Tabbouleh is the perfect summer farmers market dish – fresh herbs and vegetables tossed with fine grains for a fresh, cool salad. But has always been underwhelming to me. Too bland, too dry, I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to love it, but never had.
Until a conversation at a party about family recipes. A lovely woman from Mississippi was telling me about some of her family’s traditional Lebanese dishes, filtered through generations in the Missisippi Delta. She mentioned in passing that her family always soak the bulgur in lemon juice. That idea stuck with me as a way to pep up the dish. And it does. This version of tabbouleh is bright with lemon juice, really tart and unique. I love lots of fresh herbs, but have added a few spices for a little flair. So now I like tabbouleh – my way. I make this for parties and cook outs, but also just to keep a bowl in the fridge for quick lunches and snacks.
But here’s the thing about tabbouleh. This is my blueprint, lifted from someone else’s recipe. You can do what you want. More tomatoes or cucumbers, no garlic, a little chopped hot pepper. What you find at your market or in the garden. I do offer some hints. I like to give my knife and board a workout and finely chop all the ingredients, so each bite has a good mix of flavors, rather than a big chunk of tomato or cucumber or a big parsley leaf. With all the lemony tang, I’ve never really thought this needed salt, but do as you will.
Summer Market Tabbouleh
½ cup fine bulgur wheat
¼ cup lemon juice
2 plum tomatoes
1 cucumber, seed scooped out
1 green onions, white and light green parts
1 small garlic clove
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon sumac
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coriander
Place the bulgur in a bowl. Then mix the lemon juice and ¾ cup water in a pan and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the bulgur and give it a good stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.
While the bulgur is soaking, finely chop the tomato, cucumber, green onions and place in a large bowl. Pass the garlic clove through a press into the bowl, or chop it to a fine paste on a board and add it. Finely chop the herbs and add to the bowl. Add the olive oil, sumac, cinnamon and coriander to the bowl and stir well to blend everything. Set aside.
When the fifteen minutes have passed, uncover the bulgur and fluff with a fork. If there is any liquid in the bowl or the bulgur seems wet, place it on a fine sieve and press out any liquid. Return to the bowl and fluff with the fork. Leave the bulgur to cool for about 5 minutes.
Scrape the bulgur into the tomato cucumber mix and use a fork to mix everything together, breaking up any clumps in the bulgur and scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl again and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld.
Serves 4 as a side dish, easily doubles.
Watermelon and mint are a classic summer pairing. I love it in a sorbet or a sweet tea drink. But basil is a great match with melon as well, so I worked up this sweet pesto, with the herby, grassiness of basil and a little undernote of mint. It really is a fresh taste of the summer garden.
Serve the watermelon however you like – in thin wedges, big chunks or pretty balls. Toss it as a salad or drizzle over pieces. The pesto is also good on other melons and fruits.
Watermelon With Sweet Pesto
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup neutral flavored oil, like grapeseed or canola
1 small watermelon
Put the basil, mint, confectioners’ sugar and lemon jusice in the bowl of a food processor (I like to use a small one) and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil until well blended.
The watermelon is up to you – wedges, balls, rough chunks. Drizzle with the pesto before serving.
Store the pesto in a jar in the fridge for up to a day. Shake well before serving.
As the weather really starts to heat up, a cool summer supper salad is a great thing to have in the fridge. Chicken salad is perfect picnic or party food, great for a weekend at the lake or lunch by the pool. I love a good chicken salad and make many different versions depending on the occasion and the mood. I like chunky chicken, crunch, texture and color – something interesting and intriguing, so this recipe has become a favorite.
This savory – sweet recipe is unique and distinctive and will spice up your regular summer menu. It’s lighter and healthier with Greek yogurt, which still adds richness and tang and the fresh herbs give it zing and brightness. Traditional Moroccan spices are what set this iteration apart, and the herbs, apricots and carrots make this a colorful addition to any summer table.
Moroccan Chicken Salad
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
6 dried apricots, finely chopped
¼ cup shredded carrots
Preheat the oven to 350°. Squeeze half of one lemon into a baking dish that just fits the chicken. Lay the chicken on top, and squeeze the other half of the juice over it. Tuck the spent lemon halves in between the chicken. Slice the other lemon into thin slices and lay over the chicken breasts. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until the chicken is cooked through, with an internal temperature of 165°, about 30 minutes. Uncover the dish and leave the chicken in the liquid until cool. Chop the chicken into small, bite size cubes.
Mix the yogurt and spices together in a large bowl. Stir in the mint and parsley until thoroughly combined. Add the chicken, almonds, apricots and carrots and gently fold everything together until the yogurt evenly coats all the chicken and the ingredients are evenly distributed. Refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld. The chicken salad will keep covered in the fridge for two days.
