chicken-caesar-salad Recipes

chicken caesar salad

It has been almost a year since I told you that I don’t like boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, I never had and I never would. Furthermore, I did not understand the American obsession with them (in sandwiches! on pizza! in pasta! on salad! in 54-packs at Costco!). “They have the texture and excitement of pressed sawdust,” I believe were my exact words, and even though I knew I was in a distinct minority on this, I knew I couldn’t rest soundly until I got it off my chest.

But The People wouldn’t let it go. “You must try brining,” they whispered into my inbox, “brining is much better,” they said in the comments, “brining will change you life,” one went as far as to say, at which point I stopped listening entirely. Why should I have to work so hard to make something taste good? Obviously, it is not inherently tasty, or it wouldn’t require all of these extra steps and seasonings. Pressed sawdust, I said; case closed.

I know what you’re thinking right now: Poor Alex. Does he really have to put up with this every single day? Didn’t he, like, live on chicken cutlets when he was single? Can’t she cut them a little slack? And you’d be right: I really am impossible. But if we flash forward to last week’s pork chops, you’ll notice a little step that got squeezed quietly in there: the b-word. The other one. And what it resulted in were the juiciest pork chops I have ever eaten; I could scarcely believe my mouth, and soon enough, there I was, offering to try the same with chicken cutlets. To be chopped into a salad. As if there were not two things I detest more.

chicken caesar

Caesar salads are a perfect example of one of those items that always disappoint me when I order them somewhere, so I decided to take them into my own hands a few years ago, my very serious hands. I make the dressing and croutons, I select only the best-looking leaves of Romaine heart, I freshly grate the best Parmesan we have on hand, all the while Alex baffles that a salad his deli can put together in one minute takes me so long. With my recently piqued interest in well-rounded meals, I’ve been looking for a protein to add to it. I tried a chopped hardboiled egg last week but, eh, it just didn’t work for me, which brings us back around to that brined cutlet.

We soaked two chicken cutlets in a half-batch of brine for 30 minutes, and seasoned them before frying them in a pan, only one of the dryest of all dry preparations and seriously? Have you waited long enough for me to tell you this? Brining is a whole new world. I never knew that chicken could be so juicy. However, I’m not going to lie–moisture is not flavor, and these still did not have the flavor profile of darker meat. But it was a start, and a very promising one at that.

One year ago: Leek and Mushroom Quiche [Quiche aux Poireaux et Champignons]

Chicken Cutlet Brine

Enough for up to 1.5 pounds of cutlets.

Dissolve 2 tablespoons table salt in 2 cups water in medium container or gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. Submerge cutlets, cover with plastic wrap or seal bag, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Rinse cutlets under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels and prepare as you normally would.

Caesar Salad Dressing

Because I created this for me, me, me, my Caesar salad dressing is raw egg and anchovy optional, and I swear you won’t miss them. But if this offends the Caesar purist in you, I’ve given options for both. Now can’t we all get along?

2 tablespoons mayonnaise – or – 1 egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, plus a drop or two more, to taste
1 oil-packed anchovy fillet, finely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk all except last together. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. (Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and rewhisk before using.)

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46 comments on chicken caesar salad

  1. These comments had to be copied over due to the server move. Sorry to the original commenters!

    #
    1

    I have to agree with you. I cannot stand america’s obsession with the boneless skinless chicken breast. 99% of the time when a recipe calls for them, I typically replace them with boneless skinless thigh’s.
    # Sarah January 16, 2008
    2

    Hey Deb, do you have a good crouton recipe?
    # tara January 16, 2008
    3

    it’s always nice to hear that some people really do give foods they have always detested another shot! great to hear that you’ve taken to the brining method – it’s not something i’ve attempted yet but have always wondered about. as far as the lack of flavor of b/s chicken cutlets, you couldn’t be more right – absolutely bland. however, for a caesar salad, i season them with salt, pepper, and plenty of garlic powder before sauteeing – a WORLD of difference, especially since the garlicky chicken enhances the flavor of the dressing.
    # minimally invasive January 16, 2008
    4

    I completely understand where you’re coming from, Deb. Even when brined, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are just kinda … meh. Glad to hear you weren’t completely won over!
    # Tamy January 16, 2008
    5

