Posts Tagged ‘colorful salads’

My continuing research about how to improve my overall health, has led me to modify my diet so that it’s 70 to 80 percent fruits and vegetables, with a little starch and protein to round it out. I am primarily eating fish (every possible kind of seafood) and fowl (chicken and duck) for my protein, which is what I relied on for my main source of protein for the 24 years I didn’t “eat mammal.” I try to get my starch from healthy sources like sweet potatoes, but I’m half Japanese, so I regularly eat rice. I’m also not one to give up all comfort foods, so I occasionally make gluten-free pasta using brown rice or chickpea flour pastas, which the kids love. I often toss the pasta with chicken sausage, braised chard and fresh tomatoes to “health it up.” And since dairy and I remain estranged, the only dairy I consume is a little grass-fed butter, ghee and organic whole-milk, Greek-style yogurt on occasion.

Since my diet is mainly focused on vegetables, I’m reframing my idea of what constitutes a meal. I grew up with the idea that dinner included a main dish–usually involving meat, accompanied by a simple salad and cooked vegetable. My new favorite thing to do is cook 3-4 vegetable side dishes, which together with a little protein make a fun, nutritious and not-at-all-boring meal in which there is not necessarily an obvious “main dish.” And I truly dislike eating salad for the sake of eating salad, so I’m continually searching for salads that feel like a meal in and of themselves.

I made, served and ate this particular salad this past summer, but it’s really a dish for all seasons, and all its ingredients are readily available year-round. It’s from the Jerusalem cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi. I’m a huge fan of all Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, having first discovered his incredibly delicious food in a tiny shop off Kensington High Street when I lived in London many moons ago. I was new to London–and newly pregnant, and stumbled upon the tiny shop purely by accident. Even though I lived in London only a few years, I considered a takeout meal from the shop a special treat. I fondly remember marveling at all the delectable looking dishes displayed in tiers in the shop front window. My mouth would instantly start watering upon seeing the array of colorful vegetable dishes and beautiful, yet simple desserts. Everything was fresh, flavorful and colorful. What I appreciate most about Ottolenghi’s cooking is that (most of) the dishes are relatively simple to make relying heavily on an abundance of spices and variety of textures. It’s what makes his food beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.

Most of the recipes I share on my site are completely my own invention, or they are ones I’ve modified from someone else’s recipe, or developed by combining various parts of several people’s recipes. However, this one I want to share as is because it’s perfect just as it is. One caveat is that I’ve been making it so often that I’ve stopped measuring the ingredients, and it’s fair to say you have a lot of leniency with this recipe; a little extra this or a little less that still results in a delicious salad.


1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

3-1/2 oz/100 g pitted, Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 small pitas, roughly torn into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup/75 g whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped

2 tsp sumac

1/2 tsp chile flakes

5 oz/150 g baby spinach leaves

2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice



Place the dates and onion slices in a small bowl. Add the vinegar and pink of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes.

While the date mixture is marinating, heat the butter and half the olive oil in a medium frying pan. (I use my 10-inch cast-iron pan.) Add the pita and almonds and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring all the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Note: The Ottolenghi recipe actually says to cook the pita for 4 to 6 minutes, but that has never been enough for me, so maybe our US pita cooks differently. Remove from the heat and mix in the sump, chili flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside too cool.

To serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large bowl. Drain off and discard any extra vinegar from the date/onion mixture before adding the dates and onion to the spinach. Add the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Adjust seasoning as desired and serve immediately.



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beet salad1beet salad2

I think this constitutes one of those perfect salads for slipping from summer into fall. The colors make you anticipate the darker colors of autumn–darker lipstick, clothes, leaves, etc., and this combination works beautifully served al fresco with grilled meats or inside with a roast chicken.

This recipe (ever so slightly modified) comes from one of my favorite new cookbooks The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook by Diana and Andrew Rodgers. I love their approach to cooking and farming, and in addition to lots of amazing recipes, they also share lots of valuable information–for that day I have my own small, working farm!

beet salad3



4 medium beets

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp quality balsamic vinegar

2 oranges

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 tsp raw honey

Sea Salt and ground black pepper

1 small head radicchio, carefully cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces

1 endive, leaves separated and carefully washed

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped as garnish



Heat the oven to 375F. Wrap each beet in a square of foil and roast for 34-40 minutes, or until tender.

Remove the beets from the oven, and allow them to sit until they’re cool enough to handle. Remove the peels by gently rubbing and sliding your fingers along the skin or use a peeler, then slice them into 3/8-1/4-inch thick rounds. Place them in a large bowl and toss with the vinegar.

