Addictive Watermelon Salad

Was going to a potluck event a couple weeks ago. Wanted to take something different than normal. People tend to bring hummus, guac, etc. It’s summer so watermelon popped into my head. I also didn’t want it to be just basic watermelon. So I started googling some recipes and many came up. I’d had some with balsamic before but wanted a change. Then I found a perfect one for a warm summer afternoon.

Watermelon Feta Salad with Mint

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 8 lb. whole seedless watermelon, chilled (about 12 cups of cubed fruit)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 whole limes, juiced — used bottled
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese (sheep’s milk feta preferred) — I used crumbled goat because it’s what I found when shopping

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InstructionsNote: This salad is best made just prior to serving. Prepare one hour or less before your meal.

1) Cut rind from  watermelon, then chop the fruit into 1 inch chunks. Place chunks in a colander to drain as you chop.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, fresh lime juice, salt, and black pepper to create a dressing.

3) Place watermelon in a large salad bowl. Pour dressing and chopped mint over the watermelon and toss gently to coat. Pour the crumbled feta into the salad bowl and stir gently to integrate the cheese into the salad. Serve.

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This was delicious. I have made this 5 times in 3 weeks already. So refreshing, light and easy to make. Definitely a keeper.

La Buena Vida, Ft Collins, CO

Another Mexican place I have checked out in Fort Collins is La Buena Vida. Have driven by it a lot and heard great reviews so needed to try it first hand.

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As normal at this type of restaurant, one must order guacamole to begin, as well as some margaritas. Both were great! The guac was just chunky enough and the drinks were just perfect. Went so well with the chips & salsa we’d already received.

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For the rest of the meal, I opted for the Ensalada de Pollo – Grilled chicken, lettuce, onion, cucumber, tomato, sauteed apple and pumkin seeds. Served with Lime dressing.

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The other person at the table went with Enchiladas. And at lunch you can choose how many enchiladas you’d like, so they went with one chicken enchilada, which comes served with rice and black beans, topped with red sauce.

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The salad was amazing! The apples were so unique…nothing I’d had in a salad at a Mexican restaurant before, then the pumpkin seeds, too? And the chicken could not have been more perfectly grilled. Loved the whole thing.

The enchilada was apparently quite good. Nice sauce and perfect lunch size.

Great place, will also have to check it out (again) for Happy Hour. Salud!

Romano Beans with Mustard Vinaigrette and Walnuts

Another new recipe! This one came from Bon Appetit’s May Issue. The first one I have tried (several others on the list) is the Romano Beans with Mustard Vinaigrette and Walnuts. One thing I’m glad I noticed before getting started is that the recipe serves 8. I cut it in half because I was making it for 2.

Ingredients

1 cup walnuts
3 lb. Romano beans or green beans, trimmed — used a bag of the frozen green beans from Trader Joe’s
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
½ lemon
¾ cup very coarsely chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

Recipe Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop. — I always just do this in a small frying pan on the stove, so much faster

Cook Romano beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until bright green and tender, 8–10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Drain and pat dry.

Meanwhile, mix vinegar, mustard, garlic, and 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl to combine. Let sit 10 minutes for flavors to come together.

Add walnuts and Romano beans to dressing. Finely zest lemon over beans and add parsley. Season with salt and lots of pepper and toss to coat. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with more oil.

What I loved about this recipe is that pretty much all of it can be prepped. Then you can toss everything together 5 minutes before it’s ready to be served. I cooked my beans in the afternoon and toasted my walnuts while that was happening. I mixed the ‘dressing’ in a jar and just let that sit. Then I served everything as a salad vs on a platter.

It needed a bit more lemon ‘zest’ than what the recipe calls for, so I added some juice to the leftovers. This was served with the Turmeric and Coriander Chicken. Another great summer recipe.

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Shaved Fennel Salad with Croutons and Walnuts

More cooking magazine flipping for recipes. This one from a few months ago in the April issue of Bon Appetit. Just sounded too good. Love fennel, love bread, throw in some nuts and cheese. Bring it on! This is another one where I find ways to make substitutes if I can enjoy the majority of the ingredients. So I used Manchego for the parm. The sharp taste was perfect!

