Marinated Cherry Tomatoes & Herb Croutons

If you have a generous supply of cherry tomatoes and like croutons, this salad is for you. It is an adaptation of a dish we ate at a quaint sidewalk cafe while visiting Hamburg, Germany, two years ago in August (well before the Covid-19 virus). Recently, I found a similar recipe on a German food blog, “Mediterraner Brotsaladmit Tomate-Mozzarella,” which roughly translates to “Mediterranean bread salad with tomato mozzarella.” Who else would think of naming a salad, “bread salad”? I am renaming the salad with emphasis on the tomatoes. It is a great way to jazz up cherry tomatoes by adding in flavorful croutons (with Mediterranean-type herbs) made with New Orleans-style French bread. Here is my recipe variation.

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Cool Cucumbers with Sour Cream & Mint with a Yogurt Variation

I’m always looking for ways to use the endless supply of cucumbers growing in my garden. This recipe is just right on a hot summer day. It combines slices of cucumbers and white onions with a sour cream dressing. I added in just a little dried dill and fresh mint from my garden. And finally, a way to use my garden mint. For a variation, I made the recipe using non-fat plain yogurt for a healthy alternative.

Growing Mint in Louisiana Garden

Mint grows very well in a Louisiana garden; I have both peppermint and spearmint. In fact, mint is sort of like a weed and grows without any attention. The plants spread along runners and can quickly overtake a garden bed and everything in its way. On the positive side, mint grows best in a shady area of the garden–and I have several shady gardens. It is nice to step outside and pick a few aromatic leaves to add to a half-gallon of ice tea.

I don’t run across many recipes which use mint as an ingredient — cucumbers and sour cream is a good one and the mint adds a surprising and refreshing flavor. This is some of the spearmint growing in my garden.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers also grow well in Louisiana. I planted these in early April and the began to get ripe cucumbers in May. (The cucumbers are the plants in the foreground of this photo.) I always get carried away and purchase too many seedling plants — but I want to make sure I have some to harvest. Most of these cucumbers became pickles. And we pick a few every night for salads.

Recipe Ingredients

This recipe is very easy to make. Here are the ingredients for “Cool Cucumbers with Sour Cream & Mint.” I like to use smaller cucumbers, if possible, in this salad. And an onion? I like to add a small, sweet white onion. Why? Well, I love onions and this adds a flavorful contrast to the cucumbers.

To make the recipe, slice the cucumbers and onion. A mandoline slicer makes this task much easier and the cucumbers come out evenly sliced. I especially like the hand holder on the slicer — it prevents your fingers from getting nicked, too. How many times has that happened?

Should you peel the cucumbers? Cucumbers purchased at a grocery store are sometimes waxed for longer preservation. These should definitely be pared (or peeled). And for cucumbers from a garden or farmer’s market, peeling them is optional. Towards the end of the season when the cucumbers are larger with many seeds, I prefer to peel them and hollow out the seeds. I find that paring also helps remove the bitter taste which is sometimes found with cucumbers late in the season which were subjected to dry growing conditions.

Yogurt Variation

I made a tasty variation to this salad using non-fat plain yogurt replacing the sour cream. I added a little olive oil to the dressing. It makes a very healthy and low-fat alternative and tasted just as good. Couldn’t tell the difference.

Here’s “Cool Cucumbers with Sour Cream & Mint.” This is a flavorful way to use cucumbers. In the summer months, when cucumbers are easily found in farmers markets and grocery stores, its a good time to use fresh vegetables.

Cool Cucumbers with Sour Cream & Mint with a Yogurt Variation

  • Servings: 4 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 2 medium cucumbers (12 oz or 2 cups peeled and sliced)
  • 1 small sweet, white onion
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain non-fat yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (omit if using sour cream)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely torn, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp dried dill seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Method and Steps:

  1. Wash the cucumbers and remove any rough nubs. Cut off about 1/4 inch from each end and discard., If desired, pare skin from cucumbers and hollow out removing seeds.
  2. Using mandoline slicer, slice cucumber into thin slices. Place in medium size bowl. Set aside.
  3. Peel onion, slice thinly using mandoline slicer, separate into individual rings and add to cucumbers, alternating layers.
  4. In small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients–sour cream, dill, finely minced mint and salt. (If using non-fat plain yogurt, add olive oil.)
  5. Pour dressing over cucumber and onion slices, carefully toss to combine.
  6. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, place in refrigerator and chill for several hours.
  7. Prior to serving, remove from refrigerator and garnish with fresh mint.

