Grapefruit, Blackberry & Basil Salad

As I have mentioned in previous “salad” posts, I love salads.  I mostly make savory and zesty salads, full of Mediterranean flavors.  This time, I decide to branch out a little from the savory aspect.  I want to have a light lunch, something sweet, yet a little salty.  I decide to use a very common combination, fruit and cheese.  Couple that with extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs, and the outcome is a very light and refreshing salad!

GRAPEFRUIT, BLACKBERRIES, AND BASIL SALAD

4 medium Grapefruit(s) – Suprêmes or segments 
6 oz Blackberries
6 oz aged white English Cheddar – Barber’s 1833
3 tablespoons Grapefruit juice
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/3 cup small or torn Sweet Basil leaves – loosely packed

Begin by washing and drying the fruit and basil.

With a sharp knife, cut through the skin and pith of the grapefruit, exposing the pulp segments.  Gently slice through each membrane over a bowl, removing the grapefruit segments, forming suprêmes.  When all the segments have been removed, squeeze the remaining grapefruit membranes with your hand to get all the juice out.

Drain the juice from the grapefruit, and set to the side for the dressing.  In a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons of the grapefruit juice, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of freshly ground pepper, and the olive oil.  Set aside.

Add the clean blackberries to the grapefruit suprêmes.  Add the dressing and the fresh basil leaves, and stir very delicately, as to not break the grapefruit suprêmes.

With a cheese knife or a little knife, cut or crumble the cheddar cheese into small bite size pieces.  Set them aside for the plated salad.

To plate, get a small serving plate, scoop a large spoonful or two of the grapefruit, blackberry, and basil salad onto the plate.  Sprinkle about a small handful of cheddar pieces onto the salad.  Finish with a grind of freshly ground black pepper, and serve.  ENJOY!


Arugula Salad w/ Lemon Vinaigrette

This salad is very clean and fresh.  It goes well with many dishes, especially hearty animal protein and heavier dishes or hors d’oeuvres that need a little acid to cut the fat, and balance the flavors.  The last time I made this zesty salad was last weekend to accompany blue cheese, tomato, and thyme tarts.  It is very easy to make.

ARUGULA SALAD WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE

1 small package Arugula or Arugula/Spinach mix – 0.5 ounces
4 tablespoons Lemon Juice
5 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Wash and thoroughly dry the greens (using a salad spinner), and place them in a large salad bowl.  In a small bowl or dressing jar, add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  If you are using a bowl, slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil, while whisking.  If, however, you are using a jar, place the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper in the jar, and shake it very well to get the vinaigrette to emulsify properly.

Immediately before serving, drizzle the vinaigrette gently and slowly around the edges of the bowl, as in on the outside of the greens, as they are quite delicate.  Gently toss the salad with the vinaigrette.  Serve and Enjoy!


Grilled Sweet Corn & Vegetable Salad w/ Mediterranean Vinaigrette

I recently decided that my family and I needed a break from all kinds of animal protein.  We need to have something fresh and healthy.  So, I grilled quite a few vegetables, made a delicious Mediterranean vinaigrette, and combined them together in a very vibrant grilled salad.  If you would like to add animal protein to this dish, grilled chicken breasts would go wonderfully.

GRILLED SWEET CORN AND VEGETABLE SALAD WITH MEDITERRANEAN VINAIGRETTE

The Salad

5 ears Sweet Corn
1 white Onion
1 red Bell Pepper
6 large Cremini Mushrooms
1 cup Garbanzo Beans – cooked
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper – freshly ground
3/4 cup English or Persian Cucumbers
2 Avocados

Make sure all your vegetables are cleaned and / or washed by you (not the store) before you use them.  Slice the bell pepper and onion into manageable and easily grilled sliced.  Remove the shank, husk, and silk from the corn.  Oil, salt, and pepper the corn, mushrooms, onion slices, and bell pepper slices, and place them on a hot grill pan or an outdoor grill.  Grill each side until the vegetables are slightly charred or caramelized.  While you are grilling, prepare the vinaigrette.

MEDITERRANEAN VINAIGRETTE

1/4 cup Italian Parsley – finely chopped
2 tablespoons Cilantro – finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh Oregano – finely chopped
1 large Lemon – zested & juiced
1/2 Orange – juiced
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 – 1/2 Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Capers
1 teaspoon Salt or more to taste
1 teaspoon Black Pepper – freshly ground

Finely chop the parsley, cilantro, and oregano, and place them in a bowl with the dijon mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange juice, capers, salt, and pepper.  Slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil, and whisk, until the vinaigrette comes together and is emulsified.  Leave the vinaigrette in the refrigerator, until you are done making the salad, so the flavors can adequately meld together.

