Salads


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Warmer weather calls for easy dishes that come together quickly and take advantage of what’s fresh and may be even growing outside your door. For a pasta salad that practically screams TAKE ME TO A PARTY! look no further than this easy recipe. 🙂 And for a simple summer supper at home, just halve the recipe and enjoy.

CAPRESE PASTA SALAD

Dressing
good handful of fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
2/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
zest of 2 lemons (and juice of 1 lemon)
Optional: a couple of thyme sprigs

Pasta Salad
1 pound pasta, cooked/drained (I used bite-size rigatoni; double elbows would be great, too)
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 pound ciliegine (small, cherry-sized fresh mozzarella), halved
1/3 pound peppered salami, sliced about 1/4″ thick, then cubed–about two slices
1/4 cup basil (I used a combo of Genovese and lemon basil), chiffonade

Whisk together dressing ingredients to let the flavors meld. Just before I started cooking the pasta, I let the tomatoes hang out in the dressing a bit.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Right before you’re ready to add the pasta, combine dressing, tomatoes, mozzarella, salami and basil–mix well. Drain pasta, add to other ingredients, making sure everything is coated/combined. Serve warm. Leftovers go in the fridge, of course. GNAM GNAM GNAM. Mangia! Mangia!

 

 

 

Kattys chicken curry salad

Nothing like a cool sandwich on a hot day. It’s a tasty way to use up leftover roasted chicken to boot! I make chicken curry salad all the time and thought you might enjoy it, too. Well, except for my friend Pamela, who hates raisins. 🙂

trust issues
Not a raisin fan? You could use a similar amount of seedless grapes, quartered. No more trust issues. And we all live happily ever after.

KATTY’S CURRY CHICKEN SALAD

½ pound roasted chicken (leftover, cold) cut in small pieces
half a red bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/3 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water to plump them (or sub seedless grapes, quartered, if you prefer), then strained

Dressing
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
¾ teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon sesame oil
¾ teaspoon hot curry powder (or whatever curry powder you have is fine, too)

In a medium bowl or pitcher, whisk together dressing ingredients till smooth. Add chicken, pepper, pecans and raisins and stir to blend thoroughly. Enjoy as a sandwich or on top of your favorite greens for a salad.

 

The year is 1976. It’s the summer before my ninth birthday. There I am, smiling away (not much changes, right?) in Nanny and Poppy’s backyard on Silver Lane. In front of me is a freshly made batch of Nanny’s potato salad, still warm.

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Dig our tablecloth on the picnic table, by the way. Is that a stylish touch or what? We weren’t wealthy, but we always had at least three things: each other, good food and a little bit of style.

My mom has that funny expression on her face. And that’s my uncle Greg on the other side of the table. It’s the first time I ever had Nanny’s potato salad. I remember liking it so much, we took some home. The next day, my mom dished out some out for me. Cold. “Aren’t you going to heat it up?” I asked.

So, that’s where it starts. Warm potato salad. It’s not just my childhood memory of how I think things should be. Thirty-seven years later, warm potato salad still sounds right to me.

I recently learned of Salad Olivier–a.k.a Insalata Russa or Russian Salad. How about that? Potatoes and carrots and peas and diced pickles! Doesn’t that sound good? Well, aren’t you going to heat it up? 🙂 It’s traditionally served cold, but it sure tastes great warm with the best wurst from Noack’s to go with! And, by now, you know the drill. Of course we’re gonna crinkle-cut those carrots.

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SALAD OLIVIER OR INSALATA RUSSA (RUSSIAN SALAD) A LA KATTY

2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled, diced
2 cups frozen peas
3 carrots, peeled and crinkle-cut
1/3 of a large sweet onion, finely chopped (sauté in bacon grease or olive oil if you’re short on bacon)
about 1/4 cup of pickles, diced (I used Vlasic Stackers Zesty Dill—3 Stackers slices, very zesty indeed!)
black pepper to taste

Dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 a fresh lemon, squeezed
¼ cup parsley, minced
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons Penzey’s horseradish powder (yes, a random ingredient, but I like it–so add it if you have it!)

First, saute the onions. It’s handy if you’ve already made a trip to Noack’s. In addition to the best wurst, they also have killer bacon. Save the bacon drippings from breakfast and sizzle up the onions till nice and soft and golden. Set aside.

Now, may I suggest boiling the potatoes in a large stockpot of salted water? It’s really preferable to filling them to the brim of a pan that’s not quite big enough and watching them boil all over the stovetop. Oh, not like I know from personal experience or anything. Cook just till fork-tender and drain.

Meanwhile, same as the potatoes (badadas), boil the carrots till fork-tender. Add 2 cups frozen peas to the pan when the carrots are almost done—just throw ‘em in for about a minute or two.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Then fold the sauteed onions, warm potatoes, carrots and peas into the dressing. Don’t delay–serve right away with your favorite wurst. Or eat it cold if you must. Just heat up my portion, OK?

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Let’s surry down to a stoned soul picnic with the family. ♫ Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine. ♫ I can only get there in my mind’s eye now, but if I could make it happen, I would definitely bring this potato salad. Warm. On a picnic table with a tablecloth, capisce? See you there!

Janey and Nanny

Janey and Nanny

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With a heatwave on the horizon here in the Land of Steady Habits and mint growing like mad, I was on a mission to make the most of my secret garden. Shh, the wabbit is hiding behind the mint–don’t tell anyone!

