Posts Tagged '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.

Sweet Carrot Salad

This is a quick salad that makes a good buffet or potluck dish.  The carrots with the slightly sweet and sour spiced dressing is quite refreshing.  I served it chilled, but it holds well enough without wilting to serve at room temperature.  The original recipe is from Cooking Light. I used baby carrots, because that is what I had in the house. Regular carrots would work well, but I would choose slender ones rather than big soup carrots.

Sweet Carrot Salad

5 cups  (1/2-inch-thick) carrot slices, cleaned and peeled
2 garlic cloves, halved
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2Ttablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Combine carrot and garlic in a large saucepan. Cover with water; bring to a boil. Cook 8 minutes or until tender; drain. Discard garlic.

Combine lemon juice and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, and stir well. Add carrot to lemon juice mixture, tossing to coat. Serve salad at room temperature or chilled.  Makes 8 servings with virtually no fat per serving.

Carrot salad

Couscous Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh, a salad of Levantine Arab origins, is typically made with bulgur, plus parsley, mint, lemon juice and olive oil.  This variation is made with couscous.  Couscous is a Berber dish  consisting of spherical granules made by rolling and shaping moistened semolina wheat and then coating them with finely ground wheat flour. It has been around since the 13th century, and is a staple in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Western Libya. Couscous is traditionally served under a meat or vegetable stew. It can also be eaten alone, even sweetened a a dessert or breakfast dish.  While traditional couscous must be steamed several times, the couscous sold in most Western supermarkets has been pre-steamed and dried. It takes only a brief soaking in boiling water to be ready, making it a great fast food.  I confess that I frequently use couscous as a bed for curries and stews that I take out of the freezer when I’m too hungry to take the time to cook up rice or noodles.

This use of couscous is a bit different, but it makes a great salad ingredient. I’ve made lots of couscous salads from curried with raisins to mixed with tiny shrimp and peas.  I’m a great tabbouleh fan not only as a side dish, but as something to take for lunch.  Most tabbouleh has olive oil in it, but  I almost always eliminate the olive oil to reduce the number of fat grams (Yes, I know it’s “good fat”, but when you’re counting grams it still counts.)  No one has ever really noticed the lack of olive oil in the flavor of the tabbouleh.

Couscous Tabbouleh

1 cup water
¾ cup uncooked couscous
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 green onions, finely sliced
¾ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup  chopped fresh mint
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan (or bring to a boil in a medium bowl in the microwave), and gradually stir in couscous and salt. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, and fluff with a fork. Stir in tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may want to add more lemon juice.  Refrigerate, covered, 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend.  This makes 6 one-cup servings at about 1 gram of fat/serving.

couscous tabbouleh2

Marinated Asparagus Bundles

I was browsing about in other food blogs and noticed that The Go Lightly Gourmet, a blogger with a similar philosophy to mine, published several Cooking Light recipes about asparagus.  What’s not to like about asparagus!  It’s tasty, low fat, and can be very elegant.  And this is the season for fresh asparagus.  Then I recalled that I made a very elegant Cooking Light recipe for the Passover buffet.  It was delicious and beautiful to look at.  I’m not sure if you would call it an appetizer, side dish, or salad, but the little that was left was lovely for lunch the next day.  It is also a make ahead dish, because it needs to marinate, which fits my buffet-making schedule.

To look best, this is should made with thinner asparagus spears. You could also use two colors of  peppers.  It is not hard to make, but allow a little time, because tying the asparagus into little bundles requires some fussing.  I also recommend using more than 10 green onions, because some of the onion ties will be too short or will tear when you get impatient.

Marinated Asparagus Bundles

2 ½ pounds asparagus
10 green onions
2 red bell peppers, cut into 20 strips
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup red wine vinegar
½ cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Cover and cook in a small amount of boiling water 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water; drain well. Trim white portion from green onions.  Place green onion tops in a bowl; add boiling water to cover. Drain immediately, and rinse under cold running water.

Gather asparagus into 10 bundles, and add 2 bell pepper strips to each bundle. I actually used 5 asparagus spears/bundle, which meant I had more than 10 bundles, and needed more pepper strips.  I also think that thinner pepper strips would look a little better. Tie each bundle with a green onion strip. Pull the onion ties closed gently. Place bundles in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

Combine chopped onion and next 9 ingredients (onion through pepper) in a bowl; stir well. Pour over asparagus bundles. Cover and chill 2 to 8 hours. To serve,gently  remove asparagus bundles from marinade, and discard marinade. Arrange asparagus bundles on a serving platter.  They certainly make an elegant buffet item.  Makes 10 servings (or more depending upon how you divide them) at only 0.3 grams of fat/serving.

