Cowgirl Ranch Salad with Polenta Croutons and Filet of Soul
Food & music make me happy. I enjoy them both so much, ideally at the same time. I find it all the more enjoyable to crank a favorite tune while I chop and sear my woes away. When I am home, I generally have WMVY blasting, a Cape Cod radio station broadcast over internet radio. We have wireless speakers in the kitchen AND the patio so I can groove seamlessly from fridge to grill to table via a Sonos box. I also like to cook to classical, Frank Sinatra and 70s hits. I guess it depends what I am making.
I'm a huge Neil Young fan, and his music makes a delicious soundtrack in the kitchen. Think about it - his prolific set list includes Cinnamon Girl, Harvest, Southern Man and Down by the River. Suddenly I'm thinking of line-caught trout, fried chicken, apple pie and mashed potatoes. Not bad for a Canadian. Did you know that Needle and the Damage Done is actually about a tragic, too-early piercing of steak? And it's always the right time to turn up on the volume on Mr. "filet of" Soul.
My favorite Neil Young song is Cowgirl in the Sand. I heard this song for the first time in high school and I have always thought it was about me. I love mountains and I love the beach. My parents have lived in Colorado for the past 20 years, but I was raised going to the Jersey Shore. My passion for skiing, hiking and high altitude golfing connects me to the mountains, but my love for surf, sand and seafood keeps me by the coast. I could not possibly decide between a Colorado rack of lamb or lobster in Maine. I just couldn't. I love both, ideally at the same time.
Today I am a cowgirl. Yes, it is freezing and rainy and totally not beach weather. Meet the Cowgirl Ranch Salad, perfect for those cold days when you are home on the range. It's all about leftovers & lettuce. Take whatever you have - steak, chicken, pork, shrimp, fish - and add to your favorite lettuce. The lingering smoky bbq taste adds depth to a salad, and then add whatever fresh veggies you have. Better yet, add the leftover charred asparagus. It's that simple. If you have leftover bread, rolls, corn or potatoes, add them too. Anything works here, folks.
Last night I grilled pork tenderloin smothered in bbq sauce. I also mixed 2 tablespoons of the same sauce to a bowl of 4 ribs chopped celery, 1 can black beans and 1 can corn (rinsed & drained.) This side dish was great - nice bright color, and the celery gave it a subtly sweet crunch. I also sliced up a tube of polenta into ¾-inch hockey pucks and tossed them on the grill until they were charred with a crisp crust.
Today, I cut the polenta slices into 1-inch cubes and roasted them for 15 minutes at 400. I added these “polenta croutons” to romaine lettuce and topped with the corn & bean salad and the remaining 4 slices of pork. I drizzled the salad with Annie's Natural Cowgirl Ranch dressing. Yee haw!
I have yet to make it to the beach on the east coast this season, but I am hoping to write the "sand" installment of this 2-part blog sooner than later. Until then, enjoy the early spring grilling season!
Lauren Weiss blogs on www.westfieldfoodie.com and The Alternative Pressabout cooking, dining and food shopping in her hometown of Westfield, NJ. A busy stay at home mom of 2 takes on the challenges of every day life, one meal at a time. If you like this article please click on the alternative press link - my writing career depends on you!