Friday, September 9, 2011

Wait, Wait, Don't Go Yet!

I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but here in Atlanta it has morphed into autumn. One day it was hot and humid, then suddenly the air had that “cool” freshness to it and our sunlight became mellower and more golden. Today I saw a family of gold finches in our backyard, clearly on their migratory trail to warmer climates.  Summer, where did you go?

Despite the fact that I had a crazy, busy summer, I did manage to cook a lot. I just didn’t get around to blogging about it. In a perfect world, I would post every recipe immediately for you but hey – that’s not my reality. Unfortunately, I got too distracted with things like moving kids, wedding cake and other road trips, ailing parents, flat tires, varmints in the back yard and misbehaving washing machines. You get the picture. It’s called Life.

But even though it’s the end of summer, I have to give you the scoop on some of the best seasonal salads I know. It’s not too late to make them, as all of the vegetables and herbs you will need are still in abundance. It’s not too difficult to make them, as all of these recipes are a snap. In fact, the mushroom salad is so easy, you will probably laugh at me. Just remember my mantra that sometimes the sum is greater than the whole of its parts!


12 oz. fresh white mushrooms, wiped clean
4 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved
¼ cup best quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Several sprigs of Italian parsley

Trim mushrooms and cut into paper-thin slices. Arrange them decoratively on a round serving platter.

Sprinkle the shaved Parmigiano Reggiano over, then drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. Season assertively with salt and pepper to taste. Tear the parsley leaves into small pieces and scatter over the salad.  Let sit at room temperature until ready to serve.  May be made one hour in advance.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings


3 cups cooked couscous (I really don’t need to explain this, do I?)
1 ½ cups cooked, drained black beans (canned are fine, just rinse and drain them)
2 tomatoes, chopped
4 scallions, sliced on the diagonal
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (if you hate cilantro, you can use Italian parsley)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine couscous, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, cilantro and cumin in a large bowl. Stir well to combine.

Whisk together olive oil, lime juice and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over couscous mixture and stir gently. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings


For the salad:
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 ears of fresh corn, kernels removed with a sharp knife
½ of a European (seedless) cucumber, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
¼ cup minced Italian parsley
½ cup crumbled feta cheese

For the dressing:
¼ cup buttermilk
2/3 cup plain yogurt (I used non-fat Greek yogurt)
1 tablespoon champagne (or white wine) vinegar
½ of a Vidalia (or other sweet onion), minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine shallot, corn, cucumber, red pepper, dill and parsley. Stir to blend.

In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, yogurt, vinegar, onion and garlic. Whisk to combine then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour dressing over corn mixture. Taste to adjust seasonings, then sprinkle with the crumbled feta cheese.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings

GREEK PANZANELLA (adapted from Ina Garten)

For the salad:
6 cups diced rustic bread (1-inch cubes)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 European (seedless) cucumber, halved and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and large-diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and large-diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

For the dressing:
¼ cup good red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

To assemble:
1 cup diced feta cheese
½ cup pitted kalamata olives
¼ cup drained capers

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Toss the bread cubes with the olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Season well with salt and pepper. Bake for 10-15 minutes, turning once, until bread is toasted and lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Place the cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl and toss together.

For the dressing, place the vinegar, garlic, dried oregano and mustard in a bowl and whisk together. Season well with salt and pepper and whisk in the ½ cup of olive oil in a slow stream until mixture emulsifies. Taste to adjust seasoning.

Add the cooled bread to the vegetables in the bowl and toss to combine. Pour the dressing over and mix well. Stir in the feta, kalamata olives and capers. Taste to adjust seasoning and serve.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings

*  Now I realize I'm not giving you any ooey-gooey dessert recipes in this post, but bear with me here.  It's not always about sugar (and butter) in this blog!  Go ahead - treat yourself to one of these lovely salads instead.

*  I'm thinking I might make all 4 of these and invite some friends over for an end-of-summer salad party this weekend.  I'll mix up some pitchers of sangria and pomegranate cosmos and we can enjoy an evening on the patio.  Sounds like a plan - I'll just need to remind everyone to bring sweaters!

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