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.

Enjoy!

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.

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Salads

Tuna and Fuji Apple Salad with a lowfat yogurt vinaigrette

tuna salad

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with salad.

So I consider myself a bit of a salad aficionado.

And between all the dieting done here in Los Angeles, and the year round supply of fresh Californian produce, its no wonder.

But in defense of salad-lovin, I’ve been known to convert quite a few salad despising folk over to my camp.  That’s probably not you, because lets face it, you’re taking the time to read this salad themed post. But to the one or two of you that are still here, and have you’re doubts, I’m coming after you! It’s just a matter of time…. lol.

So if the Food Network ever created a salad making competition….

…oh its on like Donkey Kong baby!!

No but seriously, as a teen I was the go-to salad maker for family gatherings, and I think it was a great introduction to cooking in that its an experimention with different flavors and textures. So if you’re new to cooking, salad making is a great way to kick start your cooking education. I admit, you’re not technically cooking anything. But, when you make a salad, you’re essentially learning different flavor combinations, how to season properly, and in the end, hopefully how to cook without a recipe; all while eliminating the possibility of burning anything (which takes the pressure off. Nice).

In my many years of back breaking salad research, I developed this simple formula that all my salads follow:

something creamy + something crunchy + something sweet = salad nirvana.


Fresh Fig, Grilled Radicchio and Beemster Goat Gouda Salad

The creaminess adds a decadence to the salad that everyone loves. It could be fresh goat cheese, feta, brie, a creamy dressing, or even sliced avocado. The crunch factor could be crisp lettuce, toasted nuts, or croutons. And the sweet could be dried or fresh fruit, or a little honey in the vinaigrette to balance out the acidity of the dressing.

Of course you have to figure out which combinations of those ingredients taste the best to you, but thats where all the fun recipe experimentation begins!

Today I’m sharing a salad with you that I’ve been making for years. Its a tuna salad thats a favorite of mine. Here’s how it fits in my little formula:

creamy low-fat yogurt vinaigrette/ mayonnaise for the tuna + sweet apple and currants + crunchy celery and apple.
Its a very loose formula, but it works as a basic guideline to any salad that I make.

celery
Start by dicing the celery. Thinly sliced fennel would have been really nice here as well, since fennel and apple is a wonderful flavor combination… but I had celery hanging around so in it went.

tuna and apple
add the celery to some finely chopped apple, and tuna

add currants
add the currants (raisins are fine too) and thinly sliced green onions and diced pickle. Today, I didn’t have pickles. So to add that important bit of acidity that pickles bring to the mix, I added a few drops of vinegar. You could substitute with a tiny bit of lemon juice here as well.

mayonnaise
mix in the mayonnaise and dijon mustard. Season with a little salt and pepper.



For the creamy vinaigrette, combine the olive oil, greek yogurt, red wine vinegar, sugar (or honey), dried oregano, minced shallot, salt and pepper. Whisk until emulsified. If you like your dressing a bit on the sweeter side, add extra sugar or honey

Arrange your large butter lettuce leaves artfully around the place, place some thinly sliced apple around the center, and add the tuna mixture. I also cut up some ripe tomatoes – avocado would be really lovely as well. Drizzle with the creamy vinaigrette and devour.

Tuna and Fuji Apple Salad with a creamy yogurt vinaigrette (serves 2)
with extra Tuna-Apple salad for a sandwich or two

For the Tuna Salad mixture
16 oz canned Tuna in spring water, drained
1 medium sized fuji apple, diced
2 small celery stalks, diced
1/3 cup currants or raisins
3 green onion stalks, thinly sliced, green parts only
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1/4 cup minced sweet bread and butter pickle, or your favorite variety
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
3/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste (salt might not be needed)

Yogurt Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons non-fat greek yogurt
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar or honey, more or less depending on how sweet you like it
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme
1 tablespoon minced shallot, or red onion
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Assembling the Salad:
1 medium fuji apple, thinly sliced
1 pint small cherry tomatoes
1 head butter lettuce, rinsed

Directions are pretty simple… just combine all the ingredients for the tuna-apple-celery mixture. Then combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette, whisk until emulsified and creamy. Assemble the salad on the plate, drizzling with 2 Tablespoons or so of the vinaigrette, serve.

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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.

garlic
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.

Enjoy!

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Appetizers, Salads

fresh figs, grilled radicchio and beemster goat gouda salad

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.
Uh-maze-ing!
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!

~Christina

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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Main course, Salads

Coriander crusted sea scallops with arugula and blood orange vinaigrette

I love salads. Yes I do.

I’ve created so many different salads over the years, so this blog will finally be my way of writing them all down!

So you’ll see as I post more recipes that a good portion of them will be salads.  It probably was one of the first things I started experimenting with in the kitchen, and the thing I was told to make for all our family functions as a kid.

