Monday, May 9, 2011

Surprise Salad #1

Okay, here’s the first of the surprise salad recipes I promised you!

This is a salad that you’d use if your husband brought home an old service buddy he met again downtown, and it’s almost dinnertime, you haven’t gone to the store, and you can’t make dinner reservations because all the “extra” in your bank account went to band fees, school fees, tuition, gasoline or some other unavoidable "luxury."


Grab a couple of cans, some stuff from the fridge, and a few herbs from the pantry, and you’re set for a refreshing salad that will pass any muster. You will need:

1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can of pitted black olives
the “heart” of a fresh celery
2 Tbsps capers from a jar
3 large pieces of roasted red peppers from a jar, drained
4-5 large fresh sprigs of parsley, Italian flat-leaf parsley or cilantro OR
2 Tbsps dried versions of one of the above, soaked in:
3 Tbsps red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar will do if wine’s a problem)
3-4 Tbsps virgin or extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly-made or storebought cheese croutons
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste


Remove the “heart” from the celery. That is the lighter-colored, more tender, sweeter, inner section of the celery, about 2” in diameter or a bit more. The whole plant is a “stalk;” the individual pieces are called “ribs.” The outer ribs will be darker and tougher than the heart. Slice the celery heart, leaves and all, into ¼” slices and place in a colander. Wash thoroughly under running cold water. Place in a medium-sized salad bowl. Rinse the two Tbsps of capers under running cold water to remove some of the salt. Add to bowl. Open, drain and rinse the olives, and add them to the salad bowl. Open, drain—saving the juice—and reserve the tomato dice in the salad bowl. Save the juice in your freezer container for soup next week. Open the roasted red peppers, remove 3 large pieces and dice them. Add them to the salad also. Rinse, pick and chop fine the herbs if using fresh herbs; otherwise soak the 2 Tbsps of dried herb, (whether parsley, Italian flat-leaved parsley or cilantro—but not all) in the 3 Tbsps of red wine vinegar. Let soak for 10 or 15 minutes, then add herb and vinegar to the bowl. Season to taste. Add the olive oil and toss gently, trying not to bruise or break the ingredients. If desired, finely sliced green onions (scallions) are a nice addition instead of the sliced Vidalia or red onion. Add the croutons at the very last, just as you plate up the salad.

This goes well with plain, hearty meals and gives a nice freshness to any meal. Quick and easy. Try it sometimes. You’ll be glad you did.

See you next time!

Tuscan Sausage-'n-Potato Soup

Hi, again!

I know it’s been a long time since I posted, but honestly, I had a really good reason for it.

I spent the last month-and-a-half making an heirloom Baptismal dress for our precious little great-grandson, Master Jackson Christopher Bentley, who was born and who resides in England. Fortunately, the family loved it, so I'm jazzed about that! There will be pictures on pretty soon, so if you're interested, by all means take a look and leave a comment! I’d love it if you’d follow me here, too.

I promised my daughters to post the recipe for this soup, because they really love it, so here goes. I promise that immediately I'm finished with this one, I'll post the first of the "surprise salads" recipes. You have my word on it.

Okay. You'll need:

1 package (5 links) of Italian Hot Sausage
4 cans of cream of potato soup
4 or 5 large potatoes, (the floury kind not the waxy ones)
2 cans evaporated milk
¼ lb. bacon
I very large or 2 large white onions
1 package frozen chopped spinach OR
1 # fresh young spinach
¼ tsp red pepper flakes or to taste (remember the sausage is hot)
Chicken stock as needed

Slice sausages into 1” coins and reserve. Peel, wash and finely dice onion. Reserve. Cut bacon into 1” slices and render slowly in a heavy pan or Dutch Oven over medium heat to remove all fat. Cool and crumble bacon. Reserve the bacon and the bacon fat in separate bowls. If you’re using fresh spinach, pick over the leaves of the fresh and remove severely wilted, discolored, slick or bruised portions. Wash carefully under running water and shake or spin dry. Cut fresh spinach into 1” squares. For frozen spinach, just open the package. Reserve. Peel, wash and cut (into ½” dice) the potatoes. Boil them in enough water to cover until they are cooked.

In the Dutch Oven, sauté the sausage coins until well done. Reserve. Using 2 Tbsps of the reserved bacon fat, sweat the onion until it’s transparent, then sauté the fresh or frozen spinach over medium-high heat right on top of the onion, until it is totally wilted and cooked through. Reserve the scrapings from the bottom of the pan unless they are burned. These add a wonderful depth to the dish. Add the ¼ tsp red pepper flakes. Combine well, cooking for another minute or two. Add the contents of the four cans of potato soup, the boiled potatoes and their water, and the two cans of evaporated milk. Combine well and let simmer for about five minutes. Add the sausage, the crumbled bacon, and the cooked spinach.

If the soup is too thick, thin it with chicken stock or water. Season sparingly to taste with salt and black pepper. Let it all simmer together while you warm the big, crusty slabs of garlic bread and toss the fresh salad you’re serving with this wonderful soup.

All you need now is a terrific dessert and a good appetite! Enjoy!

PS: Diced roasted red peppers are delicious in this dish. Add them to the soup after it's plated up. Go easy with until you're sure you like it. Fresh escarole substitutes well for the spinach, too.

Okay, there you are! Let me know what you think, won't you? Your comments help me offer recipes along the lines of things my followers enjoy. Thanks!