Posts Tagged 'salad'

Garlicky Edamame and Mushrooms

I love edamame. They are crunchy and have a nut-like flavor, but they have far fewer fat grams than nuts. Edamame are baby soybeans in the pod. The Japanese name literally means “twig bean” and is a reference to the short stem attached to the pod. The green soybeans in the pod are picked before they ripen and the pods are then boiled in water or steamed – typically with salt.  I first encountered them as a snack served in the pod prepared with salt and spices. You use your teeth to strip them out of the pod and eat them. (It is funny to watch people who don’t realize that they shouldn’t try to eat the pod after they get a mouthful of pod. It’s polite to warn them before they take that unfortunate step.)

I buy bags of frozen edamame beans out of the pod. They have been pre-boiled, and if you want to use them out of the bag, they only need a few minutes in the microwave. They can be tossed into salads, or eaten as a snack.

I made this edamame dish when I was craving some crunch. It is good hot or cold, although I preferred hot. I ate it for dinner, but it would be a nice first course. It has enough garlic to stop several vampires, so I don’t recommend taking it to work for lunch unless you don’t have to talk to anyone that afternoon.

Garlicky Edamame and Mushrooms

1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup mushrooms (button or cremini), thinly sliced
1 cup shelled edamame beans
1 Tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
sea salt

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a non-stick pan.  Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden.  Don’t let it burn or it will be bitter.  Add mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until all of their liquid cooks off.  Add edamame (you can add them frozen), and stir for about 5 minutes.  Add balsamic vinegar and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat, and sprinkle with sea salt to taste.  Makes 2 servings at about 5 grams of fat/serving.

Orange-Balsamic Caramelized Fennel

I am very fond of fennel.  It has a surprising, slightly anise-like taste that often surprises guests, who don’t expect that in a vegetable.  This is a lovely dish, both to look at and to eat. I served it at room temperature at a buffet, but it would be nice warm as a side dish or cold as a first course/salad.  If you get very large fennel bulbs, the outer pieces may be tough and you will have to discard them.  The original recipe was from Cooking Light.

Orange Balsamic Caramelized Fennel

4 (1-pound) fennel bulbs with stalks, trimmed and stalks removed.
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons sugar, divided
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup orange juice
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, sliced

Cut each fennel bulb in half through root end; cut each half into quarters to form 32 total pieces.  Chop 1 tablespoon of the fronds; reserve.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Place 8 fennel pieces in a single layer in pan; sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove fennel from pan; recoat pan with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining fennel and sugar.

Return all of the fennel to the pan. Stir in broth and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer about 35 minutes or until fennel is crisp-tender and liquid is almost evaporated, turning occasionally. (The fennel bulbs will separate into pieces.) Top with reserved fennel fronds. This makes 8 servings at less than 1 gram of fat/serving.  It served about 15 people at the buffet (there was lots of other food) and was very good as a leftover for lunch.

Roasted Red Pepper Potato Salad

My problem in the summer is that I don’t feel like eating. Actually, I feel like eating, but I want to eat fruit, yogurt, ice cream and the like, rather than sensible cooked meals.  This creates a parallel problem of too many odd leftovers. When I do cook something sensible,  I don’t feel like eating what’s left.  So I had leftover roasted red peppers from the day I cooked the kebabs (I can only tske so many roasted red pepper and goat cheese sandwiches for lunch), and a large container of cold boiled potatoes (talk about unappealing).  I’m rather fond of potato salad, so I decided to see what I could come up with for the aging cold potatoes.

Potato salad, which is a great summer side dish that seems to appear at everyone’s barbecue, is usually loaded with fat, meaning I can have a taste, but not much more. This is too bad, because I really like a good potato salad.  This potato salad is different. It is not only low fat, but both tangy and a bit sweet, and a lovely coral pink.  It uses the roasted peppers in two places: in the salad itself to create both flavor and color, and in the dressing. Since I already had the leftover potatoes and peppers, it was easy to make, too.

Roasted Red Pepper Potato Salad

6 cups of peeled, boiled potatoes, cut in about 1 inch pieces
1½ roasted red peppers, seeded and skins removed, divided
2 medium stalks of celery, finely diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup non fat sour cream
½ cup low fat mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon parsley
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

Place boiled potatoes in a large bowl.  Cut one of the roasted red peppers (two halves) into a small dice and add to the potatoes, along with the celery and green oinions.  Cut the other 1/2 pepper into quarters and place in the food processor, along with the remaining ingredients (sour cram through black pepper). Process the dressing until smooth, taste and add salt if needed.  Mix the dressing into the potato mixtures. This makes 6 servings at just over 1 gram of fat/serving.

roasted red pepper potato saladThe salad is prettier than the photo.

Variation: I think this would be good as macaroni salad, too, using six cups of cooked macaroni instead of the potatoes.  And I like macaroni salad even more than I like potato salad.

Moroccan Tri-Color Pepper Salad

This is a nice make ahead dish that looks very festive in a buffet.  It is handy because it can be served cold or at room temperature.  I had a bit left over, so I used it as a relish on sandwiches, which was quite good.  Other than roasting the peppers, it isn’t very fussy to make, an advantage as the summer gets hotter.   I expect you could even roast the peppers on the grill to avoid heating up the kitchen.  It’s been raining too much here to grill anything though.   I also wouldn’t use pre-roasted jarred peppers, as I think they would be too slimy.  The original recipe was from Cooking Light.

