10 Fabulous but Easy Tomato Recipes

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Tomatocollage

Are you a tomato lover? If so, this one is for you – 10 easy recipes featuring the lovely tomato. The French called the tomato the pomme d’amour, or The Love Apple, and they believed that tomatoes had aphrodisiac powers.  Believe it or not, but right now tomatoes are so delicious and plentiful that you may just fall in love…

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You may have noticed that my blog posts have recently been few and far between. I have been travelling so much this summer that I have spent very little time in my kitchen.  Now that I am back in California for a while, I’m making up for my neglect with this post featuring some of my favorite recipes starring luscious tomatoes which are still gloriously in season.  There are three different yummy tarts, bruschetta, pasta, salads and vegetable platters.  You really can’t go wrong here… Just click on the link to go to the original post and recipe. Don’t skip the scrumptious Rustic Roasted Tomato Tart which will melt in your mouth. Enjoy!  New recipes beginning again soon!  Pinky swear…

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Rustic Roasted Tomato Tart

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Zucchini Tomato Tart

Eggplant Tart2

Summer Vegetable Tart

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Spaghetti with the Best No Cook Tomato Sauce

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Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Peaches with Balsamic Reduction

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Bruschetta with Pesto and Heirloom Tomatoes

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Arugula, Corn and Tomato Salad with Jalapeno Vinaigrette

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Roasted Beet and Tomato Salad

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Tomato and Eggplant Stacks with Basil Vinaigrette

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Roasted Eggplant, Peppers and Tomatoes with Burrata

Citrus Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa & Cumin Lime Vinaigrette

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With sunny weather finally here, I have moved on from steaming hot soups to fresh seasonal salads and lighter dishes.  This citrus and kale salad is loaded with flavor and textures.  The cumin lime vinaigrette is a perfect complement to the creamy avocado and zesty citrus while the crispy quinoa adds a delightful crunch as well as a healthy dose of protein and vitamins.  Once you try crispy quinoa, you will never go back to croutons and their empty calories.  Even if you aren’t a fan of quinoa, you might be surprised by how different it tastes once it’s been ‘crisped’ in olive oil.

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This is my favorite time of year, when my garden comes to life. The month of May is a wonderful overlapping of seasons.  Spring blooming plants like rhododendron and azalea are still in full bloom and summer roses are just beginning to emerge creating a gorgeous riot of color.

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My vegetable garden is loaded with greens.  You can just see the chickens photobombing in the background.

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Recent warmer nights are allowing tomatoes to retain blossoms and artichokes are sending up their first stalks, so stay tuned for new artichoke dishes this spring.  We will tackle tomatoes later in the summer. when they are ripe and abundant.

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Let’s circle back to today’s green salad.  It’s very easy to prepare with only a few really good ingredients.  I have gotten in the habit of making more quinoa than I need and freeze one cup servings which makes it easy to add to salads, soups and chili.  Just defrost and you’re good to go.  I prefer using red quinoa for this purpose since I like it’s flavor and texture better than white quinoa, but you could also try using the tri-color quinoa which could make an interesting salad.

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CITRUS GREEN SALAD WITH CRISPY QUINOA

  • 1/2 cup red quinoa (1 cup cooked)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 cups baby kale or mixed greens
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 small red onion (or 3 scallions)

CUMIN LIME VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste

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  • Cook quinoa according to directions. For more flavor, use vegetable broth instead of water. Drain on papertowels to prevent splattering.

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  • Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet and ‘fry’ quinoa on medium heat until crispy, 5 to 10 minutes.  Season with salt. Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Wash greens and arrange in a large salad bowl.

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  • Sprinkle cooled quinoa over greens.

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  • Using a sharp knife, remove peel and slice the oranges into rounds and then bite sized pieces.

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  • Slice avocado into bite sized pieces.

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  • Thinly slice red onion and add to salad along with orange segments and avocado.

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  • Whisk together (or use a shaker) all vinaigrette ingredients and dress salad just before serving.

Citrus Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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CITRUS GREEN SALAD WITH CRISPY QUINOA

  • 1/2 cup red quinoa (1 cup cooked)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 cups baby kale or mixed greens
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 small red onion (or 3 scallions)

CUMIN LIME VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
  1. Cook quinoa according to directions. Drain on papertowels to prevent splattering.
  2. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet and fry quinoa on medium heat until crispy, 5 to 10 minutes.  Season with salt. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Wash greens and arrange in a large salad bowl.
  4. Sprinkle cooled quinoa over greens.
  5. Using a sharp knife, remove peel and slice the oranges into rounds and then bite sized pieces.
  6. Slice avocado into bite sized pieces.
  7. Thinly slice red onion and add to salad along with orange segments and avocado.
  8. Whisk together (or use a shaker) all vinaigrette ingredients and dress salad just before serving.

Meatless Monday – Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

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Roasting beets intensifies their natural flavors and jewel toned colors.  Slicing them into rounds creates a gorgeous base for creating a spectacular but simple salad.  I topped the roasted beets with crumbled goat cheese and pistachios with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. The goat cheese adds a creamy tang that complements the earthy beets and the pistachios provide a satisfying salty crunch. This is the perfect departure from the traditional tossed green salad, although you could lay the sliced beets on top of a bed of baby greens.  Other good additions would be citrus slices or segments, pomegranate seeds, thinly sliced red onion, avocado, burrata or sliced fresh mozzarella.

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The intense colors of BEETS are not just for show. The pigments that give them their rich colors are phytonutrients called betalains. which are either red or yellow, and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.  Beets give you a big bang for the buck.  They are vitamin rich, including iron, vitamin C and B6, while also low in calories (35 calories in a 2 inch beet), no cholesterol and almost no fat, so they can be your guilty pleasure.  Speaking of guilty pleasures, this Four Pepper Goat Cheese from Trader Joe’s was a nice extra touch.  However, use any cheese that you prefer.  A great vegan option would be using one of the soft cheeses by Miyoko’s Kitchen which is starting to get traction outside of the Bay Area, so check them out!  I have good luck finding it in Whole Foods Markets.

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Pistachios are one of my favorite nuts.  They are delicious and easy to use if you buy them pre-shelled.  Although this salad uses only a small amount of them, they still contribute more than just flavor and crunch. Pistachios have protein and fiber and as a bonus, contain fewer calories and more potassium and vitamin K per serving than other nuts.

TIPS: The beets take about an hour to roast and then they have to cool, at least enough to handle.  Luckily, they can be roasted a day or so ahead of time, peeled and refrigerated until you are ready to use them.  Or you can sometimes buy already roasted beets for a super short cut.  Once the beets are cooked and cooled, the salad is ready in minutes. Enjoy!

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BEET SALAD WITH GOAT CHEESE AND PISTACHIOS

  • 4-6 beets, preferably different varieties (red, golden or chiogga)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios (toasted almonds, walnuts or pecans)
  • 2 oz (2-3 Tbsn) goat cheese (or other crumbly cheese like feta)
  • 1 Tbsn fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

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  • Cut off beet greens and save for another use.  (They are delicious sautéed in butter or olive oil with salt and pepper} Take care not to cut into the beets or you will lose some of the juice in cooking.  Leave the root or ‘tail’ end.  It’s easy to pinch off after it’s cooked.  If you must remove it, leave a short tail to minimize juice seepage. (I absent mindedly cut mine off without thinking and they turned out fine but a slightly harder clean up.)

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  • Spray a baking dish with olive oil and place the beets inside.  Spray or drizzle them with olive oil.  Cover tightly with foil. For an even easier clean up, line the bottom of the pan with foil too.  Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about an hour.  They should be easily pierced with a fork but not soft and mushy. Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Remove the beet skins with a papertowel and pinch off the stem and tail.

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  • Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, slice the beets and place on a platter in a single layer.

