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 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.
Whenever I plan the amount of food I make in my classes, I always make sure I have tons of whatever salad I am teaching. 96% of my students are women and women loooooove salad. And so do I. I could eat salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner. First course, side dish or main course. I love lots of color, texture and juiciness. And I love playing around with what’s in season.
One of my pet peeves is a salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber all year round. People, this is so boring and completely out of synch with the seasons, unless it is summer. Get some red cabbage in there or some microgreens, herbs or radishes. Or something creamy like avocado, feta or peaches. Crunchy like nuts, seeds or jicama. There are infinite possibilities for salads and every meal is more complete and more delicious with a salad in it.
If you are planning a Mexican or Tex-Mex meal for Cinco de Mayo or otherwise, this salad is perfecto. It is super simple as it is written, but I will offer you a dozen ways you can make it more interesting and I’m sure you can come up with a dozen more. The best part of this salad is the dressing, which uses salsa or pico de gallo as the base. Chances are, if you are having a Mexican-inspired meal, you very likely have salsa on hand. And this is a great recipe to make the day after your Mexican meal when you likely have leftover salsa on hand. Speaking of dressing, I love this salsa vinaigrette not only only a salad, but on top of grilled fish, chicken or steak, too. Or on a big platter of grilled veggies.
In these photos, I used fire-roasted corn, but if you can’t find it or corn isn’t in season yet, use pinto beans. Shredded chicken or steak is amazing in here, as are cucumbers, grilled red onions or zucchini, cubes of Monterey Jack cheese or tortilla strips. If you want to add all these, go ahead and make lots more dressing. The dressing stays fresh in the refrigerator as long as the salsa is fresh. The pico de gallo in the pictures is made fresh at my Whole Foods, but it only stays good for about 4 or 5 days.
One of the best things about a salad as part of your meal is that you can usually prep the whole thing in advance and just assemble at the last minute. This salad is no exception. Greens can be washed and dried two days ahead. Vinaigrette can be made 2 days ahead. Radishes can be sliced the day before. This really is the perfect salad for your fiesta!
- ½ cup fresh pico de gallo (pulse it in the food processor if it’s too chunky)
- 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ - ¾ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2-3 teaspoons raw honey
- a couple pinches of chili powder
- 2 ears of corn, shucked or 1 ½ cups thawed frozen fire-roasted corn or cooked pinto beans
- 8 cups chopped lettuce like Romaine or Butter lettuce
- 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
- 1-2 ripe avocados, sliced or cubed
- ⅓ cup pepitas, toasted and drizzled with ¼ teaspoon olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt OR sub a handful of tortilla strips instead of the pepitas
- To make the vinaigrette, whisk all the dressing ingredients in a bowl until combined. Set aside.
- Preheat a grill to medium. Grill corn directly on the grill, turning occasionally until lightly charred on all sides. Remove from the grill and place on a cutting board. Cut the kernels off the cob.
- Place the lettuce, corn kernels, radishes, avocados and pepitas in a salad bowl. Dip a piece of lettuce into the dressing and taste for seasoning. Drizzle salad with enough dressing to coat lightly and combine gently.
I just had to squeeze in this last recipe before Easter (and Passover) in the hopes that some of you are still looking for inspiration! I taught this salad all last month in my classes and it was THE salad I seemed to make all the time last year when I had people over for dinner in the spring. Spring is the operative word here since there is no mistaking in what season this salad lives. I mean just look at it! It is everything spring should be — bursting with lightness, color and a breath of fresh air! And full of veggies that come into being in the spring. Plus it’s beautiful and it will go perfectly with whatever you’re making. Leg of lamb, perfect. Baked ham? Perfect. Roast chicken or fish. Perfect.
