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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Rustic Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Rustic Gnocchi

Tender potato dumplings flecked with bits of browned butter, red pepper confetti, Parmesan cheese and crispy fried sage leaves.  My Rustic Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce is pure comfort food.

Growing up, I used to love to eat gnocchi tossed with melted butter and grated Parmesan.  The light, squishy texture is what I remember most.  Fueled by nostalgia, I’ve attempted to make gnocchi at home many times over the years.  Sometimes with fantastic results.  Other times, not so much.  The deceivingly simply ingredient list (potato, flour, egg, salt) may lead you to believe that this is an easy recipe.  But this is not an easy recipe.  Nor is it a hard one.  Mastering the art of gnocchi-making simply takes practice.  You may fail on your first attempt, but I urge you to keep trying.  It’s all worth it once you take that first bite of pillowy potato deliciousness.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Quick Fennel and Cabbage Kimchi

Quick Fennel and Cabbage Kimchi

Growing up in a family that was half Italian and half Eastern European (Polish, Czech and Hungarian), never would I have thought that kimchi, Korean fermented cabbage, would become such a widely-used ingredient in my kitchen.  But it is.  There’s something about kimchi’s salty, sour and spicy notes that can transform the flavors of a dish into something so unique.  For example, when you add it to pizza, the sour notes of the cabbage cut through the richness of the mozzarella cheese while the salt and spice amp up the tomato sauce.  I also love mixing chopped kimchi into my morning scramble, adding it to deviled eggs, or stirring it into a hot bowl of broth.

The key to really enjoying kimchi is to find a particular brand that suits your taste.  There are many varieties of kimchi available for purchase, and not all of them taste good.  Some can be too mushy.  Others overly funky or fishy.  Don’t give up on your kimchi hunt after your first bite of bad kimchi!  Keep searching.  Here in San Diego, my boyfriend discovered a suuuuuper tasty kimchi sold at our local farmer’s markets called Happy Pantry Kimchi.  It’s got a nice spicy fermented flavor without the fishiness that can be found in traditional varieties.  I also enjoy the kimchi available at Trader Joe’s.

The other option is to make a kimchi recipe at home.  This will allow you to control each flavor, adding more or less of something to taste.  Which brings us to this Quick Fennel and Cabbage Kimchi.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Zinfandel Short Ribs with Goat Cheese Polenta and Mixed Herb Gremolata

Zinfandel Short Ribs Can you even believe that Christmas is just 3 days away?  Where did the Holiday season go?  Well, I’ve managed to get most of my gift shopping done; however, I have yet to bake a single cookie or prepare any edible gifts for my coworkers.  AND I’m just finishing up all of my cards today.  Luckily they say “Happy Holidays”, so they are still relevant if they show up some time between Christmas and New Years ;).  I know you’re probably thinking: #firstworldproblems, but I have certain traditions I like to do each year, and it makes me a little sad if I don’t get to all of them.

This year, Jorge and I will be going up to LA on Christmas Eve to have dinner with his family, and then we’ll be driving back to SD on Christmas day.  Christmas dinner will be for just the two us.  Even though I’m not hosting a blowout party (like Thanksgiving), I still want to make our Christmas dinner special.

It’s during times like these when I need to prepare a standout meal with minimal effort, that I’m glad I have this Zinfandel Short Ribs recipe in my back pocket.  Zinfandel Short Ribs are fairly easy to prepare, the ingredients aren’t fussy, and the beef can be cooked a day in advance.  Goat Cheese Polenta and Mixed Herb Gremolata, the all-star accompaniments, come together easily an hour before dinner.  And really, who doesn’t love a good braised short rib?  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Brussels Sprout Slaw

Brussels Sprout Slaw Often, my Thanksgiving side dishes can be quite involved.  And to be honest, I like them that way.  There’s just something about an over-the-top casserole packed with layers and layers of flavor that makes me swoon each and every time.  Maybe it’s the butter.  Maybe it’s the cream.  Or maybe it’s the cheese.  I don’t know.  I just love them :)

But sometimes, I do crave a simple and healthy side dish during the holiday season.  When one of these cravings comes along, I make this easy Brussels Sprout Slaw.  A colorful mix of shredded brussels sprout and radicchio is tossed with a sweet-tart dressing made of apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, lemon juice, and whole grain mustard.  The slaw is then finished with homemade spiced pecans.  Bitter yet balanced, this seasonal salad can be prepared in advance and requires minimal cook time.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Kale and Bacon Frittata

Kale and Bacon Frittata

It’s around this time each year that I’m usually super busy with my full time job.  It’s event season and I’ve got a major one coming up next Saturday.  Amidst extensive planning and preparations, I find myself yearning for a lazy Sunday morning with the boyfriend.  The type of morning where we brew an extra-large pot of coffee.  The Food Network is on in the background, and I’m puttering around in the kitchen cooking up some waffles, pancakes, or scones (Instagramming along the way of course).  A morning with no commitments, and a shower is my most ambitious plan.

