4/30/12

No Lettuce Was Harmed in the Making of This Salad: Forget Boring Salads, Make This Rainbow Salad Soon!


It's almost summer time. Occasionally, even I like to eat lighter, healthier meals. These meals, however, don't have to be boring or uninspiring. Today, I'm sharing my idea of a fun salad: filling, colorful, with a variety of colors, textures and flavors and sans lettuce!

Forget Boring Salads, Make This Rainbow Salad!

Ingredients
1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup chickpeas
1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup marinated feta
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons oil from marinated feta
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste


Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.


Who can resist this beautiful salad?


If you want more ideas for fun salads, check out the comments my readers left here.


And don't forget to come back on Wednesday for my 4th Bloggiversary post and an AWESOME giveaway!

4/27/12

Zucchini, Tomato & Feta Gratin Recipe: Versatile Vegetarian Side

This Zucchini, Tomato & Feta Gratin Recipe has a few of my favorite things: tomatoes, cheese and pine nuts. I adapted this recipe from the Sunday Roasts cookbook, from which I've previously made Salmon Fillets on a Bed of Peas.

The original recipe for the Zucchini and Tomato Gratin used rosemary, which I dislike, and had somewhat complicated directions for layering vegetables with cheese, bread crumbs, etc.

Instead, I decided to use the technique I learned while making Barefoot Contessa's Vegetable Tian, and used fresh basil instead of rosemary and panko crumbs instead of regular crumbs.

The smartest part of this recipe was sauteing the zucchini on both sides prior to adding them to the baking dish: this got rid of some of the moisture and gave the zucchini a lot of flavor.

Since the amount of tomatoes was half the amount of zucchini, when layering, I used two zucchini slices for each tomato slice.

This dish is great served hot or at room temperature. I even ate it cold straight out of the refrigerator a few times.

Zucchini, Tomato & Feta Gratin Recipe
Adapted from Sunday Roasts
Ingredients

olive oil for sauteing

2 pounds zucchini, sliced into 1/4" rounds

kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 pound tomatoes, sliced into 1/4" rounds

6 tablespoons panko crumbs

6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/3 cup crumbled feta

2 tablespoons pine nuts

garnish: fresh basil

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
2. In a large frying pan heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan and saute zucchini slices for four minutes on each side. You may need to do this in batches. Season the slices with salt and pepper as soon as you remove them from the pan.


2. In a 2-quart oval baking dish, layer tomatoes with zucchini slices.


3. Combine the panko crumbs with cheese and sprinkle on top of the vegetables. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and top with pine nuts.


4. Bake for 25 minutes and garnish with chiffonade of basil.



I don't know about you, but I think the final result is absolutely gorgeous! You will get some juices from the vegetables on the bottom of the baking dish, so make sure you have some bread to soak it up. Serve this on its own or as a side with roasted chicken or steak.


PS. Remember that I will be announcing the winner of the OXO salad spinner giveaway on Monday. This means you still have time to enter it!

Tell me what you are cooking this weekend!

4/25/12

Super Quick & Delicious Appetizer: Marinated Feta


I love salty snacks. Potato chips. Pistachios. Pickles. Olives. This past weekend I came up with a super quick and delicious idea for marinated feta. You can use these marinated cubes of feta as an appetizer, or add them to salads or soups. In fact, in the next few weeks I'll share those recipes with you!

Marinated Feta

Ingredients

8 ounce block of feta, cut into 3/4" cubes {I used Athenos Traditional Chunk Feta}
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced

Directions

1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade.
2. Add feta cubes to a large container and cover with the marinade.
3. Let feta marinate in the refrigerator for at least a few hours.



Here's what your feta cubes will look like:


A few notes:
1) do not throw away the oil: use it as a salad dressing or for a quick stir fry
2) play around with different spices
3) try using orange juice or a flavored vinegar instead of lemon juice
4) add fresh herbs


What are your favorite super quick and delicious appetizers?

PS don't forget to enter my salad spinner giveaway!

4/23/12

OXO Salad Spinner Giveaway and a Recipe for Cucumber, Radish & Hearts of Palm Salad

Today, I'm hosting a second giveaway for OXO. If you weren't lucky enough to win the kitchen scale I featured last month, here's your chance to win an OXO Salad Spinner in a pretty green color!

I always wanted a salad spinner and finally bought one at IKEA last year. It definitely works, but it's sort of basic. After all, it did cost less than $5.00.

