Monday, November 28, 2011

California BLT Salad

Shopping for one is fun at Chico's or Talbot's.  Even if you don't buy anything.
Shopping for one is not always quite so much fun at Kowalski's or Cub Foods. 

While I am not a great fan of boneless chicken breasts, they do hold a special place in my heart when I'm shopping and cooking just for me. As do salads of any ilk.  For this California BLT salad,  The Solo Cook can run into the store, buy a couple of boneless breasts, a ripe avocado (hopefully), a few Kalamata olives at the olive bar, and just about skip on home to make this salad.  Granted, you must have a few staples on hand waiting in your kitchen, and those would include tiny tomatoes, red onion,  bacon, a bit of gratable cheese, and salad greens.  Keep some bacon in the freezer frozen into 1-2 piece packages.  And, for greens:   a big container of spinach lasts a long while, makes a great salad, and is perfect for omelets, vegetables sides, and sandwich greens.

Making your own salad dressing is a fairly important component of making tasty salads.  It means investing in small, but mighty fine bottles of vinegars (your favorites) and the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford.  If you just can't face making dressing, buy a bottle from your favorite restaurant, but leave the pre-made dressings at the grocery store.  If nothing else, squeeze lemon over your salads, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook both breasts, make this salad with one and toss the other in the frig for tomorrow's sandwich lunch that will also use the other half of the avocado that's in the salad.  Meantime, pour yourself a tiny splash of Chardonnay to cook by, set the table with candles and a great book...and you're almost done. (Don't know what to read?  Peruse the Best 100 Books of All Time and buy or borrow a few at a time.)  Don't forget to turn on the music.  Make a list of music you want to hear, and post it on the frig.  Tonight might be Mozart's Requiem or John Mayer.  Maybe the new Beatles' collection.  Or the wonderful collection of pieces Leonard Bernstein conducted at the New York Philharmonic.  Whatever tweaks your heart.  Since it's just you, you get to do exactly as your heart desires.

Meantime, keep your eyes peeled at restaurants for big dinner salads you like.  Take notes and start keeping a list of the ones you'd like to make. There's little healthier and little easier (and with less waste) if you're cooking for one very special person--you.

Alyce's California BLT Salad for One

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (The salad just uses one.  You'll eat the other tomorrow.)
  • Canola oil for brushing the grill or saute pan
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 cups fresh spinach or your favorite greens
  • A few very, very thin slices red onion
  • 6 ea Kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 Avocado, ripe and sliced
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced (optional)
  • 1 slice bacon, cooked and crumbled (Cooks in about 1 minute in microwave.)
  • 2T grated cheese (I had some Drunken Goat; cheddar or Swiss would do)
  • 1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  1. Heat a grill or sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Brush with canola oil.  Meantime, salt and pepper the chicken breasts generously on both sides and place on hot grill or sauté pan.  Let cook about 30 seconds to sear and turn.  Let cook another 30 seconds and reduce heat to low.  Cook about 3 minutes on each side until juices run clear or instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F.
  2. Remove chicken breasts to cutting board and let rest 2 minutes before slicing one thinly. (Let the other breast cool, wrap, and refrigerate.)
  3. Meantime, in a large bowl, layer greens, onions, olives, tomatoes, avocado, and boiled egg, if using.
  4. Arrange sliced, cooked chicken breast on the salad and top with crushed bacon and grated cheese.  Squeeze lemon juice over all and lightly dust entire dish with salt and pepper.
  5. Top salad with a skinny drizzle of your favorite dressing or use my recipe below.

Dressing:  Whisk together 1 T Balsamic Vinegar, a pinch each of salt and pepper, 1/4 t Dijon-style mustard, and 1/4 t honey.  Whisk in slowly about 2T extra virgin olive oil until the oil is just well-incorporated.  Taste by sticking one piece of spinach into the dressing to see if it suits you.  Adjust seasonings if needed.  (You can make a larger batch and refrigerate for quite a while as long as there is no shallot or garlic in the dressing.)

Nothing to listen to?  Watch this sweet children's Christmas pageant from St. Paul's Church in Auckland, New Zealand and feel your heart beat.

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

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