Summer Nicoise Salad, My Version

Oh, sorry blog. I neglected you for the first half of 2013. Hi, readers! Do you remember me? If you know me well, and you haven’t  just stumbled across Oishii from a google search for “pork loin chops” (our most popular post), then you already know the two reasons behind this embarrassingly long hiatus. If not, welcome, and let me share our joy with you!

1. We’re expecting again! Levi is going to be a big brother in August and the gender is once again going to be a surprise. At almost 29 weeks I’m definitely far enough along that I can’t use morning sickness as an excuse for my lack of blogging, but taking care of a 3 year old definitely keeps me busy. In fact, sometimes I completely forget that I’m pregnant, until I look down and notice the absence of toes, or realize I’m craving a crisp, floral IPA but then remember that I can’t indulge just yet and reach for a sparkling water instead. Speaking of beer …

27 weeks on mothers day

2. Our family business, Discretion Brewing, opened its doors in early March after a year + of planning, and we’ve been as busy as bees selling beer (we have 7 now on tap!) and small plates to pair with it. Despite my growing belly and inability to drink beer, I’m enjoying working behind the bar as a Beer Bestower, as well acting as our Queen of Social Media for the business. Things are going really well, and we’ve been well-received by our town, even by other micro-breweries. The beer community is an awesome one. If you’re ever in Santa Cruz, we’d love to have you!

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Now you can see why our dinners at home have been quick and easy these days — and also based around random pregnancy cravings, ranging from briny olives [this salad] to cinnamon rolls [breakfast for dinner]. I’ve also been terrible at photographing or writing anything down (and, as you know if you’ve been pregnant, when you’re hungry, you’re hungry. No time for pictures). But somehow this meal DID get photographed. I guess I made it early enough in the day that I had a few moments to spare, so I’ll share it with you. Summer is upon is (eek – better get that car seat purchased and decide on a name for this baby!) and this salad is perfect for a warm evening . It also boasts of seasonal farmer’s market faire.

Summer Nicoise Salad, My Version

nicoise salad
Nicoise Salad; the classic French salad is usually composed of tuna, green beans, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, and an anchovy dressing. This is my version.

Start with crisp romaine lettuce, wash, spin dry, tear into bite sized pieces, and pile onto your serving plates. Arrange the various components on top of the lettuce in whatever order pleases you: Quickly blanched farmer’s market green beans  (just 2-3 min in boiling water until bright green and still crisp, then plunge them into an ice bath to stop cooking), halved boiled new potatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced farm-fresh radishes, hard-boiled eggs, halved, sprinkled with a little salt & pepper, some pitted, marinated green & brown olives, and some jarred tuna fillets in olive oil (check out Tonnino brand – we love the jalapeno flavor, one of my favorite pantry staples, and perfect for picnics if you don’t use them in this salad).

Anchovies don’t really agree with me this pregnancy, so I’ll recommend this shallot-dijon vinaigrette instead: Whisk together dijon mustard, sherry vinegar, a little red wine vinegar, minced shallot, a little agave nectar for sweetness, salt and pepper. Add olive oil in a steady stream and continue to whisk until incorporated. Taste and adjust ingredients as necessary. Drizzle the dressing over the top of the salad and all its colorful components. Let your plate be your blank canvas and feel free to tweak things depending on what fresh produce you have available. I hope that I inspired you 🙂 Happy Memorial Day Weekend, everyone!

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Columbia 1905 Salad


All that research about Cuban recipes for Krystal’s virtual baby shower paid off – I now have several mouth-watering recipes bookmarked from Saveur, one of my favorite food magazines/websites. Among magazines that focus on celebrity chefs and the newest burger trends, Saveur stands apart with its honest, down-to-earth, genuine celebration of different cultures, food, and the people who make it.

As I scrolled through my search results for “Cuban food,” I came across this salad called the “Columbia 1905,” which is from the blog Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy. The salad originates from a Cuban restaurant in Florida named the Columbia and consists of crispy iceberg lettuce, julienned ham, Swiss cheese, pimento-stuffed green olives, grated Romano cheese, and a garlicky, lemony dressing. At the Columbia restaurant, tuxedo clad waiters toss the salad at your table, which I imagine adds a nice dramatic touch before digging into your first course.

