Garbanzo Bean Salad

Hello there. It has been a while, hasn’t it? I’m sorry it has taken a while to get back around to here. There is no excuse really. I have been doing lots of cooking, experimenting, and baking in my kitchen. With all of that I have had no time to sit with my computer and tell you all about it. The other week I was so gung ho to write you about a cake I made….and within minutes I was asleep on the couch with the computer on my lap. I had gone to a Zumba class earlier that evening, I guess you can say it took all my energy. But I will write you about the cake next time. No cake today. Today I want to tell you about a garbanzo bean salad.

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I know you are probably questioning how I went from cake to salad??? Maybe that Zumba class is to blame? Something healthy verses sugar and sweetness!?! Healthy or not this salad is delicious and that is what counts in my book. A garbanzo bean salad is great to whip up on these warm spring days. Tossed together without much fuss, devoured in minutes, and satisfying to your taste buds. The beauty of a salad like this one is that it can be made ahead of time. It develops more flavor as it sits together, and it is one of those things that can be doubled easily and be brought to a BBQ or picnic and holds up to warmer temperatures.

I have been making a salad similar to this since I was in my teens. I use to have a subscription to a teen magazine when I was young. I cannot remember if it was YM or Seventeen; either way, and not surprisingly, my favorite part of the magazine were the recipes they sometimes featured in the back of it. There was a recipe for a garbanzo bean salad that I showed to my mom and we made it. My family loved it and it became a family staple in the warmer months. Over time, like most recipes, I have tweaked it a bit. What can I say? Time, like taste buds, change. Below is the way I enjoy it the best. The different textures, favors, and light dressing will compliment just about any meal. I hope you give it a try. In the meantime I will get back into a grove of writing…I promise, that cake recipe will be up next time.

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Garbanzo Bean Salad (feeds 4-6)

1 (15oz) can of Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 red bell pepper, chopped small (seeds and core removed)

1/2 cup red onion, chopped small

1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed small

1 1/2 cup chopped romaine lettuce

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

First, place your garbanzos, bell pepper, red onion, and mozzarella in your serving dish. Sprinkle your olive oil and red wine vinegar over it all and toss it well. Sprinkle it all with a bit of sea salt and black pepper and toss again. Cover with some plastic wrap and chill at least and hour. You are looking for the flavors to mingle and marinate a bit together.

Next, remove your salad from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before eating. Sprinkle the lettuce over it all. Toss again and set aside until ready to eat.

Finally, before eating, season it again with sea salt and fresh black pepper if needed.

Summer Chopped Salad

I think that if there was one thing I could make and eat until the end of time, it would be salad. Yes, if given the chance I will have a salad at each and every meal. I love them so much I think it is quite possible I was a rabbit in a past life! All the ingredients chopped and ready.

Why do I love them so? I am not quite sure. Although let me clarify - I am not talking about a romaine lettuce salad at every meal. I tend to cook with the season, no matter what the season is, you can always match up what is fresh and ripe brilliantly in a salad! But the fun is in how you prepare and serve it together.

Salad plated and awaiting it's dressing.

The other day, with the heat of summer a salad was second nature. But I thought to myself…Chop! Chop it all! A chopped salad! Yes!!! A chopped salad is fun, festive, pretty to look at, and satisfyingly refreshing from your average tossed salad. So I gathered what I had picked up from the farmers market. I chopped them all and had each item organized for plating. To keep things cool and refreshing I whipped up a dill yogurt dressing to tie it together. On platting I lined up all the ingredients in neat rows, not plating two like colors next to each other; you'll impress whomever you are sharing it with. Even if it is just for you, impress yourself! Treat yourself because you deserve a great and tasty salad like this one. Not to mention it is too perfect on those muggy summer nights!

Yougurt Dill Dressing over the Summer Chopped Salad and ready to be enjoyed!

Summer Chopped Salad (serves 4)  

1/2 bunch arugula, dried and washed well

1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 carrot, peeled and chopped small

1/2 - 1/4 cucumber, sliced

1/2 cup of quinoa, cooked

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

2/3 cup feta, crumbled

3 green onions, trimmed and chopped small

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp sherry vinegar

1/4 cup fresh dill, minced

sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First, as you get all your ingredients together place them on separate plates and bowls as needed. set them up on your work space in order for your plating to go smoothly.

