Friday, July 20, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

Sometimes, when it is sweltering hot out and the sun beats down on your house all day, your kitchen is the LAST place you want to spend time in.

Here in Boston, it has been REALLY hot.

It's hard slaving over the stove and the oven when the temperature of one's kitchen is already so high that it makes the Heat Miser uncomfortable.

But what does this mean? Just because temperatures are in the triple digits, we must resort to take-out and the occasional scoop of ice cream for dinner? (Don't scoff. I KNOW you have had ice cream for dinner in the past. Sometimes, we are that desperate.)

I say nay. I say, that when the temperatures are climbing and we want to minimize are time in the kitchen, we need to get creative with all the wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables summertime brings to the grocery stores. That's right: I'm talking about entree-sized salads.

Now, I'm realistic. I know that not everyone can feel satiated after having a salad, especially as an entire meal. This is where that creativity and a little bit of compromise comes into play. We should not ruin a perfectly good blend of chopped vegetables, nuts, and cheeses by dousing a salad with croutons and creamy ranch dressing.

Enter stage right: Parmesan Crusted Broccoli and Cauliflower.

I was inspired by Food Network's darling and amazing cook, Giada DeLaurentiis. She took an egg, dipped in florets of broccoli and cauliflower, tossed them in a good parmesan cheese, fried them, and arranged them atop a bed of spinach. I think my mouth was watering during the show.

With a few additions and revisions, last night's meal was light and refreshing yet filling and satisfying. It had amazing flavor and the great crunch of the broccoli and cauliflower balanced beautifully against a lemon vinagarette. Time over the stove is a mere 10 minutes, maximum. This is the ultimate home-cooked heat wave-beating meal.

Here's what you need:

1 head of romaine lettuce
2 cups triple washed fresh spinach
1 cucumber, chopped
2 sliced chicken breasts, chilled
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of milk
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
vegetable oil

Here's what you do:

Fill a large, flat-bottom frying pan with enough vegetable oil that it hits about half-way up the pan. Heat the oil over medium heat.
Trim the broccoli and cauliflower florets into bite-sized pieces. Toss in the egg mixture.

Combine the parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs with salt and pepper. Toss in the florets until evenly coated.

When the oil starts to move slightly and releases a small amount of steam, carefully add in some of your florets. Do not overcrowd your pan or the frying will be uneven. 

Using a search and rescue spoon, gently turn each floret so that they brown on all sides; when a piece is golden brown, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.


Continue until all florets are crispy. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop your lettuce and spinach. Place in a large mixing bowl with the cucumber and sliced chicken. Zest your lemon over the salad and toss.
In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and lemon juice to create a light vinaigrette.
Pour over the salad and mix until all the veggies are evenly dressed.
Place one serving on a dinner plate and top with 7 to 8 pieces of the cauliflower and broccoli. Enjoy immediately!

Now, I have to say, the parmesan broccoli and cauliflower florets are addicting in and of themselves. It's amazing I had enough left after cooking to add to our salads.

The great thing about this recipe is that the chicken adds a good protein boost, the lemon vinaigrette is refreshing on the palette, and the crispy broccoli and cauliflower keep you full all night long. It is a tried and true summer meal.

What's the most creative thing you have added to your salad? Do you make your own dressing or get help from the bottle?

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