Lob-stah salad

During my (all too brief!) second stint on the East Coast, J and I took advantage of my proximity to Maine to take a short detour there after visiting some friends in Boston.  He regaled me with tales of his college/medical school travels, while I sat back and enjoyed the drive through New England’s lushly green roads.  We ended up grabbing a lobster lunch at Chauncey Creek, and it was wonderful!  Fresh, sweet lobster, a walk on the beach, the warm mugginess of summer – what a great memory of New England summer days from college.

I made this refreshing and light salad the other night for dinner after finding some lobster tails on sale at the grocer’s – my fishmonger is quite good, and I couldn’t resist them after wandering by after work.  American lobster, specifically Californian or Maine lobsters, are a great sustainable seafood choice.  It is also a great source of lean protein with a good dose of zinc and selenium.

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Lobster, Avocado, and Grapefruit Salad (serves 2, adapted from here)

Ingredients

  • 3 lobster tails
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 -2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pink or ruby-red grapefruit
  • 1 firm-ripe California avocado
  • 1 oz baby arugula (2 cups)
  • Coarse sea salt to taste (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Plunge lobster tails 8-quart pot of boiling salted water . Cook, covered, over high heat for about 6-7 minutes from time it enters water. Transfer with tongs into an ice bath.  When lobster is cool enough to handle, remove meat from tail, keeping meat intact. Chill lobster, covered, until cold.
  2. While lobster chills, stir together shallot, lemon juice, and table salt in a small bowl and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Add oil in a stream, whisking.
  3. Cut peel, including all white pith, from grapefruit with a sharp knife. Cut segments free from membranes and transfer segments to paper towels to drain.
  4. Halve avocado lengthwise, discarding pit. (Save 1 half, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for another use.) Halve remaining avocado half lengthwise and peel, then cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices.
  5. Cut lobster tail meat crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Divide avocado and all of lobster meat between 2 salad plates and arrange grapefruit around them. Top with arugula and drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt (if using) and serve immediately.
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Feeling green…

My brownstone apartment in NYC was south-facing, which meant that it was sunny and bright throughout the year, even during the short days of winter.  I took advantage of this to have my own little window sill garden in the city.  At one point, though, the herbs were more like a jungle – they liked the sun and plant food a little too much and I was too busy to prune them back.  Fortunately, my roommates didn’t seem to mind.

I just recently purchased a basil plant and was inspired to make an avocado based basil salad dressing, something akin to the dressing used for one of J’s favorite salads at Trader Joe’s – a chopped field greens salad with chicken, Israeli couscous, and a basil vinaigrette.

The avocado herb dressing is quite versatile, and can be adjusted to the preferred consistency – left a little thicker, it would be a great dip.  Made a little thinner w/ additional olive oil and/or lemon juice, it makes a luscious salad dressing that goes well with kale salads, radishes, and other bold greens.

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Avocado Herb Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup avocado, cubed
  • 3.5 oz Fage plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 large garlic clove clove, smashed
  • 2 tbl chopped scallions
  • 2 tbl chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • ~2.5 tbl ponzu, or 1 tbl white wine vinegar + 1.5 tbl lemon juice
  • 4-5 tbl good olive oil
  • 1.5 tbl honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground pepper
  • red chili pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions:

Place all of the above ingredients in a food processor or small blender and process until smooth.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  If dressing is too thick, add water in small amounts to thin dressing to desired consistency.

Dress salad and enjoy!

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Tastes like summer – bright yet smokey

J says he dislikes May in California, because it seems so dreary compared to back East, where May is gloriously welcomed with sunshine, al fresco dining, skirts and open-toed shoes, and lighter fare.  We have had some beautiful days along the coast, though, so I think I may beg to differ.

Perhaps it is the tantalizing nearness of summer that led me to make a refreshing zucchini salad for dinner the other day.  Topped with smoky seafood spiced with paprika and garlic, it was a collision of the bright and bold flavors of summer.

