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Avocado salad

26 May

avocado saladAvocadoes were on sale this week, so it was a good opportunity to make this yummy salad. I would say it’s very easy, but it’s kind of a pain cubing four avocados. It’s well worth the effort, though!

You can tell an avocado is ripe when the skin is very dark, almost black, and it has some “give” to it. But don’t wait till it’s too soft, or the flesh will be mushy and may even turn black.

It looks like there’s no red onion in this photo. If you don’t have red you can cheat and use a regular ol’ yellow onion. But red looks prettier.

Ingredients:

4 or 5 ripe avocados (the small “Hass” type)
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 can hearts of palm, drained
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
3 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. mayonnaise
1 tsp. salt or more to taste
black pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice each avocado lengthwise, and twist to open it. Remove the pit. (I do this by sticking a knife into the pit and pulling it out, probably not the safest method.)

Cut the avocado into cubes by slicing lengthwise and widthwise while it’s still in the skin; then use a tablespoon to scoop out the cubes into a large bowl. Scrape any avocado meat that remains into the bowl as well.

Cut each grape or cherry tomato in half, unless they are very small, and add to the bowl.

If your hearts of palm aren’t already sliced or in pieces, slice them and add to the bowl.

Add the chopped onion.

Sprinkle with lemon juice and add just enough mayonnaise to hold the ingredients together. The avocado is very moist and also full of oil, so you won’t need much mayo.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If you serve on individual plates (rather than letter people help themslves), it looks nice on top of a lettuce leaf.

Serves 4 to 6

 

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Warm Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

28 Oct

warm lentil saladHere’a nice recipe that appeared recently in the New York Times.

You can cook the lentils up to four days ahead and store them in the fridge. Bring the lentils back to a simmer before proceeding with the recipe.

You can serve it as a main dish for a light meal.This recipe makes quite a lot. We halved it for the two of us and still had some leftover.

If you can’t spot the chives and/or parsley in the photo, that’s because I forgot to add them at the end. The dish would probably have been even tastier if I hadn’t left them out!

Ingredients:

2 cups (14 oz.) green, brown or black lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 small or ½ large onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
¼ cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
| cup broth from the lentils
3 to 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup minced chives or parsley or both
2 cups wild or baby arugula, or mixed greens

Directions:

In a medium pot, combine the lentils, onion, two of the garlic cloves and the bay leaf with 6 cups of water. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.

Add salt to taste, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 25 to 30 minutes, until lentils are cooked through but still have some texture (they should not be mushy). Taste and adjust the salt.

Using tongs, remove onion and bay leaf (though the onion may fall apart!)

In a small bowl mix together the vinegar, remaining garlic, salt to taste and olive oil. Set aside.

Place a strainer over a large bowl and drain the lentils. Reserve ¼ cup of the broth. Return the lentils to the pot.

Whisk the reserved broth into the dressing. Stir the dressing into the lentils. Add the goat cheese and stir until it melts into the lentils. Season to taste with pepper and stir in the herbs.

Line a platter, salad plates or wide bowls with the arugula or greens and top with the lentils. Serve warm.

Serves 4 to 6

The Best Potato Salad

8 Jul

Potato saladI love my homemade potato salad, and it’s not hard to make!

First some tips about the potatoes. It’s best to use a waxy thin-skinned type like Yukon Gold or red potatoes, or small “new” potatoes. If you do, you can keep the skins on when you cut them up for the salad, and they hold their shape better than baking potatoes. If all you have is baking potatoes, don’t worry. Boil the potatoes, and then peel them as soon as they’re cooked — the skin will zip right off.

And here’s a foolproof method for making hard-boiled eggs, for those of you who may say you can’t even boil an egg. It works for any number of eggs, as long as they’re in a single layer in the pot. Cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a full, rolling boil. Then turn off the heat, cover the pot and let them sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Drain and place  immediately in ice water to cover, until the eggs are cool.

This method cooks the eggs completely without giving you that unattractive gray ring around the yolk. What this method doesn’t do is make the eggs easy to peel. The ice-water bath helps a bit, but if eggs are hard to peel it’s usually because they’re too fresh! Really fresh eggs don’t have that little air pocket that develops between the white and the shell. For hard-boiled eggs, it’s best to use eggs that have been in your fridge at least a week after purchase.

Ingredients:

1 lb. waxy potatoes, such as red or Yukon Gold
1 hard-boiled egg
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 large or 2 small scallions, sliced (or use 2 Tbs. minced red onion)
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
½ tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. salt, or more to taste
black pepper to taste
paprika

Directions:

Wash the potatoes and cut off any imperfections but don’t peel them.
Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 15 or 20 minutes (test by sticking a knife into the largest potato).

Rinse the potatoes in cold water, drain completely, and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Place in a large bowl.

Chop the hard-boiled egg and add to the potatoes along with the sliced celery and scallion. Add the celery seed, salt and pepper.

Combine the vinegar and the mayonnaise and mix well, then pour the mixture over the potatoes and stir well.

If the potato salad seems too dry, add a little more mayo and vinegar in the same proportions (twice as much mayo as vinegar). Taste, and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Sprinkle the top with paprika to add a dash of color.

Serves 6

Tangy Poppyseed and Pineapple Coleslaw

18 Mar

Pineapple-Poppyseed ColeslawIf you use packaged coleslaw mix, this recipe is very easy.

