Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

I can hear the motors gearing up as people get ready to travel for a long weekend summer vacation. The car is packed with bikes, kayaks, towels, swim-gear, boogie boards, camping equipment, and overflowing with 12 changes of clothes per person for three days, because you never know what the weather will bring. Labor Day is here and people are anticipating a fun weekend full of playtime with family and friends for a last summer hurrah.

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad is a great salad to bring along for any weekend adventure or picnic. It is a light and healthy pasta salad that everyone will enjoy and easily adaptable to fit any diet.
Gull Pond in the National Forest, Wellfleet, MA

With all of this great activity in the summer’s sun,  you are going to want to make food that will not take up a lot of your play time, needs to be nourishing, and taste as bright and delightful as your weekend vacation. My solution is Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad, loaded with fresh vegetables, cured olives, creamy cheese and fresh herbs.  It is a light and refreshing pasta salad that will satiate your hunger and cravings and use up a lot of vegetables that you purchased at the farmer’s market, or picked from your own garden. The bonus is, this pasta salad recipe won’t take up a lot of your play time to prepare.

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad is a great salad to bring along for any weekend adventure or picnic. It is a light and healthy pasta salad that everyone will enjoy and easily adaptable to fit any diet.
Fresh grape tomatoes
Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad is a great salad to bring along for any weekend adventure or picnic. It is a light and healthy pasta salad that everyone will enjoy and easily adaptable to fit any diet.
Basketful of ingredients for the Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

A Sexy Fig, Mozzarella, and Prosciutto Salad, Good Enough for The Land of Mutz

Hoboken NJ is the land of Mutz. Say whaaat, Mutz? Yes, Mutz pronounced with an emphasis on the sounds of the first two letters,  Mmuutz, and is a local term of endearment for fresh made mozzarella. I do not mean to be disrespectful to the Bronx and Brooklyn. They each have their great Italian neighborhoods with delicious Italian cuisine and traditions, but Hoboken’s Mutz stands above all others in the area. It is so delicious in fact that every Italian Deli in Hoboken has their own house made Mutz and claims to be the best.

This is a delicious and sexy salad made with figs, fresh mozzarella and Prosciutto De Parma. It is an easy and elegant salad that can be served as a first course meal for a casual dinner for two or more, a special date night, or dinner party. This simple salad adapts to any ocaision.
Fresh Mozzarella, Figs, Prosciutto de Parma and fresh Basil

About four years ago Hoboken started a Mutz Festival to showcase all the freshly made Mutz from each deli and crown the winner of Best Mutz in Hoboken. Mutzfest has a secondary purpose to raise money for local charities as well. A Mutzfest? Absolutely, and the line to get in is several blocks long. Who can say no to eating fresh mozzarella from every Italian Deli in town and roll away one happy Mutz-stuffed champion? I have this vision of every deli owner with their extended family staying up all night, teaming together to pull the mozzarella needed for the Mutzfest. There probably is not a single bit of space left on the counters, shelves, floors, anywhere in all of Hoboken, to put all that Mutz.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Fresh Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachio

The middle of the summer is here and the farmers markets are overflowing with a variety of fruit and vegetables. At last zucchini and corn are announcing their presence. Don’t let these “common” and affordable vegetables fool you, both offer a wide choice of preparations and pair beautifully together. When zucchini and corn  are eaten in its natural state, raw, the flavors are so fresh you will think you are sitting in their vegetable patch, surrounded by vegetables and feeling the summer breeze.

Zucchini and Corn Salad is an easy and fresh salad hot those hot summer days. No need to turn on the oven , slice and mix.

Up until last summer I was not impressed with corn. The corn I bought at the grocery store was bland, getting sweet fresh corn was the exception not the rule. Even corn bought at a farm stand was just ok. Fortunately, last summer the corn was outstanding. It did not matter were I bought corn, all of it was sweet and bright. I discovered eating corn uncooked, just scraped off the cob. Fresh corn just scraped off the cob, is corn at its sweetest and crunchiest. Raw fresh corn became my not so secret, secret ingredient that changed a salad from being “good” to extraordinary. Raw corn is the essence of summer – simple, carefree and bright.

Zucchini and Corn Salad is an easy and fresh salad hot those hot summer days. No need to turn on the oven , slice and mix. Zucchini and Corn Salad is an easy and fresh salad hot those hot summer days. No need to turn on the oven , slice and mix.

