Week Night Dinner Series: Shrimp and Bean Salad

DSCN0419This is one of those delicious dinners that doesn’t take a lot of time to make and is what my nutritionist would call a “balanced” meal: a good protein, good fat, and good carbs.

I had been thinking for some time of creating a salad including the shrimp I had in the freezer and a can of beans I had in the cupboard. So one lazy Friday night when I didn’t feel like cooking, this came together nicely and actually fits into the “Speedy Gonzales” category of last week’s blog and the Work Night Dinner series I began in the spring!

Don’t worry if you have frozen shrimp; when I got home from work, I pulled some out and put them in a bowl of cold water and went about doing stuff around the house. When it was time to make dinner, they were defrosted. Of course, you can buy fresh or frozen cooked shrimp, and that would make it even easier and quicker! This recipe is a cut, chop, throw everything into a bowl, and stir. Dishes like these are the best because they’re so easy!

Helpful Kitchen Tip: I always buy my frozen shrimp raw, because I think the frozen, cooked shrimp can sometimes be tough, even though for convenience sake they’re great. But if you have raw shrimp, they are super simple to cook. Warm a little bit of olive oil in a skillet, add the shrimp, and any seasonings you’d like (wine, garlic, onion) or nothing at all, and let it simmer for about three minutes. When they turn pink, they are done!

This is a perfect summertime dish to share with friends, so make it soon before the coolness of fall is upon us!

Shrimp and Bean Salad
A lot of this recipe is based on how you would like the dish; if you want more beans, more shrimp, more lime juice, let your own creative dishes flow with this! My recipe is just a baseline, go crazy and add other veggies or spices to this!

2-3 cups cooked shrimp
1 can Great Northern or cannellini beans (or another white bean), drained and rinsed
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
About one cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
About ½ avocado, diced
Some scallions, to taste
½ jalapeno pepper chopped, if desired
A little bit of cilantro, if desired
The juice of about ½ lime, or to taste

In a large mixing bowl, add the shrimp, beans, cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, scallions, pepper and cilantro, if using, and stir gently. Add the lime juice. Serve!

Speedy Gonzales!

The view from atop Snake Mountain in Addison, Vermont.

The view from atop Snake Mountain in Addison, Vermont. The mountains yonder are the Adirondacks in New York.

With the onset of the end of summer, I’ve been doing everything I can to extend the season just a little bit longer. Hiking, walking, sitting by the lake, just wishing the days would stay lighter longer like they did in late June. But alas, that certainly won’t happen; already it’s darker when I get up in the morning, gets darker earlier in the evening, and the fields have their late-summer scent. I always feel a bit excited when the seasons change, and with fall being one of my favorites, I already am dreaming of warming the house with roasts, soups, and bread. I know in a months’ time I will be making my weekly trek to the apple orchard to pick up my week’s supply of apples for snacks and pies.

Since I’ve been outside not inside the kitchen, cooking has taken a back seat these past few weeks. With lawn mowing or long walks after work, dinner is unusually later than normal, so speediness and quickness is the key! Here are five dinners that take little to no time to whip up for those late nights!

1. This make this dish at least once a week and it takes roughly 15 minutes from start to finish. Take whatever veggies you have in the fridge, summer squash, zucchini, peppers, broccoli, and saute in a pan with a little bit of olive oil and garlic and onions, if you like. When the veggies are done cooking, remove them from the pan, and add a little bit more olive oil. Add some cut up chicken, chicken sausages, pork, tofu, you name it. Sauté until the protein is done cooking, add to the veggies, and voila! Dinner is served!

2. I recently saw a Panini on a restaurant dinner menu and I just shuddered. Call me traditional, but I am one of those people who believes sandwiches are for lunch, not dinner. But that doesn’t stop me from mixing up a batch of tuna salad and serving over fresh lettuce greens. I add some chopped celery and a little bit of diced onion with some mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Add some avocado to the salad greens along with any other veggies you’d like. If you have leftovers, then you can make a sandwich!

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3. I made these a few weeks ago and they were delicious. And no, I don’t believe they constitute a sandwich! Take a clove of garlic and cut it in half. Slice a baguette into the number of slices you would like. Rub the garlic over the bread, and add a slice of fresh tomato, a basil leaf, and top with olive oil and salt and pepper. Other alternatives are to add some ricotta or fresh mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar. If you are gluten or dairy intolerant, take away the bread and cheese and just fix up the tomatoes. If they are fresh, any way you make this it will be delicious!

4. A frittata takes a little bit more time, but it’s very delicious! Here is a recipe for one I made a couple of summers ago, and it reminds me I should make it again!

Farmer’s Market Frittata
4-5 new baby potatoes, thinly sliced
A couple of cups of chopped broccoli
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
4 eggs
A splash of milk
About ¼ cup of feta cheese, or to taste
Fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper

In a saucepan of boiling water, add the potatoes and boil a few minutes until tender. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Add the broccoli to the water and blanch, just a minute or two in the water, and add to the potatoes. Add the minced garlic and salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the four eggs, milk, dill, and cheese. Add to the vegetable mixture and place in a greased pie pan. Cook at 425 degrees for ten minutes, then 325 degrees for 30 minutes, or bake at 350 for about half an hour or until the middle is set.

5. Take some fresh shrimp and poach it in a skillet with a little bit of white wine and garlic. While the shrimp is cooking, boil a pot of water for some linguine. In a large bowl, add the pasta, shrimp, some olive oil, crushed red pepper if you like it hot, some parmesan cheese, and a squirt of lemon juice.

