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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penne with herbs, tomatoes, and peas

I’m not one who feels compelled to serve a starch at every meal.  I’d rather double my serving of veggies or add a hearty side salad.   I might even throw some cooked rice or lentils into a salad to beef it up a bit.  But my eaters enjoy their side dishes and I’m easily bored by potatoes.  The poor Irish.  I don’t know what I would have done.  Really?  Potatoes?  Again?

Since I had a flank steak on the grill and my green beans were cleaned and stemmed, I only needed a few minutes to throw this together right before the meat came off to rest.  You can cook your pasta ahead since it’s combined later with the hot ingredients to re-warm it.  I especially enjoyed this as a side because it was anything but “potato boring.”  There are a lot of flavors swirling around in this pasta – from heady garlic and parsley to the sweetness of basil and cherry tomatoes.  I think it would be great adapted to a cold pasta salad, as well, to make it perfect for any end-of-summer picnics you might have on calendar.  Enjoy!

2013-07-28

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Penne with Herbs, Tomatoes, and Peas (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, June 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add peas during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain.

2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook 4 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high. Add tomatoes to pan; cook 1 minute. Add pasta mixture, salt, and pepper to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Stir in basil and parsley. Sprinkle with cheese.

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***Cook’s Notes:  Don’t cook your garlic for 4 minutes.  It’ll be scorched beyond belief and your pasta will be ruined.  Keep a close eye on it and throw in the tomatoes when it becomes fragrant, not brown.  Also, it’s super easy to over cook a tomato, too.  The recipe says cook for one minute, but I’d say less.  You still have to return the pasta to the dish and re-warm, which will be plenty of time for the tomatoes to heat through.  The original recipe called for regular pasta.  I substituted whole wheat to boost fiber and protein.

tangy vinegar coleslaw

What should you do when you’re having a small 4th of July gathering (3 adults, and a child who wouldn’t touch cabbage with a ten foot pole)?  Why, make 3 pounds of coleslaw, of course.  Actually, I had the foresight to cut this recipe in half, but it still makes a ton.  And, frankly, while I prefer a vinegar-based slaw, I don’t think they keep as well.  So, serve it to a lot of people and eat it all.

With that said, this was a really tasty recipe and I’d definitely make it again.   It had great texture and a nice variety of flavors.  I opted to use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, which is a little more subtle in flavor.  Not too vinegar-y.  The onions gave it a nice little kick, too.  I served it as a side dish, but this would be great on pulled pork or shredded beef sandwiches, as well.  Easy-peasy!  Enjoy!!

2013-07-041

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Tangy Vinegar Coleslaw (recipe courtesy Food For My Family)

Ingredients: (I’ve halved all the ingredients from the original recipe)

1/2  head green cabbage, shredded
1/4 head red cabbage, finely shredded (or 1/2 head radicchio for a spicy kick)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar*
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/8 cup oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed

Directions:

In a large bowl toss the green cabbage, red cabbage, and red onion until mixed. Set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the vinegar, honey, and oil. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, dry mustard, and the celery seed. Pour the dressing over the cabbage. Toss to combine.  Refrigerate and serve chilled.

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balsamic marinated tomato and mozzarella salad

I know there are a lot of food purists out there who will say this is a travesty; the bastardization of the Caprese Salad.  Yes, there is balsamic vinegar which some say you would never find on a Caprese Salad in Italy.   And yes, I served it as a side dish as opposed to a starter as they would in, you guessed it…Italy.

Alas, we are not in Italy.  We are in the United States of America and here?  Here, I put balsamic on my Caprese Salad and serve it as a side dish.  Except there’s one, minor detail.  This isn’t really Caprese salad.  Because it also has minced garlic and chopped onion.  So, there.  Take that, Italy.  It’s a side salad!

Don’t get me wrong.  I love me some Caprese Salad.  It’s the most tantalizing starter at any summer meal.  But this version is basically a balsamic marinade, and the added onion and garlic gives you an added kick in the taste buds.  It really was very, very good.  Lots of robust flavor with the same summer freshness of the purist’s Caprese Salad.  Keep this recipe on hand for summer weekends where you’re not hosting a formal sit down meal with several courses.  This has summer picnics and barbecues written all over it, especially if you’re invited to a summer meal where you’re asked to bring a dish to pass.  Make it ahead and let the flavors mingle.  It’s all good.  Enjoy!

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Balsamic Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Salad (recipe courtesy Food.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, cubes
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions:

In medium bowl, combine cheese pearls and tomatoes.  In separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and chopped basil.  Stir to blend evenly.   When dressing is evenly mixed, toss over cheese and tomatoes, stirring gently to coat.

Chill until ready to serve.

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Cook’s Notes:  Especially where dressings and marinades are involved, always use the best quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil you can afford.