Barbecue chicken salad with tomatoes, peaches, and goat cheese ranch dressing.

Barbecue Chicken Salad with Tomato, Peaches, and Goat Cheese Ranch Dressing - Vegetal Matters Christmas creep is by far the worst example, but I think the problem has gone way beyond just one holiday. It is more like seasonal creep now. It happens with businesses, beers, and food bloggers. The infamous hot pumpkin coffee beverage starts making its appearance at the end of August.  I went to a grocery store and a craft store labor day weekend and was bombarded with pumpkin beer and Halloween decor. And this doesn’t just happen this time of year. Sam Summer goes out on shelves in March. Recipes for asparagus and strawberries pop up everywhere in March and April, even though their seasons aren’t really in full swing until June. Tomato dishes are everywhere in July, but their peak season is August and September (and it even goes into October).

There is a push for always preparing for what is ahead, instead of enjoying what is here. A need to experience all the quintessential things that are supposed to happen in a season, instead of the reality. It is about to be October. I live in Massachusetts, and on Monday I went to the farm where I buy my produce and selected from summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, radishes, winter squashes, potatoes, kale, chard, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, leeks, onions and herbs. It is that wonderful time of seasonal transition, when both summer and winter crops are coming in. I still love my share of fall crops (though pumpkin does not get me nearly as twitterpated as everyone else), but my true favorites come from summer. The beauty in many fall and winter crops is they last a long time if stored properly. So I have many months to get in my butternut squash soup and beet salads, but in the meantime I’m going to ingest all the nightshades and stone fruit I can manage.

Last week I made barbecue chicken, but wanted a lighter meal for the leftovers. A few peaches from peach week were still in the fridge, and since I’ve already put peaches and tomatoes together, and peaches and chicken together, putting peaches, tomatoes, and chicken in one dish wasn’t much of a stretch.

Barbecue Chicken Salad with Tomatoes, Peaches, and Goat Cheese Ranch Dressing

Serves 4.

This is easily scale-able. If you don’t eat chicken, chickpeas or cauliflower (a la buffalo cauliflower salad) would make an excellent substitution.

Salad

  • 2 chicken breasts with barbecue sauce (see note for substitutions), chopped
  • 12ish cups lettuce (I used a mix of lettuce and cabbage), enough to fill 4 dinner plates, from about 1/2 a head of cabbage and a small head of lettuce
  • 2 medium tomatoes (or a few handfuls cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 peaches

Dressing

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots or red onion
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley

If you have a food processor, set it up with the S blade (or use a blender). Turn it on and drop the garlic in from the top, processing until you don’t hear any more bits bouncing around. Add in the shallot, and process for 30 seconds. Add the goat cheese, buttermilk, salt, and pepper in and process until smooth. Without a food processor, whisk the garlic, shallot, goat cheese, buttermilk, salt, and pepper together. Then whisk in the parsley (don’t add the parsley into the food processor unless you want a very green dressing). Allow the dressing to sit in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or longer if you can.

Chop peaches and tomato into ½ inch pieces. Divide lettuce onto plates, then top each plate with a quarter of the tomatoes, peaches, and barbecue chicken (I like to warm it slightly). Serve with goat cheese ranch.

 

 

Last Week I Cooked…

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersDan dan noodles (from Every Grain of Rice). A trip to an awesome Sichuanese restaurant renewed my desire for all things Sichuan (which started after I read Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper). The dish was not entirely authentic as I haven’t been able to get my hands on the pickled vegetables called for, and I used tahini instead of Chinese sesame paste…but it still made for some awesome noodles. There are two recipes in the book for dan dan noodles, one with beef and one with pork. I mostly followed the beef recipe but used pork. Weirdly neither of the recipes in Every Grain of Rice call for greens, but the photo has greens in the bowl and I’ve been served dan dan noodles with greens, so I stir fried some tat soi and added it in with the noodles and sauce.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Burnt eggplant and Israeli couscous soup. Tomato eggplant soup is perfect for the changing of the seasons when summer produce is still coming in but the air is nippy. I loved the couscous and bits of eggplant in this soup, but it was a process with lots of parts. A great alternative is this Smitten Kitchen Roasted Eggplant Soup, which is really as easy as putting all the ingredients on a baking sheet, roasting, then blending with stock. I don’t think the goat cheese topping is necessary (and I just about never turn down goat cheese), but I like the consistent soup texture. It is really ugly soup, but very lovable.