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  • Here is your opportunity to be artistic.  I recommend slicing your golden beets first to prevent having to wash the mandolin between colors. Warning:  the red beets will dye anything they come into contact with, so don’t use anything with a porous surface (like wood).

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  • Roughly chop the pistachios and parsley and sprinkle them on top of the beets. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle it as well.

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Whisk the oil and vinegar together (or combine in a shaker).  Season with salt and pepper to taste (I usually use 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper).  Drizzle over beets and serve with remaining dressing on the side.

 

 

 

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 4-6 beets, preferably different varieties (red, golden or chiogga)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • 2 oz (2-3 Tbsn) goat cheese (or other crumbly cheese like feta, or gorgonzola)
  • 1 Tbsn fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cut off beet greens and save for another use.  (They are delicious sautéed in butter or olive oil with salt and pepper} Take care not to cut into the beets or you will lose some of the juice in cooking.  Leave the root or ‘tail’ end.  It’s easy to pinch off after it’s cooked.  If you must remove it, leave a short tail to minimize juice seepage.
  2. Spray a baking dish with olive oil and place the beets inside.  Spray or drizzle them with olive oil. Cover tightly with foil. For an even easier clean up, line the bottom of the pan with foil too.  Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about an hour.  They should be easily pierced with a fork but not over soft. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Remove the beet skins with a papertowel and pinch off the stem and tail.
  4. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, slice the beets and place on a platter in a single layer.  Here is your opportunity to be artistic.  I recommend slicing your golden beets first to prevent having to wash the mandolin between colors. Warning:  the red beets will dye anything they come into contact with, so don’t use anything with a porous surface (like wood).
  5. Roughly chop the pistachios and parsley and sprinkle them on top of the beets. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle it as well.
  6. Whisk the oil and vinegar together (or combine in a shaker).  Season with salt and pepper to taste (I usually use 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper).  Drizzle over beets and serve with remaining dressing on the side.

 

Meatless Monday – Veggie Tofu Spring Rolls with Asian Dipping Sauce

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If you’re looking for a new take on salad, these spring rolls are far from boring and the dipping sauce made with almondbutter is so good you might find yourself using it on everything! I took advantage of the gorgeous colors of the season with striped Chiogga beets and pink radish, which are surprisingly sweet raw when thinly sliced. They also create a fun splash of color on your plate.  Shredded carrot and purple cabbage and sliced avocado add more crazy color and texture.  I added crispy tofu for a protein boost and to make them worthy of a main course, but you can make them all veggie or add rice noodles if you prefer.  Best of all, they can be tailored for personal tastes.

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I saw a version of these Psychedelic Spring Rolls on Pinterest by @erinireland and couldn’t wait to give them a whirl, of course with my own spin. I love their vibrant and crazy colors which border on the unnatural but is actually the complete opposite, as all ingredients are fresh and organic.  If you use seasonal veggies, the wonderful colors and flavors will be different throughout the year depending on what is available.

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I have never used rice wrappers before and I must admit that it takes a few tries to perfect the technique.  The nice thing about them though, is that they are a fun alternative to tortillas or bread and they are gluten and cholesterol free and low calorie to boot. In addition, they are clear so they really showcase your yummy fillings.

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TIPS:  Have all ingredients ready before immersing the rice wrappers in hot water to soften.  Practice on one or two to perfect the wrapping technique and make sure to fold in the sides before the top and bottom.  They will feel sticky at first but that will go away as they dry. If you are using shredded veggies, make sure they are going in the same directions (up and down) instead of crosswise to prevent them from poking out or ripping the wrapper.  Add additional hot pepper sauce for a spicier sauce. Be creative!

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VEGGIE TOFU SPRING ROLLS WITH ASIAN DIPPING SAUCE

8 rice paper wraps
1 block organic extra firm tofu
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
1-2 avocados, sliced lengthwise
1 Chiogga beet, thinly sliced
1 radish, thinly sliced
small handful fresh mint and/or parsley, chopped (optional)

ASIAN DIPPING SAUCE
1/4 cup almond butter (or creamy peanut butter)
2 Tbsn water
2 Tbsn rice vinegar
2 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free aminos)
1-2 tsp hot sesame oil(or regular)
1/4-1/2 tsp grated ginger or ginger paste

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  • Cut tofu in half to make 2 flatter rectangular pieces, then cut into 8 equal sticks.
  • Place in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels, cover with more paper towels and put a heavy pan on top (to help remove excess liquid) Let sit 10 minutes.

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  • Prepare veggies using a mandolin or a sharp knife.

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  • Arrange prepared veggies on a workspace.

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  • Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir into a smooth sauce. Add additional water if necessary to thin.

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  • Heat 2 Tbsn olive or avocado oil in a heavy pan.  Season tofu with salt and pepper and saute on medium high heat until golden brown on all four sides. Let cool on a paper towel.

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  • Dip rice wrapper in hot water until soft (10 seconds) Remove from water and spread flat on a plate. Arrange vegetables, herbs and tofu in the center with your ‘star’ veggie on the bottom (that is the one that will show).

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  • Fold sides inward, then fold bottom and top inward.  Roll as tightly as possible.

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  • Place on a serving platter seam side down and make remaining 7 rolls.

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  • Serve with Asian Dipping Sauce

Veggie Tofu Spring Rolls

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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8 rice paper wraps
1 block organic extra firm tofu
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
1-2 avocados, sliced lengthwise
1 Chiogga beet, thinly sliced
1 radish, thinly sliced
small handful fresh mint and/or parsley, chopped (optional)

ASIAN DIPPING SAUCE
1/4 cup almond butter (or creamy peanut butter)
2 Tbsn water
2 Tbsn rice vinegar
2 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free aminos)
1-2 tsp hot sesame oil(or regular)
1/4-1/2 tsp grated ginger or ginger paste

  • Cut tofu in half to make 2 flatter rectangular pieces, then cut into 8 equal sticks.
  • Place in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels, cover with more paper towels and put a heavy pan on top (to help remove excess liquid)
  • Prepare veggies using a mandolin or a sharp knife.
  • Arrange prepared veggies on a workspace.
  • Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir into a smooth sauce. Add additional water if necessary to thin.
  • Heat 2 Tbsn olive or avocado oil in a heavy pan.  Season tofu with salt and pepper and saute on medium high heat until golden brown on all four sides. Let cool on a paper towel.
  • Dip rice wrapper in hot water until soft (10 seconds) Remove from water and spread flat on a plate. Arrange vegetables, herbs and tofu in the center with your ‘star’ veggie on the bottom (that is the one that will show).
  • Fold sides inward, then fold bottom and top inward.  Roll as tightly as possible.
  • Place on a serving platter seam side down and make remaining 7 rolls.
  • Serve with almond sauce

 

 

Red, White and Blue Potato Salad (Vegan)

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Since it’s the Fourth of July, how about a colorful, holiday version of an old summertime classic? Enter Red, White and Blue Potato Salad, a flavorful vegan version using caramelized onions, whole grain mustard and a red wine vinegar and fresh herb blend to make this your new favorite potato salad – and it’s pretty too.  Eat the mini potatoes whole or smash them up with your fork (like I did for my kids) to combine all the yumminess for maximum flavor.

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Potatoes are a favorite comfort food but we most often eat them fried as French fries or potato chips, so they are fat laden (and usually not the good kind).  Potatoes themselves are actually healthful even though they get a bum rap. They are a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, and pantothenic acid. Potatoes also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity.  So if you eat them without all the added fat, potatoes are actually a low calorie, high fiber, nutritious vegetable.  In this recipe only heart healthy olive oil is used along with multiple other flavors to provide a healthy potato salad that is also delicious. I also added caramelized onions to provide that yummy taste sensation that is usually derived from bacon for good flavor without the animal fat and calories.

