How sad is it that I never had an avocado until I was in college? Not even guacamole. I mean, what kind of a life is that? Fast-forward I’m-not-going-to-tell-you-how-many-years later, I eat avocados almost every day. I am crazy about the texture and flavor, and they go with everything. Avocados are so amazing for your health — the fats are the best kind, so fresh and pure. Recently, a few people have asked me to share my skincare regimen. I am thinking about writing a post about it, but until then, avocados are an incredible beauty food! Avocados can promote supple skin because they moisturize from the inside out. They are also rich in glutamine, a powerful antioxidant which can help with anti-aging.
Sometimes, a little freshening up is in order. I put this chopped grilled vegetable salad on my weekly dinner planner and when I pulled the image for it, I cringed a little. The photo did not do it justice at all. This salad is one of my absolute favorites and one that I posted almost 5 years ago. In all fairness to me, I didn’t even know how to use a camera when I started this blog, and although I am still no photography expert, I think my images have improved since 2011. So I thought I would pull this post from the archives and give it a facelift, especially on the eve of Memorial Day weekend when you might be inclined to make a fantastic, crowd-pleasing salad such as this one.
I had the most fantastic time in Dallas this past weekend! I spent lovely quality time with my daughter, and I enjoyed getting to know her sorority sisters and their moms. We had a very full weekend with lots of good food, karaoke (no comment!), yoga, and shopping for everything from mattresses to paleo snacks to new clothes for her to wear to her internship this summer. Believe people when they tell you that kids grow up too fast!
I am not much of a drinker, at least anymore. 😉 If you’ve known me for a long time, you know that way back in the day, I used to enjoy a cocktail more often than not. Nowadays, I have very limited tolerance for it and therefore I pretty much abstain except for a glass of wine once a month or so. The headaches the next day just aren’t worth it to me. My husband says that’s the price I pay for being so clean. Ha! But one of my favorite cocktails used to be a mojito, a Cuban drink with rum, mint, sugar and lime juice. It’s super refreshing and light. I had my first mojito in Cuba about 14 years ago and I became an instant fan.
I came up with this salad for a Cuban-inspired menu I taught last month and although it is not anything I ever saw when I was in Cuba, it reminds me of the tropical vibe there and the dressing in particular makes me think of a mojito since it contains mint, honey and lime juice. This recipe was probably the biggest hit last month. That said, 99% of the people that come to my classes are women, and women love salads. I always make so much extra of all my salads for classes because I know everyone loves to load up on them. No matter if I doubled, tripled or quadrupled this salad, there were never any leftovers!
Yesterday my son asked me what my favorite foods were when I was a kid and I quickly responded, “Salad! I remembered telling someone when I was in the second grade that I wouldn’t mind drinking a bottle of olive oil and vinegar.” To which my son scoffed, “That’s impossible. What 7-year-old likes salad that much?” Honestly, I did. I loved salad then and I love salad now. I was always in charge of dressing the salad when I was young. But we didn’t make anything fancy. I just drizzled good olive oil and vinegar with some salt on our greens and that was that.
I’m doing a little menu planning right now for my annual Christmas trip to my parents’ house, where we’ll (mostly I’ll) be cooking 3 meals a day for at least a dozen or more people. And this does require planning otherwise we will be schlepping to the market multiple times a day. And why would I want to do that when I can be obsessing over a 1000 piece puzzle all day, ignoring everyone around me? Exactly.
I don’t often think of salads when I meal plan during the winter in New York, but since it’s about 65 degrees there right now, I’m rethinking that and this will be on the menu for one dinner. This is my new favorite winter salad. I specify winter salad because I don’t make the same salads in the winter as I do in the summer. There are no local tomatoes or cucumbers right now, but there is fresh fennel and juicy citrus.
I’ve been teaching this salad in my classes this month and everyone is loving it. It’s light and refreshing and easy as pie to make. I think this would be perfect with fish, poultry or pork. Fennel is also an amazing digestive aid, which comes in very handy during the holidays. Wink, wink. As a child, I remember after a big pasta and meat dinner, my aunt would pass around a platter of raw fennel wedges and a bowl of clementines for dessert. It was the perfect end to a rich meal, but I loved fennel because it subtly tastes like licorice. So yummy. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned not all people ate raw fennel from a blue and white Wedgewood platter after dinner!
The components of this lovely salad are thinly sliced fennel, segmented citrus (preferably blood oranges or grapefruit,) avocado and ricotta salata + a citrus dressing. Like I always say, feel free to make substitutions and get creative. Other things you can add/sub:
frisee, butter lettuce or watercress
red onion or shallots
The image below is ricotta salata, which I love. It’s a dried ricotta made from sheep’s milk cheese, with a firm, but creamy texture and a little salty. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find. I buy it at my local Whole Foods, but there’s no other store in town that sells it. So when WF is out of it, I’ll use shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is also delicious here. But a good feta is also a nice sub.
If you’ve taken my classes in the last year, you know how obsessed I am with my new food processor. This is NOT a sponsored post for Breville even though I would be totally thrilled if they noticed me ;). I just think the adjustable slicing disc is genius. So I was able to go pretty thin with the fennel, but you can also do this with a mandoline or with a very sharp knife. If you have the Breville Sous Chef, I set the slicing blade anywhere between 1/2 and 1. Otherwise, just use the standard Cuisinart slicing disc. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, watch my YouTube video on how to use your food processor. And while you’re at it, check out this post for how to segment citrus.
