Sunday, May 31, 2009

Quesadillas: Value, Variety, and Very, Very Good!

The word “quesadilla” is actually a portmanteau of “queso,” the Spanish word for cheese, and tortilla…and this very accurately describes exactly what it is: a cheese-filled tortilla.

But quesadillas are so much more than that. While the simple cheese-and-tortilla can make a satisfying nibble, there are so many delicious variations that you can create meals with them. These are great for hot snacks for a party, quick lunches for kids, even as a way to use up leftovers. Once you’ve mastered the basic quesadilla, let your imagination run wild!

Basic Quesadilla (V)

(makes 6)


6 flour tortillas, warmed

1 ½ cups cheese, grated (recommend a combination of Monterey Jack and mild cheddar)

1 ½ cups salsa fresca (drained)

Sour cream (optional)

Guacamole (optional)


Lay a warmed tortilla out on a plate. Place ¼ cup grated cheese on half of the tortilla…spread out to cover half. Sprinkle ¼ cup salsa over the cheese. Fold empty side of tortilla over the cheese and salsa. Repeat with all tortillas.


Heat a dry griddle or heavy skillet until water skitters and jumps when flicked onto it. Place quesadilla on hot cooking surface until cheese melts. Flip quesadilla to warm other side of tortilla. Remove to serving plate. Put next quesadilla in pan and while it cooks, cut the hot quesadilla into three wedges for serving.


Serve hot with guacamole, sour cream, and more salsa.


I have never seen a leftover quesadilla. But if, perchance, you do end up with one, refrigerate in a plastic food bag and warm in microwave or on the griddle before serving. They would make a nice lunch...but I have never seen a leftover one, so I can only speculate!


Extra ingredients are added with the cheese and the salsa may be omitted. This is a good way to use up leftover meats (chop them before adding), or vegetables. Use your imagination!

Make breakfast quesadillas by scrambling an egg and adding it with the cheese and salsa.

White cheeses and seafood, especially cooked, chopped shrimp pieces and salsa, are a particularly good combination.

Photo by jspatchwork, flickr

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Pronounced “tor-TEE-yah,” the tortilla is the mainstay of Mexican cuisine. Not only eaten as a bread, tortillas are an integral part of Mexican cooking, the basis for such delicious fare as burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and fajitas.

Most American cooks have all-purpose flour in their kitchens, so this recipe is for flour tortillas. Corn tortillas are actually made from masa harina, not cornmeal or corn flour, a product that may not be readily available outside of California and the Southwest. If you can get masa harina, by all means try corn tortillas…there should be a recipe on the side of the package.

Flour tortillas don’t require much work and they are delicious. Leftovers can be easily reheated on a hot, dry skillet, but not in the microwave, as they will get crisp and hard as soon as they begin to cool. When using as a wrap, whether in Mexican cuisine like a burrito or in something trendy, warm the tortilla first to make it flexible enough to roll without cracking or breaking.

Flour Tortillas

(makes 12)


2 cups flour

1 cup warm water

¼ cup lard (shortening can be substituted)

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

Prepare dough:

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. (You can shake it through a sieve if you don’t have a flour sifter.)

Add lard and cut into flour. If you don’t have a pastry cutter, use two table knives, one in each hand, in a scissors-motion. Continue cutting lard into flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Lumps of lard should be no larger than a small pea.

Slowly add ¾ cup of water while mixing it in with a fork. Grease your hands with lard to keep the dough from sticking, and gather the dough up into a ball. If it is too dry to stick together, add more water, a little at a time, until dough holds together but is not sticky to the touch.

Knead the dough about 20 times on a floured board. With a sharp knife, cut dough in half. Cut each half into thirds, then cut each third in half. You will have 12 pieces of dough. Roll each piece of dough into a ball. Cover the dough and allow to rest for about 20 minutes. Dough can be refrigerated for later use at this point.

While the dough is resting:

Prepare a place for the cooked tortillas to rest: a plate with a lint-free towel placed on it, a second lint-free towel nearby to cover the hot tortillas as they come off the grill. This will keep them hot and flexible.

Roll the dough:

Take a ball and flatten in between your hands. Place on a floured board and roll with a floured rolling pin (if you don’t have a rolling pin, a straight-sided bottle filled with water and capped will work). Roll to a thickness of no more than ⅛ inch.

