Three Cucumber Salads

Cucumber Salad

Why three cucumber salads in one post? Because I got 15 pounds of cucumbers from the Food Bank’s Harvest Share program and cucumbers do not keep that well without some vinegar. So, I spent a long time slicing and dicing and mixed up three huge salads. Two of them based on my mom’s delicious old-fashioned cucumber salad.

This is mom’s recipe. Slice your cucumbers no more than 1/4 inch thick. I used a mandoline and easily sliced wafer thin slices. Layer the slices in a container with high sides, lightly salting between layers. I used Glad’s 13 cup family size container which held about 8 -10 large cucumbers, sliced. I put a sheet of wax paper over the container and set my cast iron fry pan on top of the wax paper and then put my tea kettle on top of that so it was weighted down heavily. I left it for a few hours and came back to add the dressing.

After two hours, I dumped the cucumbers into a big colander and let them drain. Rinsing the Glad container to get the saltiness out, I mixed the dressing right in the container while the cukes drained. I used 2 cups of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 TBSP of dill weed, 1 tsp of garlic salt, and 2 tsp of celery seed.  I squeezed the juice out of the cucumbers, added them back into the container with the dressing and refrigerated overnight so they absorbed back the fluid I had drawn out with salt. Now they are saturated with a fresh dill flavor that has a mild bite. Makes 10 cups of salad.

Cucumber Salad

I only made about 7 cups of this salad. To make it I cut the cucumbers into 4-6 inch long lengths that I shredded on the mandoline, making threads of cucumber. I also sliced and diced finely two purple onions. I salted and let rest for about an hour. Squeezing out the excess, I grated the zest of two limes over the salad, mixing it in. Then,  squeezed the lime juice into a sauce bowl for the dressing. I added 3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar, 2 TBSP of soy sauce, salt, pepper, and 2 tsp of red pepper flakes. I poured on top of the cucumber and onions, shook and let sit to absorb flavors for a few hours. This is a spicy, tangy salad with that delicious earthy tang of limes and the heat of peppers.  It’s delicious on a sandwich with pulled pork. Makes six cups of salad.

Cucumber Salad

These are pepper-salted cucumber slices, also a recipe from my mom. As before, I sliced the cucumbers, layering with salt until I filled the 13 cup container. I added weight on top of them and let them sit for two hours to draw out the liquid. I drained them in a colander, squeezing out all the liquid I could.

In the 13 cup plastic container, I added 2 cups of vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1 TBSP of pepper. I mixed together, Added the cucumber and let it soak up the vinegar overnight. This has a fresh vinegary taste with a bit of bite from the pepper, fresh and cool followed by just a bit of heat. Makes 10 cups.

Caraway Carrot Sticks

Caraway Carrot Sticks.png

Preheat your oven to 350° F.

In a plastic bag, toss 1 TBSP of corn starch, 1 TBSP of olive oil, and 1 tsp of caraway seeds, a pinch of salt and pepper. Add 1 pound of baby carrots. Shake until they are completely covered. Spread on a baking sheet. Bake 40 minutes.

I served on a bed of baby spinach and spring mix lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar. I liked the way the caraway, the little olive oil, the salt worked with the salad. Makes two large servings.

Wow,  caraway and carrot is delicious. The caraway balances the sometimes overwhelming sweetness of roasted carrot perfectly.

I adapted this recipe from Melts by Fern Green, a cookbook I am currently reading. I used baby carrots and olive oil instead of vegetable oil and served on a salad. Otherwise the recipe is the same. She served it as a side with a sandwich melt…but I am out of bread. Otherwise, sounds like a great idea.

Vegan Yam and Pear Soup

 

Put 3 TBSP of olive oil in the bottom of a large stock pot on a medium low burner. Add 1 TBSP of cinnamon, 1 tsp of allspice, salt, pepper and heat until the aroma rises. Add 2 TBSP of chopped ginger, and I know that is a lot, but ginger is what we need to make this a savory soup, not a dessert soup. Ginger and onions, which come next. Add 1 yellow onion, chopped coarsely. It’s all going to be pureed in the end, so don’t bother chopping fine. Sauté until onions are soft and transparent.

Peel 8 small yams and cut into uniformly sized chunks, about 2 inches square. Toss into the pot with 32 oz. of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook until tender, about 20 – 30 minutes depending on the size of your chunks. Test with a fork.

