Smoked trout spread on crackers on a cutting board

Super Lemony Smoked Trout Spread

Smoked trout spread on crackers on a cutting board

Have you noticed, attentive readers, how much I love smoked fish? (Permit me to introduce into evidence Exhibit A and Exhibit B.) This is because smoked fish has a very delicious flavor! For lack of a more articulate explanation!

A few weeks ago, a multi-block power failure compromised the menu of the blowout cocktail party my mother was about to start cooking for.

Mom’s next-door neighbor, Marsha, came to the rescue by contributing this delicacy, which requires no electricity to prepare.

I am in no way using hyperbole when I say that I could eat this smoked trout spread every minute of every day forever.

It makes me wish I were a circus seal in training at a really nice circus where they reward obedient seals with this spread, on baguette slices, with a glass of wine.

And a crisp green salad. And the seals live in luxury hotel rooms with an ocean view, spotless bathrooms, and cable TV. That would be cool.

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Betsy’s Warm Potato Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Potato salad with lemon and mint

If you read last week’s Chipotle Turkey Burger post, and you’re particularly observant, you may have wondered about the blurry side dish in the background of the burger photo. This week we swap focus and let Betsy’s Warm Potato Salad shine—with blurry burger demoted to supporting cast.

I wanted to share this personal favorite, introduced to me by my clever friend Betsy, in time for your Fourth of July celebratory barbecues and whatnot. It’s a light, flavorful, sophisticated alternative to the familiar mayo-drenched potato salad that makes appearances at picnics throughout the land this time of year. The lemon, mint, and capers make this salad extra special—as does the fact that it’s served warm.

By the way, have you ever been unsure about what to use when “new potatoes” are called for? “New potatoes,” “creamers,” and “fingerlings” are all just different names for immature potatoes that are harvested in spring or summer. According to the all-knowing internet, “New potatoes are not a separate variety of potato, but younger versions of other varieties.” So there you have it.

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Sardine salad in a blue bowl with bread on the side

Sardine Salad with Parsley and Lemon

Tapas-style sardine salad makes a good appetizer, lunch, small dinner plate, snack, or even breakfast.
Sardine salad in a blue bowl with bread on the side

I owe a big thank you to my food-loving friend Carolyn for introducing me to this simple, delicious, nutritious sardine salad. (Sardines are packed with vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein! Sardines are not packed with mercury! So says Wikipedia!)

This remarkably concise dish features only four main ingredients, each intensely flavorful. A small bite goes a long way.

And on a scale from effortless to elementary, this recipe’s difficulty rating hovers somewhere around “imbecile-proof.” Sardine-loving imbeciles, rejoice!

Serve with good bread or crackers, along with optional roasted red peppers and/or slices of hard-boiled egg. Makes a delicious small dinner plate, light lunch, or even breakfast for those inclined towards savory morning fare.

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fuyu persimmon salad

Persimmon Salad with Curry and Cashews

My mother’s bountiful Sonoma, California garden has been the cause of many of my cooking adventures. Such blog hits as Israeli Salad, Basil-Mint Pesto, and Zucchini, Corn, and Almond Salad were … Read more

Miso Caesar Salad with salmon roe

Miso Caesar Salad Recipe

Miso Caesar Salad with salmon roe

They say the cause of most marital discord is disagreement about money, but in my house, it’s definitely more about leftovers. I don’t so much mean leftover meals—though those cause their fair share of spats—but leftover ingredients. You know, the half-can of tomato paste or coconut milk, or the giant bag of pecans purchased for a recipe that called for two tablespoons and now sits idle in the freezer.

It generally goes like this: I buy a jar, can, bag, or tub of something that I need for a recipe. I pop the leftovers in the fridge, freezer, or cupboard. A week or a month—okay sometimes a year—later, my husband, grumbling about all the “crap we are never going to use,” throws it away. Invariably, within a week after that, I go to use said ingredient in a recipe, only to find that it has vanished. I ask my husband, “What happened to the [insert ingredient here] I put in here?” He says, unapologetically, “Oh, I didn’t think you were ever going to use that.” And then I march off to the store to buy a replacement jar, can, bag, or tub, grumbling about how wasteful it is to have to buy another whole container of the ingredient.

Lately I’ve been really trying hard to make plans to use up these dribs and drabs sooner rather than later. This salad was inspired by the big tub of shiro miso (white, or mild, fermented soybean paste) that I bought to make miso-glazed cod one night a few months ago (which, it turns out, is better with red miso, but my husband would probably threaten to divorce me if I bought another tub of miso before using up the first). I had a craving for a crisp, lemony, salty, slightly fishy Caesar salad and I thought this would be a great twist (it also has the added benefit of getting its creaminess from the miso paste, thereby eliminating the need for a raw egg if you’re squeamish about that sort of thing).

For the dressing, I wanted to mimic a traditional Caesar’s lemony tang, creaminess, and garlicky bite so I stuck with a simple mix of white miso paste, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. For the lettuce I used the standard Romaine, and in place of anchovies, I went for bright salmon eggs, mainly because they look like glittering jewels in their little plastic containers at the Japanese market near my house.

