grape endive salad

April 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

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I may be a bit of a competitive person. Some people I know might think this is an understatement, which in all likeliness it is. But I have calmed my competitive edge over the years, so at least I am not as bad as I use to be. I am still very competitive when it comes to any athletic activity or watching any sporting event. While board and card games only bring out little spirits of competition in me.

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When Ross and I have a little extra time at lunch or dinner we usually try and play something together, our games of choice being backgammon and cribbage, with a mix of rummy every once in awhile. While both of these games involve a lot of luck, Ross and I both have our stance on what is luck and what is skill. (I should add that although Ross thinks he’s not as competitive as me, in all honesty he is.) We playfully argue about how he always rolls doubles in backgammon and how I always get better cards in cribbage. There are some winning streaks where one of us will go on a tear for a week or two but for the most part our wins are split 50-50.

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It’s hard when you get older to continue to have opportunities to be competitive. When I was young I participated in all kinds of sports and loved the competition that came along with them. Now every time I can get a glimpse of competition I enjoy it just the same.

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Inspired by La Tartine Gourmande
Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side

Salad
One large or two small heads of endive
1 cup grapes, sliced in half
1.5 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and lightly chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

Dressing
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of honey balsamic
1 clove of garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast walnuts at 350 degrees for 5 minutes or so, just until they are slightly browned and fragrant.

In a small bowl whisk together all the dressing ingredients, olive oil, honey balsamic, garlic, salt and pepper.

Chop off the bottom inch of the endive head and peel back single leaves. Assemble individual leaves on a large platter. Top the endive with the grapes, goat cheese and walnuts. Drizzle the dressing on top and finish with a sprinkling of basil.

olive, feta & kale salad

March 7, 2014 § 1 Comment

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From vacation mode back to work mode without much pause in between. I am so glad I wrote a couple posts on San Diego, it allowed me to live it a little longer. And now all of a sudden it feels like ages ago. I think the words “I need a vacation” even came out of my mouth in the past week or so. I’m not sure why I can’t keep the vacation vibe longer, but I can’t, and this time was no different. Which brings me to my next point. As soon as we got home from California, we booked our honeymoon. We couldn’t wait to get away again, this time to Europe!

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I have been lucky in my life so far to see a lot of Europe already. I studied abroad in Florence and while I was there, I toured most of Southern Italy. I have been to Dublin, which mostly involved walking around from church to pub in the rain. I went paragliding in the Alps of Switzerland and indulged in chocolate and cheese fondue. I’ve experienced the beautiful bold colors and dancing of Barcelona and the old-age feel of Brussels. We went to Paris just last year and soaked in every bit of the city that we could in just a week’s time. And soon we’ll be off to London and Northern Italy.

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I thought London would be a nice honeymoon transition for us. We will be exhausted from the days leading up to the wedding and being able to understand the language of the country we’ll be visiting first will help. I have dreamed about visiting Lake Como. I almost made it pretty close. I was suppose to go to Milan for a school fieldtrip, but it was cancelled at the last minute, so any place in Italy above Bologna is a mystery to me. London will be our city escape and I’m hoping Lake Como and Venice will give us that old-family charm we are looking for too. I think the travel bug has nabbed us; we are very excited to check these few places off of our long list of must-sees!

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Serves 4
Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen

3/4 cup quinoa
3-4 cups kale leaves, lightly chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced

Bring 3/4 cup of quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Once cooked, remove from heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Allow to cool completely, uncovered.

Remove the stems from the kale with a knife or your hands. Work in batches and chop into bite size pieces. Put the kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix until kale is lightly coated and shiny.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon olive oil, cider vinegar and Dijon mustard. Pour dressing over the kale and toss to coat. Add the cooled quinoa and toss. Top with the feta, tomatoes, olives and salt and pepper to taste. Toss again. Enjoy at room temperature or chilled from the refrigerator.

Because kale is a hearty green, this is a great salad that won’t get mushy overnight, so don’t worry if you have leftovers.

sundried tomato & cannellini bean salad

February 8, 2014 § 1 Comment

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Snow days. A childhood memory that everyone looks back fondly on. Waking up at the crack of down with enthusiasm. Running downstairs to check the news. Impatiently waiting for your school to come up in the alphabetic list running along the bottom of the television. Cheering and dancing in your pjs when it appears on the screen. The whole day is then spent bundling up in snow gear, making snow forts, winning and losing snowball fights. Back inside for a quick warm up and hot cocoa. Then out to the snow again until nightfall. Snow days were wonderful days.