Peel 4 pears, remove the stem, and chop into pieces and add to the pot. Cook for 15 more minutes. Add 32 oz. of unsweetened coconut beverage. Let cool and puree using a Magic Bullet, blender, or immersion blender.

I used 5 slices of fresh pear (one sunk) and a couple baby spinach leaves to garnish. I was going for the artistically pleasing Rule of Five, but one did not cooperate. I suppose if I were a super arty food blogger, I would make another bowl, but that seems silly for this blog.

This makes a smooth soup that is about the consistency of a canned tomato soup, but the similarities end there. It is so good, it is not the least bit sweet, but tastes of yam and pear and these deep aromatic spices with a little bit of heat that lingers from the ginger. It is not the least bit sweet despite the pears. The ginger and allspice are important in grounding the flavor on the savory side. If you don’t have allspice, you could use nutmeg or cardamom. It’s also kind of addictive and from spoon-licking from when I served it up to reheat, I can tell you, it’s actually pretty good cold, too. It was tasty last night, but today’s its flavor is richer. This is no single-serving. It makes 4 quarts of soup, which was nice to send some home with friends and to save for lunches this week.

The unsweetened coconut beverage is in a white unlabelled box with the ingredients stamped on it for Oregon Food Bank. This product from Pacific Foods matches the ingredients in type and order of quantity.

Everything but the olive oil and spices came from the Oregon Food Bank’s Harvest Share program. Harvest Share is a program that provides fresh produce to low-income Portlanders through the Oregon Food Bank. This is a big contrast with regular food bank products which are dependent on donations and tend to focus on nonperishable carbs like rice, pasta, beans, bread, and crackers. It’s a fabulous program that I wish were available across the country because fresh produce is expensive and many food banks simply do not get enough donated, and what is donated is often well past its prime.

 

 

Pomegranate Relish or Dressing

Pomegranate Dressing or Relish

It’s pretty easy to clean a pomegranate, just cut it in half and pull the edges than knock it on the outside with a spoon and the seeds fall out. However, at Harvest Share this week, I got two packages of already cleaned pomegranate seeds. Sadly, however, they were already past their sweet spot and had turned sour and vinegary. I know some people would toss it out, since it was beginning to change, but pomegranate is acidic and just being past its prime does not make it a home for bacteria, just very sour flavor. I knew I could fix it and enjoy this fruit I really love. I just had to figure out how. Since it was already very vinegary, it made sense to use it as a sort of vinegar and make a salad dressing or a relish. But first I had to figure out what could balance the sourness. I pulled out aromatic spices like nutmeg, cardamom, and anise and tried a few grains with one pomegranate seed to see what I liked best. Both the nutmeg and the cardamon tried, but they added heat as well as balance and I wanted to make it more mellow, so I chose anise.

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • ½ tsp anise seed
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 8 oz pomegranate seeds
  • 4 TBSP rice vinegar

I put 2 tbsp of olive oil in a sauce pan with ½ tsp of anise seed and heated to release the oils and flavor the oil. I then added 2 tsp of minced fresh ginger. I sliced ½ of a yellow onion into slivers and added to the olive oil, cooking until tender. I then added the 8 oz package of pomegranate seeds and cooked just until it started to break down. I added 4 TBSP of  rice vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. This made enough dressing for 4 large salads. It would also work well as a relish on the side where you might use cranberries, with pork, turkey, or sausage.

Here are a few salads made with the dressing. A simple salad with pecans and feta. A dinner salad with chicken sautéed with a bit of Old Bay. A dinner salad with some carne asada marinated in soy sauce and vinegar with some garlic, pears charred on the electric burner, and feta cheese.

 

Breakfast Tostada with Kale, Eggs, and Lemon

This took less than five minutes to make. I heated two pans on the stove, one set at about 4/10 and the other at 6/10 on the heat dial, a low and a high medium. In the low medium, I added no oil at all. I put about 1/4 of a small onion cut in thin slices and about 1 cup of chopped kale, chopped up. I added a bit of salt and pepper and a few red pepper flakes. I squeezed the juice from half a lemon on it and let it cook. I did not want it to get overly cooked, just warmed.

When the kale was about half done, I melted 1/4 tsp of butter in the other pan and cracked an egg in the melted butter. I added salt and pepper, and let it cook for a minute.