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Israeli salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, dill, hard boiled egg, and feta cheese

Israeli Salad with Egg and Feta Cheese

This simple Israeli Salad adds feta cheese and hard-boiled eggs to the traditional diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs. It is as delicious as it is authentic!

Israeli salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, dill, hard boiled egg, and feta cheese

Israeli Salad was born on Israel’s kibbutzim (communal farms) where fresh salad ingredients were abundant. At it’s most basic, it is diced cucumbers and tomatoes in an olive oil and lemon juice dressing.

Wikipedia describes as “the most well-known national dish of Israel.” Way to go on the fame and recognition, Israeli Salad! You totally deserve it. You are sooooo good.

Standard accompanying ingredients usually include onion, lemon juice, olive oil, and black pepper. Alone, that would be a delicious enough union of flavors, especially if you’re using sweet, garden-fresh tomatoes.

But last week, my cousin Nina, who once lived on a kibbutz, came to visit. We made this salad together while she was here, and she recommended adding either hard-boiled egg or feta cheese.

Nina specified either eggs or feta, but I insisted on adding both, because mmmm, eggs. And mmmm, feta.

Nina also adds whatever fresh herbs she has on hand. Parsley, cilantro, basil, parsley and mint are all popular choices (We used dill.)

The classic Israeli salad begs for experimentation and creativity. There are versions with radishes, bell peppers, chilies, carrots, cabbage, chives, ginger, chickpeas, olives, preserved lemon peel, cayenne—you name it.

Cucumbers are essential, but you can use either the large English cucumbers or the smaller Persian cucumbers.

Nina’s husband likes to add mayonnaise, which may sound odd for a Middle Eastern salad. But the resulting texture resembles Israeli salads made with the traditional white cheese similar to Quark.

Basically, just chuck in whatever you want. You can’t go wrong. Oh, and try it stuffed into some Homemade Pita Bread along with some Instant Pot Falafel!

More great salad recipes you’ll love

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Zucchini salad with almonds and corn

Zucchini Salad with Almonds and Corn

Zucchini salad with almonds and parmesan cheese

Recently I found myself with way too much zucchini on my hands, thanks to Trader Joe’s. If you happen to be shopping at TJ’s when the urge for a single zucchino strikes you, you have no choice but to haul home their shrink-wrapped, 1.5-pound mega-zuke-pack. What to do with all that extra squash? Make this zucchini salad!

I got the idea for combining zukes and almonds from Viana LaPlace’s Unplugged Kitchen. Her Zucchini Carpaccio with Almonds calls for raw, young zucchini to be sliced wafer-thin by mandolin or Japanese slicer. I lack the tools and the patience (plus my zukes were the regular middle-aged variety) so I came up with this salad version instead. It’s a warm, roasty, crunchy, lemony, peppery delight. And the veggies and almonds are so sweet that no sugar is needed for the dressing!

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Grapefruit avocado salad with cumin lime vinaigrette

Grapefruit Avocado Salad with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette

Grapefruit avocado salad with cumin lime vinaigrette

“Abe Lincoln stunk of cumin.”

I’ve been carrying that opening line around in my head for years, though I didn’t write it myself. It was written by a classmate in a food writing class that I took about 10 or 12 years ago. I’ve long since forgotten the writer’s name, but the line has always stuck with me. It’s the sort of line that seems simple enough on first glance, yet, as I’ve found in the years since I first read it, is much harder to write than you might imagine. A short, simple sentence that at once stops you in your tracks with its nonsensicalness while at the same time conjuring an unmistakable scent/flavor memory. And it’s all the more appealing if, like me, you love the aroma and flavor of cumin.

My anonymous classmate’s piece was a review of a Middle Eastern restaurant. If I recall correctly, he had been to the restaurant for dinner, and that night, his clothes, hair, skin saturated with the scent of cumin, dreamed of Abe Lincoln. The two thoughts—Abe Lincoln and the smell of cumin—conflated into one seemingly unlikely scenario: Abe Lincoln stunk of cumin. The truth is, it’s remotely possible that Abe Lincoln did, at some point in his life, stink of cumin. The seeds of a flowering plant cultivated mostly in the Middle East, cumin was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonists.

According to some sources, cumin seed—either whole or ground into a powder—is the second most popular spice in the world, coming right after black pepper. It is used to season savory dishes throughout South Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South America. The flavor is similar to caraway, but with a touch more heat.

This grapefruit avocado salad—which plays the earthiness of cumin against the bright tangy citrus flavors of lime and grapefruit and the creaminess of avocado—is my most favorite use of cumin ever. It was inspired by a salad my mother first made for me probably more than 20 years ago. Her version, I believe, came straight from the pages of Edward Espe Brown’s Tassajara Recipe Book. I somehow managed to nick my mother’s original tattered and spattered copy of the book, so I can see that over the intervening years, I’ve adjusted the recipe slightly, more for simplicity than anything else since the recipe is pretty much perfect as originally written.

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