Throw a Backyard Memorial Day Bash with these 12 Simple Recipes (and tips!)

Half Beer Can Chicken

Memorial Day is right around the corner, and it’s about that time to dust off your grill, gather friends and family, and throw a big, backyard bash.  I’ve put together a short list of simple recipes to help you get the party started.  But first, let’s talk party tips:

  1. Don’t make your whole menu from scratch.  Pair one or two (or three) of the recipes below with store-bought items to keep your event stress-free.  Just make sure everything is good-quality.
  2. If friends or family ask to bring something, tell them alcohol or ice.  I always forget to buy extra ice.
  3. Keep one or two foam coolers (or big buckets) handy to store extra ice.
  4. When grilling, make sure you’ve got enough charcoal or propane to fuel the whole party.
  5. Get your friends and family involved with the grilling process!  No need to slave over the coals in solitude.  Burger-flipping, timer-checking and temperature-taking are all good tasks for a guest.
  6. Target is a really good source for affordable disposable plates, cups, napkins and flatware.  Ditch the basic paper plates and red solo cups, and liven up your disposables!
  7. Music is important to keep the atmosphere enjoyable and energetic.  Keep the playlist out of reach (lock your laptop, hide your mobile device, etc.) to avoid drunken, hostile takeovers.  If you see someone trying to fuss with the music, kindly ask for a request, and add their song to the playlist.

Now, on to the recipes.

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Raw Carrot and Beet Salad with Feta, Mint and Harissa

Good morning and Happy Friday!

Raw Carrot and Beet Salad with Feta, Mint and Harissa

Today, I’m sharing a vibrant raw salad made with purple carrots and beets.  These nutrient-packed vegetables are grated, and then tossed with fresh herbs and a bold citrus-harissa vinaigrette.  After a brief rest in the fridge, the salad is finished with crumbles of salty feta cheese.

Carrots and beets have been showing up regularly in my weekly Specialty Produce Farmers Market Box, so I’ve been trying out all sorts of cooking preparations to use them up.  This method of soaking grated veg in a spicy, acidic dressing is common in Moroccan cuisine.  And it’s brilliant!  The acid in the lemon juice tenderizes the grated beets and carrots while infusing with tons of flavor.  Flavors here include orange, garlic, olive oil, paprika and harissa, a spicy, North African chile paste.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Kale Salad with Miso-Lemon Vinaigrette

Kale is still frequently on the menu at my house, and this Kale Salad with Miso-Lemon Vinaigrette is my latest creation.

Kale Salad with Miso Lemon Vinaigrette

Made with miso, lemon juice, honey, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, this Miso-Lemon Vinaigrette is simple to prepare, but still packed with flavor.  It’s salty.  It’s tart.  It’s bright.   And it’ll make you go “Oh my!” after just one taste.  I’ve paired this bold dressing with an equally full-flavored green: kale.  Prepared like my Raw Kale Salad, the chopped kale gets tossed with several spoonfuls of vinaigrette, then sits for a short while until tender.  A final sprinkling of chopped, roasted pistachios and flaky sea salt add crunch and contrast.

Miso-Lemon Vinaigrette has become one of our weekly standards, because it pairs so well with many other things.  The sauce is on the thinner side, so it packs a big flavor punch without adding too much heft.  I like to drizzle it on all sorts of salads, roasted vegetables and seafood.  Bonus!  The vinaigrette is made with mainly fridge and pantry staples.  You can keep most ingredients on hand, and then pick up fresh lemons as needed.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Top 14 Recipes of 2014

Happy New Year everyone!!

Meyer Lemon Chia Pudding 2014 was a taaaaasty year.  While compiling the roundup below, I noticed some similar themes and ingredients amongst my most popular recipes.  Particularly:

  • Chia pudding
  • Cocktails
  • Brown butter
  • Bacon
  • Eggs
  • Avocado
  • Grilling

YUM!!  Continue reading for 14 of my best recipes on KK.  What was your favorite recipe from 2014?  Did you make any of the recipes below?

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White Bean, Fennel and Chorizo Salad in a Jar

I have a confession to make.  Over the past several years, I’ve developed quite a jar obsession.

Salad in a Jar Two and half years ago, I was only a few months into dating my boyfriend Jorge.  He was heading up to San Francisco at the time to visit friends, and I asked him to bring me some items from the city.  Can you guess what I asked him for?  Not a loaf or two of glorious SF sourdough.  No chocolate from Ghirardelli.  No artisan, hand-crafted this or that.  Instead, I asked for jars.  Particularly Weck Jars from Heath Ceramics.  At the time, they were a bit of a rarity.  Crate & Barrel and West Elm hadn’t started selling them yet.  I was completely elated the evening Jorge walked through the door carrying two large bags filled with carefully-wrapped Weck Jars.  This obsession has continued ever since.

