Category Archives: Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

The potluck is big in my family. At every family gathering there is a tasty spread, sometimes more varied than others. There was the year of six potato salads. All very similar since we all use my grandma’s recipe with our own little twists. But that’s another story. While I love potato salad, I usually opt to bring something for potlucks that is a little more temperature friendly. Call me paranoid, but mayonnaise-based food sitting out in the sun or at room temperature for hours makes me nervous.

This pasta salad is the answer to all of your potluck questions (or what to eat for your midnight snack questions). It tastes great hot cold or in between. It can be made ahead. As the veggies and noodles marinate in the beautiful vinaigrette, they just improve with time. And you get to use up all the extra veggies in your fridge. There is no downside here. Make this. Make it today. Don’t wait for the next potluck. You will love having this in your fridge.

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

1 or 2 summer squash or zucchini, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup olives, halved
1 tbsp. capers
1-2 banana peppers or sweet peppers, sliced or diced
2 tbsp. pesto
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 package rotini

In a large bowl combine pesto, olive oil, red wine vinegar and capers. Add salt & pepper to taste. Add all veggies, stir to coat and let sit for at least an hour.

The veggies. Marinate at least an hour for the most flavor.

The veggies. Marinate at least an hour for the most flavor.

Cook pasta until al dente. Rinse with cool water to stop cooking. Add to bowl with veggies and cheese, toss to combine. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Eat!

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I Pickled Some Beets and Made Many Salads

Many beets came my way this month. I’m not complaining. I’m a fan of the humble beet, although I know there are many who don’t agree. To use a number of these all at once, and to spare the beet haters in my household from having to eat them, I decided to pickle some.

I have not really ventured into the canning realm, so for me, a quick-pickle was the perfect solution. This was a really simple preparation and made a small batch (although it’s easy to double or triple as needed). Plus the added benefit – they are ready to eat in just a few days!

These two salads are pretty typical in my house. I like sweet and sour and salty together and for me, a salad is only dinner if it is not boring. These are far from that. You can make either with simple roasted beets (or even raw ones sliced thinly) but I really enjoy the pickled beets for some extra zip. They pair well with the sweet pears and salty feta for a very satisfying and balanced bite. Since these are pretty strong flavors on their own, opt for a simple dressing of oil and vinegar to bring out the flavor of the ingredients.

Pickled Beets
(adapted slightly from Alton Brown’s recipe)

2 pounds beets, scrubbed
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup water
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt

On a large piece of foil, put beets in the center. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, drizzle with olive oil and wrap up. Bake at 400˚ for 40 minutes until tender. Remove from oven, let cool, peel and dice or slice. Fill mason jars (I filled two with the beets I had).

In a saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Boil one minute. Pour liquid over beets in jars. Put lids on and put in the fridge. Let them pickle for 3-7 days before eating. They will last about a month in the fridge.

Beet, Pear and Feta Salad

Beet, Pear and Feta Salad

Beet, Pear and Feta Salad

Mixed salad greens
1 fresh pear
1/2 cup pickled or roasted beets
1-2 oz. feta or goat cheese
2 tbsp. walnuts, toasted
Drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper

Layer ingredients on a plate, drizzle with oil and vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper and dig in!

Or change it up ever so slightly for a more hearty dinner version:

Fall salad with mushrooms, beets and pears.

Fall salad with mushrooms, beets and pears.

Fall Salad with Mushrooms, Beets and Pears

Mixed salad greens
1 fresh pear
1/2 cup pickled or roasted beets
1-2 oz. feta or goat cheese
1/2 cup mushrooms (I used shiitake mushrooms but any kind will work)
A few green or black olives
Drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper.

In a small sauté pan, cook the mushrooms in just a tiny bit of olive oil until slightly softened and warm. Layer the other ingredients on a plate. Top with mushrooms. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Yum.

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CSA Week 8: Spiralized Cucumber and Beet Salad

Week eight brought many goodies, including corn, zucchini, summer squash, green beans (including a weird flat variety that was a little fuzzy), tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, potatoes, eggplant, and lemon cucumbers.

In addition to this I still have a ton of cucumbers and beets from the previous week. In a stroke of serendipity, as I was pondering this dilemma, I came across this recipe from Skinny Taste. I used it more for inspiration than anything else, but it was a great idea, with a little Greek flair, and it gave me a reason to pull out my seldom-used spiralizer.

My spiralizer. A strange little contraption that is pretty simple. Stick the veggie on the little peg, crank the handle and end up with curly veggie ribbons.

My spiralizer. A strange little contraption that is pretty simple. Stick the veggie on the little peg, crank the handle and end up with curly veggie ribbons.

