Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Lunch has never been my favorite meal and I think I know why.  At home on the weekends, it seems to be more of a chore than anything else.  The girls are usually not starving, because they had a late breakfast – and they never know what to eat.  If it were up to them they would have a brunch every day – with eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc…  At work, although I am starving, I have to force myself to get to the cafeteria just to get something healthy in my body.  Then I just march back up the five flights of stairs just to sit in my office and eat while I catch up on email.  How is that healthy?

When I am traveling in Europe it is completely different.  Even when I am in the office we take the time to go to the cafeteria and sit down and eat – that is if we don’t get out of the building and eat somewhere else.  Even when we have meetings, we take the time to have lunch.  When I studied there during college, I remember that was the only meal that I didn’t eat with my French family – that was their family time – the kids left school to go home for lunch, and that was the big meal of the day.  It makes sense – you have hours to burn off the food and then you eat a light dinner before going to bed.

When I am home on the weekends, my go-to-lunch is an egg sandwich.  I tend not to eat eggs for breakfast, but by lunch time that is exactly what I need.  I have been staring at the lentils in my pantry for quite a while now, when this recipe flew out of the stacked pile from Cooking Light.  A big light bulb went off in my head.  Instead of my typical egg sandwich, why not take the time to make this lentil salad that I can enjoy a few times this week, and cook a soft boiled egg to go on top – just like the beautiful picture next to the recipe.  I swear, it was calling me.

My egg was probably a little softer than the recipe called for – but it was perfect for me.  The yolk drizzled over the top of the arugula and the combination with the lentils was to die for.  By the time this was done, the girls had already eaten, and were upstairs – so I had the kitchen to myself.  It was almost luxurious – sitting there with my beautiful salad. Not having to get up and get something for someone.  I took my time, and savored every bite.  Now I can see why lunch is so appealing – if only life always quieted down during the middle of the day.  Keep dreaming…

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups dried petite green lentils
  • 6  large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 8 cups baby arugula

Preparation

Place lentils in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to 3 inches above lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain and keep warm.

Add water to a large saucepan to a depth of 3 inches; bring to a boil. Add eggs; boil 5 minutes and 30 seconds. Drain. Plunge eggs into ice water; let stand 5 minutes. Drain and peel.

Combine oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside 2 tablespoons oil mixture. Add lentils, bell pepper, onions, and celery to remaining oil mixture; toss gently to coat. Place reserved 2 tablespoons oil mixture and arugula in a large bowl; toss to coat.

Place about 3/4 cup lentil mixture and about 1 cup arugula mixture on each of 6 plates. Cut eggs in half lengthwise; top each serving with 2 egg halves. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

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Smoky Quinoa and Bacon Salad

Smoky Quinoa and Bacon Salad

My kids love Top Chef.  It is one of their favorite shows on television.  It is hard for me to put myself in their shoes – when I was their age I was watching Little House on the Prairie.  The only cooking shows were on PBS, and I don’t think there were many to choose from.  Today with DVRs, On Demand, and the Internet, you can basically watch any show you want whenever you want.  Life is very different – and my children take full advantage of the choices available.

Tonight is the season finale of Top Chef, but since we rarely watch a show when it actually is aired – I am sitting here typing this blog post – while they are finishing their homework.  Hopefully this weekend we will see who wins, if we don’t find out beforehand.  So why are my kids so fascinated with Top Chef?  Well, I think for many reasons.  They love a good competition.  They love finding out what the challenges are.  And they love Padma and Tom.  But seriously, who doesn’t?

I don’t know a lot of famous people – meaning, if I saw Tom Hanks walking down the street – I would never know.  But get a celebrity chef – even just a local chef near me, and I know exactly who they are.  I have seen quite a few over the years, but have never met Tom.  He is one of the good guys – I really respect him as a chef and as a person – especially after reading my brother-in-laws interview with him.  I loved it.  I feel exactly the same way about my food – and I spend a lot of time getting my food from the places I feel good about.  And yes, I avoid hormone and antibiotics in my food any way that I can.

