Cuban Sandwich Salad

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Growing up in Florida, I’ve savored Cuban sandwiches ever since I can remember. Cubans can be enjoyed hot or cold, and whether served in school cafeterias, packed for lunches on the beach, or grab & go from the deli, Cubans have been a part of every season of my life. Mmmm….

So I thought I’d try my hand at transforming this delicious sandwich into a decadent salad!

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Keeping this salad true to the original Cuban sandwich, the ingredients are especially important. A “real” Cuban does not have mayo, fancy mustards, tomatoes, or any type of cheese other than Swiss; nor is it served on a hoagie. If a Cuban sandwich comes your way with any of these, it’s a fraud. ūüėČ

An authentic Cuban simply has butter, yellow mustard, roasted or barbequed pork, ham, Italian salami, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and Cuban bread. That’s it!

I used these ingredients (and their proportions to the sandwich) to keep this salad true to form. The dressing has real butter and yellow mustard. Italian seasoning compliments the salami’s spices. Rice vinegar and shallots are the mildest flavors of vinegars and onions so as to give this dressing personality but not dominate the salad or change the Cuban’s original flavor. And the vinegar also compliments the vinegar-soaked pickles; an awesome combination.

The point of the dressing is to get mustard and butter into this dish (like on the sandwich) and lightly coat the lettuce so it is still a proper salad yet with all of the authentic flavors of a Cuban sandwich.

IMG_E2337[1]Don’t skimp on the pickles! A true Cuban has bity dill pickles that deliver a crunch. Please skip the shelved, limp pickles and get the fresh, refrigerated pickles. Their crisp crunch and fresh taste is light years beyond any non-refrigerated pickle. Trust me on this! Good pickles are the ingredient that pulls this entire dish together. They are the crowning jewel of this salad; use at least 2 cups but add more if you’d like.

The mixed soft greens of spring, kale and watercress are given texture with crunchy cabbage and Brussel sprouts which do not add flavor, but do add texture and nutrition with the Brussels.

We prefer hard salami to Genoa, but either works. The roast pork is a cheat that I buy precooked from the deli. It’s definitely a time-saver, and since it’s part of the entree and not the main course I’m totally fine buying a pre-cooked portion of pork versus roasting an entire tenderloin – though leftovers are never a bad thing.

Lastly, serve with Cuban bread on the side or skip it for a gluten-free option.

My family kept saying that they couldn’t believe how much this salad tasted like a Cuban sandwich, woohoo!!

Enjoy Cuban sandwich flavors on top of a zesty, high-protein salad that, when paired together, you have a new, uncompromised version of the Cuban we all know and love.

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(Serves 4 to 6)

Salad:

4oz                         Spring mix lettuce

4oz                         Baby Kale

4oz                         Watercress

4oz                        Angel hair plain Coleslaw cabbage

4c                           Brussel sprouts; thinly sliced & ends cut off

3/4#                       Ham; diced (you can buy it pre-diced)

3/4#                       Roast pork; diced (pre-cooked from the deli)

1/2#                       Italian hard salami; diced (buy one thick piece from the deli then dice it)

3/4#                       Swiss cheese; diced

2c                           Dill pickles; chopped (use the refrigerated kind like Claussen dill)

1                             Cuban bread; optional- leave soft or toast and cut into cubes as croutons

Dressing:

4T                          Butter; unsalted & melted

1/4c                       Grapeseed or vegetable oil

2                            Shallots; peeled, ends cut off and then cut shallots in half

2t                           Italian herb seasoning

3/4c                       Plain/natural rice vinegar

4T                          Yellow mustard

2t                           Fresh minced garlic

4t                           Sugar

1/2t                        Salt

1/8t                        Black pepper

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Directions:

  1. Make the dressing by melting butter in the microwave or on the stovetop, then blend all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor.

 

  1. If saving for later, pour dressing into a bottle, bowl or measuring cup that can be microwaved to keep butter melted if it cools and thickens. Otherwise simply set it aside. Dressing should be room temperature when served.