The key with this salad is the balance of textures and colors. You want to keep everything somewhat delicate which is why I love Bibb or Butter lettuces. I found this beautiful red-leaf butter lettuce at my farmers market and used it for every class. But then you need to do your best to slice all the hard and crunchy stuff as thinly as you can, again to keep things light. I used my food processor to thinly slice the cabbage, carrots and radishes. If you have a 2mm or 1 mm slicing disc for your Cuisinart, I would use that. My new Breville has an adjustable slicing disc, so I turned it to just under 1 mm. I especially like bitter vegetables like radishes to be on the thin side. If you don’t have a food processor and your mandolin scares you (I don’t blame you), then just get out your sharpest knife and do your best. You can even do matchsticks for the radishes and grated carrots.
See if you can find beautiful heirloom carrots in purple or yellow and watermelon radishes like the ones here which are so dramatic! I was able to find such carrots at my farmers market as well as Trader Joe’s. My Whole Foods has had these radishes for the last three weeks. Stunning! They will make you look so good. Your family and friends will be so impressed with whatever dish is graced with sliced watermelon radishes! Truth be told however, my favorite component of this salad is the fresh chives. Light, grassy with a very mild onion flavor, chives are like the most delicate green onions. I just love them in this salad and others, too. You know how much I enjoy shallots in my salad dressings, but I don’t add them here because the shallots offer enough of that flavor. Even if you don’t make this recipe, consider adding chopped fresh chives to your next salad. I know you won’t be disappointed!
You can do so much with this salad including adding feta, mint leaves, walnuts, avocado, oranges or kumquats. There’s plenty of dressing for you to add in any of these. Speaking of dressing, since there’s nothing in this one that can spoil, feel free to make this well in advance. I’m sure it would do just fine in the fridge for 2 weeks. It will firm up though because of the olive oil, so remember to pull it out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before you wish to serve it.
I hope you have a beautiful holiday, shared with the ones you love! xoxo
- For the salad:
- 1 large or 2 small heads butter lettuce, washed, spun dry and leaves torn into bite size pieces (about 16 cups)
- 1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
- 4 radishes, sliced as thin as possible
- 2 carrots, preferably purple, scrubbed clean and julienned or sliced super thin
- ½ 1.75 ounce box micro greens
- 1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
- For the dressing: (this will provide slightly more than you need, but will allow for a few add-ins)
- 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar, preferably raw
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 6-8 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil (depending on strength of vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon raw honey
- Other additions/substitutions: a few kumquats sliced crosswise, chopped sugar snap peas, thinly sliced fennel, avocado, feta cheese, edible flowers, walnuts, mint leaves, flaky sea salt
- Place the butter lettuce in a large bowl and layer the remaining ingredients on top.
- Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl or screw top jar and whisk or shake to combine.
- Drizzle just enough dressing to coat lightly and toss together. Finish with a sprinkle of flaky sea, if desired.
In a perfect world we would all be eating mostly whole foods, that is foods that came into this world a certain way and stayed that way. Whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods are more recognizable by our bodies and better for our health. Period. I also talk a lot about limiting gluten, that pesky inflammatory protein found in wheat and to a lesser extent spelt, barley, rye and farro. One of the problems with our overconsumption of wheat is that 99.9% of the time (I made up that statistic), it is in a processed form such as bread, pasta, baked goods, flour tortillas, pizza, etc. And in the US, much of the processed wheat is refined too, which means anything good that was in there has been taken out. Ugh. I know all those foods are delicious and I am not telling you to never eat them again (although you would be better off), but it’s important to at least acknowledge how much processed wheat you’re eating and try a limit these foods to every once in a while.
So if you buy bread or pasta labeled “whole wheat,” they are technically made from whole wheat and not actually whole wheat. If you wanted to actually eat whole wheat, you would eat these little babies right here. They are called wheat berries which is where wheat flour comes from. They are a true whole grain because they’re still intact, as are their B vitamins, fiber, protein, even calcium. Wheat berries remind me a lot of spelt, farro and even short-grain brown rice, but more chewy which makes them perfect in a salad. My kids love them! Truthfully you can use wheat berries in any recipe calling for spelt or farro, none of which, however is gluten free. GF folks can sub brown rice or quinoa very successfully in this recipe.