One of my favorite foods is bacon.  I have mentioned this many times before – but I am not sure I have mentioned where I get my bacon.  Skagit River Ranch has just about the best bacon in the world (in my opinion).  I have to go to the Farmer’s market to buy it – but let me tell you – it is absolutely worth it.  I don’t know what they do to their bacon, but it is salty yet sweet, and really meaty.  So of course when I saw this recipe in Food & Wine, I knew exactly where the bacon was coming from.  This salad was outstanding.  I love quinoa, and the bacon and caramelized shallots were a delicious combination with the nutty grain.  I adapted the recipe slightly below, but feel free to add even more ingredients – like a nutty green soy bean that I am thinking of…that goes perfectly with bacon.  So for those of you watching Top Chef tonight – I hope the best chef wins, and their life if filled with perfectly smoked bacon that is antibiotic and hormone-free.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 8 pieces of bacon
  • 3 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Preparation

Combine the quinoa, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, and after the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Gently simmer, covered, for 15 minutes (there may still be some water not yet absorbed).  Remove from heat. Keeping the pan covered, let it stand for 5 minutes, or until the remaining water is absorbed. Remove the lid and gently fluff the quinoa. Set aside to cool.

Crisp the bacon, drain and cut into 1-inch pieces. Set aside reserving one tablespoon of the grease.  Sauté the shallots in the bacon grease, then set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, smoked paprika, chipotle, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked quinoa, bacon pieces, shallots and parsley. Toss with the dressing and serve at room temperature or chilled.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Smoky Quinoa and Bacon Salad

Easy Dill Cole Slaw

Easy Dill Cole Slaw

Remember a few posts ago, when I was glowing with the happiness of summer, and how the weekends were no longer filled with one event to the next?  Well, I should never write something like that without holding my breath, crossing my fingers – or knocking on a whole bunch of wood.  Even though the kids events have slowed down (I say that, and then I think about the swim meets twice a week), everything else in my life has gone completely out of control for a variety of reasons.  I am getting stressed just thinking about all the fruit I bought last week at the farmer’s market – having all intentions of making tons of jam – but that has not happened.  There is always next weekend, right?

So, what do you make when you are super busy, but having people over for dinner?  Fortunately I am not in this predicament tonight (that would really throw me over the edge), but a few weeks ago – this was my life.  It sounded like a great idea a month before when I arranged everything – but then the date finally came, and I was seriously in a bind.  My husband was all set to grill, which was awesome, but I was in charge of the sides.  I immediately thought about some slaw – but I wanted to make sure it was really easy, and tasted fresh.  Not that I had time to do this, but I looked through a few of my cookbooks, and decided I would just wing it. I had some fresh dill in the refrigerator that was looking right at me, and so I decided on a Dill Cole Slaw.  Wow was that perfect.  I just loved the Cole Slaw with that nice fresh dill flavor – and it seriously only took me 5 minutes to make.  Of course I cheated a little with already pre-chopped cabbage, but there are some shortcuts worth taking.

I hope that you are having a nice relaxing weekend – but don’t fret if you are not – here is a simple recipe to make your life just a little bit easier.  At this point, we should all take what we can get!

Ingredients

  • 5 cups shredded cabbage and carrots
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

Preparation

Mix all ingredients together, and put in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours to allows flavors to blend. For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Easy Dill Cole Slaw

Easy Dill Cole Slaw 2

Tomato, Corn and Avocado Salad

When I was growing up on the east coast, summer was really summer.  It would get warm in June, and stay that way usually into September.  Corn on the cob was usually the true sign that summer was in full swing.  My mother would stop at the farm stand and pick up the really fresh just picked corn, and it was so sweet and delicious, there was no butter needed.  It was only really in season for a couple of weeks, so we really had to get our fill while we could.

When I moved to Denver, summers were even hotter, but it was a dry heat, and I loved it.  We didn’t have air conditioning, so every weekend we would flee to the mountains and camp – it was the only way to stay cool.  We had a rule also, no turning on the stove or the oven – so every night my boyfriend (who is now my husband) would fire up the grill, and I would make a cold salad.  We lived like that all summer long.

Now that I live in Seattle, unless we get lucky, summers are really not summers.  We might get a few days or even a week with temperatures over 80 degrees, but it doesn’t happen often.  Corn on the cob is available for months – but it is so bland, unless you put butter and salt on it, it tastes like just matter.  I still miss that fresh picked corn on the cob, but have instead resorted to making corn salads.  That way I can put a light dressing on, and give it a little flavor.  Or sometimes, I just hop over to Trader Joes and pick up a package, sometimes it actually has more flavor than the supposedly fresh stuff we can get in the market.  This is one of my favorite summer salads – extremely healthy, and lots of different flavors.  So – if you happen to live somewhere that is actually experiencing a summer – give this one a try.  If you can get fresh corn on the cob, all the more power to you – otherwise, use frozen, you will still not be disappointed.  Just take a few bites of this, and no matter what the weather is like, you will feel like it is summer…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup halved heirloom grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups shelled edamame
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3  ears shucked corn (or frozen roasted corn – I used Trader Joes)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2  diced peeled avocados

Preparation

Place the tomatoes in a large bowl, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes.

