A lemony cucumber salad is the perfect antidote to a brutally hot day. And, with July nearly here, the temperature (at least in NY) is forecast to soar well into the 90s! This salad is cool, refreshing, and you don’t have to cook anything. It’s also ready in about five minutes. So, it’s great when you have a bad case of the hungries and don’t want to wait a long time to eat (look further down the page for tips on making this a full meal).
I made my cucumber salad with romaine lettuce, English cucumber (the long seedless kind), fresh lemon juice, and dill. If you use the English cucumber, you don’t have to peel it; which is a welcome extra shortcut. I used dried dill, but fresh is even better, if you have some.
On the other hand, if you would rather have a meal that’s a bit heartier, toss in some sort of extra protein. You could add a sliced hardboiled egg, a bit of crumbled feta or goat cheese, or even shredded leftover chicken. With the protein, the recipe as written is enough for lunch. If you want to have it for dinner, double the quantities of everything.
Ever get stumped by what to do with leftover steak? Steaks aren’t sold for one person, generally. The portions are too big! It’s not enough for another steak dinner, and too much to toss without guilt.
You could make a steak sandwich, or try something a bit different and toss it into a steak salad. Add some veggies, goat cheese, and a homemade red wine vinaigrette and you’ve got a delicious dinner without any cooking. Cold leftover steak salad is the perfect solution for hot summer days when the thought of turning on the stove is too much to bear.
This recipe is inspired by a steak salad on Food Network. I liked the basic idea, but wasn’t about to buy three kinds of greens, extra red onions, or bleu cheese (since bleu cheese and I don’t get along). I used just one kind of lettuce (green leaf) instead and swapped the bleu cheese for herbed goat cheese.
This is best with leftover steak (since it’s already cold), but you can pan fry a small piece if you want and let it rest (or chill in the fridge) while you do something else. Use the rest for a steak sandwich or in a stir fry.
One of the things I like about cooking is that you can take one recipe or meal and transform it into something else entirely. For example, this vegetarian eggplant sandwich is a variation on the sabich sandwich eaten in Iraq and Israel. First, I made another batch of the Israeli salad recipe from two weeks ago (the original way, with lemon and bell pepper instead of the mint and lime), and then I added pita, fried eggplant, hummus, spinach, and a hard boiled egg.
And voila! A side dish is now a full meal. The spinach isn’t traditional, but I had some handy and I figured it would go well with the other ingredients.
It makes a great lunch (or light dinner), without a lot of fussing. You hard boil the egg, fry the eggplant and onion, and then just stuff everything into the pita. You can even follow local tradition and eat it for breakfast on a weekend morning; it has eggs, it must be breakfast food).
Some versions of this sandwich use Israeli pickles and pickled mango sauce. These are both probably delicious, but I didn’t add them because I hate buying large containers of ingredients only to use a few spoonfuls. If you don’t mind that, or plan to eat a lot of sandwiches, you can find both on Amazon.
Vegetarian sandwich with eggplant, hard boiled egg, hummus, and chopped Israeli salad.
three slices eggplant, cut into strips
pinch or two of kosher salt (to draw out the moisture from the eggplant)
hard boiled egg
2-3T olive oil
2 tsp onion, diced
handful spinach (optional)
2 T persian/israeli salad (cukes, tomatoes, onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, optional bell peppers, cut into tiny pieces; the full recipe is here)
2 T hummus
one pocket pita bread
Salt the eggplant and let it sit while you boil the egg.
Fill a small saucepan (preferably enamel or stainless steel) with water and add the egg. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the egg for 12 minutes (right out of the fridge, 10 if it was sitting on the counter for a while).
Remove the egg from the pan with a large slotted spoon and hold it under cold running water (or plunge it into an ice bath). The shell will come off more easily if it's cold.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the eggplant. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-8 minutes.
Now add the spinach, if using, and cook for one minute until it wilts.
Remove the eggplant mixture from the heat.
Peel the egg and cut it into slices.
Cut open the pita, and add the spinach.
Add eggplant mixture, egg, salad, and hummus in layers.
