Simple tomato salad.

When I first started to throw dinner parties, just a few years ago now, I would work myself into such a tizzy over the damn things, overextending myself, liable to melt into a pool of nervous tears halfway through.  I needed to make enough food to feed an army, in the vain hope that everyone would be so enraptured by my talents that they’d eat until it was all gone.  I chose recipes that were vastly above my skill level, deciding on them before even hitting the market. There’d be hard-to-find ingredients hailing from Asia, or Morocco; cheeses I was supposed to use though I’d never tried them (and had no sense of their potency). And when something would go wrong—I couldn’t find the ingredient or hated the cheese—I would turn into a ball of nerves, believing there was nothing I could do, that I didn’t have any other recipes to turn to.

Thankfully, those times are past.  Lots of dinner parties, and problems, later, I’ve learned that you go to market without a set plan, with your head full of possibilities.  I still follow recipes, but loosely.  I keep a pantry full of basic ingredients—for a basic vinaigrette, a basic sauce—and I revert to the simplest food whenever a problem arises (or even, before.)  After a few years of chefs and cookbooks drilling simplicity into my head, I’ve finally come around.

The lovely thing is, simple food doesn’t have to taste simple.  Duh. But I think that fact eludes most fledgling cooks, entering a world of complicated techniques and endless cuisines.  It eluded me, that’s for sure.  I think I picked complicated recipes because I couldn’t bear the thought of screwing up simple, while making a mistakes in advanced cooking were easily shrugged off.  Simple can be scary.  But simple food is worth learning.

Especially in the summer, when you don’t want to spend too much time cooking (I certainly prefer swimming), and when you can take full advantage of the tomatoes you (or your magical elves) grow in the garden, and when even the measliest herb garden will do its part.  During the dog days of summer, simple isn’t just best, it’s the only option.  This simple tomato salad is a must too, or at least it was for me, because I got to spend a lazy summer day driving around the pretty countryside along the Delaware river, picking up tomatoes down the road, and a fancy goat cheese at the market; to come home and feel very accomplished while I picked French sorrel and herbs from my little potted garden.

I used a variety of tomatoes; some from down the road, some from the little gourmet shop where I got the cheese, and one from a fancy grocery store.  We did a blind tasting before making the salad and it was hard to judge these tomatoes, they were so different — though surprisingly, the fancy grocery store won by a small margin. (They did cost about 4 dollars per small tomato: don’t judge me people, I knew full-well it was ridiculous!).  I also used a variety of herbs: lemon thyme, a few leaves of peppermint, basil, parsley, a load of chives, and some very biting sorrel.  The goat cheese, a pepper crusted capricchio, was a perfect addition; it made the watery juice of the tomatoes taste creamy and it tempered the bite of sorrel.  Pick a goat cheese that  packs a load of creaminess and some sort or herb or spice crust is a nice.  And if you don’t have an herb garden, you can just use whatever herbs are on your shopping list, two of them at minimum, because without the variety of herbs, you risk your good, simple salad turning bored.  We ate this with a chicken slathered with marsacapone that practically knocked me off my chair, which I’ll write about next, promise.  It was one of my favorite meals I’ve made, summery and, duh, simple.

Simple Tomato Salad

serves 2-3

3-4 heirloom or garden tomatoes, tasted for quality
small bunch sorrel leaves (or watercress or arugula)
handful of mixed herbs, such as mint, basil, lemon thyme, and chives
soft goat cheese, preferably with a pepper crust
balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
good quality olive oil, for drizzling
fleur de sel, or kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Slice tomatoes into thick slices and season with a bit of salt.  Leave in a colandar to drain for 15 minutes.  Toss them around so any excess water comes off, then arrange them on a platter.  Tuck the sorrel leaves under and around the tomatoes.  Tear or chop up the herbs and scatter over tomatoes.  Crumble the goat cheese over tomatoes.  Drizzle balsamic and olive oil over the tomatoes and season to taste with fleur de sel and fresh black pepper.

Magical gardening elves and snap pea potato salad.

We have magical elves for neighbors, I’m sure of it.  Magical gardening elves.  Because every day, on my way out of town, I stop at their shed on the side of the road and find fresh snap peas, or potatoes, or whatever’s been picked the day before. And my neighbors are not just magical elves because they grow and offer this stuff (lots of people have front-yard farm stands around here), they are magical elves because their food tastes magical. Take a look at this pea, for example.

