Thursday, March 23, 2006

Culinary School Drop-Out Series: Summer Salads 101

I decided to start a series of posts about my attempts (and failures) at making new dishes, without the help of a recipe! But, this will just be my own Franken-experimentation. I'm no professional. In fact, I am far from it! My cooking level is comparable to that of a culinary school drop-out. But, I'm willing to learn, and most importantly, willing to improve!

Yesterday, I was casually shopping at Costco, when I had this overpowering desire for a crazy-cool salad. I made my way to the "refrigerated salads aisle," where I was overwhelmed by cellophane bags filled with pounds of packaged lettuce. The different salad varieties were stacked so high on the shelves, they were touching the frosty ceiling of the cavernous salads section.

Hmm. No thanks. Today, I am going to keep it simple. I decided on making a light potato salad and a cucumber salad with a citrus vinagrette.

First up, was the light potato salad.

After boiling and draining a sizeable pot of cubed Russet potatoes into a metal colander, I immediately added a hearty helping of chopped Vidala onions. I wanted for the tangy flavor from the onions to melt into the salad, and be fully absorbed by the hot potato sponges.

Usually when I make potato salad, I use generous, overflowing tablespoons of mayonnaise. This time, I wanted a healthier, but equally pleasing alternative. Thus, the "alternative" binding agent was a cooling, reduced fat yogurt with just a tiny bit of mayonnaise and dijon mustard. To the potato salad, I added boiled egg yolks pre-smashed with a sturdy fork, diced boiled egg whites, a hefty sprinkling of chopped, flat-leaf parsley, freshly ground black pepper, and brunoised (tiny dices of) celery stalks. The salad was topped off with a flavorful and generous shake from the salt container.

One taste proved that this new potato salad combo was "interesting." Much lighter and tangier than my regular potato salad made with sweet pickle relish and "a lotta mayo," but, it worked.

I then moved onto the next salad. I started with firm rods of vacuum-wrapped English cucumbers, briefly rinsed and diced into bite-sized cubes.

Although I originally wanted to use red onions, sweet Vidalia onions provided a muted, but zesty crunch, and were an agreeable-enough alternative to my first choice of purple-skinned onions.

Next, I wanted acidity, which was provided by freshly-squeezed citrus juice and zest and balsamic vinegar. To that mouth-puckering combination, I added dried flakes of oregano, and a heavy drizzle of honey.

A sample of the final result, and yum! Not bad! Could use some tweaking, but overall, I was one happy salad eater!


  1. This comments section seems awfully lonely PE. Just commenting to make you feel special.

  2. hey that looks healthy and good. i like cooking with hothouse/english cucumbers. they are really good for making chinese and korean side dishes with chili paste and garlic.

  3. Thank you Stanley Unlimited! The comments section was indeed lonely.

    I love the fact that you don't have to peel them, and they feel pretty clean once you take them out of the plastic wrap Eat, Drink, & Be Merry!


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