Sunday, June 25, 2006


Yesterday I made this chicken salad for the first time, and I really, really like it. It seems much lighter than a mayonnaise based chicken salad, making it a much better choice for the summer. This recipe makes a LOT of chicken salad, so unless you’re having a large crowd or really like chicken salad, I would suggest cutting this recipe in half.

Italian Chicken Salad

10 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken (from about 3 purchased roasted whole chickens)
2 cups roasted red and yellow bell peppers, drained, patted dry, and coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups paper-thin slices red onion
3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup drained capers
1 1/2 cups (about) Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (4-ounce) piece Parmesan, shaved with vegetable peeler

Toss the chicken, bell peppers, onion, parsley, almonds, and capers in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to moisten. Season the chicken salad with salt and pepper, to taste.

Spoon the chicken salad onto a bed of lettuce. Drizzle more vinaigrette over the salads. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve.

(The chicken salad can be prepared 4 hours ahead and refrigerated. Just before serving, spoon the salad onto the lettuce.)

Red Wine Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil

Combine the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually add the oil and blend until emulsified.
Yield: 1 3/4 cups

This got me to thinking about how many recipes here use almonds. While we may use almonds in the states, I mainly used them for oriental dishes and for sweets. Here the almonds are used as a source of protein, and give a nice crunch to many dishes.

The following recipe is one that we made when we attended cooking school two years ago, and it remains one of my favorites, especially during the summer when the tomatoes and basil are overflowing. It’s really a quick and simple dish, especially if you keep some toasted almonds on hand like I do….


400 gr FUSILLI
handful of fresh BASIL LEAVES
2 TBSP grated aged PECORINO
60 gr shelled, unskinned ALMONDS

Place almonds in a small bowl & cover in boiling water to loosen the skins. Slips off the skins when they’re cool, then toast in a dry skillet or in a 220º C oven for 6 minutes or until they’re pale gold.

In a small food processor shop the basil garlic and a little coarse sea salt. Do the same with the almonds, again using salt but make sure not to grind the almonds too finely.

Peel the tomatoes without blanching, de-seed by halving and squeezing over the sink, and chop into a medium dice.

In a large bowl mix the tomatoes w/the almonds & basil/garlic mixture. Add the grated cheese and olive oil and mix well. Season with salt and pepper only after tasting…the cheese is salty.

Cook and drain the pasta, making sure it stays al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water in case you need it to dilute the sauce to coat each piece of pasta w/sauce.

This next recipe is for a pesto that’s almost identical to the above recipe. In the summer when the tomatoes are fresh, I make up a bunch of this and freeze it to enjoy all winter long.

Pesto Siciliano

1 8 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 C toasted almonds
4 Tbs. grated pecorino romano
4 garlic cloves
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C basil or parsley
salt to taste
optional: chili pepper flakes

Drain tomatoes (save liquid) and chop
Place toasted almonds and salt in a blender.
Pulse quickly to chop.
Add tomatoes, basil, pecorino and olive oil.
Blend again until a thick puree is formed.
Salt to taste. If mixture seems too thick, thin with some liquid from tomatoes.

The next recipe is one that I haven’t yet tried, but it sounds promising. My only hesitation in making it is that I just don’t like green beans with tomatoes…at least not in the same dish! I know it’s weird, but I’m still going to give it a try….

Bowties with Almonds, String Beans, Feta, and Tomatoes

12 oz (320 gr) bowtie pasta
¼ lb (100 gr) feat, crumbled
2 oz (50 gr) almonds, toasted and slivered
juice of half a lemon
small bunch of parsley, minced
1 heaping tsp paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
½ lb (225 gr) green beans
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Toast the paprika for a couple of minutes over a low flame in a non-stick pan, until it begins to release its aromas. Turn it into a blender, together with the almonds, 3/4 of the feta, the juice of the half a lemon, the parsley, the garlic, and 1/4 cup (50 ml) olive oil. Blend until the mixture is uniformly creamy, and transfer it to a bowl large enough to hold the pasta.

Trim the tips of the beans and cut them into thirds on a slant; plunge them into lightly salted abundant boiling water and cook them for 5 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon, run them under cold water to keep them from cooking further, and draw a half-cup of water from the pot. Slice the tomatoes.

Use the same water you boiled the green beans in to cook the pasta, adding more salt to it if necessary (it probably will be). When the pasta reaches the al dente stage, drain it into a colander and run it under cold water to cool it.

Dilute the sauce with the water from the green beans, stir in the pasta and the remaining ingredients, and serve. (Serves 4)


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