cucumber peanut salad

Labor Day weekend is fast approaching and we’re having guests for dinner, so I’m experimenting with some new salads.  This one hit the spot.  It’s picnic or barbecue  perfect, has great flavor, texture, appearance, and goes together super fast.  The original recipe called for an English Cucumber, but the ones in the store were so enormous I opted for a package of mini cucumbers, instead.  I actually think they were more colorful, too; the green being brighter and more cheerful.  Because a cheerful salad is a delicious salad, right?

Adapt as you please.  With the exception of the delicious dressing (lime juice and a little brown sugar) this isn’t one of those stuffy recipes where a minor change will make any difference in the finished product.  Enjoy…and have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.

2013-08-26

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Cucumber Peanut Salad (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, July 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups thinly sliced English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

Directions:

  1. Combine cucumber, onion, lime juice, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Sprinkle evenly with peanuts.
  2. Step 2?  There is no Step 2.  So easy.  Serve and enjoy!

Serves four.

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***Cook’s Notes:  The peanuts make this a salad you either have to finish the day you make it, or eat any leftovers within a day.  They don’t hold up well refrigerated and stored in the dressing.  So eat it all up, or make sure you eat the remaining salad within 24 hours.

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fruit salad with honey-lemon dressing

I have  a tendency to resort to “old favorites,” for holiday meals or picnics.   So I generally whip together this easy, delicious little number for summer festivities.  I have…for years.  I know, I know, how culinarily unchallenged can I be?  Mostly, I suppose, I’m a creature of habit, I know what people my kid  will eat and enjoy, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Yup!   But I was surfing around on Pinterest just before the 4th of July and found this sweet variation on fruit salad; the one side dish every barbecue should offer for those of us who find mayo-based pasta salads and potato salads a bit too heavy for a summer picnic.  Let there be fruit!

Like all fruit salads, there isn’t really a recipe.  If you don’t follow the ingredient list strictly, you’ll still end up with a perfectly delicious fruit salad regardless of which fruits you select.  The key here, in my opinion, is the dressing.  Honey and lemon define simplicity.  They’re  diverse flavors; the sweet and tangy being a perfect complement to any fruit.  Serving it inside the hollowed out watermelon rind is just a fun way to make a visual statement at your holiday picnic, but serve it any way you like.  That’s the beauty of fruit.  Have it your way.  Enjoy!

2013-07-04

Fruit Salad w/Honey-Lemon Dressing (recipe courtesy Honey and Figs Kitchen)

Fruit Ingredients:

  • 1/2 seedless watermelon, scooped with melon baller
  • 1/2 honeydew melon, scooped with melon baller
  • 3 kiwis, peeled and chopped
  • 1 c sweet cherries, pitted and halved
Dressing Ingredients:
  • 3 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp honey (taste test as you go for sweetness)
  • 2 Tbsp limoncello, optional

Directions:

Whisk together honey and lemon until honey is dissolved.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to use.  Next, half the melons and remove fruit with melon baller.  Place watermelon and honeydew melon into medium-sized bowl.  Add sliced kiwi fruit and cherries.  Mix gently to combine the fruit.
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Clean out the excess melon from the watermelon rind to create your serving bowl.  Return prepared fruit to the empty watermelon rind.  Drizzle with honey-lemon dressing just before serving.
saladprep©zouptonuts

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mom’s [shake shake shake] potato salad with dill

So, this is one of those recipe-less recipes; the type of which I’m not so fond because I’m a direction-taker.  I like my recipes mapped out like a well-worn road atlas.  Improv gives me cold sweats.  Not that I haven’t occasionally had to cobble together a meal with the handful of unexpired ingredients in my refrigerator, but…a list of ingredients and their corresponding quantities makes me feel so much more competent in the kitchen.

My mom got this recipe from an old next door neighbor several many years ago.  I’m assuming our neighbor gave her the recipe the same way she gave it to me.  There is no written version, apparently, so I’ll share with you, verbatim, how my mom taught me to make it:

Mom:  I use a 1:1:1 ratio, eggs to potatoes to people, and then I add an extra egg.  I like a little more egg.

Me:  How about the seasonings?

Mom:  Well, I don’t really measure them.  It’s more like, potato, egg, dollop of dressing, salt, shake shake shake, pepper, shake shake shake, dill, shake shake shake.  Mix.  Potato, egg, dollop of dressing, salt, shake shake shake, pepper, shake shake shake, dill, shake shake shake.

Me:  {Sigh}

And that’s it.  Shake.  Shake.  Shake.  This potato salad is left entirely to your own whim as to more or less dressing, more or less salt, more or less….well, you get it.  It’s the potato salad that spawned my love for potato salad (at least this one), and is at the top of the request list when warm(er) weather rolls around.  It’s picnic-friendly, perfect for block party BBQs, or holiday weekend festivities (hint, hint, Memorial Day is right around the corner).  Grill some burgers, hotdogs, steaks…whatever.  This salad is the perfect complement.  Enjoy!

2013-05-04

2013-05-042

Mom’s [shake shake shake] Potato Salad with Dill

Ingredients:

  • 6 potatoes, cooked and peeled
  • 7 eggs, hard-boiled
  • Miracle Whip (I use light or low fat variety), to taste and texture
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Dill, dried, to taste

Directions:

Boil potatoes, skins on, until a little less than fork tender.  Remove from water, cool completely.  At the same time, cook eggs until hard-boiled, remove from heat, cool completely.  When potatoes are fully cooled, remove skins.  Peel and wash eggs.

In medium bowl, cut one potato into one inch (bite sized pieces).  Slice one egg into bite sized pieces, as well.  Spoon in about two heaping tablespoons of Miracle Whip.  Add salt, pepper, and dried dill weed to taste.  Mix gently until well combined.  Repeat process with remaining potatoes and eggs.

Keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.

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italian basil pasta salad

This post really needs to start with a confession:  I did not make this dish.  I bought the ingredients, but I had absolutely nothing to do with the assembly.  Not that I don’t want to take credit for it.  It was superb.  But I was off-duty enjoying a lovely, chore-free Mother’s Day.  The husband and the world’s greatest kid put this together as part of a truly relaxing, enjoyable day for moi!  No cooking, no dishes, re-fills on wine, plentiful hugs.  It was all good!

Including this pasta salad, which should go on every picnic menu you put together from now until you can’t eat another pickled banana pepper.  It deviated wonderfully from the all-too-predictable pasta salad of  yesteryear: tomatoes, broccoli, green onions, yada yada yada, slathered in Kraft Italian Dressing.  Don’t make that one again.  Make this one.  Great flavors from sweet to savory, great textures from crisp and crunchy to smooth and creamy.  When I tried it, Kat asked what I thought and I blurted out, “It’s like a fiesta in your mouth!”  I’ll probably regret that later, but at the time it caused endless giggles and was a spot on description.

Let the fiesta begin.  Enjoy!

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Italian Basil Pasta Salad (recipe adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (16 oz) bow tie pasta
  • 2 c grape tomatoes
  • 7 oz mozzarella cheese pearls, halved
  • 1 medium sweet yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 c pickled banana pepper rings, diced
  • 1 can (2 1/4 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained (the husband used capers)
  • 4 thin slices hard salami, chopped
  • 1/2 c fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Dressing:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 3/4 c red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil

Directions:

  • Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, tomatoes, cheese, yellow pepper, onion, pepper rings, olives (or, capers, if you’re so inclined), salami and basil.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

italian basil pasta salad

Cook’s Notes:  Make this a day ahead if you can, to let the flavors really come together.