Archive for the 'Side Dishes' Category

Carrot Salad with Cumin and Garlic

Today’s recipe – Carrot Salad with Cumin and Garlic – has been in heavy rotation since I first discovered it back in August of last year. In its original context, it’s supposed to serve as part of an appetizer course for a Moroccan meal. I’ve been serving it alongside Roasted Beet Salad with Cinnamon and pan-seared chicken (occasionally with a green salad as well) for a perfect, easy, mostly make-ahead meal.

Carrot Salad with Cumin and Garlic
Serves 4

Ingredients:
5 large carrots (about 1 1/4 pounds)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (can cut to 2 tablespoons, if desired)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel or wash and scrape the carrots and trim off the tops and tails. Cut them in quarters lengthwise and then cut each quarter in half to produce sticks. Boil in salted water for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender but not too soft, then drain.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and put in the carrots, garlic, cumin, and some salt and pepper. Sauté on a medium-high heat, stirring and turning the carrots over, until the garlic just begins to color.

Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve cold.

Source: Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon

Carrot Salad with Cumin and Garlic

This is one of those “so simple but so good” recipes. I love the tender carrots mixed with cumin, lemon, and lots of garlicky goodness. While this isn’t first-date food (unless your date is into garlic!), this dish is perfect as part of a make-ahead meal or a picnic because it can be prepared days ahead and is meant to be served cold or at room temperature.

Speaking of garlic, I’ve done a fair amount of experimenting with the garlic in this recipe because I wasn’t initially sure what “crushed” garlic was. This time, I smashed whole cloves with the side of my santoku knife and stirred them in whole. That produces a milder garlic flavor. I’ve used jarred minced garlic in a pinch (works fine), but my favorite preparation in terms of flavor and texture is coarsely chopped garlic. The only less-than-great result I got was when I used my garlic press; with four cloves, the garlic flavor was totally overwhelming. If you want to press your garlic, I’d recommend cutting it back from four cloves to two.

Roasted Beet Salad with Cinnamon

Today’s recipe is one where you might take a look at the ingredient list and wonder if the elements can possibly work together. Beets and cinnamon? Really?

REALLY.

I’m a beet lover to begin with, but the marinade in this recipe takes them to another level. I first made this dish for a Moroccan-themed gourmet club meeting back in July (it was a hit!), and I’ve been making it a couple of times a month since. I served these beets to my mom during her last visit, and she said she could eat them every day (and then went home and made them for herself because she loved them so much).  The baking time is long but prep is really minimal, plus this is one of those dishes you can make a couple of days ahead for less stressful cooking and entertaining.  Give it a try – I’m sure you’ll love it!

Roasted Beet Salad with Cinnamon
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 pound beets (3 to 4)
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Large pinch of ground Ceylon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt to taste

Method:
Rinse and thoroughly dry the beets, being careful not to break their skins. Cut off the tops, leaving about 1 1/2 inches.

Tightly wrap the beets, with the salt, in foil or parchment paper and set in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 325°F for 2 hours. To check for tenderness, open one end of the packet and test a beet with the tip of a knife to see if the flesh has softened.

Peel the beets, cut into bite-sized pieces, and put in a bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients, pour over the beets, and let marinate for 1 hour before serving.  Serve at room temperature.

Source: The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert

roasted_beet_salad_w_cinnamon

This is one of my favorite salads, hands down. The beets are perfectly tender, slightly sweet, and bright from the lemon and parsley. The hint of warmth from the cinnamon really elevates the dish as well.  I like to serve this with grilled pork chops, a Moroccan carrot salad (I’ll blog one soon!), and a green salad for a nicely balanced meal.

TIPS: You read that right: two tablespoons of salt. The thing is, in order to use that amount of salt, you absolutely must not puncture the skin of the beets. The “top” of the beet is the stalks of the beet greens, not the beet itself.  If the beet flesh is exposed, that amount of salt will render your dish inedible. (I know this from experience!) If this makes you nervous, just put about a teaspoon of salt into the foil packet with your beets, and then pay special attention when seasoning the marinade later.

Also, I often double this recipe so we have more on hand for snacking. I’ve had success with doubling the amount of beets and using a single portion of the marinade.

