With Cinco De Mayo right around the corner, this quick riff on taco salad might just be the ticket for dinner. Having a small party? Then just double the recipe and you can feed up to eight. Let guests prepare their own, layering on just the right ingredients to suit their own preferences. This way it appeals to vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
Don’t eat red meat? Substitute ground turkey. Follow a vegetarian lifestyle? Swap out the meat for refried beans. Not into hot and spicy? Omit the jalapeños, and use a mild taco seasoning and salsa. Can’t tolerate raw onion? Cook it with the ground meat to eliminate some of the pungency.
Another fun twist is using beer instead of water when you add the seasoning to the ground meat. As you can see, this salad is very adaptable. I like to start with a layer of lettuce, followed by the meat mixture and cheese, then the peppers, tomatoes, onion, and olives. To finish, add a bit more meat and cheese, and a final topping of jalapeños and sour cream, if using,
To up the party ambiance, plate it all on some fun and festive picnic ware!
This cold-weather salad from chef Carla Hall hits all the notes: sweet, savory, spicy, and salty—with a bit of crunch from the squash seeds. Here, Hall uses her Country Ham Potlikker as an umami-rich base for a spicy vinaigrette that gets its silky texture from blended cannellini beans.
But the thing is, most people are not going to have this potlikker broth on hand. We had some leftover from our Smothered Pork Chops dinner in which you had to pre-make the Country Ham Potlikker. Our suggestion is to use a mix of oil and vinegar instead, you won’t have that smoky ham flavor, but you will be keeping the meal vegetarian.
*We decided to roast our fennel slices since I didn’t shave them thin enough. Basically, place the fennel on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle olive oil all over, sprinkle with salt and pepper, rub it all together with your hands, then roast for about 30-35 minutes in a 400° oven. This can be done ahead of time, simply cover the roasted fennel with foil until ready to mix in with the other ingredients.
Bean and Vegetable Salad with Potlikker Vinaigrette
2 tsp. Diamond Crystal, or 1 1/4 tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium delicata squash, halved, seeds removed and reserved, sliced crosswise 1/2″ thick
3 extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large sweet-tart apple, (such as Honeycrisp), cored, quartered, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 large fennel bulb, quartered, shaved in very thin slices (*See note above for roasting option)
1 15-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Blend vinegar, potlikker (or substitute), mustard, and ¼ cup cannellini beans in a blender until smooth. With the motor running, stream in vegetable oil; blend until emulsified. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 400°. Divide sliced squash between 2 rimmed baking sheets; drizzle 2 Tbsp. olive oil over. Sprinkle with 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt; season with pepper. Roast 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse squash seeds and pat dry. Toss seeds with cayenne and remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a small bowl; season with salt.
Sprinkle seeds over squash. Continue to roast until squash is golden brown and tender, 13–15 minutes more.
Combine squash and seeds, apple, fennel, kidney beans, and remaining cannellini beans in a large bowl. Toss with ½ cup vinaigrette. Taste and add more vinaigrette if needed. Add parsley, season with salt, and toss again.
Transfer salad to a platter; serve any remaining vinaigrette alongside.
The love affair begins with the dressing, which is the key to adding unforgettable flavor. Just like a romance, it is sweet, spicy, tangy—with a jolt of garlic thrown in. Although I had to laugh at the notion that this Honey Garlic Shrimp, Corn, and Avocado Bacon Salad recipe from Half-Baked Harvest was supposed to feed six. Including daughter Julia who was in for a visit, the three of us polished it off entirely—yes, it was THAT good!
While there is not much cooking, you do need to char the ears of corn, crisp the bacon and sear the shrimp. Afterward, it comes together in minutes. Honey garlic seared shrimp cooked together with the bacon drippings is then tossed up in a fresh salad of romaine, grilled corn, salty feta, and creamy avocado. The herby dressing is so deliciously flavorful and pulls it altogether. You will be pining for more 💜…
To simplify things on dinner night, pre-prep by making the crispy bacon pieces and charred corn ahead of time, let cool, and store until ready to use.
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (don’t buy the pre-crumbled variety)
To make the dressing. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.
In another bowl, toss the shrimp with 1/3 of the dressing. Let sit 10 minutes.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan. Roughly chop when cooled.