Add corn, and edamame to tomato mixture; toss well. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, cilantro, and lime juice to corn mixture; toss well. Top with avocado.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Tomato, Corn and Avocado Salad

Black Pepper Pasta Salad with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Romano

The first day of July – you would never know it where I live.  As we hear about the record heat across the country, it didn’t even come close to 70 degrees today.  I guess I should not be complaining, but seriously – is summer ever going to come?  I know I sound like a broken record, but last year, summer never did come.  People are starting to freak out around here that we will never see summer again.  I actually worry more about finding the perfect pasta salad.  Did I just write that?

With the 4th of July right around the corner, everyone is thinking about BBQs.  Since I made this potato salad the other week, I have been hooked – I think I have made it at least 2 times since then, and plan to make it again on the 4th.  So basically, my quest for the best potato salad is done.  Now I am on to pasta salad.  I usually prefer a non-mayonaise pasta salad, but I saw this one in Cooking Light, and had to give it a try.  I love asparagus and prosciutto together, and just thought it would make a wonderful pasta salad.  I have to say, for a mayo-based salad, it was delicious.  There was a lot of flavor in every bite – the prosciutto definitely helped there.  But the combination of tomatoes and asparagus with the pasta and prosciutto was right on.  It made a darn good side dish.  I will not claim victory just yet, but it was close.  I guess this means I will still be on the search, but I have a really good standby until I find the one.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta or elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups (1 1/2-inch) slices asparagus (about 1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 6 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 cup diced tomato
  • 1 1/2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup packed)

Preparation

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add asparagus during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add prosciutto, and cook for 6 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove prosciutto from pan using a slotted spoon, leaving drippings in pan. Drain prosciutto on paper towels. Add the shallots to drippings in pan; cook over medium heat for 1 minute or until shallots are tender, stirring frequently.

Combine mayonnaise, lemon rind, tarragon, juice, pepper, and salt in a large bowl; stir well. Add pasta, asparagus, three-fourths prosciutto, shallots, tomato, and cheese; toss well to coat. Top servings evenly with remaining prosciutto.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Black Pepper Pasta Salad with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Romano

Eggy Potato Salad with Pickles

What is a good BBQ or picnic without a good potato salad?  It is almost like April Fool’s Day without a good trick.  I swear though, making potato salad is not my idea of a fun time in the kitchen.  I have tried all types of potato salads, and I as you can see – none have ever been good enough to make it to the blog.  Aside from the fact that I never find a good recipe, it is a pain in the neck to make.  So potato salad has become one of those treats that I eat outside of the house.  I love going to a good NYC deli and getting a good side of potato salad to go with my sandwich.  How come I never seem to be able to make potato salad like that?  My favorite kind has little bits of pickles and hard-boiled eggs mixed up with the mayonnaise dressing.  I don’t like a heavily dressed potato salad, but one that is dressed just enough to make the potatoes creamy and flavorful.

Last month in Bon Appetit, there was actually a recipe for potato salad that looked pretty awesome.  The title of the article was “Will Drive for Food.”  I became very intrigued.  My husband and I will definitely drive for food.  It was something that I was kind of brought up doing, and fortunately I married someone who not only tolerates it, but finds it just as much fun as I do.  My parents would drive us to all sorts of crazy places, just to find the best “something.”  Living on the east coast made it a lot easier to do that - cities are not all that far apart.  We don’t drive for food as much as I would like – but we don’t have to – we are lucky enough to live in a city with outstanding food.

So – back to the recipe – I saw this, and knew it had to be good – but it ended up in the stack in the pantry.  This morning, I was trying to decide if I was going to make something for book club – I was kind of hosting, and everyone signed up to bring stuff – and there wasn’t really anything else we needed.  I was flipping through the recipes to menu plan for the week, when I came upon this recipe.  It didn’t actually look that hard – so I decided it would be a good addition to the menu.  As soon as I took that first taste, I almost jumped up and down.  I did it!!  I found the recipe I have been waiting for!!  I called the kids over to try it – they hate potato salad, but I told them this was the best they will ever eat – and they both loved it.  Success!!!!  There wasn’t a drop left after book club – so hopefully that meant everyone else enjoyed it as well.

Before I forget – I want to tell you about my little secret that made this recipe to easy…Trader Joes now has hard-boiled eggs…yes, can you believe it?  So – I bought a package, cut open the eggs, took the yolks out, and put the whites back in the sack.  My older daughter told me she is doing this next year for April Fool’s Day.  So not only do you get some killer potato salad, I just gave you a sweet joke for April Fool’s Day.  Come on now, what can get any better than that?

