Confessions of a Chef’s Wife A Blog Series by Leslee McGowan Part II: Whole Food Shortcuts: Real-Food, Real-Fast

McGowan & Son’s Grilled Marinated Veggie Salad

Whole Food Shortcuts: Real-Food, Real-Fast

Hi McG & S Fans!!! So, to continue the story…I met Rob the old-fashioned way – at a dive bar in Milwaukee. Seems right if you know us and if you don’t yet know us, it will explain everything! After dating for three months, we moved to San Diego, where we were spoiled with fresh produce and seafood year-round. I was also spoiled with my built-in chef. But life took over and eventually I had to pitch in, cook for us, and try to keep up with Chef Rob.

Let’s Start with Salads

“You don’t make friends with salad, Les.” says Rob McGowan at my salad for dinner suggestion when he really just wants wings and a burger.

We eat a salad with just about every meal….yes, even breakfast/brunch. I know….weirdos! But once you get used to having a few greens on the side, you will wonder how you didn’t do that before. A few bits of freshly tossed spinach, arugula, or romaine with homemade vinaigrette next to your scrambled eggs seems totally right…and very French, by the way! (Maybe that’s why the Frenchies can have butter and champagne all the time!) 

Rob taught me very early on that store-bought salad dressings are full of preservatives…that’s why they don’t taste all that great. And why, perhaps, people don’t find salads crave-worthy.

The dressing makes the difference. He also taught me that grocery store precut salads and produce were full of bleach and other unhealthy, unappetizing preservatives. Did you know those premade veggie trays and baby cut carrots are full of bleach? Well it’s true…that’s how they keep them fresh for so long. 

So how do you make a quick salad for every meal so you are not tempted to eat naughty stuff instead?

First, at the beginning of the week, whip up a premade vinaigrette and keep it in a blender bottle in the fridge. Boom!  Done! Your salad dressing is ready to go. (Rob’s base recipe is at the bottom of this blog – you can mix it up with other stuff to keep it interesting, but this will get you started.) Take that blender bottle out of the fridge 15 minutes before service and it will warm up so that you can re-emulsify it. Then you just shake it and you are ready with a homemade salad dressing.

Okay, what’s the shortcut for the salad itself, so that you avoid going for the bag of prewashed, precut stuff?  

At the beginning of the week, when you have a minute to breathe, tear your romaine, grate some carrots and slice some cukes. Now put everything in a large ziplock with a damp paper towel on the side. This will keep in your fridge for several days! Just be sure you don’t dress your salad until you’re ready to serve it.

(Alternative: Instead of doing romaine, use spinach and fresh mushrooms)

Then, if you want to get crazy, add some mix-ins to keep it interesting:

  •          Tomatoes, Bleu Cheese and Bacon (When you’re frying bacon on Sunday morning, cut some lardons and fry those up – they will keep nicely in the fridge for several days.)
  •          Grill Some Veggies (Or, you can stop by McGowan & Son’s and pick up our Grilled Marinated Veggie Salad if we have it on special.) You can always use a stove top grill pan if you don’t want to start up the grill.  My favorite combo – asparagus, red onions and mushrooms in olive oil, salt and pepper.
  •          Parm and Olives (I love to buy a wedge of parm and do big grates and garnish on top of the salad once it’s plated.)
  •          Grilled corn, Tomatoes and Avocado
  •          Feta and Kalamatas
  •          Beets and Goat Cheese
  •          Cashews and Green Apple

Rob’s Base Vinaigrette:

  •          1 minced shallot
  •          ½ cup of champagne or red wine vinegar
  •          1tbsp minced herbs like basil, tarragon, thyme, parsley
  •          1 pinch salt
  •          Few grinds of black pepper
  •          Slowly whisk in 1 cup to 1 ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Now that you have a plan to make some easy side salads, come get your healthy entree at McGowan & Son’s: 1607 Burlington Beach Road, Valparaiso, IN 46383 (we’re the blue building with the orange crab on the side just two blocks west of Calumet). Call us if you have any questions at: 219.299.2336.

Do you have any questions about food prep that you’d like me to cover in future blogs? Leave a comment! Also, if you liked these helpful tips, please like and share this blog. Each like, comment, and share are very much appreciated! Check back in in a few weeks for my next blog. “Let’s Get Down and Dirty McGowan-Style” #mcgowanandsons #foodnetwork