Appetizers, Salads

Lobster and Mango Salad

Winter in California this year has been a joke. A beautiful, sun-filled, lets-go-to-the-beach-today joke. For those of you who don’t live or haven’t traveled to Cali, yes we generally do have some form of a winter. Its probably chicago or NY’s version of an early fall, but hey, to us natives, its all we have to gripe about weather-wise.

But this winter has been such a surprise, we’ve probably only had four or five days of rain period, and more warm, sunny days than I can count. I just hope this doesn’t bite us in the ass come summer, with some kind of weird reverse winter in summer effect…

But for now, this is what we’re enjoying

These are the days that I’m truly thankful to live close to the beach. And so are my kids as you can see. We love to go regularly at sunset, and take a walk, collect some seashells, dig a few holes, you get the idea. Its our family time.

So I’ve been in the mood for a little sunshine in a salad, and I think that this next Lobster and Mango combo delivers that. Its actually really elegant, and perfect for an appetizer at a dinner party or a romantic date. Serve it in a martini glass if you really want to make a statement. Best of all, its super easy to throw together, and the lobster salad could be made a day ahead too.

The idea is equal parts mango and lobster.

Chop the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and remove the inner root, then cut long slices keeping the root end intact.

fennel, chive mayo
Add fennel, chopped chives, mayonnaise, and a squeeze of lime. A teaspoon or two of heavy cream is also really nice.

After you’ve seasoned the lobster salad with lime juice salt and pepper, go ahead and make the vinaigrette that dresses the butter lettuce.


Lobster Salad: (2 appetizer portions)
Stock up on a few frozen lobster tails next time they go on sale at your local grocery store.
1 ripe mango, about 1 cup chopped
2 3oz lobster tails, also about 1 cup
2 Tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (optional)
2 Tablespoons thinly sliced fennel bulb (or substitute celery)
a few drops of lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon chopped chives, plus a few stems left for garnish
sprinkle of salt and white pepper

Fill a medium sized pot half full with water and bring to a boil. Add 2 Tablespoons salt and boil lobster tails for 8 minutes on medium heat with the lid on. Once cooked and cool enough to handle, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut through shell and pull out tail meat, break into medium size chunks. Add to a bowl with an equal amount of cubed mango, thinly diced fennel, chopped chives, mayo, and cream. Finish with lime juice, salt and pepper for balance of seasoning. Adding chopped cilantro is nice too, but its not absolutely necessary. Place on a bed of butter lettuce dressed with the following vinaigrette.

Dressing for lettuce:
1 teaspoon lemon or lime
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced cilantro (optional)
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp salt and pepper to taste

7-8 butter lettuce leaves

Whisk all the ingredients together, and toss with the lettuce. Spoon some of the lobster salad on top, and sprinkle with a little more chives or cilantro for a pretty finish. For a special occasion try using some wide stemware glasses to hole this salad, or even a little turine, as I did above.

Appetizers, Main course, Salads

Spicy grilled shrimp skewers with black bean and corn slaw

Happy 2012!

Honestly, when I look at the number 2012, I feel like I’m in one of those ’90s futuristic sci-fi movies, where everyone should be driving flying cars and wearing white skin-hugging bodysuits. Saying “2012” just conjures up those images in my head. I guess I’m weird that way.

Its interesting how when you’re young you have this idea in your mind of how your life will turn out in the future. And yet life is such an uncontrollable force. It throws change at you, usually in the most unexpected and unpredictable ways. At least thats been my experience. Maybe ya’ll had your 10, 20, 30 year plans all mapped out when you were 21, and actually saw them come to pass. But the story of my life has been filed with… not “twists and turns”, but rather upside down 360 degree flips… thats a better way to describe it. Some wonderfully unexpected, like my widowed mother-in-laws recent whirlwind romance to the most fabulous guy (see picture below),

but a few really unwelcome ones as well, like my husbands debilitating illness this past year. Lets skip that photo.

Rather, here is a picture I took of him last week, enjoying the sunset. He’s been feeling so much better this past month.

“So God, I know you’re listening, please send me a few more of those unexpectedly awesome 360 degree life flips, I’d be really happy with just one or two. amen.”

Feel free to click on over to one of those super-happy-funny-blogs that write about their perfect life, funny pets, and the new cookbook they’re coming out with this spring! I won’t hold it against ya.

ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…

On to what you really came here to read… these spicy (but not overly so), bursting with flavor bbq shrimp skewers, and a corn and black bean slaw-salad that I know sounds like it belongs on a summer menu, but in my defense, it was freakishly hot here in L.A. on wednesday when I made this, a whopping 82 degrees.
So though I try to cook seasonally, us Californians can run into a bit of a problem with that, since it feels like summer here 75% of the year.

This recipe is super easy and really healthy as well. The shrimp come off the grill with this incredible smokey flavor, intensified by the brown sugar, cumin, serrano chili and garlic that’s in the marinade. They’re kind of addictive, so make a bunch. They’d be great for a Superbowl party, as one of your non-fried items, and will keep the salad-lovin ladies happy.

*slaw disclaimer: some would call this a black bean and corn relish (ahem, that would be Emeril) but to me, this is more like a salad, but the sweet, vinegary tang reminds me of a slaw, minus the shredded cabbage of course. I’m taking some creative license here, so call it what you want, either way its delish!

I usually give step by step instructions, but this is just so simple. Just combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl, toss in your shrimp, skewer and grill. But for old habits’ sake, here are a few steps.

Soak your wooden skewers in hot hot water, while you’re prepping, so they don’t burn on the grill.

Chop the garlic

and the serrano chili

Chop some cillantro (shhh… this is actually parsley, forgot to take this photo so I used parsley as my stand-in).

I don’t pick apart my cillantro leaves, I do the ‘lazy chop’ method, basically just chopping off the end of the bunch, stems and all.  If I see any large stems, I’ll pick them out.  Its just a marinade after all, but I have to confess this is the only way I chop cillantro. I have no patience for picking apart little leaves, none whatsoever.

measure out the rest of the spices for the marinade, and add the lime and olive oil.

Marinade your shrimp for 5 minutes, and then thread them on your soaked wooden skewers.

Meanwhile grill your corn on high heat for 3 minutes or so per side. You can keep the corn husks on, and when they look a bit wilty and brown they’re done.

Cut the kernels off the cob and add to the rest of the slaw ingredients.

Season with salt and pepper, add more lime if you like it a bit more acidic like me.

Grill shrimp 3 minutes per side, for large shrimp (12 count per Lb)

Lay your shrimp skewers on top of your black bean corn slaw, and drizzle with extra marinade. I added brown rice to make this a health conscious dinner portion.

Spicy Bbq Shrimp Skewers
1/4 olive oil
6 cloves minced garlic or 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves, plus more, for garnish
1 jalapeno or serrano chili, (serranos are a bit spicier) seeded and minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light brown sugar or honey
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lime, juiced
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1. Soak wooden skewers in boiling hot water for 10 minutes. Light your grill to high.
2. Combine all your marinade ingredients. Set a little aside to drizzle over shrimp after grilling. Add shrimp and marinade 5-10 minutes tops.
3. Thread onto wooden skewers.
4. Grill 3 minutes per side, until shrimp is pink.

Black Bean and Corn Slaw
4 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked corn kernels, cut from the cob, or canned if you must
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 jalapeno or 1 1/2 serrano chilis, seeded and finely minced
1/2 bunch scallions (green onions), minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 limes, juiced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine all Slaw ingredients
2. Season with salt, pepper.
3. Spread on large platter, top with Shrimp skewers, drizzle a little extra marinade over skewers and garnish with some more chopped cilantro.


Appetizers, Salads

fresh figs, grilled radicchio and beemster goat gouda salad


This salad is as delicious as it is beautiful.

I made it a few weeks ago on a hot august night when I really didn’t want to do much cooking. I love figs and try, come august and september, to find as many ways to eat them as possible. Wrapping them with proscuitto and fresh mozzarella, folding them into creme fraiche tarts, or just eating them with a little honey and greek yogurt.
When I’m buying them at the store i always look for figs that feel a bit heavy for their size, and know they’re especially sweet when they’re oozing a bit of their sugary juices from around their stems.

beemster and fig

This is a pretty simple low maintenance salad, if you don’t mind doing a bit of lite grilling. Grilling the radicchio really brings out its sweetness, and blanching them in cold water beforehand minimizes their often bitter flavor. And the cheese I use here, oh the cheese! Its a keeper and should be added to everyone’s list of fabulous cheeses (you don’t have such a list? What’s wrong with you!). Beemster goat gouda is one of my favorite cheeses. It has the unmistakable flavor of goat cheese, yet its a semi-firm cheese thats creamy and a bit salty. It goes perfectly with sweet fruits, and is particularly good with fig jam.