Add the shrimp to the hot bacon fat and cook on both sides until seared, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat. You will need to do this in two batches.
To make the salad, combine the greens, corn, and tomatoes in a salad bowl and toss with a little dressing. Add the shrimp, bacon, and avocados. Spoon the dressing overtop. Top with feta. Season with freshly cracked pepper and salt. Serve warm or cold.
The temps are warming here in southeastern PA, which starts our craving for brighter tasting food. This Citrus Couscous Salad recipe was spotted in Fine Cooking Magazine, but originated in Better Homes & Gardens from what I can surmise. Doesn’t really matter, we made numerous changes to make it our own.
Orange zest, juice, and segments brighten up this fresh take on a “pasta” salad recipe. Despite popular belief that couscous is a type of whole grain (it does have a rice-like appearance), it is actually a pasta made of semolina and wheat flour that is moistened and tossed together until it forms little balls. (Sorry keto-friendly dieters.)
Not only does couscous cook quickly—a plus for most home cooks—it is an excellent main or side dish that pleases almost anyone’s palate. While the original recipe used 6 oranges, and fed as many, the ingredients list here was halved for the most part. Although, the thyme and olive quantities remain the same, pine nuts were swapped out for the hazelnuts.
Because it can sit at room temperature, it would be a great asset at any pot luck or picnic.
¼ cup coarsely chopped, pitted Castelvetrano olives or Manzanilla olives
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
¼ tsp. coarse salt
⅛ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
Crushed red pepper (optional)
Using a vegetable peeler remove strips of zest from one orange, being careful not to remove the white pith; set aside.
In a medium saucepan with a tight lid heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add couscous; cook 2 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring often. Add two orange strips, broth, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to boiling over medium-high heat; reduce heat. Cover; cook 12 to 15 minutes or until couscous is tender and all liquid is absorbed. Let cool; discard strips.
Meanwhile, using a paring knife, remove peel and pith from the other two oranges. Working over a small bowl to catch juices, cut out each segment from membranes. (Or slice into wheels.)
For citrus oil: Chop enough of the remaining orange strips to get 1 tablespoon In a 10-inch skillet combine chopped strips, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic, and thyme. Heat over low heat 5 minutes or until warm; set aside.
To serve, on a platter combine orange segments and juices, couscous, red onion, pinenuts and olives. Drizzle with red wine vinegar. Spoon citrus oil over top. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper, and, if desired, crushed red pepper.
Sweet potatoes roasted until deeply browned and tossed with a touch of paprika are a great foil for the savory, minerally notes of a miso-dressed kale salad, as noted in Milk Street magazine. The char on the potatoes provides a note of bitterness that balances the richness of the miso. Scallions and cilantro add fresh herbal notes and toasted nuts add crunch. (I switched out pistachios for the walnuts which The Hubs can’t stand.)
This was a perfect side dish for our Deviled Pork Chops entrée. Problem was, the chops took so much longer to cook than the recipe suggested, our sweet potatoes were way overdone by the time the meat was finally ready. And without white miso on hand, we incorporated red miso. Even so, it was still a fabulous pairing.
Don’t dress the salad until just before serving. If left to stand, the kale will turn limp and soggy.
4 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (about 2¼ pounds), peeled, halved crosswise and cut into 1-inch wedge
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
¼ tsp. sweet paprika
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 small garlic clove, grated
4 tsp. sherry vinegar
1½ tsp. white miso
5 oz. baby kale
3 scallions, thinly sliced on bias
½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup chopped walnuts or pistachios, toasted
Heat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with 4 tablespoons of the oil. Spread the potatoes in an even layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender and the edges begin to darken, about 30 minutes.
Stir the potatoes, return to the oven and increase to 500°F. Roast until dark spotty brown and slightly crisped, about another 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle with paprika, ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper, then toss.
While the potatoes roast, in a small bowl, stir together the garlic and vinegar. Let stand for 10 minutes to mellow the garlic. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the miso and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
When the potatoes are done, in another large bowl, toss together the kale, scallions, cilantro and half the walnuts. Pour in the dressing and toss. Divide the sweet potatoes among serving plates and top with the salad. Sprinkle with the remaining walnuts/pistachios.
