Asian-inspired Salad Excitement

Asian Inspired Salad ExcitementIt’s hot. Boy, it’s hot — maybe too hot to even contemplate eating. But if you do have an appetite of any sort, this Asian-inspired dinner salad might be just what’s needed, and you don’t have to turn on the oven.

I wanted to make something that was as chock-full of textures as it was of flavors. There’s crunchy, crispy, and soft elements — and everything in between. It’s also a salad that’s open to substitutions, so don’t feel that you have to be married to the idea of roasted edamame if you can’t find any at your local grocery store. The ones I used are displayed by the cash registers as snack options at our local food co-op.

Serve dinner with a nice, cold Sauvignon Blanc or Sake. If you’re planning on leftovers for the next night, store the ingredients separately and toss right before serving.

Asian-inspired Salad Excitement


Serves 4

1 pound chicken thighs, cubed
6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
1 Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 medium carrot, shaved into thin slices
1 cup roasted edamame
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 cups baby greens
4 green onions, chopped
juice from one lime
a drizzle of teriyaki salad dressing

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Drizzle oil and coat the bottom of the pan. Add chicken, Hoisin, and soy sauce and cook until chicken just begins to brown. Add mushrooms and cook a bit longer, until the shiitakes soak up some of the sauce and become soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Add all ingredients into a large bowl, drizzling everything with the lime juice and salad dressing. Toss everything together and serve right away. For even more crunch, crumble some ramen noodles on top.

Tortellini Summer Salad

Tortellini Summer SaladI know, I know… I kind of fell off the end of the blog world for a bit there. I’ve been in the midst of the worst case of writer’s block I’ve experienced in a long time, but I’m coming out of it, creating new recipes, and am happy to be sharing with you again.

This week’s creation occurred when I realized I had been a bit too enthusiastic in my tomato and avocado purchasing. When those first “Grown in California” produce options roll out, it’s so hard to say, “No.” It’s so easy to get greedy at the start of summer, and suddenly, you have more ripe produce than you can easily consume.

I added to the abundance of tomatoes and avocados with items I had in my pantry and freezer — and counter top. I paired it with a red blend of Italian varietals. The fruit forward flavors of red fruit and leather, along with a nice structure, made it the perfect combination with the sweet, savory, and tangy tastes in the salad. While you may not have access to a bottle of Montoliva Vineyard and Winery’s Sierra Bella, other options would be Montepulciano, Super Tuscan, or even a Primitivo.

Tortellini Summer Salad


Serves 6

2 cups of dried cheese tortellini
4 oz of pancetta, browned and chopped
1 small yellow onion, sliced
juice from one lemon
3 tomatoes
2 avocados
10 oz grilled red peppers (I used frozen and defrosted them by draining the hot pasta over them in a colander.)
balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Boil a pot of water and add tortellini. Cook until pasta is softened, about 14 minutes. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water to remove most of the heat.
While the pasta cooks, warm a pan over medium heat and brown the pancetta. Remove to cool and, using the same pan, saute onion slices. Pour a drizzle of balsamic vinegar over the onions and stir, cooking until the onion has browned. Remove from heat.
Chop tomatoes and cube avocados. Add them to a large bowl and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, another drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and black pepper. Add onions, drained pasta, grilled peppers, and chopped pancetta. Toss together and taste to see if any more olive oil, vinegar, or pepper is needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for about an hour.
Toss again to redistribute the liquid, and serve.

Dinner Salad with Farro

dinner-salad-with-farroLast week, Charles and I went to the Alsace Festival in Anderson Valley, something that has become a yearly tradition for us. It’s always a wonderful weekend filled with equally wonderful wines and sumptuous food, but after a few days of rich food and maybe a little bit too much wine… it’s good to have simpler fare.

For us, that usually means lots of greens and other healthy options. In fact, our bodies were craving tons of leafy greens and whole grains, so I threw together a salad which revisited our plates a couple more times during the week while we recovered from our libations. Other than lots of layering, this salad is about as easy as they come. We paired the salad with a lovely Muscat Blanc from Navarro. While we didn’t pick it up on this trip, it was an amazing Anderson Valley wine and was a nice companion to the many savory and sweet flavors of the meal.

