lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

Refrigerator Pickled Beets

Every year I grow beets and every year I still end up with more than we can eat.  I love them roasted on the grill or in the oven, or shredded and made into my beet and carrot slaw. I saute the greens up, similar to how I make quick and easy Swiss chard, and often just toss them raw – both the greens and julienned beets – into salads.

But, whenever they get the best of me and I find my crisper drawer overflowing, I preserve my beets by quick pickling them and sticking them back in the fridge.

lola rugula easy pickled beets recipe

This is such an easy way to preserve them without the trouble of canning them. We eat these as an accompaniment to knockwurst and sauerkraut (here’s my homemade sauerkraut recipe) or add some to our side salads. They also look great on an appetizer tray, served alongside other pickled vegetables.

Now, I know a lot of recipes call for all kinds of spices and such, which you’re welcome to add if that’s how you like yours. I just like mine clean and simple; bright and tart, without too much fuss.

lola rugula easy refrigerated pickled beets recipe

This is a small batch recipe, as I’ve learned to just pickle them as they begin to overwhelm me. This recipe barely fills a quart Ball or canning jar, but it’s what works for me.

I grow a combination of Detroit Red and Rainbow beets and they all work great in this recipe. They mostly all end up red by the end of this, so use whatever beets you have on hand.

lola rugula pickled beets small batch recipe

easy refrigerated pickled beets recipe

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. cleaned and peeled beets, diced or sliced
  • 1 cup sliced red onion (optional – omit if you hate onions)
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Place beets in a medium saucepan and cover well with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook beets just until fork-tender, about 15-17 minutes. Drain and spoon into a quart Bell jar or glass dish with tight-fitting lid, layering in the raw onion slices as you go.

While the beets are still cooking, add vinegar, salt, and sugar to another saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour hot brine over beets and onions and seal with a lid. Let cool at room temperature. If you’re using a canning jar, you’ll likely hear the lid “pop” as the steam escapes and the lid seals tight.

Refrigerate until ready to eat. I’ve kept these for many weeks with no problems, as the combination of salt, vinegar, and refrigeration all help in preserving them.

lola rugula refrigerator pickled beets recipe

To me, these are a treat right out of the jar, when I’m looking for something quick to nibble on. Of course, when you’ve finished the beets, you can throw a couple of boiled eggs into the brine and make beautiful pickled beet eggs. Equally delicious in my opinion and also perfect for an appetizer tray.

If you try these, give me a shout and let me know your thoughts. Also, if you have another pickled veggie you enjoy, I’d love to hear about it.

Enjoy!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

Fennel, Tomato and Cucumber Salad

If you follow my blog on Facebook, you may have seen me share a photo of this salad recently. This is a salad that celebrates summer veggies. It’s cool, crisp, colorful and, of course, delicious. It seems almost too simple of a recipe to post but I sometimes get asked what to do with fennel and this is seriously one of my easiest suggestions.  People often pick up fennel at a farmer’s market or receive it in a CSA box and wonder what the heck to do with it.  Recipes don’t have to be complicated and, if you’re not a regular home cook, I know you don’t want them to be. This is a great way to introduce yourself to fennel while enjoying other summer veggie delights. Roasted fennel is also divine – try throwing some on the grill or pan roasting it, to really intensify its flavor.

I’ve been growing fennel the last couple of years and I think it’s a great addition to a home vegetable garden. It’s not susceptible to disease or bugs and, if you can keep the groundhogs from chewing off the tops (true story last year), not much bothers it, at least in my case.I do tend to pick it while it’s young, which yields a very tender and crisp fennel. It also helps thin out my patch of it, as I inevitably plant them too close together every year.

The tomatoes and cucumbers pictured here are also from our garden. The tomatoes are Black Vernissage heirloom from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, one of my favorite places to buy seeds. They’re gorgeous little 3-inch tomatoes packed with flavor.  The cucumbers are a pickling variety, which is all I typically grow, but any type of cucumber will work here.

lola rugula fennel tomato and cucumber salad

This isn’t so much as a recipe as a salad suggestion. You can increase or lessen the quantities of any of the ingredients to suit your tastes.

lola rugula fennel and tomato salad recipe

fennel, tomato, and cucumber salad

  • Fresh fennel, sliced
  • Tomatoes, diced
  • Cucumbers, sliced or diced
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Rice vinegar, unseasoned

Add your vegetables to a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil and rice vinegar over, toss and serve.

Easy, right? That’s what I love!

I prefer to use rice vinegar on this because it has a very light flavor, but it’s also good with red or white wine vinegar and even white balsamic vinegar. I use the unseasoned variety of rice vinegar but if you like a little sweetness, use seasoned rice vinegar and omit adding any additional salt.

