Sunday, July 25, 2010

Two Picnic Salads

Yesterday, I went on a picnic to the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park. Mackenzie King was the very eccentric Prime Minister of Canada during WWII.  His summer estate in Gatineau Park is really beautiful, and oddly enough, King decided he wanted his own "ruins," so there are fake ruins all over the property. It was a really nice place to have a picnic and there is also a tearoom there, so I will most likely go back again for tea!

The two salads both turned out really well. The Antipasto Salad was really good, and I'll probably be making it again next weekend!  The corn, tomato, and zucchini salad was good, but this corn and tomato salad is better!  The Antipasto is from Celebrate the Rain from the Junior League of Seattle and the Corn and Tomato is my own interpretation of several recipes.

Antipasto Pasta Salad
Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
2 small shallots, quartered
2 cloves garlic, halved
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

1/2 cup coarsely chopped, pitted, brine-cured olives (I used an Italian mix)
1/2 cup chopped artichoke hearts
12 ounces dried penne
1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken breast
1 1/2 cups seeded, chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, in thin strips (my addition)
1 cup diced fresh mozzarella (I used goat cheese)

Puree the dressing ingredients in a food processor.  With the blades running, slowly add the oil through the chute and process until smooth (I left mine a little bit chunky so that there were still visible pieces of sun-dried tomatoes in the salad).  Add salt and pepper to taste and pulse to blend.  Pour the dressing into a medium bowl, add the olives, artichoke hearts, and red peppers and stir to coat.  Set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the penne to al dente, about 10-12 minutes.  Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink and run cold water over to cool the pasta, then drain well and transfer the pasta to a large bowl.  Pour the dressing and vegetables over, add the chicken, tomatoes, and cheese and toss to evenly mix.

The pasta salad can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated, though the cheese and tomatoes should be added just before serving.  The salad will be more flavourful, too, if allowed to come to room temperature.

Summer Vegetable Salad

4 ears of corn
1 1/2 cups diced and de-seeded heirloom tomatoes
2 zucchini, diced
3/4 cup light sour cream
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. basil, chiffonade
Salt and pepper

Cook the corn in boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes.  Remove corn and when cool, use a large knife to cut the kernels off the cob. Steam the diced zucchini until bright green, do not cook too long. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, mix Worcestershire sauce and sour cream together. Pour over vegetables in a large bowl, add salt, pepper, and basil and mix to coat the vegetables. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Buffalo Mozzarella & Summer Vegetables

This recipe from The Kitchn (well actually Morrell's Wine Bar) and the vegetables were intended to be for lettuce wraps.  I didn't have any lettuce, but did have a nice crunchy baguette (definitely normally don't have one of those either, but couldn't resist at the market the other day!) Either wrapped in lettuce or on a baguette, this vegetable mixture would make a great summer appetizer. The combination of vegetables, fresh mozzarella, vinaigrette, and capers was light and tasty!

Buffalo Mozzarella & Summer Vegetable Wrap
Serves 6

2 medium green zucchinis
1 red bell pepper
2 large portobellos
1 medium eggplant
4 cloves of garlic, peeled & chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons capers, chopped
2 pieces fresh buffalo mozzarella
2 tablespoons basil, chiffonade
2 teaspoons balsamic syrup
12 pieces Boston Bibb lettuce leaves
salt and pepper to taste

1. Trim the ends of the eggplant and cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds.
2. Sprinkle each side with salt and place on a sheet tray lined with towels.
3. Place another sheet tray on top of the eggplant and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
4. Take the eggplant out of the refrigerator and wipe excess liquid and salt off with a towel.
5. Trim the ends of the zucchini and cut the zucchini lengthwise.
6. Place the zucchini round side up. Cut off the outer green of the zucchini leaving about 1/4 inch of the white inside attached. Discard the very center seeded part of the zucchini.
7. Trim and remove the seeds of the red pepper and cut into four equal size pieces.
8. Place the zucchini, red pepper, portobello mushroom, eggplant, garlic and olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
9. Place the vegetables on a sheet tray and place in a 350°F oven.
10. Roast approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until fork tender.
11. Remove from oven and let cool.
12. Dice each vegetable and mix in bowl with salt, pepper and red wine vinaigrette (below).
13. Spoon an equal amount of the vegetable mixture into each lettuce leaf.
14. Top with buffalo mozzarella, basil chiffonade, balsamic syrup, and capers.

Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients except for the olive oil.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Marinated Feta Cheese

Last year at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market, I had the most delicious marinated feta cheese. I finally attempted my own today! I bought some locally sourced, Ontario Feta cheese as the base.  Making marinated feta or goat cheese is more of an art than a science, and you could use just about any type of spices and yummy things- garlic, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, capers, even something like lavender.

Marinated Feta Cheese

Local hard feta cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Both freshly ground pepper and full peppercorns (multi-color)
Pinch of salt
Red pepper flakes
Mixed Proven├žal herbs (savory, fennel, thyme, basil...)

Make sure you have a container with a good seal, mix the ingredients together and cover with olive oil. Refrigerate.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Peanut Slaw

Today, I was craving a light, crunchy slaw salad. I used this recipe from The Kitchn as my inspiration, but left out  the cilantro and added carrots.  My plan was to add mango to the salad, but unfortunately the mango I got was too ripe and got a little dented in my grocery bag on the walk home :(  If you want add a little mango and maybe some lime juice to your slaw to make it delicious.

Peanut Slaw

1 medium size head of green cabbage
4 medium carrots
1 green onion
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
Optional: cilantro

1/2 cup canola oil
3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. soy sauce (I used Tamari)

Shred the cabbage very finely. The fineness of the shredded cabbage is really what makes this salad; you want it in in threads, almost, and with the threads chopped into bite-size lengths. Shred the carrots as well. Toss with the peanuts in a large bowl. Chop the scallions, including the green and white parts. Toss the scallions with the cabbage, seasoning very lightly with salt and pepper.
Whisk the dressing until emulsified, then taste and adjust to your own preferences of sweetness and saltiness.
Toss with the cabbage. Garnish with a few more peanuts and serve

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Apricot Cake

Apricots are also in season from May-August, so I decided to buy some to make this cake. I added a pinch of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla. The flavors of this cake work really well together, the tart apricot and the salty pistachios on top make the cake unique.  However, the cake itself was a little bit dry, so I might use slightly less flour. It is supposed to be a dense cake, so don't be surprised that the batter is really thick.  The recipe is from An Italian Summer cookbook and was listed on Serious Eats.

Apricot Cake

- serves 6 -
Generous 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, plus extra for greasing
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 3/4 pounds apricots
1 1/4 cups superfine sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
Add in a splash of vanilla and a pinch of cinnamon!
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Put the apricots in a bowl, pour in boiling water to cover, and let stand for 15 seconds, then drain. Peel off the skins, halve, and remove the pits, then cut each half into 2 pieces.
2. Beat together the butter and sugar in a bowl until creamy, then fold in the eggs, one at a time.
3. Sift the flour over the mixture and stir in, then stir in the apricots. Dissolve the baking powder a little lukewarm water and add to the mixture.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with the pistachios, and bake fore 1 hour, until risen and golden. Let stand in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad

Summertime means lots of fresh, delicious veggies and fruit! Two of my favorites are sweet corn and tomatoes. I've made various versions of sweet corn and tomato salad over the years, and I was excited to try out this version that I saw on The Kitchn.  This salad would be perfect for a summer Bar-B-Q or at a picnic! Go to your local farmers market and get the freshest, ripest corn, tomatoes, and herbs you can find and you'll have an easy, tasty summer salad!

Herbed Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad
serves 6 (changes in italics)
6 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
4 medium tomatoes, as ripe as possible
1/4 cup (or small handful) fresh basil
Pinch of oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
3 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled and crumbled

Bring a large pot of water to the boil over medium-high heat. Add the corn and boil for five minutes. Drain and let cool.
Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes in quarters and scrape or squeeze out the juices and seeds. (Reserve, if you want, for a future batch of tomato sauce, or to mix into cream cheese for a fresh sandwich spread.) Chop the seeded tomato quarters into a rough dice. Pat dry with a paper towel to remove any extra moisture.
When the corn has cooled, stand each ear up in a wide, shallow bowl and slice the corn kernels off with a chef's knife. Toss the corn with the tomatoes.
Finely mince the mint and herb leaves and toss with the vegetables, along with the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then crumble in the goat cheese and toss gently. Serve and enjoy!

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