Archive for the Category ◊ Salads ◊

13 Jul 2011 Southwestern Pasta Salad

I have not been very impressed with the food section of our local paper in the last, oh, decade.  There is one column in particular that drives me iNSaNe.  Typical recipes include a bit of Dream Whip here, Bisquick, Cream of Chicken soup and canned mushrooms there,  with Tater Tots, Rice-a-Roni, and crushed up Ritz Crackers stirred into a can of Pineapple Tidbits on the side. PLUS, not one of the recipes has been tested by the columnist! (Although she does say how good they all sound and she might get around to trying one over the weekend…)  Arggghhhhhh!!

That all been said and vented, there have been a few recipes over the years that I have tried.  And I have to admit, most have been pretty good.

This one here is a keeper. The basic salad can be thrown together with cans from the pantry, and it’s good for you with lots of fiber from the beans and lots of other feel good stuff from the veggies.  If you have some fresh herbs on hand, the basic salad can be jazzed up a bit, but it’s not necessary, the basic salad is good as it is.  If you want to go all out, throw in a few chopped avocados and a pound of bay shrimp.  This salad serves a bunch of people, so it’s ideal to take to any potluck or family gathering.  I’ve made this a number of times, and I have only had the recipe for a few weeks.  It’s been a popular side dish, and I love, love, love how fast and easy it is to throw together from ingredients I have in my pantry.

This recipe was inspired by two recipes that ran in the “Home Plates” column in the San Jose Mercury News in June 2011, both recipes were attributed to Hazel Lawson Gentry.  I took the best of both recipes, experimented a bit with quantities, and came up with this, my new “go-to” Pasta Salad.  You can do the same!  This recipe is very flexible and very forgiving. Make it yours!

Southwestern Pasta Salad

For the Dressing

1 cup ranch dressing

1 7 oz. can chopped mild green chilies

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

For the Pasta Salad

1 pound corkscrew, penne, or wagon wheel pasta, cooked and drained according to package directions (if you want less pasta in your salad, cook only 1/2 lb pasta, use 1 can of beans, and  keep all the other quantities the same.)

1 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes (in the summer use 2 cups diced tomatoes from your backyard or from the farmers market), do not drain

1 OR 2 15 oz. cans (your choice) of black beans, pinquitos, or kidney beans (I use 1 can black beans), drained

1 15 oz. can corn (or 2 cups frozen corn, or fresh cooked corn stripped off the cob), drained

1 7 oz. can sliced black olives, drained

If you have it…

4 sliced green onions

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, or basil

To make this Pasta Salad “Supreme”

2 diced avocados

1 lb. bay shrimp

  1. Combine the ranch dressing with the undrained chiles and the cumin powder.  Set aside.  (Dressing can be made up to one week in advance.)
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Cool with cold water, and drain well.
  3. Combine the pasta with the can of undrained diced tomatoes and the drained beans, corn and olives.
  4. Stir in the desired amount of the prepared dressing–you might use 3/4, or you might use all of it.  It all depends on how much liquid your pasta absorbs (this depends on the brand, the style, and how long you’ve cooked your pasta), and your personal preference, how saucy do you like your pasta salad?  Stir in as much as you think you’d like.  Save any leftover dressing, after a few hours the salad might look a bit dry and you can stir in the rest of the dressing at that time.  (If the salad looks dry and you have no dressing left, stir in a few spoonfuls of salsa!)
  5. If using, stir in your choice of herbs, green onion, avocado and bay shrimp, and salt and pepper, if needed.
  6. Cover the salad with plastic wrap and chill until serving time.

That’s all there is to it!  Easy peasy!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Print out this recipe.  It will become a staple. Do you know how much stress is relieved by having a good, “go-to” pasta salad that can be made at the drop-of-the-hat, without a trip to the grocery store? Invite the neighbors over, get the burgers on the grill…, it’s Summertime and the livin’ is easy!!

12 Jul 2011 Apple Fennel Salad

I have some very, very strange friends.  They get up early.  To go running. Sometimes, on a weekend, for fun, they’ll run like 26 miles.  To get a T-shirt.

Sometimes these strange friends invite me over for dinner.  I usually offer to bring dessert.  (If left to their own devices these strange friends of mine would probably serve apple peels with grape nuts and flax seed.  I think one of them ate an M&M two years ago.  She still talks about it as if it were yesterday.)

These strange friends of mine eat a lot of salad.  I don’t much care for salad.

A few weeks ago these strange friends of mine swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco to get a T-shirt.  Then they thought they’d throw a party to celebrate.  I took ice cream sundaes.  With whipped cream.  One of the men told me white liquids were evil. My friend Barb brought this salad. Fennel? Really?