It’s plump, sweet, and fresh-tasting.  I couldn’t even take the picture without stealing a pea first.  My neighbors’ sugar snap peas are better than any I’ve tasted from farm markets, let alone supermarkets.  And once a few weeks go by, the elves will start to put out heirloom tomatoes meaty and bursting with sweetly acidic flavor.  These tomatoes were what made Jim and me wonder last year, when we just moved into town, if we could ever leave.

This potato salad, made with snap peas and potatoes from my magical neighbors, and fresh herbs from my own puny attempts at gardening (why try, when you have gardening elves?), is the kind of potato salad that you can fool people into thinking is healthy.  Very green, full of herbs and peas, it’s almost as if it doesn’t contain a healthy dollop of olive oil and a couple pats of butter. (Unless you are set on making a healthy potato salad, don’t leave out the butter; it melds all the flavors together and keeps it from becoming one of those ultra-vinegary potato salads—the type that make you long for some good mayonnaise.)

Use basil and chives if you can, because the basil plays up the sweetness in the peas, and chives work wonders for boiled potatoes.  You must pour the vinaigrette on before the potatoes cool and don’t be alarmed if it soaks into the potatoes before you can say mum, it’s supposed to happen that way.  Those potatoes will take on the sharp flavor of the wine vinegar, and be better for it.  It’s okay that it seems too dry, that’s why you add the butter. The end product — with the butter and everything mashed up a bit — is soft, creamy, and rich, with a background kick. Bring it to your next barbecue.  You can even tell everyone it’s healthy, I’ll keep the secret.

Snap Pea Potato Salad

The measurements here aren’t exact, I’m using volume because I didn’t weigh the peas and potatoes.  You can tinker with the measurements if you like.

1 quart snap peas, string removed
1 quart new potatoes, washed
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons good white wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
pat or two of butter
basil, to taste
chives, to taste
salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add potatoes and a few pinches of salt.  Boil until potatoes are firm-tender, adding the snap peas into the water during the last minute or two.  Drain and transfer potatoes and peas to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette:  In a small bowl or measuring cup, add shallots, garlic, a pinch of salt, a few grindings of fresh black pepper, and mustard.  Add vinegar and whisk with a fork.  Add a drop of olive oil and whisk, adding a few more drops as you whisk.  If the vinaigrette is starting to emulsify, you can add the rest of the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is creamy, otherwise keep adding olive oil in drops until it emulsifies.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour vinaigrette over hot potatoes. Immediately stir to combine.  Stir in basil and chives and, once the vinaigrette has absorbed, stir in butter.  Season to taste with salt and pepper (it can take a lot of both.)


Naked tush on the beach… and mushrooms.

If you happened to be at Napeague Beach in East Hampton this weekend, you just may have seen my naked tush running full speed into the crashing ocean waves.  And if you were wondering what the hell is that naked tush doing running full speed into the crashing ocean waves, I’ve gotta tell you – it was one of those spur of the moment ideas that just seems so right—the water felt warm, I’d forgotten my bathing suit, the beach was empty save for a few walkers in the distance, and you only live once. I mean, everyone needs to run naked into the ocean in broad daylight once in their lives, right?

I couldn’t have imagined myself performing this act of public indecency a year or two ago—one of the wonderful things about getting older.  I’m no longer a teenager and I no longer care if the little-dots-that-are-people walking far in the distance on a practically deserted September beach would like me in my birthday suit.  I like me in my birthday suit—but that’s besides the point—and I like jumping in the ocean every chance I get.  And there’s no better chance than when the water in September is still warm and the sky has cleared up for a moment in your otherwise-rainy weekend in Hamptons.

Now, if you are wondering why in the hell this relates to food, well, it doesn’t.  Except that, alongwith my newfound mid-twenties attitude (ohmygodijustrealizedi’llbe25thisyear), I’ve grown to love lemon.  Maybe my tastebuds have a better attitude now too, but whatever it is, I can’t get enough of lemon.  Fresh lemon-juice and oily lemon rind.  There’s something so fresh, so don’t-worry-that-it’s-not-summer-I’m-around-all-year about the taste of lemon that just makes me smile.  A big, puckered smile.

