Mediterranean Orzo Salad

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It’s August, and we are at top temperatures pushing 100 degrees here in Sunny Florida. There are days when I don’t feel like eating very much let alone be in the kitchen for too long. I look for ways to create tasty dishes, and if possible, I prefer not even to turn the oven on. This dish is a very quick, easy and light one. It has a little of everything. There are fresh vegetables for healthy texture and crunch, fresh herbs, creamy feta for a little salty bite, kalamata olives for an unmistakeable Mediterranean flavor, banana peppers for some heat, and of course orzo, which is a nice rice-shaped pasta for salads and side dishes. It’s all brought together with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. This dish is great as a side to any protein you like, or a vegetarian main dish as well. It’s great to bring along to a potluck, a picnic, or just to have something quick to snack on in the fridge. Get creative and use whichever veggies and herbs you like, as well as adding in some grilled shrimp, or chicken for more options. Whatever ingredients you choose, you’ll find this a quick and easy recipe to enjoy any time of year! So here we go…

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Cut all your vegetables into a medium dice, slice your grape tomatoes in half, chop your fresh herbs, and measure out your feta cheese. You can buy it in a block and dice it or do what I did here and buy it already diced.

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Combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper, and whisk to combine and emulsify into a nice vinaigrette.

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Cook the orzo pasta according to manufacturers instructions, run under cool water to stop the cooking process, then drain well.

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In a large bowl, toss the orzo, vegetables, herbs and dressing together first without adding the feta cheese just yet. Only add a little dressing at a time, so you don’t over dress it. Keep in mind that the orzo will absorb the dressing as it sits so you need to add enough, but taste it as you go to check it for flavor and also to see if you need to add more salt and pepper. When you are done combining, add the feta cheese and toss gently so you keep the chunky bits in tact.

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Here you have it! Mediterranean Orzo Salad. Enjoy!

MEDITERRANEAN ORZO SALAD (Yields: 8 Servings)

Ingredients:

1 lb Orzo Pasta

1 1/2 c Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half

1 c Green Bell Pepper, medium dice

1 c Orange Bell Pepper, medium dice

1 c Red Onion, medium dice

1 c Cucumber, peeled, seeded, medium dice

3/4 c Kalamata Olives, sliced

3/4 c Banana Peppers, medium dice

1/2 c Fresh Basil, chopped

1/2 c Fresh Flat Leaf Italian Parsley, chopped

1 1/4 c Diced or crumbled Feta Cheese

1 1/2 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 c Balsamic Vinegar

1 TBS Dijon Mustard

1 TBS Honey

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Procedure:

  1. Cook orzo pasta in salted boiling water according to manufacturers instructions. Pour cooked orzo into a strainer, rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process, and drain well. Set aside.
  2. Chop all the vegetables and herbs, and set aside.
  3. In a bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the dijon, honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together, whisk until emulsified into a vinaigrette. Check for seasoning.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the orzo, vegetables and herbs. Toss to combine.
  5. Adding a little vinaigrette at a time, toss together until well combined and dressed with the vinaigrette to add plenty of flavor without over dressing. Check for seasoning.
  6. Finally, gently toss in the feta cheese, being careful not to break it up completely, but leave the cheese fairly chunky.

Enjoy!!

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Asian Noodle Salad

 

imageI just adore the light vibrant flavors of Asian food. I also adore noodles. Boy do I love noodles. So much so that I try to limit myself to making only one pasta dinner a week. Not that there is anything wrong with pasta, it’s just that for me, it’s that one food that I have a hard time with controlling my portions. I’m sure you’ve all experienced that feeling of wanting more of your favorite food, and your belly is saying “I’m all set at this point” but your mouth isn’t quite on the same page. I think one of the things I love most about pasta is the texture. Now, having said all of that, I also love salad. It’s satisfying, flavorful, has interesting texture and really good for you. It is really versatile too.

In this recipe, I combine three of my favorites. I get my noodle fix, but not too much, I get the wonderful Asian flavors I adore in the dressing, and I get the flavors, textures, and many health benefits of all the various vegetables and nuts. You can add whichever vegetables you like here. Be creative! If you want to keep this vegetarian, you can add tofu, edamame beans, or other protein of your choice. You can eat this salad as a light main meal, or along side chicken, beef, pork, fish or shellfish. It pretty much goes with anything in my opinion.

So lets get started by first making the dressing.

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Gather your ingredients and measure them all out into a bowl or some sort of carafe to shake them all up. This dressing gets better as it sits a bit so if you can make it in advance it’s even better.

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When adding the garlic and ginger, I like to use a microplane. If you don’t have one, it’s ok, just mince them very fine so there aren’t any big chunks of raw ginger or garlic in your dressing.

Go ahead and whisk them all together in a bowl, or shake them in a jar or dressing carafe. Let it sit and get all happy and allow the flavors to marry.

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Next gather all your favorite salad vegetables, fresh herbs, sesame seeds and roasted peanuts together. For this salad I chose fresh spinach, sliced romaine hearts, radishes for crunch and heat, sliced, peeled and seeded cucumbers, grated carrots, shredded cabbage, green onions, fresh mint, fresh parsley(cilantro is also good here), white sesame seeds and dry roasted peanuts. Whew! Now that’s a salad!

