Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Salad Marathon: Seared Ahi Grapefruit Watercress Salad

Tonight's installment of The Lady of Shallots "Summer Salad Marathon" was inspired by two recipes. The first was this "Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Grapefruit, Avocado, and Watercress Salad" from Real Simple (March 2008). The second was this recipe for Seared Ahi Tuna from

I made only one minor adjustment to the tuna marinade, and that was that I used powdered ginger out of necessity. I marinated the tuna for two hours and it was terrific.

As for the salad, I obviously left out the mahi-mahi (and substituted the seared tuna), left out the avocado*, and added fresh chopped cucumber from my neighbor's garden (a gift, not stolen). I used the dressing as stated in the recipe.

This was a terrific and healthy meal for a very hot and humid summer evening. The sweetness of the grapefruit and the honey-lime dressing balances the slight bitterness of the watercress very effectively and is just gentle enough to support the tuna without overshadowing it. The marinade for the tuna, despite the soy sauce, is surprisingly subtle, so you don't want to overdress the salad. I made each plate individually: watercress, cucumber, grapefruit, tuna, then drizzled dressing.

*Heresy, I know, for a California girl, but I'm not a fan of avocado unless it is mashed up with spices and called guacamole or in small chunks in ceviche. Don't hate me.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer Salad Marathon: Chicken Pasta Salad

It is very hot here, and that means I like to keep as far away from the stove/oven as possible. So that means we've been eating a lot of salad. I find salad making very tedious and usually delegate that chore to my husband. However, when the main dish is a salad, I find ample opportunities for creativity and experimentation.

I started with this recipe from Real Simple (August 2008), Chicken Salad with Potatoes & Arugula, but found that I was without arugula and just simply not in the mood for potatoes, so I lifted the dressing and the rotisserie chicken, substituted dried tarragon for fresh, and turned it into
Chicken Pasta Salad with Hearts of Palm

  • 1 package fresh or dried pasta (I like rotini or some other shape that will capture the goodies)
  • 1 rotisserie chicken (or chicken leftovers)--you'll probably only need half a chicken's worth
  • 2-3 large hearts of palm, sliced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1-2 tablespoons champagne white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • salt and pepper
  • Cook pasta (approx 2 min. for fresh, longer for dried (see package directions) and strain in a colander. Run cool water over the pasta and let drain.
  • Shred half of the meat of the rotisserie chicken into a bowl and mix in the hearts of palm. Add cooled pasta and place in the fridge.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the evoo, vinegar, mustard, tarragon and salt & pepper.
  • When ready to serve, add dressing and walnuts to the pasta, tossing well.*
*You may wish to dress the salad and then refrigerate it. This is fine, but may need a fresh bit of olive oil right before serving (or let it stand at room temp before serving).

I liked the walnuts because they added texture and helped cut the vinegar/mustard/hearts of palm brine. It is a unique context for chicken salad, so I wouldn't try it on the unadventurous who like their chicken salad traditionally prepared. I think I'd add some red onion next time, for the sake of COLOR :)

I served this salad with Green Beans with Shiitake Mushrooms that Bon App├ętit either ripped off from IGDA (mushroom company) or the other way around. I used the recipe that came with a package of dried shiitake mushrooms from IGDA, but I used fresh shiitakes since I happened to pick them up at the store. If you use dried, you'll need to soak them in a bowl of warm water for 20-30 minutes, rinsing thoroughly.