Quick & Easy Recipe: Caprese Salad… Nothing could taste fresher!

Caprese Salad

My basil plant is growing like a weed. It is absolutely gorgeous… I bought an heirloom tomato the other day and it smelled heavenly! My first thought… CAPRESE SALAD! I mean what could be any fresher tasting as well as quick and easy to throw together?

CAPRESE SALAD

Good tomato (or tomatoes)

Fresh mozzarella cheese (it’s in a ball, slice it into nice slices)

Fresh Basil (MUST. BE. FRESH!)

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Find a good tomato (this one was rather large), and slice it (not too thin). You can lay a slice of tomato, then a slice of FRESH mozzarella cheese (if it’s not the softer fresh mozzarella the results will not be the same, I speak from experience!) and a basil leaf, or you can stack several basil leaves together, roll them up and snip them into small pieces (as I did, above). It tastes the same either way. Now drizzle the tomatoes and cheese with olive oil, and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Note: I made this recipe ahead one day… popped it in the fridge… took it out when dinner was ready and the olive oil had congealed (eek), so if you make it ahead, just take it out of the fridge a few minutes before serving so the olive oil has a chance to come alive!

The other night we had boiled shrimp, corn on the cob, and this caprese salad… too good!

This is also fabulous on a good bakery baguette… nothing fresher, we used to get this at Dean & Deluca – oh, what memories!

Catch you back here tomorrow!

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Won’t be long now… and beauty will be everywhere!

Won't be long now!

We’ve had a crazy winter… mostly warm, not that I’m complaining… a few zaps of cold, but warmer than I can remember since I’ve lived here (1989)! I don’t remember pollen in January… or mosquitos… or gnats… but we’ve got it now, and have had it since January!

It won’t be long now and the hydrangeas will be blooming, woohoo! Ours bloomed all spring and summer last year, big beautiful blooms. I love cutting a few and bringing them in the house, they last forever and add so much!

Azaleas ARE blooming now and soon they will be magnificent! We saw a pine full of pollen pods, and a dogwood with blooms the other day… one of the later flowering trees… I’m just hoping that spring will be SPRING, we certainly don’t want to rush summer 😉 Maybe we can have spring with no pollen? Wouldn’t that be crazy?!

Catch you back here tomorrow!

Roasted Shrimp and Tomato Orzo with Feta… Cool on a hot day!

I am about to make you a very happy camper… I’m going to share with you a recipe that is OUT OF THIS WORLD DIVINE! This salad is refreshing on a hot summer day (hot is an understatement, I do believe the tires on my car are melting as I type this)… You can throw this together in the morning and have it for lunch or dinner… it’s a great light dinner. You know what Dr. Oz says… Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. Meaning to eat your biggest meal first and lighten up from there. I know. I don’t like to eat breakfast either… but… Dr. Oz said so…! We try to do that when we can, it’s not always possible, but once in a while we get it right…

Ok, onto the reason I’m going to make you so happy… I’m going to share a recipe with you that I have made so many times… I have it perfected… It’s a combination of a few different recipes with my own twists added in… so here goes.

Salad Ingredients

Dressing Ingredients

Pans Prepared with Tomatoes and Shrimp to put in oven to roast… (BEFORE pic), I love before and afters, don’t you?

Tada! What the tomatoes and shrimp look like after roasting. Note: I cut the tomatoes in half (as shown in foreground), be careful, contents are hot and they spit, BIG TIME! I also cut the shrimp in half, you do what you like…

After you whisk together the lemon juice (FRESH lemon please! Red wine vinegar (or whatever you’ve got), salt, pepper and dill. Fresh if you’ve got it, dried if you don’t. Mix it up then slowly drizzle in the olive oil this will make it emulsify (it helps make it cohesive, keeps the oil and vinegar from separating). Pour it onto the orzo and stir to coat.

Add the tomatoes to the orzo mixture. Make sure you add all that wonderful sweet juice as well! It only makes it better!

Then toss in those wonderful roasted shrimp. By now you’ve got to be going crazy to taste the final product, eh? Hee. This isn’t the clearest shot, but it’s COOL, look how I’ve captured the shrimp literally  jumping into that bowl… a true action shot!

Next… add the cheese, also, not pictured are the olives and cucumbers… I usually throw a splash or two of olive juice as well, but that’s a secret so keep it to yourself, ok? Also, the cucumber I usually add right before serving. I love cucumbers, but they can get weird, which rubs off on everything else, you don’t want weird orzo shrimp tomato feta salad do you? Then trust me on this… add it before serving…

Now with all my bossy comments about what to do just know, you can do what you like, add however much of an ingredient you like. Sometimes I don’t have cucumber, so I don’t add it (*GASP*), this time I had a leftover banana pepper, so I used it and it was AWESOME!  Hey, if you make this, let me know. It will most certainly become a staple, especially during the hot summer months!

