The Ever-Changing Salad

Today, in Colorado Springs, we have a high of 68 degrees F (20 C) with (praise God) rain. It’s by no means the end of summer, but is for sure the harbinger of fall. Our jeans and fleeces never get put away as they do in Chicago or Minneapolis because we never know if we’ll have that bizarre August snow or just the run of the mill welcome and chilly summer evening when we sip a little stronger something out at the fire pit watching the stars. (Remember watching the stars?)

This time of the year, we’re so happy with our Palisades peaches, Rocky Ford cantelope and watermelon, Pueblo or Hatch chiles, jalapeños, home grown tomatoes, fresh herbs, and Olathe sweet corn that sometimes we celebrate our soon-to-end warm weather by making dinner out of just those ingredients. A few additions like salt and pepper, arugula, Sherry vinegar, goat or mozzarella cheese, and maybe a little oil make the meal just what it ought to be. One night there’s a version starring ruby red watermelon and the next day it’s Halloween-orange cantelope instead; sometimes a berry of some sort gets thrown in. I call it, “The Ever-Changing Salad,” not because it must change, but only because by nature, it just does. And we’re so glad of that.

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Wild Goose Breast Salad

On long days of cooking or testing recipes, I’m blessed to have a TV in my kitchen and I often have it tuned to PBS: Create TV. I’m not that picky; I leave it on and whatever happens happens. It may be Rick Steves. A stellar quilter whose name I can’t quite remember. Sicilian chef Nick Stellino. Cool travel woman Samantha Brown. And if God is good– really good — Jacques Pépin may make an appearance. Of course, I live for that moment and stop what I’m doing to watch. So maybe I AM picky. One day, making dinner awaiting my husband’s return from building a house for Habitat for Humanity , my friend Jacques came on making a duck breast salad. (Don’t we all feel we’re friends with Chef Jacques Pépin?! I know I do.)

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Chimichurri Pork Salad

If it’s high summer and there are tomatoes (and it wouldn’t be summer without tomatoes), I’m making caprese of some sort. Maybe every week. I don’t stir up chimichurri quite that often, but unlike caprese it shows up throughout the year mostly with pork (love it with ribs!), but sometimes on beef or shrimp or ________. A couple of weeks ago I made three of my Chimichurri Pork Chops only because the package had 3 in it–weird, I know. What to do the next day with the lonely fellow left on the platter? I had fresh mozzarella, zucchini to grill, plenty of tomatoes, and why not serve a hybrid of caprese and chimichurri pork layered with grilled zucchini? Since chimichurri is packed with other fresh herbs, the basil could be skipped. A big handful of fresh greens at the center would set the seal on this stunning deal. I’m wanting it again already.

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Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches for Picnic Time

Being known as a cook within your varied social circles has its distinct advantages. You get to bring what you like ( or make best) to the neighborhood potluck, the family birthday, or the church funeral lunch. Not terribly long before Covid (Are we saying that now?), I catered a funeral meal. The family involved was generous about letting me know their much-loved patriarch LOVED things like ham salad, chicken salad, etc. To keep the buffet interesting, I included CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES. One lady — someone I’d trust — approached me to allow that my CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD was better than a top-shelf local restaurant’s version. I didn’t forget that. Who would, huh?

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Grilled Golden Beet and Chicken Salad with Crispy Goat Cheese

I’ll admit that when I grabbed a bunch of organic golden beets at our local grocery, King Soopers, the other day, I hadn’t a clue what I’d do with them except my main squeeze loves beets and I was bringing them home no matter. They looked all gorgeous, fresh and brightly colored with crisp whole greens attached, despite the healthy dirt around the edges. So whatever happened in that kitchen with those beets, it was going to make him happy. When folks say, “Food is love,” there’s something to it. More on that at the end. Because I regularly make goat cheese spread for our summer appetizers or even lunches while our herbs are plentiful, I always have a big log or two of chèvre (the plain white fresh goat cheese sold in nearly any grocery store) in the fridge. I had no problem considering a riff on the quintessential beet and goat cheese salad made by lots of cooks and in many restaurants worldwide. (Is that something you make or order if it’s on the menu?) What I didn’t like the idea of was turning on the oven for the hour it takes to roast those beets. Boiling them sounded worse, messy, and way too steamy for July. Why couldn’t I grill them in a grill pan on the stove? I thought about grilling them whole or in quarters, but that would take just way too long. Do people grill sliced beets? It seems they do according to google and I thought I’d just do it, too. A quick look-see into the fridge showed a bunch of fresh greens; radishes, scallions, red bell peppers and a single, lonely leftover roasted chicken breast I soon shredded within an inch of its life (always tastier than chopped — try it and see). Soon we were about to feast on one more whole meal salad outdoors. Thank you, summer!

