Guest Post: Mediterranean Summer Salad With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I love purchasing fresh local produce this time of year. Sometimes, the produce doesn’t even make it to the dinner table because I’ve eaten all of it as a snack! This happens every time I buy peas in the pod. I eat them all. Usually by myself. The cat will beg for them — my cat is strange, she loves to eat fresh green vegetables — and I’ll do my best to ignore her. Bryan usually comes home only to find a pile of empty shells… I tend to forget to save some for him as well.

I was quite excited, then, when Randi proposed the guest post I’m sharing with you today. Why? Because I love a delicious fresh salad and this one looks hearty enough to be a meal itself! And because tomorrow is Farmer’s Market day and I’m going to pick up some fresh produce to make this salad for lunch. Take it away Randi!


Author Bio: This is a guest post by Randi Leeds on behalf of Flavor Your Life. To get ideas on how to use olive oil please visit www.flavor-your-life.com.

A vibrant new campaign in support of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, “Flavor Your Life,” has launched in North America. It is jointly funded by the European Union, the Italian Department of Agriculture and Unaprol; the largest consortium of Olive growers in Italy. The goal of the campaign is to educate North American consumers and retailers on the importance of product origin and the quality level of the oil they use daily.

With all the recent controversy over the question “What IS EVOO,” this campaign aims to educate the North American consumer on the proper way to choose an extraordinary and tasty EVOO – from traceability to the origin of the product your purchasing.

There’s no better way to start summer off than with this tasty Mediterranean Salad, brought to you by the dynamic new campaign for Extra Virgin Olive Oil, “Flavor Your Life”.

Mediterranean Summer Salad With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

EVOO Mediterranean Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces of Buffalo Mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 4 large tomatoes sliced
  • 3 English cucumbers sliced
  • 1 tsp. capers
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • Dash of salt & pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish
  • 4 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preparation

  1. Wash and cut all the vegetables.
  2. Place the green vegetables on a chilled plate.
  3. Add the mozzarella and cover with the sliced tomatoes.
  4. Sprinkle with capers and basil.
  5. Season with lemon juice, salt, and a pinch of pepper.
  6. Spoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil over dish.

To get ideas on how to use olive oil please visit www.flavor-your-life.com and follow us on Twitter and Facebook too.

Nana’s Potato Salad

Over the weekend, we celebrated my dad’s birthday. We tend to spend our family occasions at home and cook a nice meal. On the odd occasion, we order take out Chinese food (which was always my birthday request growing up). I’ve learned to plan the meal ahead. I’ve got better at timing the things I’m cooking. Each time, the meal seems to come out a little bit better.

Dad’s birthday request was for steak. I got to choose the side dishes. So, I picked up some gorgeous sirloin steaks from The Bauer Butcher, fresh Ontario asparagus from Vincenzo’s (asparagus season is coming to an end soon, so I’m eating as much of this delicious vegetable as possible), and some potatoes for a potato salad. To top it all off, Nana made an amazing confetti cake (dad’s favourite).

BBQ Sirloin Steaks

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Now, would you be surprised if I told you that the highlight of the meal is the potato salad?

You see, it’s my nana’s recipe and a family favourite. Nana has made her family-famous potato salad ever since I can remember… and ever since dad can remember. I have fond memories of spending weekends with Nana as a child and there always being an amazing array of delicious home cooked food. And her potato salad is among my favourites (also check out some of her other recipes that I’ve deconstructed and posted, including Macaroni and Cheese Casserole and Asparagus Soup). As a child I flat out refused to eat potato salad. I claimed I didn’t like it. I especially didn’t like the pre-made potato salads from the grocery store and fast food restaurants (I still don’t really like most of them). However, Nana’s potato salad was the exception. Not only did I eat it, I would go back for seconds.

Steamed Asparagus

The “recipe” is another one that I’ve had to watch time after time to document. The vague directions call for potatoes (it doesn’t say how many), the oil and vinegar dressing is the only thing that is really precise. And that’s as long as you know that the recipe is for 5 servings.

This weekend, I made the salad under Nana’s supervision. The salad was very well received by my family! No complaints. No comparisons. No suggestions for next time. It was just like Nana’s. Hooray! Now I need to make it again without supervision to really put my take on the potato salad to the test.

What makes her salad so much better? So one, she serves it warm. I don’t know why, but this makes a difference in the flavour. Her salad is good as leftovers but is definitely best served and consumed fresh. Like, within an hour of making the salad. It has great sweet and sour flavours in the dressing. It’s smooth with delicious crunch pieces of fresh vegetables. It doesn’t take too much time or effort to make. It just tastes better. (And I don’t think it’s nostalgia making me say this!)

Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Nana’s Potato Salad

Adapted from her sister’s recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 large potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups when cubed) – approximate cost $1.75
  • 2 teaspoons sugar – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 tablespoons salad oil (canola or olive oil works well) – approximate cost $0.10
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, diced – approximate cost $0.25
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, sliced thinly – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 (slightly heaping) cup mayonnaise – approximate cost $1.00

Method

  1. Boil and drain the potatoes.
  2. Allow them to cool until they can be handled.
  3. Peel the potato skin.
    1. If you like the potato skins, skip this step. For my own salad, I would leave the potato skin on. Nana prefers the potato skins removed.
  4. Cut potato into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Combine sugar and vinegar, stirring constantly until dissolved.
  6. Add salad oil to the vinegar and sugar mix.
  7. Pour oil and vinegar mix over hot potatoes.
  8. Allow the potatoes to cool until lukewarm, about room temperature.
  9. Add celery, green pepper, and green onion pieces.
  10. Mix well.
  11. Add pepper and mayonnaise.
  12. Mix thoroughly.
  13. Serve and enjoy!

Makes 5 servings (approximate cost: $0.80 per serving).

Wednesday Link Parties

Cast Party Wednesday

White Lights on Wednesdays

Fluster Buster

Asian-Inspired Bean Sprout Salad with Citrus and Soy Dressing

Whew! I’ve made it through yet another exam season. Grad school is a bit different, we tend to have large research papers to hand in. I’m relieved to be done course work for a few weeks. And am working on a few other projects before the spring term begins. One is a research project I’ve been working on for a little over a year. It’s nice to see it coming together! The other is an event for game enthusiasts: Make a Game or DIY Trying. We’ve invited local speakers who work in the game industry to talk about their careers and will host a design competition in the afternoon. I’m looking forward to taking a few days off next week to relax before the next set of classes start.

With everything coming to an end for the term, Bryan and I took the evening of April 23rd off to celebrate our 9 year anniversary! 9 wonderful years. It sounds like a long time. It hasn’t felt all that long.

Us at Bryan's convocation -- there are very few pictures of us because I'm usually the one holding the camera

Us at Bryan’s convocation — there are very few pictures of us because I’m usually the one holding the camera

Anyway, we were both quite busy during the day, but were able to spend the entire evening together, starting with dinner at our favourite restaurant, Taka! It’s on the opposite side of the next town (near where I grew up), but is always worth the trip! The family that manages the restaurant is very generous, they always greet us with enthusiasm, give us appetizers on the house, which usually means we go home with leftovers. Yesterday was no different. Warm welcome, fantastic and friendly service, delicious food, and enough leftovers for a quick lunch today. We then headed home for a quiet evening. We’ve been watching Game of Thrones (I got the DVDs for my birthday a while back) and watched the final episode of season 2. We can’t wait for season 3 to finish and come out on DVD!

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is a salad that I’ve been making a lot recently that we’re both very fond of. The idea for the salad is based off of a recommendation from a friend. It’s very easy to make and surprisingly filling!

Asian-Inspired Bean Sprout Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups bean sprouts – approximate cost $2.00
  • 1/2 cup watercress – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen edamamae beans – approximate cost $1.50

Method

  1. Cook edamamae beans according to package.
  2. Soak hot edamamae beans in an ice water bath.
  3. Rinse the bean sprouts and watercress.
  4. Pat dry.
  5. Combine bean sprouts, watercress, and edamame beans in a large salad bowl.
  6. Mix well.
  7. Top with Citrus and Soy Salad Dressing.
  8. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Citrus and Soy Salad Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) – approximate cost $0.15
  • 3 teaspoons Kikkoman soy sauce – approximate cost $0.20
  • 3 teaspoons sesame oil – approximate cost $0.50

Method

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing glass. 5.75
  2. Mix well.
  3. Pour over salad (before the oil and citrus separate).

Makes 2 meal-sized servings (approximate cost: $2.88 per serving) or 4 appetizer-sized servings (approximate cost: $1.44 per serving).

Wednesday Link Parties

Cast Party Wednesday

White Lights on Wednesdays

Fluster Buster

Very Belated (American) Thanksgiving

Back in November, when I was taking a break to focus on school, we hosted a small dinner party to celebrate American Thanksgiving. Even though it is now just after Christmas, I’d still like to share this meal with you. Why? Because it was delicious and I feel like it was generic enough to serve for any special occasion.

