Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Israeli Couscous Salad with Smoked Paprika Dressing

I was watching the Food Network a couple weeks ago (sitting down with a bagel from the local place, a cup of coffee, and Food Network/HGTV has become a weekend morning tradition) when I saw Giada de Laurentiis prepare this recipe: Israeli couscous salad with smoked paprika dressing.
I've never been a particular Giada fan--we have disparate opinions on eating meat and frying things, among other points of culinary contention--but this recipe I absolutely had to make. I love Mediterranean salads in general, and this one made use of two of my favorite ingredients: smoked paprika and Israeli couscous, also known as ptitim.

For the most part, I made the salad as written--but I couldn't help making a few little changes:
  • more spinach (and as you can see, the salad still isn't all that green)
  • fewer cherry tomatoes (just not crazy about them)
  • half as much cheese (it's a salad, after all)
  • a can of rinsed and drained garbanzo beans (for extra protein and tastiness)
  • whole wheat couscous rather than white (since I had some on hand, and since I prefer the flavor)

The finished product was wonderful, savory and smoky and sweet. I think the salad could use a little kick to balance out the two types of sweet pepper (roasted and paprika), so next time I'll add a pinch of cayenne, or maybe some Aleppo pepper, but there will definitely be a next time.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Easy Quinoa Salad

**Edit** -- Got an email yesterday from Brian saying his lunch was really good, but the salad was particularly tasty. Yes, this salad! Try it!

This salad is as basic as it comes -- quinoa, veggies, simple dressing -- and is open to infinite variation. It's quite tasty! The original version comes from the Savvy Vegetarian site and I've made only a few modifications.

For one thing, I like my veggies cut in finer pieces. I sliced the carrot in fourths lengthwise almost to the top, then cut thin pieces off.

I love the look of snap peas cut on the diagonal. Crisp and crunchy, they add wonderful texture to the salad.

By the way, I omitted the nuts because I tend to have a few for a snack and didn't want to overdo it, but I bet they'd be great in the salad.

Simple Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
1-1/2 cups cold water
1/4 tsp salt
1 to 1-1/2 cups mixed raw or nuked veggies (snow peas, celery, green beans, corn)
2 small carrots, peeled, sliced in thin rounds (or half or quarter rounds)
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 medium cucumber, chopped (seed or peel if necessary)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, or basil (if using basil, add tomatoes to salad)
1/2 cup chopped nuts or seeds (optional)

2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
optional: a little other herb or spice (garlic, cumin, ginger, thyme, etc.)

1.     Prepare quinoa by rinsing thoroughly in cold water, draining well, then bringing to a boil with the cold water and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 min. Cool to at least lukewarm.
2.     Combine quinoa with veggies and optional nuts or seeds in a large bowl.
3.     Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Mix well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Asian Slaw

This recipe is a work in progress, but we both really liked it as is, too. I just think it could be even better -- have a little more oomph, perhaps? Please give suggestions! I wanted to make a slaw that did not have a mayo-based dressing, and I found this highly rated recipe for Asian Style Slaw. But I had a head of cabbage, not bags of mix, and of course I always tinker.

First I shredded the cabbage in the food processor. I learned NOT to use the shredder blade, but to use the slicing blade, or you just get mush. You can see the tiny bits of cabbage on the side in the photo below from my failed shredding attempt. And I shredded -- this time shredding was ok -- some yellow squash and carrots, too.

Somehow I neglected to take a photo of the finished salad, so I'll add that when I make it again. Here's what I ended up doing:

Asian Slaw

1/2 medium head green cabbage, shredded (thinly sliced in food processor)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced (I forgot this, but will try it next time)
1 medium yellow squash, shredded
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
2 Tbs reduced sodium soy sauce
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs grated fresh ginger*
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs roasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup slivered almonds (for nutrition and crunch)
chopped cilantro (I meant to add this, but forgot)

Prepare the vegetables and place in a large bowl. Combine the dressing ingredients (soy sauce through pepper) and pour over the vegetables. Toss well to mix. Add the almonds and cilantro; mix again.

* I coarsely chopped a chunk of ginger and then dropped the pieces into the food processor with the mixing blade running to get fine pieces. This recipe is easy with a food processor -- it uses 3 different blades, but you only have to wash the bowl once!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bruschetta is just tomato salad on toast

Remember the classic question philosophers ask -- What is a man? The more you think about it, the harder it is to answer, even though you 'know' what a man is. On a more mundane level, we all 'know' what a salad is -- but define it, please. Toss bread and tomatoes and you have panzanella (a salad), but put the tomatoes on top of bread and you have bruschetta. Eat your pasta warm and call it dinner, but chill it and it's suddenly salad. Perhaps vegetarians really do eat nothing but salad ... 

Enough. I'm going to blog whatever recipe I want to use whatever definition feels right to me at a given moment. Today, bruschetta is a salad. Tomatoes are in season and we are eating lots of bruschetta. Yesterday we had Parmesan Pepper bread from Zingerman's, recently arrived from the bread club Kim and Craig gave us for Christmas, and it made a great base.

Classic Bruschetta

ripe, juicy, wonderfully tasty tomatoes
finely chopped red onion
pesto (homemade or from a jar)
a wee bit of crumbled feta or freshly grated Parmesan
pressed garlic (optional -- there's already garlic in the pesto)
a little olive oil (optional, occasionally I add a dab of garlic olive oil)
good bread, sliced and toasted (rubbed with oil and garlic if you wish, not necessary)

Combine everything but the bread, then heap the juicy tomato mixture onto the toast just before serving.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Aren't these beautiful lentils? I love the streaks of color on each little bean. I bought them from a bulk bin and they weren't labeled, so I don't know what kind they are.

This lentil salad is one of my favorites -- I make it often, especially in the summer. I vary the ingredients a bit, using chopped fennel instead of celery, or adding a shredded carrot.  The red bell pepper was not on the original list of ingredients, but I always add that now because Brian is not fond of the little tomatoes and I like the added color. Sometimes I add the tomatoes anyway (easy enough to eat around them), but I still use the red pepper.

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

This salad is especially beautiful with black lentils, which are hard to find around here.

1-1/4 cups uncooked lentils 
2-1/2 cups water
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2+ tsp. thyme (or other herb to taste)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
grape tomatoes (optional)
1 cup diced cucumber (I seed the cuke)
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (can I make a salad without feta?)

Place the lentils and water in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover; reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 min or until the lentils are tender. Drain well and set aside. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic in a medium bowl; stir with a wire whisk until blended. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, celery, and onion to the lentils and pour the dressing over. Toss gently to coat. 
 This is an adaptation, but I don't know where the original recipe came from.

Leftovers are delicious tossed with a green salad. Add other things, too -- I see some shredded beets in here, and there's probably some other stuff, too...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Black Bean & Corn Salad

Who doesn't have a recipe for a black bean and corn salad? There are lots of versions out there, but this is the one I make and like. It's basically a Rachel Ray recipe that I found when googling. I have made some minor changes (I like to think of them as improvements -- adjusting the dressing and adding the snap peas), but it's still quick and easy.

Before I post the recipe, let me address a pet peeve: red onions that are only coarsely chopped or are sliced thick. The onion is supposed to give a wee kick, a little zing, and not stand out on its own. So I always chop it fine when it goes raw into a salad.

Black Bean & Corn Salad

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn kernels (no need to thaw)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (can omit, Jocelyn, but finely chopped carrot or tomatoes for color would be nice)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
sugar snap peas, thinly sliced crosswise on the diagonal (no measure, as you wish)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 to 2 tsp hot sauce (like Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce)
1 Tbs lime juice
2 Tbs olive oil

Combine beans and vegetables. Mix cumin, hot sauce, lime juice and oil and pour over veggies. Yum!

Ways to use this: In addition to eating this as a salad, it's almost a salsa -- scoop it up with something or top something with it. It's also good added to green salads. I once added it to leftover green spaghetti (you remember, the spinach sauced spaghetti which I had made using corkscrew pasta) and ate it cold as a pasta salad. It was reeeeally good!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Moroccan Carrot Salad

What's missing from this photo?
The cilantro of course. That's why it looks sad and lonely and so very, very orange. I don't know why, but I have unintentionally omitted the cilantro from a couple salads recently.

But with or without cilantro, the taste is awesome. It's easy to make and can be made in advance. It's great for a Middle Eastern meal, but adds a nice zing to other meals, too. We had it next to a rice-zucchini-egg dish and it was a perfect complement.

Without further ado...

Moroccan Carrot Salad

1 lb. carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/3”-wide pieces
     (I sliced them into coins using the food processor)
1/2 cup water
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper

1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin (I prefer 3/4 to 1 tsp. only)
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup very finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 Kalamata olives, pitted, chopped (I omit because B doesn't like them)

1. Combine carrots, water, garlic, coriander seeds, and crushed red pepper in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook until carrots are crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Uncover; cook until water evaporates, about 1 minute. Transfer carrot mixture to medium bowl; cool slightly.
            2. Meanwhile, heat cumin in small bowl in microwave until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and oil. Pour over carrot mixture; toss to blend. Stir in red onions and mix again. Cool completely.
            3. Before serving, mix cilantro into carrot mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle olives over salad and serve. If chilled, bring to room temperature before serving.

(Bon Appetit, June 1998 -- slightly adapted)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Could it be a Greek salad?

Pizza and chicken salad -- not exactly my idea of dinner!  But that's what they were serving at a meeting I was going to. I took that as an invitation to bring a vegetable salad to share. What was on hand?

Always, always, a can of chickpeas.
In the fridge I found green beans from the farmer's market.
There were also pitted olives from the deli at the grocery store -- lovely red pepper flakes in the green ones -- and cauliflower florets, chopped red bell pepper, grape tomatoes and baby carrots. And feta cheese! (Turns out that crumbling only l-1/2 oz feta into the salad that filled my 10-cup salad bowl was enough to transform the dish.) The idea of feta sent me off to find a recipe for Greek salad dressing. "Absolutely Fabulous Greek/House Dressing" sounded pretty good, but of course I made some changes. Here's how everything ended up:

Whatever's on Hand Greek Salad

   lightly steamed or nuked, or raw veggies* (as appropriate), chopped into bite sized pieces
         *I used green beans, red bell pepper, carrots, grape tomatoes, and cauliflower
   good olives, pitted and sliced into halves or thirds
   a little feta cheese, crumbled
   1 can (15 oz) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

Dressing (I used less than half of this recipe for a salad that served 14 people)
   3/4 cup olive oil
   1 Tbs salt-free Greek seasoning (from the Spice House in Old Town Chicago)
   1/2 tsp black pepper
   1/2 tsp salt
   1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
   1/4 cup red wine vinegar
   1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine the salad ingredients. Mix the dressing ingredients and pour as much as seems necessary onto the salad. Toss and refrigerate. I made the dressing with only 1/2 cup oil and thought it was way too acidic, so I added more oil. It still seemed acidic, but after the salad sat in the refrigerator for a couple hours, everything seemed to mellow. It was a terrific salad and I was surprised at how quickly it disappeared at the meeting!