Next, in a bowl place your olive oil, yogurt,dill, and vinegar and whisk it all together. Season it with sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste and refrigerate until needed.

Finally, line up your plates and center your arugula in a row in the center of each. Follow with the garbanzos, and other veggies as you like. End each plate with the feta on one end and the green onions on the opposite.  Serve with your yogurt dressing to be spooned over. Mix as you enjoy it all!

 

Curry Chicken Salad

When it is hot out, and quite possibly just as hot indoors, do you really want to cook anything? I never minded cooking in the height of summer while I lived in New Jersey or even while I was living in Phoenix. In both of those places we had central air conditioning! Here in Seattle cooking in the summer is completely different, case in point - no air conditioning at all! To be honest, the summer hear in the pacific northwest is beautiful. It generally is mild and there is almost always a breeze. That is until the last week or two, we have been in the 90’s along along with a slight increase in humidity. By the time I walk home from work in the afternoons with the sun beating down on me, and I climb the four flights of stairs to my apartment, I am ready for a cool shower followed by sitting in front of the fan for a bit. Cooking is the last thing from my mind. Salads, quick meals, and grabbing takeout have been the answer to this heat.

Prepping the ingredients for the salad. (Apricots when dried naturally are brown in their approach but just as sweet as the orange ones.)

But Brian came home explaining that he had lunch club at work. The theme they came up with was Summer Salads and Sandwiches. Very fitting given the heat. He explained he was going to make the Curry Chicken Salad I would make for lunch when we owned our bakery. He said to me: “It is always so good. I really love the balance of spice to sweetness and creaminess with it’s crunch.” Unfortunately, Brian had nonstop meetings, worked the weekend, and had business dinners. This evolves into I am now making the Curry Chicken Salad. But I don't mind really, there is not much to chopping the ingredients. While Brian was at one of his business dinners I chopped the celery, shallot, and dried apricots. I mixed them into the curry, mayo, and yogurt to let is all marinate together. I left the baking of the chicken and toasting of the almonds for Brian. I knew he would be home once the sun went down and once the temperature would drop in our kitchen.

When Brian got home he did just that. He baked off the chicken cutlets and let them cool. He toasted the almonds and chopped them and put them aside. When the chicken was done baking and cooled he chopped it up into small pieces and tossed it with the reserved mixture I made and let it all marinate together. He said he tasted it in the morning to adjust the salt and packed it up for lunch club. He said the salad went over well as many of his coworkers took a little bit and either ate it on it’s own with greens or made a sandwich with it. It makes me happy to see others enjoy this salad, not to mention my kitchen did not swelter in heat to make something. Make it for yourself and keep cool this summer. I hope you have breezy days and cool nights!

Curry Chicken Salad with almonds over the top. Served and ready to dig in.

Curry Chicken Salad (makes enough for 6 people)

**Notes: curry powder can vary depending on brand, and region of origin. For this I use a traditional Indian curry. I personally love a south indian curry if available. But if you are weary of the curry then adding just 1 tsp at a time to build a flavor that you are comfortable with.

4 chicken cutlets

2 large ribs of celery, chopped small

1 large or 2 small shallot, chopped small

8 - 10 dried apricots, chopped fine

1/2 cup of almonds, tasted ad chopped

1 tbsp curry powder

1/4 cup of mayo

1/4 cup greek yogurt

sea salt, to taste

Olive oil, for baking

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Coat the chicken with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle a bit of sea salt over it, place it on a prepared baking sheet, and place it in the oven. Check on the chicken after 12-15 minutes. You re looking for the chicken to be cooked though and slightly golden in hue. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Next, in a bowl place your shallot, celery, and dried apricots. Mix it together with your mayo and yogurt. Sprinkle the curry over it all and toss it together and set in the refrigerator to chill and marinate.

Meanwhile, chop your chicken into bite sized pieces. Once all chopped add to your curry mixture and toss well. If serving right away taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If not serving right away cover it all and store in the refrigerator for at least a day, but taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.