Unfortunately, this Sunday morning looks nothing like that.  Even though my schedule is packed, I still try to make time for a delicious, home-cooked breakfast.  Today, I’ve made this Kale and Bacon Frittata.  Rich and smokey, this egg-based dish is make with thin shreds of kale sautéed in bacon fat with shallot and crushed red pepper flake.  A golden-hued mix of egg, smoked gouda and parsley is then poured over the tangle of spicy bitter greens.  Crispy bits of bacon are tossed in at the end.  The finished frittata is luscious and hearty.  With each bite you’ll enjoy a satisfying balance of spicy, salty, fatty, fresh and bitter.  And the crisp bacon provides savory pops of smoke and salt.  I may not be able to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning right now, but at least I can get a small bite of it before diving into my next project.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Roasted Fennel and Apple Guacamole

Roasted Fennel and Apple Guacamole Jorge and I hosted game night recently, and one of the many tasty dishes served that evening was this Roasted Fennel and Apple Guacamole.  But first let me tell you a little about the game we played: Cards Against Humanity.  This game is awesome.  Basically one person reads a question or a fill in the blank statement (the black card), then everyone else tries to answer that question or complete the statement using the cards they have in their hand (the white cards).  The person holding the black card then decides which pairing is the funniest.  What makes this game awesome, is that the white cards can be pretty darn outrageous.  I mean, we played for almost 4 hours, and I couldn’t stop laughing for most of the evening.  My face hurt afterwards.

I think Cards Against Humanity has been out for a little bit, and I’m probably late to the party here.  But if you’ve never played, and you don’t mind a little over-the-top humor, you need to give this game a try.  So much fun.

And if you want to host a game night of your own, I’d definitely recommend making this guacamole.  Rick Bayless released this recipe last year, and I’ve had it bookmarked ever since.  Sweet, herbaceous fennel is roasted until tender and fragrant, then added to cubes of rich avocado along with crisp, tart apple, lime juice, jalapeno, and cilantro.  This seasonal variation of a Mexican classic is sharp, creamy and wonderfully complex.  The licoricey fennel compliments the avocado while tiny pops of green apple offer contrast in flavor and texture.  The fennel isn’t really overpowering here.  With each bite, you’ll notice just a hint of fennel at the end.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Marinated Flank Steak Salad with Feta and Arugula

Flank Steak Salad with Feta and Arugula I love a good flank steak salad.  First, flank steak is fairly inexpensive.  You can get a pound of meat without breaking the bank.  Second, flank steak cooks sooooo quickly.  8 to 9 minutes under the broiler, and you have a beautifully rare slab of meat.  Finally, flank steak is easy to master.  Just know that when cooking flank steak, it’s best to leave it rare or medium rare.  And when slicing flank steak, you need to cut across the grain.  Both of these practices will result in a juicy, tender steak (vs. a chewy piece of shoe leather).

I like to test the doneness of my steak by using the poke method.  Start by gently poking the top of the steak (at the thickest point) with your index finger.  If the act of poking leaves an indent in the steak that doesn’t spring back to place, it is too rare.  If the indent springs back, it is rare to medium-rare.  If the steak feels firm, then it is medium-well to well (aka overcooked).  This method takes a little time to get down, but just keep practicing.  By the way, if you are one of those people who likes their steak well-done, I wouldn’t recommend cooking flank steak.

In this recipe, flank steak is quickly marinated in olive oil, lemon, garlic, cumin, and sumac, then broiled until the surface is slightly charred.  Slices of tender pink meat are then arranged on a platter, and topped with arugula, scallion, parsley and chunks of salty feta, dressed in the tangy marinade.  This is a perfect weeknight meal that also holds up well for lunch the next day.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Bacon Tostilocos

Bacon Tostilocos

Oh man do I have a fun recipe for you today!  Tostilocos, a Mexican street food specialty, are typically made by cutting open a bag of flavored corn chips and piling on toppings such as pickled pig skin, tamarind candies, Japanese peanuts, jicama, cucumber, lime juice, chamoy and hot sauce.  I first had Tostilocos last year at our San Diego LGBT Pride festival.  Jorge and I had been walking around all day, and I was getting huuuungry.  We stopped to sit for a moment in the shade, when Jorge hopped up and said, “I’ll be right back.”  Several minutes later, he returned with a bag of Tostilocos.  After just one bite my taste buds were all like, “Whaaaaaaat???”  Such a crazy combination of flavors that just completely work well together.  Sweet.  Salt.  Sour.  Crunch.  I’ll have to say the one element I’m still not completely sold on is the pickled pig skin.  It’s like savory gummy worms.  But wet and slippery.  Not my fav.  So when I was coming up with a homemade version of Tostilocos, I decided to substituted thin strips of smoky bacon for the pickled pig skin.  I also included some quick pickled cucumber and red onion to add another note of sweet, sour and salt.  You can easily make these pickles at home in just one hour (mainly inactive wait time).  Jorge and I will still get Tostilocos each year at the festival, but now I can easily satisfy cravings in between with my bacon version!

If you don’t live in San Diego (or any other City bordering Mexico), some of these ingredients may look very foreign to you.  Try to find a Mexican market in town.  They should have everything you need.  Or you can easily purchase these items online.  I purchased everything at Pancho Villa’s Farmer’s Market here in SD.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Watermelon and Tomato Wedge Salad

Watermelon and Tomato Wedge Salad Several weeks ago, I was scrolling through my RSS feeds when I saw this recipe for a Watermelon Wedge.  Watermelon salads are quite ubiquitous at the moment, but this is the first time I’ve seen someone go the wedge route.  Inspired by Greg’s inventiveness, I decided to make a watermelon wedge of my own.

Utilizing some leftover ingredients from my Summer Crush cocktail, I put together this Watermelon and Tomato Wedge Salad.  Juicy wedges of ripe heirloom tomato are scattered across a landscape of vibrant watermelon, then topped with chopped chive, fresh basil and a creamy feta dressing.  This salad is deliciously seasonal and incredibly playful.  Sweet, salty and so, so fresh, my Watermelon and Tomato Wedge Salad would be perfect for any late summer soiree.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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