These hot summer days require food that helps bring the heat down and keep the stove off. Fresh zucchini and corn salad will do just that. The sweetness of the corn adds depth to the zucchini with crisp texture and bright and fresh flavor. Add lemon vinaigrette, fresh herbs, avocados and pistachios and this salad will satisfy all cravings with crisp, crunch and creamy textures and flavors. Most importantly you do not have to turn on the oven.

My recipe is inspired by and adapted from a recipe of Patricia Wells, Zucchini Carpaccio from her book, Salads as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season.  The paper-thin sliced zucchini paired with avocado, pistachios and a lemon dressing was elegant and inspirational. Now I do not see this as a main entrée, I would definitely be prowling in the pantry for munchies a couple of hours after dinner if I did eat this as my main meal, so I adapted  this salad to be featured as a vegetable side dish and added corn.

Patricia Wells, Zucchini Carpaccio recipe via Food52

Zucchini and Corn Salad is an easy and fresh salad hot those hot summer days. No need to turn on the oven , slice and mix.

To prepare the zucchini I used a Spiralizer and cut the zucchini noodles into smaller pieces. This made the salad easier to mix and eat. If you do not have a Spiralizer you can julienne the zucchini, or slice across the zucchini as thin as possible then, cut each slice in half or quarters. The point is to have the zucchini in extra thin pieces to reinforce zucchini delicate flavor. No big chunks in this salad.

Zucchini and Corn Salad is an easy and fresh salad hot those hot summer days. No need to turn on the oven , slice and mix.
Zucchini and Corn Salad

Fresh herbs are another key ingredient in the salad and lemon thyme is a stand out feature. If you do not have lemon thyme, substitute basil or other fresh herb that pairs well with lemon. But use fresh herbs, dried herbs will not do the salad justice.

Serve Fresh Zucchini and Corn Salad with Potato Salad with Yogurt and Sorrel Dressing and Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak for a lemony summer dinner.

Fresh Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachio

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

4 side dish servings

Fresh Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachio

These hot summer days require food that helps bring the heat down and keep the stove off. Fresh zucchini and corn salad will do just that. The sweetness of the corn adds depth to the zucchini with crisp texture and bright and fresh flavor. Add lemon vinaigrette, fresh herbs, avocados and pistachios and this salad will satisfy all cravings with crisp, crunch and creamy textures and flavors. Most importantly you do not have to turn on the oven.

Recipe is adapted from Patricia Wells, Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado and Pistachios.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbl fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest from half a lemon
  • 3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tea sea salt
  • 2 medium fresh zucchini
  • 1 ear of fresh corn, husked
  • 1/2 ripe avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pistachio nuts, ruff chopped
  • 1 Tbl fresh lemon thyme, minced

Instructions

    For the Salad Dressing
  1. In a small jar with a lib, or small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, lemon zest and sea salt until just combined. Add the olive oil and vigorously shake the jar with the lid tightly screwed on, or whisk with a fork in a bowl, until the salad dressing is well incorporated. Set aside.
    Zucchini and Corn Salad
  1. Clean and trim the ends of each zucchini. Use a Spiralizer to spiral cut the zucchini into noodles, or very thinly slice the zucchini across the zucchini then cut each piece in half, or julienne the zucchini. If using the Spiralizer, cut the zucchini noodles into smaller lengths. Put the prepared zucchini into a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Hold the ear of the corn at the pointed end and rest the stem end on a cutting board. (Cut the stem off so you can have a stable surface to rest the corn on.) Take a sharp chef knife and starting an the top of the corn cut down the length of the corn, scraping the knife against the cob, to cut off the corn kernels. Rotate the corn around and continue to cut the corn kernels off the entire ear of corn. Put the corn kernels in the bowl with the zucchini.
  3. Add the chopped avocado, and chopped pistachios to the bowl and gently mix to combine all the ingredients. Add the fresh herbs and salad dressing and mix to combine. If not planning on serving the salad right away, do not add the avocado and pistachios. Add these ingredients just before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Notes

If you do not have lemon thyme you can add basil or thyme. Any fresh herb that pairs well with lemon will work.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Inspired Leftovers: Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

I could get lost strolling through farmers markets and small local specialty grocery stores. Upon entering the market I enjoy strolling around, looking for new produce to mark the beginning of their season, and admiring the beauty of the bounty. Plants and their fruit are so beautiful and the markets know how to display their vibrant, mix-match colors creating a landscape like the scattered dots in a pointillist painting.  I go to the market with a shopping list and an idea of what I want, but I can be easily swayed by the texture, color and shape of the fruit and vegetables enticing me to take a closer look.