Tzatziki Potato Salad

Is there anything better than entertaining out on the deck or patio in the summer? I just love sharing a meal outside with friends while we sip, nibble, and chat until the sun goes down. For me, though, an essential element of this experience is being able to do most of the dinner work long before any guests arrive. That’s where today’s dish – Tzatziki Potato Salad – comes in. It’s delicious, it pairs beautifully with several of my favorite grilling recipes (including Grilled Greek Chicken Kebabs with Mint-Feta Sauce and Greek-Style Pork Chops), and it can be made up to two days ahead.

Tzatziki Potato Salad
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3/4 cup Greek-style, plain, fat-free yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use light)
3 Kirby cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 serrano chile, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped dill
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook over high heat until tender, about 9 minutes. Drain, gently shaking out the excess water. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for about 10 minutes, just until no longer warm.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the yogurt with the mayonnaise until smooth. Add the cucumbers, chile, mint and dill. Fold in the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Source: Grace Parisi, Food & Wine

Tzatziki Potato Salad

I just love the flavors in this salad, particularly the freshness of the mint and the mild heat of the serrano chile. The cucumbers add coolness and crunch, and the yogurt and mayonnaise lend just the right amount of creaminess. This salad is the perfect accompaniment to any Greek-themed menu, but it would be right at home next to burgers, brats, or whatever else you’re grilling up this summer. Give it a try!

TIPS: Depending on how accurately sized your potato cubes are, you may need a few more minutes of cooking time. Just make sure the potatoes are tender before you drain them. Also, if you can’t find Kirby cucumbers, substitute a medium English cucumber (and feel free to skip the peeling and seeding, since English cukes have thin, tender skin and their seeds are less bitter).

Recipe link: Tzatziki Potato Salad

Simplest Fried Green Tomatoes

I participated in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program for the first time this summer.  I’m so accustomed to choosing recipes based on what I feel like eating or which ingredients are on sale that I thought it would be a nice challenge to force myself to use whatever showed up on my doorstep.  I ended up with some beautiful produce and had a number of “firsts”; what I didn’t anticipate, though, is that my CSA participation would fundamentally change how I like to cook.  Since I had oodles of vegetables to use each week, it made sense to cook them simply (usually on the grill or in the oven, with olive oil, salt, and pepper) and then serve some kind of meat (often grilled pork chops!) on the side.  No long ingredient lists, no labor-intensive recipes, just simple and delicious food.  For better or for worse, I now have a very low tolerance for lots of prep work and long cooking times.  We’ll see if I have a surge in cooking energy as fall fades to winter.

Anyway, I received my last CSA delivery of the season on Saturday and it included a whole pile of green tomatoes.  Though I rarely fry anything, I decided that fried green tomatoes were a must.  Most of the recipes I found online had lots of ingredients (egg, cornmeal, flour, spices) – too much work.  I was intrigued, though, by a comment on an Allrecipes recipe where a woman said she just dredged them in self-rising flour and fried them.  That comment was the beginning of this super simple recipe.

Simplest Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients:
Firm green tomatoes
Self-rising flour (I prefer White Lily)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil

Method:
Pour vegetable oil into a cast-iron skillet until it’s 1/2 inch deep.  Heat over medium heat to 350°F.

Meanwhile, slice tomatoes 1/4 inch thick.  Season on both sides with salt and pepper.  Place flour (measurement depends on how many tomatoes you plan to fry; start with 1/4 – 1/2 cup) in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.

When the oil is hot enough, dredge enough tomato slices in the flour to fit in the skillet without touching; carefully drop them in the skillet.  Fry until golden brown (about 2 – 4 minutes per side, depending on the size of your tomato slices and any variations in the oil temperature).  Drain on paper towels.  Repeat with any remaining tomatoes and serve warm.

Simplest Fried Green Tomatoes

For something so simple, these were amazing.  The tomatoes were tender (but not mushy), the coating was light and crisp, and the flavor was fantastic.  I had some fried green tomatoes with a thick cornmeal crust at Second Home in Denver a couple of months ago, and I have to say I enjoyed these more.  I think the key to success with this one is seasoning the tomatoes and flour with confidence; don’t be shy.

