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Fix one-dish meals when seasons transition

Cooking

We tend to think of casseroles and stews as one-dish meals, but a main dish salad fills the bill as well. And at this time of year, when summer hasn't quite finished with us — nor, happily, the local farmers markets — these colorful, crunchy menu items can be the perfect what's-for-dinner solution.

We present a small sampling of such salads, ones that the gang will undoubtedly enjoy at the end of a busy, school-year day. Even if there's no one in the house involved with the public schools, for most of us, the lazy days of summer are at an end, and it's time to get back to some kind of routine. We suggest making these eye-catching, healthy dishes a pleasant compensation for a hard day's work.

Cobb salad

We begin with our take on this classic that features lots of red, white and green(s). You can fix your own favorite dressing for it, or try ours, a version of another classic — green goddess.

Some impeccably fresh Italian bread makes a pleasant accompaniment. And, of course, the reward for the "virtue" of eating salad for supper — a favorite gelato flavor and cookies that complement it.

Dressing

2/3 cup plain, Greek-style yogurt

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

4 tablespoons chopped scallion (green parts only)

3 tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh chives

5 anchovies, drained, patted dry, chopped

1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt, optional

Salad

12 cups torn romaine lettuce

1 cup trimmed watercress

2 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast

1/2 cup sliced baked ham, in 1x2-inch pieces

3 tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges

3 hard-cooked eggs, each cut into 4 wedges

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, diced and spritzed with some lime juice to keep it from turning brown

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/3 cup diced sharp provolone

For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse-process until smooth. Cover and chill until serving time.

For the salad, combine lettuce and watercress in a large bowl. Place about 2 cups lettuce mixture on each of 6 chilled shallow soup bowls, set atop large plates. Divide chicken, ham, hard-cooked eggs, avocado, blue cheese and provolone evenly among plates, arranging attractively. Top each serving with 3 tomato wedges. Serve about 1/4 cup salad dressing on the side. Makes 6 or more servings.

Fried chicken salad

No bones about it, this is a good one; we especially like the mouth feel of warm chicken and cool greens. Granted, arugula, like watercress, is kind of a pain to process, but both of them have hollow, succulent stems, so just trim the little branches and chop them, stems and all.

Don't forget to prep the veggies before you cook the chicken.

Try some dinner rolls with this offering. And some berries and ice cream as a reward.

Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 large eggs

About 1 3/4 cups panko crumbs

1/4 cup chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh oregano

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/4 teaspoon each, coarse black pepper and (mild) paprika

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salad

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cups (packed) baby arugula

2 cups baby spinach, trimmed

1 cup shredded radicchio

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup diced celery

About 6 tablespoons favorite balsamic vinaigrette

Shredded Parmesan cheese, garnish

For the chicken, flatten chicken between sheets of wax paper to half-inch thickness. In medium bowl, whisk eggs to blend. On a shallow plate, combine panko crumbs, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and paprika. Dip chicken in beaten eggs, turning to coat both sides. Dredge in panko mixture, coating completely.

In a large, non-stick skillet over medium, heat olive oil. Add chicken (in batches, if need be) and sauté until golden and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with the lemon juice, and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

To serve, in a large bowl, toss together arugula, spinach, radicchio, carrots and celery. Add balsamic vinaigrette and toss lightly. (You don't want much dressing.)

Cut slices in warm chicken breasts, but not all the way through. Arrange arugula mixture on 6 chilled salad plates. Top with chicken. Sprinkle on some Parmesan. Makes 6 servings.

Beefy panzanella

How can soggy bread be so yummy? Here's how, as demonstrated in this Italian-style bread salad. Tradition has it that farmers toted the salad along with them so they could enjoy lunch in the fields.

This version uses just-grilled flank steak, but it can also feature steak left over from a previous dinner. Or buy a hunk of roast beef at the supermarket and sliced it up.

Obviously, there's no need to add a carb to this creation. Just a glass of Zinfanel, perhaps. And a favorite, easy dessert.

Hint: Before grilling the beef, prep the salad ingredients; the tomato mixture needs to macerate for about an hour.

Beef

1 flank steak (just under 2 pounds), trimmed

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

Salad

About 6 cups cubed (1-inch), day-old ciabatta bread

3 cups coarsely chopped tomato

1 cup coarsely chopped English cucumber

2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

2/3 cup finely sliced red onion

2/3 cup julienne-cut roasted red peppers (bottled, drained, patted dry)

2 tablespoons capers, drained

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

4 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

2 cups loosely packed arugula, trimmed, coarsely chopped

For the beef, have it at room temperature. Prepare grill for medium-high cooking. Combine salt, pepper and garlic and rub evenly over steak. Place steak on grill, cover and cook 6 minutes. Turn steak over, cover and grill 4 minutes. Remove from grill, cover loosely and let stand about 5 minutes. Cut diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Serve at room temperature.

For the salad, heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes, until toasted. Cool.

In a large bowl, combine tomato, cucumber, basil, onion, red peppers, capers and garlic.

In another bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar and pepper. Add salt, if desired. Toss well, cover and let stand 1 hour.

To serve, add bread cubes, arugula and flank steak slices to tomato mixture. Toss gently to coat. Serve immediately. Makes 6 or more servings.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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