What to serve when entertaining right after the rush of the holidays? This week, we've invited friends whom we haven't seen in quite a while for supper, but, like many others, my husband and I have feasted on mountains of rich food during the past month and are craving less heavy fare.
With that in mind, I sat down to plan the menu. While searching for dishes that are light and refreshing, as well as easy to prepare, I remembered that several weeks ago I had served a delectable watercress salad with an unusual vinaigrette along with soup for out-of-town company. Our guest had liked this salad so much that she asked for the recipe.
What distinguishes this salad is the unusual dressing, which is made by adding some chopped hard-boiled egg, minced red onions and capers to a classic red-wine vinaigrette.
Peppery watercress sprigs are tossed in this mixture, then garnished with crisp, golden croutons. I decided that this dish would make a perfect garnish to baked salmon fillets.
Steamed haricots verts will round out the main course, and a bowl of clementines, offered with almond and ginger biscotti (purchased from a local bakery) and cups of espresso, will create a tempting and manageable dessert.
The delicious vinaigrette can be prepared a couple of hours in advance and the croutons quickly sauteed in olive oil so that at serving time all you have to do is toss the ingredients together.
Salmon makes a fine partner to this watercress creation, but roast chicken, baked ham or broiled lamb chops would be equally good paired with it. Or serve this salad with a favorite soup or omelet for a Sunday-night supper with friends.
My mantra for post-holiday entertaining: Keep it light and make it simple!
Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.
Watercress Salad With Red Onion and Chopped Egg Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped capers
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and several grinds black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chopped red onion
l large hard-boiled egg, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups cubed bread cut from good peasant or French bread
2 large bunches watercress, tough stems removed and discarded (see note)
freshly ground black pepper
For vinaigrette, mix together vinegar, capers, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil and then add chopped onion and chopped egg. Stir just to mix. (The vinaigrette can be prepared 2 hours ahead; leave at cool room temperature.) Makes about 1 cup.
For salad, heat the oil in a medium, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the bread cubes and cook, stirring, until crisp and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. (Croutons can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature.)
To assemble salad, place the watercress in a large bowl and toss with enough of the dressing to coat the sprigs lightly. Season with salt to taste. Arrange a fourth of the watercress on each of 4 salad plates or on 4 dinner plates as a garnish to a main course. Sprinkle each serving with some croutons and drizzle lightly with additional vinaigrette. (You may not need to use all the vinaigrette; save extra for another use.) Season each salad with some pepper.
Note: If you can't find good watercress, you can substitute arugula or mixed greens in this salad.
Per serving: 247 calories, 4 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 9 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 33 milligrams cholesterol, 329 milligrams sodium
Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shields.
baked salmon fillets
steamed haricots verts
clementines and biscotti