Finally, when ready to serve you can stir the almonds into the mixture, or you can serve them along side. Also, if you feel the salad mixture is not creamy enough feel free to add more mayo and yogurt in equal amounts. Serve it with lettuce or with slices of bread to make sandwiches with.

Memorable Warm Cabbage Salad

There is a restaurant in Sedona, Az. called The Heartline Cafe that Brian and I really enjoyed over the years. While living in the dessert we would annually make a trip up to Sedona during the holiday season. We would enjoy a touch of the cooler temperature, take in christmas light displays, treat ourselves to a great meal, and head back home. Sedona was a bit of a drive from where we lived (at least an hour and a half); but it was always well worth it. While eating our dinner this past Christmas Eve I kept thinking about the last time we were there. It was five years prior and I almost didn’t go. You see right after Thanksgiving that year my father ended up in the hospital. By the time Christmas rolled around he was still there. His health was touch and go for a while, we were all scared, and could not get into the holiday spirit in the least. I can remember looking at Brian and telling him we should cancel our plans and stay home, I was not in the mood for anything holiday related. But he insisted we make the trip. I can remember him expressing to me that I needed to do something other than worry about my family.

Cabbage ready to be wilted and dressed.

To be honest, I really don’t even remember the drive. I slept most of the way there and it felt good. I had not had a full nights sleep since before this whole ordeal with my father started. Once we were in Sedona we walked through a Christmas light display and being out in the cool air felt so good. We then headed over to the restaurant and had a wonderful meal. I can remember I had a deliciously warm and comforting red cabbage salad. It was out of the ordinary from what I normally would eat, and that is quite possibly why I remember it so well. It had crunch, nuts, and some delicious creamy goat cheese, it was a very well rounded salad if you ask me.

Warm Cabbage dressed and waiting to be plated.

Fast forward to present day. My father is much better now thank you. As last Christmas passed, New Year’s went by, and I still had that warm cabbage salad on my mind - yes, five years later. Once Brian and I were back into our grove of normalcy last week, I stopped by the market to pick up a head of purple cabbage so I could recreate the salad in my memory. The result was just as good as I remembered. And might I add…What better on these winter evenings than a warm salad that still has crunch? Plus, it is so pretty on the plate with it’s deep hue that it will impress others you serve it to. Trust me, this salad is a memorable one.

Warm Cabbage Salad

Warm Cabbage Salad, with Hazelnuts, Goat Cheese, and Pears (serves 4 - 6)

***Note: when choosing a cabbage, be sure to pick one that is dense, crisp, and deep in huge. This salad will work fine with a green or red cabbage but I personally like the hue the purple cabbage lends to the dish.

1 medium head of purple cabbage; peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tbsp honey

sea salt to taste

fresh black pepper to taste

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skins rubbed off

2 oz fresh goat cheese

1 - 2 pears firm and crisp

First, place a large sauce pan over medium heat and warm through. Poor the vegetable oil in the pan and warm through. Add the cabbage to the pan and keep stirring and tossing until cabbage is slightly wilted but remains its crunchy texture.

Next, once cabbage is wilted slightly add the vinegar and honey and keep stirring and tossing until well coated. Season the cabbage with sea salt and black pepper to taste along with 1 tbsp of the thyme over it all. Stir it well.

Then, roughly chop the hazelnuts. add them to the cabbage mixture and toss it well. Slice your pears in half, removing the core, and slice them evenly. Break up or slice your goat cheese evenly, and set aside.

Finally, with cabbage still warm divid it among your plates. Arrange the pear slices along the side of the salads, place your goat cheese on top of your cabbage, and sprinkle each plate with the remainder of the thyme leaves. Serve while still warm.

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad

I can honestly say that I remember Thanksgiving, and I turned around and it was today (December 18). In-between then and now is a complete blur. I have been busy at work, taking care of our dogs, Christmas shopping, Christmas wrapping, holiday parties, and now…Holiday cards to be sent. I usually am more ahead of the game, but for some reason between family visiting and birthdays to celebrate I lost a hold on time and here we are. One week away from Christmas and I was not prepared for it until yesterday! Yesterday, I packed my last box and shipped out our last packages out to the east coast. (That is where almost all of our family resides.) Our dinning room table for the last week looked like a controlled chaos of wrapping paper, scotch tape, ribbons, and scissor clippings. I must say that I am happy to have it all back to normal now. Martini and Latte came with me to ship the packages, and if you ask me they were really happy to see the packages go. I think they have been feeling a bit neglected. Somehow, we all have felt that way. Oh, how we love the holidays!