radicchio quartered

First you want to cut your head of radicchio in half, then in quarters, and finally into eight wedges. The stalk should still be in place so that it holds the wedge together.
Preheat your grill on high, keeping the lid closed.

in ice

Next you’re going to soak, or I used the fancy term “blanch” earlier, the radicchio in ice water for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes. This removes some of its bitterness so that the focus is on the sweetness of the radicchio

radicchio with olive oil

Pat the radicchio dry and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil, a little coarse salt and black pepper.

grilled radicchio
finished radicchio

Grill for about 3 minutes per side, until the outer leaves have a bit of charred color on them.

salad final

Using a potato peeler, cut thin curls of cheese, and then quarter your figs. I also had a little red onion on hand, that I decided to use. I then gently placed all the components on each plate: the radicchio, some mixed greens i had on hand to add a bit of green color, quartered figs, cheese shavings, and a few thin slices of red onion. I drizzled it all with a bit of balsamic glaze*, a little more olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.

* if you don’t have a thick balsamic glaze, you can reduce your balsamic vinegar to make a glaze. Start with 1/2 cup of the vinegar in a small saucepan and reduce on medium high heat, by about 1/2. Don’t push it too far, or it will taste more like molasses. I add a tiny bit of honey to it at the end. OR, you could also take 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and add 1 Tbsp of fig jam, and while whisking add 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and fresh pepper. That would make a really fabulous salad dressing as well!
Hope you’re able to try this!


Fig, Beemster goat gouda and grilled radicchio salad (serves 4)

1 pint ripe black mission figs
2 heads radicchio
1 cup mixed greens, or baby romaine
1/2 small red onion
1 small wedge beemster goat gouda, or fresh goat cheese would work well too
balsamic glaze
olive oil
coarse salt and pepper

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Appetizers, Vegetable Sides

Proscuitto & Broccolini with creamy dijon sauce

I love bacon, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who doesn’t love love love it too. Perhaps there are some who can’t or won’t eat it … but that doesn’t mean that they still don’t have bacon envy!

Proscuitto is the less greasy cousin to bacon, and I go equally crazy for it.  Lets just say, sometimes the proscuitto mysteriously disappears on the way home from the grocery store.  Its not really so mysterious… I can’t help myself.  Oh well, I have serious lack of self restraint when it comes to this stuff.  It’s that good!

Now the really addictive variety is the freshly cut proscuitto di parma; its so moist and has just the right balance of salty and sweet. The pre-cut vaccuum sealed stuff is 2nd rate to this.  But I’ll work with what I can get and what I can afford, and sometimes that’s the packaged proscuitto.

How can you refuse broccolini when it’s covered with proscuitto and this creamy whole grain dijon sauce (personally I even love it simply sauteed with garlic and olive oil)?   I used fat free greek yogurt in the sauce, but you could just as well use sour cream or creme fraiche if you wanted it even more decadent.

To make the sauce, add 1/3 cup (about 5 T) plain greek yogurt to a small bowl.  I love this stuff! I swear I can’t tell it apart from sour cream on a baked potato. Such a great healthy alternative!

Next add the vinegar or lemon juice and 3 T whole grain dijon mustard.  The whole grain gives the sauce texture.  You could just substitute regular dijon, but whole grain just looks a bit more sophisticated (if you’re an occasional food snob like me, you care about these things…)

and 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Stir and add 1 Tablespoon minced shallots, or red onion.

Now tear off any large leaves still on the stems, and chop off a bit of the ends. Cut the largest stalks lengthwise, to cut down on grill time.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and some kosher (coarse grained) salt.

Preheat your grill to high, and then using tongs place your broccolini on the grill.  Turn the heat down to medium, and grill for 3 minutes per side.  Even after you take them off the heat, they’ll still cook a little.  So I always take them off a bit crisp.

Assemble on your plates, drizzling the sauce here and there.  You could even drizzle the broccolini with sauce and wrap each individually with proscuitto as a more finger food hor d’oeuvre… mmmmmm.   Enjoy!


1/4 lb Proscuitto di Parma

1 1/2 lbs brocolini

3 tablespoons whole grain mustard

1/3 cup plain greek yogurt, sour cream, or creme fraiche

1/2 lemon or 2 tsp sherry or wine vinegar, for acidity

1 Tablespoon minced shallot

salt and pepper to adjust seasonong