On a large clean cutting board or surface, place the grilled corn stem side down.  Run a sharp knife along each side, slicing the kernels off the ear and onto the surface.  Place all the corn in large bowl.  Slice the rest of the grilled vegetables, and add them to the bowl with the corn.  Add the cooked garbanzo beans.  Dice the cucumbers into small cubes, and add them as well.  You may slice the avocados, squeeze some lemon juice on them to prevent them from turning brown, and leave them to the side for garnish.  Or … you can slice them at the very last minute.

Take the vinaigrette out of the refrigerator, and drizzle it all over the salad.  Mix the salad well.  You may leave your freshly made salad in the refrigerator for the flavors to marry … or, you may serve it, while it is still warm.  When you are ready to serve the salad, top it with the fresh avocado slices, or leave them on the side, and Enjoy!


Mediterranean Shrimp Salad

The flavors of the Mediterranean are so fresh and vibrant.  As I always tend to fall back to my Mediterranean roots, when it comes to food, I decide to make a refreshing and colorful shrimp salad.  You may enjoy this zesty and colorful salad for lunch, dinner, or as an appetizer, if you serve a smaller portion.  I prefer it for lunch with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, while sitting outside on a beautiful sunny day with Kevin and my friends.  I guess that is one way to be transported to the Mediterranean, while staying in Dallas.

MEDITERRANEAN SHRIMP SALAD

THE SHRIMP

1 lb Shrimp 26 – 30 count
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Corn Starch
6 grinds Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 tablespoon organic Butter
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a bowl, add the salt, pepper, corn starch, and paprika to the shrimp.  Make sure they are coated thoroughly.  In a hot sauté pan, add the butter and the olive oil.  Sauté the shrimp for about 2 minutes on each side, or until it is pink and firm.  Remove the shrimp, and place them on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb the access grease.

THE SALAD

2 cups Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 cup Capers
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives
1 cup Italian Parsley leaves
2 Lemons – zest
1 large Shallot
1/4 teaspoon Salt
12 grinds Black
1 Lemon – juiced – or 2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – plus little extra for drizzle finish

Slice the tomatoes and olives in halves, and place them in a bowl.  Finely dice the shallot, and add it to the bowl.  Add the capers, parsley leaves, zest of two lemons, juice of one lemon, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.  With a spoon, gently toss the ingredients together.

It is very important to use very good quality extra virgin olive oil, whenever you are adding it to salads, fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, dressings, salsas, or anything that will not be cooked.

Plate all the salad on a serving platter or a portion of the salad on a salad plate of your choice, then add some of the shrimp on top.  If you want to keep the shrimp very crispy, do not mix them with the salad, because the crispy coating will become slightly soggy.  However, if you want to coat the shrimp with the lemony dressing, then go ahead and mix them with the salad.  Finish the dish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Pour yourself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy.


Romaine, Avocado & Cilantro Salad w/ Caesar Vinaigrette & Homemade Croutons

Salads are something I like to make quite often, and I do.  I make them for brunch, lunch, and dinner, but mostly for dinner.  When I come home from work, and I don’t have enough time to make an elaborate meal, I make a salad.  Gladly, my husband and daughter don’t seem to mind.

ROMAINE, AVOCADO, AND CILANTRO CAESAR SALAD

1 head Romaine Lettuce
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives
1 large Avocado
1/2 cup Cilantro leaves only
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 cups homemade Croutons – recipe below

Begin by washing all your produce and drying them thoroughly.  Chop the lettuce or tear it in any way you prefer, and place it in a large salad bowl.  Add the sliced tomatoes, olives, avocado, and grated Pecorino Romano to the lettuce.  Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems, and leave to the side for now.

CAESAR VINAIGRETTE

1 Garlic clove
2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Orange juice
1 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
2 Anchovy Fillets
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
Pinch of Salt
10 grinds Black Pepper

 

In a blender or food processor, blend the garlic, lemon juice, orange juice, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, anchovy fillets, salt, and pepper together, while slowly drizzling in the extra virgin olive oil, until everything is emulsified .  Add the grated Pecorino Romano and blend one last time.  The result should be a Caesar dressing that has a vinaigrette consistency; in other words, it is not as creamy as the traditional version.  Place the vinaigrette in the refrigerator, until you are done with making the croutons, and are ready to serve the salad.

Traditional Caesar dressing does not have orange juice in it.  I like to use a splash of orange juice sometimes to balance the flavors.  The traditional version, however, has an egg yolk, which I have chosen to omit, as the Dijon mustard will be assisting with the emulsification of the dressing / vinaigrette.

Just a note: since you are using Pecorino Romano, which is a very salty yet delicious cheese, be careful with how much you salt the vinaigrette.  Thus the reason for a “pinch of salt” in the vinaigrette ingredients.  If you choose to substitute another cheese like Parmesan or Asiago, you may add a bit more salt.

