Summer Squash Salad with Quinoa and Mozzarella

squash to post

A great little combination of summer flavors…perfect make ahead side dish for your next cookout.  If you are tired of quinoa, this salad is also good using 2 cups of cooked, drained and cooled orzo pasta.

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For Dressing:

1 handful fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For salad:

2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (see package directions)

1 cup diced fresh mozzarella

2 cups diced summer squash, yellow and green

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

salt and pepper

Make the dressing:

In a blender (this is where my Magic Bullet  really comes in handy….to puree small batches quickly….easy clean up too), puree basil leaves, mustard, honey, lemon juice and olive oil until smooth.  Set aside.

Cook the squash:

Heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon olive to coat the surface then spread the diced squash out in a single layer and let cook, without disturbing, 3-4 minutes until squash is nicely caramelized on one side.  Toss around while cooking just 1-2 minutes more then remove squash to a plate to cool. (Take care not to over-cook squash or it will turn to mush) Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Make the Salad:

In a medium bowl, gently toss together the quinoa, squash, mozzarella and chives.  Add basil dressing and toss well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  Serves 4-6

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The Perfect (and perfectly simple) All Purpose Marinade for Chicken


 

Here is my go-to, all purpose marinade for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Just a quick whisk of a few pantry staples, a few hours to marinate, a quick turn on the grill or under the broiler, and you will have tender, perfectly seasoned chicken ready to serve or to add to pasta, sandwiches or salads.  I like to mince it up finely for chicken salad sandwiches, cut bigger pieces for a stand alone chicken salad, or slice into thin strips for pasta dishes or an easy kid and adult friendly dinner. Feel free to switch out the dried spices to fit your mood and/or the needs of your final dish.

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1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

 

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Marinate chicken at least 3 hours…and up to overnight.  Makes enough to marinate 4 large or 6 small chicken breasts.

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Grilled Chicken Salad with Red Grapes, Pecans and Mustard Vinaigrette

 

 

Pasta Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, Feta and Chili-Lime Vinaigrette

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This is a wonderful salad from one of my favorite cookbooks, At Blanchard’s Table, by Melinda and Robert Blanchard.  Please note that in the photo above, I substituted Israeli couscous for the orzo (because I was out of orzo) and left out the feta cheese (because feta wasn’t going to work with the main dish I was serving that particular night).  But I am going to give you the original recipe because I’ve made it many times as written and it is always a hit.  Then you can make your own changes if you want.  I did love the texture of the big Israeli couscous and will definitely use that again.
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1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears of corn)
12 ounces orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime peel
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
15 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 ounces feta cheese, drained and crumbled
1 tablespoon mined fresh rosemary
freshly ground black pepper
Bring a medium sauce pan of water to boil, add the corn and cook for 1 minute.  Drain and set aside.
Cook the orzo in a large pot of lightly salted water until it is al dente, 6-8 minutes.  Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water, Drain well again and transfer to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, lime peel, lime juice, lemon juice, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Toss the dressing with the orzo .  Add the corn, tomatoes, feta, and rosemary, and toss gently to blend,  Taste for salt and pepper, and serve a room temperature.
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Spaghetti with Shrimp and Arugula

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This recipe is from Jamie’s Italy, by Jamie Oliver.  I’ve made it many, many times and it is one of our favorites.  The only advice I have is to only use a wine that you would be happy to drink.  It does makes a difference.  (I found that out the hard way)
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1 pound dried spaghetti
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 pound large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (I like to butterfly them)
1 small wineglass of white wine
2 heaping tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste (I like the one sold in a tube, for convenience)
1/2 tablespoon butter (my addition)
zest and juice of one lemon
2 handfuls of fresh arugula, roughly chopped
Cook your spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water according to the package instructions.  Meanwhile, heat 3 good glugs of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan and toss in the garlic and chili flakes.  As the garlic begins to color, add the shrimp and saute them for a minute.  Add the white wine and the tomato puree and the butter and simmer for a couple of minutes.   When the pasta is ready, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water,  Toss the spaghetti with the sauce, squeeze in the lemon juice, and add half the chopped arugula, using a little of the reserved cooking water if you want to loosen the sauce a bit, and correct the seasoning.  Divide between four plates and sprinkle with the grated lemon zest and the rest of the arugula leaves.
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Minced Chicken in Black Bean Sauce

