22 May 2009

Quick and easy salads for Memorial Day picnics

A long weekend and the weather is beautiful! I am off to MD/PA to visit some friends and a new baby. Memorial Day weekend is prime time for picnics, drinks, friends, family, and fun. As I've mentioned, I don't have much BBQ advice for you, but I can help with creating some fresh and tasty salads. BYO drinks, friends, family, and fun.

Both the salads I've shared with you below are super easy, quick to throw together, and flexible. You can use whatever veggies, nuts, or cheeses you have on hand. I've noted a few different options, but I urge you to be creative and have fun. Happy picnicking!

Couscous salad

1 cup couscous (I used whole wheat, it's just a bit heartier)
1 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
4-6 radishes, thinly sliced (or any combination of vegetables that you have)
~2 cups grape tomatoes, chopped in half
1 English cucumber, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1.5 cups chickpeas (or black beans, or cannellini beans)
1/2 cup toasted pistachios (or pine nuts)
1/2 log goat cheese, crumbled by hand (or feta cheese)
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

To make couscous, add water and 1 tbsp olive oil to a small saucepan and heat to boiling. Take off heat, stir in couscous and cover right away. Allow couscous to steam for 5-10 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork, and transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, chop the vegetables and prepare the other ingredients. Add the vegetables, herbs, chickpeas and pistachios to the bowl and stir to incorporate with the couscous. Sprinkle goat cheese on top, and dress the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Gently toss salad again. You can store the salad in the refrigerator, but it's best served at room temperature.

Spinach salad with strawberries, grapes, and bleu cheese

3-4 cups baby spinach, washed and picked over (or mixed greens, or baby arugula)
~2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
~1 cup red seedless grapes, sliced in half
~1/4 cup bleu cheese, crumbled by hand (or feta, or goat cheese, or Parmesan)
1/2 cup toasted pistachios (or walnuts, or pecans)
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Add spinach and fruit to a large bowl and toss. Sprinkle bleu cheese and pistachios over vegetables. Dress the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss gently and serve immediately (note: you can make this salad ahead of time, just wait to dress the salad right before serving).

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