New Potato Salad with Green Beans and Basil

New Potato and Green Bean Salad

New Potatoes are such a treat in the summertime.  They are small, freshly harvested potatoes, that have a natural sweetness, and hold their shape after cooking – making them a perfect potato to use in salads.  For this easy side dish, I’ve lightened up a summer favourite, -the classic potato salad.  A tangy lemon-dijon vinaigrette loaded with tons of fresh herbs make for a refreshing twist on the traditional mayo-based dressing. Plus, I’ve added some crunch with tons of green and yellow beans, fresh from my father-in-law’s garden!

Blanching the green beans is an essential step to help them keep their vibrant green hue. Simply boil water, add the green beans, boil for 2-4 minutes depending on their size, then submerge the green beans into an ice-bath (a large bowl filled with ice and some water).  This “shocks” the green beans and stops the cooking process, sealing in the bright green colour and crunch.  I also like to blanche broccoli whenever I make a broccoli salad or even when I assemble a veggie platter – everyone always asks how I got the broccoli to look so green, so now you know.

If you’ve been following my previous posts this tip will be a repeat. Whenever you make a grain, pasta, or potato salad, ALWAYS toss the starch with the dressing when the starch is still warm.  This way, as the starch cools down it will absorb all the flavours, rather than just coating the outside.

New Potato Salad with Green Bean and Basil

New Potato Salad with Green Beans and Basil

Serves 6-8, as a side

2 lbs new potatoes, washed
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed, sliced into 1 inch pieces

Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons of lemon juice or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 green onions, sliced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, cook the new potatoes whole, for 12-15 minutes, or until a fork pierced into the potato comes out easily. Remove the potatoes from the water with a slotted spoon, and set aside to cool slightly – reserve the water to blanche the green beans.

2. Bring the water back up to a boil, then add the sliced green beans and cook for 2-4 minutes.  Prepare the ice bath by combining ice and a bit of water in a large bowl.  Test one of the beans at 2 minutes to see if it’s cooked to your liking, if not, continue to cook in one minute intervals.  As soon as they are cooked, drain the beans in a colander, then quickly submerge into the ice bath.  Once the beans are cold, strain the beans and set aside to dry.

3.  While the potatoes are cooling, prepare the vinaigrette by mixing the olive oil, lemon juice/vinegar, dijon, garlic, and salt and pepper.

4.  When the potatoes are cooled enough to handle, slice into rounds and toss with the vinaigrette in a medium bowl.  Add the green beans and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes.

5.  Before serving, add the green onions, celery, basil, and parsley.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans.jpg

Happy New Year everyone! We had a busy Christmas this year with lots of family and friend get togethers, which meant I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but don’t get me wrong I enjoyed ever minute of it.   This salad was my contribution to an after Christmas potluck dinner.  It was the perfect side dish to offset all the rich food we’d been eating over the holidays.  Even my sister-in-law, who doesn’t like fruit in her salad, ate all of the leftovers!

Fennel Bulb

Do you ever cook with fennel? Personally, I think it’s an under-appreciated vegetable, probably because many people don’t know what to do with it.  Fennel has a mild anise, or licorice flavour, and is extremely versatile.  The white bulb can be eaten raw, like in the salad recipe below, or it can be cooked along with the tougher green stalks into pasta sauces, stir-fries, or any recipe which calls for onions or celery. You can use the wispy green fronds as a fresh herb on baked salmon or tossed into salads for a faint licorice flavour.

 To prepare the fennel, remove the green stalks from the white bulb.  Slice the bulb into quarters and remove the hard inner core.  If your recipe calls for sliced fennel you can use a mandolin or simply slice diagonally with a sharp knife.  For a nice side dish try cutting the fennel into 1 inch pieces, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, and roast at 400F for 30-40 minutes until soft and golden brown.Julienned Carrots and Apple

To add texture to this salad I decided to julienne the vegetables, which is a fancy term for creating match stick shapes. For carrots, slice diagonally into long ovals, place each oval flat side down, and cut into long strips. Use the same technique for the apples.

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Candied pecans are an extra special addition to this salad and are easy to make at home. A lot of recipes I’ve found require using an oven, but my go-to recipe uses only the stove and takes less than 15 minutes to make.  I’ve included the basic recipe below, but try experimenting with different flavours such as cinnamon, cumin, or add some heat with cayenne and black pepper.   The recipe makes more than enough pecans for this salad, so keep the extras in an air-tight container for use at a later time.

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans

Recipe by Kirsten, serves 4-6

Candied Pecans: 
1 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 teaspoon water
optional add ins: pinch of salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin etc.

Dressing:
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1/2 medium fennel bulb, sliced
1 large apple, julienned or grated
1 medium carrot, julienned or grated
½ red onion, sliced
Half of a 10oz bag of spinach
1/4 cup of crumbled feta
1/4 cup candied pecans

Directions

For the candied pecans: In a small pot or frying pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add brown sugar, nuts, water and add-ins if using.   Stir constantly for 5 minutes until sugar is melted and nuts are evenly coated, be careful not to burn the sugar or nuts. Transfer nuts to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and allow to cool.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Start with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and taste, add more as needed.  Add sliced fennel, apple, carrot and red onion to the dressing and stir to coat.  Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the vegetables to soak up the dressing.  This can be prepared a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to use. The acidity from the dressing will keep the apples from browning.

When you are ready to serve the salad, add the spinach, feta and candied pecans to the fennel/dressing mixture and toss lightly until combined.   Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Kale Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

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I love walking around a farmer’s market and seeing what’s fresh and in season. I always end up buying more produce than I can realistically use, but having too many vegetables is a challenge I am willing to accept! This simple salad was inspired by one of these occasions.

Raw kale isn’t for everyone.  I’ve used different varieties of kale and found that I prefer the flatter black kale versus its curly relatives.   This salad has the perfect balance of flavours: acidity from the dressing, sweetness from the corn and tomatoes, earthiness from the greens, and saltiness from the feta.  If kale isn’t your cup of tea this salad works equally well with spinach or mixed greens.

One tip when making any kale salad is to massage the dressing into the kale leaves by hand.  Raw kale tends to have a very tough texture and massaging the leaves help to soften and tenderize them. We enjoyed this salad right away but the leftovers were even better the next day for lunch.

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Kale Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Serves 4, recipe by Kirsten

Dressing:
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
2 teaspoons of maple syrup or honey
¼ cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1 large bunch of kale, washed and dried.
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
2 cobs of corn, cooked and kernels removed,  approx 1 cup.
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup of crumbled feta

Directions:

  1. Prepare dressing by whisking all ingredients together, or as I prefer place ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine.
  2. Chop or tear the kale into bite-sized pieces, removing hard inner stem, and place in a large serving bowl.  Add half of the dressing and massage the leaves by hands, don’t worry about being too rough, the kale can take it.
  3. Add the tomatoes, corn, feta, basil and remaining dressing to the kale. Note: depending on the size of the bunch of kale, you may have more dressing than you need.
  4. Cover the salad and place in the fridge until ready to use.