Pair it with a good olive oil, young pecorino cheese, and shitake mushrooms and I don’t know if I’ll be able to control myself.  Seriously.  I might have to make a big bowl, strip down, and jump into this dish.  The lemon sparks up the mushroom’s earthy dankness while cutting through the silky olive oil and creamy cheese; parsley gives a good herbaciousness to it all.  You can (and should) make this dish ahead—making it the perfect dinner party dish, for when everyone comes in from their last romp at the beach.

Shitake Mushrooms with Young Pecorino

makes 6 servings//from Bon Appetit, October 08

  • 7 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lemon, peel cut into long thin slivers (yellow part only)
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch-wide slices or left whole if smaller than 1 1/2 inches in diameter
  • garlic clove, peeled, flattened
  • 8 ounces young pecorino cheese (pecorino fresco) or Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves

Whisk 5 teaspoons lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in 6 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in lemon peel slivers. Season dressing to taste with coarse salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Toss mushrooms, remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle mushrooms with coarse salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes. Using spatula, turn mushrooms over and roast until soft and beginning to brown around edges, about 10 minutes longer.

Pour half of dressing over hot mushrooms on sheet. Add garlic and toss to coat. Let cool on sheet.

Combine mushrooms, cheese, parsley, and remaining dressing in medium bowl. Let marinate at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. Discard garlic clove. Serve mushrooms and cheese with toothpicks, if desired.

Saturdays are for staying in your pajamas all day.

This is the first weekend—in what feels like many weekends—that I have nothing to do. No one to visit. No doctor’s appointments to keep. No festivals to attend. No dinner parties. Nothing.

I don’t even have a book I’m close to finishing that, hence, would take up all my time. No crazy, laborious recipe scheduled into my weekend. No real reason to even make a blog post. But hey, lets not go crazy. I’m not going to forget about my ol’ Cav and Cod just ’cause I got a case of the lazies.

So here’s a recipe for your lazy weekend—and if you live in the Northeast, with all this glum and gloom weather today, you know what I’m talking about. Go ahead, get into your pajamas. Sit on the couch with a cup of tea. Do nothing today. I promise it will feel great.

And then, when you do feel like getting off the couch for a few minutes, throw together this salad. It’s quick, it’s colorful, it’s amazing. The mangos are a perfect component to erase any ill-feelings you have about tomatoes right now (because oh, my, god, when is it ever going to be tomato season again, it should be now!) and they work so harmoniously with watercress’s stringent quality. And, even if you think that the dressing seems just a bit too intense to work (1 tablespoon fish sauce!) or that there’s too many herbs, follow the directions exactly and trust me—it works.

Mango and Watercress Salad

serves 2-4//adapted from Gourmet

For Dressing:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1-2 tablespoons sugar
2 dashes hot sauce such as Tabasco
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

For Salad:
3/4 lb watercress, coarse stems discarded (about 6 cups loosely packed)
1 3/4 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (from 1 head) *
1 (1- to 1 1/2-lb) firm-ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup coarsely grated carrot
1/4 cup torn fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves

Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a small bowl, then whisk in salt to taste.

Gently toss all salad ingredients together in a bowl. Add just enough dressing to coat, then serve immediately.

* The easiest way to do this is with a mandoline. Set it to the thinnest slice and the cabbage slices will be the perfect thinness.

A little spring in my kitchen.

Spring is being a bit cagey this year. She doesn’t know if she really likes the sun, warm breezes, outside picnics. I mean, winter can be attractive—he’s blustery, he’s frigidly cold but then again he’s inviting, enticing people to go inside and cuddle up by the fireplace with him and a cup of steaming hot chocolate, or maybe even a warm stew. He reminds people how good home is, since every time anyone steps outside he wallops them on the head with cold air. And he encourages everyone to eat and eat, foods with lots of butter and substance, without ever asking them to put on a bathing suit.

So, she doesn’t want to let him go. She thinks they make a great pair and we’re left with this unappetizing weather that’s a mix of winter and spring—damp, too-chilly, and grey. Until Spring realizes that she’s better off without him—that we’re sick of eating root vegetables, that our lips have been chapped for one too many days, that we want to sit outside and see the sun for flup’s sake—we’ll just have to make do with a little spring in our kitchens.