My little secret is, that up until this party with the strange T-shirt people, I had never tasted fennel.  I couldn’t think of a less appetizing way to try it for the first time than raw. In a salad. But Barb was smiling, and the other T-shirt people were ohhhing and ahhhing, I couldn’t not put any on my plate.

Manohmanohman, was it ever good! I’ve bought four fennel bulbs since that party, and learned to cut, core, and slice them.  I’ve served this salad to my daughters, my son, grandson, a boyfriend and a vegetarian friend.  I’ve eaten the leftovers while washing the dishes. It’s a yummy, crunchy, sweet, savory salad that’s both refreshing and light.  You’ll feel very healthy eating it, and happy.  Maybe those t-shirt people know a thing or two about salad. Shoot, I hope there aren’t any adverse side effects to eating this salad. I wouldn’t want to wake up at 5 AM one Saturday morning  thinking it would be a good idea to run 26 miles for a T-shirt…

This is my friend Barb.  I am helping her make quilts out of her T-shirts…. <sigh>

Barb says she clipped this recipe from “O” Magazine in January of 2005.  I reduced the olive oil and added in some lemon juice. It’s a very easy salad to make, very easy.  I made it tonight after my daughter had started making Turkey burgers.  We had both the burgers and the salad on the table at the same time.  (BTW, my daughter and I were wearing T-shirts from Old Navy, they cost about $7.00 each, we got to choose the size and the color,…and we didn’t have to run 26 miles to get them...)

Apple Fennel Salad

  • 2 med fennel bulbs
  • 2 Granny Smith apples (I found the Granny Smith apples to be a bit too tart for my liking, I used Fuji apples)
  • 1/2 cup thinly shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese (I’ve substituted Parmesan)
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  1. Remove fennel tops and chop 1 tablespoon of the green, feathery fronds. Trim root ends, halve, core and thinly slice fennel bulbs.
  2. Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples.
  3. In a large bowl, combine sliced fennel bulbs, sliced apples, shaved cheese, olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper; toss gently.
  4. To serve, arrange salad on a large, chilled serving pate. Sprinkle with reserved fennel fronds.

Makes 4-6 side dish servings.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I know this recipe isn’t what you usually expect from me, but it’s a very, very good recipe.  I hope you try it.  It’s lovely.

05 Jan 2011 Blue Cheese Dip

My first post of 2011!  How exciting!

I think I’ll start with an appetizer.  I haven’t posted many appetizers in the past.  I’ve always been a bit appetizer challenged.  My Hot Bean Dip is good, but new Year’s Eve, champagne, and Hot Bean Dip?  I don’t think so.

This holiday season I  tried three of Ina Garten’s appetizer recipes from her most recent cookbook,  How Easy is That?:  Savory Coeur a la Creme, Stilton and Walnut Crackers, and Chunky Blue Cheese & Yogurt Dip.  One was OK, one was good, and one was very, very good.  The Savory Coeur a la Creme was a bit of a bust.  I took it to my Cookbook Club, and everyone liked the topping, which was purchased Major Grey Chutney, but they weren’t nearly as enthusiastic about the recipe-made Savory Coeur a la Creme under the chutney.  The Stilton and Walnut Crackers were good, and perhaps post-worthy, but I will have to give them another try first.  I think they might be better if I cut them a bit thinner, I’ll let you know. I fell  hard for the Blue Cheese Dip though.  Delicious!! It is made with Greek yogurt so it is lighter than many blue cheese dips (most of which are made with a few cups of sour cream).  I don’t know why I photographed the dip next to a sliced baguette.  I didn’t put the dip on bread. That would have been weird. I dipped celery sticks into it.  When they were gone, I dipped cucumber slices.  I finished up with the carrot sticks.  I think I had a month’s worth of veggies in the three hours leading up to New Year’s Eve 2011 🙂

I could see thinning out leftover dip and using it as a salad dressing, IF I had any leftovers…

Blue Cheese Dip

  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallot
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 7 ounces Greek-style yogurt (I used non-fat because I couldn’t find a whole milk version)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 4 ounces sharp blue cheese, crumbled
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce (more or less to taste, but I found 5 to be just perfect)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of minced chives
  1. Start at two hours in advance (making the night before is also acceptable).
  2. Place the shallot, garlic, lemon juice, yogurt, mayonnaise, blue cheese, Tabasco, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the processor twelve times, until the mixture is almost smooth but still a bit chunky.
  3. Add the chives and pulse two or three more times.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least two hours to allow the flavors to develop.
  5. Serve with raw veggies for dipping.

Thank you, Ina!  And thank YOU for stopping by my kitchen today!  Come by again tomorrow,  I have another appetizer recipe to share!