You want just a hint of oil and vinegar on this, to really let the flavors of your veggies shine through.

lola rugula tomato fennel and cucumber salad recipe

Isn’t it beautiful? This salad screams summertime.  Fennel is easy to find now in most supermarkets and farmers markets so, even if you’re not a home gardener, you shouldn’t have any problem getting some.

Variations: thinly sliced sweet yellow, orange or red peppers work great with this. If you prefer, you can also serve it on a bed of greens. A little fresh parsley, basil or mint also change this up a bit, as does a little thinly sliced summer squash.

Don’t be afraid to play with your food! Enjoy!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

charred shishito peppers

If you’re a home gardener, shishito peppers are an easy-to-grow, heavily-producing plant that bears fruit earlier than a lot of other types of peppers. These peppers are fast growers too; two plants easily produce about 10-20 peppers every week or so during peak growing season.

Because these aren’t easy plants to find, I start seeds indoors, typically in mid-February. This gives me about a 6-inch plant to put into the ground come early May, which jump starts the growing season here in zone 5 Northern Illinois.

If you’re not much into growing your own peppers but lucky enough to come across these delights at your grocery store or farmer’s market, I suggest you scoop some up. These are mild peppers packed with great flavor. People will tell you that every so many of these peppers are hot and that’s true but “hot” here is not anywhere near a jalapeno. Yes, some peppers have more heat than others but it’s not anywhere near an unbearable or uncomfortable heat, at least in my experience.

lola rugula how to grow shishito peppers

One of the easiest and most typical ways to cook these peppers is to roast them or char them with a drizzle of oil and some coarse kosher or sea salt.  This method brings out their flavor and makes it easy to eat a couple of handfuls in one sitting.

You can accomplish cooking them this way in a number of ways, via a hot grill, a hot, heavy skillet or under a broiler. All you’re looking to do is char the skins a bit and give them a beautiful roasted flavor. If your peppers are large enough, you can actually place them directly on the grill, just keep a close eye on them. You can char them a little or you can char them a lot but, either way, I think you’ll like the end result.

lola rugula charred shishito peppers (2)

All you need to make these are:

  • Shishito peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse kosher or sea salt

When I cook these on the grill, I toss them in a small pan or sheet of foil with the olive oil and salt and spread out into a single layer. Place the pan on a preheated grill and cook for about 7-10 minutes, tossing them around occasionally, until they’re browned a bit on all sides. Use this same method if cooking under a broiler.

lola rugula grilled shishito peppers

To cook them on the stovetop, heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Add oil and heat the oil for a minute or so – do not let the oil become smoking hot.

Add peppers in a single layer and let brown slightly on one side then, using a pair of tongs, flip them over and let brown on the other side.

lola rugula how to cook shishito peppers

These are perfect for cookouts and parties and are always a huge hit. The bonus is that there isn’t a simpler dish to make.

To really kick them up a notch, toss in some minced garlic and shallots before cooking; I promise you won’t be disappointed.

If you’ve ever seen these and wondered how to cook shishito peppers, now you know how easy it is. Now get out there and enjoy your summer while it lasts.

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

Classic Potato Salad with Peas

I love experimenting and creating new recipes but who doesn’t love good old-fashioned potato salad? Mine’s pretty much a classic skins-on potato salad with peas added for their bright flavor and nutritional punch. I prefer to use red potatoes because I love their flavor and texture, plus their skins look so beautiful in this salad (another nutritional punch)! Of course, you can peel the potatoes if you prefer but if you’ve never tried it this way, give it a shot and see what you think.

Red skins, bright green peas, celery and red onions all combine to make this a very colorful and flavorful salad, so it makes an attractive and delicious side dish for a summer cookout or picnic.

A couple of notes about my recipe: I dice my potatoes before cooking for two reasons:

  • I like to rinse the starchiness off of them before cooking
  • They cook faster, which is a big bonus in the middle of summer

Also, I don’t add sugar to my potato salad – I prefer mine savory over sweet but if you want to add some, it’s your call.

lola rugula classic potato salad recipe

red skin classic potato salad with peas recipe

  • 12 medium red potatoes (3.5 lbs.), scrubbed well, diced into large chunks and rinsed well
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (for cooking the potatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 4 boiled eggs, diced
  • 1 1/4 cup diced or sliced celery
  • 3/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups green peas (if using frozen, thaw and drain well)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 (generous) cup mayonnaise (I prefer the olive oil kind)
  • Minced parsley or scallions for serving (optional)

Place clean, rinsed potato chunks in a large pot, cover by a few inches with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 15 minutes or just until fork-tender, and drain well. (I typically skim the starchy bubbles from the top with a slotted spoon as they’re cooking to help prevent boil-overs) Rinse briefly with cold water, drain very well and return to pan.