A spiralizer is a fun little machine that turns veggies into curly little ribbons. If you don’t have one, this recipe works just fine if you just dice the veggies or cut into julienne strips instead. I enjoy using this thing, although looking at Gina’s photos made me think perhaps I should have bought the kind she has instead. Mine is not bad, but it works much better on firmer veggies. My beets made perfect little ribbons, but since my cucumbers were a week old, they were a little soft, so I struggled a bit getting good spirals, but in the end it worked fine.

Spiralized salad, before mixing.

Spiralized salad, before mixing.

Spiralized Cucumber and Beet Salad

2-3 cucumbers
2-3 beets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup kalamata olives, halved
Juice of half a big lemon or a whole small one
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pinch of dry or fresh oregano
1/2 cup feta cheese

Trip ends from cucumbers and beets and spiralize, dice or julienne. I peeled the beets but not the cucumbers. Add to salad bowl. Keep in mind that once you mix this all together it will all turn pink because of the beets so for a pretty presentation, you can keep the elements separate in the bowl and then mix right before serving.

Add tomatoes and olives. Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over the veggies. Add seasonings and give it all a quick toss. Top with feta if desired.

And now it's all pink! But delicious!

And now it’s all pink! But delicious!

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CSA Week 5: A Kale Salad I Actually Like

Kale is not my favorite. Unfortunately, it has shown up every week so far in my CSA box. But the good news is we’ve been talking a lot lately, and we’re starting to build a rapport. I’ve found I really like it sautéed with a little garlic and olive oil and scrambled eggs for breakfast. It’s not bad sliced into ribbons and mixed with salads or pasta or thrown into a veggie medley. I have hidden it here and there in various fritters and patties and smoothies. It’s a good one to hide since other people in the household are even less enamored with it than I am.

But this salad. Kale is the star and lo, and behold! I actually really liked it. No, really! Bright, chewy, salty and sour and creamy. Good stuff. I’m not even kidding. I topped mine with a little parmesan, but if you leave that off this salad is not only tasty, it’s dairy free, gluten-free and sugar-free. The creamy texture all comes from the lovely marriage of avocado with lemon and olive oil, scrunched through the crunchy kale with your hands to coat every little ribbon.

I paired this with a couple of pan-fried slices of polenta, left over from the previous night’s herbed polenta. A little fresh tomato rounded out the plate nicely.

Lemony Avocado and Kale Salad

Lemony Avocado and Kale Salad

Lemony Avocado and Kale Salad

4 cups of kale, sliced into ribbons
A drizzle of olive oil, about a tablespoon
1 avocado
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
Parmesan cheese for garnish, if desired

Put kale in a large bowl. Drizzle a bit of olive oil, add the avocado, lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste. Using your hands, scrunch everything together until all leaves are evenly coated. Top with cheese if desired.

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CSA Week 4: Two Bean Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette

I’m still working my way through my week four basket, although I picked up week five this morning. I’m in the weeds…literally. For dinner last night I whipped up this quick and bright bean salad. Perfect for a summer evening. I’ve had so much lettuce and kale on hand lately that I was really craving a salad that had no greens.

If you don’t have fava beans, substitute another bean of your choice or just use all green beans. This one is even better after it sits a while.

Two Bean Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette

Two Bean Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette

Two Bean Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette

2 cups fresh green beans
1 cup shelled fava beans
Juice and zest of one lemon
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 tsp. chives
1 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. dijon
Parmesan or feta (optional)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Shell fava beans and add them to the water. Cook 2-3 minutes. Fish them out with a slotted spoon and rinse in cold water to cool. Pinch off outer skins and set the beans aside.

Add green beans to water and cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice and zest, olive oil, dijon, herbs and seasonings. Add beans and toss. If desired, top with parmesan or feta.

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CSA Week 3: Spiced Steelhead Salad with Herby Ranch

This week’s farm box brought a strange and new gift – kohlrabi! I had never tried this and didn’t have a clue as to what to do with it. A quick Facebook post yielded lots of advice. Since I had two big bulbs of it, no reason not to try it several ways. Raw, it reminds me a lot of jicama. Crisp and crunchy, somewhat radish-like, perfect for salads. I decided to use one bulb raw in salads, pickle a bit of it for rice bowls, and cook the rest with potatoes. So far, I’m a fan!

This salad used a ton of veggies and herbs I had on hand, but feel free to change it up according to your fridge’s contents.

If you don’t have steelhead available, salmon is a great substitute.