In as much as I love wheat berries, though, this salad wouldn’t be as delicious without the creamy lemon-tahini dressing which I have been putting on everything lately. If you have a jar a tahini in the fridge, it is likely because you used it to make hummus, the delicious and popular Middle Eastern chickpea dip. Tahini is just ground up sesame seeds, plain and simple with lots of good fats, protein and calcium. If you like hummus, you’ll love this dressing since it contains almost all the same ingredients. It’s zingy, creamy and a little different from your standard vinaigrette. I tend to make it a tad on the spicy side, because I love a little kick, but definitely feel free to leave it out if your family prefers things mild. I took these photos after my class yesterday, when I made the recipe with some thinly sliced radishes, green onions and torn red leaf lettuce, but really the sky’s the limit here. I have made this salad with blanched asparagus, radishes and spinach — delish! I have also used cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and parsley. There’s a picture at the bottom of the post of one version I did with roasted eggplant, red peppers, red onion and parsley, although it vaguely reminded me of that fabulous Ina Garten roasted vegetable orzo dish that I made waaaaay too many times about 10 years ago. Still great, but in my opinion the richness of the dressing works best with light, fresh vegetables and greens.
If I didn’t just make this salad A LOT this month, I would definitely be including it in the summer entertaining menu rotation. For you organized, plan-ahead cooks, the day before or morning of I would cook the wheat berries and allow them to cool, prep the vegetables and make the dressing. I would not, however, dress the salad until the day of otherwise the wheat berries will just soak up all the dressing. I used wheat berries from Bob’s Red Mill, but I have also seen them in the bulk section of some natural food markets. Whatever you make this weekend, have fun and keep it real!
- 1 ½ cups wheat berries -- I used soft white wheat berries (or 1 cup quinoa cooked with 1 ¾ cups water)
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced or mashed to a paste
- 2 Tablespoons tahini
- 4 Tablespoons unrefined cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- dash or two of cayenne pepper ( I use ¼ teaspoon to make it a little spicy)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Salad: (these are suggestions ~ you can also go with cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, chickpeas, asparagus, peas)
- 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2-3 radishes, sliced thinly or julienned
- 2 big handfuls of tender greens (such as spinach, watercress, argula, or red leaf lettuce)
- Put the wheat berries in a medium saucepan and fill the pan with cold water (as if you were making pasta.) Add a big pinch of salt (kosher is fine.) Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook wheat berries until they are tender, about 50-60 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl to cool slightly.
- For the dressing: whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl and season with salt, cayenne and black pepper to taste. Dip a piece of lettuce in the dressing to taste for seasoning.
- Combine green onions, radishes and greens with the wheat berries in the serving bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat lightly.
Oh people. We are on the brink of my favorite time of year. A time of backyard barbeques, picnics at the beach, sand between my toes, fresh tomatoes and basil, peach pie, and long nights under starry skies. Ahhhh, summer. Beyond better weather and my favorite produce, life is just easier when the kids are out of school. No homework, tests or book reports. Sure, two out of my three have a summer reading list, but they always wait until the last week of summer to crack those books open, so it’s smooth sailing until then.
Because we live at the beach, we entertain most weekends in the summer, starting with Memorial Day which, being the East Coaster that I am, is the unofficial start of “the season.” One of my favorite things to do right about now is start planning a few menus that I can rotate during the summer. Whenever I am thinking of the ideal food to prepare — make ahead, room temperature and easy all come to mind. Very often, we’ll go to the beach for the afternoon, come back to the house to freshen up before lingering over dinner in the backyard. This doesn’t give me too much time to cook for a crowd, so I look for recipes which allow me to prep in the morning or the night before so I can do more assembling than cooking.
