Mandarin, Feta, Pomegranate and Candied Pecan Salad

This recipe is based on Holiday Salad from MelsKitchenCafe.com. It is such a colorful, beautiful salad that doing it on a platter (the way my dear friend Donna does it) is worth it. I made this for Thanksgiving and it was so good! In the mad rush of getting ready for Thanksgiving, I totally forgot to photograph it, but will so do soon.

6 ounces (3-4 cups) mixed salad greens
6 ounces (3-4 cups) chopped romaine
2 11oz cans mandarin oranges, drained and oranges patted dry
½ cup crumbled Feta cheese
1 cup pomegranate arils or ½ cup Craisins
½ cup candied maple pecans or walnuts (see note)

Dressing:
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Dressing: Add ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake very well until the dressing is nice and creamy.

Toss salad greens in a large bowl. Add most of the mandarin oranges and toss with ½ the dressing.

Lay greens on a large platter, and place the rest of the mandarins, feta cheese, pomegranate arils and pecans on top.

Serve extra dressing in a small pitcher.

To make candied maple pecans: in a small nonstick skillet, add about 1 Tbsp of maple syrup, 1 Tbsp water, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Heat in skillet until it’s nice and bubbly. Toss in pecan halves and swirl until they’re lightly coated. Pour out onto a silpat mat or parchment paper. Let cool and break up. The pecans should be lightly sweetened, not gobbed up with sugar.

Napa Cabbage & Noodle Salad

This is a tangy and delicious cabbage and noodle main dish salad, based on Hannah Che’s recipe from The Vegan Chinese Kitchen Cookbook. It’s perfect for a late summer evening supper, because it’s easy, super fast and has a dressing that is unbelievably good – plus it’s gluten-free and vegan. If you can’t get Napa cabbage, Romaine lettuce works, too.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 head Napa cabbage, cut in half lengthwise
1 small cucumber, julienned
1 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 cups fresh rice vermicelli noodles (Pho noodles) or Mung bean vermicelli noodles.

1 medium carrot, julienned
1 scallion, cut into 1/8″ rounds (both white and green part)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 chopped cashews or peanuts

Dressing:

2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar (cider vinegar would also be fine, I think)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 large garlic cloves, crushed

DIRECTIONS

Cut cabbage lengthwise a few times, then cut very thin slices. Add cabbage and and cucumber into a colander and toss with the salt. Leave to drain.

Start water boiling in a small saucepan, add noodles and cook 5-10 seconds. Drain and rinse with cool water. Cut noodles into smaller sections with a scissors. If you are using other noodles, cook as directed on the package, then drain and rinse with cool water. You want to end up with about 1 1/2 cups cooked noodles.

Mix dressing ingredients well in a small bowl. Taste and add more soy sauce if you think it needs it.

Gently press cabbage and cucumber to remove some of the water. You can also squeeze it gently in your hand. Place in a large bowl, and add noodles, carrots, scallions and cilantro. Pour dressing over and toss to coat Toss into a large bowl, and top with nuts.

Serve immediately. Yum.

Salad with Warm Pasta and Balsamic Vinaigrette

With all the great fresh veggies available right now, we’ve been eating lots of salads. Having a warm element in a salad some how makes it feel like a main dish, and tonight it was Spinach and cheese Tortellini.

That contrast of temperatures, textures and colors takes an ordinary salad to something really quite amazing. I also had some lovely baby radishes from my friend Gene, so with a good drizzle of my favorite balsamic vinaigrette, it was a perfect summer supper!

Ingredients

1/2 lb. fresh Tortellini (any kind)
1 tsp olive oil
Good pinch kosher salt
Few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
pinch of garlic powder

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes (about 1/4 cup)
8-10 baby radishes, halved (if larger, quartered)

Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (Costco’s is amazingly good)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2/3 tsp dijon mustard
1/3 tsp honey
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Cook Tortellini as directed on package.

Chop lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and radishes, and mix gently in a large bowl.

Mix all ingredients for vinaigrette in a mason jar and shake like crazy.

When Tortellini is cooked, drain water and toss pasta in a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

To serve, place salad in a wide flat bowl, sprinkle with several warm Tortellini and drizzle everything with dressing.

Yum!