Comeback Sauce is, according to my research, a specialty of Jackson, Mississippi. It apparently originated in Greek restaurants and is now found on restaurant tables all over the city. It really hasn’t made its way up to Memphis, but as you meander through the Delta, you do find in on some restaurant menus. That’s where I discovered it. And of course it shows up in community cookbooks in many forms with many uses.
Comeback sauce is a great dip for chicken tenders or fried catfish, but pairs wonderfully with big, juicy Gulf shrimp as the centerpiece dip in a Southern shrimp cocktail. I frequently serve it with shrimp that I smoke in rigged-up stove top or grill smoker. I had in mind sharing a shrimp remoulade recipe as a nice, cool summer salad. Then it occurred to me that I could make it a little more regional by using a comeback sauce dressing, and I haven’t turned back. The flavor of the sauce is so punchy, that I only add a little celery and some capers to the shrimp for crunch. Use beautiful wild-caught American shrimp – I prefer big chunks of juicy shrimp, but feel free to cut smaller pieces. I suppose you could use pre-cooked shrimp, but this beer boil does add a nice zing.
You can serve this on lettuce to be eaten straight up, but it makes a great filling for a po’ boy. Kind of a redneck lobster roll.
Comeback Shrimp Salad
For the Shrimp:
3 pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off
12 ounce bottle beer
1 lemon, quartered
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
3 celery stalks
2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
For the Comeback Sauce:
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons chili sauce
1 Tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
dash hot sauce
1 garlic clove
¼ a small white onion or a small shallot
½ teaspoon salt
several grinds of black pepper
For the Shrimp:
Place the beer, 2 cups of water, the lemon, peppercorns, mustard seeds and bay leaves in a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Bring the liquid to a boil, drop in the shrimp, then cover the pot and remove from the heat. Leave the shrimp for about 5 minutes, then remove the lid. The shrimp should be nice, pink and curled now. Leave them in the liquid, uncovered, for a further ten minutes. Remove from the cooking liquid and drain. I usually do this with tongs – you don’t want peppercorns or mustard seeds stuck to the shrimp when you make the salad.
Cut the shrimp into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. String the celery and cut it into a very fine dice and add to the bowl. Add the capers and toss to combine.
For the Sauce:
Place all the Comeback Sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and combined.
Pour the sauce over the shrimp and gently fold everything together until thoroughly coated with sauce. Cover and refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors combine. The salad can be made one day ahead.
It’s always nice to whip up a simple, homemade dressing for a salad, and this one is really special. A little sweet from the berries with the nice summery hit of mint. And it’s a great way to use up some berries lingering in the fridge. I love it on a salad of fresh butter lettuce tossed with slice strawberries, salty feta or goat cheese and crunchy pecans. It also goes well with spinach, and is a nice dressing for a fruit salad too.
Strawberry Mint Vinaigrette
8 ounces hulled strawberries
1 small shallot, peeled and quartered
6 – 7 fresh mint leaves
¼ cup honey
¼ cup white wine or champagne vinegar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup vegetable oil
Place everything but the oil in the carafe of a blender and blend until completely smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a nice, emulsified dressing. Store the vinaigrette in a jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to three days in the fridge. Shake well before using
Makes about 2 cups
Part of the joy of Thanksgiving for me is the leftovers. I cook a turkey bigger than my family could ever eat on the day, I make huge amounts of dressing, I even cram some in a loaf pan to bake so it can be sliced to fit on a sandwich. My shopping lists include good bread, cheese and condiments for next day sandwiches. I’ve made Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam and Rosemary Pear Butter months ahead to spread on those sandwiches. After the fun of a formal meal, it’s nice to gather the next day (usually at someone else’s house, lucky me) very casually, in jeans and comfy sweaters, to enjoy our own sandwich creations.
If the leftovers are a big part of your tradition, or if you have guests around the house through the weekend, add this salad to your plans. As long as you are buying (and peeling) all those sweet potatoes for the big meal, it’s worth the little extra effort to have this stashed in the fridge. It is an absolute dream next to a turkey sandwich, better than a bag of chips, and looks like you really went that extra mile. Earthy sweet potatoes, crunchy pecans, tart cranberries and rich maple syrup create a symphony of fall flavor. If your fridge is full to bursting, you can store this in a ziptop bag in a crisper drawer to take up less room.
