Herbed Bean Salad

What do I have in my garden right now?  It’s mostly a dry wasteland, but there are some nice red peppers, a lone basil plant and some hardy oregano.  Here’s a salad to use what I’ve got.  If you do not have these exact vegetables, this recipe is open to improvisation.  For example, you could leave out the celery or substitute cherry tomatoes for the red pepper.  Also, this dressing is pretty punchy, so you could tone it down with a little less dijon or vinegar.  I love this salad because the main ingredients are pantry staples that I always have on hand.  It’s easy, nutritious and delicious.

Herbed Bean Salad

2 cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained

3 Tablespoons red onion, chopped

3 Tablespoons vinegar (apple cider or white wine vinegar are nice choices)

1 sweet red pepper, chopped

2 or 3 stalks celery, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard

1/4 extra virgin olive oil (that’s 4 Tablespoons)

1 cup fresh herbs, chopped

salt and pepper

Begin by chopping the onion and placing in a small bowl.  Add 2 Tablespoons vinegar and about 1/2 teaspoon salt and set aside.

Chop the remaining vegetables and herbs and set aside.

In a medium bowl, add the dijon and remaining 1 Tablespoon vinegar along with the olive oil and pepper.  Whisk or stir rapidly with a fork until creamy.  Add the onion and vinegar mixture and stir to combine.  Add the beans, pepper, celery, and herbs then stir gently to coat all ingredients in the dressing.

Let the salad rest and marinate for 10- 15 minutes or place in the refrigerator overnight.  This will get tastier as the flavors mingle and will be delicious for 3 or 4 days.  Serve as a side dish or on a green salad.

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Cucumber and Avocado Salad

We’ve had a very rainy summer thus far and the cucumbers are coming in fast.  This salad highlights the crisp coolness of cucumbers by contrasting with the creamy richness of avocado.  The proportions for this recipe are not exact, so make adjustments according to taste and your abundance of cucumbers.

The secret to a delicious and crispy cucumber salad is to salt them before adding to your recipe.  Prep the cucumbers by peeling, seeding and chopping them to bite size.  Place them in a colander or on clean towels and sprinkle generously with salt.  The salt draws out water and tightens the cucumbers so they stay crisp and delicious.  Another trick is to wait until the last minute to add the avocado so that it doesn’t fall apart or get brown.  The vinegar will prevent browning to some degree, but avocado is best when really fresh.

Cucumber Avocado Salad

Fresh cucumbers ( about 4 – 6 medium size)

sea salt

1 avocado

1/4 onion or scallions

freshly ground pepper

3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

optional: a few cherry tomatoes and/or 1 sweet bell pepper

  • Peel the cucumbers and slice them end to end.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  This is not necessary if you’re using very small cukes.  Chop them to bite size pieces and place in a colander over a bowl.
  • Sprinkle on 2- 3 teaspoons of salt and mix in really well so each bit has some salt.
  • Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.
  • Discard the liquid, pat the cucumbers dry on a clean towel and place in a bowl.
  • Slice the onion very thin (I use a mandolin) and combine with the vinegar and some black pepper in the bowl.  Mix well so the onion is in contact with the vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • When you are ready to serve the salad, wash the avocado, slice it open, cut it in cubes while still in the peel, then scoop it out with a spoon.  Mix into the salad gently.  Add tomatoes or chopped bell peppers if using.

More cool recipes for hot summer days:

Cool Cucumber Soup

Gazpacho

Perky Pickles

Tahini Sauce

Have you ever used tahini in home cooking?  It is a paste made from toasted sesame seeds.  Tahini is high in minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and iron.  It’s also a good source of B vitamins, vitamin E and unsaturated fat.  Sesame seeds provide a complete protein that is easier to digest than some other nuts.  Tahini is a great addition to any diet, but it’s especially valuable to vegans, vegetarians, and people with food sensitivities and allergies because it provides creamy richness and lots of nutrition.

This creamy and rich paste is an important ingredient in hummus, but it can be used for so much more.  You can find it with the middle eastern foods at the grocery store, and it keeps well in the refrigerator.  I’ve been exploring non-sugary treats and recipes this month, so I finally made a simple tahini sauce and it was super duper delicious!  I could eat it with a spoon.  I used it as a dip for roasted vegetables, as a salad dressing, and spread on crackers for a snack.

I love a simple tahini sauce like this one from Cooking Light.  Click through for the recipe and notice the great tip for taking the bite out of raw garlic!  All you need is a clove of garlic, a lemon, and tahini.  I hope you will try it!

Fall Farro Salad

Here’s a delicious and nutritious salad for the fall.  Farro is an ancient grain in the wheat family.  Although it does contain gluten, it has less than modern varieties of wheat.  However, this recipe is easily adapted to a gluten free grain such as black rice.  Farro is very nutritious and an excellent source of fiber, iron, b vitamins, zinc, magnesium and protien.  This grain makes a chewy and satisfying salad when combined with roasted vegetables and fresh herbs.  I especially like this combination with it’s mix of sweet potatoes, sour apples, and savory onions.  Consider this more of a guide than an exact recipe.