Tarragon is the secret ingredient in the honey-mustard coating for these quick-cooking turkey cutlets. It adds lovely licorice notes that elevate without overwhelming.
Our turkey cutlets were obtained at Zook’s Meats in the Newtown Farmer’s Market. Inquiring at their meat counter if they had any turkey cutlets, the woman showed Russ a fresh boneless, skinless breast and suggested she could cut it down for us however we wanted. And she did just that at no extra cost.
Each cutlet was placed between saran wrap and pounded thin.
Once the cutlets were pounded, I realized they were too big and cut them in half.
I did still pound them down to about an 1/8″ thick. Then they were so large I cut each of three cutlets in half, producing six total. Unfortunately, I also had to make 50% more of the mustard marinade because the original amount only covered 4 pieces. We had enough tarragon growing in our herb garden so it was no bother to go out and cut some more.
To plate, we arranged a larger bed of the salad before placing the turkey cutlet on top. After which we crowned the meat with a smaller helping of salad. I knew I was going to like this dish based on the ingredients, but I wasn’t prepared for how much I did actually like it!
We had three cutlets left over, so the following evening (our usual leftovers night) I made more of the same arugula salad (love the peppery bite), slightly reheated the meat, and we had an instant dinner.
Ingredients are prepped to make the salad.
A mustard vinaigrette consists of whole-grain mustard, olive oil, honey, lemon juice, and tarragon.
After dredging through flour, each cutlet is then washed in the mustard vinaigrette.
The cutlets are browned for a few minutes on each side in a hot skillet.
We plated ours with the salad on top and bottom of the meat.
Honey-Mustard Turkey Cutlets with Arugula, Carrot and Celery Salad
2 medium celery ribs, trimmed and sliced 1/8 inch thick on the diagonal
1 medium carrot, thinly shaved with a vegetable peeler
Combine the flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, whisk 2 Tbs. of the olive oil, the mustard, honey, 2 Tbs. of the lemon juice, and 2 tsp. of the tarragon.
Dredge each turkey cutlet in the flour mixture and then the mustard mixture. Transfer to a wax-paper- or parchment-lined baking sheet or tray.
Heat 1 Tbs. of the canola oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Add two cutlets and cook, flipping once, until golden brown and just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes total.
Transfer to a clean plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining 1 Tbs. canola oil and the remaining cutlets.
Whisk the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. lemon juice, cumin, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the arugula, celery, and carrots; toss with enough of the dressing to lightly coat.
Serve the cutlets topped with the salad, sprinkled with the remaining tarragon, and drizzled with any remaining dressing.
These Salmon Burgers with Pickled Cucumbers paired with a side of Honeydew Salad with Peanuts and Lime were a match made in Heaven. Even though they came from two different sources, the fact that they shared common ingredients ensured they’d make a perfect couple. To make it gluten-free, either omit the bun altogether (which we did for the leftovers the next day), or use a gluten-free variety.
I’ll preface the recipes by saying there is a bit of prep work for both, so it comes in handy to have a cooking partner to speed up the process. As far as the herb watercress topping, we scaled back the amount of herbs from 2 cups to 1/2 cup, which when mixed with the watercress was plenty for 4 servings.
The original recipe indicated to use three Persian cucumbers. Well we can never find them in our area, so we bought a long, seedless English cucumber, using only half of it. The half was then cut crosswise into two more pieces and shaved very thin using a hand-held mandoline.
The food processor is your friend when making these salmon burgers, but the key is to make sure the salmon isn’t too smooth when processing so the patties can hold their shape. The patties stayed together perfectly, the rice flour gave a golden, crispy crunch and the flavors were a perfect combination. Now we both love salmon, but several reviewers said even some family members who typically avoid salmon, loved these!
5 scallions, green parts finely chopped, white parts thinly sliced
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2 Tbsp. plus ⅔ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
4 tsp. unseasoned rice vinegar, divided
1/2 large English cucumber, shaved very thin lengthwise
½ serrano chile, very thinly sliced crosswise
1 tsp. sugar
¼ cup (or more) vegetable oil
½ cup rice flour
2 cups tender herbs, such as torn mint and/or cilantro leaves with tender stems
¾ cup trimmed watercress
2 tsp. toasted white sesame seeds (optional)
4 brioche buns, lightly toasted
Cut salmon into 2″ pieces. Transfer one-third of salmon (about 8 oz.) to a food processor and process, scraping down sides, until mixture is very smooth and paste-like. Add remaining salmon and pulse 4–5 times until pieces are no bigger than ¼” (be careful not to make it too smooth). Transfer to a large bowl.