This green bean salad takes advantage of all the great things Spring has to offer—even if she refuses to admit it. It’s colorful, tangy, and crisp-tasting. All you need to do is say “sunflower seeds” and you feel warmer. The green beans hold their own amidst bold vinegar and citrus flavors and I even humor Spring and mix in a bit of the best Winter has to offer us culinarily—blood oranges.

It takes some patience and a little knife skills to cut the orange into pith-and skin-free segments, though you can find a good tutorial on how to do it here (I wish I saw this post before I made the salad!) If you’re in a hurry, just peel, take as much pith off as you can manage, and use the whole segments—the salad will still taste great. Also, this salad gets better by the next day, which made me quite chipper since I usually hate day old dressed salads.

Here’s hoping that the weather soon gets as sunny as our food!

Citrus Sunflower Green Bean Salad

serves 6-8//adapated from Techniques of Healthy Cooking

For the salad:

  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, washed and trimmed
  • 3 blood oranges, cut into segments *You need 4 oranges total in this recipe
  • 1 sweet white onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces salted and roasted sunflower seeds
  • salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • *1 blood orange, juiced
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 shallot cloves, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper

Cook beans in boiling water for a few minutes, until barely tender. Drain and run under cold water to cool.

Combine beans, blood orange segments, onions, sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Season a little with salt and pepper.

To make the vinaigrette, combine cornstarch with 1 teaspoon water and mix to make a “slurry.” Set aside. Bring stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the slurry and stir until the stock thickens, about 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Combine with the remaining ingredients and whisk well.

Pour vinaigrette over the bean mixture. Toss and serve. Can be made a day ahead of time. The leftover salad will last in the fridge for a few days.

Bistro Salad for One

Every once in a while, Jim and his mom go out to a weeknight dinner alone. I usually spend this time relaxing in the apartment, reading quietly or watching some Food TV. I rarely cook. Sometimes all I’ll eat for dinner on these nights is a few pieces of my favorite cheese or a bowl of cereal. Cooking, for me, is best when done with an audience.

Last night, however, I felt like treating myself. Nothing grand, nothing too substantial, but something that tasted delicious and a just a little bit elegant. Realizing that salads can get the shrift during my dinners, since I mostly resort to my good (but done-before) vinagrette with mixed greens, I opted for a fancy-smanscy (yet still quite easy) creamy bistro dressing.

I’ve never made a salad dressing that involved stove-top cooking before, so I was excited to try this out. Shallots shine in this dressing; the cream masks their pungency to make the perfect subtle onion flavor. Since it’s a creamy dressing, I created a salad of crisp greens, paper-thin cucumber slices, celery that has lost some of it’s crispness in the fridge (oddly enough, that’s how I like my celery in salads) and skinny coins of carrot. The hardest part about making this dressing is allowing for it to cool before coating your salad with it (but it is a must.) If you really can’t wait for it to cool, you could use the dressing as a sauce for warm veggies, or slather it onto a good french baguette.

Creamy Bistro Dressing

makes about 3/4 cup//from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • good honey
  • 1/4 red wine vinaigrette
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add shallots and a drop or two of honey and saute until the shallots are beginning to color. Add in the red wine vinaigrette and let it boil for a few minutes. When the vinaigrette becomes a bit syrupy, whisk in the cream. Bring it just to a boil, whisking, and then lower heat and let it cook for a few more minutes, to thicken. Cool, cover, and chill for about an hour. (I actually chilled it about 30 minutes; since my greens were very cold, the slightly warm dressing helped temper the salad.)

Craving: Portabello, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Frisée Salad

My cravings aren’t specific. Most of the time, planning dinner, I sense the type of dish I want–spicy, woodsy, basic bland, sweet, pungent, delicate—and I’ll go from there. I’ll often yearn for general flavors, the ol’ sweet tooth actin’ up, but I hardly ever crave a certain food.

And then there’s goat cheese. I’ll be minding my own business and all of a sudden I can’t control my thoughts, my drool, my urges—I need goat cheese. This is a stange thing for me since I’ve never been a believer in the cheese cravings that so many women claim to have, always assuming they were just making excuses to stuff themselves. And while I love all kinds of cheese, and eat it daily, I’ve never had cravings for a type. Now, in the middle of the day or night, I’m thinking goat cheese. Just the fleeting mention of those two words—goat, cheese—puts a giddy smile on my face, one of those eyes rolling in the back of your head, mouth open, exhaling deeply giddy smiles.

