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RESTAURANT REPLICAS: IT'S EASY BEING GREENS POPULAR SALADS ARE DELICIOUSLY SIMPLE TO DUPLICATE AT HOME.

Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

Salads.

Many adore them in all their myriad forms -- tossed with an array of assorted colored greens, multicolored vegetables or fruits, fish, meats or cheeses, and dressed with anything from vinaigrette and ranch to blue cheese and sun-dried tomato. There is a world of possibilities that can be composed or tossed with endless ingredient combinations and flavors and textures.

You'll find plenty of innovative salads on restaurant menus around town -- and diners can order them as a side or as the centerpiece of a meal.

We've duplicated several especially good ones for warm-weather dining -- including three new items from The Cheesecake Factory, one from Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Woodland Hills and another from Arnie Morton's the Steakhouse in Burbank.

At The Cheesecake Factory in Woodland Hills and various Southland locations, we discovered Buffalo Chicken Salad, Chopped Salad, and Shrimp and Crab Salad, which were recently added to the menu. All are delicious -- and with our facsimiles, you can turn them out successfully at home.

``All are selling well,'' notes Howard Gordon, senior vice president, The Cheesecake Factory, Calabasas, adding that the new combinations offer diners something exciting and different.

But some salads don't change. ``The Chinese Chicken is the No. 1 seller and always has been,'' he adds.

We whipped up a copycat version of that salad some years back, but have tweaked and updated it (as the restaurant has) and have included the recipe today.

As for the new salads, although the restaurant deep-fries battered chicken breast pieces for the Buffalo Chicken Salad, we've taken the liberty of using grilled chicken breast strips. That's how we prefer ordering it at the restaurant, and you can purchase the strips already grilled in packages in supermarket meat sections. We think you get the same taste effect without the fatty frying.

The salad mixture of greens, tomatoes, celery and blue cheese crumbles is tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette (which we whipped up in a mini-food processor in a jiffy), then topped with chicken strips and drizzled with store-bought Frank's Buffalo Wing sauce (the restaurant concocts their own mixture) and a blue cheese dressing made with mayo or sour cream, a little buttermilk and vinegar, and more blue cheese. Tasters loved our copycat rendition and would definitely give it a whirl.

Although the chopped salad requires a bit of prep time to cut up ingredients, it's not difficult to prepare. If you want to take some shortcuts, pick up cooked chicken breast and cooked bacon at the market. Unlike in many of its counterparts, pieces of Granny Smith apple add interesting flavor and texture to this terrific-tasting version dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.

The Shrimp and Crab Salad features a novel and spectacular presentation. A slightly runny mixture of shrimp and crab with mayonnaise, lemon and seasonings is spooned atop two criss-crossed hearts of romaine wedges, then topped with Thousand Island dressing, grated egg, parsley, roasted red pepper and tomatoes.

At Fleming's, greens tossed with a vinaigrette prepared with white balsamic and lemon juice, then sprinkled with candied walnuts and dried cranberries is a refreshing side salad before an entree. Several friends enjoy the sweet-sour overtones of this selection.

A hit at Arnie Morton's is the warm grilled asparagus with roasted red pepper and a balsamic glaze. Although the restaurant buys a glaze, for our facsimile we made our own by reducing balsamic vinegar with some broth and wine. Fan the asparagus spears out on the plate and drizzle with the glaze for an eye-catching, winning presentation.

``Salads are popular day and night,'' says Gordon, adding that they are a very important part of the menu mix, with two pages of their 18-page, 200-item menu devoted to salad selections.

Diners can customize Cheesecake Factory salads to suit their mood or dietary requirements, providing the ingredients are on hand, notes Gordon. ``Because we make everything fresh, we do substitutions.'' No dressing, dressing on the side, skip the eggs and bacon, add chicken to a particular salad instead of fish -- the sky's the limit. And that's a good way to approach our replica renditions.