I put the tostada on a plate, spooned the kale and onions on the tostada, then I flipped the egg for a few seconds and placed the egg on top of the kale. When eating, I broke the yolk right away so it blended with the kale and onions. The kale alone tastes too strongly of the lemon juice until you mix the egg yolk…and then it’s a perfect lemony sauce .

This is a pleasant mix of textures, soft creamy eggs, crunchy tostada and soft, but still toothsome veggies. The egg yolk and lemon are a light and creamy sauce for the salty tostada and the sharp onions and slightly bitter kale. It’s fast, easy, and delicious.

Southwest Cole Slaw

Salad

  • 1 small head of green cabbage, chopped fine, salted
  • 1 small head of red cabbage, chopped fine, salted
  • 10 carrots, in ¼ in strips
  • 8 tomatillos, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced fine and chopped

Dressing: Drop everything in a blender or magic bullet and blend

  • 6 limes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1½ cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce

The cabbage should be chopped first and left in a colander, salted to bring out the liquid so the slaw does not turn watery. Wring the cabbage out after it has sat for 30-45 minutes. Then add the carrots, onions, and tomatillos. Mix. Add dressing and shake to distribute dressing over the entire slaw. Do not serve for at least 30 minutes so the flavors begin to marry.

This is a very light, fresh cole slaw. Despite the Sriracha and the ginger, it is not that hot. It just has a bit of zing. The tomatillos add a tartness that is fabulous and there is the layer of lime that is right there, adding that citrusy note but it not bitter. I chopped everything very small to make it work well on sandwiches or even dropped into a bowl of chili or soup. There is just enough dressing to coat the veggies and soak in a bit, but not enough to leave a layer of liquid in the bottom of the bowl, so it does not saturate the bread and when you sauté it with some pasta or rice, it does not add a lot of oil.

This is a big batch. It made 4 quarts of cole slaw and I gave half to my best friend who went with me to Harvest Share. However, the thing with cole slaw that does not have a creamy dressing, that has no buttermilk, yogurt, mayo, or sour cream, is that it will last for several days…which means it is there for several meals and there is nothing more versatile.

 

Shakshouka with Tomatillos

Yesterday I got about 5 pounds of tomatillos from Harvest Share. I had eaten them before but never cooked with them. Last night I made a quick stir fry with them that was tasty. Seeing how they cooked, I wondered if they might work for a shakshouka. No harm in trying, right? Well, I tried it. I liked it. I will make it again. Shakshouka made with tomatillos is very different, but still very good.

To make the shakshouka, I heated my pan to medium, added 1/2 tsp of cumin and 1 tsp of red chili flakes to my dry cast iron man and let them toast for a couple minutes, just long enough to make the air fragrant. I then added 1 TBSP of olive oil and 1 cup of chopped yellow onions, and 2 cloves of garlic and sautéed until the onions were tender and turning transparent.

While they cooked, I chopped up 6 small tomatillos. I added the chopped tomatillos and let everything simmer until the tomatillos cooked down. I squeezed juice from one lime to make it zing. After about 10 minutes, I added 1 cup of water and stirred.

When the tomatillos were broken down into a sauce, I cracked four eggs on top to let them poach. To be on the safe side, you can crack your eggs into a small bowl and slide them into the liquid to avoid breakage. I find that if I crack them on a flat surface, I don’t break the yolks and I don’t get shells falling into the dish either. Add some salt and pepper to the eggs.

I let them poach for a few minutes, covering them for the last minute to make sure they cook thoroughly, though not so the yolks get hard.

So this made four servings, or two with 2 eggs. There is a delicious tartness to this shakshouka. There’s gentle heat from the pepper flakes and some delicious umami from the the eggs. It was delicious and I will definitely make it again.

Carrot Salad

I made a sandwich using a delicious carrot salad. The sandwich is definitely not vegan, but the salad is. I ate it both as a salad and as a sandwich slaw. It worked great for both.

4 carrots, peeled and sliced using the peeler into lots of thin strips

8 green onions, chopped into small pieces.

Mix together with 1 TBSP of olive oil and 2 TBSP of rice vinegar,

Add salt, pepper, and a tsp of red pepper flakes. Cover and shake. Store in the fridge overnight for the flavors to soak into the carrots.

