The “Rubber Chicken Dinner” season has begun; let the cheap wine flow!
Here in the Coachella Valley there are over 900 charities vying for their piece of the charitable-giving pie. The competition is fierce to see which charity can host the most over-the-top “ball” (a euphemism for an event that forces attendees to wear formal attire to do the same things that can be done in casual attire, while listening to endless speeches). One thing common to these events is the food: a watery, limp salad; tasteless, rubbery chicken or beef, or both; vegetables discernable as such only from the menu; and the obligatory chocolate dessert, all accompanied by wines of completely unknown vintners from regions less travelled. There are so many charitable events like these that before each season my intrepid escort and I negotiate how many and which events he will attend. Unfortunately for me, the number decreases exponentially each year.
A Culinary Diva likes culinary challenges, but getting through the Rubber Chicken Dinner Season is particularly difficult for me. I usually avoid the buffet tables and merely nibble for appearance sake during a sit-down dinner ordeal. So I find it advisable to eat before the event or afterwards and am always looking for something light to accommodate these needs. As part of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker Program with Marzetti Simply Dressed, I received a complimentary bottle of Marzetti Simply Dressed Salad Dressing. This gift presented the perfect opportunity to do a little experimentation for some quick and easy dishes for the busy social season ahead of me.
There are ten varieties of Marzetti Simply Dressed Salad Dressing to select from and, trust me, selection is no small task given the wide variety and uniqueness of their salad dressings. The Marzetti products are made from all-natural ingredients and do not contain preservatives – which is a major plus in my book. I ended up purchasing four more because they sounded so interesting.
For my first experiment, I selected the Greek Feta salad dressing made with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. This salad dressing has a light and creamy texture and will not weigh down your salad like so many creamy dressings do. I thought this would perfectly compliment the salad’s principal ingredients: cantaloupe and feta cheese.
This salad was inspired by a local CSA website that featured a recipe with cantaloupe and feta cheese. Cantaloupe and feta cheese are a natural pairing with the saltiness of the feta cheese working well with the sweet, luscious flavors of the cantaloupe. But I thought the Marzetti salad dressing could support a broader platform of tastes. So I chose spicy arugula for the greens and added freshly crisped bacon and cool, refreshing cucumber. The result is an explosive taste sensation, rather like the image conjured by a Jackson Pollock painting. This salad can be an appetizer or an entrée. Either way, it is a showstopper.
Cantaloupe, Feta and Arugula Salad
1 small cantaloupe, seeded and diced
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
10 Kalamata Olives sliced
4 strips of crisped bacon, crumbled
¼ cup Marzetti Simply Dressed Greek Feta Salad Dressing
1 bag arugula
Place ¼ cup of Marzetti Simply Dressed Greek Feta Salad Dressing in bottom of large bowl. Add the arugula and toss until coated. Add in ¾ of the diced cantaloupe, cucumber, feta cheese, olives and bacon to the coated arugula. Mix well.
Divide salad into four first course portions or two main course portions. Garnish with remaining cantaloupe, cucumber, feta, olives and bacon.
We paired the salad with a discovery from a recent trip to Lodi, California. The Van Ruiten 2008 Reserve Double Barrel Chardonnay accentuated the flavors of the salad. The wine is light in alcohol at only 12%, has a crispness about it with slightly spicy overtone .
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