HOMEMADE CROUTONS

2 cups cubed Ciabatta loaf 
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette
1 tablespoon dried Italian Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a bowl, mix your ciabatta bread cubes with the extra virgin olive oil, Piment d’Espelette*, and dried Italian seasoning, until every cube is thoroughly coded.  If you cannot find Piment d’Espelette, you may use paprika or cayenne pepper as a substitute, or you may omit this ingredient altogether.  Place the croutons on a baking sheet and in the oven for about 12- 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Don’t forget that they will continue to harden, even after they are out of the oven.  Remove them from the oven, and leave them to the side for a minute, before you top your salad with them.

*Piment d’Espelette is a chili from the Basque (Southern Atlantic) region of France.  The chili is dried then ground, and used in many regional dishes.  It is wonderfully DELICIOUS!  

Top the salad with the still warm croutons and the cilantro leaves.  Lightly drizzle the Caesar vinaigrette and toss the salad gently.  You may have this as your main meal by adding grilled chicken, fish, or meat, or you may have it as is.  You may also have it as your appetizer, before you serve a protein and a starch.  Whatever you decide to do, serve and ENJOY!


Mediterranean Tuna Salad w/ Dijon Mustard, Lemon & Herb Vinaigrette

I woke up this Thursday morning to ice and snow all over my neighborhood.  It is March, and we are getting snow in Dallas!  Does anyone else think this sounds ludicrous?  Regardless of how silly it sounds, I am very happy for it, as I get to enjoy a delicious cup or two of Earl Grey, while working from home.  Normally, I am rushing out the door without any coffee or tea … or breakfast for that matter.  Looking outside of our uptown condo this beautiful cold morning, I snapped a few pictures to share.

After taking care of a few things via phone, I decided to get back to business … and pleasure.  I turned on my work and my personal computers in an attempt to get some work done on both fronts, while enjoying some much needed Caffeine.  Instead of a wholesome breakfast, I opted to have an early lunch.  And what I wanted to do on this cold day was to be transported to the beautiful Mediterranean.

MEDITERRANEAN TUNA SALAD WITH DIJON MUSTARD, LEMON, AND HERB VINAIGRETTE

1 lb French Green Beans – cleaned
1 red Bell Pepper – roasted
4 oz Spanish or Italian Tuna in olive oil
1/3 cup Niçoise Olives
1/2 tablespoon Mint – finely chopped

VINAIGRETTE

1/2 Shallot – finely diced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
2 Lemons – zested
1 sprig fresh Thyme – finely chopped
1 sprig fresh Oregano – finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian Parsley – finely chopped
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
10 Pepper grinds

Start by cleaning the French green beans and blanching them in heavily salted water.  Basically, you bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil, add about 1/4 cup of kosher salt, then add the cleaned green beans, and let them blanch for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove the green beans from the hot water and into an ice water bath.  This method serves to achieve two things, it stops the cooking process and keeps their dark green color.  After about 5 to 10 minutes in the ice water, remove the green beans and dry them.  I use a salad spinner for this task, followed by a paper towel or two to remove the last bit of moisture.

As I would rather roast my own peppers, place the red bell pepper directly over a burner, and let the skin char.  Continue to turn it to get an even char on all sides.  Immediately, place the charred pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for about 5 minutes.  This will continue to steam the pepper and will make peeling it very easy.  Cut the pepper open and deseed it.  You may rinse the pepper to remove all the leftover charred skin and seeds; however, I prefer to NOT rinse it, as to keep its charred flavor more concentrated.  Dice the roasted pepper into one inch cubes and leave to the side.  If you would like to avoid this task, you may want to buy already roasted and jarred peppers at your local grocery store.

For the vinaigrette, start by zesting two large lemons and placing the zest, salt, pepper, and both the Dijon and grainy mustard in a small bowl.  Finely dice the shallot, and add it to the bowl.  Finely chop the thyme, oregano, and parsley, and add them to the bowl.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Leave the vinaigrette on the side until you plate the salad.

I always use lemon juice with any and all fish and seafood.  However, as to keep the beautifully deep green French green beans from discoloring, I have used only the zest to get the citrusy flavor in this pseudo-vinaigrette.  

Now that you are ready to plate your salad, begin by placing the the green beans on the desired serving plate.  Top the green beans with the roasted pepper, followed by the tuna and olives.  Make sure you drain the tuna from the oil it is packed in.  You may choose to remove the pits from your olives or keep them.  Though I always buy olives with the pits still in them for better flavor, I chose to remove them for this salad.  Chiffonade the mint — cut it into long strips.  Top the salad with the vinaigrette by spooning it on top, and sprinkle the mint for a finishing touch.  You may serve this delicious Mediterranean salad with a crusty baguette, or you may dive in as is.  Bon appétit!