This is a super quick stir-fry that I have been making for years.  I know that I got the recipe from a book…a paperback with Asian noodle and rice dishes….but I don’t have it anymore so I can’t give credit.  This is just so easy that I never copied the recipe.  It’s a bold sauce…kind of an Asian chicken spaghetti, if you will.
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2 tablespoons peanut oil
6  boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all fat and minced into small pieces
(you can actually buy ground chicken or turkey if you want to make this super easy…I just prefer the texture when I mince the chicken myself)
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1/3 cup Asian black bean sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped

Heat oil in wok or heavy skillet over high heat.  Add chicken in a single layer and sprinkle the minced garlic over the top (you may have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your pan)  Let cook undisturbed for several minutes until golden brown on one side.  It may be almost cooked through at this point.  Add the sesame seeds.  Using two utensils (I use a metal spatula and a big spoon)  toss the chicken and the sesame seeds around, breaking up the clumps and stir-frying until no longer pink.  Add the black bean sauce, soy sauce and red pepper flakes and stir to combine and heat thoroughly.  Remove from heat, add the 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, and let rest while you make the pasta.

Cook the pasta in lots of salted boiling water until just al dente.  Drain well then toss with the sesame oil.

Reheat chicken if necessary and serve over the spaghetti, sprinkled with the chopped green onions. Serves 6

 

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Baked Chicken and Orzo

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This is one of only 3 casseroles that have a place in my recipe binder.  Now, I love casseroles, I grew up on them in small town Mississippi.  But they just never went over very well with my eaters.  And if I did make a “casserole”, I was always careful to rename it.  For example, a chicken noodle casserole might become Roasted Chicken with Linguini.  This Baked Chicken with Orzo was a hit, I believe, because of the extra large pieces of chicken breast that become melt-in-your-mouth tender while baking in the silky buttered tomato sauce.  Recipe from Casseroles, Classic to Contempory, by Nina Graybill and Maxine Rapoport.
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6 chicken breast halves, skinned and cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons olive oil
28-ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
6 basil leaves, torn into small pieces, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 tablespoons butter (original recipe calls for a whole stick of butter…go for it if you dare)
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces orzo
2 cups chicken broth, heated to boiling
Brown the chicken pieces in the oil  While chicken is browning, simmer the tomatoes, butter, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper in an uncovered saucepan for about 20 minutes until somewhat thickened.
Place chicken in a 3-quart ovenproof casserole with a lid.  When tomato sauce has cooked down a bit, pour over chicken and place covered casserole in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Add orzo and boiling broth to the casserole and mix gently.  Cover and return to oven for 30 more minutes.  The recipe notes that you can add more hot broth if the dish seems dry before the orzo is tender but I have never had to do that. Serves 6
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Spicy Vegetable Couscous

This is my idea of the perfect meatless meal (although not vegetarian, of course, with the chicken broth) It is a simplified version of the wonderful Moroccan dish that usually includes lamb, chicken and/or veal.  I found this years ago in a book published by Glamour Magazine with recipes from their Gourmet on the Run feature.  If you ever see it in a used book store be sure and pick it up as it is full of great, quick and easy recipes.
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Vegetables:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 small or 1 medium turnip, diced
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
1 can chopped tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2-3 small zucchini, sliced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
Couscous:
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup couscous
fresh parsley or cilantro
sesame seeds
In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat oil.  Add onion and garlic and saute until tender but not brown.  Add turnip, carrots, tomatoes, salt, cumin, crushed red pepper and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender yet firm when tested with a fork.  Add zucchini and garbanzo beans; cook until zucchini is just tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the couscous.  Heat chicken broth and butter in a large saucepan with a lid.  When it starts to boil, add couscous, stir, cover, and remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes to steam.  When couscous is tender and has absorbed all of the broth, use a fork to fluff it and serve with the vegetables and broth garnished with parsley or cilantro and sesame seeds.  Serves 4-5

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