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Fabulous Summer Salads

So.  Summer.summer salads

It’s hot out there; who wants to cook?  Not me.  So what I worked on this week are summer salads.

Ho hum, right?  Potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni salad?  Same old same old.

Not this guy.

I came up with two wonderful new recipes inspired by other, pre-existing recipes and worked them over into wonderful new dishes with my (and Ellen’s) personal twists to make a balmy  summer evening absolutely sing with new flavors.

Standard ingredients, new applications.  Here’s what we’ve got.

Among the things upon which Ellen and I agree is that we don’t much like creamy potato salads; you know the ones–potatoes, celery, mayonnaise, salt and pepper–not much about which to get excited.

Enter Eating Well magazine.  Eating well is something I excel at, although “well” is a bit of a stretch. The magazine means healthy; to me, “eating well” generally means enjoying what we’ve made to the extreme.  In this case, I’ll stick to (relatively) healthy–no mayo in this potato salad, just a beautious blend of herbs and spices that make a summer day feel like a celebration.  This month’s issue of Eating Well features a choice of potato salads that are different from the norm almost as much as they are different from each other.

Our choice from this page was a luscious Greek potato salad with (or, in our case, without) beautiful Kalamata olives (Ellen doesn’t like olives, so we left them out, but I love them, so I say “put ’em in!”   Here’s the plan:

The second recipe is a variation on a Mexican bean salad, with a tangy cumin/lime dressing that is similar to one that has long been one of our favorites.  It’s like a bean salad I wrote about a couple of years ago, but with a twist in the dressing.  The dressing started with the Food Network’s Ellie Krieger, but I’ve worked it over to my liking, and I sure do like it.  Better, although the original is delicious.

I think you’ll like both recipes.  We served them with grilled chicken and freshly torn romaine lettuce and the same dressing as in the beans.  Fabulous!

Greek Potato Salad

Ingredients:

2½ pounds red or Yukon Gold potatoes

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 cup reduced-fat Feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup Kalamata olives, quartered (optional!  — NOT!)

1 medium cucumber, seeded and quartered and diced

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup finely chopped shallot

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Scrub and dice the potatoes to a ½-inch dice and place on a steamer basket above one inch of water in a large pot; steam until tender, 12-15 minutes. Place the potato dice on a baking sheet, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and let cool for 15 minutes.  Then gently place them in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl,  whisk together olive oil, vinegar, shallot, mustard, and salt and pepper.  Add the tomatoes, Feta, olives (or not ;), cucumber, and oregano to the potatoes, then drizzle the dressing into the bowl. Toss gently, so as not to break up the potatoes, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Place the bowl in the fridge for at least two hours, then serve.

Mexican Black Bean and Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

2 cans black beans, rinsed well

4 fresh San Marzano (or Roma) plum tomatoes, ½-inch dice

1 orange (or yellow) bell pepper, seeded and pith removed, ½-inch dice

1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained

½ red onion, diced

1 10-oz package of frozen corn, thawed, rinsed, and drained

¼ cup chopped cilantro

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon freshly grated lime zest

1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (more if you like your salads tangy!)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon finely ground white pepper

Preparation:

Place the first seven ingredients (beans through cilantro) in a large bowl.  In a separate, smaller bowl, add the zest, juice, cumin, chipotle pepper, salt, and white pepper, and stir to mix well.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the dressing bowl whisking constantly to create a mixed dressing that thickens as you add the oil.  Pour over the salad ingredients and toss to coat the salad well.  Serve immediately to get all the flavor from the tomatoes and cilantro, or chill for later serving.

Both these recipes are tasty and reasonably healthy, and go well with anything grilled.  Try ‘em both!

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Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon

Summer season.  Grilling.  pacific-rim-cedar-plank-salmon-ssDon’t want to heat up the kitchen any more than is necessary.  So, when company is coming to town and dinner for ten is in order, and half of the guests don’t eat meat (but will eat fish), what’s the imperative?

Why grilled salmon, of course!

Have you ever grilled a big piece of salmon on a cedar plank?  No?  You haven’t lived.  Juicy, smoky, crispy, full of flavor, and just rocking with Omega 3s (I just point that out because at my age I have to be careful just what I put in my body (LOL).