One. Singular Tomato Sandwich.

DSCN0398With all due respect to lyricist Edward Kleban, the food that has been on my mind for weeks have been tomato sandwiches. Since giving up my garden to Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter Rabbit (and their extended cousins) a few years ago, I’ve relied heavily on the farmer’s market and my co-op for local veggies in the summertime. And when my calendar turns to August, that means tomato time.

Forget my favorite rye or the more healthy whole wheat, I want my tomato sandwich to be on soft white bread, so soft, the tomatoes soak through with its juices. And my sandwich is simple, just tomatoes and basil and if I don’t have basil, just bread and tomatoes will do. Before taking my usual Sunday walk, I put the dough in the oven to rise; since it was a lazy morning, I put it in for a second rise, but that probably isn’t necessary. This made a small loaf, a very small loaf, but it was delicious. No leftovers, as I made tomato sandwiches for friends on a lovely afternoon at the lake.

Helpful Kitchen Tip: If you are working with any sort of dough, be it bread, pie, pizza, cookie, basically anything with flour, when you’re done with bowl, soak it in cold water as opposed to hot or warm. Despite what you’d think, cold water gets it cleaner more quickly than hot water. I read this in a magazine years ago and it works!

My homemade bread sometimes doesn’t rise like it should as you can see from the photo. It was a bit on the “small” size height-wise, but frankly, I didn’t care;  I got my tomato sandwich on homemade white bread and I was a happy eater!

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White Sandwich Bread
Many, many years ago (the envelope the recipe is written on is from 1991!), I took down the basic recipe for white, rye, and whole wheat breads from my mom. I grew up with only homemade bread, but was one of those kids who longed for store-bought bread and cookies. Can you imagine?! The recipes I copied were for four loaves each and this is my version for one loaf.  

1 envelope of yeast (equals 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup of warm water
1 teaspoon of sugar

1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 Tablespoon of oil or butter
1 Tablespoon of sweetener ( I used maple syrup, or you could use honey or sugar)
About 1 1/2 cups white flour
Water

1. In a mixing bowl, add the water, sugar, and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir, and let it sit until it turns foamy, about five minutes.

2. Add the salt, oil or butter, and sweetener. Stir, and add 1 cup of flour. Stir, and add a little bit of water to make a dough. Keep adding flour and water until the dough becomes shaggy so you can start kneading it. Knead it until it makes a nice, soft dough.

3.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let it rise for about an hour. (I always set it in the oven.) Punch down, knead again, and let it rise for another hour. (*I think you can skip this step if you like, just let it rise longer when you put it in the pan [Step 4].)

4. Upon the final rising, punch down the dough, knead, and form into a loaf. Place in an oiled bread pan, and let it rise one last time, about an hour. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is hollow when you tap it.

Got More Tomatoes?
This soup is one of my favorites, and I wrote about it a couple of summers ago, Creamy Tomato Soup with Grownup Cheese Points. This is a perfect soup to make if you have a few too many tomatoes in the garden!

A New Take on Corn on the Cob
I love corn on the cob and the usual butter, salt, and pepper is a delicious and simply way to dress it. But here is something different to try next time you have have a desire for something new. For four ears of corn, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan, and add the juice from one-quarter of a lime and a tiny dash or two of cumin. Mix, and pour over the corn evenly, and top with freshly ground pepper and a little bit of salt. This gives the corn a spicy, zippy flavor!

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The Bounty is Here!

After months of waiting, August is finally here, and the veggies are at their best! Gone are the early days of June, with just a few sad-looking root vegetables sitting in the bins the farmers’ market; now it’s bursting at the seams and overflowing with everything fresh and beautiful! So prepare yourself, it’s going to be a vegetarian month!

I adore cucumbers, they always taste fresh and have virtually no calories! (I presume there are no calories in a cucumber, but I didn’t want to give false advertising!). Nothing is better to me than a fresh cucumber, thinly sliced with  just a little bit of salt.

This side salad is a mish-mosh of a couple different dishes I make: a raita I make to accompany fish and a green bean salad that my grandmother makes. It’s so good, I’ve been known to eat a big bowl of it for lunch! It’s easy and was a nice cool complement to a dinner of chicken and some sautéed Swiss chard. If you want a little heat, add a dash (or two) of cayenne or crushed red pepper. And if you don’t eat dairy, you can leave out the sour cream;  it’s just as delicious.

Helpful Kitchen Tip: 
Placing the cucumbers in a colander in the sink and sprinkling with a little salt allows much of the water to drain. This is a great suggestion for any dish that calls for cucumbers. Do this about 30 minutes before you’re ready to make your dish. I don’t rinse off the salt since I only use only a little, but I tend not to salt the dish when it’s finished.

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Cucumber Dill Salad

Using fresh dill with this recipe is the best, but if you only have dried on hand (like I had), it is still terrific. 

• 2 cucumbers, peeled, sliced in half horizontally, seeded and sliced like half moons
• ¼ cup diced onion
• 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar (if you want a little more zing, add a couple of teaspoons more)
• ¼ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
• Dill weed, as much or as little as you’d like, or none at all
• Freshly ground pepper
• Salt to taste, if needed

1. Take the seeded and cut cucumbers and place them in a colander in the sink. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and let them sit for about 30 minutes, or until you’re ready to make the salad. Don’t rinse.

2. In a mixing bowl, add the drained cucumbers, onion, and vinegar. Stir in the sour cream or yogurt and mix well. Add as much dill weed as you’d like, and some pepper. Serve.