Spiced Steelhead with a Big Salad

Spiced Steelhead Salad with Herby Ranch

Spiced Steelhead Salad with Herby Ranch

4 Steelhead or salmon fillets
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. paprika
Salt & pepper

Kohlrabi, peeled and diced
Zucchini, diced
Cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used a mixture of chives, parsley, basil & mint)
Salt & pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of paprika
1 clove garlic, finely minced

Mix dressing ingredients and put in the fridge to chill until everything is ready.

Rub fish with spice mixture. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add fish to the pan, skin side up (if there is skin on it). Cook a few minutes and then flip and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side, until fish flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is cooking, toss together salad ingredients. Serve fish on top of salad (I removed the skin first since I don’t like to eat it), drizzle with dressing and you are good to go! Refrigerate any leftover dressing, it will keep for about a week.

CSA Box #3. The kohlrabi is that funky bulb thing with the tentacles!

CSA Box #3. The kohlrabi is that funky bulb thing with the tentacles!

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CSA Week 1: Asian Chicken Chopped Salad

I like to eat seasonally, and when possible, locally as well. In my opinion, veggies taste best when they are fresh and ripe, not shipped halfway around the world or grown against their will in the middle of a different season. We’ve all eaten tomatoes in winter and there is a reason they don’t taste like much, they really aren’t supposed to exist! Eating seasonally is also more economical. It’s pretty simple, if you buy whatever is coming out of the fields at any given time, it’s more plentiful, and perishable, so it’s going to be cheaper. A nice side effect in addition to being more tasty and more nutritious.

Every year, I make a sad, mostly unsuccessful go at growing some sort of garden. I like to try. I enjoy getting my hands dirty and seeing things grow and eating veggies fresh off the plants. But reality is harsh. I am a terrible gardener. I am neglectful and ignorant and ungifted in this area. For the time and money I invest, I get a very low yield in return. So this year I wised up and joined a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you sign up with a farm for the growing season and receive a weekly share of whatever happens to be getting picked that week.

When I did the math, it added up to a lot less than I would normally spend at farmer’s market or planting my own veggies. Another positive was that I would receive a variety of things that maybe I wouldn’t normally choose. I think most of us tend to get in food ruts where we eat the same things over and over. This will force me to try some new things and get creative and it will also require me to actually eat a lot of vegetables, which is something I’m always trying to do. Plus it’s hard to justify eating out all the time when you have a kitchen full of fresh produce that needs to be used. So many good reasons, and you can probably tell I’m just geeking out over my weekly mystery boxes. It’s going to be like Chopped in my kitchen every week!

So I thought I would share my CSA boxes with you and a few of the things I’m making with mine. Maybe you are a member of a CSA yourself, or maybe you are a good gardener, or maybe you just like to shop seasonally at your local farmer’s market. If so, then you’ll probably be coming across some of these same ingredients.

In my week 1 package from Sun Gold Farm, I received a huge head of leaf lettuce, kale, spearmint, a stevia plant, cabbage, fava beans, snow peas and sugar snap peas. Most of this I’m pretty familiar with, except the fava beans (tried them once before) and the stevia plant (not really sure what to do with that – for now I just planted it).

Want other week 1 recipes? Check out Rice bowls with slow cooker short ribs and snap peas, or Bowties with fava beans, morels and mascarpone.


Week 1. I was told this was going to be the "lightest" week, both in quantity and weight.

Week 1. I was told this was going to be the “lightest” week, both in quantity and weight. It was still a lot of stuff!

I started off with something easy and familiar that would use several ingredients. I find that the kids (and myself) are more likely to eat kale when it’s mixed with other things, and cut small. Slicing it into thin ribbons here worked very nicely! I tried to chop just about everything a similar size so when you scoop it up you get a little bit of everything on your fork.

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

Asian Chicken Chopped Salad

Asian Chicken Chopped Salad

6-8 cups chopped cabbage
6-8 leaves of kale, sliced or chopped into thin ribbons
1 pound chicken thighs
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1 cup snow peas (remove strings and chop into bite sized pieces)
1 can mandarin oranges (drain but reserve juice)
2-3 carrots, shredded
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup crunchy chow mein noodles (optional)

Combine chicken thighs and teriyaki sauce in a zip lock bag or small bowl and let marinate at least 30 minutes.

In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup reserved mandarin liquid, soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine cabbage, kale, snow peas, carrots, oranges and almonds.

Heat a large skillet or grill pan to medium high. Cook chicken thighs 4-5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove from pan and dice into bite sized pieces. Add to the big salad bowl. Pour in dressing (start with about half of it and add more as needed) and toss together until everything is lightly coated. Top each serving with crunchy chow mein noodles for garnish.

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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.

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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.


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?

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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

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