Monday, June 11, 2012

Shrimpy Noodle Ring Salad



We love all kinds of macaroni salads and this one is no exception. There are probably just as many recipes for macaroni salads out there, as there are people who make them. I make a few different versions, myself.

This version was a favorite in our household, when my brother and I were growing up and hubby's mom made it, too. His family had a very specific name for it, though. They called it "treasure shrimp salad". It wasn't until after we were married that I found out just why that was. I guess at some point, one of hubby's six siblings remarked that for something called "shrimp salad", the shrimp seemed to be a little scarce. As an answer to that little observation, someone replied; (I'm thinking it was my mother-in-law) "Oh, they're in there, but they're like little "treasures" that you find as you eat it."  And it stuck. From that day forward, in hubby's family and now in ours, it would forever be known as Treasure Shrimp Salad.


The recipe is simple, quick to make and it's delicious. Several years ago, I learned a little trick from my favorite sister-in-law, that makes it a little more shrimp and a little less treasure. After draining and rinsing the shrimp, we go through it with our fingers and carefully break up all of the little buggers. This actually serves two purposes. It distributes the shrimp throughout the salad better and it also allows you to feel for and take out any little bits of the shells or black specs that sometimes get left behind during the canning process. Ehm... we won't go into what that's all about. Uhn-Uh. No need to go there.

Shrimpy Noodle Salad
  • 1 Lb Macaroni Rings, cooked, drained and cooled
  • 2 Cans Medium Shrimp, rinsed drained and broken up
  • 2 Med Stalks of Celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Small Red Onion. finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 Scallions, thinly sliced and chopped
  • Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbls Parsley, chopped
  • Celery Salt
  • Onion Powder
  • Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Drain and rinse the shrimp.


Cook the noodle rings according to the package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside to cool. My sister-in-law has had a very hard time finding the pasta rings in most of the states they've lived in during my brother-in-law's 25 years in the military. She stocks up on them when they come home, or I bring them to her when we visit them. So if you can't find them in your area, you can use ditalini or another pasta, instead. I would just recommend that it be a fine or more delicate pasta, so that the subtle flavor of the shrimp doesn't get lost in the salad.


Check the shrimp for any shell or black specs and break it up into finer bits. You could use a fork if you prefer, but still check it carefully for any shell pieces. You can substitute canned tuna, if you have anyone in the family who doesn't care for shrimp.


I chop the celery, onions, scallions and parsley very finely and add them along with the seasonings, before I add the pasta and the mayonnaise. I find that it distributes them better and you don't end up with clumps of anything in the finished salad.


Add the pasta rings in and stir well to combine.


Now, for the mayo... You may have noticed that I didn't specify an amount of mayonnaise in the ingredient list. That's because I've learned through the years that everyone has a different idea about how much is enough and how much is too much. I used about 1/2 of a (quart) jar in this salad, because the pasta will absorb quite a bit as it's resting/chilling in the fridge and I really don't care for a "dry" salad. When it came out of the fridge a few hours later, I added another 1/4 cup (give or take) because it had dried out a bit. You can always start out with less and add more just before serving, if you're unsure.


Place the salad in a more decorative bowl if you like and cover it tightly with plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid. Allow it to chill in the fridge for at least one hour before serving.


You can cut this recipe in half if there's just a couple of you, or double it for a big family barbecue. I made the entire recipe because we'll have some of it with our lunches or with another supper, over the next few days. (I've also been known to have a wee bowl as a midnight snack from time to time. wink, wink)


Enjoy!

Mary



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Monday, June 4, 2012

Grilled Chicken and Asparagus Provencal


Stop the presses! The Hubbs made a monumental change in his very ordered, totally predictable list of food preferences! Yes, folks... you heard it here first. After a couple of years, several months and at least a few days of declaring my Pork Chops Pizziola to be his most favorite meal in the whole wide world, my very critical (and brutally honest) taste-tester and all around bestest boyfriend of all time, said that this recently concocted chicken recipe, might very well be his new favorite! Jeepers! I've gotta admit that I'm seriously floored.

