TOMATO AND CUCUMBER SALAD WITH ALMOND VINAIGRETTE

The salads we make at home are so simple that they never make it to the blog.  A little bit of slicing and dicing, a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and nothing else. But this recipe from a recent issue of  Food and Wine, is definitely worth talking about. I had never sautéed nuts to add flavor to a vinaigrette, and was amazed by the outcome. I adapted the original recipe to include Neo, the single cucumber  produced in our backyard. You know, The One. We are good at biochemistry, my friends. Or so we hope. Gardening? Not so much…

tomato almond

TOMATO AND CUCUMBER SALAD WITH ALMOND VINAIGRETTE
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

Heirloom tomatoes, sliced thin
yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Cucumbers, sliced thin
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon agave nectar
salt and pepper to taste
fresh basil, in chiffonade

In a medium skillet, cook the almonds in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about
 7 minutes. Strain the oil through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl; reserve the almonds for the salad. Immediately whisk in the vinegar, lime juice and agave nectar. Season the dressing with salt and pepper. Allow it to cool to close to room temperature.

Spread the tomato and cucumber slices on a large baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season with salt and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.  On a serving platter, scatter half of the almonds 
and top them with 
the tomato and cucumber slices. Drizzle with the dressing and top with the remaining almonds and fresh basil.  Serve right away. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The first adjective that came to my mind when I tasted the salad was “intense.”  The toasted almond flavor permeating through the oil is a real game-changer. Other nuts could be used instead. Consider  a macadamia, pistachio, perhaps a hazelnut version. I must make it again soon to profit from summer tomatoes, still so juicy and delicious. Not much hope for another homegrown cucumber, but there’s always next year…  Next time I will slice the cucumber a bit thinner. Other than that, it is a winner.  If you check the original recipe in Food and Wine, you’ll notice it called for several types of fresh herbs, but I only had basil around, so that’s what went into it.  I already feel the sadness of summer leaving us. Might as well make batches of tomato salad while we can. With a tissue nearby in case I get too emotional…

Tomato Cucumber Salad with Almond Vinaigrette, Bewitching Kitchen

Grab a pin and share away…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Eggplant Tomato Stacks

TWO YEARS AGO: The Couscous that Wasn’t

THREE YEARS AGO: Apple-Cinnamon Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blueberry Galette

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, August 2011

SIX YEARS AGO: Journey to a New Home

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Friday Night Dinner

 

 

Save

QUINOA SALAD WITH RED GRAPES AND AVOCADO

This salad was based on a recipe by Katie Lee featured on the FoodTV show The Kitchen. It was originally made with green grapes, avocados, cucumbers, and a lime dressing. Obviously,  the idea was to have a sort of monochromatic green salad with bright and sharp flavors.  I changed things around by using red grapes instead. Red grapes are quite a bit sweeter, and added a contrast of color I found particularly pleasing. But, let me tell you, no matter what you decide to add to your quinoa salad, please try the cooking method I describe after the recipe.  It is nothing short of life-changing.  Yeah, you read me correctly. Life-changing. For better.

Quinoa SaladQUINOA SALAD WITH RED GRAPES AND AVOCADO 
(adapted from Food TV Network)

(as written, it makes a lot of salad, I more or less halved this recipe, eyeballing most ingredients. I kept the amount of dressing unchanged)

Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
2 cups green grapes, halved
1 1/2 cups diced cucumbers
fresh parsley, roughly chopped (or fresh cilantro)
1 avocado, diced

In a large bowl, whisk together lime zest, lime juice and olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Toss the quinoa, grapes, cucumbers, parsley, and avocados together with the dressing. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Now, take a moment to look at the beauty of this  perfectly cooked quinoa.

cooked Quinoa
It is really too bad you cannot taste it through the screen, because the texture turned out sublime. The secret? Cooking the seeds in less water than most recipes recommend, and simmering them for only 6 minutes.  I cannot take credit for it, so here is the link to Elaine’s blog, where I found it.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And here is what I did…

For each cup of quinoa, add 1 + 1/3 cup lightly salted water

Bring to a boil in a saucepan…

Reduce heat, simmer for exactly 6 minutes. That is 360 seconds. Do not open the pan. DO NOT. (I will slap your hand if you try to open it… )

Turn the heat off.  Wait 20 minutes with the pan covered. DO NOT PEEK. DO NOT.

