Niçoise Salad Platter

Here’s my take on a simple classic Salade Niçoise – perfect for warm summer nights.  A bed of fresh greens, green beans, potatoes, tuna, and smoky niçoise olives are brought together with the simplest of dressings — a squeeze of lemon, sea salt, and your best olive oil.

Niçoise Salad Platter

I scattered chopped fresh oregano on top to add savory highlights to the beans and potatoes.  Using a wide platter instead of a bowl allows guests to select the parts they like best (and looks cool, too).  I used high quality oil packed tuna, but sliced seared fresh tuna steak would be even better.  Gluten and dairy free, and full of flavor, this salad is a summer dinner star.  Enjoy!

Niçoise Salad Platter
(serves 4, generously)

2 cans oil-packed tuna
6 – 7 cups greens, washed and torn
1/2 cup niçoise olives, pitted and halved
4 potatoes, cooked just until tender, cubed
8 oz green beans, cooked just until tender
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup best quality olive oil
sea salt
2 TB fresh oregano, chopped

Arrange all ingredients except oil, lemon and salt on a platter.  Just before serving, squeeze the lemon over the salad, drizzle the oil over the platter, and sprinkle with salt.

Southwest Summer Salad

Here is a spicy, savory meal that makes great use of prime summer produce — corn, tomatoes, lettuce, and avocados — in one delicious salad.  This is a crowd pleasing superstar, as it’s dairy and gluten free, vegan, deliciously nutritious, and easy to do much of the prep in advance.

Southwest Summer Salad

This salad uses one of my prior recipes, Spicy Tofu Crumbles.  If you would prefer, you may substitute grilled chicken breast for the tofu crumbles.  The quick to make dressing can be adjusted for spiciness depending on your preference.  (for Hannah & Caleb) Enjoy!

Southwest Summer Salad
(all quantities are dependent on number of servings needed)

romaine lettuce, washed and cut
tomatoes, rough chop large tomatoes, or halve cherry tomatoes
fresh sweet corn – kernels cut off cobs, sauteed briefly in a little olive oil, then cooled to room temp.
avocado, peeled and diced
bell pepper, chopped
fresh cilantro, chopped
pinto beans, cooked and cooled
toasted pepitas
Spicy Tofu Crumbles
Chipotle Lime Dressing (recipe below)

Assemble all ingredients in a large shallow bowl.  Dress the salad just before serving.  Add tortilla chips for extra crunch.

Chipotle Lime Dressing
3 TB fresh squeezed lime juice
6 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 tsp. chipotle powder (depending on how spicy your like dressing)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed

Carrot Salad with Lavender & Thyme

My CSA box* often includes carrots — and last week they were special.  Deep, rich purple on the outside with a bright orange core, these beauties deserved a starring role.


purple carrots, lavender, and thyme


Carrot Salad with Lavender & Thyme

Their flavor profile is a little duskier than a bright orange carrot, and so I paired them with the lovely lavender and thyme growing in my garden.  A simple dressing of olive oil, sherry vinegar and a touch of honey make it sing.  All together, this is a hearty, sweet/savory salad that would add sparkle to most meals.  And a bonus — this salad keeps for a couple days in the fridge — perfect for make ahead meals.  Enjoy!

Carrot Salad with Lavender & Thyme

6 – 8 purple carrots, rinsed and grated
3 TB olive oil
1 TB fruity sherry vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp sea salt, fine
3 sprigs fresh lavender, buds removed and chopped (or 1 tsp dried lavender)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried thyme)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, taste for salt and adjust if needed.

* I often feature vegetables from my Full Belly Farms CSA Veggie box.  Have you considered joining a CSA?  This stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  There are many in my neck of the woods, Northern California, but I know that they exist all over the country, and perhaps the world.  It is an excellent way to taste the best produce grown locally, grown in a way that respects workers and the land upon which they labor.  Here’s a link to Local Harvest, a site that helps connect you with the best CSA box for you and your family.

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence

Savory, rich, and full flavored chicken thighs simmered with a few key ingredients — just what I wanted on a rainy evening.

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence

Fresh garlic and diced red tomatoes combine with warm herbes de Provence and Parmesan rind to create the perfect simmer sauce for chicken thighs.  Parmesan rinds are just that — the hard outer edge of my wedges of Parmesan cheese.  I save them in bags in the freezer and bring out pieces to add wonderful umami to broth or simmer sauces.

Three key ingredients: fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese rind, and Herbes de Provence

Three key ingredients: fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese rind, and herbes de Provence

I consider this a pantry dish, as the ingredients are either shelf stable, or in my freezer.  Serve this warming dish with crusty bread or polenta.  Enjoy!

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence
(serves 4)

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cans diced tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 TB olive oil
2 tsp herbes de Provence
Parmesean rind piece
Sea salt (start with 1/2 tsp, more if needed)

Heat covered sauté pan over medium heat.  When pan is warm, add olive oil, crushed garlic, and sauté just for a few seconds.  Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the chicken is very tender.  Check toward the end of the simmer time to be sure the sauce isn’t getting too dry.  Add a bit of white wine or water to add moisture if needed.

Smoky Quinoa and Lentils

Earthy red quinoa and french green lentils taste amazing with sweet ripe tomatoes and a smoky lemon dressing.


Smoky Quinoa and Lentils

The magic making these simple foods extra delicious is smoked paprika.  I developed this recipe to inspire a friend looking for good lunch ideas.  This one works nicely — it’s best at room temp, protein packed, super tasty, and portable.  It also is an easy make-ahead dish.

simple lemon dressing featuring smoked paprika

simple lemon dressing featuring smoked paprika

french green lentils, tomatoes, red quinoa, and lemon

french green lentils, tomatoes, red quinoa, and lemon

Add a piece of fruit and lunch is served!  Also fabulous over a bed of greens for a dinner entree.  Enjoy!  (for Barbara)

Smoky Quinoa and Lentils
(makes 4-5 generous servings)

1 cup french green lentils
1 cup red quinoa
3 medium ripe red tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup toasted pepitas

For the Smoky Lemon Dressing:
6 TB extra virgin olive oil
3 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt

Make the smoky lemon dressing by combining the olive oil, lemon juice, smoked paprika, and sea salt.  Set aside.

Cook the green lentils:  rinse the lentils, then place in medium covered sauce pan with 3  cups water.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still firm.  Drain and place in a bowl.

Cook the red quinoa:  First, rinse the quinoa.  It is important to wash off the bitter saponins that are a natural part of the seed coat.  I place the dry quinoa in a bowl, cover with cool water, swish around a couple of times, then drain in to a fine mesh colander.  Place rinsed quinoa into a sauce pan, add 1 1/3 cups fresh water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender but still has bite, and the water has been absorbed.

When the cooked lentils and quinoa are cooled to room temp, combine with the tomatoes and smoky lemon dressing.  Just before serving, add the pepitas.


California Poached Eggs

Eggs poached in a flavorful, tomato-based simmer sauce is found in many cuisines around the globe.

Eggs poached with tomatoes and chilis

California Poached Eggs

My recipe has a California flavor — adding fresh cilantro, tangy green chilis, and creamy avocado to keep it west coast.
Suitable for dinner, lunch, or breakfast, this fast tangy/creamy dish wins for taste, nutrition, and frugality.  Make ahead tip: prep the sauce when you have some free time, store in a jar in the fridge, then finish by heating the sauce and poaching the eggs right before serving.  Faster than take out — and way tastier.  Enjoy!

California Poached Eggs
(serves two for dinner)

2 TB olive oil
onion, 1/2 cup small dice
diced tomatoes, 14 oz can
diced green chilis, 4 oz can
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. chipotle powder (add more if you like it spicy)
sea salt
4 eggs (may add up to two more eggs if desired)
cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped
one avocado, diced

Heat wide frying pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and onions, and saute for a couple minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chilis, garlic, chipotle powder, and some salt.  Stir and simmer the sauce for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste for salt, and adjust if needed.  Gently add each egg to the simmering sauce, being sure to leave space between each egg.

eggs just beginning to simmer in the tomato and chili sauce

eggs just beginning to simmer in the tomato and chili sauce

Cover the pan and simmer on low for about 7 minutes, or until the whites of the eggs have changed from clear to white.  I like the egg yolks to be a little runny, but you may prefer yours on the firm side.  Just simmer for a little longer to desired firmness for the eggs.  Garnish with diced avocado and cilantro.  Serve with toast or warmed corn tortillas.

Kefir Panna Cotta with Cardamom Plums

This is the fourth panna cotta recipe on this blog, and one I am delighted with.

Kefir Panna Cotta with Cardamom Plums

Kefir Panna Cotta with Cardamom Plums

I used tart, creamy kefir as the main dairy ingredient, and lowfat milk to keep the flavors light and focused.  I modified my buttermilk panna cotta recipe, substituting  kefir for the buttermilk.  I topped this light and refreshing panna cotta with red ripe Santa Rosa plums, macerated with sugar and scented with ground cardamom.  Altogether, a terrific summer dessert.  Enjoy!

Kefir Panna Cotta with Cardamom Plums
(makes 5 – 6 servings)

1 cup lowfat milk
1 1/2 cups kefir (plain, unsweetened)
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
5 or 6  fresh plums, pitted and sliced
3 TB sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom

First, soften the gelatin. Put the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. It should soak up the water in a couple minutes. Stir to make sure the gelatin is all moistened.

Next, heat milk in microwave or on the stove until hot but not boiling, then remove from heat and skim off protein layer that will form as a natural result of the heating. Stir in the sugar and the softened gelatin until both are completely dissolved into the milk. Cool the milk mixture to lukewarm. (lukewarm is the best temp as kefir may separate if it gets warm when adding it to the milk)

Add 1 1/2 cups cold kefir and stir to combine. Pour into individual serving glasses and tuck them into the fridge. Chill until set. This will take as little as an hour or two.

Just before serving, slice the plums and toss with the remaining 3 TB sugar and the cardamom.  Allow to rest for 15 minutes to dissolve sugar. Then top the kefir panna cotta with the sweetened, spiced plums.   Enjoy!