Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Special Summer Salad

As it gets closer to Labor Day, I find myself trying hard to hang onto summer. The salad in this post is a copy of one I had in Michigan on a perfect July day.  Our family cottage is in Northwest Michigan which besides being the "Cherry Capital of the World", happens to be a good climate to grow grapes. We discovered a great place to rent bikes and a wonderful bike trail that had several wineries along it.  Caroline and Adam were visiting for a few days, and our day of biking and viewing wineries was one of the best activities we did during their stay. Before we left the bike shop, the clerk pointed out a few must see wineries on the map and we stopped at one for lunch. We were starved and everything was so delicious - especially the salad. The dressing was made with verjus which is the juice of tart green grapes. I loved it so much, I bought a bottle of it at the winery and it could be bought on line, but champagne vinegar would probably be a good substitute for it. The dressing also included finely diced preserved lemons. I  bought those at a middle eastern grocery but lemon zest could be used instead.  The baked ricotta and hazelnuts really add a lot to the salad and the dressing wraps it all up in a bunch of lemony yumminess - Enjoy!

Ingredients for Four Salads

1 (5 oz. bags of spring mix salad)
1 1/3 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup dried blueberries

1/4 cup plus hazelnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon or 1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup verjus or champagne vinegar
1 small clove garlic, put through a press
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
scant 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper plus a little more for sprinkling

Directions for the Salad

Mix the ricotta cheese with the lemon zest. Brush the inside of a small baking dish with a bit of the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place the ricotta mixture in the dish evenly. Drizzle the rest of the 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. If the top isn't browned, place it under the broiler for two minutes, watching carefully so it browns by doesn't burn. 

Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the hazelnuts and stir for a minute or two until they begin to brown.  Watch carefully so they don't burn. When they have browned, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. 

Whisk together the verjus (or vinegar), olive oil, pressed garlic, preserved lemon (or zest), salt, and pepper. Set aside. 

To assemble the salad divide the spring mix between four plates. Put 1/3 cup of the sliced strawberries on each plate.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon dried blueberries and 1 tablespoon hazelnuts on each serving. Cut the baked ricotta cheese into cubes and place 1/4 cup of the cubes on each plate. Give the verjus dressing a good whisk and drizzle 2 tablespoons of it over each salad.

Sprinkle a bit of fresh ground pepper over each plate to finish the salad off.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Very Easy (and Yummy) Shrimp Tacos

It doesn't get much easier ( or tastier) than this!  I have found that "cheating" by using frozen precooked shrimp allows me to whip up a meal in about 15 minutes.  The shrimp tacos here are so quick to make but they are so yummy.  They came about one dinner time when the only protein I had in the house was a bag of frozen shrimp. I was lucky enough to have an avocado and a lime as well as a tomato.  I had just gotten back from California after visiting Jenn and I was dreaming of the shrimp ceviche we had eaten out of a paper cup in one of the many fish taco joints near her apartment. The shrimp mixture in these tacos tastes a lot like that; the lime makes the precooked shrimp tastes fresh. With the addition of a corn tortilla, avocado, and tomato - it's a winner!

Ingredients for Eight Shrimp Tacos

1 pound precooked large frozen shrimp
2 to 3 tomatoes
3 green onions
2 limes (enough  for 3 tablespoons juice and garnish)
1 avocado
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
16 (six inch) corn tortillas


Put the shrimp in a bowl of cold water to thaw while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients. Peel the avocado, discard the seed, and dice it into chunks. Chop the tomatoes. Slice only the stems of the green onions.  Then drain the shrimp and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the shrimp, avocado, tomatoes, and green onions into a mixing bowl.

Peel the garlic clove and put it through a garlic press. Juice one of the limes so there is three tablespoons of juice.  In a small bowl, whisk together the pressed garlic, olive oil, lime juice, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Pour the mixture over the ingredients in the mixing bowl.

Gently toss. Warm the corn tortillas up by wrapping them in paper towels and microwaving them for 30 seconds. Or, wrap them in foil and heat them in a 350 oven for 5 to 10 minutes. 

Assemble by using two corn tortillas per serving. Put 1/4 cup of the shredded lettuce on each double tortilla and divide the shrimp mixture up evenly among them. Serve with lime slices.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Farmers Market Feast

I love farmer's markets. They are a fairly new experience for me because for years, I was too exhausted from work and running the girls around all week to go anywhere on a  Saturday morning. I do have memories of going to them as a kid; my mom would buy lots of fruit and vegetables that were in wooden woven pint containers and little bushel baskets. When we got home, she would let us husk the corn outside. Then we would pretend we were Rumpelstiltskin making gold by turning out bikes upside down and running the corn silk through the spinning wheels. Although I never showed my girls that fun little activity, they discovered farmer's markets on their own.  When Jenn was living close by, she took me to one by her house and I remembered how wonderful they are.  This summer I have been inspired by the beautiful vegetable salads I've been seeing in the foodie magazines. And, when I get the chance to go out to lunch, I've been so impressed by how eating one's vegetables seems to be back in style; it's so trendy now to like corn and beets!   The last salad is just fresh tomatoes and basil with a simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  It's so easy to eat healthy in the summertime. Grab a fork; enjoy the feast! 

Corn, Bean, and Tomato Salad

Ingredients for Four Servings:

3 ears of corn on the cob
1 pound fresh green beans
2 large tomatoes
3 green onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper


Either use left over corn on the cob or cook the corn by husking it, brushing off the corn silk, and dropping it in boiling water for seven minutes.  When it is cooled, stand the cob upright and use a sharp knife to cut off the kernels. It's alright to have some kernels that stay together in big "patches".
Snap the ends off the beans, rinse them, and place in a sauce pan.  Cover them with water, bring it up to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for just barely five minutes. They should be tender but not mushy. Drain them and set aside.
Wash, core, and chop the tomatoes.
Wash, cut the little end roots off, and slice the green onions.
Place the corn, beans, tomatoes, and green onions in a bowl.
Whisk the vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper together.  Pour over the vegetables in the bowl and gently toss.

Lemon Dill Beet Salad

Ingredients for Four Servings

6 medium sized fresh beets
1 yellow bell pepper
Salt and Pepper to shake
1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/2  tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon* or 1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons olive oil
Some really good olive oil for drizzling
Scant teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or labneh*

*There is a little Middle Eastern grocery store near my house where I can buy jarred preserved lemon and labneh. The labneh is just really thick yogurt - I've been buying it for years - it's great for dips and sauces for Mediterranean food.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets and cut off the tops to get rid of the stems. Place the beets in a foil "packet" and drizzle them with olive oil. Shake a little salt and pepper on them and seal them up. Wash and core the yellow pepper, cutting it into four quarters. Place the yellow pepper in another foil packet and drizzle it with olive oil.  Shake some salt and pepper on it and seal it up.  Place both packets in the preheated oven and let them cook for an hour.  Let them cool. Peel or cut the skin off of the beets and cut them into slices. Cut the pepper into strips.
Arrange the beets and pepper slices on a serving platter.
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and preserved lemon or zest.
Pour over the beets and peppers.
Sprinkle the cut up dill over the vegetables.
Drizzle with just a bit more olive oil.
Sprinkle the kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on top.
Place two tablespoons of the yogurt on each serving.

Tomato Basil Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients for Four Servings

Four good sized fresh, ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
1 small glove garlic, put througha  press
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pinch pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Wash, core, and slice the tomatoes.  Gently toss with the fresh basil and put in a serving bowl or platter.  Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pinch of pepper. Pour the dressing over the tomatoes and basil and sprinkle with the kosher salt and pepper.