House Dressing

Several years ago, I found a basic oil and vinegar salad dressing recipe that has just stuck for us – it’s become our house dressing. It’s fantastic on any green salad, pasta salad (as pictured), or as a marinade on chicken. Simple and delicious- two requirements in my kitchen these days.

Un-Way House Dressing
adapted from All Recipes and Simply Recipes

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives or green onions (~ 2 green onions)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1-2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon parmesan or 2 Tablespoons crumbled feta

Mix ingredients together in a container with a tightly fitting lid. Shake very well and let sit for at least half and hour before serving. In my experience, it keeps well up to two weeks in the refrigerator (and probably longer, if you can keep from eating it!).

To make this a cream dressing, add a tablespoon of mayonnaise. I usually add another half teaspoon of sugar but taste it for yourself and add sugar according to your preference.

And the Winner is…

I first had quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) a few years ago at a work potluck. I think it’s become more mainstream since then, and we have slowly introduced it into our diet in rotation with our regular rice, couscous or barley side dishes. I love grain salads in summer, and the first time we made this Jeff and I both knew we had an absolute hit. I’ve made this for four batches of company this summer, and the rave reviews keep coming. It was, therefore, pretty easy to name this recipe our #1 salad of Summer 2012.

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Squash, Basil, Cranberries and Lemon Vinaigrette
adapted from Sweet Sugar Bean blog & updated September 2017
serves 6-8 as a side dish

1 small* butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2 chunks
~ 2 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed very well
1 cup water or chicken broth
1/4-1/3 cup pecans or almonds, chopped and toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries (or a few handfuls until the ratio looks right!)
2 green onions, diced
handful of fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon (to make 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 1/2 Tbsp. maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and chop the squash, then toss it into a shallow casserole. Add olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper; mix well so each piece of squash is coated. Roast for 15 minutes; remove from oven and sprinkle with brown sugar. Return to oven for another 10 minutes or until squash is cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. *If the squash is large, I cube the whole thing and freeze half.

To cook quinoa, rinse it very well, drain it, and place it in a saucepan with water/chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine cooled cooked quinoa and roasted squash (along with syrup created by the brown sugar) along with the nuts, cranberries, green onions, basile and lemon zest. If you’re not serving right away, keep the nuts aside and add them right before serving so they stay crunchy. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and maple syrup then pouring it over the quinoa mixture individually then stir well to combine. The final salad is lovely served either cold or at room temperature and keeps very well in the fridge for a few days so I usually make it ahead of time, adding the nuts just before service.

I have also found it easy to increase the salad for larger groups or to scale up according to the size of squash. As long as you keep the amounts of maple syrup, lemon juice and olive oil equal in the dressing, it always works out well. While the salad in the photo below shows almonds, after making this MANY times since 2012, we have developed a slight preference for toasted pecans.



It’s all Greek to me

When I asked Jeff for his favourite new salad of the summer, he reminded me of one that I make every few weeks. I can’t believe I forgot about ελληνική σαλάτα (pronounced ellinikí saláta, which means Greek Salad) as it consistently remains near the top of our list of favourites. It’s very simple, fresh and easy and delicious- that makes it a total winner for me, and the second best salad our countdown.

Big Fat Greek Salad
From the Greek Grandma of my friend Noula and Better Homes & Gardens, August 1997 issue
serves ~4 as a side salad

2-3 large tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 cup (or can) of Kalamata Olives
1 small block of feta cheese.
as much red onion as you like
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano (or 2 tsp. fresh)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and feta cheese into 1 inch cubes and combine in a serving bowl (I dice the onions smaller because I’m not a big fan of red onion). Add the salt, pepper and oregano; drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and stir well to combine. I usually leave it sit at room temperature for an hour before serving, but you can serve immediately as well.

