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.

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.

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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Homemade Buttermilk Herb (Ranch) Dressing

This recipe is based on a house made salad dressing that became regionally famous back in the seventies and eighties, at a little restaurant in Middlebury Vermont called Fire And Ice. The restaurant was established in 1974 and is now owned and operated by Paris Rinder-Goddard (the son of one of it's original founders) and his business partner Chef Patrick Needham. It has a cozy, eclectic, authentic New England atmosphere and a menu filled with dishes prepared with locally sourced meats, produce, cheeses and seafood. At some point back in their early days, they produced a cookbook, including recipes for some of their most popular dishes, including this dressing. Luckily, a friend of mine owned a copy.


The first time that she served the dressing at one of her fabulous dinner parties, I was hooked. So, of course, I asked her for the recipe and she graciously loaned me the book, but like a dope, I returned it to her some time later without ever writing the recipe down. Then, as the fates and luck would have it, the next time I wanted to make it and called her for the recipe, she explained that much to her own dismay, she'd misplaced the book! If I had a dollar for every time that I misplaced something I just knew I'd need later... well, you know the rest of that one, right?

So, from that day forward, we've both been making the dressing using our own interpretations. The mayo and buttermilk were easy to remember, but the rest of the ingredients are a combination of my recollections from the book and of the memory of how it tasted to me. The original recipe has brown sugar in it, but you know me... I can never leave well enough alone, so I added some **maple syrup instead, to try and give the pizzas a different level of sweetess. It didn't turn out to be an "in your face" maple flavor and it didn't in any way overpower the tang from the buttermilk, or the savory notes from the herbs and spices. But, when all was said and done, I'd say that I nailed it! (and this time I made sure to write it down!)

I suppose you could say that it reads like a typical ranch style dressing and I'll give it that... to an extent. But, from the moment that I tasted the original, I can honestly say that it's better than any bottled or homemade ranch dressing that I've ever tried. So, it was kind of a no-brainer when deciding on a dressing to drizzle on the "Salad Style" Focaccia Pizzas that I made recently. Now, I can't imagine making that style of pizza without it. Of course, it's delicious on a tossed green salad, too. Especially one that includes fruit, like tart green apples or juicy ripe strawberries.

**If you're not a maple fan, you can certainly omit the maple syrup and it will still be delish - but make sure to add another couple of teaspoons of the brown sugar. If you do decide to be daring, I promise that it really doesn't make the dressing as "maple-y" as you might think and it actually marries with the shallot and the herbs beautifully.

Buttermilk Herb Dressing
(makes approx. 1 Quart ~ Can be halved)
  • 2 Cups Mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Cups Buttermilk
  • 1-2 Tbls Pure Maple Syrup (no maple "flavored" stuff, please!)
  • 2 Tbls Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Lg Shallot, grated (heaping tablespoon)
  • 2 Tsp Dried Basil
  • 2 Tsp Dried Chives
  • 1 Tsp Dried Marjoram
  • 1 Tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1 Tsp Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 Tsp Dried Tarragon
  • 1-2 Tsp Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
** If I have fresh herbs on hand, I'll definitely use them in place of dried. Just keep in mind that 1Tsp Dried Herbs = 1Tbls Fresh Herbs (and vice versa)
The preparation calls for two very simple steps:

1) Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl or large jar with a tight fitting lid. Whisk or shake vigorously, until well incorporated.

2) Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. It keeps for approx. 7 to 10 days, tightly covered in the fridge. (if it even lasts that long...)


Enjoy!

Mary




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