Perusing the cookbooks at Barnes and Noble the other day, I knew that a recipe containing goat cheese, mushrooms, and bacon would have to be on my dinner table that night. No way around it. This recipe, adapted from my memory of it in Alfred Portale Simple Pleasures, is a frisée salad with aged goat cheese. The frisee, which is more bitter and sharp than mixed greens or Romaine lettuce, allows for pungent goat cheese instead of the standard Parmesan topping. The mushrooms also stand up nicely against the cheese—a woodsy counterpart. And bacon, well, bacon tastes good in anything.

I recommend using a good red wine vinegar for this. I used O Olive Oil brand’s Zinfandel Vinegar. I’ve heard so much about this brand of oil and vinegar, and it seems that all the hype is justified. The vinegar was delicious by itself and would be perfect of simple salads of a little oil and vinegar.

I’m entering this recipe into Leftover Queen’s Royal Foodie Joust. The event looks like tons of fun, and we all get to talk about it on the website’s forum, so I couldn’t resist. You can check out the details here.


Portabello, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Frisée Salad

adapted from Alfred Portale Simple Pleasures

Place mushrooms on a baking sheet and sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper. Place in the oven at 350º until browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the bacon slowly over med-low heat until crisp and fragile-crumbly (which is my preference, but by all means cook the bacon however you please). Transfer bacon to a plate and discard all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon fat. In a small bowl, whisk together the bacon fat, olive oil, vinegar, shallots, mustard and a pinch of thyme, salt, and pepper. Taste and vary the dressings ingredients to your liking (add more vinegar a little at a time if you think the dressing is to oily). Remove mushrooms when done and in a small bowl combine mushrooms with 2 Tbsp of the dressing. Let sit as you prepare the salad bowl with frisée lettuce, bacon, and dressing. Mix in mushrooms and grated cheese. Top with extra cheese if you like. Enjoy!

  • 5 portabello mushroom caps, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp dried or fresh thyme
  • 6 slices smoked bacon, cut into 1-to-2 inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp chopped shallots
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 6 cups frisée lettuce
  • 4-to-6 oz grated aged goat cheese, I recommend this one
  • Salt, Pepper
  • And You Call Yourself Greek?! (Not-so Greek Salad)

    Well, to be fair, this salad never called himself Greek. This salad can’t talk.

    Though, if he had, he’d have been a real poser. Like a baseball cap-backwards, droopy-pants, rapping white guy. Okay, maybe not that bad, but a poser all the same. And why is my salad counterfeit, you ask? I’ll tell you why—my Greek salad contains NO olives and it full of BASIL! I even almost used ricotta salata instead of feta cheese!!

    So, now you have, my salad is really an Italian posing as a Greek. But it’s still pretty damn tasty! I used zinfandel vinegar, which gave a perfectly sweet/acidic twinge, and a good olive oil for balance. It’s great for the end of August, when the days of summer are coming to an end—I like to spend this time cooking very little, enjoying the summer produce as raw and untouched as possible. A nice, ripe peach or nectarine could top off a dinner of this salad and a piece of fish perfectly.

    And, even though you don’t really need a recipe for this one, here it is:

    Not-so Greek Salad

    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 Tbsp zinfandel vinegar
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1 cucumber, chopped into chunks
    • 1 red pepper, chopped into chunks
    • 1 green pepper, chopped into chunks
    • 1 red onion, sliced very thinly
    • 1 small bunch of basil leaves, shredded
    • 5 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
    1. Combine first 3 ingredients in small bowl, whisk together.
    2. Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl. Pour oil mixture over and toss. Salt and pepper as desired.
    3. Serve with Ouzo if you want a real party.

    Asian Style Beef Tenderloin Salad

    A big difference lies between a healthy and an unhealthy salad. A big, fatty difference. I realized this when researching the fat contents of those “healthy option” lunch salads you can order at places like Panera Bread and Applebee’s. I’d been tricking myself into feeling responsible and healthy, ignoring the fried chicken, grated cheese, and gobs of honey mustard dressing on my over-sized plate, focusing on the word “salad.”

