Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cucumber Tomato Salad with Walnuts

This is an invention of my husband's aunt Margaret. She made it for family dinner last summer and we all raved. It appeared again this year and I begged for the recipe. She kindly obliged and I promptly adapted it. There was nothing at all wrong with her version, I just tweaked based on our tastes and what was available. I could eat gallons of this salad and one of the best things about it is how well it keeps. I can make it at the beginning of the week and enjoy it in my work lunches til Friday (if it lasts that long).

We like the walnuts in the recipe, but I was thinking of adaptations for a friend of ours who is allergic and realized that toasted pine nuts would likely be really good. I'm going to try that version as soon as I get some pine nuts...

One of the great things about this recipe is that it's easy to scale it up and down if you think about it in parts: 1 part cucumber to 1/2 or 1 part diced or slivered tomatoes, 1/8 to 1/4 part nuts or other savory firm or crunchy ingredient of your choosing, then dressing to taste.

1-3 cloves garlic, finely minced or in bigger pieces if you've got people who want to fish them out
2-3 TBSP white wine or champagne vinegar
1-2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
Pepper if desired
2-4 TBSP olive or other oil (walnut oil, for example, could be really lovely to pick up on the toasted walnuts, or avocado oil if you want something more neutral)

2 cucumbers, peeled if desired, and cut into half moons or diced
1 large handful (half a dry pint maybe) cherry tomatoes, any color, quartered
You're looking for about roughly equal parts cucumber and tomato once they've been cut up, but if you like tomatoes more, add more, if you want to favor the cucumber, add more of that
1/2 c walnuts or pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 c chopped parsley (optional)


  1. Raw garlic gets stronger the longer it sits (thanks Cook's Illustrated), so if you're going to enjoy this salad over a few days, it's a good idea to let the garlic soak for five to ten minutes in the vinegar. The acid will help keep the garlic in its place. So, mince your garlic and place it in a small bowl with the vinegar and salt and pepper (the vinegar will also dissolve the salt). Leave for a few minutes while you cut up the vegetables or toast and chop the walnuts
  2. Prepare the veggies and nuts and place in a large bowl
  3. Stir the vinegar and garlic mixture and then whisk in the oil slowly to emulsify
  4. Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the large bowl and gently but thoroughly combine
  5. Refrigerate until needed, at least a half hour would be best to let the flavors combine. Adjust seasoning to your taste

Monday, August 8, 2016

Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats

I've been making steel cut oats for breakfast for me and the girls since Elspeth was old enough for oats and dairy. My fail-proof method has always been to use a double-boiler, an idea I got from The Fanny Farmer Breakfast Book. However, that takes at least an hour, making it a necessity to plan ahead the night before.

When I got my Instant Pot, I knew I wanted to try steel cut oats in it. There is no shortage of recipes on the Internet, but they all call for using water and I like to cook my oats in milk. I had read that dairy under high pressure could be a bit of a no-no but I didn't understand why until I read an explanation noting that, not only does milk have a tendency to scorch easily, but the milk steam generated when releasing the pressure could be messy and horrible to clean up. So I put the idea aside for a while until I came across an Instant Pot rice pudding recipe using milk that used low, instead of high, pressure. This seemed like it could be the solution. The first time I tried it I cooked it for way too long, doubling the amount of time in the water-based recipes because I was using low pressure, not high. I also heated the milk first using the sauté function because I read another recipe where that was recommended. It was horrible, overcooked and unappetizing.  But the milk didn't scorch... The second time I hit the jackpot. I cook at low pressure for 5 minutes and then let it rest at least ten minutes. If you use the keep warm setting you might get a little browning on the bottom of the pot, but the cereal didn't taste scorched at all and it came right off. To avoid this, I would guess that all you need to do is turn off the keep warm setting after the 5 minutes and then wait 10 minutes or more. It might not even take that long for the low pressure to drop naturally.

While I think the oats and milk integrate more silkily using the double-boiler method, the comparative speed of the Instant Pot method is compelling and I will definitely use the technique again (and again).

1 c. steel cut oats
3 1/2 c. milk, any kind
1/2 tsp kosher salt


  1. Place all ingredients in the insert of the Instant Pot
  2. Close the lid and make sure the valve is set to Sealing not Venting
  3. Select the Porridge setting, adjust the pressure to Low and adjust the time to 5 minutes
  4. Once the 5 minutes is up, turn off the Instant Pot if desired and wait until the pressure releases on its own
  5. Serve with mix-ins of your choice. We like dried fruit, coconut, slivered almonds and flaxseed