Citrus Spinach Salad

 

Date night can be as informal as holding hands while watching a movie or an episode of a tv show we like to watch together. We used to get all gussied up to the nine’s all the time when we were dating, so ya, we’ve gotten lazy for a number of years. Well, I take part of that back. Lazy and complacent came after the necessity of pinching our pennies due to lost jobs early in our marriage. We never really bounced back to even a reasonable semblance of our courting days. Does any couple, really? I can’t say for sure, but I do know for us a “fancy date night’ includes getting dressed and actually leaving the house. The particular fancy date night is what inspired my Citrus Spinach Salad with fresh Citrus Vinaigrette. I love me a dang good salad slathered in an even better dressing! The toppings are great, but for me it is all about the dressing. Bottle dressing, especially ranch, usually inhibits my “food-gasmic” experience. Give me a fresh, custom crafted, full flavored dressing, and I’m putty for the duration of my salad consumption. I could drink a good dressing…well, not literally…but an out-of-this-world dressing can send me into rapturous visions of pouring that dressing all over my whole body…that’s how important dressing is to my salad 

 

The coolest thing about our “fancy date date” that inspired this recipe is that a group of my Pre-Calc students whom I affectionately call my “cheeky monkeys” got together and gave us a gift card to go out! WOW!!! Of the gifts I’ve gotten from students this was so special because of the coordination it took on top of the thought that went into it. Now, let’s get real for a moment–high school kids do not deluge their MATH teacher with gifts (which usually only happens around Winter Break). Honors kids are more likely to give a gift than, say Algebra 1 classes in high school, but it just isn’t common, so the gifts I do get are always heartwarming to me. I definitely don’t measure gifts monetarily, and I’ve received letters that only cost the giver the time to write that I consider my best gifts because of how moving they are and how they remind me of why I teach because that “why” can get lost in all the red tape and “stuff” that simply is not teaching stuff. Basically, it’s my long winded way of saying this was extra special.

We went to Claim Jumper for our fancy date night. We LOVE their bread, but I can’t say we have been often enough, nor have I had anything memorable enough to where I KNOW exactly what I’m gonna order just about every time I’m there like I do at The Cheesecake Factory (which is usually a toss between the Sante Fe Salad and the Chicken Madeira–BOTH of which I have a marvelous home adapted recipe I will share in a later post, don’t worry). I do KNOW about Claim Jumper’s Mother Load cake, and I have a funny story I will have to tell if I adapt my own version of that cake, but it isn’t a motivation to go eat there for me. Being we had our gift card to use, we were gonna splurge and I got the Filet and the CA Citrus Salad. Ok, just saying that salad just made my mouth water so you know it was beyond memorable for me…in fact it was a MUST to make my own, which I like to tweet and kick up a notch..or ten…so I can enjoy it anytime I want.

That CA Citrus Salad was divine! Oh dear me…I did not hold back on my food comfort noises the whole time I devoured that salad. I did not care who was looking because I was too involved in my salad…well, to be honest, I generally do not care what people think in general. The only thing I found myself wanting was spinach or mixed greens rather than just romaine lettuce, and a peppier apple in the mix…and maybe some blueberries!

You will notice in my full recipe, I have more ingredients than pictured below to the right. I will on fly modify the recipe, and use what I have on hand. Last night when I was gathering all my ingredients, I saw The Olive Press Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar & Master Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil that my husband bought in the gift store at the Jacuzzi Vineyard in Sonoma, CA after our tour. We don’t drink alcohol and they didn’t have any grape juice like we were hoping, so to our delight there was something we could fully enjoy: their olive oil and massive selection of traditional and flavored balsamic vinegar. Being that this was such a fond memory of our trip to San Francisco and Valntine’s day is around the corner, I thought it would be extra special to use those instead of the vegetable oil and apple cider vinegar I had planned. In my excitement, I forgot the paragon, thyme, and honey. I tend to cook by taste so I just added more sugar to get the balance I am used to with this dressing even absentmindedly, thought very happy lost in the memories of our trip, omitting the honey. Sadly, the older I get the more I get side tracked like this, but I ALWAYS taste as I go and adjust accordingly. Hence, I didn’t even notice until typing up my recipe and looking at the photo I took. Classic Bloomy’s Dictionary! The moral of the story is that these things are NOT the end of the world, and as you get familiar with recipes they become more of a formula that you are adjust to achieve different nuances and flavor profiles. In fact, using a balsamic vinegar and olive oil made the dressing much more full bodied but the citrus was not a front note; it was still amazing and I couldn’t stop groaning in pure bliss eating my salad tonight. A vegetable, or rather soybean oil and apple cider vinegar will allow the citrus to really shine. When I planned this post, knowing was valentines around the corner, I picked up blood oranges for their color. In the past I tend towards tangelos if available, or about 4 tangerines, or 2 navel oranges depending on what is ripe; I will go for the tangelo or tangerines before the navel orange because I am head over heals for their sweet tanginess! If you have not had an tangelo yet, you need to! So good. Imagine the sweet juicy tanginess of a tangerine in the size of a navel orange!