 

  1. In a large bowl, toss spring lettuce, baby kale, watercress, cabbage and Brussels with the dressing until evenly coated. Divide evenly among 4-6 serving plates.

 

  1. Plate salads by dividing remaining ingredients evenly and layering them on top of the dressed greens in the order listed above beginning with ham and ending with pickles.

 

5. Garnish with Cuban bread, optional. Serve immediately.

Peachy Keen Chicken Salad

Peachy Keen Chicken Salad

This salad!!! Oh my! New family favorite. I love to cook using ingredients in their peak season and right now peaches are perfection. Mmmm! This salad is our only meal of the day…it’s that hearty and satisfying!

The base flavors of this salad are peaches, goat cheese, blueberries and basil. These flavors compliment each other with sweet, savory and tangy tastes.

Salad notes – I always try to add a hidden vegetable to bump the nutritional value and the hidden jem here are green beans. They don’t change the taste but add nutrition and pack a crunch.

Bacon and peaches play off of each other with salty & sweet flavors and give this extra layers of YUM!

Compote note – Leeks add a savory tang to the sweet peaches and sugar in the compote. Balance is key to a yummy dish.

Marinade note – I always use grapeseed oil when I can. It’s better for our hearts than other oils and can handle heat up to 500 degrees which makes it perfect for the grill to help keep proteins from sticking when flipping.

Peach Compote:

6              fresh peaches; peeled and sliced

1/4c         sugar

1              leek; white part only finely sliced

Chicken marinade:

4 -6         chicken breasts (# of pieces depends on # of servings)

4T           balsamic vinegar

3T           garlic powder (not garlic salt)

1T           Herbs de Provence

4T           grapeseed oil

Salt & pepper to taste (be a little generous with the salt)

Dressing:

1/2c         balsamic vinegar

1/2c         extra virgin olive oil

2              fresh peaches; peeled and Sliced

2T¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†good white wine (preferably not ‚Äúcooking wine‚ÄĚ)

1/4c         sugar

1/2t          salt

1T            Herbs de Provence

Salad:

10oz       spring lettuce

5oz         baby kale

1/2c       fresh basil; finely chopped

2c            fresh green beans; ends cut off and beans cut in thirds

1c            green onions; chopped

4oz         goat cheese; crumbled

1c bacon; cooked and crumbled

1c            cranberries (50% less sugar)

1pint      blueberries

1c            pecan pieces

3              fresh peaches; peeled and sliced

1c            red pepper; diced

1              avocado; sliced

Peach compote topping

Directions:

1. Begin the peach compote. Place 6 sliced peaches and sugar in small saucepot and cooking on medium heat, stirring often so it doesn’t burn.

2. Once bubbling, turn down the heat to low and add sliced leeks. Simmer on low until sauce becomes translucent and compote is loose-jam consistency. It will take a good 20 minutes so start this step first.

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3. While compote is reducing, prep chicken by rinsing the chicken then the trimming fat and cutting breasts in half lengthwise.

4. Add chicken halves to a gallon plastic bag and then add the marinade ingredients.

5. Massage the bag gently and thoroughly to coat the chicken pieces evenly.  Set aside.

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6. Now make the dressing by blending all dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pour into a serving bottle and chill until ready to use.

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7. Place cut green beans in a small pot with enough water to cover and boil for 5 minutes (set a timer!).

8. Immediately remove beans from heat and dunk them in an ice bath (a bowl with enough ice and cold water to cover the beans). This is called blanching. Boiling will slightly cook the beans, and the ice water bath shocks them so they stop cooking and keep their crunch and color. Keep them in the ice bath until ready to use.

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9. Heat grill and place chicken halves on the grill. Cook thoroughly. (You can also bake the chicken in the oven or air bake for approx. 20 minutes @ 350 turning halfway through- in lieu of grilling.)

