Friday, September 11, 2015

Grilled Ham and Zucchini Salad with Gorgonzola and Wild Berry Vinaigrette

     A Zesty Comfortable Salad Entrée!
     There is nothing that I like less than a salad made with cold lifeless ham and plain raw vegetables.  Lightly grilling the ham and zucchini does bring out more flavor.  The flavor of zucchini wakes up when it is lightly grilled or seared!

     When I go low priced restaurants, I usually only order a salad, so that I am not disappointed by a poorly made hot entrée.  On the other hand, a simple salad cannot always be counted upon to be a good choice at bargain basement restaurants either.
     The problem with low budget restaurant salads tends to be consistency issues related to balance.  For example, when I did lunch at a small local diner in Chicago, the waitress made the Greek Salad and she must have really liked Feta Cheese.  The Greek Salad had at least 10 ounces of Feta Cheese piled on top.  The large amount of Feta caused the salad to be out of balance.  Because of the high salt content in Feta, the salad was unpleasant to eat.
     The key to being a good garde manger chef is to have a good sense of tasteful design and flavor balance.  If a salad or cold platter is made with a composed design, then it will be more appealing to the senses.
     Balance is necessary to keep in mind when flavoring a salad with strong tasting ingredients, like bleu cheese.  Just because Gorgonzola is one of the oldest original bleu cheese varieties, it does not mean that Gorgonzola should be the only flavor tasted in a salad.  Just enough Gorgonzola should be added to the salad to accent the flavor of the other ingredients.

     The choice of dressing may sound a bit odd to some readers, but the fruity flavor of raspberry and blueberry do taste nice with grilled field vegetables, ham and strong cheese.  Some strong flavored bleu cheese varieties do pair well with a deep wine that has berry characteristics.  The same can be said about a a berry flavor vinaigrette.  Sometimes a tart berry flavor is a good and sometimes a sweetened berry flavor is a better choice.  Either way, a mountain berry vinaigrette is a nice choice for today's salad recipe.

     The egg in the photo is a good example of an egg that is too fresh.  The fresher the egg is, the more difficult it is to peel after it is hard boiled.  Eggs that are 7 to 14 days old are easier to peel, because excess moisture is released from the egg white through the shell via osmosis.
     I have an American Egg Board Certificate from a lecture at culinary arts school, so I know a little bit about eggs.  If you wish to become an AEB certified Eggspert, check into where American Egg Board speaking events are held.  Here is the link:  American Egg Board
     Wild Berry Vinaigrette:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 large salad or 2 petite salads. 
     ... Wild Berry sounds better than plain old Berry!  
     I used a combination of raspberry vinegar and blueberry vinegar to make the dressing.  If those two vinegar flavors are not available, then gently simmer a small amount of mixed berries with a little bit of white wine vinegar, till the fruit flavor infuses with the vinegar.  Strain and cool the berry infused vinegar before making the vinaigrette.
     Step 1:  Place 1 teaspoon of raspberry vinegar in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of blueberry vinegar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.
    .Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of finely minced shallot.
     Step 2:  Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, while stirring, to create a loose vinaigrette.
     Set the vinaigrette aside for 10 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Stir before serving.
     Grilled Ham and Zucchini:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 salad.
     The better the ham, the better the salad will be!
     Step 1:  Cut a thin slice of roasted ham into 4 wide ribbons that are about 6" long.  (Deli style ham is too thin.  The ham should be about 1/8" thick.)
     Step 2:  Cut a medium size zucchini lengthwise into 5 thin slices.  (about 3/16" thick x 6" length)
     Step 3:  Lightly brush the zucchini and ham slices with blended olive oil.
     Heat a ribbed cast iron grill or chargrill to a medium temperature.
     Grill the zucchini and ham slices on both sides, till light grill marks appear.                              
     Step 4:  Season the zucchini with sea salt and black pepper.
     Keep the zucchini and ham warm on a stove top.
     Grilled Ham and Zucchini Salad with Gorgonzola and Wild Berry Vinaigrette:  
     This recipe yields 1 large salad.  
     Step 1:  Mound 2 1/2 cups of mixed baby lettuce on the center of a plate.
     Garnish the greens with:
     - 4 thin plum tomato wedges
     - thin onion slices
     - a few very thin carrot strips
     Step 2:  Place alternating slices of the grilled ham and zucchini vertically on the sides of the mound of lettuce.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of crumbled gorgonzola cheese over the salad.
     Step 3:  Spoon just enough of the wild berry vinaigrette over the salad to add flavor.  (Save any excess vinaigrette for another recipe.)
     Garnish with 1/2 of a hard boiled egg and Italian Parsley leaves.
     This salad is perfect for summertime lunch munch!  

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