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TIPS:  Potatoes can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight.  Or make the whole salad a day ahead since the flavors only get better after sitting overnight. When making caramelized onions, resist the temptation to increase the heat to make it go faster.  They will just burn. Trust me…

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RED, WHITE AND BLUE POTATO SALAD

  • 3 pounds small red, white and blue potatoes
  • 1 large yellow or sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup red wine or malt vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole grain mustard
  • 1/3 red onion, minced or small bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs, thyme, oregano or parsley, roughly chopped (or more)
  • salt and pepper to taste

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  • Cut any larger potatoes in half and place them all in a large pot and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until fork tender but not soft. Drain the potatoes, rinse them with cold water and place them in a serving dish.
  •  While the potatoes are cooking, caramelize the onions in a large sauté pan over medium low heat, stirring often until the onions are dark brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Don’t rush it or they will burn.

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  • Remove caramelized onions from the pan and set aside.

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  • Over low heat, add the vinegar to the pan and stir, making sure to scrape up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the vinegar into a bowl and add the olive oil and the grainy mustard. Whisk together well and then pour over the potatoes.

 

  • Add the caramelized onions, red onions and herbs. Toss everything well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Red, White and Blue Potato Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 3 pounds small red, white and blue potatoes
  • 1 large yellow or sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup red wine or malt vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole grain mustard
  • 1/3 red onion, minced or small bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs, thyme, oregano or parsley, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cut any larger potatoes in half and place them all in a large pot and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until fork tender but not soft.
  2. Drain the potatoes, rinse them with cold water and place them in a serving dish.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, caramelize the onions in a large sauté pan over medium low heat, stirring often until the onions are dark brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Don’t rush it or they will burn.
  4. Remove caramelized onions from the pan and set aside.
  5. Over low heat, add the vinegar to the pan and stir, making sure to scrape up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Pour the vinegar into a bowl and add the olive oil and the grainy mustard. Whisk together well and then pour over the potatoes.
  7. Add the caramelized onions, red onions and herbs. Toss everything well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Meatless Monday – Kale, Fennel Salad with Apples, Pecans & Goat Cheese

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Well I’ve finally done it!  I massaged kale. I have always thought kale was just fine the way it is naturally but have heard that massaging kale is a thing and have been wondering if ‘super relaxed’ kale is really worth all the fuss.  So when I spotted this recipe from Vegetarian Times, June 2016 for Fenway Park’s signature salad, I thought I would give it a try – even down to the kale massaging and fennel soaking, (Nope, I hadn’t done that before either).  What could be better than a salad that has been given the ultimate in pampering and spa treatments?  This lucky salad is a delicious combination of sweet and savory on a bed of velvety kale and fennel and drizzled with a Maple, Lemon, Dijon Vinaigrette.  Not bad for ballpark food, don’t you think?  Good on you, Fenway Park!

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Why do we massage kale anyway?  Kale is a slightly bitter green which is also somewhat fibrous.  When it is massaged, it’s tough cellulose structure breaks down (LA Times) making it less fibrous.  You can actually see the difference.  The kale will darken, shrink in size and become silky in texture. The flavor changes as well. That bitterness mellows to a sweet softness. Another benefit is that massaged kale has such a wonderful texture with just the right mix of sweet and bitter flavor, you need to use less salad dressing, thus fewer calories.  That said, this Maple Dijon Dressing is pretty good so don’t skip it entirely.

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So now you probably want to ask why one would soak shaved fennel.  Well that is not quite as clear.  Soaking fennel in cold water seemed to mellow the flavor and soften the texture of shaved fennel while still preserving it’s crispiness. Just make sure the water is really cold. The soaked fennel paired really well with the silky kale so there must be something to this.  You could probably soak your julienned apples too to prevent browning.

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TIPS: You can skip the massaging and soaking if you’re pressed for time or can’t be bothered.  Just make sure you slice thinly.

This recipe calls for dried cranberries but I was planning on using pomegranate seeds instead but I didn’t get the pomegranate seeded before my guests came and I didn’t want the kitchen to look like a tragic kitchen accident with all that pomegranate juice, so I stuck with dried cranberries, which were good.  I think pomegranate seeds would provide a fresh pop of sweet and tart, so next time I will be better organized and give them a try.

If your pecans are raw, just toast them in the oven at 350 for about about 7 minutes and let cool.  Or you can find toasted or candied pecans in most grocery stores.

This is a yummy dressing but it can tend to be too sweet when paired with apples, cranberries and pecans, so try adding one tablespoon of maple syrup at a time to the other ingredients until it is to your preferred sweetness.  The original recipe called for three tablespoons but I used two and next time I will use only one.

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KALE FENNEL SALAD
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves cut into thin strips
1 generous pinch of salt
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced and submerged in ice water
1 apple, cored and julienned
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted or candied
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

DRESSING
1-3 Tbsn pure maple syrup (add 1 Tbsn at a time until desired sweetness)
2 Tbsn lemon juice
1 Tbsn dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
6 Tbsn olive oil

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  • Place kale in a medium bowl, and massage with salt for a minute or so, or until the greens are dark and glossy.

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  • Thinly slice fennel and place in a cold water bath while you prepare the other salad ingredients

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  • Drain fennel, and add to kale

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  • Stir in apple, cranberries, goat cheese and pecans.

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  • Combine maple syrup, lemon juice, mustard, shallot and thyme in a small bowl.  Whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper.

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  • Toss the salad with dressing.

Kale and Fennel Salad with Apples, Pecans and Goat Cheese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves cut into thin strips
1 generous pinch of salt
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced and submerged in ice water
1 apple, cored and julienned
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted or candied
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

DRESSING
1-3 Tbsn pure maple syrup (Add 1 Tbsn at time until desired sweetness)
2 Tbsn lemon juice
1 Tbsn dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
6 Tbsn olive oil

  • Place kale in a medium bowl, and massaage with salt for a minute or so, or until the greens are dark and glossy..
  • Thinly slice fennel and submerge in cold water while you prepare the other ingredients
  • Drain fennel, and add to kale
  • Stir in apple, cranberries, goat cheese and pecans.
  • Combine maple syrup, lemon juice, mustard, shallot and thyme in a small bowl.  Whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Toss the salad with dressing.

Meatless Monday – Shaved Fennel Salad with Burrata

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The longer and warmer days of Spring bring forth a whole new crop of fresh vegetables. One of my favorites is fennel with it’s distinctive licorice-like flavor.  Fennel is wonderful roasted and caramelized but it is also delightful served raw in salads.  I particularly liked this salad featuring shaved fennel marinated in lemon and olive oil and paired with creamy burrata over a bed of baby arugula and topped with toasted pine  nuts and fresh mint.  I love the juxtaposition of the  slightly crunchy, lemony fennel with the creaminess of the burrata which is one of my favorite cheeses. Burrata is similar to fresh mozzarella but has a soft, oozy and delicious center.  Of course, if you are avoiding dairy, the fennel salad is strong enough to stand on it’s own without adding burrata.  Since I made this as a main course, I also added avocado to add healthy fats and the sense of fullness it provides.

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White foods like fennel don’t seem like they have much to offer from a nutritional standpoint but you might be surprised. Fennel is a great source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, folic acid, vitamin C and potassium. It’s high fiber content acts as a bulking agent and helps us feel fuller longer.  Fennel can help with the absorption of iron and aids in digestion (particularly the digestion of fat) and freshens the breath. So I’m thinking fennel might be a no brainer  to serve at dinner parties.