While they’re still warm, sprinkle potatoes with vinegar, stir well and set aside to cool about 30 minutes. I stir mine again a few times while they’re cooling, to help speed up the cooling process.

In the meantime, dice your boiled eggs, celery, and red onion. If using frozen peas, make sure they’re thawed and drained well. Add everything to your cooled potatoes.

Add salt and pepper and stir everything together.

Add Dijon and mayo and stir well, until it’s all incorporated and everything is evenly covered.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours – I like to let mine sit overnight for the best flavor. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley or scallions before serving.

Variations:

  • If you don’t like peas, omit them
  • If you prefer your potato salad more “mustardy” add more Dijon or switch it out for classic yellow mustard
  • Skins are also optional – peel the potatoes if you prefer
  • If you don’t have red onions, white onions or diced scallions will work just fine
  • Like potato salad with bacon? Hey, throw some bacon in there.
  • Again, if you like your potato salad sweet, you can certainly add a little sugar

lola rugula classic red skin potato salad recipe

Aside from the peas, this is a classic skins-on all American potato salad and one that’s always a hit with my family and friends.

How do you like your potato salad? (or do you hate it?) Leave me a comment and let me know!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

dried rattlesnake bean and vegetable soup

I had the pleasure last summer of growing rattlesnake beans for the first time. I had never heard of them and was intrigued because they can be eaten just like green beans when they’re young or eaten as dried beans when left to grow and dry on the vine. Anyone who’s grown green beans knows how quickly they can grow, so the advantage to growing rattlesnake beans is that if they go past their young, tender stage, you can let them go to dried beans and still enjoy them. Genius, I say! If you’ve been wondering how to grow rattlesnake beans, they’re easy to grow and delicious.

I ordered my beans from Territorial Seed Company and planted them in early May. Rattlesnake beans are pole beans, so you need to give them a fence or support to grow on and boy do these things grow. I did not have the foresight to take a picture of them on the vine but here’s a shot of them while they’re young:

lola-rugula-how-to-grow-rattlesnake-beaans

Aren’t they beautiful? The dark purple striping makes a stunning contrast to the green pod and these really are delicious when harvested at this stage. If you’re wondering how to cook young rattlesnake beans, they can be cooked any way you cook regular green beans. They’re wonderful steamed, roasted and added to soups and other dishes. We had a very healthy harvest of these before I let them go to the drying stage.

Growing them here in Zone 5 was very easy for me. I planted the seeds against a garden fence with some compost and manure mixed in. These are very fast growers and occasionally I had to train the vines around the fence, to make sure they had some much-needed support. I harvested them as green beans until late July or early August and then let the rest of them mature and dry on the vine, picking them as they became fully dry. Then I shelled them and stored them in a storage container in my pantry, where they’ve kept well as I work my way through them.

lola rugula how to grow rattlesnake beans in zone 5

As you can see, the dried beans are just as gorgeous as the green ones – their distinctive markings make it easy to see why they’re called rattlesnake beans.

So here we are, in the middle of a cold Midwestern winter, and what’s the best way to cook these dried rattlesnake beans? In soup, of course! Packed full of veggies, this is a great version of a clean-out-your-fridge recipe. Mine here simply reflects what I had on hand for veggies, so please don’t be afraid to use whatever you love and/or have on hand. There are no rules to veggie and bean soup, except that you make it with the veggies you enjoy. And if you don’t have dried rattlesnake beans, then use whatever beans you like. Don’t like beans? This is still a great vegetable soup recipe, so don’t be afraid to omit or change things up. Be prepared, this is a long list of veggies but don’t be daunted…I’m just cleaning out my fridge for soup…

lola rugula how to cook rattlesnake beans recipe

rattlesnake bean and vegetable soup recipe

  • 1 cup of dried rattlesnake beans
  • 1 cup of small pasta, such as ditalini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 8-10 baby carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 5 small sweet peppers, diced
  • 4-5 medium-size turnip greens, tough stem removed and chopped
  • 1 cup small spinach leaves, torn or chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 15 asparagus spears, tough ends removed and sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup bean broth
  • 1 2-inch piece of Parmesan rind (optional)

In a medium saucepan, add dried rattlesnake beans and fill with water. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, cover and remove from heat. Let sit, covered, for 1 hour. In the meantime, cook the pasta, prepare the veggies and start the soup.

In a medium saucepan, cook the ditalini or other small pasta for 10 minutes or just until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Let sit until ready to use.

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and carrots and cook just until they start to sweat, stirring a few times, about 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the veggies and continue to cook until they all start to wilt and soften, about 7 more minutes.  Season with pepper flakes (if using), salt and pepper and stir well. Add vegetable broth, water, bean broth and Parmesan rind (if using).

