Eggplant and Barley Salad

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.

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Alton Brown Asian Slaw

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.

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Salmon with Spinach Salad and Miso Vinaigrette

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.

Salmon with Spinach Salad and Miso Vinaigrette
Salmon with Spinach Salad and Miso Vinaigrette

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233: Tomato and Cucumber Salad

I decided to make Tomato and Cucumber Salad to try to take advantage of more of my cucumbers, since I knew I wouldn’t have many more as summer winds down. [I only made the vegetable salad, and didn’t bother with pita bread or the seasoning.]

Clearly, this was very simple. Chopping the tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and green onions is what took the longest amount of time. I didn’t read the directions very closely when I made this, because I stirred 2 tablespoons of olive oil directly into the vegetables along with the lemon juice, rather than drizzling olive oil along the top.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

This was fine, very fresh tasting. It was pretty much what I would expect from a combination of tomato, cucumber, green onions, parsley, and lemon juice. This recipe’s fine if you want to measure your ingredients when you make a salad. I might toss something like this together again, but I don’t think I’d actually follow the recipe.

206: Zucchini and Avocado Salsa Salad

Having had success making the Cucumber Salsa Salad the week before, I decided to try the similar Zucchini and Avocado Salsa Salad to use up another ubiquitous zucchini.

Some might think it’s a bad idea to make two very similar recipes in such close proximity to each other. This is definitely true in some cases, and I was a little concerned about salsa salad fatigue. However, I’d enjoyed the Cucumber Salsa Salad so much that I was willing to take the chance, and I knew that I would be able to better compare the two if I ate the second recipe right after I made the first.

What were the differences? The zucchini dish took lemon or lime juice, while the cucumber dish only called for lime juice. The zucchini also took a little less olive oil. The zucchini salsa specifically said to add diced avocado, whereas I decided to dice the avocado for the cucumber salsa instead of having it as slices.

When I made the zucchini salsa salad, I only used one jalapeno since I didn’t have time to chop a second one. I also only used lemon juice before I was rushed for time and didn’t think about which one might be better. I tasted it after I was done, and decided to add a little lime juice to my lunch container, because the lemon juice didn’t give a distinctive enough flavor. Once again, I took this to work to eat over warm rice.

I didn’t like this one as much as I enjoyed the cucumber salsa salad. Part of that was lemon juice versus the more flavorful lime juice, and the single jalapeno versus two. The other part was that zucchini simply doesn’t have as much flavor on its own as cucumber does. I also didn’t dice the zucchini quite small enough, so it remained very zucchini-like.

I ate this, but I wasn’t too thrilled about it. I had it for lunch twice, and then Alex and I ate it on tostadas, which made it slightly more delicious. I won’t make this again; I’ll stick with the Cucumber Salsa Salad instead.

199: Cucumber Salsa Salad

My cucumbers decided to grow like mad, just like my zucchinis did. That, combined with the hot weather, helped me decide it was finally time to make Cucumber Salsa Salad.

The directions were easy to follow. While the cucumber rested with salt on it, I chopped up the rest of the ingredients. I can’t remember how much cilantro I added, but I mixed it in. I also diced the avocado and mixed it into the salsa.

I had this for lunch for several days. I took the salsa and rice in separate containers, heated the rice, and poured the cucumber salsa salad over the rice, which warmed up the salsa just enough so that it was at room temperature rather than cold.

I really, really enjoyed this. This was a refreshing combination of spicy from the jalapenos with the coolness of cucumber. The salsa also contrasted nicely with the rice, and the liquid flavored the rice quite nicely. This would be nice for a picnic where you didn’t mind using utensils, because it could be eaten warmed (like over rice) or cold. I felt very healthy eating this; it was as if I was eating everything that was right about fresh vegetables.

If you couldn’t tell from that description, I heartily recommend this recipe.

196: Zucchini Lemon Salad

For a potluck I decided to make the recipe for Zucchini Salad with Shaved Parmesan. Of course, you know I don’t like cheese, so I’m calling it a more appropriate Zucchini Lemon Salad.

I sliced my zucchini as I usually do, rather than lengthwise, and cooked it on the Foreman grill rather than on a regular grill. I peeled my lemon and cooked the strips as the recipe said to. I toasted almonds on the stove, and made the vinaigrette as per instructions. I omitted the Parmesan cheese. The steps took a little while (grilling, boiling, toasting) but overall the recipe was pretty simple.

Zucchini Lemon Salad

This was pretty good. I enjoyed the lemon and almonds with the zucchini. Was it worth cooking the lemon zest? I’m not sure. I think it probably would have been just as good as a warm salad with regular lemon zest, instead of cooked strips of lemon peel. This was pretty easy, and a good use of zucchini, so I would definitely make this again.

187: Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken

One Friday, I knew there wouldn’t be enough time for me and Alex to go home and eat before we had to be at a game. I decided to make Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken since it seemed like a good, light, take-along meal for hot weather.

I was rushed when I made this. I eyeballed the amount of lemon zest that I put in the dressing, and I think that I actually just mixed all of the ingredients together, without making the dressing first. I omitted dill and feta.

I enjoyed this. We were a little rushed when we ate this too, so I’m trying to remember specifics about it. It was refreshing, and is actually one of those rare pasta salads, since it has no mayo or dairy in it. I wish I could remember just how lemony it was. It didn’t seem particularly vegetable-heavy, but then again, it was a pasta salad. I’m not sure that the chicken added much to it for me.

I would definitely try this again. It was pretty good on its own, and it has room for adaptation and improvement as well.

85: Strawberry-Citrus Salad

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.

Strawberry-Citrus Salad

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.

57: Spinach and Endive Salad with Tangerines and Coriander-Crusted Scallops

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.

Spinach and Endive Salad with Tangerines and Scallops

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.