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Basic Bread Salad

Looking for a quick dinner and a good way to use up any slightly stale bread you have? The magic word is “Panzanella” – also known as bread salad. You can go basic on this and leave out the scallions and herbs if you don’t have those around. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, try a bit of tomato sauce. Or leave it out entirely, and use a bit more olive oil.

I used about a quarter of a baguette-type bread loaf (it was a bit larger and softer than the classic French baguette), sliced. Continue reading

Summer Pesto Salad

This makes a nice dinner but also a good cold salad to take to potlucks, BBQs, and picnics.

For the pesto sauce:

  • A bunch of “cooking greens” – assorted leaves of kale, chard, etc.
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves (broken down into smaller pieces)
  • the green parts of 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup (about) grated Parmesan or Gran Padano
  • olive oil (good kind for salads, not for cooking)

Cut or tear the green leafy part off the stems (de-rib), and then into smaller pieces. Steam (or sauté quickly, if you prefer) the greens for about 5 minutes, until sightly limp. Chop up walnuts and garlic. Add greens, garlic, nuts, and scallions into food processor. Blend while adding olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth. Add in the grated cheese (unless using the pesto later), and mix together. Continue reading

Quick Hit: Dip into Dressing a Cool Spring Dish

If you’ve ever found yourself with leftover pot luck contributions, like say, some goat cheese yogurt dip, you might consider this a useful idea: Take said dip and turn it into a dressing for your cool Spring salad in just one handy step (not counting prepping the veggies). Continue reading

Green Bean Salad Surprise

The surprise here being just how good this salad turned out to be, considering I was simply tossing a bunch of things together to have a quick picnic to take out to a Thursday-night Fort Reno Park show. This was the perfect meal for sitting out on the grass in the evening sunlight, watching the gathered crowd, the families, and the romping dogs, marveling how velvet summer air can be when the usual July humidity lifts its suffocating embrace, and listening to some great music.

The take-away here is that it really is useful to have some prepped ingredients on hand, like par-boiled green beans. I had prepped these fresh green beans a day or two before, snipping the ends and cutting the longer ones in half to get a more even size distribution. Then I boiled them in salted water for about five minutes, or until just tender. You could also steam them, in which case you might want to salt them to taste before putting them in the fridge for later use. Continue reading

Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas, Cucumber and More

I don’t know what took me so long to get on the bulgur bandwagon. Maybe it’s because I still haven’t quite caught the appeal of tabouli (spelling variant ahoy) – though I do like parsley, just perhaps not in such proportions. But that is a topic for another day. Right now, the focus is on bulgur, and how the need to use up a bag of the cracked wheat that I had bought in a burst of optimism and a spirit of trying new things, led me to this delicious, quick summer meal; great for when it’s too hot and muggy to cook. Yes, it’s an almost tabouli-like salad. So?

Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas, Cucumber, Grape Tomatoes, and Avocado

For 1 -2 people, depending on how hungry you are and whether you want leftovers for lunch.

Ingredients based on what I had on hand: Continue reading

Cool Rice Salad for Hot Days

For days when it’s just too hot to contemplate cooking, it’s good to have some meals on hand that are filling but don’t require actual cooking. The trick with this one is that you have to plan ahead a bit because the two main components do require the hot stove as well as time – well unless the chickpeas come from the can, which is a good idea in a pinch. Continue reading

Spring Salad

Once again, I’m spurred to action of the cooking sort by rapidly aging produce. This time, it’s peas. Spring means fresh peas, and in a burst of enthusiasm I got shell peas from my CSA. And then promptly let them sit in the fridge for a week. Luckily, the awesome Orangette‘s podcast Spilled Milk just recently had an episode on peas that emphasized the fleeting freshness of these harbingers of spring. Basically, in their nature as beans, unless you eat them straight off the vine, you might as well cook the heck out of them because they really aren’t fresh fresh anymore after about 20 minutes past the picking.

So I shelled them today and then combined them with Simpson lettuce, my remaining radishes, and bow-tie pasta. In fact, I boiled the peas with the pasta, giving the bow ties only about 2 minutes head start in the salted hot water. Once all ingredients were assembled in the bowl, I dressed the salad with Pipe Dreams fresh goat cheese and a dressing of good olive oil, the pickle juice from cornichons (tiny French pickles) (including tiny onions), some fresh ground pepper and a bit of cumin.

The result –  warm pasta and peas tossed with the slightly wilted Simpson lettuce, radishes, and a dusting of the young goat cheese – made a very nice combo spring salad. Best served slightly warm, the peas add a lovely sweetness in contrast to the slight bitterness of the lettuce and the bright tartness of the cheese. The whole thing tastes like spring, even in June, and requires no more heat in the kitchen than one pot of boiling water.

To cool things down even more, I opted for a mint julep to go with this (another attempt at salvaging a wilting bit of farmer’s produce – the mint) but your options are wide open here. If you’re so inclined, you could go for a basil-infused vodka drink of some kind. Just think refreshing, green, and cool.

Pot Luck Salad

This week my office had a pot luck lunch, and I felt compelled to make something myself rather than buy my contribution at the grocery store. Considering the situation – no real kitchen, no oven or stove except a microwave – I immediately thought of one of the picnic/potluck standbys: some sort of pasta salad. Yeah, boring. But why not go with Israeli couscous instead of bow-tie or rotini pasta?

I started from this Israeli couscous with parsley and shallots as seen at The Bitten Word; added some sweet peppadews, for color and crunch, as well as scallions and peas (frozen), also for color and because I had them. Once they had browned in the pan a bit, the shallots got a cool down in dry vermouth. Then they were joined by the whites of the scallions in the same pan. I mixed the softened shallots/scallions, as well as the peppadews, in with the couscous (obviously after cooking it according to package directions), then thawed the frozen peas in the shallot pan along with the scallion greens. These were then added to the shalloty couscous, along with freshly chopped parsley, some good olive oil, and lots of lemon juice. Right before serving, I threw in some creme fraiche, for light creaminess.

Overall, I got a good freshness from the peas, sweet bite from the peppadews, which was echoed in the light caramelized sweetness of the shallots, while the Israeli couscous had a nice chewy texture for this. Still, it’s best slightly warm, and maybe served over some red leaf lettuce, rather than after sitting in the fridge for half the day and then offered next to pasta and meatballs and tabuleh variations. For the next pot luck, perhaps I should make scones or something.