In our home there is a clear division of labor when it comes to the kinds of meals we both cook. The husband is in charge of meat and fish. I am in charge of soups, sauces and salads. (And dessert too of course). Thankfully we both help out with the cleaning-up, at least most of the time.
Salads are really so much fun to throw together. I love experimenting with seasonal ingredients I find at my local farmer’s market and also using ingredients I have hanging around in my house. And above all about salads: I love that you can improvise.
The salad calls for arugula but all you have is spinach? Just substitute! Have some apples in the house that you want to use before they go bad? Chop them up and throw them in! This is actually how some of my best salad creations came about in the first place including one of my favorites, this Spinach, Blueberry & Goat Cheese Salad with edamame and cucumbers. It was literally what I had in my fridge and it happened to combine together for a delightful and delicious result. Just take a look:
I have found that traditional Israel salad is just the kind of salad that can be made into multiple variations, each one slightly different. For a little more spice you can add a pinch or two of sumac. You can leave out the peppers, leave out the cucumbers, or even add a few things, like chickpeas, feta and mint.
This salad came about like so many of my other favorite salad combinations. It was Saturday afternoon, my daughter was playing at the park with her dad and I was given a few moments to enjoy lunch by myself – glorious. Wine might have also been involved. I looked in the fridge, and threw together what I had: tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, chickpeas and feta!
And by adding chickpeas and feta, this classic side salad becomes a light but hearty main dish packed with protein, fiber and most importantly, flavor.
Keep improvising and enjoy!
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
¼ cup diced red onion
2 scallions, sliced
1 ½ cups canned chickpeas, rinsed
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice from ½ lemon
Salt and pepper
Combine tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, red onion, scallion, chickpeas and feta cheese in a medium bowl.
Dress with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle fresh mint on top.
For anyone who has been following me on Instagram you know I’ve been a tad obsessed with cooking whatever is fresh at my local Jersey City farmer’s markets. Not too bad, right!?
It’s like my own Top Chef-Chopped challenge every week – what is at the farmer’s market today, what do I have in my fridge, and what can I whip up for dinner? Which mostly means, we have been eating a lot of salads, pasta, and more salads over the past few weeks, much to my meat-preferring husband’s chagrin. I am happy to report that he seems to be surviving.
I have made countless salad combinations with my fresh finds the past few weeks, but my Orecchiette with Kale Basil Walnut Pesto has been the real recipe winner to result from my farmers market shopping. Orecchiette is a great pasta when you want to really taste the sauce because the little “ears” really get coated, making a super flavorful pasta.
I like to leave pesto without cheese in it so that if I decide to marinate some chicken breasts or steak, I still have that option. And this batch of pesto makes enough for another pasta dinner, for some grilled veggies or for a quick chicken dinner.
1/2 pound orecchette pasta (or pasta of your choice)
2 cups fresh kale
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
reserved pasta cooking water
parmesan cheese (optional)
In a saute pan on low-medium heat, slowly toast walnuts until just fragrant, around 4-5 minutes. Make sure they do not burn.
In a food processor fitted with a blade, add kale, basil, walnuts, garlic and a few Tbsp of the olive oil. Begin to pulse. Slowly add the remaining olive oil until smooth. You might want to add a touch more olive oil depending on your preference.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions. Reserve one cup of pasta cooking water.
Drain pasta and set aside. Return pot to low-medium heat on the stove, and add half the pesto to the pot. Add a few Tbsp of cooking water and stir.
Put drained pasta back into pot and mix until pasta is completely covered. Add more pasta water to loosen sauce if needed.
Serve with parmesan cheese and fresh basil for garnish.