It’s so disappointing when I go into restaurants and all they have is the standard caesar, greek, cobb, italian chopped, etc..  What lack of imagination!  I mean, don’t get me wrong, bacon, blue cheese, tomatoes, all those  things that go in say, a cobb, are delicious.  But there are so many more possibilities, so many combinations!

If you have a favorite ingredient, we can find a way to get it into a salad!  I’ve heard grumblings from so many men out there who claim to hate salads, or if they have one its got to be smothered with blue cheese or ranch dressing.  And though I love me some blue cheese dressing, I know there are some other winner out there for the menfolk.  Give me a shot, I can convert almost anyone (my children excluded… they won’t touch the stuff …sigh)

So last night this was the main course, coriander crusted sea scallops with cara cara oranges and arugula.

It was utterly delicious.

Ok, so I know its not for everybody.  To be honest, I think the first time I tried a scallop was in my early 20s (see I’m really not a food snob, I’m regular folk!)  And to be double honest the recipient of this salad is on a diet.  That said, this is still some yummy diet food!

The vinaigrette on this salad is sweet and has a little bite from the ginger.  It goes perfectly with the scallops, as do those sweet cara cara oranges.  Coriander is a spice I never really used until recently.  It has a wonderful sweet and nutty aroma and it gives rubs such an interesting depth.  I sprinkle it on chicken before roasting it, and its out of this world on pork chops.

…….

Lets make the blood orange vinaigrette first

3 Tablespoons blood orange sorbet

Yes, its ice cream. Not your typical vinaigrette ingredients, I know, but its tart and sweet and it works.  You can just as well substitute frozen orange juice concentrate, if you want to use something cheaper and more accessible.

2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar.  It’s a little sweeter than the brown variety, and won’t discolor the ingredients … because we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths…

1-2 Tablespoons olive oil, whisk it in with a fork

2 teaspoons grated/minced ginger.  I used these great frozen cubes of ginger from “Dorat”.  That way you just use a few cubes and then the rest can be stored in the fridge for months.

add 1/2 tsp salt and fresh ground pepper.

Meet my friend the shallot.  He goes in all my vinaigrettes.  He just has this je n’sait quoi about him, a special sweet onion like flare.  And so he’s become indispensable to me!

Chop him up nice n fine.

Cut off one end, the pointy tip

and then make long vertical slices like so. Don’t cut all the way through to the other end.  The root of the shallot will hold it together while you make the slices.

and horizontal slices, about 2 more.  Notice how I don’t cut all the way to the end of the shallot.  This keeps it together.

now chop, and you’ll have a perfect dice.  I use this technique to chop onions, tomatoes, and about anything round that needs to be diced.

I f you want an even finer chop, go over it one more time with your knife.  Use a see saw motion with you knife, putting pressure first on the tip of your knife, and then at the back of the blade.  Use this rocking motion whenever you are chopping on your cutting board. I always put my left hand on the back of the knife to apply pressure while doing this. Hope this makes sense!

Add a Tablespoon or 2 to your vinaigrette.  The acidity of the vinegar mellows out any spiciness in the shallot.

Now for the cara cara oranges.

We’re going to cut the oranges into segments.  It’s an elegant way to eat any type of citrus fruit.  And of course most importantly it tastes better, in my opinion anyway!

So first cup off both ends of the orange, just until you remove the pith or white part.

Using your pairing knife (a short small knife), cut along the sides of the orange, turning the orange as you go, until you’ve removed all the peel and pith.

now remove the orange flesh sections from the membranes like so…

Now for the scallops…

rinse them and pat dry, then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

If you have coriander seeds, pound them with a mallet in a little plastic baggy.  I had ground coriander which worked fine.

press both of the flat sides of the scallop into the spice.  Then gently shake off any excess.

Seared scallops are essentially rare at the center.  Otherwise they don’t have that tender sweet flavor they’re famous for.  So get your pan smoking hot, add 1-2 Tablespoons oil and sear for no more than 30 seconds per side, 1 minute total,  just until there’s a nice golden crust. Thats why its important to use a really heavy pan that can get really hot.

Now toss the arugula with the vinaigrette, and place the orange sections and seared scallops on top.  Sprinkle with a little bit of chopped cilantro and put a few drops of vinaigrette on each scallop. I’m salivating right now just thinking about it…

enjoy!

Coriander crusted sea scallops with cara cara oranges and wild arugula

Vinaigrette

3 T blood orange sorbet or frozen orange juice concentrate

2 T white balsamic vinegar

2 T olive oil

1/2 tsp salt, black pepper to taste

2 T minced shallot (about 1 whole)

Salad

2 Cara Cara oranges or 3 ripe blood oranges

3 cups baby or wild arugula

10 jumbo sea scallops

2 T ground coriander

2 T vegetable or olive oil (for searing)

2 T chopped cilantro

salt and pepper


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