Cook on dry hot griddle or skillet (see below). Roll and cook only one tortilla at a time: if you stack uncooked tortillas, they will stick together.

Cook the tortillas:

Use a griddle or heavy skillet. Do not use any oil. Heat pan until a drop of water bounces and skitters when flicked onto the cooking surface.

Place a tortilla on the cooking surface and watch closely. When the surface begins to bubble and the bubbles inflate, turn the tortilla. Cook until they are not doughy, but remove from heat before they begin to burn. Brown spots on the tortilla are normal.

Place the cooked tortilla on a towel-covered plate and cover with another towel. When second tortilla is done, place it atop the first and cover with the towel.

Serve hot.

To reheat:

Heat a dry griddle or heavy skillet until a drop of water bounces and skitters when flicked onto the cooking surface. Place cold tortilla on cooking surface, turning several times until heated through. Place hot tortilla on a towel-covered plate and cover with another towel.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Guacamole and Salsa Fresca

The best guacamole starts with sinfully ripe Haas avocados and a sensational fresh salsa. Here’s how to make both. Olé and enjoy!

Salsa Fresca


2 large ripe tomatoes

1 medium onion

1 bullet chili or ½ jalapeno pepper (more if you like it spicy)

½ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves (coriander, dhania)

2 tbsp lemon juice

Sea salt to taste


Mince the tomatoes and onion. Grate the chili/pepper (easiest if frozen).

Combine in non-metal bowl and add remaining ingredients. Toss well, store in fridge for at least 2 hours before serving



2 ripe Haas avocados

¾ cup Salsa Fresca

1 tsp lemon juice


Halve avocados and remove pits. Scoop flesh out of shell into a straight-sided bowl.

Mash avos against side of bowl with fork. It should be slightly lumpy when finished. Stir in lemon juice.

Add salsa and stir together until well mixed. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serve with corn tortilla chips as a snack or as a condiment for tacos, fajitas, or other Mexican dishes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Walk-Away Breakfast

There are just those mornings when nobody has time to sit down and eat. If you have a toaster, microwave oven and five minutes, you can make this delicious morning meal, wrap it in a paper napkin, and eat it on the road!

My husband loves this served open face on a Sunday morning. He calls it the “egg thing” and it is his most-requested breakfast.

Walk-Away Breakfast (The “Egg Thing”)


2 split English muffins, toasted and lightly buttered

2 round slices of ham or Canadian bacon

2 large eggs

2 slices cheese

1 tbsp butter


Place two muffin halves on a microwave safe plate

Put a slice of ham/Canadian bacon on each muffin half

Melt butter in skillet, taking care to keep heat low so that butter doesn’t brown

Break two eggs into skillet

Break and flatten yolks

Cook until whites are set then turn eggs

Press eggs with back of spatula to flatten

Cook slowly until yolks are cooked

Remove eggs from skillet and drain briefly on paper towelling

Place one egg atop each slice of ham/Canadian bacon

Top each egg with a slice of cheese

Microwave for 30 seconds to soften cheese and heat ham

Place remaining muffin halves on top of cheese to make sandwiches

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Easy, Economical Cottage Pie

Nothing says “economical” like a free meal! And when you consider that this dish can be made almost exclusively from leftovers of previous meals, it’s like getting a delicious dinner for free! It’s fast, easy, tastes great and is easy on the pocket…what more could you want in a one-dish meal?

The leftovers make excellent hot lunches the following day, especially for those who brown bag it to work…just microwave for a minute or two and a hot, nutritious, tasty lunch is ready in an instant!

Cottage Pie


1 lb (500g) hamburger or an equal amount of chopped leftover meat

1 can (about 400g) crushed or chopped tomatoes

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

2 tbsp cooking oil

2 cups mixed vegetables (leftover veg is perfect)

1 tbsp Fines Herbes (mixed herbs will do)

2 cups (or more) mashed potatoes (you can use leftovers or make Quickie Mashed Potatoes )

Milk (maybe)


Prepare a large casserole or lasagne dish by spraying with cooking spray.

In a deep pot, sauté in oil: onion, garlic, mushrooms and herbs until onion is translucent. If using hamburger, reduce oil by half and sauté hamburger with onion mixture until meat is brown and crumbly. If not using hamburger, add meat to pot when onion is translucent and mix to heat the meat. Remove from heat. Drain off oil and discard.

Into pot add vegetables (cut into bite sized pieces), and canned tomato. Mix gently but well.