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Corn and Zucchini Salad with Smoked Paprika Seafood (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 2 ears of corn, husked
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 small zucchini (about 3/4 pound), thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline
  • 2 tbl coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbl coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2.5 tbl  olive oil
  • 2 tbl Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup seafood blend from Trader Joe’s, defrosted and patted dry
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Instructions:

  1. Cook corn in a large pot of boiling salted water until bright yellow and tender, about 3 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool.
  2. Cut kernels from cobs and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add zucchini, basil, parsley, 2.5 tbl oil, lemon juice and red pepper flakes and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes to marinate.  Divide between two plates and set aside.
  4. In a small skillet heat remaining 1/2 tbl olive oil over medium heat.
  5. Add garlic cloves and cook until just fragrant.  Add paprika and stir to combine.
  6. Increase to medium-high heat, stir in seafood and cook just until opaque and slightly caramelized at the edges.  Do not overcook.
  7. Top zucchini salad with seafood and serve immediately.

To old friends and new salads

and SPRING, glorious spring!  Even in California, without ‘true seasons,’ it’s pretty obvious when spring arrives.  Sunshine truly becomes abundant, daffodils and hydrangeas fill the parks, and asparagus and strawberries pop up in abundance at farmer’s markets.  ❤

I met up with my old college roommates and their little mini-me’s (3 daughters between the two of them!  so cute!) for a picnic lunch yesterday.  I remember well how we all greeted spring in college – we’d find excuses to eat or sit outside ‘to study’ in Dunster House’s courtyard.  One year, after taking my MCAT, I came home after the 8 hr exam to be greeted by champagne and strawberries in the courtyard.

Yesterday’s picnic felt a little like old times, with some delightful additions: three little girls who liked to chase after ducks and risk a dunking in the pond in their curious pursuit of koi fish and turtles.  We had a delicious assortment of cheese, sandwiches, fresh strawberries and grapes, and I brought along two new salads to provide some vegetables: Grilled Zucchini and Leeks with Walnuts and Herbs and Asparagus with Meyer Lemon and Farro.  Both can be made nut-free for those with allergies, but the almonds and walnuts add texture and heartiness.

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A duo of salads packed for picnicking!

Grilled Zucchini and Leeks with Walnuts and Herbs (recipe from here) – serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated (I used a microplane)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise with some root attached
  • 2 large zucchini (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup (lightly packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems

Instructions:

  1. Prepare grill pan for medium-high heat.
  2. Toast walnuts in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing often, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Chop very coarsely.
  3. Toss warm walnuts with garlic, lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Brush leeks and zucchini with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  5. Grill vegetables, turning often, until tender and charred in spots, 5-8 minutes for leeks, 8-10 minutes for zucchini.  Try to keep vegetables al dente, or they will be floppy (not a desirable texture).
  6. Transfer vegetables to a cutting board. Trim roots from leeks and cut leeks and zucchini into bite-size pieces.
  7. Add vegetables and parsley to bowl with walnuts and toss to combine; season vegetables with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Asparagus with Meyer Lemon and Farro (recipe adapted slightly from here) – serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces (5/8 cup) pearled farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro)
  • 4 ounces (5/8 cup) pearl couscous or orzo or Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend
  • 1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 tbl olive oil, plus extra for roasting
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled and crumbled
  • Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Salt the water generously. Add the farro, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until al dente. (If substituting another grain such as spelt or wheat berries, follow package instructions or use this method: A No-Fuss Method for Cooking Almost Any Whole Grain.)
  3. Meanwhile, in another 2-quart saucepan, cook the pearl couscous or Harvest Grain Blend according to package directions.
  4. Spread the grains and pearl couscous on a large baking sheet and set aside to cool. Zest the lemons over the grains and stir to combine.
  5. Trim the asparagus and cut into 1-inch pieces. Toss w/ a little olive oil and season with a little salt.  Roast at 375 degrees F until crisp-tender — about 5-7 minutes, depending on how thick the stalks are.
  6. Toss the cooled grains with the asparagus in a large bowl.
  7. Whisk the Meyer lemon juice with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust. Pour over the grain salad and toss, along with salt and pepper to taste.**
  8. Just before serving, stir in sliced almonds and goat cheese.