This Thai Steak Salad has never appeared on any of my summer menus since I just taught it a few months ago in my classes, but it will definitely be a regular this season. There are so many reasons I love this salad — it’s light, I can vary it with chicken or tofu (even shrimp) and change up the vegetables according to what looks good, and there’s lots of prep in advance that I can do. Oh, forgot to mention that my family loves it, too! The first time I told my kids and husband they were eating “Thai” steak salad, I saw a bunch of sad faces. “We don’t like Thai food. It’s too spicy. Or sour.” “Guess what? You’ve never had Thai food in your life!” I only call this a “Thai” Steak Salad because of the combination of sweet, sour and sort of spicy in the marinade/dressing, plus the addition of cilantro and/or mint. I have a feeling I am taking a lot of liberties with the word “Thai.” I could probably get away with it if I added some fish sauce to the marinade. Next time. However, if I were to rename this recipe, I would call it Yummy, Fresh, Tangy, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Vegan-adaptable, Paleo-friendly, Perfect for Summer Salad. If you’re debating whether or not to veer from the standard burger fare this holiday, I have two words for you: Pink Slime.
If you’ve been hanging out with me for the last year, you probably remember my post on how to reduce carcinogens when you grill. Now’s a good time for a refresher. Whereas you can definitely grill the steak or chicken here (I did grill the chicken), I prefer a more healthful way to cook the steak. It’s a method I picked up from Cook’s Illustrated and it’s especially good for cooking grass-fed beef, which can get dried out if you’re not careful. The only downside is that it takes a few minutes longer than grilling, but it’s a really tasty result and likely less carcinogenic. No matter how you make this salad, it will surely be a delicious way to welcome in summer!
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ cup unrefined olive oil, divided
- 2 Tablespoons shoyu (or gluten-free tamari)
- 6 Tablespoons packed fresh cilantro or mint leaves, chopped (or a combo)
- 1-2 small cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon chili flakes or ½ teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
- 1 Tablespoon raw honey
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 ½ pounds grass-fed top sirloin or flank steak, about 1-inch thick
- sea salt to taste
- 1 Tablespoon unrefined coconut oil or olive oil
- 8 heaping cups salad greens, about 6-7 ounces
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- a few handfuls of seasonal veggies*: thinly sliced cucumber or sweet bell pepper, sprouts, julienned carrots, fresh mint leaves, fresh Thai basil leaves
- Combine lime juice, 6 Tablespoons oil, shoyu, cilantro, garlic, hot pepper, honey, and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside.
- If steak is thicker than 1 inch, place between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound on both sides. Remove wrap and place meat in a shallow nonreactive dish that is just small enough to hold the meat. Pour HALF the marinade (about ⅔ cup) over the meat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours (longer is better). Take the reserved marinade in the bowl and add 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Set this aside as your salad dressing.
- Pull the steak from the refrigerator about 30-60 minutes before cooking it. Preheat oven to 275 degrees or preheat a grill.
- Insert a wire rack inside a baking sheet and place the meat on top of the rack and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Bake for 20-30 minutes for medium to medium-well.
- Heat the oil in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over high heat. Transfer the steak to the skillet and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side for medium to medium-well. Alternatively, grill over medium heat for about 10 minutes for medium doneness.
- Transfer meat to a carving board and allow to rest for 10 minutes, covered.
- Assemble the salad greens on a platter and drizzle with half the dressing (about ⅓ cup), tossing to coat. Drizzle the shallots and vegetables with half the remaining dressing (about 2 ½ Tablespoons). Toss to coat and arrange on top of the salad. Taste for salt and add as needed.
- Slice meat thinly against the grain on a diagonal. Arrange slices of meat on top of the greens and drizzle with remaining dressing.
To prep in advance, marinate steak or chicken the night before. Keep dressing refrigerated. Wash and cut all vegetables and keep refrigerated until ready to assemble.
