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Papaya-Cucumber Salad

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Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Inspired by: Tony Khalife, amazing musician/artist. He taught me so much about the beauty and nuances of food.  This was one of those many salads that he just threw together one day because it sounded good and we had the ingredients. It has become a favorite because it balances out many of the spicy dishes I love to make, and when I’m in Mexico, which is quite often in the winter, I can easily find all the ingredients at a tiny market. It is often my contribution to potluck parties there with friends.

Ingredients – Salad:

  • Papaya  – 1 cup diced
  • Cucumber – 1 cup diced
  • Slivered almonds – 1/2 cup
  • Jicama – 1 cup diced (optional)
  • Avocado – ripe but firm (optional) – 1 cup diced

Ingredients – Dressing:

Preparation: Put all ingredients into glass bowl and toss gently (if you include avocado add this at the end). I do not normally add the spice, but this is fun if you want to add some zing.

Notes: This is an easy salad to bring to a party. Use the entire papaya with the same cucumber and almond proportions. Dice the cucumber and papaya in advance and add the almonds and dressing near serving time.

Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Salad

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Time: 45 – 60 minutes (ideally with a couple of hours cooling time for the grilled veggies midway). Grilled veggies and dressing can be prepared ahead.

Serves: 6

Inspired by: My friend Rikke who always makes delicious food brought this to a party recently. I made just a few modifications. The dish was fabulous and will be something I make often.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 3 small bell peppers (red, yellow, orange) – about 1 pound, stemmed, seeded and quartered
  • 5 slender zucchini (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut lengthwise in half
  • Olive oil, salt, and pepper to toss the peppers and zucchini in before grilling
  • 4 small Persian cucumbers, halved, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (or English cucumber… or if you use another type, remove the seeds and some of the peel)
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 4 ounce square of feta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup (packed) finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 2-3 teaspoons ground sumac to sprinkle on top

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic crushed (optional)


  • Heat your grill (medium).
  • Toss or rub zucchini and peppers with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Grill peppers and zucchini until slightly charred and just tender, turning often, about 12 minutes.
  • Transfer to a baking sheet to cool. Once cooled, refrigerate if you are preparing this ahead.
  • To make dressing: whisk 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, cumin, and optional garlic in small bowl to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cut peppers lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips, then crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Cut zucchini lengthwise in half, and then into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Put zucchini, peppers, cucumber, tomato, olives, mint and parsley into a large bowl and toss with dressing.
  • Add feta and toss gently.
  • Transfer to a large, shallow bowl. Sprinkle ground sumac over the top.

Wine Suggestions: A medium bodied red with some spice and earthy flavors is ideal. The first time we made this, it was with a vegetarian dinner of spiced lentils. A red burgundy, or earthy rustic Italian red or Southern Rhone would all be good pairings.

Spinach Salad with Mango Lime Puree

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Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves: 12

Inspired by: I’m always reworking spinach and mango to come up with something just a little different. This is definitely my new favorite spinach salad. It is excellent with anything spicy such as blackened chickengrilled spicy shrimppan fried spicy shrimp, grilled vegetable lasagna, and I love it with seared scallops as well.

Salad Ingredients:

  • Spinach leaves for 12
  • 1-2 cups of roughly chopped fresh mint
  • 2/3 of a mango diced into 1/4 or 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 English cucumber diced into 1/4 or 1/2 inch cubes (or can use Persian cucumbers)
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 3/4 – 1 cup sliced almonds or pistacios

Dressing Ingredients:

  • The other 1/3 of the mango (scrape fruit off of the seed and use the riper, soggier, less pretty pieces)
  • Juice of 1-2 limes
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dressing Preparation:

  • Peel mango, remove seed, and dice fruit into ¼ inch pieces and set aside.
  • Put about 1/3 of the mango into the blender to make the dressing (about ½ cup).
  • Add the juice of 1 lime and a dash of salt and pepper to blender and puree/blend well. Then start adding the juice of the second lime until you find the balance of sweetness/acidity you like.
  • Pour the mango puree into a small pitcher and add in 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well.