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Luckily, I was smart enough to pick the mint earlier today while it was sunny and gorgeous out. I stored it in this lovely, made-especially-for-me vase (thanks to my #1 taster) before it started to rain. Makes quite the pretty bouquet, no?

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Anyway, as we’re headed for plenty of heat and humidity over the next few days, what better time to share this recipe for Thai-like (laab-like, larb like) chicken salad? I added extra things I like–red bell pepper, jalapeno, chopped cashews, green onions–and subtracted much of the fish sauce. A little fish sauce goes a long way for this kat–perhaps for you, too.

SPICY CHICKEN SALAD
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Chicken
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
1 pound ground chicken

Dressing
2 limes–zest of one lime, juice of both
1 tablespoon light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon hot chili paste

Salad
1 small Vidalia onion, halved and sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 jalapeño, minced
4 green onions, sliced
4 mini cucumbers, thinly sliced
handful of cashews, chopped
2 cups fresh mint leaves
spring mix

Prep the salad
Rinse mint leaves, chop the vegetables and cashews.

Make the dressing
Combine lime juice and zest, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of chili paste and fish sauce in a medium bowl.

Cook the chicken
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and 1 tablespoon chili paste. Cook just about a minute or so, then add chicken. Break up meat with your spatula as you go, until chicken is completely cooked.

Put it together
Add cooked chicken and sliced onion to dressing. Grab a handful of spring mix and a generous handful of mint per plate. Sprinkle cucumbers around perimeter. Place a quarter of the chicken/onion/dressing mixture atop greens. Sprinkle with bell peppers, green onions, jalapenos and cashews. Note: the chicken can be made ahead and served cold, but I like to serve it warm.

Stay cool through the heatwave! Trying this salad will help! 🙂

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In the dead of winter, it’s hard to think about BLTs. ’cause as much as bacon’s the star in that sandwich, where is it without the supporting role of a nice native tomato? I loathe the cold and lack of sun this time of year. Apparently, tomatoes do, too, since they don’t grow here now (well, nothing does, that’s part of the problem, but I digress).

Luckily, grape tomatoes always taste good. Sure, they are sweeter to me straight off my deck in the summertime, but no matter where they come from, they never disappoint. And working them into a sexy salad is a fun way to get your off-season BLT fix. I should mention, I invited avocado to the party by making a little bacon guacamole. It’s more of a formula than a recipe. Let me show you how.

KATTY’S BLT SALAD
for two, or barring someone to share with me, I eat the whole thing myself 🙂

spring mix (or whatever lettuce combo you like best)
2 slices of your favorite bacon, cooked and chopped (mine comes from M’town’s Meadow Meat)
1 ripe avocado
a wedge of lemon or lime
a handful of grape tomatoes (maybe 5-7, depending on size, doowutchyalike)
a slice of sweet onion, diced
a kitchen teaspoonful of mayo (i.e. grab a teaspoon from the silverware drawer and don’t be shy)
Kosher salt to taste

Cook the bacon, drain, set aside to cool and chop.

Meantime, chop a slice of sweet onion and cut up the grape tomatoes–add to a medium bowl. Dice the avo and add to the bowl. Squeeze the lemon or lime over the top. Add chopped bacon and mayo; add salt to taste.

Plate your spring mix (or lettuce)–spoon the bacon guac over the top. Toss together–it’s your dressing, so enjoy it!

Counting the days till spring (45!), I remain, your friend,
The bacon-loving Kat >>^..^<<

This past weekend, I stumbled upon Bella Gusta, a new olive oil and vinegar store/tasting room in West Hartford Center. They sell infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars–varieties of which I’d never seen or dreamed of–all yours for the sampling! I was drawn to chocolate, grapefruit and jalapeno vinegars, but came home with espresso. Talk about espresso love!

I’m sure the possibilities are endless, but my first experiment was vinaigrette: deep, dark, dense and delectable! Now I really need to come up with a sexier salad to serve it with.

ESPRESSO HAZELNUT VINAIGRETTE

¼ cup hazelnut oil
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup espresso balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons coarse ground mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Whisk mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl. Drizzle in oil, whisking continually till incorporated, then slowly whisk in vinegar. Serve over your favorite sexy salad. You’ll be CRAZY about it!

As mentioned previously, my love for all things almondy knows no boundaries, so it should come as no surprise I’m sharing a recipe for almond vinaigrette. I found it in The Hartford Courant last year–“Taking Vanilla Beyond Sweetness.” So delicious, you’ll find yourself dipping leaves in the bowl of dressing to sample it as you’re making it. And maybe even licking the plate when you’re through with your salad…

ALMOND VINAIGRETTE
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar

Whisk mustard, syrup, salt, pepper and both extracts in a bowl. Add canola in a fine stream, whisking continuously till incorporated. This step emulsifies the dressing and keeps it from separating. Next, slowly whisk in the vinegar. Yields 3/4 cup.

I was out of white pepper–if you don’t have it handy, black pepper is fine, too. And, boy, this is particularly fab drizzled over local produce.

Have you ever seen a lemon cucumber?

The lemon cucumbers came from a friend’s garden. Tomatoes, of course, are plentiful out on the deck.

My summer salad post wouldn’t be complete without a nod to one of my favorite local farm stands, where I get whatever isn’t growing on my deck!

Berruti’s, home of the best corn I’ve had this year, as well as perfect peaches and lots of lovely lettuce!

Montauk corn from Berruti's

 Happy weekend!
>>^..^<<

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