Unlike my IKEA salad spinner, OXO's model is not only pretty to look at and matches the green walls of my kitchen, but is also full of useful features:




  • Easy, one-handed operation



  • Patented pump mechanism and brake button



  • Clear lid lets you see inside and comes apart for easy cleaning



  • Non-slip ring keeps bowl steady on countertop



  • Basket and non-slip bowl can be used separately



  • Bowl capacity is 6.22 qts; basket capacity is 4.95 qts



  • Top-rack dishwasher safe



  • BPA free



  • Before I tell you how you can win your own salad spinner, I'm going to share a recipe for Cucumber, Radish & Hearts of Palm Salad.

    Cucumber, Radish & Hearts of Palm Salad
    Serves 2-4

    Ingredients
    10 Boston lettuce leaves, washed, dried well and torn into pieces
    4 radishes, thinly sliced
    2 mini cucumbers, sliced thinly on a diagonal
    4 hearts of Palm, sliced thinly on a diagonal
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
    salt & pepper to taste
    drizzle of olive oil
    lemon juice to taste


    Directions
    1. Combine the vegetables and dill in a bowl. Season with salt & pepper and dress the salad with olive oil and lemon juice.


    This salad screams SPRING to me. It's light and has a great bright green color with specks of white and pink. You will get different textures and flavors with each bite. Go make this soon!


    And now the rules of the giveaway:

    All you have to do is leave a comment letting me know your favorite salad combination. {NOTE: you must have a US address to be eligible to win.}

    For additional chances to win this giveaway, do one or all of the following and leave an additional comment letting me know you've done so:

    Tweet about this giveaway and mention @OXO, @MangoTomato and link to this blog post in your tweet
    Like MangoTomato on FB
    Like OXO on FB
    I will announce the winner on Monday, April 30th at 10 am.

    And the WINNER IS:




    Disclosure: OXO sent me two salad spinners: one to keep, one to give away. I was not reimbursed in any way for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

    4/20/12

    Once in a While, Treat Yourself to Lunch! Johnny's Half Shell


    I very strongly believe in the idea of treating myself. It's not about the money; it's more about doing little things to make myself feel better. These things can mean painting my nails, listening to Latin music, eating a piece of dark chocolate or buying flowers or orchid plants.

    Another thing I treat myself to from time to time is a little splurge: it's raw, slightly salty and goes down super easy.

    OYSTERS, people. I'm talking about oysters.

    Last week I took myself out to lunch at Johnny's Half Shell. It was a gorgeous day, so I sat outside, read my book, tweeted, took a few photos and ate.


    I started with half a dozen oysters. They tasted like the ocean, but unfortunately weren't shucked properly: they were still semi-attached to the shell.


    For my entree, I ordered steamed mussels and clams served in a lightly curried spinach broth. The broth was incredible, but it was hard to enjoy it with a piece of toast that came with the dish. Instead, I chose the leftover bread from my bread basket. Other than that, the dish was a winner.


    Alas, I had no time for dessert, but there will be another occasion for that soon, I'm sure.

    Have a wonderful weekend and let me know how YOU treat yourself.

    4/18/12

    What to Make with Daikon? Marinated Carrots, Daikon & Radishes

    Have you ever tried a daikon? Sometimes called white radish or Japanese radish, daikon look like large white carrots and have a crisp texture with a mild flavor. Growing up, my parents made a shredded carrot and daikon salad flavored with sunflower oil and a bit of salt.

    These days you can find daikon in most grocery stores. They have very thin skin and add a great crunch to your sandwiches, salads or crudite platters.

    Last weekend I made Marinated Carrots, Daikon & Radishes adapted from a recipe I saw on White On Rice Couple.

    Use these marinated vegetables as a snack, to add some crunch to a sandwich or as a side with chicken or fish. The recipe takes minutes to put together and requires no cooking!




    Marinated Carrots, Daikon & Radishes

    Ingredients

    1/2 cup coconut vinegar***

    1/2 cup apple cider vinegar***

    1 teaspoon kosher salt

    2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar

    1 cup water

    1/2 pound radishes, thinly sliced

    1/2 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

    1/2 pound daikon, peeled and thinly sliced

    ***Feel free to use whichever vinegar you want, just stay away from Balsamic.


    Directions
    1. In a large bowl, mix together everything but the vegetables.
    2. Add the vegetables to the marinade.



    3. Cover the bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour.





    How do you use daikon?

