As many of you know, I’m the executive chef for a liberal arts university here in Alabama, and we do a fare share of catered events each year, so I have a lot of “trade tricks” that make my life easier on a daily basis when I’m balancing a full day of meals for our students (about 1500 covers a day) and a few catered events tossed into the mix. At the university, our signature salad has become a mixture of spring mix lettuces with fresh fruit (usually fresh segmented oranges and strawberries) some toasted pecans, a sprinkle of bleu cheese crumbles and apple vinaigrette. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of requests to share the recipe for apple vinaigrette and while I’ve always been the type to gladly share all of my recipes with my customers, deciding to share this one took some thought. Not because it’s some special recipe of secret ingredients, but because it’s NOT some special recipe! It’s just something I whipped up in the food processor one day and now it is the most requested dressing for salads. It’s so simple, I’m ashamed to put it in print, but it’s quite tasty so give it a try. You won’t be disappointed by the flavor, or the ease in putting it together.
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 can (soup can size) natural applesauce
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
Toss the garlic into a food processor and run until almost a paste. Add the applesauce, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. With the motor running, add the vinegar, then add the olive oil in a thin stream through the top. Once all the oil is added, let the machine run for another full minute. Pour into a bottle and store in the fridge, using as needed.
This vinaigrette will have a thick consistency, but it’s great tossed into salad greens, and it will keep for a week under refrigeration.
Here are the recipes for today’s “Chef’s Table” lunch from work. Today I featured a California Grill Salmon Salad with Pear-Infused Balsamic Vinaigrette. This salad can be made with either salmon fillets or boneless-skinless chicken breasts by following the same recipe and substituting the protein of your choice. The salad composition is up to your liking. The recipe below lists the way I prepared it today with alternate suggestions in parenthesis.
First, make your dressing. To make the dressing you need either a food processor fitted with standard blade or a blender.
Pear-Infused Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 can pear halves in heavy syrup
3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup EV olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black or white pepper
Put the canned pears and their syrup in the food processor or blender and puree. With the machine continuously running, add the garlic, salt and pepper, then add the vinegar. Pour the oil in a steady stream into the running machine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Maple-Glazed Salmon or Chicken
3 tbsp maple syrup (or you can substitute 2 tbsp dark brown sugar)
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger root
1 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
Combine ingredients and pour over your choice of boneless chicken breast or salmon fillets and marinate for at least 1 hour. For salmon, bake in 325F oven for 15 minutes. For chicken, cook until internal temp reaches 165F either in the oven, saute pan or on the grill.
In a large salad bowl, add enough spring mix for total number of salads you would like to serve. Add to the lettuce the red bell pepper, carrots and onion. Pour 2 tbsp vinaigrette over the salad mixture and mix well to coat. Put coated salad greens in your serving bowl. Sprinkle with a handful of dried cranberries (or fresh blueberries), then arrange some sliced strawberries on the salad. Sprinkle liberally with bleu cheese crumbles, then a few candy-coated nuts and finally top the bed of salad with either maple glazed salmon fillet or a grilled breast cut into strips. Drizzle a little more vinaigrette over the protein and serve. Garnish with some thinly sliced green pears if available.