Cooks Exchange: Want something quick, easy and refreshing? Try these summer salad ideas

Salads have been the meals of choice for me the past couple of weeks.

I don’t know if it is because I am lazy or just want a refreshing change of pace. I prefer to think it is the latter.

After watching my native hometown be submerged by Harvey the past couple of weeks, I needed to cook to relieve some stress.

Cooking is stress relief to me, especially the chopping. I was going after Harvey with my butcher knife for all the grief he caused family and friends.

Asian food also has been on my cravings list, and what better way to reap vengeance but by chopping vegetables?

A major plus for living in coastal regions is the wonderful seafood. I love shrimp, so I combined my craving for Asian cuisine with my love of shrimp into a cold Asian noodle salad that is so light and flavorful.

My daughter, who is not big on shrimp since I took her into a smelly seafood market at age 5, loved it. Score 1 for me.

I enjoyed grating the carrots and peeling and seeding the cucumbers and cutting them into thin slices.

This dish also uses fresh ginger that is not only fragrant but also is great for the digestion. The recipe from “Fine Cooking” that I used said this salad made 1 serving, but I added some extra noodles and veggies. Elyssa and I had supper one day and lunch the next.

Per usual, I thought I had all ingredients on hand, but overlooked the mint.

I went scrounging in my cabinet for mint extract, just a tiny drop would work, but couldn’t find it. The salad would have been even more refreshing with the hint of mint, but, honestly, the flavor is so good, the mint wasn’t missed.

Elyssa and I enjoy shopping at Asian markets and tend to stock the pantry when we do. My granddaughter likes it if she gets fortune cookies. Fish sauce, rice noodles, rice wine vinegar and spicy chili sauce are some of my pantry staples that I pick up at an Asian market. Some Coast supermarkets stock good Asian products, too.

For the dinner meal, I cooked pork egg rolls, so we had noodle salad with shrimp and pork egg rolls, a lighter meal that certainly satisfied.

Meat has not been a priority this week, either, so I went meatless with a cheese tortellini salad with grape tomatoes and green beans. Talk about a quick fix, this is it.

Reader Holly Gibbs must be on a salad kick, too. She sent in a light, fruity recipe made with avocado, spinach and papaya. Shrimp or chicken could be added to make this a main dish salad.

FRESH PASTA, ANYONE?

Reader Bob Petersen wants fresh pasta and does not want to take the time to make it. He asked, “Do you know of any Coast store that sells fresh pasta?”

I didn’t, but told him that I would ask readers for their help. Markets in Mobile and New Orleans do have fresh pasta.

Readers, let me hear from you.

GREENS ARE GREENS

An anonymous reader shared two recipes, one using beet greens, the other, Swiss chard. In the spring, Lynette Faul of Gulfport asked how to prepare beet greens. She thought it was a waste to toss out the green tops on beets.

This reader has the answer.

“Turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, dandelion greens, kale, chard or Swiss chard are all greens,” he or she excerpted from “Better Homes and Gardens All-Time Favorite Vegetable Recipes.”

“Choose fresh-looking, crisp greens that are free of insect injury.”

Another hint: Cook them the day the greens are purchased.

From the BHG cookbook, here are preparation and cooking methods:

“Preparing: thoroughly wash greens in cool water to remove dirt and sand particles. Cut off any roots and remove damaged portions and large veins. Tear or cut up large leaves.

“Cooking: Greens need to be cooked in covered pan in boiling salted water only till tender, but cooking time varies from 10 minutes to 75 minutes depending on the type and maturity of the greens.”

Andrea Yeager can be reached at [email protected] and Cooks Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

COOL RICE NOODLE SALAD WITH SHRIMP AND GINGER-LIME DRESSING

(I changed amounts in this recipe)

For dressing:

1 teaspoon finely grated or very finely minced fresh ginger

1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh hot green chile, such as jalapeno or serrano (I used a seeded serrano)

1 small garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar

For the salad:

2 leaves romaine or red leaf lettuce, chopped or torn into bite-size pieces (I used iceberg that I had in fridge)

1/2 cup thinly sliced seeded cucumber

1/2 cup finely grated carrots

4 ounces thin rice vermicelli, cooked following the package directions and cooled; the package said to boil water and let noodles sit in water for 7 minutes covered; drain

1/2 pound medium shrimp, cooked with Creole seasoning to add spice, just until pink

8 mint leaves, torn (didn’t have; didn’t use)

1 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

In small bowl, mix the ginger, chile, garlic, lime juice, vinegar, fish sauce and sugar. Taste and add more of any of the ingredients to get an assertive but tasty balance of flavors.

In large bowl, gently toss together the lettuce, cucumber and carrot. Top with the cooked noodles, shrimp and herbs. Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently to combine.

From “Fine Cooking” by Martha Holmberg

MEDITERRANEAN PASTA CAESAR

1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese ravioli

1 cup frozen cut green beans, thawed (I think fresh ones would be better)

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/3 cup reduced fat creamy Caesar salad dressing

3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, cook ravioli according to package directions, adding beans during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain

In a serving bowl, combine the ravioli mixture, tomatoes and pepper. Add dressing; toss to coat. Sprinkle with cheese. Yield: 4 servings.

From Taste of Home magazine

AVOCADO & SPINACH WITH PAPAYA SALAD

Salad:

1 1/2 pounds spinach, stems removed, washed and dried

2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced 1/8-inch thick

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 medium sized papaya, peeled, seeded and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all dressing ingredients together very well. Place all ingredients in a large bowl, pour dressing over and toss well.

Submitted by Holly Gibbs

1/2 pound salt pork

8 cups water

1 1/2 pounds beet greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard or mustard greens (about 16 cups)

Cut salt pork into thin strips. Place pork and water in kettle or Dutch oven; simmer, covered for 45 minutes. Wash greens thoroughly, trim off stems and damaged portions and add to pork and water. Simmer, covered, 1 hour. Drain greens, reserving liquid. Season greens and pork with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, serve cooking liquid over. Makes 6 servings.

Submitted by an anonymous reader from ‘Better Homes and Gardens Favorite Vegetable Recipes’

6 cups torn Swiss chard

6 sliced bacon

1/2 cup sliced green onions with tops

4 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup vinegar

Place chard in large salad bowl; set aside. In skillet, cook bacon till crisp; drain, reserving 1/4 cup bacon drippings. Crumble bacon; set aside. In same skillet cook onion in reserve dripping till tender but not brown. Blend in sugar, flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir in water and vinegar. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Pour hot mixture over chard, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with bacon. Serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Submitted by an anonymous reader from ‘Better Homes and Gardens Favorite Vegetable Recipes’

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