We omitted the tomatoes because they’re not yet in season (though I long for them), added some diced green bell pepper because it sounded appealing, and the best thing (wait for it) – added some crumbed chorizo bacon from El Salchichero, sort of a play on a Cuban-style club sandwich, er, salad. And while it’s not the lowest sodium dish in the world, this flavorful salad with Cuban flair is substantial enough to be a dinner on its own, and special enough to be served for dinner guests. You might want to keep this recipe in mind in a couple weeks when you’re looking for new ways to use up leftover Easter ham!

And you know those Garlic Knots I just posted? They would be an awesome accompaniment to this salad!


Columbia 1905 Salad

(Just slightly adapted from Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy, as seen on Saveur.com)

For the Salad:

4 cups iceberg lettuce, chopped
1/2 a large green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup ham, julienned
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, julienned
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green Spanish olives, sliced
2 cups “1905” Dressing (see recipe below)
1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated
1 tsp. – 1 TBS. Worcestershire sauce, according to your taste (we used 1 TBS.)
1-2 TBS. fresh lemon juice, according to your taste (we used 1/2 a lemon)
2 strips of chorizo bacon (or regular bacon if you don’t live near El Salchichero), cooked and crumbled

For the “1905” Dressing:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 TBS. cup white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

  • To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, garlic, and oregano in a small bowl and mix with a whisk. Gradually add the vinegar, beating to form an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (For best results, prepare 1 to 2 days in advance and refrigerate).
  • Combine lettuce, peppers, ham, Swiss cheese, and olives in a large salad bowl. Before serving, add “1905” Dressing, Romano cheese, Worcestershire, and the fresh lemon juice. Toss well, top with crumbled chorizo bacon, and serve immediately. Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side salad.

Endive and Apple Salad with Warm Goat Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette


Salad for dinner may conjure up images of summer evenings, but this one is about as wintry as you can get, and (dare I say) just as comforting as a bowl of soup. Endive cooked in butter becomes nutty and caramelized, pairing perfectly with sautéed apples, baked walnut-encrusted goat cheese, fresh baby spinach leaves, and a sweet-slightly tart pomegranate vinaigrette. We loved the juxtaposition of warm goat cheese, apples, and endive with the cool spinach and the pop of fresh pomegranate seeds. It’s everything you want in a dinner salad, with winter flair. Since we are traveling the day after Christmas to spend time with family, and probably won’t get a chance to post until the new year, we’ll leave you with this festive salad as a way to say Merry Christmas and Happy 2012!! We look forward to the coming year, when we will celebrate our blog’s 5th anniversary (crazy)! There is also a little family venture that’s been brewing that we will reveal soon . Thanks, readers (whoever you are; I love finding out who is actually following along!) What’s your wish for the new year? See you then!


Endive and Apple Salad with Warm Goat Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

(From the Oct/Nov 2011 issue of Fine Cooking; Serves 4)

1 cup pomegranate juice
6 oz. goat cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts*
3 TBS. butter
2 large Belgian endives, halved lengthwise with core left intact, each half cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 firm, medium-sweet apples (like Fuji or Honeycrisp), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1 medium shallot, finely diced (about 3 TBS.)
1 TBS. cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. (4 lightly packed cups) baby spinach
1/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)**
2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives***

* We used walnuts instead.
** Optional, yes, but they look so pretty, don’t they? And they add a refreshing pop to the salad.
*** Our store was out of chives, so I omitted these.

