Smoky Southwestern Salad Dressing

Smoked paprika, how I love thee, let me count the ways…

  1. On beans
  2. On meat
  3. In soup
  4. On salad
  5. In sauces

The list could go on and on.  Suffice it to say, this gem makes it into my top-three favorite spices list.  Anytime I am cooking Southwestern fare, I add a little dash for that deep, smoky flavor.  It has nearly replaced traditional paprika in my kitchen, as there is rarely an occasion when I don’t want to add a little char.

This simple salad dressing is perfect for weekday lunches, company-over dinners and a killer pasta salad. I like to drizzle it over a bed of romaine or spinach topped with black beans, warm quinoa and queso fresco. If I have fresh tomatoes or cucumbers, I add plenty of each.  Toss some up today.  Yum!

Smoky Southwestern Salad Dressing

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup cup red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
dash cayenne, optional

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake to combine.  Store in refrigerator for up to several weeks.

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Simple Cabbage Salad With Lemon

The cabbage of my childhood came in a Styrofoam container with the red initials, “K.F.C.” on the outside.  Truth be told, I’m not sure I even knew there was cabbage in that slaw.  My dad loved it, and still does to this day.  Personally, the combination of mayonnaise and cabbage don’t do much for me.  Give me a good potato salad, or a creamy chicken salad with purple grapes bursting with juiciness, but coleslaw?  I’ll pass.  It’s simultaneously too heavy and sweet for my taste.

So, I really hadn’t actually eaten much cabbage until three years ago, when my husband and I took a trip to Israel.  I am not exaggerating when I say that we saw cabbages the size of beach balls.  I was flabbergasted!  Cabbage was everywhere at the roadside stands and in the city markets, which were sometimes nothing more than a woman with a few bags and piles of produce.  We found it pickled and dressed in every imaginable way at lunches and dinners.  Though it sometimes lay hooded in mayo-based sauces, it was also bright and crisp, sleekly dressed with the simplest of ingredients.

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I found that I loved cabbage, though I still preferred it sans the white sauce.  This salad was born of that trip, and is now a staple at my house.  We keep a big container in the refrigerator and eat it with everything: soups, sandwiches, meat that’s been roasted or grilled and even a plate full of quickly scrambled eggs.  You probably already have everything you need for the dressing on hand, which means this side dish comes together in five minutes or less.  It keeps great in the refrigerator up to a week and is equally delicious leftover.  Even my daughter, who for the first five years of her life claimed to hate salad, comes upon me slicing huge heaps of cabbage and cries out, “Are we having cabbage salad?” in an excitement she rarely bestows upon vegetables.

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Simple Cabbage Salad With Lemon

1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thinly
1/2 head purple (I refuse to call it red) cabbage, sliced thinly
Juice of one lemon
¼ – 1/3 cup tasty olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Remove the outer leaves of the cabbages, rinse the heads well and cut in half.  Remove cores, slice thinly and toss in a big bowl.  Drizzle the olive oil over the sliced cabbage and then squeeze half the lemon over the top.  Add about two teaspoons kosher salt and a good helping of freshly ground pepper.

Toss everything together to combine and then taste it for flavor.  It will likely need more lemon juice, though perhaps not the entire second half.  Depending on the size of your cabbages, it may also need more of salt, but taste it first to be sure.  It should be zippy from the lemon juice and well salted.  If you’re puckering up after the first bite, drizzle on a little more olive oil.  Ideally, you would prepare this and let it sit while you work on the main dish, but feel free to eat it right away if needs be.  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Salted Maple Pecans

Did you know that a once ounce serving of pecans contains ten percent of the fiber you need in a single day? They are also a great source of low-carb protein and low in saturated fat. A little research will yield a myriad of health benefits gained from regularly enjoying pecans. I do love them for their health benefits, but mostly I eat them because they’re delicious!

While I don’t grow my own pecans in the backyard (yet), we do cook with them regularly at home. We grind them into pecan butter, toss them in salads and enjoy them over hot cereal in the morning. They are a great addition any time of the year, and while they are delicious cloaked in the caramel of a pie, they have a natural sweetness that needs little adornment. These five-minute salted maple pecans are perfect in a spinach salad, chopped and sprinkled over grilled fish or on their own as a snack.

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Five-Minute Salted Maple Pecans

2 cups pecan halves
1/3 cup real maple syrup (no substitutions!)
¼-1/2 tsp salt

Heat the pecans on medium-high heat in a large skillet until fragrant and beginning to brown. Pour syrup over nuts and stir or toss continuously for 30-45 seconds until the syrup begins to thicken and stick to the nuts. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle with salt. Allow to cool and enjoy!

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Bonus Simple Spinach Salad Recipe

4 cups baby spinach, washed
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
½ cup salted maple pecans (above)
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Greek Salad

In our final ode to the tomato, let’s make some quick and tasty Greek Salad!  It’s a beautiful time of year when you can return from the yard with this still life:

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Give that cucumber, peppers and olives a chopping and remove the tomato stems:IMG_0281

Assemble the dressing ingredients:IMG_0286

Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper and then whisk the oil and vinegar together and toss over everything:IMG_0287

Greek Salad
2-3 cups cherry sized tomatoes
1 large cucumber, roughly chopped
2-3 large bell peppers, any color, roughly chopped
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
2 tsp Kosher Real Salt* and freshly ground pepper to taste (if using a finer table salt, use half as much)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Chop all veggies and combine in a bowl.  Top with chopped olives, feta, salt and pepper.  In a liquid measure, add 1/4 cup red wine vinegar and then add the olive oil until you reach the 1/2 cup mark (this is around 1/3 cup).  Whisk oil and vinegar to combine and drizzle over salad.  Toss gently to combine.    Also delicious served inside a pita bread with a little hummus spread inside.

*Not all salt is created equal!  Some salts are more processed than others and that will affect the taste of your dish.  Also, Real Salt is naturally mined and contains minerals.  Read more about it *here*.

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Marinated Tomatoes

I’m always happy to eat a tomato adorned with only a little salt.  However, the family is likely to grumble a little if all that shows up on the dinner table are sliced tomatoes and a salt!  Here’s a quick little recipe that dresses them up enough to be served as a meal.  Marinated tomatoes are great over simple grilled chicken or a slice of cheese toast!  Toss in some small fresh mozzarella balls or diced mozzarella for a delicious salad, or serve them over a scrambled or fried egg.  Plus I’ve included a little French trick to make it all look a little fancier!  IMG_0458

Marinated Tomatoes

2 cups sliced and/or cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp delicious olive oil (you really want a flavorful oil here)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
5 large basil leaves, cut chiffonade (read on for instructions!)
1-2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
A drizzle of balsamic vinegar, optional (at our house we add this at the table allowing those who don’t want it to go without)

Combine all ingredients and gently toss.  Allow to marinate while you prepare whatever you’re serving them with.

How-to cut a chiffonade:

First, start with 5 or so leaves of basil:
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Stack them with the largest on the bottom and the smallest on top:
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Roll it up:
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Then using a sharp knife (this one is my favorite for small tasks), slice the roll thinly:
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The perfect way to dress up the dish:
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