Another delicious salad: Lemon Chicken with Mixed Greens

We had unseasonably summer-like weather here yesterday, and that combined with a large-ish lunch meant that dinner had to be light and heat-free. So I looked into the fridge and came up with this salad using a bunch of stuff that needed to be eaten before it spoiled:

two boneless skinless chicken breasts
mixed baby salad greens, with a handful of spinach leaves
mixed cherry tomatoes (from Trader Joe’s)
fresh mozzarella
toasted sunflower seeds
basil-infused olive oil
fresh lemon juice
lemon pepper seasoning mix
salt and pepper to taste

I sprinkled the chicken breasts with some olive oil (just regular cooking oil, not the fancy stuff) and rubbed a few sprinkles of lemon pepper all over them, then grilled for 3-4 minutes per side until just done and cut into bite-size pieces. While the chicken cooked, I sliced up the mozzarella into bite-size pieces.

In a large bowl, I mixed the greens with some salt and pepper to taste, then drizzled a bit (maybe 1Tbsp) of the basil-infused olive oil and a few teaspoons of lemon juice and tossed. I added the rinsed cherry tomatoes and tossed again. Then I arranged a mound of salad on a plate, topped with the chicken and mozzarella pieces, and sprinkled the sunflower seeds on top.

The result? A remarkably satisfying salad that almost made the hot weather tolerable; my sweetie even requested that it be put into our regular dinner rotation. Success!

Well, hello there

Oh, the many things I’ve thought about blogging in the last few months, and yet stopped myself from doing so. Or rather, distracted myself from. And what is it that has brought me back? What do I have to share with the world that is so profound it actually lifted me from inertia? Well, only this: a homemade salad that transcended all my expectations for what a lunch salad could be.

(Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you?)

So, I read in a healthy-eating magazine a suggestion for green salad with strawberries and mozzarella. But while the magazine photo showed cubes of grocery-store mozz, I had a container of the REAL THING in my refrigerator, just waiting to be enjoyed in a healthful way instead of all at once in a festival of cheese gluttony. So I built this salad:

a few cups of mixed baby spring greens, with a handful of fresh baby spinach thrown in
4-5 fresh strawberries
a few ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (I used a single bocconcino)
5-6 asparagus spears
a teaspoon or so of toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper
high-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress
First I tossed the asparagus with a bit of olive oil (not the fancy stuff, just my everyday oil) and some salt and pepper and roasted it in a 400F oven for 10-12 minutes or so. While that was roasting I tossed the spinach in with the mixed greens, cleaned and sliced the strawberries, and sliced the mozzarella. When the asparagus was soft and slightly brown I pulled it out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes, then sliced it into one-inch pieces.

Then I tossed the asparagus and strawberries with the greens, a little salt, and a lot of pepper. Once those were mixed I drizzled some high-quality olive oil and balsamic–the sweet, mellow kind that costs a bit more than your typical grocery-store stuff–and tossed again.

I plated the salad, then scattered some mozzarella pieces and toasted pine nuts on top. I haven’t enjoyed a lunch this much in a long time. Yum!

How journalism can survive

“This company, indeed, this industry, must invest more in solid, relevant journalism. We must integrate the speed and agility of the Internet with the news judgment and editorial values of the newsroom, values that are more important than ever as the hunger for news continues to surge and gossip pollutes the information atmosphere. Even in hard times, wise investment — not retraction – is the long-term answer to the industry’s troubles.”

Jim O’Shea gets it, and for that he was fired.

Hollwood is for (movie) lovers

Despite my ongoing love-hate relationship with this town (where “love” means “feel indifferent”), I will confess that this is a great town for movie lovers, even if you’re not interested in making movies but just enjoy watching them. The studios and the major film archives are right here, so rare or recently restored prints are common. Studios unveil works in progress or otherwise-unreleased films on a regular basis. There are tons of theaters dedicated to showing films for film lovers and not just the latest blockbuster.

Case(s) in point: on Tuesday night I took in the nerdtacular double feature of Tron and The Last Starfighter at the New Beverly, a single-screen theater that doesn’t seem like it’s changed much since those movies were in their first runs. It was great fun, laughing at the ridiculously cheesy parts of those films (“Greetings, programs!”) while reliving some of the excitement we felt when we first watched them. (Unsurprisingly, the male-to-female ratio at this screening was unbelievably high.) Then last night we ventured to the Aero for a sold-out screening of Hotel Chevalier and The Darjeeling Limitedfollowed by a chat with Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Wally Wolodarsky. There have been two advance screenings of Control, the Ian Curtis biopic, in the last week. Earlier this year we saw Brand Upon the Brain, Guy Madden’s latest film, accompanied by a live orchestra and live foley artists. These kinds of things are so rare in SF, and yet down here screenings of rare prints, in-person appearances, and other activities for film lovers are rather commonplace.