15 Nov 2010 Poached Pear Salad

My friend Louise made this wonderful Poached Pear Salad for Cookbook Club last weekend.  Louise, one of the best cooks in the world,  has been making this salad, to much acclaim, for her family’s Thanksgiving dinner for the last I-don’t-know-how-many years.  I am so glad Louise shared this with us!  You have your hands on tried-and-true family recipe! The Poached Pear Salad is ideal for any fancy meal. It would also be good for a light lunch when paired (peared! now there’s a joke in the making… Hmm, no light bulbs going off here…, obviously someone more talented than I needs to come up with it 🙂 ) when paired with a bowl of soup or a sandwich. The salad looks elegant, tastes great and is dead easy to throw together at the last minute (as longs as the pears have been made and chilled ahead of time).

The green salad surrounding the poached pear can be customized as  you wish.  Louise used a bag of mixed salad greens, including some of that bitter stuff, and a sprinkling of feta cheese (some pomegranate seeds might have been a  nice addition, too).  I am going to use mixed lettuces with a sprinkling of blue cheese, some sweet and spicy pecans and some dried cranberries.  My daughter is thinking about baby spinach, macadamia nuts and goat cheese.  What will you come up with?  Arugula, walnuts and orange bits?  Bibb lettuce and almonds? Let me know!

Three cheers for Poached Pear Salad!! Easy, customizable, good looking, and great tasting! I have a feeling this salad will become a staple in my, and your, dinner party and elegant lunch repertoire.

Poached Pear Salad

  • 6-8 Bosch Pears, with stems left on, peeled (Bosch pears are the ugly brown skinned pears.  I’d suggest using smaller pears so your guests aren’t too full after the salad to enjoy the main meal)
  • 2 cups Port, Shriaz or Zinfandel (The choice of wine will affect the taste of your pears.  Louise prefers a good port.  I liked the pears poached in Zinfandel)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 slices orange
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 bag of salad greens
  • Cheese of choice, about 1 T. per plate (feta, blue, goat)
  • Extra toppings of choice, if desired: chopped nuts, candied nuts, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds…
  • In a large pan with a lid, combine wine, sugar, water, and star anise.  Turn heat to high and bring mixture just to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.

    Add peeled whole pears-with stem intact-to hot liquid turning to coat well.

    Stir in orange slices

    Cover pan and simmer pears on low for 10 to 15 minutes, turning pears occasionally, until pears are tender, but still hold their shape.

    Discard star anise.  Remove pears to a bowl and set aside to cool.

    Turn up heat under the wine mixture, heat to boiling, and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.  Liquid should thicken and reduce to 1 ½ cups. (Pour liquid into measuring cup every once in awhile to measure progress).  When pears are cool, cut in half lengthwise, and carefully remove core.

    Pour reduced wine and the orange slices over halved pears.  Cover and chill for at least 4-6 hours, and up to two days.

    When ready to serve, cut pear into a fan and the bottom(see picture above), and keeping intact at the narrow top end.  Place pear in the middle of a salad plate and carefully spread out the fanned bottom part.

    Discard the orange slices. Reserve the wine syrup and pour into a serving bowl to pass at the table (will be extra dressing).

    Circle the fanned pear with a desired amount of salad greens.  Sprinkle greens and/or pear with approximately 1T. of the crumbled cheese of your choice and any desired “gilding the lily” toppings.

    Pass the reserved wine syrup at the table as a dressing (or serve with a light champagne vinaigrette).

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today…, and I am so glad you were able to meet my good friend Louise.  Maybe one of these days she will share some more of her recipes with us!

    29 Sep 2010 Chinese Chicken Salad

    Chinese Chicken Salad

    It’s HOT.  Crisp salads and iced tea are what we are clamoring for.

    Here’s my version of  “Chinese” Chicken Salad.  It’s crisp and tasty. It’s made with cabbage, two kinds, which hold up better than lettuce–and lettuce is boring, and it’s in almost every other salad.  How many chances do you have to eat raw cabbage?  Not many, right?  I can only think of this salad and coleslaw.  So try this, with cabbage…, and carrots, cilantro, green onion, sesame seeds, and shredded chicken.  You might even want to add some chopped celery and/or sugar snap peas.  Sometimes I even add a can of mandarin oranges, which makes this so not a Chinese Chicken Salad (but it’s good!)