    As an alternative to brine, I use an egg white whisked together with a teaspoon of cornstarch. I also add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and white pepper which tends to bring out the flavor. Coat chicken for 30-60 minutes before you are going to prepare it. You will have some of the plumpest juiciest chicken ever.
    # Traci January 16, 2008
    6

    Can I highly recommend State Fair’s Spiedie Sauce when it comes to brining/marinating chicken?
    Not only adds moisture, but adds FLAVOR. Not like your standard Italian dressing that many people seem to like to marinate in, the Spiedie Sauce adds a delicious twang of vinegar. We love it!
    http://www.spiedie.com/Merchant5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=S&Category_Code=SS
    # David January 16, 2008
    7

    Mayo and ‘optional’ anchovies in a Caesar salad?

    What kind of crazy-talk is that.
    Next thing you know, you’ll be making cookie dough with cold butter.
    # Krissy January 16, 2008
    8

    I’m finally delurkeing, because I was re-reading the site yesterday and *almost* made the Caesar dressing last night…now I know it’s fate! It will be a nice starter before the CI brownies I’m required to eat to avoid being the other b-word!

    I’m going to have to try Tamy’s suggested egg white application. It sounds intriguing. Love your site Deb. Thanks for always expanding the possibilities of my culinary world.
    # Taylor January 16, 2008
    9

    Wow…I was actually, like, on the edge of my seat when I clicked the “more” link.

    Would she like them? Would she hate them? I need to know the Thrilling Conclusion of the chicken cutlet saga!

    (I think my life is a little sad)
    # Carla January 16, 2008
    10

    a shout out for Traci’s suggestion of State Fair Spiedie sauce. I mail this stuff to anyone I know around the country, just to get them hooked. All this in the hopes that if the nation gets hooked on spiedies, I’ll be able to move anywhere in the country and not have to have my family ship me cases of it 2 times a year ;)
    An important note about spiedie sauce however.. the meat MUST be marinated for AT LEAST 24 hours.. there is no leeway in that step.
    I’ll be posting my step mother’s spiedie sauce marinade recipe soon. My dad handed down all of her cookbooks to me a few years ago but I never really looked through them. The last time I was flipping through her ancient and tattered copy of The Frugal Gourmet, an oooold piece of notebook paper fell out with that recipe. I thought it was lost forever! Now if I could just find her coleslaw dressing recipe… I cannot replicate it for the life of me!

    But anyway.. I was going to suggest trying free range organic chicken vs, the industrial farmed crap in most markets. There is a world of difference in the juiciness and taste.
    # dori January 16, 2008
    11

    my husband and i got so sick of chicken breasts at one point that we banned them from our home and started subbing eggplant everywhere chicken was called for. now he is sick of eggplant.

    on a separate note: can i just say how much i love the “one year ago today” links? its like 2 recipes per entry for me(sometimes 3 if last year’s recipe has a link to an even older one!) since i just recently became BFF with your blog.
    # SJ January 16, 2008
    12

    If you buy kosher chicken breasts, you can skip the brining step and still get delicious chicken breasts. Try Empire Kosher frozen, especially if you have a Sam’s or Costco membership.
    # jennbec January 16, 2008
    13

    I assume you’ve got a great crouton recipe already but here’s what I use to make my own, if you’re interested – http://straightfromthefarm.wordpress.com/2007/07/20/crunchy-goodness/
    They’re ridiculously irresistable and would no doubt be great in your evolving caesar salad! :-)
    # Jenn Jones January 16, 2008
    14

    You should try adding other seasonings to the brining…this is expensive but I’m sure you could come up with your own concoction… http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/sku6586424/index.cfm?pkey=xsrd0m1%7C15%7C%7C%7C0%7C%7C%7C%7C%7C%7C%7Cbrine&cm%5Fsrc=SCH
    # katy January 16, 2008
    15

    brining — interesting, i would never think to make chicken like that, but maybe i will like it better! i absolutely agree on the boneless skinless chicken breast thing (such a “diet” food too, which i sort of can’t stand), and frankly, i feel the same way about roasted turkey — it’s inevitably too dry on a regular basis, and even slightly too dry on thanksgiving. i do like smoked turkey though, and i wonder if i would like smoked chicken, too. but since i don’t own a smoker, brining sounds like a better one to try first! :-)
    # Kathryn January 16, 2008
    16

