Salads

I know, I know, kale is so 2012. We've had Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, kohlrabi and romanesco since then! But I still eat kale. For me, it's an easy way to pack in a lot of vitamins and minerals with very little effort (that is, if you buy the pre-washed kind). I've written about kale salads before (this chopped kale salad is Very Important Salad in my house; it makes frequent appearances) , but with this salad, kale is just the supporting vegetable. The star here is actually this tomato vinaigrette and this whole recipe is built around it. Which is pretty evident from the all the pre-prepared ingredients I used. Nonetheless, convenience foods can still be healthy and this is a great, hearty dinner. Even heartier if you substitute quinoa or brown rice for the white rice.

black_bean_kale_salad_tomato_vinaigrette

Black Bean and Kale Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette
Serves 6-8

For the tomato vinaigrette:
1 can Hunt's Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 ounce red wine vinegar
1 ounce lime juice
1 tablespoon honey (or 2 tablespoons sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon of already-minced garlic)
1/4 cup olive oil

Measure out 1 cup of the diced tomatoes and reserve the remainder. Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until well-blended. Pour into a lidded pint jar and chill.

For the salad:
2 cups cooked rice (white or brown; or quinoa)
2 ounces lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cans low sodium black beans (I use Bush's)
1 bag microwaveable yellow kernel corn (I used the steam-in-bag corn)
1/2 teaspoon paprika or cayenne (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (to taste)
1 bag pre-washed and chopped kale greens
cilantro for garnish (optional)
roasted or fresh tomatoes for garnish (optional)
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
finely shredded cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
sour cream for garnish (optional)

Cook rice or quinoa according to directions to yield 2 cups of cooked rice, replacing 2 ounces of water with 2 ounces of lime juice and adding oil (use slightly less liquid than recommended for rice that is not sticky).

Rinse and drain the black beans and heat in the microwave just long enough to warm and set aside in a medium bowl. Cook corn according to directions and add to the beans. Toss with paprika (or cayenne if you prefer spicier) and cumin. Set aside.

For each salad, use 1-2 cups of kale greens and rub them between your hands, removing thick spines. Place in serving bowls and drizzle with vinaigrette. Top with rice, bean and corn blend, and then garnish with cilantro, the remainder of roasted diced tomatoes (or fresh diced tomatoes), and chunks of avocado. Drizzle on more dressing. Add cheese and sour cream if desired. Note also that you may want to add some salt and black pepper after preparation.

Serve with tortilla chips.

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This potato salad is based on a recipe suggested to me by a Twitter friend who works for the group that publishes FarmFlavor.com, which is affiliated in part with the Tennessee Farm Bureau. The website is full of great, well-tested recipes with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients. It's got a nifty search engine that lets you search by meal type, theme, cooking method, or ingredient. So when I asked for favorite potato salad recipes, it wasn't hard for her to find this one. The original recipe calls for bacon, but she mentioned that she'd made it without and it was still very good.

And she was right; it's fantastic. Even better, I was already planning to use Yukon Gold potatoes and I could see that this would also be a good way to use the garlic scapes I'd just cut from my garden (though a couple of weeks later than I should have). Of course, you can make it as it appeared originally or use my recipe (with changes) below or get creative on your own. But do be sure to keep the lemon and basil; I think they were the key to making this potato salad unique and very tasty. It was so good that my mother-in-law asked for some of the leftovers!

ps--I decided to call it "Herb Garden Potato Salad" since I could actually use herbs grown in my own garden!

herb_garden_potato_salad

Herb Garden Potato Salad
adapted from FarmFlavor.com
serves 6-8

Ingredients:
3 pounds potatoes (we used Yukon gold, red and blue potatoes)
1 cups onion, finely chopped and lightly sauteed with a little olive oil
¼ cup fresh chives, finely minced
¾ cup fresh basil, chopped

Dressing:
½ cup mayonnaise
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons garlic scapes, finely minced
¾ teaspoon salt (I used smoked salt)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Place unpeeled potatoes in a large 5- to 8-quart pot. Cover with cold water and place over high heat. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Once water boils, remove cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 to 25 minutes depending on size. Check frequently to prevent overcooking.

Drain potatoes and set aside to cool. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces, about ½- to ¾-inch chunks, and place in large bowl. Add onion, chives and basil. Toss very gently to combine.

In a separate bowl, make the dressing: whisk together mayonnaise, oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic scapes, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over potato mixture and lightly toss with a large wooden spoon, taking care not to break too many potato chunks.

Chill in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container.

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I realized the other day that even though I've had this blog for almost seven years, I've never written a post about pimento cheese (update: I did; I just spelled it "pimiento cheese"--ha!). Which is kind of crazy since it's one of my favorite things. Pimentos (or pimientos) are mild, sweet, and small red peppers. Adding them to cheese and mayonnaise is a southern tradition, though I have no idea why. It just is. I always--always--have the ingredients on hand so that I can make it whenever I need to.

pimentocheese

Of course, a big part of it is that I don't have a recipe. I just add some mayonnaise and a jar of diced pimentos to shredded cheese and add a little seasoning and that's it. It's never occurred to me to share a recipe, I guess. But thinking about the recipe made me curious about what a pimento cheese recipe looks like and I was surprised to find a lot of variations, many of which had ingredients lists longer than just three or four items. Cream cheese, onions, Worcestershire sauce, jalapenos, cayenne pepper, garlic...um, no. You really don't need anything but cheese, mayo, pimentos, and a little pepper.  I did recently start adding a little smoked paprika to mine, but it's strictly optional. So what I have here is just a basic recipe that's very easy and very good.

But be sure to use good cheese and good mayo. Actually, Mr. Eats prefers his pimento cheese with Miracle Whip, but I do not keep Miracle Whip in my house, so he has to settle for my Hellmann's-made "salad" (spread?). A lot of people around here like Duke's, but it lacks the sweetness and a bit of the tang that Hellmann's has. And though I also like Kraft mayo, Hellmann's is thicker and sturdier, so I prefer it for my salads. I also use Sargento's already-finely-grated sharp cheddar for my pimento cheese. I like the finely grated cheese because it blends better and stays together better, particularly if you're going to make a grilled pimento cheese sandwich. And you should. So good. I also like it on "not dogs" (I like Smart Dogs), crackers, or as a vegetable dip.

Pimento Cheese
serves 4-6

2 cups finely-shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 four ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
pepper to taste
smoked paprika (optional)

Combine the cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos in a large bowl. Add a few twists of fresh ground pepper (to taste). For a little extra flavor, add about 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika and stir again.