Open the pan (finally!), be mesmerized, amazed, awed by the beauty of the perfectly cooked quinoa, fluff the seeds gently with a fork and use them in any preparation you like.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the salad, I simply allowed the cooked quinoa to cool to room temperature, and added all the ingredients plus the simple dressing. The salad keeps well in the fridge for several days and is a great option for a light lunch, if you so desire. Another tip I’d like to share with you: make sure the avocado has a firm texture and only add the pieces when you are about to serve the quinoa.  I did not care for the mushy texture of overly ripe avocados I used the first time I made this dish.  On my second time around, I also added sliced celery.  Turned out delicious, very refreshing. But, you know by now how much we love our celery…

Elaine, thanks so much for sharing your method for perfectly cooked quinoa!  
I won’t be cooking it any other way from now on…  
My life is changed. For better.

🙂

ONE YEAR AGO: Strawberry Coffee Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

THREE YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Brownies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Salmon Tacos

FIVE YEARS AGOCinnamon Turban Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Summertime Gratin

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH A SPIRAL KICK

When I planned this dinner, I did not think it would turn out so delicious, and definitely not something that could go into my files of “Celebrate Wednesday“.  A simple grilled chicken served with a humble zucchini salad?   What could be so special about that?   Hard to pinpoint a particular reason, but I feel this meal was a gastronomic jackpot: the whole combination of flavors is perfect.  Refreshing, light, and satisfying.  You can change the salad around in lots of ways, as long as you add the dressing a few minutes before serving.  That will make sure the zucchini will get the right texture, losing some of its raw bite.  Fresh mint, shaved celery, shaved fennel, those are some of the ingredients that come to mind as add-ons. The chicken marinade will go with pretty much any protein. Including tofu, if you are so inclined…  😉

MisoChickenZucchini

GRILLED MISO CHICKEN
(adapted from Happy Food Happy Home blog)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons miso paste
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
juice of 1 lime (2-3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch of salt

Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl.

Place the chicken in a large ziplock bag and add the marinade. Toss everything around in the bag to coat all the chicken pieces. Marinade for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours.

Grill the chicken using the 7-6-5 method:  seven minutes on the first side, flip the pieces over, grill for 6 more minutes. Turn the grill off without opening the lid, and let the chicken stay inside for 5 minutes. Remove from the grill, let the meat rest for 5 to 10 minutes slightly tented with aluminum foil, slice and serve.

to print the Grilled Miso Chicken recipe, click here

sliced

SPIRALIZED ZUCCHINI AND CUCUMBER SALAD
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Skinny Kitchen)

2 zucchini, ends trimmed, cut on a spiral cutter
1/2 English cucumber, end trimmed, cut on a spiral cutter
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon olive oil or to taste
1 avocado, cut in pieces
handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Use a spiralizer or a mandolin fitted with a julienne blade and cut the zucchini into very thin, spaghetti-like strands. Do the same for the cucumber, but place it over paper towels to drain excess liquid. To make it easier to serve,  trim the strands cutting with scissors or a sharp knife, so that they are about 8 inches long. Place both veggies in a large serving bowl.  Reserve.

In a small bowl, make a quick emulsion whisking the olive oil and lemon juice, a touch of salt and pepper.  When it’s all emulsified, add the lemon zest.

Drizzle the dressing all over the strands of zucchini, and toss to coat.  Allow it to sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the avocado pieces, the tomatoes, toss gently to combine.  Sprinkle cilantro, adjust seasoning, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the salad recipe, click here

Comments:  First, my apologies for being unable to give immediate credit to the grilled chicken marinade.  I found it in the internet, thought I had bookmarked it, but instead I did a cut and paste of the ingredients and sent to myself by email.  (Palm hits the forehead!)  Since I clear my bookmark history every week, no luck tracking it down. (Head shake in disbelief…) Hopefully a lesson was learned. However, thanks to one of my dear readers, I could retrieve the source, and correct my mistake.  It came from Happy Food Happy Home. Cute name for a blog… 😉 Thank you, Nan, for finding the source for me.