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Salami Chopped Salad

“If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper…” 

―Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

What’s life without bacon? A dog and a beer at the ball park? Brats on the 4th of July? Just a ham sandwich for supper, for goodness’ sake? Luckily I have this guy in my life who smokes meat like he was born to it, so we can skip A Lot from the store and leave the nitrates right where they sit. But once in a while…you have to let up. Go for the gold. Grab the salami, as it were. Scratch that. Insert eye roll. And so we, every once in a while, splurge on something like salami and cheese with crackers and a cold beer or a “Chopped Salami Salad” along with a glass of rosé. No stove. No grill. Thank you very much. In the summer, I’m fond of what I label, “Shop and Chop” meals. It’s a hot day. You go to the store, buy what looks good, come home and — with no or nearly no cooking — make big with your chef’s knife and create “dinner” out of whole cloth. This is one of them.

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FRIDAY FISH: Southwestern Fish Salad

Caesar Salad travels to Colorado and goes fishing!

Once, in a cooking class, I mentioned I loved “fish salads.” Crickets. Blank faces. “You mean tuna fish?” Well, sure…but not exactly or not totally. Back up. Let’s talk how we’re always hoping to eat healthy. Ok? There’s little healthier than vegetables–right? And second on the list, if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, might be fish? Sure. When we put those two top-tier food groups together, what do we get? We get over-the-top wholesome, fit, hearty fare. I’ve always adored cooking fish IN vegetables because number 1: it’s so easy to overcook fish (and in a pan of vegetables, it’s harder); number 2: we’re back to the two top-tier food groups; and, number 3: fish is just so tasty cooked in, say, a light tomato-garlic-fennel-sweet pepper sauté.

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Melon and Grilled Shrimp Salad with Lemon-Lime Vinaigrette

This is best with a fresh mint garnish, though I forgot to get it on here before snapping the photo!

If you’ve been a food blogger as long as I have, you’ve been through a few different stages of the sport. At one time many of us joined in blog hops and all blogged around a particular subject, chef, or book for sometimes months on end. I belonged to several such groups over the years, but one of my favorites was INA FRIDAYS, which I organized, developed, and participated in April, 2013 – December, 2014. Our fun group of bloggers — many of whom are still blogging years later — cooked and wrote about an Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) recipe the first Friday of every month; I have wonderful memories of the entire escapade! We all learned lots, but for me, maintaining a job, two blogs, writing a book, and keeping up the house got to be a wee much after a while. I was relieved when we decided we maybe had eaten the best of Ina after all! There’s no doubt though I’m still a big Ina fan and you’ll often see a book or two of hers next to my reading chair or on my counter anytime of year. Type in “Ina Fridays” into the search box and catch a few Ina Fridays if you like...

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Salad Class: How to Up Your Game in 3 Easy Ways — Part 3, STYLE!

Post and recipe Did you know arugula is an herb and one of the most nutritional greens to eat?

Readers’ Note: This is the 3rd and last segment (STYLE!) of a three-part blog cooking class about making your salad a better place to eat!  Click on the red links below to read the other two segments and come chopping with me to make your newest stellar salad! While this class is pretty much do-it-yourself, I welcome comments, emails, photos, etc., to keep us in closer touch — even when we’re all in our own kitchens! Salad on, my friends.

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” 

― Laurie Colwin

3. STYLE!  MAKE IT LOOK LIKE YOU WANT TO EAT IT! “Wow, that looks good!”

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Salad Class: How to Up Your Game in 3 Easy Ways — Part 2, SEASONINGS

Recipe and post here for GRILLED ZUCCHINI AND CORN SALAD (another colorful mixture of cooked and fresh veggies with fresh herbs)

Readers’ Note: This is the 2nd and middle segment (SEASONINGS) of a three-part blog cooking class about making your salad a better place to eat!  Click on the red links below to read the other two posts and come chopping with me to make your newest stellar salad. While this class is pretty much do-it-yourself, I welcome comments, emails, photos, etc., to keep us in closer touch — even when we’re all in our own kitchens. Salad on, my friends.

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” 

― Laurie Colwin

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