I've discovered that my fridge, pantry and freezer are able to yield a plastic bag with one little romaine lettuce heart, 2 chicken breasts and 1/3 of a box of rotini.
My inclination is to do something Asian with the chicken, but the rotini rules that out. Doing something Italian with the pasta and the chicken leaves the lettuce out of the equation...and we had tortelloni last night anyway.
I decide to make a Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad. This way I can use everything up. No ingredient will be left to fester in the back of my fridge!
God, I really need to go grocery shopping...
To begin with, I splash some olive oil in the bottom of my salad bowl. I add to this the zest of one lemon, some red pepper flakes, 15 grinds of black pepper and 2 finely minced garlic cloves. I leave this to flavor the oil while I work on other parts of the salad.
I assemble the "B-team". In a bowl to be whisked together are a couple large spoonfuls of low-fat mayo (because that's what was in the fridge), a squirt of anchovy paste (not pictured), a dribble of balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, the juice of a lemon and a 1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard.
The resulting creamy goodness, plus some Pecorino Romano cheese, will be the dressing that binds all the components of the salad together.
In the meantime, it'll live in the fridge until I'm ready for it.
The rotini are drained and dropped, still hot, into the waiting olive oil/garlic/lemon/red pepper mixture in the salad bowl. Since I have not rinsed them, the pasta will absorb the intense flavors of the mixture into itself. The goal is to have a boldly flavored salad. Finding ways to dress each of the components seperately, but complimentarily, will help reach this goal. No one likes bland, just mayo and celery flavored pasta salad...except people who suck.
When the pasta reaches room temperature, it goes into the fridge.
At this point, I need to consider the chicken. I've decided to marinate it with flavors that will echo the dressings I've already created.
I know I want garlic in my marinade. My favorite way to prep it for marinades and dressings is to put it under plastic wrap and beat the hell out of it with a meat mallet. It's easier to wash the cutting board than my heavy marble mortar and pestle. And beating the hell out of something is always soul-satisfying.
I whisk together olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, anchovy paste, black pepper, lemon juice and zest and a little white wine. In go the chicken breasts for about an hour.
I decide to bake off the chicken in the oven, in the marinade (which will kill any chicken cooties should I want to use the marinade as part of the salad later), at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.
|When it is done, I let it cool in it's cooking liquid to room temperature. I need to prep my lettuce anyways.|
|Turns out I had not checked my lettuce as thoroughly as I should've. It is hosting a sentient life form. Time to switch to Plan B. The first part of Plan B involves throwing the lettuce away and hoping the life forms that have bonded with it do not declare war.|
|The second part of Plan B involves finding frozen veggies that look like they could work with the salad.|
I'm beginning to think making a chicken stir-fry wasn't the worst idea.
|I leave the beans and carrots to defrost in the sink while I go out and buy booze for the evening. The chicken needs to finish cooling anyway and soggy vegetables in a salad just won't do.|
|When I return, I cut up the chicken and toss it in its cooking liquid.|
|Then I add the chicken, veggies, dressing, and cheese to the salad bowl to toss together.|
It looks might we may finally eat dinner.
|This is the resulting salad. Although it was a bit more labor and time intensive than I'd originally planned, the salad turned out to have bold lemon, garlic and cheese flavors. I think it's a keeper!|
Sorry for the weird formatting shift about halfway through. Blogger decided for some reason that I couldn't use it to upload pictures around 9:30 or so. This led me to learn how to code tables on the fly. I've learned so much today!
Where's my wine, dammit...
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