Cucumber Coolers

If I ever decide to open a spa (instead of a wine bar like I’m currently planning), I’m going to serve these Cucumber Coolers to my clients.  They look and taste like refreshing cocktails, but there’s nothing in them except for whole fruits and veg.  Crisp and clean – does it get better than that?

Cucumber Coolers

1 cup water
1/2 cup mint leaves, packed
1 apple, peeled
1 English cucumber, cut into large chunks
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon (to taste)
1 cup ice

  • Combine all ingredients, in the above order and starting with the juice of just 1/2 lemon, in VitaMix or ohter high speed blender.  Process until smooth.  Taste and decide if you need to add more lemon juice.  Serve garnished with cucumber rounds.

Source: Covered In Flour

Refreshing Orzo Salad

Growing up, one of my favorite meals that my mom would make was Grecian orzo salad.  Recently, I was in the mood for orzo salad and I decided to try to replicate hers.  Thinking back, my mom’s orzo salad included Feta cheese, kalamata olives, and red peppers.  Well, I don’t like Feta cheese and I always dug around it in the salad bowl (sorry, mom!), and my grocery store didn’t have any organic red peppers.  Without those two, the kalamata olives just seemed a bit out of place.  So the Grecian orzo salad idea went out the window, and I decided to try my own orzo salad concoction.  Mine is fresh, light and simple – like my mom’s – but it’s not “Grecian.”  Ah, well, the best laid plans…

This was still pretty darn delicious.

Refreshing Orzo Salad with Shrimp

~2 cups cooked orzo pasta, chilled
1 long English cucumber, large dice
2 green bell peppers, large dice
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
~1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
steamed shrimp

  • Combine orzo, cucumbers, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes in large salad bowl and mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, vigorously whisk oil and lemon juice until the mixture emulsifies.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour dressing over salad and mix thoroughly until the pasta and veg are coated completely.  Add additional oil sparingly, and only if needed.
  • Serve with steamed shrimp (I tossed mine in lemon-pepper seasoning).

Source: Inspired by my mom!

Nota Baker: This pasta salad recipe makes a TON.  You will not, I promise, finish this in one day.  That’s intentional!  It makes a fantastic lunch for the next week or so.  I’m nothing if not thrifty!

Chilled Cucumber-Yogurt Soup

It’s been another hot-hot-HOT summer in DC.  I’ve been dealing with the heat in many ways: getting up before 5:00 a.m. to get my runs in before the sun comes up, jumping through the neighbors’ sprinklers, and eating plenty of chilled soup.  The first chilled soup I ever had was a classic gazpacho – my mom and little brother make it best – and that’s still my favorite.  But I’ve been on something of a Greek yogurt kick recently and this is a perfect, easy, light and refreshing supper to whip up when it’s so hot you can’t face the idea of turning on the stove.  The “soup” is icy cold and minty, and the radishes add a fun crunch.  It’s the second best way to cool off from the heat of a mid-Atlantic summer.

The best way to cool off?  Well, duh… the neighbors’ sprinklers.

Chilled Cucumber-Yogurt Soup with Mint

1 unpeeled English cucumber, chopped roughly
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
juice of 1 lemon (or 2 limes)
2/3 cup packed mint leaves
2 cups Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
skim milk (optional), as needed
thinly sliced radishes and mint sprigs for garnish

  • Add cucumbers to blender and pulse to begin chopping.
  • Add lemon (or lime) juice, salt, mint leaves, yogurt and sugar to blender and blend until pureed and combined well.  Thin with milk as necessary.  When soup reaches desired consistency, taste for seasonings and adjust (adding more sugar or more salt) as you prefer.
  • Chill soup 1 to 2 hours in refrigerator.  Before serving, stir well.  Garnish with thinly sliced radishes and mint sprigs.

Source: Adapted slightly from Love Soup

Roasted Shrimp Salad


I think I have a problem.  My blogging friends are welcoming September and baking with apples… and I am not ready to let go of summer.  Usually I’m the first one to hop on the autumn bandwagon.  Fall has always been my favorite season…  I love apple-picking, foliage, Hallowe’en, the crisp air and blue skies, fall hikes, pumpkins, turkey, the beginning of hockey season… but I’m just not there yet.  I’m still thinking backyard barbeques, sailing, berry picking, beach days… and salad.  I’m still very much in salad mode.

For Labor Day weekend, hubby and I went home to spend the holiday with my family up in the Adirondacks.  On Sunday my dad and I kayaked Lake Placid, just the two of us, but on Saturday the whole family was celebrating at my parents’ lake house – my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and my parents’ close friends, who I’ve mentioned before.  Like I said, they are practically my second set of parents; they’ve known me since before I was born.  My mom’s friend Denise, though, is more than just a second mom to me – she is my cooking inspiration.  An incredibly talented gourmet, she is constantly whipping up fabulous treats and making it look easy.  When my parents and their friends visited for Easter a few years ago, it was her opinion that mattered to me more than any other opinion about the dinner I cooked (fortunately, she loved it).  Denise brought the hors d’ouvres to the lake this weekend, which meant we were in for some serious deliciousness.  One of her dishes was a very creative roasted shrimp cocktail with a homemade thousand-island sauce… and it was amazing.  (No surprise there.)  She inspired me to try roasting shrimp, which is something that has been on my list for awhile.  The result was this salad – cool and crisp from the greens and the cucumbers, yet warm and sweet from the shrimp, all at the same time.  It hit the spot, even on a chilly, rainy September day.  No, I’m not ready to give up on summer yet.  I’ve got a few more roasted shrimp salads in me before then.


Roasted Shrimp Salad

1/2 pound raw shrimp, shelled
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh black pepper
2 cups (approx.) salad greens
1/3 cucumber, quartered and chopped
croutons (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lay the shrimp out on a foil-lined baking sheet, and season with extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt (I like Maldon; you could use kosher salt but I think that sea salt really does make a difference here) and black pepper.  Roast shrimp for 5-8 minutes (depending on their size), until just pink.
  • While the shrimp are roasting, assemble the rest of the salad: lay out greens on two plates and scatter cucumber slices over salads.
  • Remove shrimp from the oven and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over them, making sure to hit them all.  Divide the shrimp between the salads, dress (hubby went for just olive oil, I had my favorite Green Goddess dressing) and serve.

Yield: Serves 2.

Source: Covered In Flour, inspired by messybaker’s mom’s fabulous friend Denise.

Wine Pairing: As hubby and I continue our quest to finish all of our wines (ha!) before our trip to Napa, we drank a 2006 Finger Lakes Riesling with this dinner.  The mellow sweetness of Riesling was a good complement to the mellow sweetness of shrimp.  I’d also recommend my quintessential summer wines – Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or Australia, or a French Rose – as excellent with seafood.

Shrimp, Cucumber and Nectarine Salad


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.


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.