Last year, our American Thanksgiving dinner was much more traditional.

The Appetizer: Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese and Lemon Juice

The Side Dish: Accordion Potatoes

The Other Side Dish: Spaghetti Squash with Lemon

The Main Course: Turkey with Lemon and Rosemary

The Sauce: Cranberry Raspberry Sauce

The Dessert: Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust

This year, we decided to change things up for a number of reasons… a whole turkey is just too much for 3-4 people (we got sick of the leftovers) and I worked until 7 pm and needed something that could be prepared quickly.

So this year, the menu consisted of things I could (mostly) prepare the night before and cook quickly when I arrived home.

The menu:

  • Appetizer: Deviled eggs
  • Main dish: Duck breast with a port reduction
  • Side dish: Roasted potatoes with fresh thyme
  • Side dish: Spicy green beans with garlic

Our dear friend W brought home-made treats made by his mother. They were a fantastic way to finish off the meal!

Over the next few posts, I’ll share each of the recipes!

Birthday Dinner Recap

Were you expecting a dessert post today? Sorry, but there won’t be one. I sort of forgot to plan a dessert. But that’s ok, because after the other food, we couldn’t eat another bite.

Instead, today I will recap the meal and share the cost break-down with you.

Steak Tartare

Approximate cost: $10.72

Salad with Organic Peppery Greens, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Cucumber

Approximate cost: $5.00

Bison Rib-Eye Steaks

Approximate cost: $27.20

The total estimated cost for the meal: $42.92 (or $21.46 per person)!

Now, I know this seems rather expensive for a single meal, and it is, but remember this was a birthday celebration and I did intend for it to cost more than usual, yet less than if we ate out. And I think I achieved that. Had we eaten out, to spend about the same amount we would have forgone the appetizer, ordered water instead of wine, and likely still gone over budget after leaving a tip.

We both enjoyed the meal, it was very enjoyable to have a relaxing night in, and it was nice to be able to eat at our own pace, taking breaks for conversation (and digestion). It was a lovely evening and I think we’ll stay in to celebrate more occasions from now on!

Salad with Organic Peppered Greens, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Cucumber

The steak tartare appetizer went over well. But it was definitely a bit too much for two people. So, for the next hour we chatted and hung out at the dinner table, enjoying some wine gifted to me by one of my best friends (her dad made the wine). The wine was fantastic and Bryan agreed. It’s not often we agree on wine!

Because the appetizer was so filling, the dinner itself was light, meat and a salad (we had plenty of carbs to fill us up from the baguette). Next up was a lovely salad.

Salad with Organic Peppered Greens, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Cucumber

Ingredients

  • 1/8 pound organic peppery salad greens (spicy) – approximate cost $2.00
  • 4 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced – approximate cost $2.00
  • 2 mini cucumbers, sliced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar – approximate cost $0.50

Method

  1. Divide the greens into two bowls.
  2. Divide the tomato and cucumber slices evenly between the two bowls.
  3. Drizzle each salad with 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Makes 2 servings (approximate cost: $2.50 per serving).

Improv Challnege: Corn and Butter

I’m so excited to be participating in another Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker! For those of you keeping track (I know I am for now), this is my third month participating in the challenge. Each month I strive to come up with something a bit more exciting or creative than the last.

Check out my previous Improv Challenge creations:

This month, the challenge ingredients are corn and butter. This combination of ingredients was especially difficult for me. Not that it isn’t a great combination, but because I love a simple cob of corn with butter. I rarely feel compelled to go beyond this with the ingredient combination. Generally, I will grill a few pieces of corn on the cob (husks on), roll it in butter, and season with salt and pepper.

This challenge forced me outside my comfort zone. I’m glad it did. The resulting salad is easy to make, affordable, and delicious. Best of all, the cilantro was fresh from my garden!

Cilantro Tomato Corn Salad with a Lemon-Butter Dressing

Adapted from Cilantro Tomato Corn Salad at AllRecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1/4 cup butter – approximate cost $0.50
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice – approximate cost $0.15
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05

Method

  1. Soak the red onion pieces in a bowl of cold water for a minimum of 20 minutes.
  2. Melt butter in a pot over medium heat.
  3. Allow butter to brown.
  4. Add corn and lemon juice.
  5. Cook until corn is a vibrant yellow and heated through.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  7. Drain the onions and place in a large mixing bowl.
  8. Add tomato pieces, jalapeño, cilantro, sea salt, pepper, and corn.
  9. Toss well so the lemon-butter coats the ingredients.
  10. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Makes 4 servings (approximate cost: $2.04 per serving).