Mix in scallion greens, ginger, garlic, 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise, and 1 tsp. salt; toss to combine. Form mixture into 4 patties about ¾” thick. Transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Chill at least 1 hour or up to 3 (you’ll want to chill the patties so that they hold their shape before getting cooked).
Meanwhile, mix sesame oil, 1 tsp. vinegar, remaining ⅔ cup mayonnaise, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl; set aside until ready to use.
Toss cucumbers with a pinch of salt in another small bowl. Massage with your hands for a few minutes, squeezing lightly to expel water; discard cucumber liquid. Add chile, sugar, and 2 tsp. vinegar to bowl; toss to coat. Chill until ready to assemble burgers.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high until oil begins to shimmer. Remove salmon patties from fridge right before cooking and sprinkle with flour just to coat the outside (you won’t need all of it). The patties will be a little loose but you can always pat them back together with your hands before they hit the pan. Working in batches if necessary, and adding more oil in between batches if needed, cook patties until golden brown, about 3–4 minutes on each side (you don’t want to overcook).
Toss herbs, watercress, sesame seeds, if using, scallion whites, remaining 1 tsp. vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Build burgers with buns, patties, reserved special sauce, herb mixture, and pickles.
Melon salads are ideal hot-weather fare, but they’re prone to some common pitfalls: namely, watered-down dressings and garnishes that slide to the bottom of the salad bowl. Because honeydew melons vary in sweetness, start by tasting your melon to determine how much sugar to incorporate into the dressing. Ours was so sweet we didn’t need any sugar.
To counter the abundant water contributed by the melon, this makes an intense dressing with assertive ingredients such as lime juice, fish sauce, shallot, and Thai chiles, but no oil, which would only be repelled by the water on the surface of the melon. Instead richness is added with dry-roasted peanuts, which—when chopped fine—adhere to the surface of the melon pieces and hold on to the dressing.
Combine lime juice and shallot in large bowl. Using mortar and pestle (or on cutting board using flat side of chef’s knife), mash Thai chiles, garlic, and salt to fine paste. Add chile paste; sugar, if using; and fish sauce to lime juice mixture and stir to combine.
Add honeydew, ¼ cup cilantro, ¼ cup mint, and ¼ cup peanuts and toss to combine. Transfer to shallow serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro, remaining 1 tablespoon mint, and remaining 1 tablespoon peanuts and serve.
It was a very trying Spring with cool, rainy weather amplified by the restraints from the pandemic, followed by racial tensions and curfews. But the weather in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast finally turned a corner with longer stretches of warmer days when I penned this blog. Ideal for this classic Italian salad which marries cooked white beans and oil-packed tuna for a protein-packed, pantry-friendly, light meal.
With summer now hitting the high notes—and by that I mean real muggy with soaring temps—it’s time to move away from heartier stews, and dive into bean dishes like this one, which require little to no additional cooking, and can be served at room temperature.
Because this dish is comprised of just a few ingredients, it’s at its best when made with top quality products. Cooked dried beans (and their cooking liquid) have much better flavor and texture than canned beans, so it’s highly recommended to use them in this recipe, if possible. BUT, we didn’t want to “cook” so we used Great Northern canned.
According to SeriousEats.com where we got this recipe, if using canned beans, substitute bean cooking liquid with 2 teaspoons water and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. The flavor of the dish obviously won’t be exactly the same, but mustard provides similar emulsifying properties as the bean cooking liquid for the dressing. I just learned something new with that!
Beans are one thing, but do not skimp on the tuna. The quality of the tuna you use will make a difference here. Oil-packed ventresca tuna is recommended, which comes from the richer, fatty belly; it’s moister and more flavorful than other canned or jarred tuna. Two great options of ventresca are both Ortiz and Tonnino—we used the latter.