ROASTED SHRIMP AND TOMATO ORZO WITH FETA

Salad Ingredients:

1 cup orzo

3/4-1 lb. shrimp

4 green onions, chopping, including green

Big handful of pitted Kalamata olives

6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1 pint grape tomatoes, washed and dried

1/2-1 cucumber, peeled and deseeded (or an English cucumber with skin)

Dressing Ingredients:

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Fresh or dried dill

1/3 cup olive oil

1.  In a large pot of boiling water (you do need a large pot, I tried with a smaller pot and it didn’t work), cook the orzo according to package directions (mine said 9-11 minutes, I cooked it for 9). Drain thoroughly. I used a sieve otherwise with my colander the orzo would have gone through the cracks… not good.)
2. In a bowl whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper and dill. Slowly add the olive oil while constantly whisking to emulsify).
3. Heat the oven to 400. Pat the shrimp dry and toss with olive oil, spread on a baking sheet lined with heavy duty aluminum foil (to ease cleanup), sprinkle with S&P. Roast for about 6-7 minutes or until shrimp are done, DO NOT OVERCOOK. Remove from oven and set aside.
4. Toss the dried grape tomatoes in a bowl with a little olive oil (you don’t need much), spread on a baking sheet lined with heavy duty aluminum foil, sprinkle with S&P, roast for 5-10 minutes or until tomatoes just start to get wrinkly and maybe one or two does burst. Remove from oven and set aside.
NOTE: if you have a convection oven, here is where you can save some time, put it on convection bake, and you can put them both in at the same time. WOOHOO!
5. Add the orzo to a large bowl.
6. Stir in dressing to coat.
7. Add the shrimp, tomatoes, green onions, olives and feta – I usually wait to add the cucumbers until right before serving (they can get watery).
You can eat it right away (room temp) or chill it first.

Catch you back here tomorrow!

Recipe for fabulous Mediterranean Pasta Salad – Perfect for hot weather!

Ahhh, another cold salad that is to-die-for-good and is perfect for this oh-so-hot-weather we’re all having! (What’s with me and all the hyphens I wonder?) This is something you can whip up in the morning and have in the fridge for dinner later in the day. You can customize it to what you’ve got or what sounds good to you. Same with the quantities. Since there are just two of us I only used a half of a box of pasta, but if you have a gaggle at home for dinner, then by all means, double the recipe, no worries!

This is what I had in my pasta salad, remember, there are no rules! I only used a little red onion because I didn’t want it to be too strong. I happened to have 3/4 of a banana pepper left and let me tell you it was tasty in this pasta salad!

This is what I had in the dressing… I’ve also made it with just olive oil, and with olive oil/balsamic vinegar… I have to say I like today’s recipe the best!

This is what the tomatoes should like like when you’re done roasting. Just until one starts to burst or get wrinkly. At this point they’ve achieved the sweetness that you oh so desire (trust me, you do!).

MEDITERRANEAN PASTA SALAD

Pasta of your choice, I used the mini bow tie pasta. I used 1/2 box. If you use a full box, double the recipe for the olive oil/balsamic vinegar/dijon mustard.

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

S & P (kosher and fresh ground)

Vegetables to add to salad – anything goes! Whatever quantity you like.

I used 3/4 of a banana pepper and about 1/4 cup (or less) minced red onion, OH! and the container of grape tomatoes from the Farmers Market!

Feta cheese 2-4 oz.

Basil (fresh), washed, chopped, I used a few sprigs (maybe 15 leaves).

Thyme (fresh), washed, stripped from stalk – I only used a little about a teaspoon.

Olives! (Forgot those in the photos) – I used Kalamata, the big dark black olives, you can use a teaspoon or two of juice as well.

Preheat oven to 400 F

Boil water for the pasta. While the water is boiling wash and dry the grape tomatoes. (Yep, dry em… wash them well, then gently place on a clean towel, roll them around and they will be dry!)

Toss the grape tomatoes into a bowl with about a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Using your hands stir them around so that they’re all coated with the olive oil. Now using your olive oil hand, grease the cookie sheet (I use one with a lip so that they don’t go rolling off into your oven!), if you need a wee bit more olive oil go ahead and get some, but you only want to LIGHTLY oil the cookie sheet, otherwise you will have stinky deep fried smelling tomatoes and who wants that?

Once tomatoes are coated slide them onto the cookie sheet.

By now your pasta water should be boiling, toss in the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain in a colander once pasta is cooked.

Check your tomatoes, you just want them to start to get crinkly. It’s not horrible if they totally fall apart, but then you’ll have little tomato pieces instead of more sturdy pieces. Roasting the tomato gives it sweetness you cannot begin to fathom. Seriously! When they’re done, cut them in half. You don’t have to but sometimes they can be kind of big in a salad.

Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk and then pour over cooked pasta that you have placed in a large bowl. Stir it until pasta is coated well.

Now for the fun part… I added banana pepper and red onion. Add what you like, as much or as little as you like! Add it to the pasta, stir it in.

Add 2-4 oz. of feta and mix it in. Remember you can always add it on top, so don’t add too much. Been there. Done that.

Add fresh chopped (or in my case snipped with scissors) basil and thyme (again, stripped from the stalk).

Chill (but go ahead and try some now… try to leave some for everyone else. It’s that good, yep! – Yield approximately 4 servings.

Catch you back here tomorrow!

Does it feel like spring where you’re at?? This weather is heaven!

This has been the craziest winter that I can ever remember in all my life. I grew up in Michigan, where (at least in my memories) it snowed in the winter, and snow pretty much stayed around until spring. Now it comes and goes, and this year??? Lots of places are without their regular amounts of snow. Wonder why the big change all of a sudden? Here in Charleston, SC it was downright freezing last winter (well, to our standards it was freezing)… this year it’s been so nice. Lots of days in 60’s and 70’s. A few in the 80’s! We slept with the windows open recently… I love that! I’m wondering what that means come summer? It certainly can’t be any warmer than it normally is here in Charleston! Heat index in the 120’s. It’s barely tolerable, and makes me want to pack and move to the Antarctic! We were talking to a woman in a store yesterday, she said many customers were telling her that if we have a warm winter that means our summer will be cooler… OH YAY! HAS ANYONE ELSE HEARD THAT? Personally I don’t think there is any science behind it… it’ll be what it’ll be and we’ll just have to go with it… Dump a few bags of ice in the pool and move on, ha ha… Hope the weather is lovely where you are!

Catch you back here tomorrow!

Quick and easy macaroni salad, perfect for a warm summer day!

Ahhh, who doesn’t love macaroni salad on a warm summer day? It’s so refreshing… and goes well with anything or all by itself. You can change this recipe to add more (or less) vegetables, add what you’ve got, I never make it exactly the same… Fresh dill (or whatever spice you like) always kicks it up a notch, makes it taste fresher… Made a note to pick up some fresh dill… I only had dried dill weed, but that worked just fine, you just have to use a lot of it!

SUMMERTIME MACARONI SALAD

Cook 2 cups macaroni (or similar shape) noodles as directed on package, then drain, rinse in cold water and set aside.

Radishes, Orange Pepper, Celery and Hard Boiled Eggs

While the water is on, chop your veggies, whatever sounds good to you at the time… I used 2 stalks of celery, about a quarter of an orange pepper, about 8-9 radishes and three hard boiled eggs. Chop and set aside.

Dressing for Macaroni Salad

Get the dressing mixed up. I used three big oversize spoonfuls of Hellman’s Canola Mayonnaise. If it’s not enough you can always plop in a little extra. To the mayo I add a quick pour of apple cider vinegar, add more if you like vinegar, less if you don’t, a tiny squirt of mustard, salt, pepper and dill. Stir until creamy and mixed.

Stir macaroni into dressing and season with dill...

Now stir the macaroni that was set aside hangin’ out into the bowl with the dressing, stir it around good making sure to coat everything with the dressing, you don’t want any dried pieces of noodle. Blaaaah. Season with copious amounts of dill . Cover and refrigerate (unless you can’t wait… I couldn’t)… Now for the best part…

Summertime Macaroni Salad

Pour yourself a nice cold drink, scoop out a little dish of macaroni salad and enjoy! It will put a smile on your face AND if you make it earlier in the day it keeps the kitchen nice a cool, no stove… yipeee!

Catch you back here tomorrow!
Photo blog HERE

Perfect summer recipe… ROASTED CORN SALAD!

Roasted Corn Salad, recipe by Cooking Light

This has been a favorite in our house for many years now, it’s quick to make and takes full advantage of all mother nature has to offer… you can make it your own by tossing in anything else that sounds tasty. The recipe calls for white balsamic vinegar, I used regular and it was fine. This salad side dish goes well with anything, and is best served at room temperature or warm. Often times I’ll make it early in the day so the house stays cool, then just take it out of the fridge for a little while, that works! This is a recipe from Cooking Light magazine… tasty!

Here’s the link to where it’s easy to print, otherwise, below is the recipe… ENJOY! ROASTED CORN SALAD   (Cooking Light)  YIELD: 4 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 6 ears)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped seeded tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Combine corn and 1 teaspoon oil in a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Combine 2 teaspoons oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl; add corn mixture, stirring well. Stir in tomato, bell pepper, and onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cooking Light
JULY 1998

Catch you back here tomorrow!