Happy Birthday Mom! I want to dedicate this post to my mom for her birthday (which was yesterday, but I didn’t want you to miss Tuesdays with Tommy) because without her, I would not be who I am today. She has taught me so many wonderful things throughout my life and I only hope to be able to do the same for my kids someday.
It is from my mom that I learned to love food—not just eating food, but preparing it too. From a young age I can remember being in the kitchen with my mom. Sometimes I would help (or try to help), and other times I would sit in awe as I watched her do her thing. She glows when she is cooking and baking and I am convinced that the reason her food always tastes so good is because she enjoys making it so much.
So many of my best memories from childhood revolve around food. In elementary school my mom would make sugar cookies for every birthday and holiday party. They weren’t just any sugar cookies—they were always shapes (turkeys for Thanksgiving, santas for Christmas, hearts for Valentine’s Day….you get the point), decorated with her famous homemade frosting, and personalized so each kid got their own cookie with their name on it. As you can imagine, I quickly became one of the most popular kids at school and everyone wanted to be in my class year after year :). In middle school I began playing sports and that’s when my mom became famous for her spaghetti dinners and amazing chocolate chip cookies. I’m pretty sure my entire ski team survived the winter because of the extra layer of fat we all grew from eating my mom’s chocolate chip cookies :).
Then I went off to college and really, really missed my mom’s cooking. I had never really cooked on my own before and found myself nervous to cook without my mom’s guidance. My mom assured me that I would be fine because, after all, at two years old I was already making scrambled eggs by myself! I started with ‘easy’ dishes, but over the years the dishes I made grew more and more complicated. Even though my mom and I don’t get to cook together very often anymore, I still call her with all of my cooking questions. Lucky for me, my mom is a night owl so I can call her at 1 am her time to ask how I can tell if my cheesecake is done or not—now that’s love :).
So on my mom’s birthday, I wanted to share with you all a recipe from my mom. With so many recipes, it was very hard to decide. Over time I know I’ll share many of them with you, but for now, I decided to share a recipe that she just gave me recently—Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. The reason I chose this recipe is because it is one that we made together when I was home visiting last fall. We were all gathered at my aunt’s house to celebrate my and my cousin’s birthday and we made this salad for lunch. I have fond memories of standing in the kitchen together as my mom, my aunt, my cousin, and I prepared things inside and my dad grilled the food outside. Every time I eat this salad, I can remember sitting around the table together, laughing, and enjoying this meal that we all helped prepare.
So to my mom I say, thank you for being you. Thank you for teaching me how to put love into my cooking and baking. And thank you for always making me laugh, especially when you say things like, “It warms the cockles of my heart to know that”. I had never heard that expression until you said that today, and now I will smile every time I think about it because it makes me think of you. You are the best, Mom!
And to everyone else, I hope you enjoy this salad as much as we do!
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
This is not your typical Caesar salad. It is not just grilled chicken atop a regular salad—in this recipe EVERYTHING is grilled! Don’t knock it ‘til you try it—it’s awesome!
3 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
2-4 anchovy fillets, chopped (I use just a little bit of anchovy paste-it definitely enhances the flavor)
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1 pound chicken breasts
4 – ½ inch thick slices focaccia or whole-wheat Italian bread
4 romaine lettuce hearts, halved lengthwise
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high.
Make the dressing: Chop 2 garlic cloves and puree with ½ cup olive oil, the anchovies and lemon juice in a blender until smooth; season with salt and pepper.
Pound the chicken with a mallet or heavy skillet until about ⅛ inch thick. Season with salt and pepper and toss with 1 tbsp of the Caesar dressing. Grill the chicken until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Brush the bread with olive oil on both sides and grill, turning until toasted, about 2 minutes. Rub with the remaining garlic clove. Brush the romaine lettuce with 1 to 2 tbsp of the dressing and grill until marked, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Chop the lettuce and transfer to a bowl.
Cut the bread and chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl. Toss with the remaining dressing, the Parmesan, and pepper to taste.
Question: What is the strangest thing you have ever grilled?