About that tuna, 5.6 ounces for 4 people? Seemed a bit scant to me. Our jar was slightly larger at 6.7 ounces. (I noted the larger amount in the list below.) Plus, I don’t know why they didn’t save the oil after draining the tuna. We did, and it was exactly a 1/4-cup, the amount of EVOO needed for the dressing. The jarred oil is already brimming with flavor from the tuna, so why not use it?
Using a small mandoline to slice the red onion very thin makes quick work of the task. The original recipe doesn’t even list greens in the ingredients (although it is fleetingly mentioned in their narrative), but to me, a dinner salad needs a bed of them, otherwise it’s a “side dish” in my opinion. We chose a mix of baby spinach and arugula.
Hearty, but light, this salad requires less than 10 minutes of hands-on work, making it the perfect no-cook, quarantine pantry, warm-weather meal. And because it can be served at room temperature, it would make a fine contribution to a potluck or picnic affair. Enjoy!
1 Tbsp. Champagne, white wine, or red wine vinegar plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (1 pound 6 ounces) cooked dry white beans, drained; or two (15-ounce) cans low-sodium white beans, drained and rinsed
6.7 ounces olive oil-packed tuna, preferably ventresca tuna belly, drained into a measuring cup, and gently flaked into bite-size pieces (save the oil for the dressing)
1 med. garlic clove, minced or finely grated
1 Tbsp. bean cooking liquid, from a pot of beans cooked from dry (see note if using canned beans)
Extra-virgin olive oil, enough needed, if any, to add to the tuna oil to make 1/4 cup
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
5 oz. baby salad greens
In a small bowl, combine red onion and enough ice water to cover. Using clean hands, gently scrunch and squeeze the onion slices, taking care not to crush or break them. Let onion slices sit in ice water for 15 minutes, then drain and discard ice water, and return red onion to now-empty bowl.
Add vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt and toss and gently massage onions to evenly coat with vinegar and salt. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow onion slices to marinate.
Meanwhile, combine beans and tuna in a large bowl. Once onions have marinated for 5 minutes, squeeze onion slices to release moisture into the bowl that they marinated in, then transfer onion slices to large bowl with beans and tuna; set large bowl aside.
There should be at least 1 tablespoon of vinegar-onion juice liquid left in the small bowl. Add garlic, bean cooking liquid (or, if using canned beans, 2 teaspoons water plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard), and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the tuna olive oil. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt.
Transfer dressing to large bowl with bean-tuna mixture, using a rubber spatula to scrape all of the dressing into the large bowl. Using a large spoon, gently toss salad to evenly coat with dressing, taking care not to crush tuna or beans in the process.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide salad between individual serving plates or one large serving platter.
If desired, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a splash of vinegar, and serve.
Now that the weather is finally getting warm around here in the Northeastern U.S., we start thinking entrée salads for dinner. This dish is perfect for when you want a satisfying dinner but don’t want to dirty a whole lot of pots and pans to get there. It’s easy to prepare and has intense, warming flavors that satisfy the tastebuds, if not the soul.
The main change I made was substituting dried apricots for the dried cherries. One, because we had them on hand, and two, because we both felt their flavor profile better melded with the other ingredients. But if you are a cherry fan, by all means, go ahead and use them.
Wilted Arugula Salad with sautéed Pork, Pear and Blue Cheese
6 oz. baby arugula, washed and spun dry (about 8 loosely packed cups)
1 firm-ripe Bosc pear
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed and sliced 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/4 lb. blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the oil. Stir in the shallot and thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Put the arugula in a large bowl.
Core the pear and cut it into matchsticks.
Put the flour in a pie pan or large plate. Season the pork liberally with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour.
Set a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 3 Tbs. oil and the butter. When the butter melts and begins to lightly brown, cook the pork (in batches if necessary), flipping after 2 min., until it’s just cooked through, about 3 min. total. Transfer to a large plate. Repeat with the remaining pork.
Discard any fat in the skillet and set over low heat. Add the balsamic-Dijon vinaigrette and cook, stirring to pick up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is warm, about 1 min.
Pour the vinaigrette back into its bowl and whisk to recombine.
Toss the arugula with half of the warm vinaigrette.
Arrange the arugula on 3-4 plates. Top with the pork, pear, blue cheese, and dried apricot slices, and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.