Turn mixture out into casserole dish. Warm potatoes and add milk to make them soft if necessary. They should be the consistency of thick frosting…spreadable.

Smooth meat mixture in pan until level. Top with mashed potatoes and spread them to cover the mixture.

Turn on broiler (in electric stoves, the top element). Place pan in oven just below broiler. Cook until top of mashed potatoes begins to brown. Turn off oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.


Mix shredded mild cheddar cheese into the meat mixture before turning into baking dish.

Add ½ tsp chili powder to the onion mixture as it cooks

Use cheesy or garlic mashed potatoes for the topping.

Add roasted garlic to the onion mixture as it cooks

Add leftover gravy to the meat mixture as it cooks

Top potatoes with a sprinkling of grated cheese before placing dish in oven

Add 1 tbsp peeled and grated ginger to onion mixture as it cooks

Add Worcestershire Sauce, soy sauce or teriyaki sauce to meat mixture as it cooks

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Instant Potatoes that Taste Homemade

For years I hosted either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for the family at my house…sometimes both. Making dressing (from scratch) and roasting a 22 lb turkey is a load of work. Add freshly made pies (including Gramma’s homemade pie crust) and rolls and a kitchen too small for a helper, and it becomes obvious why, when taste would not be compromised, I took the occasional shortcut.

My daughter, who had come for dinner with her family, popped into the kitchen one holiday as I was making the mashed potatoes, stopped dead, and dropped her jaw open. “When did you start using instant mashed potatoes?” she asked incredulously. I stirred the pot and just smiled, handing her a serving dish to put on the table.

“I always use instant potatoes when I’m doing a big meal like this,” I told her, but she didn’t believe me. You see, instant mashed potatoes lack the creamy richness of homemade, and can have a subtle grittiness…and even a faint cardboardy taste…that gives away their time in the box. The reason my daughter was so shocked is that the way I made the instant potatoes, the taste and texture don’t give their origins away, so it never occurred to her that they might not be freshly made!

Quickie Mashed Potatoes

(6 servings)


2 cups milk

3 tbs. butter (not margarine)

½ tsp salt

¾ cup cream

2 cups high-quality instant mashed potatoes (Betty Crocker Potato Buds recommended)


Heat milk, butter and salt to just before milk boils

Remove from heat

Stir in cream and potatoes with a fork until potatoes are the desired consistency. (Do not whip)

These will get stiff if allowed to sit for any length of time, so do not prepare until just before serving. If they must be thinned out, stir in more cream in ¼ cup increments.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tuna Casserole: a one-dish meal

The much maligned tuna casserole takes on a whole new life here!

I’m not much of a fish fan, particularly if the fish is strongly flavoured, but this is so good that I bake it in a lasagne pan so the leftovers can be cut into squares and packaged for work/school lunches the following day. This is fast to assemble and can be cooked ahead, refrigerated, and reheated in the microwave without difficulty. A delicious, fast, and economical way to fill up the family on busy nights.

Tasty Tuna Casserole
2 cans light tuna, packed in water, drained (or 2 chicken breasts, cubed small)
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 lb (500g) dry noodles (egg noodles, fettucini, etc)
½ (250gr) lb mild yellow cheese, grated (Colby or longhorn is fab!)
½ (250gr) lb mild white cheese, grated (Monterey Jack is great)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 or more (roasted) garlic cloves, mashed
⅔ cup frozen baby peas
1 tsp fines herbes
½ tsp dry mustard (optional)
1 soup can of milk

Before you start cooking, set the oven for 350°F and spray a lasagne dish with cooking spray.

Boil the noodles in salted water according to package directions. While the noodles are cooking, if you are using tuna, drain the tuna and turn it into a large bowl and break it up with a fork into smallish chunks. Saute onion, garlic (if fresh), fines herbes (and chicken pieces, if using chicken) together. Add the condensed soups, milk, the onion and garlic (and chicken), the mustard, peas, and half of each of the cheeses to the bowl. Mix well.

When the noodles are done, drain thoroughly and add to the mixture in the bowl. Mix well. If the mixture is dry (it should be stiff but not dry) add a little milk and mix some more.

Turn mixture out into the lasagne pan and spread out to fill the pan. Sprinkle the yellow cheese over the top and then the white cheese. Cover with foil (to keep the noodles from drying out) and put in the oven. (Spray the foil with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to the cheese.)

Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Allow to sit for 15 minutes, uncovered, then cut into pieces like lasagne and serve.

No salt is added to this dish because the condensed soups, and the cheese all have salt in them, and the noodles are cooked in salted water.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not your average meatloaf!

A few years ago, not long after we married, Hubby and I were in one of our local boutique hotels for a late lunch. We ordered hamburgers and after a few bites, Hubby began to wax ecstatic about this being the best hamburger in Cape Town, which made me smile because the it tasted just like my meatloaf, which I had not yet made for him. When I told him about my meatloaf…which is actually my grandmother’s recipe with just a few tweaks…he asked me to make it for him, and he agreed…they tasted the same.

We don't go there for hamburgers any more...I make meatloaf, which can be formed into patties and grilled for hamburgers. And as good as this meatloaf is, it is even better the next day, sliced and served cold with catsup in a sandwich.

Gramma’s Meatloaf


2 lbs (1 kg) extra lean ground beef (ground chuck is better, beef and ostrich is best)

1 large onion, finely minced

1 large egg, beaten

⅔ cup catsup

4 slices moistened (see below) white bread (or ⅔ cup rolled oats)

2 tbsp rubbed sage

1 clove garlic minced or put through press

½ tsp salt


Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray inside of a loaf pan or baking pan with cooking spray.

If using bread: hold each slice of bread under cold running water until thoroughly moistened. Squeeze firmly to remove water.

Combine meat, onion, garlic, sage, egg, salt and bread or oatmeal in a large bowl. Add half the catsup. Mix thoroughly with hands, making sure to rub bread crusts so they disintegrate and blend into the meat mixture. The mixture should be firm but not dry: if too dry, add a little catsup so soften, if too moist, add a little oatmeal or bread crumbs to absorb excess moisture.

Gather meat together and form into a ball. Press meat into loaf pan or place in baking pan, shaping into an oval mound.

Spread remaining catsup over top of meat loaf with spatula, like frosting.

Bake for 45 minutes, then test for doneness: insert a skewer or knife in centre of meatloaf. If juices come out pink, cook another 10 minutes and then test again. When the juices come out clear, remove meatloaf from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Remove meatloaf to serving platter and cut in ½ inch slices. Serve with catsup.


This meatloaf makes fabulous cold sandwiches the next day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rich and Creamy Mashed Potatoes

My late husband's mother was from France and although she came to America in the 1940s, her French accent remained strong, as did her love of cooking and entertaining. Her mashed potatoes were to die for…rich, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious! I was finally able to find out what she did to make them so fabulous and now you will, too. This is the way she made and creamy and better than dessert!

Make a little extra and set aside (before taking the potatoes to the table!) to top a delicious Cottage Pie for your next night's meal.

Jacqui’s Mashed Potatoes
2 lbs (1 kg) waxy potatoes (White Rose or Yukon Gold)
⅓ cup salted butter
4 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup whipping cream

Peel potatoes and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, place butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl and blend together thoroughly with an electric mixer.

Take hot potatoes and place in a potato ricer, food mill, or Mouli. Place potato ricer over the bowl of butter and cream cheese and rice all of the potatoes. You can use a traditional potato masher, but you are much more likely to get lumps in the final product with it.

Once all the potatoes are in the bowl, add cream and beat with electric mixer. If the potatoes are too thick, add milk in small amounts until you get the desired thickness. Add salt to taste and whip thoroughly with mixer.

Serve with fresh butter.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Prepare exactly the same as above with the following exception:

At the time the potatoes are put through the potato ricer, add 4 to 6 cloves of roasted garlic and pass them through the ricer with the potatoes.

These are especially delicious the second day!

Cheese Mashed Potatoes
Using the main recipe above, reduce the amount of cream cheese by half and substitute an equal amount of a finely grated cheese of your choice. Do not beat the cheese with the butter, but add it after the potatoes are riced and beat into the hot potatoes.

Herbed Mashed Potatoes
Prepare potatoes according to main recipe with the following addition:
After potatoes are riced but before beating with mixer, add ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice.

