Tomato and Kalamata Olive Salad

I love all kinds of food.  The art, craft, smell, taste…  My favorite meals are ones that look and taste good without taking a ton of time.  I like landscaped food too (by this I mean fussy food that takes a long time and has lots of garnish) – it’s just better when someone else is making it.  If the recipe looks too long and the ingredients require a dictionary or the computer for more information (yes, even chef’s don’t know every ingredient in a recipe), it’s not usually happening at our house.  And I’ve been cooking professionally for over 20 years.  So that’s what this column is about:  food that real people can make for their families.  Food that gets us trying new things, gets us buying local ingredients and food that gets us sitting at the table with our families.  I believe in food cooked with the freshest ingredients; using my hands to shape bread; taking time and care when I’m cooking; and sitting at the table with friends and family and sharing the soul-filled food we’ve created.  The smell, shape, feel and look of pure ingredients are all part of the process.  It’s important to teach my daughters by example that the most precious and sacred time of the day is dinnertime, when we come together at the close of our days with loved ones to share, discuss, argue and agree.  To me, this is true nourishment.  While “fast food” may be convenient, fully nourishing ourselves is more than simply removing the empty feeling in our bellies.  Food is a way that we can connect – to our families and to nature.

Tomato and Kalamata Olive Salad

4 medium tomatoes, sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons basil, julienned
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Fan the tomato slices neatly onto a platter.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and scatter the olives and basil.  Sprinkle all with salt and pepper.

Serves 4-6

 

Cook the Book: Black Bean and Corn Salad

Black Bean and Corn Salad

This salad is best if you can grill the corn, though you can use steamed or boiled corn in a pinch.  I sometimes roast the corn when we are on a lobsterbake – just stick them on a roasting fork and turn them over the fire.  You can also use it as a summer salsa for grilled chicken or fish.

4 ears of husked corn
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup loosely packed, fresh, chopped cilantro
1/4 cup diced red onion
Small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Brush the ears of corn with olive oil and place the ears directly on a hot grill.  Cook until brown and tender, turning often, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly and use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off the cob. Toss the corn with the remaining ingredients and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Shrimp, Snap Pea and Couscous Salad

Shrimp, Snap Pea and Couscous Salad

1/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and grilled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, or 2 teaspoons, minced
8 oz. snap peas or 2 cups
1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons dill
6 oz. feta cheese
1 cup couscous, uncooked
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
baby greens such as mesclun mix

Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.  In a medium bowl pour boiling water over the cous cous and salt.  Stir gently with a fork and cover for 5 minutes.  Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil and garlic to the pan and sauté 30 seconds.  Add the snap peas, dill and salt and pepper and sauté 1 minute.  Add the white wine and lemon juice and sauté another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the shrimp and tomatoes.  Separate the grains of cous cous with a fork and spoon over a bed of baby greens.  Crumble feta cheese on top and serve.

Serves 4

Cook the Book: Melon and Israeli Couscous Salad

Melon and Israeli Couscous Salad

This salad was inspired by a local restaurant called Market on Main (M.O.M.).  It seemed like an odd combination, but I’m always trying the interesting dishes on menus.  The tart fruits – grapes and citrus – really give this dish the punch that makes it great.  I can find Israeli couscous at our local health food store and at the grocery store in the specialty foods section.

2 cups Israeli couscous
1 cup diced watermelon
1 cup diced honeydew
1 cup diced cantaloupe
1 cup green grapes, cut in half
1 cup currants
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
Pinch of salt
Mint leaves and lemon wedges for garnish

Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.  While the couscous is cooking, mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss the drained couscous into the fruit, garnish with mint leaves and citrus wedges and serve.

Serves 6-8

Photo Frank M. Chillemi.

Cook the Book: Melon and Israeli Couscous Salad

Melon and Israeli Couscous Salad

This salad was inspired by a local restaurant called Market on Main (M.O.M.).  It seemed like an odd combination, but I’m always trying the interesting dishes on menus.  The tart fruits – grapes and citrus – really give this dish the punch that makes it great.  I can find Israeli couscous at our local health food store and at the grocery store in the specialty foods section.

2 cups Israeli couscous
1 cup diced watermelon
1 cup diced honeydew
1 cup diced cantaloupe
1 cup green grapes, cut in half
1 cup currants
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
Pinch of salt
Mint leaves and lemon wedges for garnish

Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.  While the couscous is cooking, mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss the drained couscous into the fruit, garnish with mint leaves and citrus wedges and serve.

