Even though it’s wet and bone cold here in San Francisco, (people who are really in cold climates, go ahead and insert your giggles here) I am insistent on eating salads for dinner for a while. We ate so much overwhelmingly rich, albeit delicious, food over the Christamas Holiday, that my cravings for green have gotten out of control.
I once heard that California was the land of Salad For Dinner, and I feel so lucky to have been raised in that amazing and delicious land. Call me weird, but salad was always my favorite part of a meal as a kid, and nothing has changed. Granted, I grew up in a French family so didn’t have to suffer the iceberg lettuce salad drenched in thousand island dressing.
The salads of my youth consisted of butter, red leaf, or green leaf lettuce perhaps with a tomato or two, maybe a radish from time to time, but always to be tossed with a perfect vinaigrette made with fresh parsley, Dijon mustard, and a little bit of garlic and shallot. Today, my friends know that when they come to dinner there will always be a salad- sometimes it’s a whole meal, sometimes not, but it’s always present. This salad was born from a desire to enjoy the seasonal flavor of tart, crisp, local apples in my meal. Pairing apples with bacon and aged gouda (Noors Hollander) makes perfect sense, just like a second helping of this salad.
Who doesn’t love all of the holiday goodies, rich treats, and party food that can go along with this time of year? I do, for sure! This year, I have the added fun of developing recipes just for my blog, so on a night when we might normally eat a nice bowl of soup and a salad, right now, we’re eating puff pastry squares and cookies. I find myself ready for a healthy post- a New Year’s resolution style-recipe before Christmas.
Last night, I caved. Salad for dinner is my absolute favorite- I am a California girl, after all. Since it’s cold, wet, and rainy, having a dinner salad can seem counter-intuitive, but with the right flavors and ingredients, it makes perfect sense.
When I called Joshua to ask if he wanted a big salad with some chicken thighs, he was so on board and just asked me to text him a list and he’d go pick up the ingredients. As I ran through options in my head, Thai Spicy Salad just popped in. Here’s how it goes:
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE CHICKEN
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
- ¼ cup tamari
- juice from 1 lime
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 inch piece of ginger finely grated
- 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE DRESSING
- Handful of mint
- Handful of cilantro
- ½ jalapeño- seeds and ribs removed (or a small amount of Thai chilies if you have it)
- 1 lime, skin removed
- ¼ cup tamari
… get the recipe
The holidays don’t have to be a stressful cooking time. You can make these simple recipes in a flash- or make ahead of time and just relax and spend precious time in with your family and friends. Of course, you can act belabored and harried and hide in the kitchen too.
Here are my top 5 easy and delicious holiday appetizers. You could make these hors d’oevres for any occasion like Christmas, New Years, or any cocktail party and just coast through the soiree.
5 More Simple Ideas For Holiday Appetizers
- Cook pre-made fig jam with sage leaves, mix chevre with a bit of honey, and pile crostini up with cheese first, jam next, and a slice of prosciutto.
- Steam frozen prawns with water scented with cilantro and lime, chill and chop into small pieces, mix with avocado chunks, lime, chilies, and salt and serve in lettuce cups.
- Turn French onion dip on it’s ear! Caramelize shallots and mix with creme fraiche and sea salt and watch people fight to dip just about anything in this delicious concoction.
- Make a grown up cheeseball. Mix gorgonzola with high quality deli cream cheese. Roll around in chopped dried figs and roasted chopped pecans.
- Top store-bought puff
… get the recipe
eco.love wine is one of the coolest wineries in the world. They are the very first carbon-zero winery which means they are committed to sustainable farming practices, they use the most environmentally sound bottles and inks, and they’re helping to restore the wetlands around their vinyard.
The McBride sisters, Robin and Andrea, run the winery. They generously donated wine for my Thanksgiving celebration and I was thrilled to do a wine pairing for them for the Winter Holidays as well.
The Riesling from eco.love is made from grapes grown in the Nelson and Marlborough region of New Zealand. At first whiff, I get citrus and flowers and upon drinking I’m met with bright flavors of fruit with a hint of spice and a nice acidy finish. I was immediately struck with the idea to make a Riesling and thyme caramel and the rest of the appetizer just came together from there.
- INGREDIENTS FOR PUFF PASTRY SQUARES
- 1 package of frozen puff pastry (I like the Trader Joe’s Brand and French Picnic- the Pepperidge Farms uses hydrogenated oils)
- 1 firm, but ripe pear- cut into tiny matchsticks
- Gorgonzola cheese for slicing
- ½ cup walnuts chopped
- INGREDIENTS FOR RIESLING AND THYME CARAMEL
- 1 cup of eco love Reisling
- ½ cup of organic WHITE sugar
- large sprig of fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces
- good quality sea salt to taste
- INSTRUCTIONS FOR CARAMEL
- Dissolve sugar in the Riesling over a medium-high flame in a small, but heavy
… get the recipe
When I was asked to do some wine pairings for eco.love winery, I was totally thrilled. Not only do they make two lovely white wines, they are also the world’s first carbon-zero winery. (Pinot Noir is also coming in 2011) It seems they’re doing everything just about right. From their recycled glass bottles, to eco-friendly screw caps, to their (beautiful) ecologolically sound labels, to their really delicious wines, I am am thrilled with this wine.
