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Archive for Side Dish

::summer love:: Southwest Keen Wah Salad


This past year has been the year of changes. Now that I have a deck, someday we’ll get deck furniture, and then I will have a place to eat outside. For now, I’ll drag a kitchen stool out there on the occasional evening, enjoy a margarita, and watch the sun go down. If I did have deck furniture, this is a perfect dish for a Summer dinner on the deck.

I’ve never really been one for pasta salads. Just in the past few years have I even been willing to try non-creamy looking ones. I’m not really sure why I still hesitate on them. Beyond burgers, I have always shied away from most picnic foods. Last year, I decided it was time to experiment with quinoa (pronounced keen wah) in the kitchen. The most appealing things I found turned out to be fancied up “pasta” salads. Go figure. But quinoa is a “super grain”, so I had to try it! My first quinoa salad scared everyone I served it to. No one had ever seen or heard of it before. But it was delicious. I never wrote down the recipe, but I know there was edamame, garlic, lemon, roasted red peppers and scallions involved (I took pictures). It looked like this:

I’m going to have to recreate it at some point this summer, because it was good. I just made way too much of it. It may have been about 2 gallons of Quinoa Edamame Salad… This one was a bit smaller, but not by much, and still seemed to last us forever. It can be served as a side on it’s own, or if you want it as a main course, add to the top of a bed of greens, and for a finishing touch, some slices of avocado on top do the trick quite nicely. Best part: we got to use some cilantro from our garden 🙂

What You Need
Step One

1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups water
Step Two
lime, zested and juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Agave syrup
1 tsp chili powder
salt & pepper
Step Three
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 med red onion, chopped (~1/2 cup)
handful of cilantro, chopped
Step Four
Salad Greens

Always rinse your quinoa first! Then just like rice, combine the quinoa and water in a pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover. Let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes, then take it off the heat and sit for 5 more minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together all step two ingredients. In a large bowl, mix together all step three ingredients.  Add the cooled quinoa to the large bowl and mix in. Once combined, stir in your dressing.


Make your presentation fancy. Serve on top of a bed of greens. I would not recommend an herb salad! The extra cilantro can take the flavor balance overboard a bit.

The slices of avocado add exactly what this salad needs to round it out. Be careful with your portions, this can be quickly filling!

::super snack:: Quick & Easy Guacamole


So you are still debating about what to take to the July 4th picnics this weekend? You are already taking sweet mango salsa on Saturday and want to change it up in case you see the same people Sunday? Of course! That must be the problem!

Good guacamole is expensive. Buying some to take isn’t the most cost effective thing. And with the unemployment rate out of control, everyone wants to impress for less. The bright side, is good guacamole is also cheap to make! Think under $4 for ~2-3 cups of guacamole cheap. And you get to brag that you made it.

The other bright side… tweak it to be exactly what you want. This is for a single batch (perfect snack size for 2-4 people, but feel free to double or triple to take to your picnic!)

What You Need:
1 avocado
1 small-med tomato
1 jalapeno
1/2 lime
bit of cilanto

Scoop avocado into bowl. Peel, seed and chop tomato and add to bowl. Core and seed jalapeno and mince. Add to bowl. This is obviously a discretionary amount depending on your tastes. We like about $.12 worth of jalepeno for a bit of kick. 🙂 Juice the 1/2 lime into the bowl (also discretionary, feel free to start with a quarter lime and test from there). Chop however much cilantro you want 🙂

Mush everything up with a fork. Keeping the pit in the bowl helps the avocado from browning. If you aren’t using it right away, cover it tightly with saran wrap and store in the fridge.

Yields: ~1-1.5 cups

::summer love:: Sweet Mango Salsa


I have a new obsession with mangoes this summer.  Those Vietnamese Salad rolls?  I totally plan to make a dessert version of them with mango.  They are already in the works.  I cannot wait.  Before my obsession started though, I had some things to learn. Like how to cut a mango for one. Really prior to this salsa, my only mango experience was Mango Sticky Rice, which is totally on the list of things to learn to make this Summer. I thought I didn’t even like mango. And I still might not. At least not on it’s own, too sweet for me. Combined with other things though…I think we will get along just fine.

Ok, so in comes the salsa. Homemade salsa is also a semi-new obsession. It is so yummy and fresh and better than most store bought. The key to homemade salsa though is being willing to tweak it. I have made this salsa a few times now, and every time it ends up a little different. Keep that in mind when you making it. Sometimes it might need a little more garlic or a little more lime, etc. I think this turns out best made the night before, letting the flavors settle together a bit, and then tweek.