Your tax dollars at work

Wow. Today I received an e-mail from the San Francisco Public Library with the following information:

“The material(s) you have requested are now at the library shown below (next to “Pickup At”) and will be held for you until the date indicated.”

The book listed was one I requested four months before we even moved. I assumed the request had been accidentally deleted or otherwise expired. But here we are, almost a year into life in LA, and the book I requested has become available in San Francisco! I’d always loved the SF public library, but now a bit less.

Bowery: A rant

“Just so you know for next time….”

I hate hearing that phrase pass through the lips of any waiter or other restaurant employee, because (1) it means they’re about to blame you for their mistakes and (2) they presume you’ll be coming back, the chances of which drop dramatically once they start talking down to you.

Last weekend we heard it not once but twice, from first our server and then the bar manager at Bowery restaurant near the Arclight. I’d been wanting to check it out for a while and had read that the burgers in particular were tasty, so we went there to grab a bite after seeing a movie.

We walked in, digging the sleek New York vibe, courtesy of white subway tiles and a long, dark bar. After we were seated we glanced over the drinks listed on a chalkboard on the wall, only to realize that they offered no beers on tap–not even Stella or Amstel, which for a bar in Hollywood is shocking. Strike one.

D and I ordered the hamburgers we’d read so much about; he asked for medium, I asked for medium-well. The food took a while to arrive, but we were content to munch on sweet potato fries as an appetizer while drinking our (bottled) beer. When the burgers finally arrived, I joked that I shouldn’t have ordered mediuem-well–my burger looked like a charred hockey puck. I took a bite: hmm, curious, the interior of this burger is kinda pink. Like, a hair’s breadth on the medium side of medium rare. About the time I was realizing this I heard an exclamation of consternation from D, who was pulling back from a mouthful of rare ground beef, blood and juices dripping onto his plate.

D did his best to pick out the few cooked bits while we waited for our server to come back. When she did, we explained the situation and she apologized but looked a little pissed off. I don’t think she was angry with us, though–I got a feeling that this had happened before and she was angry with the kitchen for sending out uncooked food, which undoubtedly would lead to a decreased tip. I told her my burger was also undercooked but didn’t need to be sent back; D’s was carried back to the kitchen to be cooked a little longer.

About five minutes later the plate came out again, and I should emphasize that this was the same plate. The same plate covered in blood and uncooked meat, which had been jostled around so much that the juices ran into the accompanying salad, rendering the greens inedible. As she set it down, the waitress said, “Just so you know, the burgers here will always be a little undercooked, because we use such high-quality meat.” Gee, waitress, that would have been good information to have at the front end, when we placed the order and you asked us how we’d like it cooked.

D takes a bite as the table hangs in anticipation: slightly more cooked, but by any definition (except, apparently, Bowery’s) it was still rare! As we debated our next course of action (dare we send it back yet again?) the manager of the restaurant approached our table. “Sorry about that, I wanted you to know that I knocked off half the price of the burger, given that it wasn’t cooked to your liking.” Ah, yes, that’s proper service! “Just so you know for next time,” (uh oh) “we use a really high-quality meat here, so the owners are always telling the cooks not to overcook the meat. I know it might be a little pinker than you’re used to, but it’s really high-quality meat so you don’t have to worry.”

Seriously? You use a “higher-quality meat” and therefore are not subject to all norms and standards for cooking food to order? And we are in the wrong for wanting our meat to be cooked without shouting distance of the doneness we requested? And yet you don’t explain your “high-quality meat” until after you’ve failed to meet a customer’s expectations and put a damper on their dining experience in your restaurant?

So, yeah. We left a far smaller tip than we have in a long time, then dashed down the street to the Cat & Fiddle, where we could get a proper Guinness in the outdoor courtyard. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess, but next time we’re looking for apres-movie dining, we’ll just go straight to the pub grub at Cat & Fiddle.

Dear neighbor:

Your liberal use of fabric softener has almost knocked me unconscious. When we moved into the apartment above the laundry room, I knew I was signing on for a certain amount of dryer exhaust to seep through my open windows, and our bedroom regularly fills with eau d’laundree. But today the scent is so overpowering it smells like I’m sitting in a bath of fabric softener. Or doing lines of Downy like I was Lindsay Lohan on a bender.