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad

With all the hustle and bustle to get to the grand finish line of the holidays I have almost forgotten to cook! On my way home from work the other day I stopped by one of the produce vendors at the market and asked the workers “What looks good this week?” they responded with: “Fennel, grapefruit, romanesco, and blood oranges.” I purchased a couple of them all and headed home. While throwing together dinner I whipped up a salad with the fennel and the grapefruit. I was hoping for something light and refreshing with a clean taste. The result was a shaved fennel salad with grapefruit slices. It was tossed together with hazelnuts, farro, and pomegranate seeds. It was just what the crazy agenda of holiday prep called for. Give it a try. If I could whip it up in no time, I am sure you all can to. The most complicated thing was cooking the farro; and after all, that is just simmering - how hard is that?

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad served up and ready to be devoured.

Grapefruit and Fennel Salad (feeds 6)

1 medium fennel bulb, some fronds reserved (about 2 tbsp)

1 large grapefruit; peeled, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, and slices quartered

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1 cup of hazelnuts; skinned, toasted, and roughly chopped

1/2 cup farro

1/4 onion

1 garlic clove

2 bay leaves

Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First, place the farrow in a 2 - 3 quart pot with about 2 - 2 1/2 cups of water. To that add your onion 1/4, garlic clove, and bay leaves. Gently simmer it all until your water is almost all absorbed by the farro. Once the farro is tender (about 45 minutes) you can remove the onion, garlic, and bay leaves, Strain any remaining water and chill your farro in the refrigerator.

Next, thinly slice your fennel. Trim the bottom end and discard and slice it thinly until your reach the stalks and top of the bulb. (You can use a mandolin to do so, or you can just as well use a sharp knife.)

Then, in a bowl place your farrow, fennel, grapefruit, and  pomegranates.  Toss it together and refrigerate it for at least an hour (or up to a day ahead).

Finally, when ready to serve, drizzle the olive oil over it. Add the hazelnuts, sea salt and black pepper. Toss it well and sprinkle the fennel fronds over it and serve.

Roasted Squash Salad with Chive Dressing

With all the craziness of non-stop family, friends, and entertaining for Brian’s birthday weekend it was time to sit back and enjoy life for a bit. Time to take it all in and enjoy the beautiful autumn weather we were experiencing. Roasted Squash Salad

The fun part of all the autumn and fall foods are the squashes that you start to see. Acorn, delicata, pumpkin, or butternut – there are so many I can go on and on.  Roasting any of them is great. I love the simplicity of coating them in a bit of olive oil, sprinkling them with sea salt and black pepper, then placing them in a hot oven to roast for a bit. Doing this lets their flavors intensify, and the natural earthy sweetness is more prevalent. In my personal opinion the only other thing that has a “fall” or and “autumn” flavor as much as the squash are nuts.

Now I love the bold flavors of roasting any of these squash, but we just came off of a week of eating and indulging in more than we possible should have. Something simple, something like a salad was more in order. So I decided on using what was freshest at the farmer’s markets this past week representing a last of the summer harvest and the newest of the autumn. A lovely head of red leafed lettuce, the first of the delicata squash, a great bunch of chives, and some freshly pulled mozzarella. When you put it all together with some crunchy croutons are all the makings of a great salad. It was fresh and bright. It was satisfying and refreshing to eat. Not to mention real easy to mix up. Put one salad together and see for yourself. It is perfect for these great autumn days.

Plated Roasted Squash Salad with Chive Dressing drizzled over the top.

Roasted Squash Salad (feeds 4)

1 medium Delicata Squash; trimmed, seeded, and sliced

1 small head of red leafed lettuce (like butter or romaine); trimmed, washed, and chopped

1 – 2 balls of Fresh Mozzarella, sliced thin

¾ cup of Pistachios

2 cups of Freshly Made Croutons

1 bunch of chives (about ¼ cup)

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

1 tsp of Dijon mustard

1 tbsp of Honey

Olive Oil

Bread (day or two old is best), sliced into 1 – 2 inch cubes

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Toss your squash with a bit of olive oil (enough to cover) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt and black pepper over it all and roast about 3 minutes, rotating it half way through. Roast it until tender when pierced with a knife and set aside to cool.