Substitutions and Variations for Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich
Add the pickles and the mangos
Layer in some tahini sauce
Shred some cabbage and put that between the layers
Include bell pepper (about one mini pepper) in the Israeli salad
Chopped Israeli salad isn’t quite what you might assume. It doesn’t have lettuce or carrots. It’s not even eaten when you’d expect. Israeli salad isn’t for lunch or dinner. Instead people eat it for breakfast with eggs, hummus, pita bread, fish, and olives. Not being much of a standard American breakfast person, I approve!
Of course, all of those things make a great lunch too, especially on a hot day whenyou don’t want to get anywhere near a stove or an oven. I adapted this recipe from a comment on Tori Avery’s web site.
She had a recipe for Israeli salad, and a commenter, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, pointed out that there’s a Persian version called “salad e-shirazi.”
She said it calls for red onion and parsley (neither of which I had). However, I did decide to follow her suggestion and use lime juice instead of lemon juice and add mint.
Make sure to use either Persian cucumbers or English cucumbers (rather than the standard kind). The Persian (or mini) cucumbers are shorter and thinner than standard cucumbers and usually sold in sealed packages. The English (or hothouse) cucumbers are the long, skinny ones individually wrapped in plastic wrap.
They’re easier to cut up and you don’t have to peel them! Also, the standard cukes tend to be more bitter.
I cut everything up, mixed it together, and left it out on the counter for a couple of hours (there’s nothing to spoil quickly) so that the flavors would blend.Also, if you put tomatoes in the fridge, they start to lose their flavor.
You can serve this salad with the pita and etc. I mentioned above for a light meal or as a side dish with a sandwich or some eggs. You can make plain scrambled eggs, a frittata, or keep the Persian theme going and serve it with Persian eggs. I added about 1/4 C of eggplant I had left over (recipe here and it’s even for one person).
There’s no picture of the eggs because I was hungry and started eating before I remembered to take one!
You can squeeze the lime with your hands, but it’s a bit messy. It’s much easier (and neater) to use a reamer instead. And since it’s made by Oxo, it’s comfortable to use. Tip: Leave the fruit out to get to room temperature (or zap it in the microwave for 5 seconds). It will juice more easily.
You can use a sharp knife to cut up your salad, but it’s even easier with a salad chopper. The double blades chop the salad, veggies, cheese, etc into tiny little pieces. And it takes a lot less effort. Just rock your hand back and forth.
It’s too hot to do much cooking, but this Mixed Greens Egg Potato and Chicken Salad doesn’t require too much time standing over the stove. You only have to boil the egg and the potato. You can use leftover chicken if you have it, or grab a rotisserie chicken from the market.
I call it (in my head) Fairway Market salad, because that’s where I got the idea. It’s pretty flexible, but the constants (at least for me), are the chicken, spinach (and/or mixed greens), boiled potato, and hard boiled egg.
You can change it to suit your own tastes or whatever you have in the fridge.
Since it was too hot to roast a chicken, I got a rotisserie chicken and used that for my salad. If you want it vegetarian, or don’t have a cooked chicken, you can leave it out. On a cooler day, make an extra chicken thigh and season it with lemon, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. I adapted the salad dressing recipe from Ina Gartner.
Spinach Egg Potato and Chicken Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
A healthy, summery salad, full of veggies. This is flexible, so add different vegetables, nuts, bacon, or cheese to suit your taste (and what's in your fridge).
One to two large handfuls mixed greens and/or spinach leaves (washed thoroughly and patted dry)
One large egg
One small potato
1/4 cucumber, sliced
4-5 grape tomatoes, sliced in half (or one small beefsteak tomato, sliced in wedges)
1-2 slices prosciutto or cooked bacon (optional)
3-4 sugar snap peas (string removed and cut up into chunks)
1/3 C shredded cooked chicken
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp chopped garlic
2 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 T olive oil
Cut the potato into chunks, and add them to a small pan filled with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes.
While the potato is cooking, fill a small enamel pan with water and add the egg. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Once it's boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes (use the longer time if the egg is right out of the fridge). Remove the egg, and rinse it under cold running water to stop the cooking process and make it easier to peel.
When the potato cubes are done, strain them, and rinse under cold water (so you don't have a hot potato in your cold salad).
