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LEFTOVER CRANBERRY SAUCE

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Cranberry sauce is one of those foods at Thanksgiving that is like Charoset at Passover Seder: absolutely essential without which you cannot proceed, but for God’s sake don’t make too much because no one will take a lot. (I found this out the hard way at the one and only Seder I was invited to. How was I, a shiksa, to know this? Maybe that’s why I’ve never been invited to another one.)

Even though cranberry sauce keeps really well in the refrigerator – a good three weeks – it’s probably getting tossed because it’s taking up room. Too bad because it goes with turkey, ham, chicken, duck, pork, and is delicious mixed with all kinds of things like horseradish and applesauce.

But if you have some that you don’t know what to do with: mix it with a spoonful of prepared mustard, pepper, vinegar and a little oil. Toss it with some sturdy greens like Romaine, some sections of Mandarin oranges (in season now), thinly sliced red onion, and maybe a few stray beans if there are any in the fridge (green, black, pinto, garbanzo, whatever).  Maybe sprinkle with some feta cheese. Yes, it’s purple. Dim the lights if that offends you. It’s delicious.

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TACO SALAD/TOSTADAS FOR THE FORGETFUL

TACO SALAD/TOSTADAS FOR THE FORGETFUL

I am certain that anyone who likes taco salad already has a favorite recipe for it, so this is not for them. This is for me. I have made this three times this summer when it was too damn hot to cook. The first time was a veggie taco salad. The second time was with some bits of steak thrown in. The third time we made tostadas.

I am sure that by next summer I will have forgotten what I did to make this, hence this post. There are tons of possible variations.

TOSTADAS ON THE GRILL

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Stir together and refrigerate.

Salad:

Chopped tomato, chopped red onion, sliced black olives, 1 can corn, 1 can kidney beans or black beans, shaved cheeseP1050824

Top that with

Romaine, iceberg lettuce, shredded cabbage

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Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

On the grill:

Heat refried beans in skillet. Keep diced steak (or chicken, or pork) warm in foil packet.

Place corn tortillas on grill and lightly brush each side with oil.

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Flip tortillas as necessary and let them get crisp.

Toss salad with dressing.

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Smear crisp tortillas with refried beans. Top with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sour cream, then with salad, bits of steak, and pour green and/or red salsa on top. Pick up to eat. Have lots of napkins available.

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For taco salad, break up some bagged tortilla chips and toss with the salad and dressing. Some avocado would not be amiss with this.

BLACK BEAN & MANGO SALSA

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I bought a couple of Ataulfo mangoes with no particular plans for them.

Just a very few of the mango varieties out there:

Mango-Varieties-courtesy-of-the-National-Mango-Board

Then it turned out there was a baseball game on TV and we would need something to snack on. So I made Black Bean & Mango Salsa. It’s now my husband’s favorite dip for chips – better than guacamole or the tomato-based salsas and pico de gallos I’ve made in the past. I guess this could be filed under Caribbean, Mexican, or world cuisine.

Lots of chopping here, but this is a great way to practice mad knife skillz, since it’ll all be tumbled together at the end anyway. And speaking of chopping: I saw a food demonstration of how to efficiently chop garlic, and it works better than a garlic press. Use a large chef’s knife (a small paring or steak knife will not work) and salt. This video describes it all (until he starts flogging garlic in a jar, which is convenient but does not taste like fresh garlic).

BLACK BEAN AND MANGO SALSA

  • 2 small (Ataulfo) or 1 large (Tommy Atkins, Haden, etc.) mango, peeled and diced small
  • 1 Anaheim chili, roasted, peeled, minced (see this for the how-tos)
  • 1 Jalapeno chili, roasted, peeled, minced (as above)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 5-6 fat garlic cloves, minced (do not be tempted to skimp on the garlic!)
  • 1 can (about 16 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and minced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, diced small –  about 1 generous cup of chopped tomato (Romas are great for this, but other tomatoes work too – even cherry tomatoes if you don’t mind extra chopping)
  • juice of 1 fat lemon or 2-3 limes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt to taste (if you did not use salt to mince the garlic)

Chop/prep everything and toss into a bowl as you go. Mix it up and let sit for about 20 minutes, then taste and adjust  seasoning (more lemon? More heat? More salt?).

Eat. Great with chips but also on tacos, chicken, pork chops, grilled fish, green salad, whatever.