What I Used
1 mango, diced
1 large fennel bulb, sliced thin and cut into smaller pieces
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
6 cloves of garlic
2 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 lime, zested & juiced
1 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1/4 lemon)

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container in the fridge. It is as easy as that! It isn’t the prettiest salsa, but it is delicious. Based on our experiences, it works best with a sturdy chip. Tostitos just aren’t strong enough.

Yields: ~3 cups salsa

::super snack:: Vietnamese Salad Rolls


One of my favorite things from PeiWei is the salad rolls.  The problem is, we are never picking up just a snack from there, and if I order them for dinner it is not enough.  If I order them with dinner, I end up with too much.  I saw a picture of un-fried spring rolls somewhere along my food blog journeys and of course immediately started craving salad rolls. The learning had to begin!

I set out to the grocery store to pick up just a “few things”.  I ended up buying all the supplies for the salsa I was making PLUS all the supplies to make salad rolls. But really the best part of these is that you can put in whatever you want.  I am planning to try a dessert version soon.  I made this first batch for lunch and kept them fairly simple. Since the stuffing can really be anything, and there are a ton of wrappers in the package, these are definitely a new “make anytime snack” for me.

Necessities: Rice Stick Noodles and Spring Roll Wrappers.

Stuffing: I used lettuce, 1 carrot (shredded), 1/2 cucumber (seeded & shredded), and ~1 cup bean sprouts.  A bit of cilantro would have been great too, but I was ravenous and it slipped my mind.

The rice noodles and rice paper were the learning experience for me.  I had tried rice noodles before and failed miserably.  I only used about 20% of the 6oz package of noodles.  I had to cut them apart with scissors. I brought a small pot of water to a boil, put in the noodles and immediately turned the heat down to low.  They were in the pan for maybe 4 minutes, and I took them out with tongs, placing them on a plate.

Next, I poured the cooking water into a large baking dish (something big enough for the wrapper).  You want the water to be hot, but you want to be able to stick your hands in it.  Using tongs for this part was a little trickier.  I had a much easier time with my hands.  Unfortunately though, this means no pictures.

In the baking dish, one at a time, place the wrapper into the water.  I found it easier to use my hands to make sure the wrapper didn’t curl on the edges. My best rolls were the ones I kept flat the whole time. It does not need to stay in the water long, just long enough to become pliable.

Place on a working surface, and fill with whatever you like.  Just like a burrito, fold over, tuck in the sides, and then finish the roll.  The rice paper is sticky, so it will seal itself shut.

To keep them from drying out or sticking to a plate, put them onto a damp paper towel.  These are best eaten immediately, but I wanted to save one for PTB so I simply wrapped it in a damp paper towel, stuck it in the fridge, and it was still perfect 8 hours later 🙂

I like the salad rolls with peanut sauce. Next time I might try it with a ginger miso dressing PTB and I really enjoy!

YUM! One carrot and 1/2 cucumber was the perfect amount to fill 4 good size rolls.

::summer love:: Charred Onion and White Bean Salad


I thought I was finally getting the chance to dig into my Cooking Through the Seasons book. We have had so many things going on lately that were interupting the dinner schedule. I was so excited to make my grocery list on Wednesday morning. But as I was planning out the menu, I realized once again that we would not be making dinner Saturday, Sunday or today. No need to buy too much when I was really only going to need three days worth of food.
Luckily, I realized I needed to make something to take with me to some events over the weekend, so I had a good excuse to go back Friday morning for Whole Foods cherry sale.
So there I was, only three days to cook dinner. And then Wednesday went crazy and I didn’t get to make the dinner I was planning. PTB’s loss. I made it for lunch the next day. It was delicious. But that was another pasta sauce. And I post a ton of those (sorry, I love pasta). That recipe might need some perfecting anyway.
So now I am being stubborn and I only want to post Summery things. This salad was a perfect combination of bitter and sweet. We ate it with a grilled chicken breast which was just the right amount of warmth. It makes enough for four servings if you serve it with a piece of grilled chicken or fish. Since there is just the two of us, I am sure you can guess what I had for lunch the next couple days.[/donotprint]

What You Need
Step One
one Vidalia onion
Step Two
1/2 cucumber, seeded & chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 can cannellini beans
Step Three
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced

I you have a grill, the best way to get these onions nice and crispy is to throw them on the grill charring each side within about 4 minutes.  Since I am in an apartment and have no access to a grill, I went with my cast iron skillet to char the onion.  Cut the onion into 1/4 slices, and char away  🙂

While the onions are charring, drain and rinse the beans.  Seed the cucumber and chop into 1/4″ pieces.

Let the onion cool, and chop.

In a large bowl, whisk together all step three ingredients.  Add the vegetables.

Serve over mixed salad greens of your choice.  We used arugula.  I liked the bitter with the sweet of the Vidalia Onion.

Serves: 4  Cost: ~$1/serving