Now, add the greens, cucumber, tomatoes, bacon or prosciutto, snap peas, and whatever other veggies you like, to a large bowl. Add the chicken.
Mix together the mustard, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
Gradually add the olive oil, stirring with a whisk or a fork so that it blends together.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss it.
If you're lazy, you can cook the potato and the egg in the same pan. Remove the egg after 10-12 minutes of simmering. Let the potato cook another 10 minutes. This way, there's only one pan to wash instead of two.
Substitutions and Variations for Mixed Greens Egg Potato and Chicken Salad
Make the dressing with lemon juice instead of vinegar
Add some whole or sliced almonds
Top with grated parmesan or manchego cheese
Cook a couple of slices of bacon and crumble them over the top
We’re all familiar with the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You can use crunchy or smooth peanut butter, preserves sweetened with sugar, or the kind sweetened only with fruit juice. You can even get them pre-made! It’s classic American childhood food, and it’s comforting.
This peanut butter sandwich is not so familiar. It comes with a twist. Now, you may think I’m nuts (sorry), but try this experiment. Replace the jam on your sandwich with thinly sliced cucumber.
Then, substitute rye bread for the classic white bread. You want the kind of rye that’s got a good crust and seeds. I’ve seen rye that’s more like dark whole wheat. That just won’t do.
Suddenly, your old-fashioned childhood sandwich is much more sophisticated. The cucumber adds a slight sweetness and crunch which complements the salty, smooth peanut butter beautifully.
My mom invented this sandwich long ago and it’s become a family favorite.
You don’t really need a formal recipe for this (any more than you need one for old-fashioned PB and J). All you need is some peanut butter, real rye bread (the kind with seeds and a crust), and a cucumber.
In this case, I used a hothouse English cucumber, so I didn’t have to bother to peel it, but the regular kind is fine.
Salmon with Greek yogurt dill sauce is a great combination. The piquancy of the Greek yogurt complements the rich flavor of the fish beautifully. A pinch of mustard gives it a bit of a bite, without overwhelming the rest of the dish.
The other great thing about this dinner is that it’s quick and easy to make. Just mix a few simple ingredients for the sauce (which uses ingredients you probably already have, so no need for a special trip to the grocery store), season the salmon, and put the fish in the oven while the sauce flavors combine.
I’ve written the recipe for a toaster oven (since I don’t want to heat up the whole apartment), but you can make this in a standard oven too. Or, if you’re really pressed for time (or very hungry), you can cook it in your microwave. If you do, once the sauce is made and the fish is seasoned, you can have dinner in 6 minutes.
It’s a quick meal that looks (and tastes) like you cooked for hours. And, it’s easy to scale this up and serve it when you have company.
If you have the time, do let the sauce sit for a while before you cook everything else. It really does improve the flavor.
I served the salmon with some jasmine rice (which is my new favorite rice), the rest of the cucumber I used for the sauce (fresh from the farmer’s market), and some beautiful, ripe Jersey tomatoes.
It’s a great summer meal because it’s light, doesn’t require a lot of fussing, and it’s ready in a few minutes. And, since you’re cooking the dish in foil, there’s one less thing to wash when you’re finished (which is always a bonus, as far as I’m concerned).
Add all the sauce ingredients (using half the cucumber) to a small bowl and mix together. It's best if it sits for an hour or two so that the flavors blend together. If you don't have the time (or you're really hungry), just let it sit while you cook the salmon.
If you're letting the sauce marinate, wait forty minutes and then start the salmon. If not, then start once you've finished mixing the sauce.
Heat your toaster oven to 350 degrees.
Place the salmon skin side down on a sheet of aluminum foil. Pour the wine over the fish, add the bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the fish in the foil and place it on the toaster oven's baking tray. Cook for 20-25 minutes, depending on how thick your salmon fillet is. The fish is done when it's an even pale pink color.
Serve with the sauce and top with the remaining cucumber.
If you're in a hurry, you can also cook the salmon in a microwave. Place the fish on a microwave proof plate. Add the wine, bay leaf, and salt and pepper. Microwave 4-6 minutes.
If you don't have an open bottle of white wine, you can use chicken stock instead.