Mel’s Kale & Chicken Salad

This is a super delicious, super satisfying salad from Mel’sKitchenCafé.com. I made it for lunch today and Ali, who had popped in for a bike ride with Kumy enjoyed it, too. It looks like a lot, but it was really just about enough for 3 servings as a main dish. It’s got enough crunch and texture to make it interesting and satisfying.

Fresh Kale by Deborah Rainford on Unsplash

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups cooked rice, slightly warm or at room temp. (Mel uses a wild rice blend, but I had Basmati in the fridge. Trade Joe’s has a great frozen rice blend that would be great, or you could use quinoa.
6 ounces (about 5 lightly packed cups) coarsely or finely chopped kale
5 boneless, skinless thicken thighs, cook, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium apple, cored and diced
1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup Craisins
1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 medium avocados, diced

Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fresh cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS
Cook the rice according to package directions, and let cool to room temperature.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil, season chicken thighs, and cook thighs over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Flip over and cook another 4 minutes or so, or until the chicken is browning nicely and cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Cut into 1″ pieces.

At the same time, start a smaller nonstick skillet on a low heat and add slivered almonds, shaking occasionally so they toast on all sides.

Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth and well-combined. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.

Assemble the salad by placing the greens in the bottom of individual wide serving bowls. Top with rice, chicken, apples, almonds, Craisins, feta and avocados.

Drizzle dressing over salad and toss lightly to combine. Serve immediately.

NOTES
You can also use 3 cups rotisserie chicken, chopped up, in which case you don’t need any olive oil, or you could leave out the chicken altogether for a vegetarian dish.

Cucumber, Tomato and Avocado Salad

This is a really interesting recipe from the New York Times, that replaces the oil in the dressing with the buttery fats from ripe avocadoes. I have made this a few times and tweaked it to a recipe that we just love. I used mini cucumbers, which stay really nice and crunchy, but you could also use regular cucumbers, scooping out the soft, seedy part. It’s bright, colorful and delish!

Ingredients

1 lb. mini cucumbers (6 small)
1 package grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise (2 cups?)
2 very ripe avocados
Juice of one medium lime
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder

Directions

Peel cucumbers in alternating strips and slice into 1/2″ slices and place in a medium serving bowl.(You can also just halve the cucumbers lengthwise and slice into 1/2″ half circles.) Add tomatoes.

Mix juice and spices in a small bowl, and toss with veggies.

Just before serving, cut avocadoes into 1/2″ cubes and toss fairly vigorously with the salad. The avocadoes must be really ripe, so when you mix them in they break down a bit and coat the other veggies.

Check seasonings and serve. Keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Easiest Vinaigrette

I made this dressing yesterday for Christmas lunch and realized that I had to really hunt for it. So I decided to make it a bit easier to find. If you don’t have fish sauce, you can definitely make it without.  But if you get a chance – definitely try it – the flavor it adds to dishes is amazing.

1 tsp crushed garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1-2 tsp Fish Sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

To make vinaigrette, add all ingredients to a mason jar, starting with 1 tsp of the fish sauce. Close with lid and shake like crazy until well blended. Taste and add salt, pepper or fish sauce as needed.

Salade Nicoise

salade-nicoiseA really refreshing change from warm (albeit) comforting casseroles, try this lovely French salad, with its elements in heaps, rather than tossed together.

It’s basically an herby vinaigrette on a very hearty salad – with potatoes, tomatoes, tuna and hard-boiled eggs, meant to be served warm or at room temperature. I love it because it’s also a very forgiving recipe. As long as you’ve got some form of potato, tomato, lettuce and green beans it will be delicious!

It was perfect for a summer evening’s meal, after a good brisk walk.

INGREDIENTS

Vinaigrette

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Thai basil (could use any basil or 2 tsp dried basil)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
3/4 tsp kosher Salt and
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Salad

1 can albacore tun in olive oil, removed and lightly drained
5 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 lb small young red potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 container butter lettuce (or any nice lettuce), torn into bite-sized pieces
15 or so grape tomatoes, cut in half, or 3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
1/2 yellow or small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound green beans, stems broken off
1/4 cup olives (I used Castelvetrano but Nicoise olives are also recommended.)
2 Tbsp capers, drained

Make vinaigrette: In a jar, place the oil, vinegar, garlic powder, herbs, mustard and fish sauce if using. Cover with a lid and shake until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Marinate onion slices in a couple spoons of the vinaigrette in a small bowl.