Roasted broccoli with romanesco. The broccoli from the farm up the hill from me is more broccolini-like, so I couldn’t make steaks like these but desperately wanted to make this sauce. I cheated and used a pre-roasted red pepper and a chili instead of the Asian long red chili and it still made for a spicy, savory sauce that I slathered all over the broccoli and enjoyed with gusto.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Roasted chicken thighs with green peaches and summer herbs. I would have never guessed peaches, chicken, herbs and ginger would pair together so magically. I don’t make enough things that are as easy as tossing everything together and sticking the pan in the oven. Couscous seemed like a fittingly easy side to serve under the chicken. I used a little bit more than a pound of chicken thighs, but still used 2 peaches (and would have liked even more if there was room).

Summer squash pasta with green goddess dressing. I was so excited to squeeze this dish in with what could very well be my last fresh zucchini of the season. I was also excited to actually have some anchovies in the fridge to add to the dressing, which I  haven’t had the past times I’ve made it (and opening a can for one anchovy seems silly). I halved the recipe though, and didn’t think it would really matter that much to put a whole anchovy in….whoops. It was a little fishy. Next time I’ll just use the capers.

BBQ bean burritos with peach salsa. Can you tell I bought a big box of peaches this week? I like the spicy sweet balance of these burritos which are a little more fun than my usual beans and vegetables. This time I upped the chipotle and left out the sugar and molasses to make for spicy smokey beans without the sweetness.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Peach cornmeal upside-down cake. As mentioned, this cake came out of the pan like a dream. Next time I will really squish the peaches in so every cake bite gets some. I added in a little dried lavender since I had it, but I couldn’t taste it and don’t think it’s necessary. This is really best within the first couple days, so plan to share.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersBarbecued chicken. I had a craving for traditional, sticky, barbecue chicken. I used a whole chicken that I broke down for grilling. The sauce was nicely sticky but not overly sweet and the chicken was nice and tender. Everything I wanted.

Cabbage salad with apples and ginger dressing. I made a bare bones version of this with just the cabbage and apples, but I do like adding in dried cranberries when I have them. Some version of this will be making many more appearances through apple season.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Spicy polenta breakfast bowl. Why do I always forget about polenta? I go months without eating it and then become obsessed for a little bit before letting it get pushed into the back of the cabinet again. I didn’t make the sweet potatoes and used salsa I made and thought about how I should make polenta for breakfast more often.

Last week I cooked…

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersTakeout-style sesame noodles with cucumber. I saw this posted on Tuesday, didn’t have a firm plan for dinner that night, and had all the ingredients for this in the pantry, plus cucumbers in the garden and it was the greatest. I’ve had trouble cooking rice noodles, but I watched these like a hawk and then drizzled them with sesame oil as instructed, and they didn’t turn out gummy or all stick together (hallelujah!). I always love a nutty, creamy, slightly sour sauce like this (which tastes strong on its own but mellows nicely with the noodles). After running around all day I knew I would need a more substantial meal, so I roasted some tofu a la Thug Kitchen (page 77 of the cookbook….that’s how often I use this method). Because of the tofu addition I served the noodles still warm and they were everything I hoped for.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Braised cabbage with fried potatoes, feta, and dill (from Vegetable Literacy). Very fancy feeling. The creamy fried potatoes were nicely balanced with wilted buttery cabbage, salty feta and herbal dill (which I don’t cook with enough).  This would have made an excellent course at an Irish mid-summer farm dinner. Unfortunately I made just this for dinner, and Madison’s serves 4 definitely meant as a side not a meal.

