Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Green Asparagus Chicken Caesar Salad with Honey Pecan Nuts

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Pearling sensuously in the warm evening sun, the bulbous glass beckons with promises of crisp and chilled Riesling. The air, perfumed with a mix of earthy herbs, flowery lavender and spicy meat, creates a intoxicating melange for my senses. It is unusually quiet for a weekday and I am enjoying the luxury of stepping out of my accustomed routine.

School’s out for the summer and while the son is away for a couple of weeks, there is no Math, French or History homework to brood over, no lunchboxes to be packed, no guitar lessons or swim practices to drive to, no hollering, no badgering and fretting over what’s for dinner. I am sure I will miss him soon enough but for now I am enjoying bustling around according to my clock. I know some of you can relate.

Summer is here and Weimar is radiating in glorious sunshine. It’s hard to believe my knee operation was 5 weeks ago and while it is still healing, slightly swollen and I still have to wear my brace, I am doing really well. I could not have chosen a better time to spend at home. Time I needed - to mend and rejuvenate - from the outside and from the inside.

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I panicked at first thinking of the 6 weeks at home - I do not do so well in the role of the invalid. Soon however, I realized that this time was the forced time I needed to come down and realign. The first half of the year has been a rollercoaster ride. So many good things but hardly time to appreciate as I battled with the less good things happening. I was determined though that I would not sink into self-pity and within days after my surgery I brought out my trusted sticky notes and began structuring myself. I was feeling very drained and one of my first goals on my sticky notes was to get my energy and stamina back: physical, mental and emotional. So, while the machines worked to bend my knee, I worked with dumbbells to strengthen my upper body and stomach. Meditation fortified my mind and my physiotherapist tortured my knee back into shape.

The weeks have been fleeing away.

The people in my life have been a constant source of vitality too, allowing me to draw on their energy and keeping my morale high. Old friends and new acquaintances have given me much over the past few weeks, some without knowing the favor they were doing. They have stimulated my mind with intensive talks, spiritual conversation and challenging debates. We met on my terrace for long breakfasts and hours of brainstorming or rendezvoused on the sundeck of our favorite restaurant to converse about God, religion and the world or got together for al fresco dinners with many laughs and stories. And each time I felt my sparkle return a little more.

I am forever grateful for this support.

My stamina returned and not long after I began getting calls from my trusted clients inquiring about my health and when I could get back into taking photography assignments. I was still shaky on the knee so began with a small shoot and soon found myself booked for the whole of July. The knee is holding out, still supported by the brace, my physiotherapy has intensified and my physiotherapist still tortures me. I am getting back into the swing of things as I complete my final week of convalesce.

I am stoked to be working on 2 new projects (more on those soon), have started to shoot a cookbook (more on that soon), am looking forward to sold out workshops in Amsterdam and Dubai, impatient to frolic on the beaches of Koh Samui soon and return to the university with a head full of new ideas.

May the force be with me!

I am sure my physiotherapist will continue to torture me over the next several weeks - I still have a long way to go but both he and my doctor are pleased with my progress. My friends and family will continue to support and feed my brain and my work will keep me structured and motivated.

I count my blessings.

The cool Riesling prickles on my lips. Somewhere, someone plays Schubert’s Musical moment no. 6 on the piano, making me sink back into the wooden bench on the terrace and dream positive.

With all the cooking I have been doing for the magazines and the cookbook there has been a lot of opulent food in my kitchen. However, I have been craving lighter and fresh dishes with lots of vegetables. This salad, a fantastic twist on the classic Caesar Salad, was recently featured in a German food magazine Essen & Trinken. I adapted it slightly here but love the idea of adding crunchy green asparagus and honey pecan nuts - a great flavor level to this classic salad.