Ingredients

2 cups coarsely torn sourdough bread
½ cup walnuts
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt
3 Tbsp. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely grated
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 fennel bulbs with fronds
¾ cup torn mint leaves
½ lemon
2 oz. Parmesan, shaved (used Manchego)

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400°. Place bread on one side of a rimmed baking sheet and walnuts on the other side (they cook at different rates). Drizzle bread with 3 Tbsp. oil; season with salt. Toss, squeezing bread with your hands to help it absorb as much oil as possible, until evenly coated. Bake until walnuts are golden brown and croutons are deeply browned and very crisp, 8–10 minutes for walnuts, 12–15 minutes for croutons. Let cool, then coarsely chop walnuts. **I usually just toast my walnuts (or any nut) on the stove in a pan, CAREFULLY watching them, tossing them occasionally. Because they go from not done, not done, close to done, BURNT if you’re not paying attention.**

 

  • Meanwhile, combine vinegar, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Let sit 10 minutes to let garlic mellow and flavor the vinegar.
  • Whisk 3 Tbsp. oil into vinegar mixture, then add croutons and chopped walnuts. Season crouton mixture with some salt and toss to coat and let croutons soften slightly; set aside.
  • Remove stalks and fronds from fennel bulbs. Remove fronds from stalks and coarsely chop; thinly slice stalks. Place in a large bowl. Cut fennel bulbs in half and thinly slice on a mandoline (if you have one; if not, practice your knife skills). Add to same bowl along with mint. Zest lemon half over salad, then squeeze in juice. Season with salt and toss to combine.
  • Divide reserved crouton mixture among plates and top with half of the Parmesan. Arrange fennel salad over; top with remaining Parmesan and drizzle with oil.

I tossed all of it together as a salad; I didn’t get fancy with the presentation as it mentions. This salad was delicious. With the fennel and lemon, you get so much tang. Then the crunch from the fennel and walnuts. And with the cheese that extra tang. This one is staying high on my list.

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Marinated Beans with Celery and Ricotta Salata*

Recent cooking magazines have had so many great spring salad recipes in them.

Even if the title doesn’t sound like something I can totally eat or the quick glance of ingredients doesn’t seem right because of my lactose intolerance, I always see how I can alter it. So many times olive oil can be substituted for butter, or there is only a splash of cream that can be nixed.

This one sounded so good, and was so quick and easy! And in this one, for instance, it calls for Ricotta Salata. I thought of ways to change that content. I have, in less than a week, made this recipe twice. Once with no cheese, and once with goat (or Chevre) cheese. Both were awesome!

So, this recipe is Marinated Beans with Celery and Ricotta Salata from the May issue for Bon Appetit.

Note: the recipe is for 8 servings, and it’s a hefty 8

Ingredients

  • 4 15-oz. cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, navy beans, and/or black-eyed peas, rinsed
  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped thyme, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 oz. ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta), crumbled (used Chevre from
    Trader Joe’s)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

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Preparation

  • Toss beans, celery, oil, vinegar, and 1 Tbsp. thyme in a large bowl to combine; season generously with salt.
  • Just before serving, transfer beans to a shallow bowl and top with ricotta salata, pepper, and more thyme.
  • Do Ahead: Bean salad (without celery and ricotta salata) can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Non-Cheese:

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Cheese:

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Definitely keeping this recipe around and will make it several times this summer. Just so delicious. I also nearly doubled the amount of celery to add more veggie content.

 

Seconds Favorites

You love it, you make it. Even it’s seconds. So I was cruising around the Farmer’s Market (yes, this is a few months back based on the ingredients) and trying to decide what to make for a Supper Club dinner coming up. I realized that a couple of my favorites were in high quantity because of the season — (beefsteak) tomatoes and peaches/nectarines. Now, while I love supporting the locals, sometimes those produce items can get up to $4-6/lb. And those beefsteaks can weight 1lb+ each!

So I noticed somebody who worked for one of the stands I usually buy from tossing stuff to the side and I asked her what they were and what was wrong with them. She said they were just a bit bruised, had torn/broken skin, etc, so couldn’t be sold a regular price. They all cost $1/lb! Just takes a little digging to find the one they aren’t totally bad, which isn’t hard. SOLD!

So, while digging, I came up with a good combo idea of tomatoes and peaches then remembered I had some Hearts of Palm at home.

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I just cubed all of them, added some spices (I think it was garlic, S&P) and tossed them together. Heaven! The only thing I had to do was drain it a bit because of the juiciness. Leftovers = zero. Too bad I didn’t get seconds from the seconds.

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Strondin Bistro & Bar, Vik, Iceland

Was in Vik for two nights and had the choice of pretty much two restaurants. Might as well cover the territory. So the 2nd night checked out Strondin Bistro & Bar.