Dinner Salad with Farro

  • Difficulty: super easy
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Serves 6

1 1/2 cups farro
12 cups mixed baby greens
1 pint fresh blueberries
4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast (for a savory, almost cheesy flavor)
1 pint white button mushrooms
1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
5 oz. soft goat cheese (optional) (I used Truffle Tremor for a compliment to the mushrooms and nutritional yeast.)
12 green olives, sliced
6 Tablespoons slivered almonds
extra virgin olive oil
pear balsamic vinegar

Place farro in a fine sieve and rinse under cold water. Drain and put in a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook over low heat for thirty minutes. Remove from heat and drain any extra water. Rinse under cold water to cool down the grains and let drain completely.

Evenly divide all ingredients (except olive oil and vinegar) onto six plates. Drizzle salads with olive oil and vinegar to taste and serve. This is a dinner that will make your belly feel good!

Kitchen Sink Chickpea Salad

garbanzo bean saladWhile the light is beginning to change and speak more strongly of autumn, our local produce bounty is just now reaching its peak. Harvest and crush is already in full swing in the wine world, and tomatoes are so bountiful, the kitchen is saturated in their heady scent.

I happened across a recipe from PBS that featured chickpeas and fresh produce, and wonder of wonders, I had a can of garbanzo beans in the cupboard., so I thought I’d give the salad a shot. Of course, I wasn’t content to leave it as it was. I had to add to it a bit, as I had some feta that wanted to be used and some mache, and oh, an avocado that had refused to ripen for a week and a half until I decided to make this salad. Like so many instances with me in the kitchen, if there’s a chance for a dinner filled with produce, I’ll opt for even more produce.

We paired dinner with a dry Riesling. It went pretty well, but nothing like last week’s pairing. There were no fireworks, but sometimes, when you have a dish that incorporates a whole host of flavors like this one does, pretty well is good enough.

Kitchen Sink Chickpea Salad


Serves 4

1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 lemon cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup of green olives, sliced
1/2 cup of feta cheese, crumbled
1 avocado, cut into small cubes
1 cup mache or green salad mix
2/3 of a red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 of a red onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
juice from half a lemon
drizzle of lemon-infused olive oil
drizzle of champagne vinegar
salt and black pepper to taste
20 mint leaves, chopped

Put everything in a large bowl. Using tongs, or your hands, toss until everything is well mixed. Cover and place in the refrigerator. For best results, save it for dinner the next day, as it gives the beans time to absorb all the flavors, but if you’re hungry NOW, it can be eaten fresh, too.

Not-so Traditional Panzanella

panzanellaYou have a sourdough loaf that’s a couple days past its prime, a whole lot of tomatoes, and a grumbling belly. What do you do? Make a bread salad for dinner!

The reason this post is titled, “Not-so Traditional Panzanella” is because traditionalists usually only create it using bread, basil, tomatoes, and onions. Like the way I feel about making stock, I think you should make your meal with what’s already in the kitchen. If that means you open the refrigerator door and spy, say, olives and a bit of mozzarella — and maybe there’s an avocado sitting on the counter that has to be used today or it will be too old for anything but guacamole — well then, use them! If the flavors seem like they’d meld well, go for it. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but the best way to stick to a food budget is to eat what you buy. Wasted food is money down the drain, or into the compost heap, so make sure to figure out how to use those random leftovers you have hanging around the kitchen.

I paired the panzanella with a Dolcetto, and it was phenomenal! It’s the type of pairing one dreams about, that perfect harmonizing of food and drink. There was a lovely counterpoint to the tomato, basil, avocado… even the olives. If I had more Dolcetto in my collection, this would be our meal for the rest of the summer. Unfortunately, I only have one more bottle, and it can be a hard wine to come by in California. People don’t know what it is, so they’re hesitant to try it. It’s a beautiful wine, but because folks won’t buy it, winemakers don’t make it. Please, don’t be scared! Search it out, and have it with this recipe.

Not-so Traditional Panzanella


Serves 4

Most of a leftover sourdough baguette, cut in one-inch pieces
pinch of dried sage
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
drizzle of olive oil
3 tomatoes, cut in chunks
1 avocado, cut in chunks
4 ounces of mozzarella
7 ounces of kalamata olives
20-30 basil leaves
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Warm a skillet over medium heat. Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the skillet. Toss in bread, sage, and pepper and stir until bread begins to golden.
Remove from heat and toss the bread, with the rest of the ingredients, in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and set in the refrigerator for a couple hours so the flavors have a chance to combine well.
Remove and serve.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

strawberry spinach saladToday’s post is a quick one, as every spare moment has been filled with busy work this week. I’ll be telling the whole tale on my other blog, but for now, why don’t we take a break and enjoy a superb salad?