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Fennel stalks and fronds are also edible. The fronds are especially great used as an herb or accent in dishes. The stalks can be chopped and added to soups and stocks. My fennel stalks, however, all went to my backyard chickens. I have 9 adorable rescue chickens, some of which were battery cage hens that were rescued from slaughter by Animal Place.  Some of these lovelies had their beaks clipped which is a common factory farm practice.  In losing their most important tool (their sharp beak) they have trouble picking up and cutting food.  That is where my cuisinart comes into play.  I blended up my fennel tops and fronds along with a few other fresh veggies to make it easier for my girls to get their greens.  You can read more about my sweet girls and their Donald Trump ‘comb’overs on their Facebook Page: Mrs V’s Rescue Chickens. They love new followers.  Oh, and don’t buy cheap eggs….

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TIPS: Remove zest from lemon before cutting in half and juicing.  Otherwise, it’s almost an impossible task and you will have wasted a lemon.  Yes, I know this from experience when I did’t think ahead.  This salad was just as good the next day once brought to room temperature, so I suspect the fennel can be marinated ahead of time and tossed with the rest of the ingredients just before serving.

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SHAVED FENNEL SALAD WITH BURRATA

  • medium heads fennel
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (or pistachios)
  • oz burrata
  • 1 small bunch baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 avocado, sliced (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

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  • Trim frond ends of fennel and slice in half lengthwise and remove the core.

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  • Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice fennel very thinly.

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  • Place fennel, oil, zest and lemon juice in a shallow dish; season with salt and pepper. Let stand 10 minutes or so.

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  • Dry toast the pinenuts in a small pan over medium heat until golden. Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Place a layer of arugula on a platter and arrange marinated fennel on top. Add avocado, if desired.

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  • Place burrata over fennel and sprinkle with pine nuts and mint leaves. Drizzle with remaining marinade.

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Shaved Fennel Salad with Burrata

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • medium heads fennel
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (or pistachios)
  • oz burrata
  • 1 small bunch baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 avocado, sliced (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Trim frond ends of fennel and slice in half lengthwise and remove the core.
  2. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice fennel very thinly.
  3. Place fennel, oil, zest and lemon juice in a shallow dish; season with salt and pepper. Let stand 10 minutes or so.
  4. Dry toast the pinenuts in a small pan over medium heat until golden. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. Place a layer of arugula on a platter and arrange marinated fennel on top. Add avocado, if desired.
  6. Place burrata over fennel and sprinkle with pine nuts and mint leaves. Drizzle with remaining marinade.

 

Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Avocado Citrus Dressing

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As promised, I tested the Mexican Quinoa Salad with Orange Lime Dressing from my Buzzfeed Life FB Post on Monday (25 Clean Eating Meals For Vegetarians). I mean, it has many of my food loves all in one bowl.  How could I resist – and why?  Of course I put my own spin on the original recipe, which will surprise no one. This salad is delicious and very satisfying with two great sources of protein in the red quinoa and black beans.  The avocado, in both the salad and in the dressing, adds a healthy fat and helps keep your belly feeling full and happy.  The Avocado Citrus Dressing is divine, just the right balance of creamy, savory and sweet and it’s easy to make spicy if that’s where your tastebuds are headed. Don’t be afraid to toss in a few tortilla chips to enhance the Mexican flavors of this dish.

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I like to use red quinoa in dishes that would normally be filled with ground beef or some other meat protein because it makes such a good substitute in both taste and texture. Quinoa is naturally high in protein and loaded with nutrition but low in fat and calories.  With the addition of black beans, this ‘salad’ becomes a real main course contender.  My meat eaters love it!  Red quinoa has a great consistency and when sauteed with onions, garlic and spices, just like you would with ground beef, it really picks up those savory flavors nicely. In fact, this black bean quinoa mixture is a great base for tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas or any other dish requiring a Mexican inspired filling.

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The vegetable toppings on this salad are so colorful, making this a dish worthy of company – or that pot luck that you never know what to bring.  It can be served slightly warm or at room temperature, making it a great busy day meal, especially when you have people going in many different directions.  If it were summer and corn was in season, I would use raw or grilled fresh corn kernels.  Since it’s winter, I used defrosted uncooked frozen corn. Each of these colorful veggies adds a whole new wealth of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants which is why we should try to Eat the Rainbow every day.

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Have you ever wondered how restaurants serve orange segments that are bright orange and have no pith?  Don’t peel them. Just cut off the top and then slice around the sides, then cut off the bottom.  Remove any remaining pith and then slice into gorgeous segments.  Yes, you lose a bit of the flesh but the result is so pretty and has no tough skins or bitter pith.  If you don’t care about that, peel and segment. Done!

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TIPS: This salad can be prepared as a layered, tossed or composed salad.  You can also make one large salad or prepare individual salad plates and cater to each of your diner’s tastes.  I combined the black beans with the quinoa mixture so that the beans would also absorb the garlic, onion and spice flavors.  If you want to make a composed or layered salad and want to keep the ingredients separate, you can serve the beans warmed up or room temperature.  I think they are fine plain with their natural salty flavor or you can sprinkle the beans with a bit of the spices and toss to coat.
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Original recipe from Minimalist Baker (link below).

MEXICAN QUINOA BLACK BEAN SALAD
  • 1/2 cup red or white quinoa (1 cup cooked )
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed or 1 1/2 cup cooked
  • 5-6 cups mixed greens
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced or diced
  • 1 orange, peeled and segmented
  • 1/2  ripe avocado, sliced or chopped
  • 1 4 oz can sliced or whole black olives (optional)
  • 1 jalapeno or red chili pepper, sliced or diced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup tortilla chips (optional)

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DRESSING
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 large lime, juiced  (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey (or other sweetener)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or a dash of hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced cilantro or parsley
  • 3-4 Tbsn olive oil or avocado oil
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  • Rinse 1/2 cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, then bring to a boil with 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook on low for 15-20 minutes or until the little ‘tails’ come out. Set aside

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  • Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.

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  • Add quinoa and spices to the onion mixture and saute several minutes. Taste and add another 1/4 teaspoon of each spice if desired.  If you like it spicy, add 1/4 teaspoon or more of cayenne pepper.

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  • Add black beans to the quinoa mixture (If you like a composed salad, skip this step and add the black beans separately to the salad. See TIPS.) Remove from heat and set aside. NOTE:  This quinoa black bean mixture is a great base for tacos or any other Mexican recipe.

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  • While quinoa is cooling, prepare vegetables.

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  • Place lettuces in a large bowl or on individual serving plates.

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  • Layer with warm or room temperature (not hot) quinoa mixture and top with corn, avocado, red onion, orange segments and olives.

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  • Prepare dressing by adding all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blending until creamy and smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. For a less creamy dressing, leave out the avocado and simply whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.

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Drizzle dressing over salad and top with cilantro and tortilla chips, if desired.  Serve with lime wedges and extra hot sauce.cre

Mexican Quinoa Salad with Orange Lime Dressing

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1/2 cup red or white quinoa (1 cup cooked )
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed or 1 1/2 cup cooked
  • 5-6 cups mixed greens
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced or diced
  • 1 orange, peeled and segmented
  • 1/2  ripe avocado, sliced or chopped
  • 1 4 oz can sliced or whole black olives (optional)
  • 1 jalapeno or red chili pepper, sliced or diced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup tortilla chips (optional)
DRESSING
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 large lime, juiced (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey (or other sweetener)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder (or sub extra hot sauce or chipotle powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or a dash of hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced cilantro or parsley
  • 3-4 Tbsn olive oil or avocado oil
  1. Rinse 1/2 cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, then bring to a boil with 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook on low for 15-20 minutes or until the little ‘tails’ come out. Set aside
  2. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
  3. Add quinoa and spices to the onion mixture and saute several minutes. Taste and add another 1/4 teaspoon of each spice if desired.  If you like it spicy, add 1/4 teaspoon or more of cayenne pepper.
  4. Add black beans to the quinoa mixture (If you like a composed salad, skip this step and add the black beans separately to the salad. See TIPS.) Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Place lettuces in a large bowl or on individual serving plates.
  6. Layer with warm or room temperature (not hot) quinoa mixture
  7. Top with corn, avocado, red onion, orange segments and olives.
  8. Prepare dressing by adding all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blending until creamy and smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. For a less creamy dressing, leave out the avocado and simply whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.
  9. Drizzle orange lime dressing over salad and adorn with cilantro and tortilla chips, if desired.  Serve with lime wedges and extra hot sauce.

Recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker, a great cooking site worth checking out.  

Mexican Quinoa Salad with Orange Lime Dressing

Green Bean & Chick Pea Salad with Goat Cheese & Lemon Herb Vinaigrette

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Sometimes I want a salad that goes beyond lettuce and vegetables, one that is hearty enough to have for dinner.  This green bean salad has it all; garbanzo beans for protein and bulk, spicy radiches, sweet cherry tomatoes and creamy goat cheese drizzled with a fresh herb vinaigrette.  I loved the combination of flavors and colors in this salad, with it’s array of green, red, purple, yellow, beige and white.  (Yes, even the beige and white provide important nutrients). You know when your meal is colorful that you are doing a good job of eating the rainbow. In other words, you are getting a wide assortment of nutrients from your food.

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Each color provides something different, which is why it’s a good idea to eat a variety of foods. The star of this salad, though is the green beans which I think are often forgotten about except for at Thanksgiving when Aunt Ellie brings out her traditional Green Bean Casserole topped with fried onions(Although I have to admit it’s one of my favorites too).  Green beans are a great base for a salad and pair nicely with beans, mushrooms or potatoes to provide a substantial belly-filling meal.  

Health Benefits of Green Beans

Green beans are low in calories and fat and contain no cholesterol. The fiber content of green beans is very high, and it also provides some of your daily protein requirements. They also act as an easy source for acquiring vitamins like A, C, K, B6, and folic acid. In terms of minerals, green beans are a good source of calcium, silicon, iron, manganese, potassium, and copper.

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I got the idea for the vinaigrette from a bit of Lemon Parsley Pesto that was left from my https://goodmotherdiet.com/2016/02/08/meatless-monday-roasted-artichokes-fennel-with-lemon-parsley-pesto/ post on Monday.  I had loved the flavors and thought it would make a good dressing, and it did!  So I recreated the recipe as a vinaigrette which you can make with or without the nuts, which I love and include every time I get a chance.  I did not include parmesan because I was already adding goat cheese to the salad, and I thought it might get too heavy, but you could certainly include a tablespoon of that as well, especially if you aren’t adding cheese to your salad.

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TIPS:  You can make the whole salad ahead of time and either let it rest, undressed, on the counter or in the refrigerator covered with a paper towel. You can also prepare the beans and vinaigrette the day before and toss the salad when ready.  Or if you are in a real hurry, just use your favorite prepared salad dressing. I like to make a lot of different salad dressings and recently bought several small glass containers, like the one I used for this vinaigrette, from The Container Store.  I usually don’t use it all and that way I always have a good homemade dressing ready to go.

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GREEN BEAN AND CHICK PEAS WITH LEMON HERB VINAIGRETTE

1 lb fresh green beans
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 radishes
6-8 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup feta, goat cheese (or vegan cheese), crumbled (optional)
small handful arugula or whole sprigs parsley(optional)

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Lemon Herb Vinaigrette

1/4 cup lemon juice (plus zest from one lemon, optional)
1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar (or more to thin)
2 Tbsn fresh herbs (parsley, thyme or oregano), minced (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Tbsn pistachios, walnuts or pinenuts, finely minced (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

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  • Blanch the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender-crisp, 3 minutes. Remove the green beans from the boiling water, run under cold water for a few minutes to stop the cooking, and then drain and dry with a paper towel (add ice cubes, if desired to speed the cooling process)

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  • Cut radishes into thin slices, cherry tomatoes in halves and red onion in thin slices.

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  • Place green beans in a large serving dish.

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  • Spread garbanzo beans evenly among green beans.

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  • Top with radishes, tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle arugula leaves on top, if using.

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  • Mix together vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.

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  • Sprinkle with crumbled cheese.

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  • Drizzle vinaigrette or serve on the side.

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Green Bean and Chick Pea Salad with Lemon Herb Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 lb fresh green beans
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 radishes
6-8 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled
small handful arugula or whole sprigs parsley(optional)

Lemon Herb Vinaigrette

1/4 cup lemon juice (plus zest from one lemon, optional)
1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar (or more to thin)
2 Tbsn fresh herbs (parsley, thyme or oregano), minced (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Tbsn pistachios, walnuts or pinenuts, finely minced (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

  • Blanch the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender-crisp, 3 minutes. Remove the green beans from the boiling water, run under cold water for a few minutes to stop the cooking, and then drain and dry with a paper towel
  • Cut radishes into thin slices, cherry tomatoes in halves and red onion in thin slices.
  • Place green beans in a large serving dish.
  • Top with radishes, tomatoes and onions
  • Mix together vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.
  • Sprinkle with crumbled cheese.
  • Drizzle vinaigrette or serve on the side.

 

Blackened Rainbow Fish Tacos with Spicy Avocado Sauce

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Looking for healthy and delicious goodies to serve at the Superbowl Halftime?  These yummy Blackened Fish Tacos will not disappoint.  They can be served as a make-it-yourself Taco Bar or as pre-made sliders to serve a large crowd and they are really fun, with a colorful topping of Rainbow ‘slaw’ that includes fresh sweet mango, avocado, black beans and jalapeno, and topped with a dollop of Spicy Avocado Sauce.  I like to include black beans in the slaw.  Their earthy saltiness adds a nice contrast to the crunchy sweet and spice of the rest of the fruits and veggies.  Plus the addition of black beans allows vegetarians or non-fish eaters to make delicious and satisfying tacos too. I know nutrition is not the top priority of SuperBowl cuisine, but you can rest assured that these tacos will be popular and pack a huge nutrional punch without all the extra calories.

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Well the good news is that Punxatawny Phil didn’t see his shadow yesterday on GroundHog Day, which means Spring will come early this year, although I’m not sure that Phil is a trustworthy predictor of spring.  In fact, according to the StormFax Almanac Phil has been right only 39 percent of the time. Since his first prediction in 1887, Phil has seen his shadow 102 times and not seen it on just 18 occasions, including this year.  I guess Spring will come when it comes but I can’t wait.  I know we need the rain in California but…

I love Mexican food, especially tacos!  The spicier the better in my book.  Halibut makes a great taco base since it’s mild in flavor and really picks up the wow of the spices.  It’s also firm in texture so it doesn’t turn to mush or fall apart in the taco even when you add multiple toppings. I used the smaller, slider sized, corn tortillas which are fun for large gatherings, if you can find them, like the Superbowl.  That way I get to eat two for the price of one… yum!  I also liked the way this avocado sauce set itself apart from guacamole (which I also love) and doesn’t include any sour cream or other fatty fillers, just lots of lovely flavor.  For a spicier sauce, include more jalapeno and some of the seeds.  The honey is added to offset the acidity of the apple cider vinegar and lime juice, not to make it sweet.  Of course, you could always omit the honey if you like it tangy.  For a creamier sauce, substitute yogurt and a little water for the vinegar.  It’s hard to go wrong with avocado, so feel free to experiment.

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TIPS:  To easily cut a mango into chunks, slice the mango lengthwise, on the flat side just to the right of the large pit.  Cut the fleshy part of the mango lengthwise and then crosswise (without cutting into the skin) and invert mango to expose mango sections.  Then easily cut off mango cubes.  The avocado sauce and the rainbow/mango topping can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.  I found that both Rainbow Slaw and Avocado Sauce held up really well overnight in the refrigerator.