Farmers market inspiration for new meals and upgrading leftovers.
Pleasantville Farmers Market Inspiration

My inspirational browsing does not transfer to the supermarket. The stacks of pre-packaged fruits and vegetables greet me at the entrance., immediately making me defensive. No lingering allowed, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. The costumer is encouraged to grab and go, not to examine and select. Ironically it can take me a longer time to shop at a supermarket, despite being designed for speed and efficiency, because I do more scrounging around to find a good piece of meat or produce. My focus will concentrate on what I absolutely need, while my inner thoughts say, “Damn, this is what I have to choose from?”   The supermarket may call the pre-packaged produce as “Grab and Go,” I call it wasteful and a ripoff. There is no need to encourage me to spend more money, I do a pretty good job at that already, and I do not want the extra packing material, or 3 lbs of green beans. All I want is fresh food at a reasonable price, that is ripe, flavorful, and I can pick and choose as I please without the extra waste.

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Pan Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Ingredients for avocado and yogurt dressing

I will be honest, I procrastinate going to the grocery store. It is a lot easier to procrastinate now that there are only two of us living under one roof. There are times when 5:30 rolls around after a day of work and I realize that there is nothing planned or prepared for dinner. On these days, leftovers and a well stocked pantry come to the rescue. I do plan for leftovers and count on them two days a week. As my dependence on leftover grows, I am more insistent about keeping sticky fingers from grazing or helping themselves to seconds.

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.

When I was a kid leftovers was a sentence to eating the dregs scraped off the bottom on the pan.  When mom announced leftovers of dinner, she was met with groans, rolled eyes, and exasperated reactions. I vaguely remember my own children giving me the same reaction as well, but it was possibly more directed to  the amount of times we had chicken for dinner. “Chicken! Again! Can’t we have something different for a change? Why must we always have chicken? Ugh. ”

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Ingredients for Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad

Leftovers do not have to be the dregs, as long as there are some fresh vegetables available, last nights dinner can become new again. My inspiration for this leftover meal came about because I had more avocados than I knew what to do with, some homemade yogurt that I am in love with, and enough leftover grilled chicken to stretch into a salad for two. The finishing touches are added once the foundation is set. The avocado and yogurt dressing was inspired from a recipe of Mark Bittman’s of which I added a tomatillo and poblano pepper, (the leftovers from another meal). Some food items are just meant to be together and avocado, tomatillo and poblano chili pepper are just those foods asking to be married.

Avocado and yogurt dressing spruce up leftover grilled chicken to create a refreshing grilled chicken and cucumber salad.
Avocado and Yogurt Dressing

Look in your fridge and pantry, hidden inside are some odd and end gems of produce and proteins ready to freshen up last nights dinner. These easy dinners can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. No tantrums with this fresh take on leftovers. You never know, an inspired leftover meal could be your next family favorite.

What is your favorite way to use up leftovers?

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado and yogurt dressing.

What to do with your leftover avocado?

Avocado toast on whole grain bread with a poached or fried egg.

My standby lunch of open-face sandwich with avocado, salsa and cheese, melted under the broiler.

Inspired Leftover Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

3-4

Serving Size: 1 cup

Inspired Leftover Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. Any type of prepared chicken will work with this recipe, just remove skin and bones if needed. Grilled chicken and cucumber salad is a refreshing and easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.

The avocado yogurt dressing was inspired by a recipe from How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. I cut the ingredients in half because I was using it as a salad dressing and not a dip. I threw in a tomatillo and some poblano pepper to add a little more flavor and texture. If you do not have either of these two ingredients, replace them with a couple of tablespoons of tomatillo salsa, (salsa verde).

Prepare and serve the salad immediately, as anything made with avocado will discolor when exposed to air. I have eaten leftover salad for lunch the next day, but beyond that the salad would look and taste funky.

