A Return to Blogging: Simple Citrus and Avocado Salad

Oh my. It has been half a year since I’ve written anything here. I have so much respect for those who keep up with a blog regularly–balancing setting aside the time to write posts and take pictures with the ins and outs of everyday life is no joke. It’s not as if I haven’t been cooking for the past six months: quite the contrary. In fact, I played working mom for a family with three girls. I would go to my desk job as an office assistant to a chiropractor in the mornings and then  go pick up the girls from school, take them to activities, grocery shop and cook their meals each night as well as prepare weekend meals. So I was cooking. A lot. But the focus completely shifted away from thoughts about artfully combining seasonal ingredients and and taking food photos in the best lighting to finding something the girls would eat that perhaps had a hint of a vegetable or quality protein in it and getting it made, on the table and cleaned up as fast as possible. So not only do I appreciate the challenge of carving out time to blog while keeping up a day job, but I also have tremendous respect for all that parents juggle when it comes to maintaining and nurturing creative endeavors, hobbies etc. I did find time to have plenty of dinner parties for friends on the weekends and sometimes remembered to snap a few photos, making a mental note to blog about it later, but my focus was always elsewhere.

All this being said, I am making another shift in my life. I wrapped up my time in Seattle and am moving back to the Los Angeles area to begin a four year Master’s program in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. I am looking to ultimately combine nutritional therapy services and acupuncture in a private practice several years down the road. For the past month, I have been traveling around the country in my very old Subaru Outback visiting everyone in my family before I begin this intensive program. Friends had started to ask me before I left Seattle what happened to my blog and, on my trip, my family has been asking me the same thing. I knew I needed to get back to it in my own time as I settled into a new direction and energy in my life, but I am also grateful for the reminders that friends and family were interested in my recipes and my cooking–this has served as ample motivation.

As I’ve been traveling, I’ve made a point of cooking a big dinner for most of my family members I have stayed with (and they have all been generous enough to let me take over their kitchens for a night). It is the way I best know to show my gratitude for their hospitality and not much gives me more joy than knowing I have created something others can enjoy. Just two nights ago, after cooking for my aunt and uncle in Chicago, I felt a wave of momentum to get back to blogging and sharing recipes. I realized that no matter what I am doing to make a living or what direction my path goes, cooking is something I simply cannot escape. Whether I am cooking for family or friends, whether I am cooking professionally or a hobby, my experiences and connections around the dinner table and my simple recipes, informed by my time spent on farms, at cooking schools and as a student and practitioner of nutritional therapy, are something I want to continue to share for years to come.

The following is hardly a recipe, it’s so easy to throw together. But I wanted to re-start with a pretty picture and something fresh and light. This would actually be more of a winter salad in California, since oranges are in season in January, so I’m cheating on the seasonal thing a bit here…But it’s certainly tasty on a warm summer evening.

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Ingredients: 

2 medium navel oranges

2 large, ripe avocados

4-5 cups organic arugula or watercress

1/3 cup toasted pecans or walnuts

2 heaping Tbs. whole grain mustard

2 tsp. honey

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbs. olive oil

 

Arrange nuts on a baking sheet. Bake at 300F for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes to toast. You will start to smell them when they are done. And they will smell AMAZING. Remove from oven and let cool. Roughly chop and set aside.

Wash and dry the arugula in a salad spinner. Arrange it on a platter to form a bed for the oranges and avocados.

Cut avocados in half, remove the pit and then use a large spoon to remove each half from the skin, still intact. Then slice thinly as pictured and arrange in rows on top of the arugula.

Cut of the top and bottom of each orange, then cut off or peel off the skin. Cut the oranges in half and then into thin slices. Arrange in alternating rows with the avocados.

To make the mustard dressing, whisk together mustard, honey, lemon juice, balsamic, salt, pepper and olive oil in a bowl. Taste and add more honey if you want it sweeter, more lemon or balsamic if you want it more tangy.

Drizzle dressing over salad.

Top with toasted, chopped nuts.

 

Serves 4

 

 

 

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Bright, “Sweet Home” Tomato Salad

I’ve been packing and on the road for the past week and arrived at my new apartment in Seattle this past Wednesday afternoon. On my drive up, I stopped at Sweet Home Ranch, a family friend’s farm in California’s San Joaquin Valley. This special spot is the orchard of my father’s college roommate, Paul Buxman, a farmer and painter whose life revolves around stone fruit and zealous community building. The farm was a childhood second home to me and each time I stop over for a night, it’s as if no time has passed. My stay was all too brief this time around, but we managed to squeeze in two glorious meals full of treats from the garden. My contribution to our dinner was this salad made with stunning tomatoes from their garden and cucumbers from the neighbors. When produce is this fresh, simplicity wins.

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Ingredients:

8 large, ripe, fresh tomatoes, cut into wedges

3 large english cucumber, cut into half rounds

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

salt

pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbs. white wine vinegar

oregano

thyme

 

Combine the veggies in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and herbs, salt and pepper to your liking. Toss gently with the veggies. And that’s it!!

 

Serves 4-6.

 

Summer Quinoa Salad with Watermelon and Lime

Happy Solstice!

Today seems like the perfect time for a recipe that uses distinctly summery, fresh, seasonal ingredients. Watermelon, peppers, corn on the cob. All nutritious fruits and veggies that are coming into the peak of ripeness in the next month or two (depending on where you are in the country). This salad celebrates heat and lazy days with its light and refreshing ingredients and is so simple to create.

This recipe is my take on a salad I once had at Altadena restaurant, Alta Eats, last fall. I thought the idea of watermelon in quinoa was genius, so I had to try my own version!

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups quinoa

3 cups filtered water

pinch salt

3 cups watermelon, cut in small cubes.

1 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), cut into small pieces

2 ears fresh corn on the cob

1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

juice of one large lime

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

1 Tbs. honey

1 tsp. soy sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt and pepper

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fresh summer flavor

Bring quinoa and water to a boil with a dash of salt in a medium pot over high heat. Turn heat down to low, cover and let simmer 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, shuck each corn cob, then stand them, one at a time, on a cutting board and slowly cut off the kernels. Preheat oven to 400. Spread corn and halved cherry tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until kernels start to brown and the tomato skins looks wrinkly, stirring every five minutes.

Combine quinoa, corn, tomatoes, watermelon and pepper in a large bowl. Make dressing by whisking together mint, lime juice, rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and olive oil. Stir into salad. Salt and pepper to taste.

Chill. Serve topped with fresh mint leaves.

Serves 6-8.