Week Night Dinner Series: Late-Night Supper Salad

This is an occasional series on healthy, quick-to-make, late-night dinners.

I usually get home from work anywhere from 5:30 to 6 p.m. If I go to the gym or for a walk, dinner gets started after 7 and we eat after 8. So I know all about late-night dinners. I came up with this recipe (a word I use very loosely) on a late Saturday night when we were on our way home, tired and hungry. It is so easy, and with just a few ingredients, it literally takes minutes. So quickly in fact that the eater of the house had just barely settled down with some chips and salsa to tide him over until we ate when I said dinner was ready!

This dish  has the perfect combination of what nutritionists say you need in each meal–protein, carbohydrates, and good fat–and it’s all wrapped up on one salad plate. Flavorful greens, some sweet grape tomatoes, heart-healthy olive oil, and protein from steak (or another kind of meat if you prefer). And it’s a perfect meal if you are running late and not sure what to make; you can grab the ingredients at the supermarket on the way home.

I don’t usually go for ready-made ingredients, but sometimes I splurge on crumbled cheese. It’s a great addition to the salad, I love gorgonzola, but you can substitute feta, goat, parmesan, or leave it out if you prefer. For the meat, you can broil it, grill it, or pan sear it. Vegetarians can use beans in place of the meat; I’ve done that too. You can add extra veggies if you like, and if you want some zing, add a splash or two of lemon juice or a tangy vinegar!

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Late-Night Supper Salad

1 salad bowl or plate of greens (baby spinach, spring mix, et. al)
A few grape tomatoes, halved
About 4 ounces of cooked protein (steak, chicken, fish, pork)
Extra virgin olive oil
A couple teaspoons of crumbled cheese (gorgonzola, goat, feta, parmesan, etc.) (optional)

Take a salad plate or bowl and add the greens and tomatoes. Add the meat, and top with the olive oil and cheese, if using.

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Famous Last Words

Remember last week when I said I was forcing the season by cooking spring-like dinners? Scratch that. My plan didn’t work. A late spring sleet/snow/freezing rain storm is what greeted me one morning when I awoke late last week. Continuous temperatures in the mid-40s and 50s is not my idea of warm weather. While the purple and yellow crocuses have popped, the daffodils are sadly looking up for some warmth and sun. A visit to the garden tonight proved the chives are hardy and tall enough that I may be able to snip some soon. Perhaps I will have summertime recipes in time for May.

So in the meantime, instead of searching for a grill to buy for warmer weather, I’ve turned on the oven again. As I’ve said before, roasted chicken is my number one comfort food, and it was a perfect way to recuperate after a long weekend away from home with friends talking about books and literature. And those roasted root veggies I said were going to wait until next year? I found some beets in the vegetable bin and decided to make a much-lauded side dish from the eater of the house. This is also a really easy dish to make if you have company like we did; very little prep work, so you can spend time with your guests instead of being in the kitchen.

I worked in a family-run Italian restaurant for several years and along with the restaurant, we also would serve big parties. Chicken and mostaccioli was the standard for these, and I loved the smell of the chicken when it was roasting. So their spices and herbs are my go-to seasonings whenever I roast chicken, with a few tweaks here and there. And you can use this whether it’s chicken breasts, thighs, or a whole chicken like I made for this evening.

DSCN0177After rinsing and patting the chicken dry with a paper towel, rub it with some olive oil. Add freshly ground pepper, salt, cinnamon, and herbes de provence.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, cook for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Cook  until the thermometer reads 165 degrees. That’s it! Some chopped fresh garlic or garlic powder also is a great addition. The cinnamon is the secret spice, and I love that first roast chicken in the fall served with homemade applesauce. It’s perfection.

The beets are equally easy. I prefer to roast my beets instead of steaming them, but you can do either. For me, roasting the beets in the oven with the chicken means I’m doing two things at once. I cut off the tops and bottoms, scrub, and place in a pie pan with a little bit of water. Cover with foil and roast for about an hour or so. You’ll know they are done when you poke the middle of the beet with a paring knife; it should be soft, yet have some resistance. When cooled, I peel off the skin and dice into chunks. Add a few dashes of a light vinegar (I like white wine), a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, and a few dashes of dried dill weed (fresh would be wonderful if you have it), and salt and pepper. Now mind you, the color of this resembles Pepto-Bismol, I’m not going to lie. It is gorgeous, a big bowl with deep fuchsia beets, but it does look a bit odd. (Hence, why no picture; they all turned out horrible and no one would want to make it!)

Served with last week’s radish salad and some shaved brussels sprouts cooked in a little bit of bacon grease, this was a lovely and comforting dinner for some weary yet very happy travelers!

Author’s note: You may find me disappear for one week in the very near future, but have no fear, I’ll be back! Instead of taking a week off for holidays, I like to take my birthday week off as a present to myself. But since that time has come and gone, I have written myself an IOU. 

With a Spring in My Step

I have been remiss in welcoming my new readers from the past few weeks! I am so happy you have decided to join me on this adventure in food and beyond! I hope you find some recipes you will enjoy. Welcome one and all!