It’s a bright and tart salad. Carrots are sweet, so they balance the heat of the red pepper flakes and the tart vinegar and the bite of the onions beautifully. They add a nice bit of crunch and freshness to this sandwich.

Grits with Red Chard & Egg

So, you can make grits ahead of time if you like and even make a big batch of grits in advance, or you can make a single batch for just this dish.

Today, I made one serving, so I brought 1 cup of water with a dash of salt to a boil and added 1/4 cup of corn grits. Stir the grits in the boiling water for a couple minutes and then cover, turning heat down low for 15 minutes. If your pan is thin, check on it and stir frequently. If you have a big thick pot, you can just leave it and it will be cooked to perfection without sticking.

About 10 minutes before serving, heat a tsp of olive oil in a small pan. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp of anise and warm in the oil, add salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup chopped onions and sauté until tender. Chop 1 cup of red chard, add when the onions are tender. Sauté lightly for
a minute or two then add 1 TBSP of rice vinegar. Let cook.

Poach an egg. You can either drop it in boiling water that you swirl to make centrifugal force keep it together or you can poach it in a microwave. Add about 1/2 cup of water to a bowl. Crack you egg into the bowl. It must be submerged under the water, but to be on the save kid, prick it with a toothpick or the tip of a knife anyway so it does not explode. . Cover the bowl with a plate. Microwave for about a minute. Keep an eye on it, sometimes it will be done in 40 seconds, sometimes a minute. I have poached dozens of eggs in the microwave and each egg seems to need their own time somewhere between 40 and 80 seconds.

Spoon the grits in the bottom of a bowl. Add the cooked chard, Place the egg on top. The yolk mixes with the vinegar and oil of the veggies into the luscious creamy, tangy dressing with the perfect blend of heat and bright tang.

Easy Baked Rice Casserole

This is inspired by a recipe I learned in college, though it’s run far afield since then. I was an international studies student then, was learning Arabic and Spanish, and had a lot of friends from around the world. Fairly often the International House, the center of international student and International Studies student social life, would have a potluck. They also had a big dinner fundraiser for which I helped make 1500 gyoza and 1200 krumkake in two of the most mind-numbing days of my life. But that’s another story for another day. One of the things at least or or two or three Arab students would bring was kabsa. And every kabsa was different. I learned how to make it and decided it was perhaps the easiest thing in the world to make. Now this is not going to be a traditional recipe because that’s the thing with kabsa, you make it what you want it to be.

The first thing is you heat your oven to 350° F. While it’s heating up, you put a baking dish on a medium high burner with a tbsp of olive oil. In the olive oil, you put about 1/4 tsp or so of an aromatic spice like nutmeg, cardamom, anise, allspice, cinnamon. The heat releases the oils and flavors the oil which is going to make everything wonderful. For today’s dish, I used 1/4 tsp of anise and a few shakes of red pepper flakes.

Then toss in a piece of meat – a chicken breast, 1/2 pound of ground beef, or some stew meat cut into good sized pieces, at least 1 inch square. I went far astray and used carnitas–which means I can’t really call this kabsa, because no Muslim would be using pork. You want to brown the meat.

While the meat is browning, cut up some vegetables into big chunks. No need to be dainty. For this one, I cut an onion into 8 wedges, crushed a couple cloves of garlic, cut some asparagus stalks into thirds, and chopped up two inch long pieces of red chard stalks and fennel stalks.

After the meat was browned, I tossed in all the veggies. I tossed salad tomatoes in whole and cut a lemon into quarters. The lemon is not required, but it sure makes it delightful. I just dump everything in, then I made a dip in the center, put one cup of rice there, added two cups of water. Now, if I were using chicken, I might add some turmeric here, but not for pork.

The raw rice, veggies, meat, and lemon – ready to get baked.

Okay, so to recap, aromatic spiece, browned bits of meat, big chunks of veggies, 1 cup rice, two cups water. That’s all you need, takes less than 10 minutes. Now you stick in the 350° and come back in 30 minutes and it’s done. No stirring, no messing with it, all in one pot. What could be easier?

The rice will be perfectly cooked. The large cuts of veggies keeps them from overcooking. Brownign the meat keeps the meat juicy and tender. It will taste not tasted boiled! The aromatic spice adds depth and the lemon wedges infuse the entire dish with a subtle, light lemony flavor. This makes four servings, that get better with every meal.