Thursday, August 9, 2012

In the Kitchen - Summer Salads and a Quick Entree

My kind of cooking these days involves throwing together what I can while the boys nap, which is a few hours  before we actually sit down to eat.  So if something can marinate, be served at room temperature, or easily reheated, I'm all for it.  Enter some easy summer salads...especially the kind that get even better if they sit for a while.

I'm kind of obsessed with this newest salad.  It's the perfect balance of sweet, salty, crunchy, and soft.  I adapted it from a recipe I found in People magazine. 

CORN CHOWDER SALAD
2 t olive oil
8 slices bacon
3 sweet potatoes (Yukon gold or red potatoes are fine too)
1 red bell pepper
3 cans corn
1 small red onion
1/3 c rice and/or cider vinegar
crushed red pepper flakes

Cover a jelly roll pan/cookie sheet with foil and lay a wire rack on top.  Lay bacon slices across wire rack and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes until bacon is crispy.  Let cool and then chop into 1 inch pieces.

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch squares.  Cook in boiling water for 10-11 minutes.  Potatoes should be soft on the outside, but not too mushy all the way through.  Drain water and let potatoes cool.

Thinly slice the onion and cut the red pepper into small chunks.  Saute in olive oil and a little bit of drained bacon grease until translucent and soft.  Add corn and heat through.  Remove from heat and add potatoes.  Pour vinegar over veggies and season to taste with salt and red pepper.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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My goal during nap time each day is to accomplish something productive and then veg for a few mintues to mentally recharge for the next chunk of the day.  It's a win win when I can do both at the same time, i.e. fold laundry while watching Food Network.  When I watched Giada a couple months ago make this Forbidden Rice Salad I decided that come peach season I was definitely giving it a try.  Well peach season is in full swing (and they're oh so yummy), so we enjoyed this as a side dish the other night.  Even the boys scarfed down a bowl of rice before I added the dressing.

If you've not tried this type of rice, it's a must!  Soft yet crunchy, delicious, nutty, and packed with good stuff.  I found a bag for $4.99 at Fresh Market. 

FORBIDDEN RICE SALAD WITH PEACHES & SNAP PEAS
Rice:

3 1/2 cups water

2 cups black forbidden rice (recommended: Lotus Foods)

1 (1 1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped(I used minced ginger from a jar...a little over 1 tablespoon)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 peaches (or more if you like), pitted and sliced

Dressing:
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar (I came up a little short on rice vinegar and red wine vinegar worked nicely)

1/4 cup grapeseed oil (I acutally didn't have any, so I used walnut oil and olive oil and they worked great)

3 tablespoons honey (I actually added 4 T...we love honey around here)

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-2 teaspoon minced ginger (The original recipe did not call for this, but I thought it worked great in the dressing)

For the rice: In a medium saucepan, bring the water, rice, ginger, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and place in a large serving bowl.

For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, honey, ginger, and soy sauce until smooth.  Top rice with peas and peaches.  Pour the dressing over the rice mixture and toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

The original recipe actually said to saute the peaches and peas in some oil, but I just kept the peaches fresh, steamed the peas, and then stirred them into the rice.  It was also suggested in the many reviews to substitute mango for the peaches.  I plan on trying that next time, but to be honest, my favorite way to eat mango is with sliced avocado and a drizzle of olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper.  Oh man, yum.

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And while we're on the topic of foods that often don't get enough credit like the aforementioned rice, let's talk about eggplant.  One of the running girls recently brought this to girls' night, and I couldn't even go a week without NEEDING to eat it again.  One of the best parts....it's ready in less than 10 minutes!

EGGPLANT WITH PINE NUTS AND GOAT CHEESE
Slice eggplant and saute in olive oil until seared, softened, and browned.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.  Top with toasted pine nuts and crumbled goat cheese.  Seriously, that's it.  Serve with a spinach salad (dress it up with the leftover nuts, cheese, and maybe bacon bits if you made the above salad earlier in the week) and you have a complete meal.  So, so, so good.

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