Now, that being said, he also made it quite clear that this does not mean that he has forgotten about the chops or that I should ever stop making them for him. It just means that I can also whip this dish up for supper any old time that I'd like to and he'll never complain. He even alluded to the possibility that it wouldn't be a bad thing if I made it twice in the same week. Can I just say... Wow? If you knew him, you'd understand. This new declaration borders on.... well, epic.

OK. Now that I've pulled myself up off the floor, I suppose I should get on with the recipe, eh?  Psssst... Don't tell anyone, OK? But the real beauty in this for me, is that it's so ridiculously easy to make. Oh yeah, and it's really quick too. The whole idea of chicken and asparagus with the tomatoes, olives, garlic and lemon, just sort of said Provence to me. And when all was said and done, I was really quite pleased with the results. Umm, did I mention that Hubbs loved it? Yeah...

I had the butter in this photo, because I was originally going to pan saute the asparagus, but Hubbs said he'd just throw it on the grill with the chicken. Yup, he's kinda brilliant like that. ;~) 

Grilled Chicken and Asparagus Provencal
  • 4 Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Bunch Asparagus Spears, rinsed and trimmed
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Lg Lemon, juice and zest, divided
  • Assorted Olives, pitted and quartered (I used jumbo green and kalamata)
  • 5-6 Cocktail or 8-10 Lg Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
  • 4-5 Cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 Lg Scallions, thinly sliced
  • Fresh Parsley, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper


I made up a quick marinade and used it for both the chicken and the asparagus. It consists of about 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, sliced quite thinly, 2 Tbls of dry vermouth, (a dry white wine works just as well) the juice of 1/2 lemon and a generous pinch of kosher salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Place the chicken breasts into a zip-top bag and pour 2/3 of the marinade into the bag. Close the top and work the marinade all around the chicken and place it in the fridge until you're ready to grill.


I have a little trick for getting the most flavor and tenderness into chicken, beef and pork. It makes a definite difference and it's perfect for those times when I don't have several hours to marinate. Just take the point of a sharp paring knife and poke it into the meat several times on both sides. When Hubbs found out that I do this to even more expensive cuts of meat, he just about had a heart attack. But after tasting the results that it gives many times now, he's had to admit that it really works. (restaurant chefs have used this method for years, but they usually use a fancy little gadget with dozens of tiny, razor sharp blades that are spring loaded into a sort of knob shaped handle)


Pour the remaining 1/3 of the marinade over your trimmed asparagus and toss it so that all of the spears are well coated. Set that aside too, until you're ready to grill.


In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix 1/2 cup of olive oil, the juice and zest of the other half of the lemon, the sliced scallions, chopped parsley, 2-3 thinly sliced cloves of garlic and a generous amount of salt & pepper and mix it well. Toss in the quartered olives and tomatoes and give it a gentle stir. Set this aside at room temperature, until the chicken and asparagus are ready.


Grill the chicken and asparagus over a medium high flame, until the chicken is no longer pink and the asparagus is still slightly crisp but nicely caramelized.


Plate up the chicken and asparagus and spoon the olive and tomato mixture over both of them, making sure to get plenty of the sauce as well. I wished I'd had some crusty bread to mop up the sauce on the plate, but I'll be sure to have some the next time I make this. (which might just be very soon, if the Hubbs has any say in it. :~)

Enjoy!!

Mary




Don't Forget To Follow Me On Social Media! I Post Blog Updates, Ideas For Kitchen "How To's", Restaurant Recommendations And Reviews And Always Lots Of Photos!




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Yay! I just found out that my Apple Pecan Chicken Salad was featured at last week's (5/31) Fridays Unfolded party, hosted by the wonderful Alison at Nancherrow!


**I don't think that Alison hosts the link-up party anymore, but she is one heck of a great lady and she authors an equally great blog, so please stop on by and give her some blog love! She writes about everything from homeschooling and blogging to photography and family, with great recipes, a little fashion, the books that she reads and her tips and tricks about home decor thrown into the mix. (and that's just a small sampling of the things that she's passionate about!) I think you'll become a fan from the moment you arrive! And I should know... because it happened to me!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Steak/ Portobello "Salad" Focaccia Pizza

We're big fans of homemade pizza around here, but I don't always feel up to making the dough myself. My solution? Find something that's just as good and takes less time than ordering out. (not that we don't enjoy takeout from some of our favorite pizza joints, too) Our local grocery store bakery departments make some really decent in store baked artisan breads and rolls and two of my favorites are the focaccia and ciabatta bread.  Especially when I get there just as they're coming out of the ovens... mmmmm. Can't you just smell that doughy goodness?