You know how much I love make-ahead things, so I just had to try reheating these in a 350°F oven (with a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet) the next day to see what would happen.  Fries can be re-crisped, so why not tomatoes?  Because of their high water content, that’s why.  The coating was too sogged out after a night in the refrigerator to bounce back.  At least I tried.

Watermelon Mango Salsa

It may be 58° outside, but I’m going to blog summer recipes until the season is officially over, dangit.  Plus, there are plenty of watermelons and mangoes available in my supermarket right now, and this salsa is sooooo good.  I made it for our farmers’ market-themed gourmet club last month, but it would be fantastic as part of a picnic, as an appetizer for a non-traditional Mexican menu, or as a garnish for grilled fish or chicken.  Give it a try!

Watermelon Mango Salsa
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 1/2 to 3 cups diced seedless watermelon
1 Granny Smith apple, finely diced
1 mango, pitted and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Method:
Combine the salsa ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate.  Serve with chips.

Source: Peace Meals (such a gorgeous cookbook!)

Watermelon Mango Salsa

I’ll admit that I was initially a bit hesitant about adding garlic to watermelon, but this combination of ingredients really works.  You get sweetness from the watermelon and the mango, tartness from the apple and the lime juice, and savory goodness from the onion, jalapeno, and garlic.  I enjoyed the play between textures just as much as the flavor; the crunch from the apples and onions was especially terrific.  I’ll definitely make this one again, especially if I have leftover watermelon to use.

Like most recipes I love, the salsa can be made ahead.  I threw mine together a couple of hours before serving it and I thought it was just perfect; if you make yours ahead and it gets too juicy, just drain off some of the liquid before serving.

Dinner Party Menus: Niman Ranch Burgers

Labor Day is fast approaching (I cannot even believe it’s September already), and I have the perfect burger-based menu for anyone who is planning a cookout to celebrate.  As is, the menu will serve six people somewhat generously; the recipes are easily doubled (or tripled!) for extra guests.

Appetizer:
Hummus with Peppers and Pita Chips

Meal:
Niman Ranch Burgers with Cheddar, Tomato, Caramelized Onion, and Spicy Mayo
Orzo and Zucchini Salad
Grilled Corn

Dessert:
Ice Cream Cones

The hummus, pita chips, ice cream, and ice cream cones are all store-bought, which saves some time and prep work.  Here’s the prep schedule I followed for a 6 p.m. dinner party on a Friday:

Anytime Thursday:
Chill beverages
Wash and iron napkins (unless you’re using disposables)
Make caramelized onions (part of Niman Ranch Burgers recipe) and refrigerate
Make spicy mayo (combine light mayo and Chalula or other hot sauce to taste) and refrigerate

Friday morning or afternoon (work takes 60 – 90 minutes):
Slice peppers for hummus (I usually do a very large dice instead of strips because bigger pieces are better for dipping) and refrigerate
Slice zucchini for orzo salad and refrigerate
Wash, dry, and tear basil for orzo salad and refrigerate
Make corn packets (recipe follows) and refrigerate
Make burger patties (place squares of wax paper between each patty for easy use later; store on a plate and cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container) and refrigerate
Set table (unless you’re serving buffet-style)
Set serving dishes aside (this prevents me from having to root around for dishes and ask my guests to move while they’re enjoying appetizers at my kitchen island)

5:00 p.m.: Make Orzo and Zucchini Salad (zucchini is already sliced and basil is ready to go).  Cover and set aside until dinnertime.  (For best flavor, do not refrigerate.)

5:45 p.m.: Set out hummus, peppers, and pita chips.

6:00 p.m.: Guests arrive!  Make sure everyone has a beverage.

6:15 p.m.: Pre-heat grill on high.

6:30 p.m.: Scrub grill with wire brush.  Lower heat to medium-high.  Cook corn packets according to recipe.  While corn is cooking, slice tomato for burgers and set out caramelized onions, spicy mayo, and any other desired burger condiments. Slice hamburger buns (if they aren’t pre-sliced).  These are good tasks for guests if you want help! :)

6:50 p.m.: Remove corn packets from grill and set aside.  Lightly oil grill and cook burgers according to recipe (about 4:30 per side).  Place cheddar cheese slices on burgers during last minute of cooking.

7:00 p.m.: Dinner is served!  Let guests assemble their own burgers, and serve with orzo salad and corn.

