Mod Meals from Madison – A Guest Post

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My good friend Heather is today’s guest blogger. Heather is a dear friend of mine that I got to know when she and her partner, Becci (“COS”), lived in Greensboro. They now live in Madison, WI with their dog Ernie and are active Mod Meals readers. Heather loves to send suggestions, recommendations and comments. I thought she would be a great person to fill in when I’m too busy to cook or post. So, it is only fitting to call her guest entries Mod Meals from Madison.

 

“Marlene Method” Salad – A Crowd Pleaser for the “Could You Please Bring a Salad?” Dinner Party Invitation
 
Four disclaimers first:
 
(1)    It is rare that I can ever make an appropriate quantity of food. This for example was for a dinner party of 6. There was enough salad to feed 15. Luckily – we were all big eaters.
(2)    My partner, the dear COS, once said to me, “I hate this sandwich recipe. Sandwich recipes are nothing more than lists.” This, in fact, is a such a list recipe.
(3)    This is not a salad for people who don’t like their veggies. Just sayin’. . .
(4)    I did not come up with this salad recipe, or “method” as I prefer to call it, my friend Marlene did. All the credit goes to her.
 
And on with the show . . .
 
Due to the nature of the COS’ job and our circle of friends, we are often invited places for dinner and often inviting people over to our home for dinner. On a fateful night late last fall, the northern debut of Chicken Pants in fact, we had our friends Marlene & Colin and their lovely baby over for dinner. We asked Marlene to bring a salad, and she brought a variation of the recipe (er, list) that follows. It was a hit with us that night and we were converts and have made the salad numerous times since. It is as flexible as you want or need it to be and just relies on two key and not-so-secret ingredients. And the “method” that Marlene follows is to try to have a veggie or fruit from every color of the rainbow in the finished product, maybe with the exception of blue unless you throw in blueberries or boiled blue potatoes. The “list” below indicates what I made today but only the items marked with * are mainstays. . . Wash, chop, toss & enjoy!
 

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“MARLENE METHOD” SALAD
–          *Lettuce or salad greens of your choosing, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces (GREEN)
–          Canned garbanzo beans / chick peas, drained and rinsed (YELLOW)
–          Yellow beans, cut into 1 inch pieces, blanched and shocked in ice water and drained (YELLOW)
–          *Baby sweet peppers, washed, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces (RED, YELLOW, ORANGE, PURPLE)
–          *Cherry tomatoes washed and sliced in half (RED, but could also be ORANGE and/or YELLOW)
–          *Cucumber, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces (GREEN)
–          *Onion, diced (RED / PURPLE)
–          Carrots, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces (ORANGE)
–          Avocado, diced (GREEN)
–          Nuts (walnuts, pecans, pine nuts – whatever you like best in salad)
–          *Medjool dates, pitted and sliced into bite-size pieces – aka not-so-secret ingredient #1
–          *At least 2 kinds of cheese, sliced/diced into bite-sized pieces (we like to use an “orange” cheese like cheddar or colby and a “white” cheese like pepperjack or swiss or even feta) – aka not-so-secret ingredient #2
 
Directions: Toss the above ingredients (plus or minus anything you like and/or have on hand) with your favorite salad dressing (see my suggestion below for Balsamic Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing) just before serving. The dates and the two types of cheese are key and the baby sweet peppers come in close behind. Trust me.
 
BALSAMIC MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE DRESSING
–          8-9 TBSP salad oil (I prefer grapeseed, another homage to Marlene)
–          3 TBSP balsamic vinegar
–          1-2 TBSP white wine vinegar
–          1.5 TBSP dijon mustard + 1.5 TBSP grainy deli mustard (or 3 TBSP of the mustard of your choosing)
–          1 heaping TBSP dried chives
–          1 heaping TBSP dried garlic / garlic powder
–          1 heaping TBSP dried onion / onion powder
–          Salt & pepper to taste
 
Directions: Combine the above ingredients using an immersion blender. Generally – this dressing comes out pretty thick but work well for tossing in a salad. Add more vinegar and/or oil to taste. While general cooking knowledge says that a vinaigrette should be a 3:1 oil:vinegar ratio, I tend to prefer something closer to the 2:1 but it’s a matter of personal preference!

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