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Variations:

  • Substitute peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, or papaya for the mango.
  • Substitute other chilies for the Anaheim and Jalapeno.
  • Use raw minced chilies instead of roasting them.
  • Add fresh minced sweet basil.

And finally: I found this video and I have not tried it, but it looks like it would work. Just be sure to hold onto that glass (or use a plastic glass) because nothing is more slippery than a mango.

ASIAN CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAP SAUCE

Sometimes you need to pull a rabbit out of your hat. On occasion you find that what you pulled out actually was more like a weasel or a marmot, but now and then it does turn out to be a rabbit, just as you’d hoped.

I’m preparing food for a cocktail party, which has to be all finger foods. I thought Asian chicken lettuce wraps would be good, never mind that I have never made them before. The filling part is easy enough – diced chicken, water chestnuts, peanuts, cilantro, scallions – but the dressing was another story. You can buy all kinds of bottled dressings and some of them taste okay, but it’s fun to mix your own. If you have a well-stocked pantry with Asian ingredients, it’s fast and easy.

Here is what I came up with. This started with a recipe for Vietnamese Chicken and Mint Salad from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson, and took off from there.

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SAUCE FOR ASIAN LETTUCE WRAPS

  • 2 small red Jalapenos, minced
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon nam pla
  • 2 Tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black bean garlic sauce
  • 1 star anise

Combine all ingredients. Store in refrigerator. Remove star anise before using. Toss with diced chicken or shrimp for Asian lettuce wraps or as a salad dressing.

Notes:

Use chili flakes, Sriracha, cayenne, or other hot peppers in place of the Jalapenos.

Nam pla (fish sauce) is available in Asian markets or well-stocked supermarkets. If necessary you can substitute soy sauce or tamari.

Black bean garlic sauce is available in Asian markets or well-stocked supermarkets. Leave it out if you can’t find it.

Thai sweet chili sauce is available in Asian markets, supermarkets, and Trader Joe’s. It is a thick sweet-spicy sauce that has a couple of million uses.

BRUSCHETTA: PERFECT SUMMER FOOD

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I’m so over summer, but like honey badger, summer don’t care. It’s going to be here for the next million years, or at least that’s what it feels like.  It’s a long string of days in which it’s just too hot to do a lot of cooking.

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On those kinds of days, I often make bruschetta. It’s virtually no-cook (except for making toast) and is an extremely good way to enjoy the best summer tomatoes. There’s no set recipe: use as much of each ingredient as you like or you have on hand. This approaches Nirvana if made with heirloom tomatoes.

  • Real summer tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Core and chop tomatoes. Mince garlic. Chop or sliver basil. Combine in a bowl. Pour in some olive oil and add salt & pepper to taste.

Toast the best bread you can lay your hands on (i.e. not  squishy supermarket bread like Rainbo).  If you feel ambitious, cut a garlic clove in half and rub the cut side onto the toast until the garlic disappears. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the toast. Eat.

Possible add-ins:

  • Minced hot peppers, cayenne, or hot sauce.
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Fresh oregano along with, or in place of, the basil.
  • Minced sweet onion.
  • Chopped roasted red bell pepper.
  • Chopped good-quality olives (like Kalamata).

Other things to try:

  • Top bruschetta with cheese, then run under the broiler.
  • Spread tapenade on toast, then top with tomato mixture.
  • Spread pesto on toast, then top with tomato mixture.
  • Skip the toast. Mix this into hot cooked pasta.
  • Pour over green salad and toss.
  • Puree leftovers and serve as cold soup.
  • Use to top baked or grilled fish.
  • Use to top grilled eggplant.
  • Puree and strain. Pour over ice along with a healthy shot of vodka.

THE GREEK LAYERED SALAD

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Now then: my previous post was about Crazy Feta, which is absurdly good by itself. But it is a key component of a salad they probably don’t actually make in Greece, but maybe that’s because it hadn’t occurred to them. They have lamb roasting on a spit, stuffed grape leaves, feta, ouzo, spanakopita – what else do you need?

Once more, the credit goes to Jessica at How Sweet it Is for coming up with this amazing combination. She says it’s a dip that could be used on chips or in wraps or sandwiches, but I served it as a salad, a messy messy layered salad.  I varied mine a bit from hers. I would expect anyone to vary their versions too.