With such a wide variety of glass beauties at my fingertips, I’m always looking for new ways to use my jars.  And now, I’m jumping on the Salad in a Jar bandwagon.  Here’s the basic idea: salad ingredients are layered inside a large canning jar in such a way that the greens stay crisp and fresh.  Liquids at the bottom.  Greens at the top.  With this framework in place, you can make a number of jarred salads on the weekend to enjoy throughout the week.  Continue reading for my layering technique plus a Salad in a Jar recipe that uses white beans, fennel and chorizo.

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Grilled Kale Caesar with Torn Croutons

Several months ago, I had a grilled kale salad at a special event, and I’ve been dying to recreate it ever since.

Grilled-Kale-Caesar-(smaller) Organic lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur or black kale, is the star ingredient of this healthy, summer salad.  When cooked over hot coals, this leafy superfood transforms into something truly delicious.  Crispy edges provide savory notes of smoke and char while the inner portion of the kale leaf stays tender and chewy.  These grilled greens are tossed in a creamy Caesar dressing spiked with lemon, garlic and Parmesan cheese.  Torn croutons add pops of satisfying crunch.  This salad is a delicious mix of flavors and textures.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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The Summer 2014 Backyard BBQ Guide

Summer officially starts this Saturday (June 21), and that means it’s time to host a backyard BBQ.

Jorge's Bacon Cheeseburger Hosting an outdoor event for friends and family may seem like a daunting task, but I assure you that there’s no need to worry.  I’ve got you covered.  This Summer 2014 Backyard BBQ Guide will provide you with all the recipes and techniques needed to throw a fabulous al fresco fête, including drinks, appetizers, sides, mains and desserts.  Without further hesitation, let’s get this party started.

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Raw Kale Salad

Raw Kale Salad Jorge and I just got back from a spectacular trip to Charleston, South Carolina.  Thanks again for all of the recommendations.  Throughout the trip, we had a number of crazy delicious meals including dinner at FIG and Husk, and some damn good soul food at Martha Lou’s Kitchen.  I’ve got a gallery below featuring most of the food Jorge and I ate during our trip (poorly lit dinners not included).

After a vacation where I practically ate my weight in butter and fried chicken, the first thing I was craving when I get back home to California was this Raw Kale Salad.  Gnarled shreds of lacinato kale are tossed in a bright dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese.  The salad then sits for 20 minutes, so the dressing can break down the fibrous texture of the kale.  Finished with a drizzle of EVOO, a dusting of Parmesan, and several grinds of black pepper, this simple salad is healthy, hearty, and packed with incredible flavor.  The first bite will literally smack your taste buds.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Roasted Carrot, Fennel and Blood Orange Salad

I love it when a salad is as beautiful as it is delicious.  And this salad is a stunner.

Roasted Carrot, Fennel and Blood Orange Salad Ruby red and glistening, slices of blood orange cozy up with spiced carrot and fennel, salty olive bits, and wispy fennel fronds in a tangle of peppery arugula.  Before reaching the salad, the carrots and fennel are dusted with crushed cumin, coriander, fennel seed and cayenne pepper, then roasted until tender and caramelized.  The dressing here is a lemon vinaigrette spiked with garlic and blood orange zest.  My Roasted Carrot, Fennel and Blood Orange Salad is bold, spicy and incredibly satisfying.  This sophisticated salad would be perfect for a special occasion (Mother’s Day or Easter brunch), or any evening you just want to treat yourself.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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What Is Your Favorite Salad Recipe?

Salad with Pickled Vegetables It’s salad season.  You know that time of the year when everyone’s got the “I really want to lose 3 pounds” New Year’s resolution, resulting in a diet of juices, smoothies and (most of all) healthy salads.  Working in the retail industry, I am constantly keeping up with sales trends and consumer behavior.  I can confidently confirm that January is the most popular month for kale, spinach and all other manner of leafy green vegetables.

During my work week, I like to prepare a more simple salad for lunch (similar to the one pictured above).  This salad is made with tender greens, something crunchy (nuts or seeds), something pickled, and an acidic vinaigrette.  I’ll often serve a protein on the side (chicken breast, shrimp, pork chop).  A tart vinaigrette is one that I almost always like the most.  Usually made with sherry vinegar (recipe below).  There’s just something about a salad with big, bright flavors that fills me up and keeps me satisfied while at work.

On the weekends, I like to prepare salads that are a bit more involved.  These salads can include roasted vegetables, homemade croutons, broiled meats and/or various shaved or crumbled cheeses.  Sometimes I’ll let loose, and make a creamy salad dressing.  I mean it’s the weekend, so it’s totally allowed 😉

Since salad is going to be on my daily menu for the next 3 months, I am on the hunt for some new inspiration, so please share your favorite salad recipe in the comment section below.  Continue reading for some of my favorite salad recipes plus a recipe for my Sherry Vinaigrette.

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