Once everyone’s food has settled, set store-bought ice cream on the counter for 10 minutes to soften.  Scoop ice cream into store-bought cones to serve. (Or, if you want to put in a little more effort, set up an ice cream bar with bowls, sprinkles, and other toppings.)

Here’s my corn recipe for anyone who wants to give it a try:

Jenny’s Grilled Corn
Serves 6

Ingredients:
6 ears sweet corn
Olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Method:
Remove the husks and silk from the corn.  Place each ear of corn on a large piece of foil.  Brush each ear with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Fold in the sides of the foil and roll around each ear to completely enclose the corn in foil. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Heat grill to medium-high.  Place corn on grill and cook for 20 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove foil and serve.

Grilled Corn

This meal was seriously fantastic.  My friend Christopher equated it to restaurant food, which is a wonderful compliment.  The burgers were juicy and deliciously sloppy (have lots of napkins!), the corn was tender and smoky, and the orzo salad was bright and fresh.  I love that the appetizer and dessert courses were so easy thanks to store-bought elements, and the rest of the meal really did require minimal work while my guests were present.  Perfection!  I’ll definitely use this menu again.

TIPS:  Have a vegetarian guest?  Add Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese or store-bought veggie burgers to the menu.  Also, I feel like a key element of a good burger (meat or veggie) is that the bread doesn’t overwhelm the patty.  I love, love, love SuperTarget’s mini Kaiser rolls (available in the deli section) for this reason; they’re the perfect size.

Recipe links: Niman Ranch Burgers and Orzo and Zucchini Salad

Beet and Tomato Salad

I got two pounds of gorgeous tomatoes in my CSA share this past week, so I think it’s time to share what has been one of my favorite salads this summer: Beet and Tomato Salad from the September 2010 issue of Everyday Food.  It’s colorful, fresh, and delicious, and it makes a perfect accompaniment to grilled meats (especially pork chops – our favorite!).

I’ve made this salad four of five times this summer, and I have to admit that I initially struggled to find the perfect roasting time for the beets.  The recipe says to roast them for 45 minutes to an hour.  This works fine for very small beets, but in my experience, average-sized beets need at least 75 minutes to become tender.  After the initial roasting time, poke them with a fork or knife to make sure they’re tender; if not, put ‘em back in.

Beet and Tomato Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 medium beets (about 1 pound total), scrubbed
2 teaspoons plus 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 medium beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

Method:
Preheat oven to 425°F.  Place beets on a large piece of foil on a baking sheet. Top with 2 teaspoons oil and season with salt and pepper.  Fold foil around beets and crimp ends to form a packet.  Roast beets on sheet until tender when pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove beets from foil and let cool, then peel and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 3 teaspoons oil, shallot, and vinegar; season with salt and pepper.  On a large platter, arrange beets and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with fresh oregano leaves.

Source: Everyday Food, September 2010

Beet and Tomato Salad

This is sooooo good.  I suspect this salad could be a game changer for people who think they don’t like beets (especially if they’re used to canned beets at the salad bar).  The combination of fresh tomato and beet slices, simple but flavorful dressing, and fresh herbs is seriously out of this world.  (I must admit, though, that I’ve put a dash of dried oregano in the dressing when I didn’t have fresh oregano to sprinkle on top.  I like the fresh herbs better, but the salad was still amazing.)

Since I’m all about entertaining, I love that this salad is easy to make ahead as well. Roast and slice the beets, slice the tomatoes, and make the dressing earlier in the day.  Arrange the beet and tomato slices on a platter and store the dressing and the platter in the refrigerator.  Right before serving, add the dressing and the oregano to the beets and tomatoes.  If you prep the salad ahead and round out the meal with grilled pork chops or chicken, you can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes flat.

Recipe link: Beet and Tomato Salad

Basic Potato Salad

I had one of my most glorious summer nights ever at the end of June.  Some dear friends and I packed ourselves (and our picnics) into a car.  Our destination? Venetucci Farm in Colorado Springs to see Gregory Alan Isakov (one of our local favorites) play al fresco.  It was an evening of great friends (including one I hadn’t seen in nine years!), perfect weather, wonderful music, and (of course) tasty food.

