FARRO-ASPARAGUS SALAD – A Lovely Summer Salad!

farro asparagus salad textApparently, there’s yet another new-to-me ancient wheat grain called farro. It’s kind of similar to brown rice, but heartier with a nutty taste. As a gal who gets around (well, at least, is nearby) I figured I’d give it a try. After all, I’ve jumped on board the couscous, quinoa, barley, sorghum, and Israeli couscous bandwagons. May as well sample this.

Thank goodness for my adventurous spirit. Farro is FABULOUS! I randomly picked a brand of organic farro which, fortunately, was the right kind: Italian pearled farro. Other kinds need to be soaked overnight. Also, make sure the farro you purchase in NOT instant. Look at the ingredients – it should only contain farro. (organic or not – it’s up to you)farro salad 5Don’t follow the package directions for cooking. A better way is to cook it in a large pot of water, then drain it (like pasta). This alleviates the possibility (and, for me, the almost certainty) of burning when the water runs out.

FARRO-ASPARAGUS SALAD – makes 7 cups

  • 1½ T salt, divided
  • 1½ cups Italian pearled farro, raw
  • 6 oz asparagus (about 8 stalks), cut into 3/4″ pieces
  • 6 oz sugar snap peas, cut into 1/2″ – 3/4″ pieces
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 2 T shallots, minced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried dill, (or 3 T fresh)
  • 3 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 6 oz grape tomatoes, cut in half

Rinse farro. Boil 2 quarts of water. (It doesn’t have to be precise, but should be close due to the salt – if you have too little water, the farro will be too salty.) Add in 1 T of the salt and the farro. Uncovered, bring to back to a boil, then reduce flame to keep a low boil for 15-20 minutes (17 minutes works for me) – until the farro is cooked, but still has a bit of chew. Stir now and then – especially at the beginning.orange rice salad prep2While the farro is cooking, in another pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil. Add in 1 tsp of the salt, the snap peas, and the asparagus. Boil for 2 minutes. Tip:  SET TIMER SO YOU DON’T OVERCOOK!!! – You want the veggies to have a crunch. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

Note: If you don’t want to dirty the second pot, wait until the farro is done, and cook the asparagus and snap peas in that pot.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, Dijon, black pepper, and dill. Set aside.farro salad2Once the farro is done, drain in a sieve and then pour onto a rimmed cookie sheet. Spread out evenly in order to cool and dry the farro. This should take 15-20 minutes.farro salad1To assemble the salad, place the tomatoes, asparagus, snap peas, and Feta in a large bowl. Add the farro on top (this way the dressing will be absorbed into the farro). Whisk the vinaigrette briefly and drizzle on. Stir the ingredients to blend.  Let set about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to mix.

FARRO-ASPARAGUS SALAD is best served the first day. It’s still tasty after that, but a bit drier since the dressing has been absorbed.

ORANGE RICE SALAD – A Savory Salad With A Touch Of Sweetness!

orange rice salad textThere are certain kitchen appliances I can’t live without – such as my food processor. But one-trick pony gadgets – like a rice maker – have literally no place in my kitchen.

For ORANGE RICE SALAD, the rice is cooked like pasta – in lots of water, then drained. So easy, and no need to worry about burning the rice. (Been there, done that!)

Even though there are oranges and dried cranberries involved, this is actually a savory salad. For the most part, this is a very easy to prepare salad. The only slight issue is removing the skin around each orange segment.

ORANGE RICE SALAD – makes about 8 cups

  • 1½ cups basmati rice, raw
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1¼ tsp salt, divided
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1½ T sherry vinegar
  • 2½ T orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp orange zest, packed
  • 3/4 tsp garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 T fresh)
  • 2 oranges
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Place just the rice in a large pot on medium/high flame. Stir often for 3 minutes to toast the kernels – this will give the salad a toastier flavor. orange rice salad prep4Add in the 2 quarts of water and bring to boil. Cook for 15 minutes – until rice still has a little chew. orange rice salad prep2Immediately drain in a sieve and spread out onto a parchment lined, rimmed cookie sheet to dry and cool.orange rice salad prep3In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, orange juice, black pepper, zest, garlic, and oregano. Set aside. (Yes, I know it’s not pretty – but, it’s delicious!)orange rice salad prep5Now it’s time to peel the oranges. TAKE YOUR TIME WITH THIS SO YOU DON’T CUT YOURSELF! Slice off the tops and bottoms of oranges – this will stabilize the orange so it doesn’t roll. Using a sharp knife, remove peel down past the wedge skin. Try to remove all the bitter white parts. orange rice salad prep6 Hold the orange in one hand or lay it on a cutting board, and carefully slice along the inside of the skin that encases each segment down to the core. Do this on both sides of each segment. Removing the skin will allow the juice to blend into the rice. Cut segments in half widthwise, and set aside.orange rice salad prep9 To assemble, put rice into a large serving bowl. I would suggest transferring the bulk of the rice via a spatula – the parchment will be wet and may tear if you lift it with all of the rice. Add in the oranges, feta, cranberries, and dressing. orange rice salad prep1Gently mix well. Let set for, at least, 20 minutes to blend flavors. Add in almonds at serving time to keep them crunchy.