A word about process. Don’t be tempted to do that TV chef-y thing and put the potato cubes directly on the baking sheet, casually drizzle over oil and roast. When you do that, there is inevitably too much oil, and the potatoes steam rather than roast, so they don’t get those nice, crisp edges, but are mushy and soft. Lightly toss the potatoes with a small amount of oil in a bowl, rubbing around with your hands to get a little coating on each cube, then lift the potatoes out of the bowl onto a baking sheet (I line mine with non-stick foil for easy cleaning), leaving any extra oil behind. I do this with all my roasted vegetables,
Autumn Sweet Potato Salad
2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)
1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
¼ cup maple syrup (grade B amber)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 – 4 fresh sage leaves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Ground black pepper
4 green onions, white and some dark green parts, finely chopped
2/3 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
2/3 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½ inch pieces. You want them to be bite-sized and roughly the same size so they roast evenly. Toss the potato cubes with the 2 Tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Use your hands to make sure every potato cube has just a slick of oil on it. Lift the potatoes out of the bowl onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast them for 25 – 30 minutes, until a knife easily slides into a potato piece. You want them to be cooked through but not mushy. They should still hold their shape and have a little bite. Cool the potatoes to room temperature.
Put the mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, sage, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil until you have a creamy, emulsified dressing.
When the potatoes are cool, gently toss them with the chopped green onions, pecans and cranberries. Pour over the dressing and toss until all the potatoes are coated. It’s fine if you prefer not to use all the dressing, but reserve the remainder in case you want to add some later.
Refrigerate the potato salad, tightly covered, for several hours or up to a few days.
When the weather turns chilly, it may seem that the time for cold salads has past. But this lovely, homey lentil salad is perfect for fall. The ingredients for this could not be humbler, but somehow the whole comes off as sophisticated. This is the kind of dish I imagine a French home cook would whip up if you just dropped by unexpectedly.
This salad is great beside a grilled piece of pork or a roasted chicken. It makes a great lunch with a piece of crusty bread, and can easily be packed to take to the office or a picnic. For company, I toss the nuts, herbs and cheese in right before serving, but the leftovers, or a fresh batch just for you, are great sitting in the fridge for a few days as you snack out of the bowl.
Walnut oil can be a bit pricey, but it is a wonderful treat to give salads and dressings a nutty zing. Something about it adds to the French-ness of this salad. You can use olive oil, either as half the oil or all of it. French green lentils, or lentils de puy, are the perfect for salads because they cook up tender but still retain their shape. These lentils used to be only found at gourmet shops or mail-order, but I have finally shared this recipe because I now find them regularly in the organic grains aisle at my large grocery store.
French Lentil Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese
6 cups chicken broth
1 celery stalk
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
2 ½ cups petite green lentils (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ cup walnut oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
4 ½ ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Pour the chicken broth into a large pot. Cut the celery and carrots into large chunks and add to the broth with the peeled garlic cloves and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and add the lentils, stirring well. Boil the lentils for 3 minutes, skimming off any green scum that rises. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes until the lentils are tender, but still hold their shape.
While the lentils are cooking, place the garlic, vinegar and mustard in a blender and food processor and blend until smooth. Add a good pinch of salt and generous grinds of black pepper. Drizzle in the oil with the motor running until you have a creamy dressing.
When the lentils are done, drain away any remaining liquid and discard the carrot, celery, garlic and bay leaves (It’s best to do this is in a fine strainer, these lentils are small). Transfer the lentils to a bowl, then pour the dressing over the warm lentils, tossing gently to fully coat. Cool slightly, then cover the bowl and refrigerate the lentils for 8 hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, lightly toast the walnuts in a dry skillet until they are just brown and smell toasty. Toss the walnuts, parsley and crumbled goat cheese with the lentils. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.
Serves 8 – 10
My favorite simple fall salad dressing was created quite unexpectedly. I was given a fancy bottle of white balsamic vinegar infused with pear. That’s what it said on the label, but I never tasted any hint of pear. It sat in my pantry for a while, unused. But at some point, I was asked to bring a salad to a dinner, and had purchased a pear to cut up on top. My forward planning got the better of me and the pear ripened so much waiting for its star turn that it was too soft to cut into nice chunks. Scanning the pantry to try and rescue my salad, I saw that fancy vinegar and thought maybe I could use it and the soft pear to dress the salad. This vinaigrette was the result, and it has become a firm family favorite.
This is particularly good on dark leafy spinach, and I love to add to the fall flavor by tossing the salad with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts, a little blue cheese, and if you have fresh pear, some nice juicy chunks. And this is a great way to use up that last pitiful, lonely soft pear left in the fruit bowl. Oh, and if you happen to have a bottle of pear-infused white balsamic, feel free to use it.
Fresh Pear Vinaigrette
Walnut oil adds a nice depth and nuttiness, but if you don’t have any, use all olive oil.
1 large ripe pear, peeled and cored
Juice of one small lemon
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup white wine or white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup walnut oil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Cut the pear into chunks and drop in the carafe of a blender with the lemon juice. Purée, then add the sugar, salt and pepper. Add the vinegar and blend well. With the blender running, drizzle in the oils until you have a nice, thick emulsified dressing.
The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 8 hours. Shake well before using.