Ingredients

    Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
  • 2 grilled boneless and skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 2 scallions
  • 4-5 springs of cilanto, chopped
  • Avocado Yogurt dressing
  • 2 large handfuls of cleaned fresh spinach
  • Fresh blueberries or strawberries (optional)
    Avodaco and Yogurt Dressing
  • 1/2 Haas avocado
  • 2 -3 Tbl plain yogurt
  • Juice from 1 lemon, zest from half a lemon
  • Scant 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 small tomatillo, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 of a poblano pepper -seeds and stem removed and chopped
  • 1/2 of a shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Kosher salt to taste

Instructions

    Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
  1. Chop the grilled chicken breasts in to bite size pieces about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. Place the chicken in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Cut the cucumber piece in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each of the 4 seedless cucumber sections in half lengthwise to create 8, long cucumber pieces. Cut the cucumber pieces into 1/2 inch chunks and add to the mixing bowl with the chicken.
  3. Trim the root off the scallion then slice the white and light green part into thin slivers. discard the dark green parts with the root or set aside for another use. Add scallions to mixing bowl.
  4. Trim the cilantro leaves from the long stems and gather the leaves into a tight pile, holding the pile together with your non-working hand. Cut across the pile to mince the cilantro. Add cilantro to mixing bowl.
  5. Mix all the ingredients together until evenly combined and set aside.
    Avocado and Yogurt Dressing
  1. Place the minced shallot in a small bowl and add the juice of half a lemon to the bowl. Let the shallots macerate in the lemon juice for a few minutes.
  2. Peel the garlic clove and remove the green germ from the center. Mince the garlic, then add to the lemon juice and shallots.
  3. Using a spoon, scoop the avocado meat sway from the peal then add the avocado to a food processor. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of yogurt to the avocado along with the peeled and chopped tomatillo, and chopped poblano pepper.
  4. Add a pinch of Kosher salt, about 1/4 teaspoon, and lemon zest to the avocado mixture then turn on the food processor and puree the ingredients until combined.
  5. Add the orange juice and shallot, garlic and lemon juice mixture to the avocado. Turn on the processor and blend until the dressing is smooth. Taste and correct the seasoning to suit your preference. Add the remaining lemon juice, a little salt and remaining yogurt if you think it is needed.
  6. Blend in the food processor until desired consistency.
    Putting in all together
  1. Pour half the avocado and yogurt dressing in the bowl with the grilled chicken and cucumbers. Stir until well combined. Taste the salad and add more dressing as you desire. I have used all of the dressing on one occasion and three-quarters of the dressing on another. It all depends on how much you add into the salad. (If you have any leftover dressing, use it as a dip with chips or vegetables, that same night, as a light and easy appetizer before dinner).
  2. Place a large handful of fresh and clean spinach on each plate. Arrange about 1 cup of the grilled chicken and cucumber salad on top of the fresh spinach. Drizzle the spinach and chicken with your best quality extra virgin olive oil and a few fresh berries.
  3. Serve immediately.

Notes

The dressing is a small amount and would be best prepared in a small food processor.

I had a lot of Fire and Ice radishes available so I added them to my salad. This salad is very easy to adapt to what produce you have available and needs to be used up. The berries are a nice addition, adding a touch of sweetness to cut some of the tang from the lemon and yogurt, but not necessary.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Spring Sorrel: Potato Salad with Sorrel Dressing

Fresh sorrel from the farmers market.
Young sorrel leaves

Each Spring I walk around my garden looking for evidence of new life after the dormant winter months. It is reassuring to see the familiar perennials sprout up, especially during that winter/spring limbo time of year. I give a grateful sigh as each plant reveals that it has survived the winter, and sneak around in hopes of discovering new volunteers, hopefully ones that will add interest to my garden. My Spring ritual is like going on a nature treasure hunt and each newly revealed sprout my prize.

Fresh sorrel from the farmers market.
Cleaned fresh sorrel

A walk around a Farmers Market is a similar adventure. As the season transitions from the sparse offerings of early spring to the abundant fall harvest, newly introduced vegetables are available every couple of weeks. There is surprise element with each visit to the Farmers Market, anticipating what will be available this time around.

This past week I came across sorrel, a vegetable I knew about but have never tried. I have been curious about sorrel as I have seen umpteen recipes for sorrel soup, but I wanted to discover if this leafy plant had other culinary options. Sorrel is usually available at Farmers Markets, but not at grocery stores. It is a fairly hardy plant but for some reason does not have wide appeal. My clue that sorrel could be a worthwhile addition to my shopping bag is that every vegetable centered cookbook I have read has a few recipes featuring sorrel.  If Deborah Madison and Alice Walters have taken the time to showcase sorrel, it is worth bringing home to see for myself.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.