The salad.  Of course, the spiralizer makes it super fun and interesting, but taste should come first, and in this category we also have a winner. However, depending on how watery your cucumber might be, you could run into problems.  One way around it would be spiralizing only the zucchini and adding the cucumber in small pieces together with the avocado & tomatoes. You can salt them very lightly and wait for a few minutes until the salt draws most of the excessive liquid out.  A brief rinse, a brief encounter with paper towels, and voilà: perfect cucumber!   This is harder to do with the strands, so keep this in mind if you try this salad.

The husband verdict: you can make this recipe ANYTIME. It is awesome!  

When you witness a man who loves pasta, rice, and potatoes giving such a compliment to zucchini, you know you got something special going…  As special as offering two recipes in a single post (wink, wink). Almost as special as a Wednesday evening rescued from the boring middle of the week…
.
ONE YEAR AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

TWO YEARS AGO: Granola Bars

THREE YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

FOUR YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes

 

 

 

EDAMAME HUMMUS IN CUCUMBER BITES

If you’d like to especially please guests  who are low-carbing, or simply want to serve something very flavorful but kind to everyone’s waistline, this is a perfect option.   I’ve got a recipe for edamame dip already published, but this one knocked my socks off.  Another fascinating English expression that made me smile the first time I heard it.  No similar phrase exists in Portuguese, I must add, and as far as I searched, its origin is uncertain. Feel free to enlighten me with an explanation in the comments…  😉

The recipe comes from a great blog called “Tess’s  Japanese Kitchen”.  Tess became a real expert on the subject by working her way through the 250 recipes from this book by  Hiroko Shimbo. Pretty amazing!   If you are into authentic Japanese cooking, bookmark her blog and get ready to learn a lot from it. And, while you are at it, reserve a bookmark for Ms. Shimbo’s site, Hiroko’s Kitchen.

BRIGHT GREEN EDAMAME DIP IN CUCUMBER BITES 
(slightly modified from Tess’s Japanese Kitchen)

for the cucumber “cups’
3 cucumbers

for the dip
1 cup shelled edamame (frozen is fine)
2 ounces feta cheese
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons non-fat yogurt (low or full fat is ok)
1  teaspoons salt
juice of half a lemon
a sprinkle of paprika for color contrast

Make the cucumber “cups” by peeling the cucumbers leaving streaks of unpeeled portions.  Cut in 3/4 inch slices, and carefully hollow each slice to form a small cup.  Discard the pulp. Reserve the cucumber slices, if they seem too wet place them over paper towels to catch excess liquid.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the edamame until they are tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain them in a colander and rinse briefly with cold water to stop the cooking.  Let it cool slightly, then add to the bowl of a food processor.

Add all other ingredients, except the paprika.  Process to make a smooth paste, scraping the sides of the bowl midway through processing.  Taste, adjust seasoning, and spoon small portions of the dip inside the hollowed cucumber slices.  Serve any additional dip with crackers or crudites.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

If you want to go real fancy, take a Zen breath and try your hands at this beautiful preparation of cucumber cups, yet another courtesy of Tess. I imagine the dip would look pretty awesome in the center of those little flowers…

When I brought this platter to  a departmental get-together, most people were puzzled, trying to figure out where the green color was coming from.

“Avocado? could it be avocado?”

“No, I don’t think so…. I taste some cheese, but no avocado”…

“What is in it?”

Mysterious or not, everyone loved it! The feta contributes a nice salty bite, the yogurt mellows it down, and the edamame closes the deal with its umami aura, very special. My slight modification was to reduce the amount of olive oil (the original had 6 tablespoons instead of 3), use non-fat yogurt instead or regular, and add lemon juice because I am a lemon freak. Sounds a bit wicked, but… such is life.  😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Headed to Brazil!

TWO YEARS AGO: Twice-Baked Goat Cheese Souffle

THREE YEARS AGO: Golly Moses: She’s  a Muffin!