There are a lot of strawberry spinach salads out there, and for good reason. They’re a wonderful mix of flavors, and they’re good for you, too. Mine has the protein upped a notch with the addition of pecans and thin slivers of Pecorino cheese. After a little drizzle of papaya poppy seed dressing and a glass of rosé, this salad was ready to be a sensational supper.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

  • Difficulty: super easy
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Serves 2

2 cups baby spinach
4-6 strawberries, sliced
1 Tablespoon coarsely chopped pecans
1 avocado, sliced into small pieces
2 Tablespoons thinly sliced Pecorino cheese
salad dressing (I used Annie’s Papaya Poppy Seed)

Arrange the spinach on two plates. Layer the other ingredients. Drizzle the dressing and serve right away.

Salad Days

nectarine saladThere’s just something about the tender-green of baby kale coupled with the sweet tang of nectarines that I’ve been finding extremely satisfying of late. This crisp salad is a mouthful of summer and delicious enough to tempt me away from evening writing projects.

bellafinaDinner arranged, the challenge of pairing was presented — the sparkle of the dish was heightened with a Prosecco, perfect for a balmy twilight.

My choice of the Bellafina Prosecco was a happy accident, an impulse purchase that had then been absentmindedly shoved into the back of the refrigerator. Maybe it was actually kismet, as the flavors of stone fruits, lemon cream, and almonds were harmonious with the varying sweet and lush flavors of the salad. The wine’s orange bitter finish was paradisiacal with the kale. Isn’t it marvelous how good food and great wine always seem to find each other?

Nectarines & Baby Kale Salad

two handfuls of baby kale
1 nectarine, sliced into thin wedges
1/2 avocado, cubed
a sprinkling of tamari pumpkin seeds
a sprinkling of shredded coconut (Leftover, perhaps, from your coconut shrimp?)
drizzle of poppy seed dressing

Toss everything together and serve right away, appreciating the crisp, refreshing qualities of both the salad and the Prosecco.

Paneer Salad

paneer saladIt seems like everyone in the western United States is talking about our current heat wave. Heck, even the BBC are posting about it. I guess I’ll add my voice. This cold ocean loving gal hates the heat. When it gets hot, my desire to cook plummets into the negatives.

It becomes salad season, but of course, always tweaking with recipes and enjoying the creation of something new, I sometimes just go with whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.

Not having a plan, and not having much of a drive to even eat, I decided to play with flavors as they popped into my head a couple of evenings ago. The heat wave may not have rolled over the area by that point, but believe me, I could feel the atmosphere readying itself. I decided to attempt to craft a salad around paneer and stone fruit. I don’t know where the inspiration came from, exactly, but it ended up being a tasty dinner for a couple of nights.

Paneer Salad

serves two

You’ll need:
2 nectarines
2 cups baby spinach
7 oz paneer
Garam Masala to taste
2 TB crème fraîche
1 TB Gewürztraminer vinegar

Warm up a grill or grill pan. Slice nectarines then sprinkle with Garam Masala. Grill nectarines, turning after a couple of minutes or when grill marks become brown. While nectarines cook, cut paneer into small squares and sprinkle with more Garam Masala. Remove nectarines from grill and replace with paneer, following the same steps as the fruit.

In a bowl, combine crème fraîche, Gewürztraminer vinegar, and a few more sprinkles of Garam Masala. Mix.

Fill two bowls with the baby spinach. Layer grilled nectarines and paneer on top and drizzle with the crème fraîche mixture. Serve while nectarines are still warm.

Dinner Salad

While we were on vacation a week ago, Charles and I did something that we hadn’t done in years — buy a meal from a fast food joint.

The effects were immediate. We felt bloated, lethargic, not quite right. A few hours later, large, angry pimples had erupted all over my face — something that hadn’t happened since high school. The worst part was that my blood sugar was wonky for most of our vacation and followed into the work week.

What to do? I thought the best option was to make a dinner salad, filled with different colors, textures, and flavors. With assorted spring greens as the base, I layered grape tomatoes, crimini mushrooms, avocado, black olives, garbanzo beans, and a small smattering of sauteed chicken breast.

It was just what we both needed to feel more like ourselves again. It had been so long since we had eaten true junk food, we had forgotten the consequences. The results may have been more pronounced since we usually eat such a clean diet, but it really brought home how important it is to eat as healthy as possible as often as possible. My body thanked me.