I hope you all had a lovely Easter or Passover holiday. Ours was so nice thanks to my mother-in-law took care of the meal and all I had to do was show up with desserts. But now I’m ready to move on from anything to do with coconut or eggs. In fact I am going to be a rebel and just omit eggs in recipes where you would normally expect to find them! I can be crazy that way. One thing that has surprised me in teaching cooking classes the last few years is how many people have food intolerances/allergies. If you or one of your kids is one of those people, you are not alone. The most common allergens I run across with my students are gluten, dairy, nuts and eggs. There are others of course, like soy, corn, mangos and shellfish, to name a few. Then there are people who can’t tolerate garlic, which I’m not sure how I could live without. But eggs is a big one. So it’s always in the back of my mind when I come up with a recipe and I try to share egg-free versions of anything I teach.
Caesar salad dressing is traditionally made with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, lemon juice or lemon juice and red wine vinegar, mustard and raw egg yolks. Normally I substitute mayonnaise for the egg yolks because I’m not always comfortable serving kids raw eggs, but sometimes mayonnaise contains egg, too. So to make this dressing egg-free, but still creamy, I tried using one of my favorite rich, nutritious foods — avocado — and a new favorite salad dressing was born. The color is a tad green, but you won’t notice it once it’s tossed with the lettuce. And the avocado does nothing to change the flavor of the dressing so you would otherwise have no idea that you weren’t eating a regular Caesar salad. Do I dare say this is even better than a normal Caesar? I made this for a working lunch at home yesterday and my assistants and I couldn’t stop eating it. So goooooood!
Did I mention that Caesar salad is also very simple to prepare at home? That’s one reason I’m not likely to order it in a restaurant. I have a thing about ordering food in a restaurant that can be easily made at home. I don’t mind paying for handmade pasta, high quality sushi, or foods that are either unusual or labor-intensive that I can’t reproduce at home. But even the novice cook can make a delicious Caesar dressing for a fraction of a restaurant’s price. I can buy an entire head of romaine lettuce at the farmer’s market for $1 and probably make Caesar salad for 4-6 people for under $4. You’ll think twice about spending $12 for one portion.
Salads are a great way to use the topping bar method with your kids. Many children do like Caesar salad, but if yours are unsure about all that lettuce, allow them to add whatever they like to their plate, even if it’s something that you might not eat on the salad — olives, pecans, dried fruit, popcorn, avocado, chopped up chicken tenders. That’s not what’s important. We’re just allowing them to have some control over what they eat while encouraging them to eat the same food we do. They’re still finding their way.
I don’t add cheese to the actual Caesar dressing, but instead sprinkle it on top of the chopped lettuce and then toss with the dressing. If you are dairy-free, you can leave the cheese out completely or substitute Parma (vegan “Parmesan cheese”) or nutritional yeast and a little extra sea salt. And if you’re vegan, omit the anchovies and add a drop of vegan worcestershire sauce. Dairy-free and vegan peeps, did you think I was only going to give love to my egg-free friends? I have more than enough to go around.
- Dressing (makes about 1 cup):
- 2-3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
- ½ teaspoon sea salt (you can add more if you’re skipping the cheese)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 1-2 anchovies** (optional, but traditional)
- 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 6 Tablespoons water
- 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese* or a wedge shaved into thin strips
- croutons for garnish, if desired
- To make the dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water to make it thinner, if desired. Taste for salt and pepper, but be conservative with the salt since the cheese is salty.
- Place the lettuce in a serving bowl or on a platter and sprinkle with grated cheese and croutons. Depending on the size of your head of lettuce, you may have more dressing than you need, so just toss lettuce with enough dressing to coat lightly. Or toss salad with dressing and garnish with shaved cheese.
*Try Parma or nutritional yeast for a dairy-free option.
**Vegans can drop the anchovies and add a drop of vegan worcestershire sauce instead.