**This salad lasts very well in the fridge; the herbal flavors of the Meyer lemons bloom nicely when it sits.

On sweet revenge…

It’s been a busy week, with a few more downs than ups after a fun-filled birthday weekend.  I’ve started developing a little carpal tunnel syndrome from all the chart documentation I’ve been doing since I started working.  The EMR is both a blessing and a curse.  I spend more time in from of a computer than I do with my patients, and no, that is *not* why I went into medicine.

That said, it’s been a full week, too.  March is a month full of joyful birthdays!  One of my closest childhood friends has her birthday on St. Patrick’s day, so her birthday is always doubly lucky and green ;).  I dug out the green shirt and made a vibrant green salad to celebrate the day, even though I couldn’t join her for a green beer!

IMG_3361Green Salad with Cilantro-Lemon Vinaigrette (inspired by this recipe)

Ingredients:

For the dressing (makes extra, so save for another salad!):

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the salad:

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tbl shelled salted pistachios
  • 8-10 (about 1/2 lb) spears fresh spring asparagus
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • shaved parmesan (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a blender, blend the oil, lemon juice, shallot, honey, and 1/4 cup of the cilantro. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
  2. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Cut off 1 inch of the asparagus tips and cut stalks into 2 inch segments.  (If using larger asparagus, cut off 1 inch of the asparagus and cut each tip in half lengthwise. Using a peeler or mandoline, shave the asparagus spears lengthwise.) Blanch the asparagus tips and segments (or strands) in the boiling water until just heated through, 10 seconds. Drain and transfer to the ice water to chill; drain well. Pat dry and transfer to a bowl.
  3. Add the arugula, pistachios and the remaining 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves to the asparagus.  Toss with a little dressing.  Add avocado and parmesan (if using) and drizzle with dressing as desired.  Enjoy!

And as a reward for a looooonnnnggg and tiring week, what better way to forget the week’s worries by indulging in a bowl of chocolate-y goodness?  Which, surprisingly, isn’t all that unhealthy for you, packed w/ fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3s?  Oh, sweet revenge!

Mexican Chocolate Chia Pudding with Strawberries IMG_3373

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup chia seed
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 5 to 6 medjool dates, seeds removed**
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (depends on the intensity of the cocoa powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (use 1 tsp if using unflavored almond milk)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon (depends on how spicy you like your chocolate!)
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

**You need a high-powered blender such as a Vitamix**

  1. Put chia seed in bottom of blender and add almond milk and dates.  Allow chia seed to soak up milk and become gelatinous, at least 60 minutes, but you could also soak it for longer.
  2. Add cocoa powder, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt and blend at high speed until very, very smooth.
  3. Spoon into serving dishes/bowls and refrigerate until set.  Garnish with shaved chocolate and strawberries and enjoy!

** instead of dates, you can also simply use the sweetener of your choice – a little honey or agave syrup would work well!

Let them eat…carrots!

Roasted rainbow carrots with toasted cumin and a blood orange vinaigrette, to be exact!

I should have celebrated 3.14.15 (Pi) day with pie, but we somehow didn’t get around to that with all of the other festivities planned for my birthday.  Nor did we have cake, which I guess is a little odd but not missed.  It was the first birthday J and I were able to celebrate together in the same place, so he took it upon himself to plan it all.  Knowing how I’ve missed my friends while in NYC, he somehow managed to gather people from all different phases of my life (college, SF/residency, NYC/fellowship) for fun and food.  As it so happens, my college roommate’s birthday is Pi day, so we were able to celebrate with her, too.  We were just missing pie!  Between dim sum, macarons, wine flights, and late – night tapas, however, there was no time (or calorie deficit) to allow for pie (or cake).

Amidst all the indulgences of the weekend, it was so nice to cleanse the palate with something a little lighter, which somehow bridges the winter-spring transition quite nicely using winter citrus and root vegetables, for perhaps the last time.  I’ve always loved having a March birthday – it’s always a month of hope regardless of where you live, as the vestiges of winter are shaken off and spring warmth slowly seeps in.  We lose some of that seasonality in CA, but even here you can feel the difference as March roars in but leaves gentle green buds in its wake.