Moroccan Tri-Color Pepper Salad

3 yellow bell peppers
3 red bell peppers
2 orange bell peppers
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1½ Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher (or sea) salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼  cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional=I didn’t sprinkle mine with cilantro))

Preheat broiler (or grill). Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. (If you are using a grill, flatten and place skin side down on an oiled grill). Broil for 20 minutes or until blackened.  Place in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 20 minutes. Peel and then cut the roasted peppers  into 1/4-inch-wide strips.

Combine juice and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add peppers to bowl; toss gently to combine. Cover and chill overnight. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.  This makes 8 servings at about 3 grams of fat/serving, although when I served it as part of a larger buffet with lots of other salad-like things it served more people.

Variation: You can use only 2 colors of pepper if convenient, although I’m not sure that green peppers would do well in this salad.

tricolor pepper salad

Ranch Blue Cheese Dressing

I promise this is the last of the ranch dressing recipes – I’ve almost finished it off.  I like blue cheese dressing on salad or other vegetables.  And many years ago, when I was a graduate student in Madison, Wisconsin, there was a restaurant (OK, it was really a bar that served food) that had a divine burger called the Plaza Burger.


It was the Plaza Tavern – a bit of a student dive – but oh those burgers and the famous sauce.  As I recall it, it was a big juicy hand-shaped burger on a whole wheat bun, with grilled onions and “secret sauce”.  It’s still on the menu. Of course, it was greasy and probably really bad for me – but I was young and invincible and it was sooo good.

Now I’m older, and a Plaza Burger would probably upset my stomach for weeks (though it might be worth a one time indulgence if I’m ever back in Madison). I recall that the special sauce was suspiciously like slightly tart blue cheese dressing.  I bet I can make it with lean buffalo and this low fat ranch blue cheese dressing and drift back to Madison in the  ‘60’s.  In the meantime, I’m having it tonight on fresh tomatoes.  Once you’ve made the ranch dressing, this is easy.

Ranch Blue Cheese Dressing

½ cup buttermilk ranch dressing
½ cup reduced fat crumbled blue cheese, divided

Put the ranch dressing and ¼ cup of the blue cheese in a food processor or blender and blend thoroughly.  Put in a small bowl and stir in the remaining blue cheese.  This makes 8 two-tablespoon servings at about 1.5 grams of fat/serving

blue chese dressing

I also made an impromptu fruity blue chicken salad to use up odds and ends of fruit and leftover chicken – here it’s  packed for lunch. It’s about a quarter cup of the dressing, a cooked skinless chicken breast cut into one inch chunks, a chopped green onion, aging grapes (cut in half) and tired blueberries. This was 2 servings for me at about 4 grams of fat/serving.


Ranch Cole Slaw

This is part two of my experiments with the home-made ranch dressing.  I thought that cole slaw would be handy to have around. It’s a good side dish, and I like to put it on sandwiches instead of lettuce.  Now that the weather has warmed up a bit (relative to 9 feet of snow), I took out the smoker and smoked pork tenderloins. The cole slaw was particularly tasty on smoked pork loin sandwiches.

What appears to define cole slaw dressings is cider vinegar and sugar to give it the familiar sweet and sour tang.  So I just added the vinegar and sugar to the ranch dressing.

Ranch Cole Slaw

½ cup buttermilk ranch dressing
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
2-4 Tablespoons sugar (I like my slaw sweet – but you can sweeten to your preference)
I Tablespoon celery seed (optional)
1 pound shredded cole slaw mix (I used Tricolor with carrots, but any mix would do – or if you’re ambitious shred your own.)

Whisk the first 4 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add cole slaw mix and toss thoroughly.  This is even better the next day. Makes 8 servings, with less than a gram of fat/serving.

cole slaw

Variation: After a day or so, I got bored with plain cole slaw, and decided to dress it up to make it a more interesting side dish.  I added a 15 ounce can of pineapple tidbits (drained) and ½ cup of golden raisins to half of the slaw. I let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours so the raisins would plump.  This would be a nice salad to take to a potluck, since the flavors are a little surprising.  It still has less than a gram of fat/serving.

tropical cole slaw

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

I have been wanting to make home-made ranch dressing for a while now.  I’m not a big fan of bottled ranch dressing, so I though I could make one that suited me better. I took this basic idea from Relish magazine, one of those weekly publications that is tucked in my local newspaper once a week – usually on the day that they are running the food ads.  The original recipe uses buttermilk, light mayonnaise, and sour cream – and I lightened it up a bit.  And here is an important hint about light mayonnaise.  I am not a big mayonnaise eater – usually just in tuna salad.  So I usually only buy a small jar of it.  When I went to make this recipe I discovered that there wasn’t enough left in the jar, so I went to the store to get more, and even bought a larger jar because it’s summer, and I’m liable to want to have tuna salad more often.  I grabbed a jar of the brand I usually buy that was labeled “light” mayonnaise.  Somewhat to my surprise, the label said that it had 6 grams of fat/tablespoon.  I don’t like non-fat mayonnaise – it tends to be too sweet.  So I did a little searching and discovered that the same brand has a “low fat” product that only has 1 gram of fat per tablespoon.  This makes a big difference in the fat gram count of the final product, so check your labels.  By the way, I’m using Best Foods Low-Fat Mayonnaise Dressing.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

½ cup reduced-fat buttermilk
½ cup non-fat sour cream
½ cup low fat mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Whisk well. Refrigerate for one hour.  I actually think this tastes better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to blend. Makes 1½ cups. A two tablespoon serving has just under 1 gram of fat/serving.

This is the reason that I actually made the dressing – to serve as a dip for snap peas that are showing up in the market now.

ranch dressibg

However, I made a double recipe so I can experiment with it.  More about the experiments later.


I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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