Corn bread salad. I have to admit this did not turn out, but it was entirely my fault as I let the cornbread go south (I thought toasting it up again would save it…I was wrong). Even if I had done everything according to recipe, it probably would not be my favorite dish. I already don’t like croutons in salad, and then getting them all soggy just makes everything that much worse. But I tried it, and I think most people without soggy crouton aversions would like this, so have at it.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Zucchini ricotta fritters. I’ve been on the hunt for the best zucchini fritters for a while now…and these still aren’t quite them. The ricotta made them super moist, but to the point of being hard to cook through. They stayed together really nicely, browned quickly, and then sat in the oven for a bit and still were super soft in the middle. Most zest and more salt next time, higher heat, and longer in the oven.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Potatoes with kale and a fried egg. This remains one of my absolute favorite breakfasts. This time I cooked the potatoes cubed in the cast iron, and added some diced onion halfway through cooking. The potatoes aren’t quite as decadent that way, but they do cook faster.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Toast with ricotta, honey, and peaches. My favorite breakfast, lunch, and coffee spot in Worcester is also a bakery, and most of their breakfast menu is just their incredible breads toasted with various spreads (like country bread with homemade raspberry jam, and olive and herb bread with whipped feta and olive oil). After eating there Sunday I wanted nothing but toast for breakfast all week, and did different renditions of ricotta with jam or honey and fruit.

 

Last week I cooked…

20150726_195049Spicy fried chicken sandwich. We had this for dinner on Will’s actual birthday. It was the first fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever made, and I see no reason to ever seek out another recipe. The chicken was spicy, crispy and tender, and the yogurt sauce/slaw was just the right creamy, crunchy contrast. For me this was a perfect balance of spiciness, enough to feel it and warrant spicy in the name, but not so much that it kept you from actually tasting everything. I suppose if your spice tolerance is low you will want to find another recipe, but I’ll be sticking with this one.

Lentil and chickpea salad with feta and tahini. Redemption after a weekend of barbecue and fried chicken. I love the onion salad on top of the creamy legumes. Paired with the tomato salad below.

Tomato salad with pomegranate molasses (from Persiana). I added in some cucumbers and cherry peppers from my garden instead of the Turkish peppers, but loved this simple but new take on a tomato salad. The dressing is super potent, so used sparingly.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersOttolenghi’s black pepper tofu. This has been on my to cook list for too long. The addition of butter is inspired (but really didn’t we all love rice with butter as kids?). The amount of pepper seems ridiculous, but the butter mellows it nicely. I halved the recipe to use a single block of tofu (which usually come in 14 oz portions on the US).

Spicy roasted bok choy. Paired with black pepper tofu. I think my red pepper flakes are especially potent, because this was super spicy, which wasn’t exactly what I was looking for to go with the pepper tofu. I mostly was excited about the ease of preparation and the fact that I didn’t also need to cook this on the stove.

Peach and corn coleslaw. #Summer. This slaw is sweet and a little sour and just the perfect summer salad. I used regular peaches, less cabbage, plus a cucumber.

Grilled eggplant and chickpea salad with pomegranate molasses. I guess pom molasses is the special ingredient of the week here. I made this for a picnic (to eat on Boston Common while seeing King Lear) and it was perfect. I roasted the eggplant since I don’t have a grill, along with green peppers and an onion,  For the picnic I also make a tomato and cucumber salad with balsamic vinegar and the zucchini cornbread again, and my friends brought couscous salad for the best summer salad compilation ever.

Blueberry pie with yogurt. If you ask me, the best way to enjoy leftover pie is for breakfast. Just take a couple big dollops of yogurt, and top with a small slice of pie and some fresh fruit if you have it. Really this is the same concept of those dessert yogurt cups, but 1,000x better.

Last week I cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Not something I cooked, but I went to Brattle Book Shop in Downtown Boston and the cookbook section was incredible. I’m embarrassed to be a born and raised Bay Stater/book store enthusiast and not have know about this place until this weekend. We walked away with Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain, Clementine in the Kitchen, and Moose Mousse.