, Muskogee, OK

July 16, 2013

Salads make an easy supper

By Melony Carey
Food by the Book

— Summer reading, like summer eating, should be scintillating, yet languorous enough to match the pace of long summer days. Four salads and four new releases might provide just the right amount of excitement and relaxation so evocative of summertime.

“Stoker’s Manuscript” by Royce Prouty (Putnam) uses Bram Stoker’s original manuscript as the basis for a superb new recounting of the Dracula legend. Joseph Barkeley is a dealer in rare manuscripts. An orphan of the Romanian war, Barkeley has grown up in America. But when a wealthy client wants an authenticated copy of Stoker’s original Dracula manuscript, he must travel back to his homeland to negotiate the deal. The first part of the novel is somewhat slow, but as soon as the hero sees two red eyes peering at him through the darkness, the creepiness factor kicks in and makes for an exhilaratingly bumpy ride through Transylvania.

Former antiquarian bookseller and playwright, Charlie Lovett, used his experience in rare books and drama to pen a literary thriller in “The Bookman’s Tale” (Viking). When widower Peter Byerly, a book dealer from North Carolina, walks into a rare book store in Hay-on-Wye, England, he makes a startling discovery. A Victorian watercolor portrait, seemingly of his wife, falls out of an old tome on Shakespeare he happens to pick up. Obsessed with finding the artist, as well as researching the Shakespearean work, he uncovers proof that Shakespeare was the sole author of his plays. Lovett’s lyrical novel has been compared to A.S. Byatt’s “Possession,” and it is truly worthy of that description.

While David Morrell’s first novel, “First Blood,” starred that iconic action figure, John Rambo, his 26th novel, “Murder as a Fine Art” (Mulholland), takes a more literary path. Morrell paints a fine Holmesian thriller, basing the novel on real-life English writer and laudanum addict, Thomas De Quincey. Here we find an aging De Quincey suspected of a copycat murder similar to the Ratcliffe Highway Murders he had covered as a reporter in 1811. De Quincey must save himself by solving the current murder before another one takes place.

And finally, aimed at the younger crowd, “The Last Dragon Slayer” by Jasper Fforde (Harcourt) chronicles the adventures of orphan Jennifer Strange, the book’s 15-year-old narrator, as she learns she is the Last Dragonslayer. Leave it to the author of the quirky and fun “Thursday Next” series to invent an equally magical and hysterical novel for the adventurous kid in all of us.

Salads make easy meals that can be prepared in advance, leaving more time to spend with a good book. Try any or all of these.

Citrus Caesar

Pasta Salad

Cardini’s Caesar Salad dressing

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons finely diced jalapeno

8 oz. bowtie pasta, cooked and drained

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Combine 3/4 cup dressing with orange juice and jalapeno. Combine with pasta and parmesan. Mix thoroughly and adjust ingredients. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed if canned

1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

1 1/2 cups cooked corn

3/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

2 pickled jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander

For dressing:

5 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste

1/3 cup olive oil

Prepare quinoa according to package directions. While quinoa is cooking, in a small bowl toss beans with vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and cool. Add beans, corn, bell pepper, jalapeños (take care not to touch eyes after handling), and coriander and toss well.

Make dressing:

In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, salt, and cumin and add oil in a stream, whisking. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well with salt and pepper to taste. Salad may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salad to room temperature before serving.

Source: www.epicurious .com.

Marinated Steak Salad

Leftover grilled or broiled steak, sliced thin

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup olive oil

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil gradually, blending well. Place sliced steak in bowl and coat with dressing. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Serve over romaine or accompanying orzo salad below.

Orzo and

Feta Salad

12 ounces orzo pasta

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper

3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives

4 green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons drained capers

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Cook orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Transfer to large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add crumbled feta cheese, chopped bell peppers, Kalamata olives, green onions and capers.

Combine lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, oregano, mustard and cumin in small bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Add dressing to orzo mixture and toss to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: www.epicurious .com.