Lettuce Salad with Pomegranates and Almonds

I’ve been living in Los Angeles for almost a year and a half now, but there are still some differences between California and the Midwest that catch me by surprise, like the types of produce grown in backyards. In Minnesota, my coworkers would bring in homegrown zucchini and tomatoes to share. Here, my coworkers bring meyer lemons, clementines, and figs from their backyards!

Last week I was thrilled to see almost a dozen homegrown pomegranates at my office, free for the taking. I couldn’t even tell you what a pomegranate tree looks like, but I sure do love this tart and juicy fruit. Instead of pumpkins and crunchy leaves, pomegranates are now the signal that lets me know fall is here.

This salad is bright, vibrant, and refreshing, perfect for those warmer-than-usual fall days that seem to abound in September. The hardest part is seeding the pomegranate, which isn’t too difficult if you cut it like this and then pull out the seeds in a bowl of water. Extracting the seeds under water lets the pith rise to the top so you can scoop it away, and it also reduces the likelihood that you’ll squirt your clothing with pomegranate juice, which stains like crazy!

I hope you’re all having a marvelous September!

Lettuce Salad with Pomegranates and Almonds

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Lettuce Salad with Pomegranates and Almonds

Dressing

  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard

Salad

  • 1 head green leaf or butter lettuce
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • seeds of one small-to-medium pomegranate

Make the dressing: Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Set aside.

Prepare the salad: Use a serrated knife to slice the lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Rinse and dry. Toast the almonds by placing them in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Watch the almonds like a hawk and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden brown and fragrant. (This should just take a few minutes.) Set aside to let cool.

Assemble the salad: Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Add dressing to taste and toss. Sprinkle almonds and pomegranate seeds on top.

Serves 4-6.

Source: Adapted from Epicurious

BLT Panzanella

Summer is in full swing around here, as evidenced by my sunburned shoulders (ouch), and I’m trying to enjoy as many summery things as possible before Labor Day. Cookouts, lake trips, outdoor movies, beach days, you name it. Everything is more fun when you’re outside.

That includes eating, of course. Summer food is usually so simple, yet so rewarding. Hamburgers (or veggie burgers), sweet corn, watermelon, anything and everything on the grill. I love when it’s so warm all the time that I actually find myself craving salad!

This BLT panzanella is a fun and hearty summer salad that would be a great addition to a picnic, but it can also be a main course on its own. It’s basically a deconstructed BLT in salad form, and it’s on heavy rotation in my meal-planning schedule. Whenever I’m lucky enough to have fresh avocados on hand, I’ll chop one up and throw it on top. Hardboiled eggs are a great addition too.

I hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday weekend! Summer is fleeting, so soak it up while you can!

BLT Panzanella

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BLT Panzanella

Salad

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 small baguette, cubed (the cubes should be crouton-size, or about 1-inch square)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 6 oz. bacon
  • 1 heart of romaine, chopped, rinsed, and dried
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

Dressing

  • 3 Tbs. Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbs. buttermilk or half and half
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat oven to 425° F. Melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add the cubed baguette and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. (My go-to spice blend for croutons is Penzey’s sandwich sprinkle, but plain old salt and pepper works just fine.) Transfer the croutons to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Bake for about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through, until evenly browned and crunchy. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place the bacon in a large nonstick frying pan or griddle and place over medium-low heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until bacon is browned and crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and let cool.

To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, buttermilk, garlic, and lemon juice. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the salad, toss together romaine, tomatoes, croutons, bacon, and parmesan cheese. Serve with dressing on the side.

Source: Annie’s Eats.

Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

The calendar says it’s fall, but I’m quickly realizing that plays out a lot differently in Southern California. Growing up in Minnesota, I was always sad to see fall arrive. Sure, September and October brought a few gorgeous weeks of shockingly bright maple trees, fresh apple cider, and haunted corn mazes, but they flew by way too quickly. I was always sad to put away my summery dresses and haul out the scarves.

Oh how quickly things have changed. I understand this is the equivalent of complaining about first world problems, but this is the first year I’ve lived in LA and I miss fall! Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to live in a place that doesn’t have winter, but could we dial down the regional thermostat juuuuust a little bit please? I’m very confused by 80° temps alongside pumpkin spice lattes, and I’m sick and tired of my summer clothes.

Okay, I promise I’m done now. And instead of complaining too much, I’ve been bringing autumn into my life through food. I’ve been busy making things like butternut squash soup, pumpkin gnocchi, and homemade candy corn. I made refrigerator pickles, and then I canned 2 1/2 pounds of green beans as if fresh veggies would never be in season again. After that, I covered the apartment with mini gourds. Autumn has arrived!

Another seasonally-inspired dish I whipped up recently was this delicious kale salad. It’s strikingly beautiful (can you say that about a salad?) with autumnal colors of deep green, purple, and orange. Candied pecans and roasted sweet potatoes nicely offset the bitterness of the radicchio, and the tangy pomegranate vinaigrette makes the whole dish crave-worthy. (Note: if your grocery store doesn’t carry pomegranate molasses you can easily find it online.) No matter what fall looks like in your part of the country, I suggest you make this salad soon!

Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

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Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Salad

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 ounces Lacinato kale, stemmed and sliced into 1/2-inch-wide strips
  • 1/2 head radicchio, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1/2 to 1 cup candied pecans
  • shaved parmesan cheese

Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. pomegranate molasses
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400° F. On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, place kale in a large bowl and massage it for about a minute, squeezing with your hands until the leaves slightly wilt and soften. Don’t be afraid to be rough with it; the kale needs help to become nice and tender. Set aside.

Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together water, pomegranate molasses, honey, vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt, and pepper. Whisk in olive oil, taste the dressing, and add more salt or pepper if desired.

Add radicchio and sweet potatoes to the bowl with the kale and toss until combined. Add dressing to taste and toss until the salad is evenly coated. Top with candied pecans and shaved parmesan, and serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.”

Israeli Salad

Alright friends, it’s time for my latest composite recipe post. Today I’m writing about Israeli salad, that lovely mix of tomatoes and cucumbers that accompanies many dishes in Jerusalem. (And believe it or not, this salad also starred alongside some dishes in the cafeteria of my Norwegian-Lutheran alma mater. That’s a big hint there, Oles.)

As this long winter has drawn to a close, I’ve found myself craving the colorful produce of summer. Remember those days? When I was actually growing fresh dill, mint, and jalapeños on my tiny city balcony? Kirby misses the catnip, for sure, and I miss everything else. Alas, winter tomatoes are not the same as summer tomatoes, so I swapped out some nice looking cherry tomatoes from the grocery store in this dish. Extra points to whoever can guess what I served with this Israeli salad on a recent sunny-and-getting-sunnier March evening!

Israeli salad

 Israeli Salad

  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 10 oz. cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 5 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In large bowl, stir together cucumber, tomatoes, red bell pepper, red onion, and parsley.

In small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, sugar, mustard, and salt and pepper, to taste. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to coat well. Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Pesto Barley Salad

I know, I know, the suspense has been killing you. What did I make with those oven-dried tomatoes? I had a fair number of good guesses, but no one got it right on the head. My sweet little sister even suggested, “Whatever you’re making, I don’t want it. Tomatoes are icky.” Thanks for the support. ;)

We did enjoy these tomatoes on a margarita pizza two nights ago, but my real purpose for making them was to use them in lunches this week. If I’m really on top of things, I try to make a big salad during the weekend that I can bring for lunch all week long. This week it was pesto barley salad.

One of my new cooking goals is to branch out a bit with grains. As Gabe was helping me put away groceries this week, he stared at the pile of barley, farro, quinoa, and couscous amassing on the counter and said, “So apparently we live 3000 years ago.”

Not quite. But it’s definitely fun and challenging to introduce new old foods into our diet. And considering I’ve only ever had barley in soup (and beer, of course), this recipe was a great first step.

Pesto barley salad

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Pesto Barley Salad

Cook barley according to package directions. Drain and place in a large bowl. Stir in pesto. Slice mozzarella into bite-size pieces and add to bowl with barley. Stir in tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray.

Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad

This post isn’t so much a recipe as it is a proclamation: Try weird things sometimes. It’s good for you.

I bought a quarter of a watermelon for the Fourth of July because a) it’s a holiday requirement, b) a whole watermelon would have been a lot to carry back from the grocery store, and c) I’m the only watermelon-eater in this household. Inspired by the rapidly expanding mint plant on my balcony, I threw together this watermelon salad with mint and feta. Salty cheese with juicy watermelon and refreshing mint? Now that’s different.

After a few deeply pondered bites, I declared to Gabe, “This is weird. But I like it.” And now that my watermelon salad is all gone, I’ve found myself craving the unusual but exciting combination of flavors it provided. This funny little dish made me even more excited to try new and “exotic” recipes. So there you have it: try weird things sometimes. It’s good for you.

Watermelon, mint, and feta salad

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Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad

  • 4 cups seeded, cubed, and chilled watermelon
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tbs. fresh mint, coarsely chopped

Place watermelon in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with feta and mint, and stir to combine. That’s really all there is to it!

Source: Slightly adapted from Joy the Baker.

Grilled Salmon with Tangy Cucumber Dill Salad

I don’t want to write this without knocking on wood or throwing salt over my shoulder, but guess what? I’m actually growing plants! Basil, mint, chives, oregano, thyme, dill, rosemary, and even a little jalapeño plant! Oh, and fresh catnip, that is constantly and lovingly guarded by a certain little someone.

Guarding her catnip

I’m super excited about my little container garden. It just seems so magical to have ingredients that are (practically) free sitting right on my balcony. But when I noticed that my dill was growing rapidly and threatening to take over its neighbors, it was time to trim it back a bit and do some cooking. Take that, dill.

Chopped Dill

And so I made this tasty grilled salmon with a tangy cucumber dill salad. The salad comes together quickly and can sit in the fridge for awhile, so this fast and easy weeknight meal is ready to go in no time at all. Which is good, because the cat is not the only salmon lover in this household.

Grilled Salmon with Tangy Cucumber Dill Salad

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 Grilled Salmon with Tangy Cucumber Dill Salad

  • 1 hothouse cucumber
  • 1/3 cup finely sliced red onion
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbs. good mayo
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 4 skin-on salmon fillets, about 6 oz. each and 1 inch thick
  • olive oil, for greasing the grill

Slice cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice cucumber very thin and toss with sliced red onion and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Place vegetables into a fine mesh sieve and let drain over a bowl for about 1 hour to draw out some of the water.

To make the dressing, whisk together sour cream, mayo, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and dill. Stir in the cucumbers and red onions and toss until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill salad until ready to use.

Heat grill over high heat and brush with olive oil. Rub salmon fillets with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Grill the salmon, skin side down, for about 4 minutes, or until it gets nice grill lines. Flip and grill for another 2-3 minutes, or until desired doneness.

Remove salmon from grill and carefully peel off the skin, if desired. Serve topped with cucumber salad.

Source: Slightly adapted from Once Upon a Chef.