Summer has been very hot in New Jersey this year. I don’t think it’s usually quite this hot, although I don’t know for certain as it’s only our second summer here. When the heat rivals summer in the Midwest, meals for us usually consist of whatever Alex has grilled that day, leftovers from when Alex grilled, pancakes (because I use an electric griddle), or BLTs, which are really cooling if you (perhaps heretically) microwave your bacon and don’t heat up your oven or a frying pan.
This Eggplant and Barley Salad from Smitten Kitchen is really very nice in the summer, once you get past the steps of roasting vegetables. I first made this salad a few years ago, and I really liked it. Alex doesn’t like eggplant, but he enjoys this salad. Roasting the eggplant makes it a little less eggplanty and more delicious. The barley is tender yet chewy, flavored with cumin and coriander. The grain is surprisingly good cold. I usually don’t like salads because dressing is too vinegary or assertive, but this salad is dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, all of which I like. Tomatoes and roasted zucchini (and olives, if those are your thing) give the dish extra flavor. I love the balanced flavors in this dish.
This is a delicious, flavorful summer salad. It works great as a make-ahead vegetarian/vegan meal and is perfect as leftovers on a lot summer day. We had 4 dinner-sized servings plus some for a toddler, but it would yield more as a side dish.
Can you believe it’s already September? With the continued hot weather, I have trouble believing it’s almost the season to make chili and pick apples and bake.
I made quite a few recipes this summer that I haven’t had a chance to tell you about. During warm spells this summer, I made a point of making salads. One of the salads I made a few times was Alton Brown’s Asian Slaw. I don’t like traditional cole slaw, so this is one of the few slaw recipes I’ve tried – and it’s a great one. Deliciousness aside, it yielded a perfect amount for leftovers, and was very easy to make with the food processor.
This weekend marks at least the 3rd or 4th time this year that St. Louis has had record heat. Who wants to cook anything when it’s 90 degrees outside?
For all the cooking I do, I haven’t mastered the art of cold meals. I don’t particularly like them. Cold is for snacks and desserts and beverages. Think of cold cereal and PBJ – convenience meals. Now, hot food on the other hand – that’s what’s for dinner. However, I conceded the need to reduce the amount of time that I used my burners. Salmon was on sale, so I decided to make Salmon with Spinach Salad and Miso Vinaigrette.
I came across a recipe for Strawberry-Citrus Salad when I was looking at recipes for Easter dinner. I happened to have fresh mint, and strawberries, and tangerines. It’s also been unseasonably warm here. The summer-like weather, and the heat in my office since the building hasn’t switched over to air conditioning, has made me want cool things to eat. This sounded incredibly refreshing.
I used dark brown sugar instead of light in this, and tangerines for the citrus. As I expected, this was very refreshing. I liked the mint in it, which I didn’t expect to do since I generally don’t like mint flavor. Fresh mint, however, isn’t ‘minty’ – it rather gives a fresh, herbal flavor to this dish. I don’t think this needs all of the brown sugar, so whenever I make it again, I’ll use less. I really enjoyed this, and I’ll make it again.
On Tuesday night, I made the Spinach and Frisee Salad with Tangerines & Coriander-Crusted Scallops from Eating Well magazine. It’s an incredibly long name, but a pretty tasty salad. This was my first time cooking scallops. They seem incredibly expensive, so I never buy them. When we made our St. Louis/Trader Joe’s trip at the end of February, I found a bag of frozen scallops for a relative bargain (at $10 a pound!), so I decided to try out this salad.
The salad was pretty straight forward. I used a bag of baby spinach and a bunch of endive, which the recipe suggested as a substitution. I bought tangerines, which had to be segmented. This was a pain for me, because I’ve never segmented citrus before. I tried to go off of the vague directions listed in the magazine, which really didn’t work for me without pictures. If I had taken the time earlier to do a quick search, I would have found this slide-show from Bon Appetit which is much more helpful.
I actually had to make the dressing twice because I messed up the first attempt. I decided to see how white wine was in the dressing instead of white wine vinegar, which I don’t have. Then I added rice vinegar, which I knew was a mistake as soon as I did. Then I attempted to save it with another vinegar I grabbed, which was actually apple cider vinegar instead of the plain white vinegar that I thought I had grabbed. This is why it’s vital to taste as you go. I tasted the dressing and knew there was no way to save it, so I pitched it and started fresh – I used the white vinegar for the white wine vinegar, zested a tangerine but orange juice from the fridge, used a little onion instead of a shallot, and added fresh parsley for the herbs. I omitted the Dijon mustard because I don’t like mustard.
I didn’t get a good sear on the scallops because I didn’t have my pan hot enough, but they were good anyway. I liked the coriander and black pepper on them. The dressing was nice and light both in flavor and texture. Alex said that he would have preferred the salad as a side salad, since he likes more ‘stuff’ on his salads.
I enjoyed this salad – it was a light meal, yet I was relatively satisfied afterward. (I then proceeded to make cupcakes, which may have made a difference.) If I make this again – and I might – I would consider draining a can of unsweetened mandarin oranges to use instead of tangerine segments, to make it a slight bit faster and easier.
I decided to try something a little different, since I actually had all of the ingredients for it. I don’t like potato salads; I don’t like the mayonnaise in American ones, but I also just don’t care that much for vinegar. The recipe for Beef & Potato Salad with Smoky Chipotle had enough other flavors that I considered it worth trying.
I simmered the beef the day before so that I’d be able to get it ready faster after we got home from work. I added the hot potatoes to the bowl with the shredded beef, did my best to sprinkle vinegar on them (as opposed to dousing some), and added the onion, oil, and chipotles. I didn’t chop the chipotles as well as I should have, but that’s mostly because I had a cut on my finger and didn’t want to hold anything that tightly.
This was different. I didn’t like the smell of the vinegar as I mixed it, and that affected my enjoyment of the meal. Alex and I agreed that we liked it more when the vinegar flavor wasn’t too strong (likely a failure of my mixing). This was featured in an “avocado” section in Eating Well magazine, but the addition of avocado didn’t really add that much to the dish, in my opinion. I just don’t think that the recipe needs an avocado, even if they’re in season.
This wasn’t bad, and people who like potato salads (read: any taste of vinegar) probably would enjoy it. Alex thought it was different, and it’s true that I usually don’t make things like this. I wouldn’t make it again, but that’s because of personal taste. I wouldn’t discourage anyone else from trying it.