Serving suggestions

Best if enjoyed the same day the salad is prepared. If kept in the fridge, tomatoes will lose some of their flavour and the butter will harden.



Everyday Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Tomato and cucumber salad is a staple in our home. We enjoy it at least once per week. More often in the summer when fresh vegetables are cheaper. We served this salad along with the hanger steak last week.

I posted a fancier version of this salad when we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. However, I wanted to share this version as well to reinforce that healthy and hearty salads don’t necessarily have to be expensive.

Because it’s summer, we’re eating salads more often than usual. Not just because the ingredients are cheaper this time of year, but also because it’s too hot to be cooking in the kitchen for a long time! Throwing a salad into the mix (instead of cooked vegetables) means less time making the apartment unbearably warm.

One of the nice things about preparing this salad in separate bowls is that we can choose our own salad dressing. Bryan generally opts for the balsamic vinegar. Lately, I go for an apple cider vinegar (prior to that, I would use lemon juice) .

While we love this salad, but I’m looking to branch out and make a few more type of salads. Not just to try something new, but to make sure we don’t get bored of this one!

What’s your favourite summer salad? Please share links to your favourites!

Everyday Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 English cucumber – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1 package of mixed tomatoes (grape cherry, etc.) – approximate cost $2.50
  • 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05

Method

  1. Slice the cucumber bite-sized pieces and divide into two bowls.
  2. Slice the tomatoes in half and divide evenly into two bowls.
  3. Pour 1 1/2 teaspoons of desired vinegar over each serving.
  4. Sprinkle each serving with ¼ teaspoon of sea salt.
  5. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings (approximate cost: $1.73 per serving).

Come share in the tomato love at the Tomato Love Recipe Exchange, hosted by Gimme Some Oven & Bake Your Day.  Also visit Recipe for Change to learn more about how to support tomato farmers.

Day 25: Chop chop

Chop chop… tomato, avocado, and artichoke chopped into pieces and smothered in balsamic vinegar. Makes a very yummy salad!

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad with Peanuts and Chlies) from Relish Cooking Studio

After a short break last week, I’m back to talking about the Thai food class at Relish Cooking Studio!

I think this salad was among my favourite dishes that we enjoyed at the class. It was fresh, crisp, and very different from the typical salad. First, I hadn’t realized there was more than one variety of papaya. I expected the salad to be sweet and spicy. It was definitely not sweet. Actually, I didn’t find it overly spicy either. I really like the lime-based salad dressing. It would probably taste very good on a spinach salad!

When learning how to make this salad, we had a brief lesson on Thai chilies. I learned a lot.

First, we learned how to choose our chilies according to our desired spiciness. The long Thai chilies are mild, while the smaller chilies are spicier. The richness of the colour doesn’t relate to the spiciness. (Who knew?) I used to buy the smaller chilies so I wouldn’t have as many chili pieces in the dish. Turns out I was actually using the spicier chilies!

Second, we learned some safety tricks when chopping peppers. Akeela suggested wearing gloves to avoid any contact with the pepper. After an unfortunate encounter with a jalapeño pepper, I highly support this idea! While it may seem a bit over the top, you will understand if you’ve ever accidentally touched your eyes after handling a hot pepper. You may recall, I posted about ways to relieve burning caused by contact with hot peppers a few months back when I was just starting this blog.

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad with Peanuts and Chilies)

Recipe by Akeela Rabley from Relish Cooking Studio

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1 long red Thai chili pepper, seeded and chopped finely – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 ounce of unsalted roasted peanuts (whole or pieces, your choice) – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried shrimp (optional) – approximate cost $0.50
  • 2 tablespoons of palm sugar (or brown sugar) – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1/4 cup lime juice – approximate cost $0.50
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce – approximate cost $0.20
  • 3 1/2 ounces cherry (or grape) tomatoes, halved – approximate cost $2.00
  • 4 cups of green papaya, peeled and grated – approximate cost $2.00
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves – approximate cost $1.00

Method

  1. Combine the garlic and chilies in a food processor, and mix until they form a paste.
  2. Add the peanuts and mix until roughly chopped.
  3. Add the shrimp, sugar, lime, and fish sauce to the paste and mix well.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the tomato pieces and lightly squish.
  6. Add the papaya, shallots, basil, and cilantro to the mixing bowl, and toss well to coat the ingredients with the sauce.

Makes about 4 servings  (approximate cost: $2.18 per serving).

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