    This recipe makes enough for a small crowd.  (I often take it to potlucks.)  If you’re not the Duggars, and are not going to a potluck, you might want to consider making half a recipe. Leftover Chinese Chicken salad doesn’t keep all that well (the noodles and the cabbage loose their crunch), although teenage boys have been known to devour soggy leftovers up to 24 hours after serving…

    Chinese Chicken Salad

    • 1 small head green cabbage, finely shredded
    • 1/4 head of red cabbage, finely shredded
    • 2 large carrots, grated
    • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
    • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
    • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanuts, optional (I use dry roasted peanuts)
    • 4-5 cooked chicken breasts, chopped or shredded (Use leftover chicken, or marinate chicken breasts in teriyaki sauce for a few hours, then grill, broil or pan-fry-let cool before using.  You could also use the chicken from a cooked rotisserie chicken)
    • 2 packages of Top Ramen noodles (that soup mix stuff, the rectangular package!), crumbled (any kind, you will not be using the seasoning package)
    • 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds, optional (To toast seeds, place them in a hot, dry frying pan and swirl around a bit over medium high heat.  As soon as the seeds begin to take on a color, remove from heat.  Keep stirring, the residual heat in the pan will continue to toast the seeds for another few minutes.)
    • Optional additions: chopped celery, sugar snap peas, one can, drained, mandarin oranges

    For the Dressing

    4 tablespoons sugar
    6 tablespoons white vinegar
    1/2 cup salad oil (a light vegetable oil)
    1/2 cup sesame oil
    3/4 cup teriyaki sauce
    1 teaspoon black pepper

    Combine all the ingredients for dressing, blend or shake to mix.  Set aside.

    Toss remaining ingredients together.  If you are making this to serve later, do not add the dressing or the noodles until just before serving.

    Pour desired amount of blended dressing over veggies, chicken, peanuts, and noodles.  I don’t always use all the dressing (extra dressing keeps for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator); I like a lightly dressed salad.  Plus, heads of cabbage come in different sizes…, you will need more or less dressing depending on how much cabbage you have in your salad.

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  Hope this helps you deal with the hot weather.  Hopefully it will cool down soon and we can get some soup on the stove and some bread in the oven.  If you’d like to receive an email when I post a new recipes, please subscribe.  To view other recipes, just click on the “In The Kitchen With Polly” box on the upper left hand side of the page.  If you are looking for an even quicker side dish or pot luck dish check back soon, I just made a no fuss Southwestern Pasta Salad.  I’ll post it just as soon as I get a good picture!  I cook so much better than I take photographs.

    28 Sep 2010 Chinese Pasta Salad

    Chinese Pasta Salad?  Is there such a thing?  I doubt it.  So what is this?!  I don’t know what else to call it! Chinese Pasta Salad is the name it came to me with and I welcome all suggestions for a new name 🙂 This cold pasta side dish is good.  Very good.  I made it for a potluck last night, and three people asked me to post the recipe.  Always glad to oblige! Cold noodles, in a sauce of sesame oil, maple syrup (Chinese?  I think not!), and soy sauce with chopped dry roasted peanuts (again, Chinese?  I think not), green onion and cilantro. I wouldn’t have made this if I hadn’t tried it first.  Believe me, with this dish, the whole is better than the sum of it’s parts!

    An old coworker of mine, Mary Lou Stuart, brought this to an HR potluck at LifeScan on Tuesday, September 20, 2005.  I know the date because I still have the email with the recipe (and that horrible name).

    I changed the method a bit, just to make it easier, but other than that, I made no changes. Please forgive me for mixing up my cultures and photographing this Chinese Noodle Salad (which isn’t) on a Japanese cloth.  Also, the cilantro looks a little old, in the picture, doesn’t it?  It is.  I forgot to take a picture the day I served this. This is a picture of what was left in the refrigerator container because it wouldn’t fit into the serving container.  So that cilantro has been sitting in the dressing for three days.  Yours will look much better. The world is out of alignment today.

    Chinese Pasta Salad (not..)

    1 lb. angel hair pasta, cooked and drained
    1/2 cup pure maple syrup (Grade B, if you can find it)
    1/2 cup sesame oil
    1/4 cup soy sauce (I have also used teriyaki)
    1 cup chopped cilantro
    1 bunch chopped green onions (6-8)
    3/4 cup coarsely chopped dry roasted peanuts.

    Blend the maple syrup, sesame oil, and soy sauce in the blender.  Pour over cooked and drained noodles.  Add in chopped cilantro and green onions. Refrigerate overnight.

    Just before serving stir in the chopped dry roasted peanuts.

    Mary Lou said she sometimes adds about 2 cups of chopped cooked chicken to the salad (she uses a cooked rotisserie chicken).  I’ve done this once or twice (with a chicken breast poached in a bit of soy sauce and water/broth), but actually prefer this salad without the chicken.  Plus, it’s always nice to have something on the table for the vegetarians and vegans in the group.

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  If you know Mary Lou Stuart, please forward this message to her. I have lost track of her.  If she is uneasy with her name being on this post, I will use a pseudonym.