For more SuperBowl recipes, check out my blog post this Friday. Cheers!

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BLACKENED RAINBOW FISH TACOS

2 lbs halibut, skin removed (or other mild fish)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsn cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Blackened Old Bay (optional)
1 tsp salt
8 corn tortillas (or 16 slider sized)
1 cup queso fresco (optional)

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RAINBOW MANGO TOPPING (Makes a generous salad/can easily be halved)

1 avocado, diced
1/2 mango, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded or chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jalapeno, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced (2-3 Tbsn)

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SPICY AVOCADO SAUCE

1 ripe avocado
1 jalapeno (with or without seeds)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 lime, juiced (2-3 Tbsn)
1-2 Tbsn honey (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

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  • Wash halibut filets and pat dry.  Cut into bite sized pieces and place in a shallow container.

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  • Combine chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, Old Bay and salt in a small bowl.

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  • Sprinkle spice mixture over halibut and stir to cover evenly and set aside.

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  • Place all Rainbow Mango ingredients in a serving bowl and toss to combine.

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  • Place all Avocado Sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Start with just one tablespoon of honey and then adjust according to taste.  Pour into a serving bowl (top with avocado pit to keep from turning brown).

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  • Wrap tortillas in foil and heat in a 250 degree oven.  Heat olive oil in a heavy pan, cast iron if possible, until quite hot.  Add halibut to hot pan and cook several minutes, stirring to sear all sides.  Remove from heat to prevent overcooking.

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  • Assemble tacos, by placin a few pieces of halibut in each tortilla and a spoonful of Rainbow Mango Topping.  Top with a drizzle of Spicy Avocado Sauce

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Blackened Rainbow Fish Tacos with Spicy Avocado Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20160127_203858

BLACKENED RAINBOW FISH TACOS

2 lbs halibut, skin removed (or other mild fish)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsn cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Blackened Old Bay (optional)
1 tsp salt
8 corn tortillas (or 16 slider sized)
1 cup queso fresco (optional)

RAINBOW MANGO TOPPING

1 avocado, diced
1/2 mango, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jalapeno, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced (2-3 Tbsn)

SPICY AVOCADO SAUCE

1 ripe avocado
1 jalapeno (with or without seeds)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 lime, juiced (2-3 Tbsn)
2 Tbsn honey (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Wash halibut filets and pat dry.  Cut into bite sized pieces and place in a shallow container.
  • Combine chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, Old Bay and salt in a small bowl and sprinkle over halibut and stir to cover evenly and set aside.
  • Place all Rainbow Mango ingredients in a serving bowl and toss to combine.
  • Place all Avocado Sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Pour into a serving bowl (top with avocado pit to keep from turning brown).
  • Wrap tortillas in foil and heat in a 250 degree oven.
  • Heat olive oil in a heavy pan, cast iron if possible, until quite hot.  Add halibut to hot pan and cook several minutes, stirring to sear all sides.  Remove from heat to prevent overcooking.
  • Assemble tacos, by placin a few pieces of halibut in each tortilla and a spoonful of Rainbow Mango Topping.  Top with a drizzle of Spicy Avocado Sauce

Meatless Monday – Winter Greens with Persimmon, Pomegranate and Glazed Pecans

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Winter doesn’t have to be blah!  Some winter fruits are brilliant and colorful, like persimmon and pomegranate, both only availble for a short time of year.  I almost didn’t post this because the photo doesn’t really do it justice.  I was in a hurry as 25 people were about to arrive for dinner and I didn’t have time to take a lot of photos or make sure the lighting was right.  You’ll just have to trust me. This salad is lovely and delicious. The persimmon almost looks like it has been sprinkled with cinnamon and when cut this way, has star shapes (scroll down).  Pomegranate seeds with their brilliant red are show stoppers and add a delicious tangy crunch.  I also added red globe grapes which are really sweet and also in season now and I topped it all off with candied pecans, a crumble of goat cheese and a drizzle of vinaigrette.  Mmmm…

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Persimmons are a widely overlooked fruit, perhaps because people don’t know what to do with them.  They are quite popular in Japan where they originated and they are obviously beloved.  The Latin word for persimmon means “food of the gods.”  There are two types of persimmons available at our markets.  Hachiya persimmons are soft and creamy, great for baking and making puddings but not for eating raw.  The Fuyu, which is called for in this salad, is wonderful to eat raw, peeled or unpeeled. Regardless of type, they’re a fruit with amazingly effective antioxidant capabilities, with powerful vitamins to boot, including 55% of our RDA of Vitamin A and 22% of Vitamin C, which we really need this time of year to combat colds and flu. They are also an excellent source of fiber, B Vitamins and phytonutrients.  They aren’t just pretty and great in a table centerpiece.  They walk the talk.

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Pomegranates are another gorgeous fruit with it’s brilliant, jewel tones arils (seeds) that is more than just a pretty face.  Pomegranate arils are the most powerful anti-oxidant of all fruits and they are nutrient dense which makes them an important ingredient to immune support and overall good health. They can be messy to seed and stain surfaces, so use a non-porous try or board when removing arils. Although you can often find containers of pomegranate arils already removed, I find it’s worth it to do it yourself.  The results are fresher, have more flavor and last longer.  However, in a pinch, it’s sometimes nice to just be able to toss them on top. Done!

TIPS:  I used Candied Pecans from Trader Joe’s which I really like but they are available in most markets.  They are sometimes labelled Glazed Pecans.  You can also do it yourself if you are feeling industrious. Click HERE for a good recipe for Candied Pecans from All Recipes.  Warning:  they may not make it to your salad…

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WINTER GREENS WITH PERSIMMON, GLOBE GRAPES, POMEGRANATE AND GLAZED PECANS

16 oz fresh greens (spinach, arugula, baby kale, etc)
1 Fuyu persimmon
1/2 cup globe grapes, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup glazed pecans
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
3 oz goat cheese (optional)

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar (or both)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

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  • Wash and dry greens and place them in a large serving bowl.

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  • Cut the top off of the persimmon.  Cut it in half vertically and then slice into flat wedges. Note the lovely star shapes. Leave wedges whole or cut in half.

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  • Add persimmon, grapes and pecans to greens.

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  • On a non-porous surface, cut pomegranate in half and remove seeds.

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  • Add goat cheese if desired. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and drizzle over salad.  Toss before serving.

Winter Greens with Persimmon, Globe Grapes, Pomegranate and Glazed Pecans

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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 16 oz fresh greens (spinach, arugula, baby kale, etc(
1 Fuyu persimmon
1/2 cup globe grapes, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup glazed pecans
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
3 oz goat cheese (optional)

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar (or both)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  • Wash and dry greens and place them in a large serving bowl.
  • Cut the top off of the persimmon.  Cut it in half vertically and then slice into flat wedges. Leave wedges whole or cut in half.
  • Add persimmon, grapes, pomegranat seeds and pecans to greens.
  • Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and drizzle over salad.  Toss before serving.