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Now take your rice vermicelli, place it in a bowl, and pour boiling water over it.

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Work the noodles into the hot water so that they are all covered. Allow them to soften, about 5 minutes. They will still have a little bite to them, but unlike if you boiled them on the stove, they will be just soft enough without going too far and becoming mushy.

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Drain the noodles well and place them in your large salad bowl.

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Now pour just enough dressing over them, and toss them to coat them thoroughly. This will not only season them, but will prevent them from sticking together.

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Finish chopping up all your herbs and vegetables..

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Place all of them, along with the sesame seeds and peanuts on top of your noodles in the large bowl.

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Give your dressing a good whisk or shake, and start pouring over your salad. Do this a little at a time..

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Tossing all your lovely ingredients together, and tasting as you mix. Add more dressing as needed to get it all well dressed but don’t drown it in dressing. You want to still be able to taste all the wonderful vegetables!

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Finally, pick a pretty serving dish, plate this little beauty, sit back and enjoy. I hope you love this one as much as I do! Let me know what you think! 😀

ASIAN NOODLE SALAD (Yields:6-8 Servings)

Ingredients:

For the Salad:

2 c Fresh Spinach

2 c Sliced Romaine Hearts

1/2 Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced

5 Radishes, thinly sliced

2 Green Onions, thinly sliced,

1 Lg Carrot, peeled and grated

1/4 c Fresh Mint, chopped

1/4 c Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped

1/4 c Dry Roasted Peanuts

3 TBS White Sesame Seeds

6 oz Rice Vermicelli

For The Dressing:

1 Small Garlic Clove, finely minced

1″ Nub of Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely minced

3 TBS Soy Sauce

2 tsp Mirin( Rice Wine)

3 Limes, juiced

1/2-3/4 c Canola Oil

1 tsp Sesame Oil

1 tsp Sriracha, hot chili sauce

1 tsp Fish Sauce (optional)

1 TBS Honey

Procedure: 

  1. Prepare the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl, or shaking them in a jar or dressing carafe. Set aside.
  2. Place the rice noodles in a medium sized bowl, and cover them with boiling water to soften them, about 5 minutes.
  3. Drain the noodles well, place them in a large salad bowl, and dress with just enough of the prepared dressing to season and coat them well.
  4. Place all the rest of your salad ingredients on top of the noodles.
  5. Slowly add enough dressing, a little at a time, to your salad and toss all together with the rice noodles until the noodle salad is well dressed. Do not over dress the salad so that all the wonderful flavors of the vegetables can be enjoyed. There will be extra dressing left over.

 

 

 

The Magnificent Mango

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MMMMMMM…Mango…. Such a delicious fruit. Living in south florida we are very fortunate to have an abundance of these beauties all around us. If you don’t have your own tree, you are sure to have a neighbor or friend that has one, more  than willing to share their harvest with you.

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Walking around the neighborhood it is quite a site to see when you pass a mango tree full of fruit ready for picking.

Besides the mango’s delicious juicy flesh, it is also loaded with vitamin C and Folate (B9) making it good for you too.

imageThere are a couple of easy ways to cut a mango. They are slightly oval in shape and have a large pit in the center. If you stand the unpeeled mango up,  try to feel the tip for the shape of the pit and slice off the mango on either side of it.

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You can then scoop out the flesh using a large spoon, and dice it up.

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imageAnother way you can dice the mango is by leaving the cut half in the skin, score the flesh with the tip of a sharp knife in a cross pattern,

imageinvert the skin, pushing the diced pieces outward,

imageand remove the diced pieces that way. The same can be done with avocados by the way. 🙂

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I had quite a few thanks to a good friend, so I diced some of them to freeze for later use. I make mango sorbet, smoothies, salads, and when blended with ice, a little simple syrup, fresh mint, lime juice and rum, makes a delicious Mango Mojito!

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I diced up a separate bowl for Mango Salsa. This is delicious with tortilla chips, on fish, chicken, pork, and also pairs nicely with Brie and goat cheese as a nice appetizer.

imageFor the Mango Salsa, all you need is some red onion, fresh cilantro, a jalapeño pepper, fresh lime juice, a little salt, and of course the mango!

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Depending how spicy you like your salsa, remove the seeds and membrane from the jalapeño. I like a little heat so I leave a little in. Mince it finely.

imageOnce you have everything prepared

imageToss it all together in a bowl, add the freshly squeezed lime juice and salt to taste.

imageCover the salsa, and refrigerate. It gets better as it sits, so making it a little ahead of time is best. It’s so delicious you’ll probable find yourself grabbing a spoonful right out of the bowl. It’s fresh, flavorful and very versatile. Enjoy!!

Mango Salsa ( Yields: 4 Cups )

Ingredients:

3-4 Fresh Ripe Mangos, about 4 c, Medium dice

1 c Red Onion, small dice

1 Jalapeño Pepper, seeded, minced

1/2 c Fresh Cilantro, chopped

1 Fresh Lime, juiced

1 tsp Kosher salt, or to taste

Procedure:

1. In a medium sized bowl, toss together the mango, red onion, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro until well combined. Add the fresh lime juice and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate before using for best flavor.