For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spicy Little Leaf

Arugula.

Chock full of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.
..this spicy, peppery salad green hits the mark. When this leafy, fanciful vegetable is available from one of my favorite vendors at a local farmers market, I snap it up. 

Here is a recipe for a Spanish-inspired salad that is snappy and flavorful, fresh and healthy. It requires some advance planning, but the end result is well worth it. 

Buen provecho!

SLO SPANISH-STYLE SALAD
Serves 2 - 4

1 large bunch arugula, washed, dried and torn (4 large heaping handfuls)
If you don't care for arugula, use the lettuce of your choice.
2 - 3 cups sliced paprika chicken (recipe below)
1 cup marinated red bell peppers (recipe below)
½ - 1 cup chopped Manchego cheese (or other Spanish cheese of your choice)
¼ cups pitted green or black olives, quartered
1 fennel bulb chopped, outer shell and core removed
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsely leaves, torn
Sherry viniagrette (recipe below)

STEP 1

The day before you plan to serve this salad, marinate the peppers. 

MARINATED RED BELL PEPPERS
2 cups bell peppers, seeded and chopped 
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon torn flat-leaf parsley leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar and cover with a lid (I use a mason jar). Shake all ingredients until peppers are well-covered and place in fridge for 24 hours. 

STEP 2

The chicken can be marinated and cooked the day before as well.
Chicken thighs soaking up the marinade.

PAPRIKA CHICKEN
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast 
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly grated onion (yes, get out your cheese grater!)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon hot paprika                                   
1 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients (except the chicken) in a bowl. The end result is a thick, delicious marinade that you can lather all over your chicken with your hands. Place the chicken in a glass Pyrex baking dish and go for it. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty, but take special care to wash up carefully afterwards. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for up to two hours. The acids in the lemon juice can toughen the chicken if left to marinate for too long, so pay attention to the clock. 

When you're ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 350°F, remove the plastic wrap and bake for 20 - 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it; insert a knife into the center of a piece of chicken, and if the meat is no longer pink, it's done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before covering and placing in the fridge until you're ready to serve the salad.

Chicken straight out of the oven.
STEP 3READY TO EAT!

Get out all of your ingredients 20 minutes before serving. Chop, tear and slice your integral elements, then whip up this simple, not-too-tangy viniagrette.

SHERRY VINIAGRETTE  
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1 peeled garlic clove
2 teaspoons raw honey
Salt & pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender, taste, and adjust for salt & pepper. Be sure to use a good quality olive oil. This recipe yields a viniagrette that isn't too tangy, as you'll get some additional pertness in the salad from the marinated bell peppers. 

Place the arugula in a large festive serving bowl. Spoon out half of the marinated peppers (keep the other half for another salad this week!) and arrange over the salad with the sliced fennel, chicken, cheese, olives and parsley. Serve the viniagrette on the side and drizzle over the top of each individual serving. 

Suggested wine pairings: Albariño, Grenache of Rosé, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
 
Enjoy this special occasion salad any day of the week!

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