Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer Lovin': Two Fantastic Salads

Pasta Caprese and Cucumber Salad served alongside
Cheesy Jalapeno Bread and Cheddar Dill Biscuits

Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it. At least that's the way the old saying goes. All across the country the heat is on. Of course, living in Arizona now I find myself chuckling at people complaining because it's 85° out.

Still, sometimes it's nice to have something that isn't too hot this time of year. Our first salad fits that bill nicely. This is a Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream Dressing. It's served very chilled and the fresh veggies give it a nice Summertime crunch. I gave this recipe to Karin at Feeding the Homeless and she scaled it up (quite a lot) for her project a couple weeks back. She loved it, the folks she fed loved it and after telling friends about it, she's been fielding requests for the recipe too. So, at her behest I decided to feature it here. By the way, you might be surprised to find that it doesn't contain Sour Cream. The tartness of Sour Cream actually comes from an old traditional way to make "Sour Milk" by adding vinegar to whole milk.

Our second salad isn't a cold one but is served warm. It's a Pasta Caprese featuring tri-color Rotini, shallots (or green onions), garlic, tomatoes, basil, and Mozzarella. Tasty, easy and Michael all but inhaled it!

Last night I did these two salads along with sauteed chicken breast for a light meal. The cold cucumbers were nice against the hot chicken breasts just out of the pan and the warm Pasta Caprese.

So, if you need a little Summer lovin' then give these two light and easy salads a try! Both travel well and make great compliments to a Summer concert in the park or a beach picnic (yeah, I'm dreaming there).

Pasta Caprese

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 small shallot, minced fine (about 2 tablespoons)- may substitute green onion
1 pound ripe cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 pound rotini tri-color pasta or other short tubular or curly pasta
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. sugar

Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream Dressing and
Pasta Caprese served with sauteed chicken breasts.
Whisk oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, garlic, shallot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add tomatoes and gently toss to combine; set aside. Do not marinate tomatoes for longer than 45 minutes.

While tomatoes are marinating, place mozzarella on plate and freeze until slightly firm, about 10 minutes. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain well.

Add pasta and mozzarella to tomato mixture and gently toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately.

Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream Dressing

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 large sweet onion, sliced into rings and separated
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbs. white vinegar
3 tbs. whole milk (note: I like using 2 tbs. of whole milk and 1 tbs. heavy cream)

Place the cucumbers in a large bowl with the onion. Add 1 tbs. of the sugar, the salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the mayonnaise, rest of sugar, vinegar and milk. Whisk mixture together well and pour over cucumber mixture. Toss to coat well. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
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