I have begun to think Mother Nature isn’t aware that we turned the calendar to April ten days ago. While it has been sunny, the temperatures have languished in the 40s if not 30s; bringing confidence to take off the snow tires, but not warm enough to let go of the winter coat. It’s that in-between weather that drives me crazy; one never knows what to wear for the day when it’s cool in the morning, but warm mid-day.

So with what I believe will be spring any moment, I’ve been creating dishes that are light and airy for this time of year. I’ve become a new devotee of radishes lately; I like to put them in my salads for a bit of crunch and peppery flavor. Plus, they are dirt cheap (.79 cents for a small bag). Twice in a week  radishes recently were mentioned and I decided to create a mixture of the two dishes. My inspiration came from cookbook author Deborah Madison, who talked about the ruby-red roots recently on the radio show, “The Splendid Table,” and the April issue of Cooking Light magazine.
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This is so super simple, I don’t need to give you a step-by-step recipe! Just take some radishes and cut them paper-thin (about a cup or more) and place in a large mixing bowl. I’m not one for kitchen gadgets, but in this instance, a mandolin would be a saving grace. Add a few greens; I spied some gorgeous looking watercress that I had to have, it was the perfect combination. But spring greens, baby arugula, or pea shoots would be delicious. A few squirts of lemon juice, a small drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper to taste, and you’re done. I really wanted to add some fresh chives from the herb garden, but right now they are tiny shoots, but I think they would add great flavor. I served this alongside salmon and quinoa for a healthy supper.

I have a feeling I’m going to be buying radishes and making this dish for many weeks to come. It’s healthy, low calorie, quick, and delicious! And I’m thinking of other options to add to this; some stale French bread to sop up the lemon juice and oil, even some leftover chicken or fish. I guess the possibilities are endless. Now, if it will just warm up!

My Vermont Kitchen Goes on the Road!

My Vermont Kitchen took a week off from cooking and got out of the kitchen! A trip to Florida at the end of the month was just what the doctor ordered. Although it was cool by Southern standards, it was of course warmer than Vermont. Upon our return, the sugarhouses were in full swing, as is mud season; a symphony of birds can be heard in the meadow each morning, and I discovered crocuses, tulips, daffodils, and buds on the lilac bushes in the garden! Spring will soon be here!

In the meantime, I took some food pictures from some of my adventures. Yes, I was a crazy woman taking pictures of food amongst the regular shoppers! Farms stands pop up in Vermont and upstate New York probably the earliest being late May, so a trip to Tommy’s vegetable and fruit stand in Holiday, Florida, was mecca for me. The colors were vibrant and everything looked gorgeous and delicious. Next was a trip to Goral Polish Deli, where shoppers buying early for their Easter dinners, and me wishing I had another suitcase to fill with all the delicious food found on their shelves. We picked up pierogies and kielbasa for dinner. Yum! I don’t have a market of this sort locally so I was in heaven, checking out all the different jars and packages of delicious-looking foods. And finally, a trip to the Greek Festival here at home. The Saturday before Easter, a local Greek Orthodox church celebrates the holiday with a pastry and food festival. I always make a quick trip into town to pick up a box full of pastries to have with my morning tea and to share, since I don’t bake a lot at Easter.

So enjoy the photos and next week I’ll be back with another recipe. Spring is in the air, so I’ve said goodbye to root vegetables, heavy meat dishes, and comfort foods– winter is finally over!

Aren't these ruby-red strawberries gorgeous! They were delicious, too!

Aren’t these ruby-red strawberries beautiful? They were delicious, too!

I thought this display of beefsteak tomatoes was gorgeous!

I thought this display of beefsteak tomatoes was gorgeous!

I love beets and was very jealous of the price!

I love beets and was very jealous of the price!

Look at the price--and size!--of the cabbages!

Look at the price–and size!–of the cabbages!

A colorful display of oranges.

A colorful display of oranges.

Pecans! I did think about filling an extra suitcase full of these nuts!

Pecans! I did think about filling an extra suitcase full of these nuts!

A trip to Florida isn't complete without some cajun boiled peanuts!

A trip to Florida isn’t complete without some Cajun boiled peanuts!

I couldn't resist taking a photo of these beautiful peppers.

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of these beautiful peppers.

You know how much I love Brussels sprouts, I thought these were beautiful.

You know how much I love Brussels sprouts, I thought these were beautiful.

I was fascinated with the different kinds of tea.

I was fascinated with the different kinds of tea.

I loved the jars of garlic shoots.

I loved the jars of garlic shoots.

I love pierogies, but I liked the sign for frozen cavier.

I love pierogies, but I thought the sign for frozen cavier was interesting!

All sorts of delicious fish.
All sorts of delicious fish.

The gorgeous Easter display.

The gorgeous Easter display.

And yes, I did want to buy a butter lamb for my Easter dinner!

And yes, I did want to buy a butter lamb for my Easter dinner!

The various kielbasa hang from the store's wall.

The various kielbasa hang from the store’s wall.

The meat case.

The meat case.

This year's Greek pastries, baklava, ouzo cake, and various cookies.

This year’s Greek pastries, baklava, ouzo cake, and various cookies.