Marinated asparagus bundles

Moroccan Spiced Oranges

This is a delightful dish – a slightly exotic fruit salad that is very easy to prepare.  The original recipe, from Cooking Light calls this a dessert.  But I typically serve it as a buffet side dish (it doubles easily).  It is a refreshing complement to heavier meat and vegetable dishes.  It is also a great leftover for breakfast or lunch.

Moroccan Spiced Oranges

2 ½ cups orange sections, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 6 oranges)
¼ cup slivered almonds
2 ½ Tablespoons chopped pitted dates
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, tossing to combine. Cover; chill 20 minutes.  This makes 4 servings at 3.6 grams of fat/serving.

Variation: The fat in this recipe comes primarily from the almonds.  I have made it without the almonds, which will make it virtually a no fat recipe.  It is still quite good, although perhaps not quite as exotic.

HINT: I always struggled to peel the oranges and get enough of the white pith off the sections (the pith is bitter).  I was making a double recipe, and got tired of peeling, when it occurred to me that a grapefruit knife, with its serrated curved blade, would make quick work of the orange sections. I cut the oranges in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 4-5 pieces.  I used the grapefruit knife to cut the orange away from the skin, then cut each section into pieces.


Chicken and Feta Tabbouleh

I almost forgot to post this – I mentioned it a bit ago when I made the honey-roasted chicken. This was how I used the remaining chicken breast. It also used up a number of other odds and ends, like tomatoes, parsley, and cucumbers that were beginning to show signs of age. It almost seems more like a chopped salad with bulgur rather than tabbouleh, but I think I added a little more of the vegetables to it. The original recipe was from Cooking Light, but I lightened it by eliminating the olive oil and using fat free feta. I wanted fewer fat grams because I plan to take it for lunch.  Here’s a secret: people always rave about my tabbouleh and I have been leaving out the olive oil for years. No one seems to notice the difference.

Chicken and Feta Tabbouleh

¾ cup uncooked bulgur
1 cup boiling water
2 cups diced cooked skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 cup coarsely chopped plum tomato
1 cup coarsely chopped English cucumber
¾ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup (2 ounces) fat free feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
¼  cup chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Place bulgur in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water, making sure bulgur is covered. Let stand 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Combine chicken and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add bulgur to chicken mixture; toss gently to combine.  Easy, wasn’t it. This makes 4 servings with about 2 grams of fat/serving


HINT: I don’t have an electric or other fancy juicer.  I use my grandmother’s old glass juicer, which works quite well.


If you want to maximize the juice you get from lemons, limes, and the like, there are two ways to make citrus fruit juicier. The first way is to poke holes in the skin of the fruit and microwave them for about 2 minutes on half power.  You need to let them cool before you juice them.  If you don’t want to microwave them, or you’re in a hurry, you can roll the fruit around firmly on the counter for a bit.  This breaks down the inside and makes them easier to juice.

Pasta Salad with Sweet Lime Chili Sauce

Another potluck.  This time they said bring a salad or side dish that is “dairy” – contains no meat.  To complicate things, I had to run errands before the gathering, and was going to a jazz concert after, so It couldn’t be a hot dish, and leftovers would have to be able to survive in the car for a couple of hours.  Since it is very cold, I wasn’t really worried about spoilage.   And of course, it had to meet my standard potluck principle of being something I could eat at the potluck to avoid the fatty dishes others brought, and the leftovers would be ok to eat without being too high fat.

I decided on a pasta salad with a Thai flavor so it would be a little different, but easy to transport. This was also good as a leftover for lunch, when I added little cooked shrimp to it one day, and tuna the next.

Pasta Salad with Sweet Lime Chili Sauce

1 pound small pasta (see Note)
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1 colored pepper, chopped coarsely
2 Tablespoons dried flaked onions
¼ cup cilantro, chopped


1/3  cup  fresh lime juice
2  tablespoons  Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
2  Tablespoons  sugar
1/4  cup  finely shredded peeled carrot
1/2  teaspoon  Thai-style chili paste
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh mint
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh cilantro

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Rinse under cold water and allow to drain completely.   Toss pasta with remaining salad ingredients (tomatoes through cilantro). To make dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour over pasta and toss thoroughly. Makes 8 1½  cup servings at about 2 grams of fat/serving.

NOTE: You can use any kind of small pasta you’d like – orzo, little shells, small macaroni, etc.  I was originally planning to use small shells until I found adorable mini farfalle (bow ties), which I thought gave the salad an interesting look.

VARIATION: I made this salad milder and sweeter than I might have if I wasn’t taking it to a potluck.  If you want to give it a real Thai kick, reduce the sugar to 2 teaspoons, and increase the chili paste to 1 teaspoon – or more to taste.



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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