    I have to agree with the poster to suggested the free range organic chicken instead of the pre-packaged grocer cutlet. It really is a world of difference. My boyfriend’s brother-in-law farms his own organic, free range chickens and we often get one after a slaughter. The white breast meat is juicier, and much more ‘chicken’-y than anything we’ve ever purchased at the grocer (”special” expensive Whole Foods chicken included).
    That said, there is no solution to making white meat equally as juicy as the dark stuff. Oh sure, you can come close but it will just never have the same texture. Which doesn’t bug me, because I don’t like dark meat (I do like your blog though :D).
    # Drakenrahl January 16, 2008
    17

    Just remember that a brine is just a salt solution. You can use any “liquid” that you want, it doesn’t need to be water. Try using a variety of things. I’ve brined pork in apple juice and rosemary, with the requisite amount of salt of course. Chicken can easily be brined in a array of citrus juices or other fruit juices. Chicken brined in orange jucie with with ginger and dried cherries works well, though I usually brine that one overnight to allow the cherries time to work their magic.

    Personally when it comes to boneless skinless chicken, I tend to go with chicken thighs. More flavor, smaller portion, and just plain better overall. Boneless skinless breasts are okay too, but they require a bit more care. When they are done right, they are worth the time and effort, of course there are very few foods which aren’t worth the effort to do right.
    # Julie January 16, 2008
    18

    Even given your recent conversion, perhaps you will enjoy Bill Ruhlman’s chicken-fried pork belly Caesar…?
    # aforkfulofspaghetti January 16, 2008
    19

    Ah, yes – tasteless, dry chicken. We have a similar obsession with the stuff over on this side of the pond. Can’t understand it myself.

    Still, thanks to the efforts of a couple of celeb chefs – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver – the tide is turning, and there’s a new campaign (called ‘Chicken Out’) to get the UK population to abandon intensively (and cruelly) reared birds – the tasteless ones – and to plump for free-range reared chickens instead. Signs are, it’s working.

    But this sounds like a great technique to use on any chicken. Like you, I’ve never been much wowed. I usually avoid eating chicken when eating out because it’s so often a let-down. But I will try this at home…
    # Sasha January 16, 2008
    20

    Deb, I’m so with you on the boneless skinless chicken!!! I was beginning to think it was ALL chicken and even ALL POULTRY! Then someone told me about brining. But brine boneless skinless?? Here’s the thing. You can dress a hooker nicely, but she’s still a hooker, yea? Them promiscuous boneless skinless chicken breasts still get around insipidly, brine or not.

    IF we’re talking real birds, duck, turkey, even, yes, chicken… Brine is absolute key. I’ve become a convert. Brining has salvaged what little reputation poultry had with me and has lifted it onto a pedestal of EASILY MADE DINNER FOOD FOR A GROUP OF MANY!
    # Katie B. January 16, 2008
    21

    Hurrah Chicken Chests!!! We knew you’d come around! ;)
    # Rivka January 16, 2008
    22

    Yay, another boneless skinless chicken breast hater! I’m a huge fan of the salmon caesar salad. Anyway you slice it, boneless skinless chicken is one big bore. My one exception is when stuffing them, after pounding them nice and thin. And, of course, shnitzel. But…yay!
    # Kalle January 16, 2008
    23

    if you like seafood, a nice grilled (or broiled) piece of salmon is really good on a ceasar salad.
    # DocChuck January 16, 2008
    24

    Since I lost my teeth, my wife cooks ground boneless, skinless chicken in her crockpot with fat free mushroom soup, fat free sour cream, boullion cubes, and about a half bottle of cooking sherry. She serves it on cellophane noodles and Man is it ever good!
    # Jocelyn January 16, 2008
    25

    I don’t know what “brine” is, but you said you liked “Jocelyn Chicken Special”, so I think you can be swayed.
    # Yesenia January 16, 2008
    26

    We hate the cutlets too, mostly because they’re void of flavor and spendy. Chicken tenders however, are void of flavor, but CHEAP. We use them in everything esp because they’re so easy and if you pound them a little, can be cut with a fork. Adding a bit of chicken stock paste to the sauce always helps too.
    # Mara January 16, 2008
    27

    Call me crazy but I love chicken breasts..I prefer them over dark meat! Not sure why..but I love roasting them rather than frying, definitely more juicy that way. Stuffed roasted chicken breast mmm. I gotta try the brine!!