Marinated Zucchini, Black Bean and Tomato Salad

My backyard garden is doing great this year. The star performers are my zucchini plants. I have an abundance of this vegetable and I’ve tried out a number of recipes. This quick and easy summer salsa is a tasty way to serve zucchini. No cooking is involved — just slice and dice, combine the ingredients and marinate. The raw zucchini has a mild flavor and blends well in this dish. It’s a very healthy recipe and good way to include vegetables in meals. Continue reading

Cookin’ in the Kitchen: Carrot Salad with Golden Raisins & Pineapple

A recent survey showed that carrots are our country’s third most popular vegetable after corn and potatoes. (I wonder if this could refer to raw carrots rather than cooked carrots?) I do remember that carrot sticks were packed in practically every brown bag lunch that I ever ate when growing up. I can’t say that I loved the carrots, but I did tolerate them. Recently, Marie made a delightful carrot salad which is a delicious way to serve this vegetable. Marie’s recipe combines carrots with golden raisins and pineapple for a flavorful combination. And I used pre-shredded carrots to make this an easy “one-bowl” recipe. So while we are cookin’ at home, here is an easy variation of Marie’s recipe.

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Cookin’ in the Kitchen: Easy Classic Coleslaw

While we are “cookin’ in the kitchen” and staying home rather than eating out in restaurants, let’s make coleslaw. This vegetable salad is very nutritious and we all need to try to boost the Vitamin A and C content of our meals to keep up immune resistance. Plus, my husband declares that this is the best coleslaw that he has eaten. We decided that this is due to a “secret ingredient.” The recipe has a couple of twists and is easy to make in one bowl without any fuss. Continue reading

Saucy Brussels Sprouts

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and it is time to bring out favorite and traditional family recipes. Brussels spouts is a vegetable which matures in the autumn and is often featured in Thanksgiving menus spreads of food magazines. My recipe for “Saucy Brussels Sprouts” is a family favorite which we have served for years. The recipe originated in the Parade Magazine of the Washington Post newspaper. It is very easy to prepare and includes boiled Brussels sprouts served with a creamy sauce.

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Sweet Potato “Fries”

When the very nutritious vegetable, the sweet potato, is cooked perfectly, it is tender yet still a little crisp with a wonderful sweet flavor. I have decided that it is actually a little tricky to cook sweet potatoes properly.  But I think I found the prefect sweet potato fry in a restaurant in Breckenridge, Colorado, of all places. We recently visited this very upscale restaurant with a James Beard Chef winner on the staff. The sweet potatoes were cooked and served immaculately. I came home to try to duplicate their recipe.

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The Secret to Southern Fried Okra

Let’s cook fresh okra. It’s time to take advantage of this vegetable which is plentiful the summertime in the South and is easily grown in a garden here. I’ve discovered several delicious ways to fix okra since moving to Louisiana. “Southern Fried Okra” is one of those iconic recipes. My recipe is easy — using common household ingredients. It is crunchy and perfectly seasoned. The breading actually sticks to the okra for the most part. You may not want to purchase commercially breaded okra after eating this recipe. Give it a try!

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Creamed Sweet Peas and Bits of Trivia with My Stories

I really can’t remember a Sunday dinner meal when I was growing up without creamed sweet peas especially during the summer months. It was truly a farm to table dish because the peas were picked from my parent’s very large garden that morning and served at the noon meal. Fresh creamed sweet peas have a delicious flavor that can’t be described. You have to shell and cook some yourself to get the idea. When I found sweet peas at the Shenandoah Valley farmers market in June, I had to purchase some to cook.

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Roast Eggplant with Garlic and Zahtar

Here’s an easy recipe for a small batch of eggplant — “Roast Eggplant with Garlic and Zahtar.” Eggplant grows well in a Louisiana garden and I needed ideas to cook a few at a time as they ripened in the hot summer heat. One of my favorite eggplant dishes is served at a local Lebanese and Greek cafe. It consists of sauteed eggplant which is doused in lemon juice and garlic. The soft eggplant pulp blends with the spices perfectly and it is another “melt in your mouth” eggplant recipe. Thought I’d try to make a variation with my garden eggplant.

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