ISRAELI COUSCOUS SALAD – A New Favorite In Our Home!

Israeli coucous salad textI’m always interested in new salads – one can only eat so many lettuce and tomato dinner salads. My ISRAELI COUSCOUS SALAD combines Israeli couscous (aka pearl couscous) with arugula, mint, dried cranberries, pistachio nuts, and feta cheese with a tasty vinaigrette.

It makes a delicious addition to a meal or, in larger portions, it’s filling enough to be a meal itself.

While preparing ISRAELI COUSCOUS SALAD is fairly quick, the marinated shallots need 30 minutes to steep – so plan ahead.

Note:  After the couscous is boiled, the instructions say to spread it out on a cookie sheet to cool and dry. DON’T do as I did the first few times and use paper towels or waxed paper (unless you double layer it). The towels and paper will tear, and the couscous will stick – it will be a mess!!!!  Pour the couscous straight on the sheet.

ISRAELI COUSCOUS SALAD – makes about 10 cups

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 sliced shallots
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 5T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2½ cups water
  • 1/2 cup salted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup peas (if using frozen, thaw before using)
  • 3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 oz arugula, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup mint, chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries

In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, shallots, and a pinch of salt. Bring to simmer, cover, and turn off burner. Let sit for 30 minutes to marinate and slightly cook shallots.

In a medium sized saucepan, put 1T olive oil and couscous. Using a medium/high flame toast couscous until it starts to brown (about 5 minutes), stirring often to cook evenly and  prevent burning. Add in the water and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to boil, lower heat to keep a simmer, cover, and cook 9 minutes – until most of water has been absorbed. Turn off heat and let pot sit covered for another 3-4 minutes to allow the rest of water to absorb. Pour onto a large rimmed cookie sheet, spreading couscous out to cool and dry for at least 15 minutes.

Whisk together remaining 4 T olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, 1/4 tsp salt, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

After shallots are done steeping pour into a strainer, discarding liquid.

Into a very large bowl, place the shallots, couscous, arugula, mint, peas, feta, and cranberries. Pour in the vinaigrette and blend. When ready to serve, add in pistachios and toss.

 

 

FATTOUSH SALAD – Full Of Flavor…With A Crunch!

fattoush-salad-text1Tired of the same old salad?  Try Fattoush Salad. It’s quick to put together (unless you’re compulsive, like me, and make your own pita bread).  Comprised of arugula, cucumber, mint, and cilantro, it’s a light salad that cleanses the palate.

Note:  If you’d like to make your own pitas, click on PITA BREAD for my recipe.

FATTOUSH SALAD – serves about 4

  • 2 pita breads
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into 3/4″ pieces
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 c mint, chopped
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1 c arugula, roughly cut
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic, pressed

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Separate top and bottom of pitas. Cut each piece in half. Brush rough side of pitas well with olive oil. Place on cookie sheet, oiled side up, and bake 10-14 minutes, until crisp. Let cool.

While pitas are baking, wash and chop veggies. Place tomatoes, cucumber, and arugula in a bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together lemon juice, salt, and garlic. Set aside.

When pitas are cool break them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside until ready to serve.

At serving time, add cilantro, mint, scallions, and pita pieces into salad. Pour in the 1/4 cup olive oil and lemon juice mix, and gently toss. Serve immediately.

 

JICAMA-MANGO SALAD: A Winter Fruit Salad!

jicama-salad-textOne generally associates fruit salads with summer. But sometimes a heavy winter meal needs the fresh sweetness that fruit provides.

What to do? JICAMA-MANGO SALAD, that’s what. Not only is it simple to make, but it’s brightly colored with a bit of a kick to it (thanks to red pepper flakes).

