Quinoa Bowl with Tomato, Corn, and Avocado

Summer Salad Tomato Corn Avocado

When it’s too hot to cook, try serving a big summery salad for your main meal. Not just a simple garden salad, but a satisfying bowl layered with crisp veggies, grains or legumes, and fresh herbs. The combination is fresh, filling, and light – guaranteed to hit the spot on a warm day. This salad bowl includes the classic summer veggie trio of sweet corn, tomato, and avocado – tumbled together with protein-rich quinoa and mounded over a bed of kale. No need to cook the corn – summer corn is juicy and naturally sweet, and it’s crispness adds great texture to the quinoa. As always, you can tweak the ingredients to your taste. Feel free to substitute another grain for the quinoa, such as wild rice or bulgur. As for the kale, a quick rub of the hardy leaves with oil and salt helps to soften them and coax out their flavor. Alternatively, choose another more tender green, such as arugula or spinach, and skip the rubbing step.

Tomato, Corn, and Quinoa Bowl with Kale and Avocado

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

Dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

Salad:
1 small bunch Tuscan/Lacinato kale, ribs removed, torn into bite-size pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
2 ears of corn, uncooked, husked, kernels cut from the cobs
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup tricolor or red quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 small handful Italian parsley leaves, chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 small handful cilantro leaves, chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 ripe but firm avocado, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1. Whisk the lime juice, vinegar, garlic, mustard, honey, salt, black pepper, and Tabasco in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
2. Place the kale in a large bowl. Drizzle 1 to 2 teaspoons oil over the leaves and season with a generous pinch of salt. Rub the leaves until thoroughly coated (this will help to soften them).
3. Combine the scallions, corn, peppers, tomatoes, quinoa, parsley, and cilantro in a separate bowl. Pour about 1/4 cup of the dressing over the salad and gently stir to combine. Mound the salad over the kale. (Or divide between individual serving bowls.) Top with the avocado and drizzle with additional dressing to taste.

Lamb Merguez Patties and Couscous Salad

Lamb Kefta Patties
Feeling spicy? When I crave a good dose of spice and heat I head to Asia, the Middle East or North Africa (well, in my dreams). In reality, I head to my kitchen, where I fling open the spice cabinet and get cooking. I made these merguez patties recently when I was craving the heat and fragrance of North Africa: harissa, garlic, coriander, and mint. These feisty patties hit the spot – well, an airline ticket would have really hit the spot, but, hey, this was a pretty good stand in for a week night.

What really tipped these patties for me was the use of whole spices that I toasted and ground in my mortar. If you haven’t tried doing this, then you are missing a big component in the flavor department. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, and the results are well worth it. Whole spices are readily found in the spice section of your supermarket, gourmet and spice shops – even online. When you are ready to use the spices, toast the seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then transfer to a spice grinder or a mortar, and blitz or pound the spices until fine. The flavor is light years better than pre-ground spice.

Lamb Merguez Patties and Couscous Salad

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Makes 18 to 20 (2-inch) patties

Couscous Salad:
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 small poblano or green pepper, finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Lamb Merguez Patties:
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 pounds ground lamb
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons harissa paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare the couscous: Place the couscous, water, lemon juice and olive oil in a large bowl. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot, and remove from the heat. Let stand until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork, add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.
2. Prepare the patties: Toast the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Grind to a fine powder in a mortar with pestle or a spice grinder.
3. Transfer the remaining patty ingredients to a large bowl. Add the toasted spices and mix until combined without overworking the meat. Form into 2-inch patties. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
4. Remove the patties from the refrigerator and let stand 10 minutes. Grill over direct high heat or pan-in fry in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once.  Serve with couscous salad, pita bread, Greek yogurt, and a squirt of harissa if you’re feeling extra spicy.

Spring Rolls Deconstructed – Shrimp and Rice Noodle Salad

Shrimp and Rice Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut DressingShrimp and Rice Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

If you like spring rolls, then you will love this salad. All of the goodness stuffed into a rice paper wrapped Thai or Vietnamese roll – rice noodles, shrimp, crisp veggies, fresh herbs, and chiles – is jumbled together in a big bowl of salad. The result? You might be tempted to call it a deconstructed spring roll, with all of the great flavor minus the labor of actually making a roll. Once all of the ingredients are prepped, it’s quick to assemble for a light and healthy dinner. The dressing is the magic touch that pulls this colorful dish together. It has all of the ingredients you’ll find in an Asian dipping sauce and then some: ginger, garlic, Sriracha, lime, and peanut butter. The trick is to blitz all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor (including the lime sections!) to form a thick and potent sauce. In fact, you might want to make extra dressing to keep on hand – it makes a great dipping sauce for cruditées or tossed with cooked Asian noodles.

