Summer Surprise Strawberry Salad

OK a few things:

  1. This isn’t just for summer. I mean you could make it any time. But summer strawberries are much better.
  2. This is the only recipe I have created MYSELF, thus far. So this is an Emily Original Culinary Creation.

Like most good things, this was created sort of by accident.

My friends and I spent a weekend in Hocking Hills in July, in a lovely cabin that had a full kitchen, so we decided to do most of the cooking. We have a lot of culinary-minded friends, so I was planning on making a few things: my Irish soda bread (made ahead and brought down for breakfast), and a Caesar salad. I also decided to do balsamic strawberries as an ice cream topping or fun dessert, because I love balsamic strawberries and more people need to like them too.

I had asked a friend of mine to bring eggs for the Caesar salad, since I was going down right from work and didn’t want the eggs to be destroyed in my car. Sadly, friend forgot the eggs, but that led to this creation, so I guess that’s OK. ūüôā

Anyway, this salad was quickly imagined, and everyone liked it–the guys even fought over the leftover strawberries. I have made it for another meal with friends and they liked it so much that one of them asked for the recipe so she could make it for her friends.

So here it is. Summer Surprise Strawberry Salad.

This serves about six people, give or take.

2 heads romaine lettuce

2 pints strawberries

1-2 tbsp. brown sugar (light or dark. Or Splenda! ¬†really like splenda brown sugar because it doesn’t get hard and gross in the bag)

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar


3 lemons

First, make the strawberry topping, because this need to sit for at least 20-30 minutes (If you can get an hour of sit time, that’s optimal)

Lop off the top of the berries and cut in half. Place in a bowl. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Let sit.

When you’ve got about five minutes to dinner (or you’re ready to eat), start the salad.

Starting at the frilly top end of the lettuce head, cut the lettuce into 1-2 inch pieces. Discard the stem end. Then cut down the middle of the lettuce, which will cut each piece in half, leaving you with smaller and easier pieces to eat. Continue with the second head and place the lettuce in a serving bowl.

In another small bowl, add 1/2-3/4 c. of EVOO, depending on how much dressing you like. Add the juice of two lemons, then whisk together. Remember, there’s balsamic going in here, too! Taste, and add more lemon juice if necessary.

When ready to serve, add strawberries to salad. Add dressing. Toss. Eat a piece of lettuce to check seasoning. You may need some kosher salt or pepper added for seasoning. Totally up to you.




Meal plan for the week July 27-August 4, 2013

It’s been awhile, I know! But now that my summer theater is over, it’s time to get back in the kitchen.


Saturday, I made Rachael Ray’s Drunken Tuscan Pasta¬†, which, yes, uses an entire bottle of Chianti. You also don’t have to use Kale. You can use spinach or chard (I used rainbow chard because I love it). This is a great meal and would be perfect for company. It’s also super healthy!

Sunday, I continued my Rachael in Italy spiel with a trio of small plates. I’ll post this recipes shortly: Tuna marinara sauce and ravioli; potato, rosemary and anchovy appetizers; and a balsamic strawberry salad.

Yesterday was a quick meal for me. No cooking.

Tonight dinner with my parents.

Tomorrow it’s Giada de Launretiis’ spaghetti with olives and breadcrumbs.

Thursday is up in the air at this point.
Friday: Cookout

Saturday: Parents’

Sunday: Church buddies eating out.


Cinco de Mayo: Easy Mexican meal

For this year’s Cinco de Mayo, I decided to try two Pioneer Woman recipes: Tequila Lime Chicken (OK, sans tequila, because I didn’t have any) and Mexican rice.

Here ‘s the rice:

Mexican Rice

And here’s the chicken!

Instead of tequila, I used EVOO to give the marinade the body it needed. But go ahead and use the tequila where indicated if that’s the way you roll.


For the marinade:

3 limes

3 garlic cloves, peeled (whack ’em with a knife, they pop right out!)

1 jalapeno, sliced

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 c. chopped cilantro, or 2 tbsp. dried cilantro

5 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 c. tequila, or olive oil if you’re omitting the tequila


Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For serving, choose any (or none) of these: pico de gallo, jalapeno slices, refried black beans, warmed flour or corn torillas, lima wedges, avocado slices, sour cream (I used this), grated Monterey Jack cheese.

