There is that time of year when all you want to feed yourself is fresh, crunchy, cold (or maybe room temperature) food. The time when you are drinking more cold beverages than you thought possible. And when you are going to backyard gatherings or picnics in the park. That time of the year is now and all I want are things that are stuffed with fresh herbs from the garden, salty, tangy, and maybe a little spicy. Luckily, this simple salad satisfies all of those cravings.
How simple? First, throw a bunch of herbs, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar into a food processor. Toast your couscous until it is golden, then cook it with broth to give it some extra love. Sauté the asparagus and peas for just a few minutes, until they have just a touch of color but are mostly a vibrant green. Top all of this with crumbled feta for a touch of salty briny tang, and enjoy. Don’t worry, you’ll have sauce leftover to drizzle over any thing hot off the grill.
A couple weeks ago, we went to the beach. I’ve told you about the beach house before, and this trip was no exception to the perfection that is that little slice of heaven on the Oregon coast. We went for our friend Walt’s birthday: there were three couples, and of course the second order of business was what are we going to be eating ? (The first was “ARE THE PUPPIES COMING?!”) We each decided to tackle one major meal while we were there, which I’ve found is a nice way to plan cooking with friends – no communal google docs full of recipes and grocery lists and confusion about who is bringing what.
For our one dinner together, Walt smoked a pork shoulder and his girlfriend Kylie made this delicious Asian slaw. It was tangy, crunchy, and refreshing, a perfect complement to the smoky rich pork (which we used to make bahn mi). I knew I needed to recreate it at home, and that it would quickly become a staple in our kitchen, since we eat a lot of Asian food.
I loved Kylie’s slaw, but per her suggestion, wanted to jazz it up a bit. I added sliced mango and salted roasted cashews, but the possibilities are endless – grated carrots, mint, cilantro, peanuts, mandarin slices, etc. We paired our slaw with some easy tofu, pressed and marinated in canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha, and orange juice, then baked. It was an easy and delicious meal. My favorite kind.
Asian Slaw with Ramen Noodles
1 large head of napa cabbage
1 package of instant ramen noodles (flavor doesn’t matter – you won’t be using the flavor pack)
1 ripe mango
1/2 cup cashews, salted & roasted
3 Tbl rice vinegar
3 Tbl soy sauce
1 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl toasted sesame oil
Optional additions: sriracha, mint, mandarin slices, peanuts, cilantro, grated carrots.
Chop cabbage into bite-sized pieces. I cut mine in half lengthwise, then in half again lengthwise, and then sliced it horizontally from there. Rinse and dry, and put in a large bowl.
Crush up the ramen noodles and set aside. Cut the mango into slices or chunks, whichever you prefer, and set that aside as well.
I like to mix my salad dressings in a small jar – no whisking, just shaking – but you can make yours in a bowl if you like. In whatever vessel you choose, combine the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Whisk or shake until thoroughly mixed. Taste and adjust ingredients as you like.
Add the mango to the cabbage. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and mango and toss to coat. Let it sit for a minute. You can add the ramen noodles and cashews now, or top each serving individually. I will warn you though, that if you add the ramen to the salad and you have leftovers, those noodles will lose their crunch.
Serve, dotted with sriracha if you’d like, and enjoy.
Sometimes, you make a meal, thinking one dish will be the star. Especially when you lay down a hefty chunk of change on a cut of meat. But things happen – you run out of time and you don’t season the meat properly or sear it the way you’d like, and then maybe you leave it in the slow cooker a little bit longer than you should have. And when that happens, there are side dishes that sneak up and surprise you. Like this shaved asparagus salad did.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew this salad would be good. I love asparagus, and there are seemingly a million shaved asparagus salad recipes out there (like this one, and this one, and this one). And yeah, they’re all relatively the same. But man, something about the freshness of this salad – crunchy, sour, salty – just got me. It was exactly what I needed after a long day of work. And it certainly was better than an underseasoned, overcooked (only slightly) piece of meat.
Shaved Asparagus Salad
1 bunch of asparagus
juice from half of a lemon
salt (course is good, if you’ve got it)
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup, roughly, of toasted pine nuts, sliced and toasted almonds, or shelled pistachios
parmesan cheese, though crumbled feta would work nicely too
Don’t snap the tough ends off your asparagus just yet! Leave them on and use them as a handle. Lay the asparagus on a cutting board, and use a peeler to shave off wide strips, shaving away from you. You’ll have some thick pieces at the end, but do the best you can. Apparently the consensus is that y-shaped peelers are better for this, but I don’t have one of those. Make do with what you’ve got. Discard the woody ends. Put the peeled pieces into a bowl or on a platter or whatever you’re planning on serving on/in. Pour the lemon juice over top of the asparagus, and drizzle with olive oil. I can’t tell you how much olive oil, because I didn’t measure. A good glug should suffice. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the top, as well as the toasted nuts. Rinse your peeler and use it to shave some thin pieces of parmesan to top the salad (or use a fork and crumble the feta over top). We’re big cheese fans, so we did more cheese instead of less.
Enjoy on a spring or summer day, preferably with a glass of refreshing white or rosé wine. I think this salad would be perfect alongside some grilled fish or chicken for a summer soirée.
This corn recipe makes a lovely summer side dish. My dad taught it to me years ago. And it’s one of those recipes that’s really hard to mess up. Want it spicier? Add more serrano (or add more seeds). Want it more caramelized? Roast longer. The only thing I don’t like is how much it cooks down. So it can often turn out to be less than you anticipate. So be aware of that.
Roasted Corn with Serranos and Onion
3 ears of corn
1 medium white onion
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Shuck the corn and cut the corn off the cob with a very sharp knife. This part can be a little tricky, so be careful not to cut off your fingers. Sharp knives make this step way easier. And cooking much easier in general. I got a really nice knife for my birthday, and let me tell you, it makes a world of difference.
Moving right along. Put the corn into a baking dish – I used a pie dish, but if you’re making lots, one of those big casserole pyrex dished is good. Chop up the onion, throw that into the dish too. Now, chop up the serrano. Careful not to touch your face. More seeds means more heat, so be aware of how much you’re adding. Mix that in with the corn. Toss with olive oil until just evenly coated (you don’t want it too oily) and salt.
Bake in the oven for anywhere from 30-45 minutes. The longer you cook it, the more roasty and caramelized the corn will get. But be sure to check on it; there’s a point when it crosses the line from roasty and delicious to dehydrated and a little tough. When it’s cooked to your liking, remove and enjoy!