Recipe: Green Asparagus Chicken Cesar Salad with Honey Pecan Nuts

Printable version of recipe here

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
For the dressing

  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 75 ml milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
For the Salad
  • 500g green asparagus, cut in about 2 cm pieces
  • 200g Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into pieces
  • 50g Pecorino, grated or very thinly sliced using a vegetable peeler
  • 2-3 slices rustic ciabatta bread, cut into cubes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 30g pecan nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Small bunch thyme
  • 400g chicken breast, skin removed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons clear honey, like acacia
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

Method:

  1. To make the dressing put the egg, garlic clove, mustard and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a tall mixing container. Pour the oil and using an immersion blender blend the mixture until the dressing thickens. Add the milk and the remaining lemon juice and mix well. Season to taste.
  2. Prepare a bowl with ice cold water. Blanch the asparagus pieces in salt water for about 3 to 4 minutes, making sure that they do not overcook and keep a slight crunch. With a slotted spoon remove the asparagus and immediately put into the ice water. Drain well.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet, then throw in the ciabatta cubes and mix to coat in the oil. When the bread begins to turn golden, add the chopped garlic and toss. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  4. WIth the remaining olive oil fry the chicken slices on all sides until cooked through and browned. Add the nuts, honey, thyme and whole-grain mustard and mix. Allow to cook for about 1 minute until everything is nicely glazed. Season to taste.
  5. Toss the asparagus and lettuce in the dressing and place on a platter (or divide into bowls). Lay out the honey-nut-chicken slices over the top and finally sprinkle with the croutons and the Pecorino cheese.
  6. Sprinkle with freshly cracked pepper.
Notes: Make sure that all the ingredients for the dressing are at room temperature. If they are used straight out of the fridge they will not blend into a homogeneous mixture.

Verdict

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One never stops learning! Over the last 6 weeks I have had the opportunity to reflect and be more insightful. While I have always been a very positive person I tended to waste some of my energy on trivial things and often got fixated on banal affairs. Life is too short. I hope to continue to grow in a more positive and productive direction.

My favorite finds this week:

Enjoy the summer, the sun and the warmth! See you next week.

You might like these summer salads from WFLH:

AsianInspiredChickenCabbageSalad_0013-WM_thumb RoastedGarlicTomatoBabySpinachSalad-1-WM_thumb WatermelonPeachFetaSalad_0005-WM[2]
Asian Chicken Red Cabbage and Peach Salad Baby Spinach Salad with Roasted Garlic Tomatoes, Hazelnuts, and a Quince and Pear Vinaigrette Minty Peach and Watermelon Salad with Feta Cheese


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2013 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

17 comments :

  1. Your Caesar salad looks gorgeous! I really like that version as it's refined, flavorful, fresh and not sickly.

    Enjoy the summer and your time at home!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Thanks Rosa! Yes you hit the nail on the head! It was and tasted great!

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  2. I would love this pretty salad for lunch today!

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  3. Your salad sounds delicious and looks beautiful.

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  4. Fresh, flavorful, gorgeous salad! Enjoy your time at home!

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    1. Thanks Lail! Time flies and I've been healing fast!

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  5. So glad to hear that your recovery is progressing well, and I'm not the least bit surprised that you are impatient to get back to work. Whenever I've been forced to slow down for a while, my creative mind seems to relish the time, and great new ideas are the result. I hope that is how it's worked for you.

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    1. Yes it has Lydia! I have enjoyed the time at home and was able to sort many ideas and things in my head. But as always I wish I had more time!

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  6. So happy to hear you are making leaps and bounds in your recovery, Meeta. Sounds like an incredible year behind and ahead of you my friend. Love this twist of a summery fresh salad. I happened to buy romaine the other day a nice change from my usual, arugula.

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    1. I hope the year gets better Shulie ... I've had to make many detours this first half year. So I hope the second is easier!

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  7. I'm so sorry to hear about your operation, Meeta, but absolutely love how you've embraced your convalescence and are doing such good things to restore your body and spirit. :-) XO

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    1. Thank you! We get stronger when things get harder ;o)

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta