Category Archives: Salad

Forget the Lettuce Veggie Salad

When you eat a lot of vegetables, which we do at my house, you get sick of the traditional salad. Sometimes I just don’t want to see another leaf of lettuce, even though I really like salad. But never fear, when salad boredom happens, I tend to just start combining random ingredients in the hopes of inventing something new that everyone will actually eat. It usually works.

I would describe this as a Mediterranean-ish veggie extravaganza. Filling and flavorful, it stands well on its own, or is the perfect side dish for just about anything. As an added bonus, it works well at room temperature which makes it terrific for potlucks and picnics.

No Lettuce Veggie Salad

Forget the Lettuce Veggie Salad

Forget the Lettuce Veggie Salad

1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can olives, cut in half
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 zucchini, diced
2 green onions, sliced
1 small can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered or coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 tbsp. vinegar
Salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients. Eat.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Fruity Salad with Basil Vinaigrette and Roasted Polenta

It’s that time of year again when salad becomes an every other night menu item in my house. This is partially due to the no air conditioning equals minimal cooking policy. And partly because I’m trying to fit into my summer clothes from last year.

In any case, salad doesn’t have to be boring. This one has an easy, bright vinaigrette, fresh fruit and yummy roasted polenta rounds to go with it.

The first time I bought polenta in a tube I was leery to say the least. It’s weird. It doesn’t look appetizing. And good food usually doesn’t come in a tube of any kind. BUT. Polenta is one of those weird foods that you cook and then as it cools it will form whatever shape you happen to put it in. The tubes of polenta generally are minimally processed with no extra ingredients. It’s such a wonderful convenience, especially if you are wanting to fry it up like this. Simply take it out of the tube, slice it up and bake it (or you can pan fry it instead). It’s delicious and soooo easy.

To easily get the seeds out of your pomegranate, score around the center (don’t cut all the way through), pull the two halves apart, turn one half over in your palm and beat on it with a wooden spoon. In about 10-15 seconds, you will have a bowl full of pomegranate seeds. Try not to hit your hand with the spoon. For you visual types, check out this video if you don’t believe me or need to see it before attempting. If you like pomegranates, this will change your life. Seriously.

basilvinaigrettesalad3

Salad with Fresh Basil Vinaigrette and Roasted Polenta

6-8 cups salad greens (I used 1/2 leaf lettuce and 1/2 spinach)
1-2 cups sliced purple cabbage
2 ripe pears, seeded & sliced
1/2 pomegranate
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup walnuts (I lightly toast mine in a skillet but it’s optional)

For the dressing:
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons or chopped
Salt & pepper

1 tube prepared polenta

Preheat oven to 400˚. Slice polenta in rounds about 1/4 inch thick and spread out on a cookie sheet. Very lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake 20-30 minutes until a lightly browned and a bit crispy on the edges. They will still be tender and chewy in the middle.

Polenta "croutons", disks, rounds...whatever you call them, they are crispy, chewy, wonderful good!

Polenta “croutons”, disks, rounds…whatever you call them, they are crispy, chewy, wonderful good!

In a large salad bowl, combine greens, cabbage, pears and pomegranate.

In a small bowl whisk together dijon, vinegar, salt and pepper. While continuing to whisk, add olive oil very slowly, just a tiny drizzle. Stir in basil, taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Whisk, whisk, whisk to get a dressing that stays together!

Whisk, whisk, whisk!

Add feta, walnuts and dressing to salad bowl and toss gently to combine. Serve with polenta rounds.

If you're going to eat salad, you should definitely eat this one!

If you’re going to eat salad, why not eat this one?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rustic Spinach Lentil Salad

Lentils are misunderstood.  They get such a bad rap for being boring, or mushy, or tasteless.  But I love them .  The wonderful thing about lentils is they are so versatile.  Beautiful in soup, but light and small enough to work well in salads as well.  I think part of the problem is that people tend to overcook them.  When boiled to mush, lentils can be underwhelming.  But I cook them just long enough to soften (usually about 25 minutes), leaving them tender but firm.  They have a nice delicate flavor that is enhanced by pretty much anything you combine with it, and they work well with a variety of spices and flavors.  Add to that the health benefits of this high-fiber, high-protein, gluten-free, low cal, zero fat food and in my mind, you’ve got a winner.

You can use any kind of lentils for this salad (I went with the typical greenish brown French lentils).  If you are in a hurry and you are lucky enough to live by a Trader Joe’s, they even sell steamed lentils in their refrigerated section that are delicious and ready to toss into whatever soup, salad or other creation you have in mind.  It just doesn’t get any easier than that.

Rustic spinach lentil salad

Rustic spinach lentil salad

Rustic Spinach Lentil Salad

1 cup lentils
4 cups water
Olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms (I used half baby bellas and half button mushrooms), cut into thick slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Juice of 1-2 lemons
Salt & pepper
2 cups baby spinach

Bring the water to a boil, add lentils.  Turn down to medium low and cook 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender.  Drain and transfer to a salad bowl. Set aside to cool a bit.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan.  Add half the mushrooms (don’t crowd the pan).  Allow to cook a couple of minutes without stirring to get some good color on them.  Stir and cook another couple of minutes.  Remove from pan and repeat with the other half of the mushrooms.  Add first batch of mushrooms back in, add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook an additional minute.  Add to lentils.  Add lemon juice, a generous pinch of salt & pepper, and a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Stir to combine.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.  Add spinach, toss and serve.

Rustic Spinach Lentil Salad

Rustic Spinach Lentil Salad

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Tossed Caprese Salad

It’s nice to have a salad once in a while that doesn’t involve lettuce.  When you eat salad often (which I try to do) sometimes you just can’t look at another lettuce leaf.  There is just something about this simple salad that reminds me of summer.  And truthfully, summer is my favorite time to make it, with vine-ripened tomatoes and basil from the garden.  But I make it year round, because I love these flavors together so much.  And even in winter the cherry or grape tomatoes taste sweet and juicy. Do yourself a favor and spring for the fresh mozzarella for this one.  The taste and texture are completely different from the rubbery stuff and well worth the extra buck or two.

So toss this one together, kick back, and think sweet thoughts of summer days.

Tossed Caprese Salad

Tossed Caprese Salad

Tossed Caprese Salad

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (I usually leave the tomatoes out at room temperature for maximum flavor)
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn or sliced in ribbons
1 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed
1-2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra version olive oil
Salt & fresh ground pepper

Toss together all ingredients until the oil and vinegar coat the cheese and tomatoes somewhat evenly.  Serve at room temperature.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Apple Pomegranate Slaw

I am loving Fall this year!  Well, I love Fall every year.  The pretty colors, the crisp mornings, and yes, even the rain.  I like it.  So sue me.

The other thing I love about Fall is the produce that comes into season.  Honeycrisp apples (my favorite of all the apples) and pomegranates!  When those ugly red bundles of joy hit the shelves my heart goes pitter pat.  Yes, they are a bit of a pain to pick apart.  Yes, they stain your fingers.  I don’t care, they are wonderful!  And they are really good for you!  Eat them, eat them now!

I made up this recipe on the fly the other day when I needed a quick side dish.  And can I just say, YUM!  This is easily one of my favorite cole slaw variations to date.

Apple Pomegranate Slaw

Apple Pomegranate Slaw

Apple Pomegranate Slaw

1 cup purple cabbage, shredded or chopped
2-3 cups green cabbage, shredded or chopped
1/2 pomegranate (seeds only)
1 apple (I used Honeycrisp but any kind will work), shredded
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 tbsp. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. yellow or dijon mustard
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients.  Serve immediately.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

In an age where it seems that everyone I know is going gluten-free or full-on Paleo, I’ve embraced my whole grains, and have been exploring some new ones.  I think in moderation, just about anything can be part of a healthy diet and whole grains offer many benefits.  They are full of nutrients and fiber, and are very filling, especially when they are the base of a salad.

I’ve never tried farro before but this one dish made me a fan.  It has a great chewy texture, with a mild, nutty flavor.  While not gluten-free, it is considerably lower in gluten than most other grains, and at least according to the sources I checked, can often be eaten by people who don’t tolerate gluten well.

This salad uses the best of the late summer veggies that are still available, but you could easily modify it to include whatever happens to be in season.  I found some very cool tomatoes – blueberry tomatoes – at the market that I had never tried before.  They were delicious, but feel free to use the cherry tomato or diced fresh tomato of your choice.

Blueberry Tomatoes!  Very yummy.

Blueberry Tomatoes! Very yummy.

This is definitely filling enough for a meat-free meal, but feel free to add some grilled chicken or fish along with it if you’re up for something a bit more hearty.

Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

1 pkg. farro
4 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 cucumber, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
1/4-1/2 c. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
Grilled chicken (optional)
Balsamic glaze (optional)

Cook farro according to package directions and set aside.  While that is cooking, heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet and add onion, jalapeno and garlic to pan.  Sauté a few minutes until onion is tender.  Add corn and cook and stir another minute or two.

In a large bowl, add farro, onion mixture, tomatoes, cucumber, 1/4 cup rice vinegar and olive oil.  Add a big pinch of salt and some fresh ground pepper.  Stir well and taste.  Add a bit more vinegar if it needs some extra oomph.  Adjust seasonings as needed and serve.  Top with grilled chicken and/or balsamic glaze if desired.

We served ours with a little sliced grilled chicken and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.  Mmmm.

We served ours with a little sliced grilled chicken and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Mmmm.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Grandma’s Secret Ingredient

My family takes potato salad very seriously.  It’s not unusual to find four or five bowls of the stuff at any family reunion or potluck.  And they are all roughly based on the same recipe.  My grandma’s potato salad.  A recipe that was probably never written down so we all remember it the same but each make it slightly different with our own little twists.  But we all use her “secret” ingredient, and even in all the differences, they taste very similar.

My version uses red potatoes and red onion, and a little dash of dill.  But the real secret to Grandma’s potato salad is pickle juice.  You can bet that in the depths of every family member’s fridge there lives a jar of dill pickles (and even if the pickles are gone the jar of juice is still there).

potatosalad3

I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve never measured the ingredients for this salad.  The other secret to perfect potato salad is to taste as you go.  Start with small amounts of the saucy ingredients, then add and tweak until it’s juuuuust right.  Just like Grandma would do.  Mine might not be exactly the same as hers but I think I’ve hit the high points and I’d like to think she’d be proud of my efforts.  I’m sure she would tell me she was in any case (don’t tell my cousins but I’m pretty sure I was her favorite).  I’d give just about anything to share a bowl of this with her right now.

Potato salad my Grandma Garner would be proud of.

Potato salad my Grandma Garner would be proud of.

Grandma’s Potato Salad (the April version)

4-5 pounds red potatoes
1/2 -3/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
4-5 boiled eggs, roughly chopped
3/4 cup chopped dill pickles (I like the crunchy baby dills)
3/4 cup black olives, halved (optional if you like olives)
1/2 cup+ mayonnaise (I strongly prefer the Best Foods/Helmann’s brand)
A big squirt of yellow mustard
1/4 cup+ dill pickle juice
A big pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. fresh or dried dill
Dash of paprika

Cut potatoes into thick slices (2-3 pieces per potato).  If you choose to use russet potatoes instead, cut them like this, boil, cool and THEN peel them.  Makes a big difference in the texture.

Slicing the potatoes instead of chopping makes a big difference in texture!  Chop after they are cooked, not before.

Slicing the potatoes instead of chopping makes a BIG difference in texture! Chop after they are cooked, not before.

Cover with water and cook until fork tender but not mushy.  Drain water and rinse to cool, drain again and set aside until cool enough to handle. Slice/chop potatoes into a large bowl (you can peel them if you want but I don’t).

I use a rough slice/chop method instead of your normal dice.  I like the variety of texture you get with some mashed bits and some bigger chunks.

I use a rough slice/chop method instead of your normal dice. I like the variety of texture you get with some mashed bits and some bigger chunks.

Add onion, celery, eggs, pickles and olives and stir to mix.  Add a couple of big spoonfuls of mayo, a big squirt of mustard and pour in the pickle juice.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, dill and paprika.  Swirl the sauce and seasonings together a bit and then mix into the potato mixture.  Mix well, kind off mixing/mashing together to really blend the saucy stuff into the potatoes.  Then taste.  Is it too dry?  Add mayo.  Too bland?  Add mustard.  Need a little more zing?  More pickle juice.  Make sure you have enough salt and pepper.

This is the look you're going for.  Not goopy, but not dry.  Use enough mayo to moisten all the ingredients but don't overdo it.  In the end you want the potato to be the star of the dish, not the mayo.

This is the look you’re going for. Not goopy, but not dry. Use enough mayo to moisten all the ingredients but don’t overdo it. In the end you want the potato to be the star of the dish, not the mayo.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Red Curry Shrimp Dumplings with Cucumber Peanut Slaw

I could eat dumplings for every meal.  Just about every cuisine in the world includes some sort of dumpling, which means endless variety!  These were a little outside the norm.  The red curry filling adds a tiny bit of Thai, while the steamed exterior is more Japanese.  Wherever they hail from, they are absolutely genius.  These are cooked just like potstickers, seared for a crispy bottom and then steamed to finish.  We loved these and managed to devour the entire batch between the three of us.

To go with an unusual dumpling, why not make an unusual slaw?  This cucumber/napa slaw is light and fresh, with a zingy, barely-there dressing.  Perfectly cool in contrast to the spicy salty dumplings.  And good left over the next day too.

Red Curry Shrimp Dumplings

Red Curry Shrimp Dumplings

Red Curry Shrimp Dumplings
(adapted from theperfectpantry.com)

3/4 pound shrimp (21-25 or 26-30), defrosted if frozen, peeled and deveined
2 scallions, roughly chopped
2 tsp grated ginger root (I use a microplane)
4 tsp Thai red curry paste
1 tsp fish sauce
1 pkg. wonton wrappers
Canola oil for cooking
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp chile garlic sauce (optional if you want a little more kick)

In a food processor add the shrimp, scallions, ginger, curry paste and fish sauce. Pulse several times until the ingredients come together and form a finely-chopped paste.

Set out a small bowl of water.

Working with just a few wonton wrappers at a time, place 1 teaspoon of the shrimp mixture in the center of each.

Do not overfill or it will not seal well.

Do not overfill or it will not seal well.

Wet your finger and run it around the edge of the wonton wrapper. Then, pull all corners to the center, and pinch to seal the dumpling. Repeat with remaining wontons and filling.

Little yummy presents ready to cook!

Little yummy presents ready to cook!

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Place the dumplings flat side down in the pan, and cook for 1 minute until the bottoms are brown.

Pour in 1/2 cup water. Immediately cover the pan. Cook until the water is almost evaporated, approximately 3 minutes. Then, uncover, and cook until the remaining water evaporates.

Meanwhile, stir together the soy sauce, sesame oil, lime and chile sauce in a small bowl to make the dipping sauce.

Serve the dumplings hot, with dipping sauce.  The original recipe says it makes 24, but we ended up with 30-40.  Just depends on how generous you are with the filling I suppose.

Cucumber Peanut Slaw

Cucumber Peanut Slaw

Cucumber Peanut Slaw
(from healthyseasonalrecipes.com)

1 small head Napa Cabbage, finely sliced
3-4 small cucumbers (1 ½ pounds), julienne cut
1/2 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup peanut oil or canola oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Dried red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Combine cabbage, cucumber, peanuts and cilantro.  In a small bowl whisk together oil, lime juice, sugar, salt, garlic powder and red pepper flakes.  Pour over slaw and toss to combine.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta and Olives

In one of my many flashes of brilliance, I decided to turn one of my favorite sandwiches into a pasta salad.  And I just have to say, it was incredible!

The greens make for a lighter than usual pasta dish and the bottled dressing make it quick to throw together (and your waistline will thank you for skipping the mayo!).  I used a Champagne Vinaigrette I found at Trader Joe’s that is one of my current favorites, but feel free to use a different brand or even a different vinaigrette if there’s one you love.

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta & Olives

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta & Olives

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta and Olives

4-5 strips of bacon
12 ounces rotini pasta
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 big handfuls of mixed salad greens
1/2 cup black olives, halved
1/2 cup feta
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup Champagne Vinaigrette dressing
Salt & pepper

Heat water to boiling.  Boil pasta until it is tender.  Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.  Drain well.

Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp.  Remove from skillet and let drain and cool on paper towels while you assemble the salad.

In a large serving bowl combine tomatoes, greens, olives, green onions and feta.

Bright fresh veggies and cheese.

Bright fresh veggies and cheese.

Add pasta and bacon and toss to combine.  Add salad dressing, starting with 1/4 cup and adding more as needed to lightly dress the pasta.

I am in love with this dressing, but feel free to substitute one you like if you can't find this one.

I am in love with this dressing, but feel free to substitute one you like if you can’t find this one.

Taste and add salt & pepper or more dressing if needed.  Toss and serve immediately.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad

I’ve been eating this salad all summer.  It’s pretty, refreshing and really, really tasty!  Especially nice for large groups and potlucks, this recipe is easy to double, triple or more.  Everything can be made ahead; simply wait until serving time to toss with the dressing for an easy, crowd-pleasing dish.  And if you don’t have a crowd, no problem!  More for you.

 

Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad

Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad

Strawberry  Poppy Seed Salad

1 head romaine lettuce
1 head red leaf lettuce (or baby spinach)
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. raw sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. poppy seeds

In a small bowl mix onion, mayo, vinegar, sugar and milk.  Mix well and set aside.  You can do this ahead of time and refrigerate if you’d like. In a large bowl toss together lettuces and strawberries.  Toss with dressing right before serving.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 117 other followers