Who knew we could still have them as adults. Boston has already been hit with a few big storms this year and last Wednesday was a “snow day”. Big flakes pounded us all morning and really only stopped for an hour around noontime before it continued into the night. The city shut down and offices closed. The day wasn’t like years ago though; I didn’t venture out into the snow and spent the day playing. I worked inside responding to emails and cleaning the house. But the joy I felt in the morning when I heard my office was closed, was the same gitty feeling I had as a kid. It felt good.

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As for the recipe this week, I wanted to share a simple winter salad with you. It takes less than 10 minutes to make and clean up is super easy. It’s great the same day, but also just as tasty as leftovers when the dressing really sinks in.

Serves 2
Inspired by Seven Spoons

Dressing
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil*
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup feta cheese
Sprinkling of lemon pepper salt

In a small bowl whisk all of the dressing ingredients together.

In a salad bowl toss together the beans, sundried tomatoes, fresh herbs, feta and lemon pepper salt. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Enjoy at room temperature or cold.

*Note: Using good quality olive oil is really essential in salads like these. You will taste the difference. I was recently gifted with a bottle of Stonehouse and absolutely love it!

creamy apple & green salad

September 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

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I have some wonderful friends. And with these wonderful friends come some very fun outings. The most recent was apple picking in Warren, Massachusetts. Even with states in between us, even with one of us eight months pregnant, we still managed to plan a day together, even if it was scheduled months in advance. Breezelands Orchards was a beautiful farm with apple trees just covered with macs and cortlands. Us girls were just happy to be together but the backdrop of trees just starting to turn and the sun warming our faces didn’t hurt either.

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After picking 1/2 bushel each, we treated ourselves to cider donuts that were still warm, oozing butter down our finger tips and cold apple cider that tasted like it was pressed just that morning. We could have sat at that picnic table and talked until night fell but as soon as the sun started to fade and the cool air moved in we reluctantly retreated to our cars with more hugs and goodbyes then necessary.

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Now with at least 75 apples in our house I am constantly thinking about what I can do with all of them. It seemed fitting to begin with an apple salad, something fresh and chilled while it’s still a bit warm outside. With the nights turning cold there will be many apple crisps in our future. Day to day though, one deliciously sweet but tart mac always does the trick.

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Serves 2 as main meal, 4-6 as sides
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks

Dressing
1 garlic clove
1/2 tablespoon of dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
a touch of black pepper and salt

2 carrots, grated
1 pink lady apple, sliced into matchsticks
3 cups spinach leaves
handful of alfalfa sprouts
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients.

In a large bowl toss together the carrots, apple, spinach and sprouts. Pour the dressing over the greens and toss to coat.

Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top and serve immediately.

peach, mozzarella & sweet balsamic salad

July 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

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The peaches are here! The peaches are here! I have been spending the last few weeks heading to the farmers markets hoping to find peaches in one of the large blue bins. There were a few weeks of anticipation and then disappointment when they had not yet arrived, but they are officially here. And so my love affair with peaches has begun.

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I think I could eat three peaches a day for the rest of summer and still not be satisfied. Some people might call my addiction a little out of control but I don’t care. The good peach season is so short that I am terrified of the day when I get a mealy, mushy peach signifying the end of summer. So for now I’m buying as many as I can, multiple days a week and eating them with almost anything. Peaches are great on cereal in the morning, yogurt for lunch and in salads at night. And when you have good peaches you don’t have to do too much else to make a recipe great, hence the simplicity of the peach and mozzarella salad.

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And the reduction for this salad, simply stated, is great. Reductions sound fancy, they look pretty, they have distinct flavor and yet are so simple to make. There are few recipes that only have three ingredients and taste so complex but this is one of them.

Happy peach season!

Serves 2 to 3 as sides
Inspired by Real Simple

2 peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Pour balsamic into a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the balsamic to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally until the vinegar reduces by half. This should only take a minute or two. Remove from stove and cool completely.