Wheatless Wednesday – Warm Scallop Salad with Lentils and Frisee

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I love Autumn salads which are a bit heartier than those we enjoy in summer.  With the advent of chilly evenings, we need more tummy-filling ingredients to keep us warm and satisfied.  It also helps that bikinis are soon to become a distant memory (unless you’re going on a tropical vacation).  I really like adding either grains or legumes to salads, especially if they are the main course and French green lentils are a favorite.  In creating this salad, I started with a bed of frisee which adds texture and interest, then a layer of French green lentils, tomatoes and oranges topped with warm seared scallops.  A final drizzle of mustard vinaigrette completes the dish. To make this dish vegan, substitute sliced hearts of palm instead of scallops. I don’t know how hearts of palm are when seared, so would recommend using them raw unless you are up for a challenge. It could be worth a try, though.  They sure worked well as a meat alternative in my Pulled ‘Pork’ Sliders. I may have to try…

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Frisee is an under-appreciated green, at least in the Univted States.  Frisee, also called curly endive, is part of the chicory family, along with Belgian endive, radicchio, and escarole.  Frisee is packed with nutrients, and very low in calories like most greens. It is an excellent source of folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C, with approximately one third the daily recommended amount of each, in a single serving. It is also a good source of vitamin K, and manganese. It’s slightly bitter and nutty flavor makes it a nice addition to salads but it works best mixed with milder greens or with complementary flavors like sweet citrus, earthy lentils and a tangy vinaigrette.

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I often use French green lentils (De Puy) which I think are the most flavorful and they keep their shape when cooked, unlike red lentils which are soft and split open, making them perfect for soups and stews.  Brown lentils, which are the most commonly available, can be substituted.  Just be careful not to overcook as they also can become too soft.  Lentils not only delicious, they are high in protein, low in fat and are a good source of fiber and vitamins and minerals, including iron.

TIPS: When purchasing scallops, try to buy dry sea scallops.  Scallops are often labelled ‘dry’ or ‘wet’.  If they aren’t labelled, ask. ‘Wet’ scallops are treated with a solution called STP (sodium tripolyphosphate), which helps the scallops maintain their moisture. The STP solution gives scallops a longer shelf life and keeps them plump and fresh looking. As a result, you’ll not only pay for the added water weight (meaning you get fewer scallops per pound and possibly scallops that are less than fresh)  In addition, you’ll also have trouble browning these scallops—no matter how hot your pan—because of all that excess moisture. If you have had trouble browning scallops in the past, this could be the reason. You will still rinse and dry your scallops which shouldn’t effect the browning as long you dry them well with paper towels.

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WARM SCALLOP SALAD WITH LENTILS AND FRISEE

1 lb large sea scallops
1/2 cup French green lentils
2 ripe tomatoes
1 orange
3-4 scallions, sliced
1 head frisee
2 Tbsn olive oil
salt

VINAIGRETTE
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/8 tsp pepper

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  • Cook lentils as directed but don’t over cook.  They should be al dente.  Pour off any excess water, remove from heat and set aside to cool with lid off.

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  • Slice tomatoes into wedges.  Peel oranges and slice into rounds and then halves.

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  • Pull frisee apart and place in one a large platter or bowl.

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  • Spread cooled lentils over frisee.

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  • Top with tomatoes, orange slices and scallions.

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  • Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

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  • Rinse and dry scallops. Heat olive oil over medium high heat until the pan is very hot. Arrange scallops in a single layer, uncrowded.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes and flip to cook the other side for another 1 1/2 minutes.

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  • Remove from heat and place on top of salad. Sprinkle with vinaigrette and serve immediately.

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Warm Scallop Salad with Lentils and Frisee

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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 1 lb large sea scallops
1/2 cup French green lentils
2 ripe tomatoes
1 orange
3-4 scallions, sliced
1 head frisee
2 Tbsn olive oil
salt

VINAIGRETTE
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/8 tsp pepper

  • Cook lentils as directed but don’t over cook.  They should be al dente.  Pour off any excess water, remove from heat and set aside to cool with lid off.
  • Slice tomatoes into wedges.  Peel oranges and slice into rounds and then halves.
  • Pull frisee apart and place in one a large platter or bowl.
  • Spread cooled lentils over frisee.
  • Top with tomatoes, orange slices and scallions.
  • Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Rinse and dry scallops. Heat olive oil over medium high heat until the pan is very hot. Arrange scallops in a single layer, uncrowded.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes and flip to cook the other side for another 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and place on top of salad.
  • Sprinkle with vinaigrette and serve immediately.

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Mexican Street Corn Salad

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You’ve heard of Mexican Street Corn, fresh corn on the cob slathered in spices, herbs and savory cheese – delicious but messy.  Here it is ‘off the cob’ and ready to feed a big crowd – the same yummy ingredients but easy to serve. Served off the cob, the dish is called Esquites while the traditional street food grilled or steamed right on the cob is known as Elote. Traditional ingredients include mayonnaise, cotija cheese, lime juice, and chili powder but other herbs and spices are often included.

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I have been visiting family in Seattle for the last week, living like a hobo out of my suitcase and bouncing around the Seattle area from Tacoma to Seattle to Whidbey Island to Bothell.  I was lucky enough to see five of my sisters, two of my brothers and both of my parents.  Yes, I know. This is starting to require higher math, and three sibs were even missing!  As one of eleven children, I am used to large family celebrations where everyone brings something to share.  We are the masters of potluck.  Needless to say I was not in my kitchen, so obviously did no cooking myself, but I did watch my sister, Margaret, prepare this tasty dish for one of our family potlucks over the weekend.  With fresh corn, chili peppers, spicy seasonings and crumbly Mexican cheese, this is a definite crowd-pleaser, great for a family dinner or a potluck party.  For our large crowd, Margaret doubled the recipe.

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Guest Chef, Margaret Vandenberg, has made this recipe from The Kitchn before and admitted that she and her husband, Scott, have polished off leftovers with grilled salmon and tortillas as a great late night snack.  Sounds yummy to me!  This is the lovely view of Lake Washington from Margaret’s living room.  I can sit there for hours watching boats and birds and clouds….and then she serves wonderful food too.  No wonder I keep going back….

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TIPS:  I have not made this salad yet, but witnessed my sister in action.  This salad is delicious as is but if you want to make it even more ‘street’ you could try grilling or roasting the corn on the cob, before cutting off the kernels, for additional color and flavor.  Spicy food lovers could also add a dash or two of cayenne pepper to add more zest.  You could also serve with additional cotija sprinkled on top.

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Recipe Adapted From The Kitchn

MEXICAN STREET CORN SALAD

6 ears fresh corn kernels from the cob (or 4 cups frozen yellow corn)
2 Tbsn olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 hot pepper (jalapeno, red chili, etc)
3 Tbsn cotija cheese (goat or feta), crumbled
2 Tbsn mayonaise (vegan mayo or plain yogurt)
2 Tbsn cilanto, chopped
1 1/2 tsp Mexican style chili powder
2 limes, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

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  • In a large cast iron pan, saute the corn in the oil on medium-high heat until toasted, 15 to 20 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so and remove from heat and let cool and place in a large mixing bowl.

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  • Cut the peppers into a fine dice and add to the corn mixture.

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  • Add all the other ingredients to the corn mixture and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings and add ingredients to suit your tastes.

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  • Serve room temperature.

Mexican Street Corn Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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6 ears fresh corn kernels from the cob (or 4 cups frozen yellow corn)
2 Tbsn olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 hot pepper (jalapeno, red chili, etc)
3 Tbsn cotija cheese (goat or feta), crumbled
2 Tbsn mayonaise (vegan mayo or plain yogurt)
2 Tbsn cilanto, chopped
1 1/2 tsp Mexican style chili powder
2 limes, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

  • In a large cast iron pan, saute the corn in the oil on medium-high heat until toasted, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so and remove from heat and let cool and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Cut the peppers into a fine dice and add to the corn mixture.
  • Add all the other ingredients to the corn mixture and toss to combine.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings and add ingredients to suit your tastes.
  • Serve room temperature.