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A good amount to pick from on the menu but soup was something I really wanted because by Day 3 of the trip I felt like we’d have about a week of rain. Lamb is not a meat I truly have a taste for but that was the only thing I could pick from because the other soup/stew was diary based. So I went for the:

Heimalöguð íslensk kjötsúpa – Homemade Iceland traditional meat soup with lamb and root vegetables. 2,300kr.

It was quite good. The taste in the lamb was very subtle. And the rest of the ingredients were potatoes, onions, carrots that were very nice. The warmth brought it all together.

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Also needed some veggies. Iceland does not have an abundance of these things. But this Strondin place had a Miðjarðarhafssalt: salat m/sólÞurrkuðum tómötum, ólifum, fetaosti, tomötum, agurku og paprika – Mediterranean: salad with sundried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. 1,750 kr.

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That had to be one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Ignoring the lack of veggies the prior few days, the unique combo of sun-dried and ‘regular’ tomatoes in the salad and the dressing it had; SO good!

They also had some delicious bread with some kind of herbs in it to make all this even better, that was just brought to the table.

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Finally, was enjoying all this with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Maronde Pionero from Chile, 1,250 kr. Wine was pricey as usual, but at least since I live in the DC-area, it wasn’t total sticker-shock.

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What also makes a dinner amazing is the staff. A bit shout out to Antonio, Jan and Lammi. They provided great service, making this dinner even better. Thanks!! So, when you’re in Vik, check this place out.

Also, this yellow object started coming out in the sky when we walked out of the restaurant, it was tough to identify. But it provided us this scenery.

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Simple Salad

Any salad (or dish) that you can throw together quickly is great. And when it’s with some ingredients you love it’s even better. Fennel and hearts of palm are two veggies (? — are they both considered that) I could eat every day.

A salad I recently made because of the warm temps had two of those in there — fennel, hearts of palm and then some oranges.

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Use the ratio of whatever you’d like on all of them. Slice them. Toss them with a little of olive oil, S&P and you’re good to go. Delicious!

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The Ides of March/Shrimp & Radicchio Salad

I have been part of a Supper Club for over a decade and we have slowed down the past couple years. But, we are coming back to life! So last month we were able to catch up with a very fun theme – the Ides of March. How did this come about? Somebody RSVP’d on this day, so why not make that the theme, even though the event didn’t take place on that day.  So, anything you brought had to have an ‘I’ in it – black bean dip, skirt steak, pizza. You get the drift.

It was funny, because I thought awhile on this, because so many things I was thinking about didn’t have the letter ‘I’ in them. I was out running on the Sunday morning of the dinner with a friend who cooks a lot and we were talking about this and I was bouncing ideas off of her. I’m making this sound like I’m making a major life decision! She told me come the end of this 12 mile run – ok, worst case scenario, it’s ‘Mel’s Recipe’.  Thanks, score!

Well, I ended finding a great one – Shrimp and Radicchio Salad. I think I was pretty covered there. It was so simple. I also happened to have all the ingredients already, too, except for the radicchio. I had both raw and precooked shrimp and I opted for the precooked, which made it so much easier. Made it a no-cook meal. The tang in the dressing/marinade was awesome. And that’s what was great. You just marinade the shrimp and then toss them all together with the salad.

Ingredients

1⁄2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1⁄2 lb small shrimp, cooked and drained
1 head leaves lettuce, shredded (used a big of mixed greens)
1 head radicchio, shredded
1 cup cherry tomatoes

Directions

Combine first five ingredients (olive oil – mustard) in a bowl.  Stir in shrimp ***I just put all those ingredients in a ziploc and then added the shrimp. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. In a large salad bowl combine lettuce and radicchio, pour shrimp and dressing on top. Toss add tomatoes and toss again.

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Also, at the dinner, we had pizza, dips (both appetizers and desserts) and quinoa. And of course some wine.

Smokin’ It

I love seafood, I love smoked seafood. So on my weekly or bi-weekly trip to Trader Joe’s I of course swung by the demo station. Had a bite of what they were serving (I think it was a egg salad). And at the station, they had a stack of Smoked Trout. While I have had their (and others’) vacuum packed/sealed stuff, this one was canned. Think of a sardine can, with a pull-top lid. It’s farm raised (not my favorite), skinless and in canola oil.

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So I grabbed some and used it on a salad.  Simple arugula, tomatoes, kalamatas, hearts of palm and baby Brussels sprouts. Just delicious blend of flavors. So as long as you’re not totally against the farm-raised, this is great stuff to have on hand. Stack it in the cupboard with the tuna and the other stuff and you’re good to go.