Once you have the components made and/or bought, it’s just layering in a bowl.    You could also arrange it on a giant platter like those layered Mexican dips and surround with bread and pita chips.

Things you will need to either make yourself or purchase already made:

The aforementioned Crazy Feta.

Hummus.

Tzatziki.

Okay, got your dips made? Putting this together is fun.

LAYERED GREEK SALAD

  • 1 1/2 cups tzatziki
  • 1 can (about 15 ounces) pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 1/2 cups hummus
  • 1 can (about 15 ounces) artichoke hearts or artichoke bottoms in water
  • Crazy Feta
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted bell peppers
  • 1 large delicious ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced sweet red onion
  • sumac 
  • za’atar

In a deep clear bowl, layer in this order:

tzatziki on the bottom of the bowl (drain off excess liquid)

drained, chopped olives

hummus

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Drained and chopped artichoke hearts

Crazy Feta

Chopped zucchini

Roasted bell peppers (these were yellow)

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Chopped tomatoes

Chopped cucumber

Minced onions

Sumac

Za’taar

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Cover and refrigerate up to eight hours. Drain off any excess liquid that may accumulate.

This served 10 people as a salad as part of a dinner. There was about 2 cups left over, which we smeared on sourdough bread the next day.  If served as a dip, this would probably serve 15-20 people.

A few notes:

  • I made hummus from one can of garbanzos and one can of cannellini beans, sesame oil, lemon, garlic, and plenty of cilantro. Not traditional but I liked it better than garbanzos alone.
  • A block of plain feta can be crumbled and used in place of the Crazy Feta.
  • If you are fortunate enough to live near a Middle Eastern market, you can get the sumac and za’atar there. I bought mine at The Spice Shop.  Penzey’s also sells them (I can highly recommend Penzey’s spices and service) as well as probably plenty of other outlets. They are not absolutely essential here, but I wanted to add something extra to the tomatoes & cucumbers without salting them (which would cause them to get watery).  If these spices are too exotic, sprinkle the tomatoes with pepper and oregano.
  • Trader Joe’s carries both pitted Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts in water, as well as tzatziki, hummus,  and feta.

Now go forth and make this.

CRAZY FETA

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I can’t take credit for this. All thanks go to Jessica at How Sweet it Is for this amazing mixture of deliciousness. I will take credit for being a Google ninja and finding it, though.

So you see, I was having my annual Summer Solstice dinner on June 21, which was – surprise!  – the actual Summer Solstice. I think Middle Eastern and Greek food goes especially well in the summer, so I was looking for those kinds of dishes. (For some reason I only have one cookbook dedicated to that region, and it seems to be on loan somewhere.) And that was when I found the directions for a Greek Layered Salad, which also comes from Jessica at How Sweet it Is.

But it was the Crazy Feta that really sold  me. All by itself, this stuff is so fantastic; made into a Greek salad, it approximates Nirvana.

Here is what you do.

CRAZY FETA

  • 1 pound feta cheese
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 Jalapeno peppers
  • juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • olive oil
  • pepper

Slice the top quarter off the entire head of garlic, just enough to expose the cloves (do not peel away the papery skin). Place head on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with a very small amount of olive oil, then wrap the foil around the garlic and place it at one end of a small baking dish. At the other end, put the Jalapenos. Put the dish in the oven at 400 degrees.

Turn the Jalapenos after about 15 minutes.  After about 30 minutes, remove the dish from the oven.  Place the peppers in a paper or plastic bag and let them steam about 15 minutes. Then cut the stem end from the Jalapenos, remove the seeds, and remove the blistered skin. Chop peppers finely.

NOW WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES OR ANY OTHER TENDER BODY PART FOR AT LEAST THREE HOURS.

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I couldn’t find blocks of feta packed in water at the Grocery Outlet, but I did find these two packages, which totaled 1 pound.Works for me.

Mash the feta with a big fork. Add the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon, the minced Jalapenos, and about 1/4 cup olive oil. Then take the roasted garlic and squeeze the sweet caramelized cloves right out of their skins into the bowl.

Mash mash mash. You want this to be spreadable and dipable but not runny. You may need more olive oil.  Taste and add pepper (and salt, if necessary).

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When the consistency seems just right to you, pull out a bag of chips and cram everything into your face  cover and store in the refrigerator for one week.

This is an essential ingredient in the next recipe, Greek Layered Salad.

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