Greek Salad

A Greek salad would go beautifully with chicken, beef or fish, and features ingredients that are plentiful in farmers’ markets around the area. Not only is it still peak tomato season, but cucumbers are available by the bushel as well.

Greek salad

Most greek salads don’t call for any lettuce, but my sister made one last month with a touch of arugula, giving it a bit more heft and adding a nice bite.Greek salad

I don’t follow a recipe but a traditional Greek salad has chopped cucumbers, tomatoes (if you find cherry tomatoes, halving them is best), Kalamata olives, sliced or diced red onion, chunks of red, orange and green peppers (the more colors the more visually appealing), and feta. If you’re feeling adventurous you could add roasted red pepper (mild or piquillo), quartered artichoke hearts and fresh oregano. (In the picture you can see I skipped the peppers, but only because I was long on tomatoes and cukes.)

This dressing is from Bobby Flay. Just whisk the ingredients together or throw everything into a jar and shake vigorously. Pour over the vegetables, and arugula if desired, toss and serve.

For the dressing:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of your chef’s knife
1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano
3 pinches salt
10 to 15 grinds black pepper

Beet and Avocado Salad

Most of us either grill on the 4th of July or we go to a party where grilled meat  is the star of the show. Instead of the typical baked beans and slaw, why not serve a cool and refreshing salad?  This one is colorful and makes good use of ingredients that can now be found in our metro farmers’ markets. Preparations for the beet and avocado salad

I liked the salad immediately, but thought a sprinkling of blue cheese chunks would improve it immeasurably. Fortunately, I had a hunk of blue cheese handy and added some. Bingo!  I don’t usually think to pair avocado and beet together, but the creaminess of the avocado tasted great with the beets, the peas (I used fresh English peas) provided an additional texture, and the mint pulled all the flavors together.beets and onions in the dressing

This is an easy recipe to make, and beautiful to serve. (To my friends who are reading this, you can count on having it at my table sometime so you may want to refrain from making it for a while :))Beetroot and Avocado Salad

For those who might be wondering what beetroot is, it’s just beets. This is from an English cookbook (see link below), and in England beets are more commonly referred to as beetroot.Beetroot and Avocado Salad

Enjoy and Happy 4th!




Mayo-Free Potato Salad

Have you ever looked at those cute baby potatoes at the farmer’s market or in the grocery and wondered what you could make with them? Yes, roasting and tossing them with coarse salt is always a possibility. But what about grilling them whole and then making a non-traditional potato salad instead?

Below is a link to a recipe I love. All you do is roast the potatoes or grill them (which I prefer), pile atop a bed of watercress or arugula and spoon a delicious blue cheese vinaigrette over salad. Drizzle with additional blue cheese and chopped green onions. FYI, the recipe doesn’t call for adding blue cheese to the vinaigrette, but why not gild the lily a bit?

Et viola! You now have a lovely dish to accompany fish, chicken, steak or even a veggie burger.

Just in time for a Memorial Day picnic.


Beets with Mint and Basil

I love to make this dish in the summer because I have all the ingredients on hand in our garden. And, unlike some of the beet greens you find in the grocery, when beets are just pulled from the dirt the greens are usually unblemished.

This is such an easy recipe (see below for the link). Roast the beets, peel off the skins and cut into bite sized chunks. (For instructions on how to roast beets, refer to a previous post on the subject.) While the beets are roasting, whisk the dressing and chop or julienne the mint and basil.

Once the beets are prepared, toss them with the dressing and herbs and let sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

While the beets are in the fridge, I quickly wilt the greens and stems in a saute pan that has a thin film of olive oil. I then squeeze out any extra moisture and chop them into rough pieces.

Pull the bowl of beets out of the refrigerator and throw in the beet greens. Toss it all together with some crumbled feta and sprinkle with some basil leaves.

You’ve got a vibrant and delicious salad that will go with anything. Throw a piece of meat or fish on the grill, and you don’t need much else. You could even put a spoonful of the beet mixture over grilled salmon for a knockout entree.

Grilled Potato Salad

I was at the Brookside Farmer’s Market the other day, where I bought some fingerling and Peruvian blue potatoes. The cashier asked what I planned to do with the spuds, and I told her that my favorite use of potatoes is a grilled potato salad with blue cheese vinaigrette. She asked me to describe it and as I did, she said “Am I drooling? That sounds so good.” I gave her the details so she could make it, and realized that I should share it with my readers as well.

It’s not an original recipe, but comes from one of my go-to chefs, Bobby Flay. Click here for Grilled Potato Salad with Watercress and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette. It goes beautifully with fish, chicken or beef. The key is to serve the dish fairly soon after taking the potatoes off the grill–don’t let them cool too much or the dressing won’t be absorbed into the potatoes.


Spring Potato Salad

I have a niece who lives in New York City and just started a food blog, Season with Reason. For those who love cooking  local and seasonal foods, I highly recommend it to you. She focuses on ingredients and recipes, so you can enjoy the blog  no matter where you live. She also tackles nutrition and the politics of food, so it’s a worthwhile read.

Rebecca recently posted a recipe for potato salad that looked so appealing I had to try it. It’s from Smitten Kitchen and it sings with glorious notes of spring.

As you can see from the photos, I used Peruvian blue potatoes, though Yukon gold, fingerlings or any baby new potatoes would work beautifully. I also added basil and mint because both herbs are thriving in my garden and I couldn’t resist. My favorite part of the recipe was the pickled onions. The pickling process transforms their taste and could be used in most salad recipes that call for raw onions.