Bring a pot of water to boil, add 1 Tbsp of salt and add the potatoes and eggs. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork soft. Remove the potatoes, immediately cut in half and toss in a bowl with a little more vinaigrette.

Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook 3-5 minutes. Remove and rinse with cold water. Peel and quarter the hard-boiled eggs.

On each plate, lay a bed of lettuce. Heap some of the tuna in the middle. Sprinkle the onions and tomatoes around the tuna.

Arrange the potatoes and green beans in mounds at the edge of the lettuce.
Arrange hard boiled eggs and olives in mounds on the lettuce bed.

Drizzle everything with the remaining vinaigrette and sprinkle with capers if using.

Can also be served without tuna as a vegetarian option.

Kale, Apple, Cabbage, Carrot and Goat Cheese Salad

This is based on a recipe from the Pioneer Woman and Natalie Perry, but features substitutions based on what I had in my pantry. It’s a really substantial and flavorful salad that was very satisfying as a main dish. Lots of bright flavors and colors!

Salad ingredients:
6 oz. baby kale
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 ounces grated cabbage and carrots – about 3 cups? Can also use brussel sprouts
2 medium apples, cored and diced
1 cup candied pecans (see note #1)
4 oz. goat cheese
1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash or baked sweet potatoes (see note #2)
handful craisins

Dressing:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 tsp whole grain mustard
4 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

In a large salad bowl, add kale, lemon juice and first Tbsp of Olive Oil. Gently massage the kale for a minute until it has softened a bit and started to turn a little darker green.

Add the shredded veggies, chopped apples and candied pecans.

Make the dressing in a mason jar, shaking vigorously for 30 seconds until well combined. Add to the bowl, and mix gently until everything is coated.

Drop goat cheese, sweet potato (or butternut squash) and craisins on top and serve.

Note #1: To make candied pecans, in a small frying pan add pecans, 1 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has dried up. Be careful – it burns easily!

Note #2: peel and dice butternut squash into 1″ squares, toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Or, do the same for sweet potatoes. Roast at 425 until browned and soft about 15-20 minutes. Poke with a fork to make sure they’re done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Ina’s Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

blue-cheese

Beautiful Blue Cheese by PDPhotos on Pixabay.

I made this for Christmas Morning brunch and it was delicious. Maybe my favorite blue cheese dressing ever.

For the dressing:

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup good mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

4 tender inside celery stalks, trimmed and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
6 radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
5 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts sliced

1 large head iceberg lettuce, wilted outer leaves removed and sliced into 1″ layers
4 to 6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Fleur de sel

Buzz the dressing ingredients with a buzzwand (sorry, immersion blender) in a medium pitcher until creamy and smooth.

Mix the celery, radishes and scallions in a small bowl.

For each serving, lay a slice of iceberg lettuce on a salad plate. Top with the celery mixture and pour dressing over. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and a bit of fleur de sel.

Serve immediately. The radishes and scallions add a lovely spicy bite to the creamy, fresh salad.  You might want to halve the slices if your family are not big salad eaters.

Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

butternut-squash-3597763_19

Butternut Squash Image by Nick Collins on Pixabay.

I’ve made this salad from Ina Garten a dozen times and it is so good there’s never any left.  It’s a perfect fall salad with all the gorgeous colors of the squash, arugula and walnuts.  Thank you Ina for another wonderful recipe!

Ingredients:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4″ pieces (about 4 cups)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tbsp real maple syrup (you can substitute honey if you want to)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp Craisins

For the warm cider vinaigrette:
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice (I use Martinelli’s Apple Juice in the little apple bottle if we don’t have cider on hand. It’s so good – you should keep some in your pantry.)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp minced shallots
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

4 oz baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese  (use Vegan Parmesan if you wish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix 2 Tbsp olive oil, maple syrup, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Place squash on a sheet pan and pour mix over. Toss with your hands until well coated.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until tender, turning squash over after 10 minutes. Add Craisins for last 5 minutes. When you add the Craisins, add a small baking pan with the walnuts and let toast for 5 minutes. Watch that the walnuts don’t burn!

Let squash sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes while you make the vinaigrette.

In a small saucepan, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 6-8 minutes until about 1/4 cup is left. Take off heat and whisk in mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Pour 2/3 of the vinaigrette over and toss well.  (We don’t like our salad dripping with dressing but if you do – be bold and toss it all in.)

Serve immediately while the dressing and squash are warm. So good!