Salads

Chicken Salad with Apples & Candied Pecans

Every year, as the heat of the Texas summer surrenders to the cool crisp air of winter – FYI, we completely skip fall here in Texas – the Starving Artist makes time for a day trip to visit a nearby family-owned apple orchard, where he spends the afternoon sipping cider and picking farm-fresh apples for the Thanksgiving apple pie. It's one of my favorite days each year. Oh, who am I kidding? I'd never sacrifice that much Saturday studio time for a few apples in a Thanksgiving pie, especially when I'd be lucky to score a single slice after my family tore through the kitchen. But I did make a quick trip to the farmers market where I picked up a couple fresh Honeycrisp apples and some candied pecans, then made a beeline back to the studio where I uncorked a nice bottle of Chardonnay, whipped up a delicious chicken salad, and dove head first into a new series of tasty prints. Now that's what I call day tripping.

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Ingredients

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cooked, cooled, then diced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 1/3 cup candied pecans, roughy chopped
  • 1 Honeycrisp apple, unpeeled and diced finely
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Your favorite bread, toasted
  • Salad greens

Directions

  1. Add the chicken and the rest of the ingredients to a good sized mixing bowl and toss gently to combine, then set aside, or keep covered in the fridge if preparing ahead.
  2. To make your sandwich, add a bit of your favorite type of greens to the bottom piece of your favorite toasted bread, then add a generous amount of the chicken salad over the greens, topping with another piece of bread. Serve with chips, a salad, or fresh fruit.

Texas Heat Potato Salad

It's picnic season, and visions of shade-draped red and white checkered blankets covered with delicious, lovingly prepared sandwiches and sides dance temptingly before my eyes. Unfortunately, since I live in Texas, it's also triple-digit season, and that means there's no way in hell you're dragging me outside – into that triple-digit heat – for a picnic. However, I'm happy to spend a little time in my air-conditioned kitchen making a delicious side for your crazy-ass, sun-parched, dehydration-inducing, sweat-laden lunch. Enjoy your picnic, and this Texas Heat Potato Salad I made just for you.

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced into 1" cubes
  • 1 & 3/4 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • 1 cup red onion, sliced thin into 1/2 moons
  • 3 fresh jalapeños, 2 sliced into rings, 1 minced, seeds and ribs removed, with 1/2 of the minced jalapeño reserved for garnish
  • 5 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/16 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives, for garnish

Notes

After quick pickling the onions, save the leftover pickling juice. It can be used to make a nice spicy vinaigrette salad dressing by combining with olive oil. Sometimes I make the quick pickled onions just to get the pickling juice.

Directions

  1. First, we'll quick pickle the onions and jalapeños. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the onions and jalapeños (reserve 1/2 the minced jalapeños for garnish). Marinate for 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally (the pickling juice will not cover the onions and jalapeños, so the occasional stir ensures all the onions are properly pickled).
  2. While your onions pickle, add the potatoes to a large stock-pot and cover with cold water. Salt the water to your preference. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until just fork tender, but not mushy, about 10-12 minutes. Drain, and dump the potatoes into a large mixing bowl and add 1 & 1/ 2 tablespoons of pickling juice from the onions.
  3. By now, your pickled onions and jalapeños are ready. Drain them, reserving the pickling juice, add the pickled jalapeños and onions to the bowl of potatoes, gently mix a bit, then place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  4. While the potatoes chill, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, mayonnaise, ground pepper, 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/16th teaspoon cayenne.
  5. Once the potatoes have cooled, pour the dressing over the potatoes, pickled onions, and jalapeños, add the celery, and using a silicon spatula, mix potato salad together, making sure to scrape bottom of the mixing bowl to incorporate all the ingredients.
  6. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
  7. For extra kick, garnish with the remaining minced jalapeños. The flavor will improve as the salad chills in the fridge, and the spicy flavor will increase as well. Keep this in mind when adjusting flavors or adding that last bit of jalapeños as a garnish.

Turkey Salad with Cranberries & Pecans

I love Texas, but I hate the heat of July and August. If I weren't so abysmally impoverished by life as a starving artist, I'd flee the state for a cooler climate this time of year, every year. That said, today is turning into the perfect summer day. The sun is shining, the AC is working, the fridge is stocked with adult beverages, there's baseball on TV, and the lawn mower is broken. Yep, damn near perfect. The only thing that could make it better is a simple batch of Turkey Salad with Cranberries & Pecans. It cools me off just looking at it.

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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream 
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups roasted turkey breast, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Notes

Don't be afraid to use 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. It won't make the turkey salad too spicy. It'll just add a bit more bite, and you'll love it.

Directions 

  1. Make the salad dressing by mixing the first six ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  2. To finish, add the last six ingredients to the dressing, and mix well. Serve in a sandwich or as a topping on a salad.

Lemony Greek Orzo Salad

The 4th of July. Independence Day. Burgers. Brats. Hot dogs. Questionably grilled steaks of every conceivable cut. The only day that rivals this for budget-be-damned, meat product consumption is perhaps Labor Day. We'll see if I'm right in a couple months. However, as we approach the rest of summer's grill-focused outings, I'll admit I like a lighter dish – at least as a side – and would hope to do so without a challenge to my manhood. So please pass the Lemony Greek Orzo Salad, and don't look directly at my manhood.

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Ingredients

  • 1 &1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 medium shallot, grated
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 medium cucumbers, partly peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and sliced
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Directions

  1. Cook the orzo in well salted water according to package instructions. Drain, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, make a lemon-dill vinaigrette to dress the salad by combining the lemon zest and juice, mustard, the grated shallot in a medium bowl. Whisk everything together with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking, then stir in the chopped dill. Taste and adjust as needed.
  3. Pour the vinaigrette over the still-warm pasta and toss. Allow to cool to room temperature, then stir in the olives and cucumbers. Scatter the crumbled feta cheese over the top and serve. 

Soba, Sesame and Carrot Salad

It's barely mid-June, and the heat is approaching oppressive, at least by my standards. By 10:00 a.m. I barely want to step outside. But not so for my Goth neighbor up the street. I marvel at his commitment to the lifestyle, and wonder how hot it'll get before he stops mowing the lawn in leather pants and combat boots. I watch him mow, back and forth, back and forth, and all I can think of is air conditioning, and a cold comforting salad. If I can summon the courage to brave the heat, maybe I'll take him a nice, cool bowl of this super easy Soba, Sesame and Carrot Salad.

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Ingredients 

  • 8-9 ounces soba noodles
  • 1/2 pound carrots, about 3 to 4 medium
  • 1 bunch scallions, about 6
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Directions 

  1. Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. Drain, then toss with a little cooking oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Refrigerate to cool.
  2. While the noodles cool, peel your carrots and shave with a peeler into thin strips until you have about 3 loosely packed cups of carrot shavings. Trim the scallions, then chop both the green and white parts into pieces about 1/2-inches long.
  3. Next, whisk the rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and sugar together. Taste, then add a little more soy sauce or sugar if desired.
  4. Finally, toss together the chilled noodles, carrots, scallions, and noodles with the dressing, then toss with the sesame seeds. Serve chilled or at room temperature.