Shrimp and Rice Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4

Dressing:
1/2 cup canola oil
1 lime, peel and pith removed, quartered
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons coarsely grated peeled ginger with juices
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha
2 teaspoons runny honey

Salad:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound large (18/20) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt
4 ounces rice noodles, cooked per manufacturer’s instructions, room temperature
3 scallions, ends trimmed, white and green parts sliced on the diagonal
1 large carrot, cut in matchsticks
1/2 English cucumber, seeded, cut in matchsticks
2 cups coarsely chopped Napa cabbage
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup sugar snap peas, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 red jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup fresh coriander sprigs, coarsely chopped, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts for garnish

1. Place all of the dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp in one layer, sprinkle with the red pepper flakes, and lightly season with salt. Cook until the shrimp are pink on both sides and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes, turning as needed. Transfer to a plate.
3. Place the rice noodles, scallions, carrot, cucumber, cabbage, bean sprouts, snap peas, jalapeño, mint, and cilantro in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and half of the dressing and toss to combine.
4. Divide the salad among plates. Scatter the peanuts over the salads and garnish with additional mint and cilantro. Serve with the remaining sauce on the side.

Winter Citrus Quinoa Salad

There is no better time to have a salad than in the winter. Yep, that’s right: Salads aren’t just summer fare. When the cold weather settles in, it’s even more important to get our daily dose of vitamins and nutrients. Luckily, winter brings its own produce rock stars – from glistening citrus to sturdy greens, hardy crucifers, and root vegetables. Shredded, chopped, and juiced, these ingredients can be layered into hefty salads laden with dried fruit, nuts, and seeds and dubbed a complete meal.

This hearty salad is inspired by tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern bulgur salad liberally mixed with lemon, garlic, and gads of fresh herbs. In this recipe, the bulgur is switched out with quinoa, a nutrient-rich seed, which is high in protein and gluten-free, and can be prepared like a grain. A shower of herbs and shredded red cabbage add crisp texture and flavor, while a variety of peppers and dried fruit add heat and sweetness.

The key to making this salad is to taste as you build it. There should be a balance of citrus, fragrance, heat, and spice – as well as a balance of textures. Quinoa requires a good amount of seasoning for good flavor, so season the quinoa before adding it to the salad. You will also find that the flavors of the salad will meld if it can sit for an hour or two before serving. No worries about wilting, the sturdy veggies in the salad will stay fresh and crisp.

Winter Citrus Quinoa Salad

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes plus chilling time
Serves: 6 as a side dish or salad

Extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups red quinoa
3 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 large poblano pepper, seeded, finely diced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, seeded, finely diced
1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, leaves chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro sprigs, leaves chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped if large
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and thoroughly drain.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook for 1 minute to lightly toast the seeds, stirring frequently. Carefully add the water (it will sizzle). Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat until the quinoa is tender and releases its germ, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the quinoa and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt, the cumin, paprika, coriander, and cayenne. Stir to combine and cool to room temperature.
3. Add the scallions, peppers, cabbage, parsley, cilantro, raisins, garlic, orange juice, and Tabasco. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

A Summer Salad for Meat Lovers (it has something to do with bacon)

BLT Salad with Bacon Ends and Avocado

A big refreshing bowl of salad is a great dinner in the heat of summer. Too veggie, you say? No worries, there is a happy meaty answer to that: Bacon ends. Yep, contemplate that. I did my own contemplating when I spied a bag of bacon ends for the first time at the farmers market and had to examine them. The bag was hefty, lumpy, and thick with triangular hunks of bacon jumbled in vacuum-packed togetherness. It was bacon indeed, but not the typical neatly fanned slices I usually buy in the deli department. After asking a few questions, I learned that when those tidy pre-sliced bacon packages are created, all of the irregular hunks and ends are discarded in order to produce supermarket-packaged perfection. I knew I was onto something revelatory, so I snagged a package. Now I am here to tell you that you want those ends. They are veritable chunks of heaven for bacon lovers, evoking salty pork-induced delirium.