  • Position a rack in the center of an oven and heat to 425°F.
  • In a small saucepan over high heat, reduce the pomegranate juice to about 1/4 cup (it should be syrupy), about 15 minutes (mine took about 12).
  • Meanwhile, mash the goat cheese in a small bowl with a fork until smooth (I must have used a dryer goat cheese because it didn’t mash well. I skipped this step and went straight to forming it into rounds). Form the cheese into four 2-inch-diameter rounds. Put the hazelnuts (or walnuts) on a small plate and press the goat cheese rounds into the nuts on all sides to coat. Transfer the cheese to a small baking sheet and bake until the nuts brown and the cheese softens, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • While the goat cheese bakes, melt 2 TBS. of the butter in a 12-inch heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the endives flat in the pan (they’ll fit snugly), sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, and cook, undisturbed, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side starts to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a large plate.
  • Melt the remaining 1 TBS. butter in the skillet, add the apples and shallot, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, shaking the pan often, until the apples start to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Transfer the pomegranate juice to a medium bowl. Add the vinegar, mustard, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper; whisk until combined. Gradually whisk in the oil and season with more salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large bowl, toss the spinach and apples with half of the vinaigrette and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the endives on 4 large serving plates, top  with a mound of the spinach mixture, and then the goat cheese. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve.

Grilled Butter Lettuce with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing


It’s easy to get into a salad rut, so I wanted to share a quick recipe that we discovered this past weekend. If you’re already grilling for dinner, why not throw the salad on too? Just halve a head of butter lettuce and grill cut-side down for a few minutes until it’s nicely charred and wilted, while the inner core retains that distinct butter lettuce crunch. Transfer to a serving plate and drizzle a creamy and tangy buttermilk-chive dressing over it. The dressing takes less than 5 minutes to whisk together, and paired with the grilled lettuce and its pleasing caramelized edges, you won’t know what’s hit you. Your ho hum dinner salad has been transformed! Enjoy & Happy 4th of July to all our readers!


Grilled Butter Lettuce with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing

(From the June/July 2010 issue of Fine Cooking)
Serves 8

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup crème fraîche*
2 Tbs. mayonnaise
2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
Vegetable oil for the grill
4 large heads butter lettuce, halved lengthwise

* Try adding some leftover crème fraîche and chopped chives to your scrambled eggs in the morning. Delicious.

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, crème fraîche, mayonnaise, chives, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt. (Can be made 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated).
  • Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct, medium-high heat.
  • Lightly season the halved heads of lettuce with 1/4 tsp. salt. Grill cut side down until wilted, lightly charred, and the cores are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Transfer grilled lettuce to a serving platter (or individual plates) and drizzle with dressing (you won’t need all of it). Lightly season with salt and serve.

Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherry Tomato-Black Bean-Corn Salsa


As I’m writing this it’s drizzling, and since we can’t play outside, Levi is entertaining himself with a drawer filled with various kid-friendly kitchen implements (the “decoy drawer,” as I call it, because it keeps him away from the dangerous stuff and buys me a few minutes here and there to write blog posts, fold laundry, or answer the phone). I swear that just yesterday we were enjoying the warmth of the early evening sun, grilling chicken in the backyard, and sipping icy pints of IPA. Levi was playing in his shark sprinkler — the perfect summer scene. How the weather changes on the central coast! And how we as mothers adapt as far as activities go for our kids.


Speaking of adaptation, meals take even more planning-ahead these days. Not only is Levi walking; he’s running and climbing — onto couches, chairs, boxes, whatever he can. You have no idea how many distractions I had to have in place in order to make this cherry tomato-black bean-corn salsa. It’s hard when every 20 seconds you have to look up from whatever you’re doing to make sure your son hasn’t scaled the bookshelf. But somehow I made it work and we ended up with this beautiful salad for dinner, which was perfect for a warm evening, but also sounds delicious now as I hear the pitter-patter of rain against the window.

The chicken is seasoned with a delicious spice mixture of chile powder, brown sugar, cumin, and coriander before being grilled to perfection. Then it’s sliced and set on top of crunchy romaine lettuce, along with a spoonful of the salsa, and sliced avocado, and dressed with  a slightly sweet/slightly tart lime-cilantro vinaigrette. My slight adaptation to this Fine Cooking recipe is that we decided to grill some corn on the cob and add the kernels to the salsa, which added a nice sweet flavor and seemed to fit in with the southwestern theme. We also used romaine instead of Bibb lettuce, omitted the pine nuts (because we didn’t have any) and substituted chicken thighs for the chicken breasts. Our changes are reflected below. We hope you enjoy this dinner salad this summer. Its bold flavors will not disappoint.


Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherry Tomato-Black Bean-Corn Salsa

(Slightly adapted from the Aug/Sept 2010 issue of Fine Cooking)

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 TBS. chili powder
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Kosher salt
1 large ear of corn, husked and lightly oiled
6 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBS. +  2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 TBS. + 2 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
2 tsp. honey
Freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco (optional)
1/2 of a 14-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained (save other 1/2 for another use)
4 oz. small cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered or halved (about 3/4 cup)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1  head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 medium firm-ripe avocado

  • Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire.
  • In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, brown sugar, coriander, cumin, and 3/4 tsp. salt. Rub the spice mixture over both sides of the chicken thighs (you’ll have some left over, but it’s a great spice blend for another use). Let chicken sit at room temp while the grill heats.
  • Grill the corn until tender and the kernels are charred in spots, about 6 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. Grill the chicken thighs until done, about 6 minutes, flipping once. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • Using a knife, carefully cut the kernels off the cob (this is easier when done in a large bowl so the kernels don’t go flying everywhere) and transfer to a small bowl.
  • In a small jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid, combine the olive oil, lime juice, 1 TBS. of the chopped cilantro, the honey, 1/2 tsp. salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a few shakes of Tabasco (if using). Shake well to combine.
  • To make the salsa, add the beans, tomatoes, garlic, remaining 2 tsp. cilantro, and a pinch of salt to the small bowl with the grilled corn kernels. Add 2 TBS. of the dressing and toss gently.
  • Put the lettuce in a bowl, season with a little salt, and toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. (Reserve a little to drizzle on the chicken.) Arrange the lettuce on a platter or two dinner plates. Slice the chicken thighs. Pit and slice the avocado. Arrange the chicken slices, avocado, and salsa on the lettuce. Drizzle a little of the remaining dressing over the top. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Oven-Fried Onion Rings


If you know me well, you know that I can’t turn down an order of onion rings. If there is an option to substitute onion rings for fries on a menu, I’m there. So imagine how pleased I was when I came across this recipe for a baked version of my favorite fried-food guilty pleasure. What made me want to try these was the breading. I was really intrigued by the combination of kettle chips and saltine crackers. The kettle chips give the onion rings that distinct deep-fried taste, and the saltines absorb some of the oil so that you get a nice crispy coating with just the right amount of salt. I was in heaven. In fact, I didn’t even feel the need to dip these rings into ketchup because they tasted so good on their own.


Oven-Fried Onion Rings

(From Pink Parsley; Originally from Cook’s Illustrated, Summer Entertaining 2010)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
salt and black pepper
30 saltine crackers
4 cups kettle-cooked potato chips
2 large yellow onions
6 TBS. vegetable oil

  • Adjust your oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions, and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Get out 3 shallow baking dishes. In the first one, spread 1/4 cup of the flour. In the second, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, remaining 1/4 cup flour, cayenne, paprika, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
  • Pulse the chips and the saltines in a food processor until finely ground. Spread the crumbs in the third baking dish.
  • Slice the onions into 1/2-inch thick rounds.  Separate the rings. Set aside any rings smaller than 2 inches in diameter for another use.
  • Pour 3 TBS. of oil onto each of 2 rimmed baking sheets (I lined them with foil first, for easier clean-up later).  Place the sheets in the oven and heat until just smoking, about 8 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prep the onion rings. Working with 1 at a time, dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Dip the rings in the buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into the dish (I took Josie of Pink Parsley’s advice and used a fork for this step). Drop the rings in the crumb mixture and turn them to coat evenly. Transfer rings to a large platter or baking sheet.
  • Carefully remove the baking sheets from the oven and tilt them to coat evenly with oil. Arrange the onions in a single layer on the baking sheets.  Bake, flipping the onion rings and switching and rotating the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking, until golden-brown on both sides, about 15 minutes.  Briefly drain the onion rings on paper towels before serving.

