: the warm salad.

The greens and the cheese are cold here; everything else is at room temperature or slightly warm. The coq au vin refers not to the classic slow-cooked dish, but just that the chicken breasts are cooked in wine.

Warm Coq au Vin Salad
Serves 2 as a main dish

2 cups of torn greens
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 dried hot peppers or 2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 bay leaf
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and any ligaments
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
12 grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 ounces feta cheese cubes
1 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned and sliced
Salt, pepper and extra oregano to taste

Wash, dry and tear the lettuce; wrap in paper towels and put on a plate. Chill.
Combine the wine, broth, dried hot peppers or flakes, peppercorns, teaspoons of oregano and salt, and bay leaf in a saucepan big enough to hold the liquid and chicken breasts. Bring to a full rolling boil. Add the chicken breasts. Cook for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and leave in the warm liquid for about 5 more minutes or until firm. Remove from the liquid to a plate.
As the breasts are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and season with a little pepper. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. They should have released their liquid when you uncover them; cook until the liquid evaporates, then remove to a plate to cool.
In the salad bowl, place the tomato halves and feta cheese cubes, and the rest of the olive oil. Add salt, pepper and oregano to taste. Add the sweet red pepper strips, and the mushrooms when cool. Slice the chicken breasts against the grain into rough strips and add to the bowl. Add the chilled lettuce. Toss, adjust seasoning if needed and serve.
If you want a heartier dinner, use a cup of arugula instead of the lettuce and toss with a cup of cooked tiny green lentils and 4 ounces of pasta (shells, bowties or orzo) cooked and cooled a little. You may need to increase the amount of olive oil a bit, and perhaps add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
If you have time, coat the chicken with lavender salt and marinate a couple of hours before poaching; decrease the salt in the liquid.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Qdoba's new look

No word yet whether the one on The Corner will follow suit, but nationwide, Qdoba's is planning for all it's new stores and ones that must be retrofitted to look like the photos in this slideshow.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Airplane food

My recent trip to Chicago got me thinking about what all people now take on board to eat while in flight. I've often thought that a five-hour fast might not be a bad thing, but when I think of the delicious smells that others will bring with them, I know I better have a plan before my olfactory nerves send my stomach into overdrive.

For breakfast, I can usually get by with a Clif Bar and coffee. And I usually bring some nuts to munch on.

For when the flight turns out to be longer than expected (flight changes, delays) or unusually stressful, I usually pack some emergency chocolate.

Lunches can be a simple as a container of crackers, a can of deviled ham spread and some cheese. The flavored tuna (spicy Thai is nice if you like chilies) that comes in a pop-top can is good and doesn't have the overpowering smell of regular canned tuna.

If I have a ripe avocado at home, I pack that in a drink cup, plus a hot sauce packet or a lemon juice packet, salt and pepper, and a plastic knife and spoon. Cut it in half vertically, put the sauce in the indentation where the seed was, season with salt and pepper. Don't try this in San Diego unless you have a U.S. grocery receipt for the avocado; it will be confiscated.

Whole apples travel well, and clementines and satsumas are easier to peel than navel oranges. Baby carrot packs are good, too. I'm not a big raw celery fan, but a little peanut butter and a baggie of celery sticks can make a nutritious lunch if you're not seated next to someone with a severe peanut allergy. A little hummus and a some pita triangles are good, too.
Beef jerky is fine if you like beef. And cheese sticks are easy to pack. If you like hard boiled eggs, shell them first, and pack with a little salt and pepper (I like to add chili powder). Eat within two hours.

Be sure to pack a small hand sanitizer for cleanup, and a couple of paper towels.