Salad Preparation:

  • Wash spinach leavees, remove stems, and spread into a wide salad bowl.
  • Wash fresh mint, roughly chop, and sprinkle over spinach so it’s mixed evenly.
  • Slice cucumber into thin slices (or dice into pieces the same size as the mango).
  • Pour dressing over the spinach leaves and mint and mix well – the dressing should be relatively thick so mix until the leaves are lightly coated everywhere.
  • Add the diced mango, cucumber, crumbled goat cheese and sliced almonds and mix well.
  • Optional – top with blackened chicken, spicy shrimp or seared scallops.


Comments Off on Tabouli

Time: Approximately 30 minutes of active time; 2.5 hours from start to finish.

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Inspired by: My love for Mediterranean flavors. I don’t even remember having Tabouli as a child with any of my Armenian relatives, but I have had it made by Lebanese friends. There are so many different variations on this dish. I prefer a nearly equal ratio of parsley to bulgur (many recipes are mainly bulgur and just a little parsley). This is the recipe I’ve refined and ended up with after trying various versions over the years – I love some of the subtle flavor nuances. I also usually add cucumber to give it a bit of crunch.

Ingredients – Salad:

  • 1/2 cup dry bulgur wheat
  • 1 1/2 cups minced parsley (or just use one large bunch of parsley)
  • 1/4 cup minced mint leaves
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced persian cucumber (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion (optional)

Ingredients – Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (kosher if you have it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • Boil 3-4 cups of water. When it reaches a boil, add the bulgur, remove from heat, and let stand for 45 minutes. Once bulgur is soft, drain excess water and cool to room temperature.
  • Toss bulgur with parsley, mint, tomatoes and optional cucumber and green onions.
  • Separately, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cinnamon and crushed garlic.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until well coated. If you plan to refrigerate before serving, hold off on putting the tomato in until serving as tomatoes lose flavor in the refrigerator.

Greek Salad

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Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 8

Inspired by: I’ve always loved the ingredients in a Greek salad – in any way, shape or form as long as there is not raw onion (which is fairly common). I especially love it with a lot of crunch (romaine, cucumber, bell peppers),  large chunks of tomato, feta. I also often simplify the dressing to just olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Salad Ingredients:

  • Romaine lettuce chopped into easier to eat strips (6-8 large handfuls)
  • 1/2 bunch Italian flat leafed parsley – de-stemmed – just keep the leaves
  • Additional greens (optional – I prefer to add more green)
  • Organic on the vine or cherry tomatoes – chopped into chunks and lightly salted and peppered
  • 1/2 English cucumber, or Persian cucumber, sliced lengthwise and then sliced and lightly salted
  • A few slices of petite bell peppers (optional)
  • 4 oz of feta cheese in 1/2 inch chunks

Dressing Ingredients:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon tarragon (optional)


  • Mix the salad dressing ingredients in a shaker.
  • Toss the romaine and parsley in a large salad bowl with about half of the dressing – enough to coat the leaves well.
  • Add the rest of the salad ingredients and toss lightly/carefully – adding additional dressing if needed.

Notes: I love this with curry chicken kabobs or with grilled or blackened salmonblackened chicken, or spicy grilled shrimp.

Wine Suggestions: the vinegar in the dressing often makes wine pairing difficult for salads. Champagne is a great way to go as a first course with a salad, or go with another high-acid white wine such as a White Burgundy. If you serve this as a side dish with spicy chicken or fish, check out those recipes for additional pairing suggestions.

Cranberry Relish

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Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves: 8-10 as a side dish

Inspired by: My good friend Sue who is amazing with both food preparations and wine and champagne selections! This was one of the several dishes she brought to a gourmet thanksgiving dinner party this year. Even those who don’t normally like cranberry sauce really enjoyed this refreshing side dish.


  • 1 bag cranberries
  • 12-15 kumquats
  • Approximately 1/4 cup sugar (taste for desired sweetness)
  • Approximately 1/2 cup fresh, strong crystallized ginger (quantity can very according to your taste)


  • Chop cranberries with sugar in a food processor and then dump into a large bowl.
  • Pull the stems off of the Kumquats and cut into halves.
  • In the same food processor (no need to clean), chop the kumquats with the ginger.
  • Dump the kumquat-ginger mixture into the bowl with the berries and mix well.
  • Refrigerate and serve the next day.

Notes: This is more of a light fruity salad than a relish/condiment, so I categorized it in both places.

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