potato salad 
Although your guests may argue that this is not a “real” potato salad (of course, there is no mayonnaise) a single bite should settle the score.  This bright, vinegary side dish has been known to take center stage at my barbeques, so be sure to serve it alongside hearty entrees that will stand on their own.

Total kitchen time: 1 hour
Makes: 8 servings

Shopping list:

  • 2 lbs. red potatoes, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 2 tsp. herbs de provençe
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F and set the top rack in the middle position.
  2. Spread the potatoes in an even layer in a microwave-safe dish filled with enough water to cover the potatoes.  Microwave 8-12 minutes (this will vary a lot) or until the potatoes are fork tender, but not fully cooked.  Drain and pat dry.
  3. Meanwhile, spread the diced onion and pepper in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until they have softened, about 15 minutes. 
  4. Add the par-cooked potatoes and toss with a little olive oil to coat.  Bake another 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden brown. 
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The dijon vinaigrette is a balancing act between bitter, sweet, salty and spicy.  Adjust each of the ingredients until the vinaigrette stings your tongue, but finishes in your mouth with a slightly sweet, rounded flavor. 
  6. Toss the potatoes and vinaigrette together on a serving bowl and serve warm or room temperature.

If you want to cheat a little (I won’t tell) you may be able to get away with frozen roasted potatoes.  If you’re lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s, they sell a package of frozen potatoes with roasted veggies that works great for this recipe.  It can be our little secret.

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shrimp salad
It has come to my attention that, since I started food blogging, I have gained ten pounds.  Although I believe that gravity has only gotten stronger during that time, it still doesn’t hurt to avoid beurre blanc and deep fried cream cheese for at least one meal per week.  This recipe is quick and light, but surprisingly filling – perfect for a warm spring evening.

Makes: 2 sensible salads
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes

Shopping List:

  • 1 head Boston Bibb or Butter lettuce, washed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 dz. medium uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili oil (or more, if you like it extra hot)
  • 1 tsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 tangerines
  • 1/4 cup guava nectar
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. slivered almonds
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Rinse and thoroughly dry the shrimp.  In a medium bowl, mix together the shrimp, garlic, red chili oil and 1 tbsp. of olive oil, plus a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  2. Suprême the tangerines.  Suprêming, in this case, means removing the meat of the tangerine from any pith, rind or connecting membranes.  All of that stuff is stringy and bitter we’re only after the best parts.  To suprême a tangerine, use a pairing knife to cut off the rind.  Don’t peel it off like you were going to eat the tangerine as a snack, actually carve it off with the knife.  You’ll end up taking off a little meat with the rind – this is fine.  Once the rind is totally removed you’ll clearly be able to see each section of fruit divided by a membrane.  Slice into the fruit on either side of each membrane to remove just the good parts.  Discard the rest.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine about 1/3 of the tangerine slices with the guava nectar on medium heat.  Cook just until it begins to reduce, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Once the skillet is hot, add the shrimp and sear on both sides, about 1 minute per side.
  5. Plate up your salads with the shrimp, avocado, remaining tangerines, slivered almonds and sesame seeds.  Dress with the tangerine-guava dressing and salt and pepper the whole thing to taste.

If you aren’t in a shrimp mood, you can substitute in just about anything you’d like: seared tuna, grilled chicken, tofu, swordfish… you name it.  Open up a nice, fruity white wine and enjoy your evening of healthy living at its best!

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Reading time: 2 min

katsu salad
Have you ever gone to a Japanese restaurant and ordered chicken katsu?  It usually comes with a small salad topped with a sweet, creamy dressing.  What I’ve done here, you see, is put the chicken directly on the salad, and then taken some liberties with the ingredients.  The end result is a sophisticated main-course salad suitable for a fork or chopsticks.

Makes: 2 people get up and gyoza
Total kitchen time: 45 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 1-2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 1/3 cups green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 1/3 cups red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup muscat grapes, halved (These are very sweet grapes.  If you can’t find muscat, use the next sweetest grape you can find)
  • 1 Asian pear, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 2 tbsp. slivered almonds
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F and set the top rack in the bottom third of the oven.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, if you’ve got some available.  This won’t make the food taste better, but it will make cleanup that much sweeter.
  2. Place the chicken breasts between two large layers of plastic wrap.  Using a mallet or the bottom of a heavy skillet, pound the breasts out flat.  Salt and pepper the chicken breasts generously on both sides.
  3. Beat the egg in a small bowl.  Then, lightly coat each chicken breast with the beaten egg, again on both sides.  Sprinkle the panko flakes over the breasts – you guessed it – on both sides.  Arrange the breasts on your parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving lots of room in between.
  4. Bake the chicken breasts at 400°F for 25 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the breast reads 165°F.  Transfer to a cutting board and slice into 1/2″ pieces.
  5. Meanwhile, toss the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl.  When the chicken is ready, plate the salad first, then top with the chicken.  Finally, drizzle over a generous amount of the honey-ginger dressing (recipe follows).

Honey-ginger dressing:

  • 4 tbsp. real mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil (or sesame oil)
  • 2 tbsp. mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1 tbsp. blue agave nectar (substitute with honey)
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 2 drops red chili oil
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small food processor, or whisk by hand if the power is out at your house.  Check the taste and adjust with salt and agave nectar as needed.  The final dressing should be sweet but mild.

Wow, I feel healthier already.  A salad with baked chicken breasts?  This could totally have been a 90’s fad diet, combining the allure of Japanese health-cuisine with the American penchant for crispy chicken.  Next time your belt doesn’t fit, or your cell phone won’t play back HD video, try out this recipe.

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Reading time: 2 min
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