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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cobb Salad? Chop Salad? Chopped-Cobb Salad?

I enjoy cooking, and the challenge of trying to make restaurant quality food at home.  So the other night I decided that I'd make a lovely salad, like the kind I'd pay $10 for at a restaurant.  

At first I told Mr. Hobby it was going to be a Cobb salad.  Then, I told him it was going to be a chop salad.  I don't think he knew there was a difference.  That worked out in my favor, because this ended up being a sibling of the Cobb and Chop salad.

It all started with the bacon.  Don't you love stories that go that way?  See, we recently purchased a microwave bacon cooker. We're still figuring out the right amount of time per slice of bacon.  The suggested cook time doesn't give us the crispy bacon I crave.  The best part of the bacon cooker is that it raises the bacon up, and has space for the grease to drip down.  This allows me to convince myself bacon isn't bad for you.  That's why I decided to use it in my salad.  Eight strips of it in the salad for two people.

We also had eggs, that have not been recalled in the national recall, yet.  So hard-boiled eggs and bacon should cover it for the protein.  I know Mr. Hobby eats a lot of meat at lunch, so I consider it my job to get his grains and veggies in when he eats with me.  I might have to start working on the dairy too, I don't think eating a lot of cheese will cut it as his bones get older.

Then I chopped up a bunch of veggies.  And I'm embarrassed to say that the salad took me one hour to make.  I think my biggest mistake came with the Romaine Lettuce.  I broke off each leaf from the head, rinsed it, and put it in the salad spinner BEFORE chopping it.  I'm not sure what I was thinking.  I threw in some leftover lettuce that Mr. Hobby had bought the other week.  I'm not sure what kind it was, but the head was formed like romaine, just smaller.  When I got to it, I chopped it, then rinsed and spun it dry.  It took 98% less time.  

I also chopped up green beans from Eckert's Country Store into bite-size portions.  Then I chopped up a beet from our friends E + O's weekly CSA delivery.  Then cucumber and carrot from the grocery store.  I also threw in our favorite cherub tomatoes.  I did not chop these, as that would make the seeds run out, and make the salad soggy.  Some cooking blogs would suggest chopping them, and then cleaning the seeds out.  Let me point out now that cooking and blogging are both just hobbies.  I'm not the clean the seeds out of my tiny tomatoes type. 

After 54 minutes, I was embarrassed, but I had everything arranged in my lovely bowl.  I threw in sunflower seeds (more protein) and some feta and Parmesan cheese (the only dairy in Mr. H's diet).  

Finally, it was time for the fun part. The dressing!  I think fancy salad dressing really says "this salad is an entree."  Homemade dressing can be affordable too.  While some people have an emulsifier, I choose to go the easier, carafe shaking route.  The carafe I used came free with 2 packets of Good Seasons Italian dressing mix.  I consider that a good deal.

I started with my "secret" ingredient.  Pomegranate infused vinegar.  It gives it a subtle fruity taste.

Pour in carafe until you reach the V (vinegar) line.  Then add W to the water line, and powdered dressing mix.  You don't need to have a powdered mix, if you have a handy supply of Italian herbs.  I just find the mix convenient, it takes out the guessing of seasoning.  
Shake it all together!


Then, add your favorite olive oil to the O-line.  I like to add in a little less oil, and a little more water.  Then shake it all together, and you've got a homemade vinaigrette.  

The dressing, along with the presentation, will give a restaurant feel to your salad. 

Until the next hobby, love,
Ms. Hobby!

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