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 pounds medium red-skinned potatoes, peeled (about 8)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt plus more
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle juice from jar plus 8–10 sweet-pickle chips
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more
  • 5 large hard-boiled egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Paprika

Preparation

Place potatoes in a large pot. Add water to cover by 2″, season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 20–30 minutes. Drain. Place potatoes in a large bowl and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk mayonnaise, pickle juice, Dijon mustard, sugar,  1/4 tsp. pepper, and 1 1/4 tsp. salt in a small bowl for dressing.

Using a large wooden spoon, coarsely smash potatoes, leaving some larger pieces mixed with some well-mashed pieces.

Add dressing and egg yolks to potatoes and toss to coat, coarsely smashing egg yolks. Add onion and parsley; gently mix to incorporate. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Divide potato salad among small paper cups or bowls; dust with paprika. Top each serving with a pickle chip.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Eggy Potato Salad with Pickles

Roasted Carrot and Beet Salad with Feta

Why is it that the batteries for smoke alarms only decided to die in the middle of the night?  When my husband and I moved into our house 7 1/2 years ago, I remember the first night we lay down to go to sleep.  We were so happy to be done – finally living in the house that we agonized about for months.  We looked up at the cathedral ceiling in our bedroom, and saw the very high smoke detector.  It was at that moment I told him that hopefully the builder didn’t put a battery in that thing.  I remember learning that the smoke detectors were hard-wired, but they also hold a battery.  How would we ever change the battery in that thing?  We don’t even own a ladder, just a step stool?  Well, hopefully it won’t happen in the middle of the night.

Things have been hectic at home lately, and at work.  It seems that every day there is some end-of-year activity that we are attending, or preparing for – and work has been equally as crazy.  This time of year things really heat up – just like last year, my team is preparing for changes.  It is an exciting time, but that takes a lot of energy.  So, every night I hit the pillow utterly exhausted.  Except the other night, I woke up to the chirping sound of the smoke detector – the battery was dead and needed to be changed.  There was nothing we could do about it.  No sleeping for us.

So, what does this have to do with this delicious looking salad that I found in Bon Appetit?  Well, pretty much nothing – but I was looking for a quick and delicious salad to go with BBQ, and this was the winner.  It is so easy you can almost make it in your sleep – especially if you do what I did and buy the Trader Joes beets that are already cooked – what a beautiful thing.  This salad was just delightful, almost as delightful as it was to borrow our neighbor’s ladder so we could actually get some sleep.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound baby carrots with 1/2″ of tops attached, peeled
  • 6 small (1 1/2″ diameter) red beets, scrubbed, trimmed leaving 2″ of stem attached
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta (about 4 oz.)

Preparation

Stir cumin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 3–4 minutes. Let cool. Finely grind in a spice mill.

Whisk cumin, lemon juice, vinegar, and Dijon mustard in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup oil, then mint. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Cook carrots in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 minute; using a slotted spoon, transfer carrots to a bowl. Add beets to same pot of boiling water and cook until just tender, 20–25 minutes. Drain. Let stand at room temperature to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Peel and trim beets; halve lengthwise.

DO AHEAD: Vinaigrette and vegetables can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately; chill. Return vinaigrette to room temperature and whisk before using.

Preheat oven to 450°. Season carrots with salt and pepper. Toss with 1 1/2 tsp.  oil. Arrange on half of a large rimmed baking sheet. Place beets in same bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss with remaining 1 1/2 tsp. oil. Arrange in single layer opposite carrots on same baking sheet. Roast vegetables, turning once, until slightly charred and just tender, about 15 minutes.

Place carrots, 1/2 cup parsley leaves, and feta in a medium bowl; drizzle 1/4 cup vinaigrette over and toss to coat. Arrange carrot mixture on a small platter. Place beets in another medium bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. vinaigrette; toss to coat. Tuck beets in among carrots. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup parsley leaves over. Drizzle with remaining dressing.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Roasted Carrot and Beet Salad with Feta

Classic Coleslaw

The good old classic coleslaw, it almost goes synonymous with a summer holiday weekend.  Coleslaw goes with anything, especially anything that has been grilled.  This summer in NYC, we visited one of my favorite delis, the one that brings a big metal bowl of pickles and one of coleslaw to every table.  I couldn’t even wait for my corned beef sandwich to come, I just had to dig right in.  Fortunately there were six of us, so they brought us a few bowls of coleslaw, because I plowed through one of them pretty quickly.  By the time my sandwich came, I had to dig into the second bowl.  Their coleslaw is amazing, there is no mayonnaise, just a vinegar dressing that the cabbage has been soaking in for probably days.  It is crunchy and absolutely addicting – by itself, or in between a sandwich that is already bigger than your mouth.  Oh wait, and did I tell you about the chocolate soda they bring around after your meal?  Just classic.