Next, in a bowl place your bread cubes. Drizzle it all with a bit of olive oil and toss a few times to coat them evenly. Sprinkle them with sea salt and black pepper and toss again. Spread you bread cubes on a sheet pan and place in the oven to “dry out” and toast. Timing will depend of type of bread and how dry it was to start. Bake them tossing them every so often until they are golden and toasty; set them aside to cool.

Meanwhile; on a platter arrange your salad by layering your lettuce, squash, mozzarella, and sprinkle it all with the pistachios and croutons. In a blender or food processor place your vinegar, Dijon, honey, and chives. Pulse it all together to begin to break it all down. While doing this drizzle in about ½ a cup or more of your olive oil until it is all emulsified and you end up with a slightly thick dressing. Sprinkle it with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Finally, divide up the salad on your plates. When serving the salad keep the dressing on the side so that guest can add as much as they like.

Rita's Tortellini Salad

My mother has several rock solid recipes that she is known for. One of them is Tortellini Salad. She has been making it for years.  It is often requested when she goes to family and friend gatherings. It is bold and bright in flavor. It has the crunch from the many veggies that are in it, not to mention a punch from the fresh garlic and crushed red pepper she always adds. I can remember once making a large batch of it with my mom for one of our family gathering that my husband attended when we were dating.  About a week later my husband had a pot luck at work and called me asking for the recipe. I laughed and gladly gave it to him, and not too long after he told me one of his co-workers called him asking for the famous salad recipe.  I guess you can say the recipe has made the rounds.

Veggies, olives, and garlic ready.

Just last week we had plans to go to a friend’s place for a roof top BBQ. I was contemplating what to make. I really do not like showing up with a dessert all the time because I feel like people expect it coming from a pastry chef. When you bake and make pastries all day long I sometimes feel like I need to branch out and make something different to break the chain of it all. I opened up my freezer when I noticed I had tortellini – ahh haa! I knew what I was making!

I had everything I needed for the recipe, it was a no brainer. I started chopping, roasting a pepper, and cooking the tortellini. I had it all made, and marinating in the refrigerator when I received a call from Brian. Unfortunately, our plans had been cancelled because not everyone could make it. But the salad was ready and Brian’s response was – More for us! So that evening we enjoyed some of my mom’s famous salad. It was delicious, and enjoyed the next day for lunch as well. Trust me with this recipe. It is full proof, crowd pleasing, and super tasty. I am sure you will not be disappointed, and you will make my mom proud if you make it.

My mom's (Rita) Tortellini Salad, dressed and ready.

Rita’s Tortellini Salad (feeds 4-6)

*This recipe is easily doubled and tripled when needed. Also, this is the way I like to make it. My mom makes it with the addition of some chopped black olives (canned olives) and a  few tablespoons of capers.

1 pound of Cheese Tortellini (I personally use the frozen ones)

1 large carrot

2 stalks of celery

1 bell pepper

1 roasted pepper (freshly roasted or jarred)

2 cups green Sicilian Olives

*all the above chopped small

1 clove garlic minced

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

5-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

First, place a four quart pot full with salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling gently add you tortellini and cook per packaged instructions. Once cooked drain and toss with about a 1 tbsp of you olive oil and set aside.

Next, in your serving bowl place all your veggies, olives, and garlic. To this add your mustard, crushed red pepper, olive oil, and vinegar.  Toss it all together and then add your tortellini to it.  And toss it again. Place it in the refrigerator, covered; to chill and marinate together.  (Best when sits anywhere from an hour to overnight.)

Finally, before serving remove from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. (I like to let it sit for at least twenty minutes.) Upon serving sprinkle it with your basil, sea salt, and black pepper. Toss it all together and it is ready to enjoy.