New Take on Coleslaw

Coleslaw is not the first thing that comes to mind when I’m thinking about making a salad. Jeff and I both like traditional coleslaw… but we don’t seem to go out of our way for it. Until now. This “new” coleslaw, with mango and another fantastic dressing, is becoming a regular repeat around here. While this comes in at #3 on our list of new favourite summer salads, I expect that we’ll see it often through the winter as well.

photo courtesy of Sweet Sugar Bean

Mango Coleslaw with Maple Lime Dressing
Adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi
serves 6 as a side salad

2 Tbsp. lime juice (~1 lime)
zest of 1 lime
4 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sriracha sauce or chili garlic sauce
3 Tbsp. vegetable, olive or grape seed oil
salt to taste
1/2 head red cabbage, finely shredded
7 leaves of Napa cabbage, finely shredded
1 mango, cut into thin strips
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/4 cup fresh mint, shredded
1/2 cups fresh cilantro, shredded
1/2 cups fresh basil, shredded
1  Tbsp.  diced jalapeno (optional)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Combine the lime juice, lime zest, maple syrup, sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha, vegetable oil and salt in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake it like the dickens. In a large bowl, combine the salad ingredients. Add the dressing and toss well. Adjust seasonings and garnish with roasted peanuts.

* I often use leftover dressing to make Summery Beef Fajitas

Peachy Keen

We LOVE peaches, and there is no better time to eat them than in August when they are fresh off the tree. We’re lucky here on the Island to get a great supply of super fresh Okanagan peaches, and this salad with it’s out of this world dressing has become a new favourite.

Summer Green Salad with Peaches and Moroccan Spiced Peach Dressing
Adapted from A Farm Girl’s Dabbles blog
Dressing yield: 3/4 cup


Dressing: Puree the following ingredients in a blender. If it is too thick, thin out with a few tablespoons of milk. I usually make this dressing a few hours before serving and store the leftovers for up to two weeks in the fridge.

1 large ripe peach, peeled, pit removed, and diced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2  Tbsp. honey
zest of one lime
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice (~ 1 lime)
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Salad: This dressing is excellent on a mixture of torn fresh salad greens, diced red onion, crumbled feta or goat cheese, toasted almonds and grilled (as in the photo above) or fresh peaches.

Summer Countdown

We have eaten a lot of salad over the past two months. Summer on Vancouver Island is typically short, in between spring and fall rains. This year, summer was a six week heat wave; while we greatly enjoyed the sun and 30+ degree temperatures, there were more than a few nights when a cold supper was our preference. I repeated a number of our favourite salads (like the  Grain, Bean & Mango SaladAsian Cabbage Salad  and Tomato Salad already featured here), but also challenged myself to try a few new recipes. Some weren’t so great, and some have already been repeated several times.

To celebrate this final week of summer, this week on the blog I’m going to count down our five favourite new salads from 2012. Here is #5:

Cucumber Salad with Coconut, Peanuts and Lime
adapted from Karen Barnaby
serves 4 as a side salad

1 Tbsp shredded coconut
1 Tbsp boiling water
1 English cucumber, finely chopped
juice and zest of 1 lime
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped

In a small bowl, combine coconut and boiling water. Mix and set aside to cool (the coconut will absorb the water and takes ~30 minutes to cool). While this cools, chop cucumber and add lime juice and zest, pepper flakes, salt, sugar and olive oil.

Just before serving, mix in the coconut and peanuts. Enjoy!

Salmon #11 Pasta Salad

After making Cedar Plank Salmon, we had leftovers. Jeff and I usually divide leftovers up for our lunches, but with a few 30 degree days here, I seized the opportunity to try a salmon pasta salad recipe (any supper that does not require further heating up the house on a hot day is a good thing). It was really fresh and delicious- something will will definitely make next time we have leftover cooked salmon. 

Summer Pasta Salad with Salmon
a hybrid of recipes from Food Tastes YummyAll Recipes and Simply Recipes
serves ~4 for main course

3 cups of cooked pasta
2 green onions, chopped1/2 cucumber, quartered and diced
1/2 cup of yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup of black olives
1 avocado, diced
1 salmon fillet, cooked through and flaked (about 1 cup)


1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
salt & pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
l2 Tablespoons of both fresh parsley and chives, finely chopped

Mix together dressing ingredients in a glass jar and set aside. Combine salad ingredients and toss with dressing to your taste (I used a little less than half). The leftover dressing will keep well in the fridge and is excellent on a simple tossed green salad.