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.


The addictively delicious Mexican Chicken Soup

So let me just start this post by stating simply…

this soup is pretty damn delicious!

I stumbled upon it 6 years ago when I was in Puerto Vallarta with my husband. We had just found out that I was pregnant (baby #1) and wanted to enjoy one last mini-vacation before we were engulfed in full-blown pregnancy and the sleepless nights of baby feedings.

Only problem is, at 6 weeks pregnant, you kinda are full-blown pregnant.
Its called morning sickness.

I was lucky not to have it too bad, just the occasional nauseous bathroom run.  But for the most part I mainly just had really bad food cravings.  Spicy Top Ramen was my favorite.  So when we went to mexico, and I was searching on the room service menu for choices I could stomach, a light mexican chicken soup sounded perfect.

And it was… perfect.

Its not creamy or thick like the many tortilla chicken soups you find at restaurants. It tastes refreshing and lite, but its also filling and the ancho chili gives it a really great depth of flavor with only a tiny amount of heat.  I usually triple it to feed a crowd and set it up like a soup bar, with the brothy chicken soup ladled into each bowl, and then the different garnishes set up so that everyone can pick and choose what they like best.

Fresh avocado, jack cheese, brown rice, chopped cilantro, diced red onion, lime wedges, jalapeno peppers for those who like it spicy hot, and tortilla chips.

Or, if you’re like my busy sister-in-law Kristy, who’s in love with this too, you’ll make an x-large batch and eat it all week long!

So here is how you make it… its really easy.

Cut your carrots in half lengthwise.

Then again into quarters. Chop across to get a small dice.  You could also cut it into thin rounds.


Bring 2 quarts of good homemade or store bought chicken broth to a simmer in a deep pot.  Add the 2 cloves of garlic, crushed to a paste, diced carrots and the whole can of diced tomatoes. While that’s simmering away on medium/low heat with the lid on…

In a small bowl, ladle a little of the hot chicken broth over the three whole dried ancho chilies until just covered and cover the bowl with some foil, or i just set a plate on top. Let them soak for 10 minutes. Then remove the stems, cut open and gently rinse the seeds out with a little water.

Place the chillies in your food processor or blender with a half a cup of the soaking liquid, and blend on high until its a smooth thin paste. Add 3 tablespoons of the chili puree to the soup, more if you’re like me and like the chili flavor strong.

Now chop up your garnishes. First slice the avocado in half and whack the pit of the avocado with your knife. Twist and the pit will pop out with the knife.

Make criss-crossing slices into the avocado halves with your knife, cutting down to the avocado skin, but not through. Use your spoon to scoop out the flesh, and voila  its cut in cubes.

For the red onion, cut in half from one end to the other, chop off the non-root end, and leave the root end intact.

Make vertical slices down the onion, stopping just short of the root end, so that the onion stays intact.
Now make horizontal slices across the onion, also stopping short of the root end. This step isn’t totally necessary because the natural grain of the onion already seperates the onion horizontally here, but its a good technique to learn when wanting to chop or mince other round/oval vegetables or fruits: tomatoes, shallots, garlic, round fruits etc..

Slice down against the grain to dice your onion.

So now for the easiest part… you can just buy a cooked rotisserie chicken at your local grocery store instead of cooking the chicken yourself.  If you do, just use both the dark and white meat from all parts of the chicken. You don’t have to put all of it into the soup.  You could reserve some in a bowl for those guests that like a little more protein in their soup.

If you’re using uncooked chicken breasts, butterfly each breast open so that you have two thin breasts instead of one. I always do this when cooking chicken breast so that they cook quickly and more evenly.

Sprinkle with some dried oregano (optional), salt and pepper and saute on medium/high heat for 3 or so minutes per side. Slice into thin strips. Add some of chicken breast directly to the soup right before serving.

Season the soup with a little more salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze of lime.

Serve the soup in individual bowls, with the garnishes placed on the table family style.

Happy eating!


Mexican Chicken Soup
For the soup base serves 4
4 small chicken breasts OR 1 cooked rotisserie chicken, (use both the white and dark meat)
2 quarts chicken broth
2 carrots, chopped into thin rounds or quarters
1-2 small cloves garlic, pounded to a paste, or minced finely
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 lime
3 dried ancho chilies
salt and pepper

2 cups cooked brown or white rice
2 fresh avocadoes
1 cup shredded jack cheese
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper (for those that like it spicy)
1 small red onion
1 lime
tortilla chips for crumbling on top