I decided to make some coleslaw to go with our BBQ, and I searched for a recipe that would be good, and I just couldn’t find anything that appealed to me – until I found this on Epicurious (from Bon Appetit).  I figured since it was called Classic Coleslaw, I couldn’t go wrong.  Really what sold me on the recipe was the fact that it had diced dill pickles and pickle juice in the dressing.  I decided to change the recipe slightly though, and added radicchio instead of purple cabbage, for a nice twist.  I was glad I did, I liked the slight bitterness with the tangy dressing.  So – it still didn’t hold a candle to the deli coleslaw, but it was still classic in its own way.  Look at that picture, is that classic coleslaw or what?

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 3 tablespoons minced dill pickle plus 2  tablespoons pickle brine
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white  vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared white  horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black  pepper
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  • 3 cups shredded radicchio

Preparation

Whisk the first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend.

DO  AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

Toss the cabbage, carrots and raddichio together in a large serving bowl.  Add the dressing, and mix to coat.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Classic Coleslaw

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Lemony Cucumber Salad

Are you wondering what to do with all those cucumbers in your garden?  I am not asking that question of myself, because unfortunately we stopped growing cucumbers years ago, since my husband is not a fan.  I am a huge fan though, so I end up buying them at the farmer’s markets along with other goodies that we don’t have growing in the back yard.

I have probably told this story before, but when we lived in Denver, my husband (boyfriend at the time) grew everything imaginable – whether he liked it or not.  Cucumbers seemed to grow like weeds, we had way more than I knew what to do with – and that’s when he told me he wasn’t a fan.  So what did I do?  I bought some italian dressing, cut the cucumbers in slices, and kept a huge Tupperware container of them marinating in the refrigerator.  I was young then, only a couple of years out of college – with no internet, and very few cook books.  This was the best I could do – and I loved them – I probably ate a cucumber a day for a month.  I probably should have just made pickles and ate them throughout the year….live and learn.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and it just seemed like the perfect summer salad – I could find almost everything at the farmer’s market.  Since I was using cucumbers and knew my husband wouldn’t eat any, I didn’t feel badly at all putting vinegar in the dressing.  It was a delicious salad, that tasted even better the next day.  So, if you don’t want to make pickles with all your cucumbers this year – try this one instead!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped orange bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 English cucumbers, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.

Combine lemon rind and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Pour over cucumber mixture; toss well to coat. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Lemony Cucumber Salad

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Orzo Salad with Radish and Fennel

My family is afraid of vinegar.  I know, how can you be afraid of vinegar?  I didn’t believe it either, but it is true.  As soon as I take a bottle of vinegar out of the pantry, my family runs for the hills.  I am the only one that likes salad dressing (aside from my youngest, but she will only eat ranch dressing), and when I have to cook with vinegar, it is mandatory to open all the windows – even if it is cold and raining outside (oh, have I mentioned that we have only had 72 minutes over 75 degrees this year?), the windows need to be wide open for the smell to escape.  I have learned over the years that it is best to cook with vinegar when I am the only one in the house – and since that almost never happens, my vinegar bottles remain very full in the pantry – longing for me to find discrete ways to use them.

Because of the issue with vinegar, pasta salads are not very popular in our house.  I love them, and look for them every day in the salad bar at work – and for that matter, I cover my salad with balsamic vinegar every day.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light - and what caught my eye was the fact that it was missing a key ingredient – yes, vinegar!  I had to give it a try, I had nothing to lose - and I was able to keep the windows shut.  So, here was the funny part – it actually wasn’t that good the first night I served it.  The dressing was too strong, and the orzo and veges needed more time to marinate.  The next day though, it was awesome.  I had no intention of blogging about this, until I had the leftovers.  The flavors really came together in perfect harmony, music to my mouth.  So – give this one a try, but you must make it ahead of time and let it sit – it is definitely a pasta salad well worth the wait.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups diced fennel (about 1 bulb)
  • 1/2 cup chopped radish
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Preparation

Cook orzo pasta with 1 tablespoon kosher salt according to the package directions, omitting additional fat. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well.

Combine lemon juice and next 3 ingredients (through pepper) in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add orzo, fennel, and the next 4 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt); toss well to coat. Cover and chill. Top with nuts before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Orzo Salad

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