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 because I used oil so it won’t last as long. 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, 1/4 cup light olive oil, 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.

Red Chard Salad with Red Onions, Parm & Poached Egg

Red Chard Salad with Poached Egg, Parm & Dressing.

I tossed some red chard with the Mustard Vinaigrette and let it rest, letting the vinaigrette “cook” it for about 15 minutes while I poached an egg. I sliced parmesan on top and laid the poached egg on the top of the salad.

I poach eggs in a a sauce pan with a few inches of simmering water. I add a bit of vinegar to the water. Crack the egg in a small bowl first so you can slip it into the water rather than drop it. You can stir around the outside of the egg to encourage the white to sort of spin together using centrifugal force. Turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan and let rest for 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove it from the water without bringing water to ruin your salad.

Break the yolk and stir the yolk into the salad, mixing it with the vinaigrette. It makes a creamy sort of vinaigrette.

Roasted & Fresh Brussel Sprouts & Bacon Salad with Parm & Mustard Vinaigrette

Bacon & Brussels Sprouts Salad with Parmesan and Mustard Vinaigrette

Make the Mustard Vinaigrette first – at least an hour before serving. This makes enough dressing for several salads.

Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Stir mustard and vinegar together with a whisk, add oil slowly, whisking it int o emulsify. Add salt, pepper and crushed garlic. Let rest for at least an hour. Keep refrigerated.

Salad

Lay four strips of bacon on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400° until browned. Remove when finished (about 8 minutes) and set on a paper towel to cool.

While the bacon roasts, cut 2 cups of brussels sprouts in half, pulling off some of the outer leaves. Set the leaves aside.

Turn the oven up to 450°, toss the brussels sprout halves with 1 TBSP of bacon grease, salt and pepper and lay on a baking sheet to roast. These will be just roasted until done, not charred, so about 10 minutes max.

Bacon & Brussels Sprouts Salad with Parmesan and Mustard Vinaigrette

See that the brussels sprouts are only lightly browned.

Slice small pieces of parmesan and chop a bit of parsley.

To assemble the salad, lay down the brussels sprouts, the bacon, the parm, the loose, fresh brussels sprout leaves, the parsley and then add the dressing. Toss lightly.

Jamaica Jerk Cole Slaw with Pepitas

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So this is going into my regular rotation and will be made again and again and again and again and again. It’s a flavor sensation as they say.

First, I love cabbage. It’s my favorite vegetable and I would eat it ever more often that I do, but I already eat it more than I should as it tends to upset my stomach a bit. If not for that it would be perfect, sharp and peppery in its own self and so ready to blend with other foods, to accept and incorporate seasonings and dressings. Delicious cooked or raw, hot or cold and with all that, it’s inexpensive and keeps well stored in a cool, dark place. So yeah, it’s great stuff. But wow, this makes it even better.

  • 1/2 head of finely chopped cabbage
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 2 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 1 TBSP white wine
  • 2 tsp Jamaica Jerk seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

So, I cut up about 1/2 a head of cabbage, about 8 cups of cabbage. I cut the onion in thin slices. I heated a cast iron skillet on a low medium with NO oil. I added the sliced onions and stirred them steadily so they did not get any char. I wanted a light caramelization that sweetened the onions without softening them too much. That’s why no oil and the medium low heat.

In another dry pan, I toasted the pepitas until they began to pop and turn toasty brown.

When the onions and pepitas were cool, I mixed them in with the cabbage.

I mixed the rice vinegar, white wine and the Jamaica Jerk and the bit of sugar. I mixed them together well, poured on the salad, put a lid on the bowl and shook really hard because there’s not a lot of dressing to coat everything.

I stuck it in the fridge for a couple hours so the vinegar “cooked” the cabbage. Every time I happened to walk by I shook it some more because there really is not any extra dressing, so it needs some shaking.

This made 8 servings and you know what? The last serving did not sit in a pool of dressing. This kept the salad nice and crisp, but rich in flavor. Jamaica Jerk is spicy, so adjust to your taste. It leaves a delicious wonderful aftertaste, too.

 

 

Fruit Fusion Gumbo

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I asked friends to suggest names for this one. It’s a delicious fruit salad made with plums and cucumber which are botanically a fruit.

So I cut up a cucumber and 3 plums. There were two different kinds of plums, hence the different colors. I chopped up about 2 TBSP of yellow onion. Dumped them all in a plastic container and then made a dressing.

Dressing: Mix together. Buckwheat honey takes a long time to mix in but keep at it, it will dissolve. You can add more vinegar if you like. There is no olive oil or anything so it’s not a vinaigrette. It just seems to me that the juices in the fruit really do not need oil. Pour the dressing on the fruit. Put the lid on the bowl and shake it up. Refrigerate  for an hour or so and it will be delicious.

  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp of chile powder
  • 2 tsp of mustard
  • 2 tsp of buckwheat honey and
  • rice vinegar, about 1/4 cup

 

This made 6 servings. There are things that get better and better the longer they sit, so making a single serving would be silly.

Spinach Pear Salad with Hazelnuts

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My best friend came over for dinner last night, so I whipped up a lovely salad. Those pears I got from the Food Bank last week are ripe and I need to be using them up quickly, so I decided on a salad with pears.