Fresh Spring Rolls with Spicy Asian Peanut Sauce

Several years ago I read an article about fresh spring rolls. It was intriguing; the pictures were beautiful to look at and they sounded delicious. But I never made them. I admired the article and the fresh spring rolls at an arms distance. I cannot explain why I didn’t attempt them; I guess there was something about the whole thing that was daunting to me. My favorite makings of fresh spring rolls.

Fast forward, to a couple of years ago. I was in one of the Asian markets here in Seattle and saw rice papers and thought to myself- “There is no time like the present.” I gave it a few tries before I felt I really knew what I was doing. There is a balance between soaking the rice papers and how moist or hydrated you want to keep them before trying to fill and roll them. Also, keeping your filling as organized and neatly together helps the rolls stay together rather than fall apart on you. Other than that; they could not have been any simpler to make. Why was I so hesitant to try them in the first place?

Sliced and chopped vegetables.

The fun part of it all is that you can fill the spring rolls with just about anything. I have seen them stuffed with lettuce leaves poking out of the top of them, large boiled shrimps, variety of herbs, strips of chicken, crunchy vegetables, and even rice.  I personally like to think about how I would like it to feel as you bite into it. Do not forget that what you dip it into is where the real fun comes in. I am sure can you think of any number of dressings or sauces to serve with them. (It is really just like a salad after all.) But I like to keep it somewhat Asian by mixing up a spicy peanut sauce to serve alongside. The fresh array of veggies, rice noodles, and tofu I fill the wrapper with go with the rich spicy peanut sauce. If you are like us, you will be using a spoon dribble the sauce onto the rolls. It is so good we like to get as much of it on there as we can.

Neatly wrapping up the roll will lead to easier eating.

Now, since this is relatively a cold dish it is perfect for these warm summer nights. The only thing you really need to cook - or should I say warm - is the rice paper. All that really entails is a tea kettle filled with water. We have made a meal of them and enjoyed them for dinner, but they can be made as an appetizer and even serve them up for a lunch. I have made them up and placed them in a plastic container and brought them as a treat for others too. Just like what you place in them, the possibilities are endless. I just hope you are not intimidated by them as I once was. Give them a try and dig in, you will not be disappointed.

Fresh Veggie Spring Rolls with Spicy Asian Peanut Sauce

Fresh Spring Rolls (serves 4-6) Rice Papers (about 12) Thin Rice Noodles (a large handful) 1 red bell pepper; cut into even, thin strips 1 large carrot; cut into even, thin strips 1 cucumber; cut into even, thin strips 5-6 leaves of cabbage, thinly shredded 2 scallions, chopped small 5 mint leaves, thinly sliced 1 – 2 tbsp of chopped cilantro 1 block of tofu, sliced thinly First; mix your cabbage, scallion, mint, and cilantro together and set aside. Have organized all your veggies and cabbage mixture together along with your tofu nearby. Next, place the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover the rice noodles with boiled “hot” water. Cover the bowl and let it sit for about two minutes. Once the noodles are softened drain in a colander and rinse under running cool water. Strain them again and set aside. Then, in a bowl or deep plate (big enough to fit your rice paper) place your rice paper and cover it with warm / hot water to soften.  Once rice paper is softened place it on a clean work surface. Neatly, layer in your veggies, tofu, and rice noodles in the center of your rice paper. Finally; to wrap the spring roll up you will take the bottom end and fold it up, over the veggies. Take the two opposing ends and fold them in and over the bottom half. Now, gently roll the stuffed rice paper up toward the open end of the rice paper until it is one cylinder form. The rice paper will stick to itself to seal. Place them on a platter with their dipping sauce and serve. Note: If serving at a later time cover the spring rolls with a dampened paper towel and cover it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving. Also when plating, I like to layer them between crisp lettuce leaves,

Spicy Asian Peanut Sauce

Spicy Asian Peanut Sauce 1 cup of all natural peanut butter 2 Thai chilies, minced 1 scallion, chopped small 1 clove of garlic, minced 1 tsp ginger, freshly grated 1 lime, zested and juiced 1- 2 tbsp of brown sugar 1 tsp of Siracha Chili sauce 1 tbsp of soy sauce Rice wine vinegar, to taste Water, to taste First, in a bowl place your peanut butter along with all your other ingredients (except the water). Using a whisk gently stir the mixture together until it is combined and thick. Finally, adding in a bit of water at a time to your peanut butter mixture. Keep mixing the water in until you sauce is smooth but will still coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Feel free to add more vinegar or soy. Serve along the side of your fresh spring rolls.