Since my friend handled the concert tickets and the wine, I volunteered to take care of the picnic.  I settled on Pampered Chef’s Italian Muffuletta (I need to make it again because it must be blogged), Martha Stewart’s Basic Potato Salad, grapes, and Coconut-Apricot Macaroons.  Everything was so delicious and so able to be made ahead (a picnic must).  Here’s the recipe for the potato salad:

Basic Potato Salad
Serves 8

Ingredients:
3 pounds waxy potatoes (such as Yukon gold or new), scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
4 scallions, white part minced, green part thinly sliced
Coarse salt
Ground pepper
3/4 cup light mayonnaise

Method:
Set a steamer basket in a Dutch oven (or large pot with a lid), and add enough salted water to come just below the basket; bring to a boil.

Place potatoes in basket, cover pot, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.  Steam potatoes, gently tossing occasionally, until tender, 15 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine vinegar, scallion whites, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Add hot potatoes to vinegar mixture; toss to combine.  Cool to room temperature, tossing occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add mayonnaise and scallion greens to cooled potatoes; mix gently to combine. Serve, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Source: Everyday Food, June 2007

Basic Potato Salad

Now I am all for eating complicated potato salads with long lists of ingredients (particularly if that list includes bacon and/or sour cream), but making them can be a pain.  This salad is super simple with minimal hands-on time, but it’s seriously tasty (though liking vinegar is a must).  It’s tangy and creamy, with the slightest bite from the scallions.  YUM.  I’m going to make this one again when my parents come to visit next month.

TIPS: Next time, I’ll be sure put my scallion whites and greens in separate little bowls while I make this.  I wasn’t really paying all that much attention to the recipe, and I put my whites and greens in the vinegar with the hot potatoes.  The result? Sad, wilted, washed-out-looking scallion greens.  I solved the problem by snipping some of my CSA chives over the top, but next time, I’ll just do it right the first time.

Recipe link: Basic Potato Salad

Dinner Party Menus: Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

I spend a ridiculous amount of time on food.  Between searching recipes, reading food magazines, planning menus, shopping, cooking, and cleaning it all up, food is certainly a central element in my life.  (My husband and I keep joking about all the things I could accomplish if I gave up cooking for just one week…  Stay tuned to see if that ever actually happens!)

It occurred to me today that I might be able to save time for some of you by posting the menus I’ve put together for dinner parties at my house.  I try to plan things that go together nicely and that will allow me to do as much work as possible before my guests arrive.  (We usually have cocktails and apps around my kitchen island, so the last thing I want my guests to see is me frantically trying to put a meal on the table.)  Saving time and lessening stress is always a good thing, right?

Last night, Dr. O and I hosted a typical fall dinner party with one exception: we had a vegetarian guest.  Now, vegetarians certainly aren’t unusual and I’ve worked with more challenging diets, but I came to realize that I didn’t have many recipes in my entertaining arsenal that didn’t include meat.  I first experimented with Hearty Root Vegetable and Mushroom Stew from my copy of The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2010.  While it certainly wasn’t bad, it wasn’t dinner party food; my friend Christopher suggested that I was expecting a miracle out of a vegetable stew.  After some discussion, we came up with the menu below for six guests.

Appetizers:
Spinach dip and lemon artichoke dip from Whole Foods (I’ll take help where I can get it!)
Crackers
Cucumber slices (as a dipping alternative)
Mixed olives
Roasted, salted almonds (from Whole Foods bulk section – fantastic!)

Meal:
Perfect Macaroni and Cheese
Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots
Simple Roasted Tomatoes (Just toss any quantity of cherry tomatoes in a roasting pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper; roast for 15 to 20 minutes towards the end of the macaroni and cheese baking time.)

Dessert:
Pear and Berry Crisp

Here’s the preparation schedule I followed for a 7 p.m. dinner party.  (Yes, I am one of those people.  Having a schedule totally reduces stress and the likelihood that I’ll forget something, though.)