I find the best way to cook bacon ends is in the oven or on a grill. While the ends cook, their fat renders, leaving behind crispy chunks of meaty bacon you can sink your teeth into. Honestly, they are addictively good. The danger is gobbling them all up in one go (not recommendable, by the way – just saying). So try to exert some restraint (after taste testing a few pieces, of course, as any cook should), and add them to salads, pasta, eggs – goodness, wherever you want your bacon. I like the salad option, as the fresh vegetables and leafy lettuce nicely balance out the hunks of salty meat. I call it a deconstructed BLT in a bowl and toss it with homemade croutons, brushed with the rendered bacon fat and toasted on the grill. Got your attention, right?

As for finding these ends, ask your butcher or the nice people in your supermarket’s meat department if they have a stash. You can be sure they know exactly what you are asking about – they just might not want to share.

BLT Salad with Bacon Ends and Avocado

Serves 4 as a main course salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Grilling Time: 30 minutes

1 1/2 to 2 pounds bacon ends, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups coarsely torn bite-size pieces of country or sourdough bread

Dressing:
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1 large head lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-size pieces
4 small vine ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
Corn kernels cut from one ear of corn
1 large Hass avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. Prepare the grill for indirect medium heat (about 400°F for a gas grill). Trim any excess fat from the bacon ends. Cut the ends into 1 inch chunks and arrange  on a grill rack (or grate) set over a grill pan to capture the rendered fat. Grill until the fat is rendered and the ends are crispy golden, about 25 minutes. (You can do this in the oven with a broiler pan, if you like.) Transfer the ends to a plate.
2. Toss the bread in the rendered fat. Spread the bread on a grill pan or the grates and grill until golden and crisp, turning as needed, 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
3. Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
4. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the bacon, half of the croutons and dressing to your taste and toss to combine. Garnish with the remaining croutons and serve with any remaining dressing.

Warm Wild Rice Salad with Dried Fruit and Nuts

Rice Stuffing

I am just going to come out and say it: I am not a fan of turkey stuffing (or dressing), and neither is my family. Whenever I make stuffing, it sits uneaten at the Thanksgiving table, before banishment to the refrigerator, labeled “leftover,” where it continues to sit for days, forlorn, neglected, and, frankly, wasteful. So, now I don’t make a stuffing for our turkey. Instead, I jam bunches of fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, and sage, as well as wedges of lemon or orange in the cavity to provide aroma and moisture while the turkey roasts. For serving, I provide potatoes and a grain dish to balance and fill out the feast. This rice salad is always a hit. It’s a great gluten-free starch substitute for stuffing, and the dried fruit and nuts stud the rice like festive jewelry, providing a pretty addition to the holiday table. Feel free to mix up the fruit and nuts, substituting raisins, chopped prunes, dried figs, walnuts or hazelnuts. For a vegetarian option, substitute vegetable stock or water for the chicken stock.

Wild Rice with Dried Fruit and Pecans

Serves 6.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 ½ cups wild rice or wild rice blend
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts
½ cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and saute until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the rice is tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the  dried fruit and pecans while fluffing the rice with a fork. Let stand, partially covered,  for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm.

Autumn Chopped Salad with Cauliflower, Kale, and Carrots

kale-chopped-salad-tastefood

It’s getting chilly outside, and while warm and comforting food is high on the crave-list, it’s more important than ever to keep eating salads, brimming with healthy nutrient-rich veggies and grains. The good news is that cooler weather enables us to fortify our salad bowls, transforming the light and wispy summer salad into a hearty healthy autumn bowl.

You can treat your salad just like your winter wardrobe, and pile on the layers. Mix and match your favorite winter greens, such as kale, spinach, and chicories, and layer them with chopped root vegetables and crucifers, and a shower of grains, such as quinoa, wheat berries or rice. These salads hold up well, and don’t mind a little standing while fully dressed, either – which is great for do-ahead assembly.

Chopped Cauliflower, Kale, and Carrot Salad

Serves 4 to 6

1 bunch curly green kale, tough ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 carrots, peeled, coarsely grated
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1/2 head medium cauliflower, florets finely chopped
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds

Dressing:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large bowl, rub the kale leaves with the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt until thoroughly coated. Add the remaining salad ingredients.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Drizzle over the salad and toss to combine.