For Brian’s birthday, we invited his family and my family to our apartment for a little party. I stressed sooo much over the food but it ended up being delicious! I served three salads at the beginning of the evening. They all went over very well and were relatively easy to prepare. Enjoy!
-o- Caprese Skewers -o-
1 pt. cherry or grape tomatoes (any color)
25-30 fresh basil leaves (I purchased a fresh plant and mined the leaves)
1 lb. boccacini (mozzarella balls)
2 tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
sprinkling of kosher salt
sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper
Slice the tomatoes in half (I found it easiest to slice them horizontally through the middle). Slice the boccacini in half. Wash as dry the basil leaves. Collect all the ingredients and a bunch of skewers/toothpicks (I used 4 in. toothpicks, but you could also use long wooden skewers and serve the mini salads in tall glasses, or small party toothpicks).
In a pie dish, combine the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
You can begin with either a folded basil leaf or a piece of mozzarella, but you want the tomato halves to be last so you can stand the finished product up on a plate. Assemble the skewers, moving them to the oil and balsamic mixture as they are completed, and then to a platter.
Drizzle the remaining dressing over the platter. Either serve immediately or chill for up to two hours, covered.
Inspiration: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe’s Caprese Skewers
-o- Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken and Sourdough Croutons -o-
2 large chicken breasts
1 1/2 heads Romaine lettuce
1/2 loaf sourdough bread, cubed
3 oz. fresh Parmesan cheese
Your favorite Caesar dressing (or make your own! I didn’t – I used Ken’s Lite Creamy Caesar – but here’s one I considered: I’mTopsyTurvy’s Creamy Caesar Dressing)
Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Marinate in about 2 tbsps. of Caesar dressing in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350. Toss the sourdough bread cubes with 1 tsp. of olive oil on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for about 15 minutes or until just hard, tossing occasionally. Remove and set aside.
Wash, dry and chop lettuce. Set aside.
Heat a grill pan or a frying pan over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Grill the chicken for 6-8 minutes on each side or until done. Let cool and slice.
Just before serving, toss the lettuce with the dressing. Add the croutons and chicken and toss again, gently. Top with shredded or shaved Parmesan.
Serve with more cheese alongside.
-o- Roasted Beet Salad with Wilted Greens, Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese -o-
6-8 medium beets, greens attached
3 tbsps. hazelnuts, chopped
2-3 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled
3/4 – 1 lb. mixed greens (or baby spinach, or arugula, or whatever you like!)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. minced shallots
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
About two hours before you want to serve the salad, preheat the oven to 350. Separate the greens from the beets, leaving the top intact; wash the greens and set aside. Wrap the beets loosely in foil with a few drops of oil in each packet. Roast for about an hour until tender and the skins peel away easily when you rub them with your fingers.
When cool enough to handle, peel and chop into bite-sized chunks. Set aside.
Toast the nuts in a pan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Watch carefully; nuts burn easily! Remove and set aside. In the same pan (and with a splash of water, wine or chicken stock if necessary), wilt the beet greens. Let cool slightly.
Toss the young greens with the dressing (method below). Top with the wilted greens, the beets, the crumbled goat cheese and the hazelnuts.
Combine all ingredients in a Mason jar and seal tightly. Shake to combine, taste and adjust if needed. Store in the fridge and shake again before serving.
Note – you may not need all the dressing. Start out with half and add if necessary.
Inspiration: The Kitchn’s Roasted Beets and Sauteed Greens with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese