Greek Tomato Salad

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I found beautiful yellow and red cherry tomatoes at the farmer’s market on Saturday, and I was planning homemade pasta with a two-color fresh tomato sauce.  But tonight, hubby and I were finishing up the lentil soup and the meal needed something else to make it complete – a salad of some sort.  I thought of the cherry tomatoes in the fridge, checked the deli drawer and saw some traditional Greek feta in brine, and Greek Tomato Salad was born.  I’ve got to say, I am so glad this salad came into my life!  The tomatoes are sweet, the feta is salty and briney, and there’s a perfect herbal bite from the scallions and oregano.  I know I’ll be making this again and again.

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Greek Tomato Salad

1/2 pint red cherry tomatoes
1/2 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
1/2 block of Greek feta in brine
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 generous pinches of fleur de sel
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • Slice cherry tomatoes in half and place in a bowl.  Medium-dice the feta and add to the bowl, along with the scallion and oregano.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and toss everything together.

Source: Covered In Flour

Yield: Serves 2

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Note: If you can’t find yellow tomatoes, feel free to substitute all red, or half orange – whatever you can find.  I think this salad would be really fun with some of the more interesting-looking heirloom tomatoes as well, and you don’t even need to do cherry tomatoes; you could thinly slice regular ones, dress with the olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano, and lay them out on a long platter with the feta crumbled over the top.  (Just don’t buy it pre-crumbled; you really should try the traditional feta in brine.  It’s a revelation.)  Go crazy!

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

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When the hubby’s away, messybaker will par-tay.  And by par-tay, I mean eat beets.  You see, hubby hates beets.  Loathes them, despises them, harbors a prejudice against them… He can’t even be in the condo when a beet is cooking.  That makes things tricky for me, because you see, I adore beets.  I love them in all different preparations, but especially roasted, and especially in salad.  This salad, to be exact.  Beets, goat cheese, pecans, tender greens… it tastes like perfection on a plate to me, but I have to wait to make it until hubby’s not around.  He’s off visiting a friend for the weekend, so I have the place to myself and eating beets is at the very top of my agenda. 

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

1 bunch baby red beets, cleaned but not peeeled
1/2 bag mixed salad greens
4-ounce log of Chevre
1/2 cup spiced pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
sea salt and fresh black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the greens from your beets and wrap them in alumninum foil.  Crumple the foil around the beets, but don’t seal the packets.  Place the packets on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, checking periodically, until they are tender.
  • Allow the beets to cool while you assemble the rest of the salad.  Spread the greens out on 2 plates.  Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle the pecans over the salads.  Set aside.
  • Make the balsamic vinigrette: mix the balsamic and honey together until they are (somewhat) combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Then whisk in the olive oil vigorously, to create an emulsion.
  • When the beets are cool enough to handle, rub the skin off, then run them under warm water to clean any stubborn bits of skin.  (You have to be okay with your hands getting pink at this point.  It’s part of the process.)  Slice the beets into wedges and scatter over the salad. Pour over the vinigrette and serve. 

Yield: Serves 2.

Source: Covered In Flour, inspired by a classic salad preparation

Hubby’s Grilled Tuna Salad

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When you cook a lot, you learn to work around the ever-present possibility of some sort of fiasco – or at least, I have.  Cuts, burns, ruined rice or a repeat of the Great Pesto-Tastrophe of 2005 (we had pesto on the ceiling – I kid you not) are always a specter looming over my kitchen.  I’m never entirely surprised by misfortune in the kitchen and I’m not really fazed by it at this point.  My husband, however, still comes running whenever I say “ouch” and worries over the possibility of injuries that really just make me feel like a true chef.  Last week I got bitten by my bread knife (again – can’t stand that thing) and the one good thing that came of it is that hubby wouldn’t let me do anything except for sit on the couch and drink the tea that he would make for me.  All in all, it was a pretty relaxing injury!  But that evening I had planned a grilled tuna salad and we had already bought fresh tuna for it; obviously, we had to eat the tuna and we had to eat it right away.  So we did what any seafood-loving couple would do when the cooking half is grievously injured – the hubs cooked dinner while I drank wine and shouted instructions from the living room.  It turned out delicious – rich tuna, creamy avocado and a tart dressing.  What more can you ask for?  Except, of course, for the ability to do the cooking yourself.

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Grilled Tuna Salad

2 fresh tuna steaks
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
grated zest of 2 lemons
6 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
10 dashes hot sauce
2 firm but ripe avocados, cubed
1/4 cup minced scallions
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

  • Grill the tuna steaks briefly, until just seared on the outside but still raw inside.  Remove from grill and allow to cool slightly before cutting tuna into large bite-sized cubes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, soy sauce, hot sauce, kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Toss the avocados in the dressing, then arrange on individual plates.  Top with tuna cubes and sprinkle with scallions and black sesame seeds.

Source: Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten

Wine Pairing: This is a very summery dish to me, with a lovely richness that is counterbalanced by the tart dressing – so you could choose a wine to complement either characteristic.  A nice Viognier from Virginia would stand up well.  Or you might choose to echo the tart notes from the dressing with a Vinho Verde – that would be my choice.  And, of course, you could always go with a Spanish rose – just be sure to be eating this dinner outside with candles and flowers if you go that route!

Capery Salad

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I don’t know how many times I have flipped over this recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Feast and not thought anything of it.  The reason, probably, is that it’s in the chapter on kids’ food – as something for Mom to eat while her children gobble slime soup and blood ‘n guts potatoes.  (You have to applaud Nigella, she’s creative; she’d be one handy lady to have around on Hallowe’en.)  At any rate, I don’t have kids and that chapter scares me a bit, for multiple reasons, so I’m usually flipping the pages pretty speedily and I never give this salad a second thought.  That all changed yesterday.  I was watching my usual weekend Food Network programming and Nigella happened to be making her Capery Salad.  Capers, pickles, crisp lettuce and a “vinagerette” made with pickle brine.  Oh, my goodness.  Suddenly I was starving, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this salad.  I didn’t have any gherkins on hand, but I did have my favorite garlic dill pickles.  Good enough for Sunday lunch!

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Capery Salad

Romaine hearts (or butter lettuce), torn roughly
1 garlic dill pickle, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon pickle brine
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

  • Fill a dinner-sized bowl with torn Romaine hearts.  Add the chopped pickles and capers.
  • Mix together pickle brine and mustard in a small bowl.  Whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a slow stream to create an emulsion.  Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.

That’s it!  This is the perfect lunch for one, maybe with a small wedge of cheddar alongside.  If you’re married to someone who doesn’t make gagging noises at the sight of your garlic dill pickles, just double the recipe.  Sharing is good.

Source: Adapted from Feast, by Nigella Lawson

Shrimp, Cucumber and Nectarine Salad

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I don’t know about you, but I’m hot these days.  H-O-T.  Hot as in melting in a puddle of Brooks Brothers and humanity by the time I get to the office at 7:30 every morning.  That’s DC summer for you.  Now, I know true Southerners say that the South starts at Richmond, and they’re right, I’m sure.  But it’s still HHHHHHOT in DC, and I’m a New Yorker originally, so even six years into living here, this is still an adjustment.  And on those evenings when I’ve dragged myself home from the metro, feeling like I’m swimming instead of walking in the humidity, and it’s 8,000 degrees in the shade, the last thing I want to do is fire up the stove.  It’s nights like these that call for a simple, slap-together salad of some truly refreshing ingredients.  Already-cooked and chilled shrimp, cool cucumbers and some juicy summer stone fruit – that’s the formula for surviving a July night in DC.  Eat it, then throw open your windows and lie on your living room floor fanning yourself with the Bit ‘o Lit.  Actually, scratch that last bit.  I’ve never done that.  Never.

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Shrimp, Cucumber and Nectarine Salad

1/2 pound shrimp, pre-cooked, chilled and peeled
1/2 cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible
2 nectarines, sliced into thin wedges
juice of 1/2 lime
3 tablespoons (approx.) extra-virgin olive oil
2 pinches cayenne pepper
pinch of sea salt (I like Maldon)
fresh mint (or cilantro)

  • Evenly divide shrimp, cucumber and nectarines on two plates and toss together.
  • In a small bowl, squeeze out the lime half and add cayenne pepper and sea salt.  Stream in extra-virgin olive oil while whisking vigorously to create an emulsion.
  • Drizzle dressing over two salads.  Top with roughly chopped fresh mint or cilantro (whichever you happen to have on hand).  That’s it!  Serves two.

Wine Pairing: This would be great with a really refreshing summer wine, like a crisp Sauvignon Blanc (with green notes to complement the cukes) or a lovely, fruity-yet-dry rose, straight from the chiller, condensating (it’s a word because I said it is) on the glass.

Source: Adapted from Everyday Food, July 2008.

Carrot Salad Three Ways

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Salad: love it or hate it?  Well, it depends.  Limp lettuce + one cherry tomato + one cucumber slice + Italian dressing?  Blech.  But a really fresh salad, using seasonal ingredients and just enough of a creative, healthy dressing to make the whole dish sing?  Yes, please!  Prepared the right way, salads can be a perfect way to showcase seasonal produce and a palate for some truly imaginative “cooking.”  Every year as the weather gets warmer, I get the itch to try new and different salads.  Last year, I went crazy for carrots.  Like Rabbit in Winnie-the-Pooh (oh, how I identify with poor, put-upon, veggie-loving Rabbit), I was hoarding carrots and carrot recipes as if, at any given moment, Tigger could come along and bounce it all away.  In particular, I became enamored with the idea of an incredibly simple but beautiful salad of just carrot ribbons and dressing, and I started thinking of ways that I could vary the ingredients to make completely different styles of salad.  Following are my favorite variations on a very basic carrot ribbon salad that is delicious all on its own.

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Basic Carrot Ribbon Salad

1 bunch carrots, peeled and with stalks trimmed off
extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
coarse salt and pepper

Using a vegetable peeler, shave ribbons off of the carrots until they are too flexible to work with any longer.  Toss with just enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat, squeeze over lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Simple!

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Sesame Carrot Ribbon Salad

1 batch Basic Carrot Ribbon Salad
sesame oil (a few drops)
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

To a basic carrot ribbon salad recipe, add a few drops of sesame oil – it’s very strong stuff, so don’t overdo it.  Add black sesame seeds, varying the amount to your own personal taste.  (I like lots of them.)

This salad looks like Hallowe’en to me, which is one of the reasons I love it!  It’s wonderful all year round, and sesame is a great source of vitamins and minerals, particularly copper, manganese, iron, and vitamin B1.

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Curried Carrot Ribbon Salad

1 batch Basic Carrot Ribbon Salad
1 teaspoon curry powder (I like Sambhar or Madras)
1 teaspoon garam masala
squeeze of lime

Toss basic carrot ribbon salad with spices.  Squeeze lime over and serve – it’s that easy!  Garam masala can be a touch spicy, so if that’s not your thing, feel free to reduce or even eliminate it from this dish.  If you want to get fancy, you can garnish this with a few sprigs of cilantro.  Mmmmmm, cilantro.

Curry is another ingredient that has amazing health benefits.  In particular, it is good for memory and is thought to stave off degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s if you eat it on a regular basis throughout your life.  It’s not difficult to do at all – curry is wonderful added to scrambled eggs or egg salad, sprinkled over potatoes, stirred into bean dishes (especially chickpeas), or stewed with chicken, fish or vegetables – especially carrots.  Go nuts!  A little curry is better than no curry at all.

There you have it!  One simple but delicious carrot salad, dressed up in two very different but equally wonderful variations.  Try these, and play around with your own ideas – and if you think of something good, please let me know!  I’m always in the market for new ways to eat carrot ribbon salad.

Spinach Salad with Smoked Salmon, Avocado and Pepitas

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My husband and I met at a conference.  We sat together at dinner and both ordered the same thing – salmon Caesar salad – and discussed our mutual love of salmon.  The night he proposed, we went back to that same restaurant and he insisted on our sharing the salmon Caesar salad.  An auspicious start for a foodie romance, wouldn’t you say?  It has been eight years since our first conversation about salmon, and it’s still a popular topic of conversation and a frequent choice for dinner.  We love it all different ways – broiled, roasted, poached, pan-sauteed, grilled, smoked, raw in sushi… you name it.  So when I saw this dish on the Food Network, I knew it would be well received.  I was right – more than right, in fact, since this has become Our All-Time Favorite Salad.  Smoked salmon, avocado, pepitas, crisp greens, lime dressing… what more could you ask for?

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Spinach Salad with Smoked Salmon, Avocado, and Pepitas

1/2 package washed baby spinach leaves (or other salad greens – which is what I had on hand)
2 Hass avocados
4 tablespoons raw pepitas (approx.)
juice of 1/2 lime
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 package wild-caught smoked salmon

  • Toss spinach leaves with lime juice, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt (like Maldon) and pepper until nicely coated.  Add half the pepitas and scoop out the flesh of one avocado.  Toss together.
  • Drape smoked salmon slices over the side of a large serving bowl.  Pour salad into serving bowl.
  • Top salad with remaining pepitas, and scoop the flesh from the other avocado to scatter over the top.

Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Nigella Lawson