Spetses is one of the Greek islands and a place I visited many years ago. I love Greek food and I still remember this cod dish I had in Spetses which I have recreated often for weeknights with my family and dinners with friends. The recipe is written to serve 4, but you can easily increase to 6 if you can fit that number of filets in the skillet. I am using cod here which is very commonly used in Mediterranean areas, but you can use halibut or whatever thicker white fish you have access to. I originally had the dish with zucchini, but I have swapped in fennel because it’s in season right now. Definitely try it with zucchini in the summer!Continue reading
I know it’s still February, but I think a spring bug bit me. The new strawberries, asparagus, sugar snap peas and artichokes were calling my name last weekend at the farmer’s market and I felt myself thinking ahead to the next season. Just noticing that the sun is setting later and later is making me giddy. Yesterday I was working at home and felt inspired to make one of my favorite quinoa dishes with baby spinach, fresh dill and mint. It was like a bowl of fresh air.
This salad is based on the ingredients in spanakopita, the very rich and tasty Greek pie made from layers of phyllo dough (and butter), stuffed with cheese, spinach and herbs. My friend John gave me his mother, Libby’s heavenly recipe for spanakopita which I have been making for at least 10 years now, but not quite as often as I used to since loads of dairy, processed wheat and fat aren’t friendly to a certain someone. So these days spanakopita makes an appearance only once a year at our Yom Kippur break-the-fast dinner. Don’t feel sorry for me too fast.
Since I still crave those flavors, I came up with a lighter and fresher way to enjoy them. Hence this salad was born. Would you think I was lying if I told you I like this quinoa just as much, maybe more than spanakopita? Of course, I acknowledge this is still a salad and not a flaky, buttery hot mess of three kinds of cheese bound by chopped spinach. But I do like this quinoa better!! I like that it’s fresh, zingy and makes me feel energized instead of weighed down. Quinoa has that effect on me. It’s gluten-free and full of high quality protein, fiber and healthful minerals. For something so nutritious, it is also bouncy and light. Plus I can prepare this salad in a faction of the time it takes me to butter 20 sheets of phyllo dough.
My girls came home from school yesterday and polished off what was left in the serving bowl. I was hoping to ask Mr. Picky to try one bite. In the past, he has only been willing to eat the spinach leaves after he wiped them clean with his napkin. But lately I’ve noticed he has been a little more tolerant of quinoa, not minding if a spoonful or two gets mixed in with some kale salad or sugar snap peas. This is part of the slow and steady process to which I have committed.
For those of you with actual dietary restrictions or aversions, this is an incredibly flexible recipe. Vegans and dairy-free people can omit the feta and add some kalamata olives for a salty bite. I know there are mint-haters out there (really? very hard to believe!), so feel free to leave that out, especially since Libby’s recipe calls for only dill. And for those of you who would rather not use pine nuts, I have also used sliced almonds or roasted pistachios before with success. I love quinoa with a little crunch. This salad is the perfect lunch or light dinner on its own, but I have also served this with dozens of different sides including roasted carrots and beets, grilled zucchini, sauteed green beans with shallots or minted snap peas. Can you say “Spring It On?!”
¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces feta, preferably made from goat or sheep’s milk
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Rinse quinoa in a bowl with water or place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Drain and transfer to a medium saucepan with a pinch of sea salt and 1 ¾ cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Quinoa can remain in the pot until ready to combine with other salad ingredients or transfer to a serving bowl and fluff with a fork. Allow quinoa to cool slightly.
To the quinoa add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. * Or you can place the spinach on a serving platter and toss with 1 Tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Combine quinoa with remaining ingredients and mound on top of the spinach leaves. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Other additions can include Kalamata olives, halved cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, and/or fresh corn kernels.
I just spent a lovely four days in Park City, Utah enjoying the clean air and the peace and quiet (outdoors, of course; indoors I have my three kids and two of their friends, so no peace and quiet in the house from noon ’til midnight.) There are no televisions and I insist that the kids leave the phones in their bedrooms so we can hike and dine without the ping of 6 iPhones. Heaven.
Of course, with travel comes a deviation from eating the way I like to eat. I consumed a little too much guacamole and chips a little too late at night, and then someone tried to torture me by buying a container of Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. I had mentioned it was like a more healthful Nutella, not that it was actually healthful. By the end, I missed my juicer and my garden and all I wanted to eat were salads and vegetables. In fact, I was craving this Green Goddess Salad while I was on the plane home.
No, I didn’t name this dressing after you. The original Green Goddess dressing was created at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in the 1920’s, for the English actor George Arliss. Arliss was staying at the hotel and dined there every evening before he performed in a play called “The Green Goddess.” There are so many variations on this dressing, the base of which is usually mayonnaise, sour cream and tarragon — the only herb I don’t like. Can we still be friends? So considering I am using none of the above, I don’t know if I can actually call it a Green Goddess dressing. One day last summer, I tried to clean out some little bits of herbs that were lingering and blended them into my own version of the dressing and we all loved it. So feel free to adjust the recipe according to whatever herbs you have on hand, even if it’s tarragon. The kids think it tastes a little like ranch dressing. So I made more the next day and used it as a dip for raw vegetables.
Green Goddess is a creamy dressing that’s a nice break from traditional vinaigrettes, and one that works well with crisp and sturdy lettuces. There are dozens of ways to enjoy this salad, even as a main course, since so many things work well with the dressing. Here I used tomatoes and radishes, which are both perfectly obvious, but you can add hard boiled eggs, shrimp, poached chicken, cucumber, avocado, and/or corn. One day I took a few beefy tomatoes from the garden, sliced them up and drizzled this over. Whatever you do, don’t leave out the anchovy paste — it really adds a little salty something and doesn’t taste at all fishy. Your kids and your picky spouse don’t need to know it’s in there. In fact, they don’t need to know anything other than you made up your own Ranch dressing.