Once I made the dressing, I was able to reuse and fill The Olive Press bottles from the balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for the dressing I made. Even more sentimental now. I had emptied one of the olive oil bottles, and the white balsamic vinegar oil, but had not thought to fill them until I used up the other two this time. I had under a cup left I put in a small smoothy hard and twist top. Put them all in the refrigerator, and now every time I open the fridge I not only see that crazy good dressing but the bottles knowing I saved them and found a great way to reuse them extending the sentimental value.

You will find the recipes for the vinaigrette and lime grilled chicken below, but let me list the salad toppings I chose to go with this dressing, inspired by our face date to The Claim Jumper and the CA Citrus Salad I had: mandarin oranges (drained), Pink Lady apples (diced), red onion (sliced thin), dried cranberries, fresh blueberries, crumbled Black River Blue cheese (a mild Blue Cheese, but crumbled Gorgonzola is also lovely), pecans. Did I miss anything? I don’t think so. Now, The Claim Jumper uses green apples, and I do not recall the dressing being this yummy that’s for sure. I also did not have time, but would have preferred to candy my pecans. I will definitely post about candied pecans, as they are such a treat in a salad balancing out the sweet, salty, and tang of the vinegar. SO good. So worth the extra time.

In a nut shell: 1) just throw everything for the dressing in a blender until it’s smooth and frothy, then throw in a container or jar to set in the fridge. 2)Blend all the marinade ingredients, and throw that in a zip lock or bowl with the butterflies chicken breasts, seal or cover, and throw that in the fridge. 3) Forget about it until you are ready to grill…get those errands done…do that laundry…paint that painting…take a nap…do what you gotta do and it is doing it’s magic so don’t think about it until you are hungry…maybe even HANGRY because it will be ready in a jiffy. 4) Pull that chicken out and let it come up to room temp while you prep the salad topping. 5) Heat that grill on med high heat to about 400-450 degrees F, then throw that chicken on the grill and DO NOT move it for 4 min; flip it for for more min. 6) Remove the chicken and cover it with foil to rest for at least 5 min, turn off the grill or if you have briquettes you better dang well have some S’mores goin’ on later. 7) Slice that chicken against the grain, build your salad, and BOOM, you’re in salad Nirvana!

Citrus Vinaigrette
Are you ready for a fresh, tangy, citrus vinaigrette packed full of flavor? Are you ready for that full flavored dressing to be as easy as throwing ingredients in the blender? Are you ready to chuck that bottled dressing for good? Then you are ready for this show stopping vinaigrette. Your mouth will be singing an anthem of delight after eating a fresh salad with this drizzled on top.
3 c. mild, or light extra virgin olive oil, or vegetable oil

2 c. apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1 c. corn syrup

3/4 c. honey

 

3 T. sugar

1 shallot (or 2 T dehydrated onion)

1 1/2 tsp. taragon

2 tsp. dry thyme

2-3 T. minced garlic

1 T. koser salt

1-2 tsp white pepper, to taste

2 blood oranges, tangelos,  or navel oranges, juiced

1 lemon, juiced

zest of the citrus used 

1) Throw all the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until all incorporated. Pour into an airtight jar. Refrigerate overnight for all the flavors to merry. Enjoy!
Lime Grilled Chicken
3 limes, juiced, or rind trimmed off

1 c. brown sugar

1c. soy sauce 

 

1/2 c. oil

1 T. garlic

5 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, butterflied

1) Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. If you are using the whole limes, minus the rinds you have cut off, throw all the ingredients in a blender; blend on high until smooth.
2) Butterfly the boneless chicken breasts. Place the chicken in the bowl, or a gallon sealable bag with the marinade for 2 or more hours. Overnight is best. I also use the marinade setting on a Food Saver twice which takes about 10-15 minutes, and it is ready to throw on the grill.
3) Heat your grill to about 400-450 degrees F. Use tongs to apply a paper towel doused in oil to prep the grill for the chicken. It is best to grill chicken that has warmed to room temperature. Place the chicken on the grill, and do not move for 4 min. Flip to the other side for another 4 min. Remove from the grill, and cover with tin foil to let rest for at least 5 min.

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