Ronnie Paul: Elegant salads | TheUnion.com

Ronnie Paul: Elegant salads

Ronnie Paul
Columnist

By this time of year, my husband Jeff and I would usually be hauling and stacking firewood and chopping kindling. Although I can't change my need for stronger reading glasses or slow the logarithmic progression of spots that appear daily on my skin, I realized that I could change our forty-year heating ritual.

Instead of buying firewood this year, we bought a gas living room stove.

As a long-haired, energetic back-to-the-lander, I lugged cords of oak past snarling dogs, up a steep quarter-mile path. Through my wood-burning years, I also spent hours seeking kindling, wedging axes into impenetrable knots, and picking splinters from my hands.

And I still shiver with the memory of dressing our baby daughters in front of the cast iron stove each morning.

I savor the new flip-of-a-switch ease of house heating, but I'll miss the sound of soup bubbling in a pot on the living room stove and surveying the property as I empty the ash drawer each morning.

The switch made me wonder how I'd fill up my new free time, but I quickly realized that it takes me longer to get up off the floor when I play with my grandson and that my previously cardio-pumping jaunt to the mailbox has slowed to a stroll.

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Although I relish the idea of doing less work, I'll never reduce my kitchen cooking hours with quick microwave blasts. If you agree, please try these recipes.

Coconut Asian Shrimp Salad

Serves 4-6

Just because we don't have summer veggies doesn't mean we can't make elegant salads.

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, weighed with shells and tails. (For non-shrimpers, I've used sautéed tofu.)

2 tablespoons butter

3 ounces Romaine lettuce, chopped in bite-size pieces

2 cups chopped Napa or Chinese cabbage

6 ounces bean sprouts

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes

1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions

1 medium carrot, grated

1/4 cup salted peanuts

Dressing

Puree:

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons peanut butter

2 tablespoons Tamari

2 tablespoons lime juice (1 lime's worth)

Peel the shrimp and discard the tails.

Heat the butter in a pan and sauté the shrimp for a few minutes until they just turn pink.

In an elegant bowl, add the shrimp to the remaining salad ingredients. Then toss with the dressing and serve with fanfare.

Potato Salad Deluxe

4-6 servings

Summer may be over, but potato salad is never passé.

1 pound red potatoes

1 tablespoon capers, squeezed dry

1 tablespoon chopped red onion

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried)

4 slices bacon

Dressing

Whisk together:

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

Cut the potatoes in small pieces and boil until very tender.

Put the bacon in a pan over a low flame. To minimize grease spatter, cover the pan while the bacon cooks. To get the perfect crispiness, cook it slowly. Drain well.

Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing. Crumble the bacon over the top and serve.

Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.