Food in jars has surged in popularity over the last number of years, and no one is more appreciative of this clever way to store, serve, and display food than I am. That's why I didn't hesitate for a moment when I was offered a copy of a new book to review, Mason Jar Salads and more by Julia Mirabella.I am in love with this book! Its subtitle is “50 Layered Lunches to Grab and Go,” but it is so much more than that. Lunches, yes, but dinners, side dishes, and the convenience of having a fresh, delicious meal at arm's reach makes this book a necessity in every kitchen library. Imagine a busy day, no time or energy to prepare a meal, but a delicious and healthful one readily at hand, previously prepared and stored in the fridge in a Mason jar. This is the stuff dreams are made of.
It's a lovely book, loaded with mouthwatering pictures - so important in cookbooks - with an incredible variety of succulent salads from more commonplace green salads (though there is nothing at all common about these ingenious recipes and unique combinations) to breakfast, pasta, rice, snacks, you name it! I'm talking curried chicken salad, chili, potato salad, and ratatouille. I may need to buy an additional fridge, and certainly cases of Mason jars, to hold the ample and diverse jarred meals included in this book. The Porcini Mushroom Risotto is excellent, the Mango Salsa I could eat right from the jar. Who needs chips when you have something this good?
If you are a fan of homemade salad dressings like I am, let me tell you that this book is worth having for the vinaigrette recipes alone. I have had a different salad dressing every day this week and am stymied as to which one I like best. All of them have a summery freshness that makes me feel as if I am dining at an Oceanside resort.
One of my favorite salads so far is the Corn and Blueberry Salad with Lime Vinaigrette. I have been crazy about the inclusion corn in salad ever since first having it in Italy in 2000. They must have had a bumper corn crop that year because every restaurant in every city we visited featured corn in the salad. I love that tasty, colorful little addition. Blueberries are another favorite, undervalued in salads, I think, providing a blast of juicy deliciousness and welcome hint of sweet. I customized the original recipe (shown below) by using a mixture of romaine lettuce and my own homegrown sorrel (a spring green that is thriving in our 90+ degree heat), and layering it in a quart jar. Sorrel has a bit of a lemony taste making it perfect with this salad combination. It pairs beautifully with the lime vinaigrette and really makes the flavor of the berries pop. This salad, and many others, are restaurant quality, and make a satisfying and filling meal when paired with a crusty piece of bread or tasty biscuit or muffin.
I highly recommend this wonderful book. No matter how many cookbooks you have in your collection, make room for this one. You'll thank me later.
Corn and Blueberry Salad
2 ears of corn, for about 3/4 cup kernels
1-1/2 tablespoons Lime Vinaigrette (I used 2 T.), recipe below
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup cucumber slices (half- or quarter-moons)
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup blueberries
1 pint-size Mason jar
Remove the husks and silks from the corn. Pour enough water into a pot to cover the corn and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the corn and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the corn from the water and let cool for a few minutes, then slice off the kernels.
Layer the salad ingredients in the Mason jar, starting with the vinaigrette, then the onion and the cucumber. Finish with layers of corn kernels, cilantro, and blueberries. Seal and refrigerate until ready to use.
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Dash of hot sauce (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Whisk together the lime juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, and hot sauce (if using). Slowly add the olive oil, whisking, until the dressing thickens.
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