Photo credit: jslander, Flickr

Friday, May 22, 2009

Flavourful Roasted Garlic

Roasted garlic cloves are an essential addition to several of my dishes, so it makes sense to get that recipe posted early on. Roasting garlic takes away the sharpness and imparts a mellow, subtle nutty flavour to the cloves. It keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks, and can be a delightful addition to some of your own dishes. To save on your gas or electric bill, prepare these flavourful bulbs while cooking something else in the oven, like a chicken or a casserole. Don’t cook with something that wouldn’t taste good with a bit of garlic added, however, like an apple pie!

Roasted Garlic
6 large heads of garlic
Olive oil
Aluminum foil

Set oven to at least 350° F. It is not necessary to preheat the oven for Roasted Garlic.

Cut foil into six squares, each large enough to enclose an entire head of garlic.

Select garlic carefully. Look for heads that have a smooth, unbroken “paper” covering.

Cut the tops off each garlic head, cutting far enough down on the head to open the top of each clove.

Centre a head of garlic on each piece of foil.

Drizzle olive oil over the exposed ends of the garlic cloves.

Wrap the garlic snugly in the foil.

Place foil packets on a baking tray and put in oven.

Roast for at least 45 minutes. Check for doneness by opening a foil packet and checking the garlic for doneness: stick a toothpick into the top of a large exposed clove. If the toothpick slides in easily and encounters no resistance, the garlic is ready. The cloves should be nutty brown and translucent.

Remove the garlic from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate in their foil packets.

To use:
Unwrap a foil packet and, using something slender with a dull tip, like the point of a potato peeler or the handle end of a spoon or fork, pop the desired number of cloves out of their paper jackets. Squeezing slightly with the left hand while applying the tool with the right can help remove them.

Cloves can be used as is, or can be mashed or rubbed to distribute their flavour. Return unused garlic to the refrigerator in its foil packet.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Devi’s Divine Curry

Mild Indian Curry
My husband is Indian and before I met him, I had not eaten Indian food. His mother was kind enough to write down her recipe for me. It is wonderfully versatile and can be used with beef (South African Indians eat beef), chicken, lamb, even hamburger! And it is soooo delicious! Adjust the amount of chili powder to determine how spicy you make it.

2 lbs (1kg) meat, cut up (see special instructions for hamburger, below)
1 medium onion
2 to 2 ½ heaped tsp masala (available in Indian groceries…I like garam masala)
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tomatoes, cut into tiny pieces or lightly pureed*
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp crushed ginger
½ tsp crushed garlic
½ tsp chili powder (more for spicier)
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 cup water
½ cup frozen baby peas (optional)
Salt to taste

Put meat in bowl and add all ingredients above except tomato, water, peas and oil. Mix thoroughly and set aside to marinate for 30-45 minutes (can be left in the fridge overnight). Heat oil in pot and add meat mixture. Brown meat thoroughly, then add tomato.

Cook at a slow simmer for about 10 minutes, then add water. Cook slowly, covered (with lid cocked to allow steam to escape) for about 1 hour or until meat is tender. Cooking time will depend on the tenderness of the meat you chose. Add peas as you take the curry off the stove, stir them in and allow to set for 3 minutes to allow peas to heat up.

Serve over a bed of basmati rice with sambals** and raita**.

Special instructions for hamburger curry
Raw hamburger is called “mince” in South Africa, and this is called "mince curry. "

Omit the oil. Brown the hamburger, chopping with the side of a spatula or wooden spoon to break it up. Add the dry spices while browning the hamburger so they will roast while the meat is browning. When the meat is crumbly, add tomato. Finish per instructions above. Peas are not optional but a regular part of this dish.

*In our family, we buy fresh tomatoes when they are in season and cheap, and we freeze them. We do not blanch them or peel them, just toss them into the freezer. When making curry, remove two tomatoes from the freezer and, using a hand grater, grate the frozen tomatoes and add to the pot. This gives the best possible consistency to the curry gravy. We also freeze fresh jalapeno peppers or bullet chilis and grate them into dishes like sambals (below)

**See recipes below

Sambals is really the same as Mexican Salsa. Easy to make, but refrigerate a few hours before serving to allow the flavours to marry.

1 large ripe tomato
½ medium onion
1 bullet chili or ½ jalapeno pepper,
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves (coriander, dhania)
1 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation :
Mince the tomatoes and onion. Grate the chili/pepper (easiest if frozen).
Combine in non-metal bowl and add remaining ingredients. Toss well, store in fridge for at least 2 hours before serving

Raita (pronounced RYE-tuh), is an essential accompaniment to curry, especially if your mouth is sensitive to spicy hot foods. Eaten with hot foods, it cools the mouth immediately while imparting its own unique flavour.