For the marinade:

Cut the limes in half and juice into the bowl of a food processor. Add the jalapeno slices, salt, cilantro, olive oil, tequila. Blend the mixture until totally pureed. Then pour into a large plastic bag, add the chicken, and let marinate for several hours or over night.

When you’re ready to cook:

Over a grill pan, outdoor grill, or skillet (if it’s a skillet, warm some EVOO in it first, to prevent sticking if it’s non-stick), bring the t heat to medium-high. Cook the chicken on each side for 4-5 minutes, until done. Serve as above.

OR serve on a platter and slice the chicken into slices.

Croque Monsieur

This is one of my favorite sandwiches to make, and they are so easy! The recipe is adapted slightly¬†from Jacque Pepin’s book¬†Essential Pepin. If you want to make a¬†croque madame, use chicken instead of ham.

This makes as many as you want! I usually eat two for lunch since they’re sort of small.

For each sandwich:

2 slices of good white bread

1-2 pieces of thinly sliced honey or Virginia Ham (my new favorite thing is going to the deli to get actual deli-sliced ham. A whole pound of sliced Virginia Ham at the Giant Eagle deli near my house costs less than one of the pre-sliced packages you can get!)

2 slices of thinly sliced Swiss cheese (Sargento makes this), or 1 slice of “regular” Swiss cheese (I like cheese, so the more the better…)

Preheat the over to 400 degrees. Drizzle olive oil over a baking sheet.

In a cutting board, lay out the two pieces of bread. On one slice, add the cheese, on the other, the meat. Place on the baking sheet, dipping each side in the olive oil that covers it.

Bake for 10 minutes. Cut off the crusts and cut in half diagonally.


Pasta with asparagus and lemony bread crumbs

This is slightly adapted from¬†The Chew’s¬†cookbook–the market didn’t have any fresh peas yet, so I omitted them and used only asparagus.

If you’ve never cooked with asparagus, there’s an easy way to tell what part is edible: bend the stalk in half. The top part, the good part, and the bottom, woody part, will separate. For this recipe you could use the whole stalk, but I decided to only use the tops.¬†

For the breadcrumbs:

* 1 tbsp EVOO

* I c. breadcrumbs (I used panko, Japanese breadcrumbs, but “regular” are fine)

* zest of one lemon

* 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese, grated

*1 lb. pasta, spaghetti or linguine


*2 tbsp. EVOO

*I bunch asparagus, chopped

*2 heads garlic, minced

* Parm cheese, to taste

* 2 tbsp. butter

Heat a pan or skillet over medium high heat, then add the EVOO. Add the breadcrumbs and toast, stirring constantly, for three minutes. Place the breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl and add lemon zest and cheese. Stir to combine.

Put on a large pot of water for the pasta. When it’s boiling, add the salt. When it returns to boil, add the pasta. Cook a BIT under al dente.

When the pasta’s almost done, place EVOO in the saut√© pan/skillet. Add the asparagus and garlic. Add some of the pasta water and parmesan cheese, and the butter. Toss until everything is well coated and delish, then add the bread crumbs.

Tagliata steak for one

This is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s new book,¬†Nigellissima, which is chock-full of Italian inspired recipes. I’ve been wanting to try this one for a few months now and finally got ’round to it.

In her book, it serves two, but I used a smaller steak. That’s the only change I made–I kept the marinade and cherry tomato amounts the same. She calls for an approximately 12 oz. NY Strip steak. I used about a 3 oz. strip steak, which was cooked through (but not burnt or chewy) with two minutes of cooking on one side, and three minutes on the other.


2 tbsp. EVOO, plus some for oiling the steak

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp. dried oregano

Just under a tsp. of kosher salt, or 1/2 tsp. table salt

2 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 steak–3-4 oz. for one, or 12 oz for two

8 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Fresh oregano, for garnish (optional)

Heat a small grill pan, cast iron pan, or non stick pan.

In a small dish that can take the steak snugly later, combine the EVOO, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, and red wine vinegar.

Lightly oil the steak and place it in the preheated skillet. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, for a rare 12 oz. steak; 2 minutes on one side, and three on the other, for a cooked through smaller steak.

Place the steak in the marinade for two minutes on each side, then remove to a cutting board. Slice into thin pieces on the diagonal and place on a serving plate.

Place the halved tomatoes in the marinade while you slice the steak. Then smoosh the tomatoes with a fork and pour them and the marinade ontop of the steak strips.

It’s delicious!