Steak Salad Focaccia Pizza
We were in the mood for something crusty and cheesy the other night, but Hubbs was also thinking he might like a steak and salad. So, I did the next best thing. I combined them. I've been getting some feedback lately here and on my facebook page, that folks would like to see some vegetarian recipes and even though the hubbs and I are card carrying carnivores, we can certainly appreciate a delicious meatless meal, too. I'd picked up a nice looking top sirloin and some portobello mushrooms along with my freshly baked focaccia and figured, why not make two pizzas. One with meat and one without.

Portobello Focaccia Pizza
Hubbs looked at me like I had eight heads when I told him that I was making a batch of Maple Buttermilk Herb dressing to go on the pizzas, but once he tasted it, he gave me some of the biggest compliments that he's ever given me, in almost 30 years of eating my food. For realz.

The whole meal took under 45 minutes. (including grilling the steak and the mushrooms)

Steak/Portobello "Salad" Focaccia Pizzas
  • 2 Lg Focaccia flats
  • 2 Lg Portobello Mushroom Caps
  • 12oz Top Sirloin Steak
  • Montreal Style Steak/Chicken Seasoning
  • 10-12oz Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced or crumbled
  • 8-10 "Cocktail" or Lg Cherry Tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
  • Mixed Salad Greens
  • 1 Recipe Sweet Buttermilk Herb Dressing (Here)


This was a beautiful piece of top sirloin and it was on sale for $4.99/lb. I call that a win/win!


The portobellos were thick and meaty, which is exactly why they're perfect as a vegetarian substitute or alternative for steak or other meats.



I brushed them with a little olive oil and seasoned them pretty liberally with a blend of Montreal Steak Seasoning and Montreal Chicken Seasoning. I like to cut the steak seasoning with something else, because it's a bit too heavy on the black pepper for me. Use whatever blend of seasonings you like best. Hubbs tossed them on the grill while I prepared the Focaccia bases. Mushrooms are like natures little sponges and will soak up any oil that you brush on them very quickly, so don't be tempted to keep adding more. A tablespoon or two is plenty and pressing them (top side down) lightly into a plate sprinkled with your seasonings, is the best way to make the seasoning stick.


I prepped the tomatoes, onions and cheese while the steak and mushrooms were on the grill, so that I could make the pizzas in an assembly line fashion, once everything was done and had rested a little. If your mixed greens aren't already washed, give them a good rinse and spin them in a salad spinner (one of my favorite inventions, btw) or use some paper toweling to dry them well.


Brush the Focaccia(s) lightly with some good olive oil...


and begin layering on your toppings, starting with the cheese. The salad greens and the meat/mushrooms won't be going on the pizzas until they've (the pizzas) come off the grill.


Hubbs put the pizzas on the grill, in the center of the rack, with only the side burners on low and the lid closed. (indirect heat) You don't want to place these directly over a flame or heating element, because the breads are already cooked and you don't want them to burn. If you don't have a grill, just pop them in an oven at 400 degrees for about 5-8 minutes. All you're really looking for is to have the cheese melt, the crust to get a little crispy and the veggies to warm through a little.


I sliced the mushrooms and steak on an angle for presentation purposes, but you could always cut them into easier to eat, bite sized pieces if you prefer. (I'll probably do it that way from now on because I'd rather not use a knife and fork to eat my pizza)



Then, just pile on the greens, meat, mushrooms or a combination of both (if you're not strictly vegetarian) and cut each pizza into fourths, sixths or even eighths. The smaller slices would make a great little pass-around for a dinner party or cookout. I serve the dressing on the side, so that nothing gets soggy.




The Buttermilk Herb Dressing is loosely based on a dressing that was made regionally famous at a restaurant in Middlebury Vermont, called Fire And Ice. You can find the recipe HERE.

It's not your typical ranch style dressing. It has a sweet, tangy twist to it that's seriously 100 times better than any ranch dressing I've ever had and it was perfect with these pizzas.


Enjoy!!

Mary





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