Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cool-And-Crunchy Salads

Opened the door this morning to let the dogs out, and realized -- the hanging baskets are all wilted.

So are the planters. It's really hot around here lately.

I don't feel too much like cooking, although now that the peaches are in, I'll whip out a dish now and then. And peach smoothies are wonderful! 

Time for a good, crisp salad. Sure, you can chop up the greens (or pull them apart, please - knives can cause marks), throw on some carrots and a boiled egg or two.

Or you can open a can of tuna, and make this French classic. This version's from Simply Recipes -- yum.  No fresh herbs or shallots? Dried ones will do this time, and chopped onion, instead. Skip the capers and anchovies, too, if they freak you out. The salad will still be delicious.

SALADE NICOISE    (fine -- Nicoise Salad, for you red-white-and-blue types out there)

Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Salad
      • 2 grilled or otherwise cooked tuna steaks* (8 oz each) or 2-3 cans of tuna
      • 6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and either halved or quartered
      • 10 small new red potatoes (each about 2 inches in diameter, about 1 1/4 pounds total), each potato scrubbed and quartered
      • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
      • 2 medium heads Boston lettuce or butter lettuce, leaves washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
      • 3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths
      • 1 small red onion, sliced very thin
      • 8 ounces green beans, stem ends trimmed and each bean halved crosswise
      • 1/4 cup niçoise olives
      • 2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and/or several anchovies (optional)

Directions

*Marinate tuna steaks in a little olive oil for an hour. Heat a large skillet on medium high heat, or place on a hot grill. Cook the steaks 2 to 3 minutes on each side until cooked through.
1 Whisk lemon juice, oil, shallot, thyme, basil, oregano, and mustard in medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
2 Bring potatoes and 4 quarts cold water to boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cook until potatoes are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon (do not discard boiling water). Toss warm potatoes with 1/4 cup vinaigrette; set aside.
3 While potatoes are cooking, toss lettuce with 1/4 cup vinaigrette in large bowl until coated. Arrange bed of lettuce on a serving platter (I used two serving platters, shown in the photos). Cut tuna into 1/2-inch thick slices, coat with vinaigrette. Mound tuna in center of lettuce. Toss tomatoes, red onion, 3 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste in bowl; arrange tomato-onion mixture on the lettuce bed. Arrange reserved potatoes in a mound at edge of lettuce bed.
4 Return water to boil; add 1 tablespoon salt and green beans. Cook until tender but crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain beans, transfer to reserved ice water, and let stand until just cool, about 30 seconds; dry beans well. Toss beans, 3 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste; arrange in a mound at edge of lettuce bed.
5 Arrange hard boiled eggs, olives, and anchovies (if using) in mounds on the lettuce bed. Drizzle eggs with remaining 2 tablespoons dressing, sprinkle entire salad with capers (if using), and serve immediately. Serves 6.


Here's another international salad, Mani Scalco, an Italian dish that translates out as "blacksmith's salad." Hey, with that job, they get hot, hungry and tired. Serve your local workman this crunchy mix of celery, mushrooms and parmesan cheese, along with a frosty glass of iced tea. They'll perk up in no time.

MANI SCALCO    (recipe courtesy of Parmesan.com-- find it here.)

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound fresh white mushrooms, cleaned
  • 6 ounces celery hearts
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 4 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano wedge
  • 1 head romaine lettuce

Directions 

Prep Time - 30 min
1. Whisk together lemon juice, salt and mustard, until salt dissolves. Add oil in a very thin stream, whisking constantly. Stir in shallots and ground pepper.
2. Thinly slice mushrooms through the cap and stem and the celery on an angle. Combine mushrooms, celery, parsley and mint in a large bowl.
3. With a vegetable peeler, sliver ½ of the Parmigiano Reggiano over the top. (Can be made ahead to this point and chilled.)
4. Just before serving, place lettuce leaves on 6 plates. Toss salad with dressing and mound on each plate. Sliver remaining Parmigiano Reggiano over each plate before serving. Serves 6.

For supper tonight, I'm thinking about a recipe that showed up in Ellie Krieger's column, 'Cook Smart,' in USA Weekend. It's simple, yet sounds tasty. (See the full recipe here - plus more info on Ellie's cookbooks.)

SHRIMP, SNOW PEA AND RADISH SALAD WITH SESAME DRESSING


• 1¼ pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
• 4 cups snow peas (12 ounces)
• 6 radishes, thinly sliced into half moons (4 ounces)
• 4 scallions, thinly sliced
• 1/3 cup rice vinegar
• 1 Tb. canola oil
• 1 Tb. toasted sesame oil
• 1 Tb. grated fresh ginger
• ½ tsp. salt
• 2 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
Bring a large saucepan of water, fitted with a steamer basket, to a boil. Put the snow peas into the steamer basket, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer the snow peas into a bowl of ice water briefly to cool. Drain and pat dry.
Add the shrimp directly into the pot of boiling water. Return the water to a boil, cook the shrimp for 2 minutes, then drain. Plunge the shrimp into a bowl of ice water until cool, then drain and pat dry.
Slice each shrimp in half lengthwise to form 2 thin rounds. Cut the snow peas on a diagonal into ½-inch diamond shapes, discarding the end piece. In a large bowl, toss together the shrimp, snow peas, radishes and scallions.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, canola oil, sesame oil, ginger and salt.
Right before serving, pour the dressing over the salad, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and toss until they are evenly distributed. Serves 4.

Salads are cool, healthy, and a great choice for a picnic, too.


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