1 cup plain yoghurt
½ cup finely chopped cucumber, skin on
¼ cup onion, minced fine (optional)

Combine ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Grandmothers’ Iowa Potato Salad

Tangy Potato Salad
When I was a girl, I was amazed that both of my grandmothers made the same potato salad…as did several of the local farm wives. It wasn’t until I was older and met a woman completely unacquainted with my family and friends who made exactly the same potato salad that I realized the connection: they were all from the MidWest, most of them from Iowa. This deliciously tangy potato salad keeps for several days and the longer it sits in the fridge, the better it gets!

If you are making boiled potatoes for dinner, throw some extra in the pot so you will have left over potatoes the next day for potato salad. This is a crowd pleaser and has found favour with everyone I have served it to.

2 lbs (1 kg) White Rose or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 medium onions
6 large eggs
Miracle Whip
French’s mustard (yellow mustard)
White Vinegar
½ small tin sliced black olives, drained (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

The night before or morning of serving day:
Cut potatoes into bite size (peeling is optional), place in large pot. Cover with cold salted water. Bring to a boil and gently boil (uncovered) until potatoes are fork tender. Drain thoroughly and set aside in colander.

Hard boil the eggs, remove shells, and set aside.

When eggs and potatoes are cool, place in bowls, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours.

Serving day:
Peel and chop onion, add to potatoes.
Cut eggs into bite sized pieces and add to potatoes.
Add olives to potatoes

In a separate bowl place 1 cup Miracle Whip, ⅓ cup prepared mustard, 1 tsp. white vinegar, and ½ tsp salt. Stir briskly and taste. The dressing should be a bit tart, but none of the three flavours should dominate. If the mustard dominates, add some more Miracle Whip; if the Miracle Whip dominates, add some more mustard; if the dressing lacks tartness, add a little vinegar.

Once the dressing is satisfactory, pour it over the potato mixture and fold in, coating the ingredients thoroughly (you may need to make more dressing if you like your potato salad “goopy”). Return the bowl to the refrigerator for at least two hours to allow the flavours to marry. Immediately before serving, sprinkle lightly with freshly ground pepper.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sumptuous Shrimp and Pasta Salad

This cold one-dish supper will be a family favourite on those hot summer nights. Do the cooking late at night or early in the morning when the kitchen is cool, then just assemble a bunch of cold ingredients at suppertime and serve! Perfect for pot lucks, picnics, or poolside dinners on those evenings when it is just too hot to cook!

Sumptuous Shrimp Salad
1 lb (500g) Rotini Pasta
1 lg bottle Bernstein's Cheese and Garlic Italian (Fat Free) salad dressing
8 to 16 oz Shelled shrimp (you can substitute cubed ham or sliced smoked chicken)
3 large Eggs

1 medium Red Bermuda onion, coarsely chopped
1 large Avocado, ripe
¼ cup Lemon juice
1/2 small can Sliced black olives
2 small jars Marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 small jar Marinated mushrooms, drained
2 ripe Tomatoes, cut into 8 wedges each
1 can Asparagus tips, chilled and drained
Parmesan cheese, grated

The night before (or early in the morning of) serving:
Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain, turn into large bowl, and add entire bottle of salad dressing. Stir well to coat the pasta, cover the bowl and put the pasta in the refrigerator.

Hard boil the eggs, shell them, and put them in the refrigerator.

Cook the shrimp: lightly salt 4 quarts water and bring to a boil. Add shrimp and bring back to a boil. Cover pot, turn off the fire, and allow to sit for no more than 5 minutes. Drain the shrimp and refrigerate.

Refrigerate all other ingredients until ready to assemble salad.

To Assemble:
Make sure pasta and ingredients have chilled for at least four hours.

Stir onion, olives, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms into pasta. Peel and cut avocado into bite-sized chunks and toss with lemon juice to prevent browning. Drain and add to pasta. Toss well.

Make a slight well in center of pasta and mound the shrimp (or ham or chicken) there. Slice eggs and place at even intervals around the shrimp on top of the pasta. Space tomato wedges and asparagus tips around shrimp. Grate Parmesan over the entire salad.

Once salad has been presented to the table, toss well to mix ingredients, and serve with more Parmesan (and/or Romano) on the side.