2014-07-04 / Columns

Cooking on Purpose

Lighten up everybody, it’s summer
By Connie Wendell
Special to the Post

It’s finally summer and we’re all loving the warm sunshine after our very long, cold, snowy winter. Now we have to lighten up our food so we have energy to enjoy this wonderful weather. I have included some of my favorites, I hope you give them a try.

French chopped salad

Five tiny new potatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick; 1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces; 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar; 2 tablespoons olive oil; 1 tablespoon snipped fresh tarragon; 1 teaspoon honey; salt and pepper to taste; 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce; 3 hard cooked eggs, cut into wedges; ½ cup chopped English cucumber; ¼-cup pitted niçoise or kalamata olives; 3 radishes, thinly sliced; and 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot (1 medium).

In a covered medium saucepan cook potatoes and green beans in enough boiling water to cover for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender; drain.

Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking; drain again.

For vinaigrette, in a screw top jar combine vinegar, oil, tarragon, honey, salt and pepper. Cover and shake well.

In a large bowl combine potatoes, green beans, lettuce, eggs, cucumber, olives, radishes and shallot. Add vinaigrette; toss gently to coat.

Skewered shrimp scampi

11/2 pounds fresh or frozen large shrimp; 3 tablespoons lemon juice; 3 cloves garlic, minced; salt and pepper to taste; 4 ounces dried vermicelli pasta or whole-wheat vermicelli pasta; 2 tablespoons snipped fresh Italian parsley; lemon wedges; and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact if desired. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels.

Thread shrimp on four-10-inch skewers, leaving ¼ inch between each shrimp. Drizzle with lemon juice; sprinkle evenly with garlic, salt and pepper.

For a charcoal grill, grill shrimp on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 5 to 8 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, turning once. For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place shrimp on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as with charcoal grill. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions; and drain.

To serve, divide pasta among four serving plates. Top with shrimp on skewers. Sprinkle with parsley. Squeeze lemon wedges over shrimp. Drizzle with olive oil.

TIP: If using wooden skewers, soak in water for at least 30 minutes; drain before using.

Eggplant Caprese salad

One cup boiling water; ¼ cup dried tomatoes (not oil packed); 1 pound eggplant; 3 tablespoons olive oil; 1 teaspoon salt; ½ teaspoon pepper; 1/3 cup coarsely snipped fresh basil; ¼ cup olive oil; 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar; 2 (7-8 ounce balls fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced; 4 large heirloom tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced; coarse salt; ground black pepper; and small fresh basil leaves.

In a small bowl combine boiling water and dried tomatoes. Let stand for 20 minutes. Drain, discarding water; chop tomatoes.

Trim stem and blossom ends of eggplant; cut crosswise into ½-inch thick slices. Place slices on a baking sheet; brush both sides of slices generously with the 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

For a charcoal or gas grill, place eggplant slices on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat. Grill for 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly charred and tender, turning once, halfway through grilling. Transfer grilled slices to a clean plate and let cool to room temperature.

In a food processor or blender combine fried tomatoes, the snipped basil, the ¼ cup oil and the vinegar. Cover and process or blend until finely chopped. On a large platter arrange eggplant slices, mozzarella cheese slices and tomato slices, overlapping slices. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and pepper. Spoon dried tomato mixture on top. Garnish with basil leaves.

Serve at room temperature.

Until next time, stay cool and keep Cooking on Purpose.

Connie Wendell can be reached at conniewendell27@gmail.com

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