Peel the oranges and slice them into 1/4-inch thick rounds.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the endive and radicchio in a bowl, drizzle the dressing and toss to coat.

You can serve this salad family style on one large platter or divide among 6 plates. Start by laying down the endive and radicchio, then layer on the oranges and beets. Garnish with the chopped parsley and a grind of pepper.

Serve immediately.

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tomato salad2tomato salad side


This should be called the End of Summer Salad since that’s when tomatoes–particularly heirloom varieties, are at their best. It’s really just a twist on the caprese salad, but I find goat cheese imparts a more sophisticated flavor, and keeps the focus on the tomatoes bursting with flavor at the end of the summer.

I used my favorite salad green here, which I confess, I don’t know the name of. I pick them every year from our favorite local organic U-pick farm, and even the people that run the U-pick aren’t sure of the name. I think they’re either Breen mini-romaine, Cherokee or Rouge d’Hiver–some sort of Little Gem lettuce, with dark red leaves and exceptional crunch. Maybe someone reading this post will be a lettuce expert and will solve the mystery for me once and for all.

I love that this salad takes just 5 minutes to prepare and looks fresh and festive. It’s a great addition to any meal, and looks especially good served al fresco.



1 bunch Little Gem lettuce, trimmed and washed

2 heirloom tomatoes (try mixing different varieties), sliced crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices

1 handful mixed variety cherry tomatoes, washed and halved lengthwise

Extra-virgin olive oil

Quality balsamic vinegar

Coarse-ground sea salt

Fresh-ground black pepper

1/4 cup soft goat cheese (aka chevre)

1-2 tbsp fresh basil leaves



So simple! Find a nice platter. Arrange the lettuce leaves evenly. Top with the heirloom tomato slices followed by the cherry tomato halves. Drizzle 1-2 tbsp of the olive oil over the salad, followed by 1 tbsp of the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle the basil leaves and crumble the goat cheese over the salad. Finish with a sprinkle of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper. Serve immediately.




lettuce red

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peach salad closepeach salad aboveCan you recall eating a peach so ripe and perfect that the juices dribbled down your chin, and your tongue savored each incredibly sweet bite? I simply can’t get enough of peaches at the moment. I believe they’ve even risen above raspberries to the status of “favorite.” Maybe it’s the lingering summer we’re having here in Northern California, or perhaps it’s just the association with summer. When I think of peaches, I think fresh peach pie, strolling through fruit orchards and warm afternoons. I buy them hard as apples and let them sit in a shallow bowl on my counter, checking them every day in anticipation of perfect ripeness.

I had a love/hate relationship with peaches as a child, because I had an aversion to the fuzzy skin, and because I don’t recall them tasting particularly juicy and sweet unless they were baked in a pie. (Probably because my mom tended to buy them on sale in chain grocery stores where the fruit was often unspectacular.) Of course, now, I buy gorgeous specimens from places with names like “Frog Hollow” and “Hidden Valley Grove.” How could you not like a peach from a sweet little organic farm nestled in a cozy valley–at least the image of which is conjured up in your mind with the likes of those names?

I keep longing for a peach pie, but since I’m back on my “close to no-,” but not quite no-gluten, kick, I haven’t made one. Instead, I settle for fresh-sliced chunks in my bowl of porridge with a little coconut milk to boost the creaminess. I also serve them up regularly with my kids’ meals, and watch while they make these silly expressions of ecstasy while eating the juicy chunks.

I threw together this salad using peaches, and loved it. It sports a nice combination of flavors, textures and colors, and would go very well with a flavorful meat dish, such as skirt steak in chimichurri sauce or a marinated roasted pork loin. Since I don’t eat mammals, I just enjoy the salad for it’s own sake.


2 ripe peaches, pit removed and cut into 1-inch chunks

4 large handfuls arugula

1 large jalapeno pepper (or a serrano pepper if you like a lot of heat)

1 1/2 tbsp champagne vinegar

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp fresh-ground pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup sheep’s milk feta, queso fresco or goat cheese

1/3 cup sliced almonds (optional)


In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey and mustard. Whisk in the salt and pepper. While whisking, slowly pour in the olive oil until the dressing is thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

Slice the jalapeno or other pepper in very thin slices and carefully remove all seeds. Toss together with the arugula and peach chunks. Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad mixture and toss to coat. Taste and adjust accordingly. Top with the crumbled cheese (and almonds if you’re using them). Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Happy end of summer!

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