    What vegetables have you tried to marinate?

    4/16/12

    Cream of Asparagus & Spinach Soup Recipe


    Guess what?! There is no cream in this soup. What makes this Cream of Asparagus & Spinach Soup creamy is the addition of a few boiled potatoes. This is an incredibly healthy, nutrient-filled and easy-to-make soup. Luckily, it's also delicious and can be served hot or chilled. If you want to make this into a vegan recipe, use vegetarian broth and leave out the Parmesan cheese.

    Now, go grab some asparagus, spinach and potatoes and make this soup!

    Cream of Asparagus & Spinach Soup
    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    2 teaspoons olive oil

    1 large white onion, chopped

    2 garlic cloves, chopped

    salt & pepper

    1 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1" pieces, blanched, reserve the blanching water***

    9 ounces spinach

    2 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed, cooked until tender

    32 ounces low fat, low sodium chicken broth

    Optional garnish: Parmesan cheese & fresh basil


    Directions
    1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil. Add onions and saute for five minutes. Add garlic and continue to saute for two minutes.
    2. Add blanched asparagus, season with salt and pepper and cook for five more minutes.
    3. Add spinach, cover the pot and let the spinach wilt.
    4. Add potatoes and chicken stock, bring everything to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for ten minutes.
    5. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. If you don't have an immersion blender, use a regular blender and CAREFULLY puree the soup in several batches. ***If you find the consistency of the soup too thick, add some of the reserved blanching liquid.
    6. Serve the soup topped with shavings of Parmesan and freshly chopped basil.


    A special thank you to my friend Cecilia for the wonderful props used in this post: she gave me a beautiful towel and a ceramic white basket for my bday: ♥.


    Do you make soups in the warm weather? If you do, what's your favorite soup to make?

    4/13/12

    Greek Yogurt Dessert with Sour Cherries, Strawberries, Mangoes & Pistachios

    When it comes to dessert, more often than not I'm a chocolate girl. Give me chocolate ice cream, cake, or just a bar of dark chocolate and I'll be happy.

    On rare occasions, however, I prefer something lighter. I do not count fruit as dessert, but if it accompanies a slice of cheesecake or is added on top of a pound cake with whipped cream, I'll give it a go.

    One of my most favorite desserts comes from Zaytinya in Washington DC. Anytime I dine at that restaurant, I order the Greek Yogurt Apricot Parfait and refuse to share it with others. The combination of sweet apricots, tangy yogurt and slightly salted pistachios is divine.

    Imagine my delight when I saw the recipe for this dessert featured in The Washington Post!
    I printed it out, added it to my Pinterest board, and decided to make it in the near future. Last weekend, was finally "the near future."

    Before I tell you about my version of Zaytinya's dessert, here's a photo I took of the dessert on my last visit to the restaurant:



    Greek Yogurt Dessert with Sour Cherries, Strawberries, Mangoes & Pistachios
    Adapted from The Washington Post
    Serves 4-6

    Note: my version is lighter and simpler than the one featured in The Washington Post. Also, I chose to use a variety of fruit/berries. You can use what you like and/or what's in season. The amount of fruit listed is just a suggestion.

    Ingredients
    1 cup heavy cream
    1 teaspoon vanilla puree {if you don't have vanilla puree, use vanilla extract, or the seeds from fresh vanilla bean}
    1/4 cup sugar
    2 cups low fat Greek yogurt
    2 cups sour cherries {I used the ones I had sitting in my freezer and just defrosted them. You can use canned sour cherries (Trader Joe's sells them) or use fresh cherries or raspberries.}
    6-10 strawberries, sliced
    1-2 mangoes, peeled, chopped
    1 cup pistachios, shelled, chopped {I think it's the best to use roasted and lightly salted pistachios}

    Directions
    1. In a large bowl, add heavy cream, sugar and vanilla puree. Using a handheld mixer, beat the ingredients together until the cream forms stiff peaks.


    2. Carefully fold the whipped cream into yogurt.


    3. In individual glasses add sour cherries, top with the yogurt mixture, then strawberries, more yogurt mixture, then chopped mangoes, a dollop of yogurt, and, finally, chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.





    What can I say? This dessert is incredible. It's not overly sweet, has gorgeous colors, and a variety of textures, and would also be amazing for breakfast. Who would say no to this?


    Have you tried to recreate your favorite dish from a restaurant? What was it? Were you successful?