Easy Black Bean and Corn Salad

The Seattle streets have been busy, the sun has been shining, the days are long, and the warm weather is here. This past weekend was the 40th Anniversary of the Pride Parade. We are fortunate that it goes right by our apartment. We watched from our window a bit, and then headed down to the street to watch it all go by. It was so colorful and exciting. The parade was huge this year being it was a big anniversary and we got some sun as we stood there contently entertained as it passed us by. Brian put on sunblock, but still ended up with a light burn. I guess that is the price you pay for living in predominantly cloud covered city. When the sun does come out to shine, it leaves its mark. Just one of the many groups marching and preforming in the parade.

All this sunshine and warmer weather makes it harder deciding what to cook. I mean it is quite common not to get air conditioning throughout the city, even harder in our building knowing it was built in 1914. Not that I am complaining, this is nothing in comparison to the 115 degree heat (or higher) we experienced in Phoenix. Although, it does make me consider what to make for dinner by how long it will have to “cook” and how warm it will make our apartment. I walked down to Pikes Place Market and weaved and darted between the tourists to get to a fish counter I like. I picked up some salmon for curing (it should be ready in a few days) and some scallops for Brian. I figured we could grill the scallops outside and whip up an easy Black Bean and Corn Salad. The salad takes no time to whip up and is supper cool and refreshing to eat. This salad is great to make even a day ahead of time as I think it improves as it sits and the flavors develop a bit as they marinate together.

Now let me be completely honest; I am not showing a picture of the scallops with the salad for a simple reason. I went down to our court yard where the grill is and I lit it waiting for it to get about 400 – 500 degrees. I scraped it down and cleaned it well before placing my scallops on. Have you ever had to share a cooking space like a grill with others? It isn’t always “pretty” as others tend to forget to clean up after themselves. After I prepared the grill I placed the scallops on. As the scallops sizzled and began to “drip” it ignited a huge flame over the whole grill. It seems there were too many drippings at the bottom of the grill that the previous users did not clean out or burn off. I was standing there staring into the huge raging flame that engulfed the few scallops I had cooking for Brian. Rest assures the scallops were fine as I was darting my hand and tongs in and out of the massive flame with hopes I didn’t burn myself. In a bit of time and panic we got the flame under control. I had this vision that the scallops would be shriveled bits only after the fire department was called. As it turns out they were just “blackened” a bit from all the carbon. Brian insisted they still tasted great- they just didn’t look all that pretty. But the salad was bright in flavor, bright in color, pretty to look at, and delicious to eat. We made them as lettuce wraps, but this is just as great to eat on its own. It is the perfect summer food. No real cooking involved (or danger of a grill) and cool it eat!

Easy Black Bean and Corn Salad

Easy Black Bean and Corn Salad (serves 6)

1 can (15 oz) of Black Beans, drained and rinsed well

1 can (15 oz) of corn, drained and rinsed well

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped small

½ small onion, chopped finely

1 clove of garlic, chopped finely

1 cup of feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup of olive oil

3-4 tbsp of red wine vinegar

¼ tsp of cayenne pepper (to taste really, using your judgment)

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Lettuce leaves, like romaine or butter; cleaned and patted dry

Sour cream, optional

First; in a large mixing bowl place your black beans, corn, bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Toss it together well. Over the top of it sprinkle your olive oil, red wine vinegar, a bit of your cayenne pepper, sea salt and black pepper. And toss again.

Next; sprinkle in your feta and toss again. (I like to leave the feta till almost last. You want it to marinate together, but with all the tossing the more it can break down too finely.) Cover it and place in the refrigerator about an hour or overnight.

Finally; when ready to serve, toss again and taste. Adjust the seasoning if needed. You might want to add more cayenne pepper…you have to wait and see as the flavor might “bloom” as it sits. Also adjust the sea salt and black pepper. Serve next to the lettuce leaves and sour cream so guests can assemble as they like.