This late winter salad, inspired by Ludo Lefebvre’s Roasted Carrot Salad, surprised J into saying “You may make me into a vegetarian yet.”  Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene and vitamin A.  Enjoy!

Roasted Rainbow Carrot Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette

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Ingredients:

For the carrots:

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-1½ pounds small rainbow carrots, approximately 5 inches in length, scrubbed clean and tops trimmed (if using larger carrots, peel and slice into sticks about 4-5 inches in length)
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 6 cloves of unpeeled garlic, smashed (use more if you like garlic)
  • 5 to 7 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the blood orange vinaigrette:

  • 2 blood oranges, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  •  cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the cumin crema:

  • 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt (Fage)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  •  Pinch kosher salt

For the salad:

  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped roasted almonds
  • 2 blood oranges, cut into supremes
  • 3-4 tablespoons of chopped herbs: parsley, tarragon, chervil, or chives
  •  Kosher salt or fleur de sel

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Toast the cumin for both the carrots and the yogurt in a small pan set over medium heat until it becomes aromatic. Remove from heat, and set aside.
  2. Mix together the carrots, bay leaf, smashed garlic, thyme and olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon cumin over the carrots, and mix again.
  3. Tip the carrot mixture onto a sheet pan, and spread evenly into one layer.  Season with salt and pepper and place in oven. Roast until the carrots are soft and beginning to caramelize, 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Remove carrots from oven, discard aromatics and set aside to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Combine blood-orange juice, vinegar, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl, and whisk to incorporate. Slowly add the olive oil while continuing to whisk, until the dressing is emulsified. Add the carrots to the bowl, and toss to combine.
  6. Make the cumin crema by combining the nonfat Fage greek yogurt, lemon juice and remaining toasted cumin in a mixing bowl.  Stir well to combine.  Add a pinch of salt.
  7. Assemble the salad on a large serving plate. Put the cumin crema in the center of the plate, and using the back of a spoon, spread it evenly across the bottom. Arrange the carrots on top of the greek yogurt. Sprinkle the onion and the nuts on top of the carrots, then add the supremes of blood orange. Sprinkle the herbs across the top of the salad, and finish with a pinch or two of salt. Make a mess when serving, so that everyone gets plenty of the cumin crema along with the vegetables.

When life gives you kumquats…

…make a salad!  Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but that is quite literally what I did the other day, instead of simply snacking on these delightful little fruits.

I love the orderly chaos that is the kitchen.  Unlike life’s chaos, there is a method to the madness:  all the chopping, slicing, dicing, sauteeing, simmering, roasting, and basting ultimately comes together to make a cohesive dish, with all its disparate components somehow harmonized.

For dinner the other night, I made a riff on Plenty More‘s Celery Salad with Feta and Soft-Boiled Egg, using instead my beloved kumquats.  So simple and satisfying.  And so therapeutic, to shift my focus to slicing everything as thinly and uniformly as I could.

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Celery Salad with Feta, Kumquats, and Soft-Boiled Egg (serves 2 as a light dinner or side salad)

Ingredients:

  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced lengthwise into strips
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp superfine sugar
  • ~10 kumquats (or as desired), thinly sliced into rings, with seeds removed
  • 1/3 cup celery leaves
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbl capers
  • 1 green chile, seeded and finely sliced
  • 1 tbl olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 oz/100 gm) feta, crumbled into large chunks
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

  1. After slicing celery, green peppers, and onion thinly, place in a bowl, sprinkle with sugar and 1/4 tsp salt, and mix well.  Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the vegetables to soften and to draw out some of the juices, which will comprise part of the dressing.  IMG_3242
  2. Add the kumquats, celery leaves, parsley, cilantro, capers, chiles, and olive oil to the softened vegetables.  Mix gently to combine.  Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.  IMG_3243
  3. Just before serving, carefully spoon eggs into a saucepan of boiling water and simmer gently for 6 minutes.  Run under cold water until the eggs are just cool enough to handle but still warm, then peel gently; the yolk should still be runny.
  4. Arrange the salad on individual plates, dot each with feta, and place a soft-boiled egg on top, broken in the middle.  Finish with a few drops of olive oil and freshly ground pepper and serve at once.