    Even though I no longer fool myself with salads from these joints, I still enjoy the unhealthy salad (still emphasizing the word “salad”). A recent favorite was the Hot Bacon Salad, where the dressing was made from rendered bacon fat. It was delicious, and I gobbled it up, telling myself it’s a salad, why not go for fourths.

    The salad I made early this week, however, falls between the categories of a healthy, balsamic vinegary salad and an unhealthy bacon fat salad. It was a perfect dinner-sized salad that didn’t leave us hungry or wanting something more substantial (I think the 2 large beef tenderloin steaks helped in that regard.)

    I put in more chili paste than the recipe called for, thinking that such a benign looking red paste just couldn’t be spicy enough, so my salad was scorching. I’ve typed up the original dressing recipe below, so unless you are a spicy-dare-devil, stick with the 1 ½ teaspoons. If you don’t like spicy at all, decrease to 1 teaspoon and add an extra ¼ teaspoon sesame oil.

    Asian Style Beef Tenderloin Salad

    Adapted from Cooking Light: June 2007

    Serves 2 for dinner, 4 for side or first course

    Dressing:

    • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
    • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
    • 1 tbsp raw sugar
    • 1 ½ teaspoons hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong
    • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
    • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil

    Salad:

    • 2 (6 oz) beef tenderloin steaks
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • Pepper to taste
    • cooking spray
    • 2 tomatoes, cut up
    • ¼ cup cilantro, torn
    • ¼ cup shallots, sliced
    • 6 cups Spring Salad mix
    • ¼ cup fresh basil, torn
    1. Make dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisking well.
    2. Coat grill pan with cooking spray
    3. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper to taste. Grill for 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. (I love that word, doneness.)
    4. Cut steak across the grain into slices.
  • Combine all salad ingredients in a big bowl and add dressing. Mix & Eat!
  • Crab-happy

    The fact that you enjoy something doesn’t mean you should over-indulge. I enjoy the occasional glass of scotch, or the hunk of flour-less chocolate truffle cake, but I don’t have to explain why too much of either could cause problems. This is why my new obsession with crab makes me happy. There is no reason not to indulge in all the crab I can get my claws on. Other than the fact I’ll go broke (at the supermarket yesterday, a pound of jumbo lump was 34. freaking 99), crab will do nothing but good for me, especially when prepared with loads of veggies in a scrumptious, dinner sized, salad.

    This crab salad recipe is adapted from Bon Appétit, August 1995, made into dinner proportions and some ingredients are tweaked to my liking. I was wary of it at first, but since I told Jim to print out a crab salad recipe and didn’t bother to check what he had chosen until we were already at the supermarket, I gave it a try–and I am so glad I did. This crab salad was DELICIOUS!

    Crab Salad

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
    • 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
    • 1 cup chopped tart green apple
      (such as Granny Smith)
    • 1 cup chopped zucchini
    • 1 cup chopped seeded red bell pepper
    • 1 cup chopped seeded green bell pepper
    • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
    • 1 pound crabmeat, drained well, picked over
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

    Sauce

    • 4 small heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped
    • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 3 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • Pinch of ground hot chili pepper
    • 1/2 cup olive oil

    2 heads Belgian endive, trimmed, separated into spears
    Chopped fresh chives

    For Crab Salad

    1. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and ginger and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add apple, zucchini, both bell peppers and carrot and sauté until tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.
    2. Mix crabmeat, mayonnaise, 4 tablespoons chopped chives. Add sautéd vegetables in large bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

    For Sauce:

    1. Combine tomatoes, cilantro, vinegar, garlic and cayenne in blender and puree until almost smooth. Gradually add oil and blend until sauce is thick. Transfer to medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    2. Arrange endive spears on large platter, tips toward platter edge. Spoon crab salad into center of platter. Drizzle sauce over endive. Garnish salad with chopped fresh chives and serve.

    I used natural pasteurized canned crab. To eliminate some of the canned taste that I don’t like, I washed the crab a few times before using. Canned crab isn’t as oceany fresh as the real stuff, but because of all the vegetables, apple, and herbs in this recipe, it really doesn’t make a difference. I haven’t had much luck anyway, in finding fresh already extracted crab meat anywhere. Ohh, how I wish I lived by the sea…