The reality is, I don’t much like fish, any fish.  Can’t say why; I never did like seafood beyond shellfish, but over the years I have learned to like salmon enough to find recipes that I can make and like.  Like my friend Jim Coleman’s Mustard-crusted salmon with shallots and white wine.  And wild salmon gently poached in white wine, pickling spices and black pepper with dill-yogurt sauce.

And now, after experimenting with recipes and techniques, I’ve finally come up with a version of Seattle’s famous cedar-planked grilled salmon that I can say is worthy of my posting here (thanks, of course, to Cooks’ Illustrated, which, if you’ve read this space, know is my bible of cooking technique).

Cedar-plank grilled salmon on the barbecue. I think it has changed my mind about fish.  This is the best piece of fish I’ve ever eaten, and I’m happy to report that I actually made it myself.  It’s slightly Asian in its feel, and it goes incredibly well with quick-sauteed spinach and garlic and a Thai version of my legendary (according to me) cold sesame noodle salad.

So here is my latest adaptation of a published recipe, from Cooks Illustrated to my kitchen to yours.

Enjoy!

Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon

Ingredients:

1 2½-foot x 6-inch unfinished cedar plank (courtesy of Lowe’s Home Improvement)

2 cups white wine

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1½ tablespoons rice vinegar (buy from an Asian market, not the grocery store)

1 tablespoon dark toasted sesame seed oil (also from the Asian market)

½ teaspoon hot chili oil

1/3 cup light soy sauce

¼ cup chopped chives

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (from the root)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2½ – 3-pound salmon fillet (one piece, head end is best–I got mine at Costco)

Preparation:

  1. Soak the cedar plank for at least an hour in room-temperature water and 2 cups white wine. Fully submerge the plank in the water; weight down if necessary.
  2. Mix together the vinegar, oils, soy sauce, chives, ginger, and garlic in a 1-gallon zipper-close bag. Roll the salmon fillet small enough to fit into the bag. Zip the bag, turn it over a few times to mix and coat the salmon, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, up to but no more than an hour.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat. Place the plank on the grates. The plank is ready when it starts to smoke.
  4. Place the salmon fillet in the plank and discard the bag and marinade. Close the cover and grill for 20-25 minutes, until the fish is done (when you can flake it with a fork).
  5. Remove the salmon from the grill, cover loosely with foil for 5 minutes, then cut into serving-size portions and serve immediately.

You can make an extra half-batch of the marinade, set aside, and serve in small dipping bowls with the salmon. It is loaded with flavor.

If you want the Thai version of the Sesame Noodles, search on this site for that recipe, then add 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce to the sauce recipe, and julienne broccoli stems, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (Thai basil is best), and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro to the noodles before adding the sauce.  It’s a nice change of pace, and will win raves.

Turkey Burgers With a Surprise

We don’t eat red meat.  But you knew that.

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 So when cookout season rolls around, burgers become a production, and what a production these burgers are!  Full of veggies and flavor, and if you serve them on crusty artisan rolls with thick slices of tomato, Boston lettuce, and a slather of homemade mayonnaise, well then, who needs beef! Not me!  Try these.  I think you’ll be wonderfully surprised!

Turkey Burgers with Zucchini and Carrot

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey

1 medium zucchini, grated

1 medium carrot, grated

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¾ teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 egg

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 slices crusty bread or 4 artisan rolls

4 small leaves Boston lettuce

1 large slicing tomato, sliced thick

1 red onion, sliced

For the mayonnaise:

  • 1-1/4 cup of light olive oil, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced

Preparation:

Heat broiler. In large bowl, combine turkey, zucchini, carrot, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and egg. Form into 4 patties

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties, turning once, until no pink remains, 4-5 minutes preside.

Meanwhile, place the bread on a baking sheet and brush with the remaining olive oil. Broil until golden brown and crisp, about 1½ minutes.

Transfer the bread to individual plates. Slather the bread with the mayonnaise. Top with the lettuce, tomato, onion, and burgers.

For the mayonnaise:

  • Place the egg, 1/4 cup of olive oil, mustard powder, and salt in a mixing bowl, blender, or food processor. Mix thoroughly.
  • While the food processor or blender is running (or while mixing in a bowl with a stick blender),  slowly drizzle in the remaining cup of olive oil.
  • After you’ve added all the oil and the mixture has emulsified, add lemon juice to taste, stirring gently with a spoon to incorporate.
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