Serves 6-8

Photo Frank M. Chillemi.

Parsley, Feta and Cucumber Salad

This is a variation on the popular tabbouleh salad only without the bulgur wheat.  Fresh and light, it’s perfect for the palate of early summer when bright and bold flavors satisfy the yearning for greens and acidic tastes.  Adding tomatoes, Kalamata olives or an herb such as basil or mint would also make for a nice combination.

I use this as a salad sometimes because the parsley is so full of vitamins and all things good for you and other times I find it’s perfect as a salsa of sorts for grilled chicken, pork or a firm fish.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chopped parsley, lightly packed
1 cucumber; peeled, seeded and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 red pepper; seeded and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
6 oz. Feta cheese

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and black pepper.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and pour the dressing over the top.  Mix well and let sit for 1/2 hour.

Serves 4-6

Parsley, Feta and Cucumber Salad

This is a variation on the popular tabbouleh salad only without the bulgur wheat.  Fresh and light, it’s perfect for the palate of early summer when bright and bold flavors satisfy the yearning for greens and acidic tastes.  Adding tomatoes, Kalamata olives or an herb such as basil or mint would also make for a nice combination.

I use this as a salad sometimes because the parsley is so full of vitamins and all things good for you and other times I find it’s perfect as a salsa of sorts for grilled chicken, pork or a firm fish.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chopped parsley, lightly packed
1 cucumber; peeled, seeded and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 red pepper; seeded and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
6 oz. Feta cheese

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and black pepper.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and pour the dressing over the top.  Mix well and let sit for 1/2 hour.

Serves 4-6

Shrimp, Snap Pea and Couscous Salad

1/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and grilled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, or 2 teaspoons, minced
8 oz. snap peas or 2 cups
1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons dill
6 oz. feta cheese
1 cup couscous, uncooked
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
baby greens such as mesclun mix

Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.  In a medium bowl pour boiling water over the couscous and salt.  Stir gently with a fork and cover for 5 minutes.  Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil and garlic to the pan and sauté 30 seconds.  Add the snap peas, dill and salt and pepper and sauté 1 minute.  Add the white wine and lemon juice and sauté another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the shrimp and tomatoes.  Separate the grains of couscous with a fork and spoon over a bed of baby greens.  Spoon the shrimp mixture on top of the couscous then crumble feta cheese on top and serve.

Serves 4

Potato Salad with Asparagus and Chives

This recipe met the “meat-and-potatoes” stamp of approval from my dad when he and my mom were visiting earlier this spring.  The asparagus was just ready to pick and I had some red potatoes that were languishing in the pantry begging to be used.  The chives have been up for some time now and are very ready for a shave.

There are several clumps in the garden and to keep them from getting to thick and fibrous, I shave one clump every other week or so to give  new, tender shoots that aren’t quite so strongly flavored, a chance to come again.

Potato Salad with Asparagus and Chives

2.5 pounds red skin potatoes
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for water
several grinds of black pepper
1/2 cup minced chives
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Place the whole potatoes into a medium sized pot and cover with salted water.  Boil until tender, about 40 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat.  Add the asparagus, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.  Sauté until asparagus is still somewhat brown on the outside and still a little crisp on the inside.  Remove from heat.  In a small bowl, combine chives, mustard, extra virgin olive oil, cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of fresh black pepper.  When the potatoes are tender, drain and let cool some.  When the potatoes are cool enough to cut, quarter or eighth to reach 1 inch chunks and place in a large bowl.  Combine gently with asparagus and the chive mixture.

Serves 4-6

Annie
No mayo in this one.

Cook the Book: Creamy Herb Dressing

Creamy Herb Dressing

Salad with Creamy Herb Dressing Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

2 tbs fresh minced dill
2 tbs fresh minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tbs fresh minced thyme
2 tbs fresh minced chives
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tbs cider vinegar
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp hot sauce

Combine the dill, parsley, thyme, and chives with the mayonnaise in a food processor until the herbs are finely chopped.  While the processor is running, slowly pour in the buttermilk.  Add the vinegar, salt, pepper and hot sauce.  Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour into a bottle or jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Makes approximately 2 cups.

Photo by Elizabeth Poisson.