I don’t like gloppy coleslaw and so I made one recipe of dressing stretch for  a whole cabbage, shredded – the equivalent of two bags of coleslaw mix – and it worked very well. If there’s carrot in your packaged coleslaw mix, you can eliminate the grated carrot, but do add the scallions.

You might want to add a little more than a dash of red pepper flakes – maybe ¼ to ½ tsp. – to give it a little extra zip. If you don’t want to make a lot of coleslaw, use half the dressing ingredients, or make the full amount and save half for another time. It should last several weeks in the fridge.

Ingredients:

1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple with juice (or whiz a quarter of a  fresh pineapple, cut into chunks, in the food processor)
½ tsp. salt
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 tsp. finely minced fresh ginger, optional
⅓ cup cider vinegar
3 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 (1-lb.) bag coleslaw greens or 8 cups mixed shredded green and red cabbage
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, grated
1½ tsp. poppy seeds
¼ cup mayonnaise

Directions:

In a small saucepan, combine the crushed pineapple with juice, salt, red pepper flakes, ginger, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch. Whisk together until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook until dressing is thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Place shredded cabbage, scallions, carrot and poppy seeds in a large bowl. Stir mayonnaise into the cooled dressing mixture. Add dressing to the vegetables, and toss well to coat.

Serves 6

Jerusalem Spinach Salad

3 Dec

Jerusalem spinach saladAfter a weekend of gorging, I thought everyone might be ready for a lighter recipe!

This recipe is adapted (very slightly) from one in Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. It’s easy and delicious.

The book is absolutely gorgeous and would make an excellent gift or look good on a coffee table. Many of the recipes are interesting, although some of the ingredients may be difficult to find in the United States. We’re lucky to live in an area with a large Middle Eastern population, so I had no problem finding pita or sumac powder. I didn’t have any chile flakes (which are easy enough to find) so I used cayenne pepper, about half as much as the recipe calls for.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. white vinegar
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
¼ lb. pitted dates
¼ cup olive oil
2 small pitas (or one large one) roughly torn into 1½-inch pieces
½ cup unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. sumac
½ tsp. chile flakes
5 oz. (half a standard-sized package) baby spinach
2 Tbs. lemon juice
Salt

Directions:

Put the vinegar, onions and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain out any residual vinegar and discard.

Heat the 3 Tbs. olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the pita and almonds and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring all the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, chile flakes and ¼ tsp. salt. Set aside to cool.

Just before serving, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil, the lemon juice and another pinch of salt.

Serves 4

Black Bean and Corn Salad With Lime-Cumin Dressing

12 Nov

Black Bean and Corn SaladThe original recipe I adapted this from used beans only. I thought it looked nice — and tasted better too — with beans and corn.

This might seem like an odd time to be promoting a salad, rather than a warming cold-weather dish. But it’s the start of entertainment season, with Thanksgiving, Chanukah and soon enough Christmas and New Year upon us. This salad is a really good one for a potluck, brunch or party. It’s light on the dressing, and you can serve it with a single spoon rather than salad forks or tongs. And it’s quite attractive. If you want even more color, substitute some red or orange pepper for the celery. You can easily double it if you’re serving a crowd.

Ingredients:

1 cup thinly sliced celery
¾ cup vertically sliced red onion
1 (15-oz.) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (thaw if using frozen)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. olive oil
¼ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. salt

Directions:

Combine celery, onion, black beans and corn in a bowl and toss well. Combine the lime juice, sugar, oil and cumin in a small bowl, and whisk until blended. Pour over the bean mixture and toss to coat. Allow the salad to sit for at least a few hours in the refrigerator or at room temperature for the flavors to mingle.

Serves 4 to 6

Tuesday Tip: A Bonanza of Basil

10 Sep

Basil freshI bought a pot of basil at the beginning of the summer, separated the three little stalks in the pot and plonked them in my garden. As they grew, I cut off the growing tips so the plants would branch out. They became bushy and lush! But there’s only so much caprese salad* one can eat.  And I already made and froze some pesto — I’ll give you that recipe later.

So what do you do at the end of the season with all that basil?

Here’s a tip that I got from my sister-in-law Rhonda that works for basil and just about any other fresh herb. We’ve done this very successfully with parsley and rosemary as well.

Pick the nicest leaves — avoid any that are bug-eaten or discolored — and put them in a brown paper lunch bag. Don’t fill the bag more than half-full. Roll the top down to close it, but leave as much air space as possible in the bag. Put the bag in the bag of your refrigerator and forget about it — except once a week or so, take it out and give it a shake.

Basil driedAfter about three weeks, the basil will have dried. (If it’s not completely dried, put the bag back in the fridge for another week.) Crumble it up on a piece of wax paper and store it in a plastic or glass spice jar.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of ways you can use fresh basil.

*For a caprese salad, slice a couple of large, ripe, red tomatoes and lay them out nicely on a plate. Slice some fresh mozzarella cheese and place over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place several perfect fresh basil leaves on the top. Drizzle with olive oil and enjoy.

Another thing I like to do with fresh basil is serve it with pasta. Boil up some spaghetti, toss it with a bit of olive oil after you drain it, then add some basil leaves cut into thin ribbons, fresh chopped tomatoes, a clove of chopped garlic and cubed or shredded mozzarella.  Season with salt and pepper. I’m not providing quantities because you can really play it by ear .