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Time to assemble the salad…

10. Compote should be finished. Once it is thick, pour into a bowl and let cool on the counter while making the salad.

11. Keep checking on and turning the chicken, then remove from heat.

12. Assembling the salad ‚Äď plate the ingredients per their list order beginning with lettuce and ending with avocado. (I always put the green items on the bottom so the colorful items pop on top.)

13. Drizzle dressing over top. (Leftover dressing makes a great marinade for chicken or pork – or more salads!)

14. Place two grilled chicken halves on top of each salad. Evenly spoon compote over all chicken pieces. Serve immediately.

TwoFer Crustless Quiche & Pasta Salad

I am SO excited to have our son home from college for Christmas break. With a full house, I wanted to have some homemade meals on hand, but didn’t want to spend a ton of time and energy in the kitchen with all of the other to-do’s on the list this time of year.

Inspired by a lack of time, I decided to make two very different dishes that have overlapping ingredients so I could reduce my work and shopping list.

These two recipes have similar ingredients, but different bases. With that, and switching out a few key ingredients, they have different tastes, textures, temperatures and mealtimes. So we’re getting a TwoFer… two recipes for one trip to the grocery store and one amount of time & effort. Yes!

TwoFer Crustless Quiche & Pasta Salad

Crustless Quiche

10                           eggs

1 1/2c                     milk

2c                           Taco Bell Ranch Monterey Jack shredded cheese

12oz                       sweet or white onion; chopped (I use frozen) OR fresh leeks; whites                                            sliced thin; do not use the green stems (freeze them for soup stock)

3-4                         slicing tomatoes; sliced thin (Roma, small beefsteak, etc)

Cooking spray

Pasta Salad

16 oz                     Fusilli (corkscrew), penne OR farfalle (bowtie) pasta

1/2c                      pine nuts

1 bunch                 green onions; chopped

2 pints                   grape OR cherry tomatoes; whole

1T                         grapeseed or vegetable oil

1lb                        fresh mozzarella; cubed

(Vinaigrette)

5T                         lemon juice

5T                         white Balsamic vinegar

4T                         olive oil

2T                         sugar or agave

1/2t                      salt

Both Dishes

3 cloves               garlic

2t                        dried or fresh basil

Salt & cracked pepper to taste

1                        orange pepper; diced

2t                       grapeseed or vegetable

1 bag                 fresh baby spinach; chopped

1 1/2c                bacon; cooked & crumbled (I buy mine from Costco)

16oz¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ham; sliced, butcher cut or “off the block” cut

Directions:

Use two bowls, one for each recipe.

Quiche Bowl:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix eggs, milk, cheese, 2t garlic, basil and salt & pepper.
  3. Saute onion in 1t oil and slowly add to bowl to temper the egg mixture.
  4. Saute orange pepper in 1t oil and add half of it to quiche.
  5. Add half of the spinach, bacon and ham and blend well.
  6. Pour into greased 10×10‚ÄĚ casserole dish.
  7. Slice tomatoes thin and place on top. Slightly press tomatoes into the quiche so the tomatoes stay soft.
  8. Bake for 25-30 min until cooked through.

Pasta Bowl:

  1. Cook pasta al dente (9-11min) in salted and oiled water (about 1T of vegetable oil).
  2. While pasta is cooking, make the vinaigrette by combining all ingredients in a container with lid and shake well.
  3. Drain pasta and pour into bowl and add vinaigrette while pasta is hot; mix well. Vinaigrette will absorb into the pasta as it cools.
  4. Add 1t garlic, basil, salt & pepper. Mix well.
  5. Add half of the orange pepper, spinach, bacon and ham.
  6. Add pine nuts and green onions.
  7. Saute grape tomatoes in oil until they blister and begin to pop. This greatly increases their flavor. Do not overcook. They should keep their shape as in the photo below.
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  9. Add tomatoes to pasta bowl and gently toss.
  10. Add mozzarella and gently toss.
  11. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  12. Stir before serving.

** You can switch out ingredients based on preference, food allergies and what you have on hand.

Quiche freezes well.