  2. Ugh, I’m not a fan of the chicken breast either. The family enjoy it, and I wonder what in the world have I gotten myself into. Then I remember, more dark meat for me!

  3. I’m laughing as I read your post today because the feature “special” in the hospital cafeteria today was Chicken Caesar Salad—do I need to describe it–LOL?

  4. I always cook my chicken breasts on a stone from pampered chef. Roasted at 350 it takes all of a 1/2 an hour and it’s always juicy…no brine. I rub it with a bit of olive oil and seasonings, it makes for a quick dinner after work. Be careful not to overcook…sawdust tasting things happen.

  5. I love the chicken breast, but honestly, I’ve never seen it as anything but a conduit for whatever sauce/seasoning I put on it. I actually kind of like that they are flavorless in that respect. Also, and this is weird, but chicken grosses me out, kind of, so it’s best if I think of it as nothing more than tasteless protein (then why, I’m asking myself, am I not using tofu? OH RIGHT. I’m married to a chickenman). Beef, I care about flavor; chicken not so much.

  6. Hey,the last couple of days if I try to go to http://smittenkitchen.com I get a notice that your site is unavailable. But if I go to a particular bookmarked page, I can get there and navigate around your site, as long as I don’t try to go to the home page. What gives?

  7. This reminded me to make the Nigella Lawson Caesar dressing recipe from her How To Eat book which I lurve, it’s a bit less rich and less mayonnaise-y than most! (This is not to denigrate your recipe of course, which I am sure is beautifully balanced and lovely!)

  8. Molly — We’ve been migrating hosts this week, which caused the wonkiness as the site moves over. (i.e. some pages up, others down). It will hopefully all be back in alignment by the end of today–DNS propogration often takes 24 to 72 hours and we started Wednesday night.

  9. Three words. “Empre Kosher Chicken”
    Its a bit expensive, but the brining is already done for you.

    Power boil some fingerling potatoes, 10 mins from cold.
    Toss in some olive oil, Salt pepper and Garlic and put them in the bottom of a broiler pan.
    Quater a whole broiler Chicken on the bone and lay flat on the broiler rack over the potatoes.
    Cook at 450F about 60mins until the chicken is cooked.

    The juice from the chicken flavors the potatoes. Its delicious.

  10. The only way I’ve been able to get flavor onto the chicken breasts is to soak them in something flavorful and then grill them. For this salad, I would actually like the crunchy bits on edges. I’m partial to grilling sauces that have some lime in them for chicken.

    The thing that makes ALL the difference to me is slicing the cooked chicken breast thinly on the bias. I like to make the salad and then top it with the chicken slices, so this allows me to give the chicken some grinds of salt and pepper and toss them separately, so they have some extra flavor when you put them in the Caesar. I don’t feel like the salt and pepper competes badly with the dressing.

    Leftover steak sliced thinly on the bias and tossed with freshly ground salt and pepper is also really good on top of a salad. Sometimes I warm it once sliced, sometimes I don’t. But bleu cheese crumbles MAKE this salad.

  11. I have a feeling that Americans like boneless, skinless chicken breast because they look the least like real chicken “meat.” Half the population would stop eating chicken if they actually had to buy a whole chicken, clean it, etc.

  12. Hm, I think my comment must’ve gotten eaten. Boo!

    The gist of it was, I heard of a technique on America’s Test Kitchen (Cook’s Illustrated’s TV show on PBS) that was kind of like a dry brine. I’m going to explain this the best I can – You kind of make a dry rub with salt and other spices and put it on the chicken. The moisture in the chicken dissolves the salt and absorbs the salt – and the flavor of the other spices – into the meat. Hence! Flavorful meat. I’ve never actually tried it myself, but it was the episode with the spice-rubbed picnic chicken, I think.

  13. I’ve totally heard of that too Nicole… the dry brine. I remember that episode!

    Flavor or no flavor, your salad has me tempted to skip dessert and go straight for the salad!

  14. A long time ago, Emeril had a recipe that I use frequently for flavorful chicken breasts. Pour buttermilk into a big baggie. Grate lemon peel into that same baggie. Add two tbsp honey and lots of fresh ground pepper. Marinate overnight or at least a few hours. Chicken is moist and has a delicate hint of lemon.

  15. Hi Deb. I’ve lurked for a while and L-O-V-E your blog. Last night I tried your brine and my man loved it. I figured it would work out great because I use Alton Brown’s brine for my Thanksgiving turkey and always will. And I was not disappointed. I added some Tabasco sauce to the chicken brine and plan on adding other spices and such in the future.

  16. OK, you’ve convinced me. I hate boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, but I’ll buy a small package. And I’ll brine them. However, if they turn out tasting like pressed sawdust, it’ll be on your head.

  17. I couldn’t agree with you more about chicken and while brining is a good solution (and i think you can add flavor by adding spices, but that ain’t chicken flavor) i have found that I either need organic free range (need I say, REAL chicken) for flavor, OR trader Joes (I just happen to work there) has frozen chicken thighs. Yes, please and thankyou. I love chicken thighs.

  18. Thank you for the salad dressing recipe!! I agree with the chicken too! Chicken thighs are just yummy!! And love your mayo for raw eggs version! (Raw eggs make me feel squishy now)

    Hope you don’t mind that I have posted your recipe with credits in my private blog! It’s to help me recall recipes I have found all over!

  19. I agree with you about the raw eggs in a dressing, but I’m not convinced that mayo belongs in a Caesar Salad recipe–too strangely astringent for me and my husband. We prefer this eggless recipe from epicurious that is 3 T lemon juice, 3 garlic cloves, 1 T dijon, 3/4 cup olive oil. Whiz it in a food processor, add anchovy paste if you like, and grated parm and you’re done. Even my 3 year old loves it.

  20. Just tried your Caesar dressing over the weekend and it was awesome! Thanks again for yet another big-time “keeper”. The part I like best is that it makes just enough for a large salad for 2. I’ve never had a problem or an aversion to using raw egg so I went with it (and the ‘chovies) and am still here to tell the tale. I buy my eggs the day they are laid from Cherry Grove farm near Princeton, NJ, just up the road from me. I love being able to see their chickens out in the fields pecking away. And they have this cool mobile chicken house that they move all over the farm — they attach it to a tractor and pull it along. I guess the chickens just follow along.

  21. I LOVE Caesar Salad. I make my dressing with hard boiled eggs. Makes the most flavorful, and creamiest dressing ever. And plus then, you don’t have to feel paranoid about the raw egg. :)

  22. Deb: Have you tried Jeffrey’s Meats @ the Essex Street Market? I get boneless – skinned – chicken breasts ALL the time – and swear by them. Plump (unless you want them butterflied). Juicy! I try never to buy in the supermarket anymore. Ask for Mr. Silva – Jeffrey’s best butcher. I think he’s even better than Jeffrey. Bottom line: Do I HAVE to brine?! Not unless it’s absolutely necessary…and I say Jeffrey’s let’s you skip this step. P.S. He’s really priced reasonably.

  23. Hey Deb, wondering if you could help me out… I am allergic to mustard. It makes me weep on an almost daily basis, as it’s included in so many things I would love! I would love to make this, and I know that 1/2 a teaspoon of mustard is not much, and I could leave out etc. However, is there anything you might be able to recommend that might give that tiny little flavoursome punch? Something that won’t push me into the throes of death, but equally takes the place of that little missing taste? Thank you!

  24. I brined the Thanksgiving turkey for the first time this year. Kept it brining for 2 days. Rave reviews abounded, as it was eaten up quicker than any other turkey I’ve made. I’m doing it again for Christmas. I can’t believe how big of a difference it makes in ANY meat (I’ve heard seafood can be brined, as well). Love your blog. I’m about far away from opening my own bakery.