First I sliced 1/2 of a yellow onion on the mandolin so I could get super thin slices. Then I cut up 5 of those mini peppers. (A 4 pound package of mini peppers costs less than 3 regular red peppers.) into thin strips, removing the seeds. I also corned and sliced three Bosc Pears. I put all of this in a plastic container with a lid. I added 1/3 cup rice vinegar, salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp of dry mustard powder.I put the lid on and shook it all as much as I could to mix it together. Then I added about 6 cups of baby spinach. Put the lid back on, shook some more and put it in the fridge for about an hour.

I toasted some hazelnuts (about 1/4 cup) with tajín (a spice mix of lime and chilis) in a dry pan.

To serve, I put the salad mix on the plate, added some hazelnuts and slice some asiago cheese on top.

The flavor is a wonderful blend of sweet, sour and a bit of heat. The hazelnuts are a great crunch and it was one of the best salads I have come up with this year. Service two.

Fennel, Asparagus, Strawberry & Feta Salad with Grape Vinaigrette

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After making the Roasted Grape Vinaigrette, I was hungry for a salad. I tore up some Romaine lettuce leaves to form the base, shaved off a couple slices from a fennel bulb and chopped them up, shaved three asparagus spars with a peeler, sliced three strawberries (they were twice the length of regular strawberry) and layered it all on the lettuce. I added the Roasted Grape Vinaigrette, assed some salt and pepper and sprinkled with feta cheese (a bit more than usual because the package was so close to empty) and that was it.

The flavors are a good blend. The sweet strawberries are a delicious counter to the tangy feta, the fennel and asparagus complement each other and Romaine is always a good foundation. The vinaigrette is a perfect, sweet and tangy dressing.

Grapefruit & Asparagus Salad

Grapefruit & Asparagus Salad

This was a delicious and easy salad for lunch. I started by making my dressing first, a grapefruit zest- infused balsamic vinegar and oil. I made it first because I wanted the zest to soak into the balsamic vinegar and enhance its flavor.

  • 1 grapefruit (and its zest)
  • 1/4 small yellow onion
  • 12 asparagus spears (thin)
  • 12 almonds (toasted)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cupbalsamic vinegar
  • 3 TBSP olive oil

First, zest the grapefruit until you have 2 TBSP of grapefruit zest. Add it in a small container that seals to 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Let rest for 10 minutes or until you are done making your salad. Add 3 TBSP of olive oil, salt, and pepper. It makes enough for 3 salads, so you will want the container to seal so it can be saved.

Put a dozen almonds in  a dry pan on medium high heat so they toast. Keep an eye on them so they don’t turn too dark. You don’t want them to turn bitter.

Using a vegetable peeler, slice thin strips off the asparagus so you have a nice deep bed of asparagus strips for the base of your salad.

Cut the ends, the peel and the pith off the grapefruit and carefully remove the segments from the skin. Cut them in half, and toss on the asparagus.

Cut your onion in half lengthwise. Take half and cut it in half again. Cut off both ends and slice thinly, separating the slices into thin strips.  Toss into the salad.

Chop the almonds and toss them on top. Shake the dressing to mix the file and vinegar and toss on the salad. Mix lightly and serve.

If you want to add cheese, you could add thin strips of parmesan, but it really did not need it.

 

Watermelon, Figs and Feta

Watermelon, Figs and Feta

There are no real measurements for this simple salad. Cut some watermelon into one inch chunks and wash and quarter some fresh figs. Toss them in a bowl, sprinkle a bit of salt. Add a tablespoon or two of feta depending on your preferences and drizzle a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar on it. You end up with a pretty and delicious salad. The feta adds just the right amount of tartness and creaminess. The balsamic vinegar cuts the sweetness. You can’t really taste the salt, but you can taste how it brings out the flavor of the fruit.

Makes one serving.

Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad with Cilantro and Feta

Cucumber Pomegranate Salad

I experiment a lot with cooking. Not everything works and when it doesn’t, it does not make it to this blog. The other day I mixed some cut up grapes with pomegranate and chèvre. It did not work. It was too sweet and needed more contrast. I thought I was on the right track though and decided to try feta because it is more sour, but still nice and creamy. Just went I started to make the salad, though, I veered off in a new direction and ended up with a great salad that explodes with flavors.

I started with about 1/2 cup of pomegranate. It is 1/2 the seeds from one pomegranate. I pulled out some green grapes from the fridge and noticed I had 1/3 of a cucumber in a plastic storage container, left over from a cucumber on rye sandwich and the side salad with my fish the other day.  I thought I had better use that cucumber soon so, I put the grapes back in the fridge for another time and peeled and cut the cucumber into small pieces. I cut it lengthwise into quarters and then cut the juicy seeds out and just snacked on them. I did not want them in the salad because they would make it watery. Then I cut the long strips in half again and lined them up and sliced horizontally, giving me pieces similar in size to the pomegranate seeds.

I took a small handful of cilantro and chopped it and tossed it in. Use anywhere from 2 TBSP to 1/4 cup depending on how much you love cilantro. I sprinkled a couple TBSP of feta on top and then added a dash of salt and pepper. I tossed with 2 tsp of red wine vinegar and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Cucumber Pomegranate Salad

 

Here’s why this worked, the cucumber has a mellow, spring flavor that offsets the intense sweet-sour tang of the pomegranate. The cilantro adds a bit of earthiness and the feta adds a creamy flavor with some fat, which really helps the flavors blend and the acid in the vinegar brings out all the flavors to their fullest.