Natalie Haughton, (818) 713-3692

natalie.haughton(at)dailynews.com

CHOPPED SALAD

12 cups packed moderately finely chopped romaine lettuce (use two 9-ounce bags cut-up romaine lettuce, chopped finer than in bag)

2 cups diced grilled chicken breast

4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced fine

2 medium avocados, pitted and chopped

1 cup fresh cooked OR frozen, thawed corn kernels

1/2 cup chopped crisp-cooked bacon (buy it cooked to save time)

3/4 cup small blue cheese crumbles

1 Granny Smith apple (leave skin on), chopped

Balsamic Vinaigrette

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, chicken, tomatoes, avocado, corn, bacon, blue cheese and apples. Toss until mixed. Add amount of Balsamic Vinaigrette desired, tossing well.

Makes 3 to 4 large servings

BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE: In a small food processor, combine 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 generous teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon chopped shallots, 1 clove garlic, crushed, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Process until well blended. Makes a generous 1/2 cup dressing. If making in advance, refrigerate, covered, until serving time.

GREENS WITH LEMON BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE, WALNUTS, CRANBERRIES AND TOMATOES

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon water

1/2 cup walnut halves

Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 (9-ounce) packages pre-washed romaine lettuce pieces OR assorted mixed greens

1/3 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries OR cherries

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved

8 crostini, sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and baked OR boiled until bubbly and melted

In a medium skillet, heat sugar with water until dissolved and clear. Boil a minute, then stir in walnuts and cook, stirring often, until golden. Quickly turn out on no-stick foil and cool.

Prepare Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette and set aside.

Just before serving, combine greens and Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette (using amount desired). Toss well. Divide among 4 salad plates. Sprinkle tops of salads with walnuts, cranberries and tomato halves, dividing evenly. Serve each salad with 2 crostini.

Makes 4 dinner salad servings

LEMON BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE: In a 2-cup glass measure, combine 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots, 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil and 1 clove garlic, crushed (optional). Whisk together until well mixed. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil until well blended. Makes about 1 cup dressing. Refrigerate any leftover dressing.

BUFFALO CHICKEN SALAD

1 (9-ounce) bag cut-up romaine lettuce

1 (9-ounce) bag chopped iceberg lettuce with shredded red cabbage OR use a bag of other mixed lettuces

3 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2/3 cup blue cheese crumbles

1/2 cup diagonally thinly sliced pieces celery

Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 to 3 cups grilled chicken breast slices (use two 6-ounce packages grilled chicken breast strips, if desired)

Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce (available at supermarkets)

Blue Cheese Dressing

In a large bowl, combine lettuces, tomatoes, blue cheese and celery. Toss with Balsamic Vinaigrette. Arrange on 3 to 4 dinner plates. Top with chicken breast strips. Drizzle with amount desired of Buffalo Wing Sauce and Blue Cheese Dressing.

Makes 4 entree-size servings

BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE: In a small food processor, combine 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 generous teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon chopped shallots, 1 clove garlic, crushed, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Process until well blended. Makes a generous 1/2 cup dressing. If making in advance, refrigerate, covered, until serving time.

BLUE CHEESE DRESSING: Mix 1/2 cup sour cream OR mayonnaise with 3 OR 4 tablespoons buttermilk and 2 teaspoons white OR red wine vinegar until smooth. Stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes about 3/4 cup.

CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD

12 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

3 cups thin slices grilled chicken breast, cut in pieces

2 cups thinly shredded red cabbage

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

3/4 cup finely chopped green onions (tops included)

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1/4 cup black and white sesame seeds (toast white, if desired)

4 to 5 cups crisp deep-fried rice sticks, drained

Plum Sauce Dressing

1 (11-ounce) can Mandarin oranges, well drained

6 cups crisp fried won ton strips (see Note)

Thinly sliced pieces snow peas for garnish

Just before serving, in large mixing bowl, combine lettuce, chicken, red cabbage, bean sprouts, 1/2 of green onions, 1/2 of almonds, sesame seeds and 2 cups rice sticks.