Lebanese Tabbouleh

If there is a constant at every Lebanese table, it is tabbouleh.  As far as I can remember, it has been present at most of our meals.  So, what can I say about this traditional and authentic Lebanese salad?  It is amazing!  It is the center of every Lebanese table; it is what we call “queen of the table”.  It is deliciously fresh, vibrant, and healthy.  Every Lebanese woman is taught how to make tabbouleh by her mother and grandmother from a very young age.  There are many imitations or what one would call “tabbouleh inspired salads”,  but there is only one authentic tabbouleh.  You may choose to change the recipe; you may prefer to add or remove certain ingredients, please feel free to do so.  However, if you do, then it becomes just a salad to the Lebanese, or a tabbouleh like salad, if you prefer.  I am just sharing my insight of a most favorite Lebanese staple.

AUTHENTIC LEBANESE TABBOULEH

4 cups finely chopped flat leaf or Italian Parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped Mint
4 Roma Tomatoes
1 tablespoon Bulgur – very fine #1
1 small White Onion – finely diced
2 Lemons juiced
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Allspice

Start a few hours ahead or the day before by washing the flat leaf parsley, mint, and tomatoes.  The parsley and mint need time to completely dry … or you can use a salad spinner to dry them, if you choose to wash them the same day.

Finely chop the parsley and the mint and place them in a large bowl.  Be careful not to “over chop” the mint, as it can become bitter.  Finely dice the onion; after which, sprinkle the salt and allspice on the diced onion.  You may either mix it with your hands (like my mother taught me), or you can use your knife to chop the onion a little more to incorporate the salt and allspice into it.  Place the onion in the bowl.  Finely dice the tomatoes and place in the bowl as well.  Rinse your bulgur twice or so, and drain the water very well.  Now, if you prefer a crunch to your bulgur, place in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  I, however, prefer a better flavor to it, so I soak it in the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for about 5 to 10 minutes.

 

*Please note that Lemons are used widely and excessively on everything in Lebanon.  The amount of lemon juice in this recipe (as I use large lemons) might be too much for some and not enough for others; please adjust to your liking by using the juice of one lemon first, then add more if you so desire.  

Once the bulgur soaks up the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, place in the bowl with all the other ingredients, and add the rest of the lemon juice and olive oil.  Stir or mix GENTLY.  Taste it to see whether or not you need to add more salt, lemon juice, or olive oil.  You may either serve right away, or place in the refrigerator for about 10 to 15 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.  I prefer the latter, as it helps the flavors better meld together.  When you take the tabbouleh out of the refrigerator, serve with lettuce or cabbage leaves.  Enjoy!

 

 


Spinach Salad w/ Avocado & Walnuts

Salad is absolutely my favorite thing to make and eat, especially, with a crusty baguette.  Well, I guess anything is good with a baguette.  I think it all began when I was attempting to be healthy after graduate school, where my diet was horrible.  My food and drink consumption consisted of many cups or pots of coffee, overcooked “things” I occasionally had at 24 hour diners, and all simple carbohydrates.  So, when I graduated and began my career, I decided to go back to the way I used to eat, the way my mother taught me.  Salads were the first concoctions I made.  I found them to be so exciting, as I could make them with anything I liked.  I also experimented with many homemade dressings; however, I always seemed to go back to old faithful, my mother’s traditional Lebanese salad dressing made of freshly grated or mashed garlic, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil.  Fast forward nine years, now I am known as the “salad girl” among my family and close friends.  Allow me to share with you one of my favorite salads.

SPINACH SALAD WITH AVOCADO AND WALNUTS

4 ounces of organic baby Spinach
1 cup of cherry Tomatoes
2 Avocadoes
1/2 Green Olives – pitted and chopped
1/2 cup Italian Parsley – finely chopped
1/4 cup Mint
1/4 cup toastes Walnuts
1/4 cup toasted Almonds

Lebanese Salad Dressing

2 Lemons juiced
4 Garlic cloves – grated or mashed
1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper – freshly grated
a pinch of Red Chili Flakes (OPTIONAL)

In a large bowl, place the washed spinach and top it with sliced cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, chopped green olives, finely chopped Italian parsley, and chopped mint.  In a small bowl, you can grate the garlic with a microplane or mash it with a mortar and pestle.  Add the salt & pepper, lemon juice, and the extra virgin olive oil.  If you choose to add a bit of spice, mix a pinch of red chili flakes.

I usually buy raw walnuts and dry roasted almonds.  If you buy them both toasted, then great, you can omit this step.  If, however, you you buy them raw, then you may want to toast them on the stove or in the oven.  I believe the oven works best, but this time, I used the stove.  In a pan, toast the walnuts over medium low heat.  Be very careful not to burn them, as their natural oil allows them to burn very easily, if you neglect them, even for small moment.  After they are toasted to your liking, chop them on a dry cutting board, along with the almonds.  Add them to the salad.  Add the dressing and mix well.  Now plate and enjoy with your heavenly baguette.