Asparagus Season

To me, asparagus sings “spring”, a welcome song after a long winter.

If you grow asparagus, you’re picking more than you know what to do with, and if you’ve been in the grocery store this month, you  can’t avoid the large displays of it.

Avoid no more. Whether you want to make soup, salad, or simply a side dish, this is the time to enjoy it at the height  of its freshness and availability.

My favorite way to serve asparagus is to grill it. First snap the stalks to get rid of the rough and chewy ends. Then drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and a bit of  black pepper. Using tongs, move the asparagus around on  the plate  to coat each  spear before placing them directly on a hot grill.  Depending on the thickness, I usually don’t leave them on the grill more than 5 minutes, turning a couple of times to ensure even cooking and blackening. Stay close and watch them carefully to avoid burning.

Once the asparagus is cooked, the  least complicated way to eat it is as a side dish with meat or fish, embellished only with a splash of balsamic vinegar.  I also enjoy making  a salad with asparagus, using greens  or grains  as the base.  Here’s a great Bobby Flay recipe that is substantial enough to serve as a full meal. If you don’t want to take the time to make olive vinaigrette, buy a jar of olive tapenade and doctor it with some red wine vinegar and a touch of mustard.

When asparagus season nears its end and the stalks start getting thick and tougher, use them to make a cream-less asparagus soup.In this recipe, I reserve the tips, microwaved separately, and add them to the finished product. I also puree the whole batch, using one of my favorite tools, an immersion blender. And instead of garlic, I add a chopped yellow onion along with the leek. The sour cream is not an essential element, so feel free to eliminate the fat and skip it altogether–it’s even better that way–pure spring in a bowl.


Reprinted from 2010

Watermelon and Tomato Salad

Combining watermelon and tomato is all the rage, but it does sound like an odd partnership, doesn’t it? Well, don’t make any judgments until you’ve tried it, because it’s truly awesome. Sweet, tart, crisp, juicy and, above all,…fresh. And after a month’s worth of caprese salads, it’s time to change things up a bit.

Here’s an easy way to start the flavor parade.

Cut up equal parts watermelon and tomato chunks (halved cherry tomatoes are a visually appealing substitute). Let sit in a bowl for a bit and drain the juices. Add minced scallions, chopped mint and basil, feta and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Minced or sliced jalapenos will give it an extra kick, if desired. Toss and dig in!

Now THIS is summer in a bowl.

Roasting Beets

I love beets. I know they aren’t everyone’s favorite, but  people who wrinkle their noses at the mention of this root vegetable are often thinking of the canned beets of our childhood. I didn’t like those either. But fresh beets have a very different flavor than the canned variety.

Here’s my primer on roasting beets to enjoy in a salad.

Scrub each beet to get the dirt off. Cut the stems and leaves (keeping the leaves to saute if you like). You can leave the beets whole, or cut in uniform sizes for even cooking. Place them in tin foil, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with fresh salt and pepper. Wrap tightly and put in a 400 oven for 40-45 minutes, until the beets can be easily pierced with a fork.  Once out of the oven, leave the foil package open to allow the beets to cool.

Now for the time consuming part. Don some gloves to keep your fingers from staining, or use a fork to hold each beet in place while you peel the skins with a knife. If the beets have been cooked long enough, the skins should come right off with minimal scraping.

Red beets are the only ones that stain, the yellow, orange and striped varieties do not, so keep that in mind if you care. If you wash your hands right away, the juice should come off your hands without any problem. In any case, it will go away eventually!

Once the beets are skinned, you can slice or cube them into bite-size peices. Then toss them with mixed greens,  goat or blue cheese, almonds or pistachios,  and a sherry or balsamic vinaigrette, and  you’ve got a stunning and tasty salad.

Cafe Sebastienne

Café Sebastienne has been a perennial favorite since its debut in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in 1995. In the original and smaller dining room, colorful oils by Artist Fredrick James Brown cover the walls. Diners can also choose to sit in the enclosed IMG_0250courtyard, with its vast ceilings, bright sunshine and decidedly louder decibel level.

Though I am always drawn to the tomato tart that highlights the summer menu, on a recent visit I decided to try the asparagus salad that my friend always orders. We were there to celebrate her birthday, so we complemented our salads with a glass of wine, a gesture that for me feels decadent and delicious, as I usually only imbibe after five. I enjoyed the NEXT Reisling, which is from the King Estate folks in Oregon, though the grapes are sourced from Washington. It was fruity without being the slightest bit sweet.

Now to the highlight of the meal (other than the wonderful conversation with the birthday girl, of course). The asparagus salad was a winner. Asparagus are grilled and served with baby coins of roasted fingerling potatoes and a poached egg. A warm truffle vinaigrette turns a nice dish into a sensational one. The menu offers it with applewood-smoked bacon, but we opted for the vegetarian version. Runny eggs are a big thing these days, on all sorts of dishes. I’m not a morning egg person–I could go through the rest of my life without another omelette or fried eggs and toast. But this new trend hits the right notes, with the yolk oozing out and mixing with other flavors on the plate.

It’s hard to go wrong with anything on Cafe Sebastienne’s menu. Other long-loved dishes include moist fish tacos with spicy black beans and avocado sauce, ever-changing soups and salads, fist-sized crab cakes and an awesome Reuben sandwich.

Just a reminder–if you can’t get there for lunch, it’s only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday brunch is also a treat.IMG_0251

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