JICAMA-MANGO SALAD – makes 4 cups

  • 3 T lime juice
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp lime zest
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 jicama, peeled
  • 2 mangoes, peeled
  • 1 orange, peeled

NOTE: Cube the jicama one layer at a time. Slicing through a stack can cause the top layer to slip, possibly yielding a nasty cut.

Cut jicama into 1/4″ pieces. Cut mangoes and orange into 1/2″ pieces.

Into a saucepan combine lime juice, sugar, lime zest, pepper flakes, and salt. Over medium flame, bring to simmer, stirring just until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add in the jicama. Cover (off heat) and set aside for 20 minutes to soften a little.

After 20 minutes, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate, at least, half an hour.

BROCCOLI-CASHEW PASTA SALAD

broccoli cashew salad text

BROCCOLI-CASHEW PASTA SALAD is one of my all time favorites. Not only is it visually appealing, but it’s one of those “I’ll just have a little bit more” dishes.

The orecchiette pasta (which means ‘little ears’) is a perfect shape to capture all the goodies, so each mouthful is a tasty combination of crispy broccoli and red pepper, subtle mushrooms, salty cashews, all coated with a savory dijon dressing. If you use a spoon, you might be able to finagle everything in one bite.

This salad can be prepared in the time it takes to boil the water, then cook the pasta. It can be served warm, but I prefer to chill mine for about 20 minutes.

BROCCOLI-CASHEW PASTA SALAD – makes about 5-6 cups

  • 1/2 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 3 cups broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
  • 6 oz mushrooms (about 8), chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup salted cashews, lightly toasted (do this even if you buy them roasted)

Put a large pot of salted water to boil.  When it reaches a full boil, add in the pasta and cook until done. Drain immediately, but don’t rinse or shake.

While pasta is cooking, put the broccoli in a steamer basket (don’t forget the water!). The goal is to break down the fibers enough to eat, but still leave a little crunch. Turn heat to high, cover, and set timer for 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and take off lid. Let sit in pot while you do the next step – this allows the broccoli to complete cooking.

Heat oil in a skillet and add the onions and mushrooms. Sauté 2-3 minutes, then add in the red pepper. Continue to cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, and vinegar until smooth. Cool in refrigerator.

When pasta is done, combine it with the mushroom mixture and broccoli. If you’re serving the dish warmish, stir in the dressing and then the cashews. Serve.

If you want the salad a little chilled, place the pasta mixture in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Then stir in dressing and cashews. Serve.

PANZANELLA: It’s Fresh Tomato Time!

panzanella text2

Many of you know by now that I’m the self-proclaimed Queen of Freeze. Not only do I cook in bulk and then freeze the extras in portion sized containers for future use, but I also freeze unused ingredients that I don’t need at the moment – for example, egg whites when I only need the yolk, or the remaining tomato paste when I only need a tablespoon. I’ve been teased about my frugality, but these bits and bobs have saved a trip to the market many a time.

Quite often I have partial loaves of homemade bread laying in my deep freezer. I generally use them in bread pudding or an omelette casserole. But recently I found a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for Panzanella, a bread and tomato salad.

It’s quite simple to make, but you need to allow 15 minutes for the bread cubes to toast and the tomatoes to drain, and 10 minutes for the toasted bread cubes to marinate in a vinaigrette, so plan your timing accordingly.

PANZANELLA – makes about 5 cups

  • 6 cups rustic Italian or French loaf, cubed in bite sized pieces
  • 8 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1½ lbs tomatoes
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (TIP: chop in a cup using kitchen shears)
  • 1 shallot clove, sliced thin

Combine bread cubes, 2 T olive oil, and 1/4 tsp salt. Use your hands to mix – it’s easier than a spoon. Pour onto jelly roll pan and bake at 400º fahrenheit for 13-17 minutes (tossing midway), until browned.

While bread is toasting, slice tomatoes in half along the equator and poke with your finger to loosen seeds. Shake halves over sink to remove them. Chop tomatoes into bite sized pieces and put into a strainer that’s resting on a container to catch the juice. Make sure the bottom of the strainer isn’t touching the bottom of the container. Sprinkle on 1/2 tsp salt and mix with hands. The salt will draw out the excess juice. Let drain for, at least, 15 minutes. You’ll use the strained juice in the vinaigrette, so don’t throw it out!

Whisk together 1/4 cup of the strained tomato juice, 6 T olive oil, vinegar, and pepper in a large bowl. Add in the toasted bread cubes and mix to coat. Let marinate for 10 minutes.

To the bread cube marinade add the tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and shallots. Toss gently to mix and serve immediately.