Looking for a Quick Lunch?

Green Salad with Chicken plus Fresh Fruit and Herb Dressing

Think you can’t cook?  This recipe’s great flavor comes not from fancy cooking skills but simply from good ingredients.  Stellar ingredients make a cook’s life easy!  So be sure to read the Buying Notes for each ingredient to help you get the best.

Making the Strawberry Apricot Dressing

The combination of apricots and basil is as lovely to look at as it is to eat.

Step 1  Make the Dressing

If you can dump things into a blender and push a button, you can make this dressing:

  • 3/4 cup fresh apricot-strawberry puree (from about 3 apricots and 6-8 small strawberries)
  • 2 Tbsp. walnut oil (or high quality olive oil)
  • 1 Tbsp. brown rice vinegar (if you don’t have some, it’s worth stocking)
  • Double handful of fresh basil leaves (see picture)
  • Single handful of fresh parsley (see picture)
  • Just a small spoonful of fresh tarragon leaves (they are a lot stronger than basil and parsley)
  • Sea salt (start with 1/4 tsp.)
  • Freshly ground pepper (start with 1/8 tsp.)
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar

Directions Combine everything in the cup of an

A double handful of basil

immersion blender (or food processor or blender) and process for just 20-30 seconds to combine.  Now comes the most critical step:  TASTE.  For ANY recipe, there is a 90% chance that the flavors need to be adjusted to suit your taste buds.  So pour the dressing into a small bowl, dip a piece of lettuce into it and taste.  Stir in more salt and pepper first, then more chopped basil, parsley or vinegar to find a taste that is good to you.  Always go slowly and taste after each addition.

Serve dressing at room temperature.  To my taste buds, fruits taste better when they aren’t chilled.

Buying Notes Flavor-less fruit = flavor-less dressing.  For fruit that taste like fruit not

A single handful of parsley

cardboard, head straight to the source:  the grower, usually an organic one.  Next, taste before buying very much.  If the grower doesn’t offer samples, buy just one piece and taste.  Once home, let stone fruits like apricots and peaches ripen.  Doing so in paper bags is often recommended.  Let the fruit get pretty soft, since that point, just before it goes overboard, yields flavor most reminiscent of heaven.  Keep a close eye on the fruit (especially if it’s hidden in paper bags!) and keep tasting each day, watching for optimal flavor.

Variations Could be equally good with whatever fruit is in season: sweet cherries and apricots, peaches and raspberries, or pears and raspberries.

A Double Handful of Basil

A small spoonful of tarragon leaves

Step 2   Make the Green Salad

  • 4-6 cups very fresh lettuce, washed and torn (or cut with a serrated knife if you’re in a hurry)
  • 1-2 med. carrots, grated finely

Directions Nothing too complicated about this step, although it does help to wash the lettuce in a good salad spinner, so you end up with crispy, not soggy lettuce.  Another trick:  Wash the lettuce the night before.  Place in salad storer, cover with a clean, folded tea towel, then seal and refrigerate until the next day.  The tea towel extracts excess water, leaving the lettuce crispy and light.

For the carrots, grate using the fine hole on your box grater for something different.

Buying Notes A salad is only as good as its greens.  They need to taste fairly good on their own, so the dressing is just enhancing flavor, not making up for an absence thereof.   Good lettuce is where local farmer’s markets shine, since lettuce is a crop that really tastes best when fresh picked–so good you barely even need dressing, if you can believe it.

In mid-summer, finding good lettuce can be tricky, since it’s is a cool weather crop.  I always taste a bit before investing in a bag to make sure it’s not bitter.  Also look for farmers who have taken steps to work around the heat issue, like Oxford Gardens at the Boulder Farmers’ Market, where owner Peter Volz sells a heat-tolerant variety that is quite good.  Abbondanza, also at the Boulder Market, seems to have perfected a technique for hot-weather lettuce growing as I’ve gotten great lettuce there even in July and August.

Step 3  Add Chicken to the Salad

  • 1-2 cups chicken, shredded or cut into small pieces

Buying Notes Again, this is another simple step with finding good chicken being the only tricky part , since not all store chickens are not created equally.  Again, it is usually local and/or organic birds that have more flavor.  This salad is a great way to use of leftover bits and pieces.  If you don’t have any however, then try canned chicken for a highly convenient option.  Before you blanch at the thought of canned bird, read the next blog entry on two, surprisingly taste brands I’ve recently discovered.

Want to learn more about the little tricks and tips that make everyday good meal making natural, stress-free and even a little creative?  Join Mary Collette in one of her Whole Kitchen Way to Wholesome Meal Making classes.


Mary’s on Fox 31–Quick Tricks for Fast Gourmet Green Beans

I’ll be on TV again tomorrow, just one day before Thanksgiving with ideas for how to make a dish festive without a lot of fuss. We all know that Thanksgiving can be a huge undertaking.  To keep from getting overwhelmed, it’s nice to plan a couple dishes on the simpler side.  This recipe incorporates four tricks for easy, gourmet flair:

  1. Save time with high-quality frozen vegetables
  2. Stir in a dollop of roasted garlic
  3. Add flavor-rich sauteed mushrooms
  4. Sprinkle with fresh herbs

Green Beans with Roasted Garlic and Sauteed Mushroooms

  • 1 lrg head garlic (to make about 2 Tbsp. roasted garlic paste)

The night before or at least an hour in advance, roast garlic:  Preheat the oven to 350 (F).  Rub a head of garlic with about ½ to 1 Tbsp. olive oil.  Place inside a garlic roaster, small glass baking dish with a lid, or just wrap in foil.  Bake about 45-60 minutes, until garlic head is soft when squeezed from the sides.

  • ½ lb. cremini or portobello mushrooms, sliced about 1/8” thick
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

In a large saute pan, heat oil until quite warm, then add mushroom slices and cook over medium to medium-low heat about 10-15 minutes, until their moisture is evaporated and they are lightly browned.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning.  Remove from heat.

  • 1 ½ lbs. fresh green beans, ends trimmed then cut diagonally into roughly 2” lengths (about 6 cups, trimmed)
  • 1 cup Pacific Foods chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

While mushrooms cook, prepare beans then combine with broth in a large saute pan with a lid. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 5-10 minutes, until almost tender when tested with a fork.

While beans cook, squeeze roasted garlic from skins into a small bowl.  When beans are almost tender, remove lid and push beans to the sides of pan.  Add roasted garlic to center of pan and, using a large fork, mash and blend with remaining chicken broth to form a thin paste.  Blend in olive oil, then stir garlic paste into beans to coat.

  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Stir cooked mushrooms, tarragon, and salt and pepper into green beans.  Cook 2-3 more minutes, until all of broth has evaporated and flavors have melded.  Serve immediately.

Note on Green Beans:

If you can’t find decent green beans in the produce aisle (which can be tough between November and May), a 6-oz bag of frozen can be substituted–as long as they are the whole petite green beans or haricorts verts, a tender French variety of green bean.  Safeway’s O brand and CW are both good options.  To cook, use only 1/2 cup chicken broth and reduce the cooking time by about half.

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