Add the rattlesnake beans. You will not add the pasta until the soup is almost done. Bring to a boil, partially cover and reduce heat to a slow simmer.

Simmer for one hour or until beans are tender. Add pasta and bring back to a simmer. Remove from heat and serve.

We had a good 2 bowls of this before we sat back and wondered at the incredible flavor of these beans. Rattlesnake beans have a meaty, hearty flavor but cook quickly and stay tender. I love these beans and will definitely add them to my “things you should definitely grow in your vegetable garden” list.

Happy soup season everyone…here’s hoping for an early spring!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

udon noodle bowl

Sometimes the stress of the holidays or just daily life can be overwhelming and drag down your defenses. This often leads us to eat the wrong things, which can weaken our immune system even more.

A great way to recharge your system is a bowl of my ramen-style udon noodle bowl recipe. It’s packed full of veggies and protein and can be customized a lot of different ways, to suit your personal taste. If you’re ever looking for a clean-out-your-fridge recipe, this is a good one. You can even make this vegetarian by adding tofu instead of shrimp.

The key to this dish is to really pack it full of a big variety of your favorite veggies and use a good-quality broth. I typically have homemade broth on hand, but you can certainly use store-bought instead.

lola rugula how to make udon noodle soup bowl recipe

Also, feel free to change up the noodles. I’ve used soba noodles in this dish and they’re also very good. Soba noodles can be a great gluten free option, but you have to check the ingredient lists because some of them still contain wheat. Rice noodles or vermicelli are also options.

Also, I add white miso paste and wakame to my bowls when I have them on hand, as they both add great, healthy benefits. They’re not necessary though, so if you don’t have them, don’t sweat it. There’s really no hard and fast rules to my Asian-inspired bowls, I just like to have fun with them and see how deliciously healthy I can make them.

Of course, if you like things hot, this is a great dish for adding a little fire. You can add some hot peppers in the veggie mix or just drizzle a little of my hot chili oil over the top of it before serving.

lola rugula ramen udon noodle bowl recipe

udon noodle bowl recipe

  • 1 10 oz. package of udon noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • 12 oz. large raw shrimp, thawed, if frozen and shelled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6-8 cups fresh vegetables – here are the ones I used here:
    • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
    • green cabbage, sliced
    • red radishes, sliced
    • 5-6 stalks asparagus, sliced
    • 8 baby carrots, julienned
    • 5 portobello mushrooms, sliced
    • 2 broccolini stalks, sliced
    • 4 small sweet red bell peppers, sliced
    • 1 medium celery stalk, sliced
    • 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh spinach
    • 6 scallions, sliced (plus more for serving)
  • 4 cups good-quality vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup wakame, resconstituted in a cup of hot water
  • 1 generous tablespoon white (shiro) miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • for serving:
    • fresh cilantro, chopped
    • scallions, sliced
    • boiled eggs, peeled and halved
    • hot chili oil (optional)

Cook the noodles, drain, rinse with cool water (to stop the cooking process) and set aside.

Grill the shrimp in a hot grill pan or under the broiler just until they’re pink, turning once halfway through cooking time. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat, Add garlic and regular onions and cook just until they start to soften, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add the rest of the fresh vegetables and cook just until they all start to soften a bit, about 5 minutes. Stir the veggies often, so they don’t burn.

Add broth and water. Bring to a boil, immediately reduce heat to medium and simmer about 20 minutes. The veggies should be tender but not mushy.

Add cooked shrimp, wakame, miso pasted and sesame oil, bring back to simmer and remove from heat.

Serving:

Scoop a cup and 1/2 of noodles into each bowl. Ladle hot shrimp and veggie mixture over noodles, being sure to include some of the broth.

Top each bowl with 2 egg halves and a generous sprinkling of fresh cilantro and sliced scallions. Drizzle a teaspoon or so of hot chili oil (if using) over everything and serve.

lola rugula homemade ramen style udon noodle bowl recipe

I love my veggie broth bowls and think you will, too! I have to emphasize that you can customize this to your tastes and/or what you have on hand.

All kinds of proteins work well in these bowls – think beef, turkey, chicken, shredded pork, tofu, tempeh, firm white fish, scallops, salmon, etc…play around with it and see what combo you like best. Try adding beans, if you love them. And don’t ever be afraid to use leftovers in this recipe; in fact it’s a perfect vehicle for your leftover proteins and veggies.

The types of veggies you use are limited only by your imagination, so load up on your favorites.

This recipe may sound like a lot of ingredients and it is, because of all the veggies, but trust me, it’s all prep time. This is a great example of mise en place, meaning you have everything in its place and ready to go. Once the veggie prep is done, this noodle bowl dish comes together pretty quickly.

These udon noodle bowls are calling your name..do not ever, ever be afraid to play with your food.