My love for onion rings has been exemplified in the fact that I’ve been focusing on them instead of the other things that were on the dinner table that evening. But that doesn’t mean that they were not worthy of mention. Quite the opposite! El Salchichero recently made these English pea sausages that we just had to try. They were delicious. We loved that the peas were left whole throughout the sausage. The addition of mint added a nice, bright flavor.


I also made an Asian-inspired slaw starring mei qing choi instead of the usual cabbage. Normally, we just halve mei qing choy and grill it (as we do with bok choy), but I wanted to do something a little different this time. I chopped it raw, added shavings of purple carrot, as well as slices of radish, chopped green garlic, and a little chopped fresh basil. I dressed it with rice vinegar, a tiny bit of sesame oil, a splash of soy sauce, and salt & pepper to taste.


It was nice having a colorful, flavorful, veggie-packed slaw to eat alongside the onion rings and grilled sausages. Even though the onion rings were baked, the slaw took away any remaining guilt 🙂

Miso-Sriracha Glazed Salmon with Spicy Slaw


After two flavorful dinners from The Sriracha Cookbook — Ultimate Sriracha Burgers and Camarones a la Diabla — it was time for Sriracha dinner night #3. In this recipe, Sriracha plays a more subtle role, adding just a hint of spiciness to a sweet glaze balanced by the savory flavors of miso and soy sauce. Broiling caramelizes the glaze nicely, while cooking the salmon to a perfect medium/medium-rare. Most of the spice in this meal comes from the slaw. The addition of mint, peanut butter, and fish sauce is reminiscent of Thai flavors. It’s the perfect companion to the salmon, or try it as a zesty alternative to coleslaw at your next BBQ. We also made a quick side dish of sautéed sugar snap peas with fresh chopped mint to tie all the flavors together.


Miso-Sriracha Glazed Salmon

(From The Sriracha Cookbook; Serves 6)

3 TBS. toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white miso paste
3 TBS. Sriracha
1 clove garlic, minced
nonstick cooking spray (or canola oil for greasing)
6 (6-oz.) salmon fillets, about 1-inch thick (alternatively, you can buy one large salmon fillet and divide it into portions after cooking)
6 sliced green onions, green part only, for garnish (reserve the white parts for the slaw!)

  • Preheat the broiler.
  • In a small nonreactive bowl, combine the sesame oil, brown sugar, soy sauce, miso, Sriracha, and garlic.
  • Line a rimmed baking pan with foil (this will make clean-up much easier later on!) and spray with cooking spray (or lightly grease with oil). Place the salmon on the foil and brush some of the glaze over the salmon, enough to evenly cover the surface.
  • Broil 6 inches from the flame, basting the salmon twice with more glaze (we had some leftover so don’t feel like you need to use all of it). Broil until the salmon flakes easily at the center of the fillet, 9-10 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if you see some smoke. That’s what the soy sauce does when it’s caramelizing.
  • Remove salmon from baking pan and transfer fillets to plates. Garnish with green onion and serve.


Spicy Slaw

(From The Sriracha Cookbook; Serves 6-8)

For the Dressing:

1/3 cup chunky natural peanut butter
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup fresh pineapple juice
1/4 cup Sriracha
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS. fish sauce
1 TBS. grated ginger
2 TBS. sugar

For the Slaw:

1 1/2 lbs. napa cabbage, shredded
1/2 lb. red cabbage, shredded (we used green, so our slaw wasn’t quite as colorful)
2 carrots, peeled and julienned (we grated them)
2 red bell peppers, seeded and julienned
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (depending on your heat tolerance, you may want to omit this. It’s already pretty spicy with the Sriracha)
6 green onions, white part only, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
salt & freshly ground black pepper

  • First, make the dressing. In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, lime juice, pineapple juice, Sriracha, garlic, fish sauce, ginger, and sugar. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Next, make the slaw. In a large bowl, mix together the napa and red (or green) cabbages, carrots, bell peppers, jalapeño, green onions, cilantro, and mint.
  • Add the dressing and toss to mix. Season with salt & pepper to taste.