Fall Farro Salad

1 cup farro (or other grain such as rice or quinoa)

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes – cubed

1 granny smith apple – cubed

1/2 onion – chopped

1 garlic clove

1 bunch fresh parsley and other herbs such as basil, cilantro or mint

salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the cubed sweet potato, apple, and onion on a foil lined baking pan and toss with about 3 Tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast, stirring once, for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned and very soft.

Meanwhile, cook the farro according to package directions with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a whole clove of garlic in the water.  This grain will need to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Drain the farro and toss with cooked vegetables and chopped herbs.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Lentil Salad

Lentils range widely in size and color from yellow, red- oranges, greens, browns, and black.  The most common lentils in my local grocery stores are brown or red.  I have unpleasant memories of brown lentils from childhood.  My mother has always strived for good health and nutrition, and lentils are a superstar in the world of legumes.  Obviously mineral content wasn’t what I was looking for in my food at that time and I was very suspicious of the mushy little beans.  I now recognize that they are powerhouses of nutrition and can be prepared in a variety of ways.  They readily absorb flavors and can be used for soups, stews and salads.  Lentils are surprisingly high in folate, iron, magnesium, protein, and fiber.

There are two varieties that are less likely to get mushy and therefore good choices for salad.  French green lentils (du Puy) and Beluga black lentils are both small and remain firm when cooked.  I usually cook with French green lentils and they are pretty good, but I really wanted to try the small black ones named for looking like caviar.  I had a recipe from Jacques Pepin for Beluga Lentil Salad, but was not able to find Belugas until recently. 

This lentil salad is the best I’ve made.  I often leave out the mint in savory recipes even though it grows nearly year round right by my front door.  I absolutely loved the mint in this salad.  It is light and tasty, but also satisfying and filling; I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it.  The recipe and ingredients are simple and easy to keep on hand, so this will be a great lunchbox meal from now on.

Lentil Salad

recipe from Jacques Pepin

1 cup dry Beluga lentils

water

salt

1 bay leaf

1 large clove garlic

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots ( I substituted sweet vidalia onion)

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Feta cheese for garnish

Begin by sifting through the lentils to check for stones.  You probably won’t find any, but this is good policy any time you cook with dry beans.  Rinse them under running water.

Soak the lentils in 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt for 1 hour.

Drain and cook in a saucepan with 3 or 4 cups water, 1 whole garlic clove, 1 bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until desired firmness.

Drain and discard the garlic and bay leaf.

For the dressing, combine the olive oil, white wine vinegar, olives, mint and shallot in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste.  A great tip when working with raw onions is to chop them, then rinse with cold water to remove some of the sharpness if you don’t want them to overpower the salad.

Add the warm lentils and toss to coat.  Serve warm or cold, topped with a little feta cheese.

Radish and White Bean Salad

Look what I grew!  Radishes are so much fun to pull out of the dirt.  Beautiful bright red and fuchsia bulbs just pop right out of the brown garden soil.  The only question after planting the seeds (fun!) and pulling the radishes (also fun!) was what to do with them???  I’m not a radish lover, but I really want to eat what I grow.

I’ve tried two radish salads this spring, and I really like this one.  It’s very simple to prepare.  It’s a nice balance of fresh and zippy with the comforting heft of the beans.  Perfect for spring.

Radish and White Bean Salad

1 can cannellini beans – rinsed well and drained

1 lemon

parsley – about 1/2 a bunch, or to taste, chopped fine

radishes – sliced very thin

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Slice the radishes very thin.  I use a mandoline so it’s very easy and quick.  Zest the lemon over the radishes ( you can omit this if you can’t find an organic lemon).  Add the lemon juice from your lemon.  Chop the parsley and add it to the bowl.  Drain the beans well and mix everything together.  Add freshly ground pepper to taste and a good amount of olive oil – like 1/4 cup.  If you’re not serving the salad right away, don’t add the salt yet.  Salt will draw the liquid out of the vegetables and make your salad a little soupier.  Just wait and salt it right before serving.  I use a coarse sea salt.

You could also add celery sliced on an angle to this salad.

Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes

I love baking special treats for birthdays and my son always asks for chocolate cake.  He loves a big layer cake with chocolate frosting and has had the same cake for the past three years.  This year he agreed to cupcakes for a small change.  I used the easiest chocolate cake recipe EVER – which also happens to be vegan.  These cupcakes were topped with rich fudge frosting and kit-kats for that extra chocolate touch.20160902_192930

I blogged about this recipe when my son was three years old, and he just turned nine.  Thank you to anyone out there who has followed my adventures in the kitchen!  Your kind words and enthusiasm keep me trying new things.  (My husband thanks you too.)20160902_191121

Here’s the link to Deadly Good Vegan Chocolate Cake.

The recipe for the frosting is completely brilliant and found on the awesome blog Smitten Kitchen.  It’s really a basic buttercream, but unsweetened baking chocolate is substituted for some of the butter which makes it super chocolately.  Here’s the link for that recipe – scroll down to the bottom of her post to find the frosting.