Zucchini Soup

photo of bowl of zucchini soupLast week, I was singing the praises of my friend, Tina, who gave the recipe (more of a method, I suppose) for Fresh corn with Sea Salt and Basil. When I called her the night before the post to make doubly sure she didn’t mind me broadcasting her business, she not only said “no problem” but she upped the ante by giving me another one right over the phone.

She described a soup that sounded easy enough but the lead role went to zucchini. I have always thought of zucchini as an utterly benign food. It is fine. It fills the belly for a bit. But, outside of zucchini bread, which I quite like…mostly because of all the butter I put on top of it, zucchini doesn’t really light my fire. Blah. But, when Tina made corn with no *gasp* butter I was hesitant, too. And, boy was I ever wrong about that one.

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Eight Layer Salad

Photo of bowl of eight layer saladFollowing the dodo bird, presentation salads have wandered down the road to extinction. For the gelatin based creations I will mostly agree that this is a good thing, although a recent tryst with panna cotta made me re-consider my general reticence towards gelatin based goods. This has been a stupid prejudice, because gelatin is actually fairly cool and magical, I will now admit.

But showpiece, nearly sculptural salads have been in the fashion holding area, patiently awaiting their re-emergence. And while cleverly plated salads have never died, the cleverly assembled salads seem to be trapped in the era of the first color cookbooks. Ah, but they are around. This example is merely a layered salad, frosted generously with a creamy dressing.

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Wild Rice and Chicken Salad

photo of wild rice and chicken saladI have been making this salad for years. One of its main selling points is that it has a vinaigrette dressing instead of mayonnaise. So, if you are going to a picnic or a potluck and you cannot be assured of good refrigeration, you don’t have to sweat it. Also, this has a unique flavor. The wild rice and almond slivers provide excellent textural components, and the tarragon is, in a word, pleasant. I have used Mexican Mint Marigold in the place of tarragon. Also called Cloud Plant in Mexico, this hardy herb is a great stand in for tarragon. I had not heard of it until I planted my herb garden this year and so far I am very happy with it. If you are having trouble finding French tarragon, try Mexican Mint Marigold.

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Baked Chicken Spaghetti Recipe

I laugh at the roses in the photo behind this plate of spaghetti. Pitts has this saying about putting a pig in a dress. After all, this is just chicken spaghetti. But baked Chicken Spaghetti gets a complete pass in my book. To me, with a salad and some crusty bread, Chicken Spaghetti is as good as it gets and suitable for paper plates and fine china. And for a dish that probably costs just over a dollar a serving depending on what type of chicken you purchase, it is a rare “no fail” dinner plan.

I have been fussing over Chicken Spaghetti recipes forever. I have asked for and received at least a dozen recipes in my search. This recipe constitutes the best of what I’ve found. There are several reasons I like it. It contains no “cream of” soups, so one can dictate the flavor profile. And, it can be made with a pound of any sort of cooked chicken. You may roast or boil a whole chicken, buy a rotisserie chicken, or do as I did and pan grill a few chicken cutlets. I have also made it using chicken tenders. As long as you end up with a pound of cooked meat, you are good to go. This made a hefty 13” x 9” casserole that could easily feed six to eight people. No matter how it is prepared, it is a comfort, a convenience and a bargain.

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Salad Bar Soup

The name of this soup strikes me as particularly hokey. However, salad bar soup is precisely what this is. I was in Whole Foods on a strategic apple research sortie, which I had to squeeze in before the all out fun and chaos of helping lead a 36 girl Brownie troop through a “meeting.” I had about 5 extra minutes to figure out a dinner plan that I would have no more than 30 minutes to prepare later that night, AND everything had to sit in my car for several hours…which was fine because it was about 40 degrees outside.

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