I think the presentation of this salad is a little tricky, though. The best method is if you have a large platter on which you can spread the fennel ribbons in one layer and then tuck the grapefruit and avocado slices in randomly. Don’t worry about it being perfect. I apologized to a few of my groups this month that I couldn’t take the time to make this salad look more beautiful and I realized that was silly. It looked good enough to eat and it was gobbled up in record time. And that is good enough for me!
2 large fennel bulbs, bottom trimmed, stalks discarded, fronds reserved
6 blood oranges or 2 large grapefruits
2 firm, but ripe avocados, halved and pitted and sliced crosswise
⅓ pound ricotta salata, shaved (if unavailable, feta or Parmesan are nice alternatives) Do not slice with a food processor. Use a knife or vegetable peeler.
Maldon or flaky sea salt to taste
In a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine dressing ingredients, shake until emulsified and set aside.
Halve the fennel bulb and remove the core. As thinly as possible, slice the fennel lengthwise. Use a mandolin, extra-thin blade on your food processor, vegetable peeler or a knife. Place fennel in a large bowl.
With a sharp knife, remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges and segment the slices. See my blogpost “How to Segment Citrus” for a visual.*
Arrange the fennel across a big platter and toss with enough dressing to moisten lightly.
Tuck the citrus segments and avocado slices into the fennel and scatter the cheese. Drizzle remaining dressing or only as much as is needed.
Garnish with fennel fronds, if desired. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
I love summer rolls — crunchy, fresh, and flavorful all wrapped in a delicate rice paper wrapper. Summer rolls are one of those things I never thought I could make at home. The wrappers, the rolling, the sauce! Not only are they way easier than I imagined, but they can be quite the nutritious dish to boot. Filled with loads of raw veggies and herbs, a summer roll is like a salad all wrapped up in a neat little package. In the video above, I go a pretty traditional route with avocado, cabbage, carrots and herbs, but also I use less traditional roasted sweet potato sticks and shredded Brussels sprouts. Rice paper is so neutral. Who says you couldn’t put a cobb salad in there or poached chicken, corn, cabbage and barbecue sauce? I say the sky’s the limit and can we talk about perfect these would be for school lunches?! Per-fect!
If you want to make these in advance, cover them with a damp paper towel and refrigerate for ideally up to one day, but I’ve even kept them 2 or 3 days.
8 (8-inch) rice paper rounds, plus additional in case some tear
1 large sweet potato, (peeled if desired) and cut into ¼” matchsticks
unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
sea salt and black pepper to taste
4 medium brussels sprouts, thinly sliced or shredded
¼ head of small red cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded, grated, or julienned
1 large avocado, cut into thin slices
handful each of fresh mint leaves, basil leaves and cilantro leaves
Other possibilities: cooked shrimp, chicken, tempeh or tofu, cooked rice noodles
To make the sauce: whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl or a glass jar and set aside. *
To make the summer rolls: Drizzle the sweet potatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 18-20 minutes until tender.
Fill a shallow baking dish or a skillet with warm water. Soak 1 rice paper round (make sure there are no holes) in warm water until pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the water and transfer to a plate or cutting board.
Spread 2 teaspoons of peanut sauce on the rice paper (or omit and use as a dip once rolls are assembled) and top with 2-3 large mint leaves, 1-2 large basil leaves, a pinch of cilantro leaves, a
pinch each of the Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and carrot, a few sticks of sweet potato, and a couple of avocado slices, taking care not to overstuff. Roll up rice paper tightly around filling, folding in sides and continue rolling.
Transfer summer roll to a plate and cover with dampened paper towels.
Make the remaining rolls in the same manner. Serve rolls halved on the diagonal.
Store in the fridge covered with a damp paper towel 2-3 days.
* Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature and re-emulsify before using.
You are going to have so much fun making these summer rolls!
I just dropped off my oldest at college this past weekend. Up until this point, nothing has made me feel as old as saying to someone, “I have a child in college.” And it doesn’t help when people respond with, “Wow!” Rub it in. Thank heavens for Mr. Picky who is in elementary school and still asks me to cuddle him at night.
My daughter goes to school in Dallas. So when I visit, I make sure to b-line for some good Tex-Mex food. You all know my weakness is guacamole and chips. Guacamole = healthy food. Chips, not so much. In LA you can find places to give you jicama with your guacamole. In Texas, not so much. So I try not to overdo it when I’m there, but I’m not always successful.
Although I grew up in New York, California cooking has stolen my heart. Lightness, freshness, color. It’s addictive. And the best avocados! Come visit me and we’ll have fun just prancing around the farmers markets. We can make this salad, which is like fancy-pants guacamole.
I taught this salad last year or the year before and it is one of my favorites. First of all, it takes minutes to pull together. Second, it includes two of my favorite foods, tomatoes and avocados, which I will remind you are both insanely delicious right now. Use whatever tomatoes look great and have fun mixing colors and shapes and sizes. Lastly, it’s basically guacamole that I can eat with a fork or on top of a piece of fish or grilled chicken and I don’t feel the need to have 25 tortilla chips along with it.
It also happens to look very pretty on a buffet. But tomatoes are leaving us soon, friends. Enjoy it ALL while you can, because you’re going to blink your eyes and they’ll be gone.
optional: serve with broken corn tortilla chips on top or around the side of the salad
Place the tomatoes, red onion and jalapeño on a platter. Arrange the avocado slices on top. Scatter the cilantro leaves all over.
Whisk together the lime juice, salt, hot sauce and oil together and drizzle all over salad. It’s best not to toss this salad, otherwise the avocados will get messy. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt if necessary. A sprinkle of flaky sea salt is nice.
Serve with tortilla chips on the perimeter of the platter or crushed on top, if desired.
The amounts for the ingredients are merely guidelines. Feel free to adjust quantities to suit your taste.