Toss with desired amount of Plum Sauce Dressing. Divide salad evenly among 4 dinner plates. Garnish with fried won tons, remaining green onions, almonds, Mandarin oranges and rice sticks, dividing evenly. Sprinkle with thinly sliced snow peas.

Makes 4 large servings

PLUM SAUCE DRESSING: In medium mixing bowl, whisk together 1 cup plum sauce (Lee Kum Kee OR Dynasty brand preferred), 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, 1 teaspoon lite soy sauce, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3 tablespoons sesame oil and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until well blended. Keep refrigerated. Makes about 1 3/4 cups.

NOTE: To make won ton strips, cut 3 1/2-inch won ton wrappers from a 12-ounce package into 3 equal strips (leave wrappers stacked for easy cutting). Heat 3 inches vegetable oil in medium saucepan until very hot. Add won ton strips, several at a time, and cook until golden brown. With a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain. Repeat until amount of won ton strips needed are cooked.

WARM GRILLED ASPARAGUS WITH ROASTED RED PEPPER AND BALSAMIC GLAZE

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons red wine

12 to 14 large thick fresh asparagus spears, rinsed and cleaned

2 medium red peppers, roasted and peeled OR use roasted red pepper halves or pieces from a 12-ounce jar, rinsed and dried

2 lemon halves

In a medium skillet, heat balsamic vinegar, chicken broth and red wine over high heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium high and boil 3 to 5 minutes (watch carefully to avoid burning), until reduced to 1/4 to 1/3 cup (and slightly syrupy but still runny). Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Grill asparagus spears on a grill or in a grill pan on top of the stove, until marked on all sides and crisp tender. Meanwhile roast peppers and peel.

Arrange the equivalent of 3/4 to 1 red pepper on each of 2 dinner plates. Top with 6 to 7 asparagus spears arranged in a fanned out pattern. Drizzle top and plate with balsamic glaze. Garnish each plate with a lemon half.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

SHRIMP AND CRAB SALAD

1/2 cup sour cream OR mayonnaise

1/4 cup whipping cream

Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon

2 green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons drained capers

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 pound frozen, cooked deveined medium shrimp, thawed, sprinkled with a little lemon juice, well drained and coarsely chopped

1/2 pound pasteurized canned OR frozen, thawed crabmeat (do not substitute imitation), sprinkled with a little lemon juice and well drained

3 hearts of romaine, each cut in half lengthwise

Thousand island dressing (store-bought doctored up with a sprinkling of capers OR homemade)

2 hard-cooked eggs, grated OR shredded

6 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper

3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley

3 tomatoes, each cut into wedges

In a medium bowl, combine sour cream, whipping cream, lemon peel and lemon juice, green onions, capers and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until well blended. Stir in shrimp and crab.

Arrange 2 lengthwise pieces hearts of romaine criss-crossed on each of 3 dinner plates. Spoon 1/3 of seafood mixture down center of romaine on each plate. Drizzle with thousand island dressing (and on plate, too). Sprinkle all over with eggs, red peppers and parsley, dividing evenly. Place tomato wedges around edges of plates.

Makes 3 entree-size servings

CAPTION(S):

7 photos

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) A new LEAF

Favorite salads from the kitchen of Restaurant Replicas

(2 -- color) CHOPPED SALAD

(3 -- color) CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD

(4 -- color) BUFFALO CHICKEN SALAD

(5 -- color) SHRIMP AND CRAB SALAD

Photographed at The Cheesecake Factory by David Sprague/Staff Photographer

(6 -- color) WARM GRILLED ASPARAGUS WITH ROASTED RED PEPPERS AND BALSAMIC GLAZE

Photographed at Arnie Morton's by Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer

(7 -- color) GREENS WITH LEMON BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE, WALNUTS, CRANBERRIES AND TOMATOES
COPYRIGHT 2006 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 30, 2006
Words:2097
Previous Article:GOOD TASTES.
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