Light Fare for Summer Evenings, Part II

Fantastic salads are a great addition to the menu rotation during the summer heat. They are lighter than so many dishes, don’t tend to heat up the kitchen, and can often be made ahead so they are ready to serve whenever needed.

Here are 3 more great salads culled and adapted from the Brand Name Light & Natural Cookbook I picked up recently at a garage sale. Quick, light and easy – that’s my plan for August meals!

Primavera Pasta Salad

1  1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1  1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1  1/2 cups broccoli florets

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

3/4 cup julienned zucchini

1/2 cup julienned carrot

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup lemon juice

1  1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

3 3/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

6 ounces linquine or fettuccine noodles, cooked

Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat oil and butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and garlic and stir fry 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add tomatoes, zucchini, carrot, honey, lemon juice, lemon peel and seasonings. Simmer and 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring gently. Toss with noodles. Cool. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 6.

Spicy Cucumber-Orange Salad

1 cucumber, sliced thin

1 large orange, peeled, sliced thin and cut into quarters

1/2 red onion, sliced thin and separated into rings

1 large Anaheim chile, seeded and chopped

1 cup white vinegar

1/3 cup salad oil

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped or 1 teaspoon crushed dried oregano

2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon ground dried sage

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a deep glass bowl toss together the cucumber slices, orange pieces, onion and chile.

In a covered container place the vinegar, oil and remaining ingredients; shake together until blended. Pour over salad mixture, stirring occasionally. Serve wiht a slotted spoon as a side-dish salad or relish. Marinade can be saved and used for salad dressing. Yields 3 cups salad, serves 3.

Chilled Dilled Carrot Salad

2 cups carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 cup diced shallots or red onions

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2-3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

Parboil carrots until tender yet crips, about 2 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain. Combine carrots and onions. Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl until well blended. Pour over carrot mixture and toss well. Refrigerate at least 3 hours to blend flavors. Serves 4.

For more great fast, delicious dinner recipes and ideas, try 25 Quick & Easy Quesadilla Recipes, available online for only 99 cents at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony or Smashwords.

It’s Tomato Planting Time

It’s time to plant tomatoes again, and I just planted mine. I’m cutting back on the garden this year because I don’t expect to have the time to tend a large one. I reduced the number of tomato plants and cut out all the other veggies entirely. Gotta grow some tomatoes though.

I plant them nice and deep – with about half of the stem underground. Pull the leaves off the portion that will be buried. The stem you bury with grow roots to help support the plant and it also encourages the tomato plant to grow stronger stalks and branches.

There are all kinds of recommendations for soil additives, but I’m lazy and have decided that mixing in a couple of scoops of Miracle Grow soil for fruits and vegetables is just as good as anything else.

When you plant the tomatoes, be sure to water them well to help prevent shock.

Tomatoes prefer several hours of sun each day, but I try to plant mine where they receive morning and mid-day sun, but not evening sun. The evening sun seems to be too much for them once the temperatures soar.

When watering tomato plants, remember they don’t like wet leaves. Water at the base of the plant without getting the leaves wet whenever possible. It’s also best to water in the morning so any moisture on the plant evaporates before night. Wet leaves at night tend to equal sickly tomato plants.

Growing tomatoes in the back yard or in a container on a balcony takes very little effort and the rewards are huge! Real, homegrown tomatoes are a completely different food than the hothouse tomatoes available at the grocery store. I love homegrown tomatoes but won’t even eat the grocery store kind. I pick them off salads and sandwiches. No thanks.

So I encourage anyone who is planning any sort of garden this year to include tomato plants. There are plenty of varieties to choose from. Smaller tomatoes like Romas or Cherry or Grape tomatoes are wonderful for salads. If the acid in tomatoes bothers you, maybe try growing a yellow tomato. They have great flavor and less acid. If you want to make sauces and will be blanching and peeling them, maybe go for a larger variety like Beefsteak. It’s also nice to mix in a few early producers like Early Girl.

Shopping at my local Wal-Mart this spring, I was stunned to see they are carrying some of the heirloom tomato varieties. So it’s no longer necessary to trek out to a major garden center to find a big selection. Just about any store that carries vegetable plants will have several varieties of tomatoes to choose from!

If you don’t garden, I encourage you to try buying tomatoes from local farmers if you haven’t before. The difference in taste and texture will have you going back for more!

Ann Chambers is the co-author and editor of Carver’s Tomatoes which includes updated versions of all 115 of George Washington Carver’s tomato recipes plus a biography of Carver. Carver’s Tomatoes is available online for only $2.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony or Smashwords.