The Sauvignon blanc is marvelously fruity with tropical notes- At first sniff I am immediately met by passion fruit and a whiff of lemon. This crisp white still finishes strongly and lingers on the tongue.
This lovely wine really sings with food, and when I started tasting with cucumber slices, I knew that this wine had to be paired with a cucumber dish. So in the spirit of the holidays, I decided on a hearty and healthy vegan roasted red pepper & white bean puree served in cucumber cups. The dish is super easy to prepare, and looks beautiful on a holiday table with it’s festive red and green color scheme. It is also a nice respite from so many heavy holiday treats. When my husband happily ate a whole plate of these, I can guarantee you that the wasn’t thinking about how vegan how healthy or how gluten free these were- he ate them solely based on yum factor.
One note: if you don’t have time or desire to make these into cucumber … get the recipe
I cannot recall a family gathering where smoked salmon on cocktail rye was not served. As a kid, I was gaga for these things and always had to be reminded that dinner was coming and I should only eat one or two pieces. Nothing has changed, the flavors of smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill, onion, and rye bread are at the top of my list. Even as I type, my mouth waters.
A couple of years ago, I decided that most people did not want to have raw red onion on their breath at a party, so I changed things up a bit. I also have a preference for a certain type of rye bread which is unmatched by any cocktail rye I’ve ever found which can sometimes be dry and hard. I use a small ring mold to cut the bread into tiny rounds. Here’s the updated recipe:
- 1 lb wild smoked salmon, I love the smoked sockeye from Trader Joe’s
- 1 loaf good quality rye bread
- 1 package of good deli cream cheese (Gina Marie, Sierra Nevada, and Dianna Supreme are a few brands)
- 2 bunch of chives
- 1 bunch of dill
- 1 teaspoon of peppercorns
- ½ to 1 cup of olive oil
- ½ lemon-thinly sliced
- Soak separated salmon slices in olive oil overnight with peppercorns, ½ of dill, ½ of chives, and the lemon slices. You can skip this step, but if you have time, it’s a nice touch.
- On the day of
… get the recipe
I concocted this soup recipe to serve in pretty vintage punch glasses for my friends’ wedding. It provides a big mouthful of flavors- salty, sweet, spicy, and herbaceous, so it works well as an amuse bouche or an appetizer when served this way or even in tiny shot glasses. It is also a perfect hearty (yet still) vegan soup if you’re feeling like a big bowl of warming spices and pure deliciousness on a cold an rainy day.
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE SOUP
- 1 medium butternut squash about 2 lbs(peeled and cubed)
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 1 pinch of black mustard seeds
- 5 cups of water or veggie broth
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 1 pinch of tumeric
- ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
- 1 heavy pinch of salt
- 1 inch knob of ginger peeled and cut into coins
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE CROUTONS
- ½ loaf of day old baguette cut into tiny cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tandoori spice (or hot madras curry powder)
- INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE SOUP
- Sauté onions, ginger, and spices in coconut oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven until onions begin to caramelize.
- Add butternut squash and water and turn heat to high. Bring to a boil and cook until butternut squash becomes exceedingly tender 15 or so minutes.
- Working in batches, add butternut squash, onions, and some of the cooking liquid to the bowl of your food processor and puree until very smooth.
… get the recipe
What do you feed to people who are madly in love on their wedding day? Of course, there’s the cake- arguably the most important part. I knew Stacie wanted a coconut cake and I was thrilled to make it for her and Brendan on their wedding day.
Let me back up. Stacie and Brendan and I all met on a six-day silent retreat in Northern California. Over the course of those six silent days- during which we avoided eye contact, did not speak to one another, and spent 14 hours a day in meditation, Stacie & Brendan somehow fell in love. This week, they were married!
I offered to have the reception at my house. It was a tiny wedding just the bride and groom, the father of the bride, the groom’s brother & his lovely gal, and the two flower girls (aka my friend Cynthia & me), so there wasn’t a ton of cooking to do, but I knew there would be some dietary restrictions. The groom’s brother is a Zen priest, so I knew he’d be veggie. Cynthia doesn’t do dairy and since this is California I figured I’d better be safe and make something gluten free, just in case. I also didn’t want to make anything heavy because, afterall, this was someone’s wedding night!