Arrange the sliced peaches and mozzarella on a platter and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.

shrimp salsa salad

July 16, 2013 § 1 Comment

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I love our little condo for so many reasons. It limits the amount of cleaning and decorating I have to do, the air conditioner cools it down real quick in the summer heat and all our rooms feel cozy and full with very little effort. The biggest down side might be the lack of outdoor space. We have absolutely none. And in the summer time it becomes very apparent when we can’t grill. I love the idea of grilling. The men of the house usually leap on this responsibility, clean up couldn’t be easier and the flavor is a nice mix up from sautéing and baking inside.

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We don’t plan to leave our little place anytime soon so when we want to “grill” we plug in our mini George Foreman and, honestly, it does the job quite nicely. You can still get a great char; the only limit is space, I have to do all my veggies in batches. But it’s worth it and it achieves just the flavor profile I am looking for in summer. I would suggest this small investment to any and all that can’t have a real grill.

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The Foreman came in quite handy for this summer shrimp salad. Obviously this recipe can be done on a full size grill, and I do envy those who have access to one, but either way this is a recipe everyone can enjoy.

Serves 2 as mains, 4 as sides
Inspired by Eat, Live, Run

The Salad*
1 cup corn
6 scallions, sliced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup basil, chopped
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

The Shrimp**
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 pound shrimp, cleaned
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

On your Foreman, a small grill pan, or a real grill,* char the corn, scallions and red pepper. Toss into a large bowl and let cool. Add in the tomatoes, avocado, chives and basil. Stir in the lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss a couple more times. Stick in the fridge to cool everything down. (See note)

Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Once warmed, add the olive oil then garlic. Simmer for 30 seconds and add the shrimp. Sprinkle with a pinch of red pepper flakes and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until shrimp is completely pink.

Toss the shrimp into the salad and serve immediately or keep refrigerated.

*If you are cooking on a real grill, use one to two ears of corn and grill everything whole and then chop accordingly.

**You can also make this into a dip and serve with tortilla or pita chips. The only change is that you will want to chop up your shrimp into bite size pieces before adding to the veggies.

Note: Strangely enough I really love this salad with all the veggies cold and the shrimp warm. You can really eat it any way you like, but this is my preferred choice.

simplest orzo salad

June 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Last weekend was a girls’ weekend. A weekend away in Connecticut entailed a formal bridal shower in the morning and a crazy bachelorette at night. It’s wonderful to be able to see old friends and even more pleasant to be surrounded by just women for an entire day. Oh and live it up with more than one glass of wine, maybe even a shot or two. There is just this energy when you’re surrounded only by women. We nibbled on munchies, danced until we were sweaty and chatted constantly until we fell asleep.

As I get older I see this happening less and less. My daily responsibilities get in the way along with further distances. No one seems to live in the same state anymore. So it’s an indulgence to have a girls get together. It makes me feel young to not have a care all day, sipping wine and snacking on hors d’oeuvres as if life is grand.

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The funny thing is, as much as I love being away, it makes me miss home and the boy waiting for me there. It’s funny how the simple things we take for granted, that are now just a part of our routine, are things we can actually miss. I miss my little condo when I’m not in it. I miss not being in my kitchen cooking my own food. And I miss the boy on the couch with a little nook always ready for me.

I guess it’s these weekends away that show us what’s really important. And I know a big part for me is having my home and making food in it. Even just simple food like this salad. It’s usually never about showy food for me, especially at lunch time. I’m usually starving on the weekends by noon and need something quick and easy. This fits the bill quite nicely. So I am enjoying this indulgence as well; making simple, fresh food and enjoying it in my quiet home with warm company.

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Serves 2 to 3 as main or 4 as sides

3/4 cup orzo
2 1/2 cups spinach
1/2 zucchini, diced
generous amount of salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic
1 teaspoon thyme
1 large garlic clove, minced

Cook orzo according to package directions.

While the orzo is cooking, combine the spinach and zucchini in a large bowl and add a decent amount of both salt and pepper. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, balsamic, thyme and garlic. Pour the dressing over the greens and mix well.

Once the orzo is cooked, pour cold water over the pasta while straining to release most of the heat (you want the orzo to be quite cool so that it doesn’t steam your spinach). Toss orzo into the large bowl and stir to combine everything.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve cold.

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