Anytime Friday:
Chill wine
Wash and iron napkins
Make and store crisp topping

Saturday morning or afternoon (work takes approximately 1 hour):
Slice and store shallots for green beans (refrigerator)
Rinse, trim, and store green beans (refrigerator)
Wash and dry cherry tomatoes, place them in roasting pan, and store (counter)
Wash, slice, and store cucumbers (refrigerator)
Thaw berries for crisp
Wash and slice pears for crisp
Assemble fruit portion of crisp and store (refrigerator)
Set table

5:45 p.m.: Make macaroni and cheese (hold at room temperature until baking time)

6:30 p.m.:
Put out appetizers
Put pot of water for green beans on stove (no heat yet)
Put pot for cooking shallots on stove with shallot butter inside (no heat yet)
Preheat oven for macaroni and cheese

7:00 p.m.: Guests arrive!

7:15 p.m.:
Put macaroni and cheese in oven
Start boiling bean water

7:30 p.m.:
Put tomatoes in oven (beneath macaroni)
Start cooking shallots

7:45 p.m.:
Remove macaroni from oven
Add green beans to boiling water

7:50 p.m.:
Remove tomatoes from oven
Drain green beans and toss with butter, salt, and pepper
Combine green beans with caramelized shallots
Change oven temperature to 400°F for crisp
Serve dinner

8:30 p.m.: Put crisp in oven

9:15 p.m.: Remove crisp from oven

9:35 p.m.: Serve warm crisp with vanilla ice cream

It seems like a lot of steps, but since I did things like put the bean water and shallot butter on the stove ahead of time, I’d say the actual amount of hands-on work that needs to be done while guests are standing around takes fewer than 10 minutes. Consequently, I can actually interact with and enjoy my guests (the point) instead of working myself into a frenzy (so not the point!).

The food turned out really well.  I’ve made Perfect Macaroni and Cheese (here’s a link to my post) and Pear and Berry Crisp (my post) before; both are absolutely to die for.  The tomatoes and the green beans were perfect complements to the macaroni.  I would normally serve a buttery chardonnay (like La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay) with this dinner, but my friend brought a red (2005 La Baronne Alaric) with the dish in mind; it paired beautifully.

So that’s my dinner party…  What do you think?  Do you consider this type of post helpful, or not so much?  I’d love to hear from you!

Southwestern Two-Bean Salad

As promised, here’s the recipe for Southwestern Two-Bean Salad that completes my grilling menu from the other weekend.  I chose this salad to go with the Cilantro Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken and the Hill Country Coleslaw because it’s hearty, generally crowd-pleasing, and it contained the one ingredient that tied all three dishes together: cilantro.  Its fresh summer flavor would make it right at home on just about any picnic or barbecue buffet, though; I’ve served it with pulled pork sandwiches and burgers as well.

Southwestern Two-Bean Salad
Serves 12

Dressing ingredients:
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Salad ingredients:
2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 1/4 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (1/4 – 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup snipped fresh cilantro

Method:
For the dressing, whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, cumin, oregano, salt and black pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

For the salad, drain and rinse beans.  Place beans in a large bowl.  Drain corn. Chop bell pepper and add corn and bell pepper to beans.

Chop onion and jalapeno peppers.  Snip cilantro using kitchen shears (or chop it). Add onion, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and dressing to bean mixture.  Mix gently. Cover and refrigerate 2 – 3 hours to allow flavors to blend.

Source: Pampered Chef’s Casual Cooking

Southwestern Two-Bean Salad

I just love this salad.  It’s light and fresh, and I like the way the tender texture of the beans contrasts with the crunch of the peppers and the corn.  Plus, it’s inexpensive to make, it keeps wonderfully, and it adapts well for a variety of menus. Give it a try!

TIPS:  Since it’s summer and fresh corn is readily available, I substituted fresh corn for the canned.  I cut the kernels off of two cobs, placed the corn in a colander, poured boiling water over it, and drained it before adding it to the salad.

Also, since my mom recently fell victim to “jalapeno eyes,” a note about working with jalapenos: After handling jalapenos, always (!) make sure you wash your hands (or wear gloves).  If you have jalapeno oil on your hands and you touch your skin (or heaven forbid, your eyes), it will burn.  I accidentally touched the corner of my mouth recently with jalapeno hands, and while it wasn’t excruciating, I could definitely feel the heat.  If you’re generally cautious about spicy food, though, don’t let this scare you out of using jalapenos in the salad.  Removing the seeds and membranes tones them down considerably.  I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy food, and I could barely taste them.




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