  25. It left out the “this” I had in there. Guess it didn’t like my odd characters. Anyway, love the recipes. Keep ’em comin’!!

  26. I love your blog – have been addicted for quite some time now. I just discovered this post recently, and I’m looking forward to trying your recipe for caesar dressing, sans egg. I’m pregnant and really missing all of my favorite creamy salad dressings which, of course, I’m not eating now because of the raw egg. I searched through your recipe archive but didn’t find any other creamy salad dressing recipes without egg. Would really love it if you’d share more!!! Thanks!

  27. Great dressing – made it as directed and added to a bowl of homemade croutons from homemade bread (!), romaine, parmesan, and some less traditional watercress and cabbage – fridge purge style. It was excellent!

    I need to read up on brines (their purpose and application), but do you think one could defrost chicken in the brine, in the style of killing two birds with one bowl? Or would that be too much time in the salt water? Thanks!

  28. So, ever since experimenting with brining chicken I have TOTALLY embraced it and won’t ever look back. Not only does it make an error-less meal taste ten times more delicious, but it’s so forgiving for those sub-cooking-par meals. Since I freeze most chicken parts, i’ve taken to defrosting the chicken in the salt water solution – it’s definitely tricky in terms of determining salt content, but worth it (do I even have to say that the risk of my meal being slightly over-salted completely outweighs the risk of it being leathery and tasteless?) Thanks deb!

  29. As you, I totally dislike grilled chicken fillets or similar. Until I found out that brining chicken breasts in milk for 30 minutes could really make the difference. By the way, this suggestion was made by Ferran Adriá, and read it somewhere some years ago. This week I’ll try your Waldorf chicken salad. Signed… a Mexican BIG fan of yours in Madrid.

  30. As has been typical of late, I googled a recipe, and scanned through the results until I found one from your website! Your recipes have been my go-to if it’s something I haven’t made before, but you have. Tonight it was the Caesar salad dressing (sans raw egg), which has now become my favourite salad dressing; recently, it has also been your thousand layer lasagna with fresh tomato sauce, and also your lemon loaf. All turned out perfectly! Thanks for such a wonderful blog. I’m looking forward to buying your book, but I hope you don’t stop blogging!

  31. Hooray for a super caesar dressing without creepy raw eggs and nasty fishies! Our Saturday pizza tonight was nothing less than mind-blowing: white pizza with grilled chicken and red onion, topped post-oven with romaine, parmesan and a swirl of the dressing. Out of this world. This puppy is going into some serious rotation. Thanks!

  32. I made this tonight for friends with great results and feedback. However, I followed the recipe for the dressing exactly and it was a bit sweet also it wasn’t the colour of regular Caesar dressing it was mustardy in colour – I don’t know if that’s normal or not. It was still good but I’ll probably go back to good ol’ Paul Newman next time.

    The brining was a revelation- but I agree with Deb, moisture isn’t the same as flavour.

    I made my own croutons with preparation I made up on the spot (sourdough drizzled with olive oil, minced garlic and parmesan then baked) – it had never occurred to me before to make them myself. Store-bought ones will never compare again!!

  33. My husband LOVES caesar salad dressing! This would be perfect for packing him lunch. But Deb! Do you have a time frame for how long the homemade dressing would keep in the fridge?

  34. I love Caesar and my husband and I eat it every week. May I make one small suggestion for a twist on taste. Do not add the lemon juice in the blender. The dressing will come out thick, that is good. Instead, squeeze the lemon over your lettuce before you add the dressing. ZING! Talk about a taste bud delight. Also make your own croutons. I use cracked wheat sourdough. I put pam or olive oil on them and make them nice and peppery. Toast them for 15 – 17 min at 400 deg, I use my toaster oven. Add that to the mix and it is DEVINE!!

  35. Mom24 — Yes, I made the croutons but I don’t think I have a recipe for it. Just old bread, cubed, tossed in olive oil and seasoning and toasted (keeping a close eye) in the oven, tossing them around until they’re a nice color on all sides. Delicious with parmesan and lemon zest, too, especially for a Caesar salad.

  36. Hi Deb! I was looking for your Isreali Salad recipe but the link isnt working! Please look into this as yours is amazing.