Meatless Monday – Beet & Apple Salad with Almonds & Feta

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I know what you’re thinking…raw beets, yuck!  Think again.  Did you know that Beets are considered to be nature’s Viagra? (I’m not making this up) The ancient Romans, used them medicinally as an aphrodisiac and science has backed them up. Yep!  Apparently, it’s all about Boron which is used in the production of hormones. That aside, beets are surprisingly sweet and delicious when eaten raw, especially if they are thinly sliced, shaved or shredded.  In fact, that they are so sweet, especially in combination with the apple spirals, that they need an acidic dressing, fresh herbs and buttery almonds for balance.  I also love the addition of creamy feta or goat cheese to round out the flavors and add a bit more protein.

 

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Okay, I’m admitting to a mild obsession with my spiralizer.  Who knew how gorgeous raw beets could look when spiral sliced into angel hair proportions! I added Fuji apple because I thought they would be a good combination, but another veggie or fruit combo would work too, like kohlrabi or carrots.  OR try several colors of beets for a very pretty salad.  You really can’t go wrong here. If you don’t have a spiral slicer, you can use a grater or mandoline but it will be a bit more work.

In case you are still not convinced about Beets, from a nutritional standpoint they have a lot to offer. They are good sources of potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid.  They are also wonderful for the liver and work as a purifier for the blood. It also contains trytophan, which relaxes the mind and creates a sense of well-being, similar to chocolate. At the same time they are low in calories and high in sugar (although the sugar is released into your system gradually, as opposed to chocolate). Very few foods found in the natural world are as beneficial as beets in this regard.  Whoa, heady stuff here!   But I know you’re still thinking about Boron and Nature’s Viagra. Am I right?

TIPS: I love almonds with this dish.  They add just the right buttery crunch, however, almost any nut will work.  If your almonds are raw, just toast them in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown, stirring occasionally.  Let cool before adding to salad.

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BEET & APPLE SALAD WITH ALMONDS AND FETA

2 medium raw beets
1 large Fuji apple (or other firm sweet apple)
2 large scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese (optional)
1/4 cup fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, etc), chopped

VINAIGRETTE
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (0r red wine vinegar)
2 Tbsn olive oil
2 Tbsn lemon juice + zest from one lemon
1 Tbsn fresh parsley or mint, chopped
1 Tbsn maple syrup, honey or agave (or more to taste)
1/3 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

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  • Cut off the stem end and peel the beets.  Using the smallest blade on the spiral slicer, slice  beet into angel hair strands. Repeat with remaining beet. Place beets into large bowl or platter.

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  • Peel apple and slice into angel hair strands. Add to platter.

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  • Whisk together all ingredients for vinaigrette and pour over beet apple mixture along with scallions and herbs. Toss to combine.

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  • Top with toasted almonds, scallions and feta.

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  • Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Beet & Apple Salad with Almonds & Feta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

20150830_142537 

2 medium raw beets
1 large fuji apple (or other firm sweet apple)
2 large scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
1/4 cup fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, etc), chopped

VINAIGRETTE
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (0r red wine vinegar)
2 Tbsn olive oil
2 Tbsn lemon juice + zest from one lemon
1 Tbsn fresh parsley or mint, chopped
1 Tbsn maple syrup, honey or agave(or more to taste)
1/3 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

  • Cut off the stem end and peel the beets.  Using the smallest blade on the spiral slicer, slice into angel hair strands.
  • Place into large bowl or platter.
  • Peel apple and slice into angel hair strands. Add to platter.
  • Add toasted almonds and scallions.
  • Whisk together all ingredients for vinaigrette and pour over beet apple mixture.
  • Toss to combine.  Top with feta or goat cheese.

Wheatless Wednesday Tomatoes, Mozzarella & Peaches with Balsamic Reduction

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Summertime favorite, Caprese Salad goes rogue with sliced ripe peaches and a drizzle of velvety rich balsamic reduction. This colorful combo was the brainchild of my son, Eric.  I had recently purchased a flat of perfectly ripe peaches and I am lucky enough to have a constant supply of lovely heirloom tomatoes from my garden in shades of red, yellow and even striped green.  The peaches add a nice sweetness to the traditional tomatoes and mozzarella and the balsamic reduction is the piece de resistance.  Of course, you can drizzle with a balsamic vinaigrette which is easy and delicious, but the reduction is worth the minimal effort.  In only 10 minutes or so, balsamic vinegar is transformed into a richly flavored syrup that can be drizzled on almost anything to enhance its natural flavors.  I also love using a variety of colors for an exceptionally colorful presentation.

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Peaches are one of summer’s most popular fruits and they are so good when they are at the peak of the season, like they are right now. Peach peels can  be fuzzy and tough, so I peel them for this salad so they blend better with the tomatoes.  If you are using a thinner skinned peach or nectarine, just slice them up without peeling.  Peaches are low in calories and fat free but provide fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals, including A, C and potassium.  They definitely add some pizzazz to this salad! For another ‘rogue move’, try substituting goat cheese or feta and adding some chopped fresh mint along with the basil.  Yum!

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I love using columnar basil when I can, especially as a garnish.  It has small leaves which are tender and fragrant, and quite pretty when sprinkled on top of foods since they don’t need to be chopped.  Most grocery stores don’t carry columnar basil but some Farmer’s Markets do.  I grow my own from seedlings I bought at a garden center.  They are pretty hardy compared to other types of basil and don’t flower as often (i.e. needing to be constantly clipped) so the plant keeps growing, up to three feet tall.

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TIPS:  For a beautiful arranged salad, cut all components into similar sizes, shapes and thickness, at least as much as possible.  To make ahead, slice tomatoes, peaches and mozzarella and arrange on a serving platter.  It will be fine sitting at room temperature for an hour or so until you’re ready to serve.  Drizzle with balsamic reduction and garnish with basil just before serving.

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TOMATOES AND MOZZARELLA WITH PEACHES AND BALSAMIC REDUCTION

3-5 assorted ripe tomatoes
1 large ripe peach
6 oz bocconcini (or other size fresh mozzarella balls)
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsn sugar

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  • Bring balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes.

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  • Taste balsamic reduction and add another Tbsn sugar if it seems too acidic and cook another 5 minutes.. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool (It should be a syrupy consistency) Check the consistency.  If it’s too thin, simmer for a few more minutes.  If it’s too thick stir in one drop of water at a time until syrupy.  Transfer to a small bowl or server with a spout.

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  • Remove stem end of tomatoes and cut in half vertically.  Cut horizontally into 1/4 inch slices (or wedges, if you prefer)

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  • Cut peach in half and remove pit and peel.  Slice horizontally into 1/4 inch slices and place on a platter with the tomatoes.

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  • Slice each bocconcini the long way into 3 slices. and arrange over tomatoes and peaches.

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  • Cut basil into julienned slices if using large basil leaves and sprinkle evenly over tomato mixture.

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  • Drizzle balsamic reduction over tomato mixture and serve with more reduction on the side.

 

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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3-5 assorted ripe tomatoes
1 large ripe peach
6 oz bocconcini (or other size fresh mozzarella balls)
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsn sugar

  • Bring balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes.
  • Taste balsamic reduction and add another Tbsn sugar if it seems too acidic and cook another 5 minutes.. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool (It should be a syrupy consistency) Check the consistency.  If it’s too thin, simmer for a few more minutes.  If it’s too thick stir in one drop of water at a time until syrupy.  Transfer to a small bowl or server with a spout.
  • Remove stem end of tomatoes and cut in half vertically.  Cut horizontally into 1/4 inch slices (or wedges, if you prefer)
  • Cut peach in half and remove pit and peel.  Slice horizontally into 1/4 inch slices and place on a platter with the tomatoes.
  • Slice each bocconcini the long way into 3 slices. and arrange over tomatoes and peaches.
  • Cut basil into julienned slices if using large basil leaves and sprinkle evenly over tomato mixture.
  • Drizzle balsamic reduction over tomato mixture and serve with more reduction on the side.