Makes ¾ cups
This weekend, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee – sixty years on the throne. When she was crowned (she became Queen when her father died in 1952, but the coronation was June 5, 1953), Britain was still recovering from the wartime devastation, and rationing was still in effect for many foods. But it was, of course, necessary to create and elegant meal to serve to the guests of Her Majesty. Coronation Chicken, as Poulet Reine Elizabeth became known, was created as a balance between necessary thrift and needed elegance. It was, originally, a cold poached chicken dish with a curried mayonnaise sauce. I have been doing research about the origins of Coronation Chicken and found that there is some dispute. It is credited to Constance Spry, a famous English florist, but now thought to have been the creation of her partner chef Rosemary Hume (which seems more likely). But then, there was a dish of chicken in curry sauce served at the jubilee celebrations of George V in 1935. I even read that the idea was thought perfect for Britons to create at home to eat in front of the television watching the coronation.
But truthfully, I didn’t find the story as interesting as the dish. From its royal beginnings, Coronation Chicken has become a staple of the British menu, though it devolved over the years to a rather sorry sandwich filling. You’ll find this flaccid, flavorless version in café and sandwich bars across the country. Some more upscale chains do a pretty decent version, but its reputation has definitely suffered (I have even seen it as a sandwich filling from a shelf-stable jar). In my travels, I have encountered some truly awful versions. But many Britons make Coronation Chicken at home, and an English food magazine recently created a Twitter thread asking readers about the best way to make Coronation Chicken. The answers were so varied, it shows that this is truly a dish that has been taken to heart and transformed to family tastes.
I have made a curried chicken salad as long as I have made chicken salad. And at some point in my experiences in England, I began to call it Coronation Chicken Salad. It is one of my favorite versions, punchy with lots of flavor and texture. And it is what the dish set out to be, elegant but thrifty, and fit for a Queen.
Coronation Chicken Salad
Poaching the chicken in wine adds a regal touch, but use half water, or all water if that’s all you have.
4 chicken breast halves
White wine to cover the chicken
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup slivered almonds
3 green onions,finely diced
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup Major Grey’s chutney
1 Tablespoon mild yellow curry powder
1 Tablespoon cilantro leaves
¼ teaspoon garam masala
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the chicken breasts in a large, deep skillet and cover with the wine. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot tightly and leave too cool. This will cook the chicken slowly, making it nice and tender. Check that the chicken is cooked through, to 165° in the center.
Meanwhile, put the raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. When the raisins are plumped up, drain and set aside.
When the chicken is cool, drain it and pat it dry. Pull the chicken into bite sized pieces using two forks or your fingers. I prefer this chicken salad chunky, but it is up to you. Toss the chicken with the raisins, almonds, apricots and green onions in a large bowl.
For the dressing, place the yogurt, chutney, curry powder, cilantro leaves and garam masala in a blender and blend until smooth and combined, scraping down the sides of the blender as necessary. Pour the dressing over the chicken and stir to coat thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
The chicken salad will keep, covered, in the fridge for several days.
Serves 6 – 8
More ideas for your Jubilee Celebration
Cucumber Mint Gin and Tonic
Victoria Sponge with Rose Petal Jam
Strawberry and Cream Cookies
If I could create my own personal fragrance, or have some sort of mechanism that made everywhere I go have a certain happy, peaceful scent, the primary element would be fresh garden mint. It smells like summer to me. And sweet tea. And the South. And all good things. I suppose the variety is technically spearmint, but I think of it as Southern mint. I have always grown mint – in pots on the deck of my first small home, to the larger vegetable beds of my current house. My mother has always grown mint, and even my grandmother, who was not a gardener, grew a few mint plants. In our hot Southern climate, it grows profusely, and the more you cut it, the more it flourishes.
I can’t really have enough mint, though some people consider it invasive and are stymied by what to do with it all. Here is the answer. This is my favorite all-purpose summer condiment. It so simple, it is hardly even a recipe at all. But I promise, the uses are endless. I love it tossed with steamed sugar snap peas, or drizzled over grilled asparagus. It is perfect with fruit, from strawberries to melon cubes. Drizzle it over fish, or brush on grilled pork chops. Use it as a dressing for a cold chicken salad, or a sauce for simple chicken breasts. Try it in slaw or over crisp lettuce. Toss it with potatoes or drizzle over sliced tomatoes. The sugar highlights the sweetness of the mint, but the vinegar really brings out its essence, with a slight edge from the lemon juice.
Summertime Mint Dressing
This is best made fresh, but will keep in the fridge in tightly sealed jar for a couple of days. The recipe easily doubles.
½ cup firmly packed mint leaves
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Place all the ingredients in the carafe of a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a jar, scraping the sides of the blender down to get out all of the mint.
Makes about 1/3 cup