Happy citrus summer salad with fennel and figs

When I was in Italy few weeks ago, in the heart of Tuscany (just writing about it makes my soul drool), it was humid and HOT. I refused to eat or walk faster than 2 miles per hour. We went to town’s “Centro” and sat outside a crowded Café for a break. I know its weird but I ordered a cappuccino. hello? don’t ask. While sipping my delicious drink, I looked at the menu and spotted the word Fennel (yup, it was in English). “Salad of fennel and red grapefruit in a house vinaigrette with red whole peppercorns”. Fennel and grapefruit? don’t remember having that combination before so why not.

happy summer citrus salad with fennel and figs
The salad was crisp and delicious. Small pieces red grapefruit, just a few, on top of a very thin sliced fennel, drizzled with shiny yellow dressing and whole red peppercorns add a pop of color. Loved the presentation. I added lots of fresh black pepper then totally went for it. It was delicious, refreshing and wet. The Mr. looked at my salad thinking “I should have ordered that too” (I knew it!). Slowly I moved the plate to the center and rolled my eyes. After a couple of bites he forgot that the salad was supposed to be shared. I ordered another one. This time I made sure the plate was much closer to me.

happy summer citrus salad with fennel and figs

I promised to make it back home and I did, but with some changes of my own. No whole peppercorns because they made me choke twice (really!), when I was there. I used ground mix of peppercorns instead. Juice of red grapefruit instead of cut pieces (only because I didn’t have enough for the salad, so feel free to choose), melon and this season’s star – figs. I even added sliced pear, why not.

happy summer citrus salad with fennel and figs
You can serve this salad as a meal if you like. Your taste buds and your eyes will notice everything in it. It’s big on contrast and way more interesting and festive. Dramatic in presentation, light dressing keeps business fresh with lots of subtle flavors, even the fruit flirt with the fennel. Try to say that five times 😉

It’s pretty sexy salad too don’t you think?


1 large fennel head, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 pear, thinly sliced
1 cup of cantaloupe, cut to pieces
2 figs, cut to wedges


Juice of half red grapefruit
Kosher salt and ground mixed peppercorns to taste
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp honey mustard
1/4 olive oil

Place fennel and pear in a large bowl. Make the vinaigrette: in a bowl combine all the ingredients except for the oil. Using a whisk and a quick motion drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, whisking constantly until emulsion is formed. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette but leave some for later. Serve the salad on a platter. Garnish with figs. Drizzle a little of the vinaigrette on the salad. Sprinkle ground mix pepper (optional).

Crunchy apples and grilled artichoke salad

I’m a sucker for anything crunchy in my salad, especially apples. tart green apples and I love them in any size and shape. So does my over-size lion pooch – who will gladly eat firm green apples full time over his dry cereal, if i only let him. I’m not a night eater but if I go to bed on an empty stomach I know the growling sound will wake me up around midnight, demanding a fair share the others had before – food. I’d get up and go downstairs, grab a nice firm green apple, peel it, slice it (very quietly so not to wake up anyone) and eat it with satisfaction. While calming my hungry stomach I’d look down with my mouth full and notice two huge round eyes staring at me, begging in the dark, and a happy wagging little tail. My pooch. He’s a sucker for green apples as much as I am.

I remember as a child I went to family weddings with my parents, we would sit around a beautiful table setting and the first thing I noticed was the variety of salads, but one in particular was apples and celery in a mayonnaise dressing. The dressing was too heavy for my taste so I fished out the apple slices, wipe them clean with paper napkins and ate. I did it every time.

Apples are satisfying and delicious, a first fruit choice in my list to incorporate into my cooking. Inspired by my childhood I made this apple salad with a twist – instead of celery and the usual ingredients, I used grilled artichokes instead, nuts, fresh parsley in a light lemon/mayonnaise dressing. I’m not a big fan of creamy dressing so this salad is textured and gets extra punch with nut crunch and lemon. Beautiful.

delicious apple and grilled artichoke saladAmong the ingredients I used of course:

delicious apples & grilled artichoke salad

crunchy apples and pecans

delicious apple & artichoke salad in lemon/mayo dressing

Lemon from my lemon tree. You don’t have to have a tree really. But to me having a lemon tree is a luxury 😉grilled artichoke hearts and apple salad

So friends, shall we?



2 tart apples (peeled & cored)
1 cup sliced artichoke hearts (sold frozen in almost any supermarket) (thawed, unless you use fresh)
1/2 c. walnuts or pecans
3 whooping tbsp light mayonnaise
handful parsley
1 tsp crushed caraway seeds
3 tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil


Rinse the thawed artichoke hearts, dry them well with paper towel and sautee in olive oil, low/medium heat until edges are crispy. Shake the pan every once in a while. If the artichokes are dry to begin with they will brown nicely. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.  In a large bowl combine the spices, mayonnaise, 2 tbsp lemon juice and zest. Whisk well to combine. Adjust taste to your liking. Set aside. In the meantime, chop the parsley and add it to the dressing bowl, slice the apples (I like medium/thick slices) and add to the bowl as well along with chopped nuts and the cooled artichokes. Gently fold and toss everything until well coated. Chill for at least half an hour before serving to intensify flavors. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

While I prepared this salad to go with my Moroccan chicken, the conversation with my hungry 10 yr old who was watching me went something like this:

my lovely: “..mom what are you making?”
me: “salad.”
my lovely: “mom. what kind? wait!! are these apples?!!” (pointing, like she didn’t know)
me: “yes”
my lovely: “mom! are you gonna put that in the food??” (she gave me the look like i just gave birth to an elephant)
me: “yes”.
my lovely: (in a clear voice) “well I am not eating!!”.
me:  “good. more for us”.

Bon appetite

Shockingly delicious moroccan grilled vegetables on linguine bed

Hello super chefs,
I know what you’re thinking: Moroccan dish? pasta? how….? well, maybe it doesn’t go together but in my kitchen it does.
So in this dinner you will indulge on juicy grilled vegetables zapped with a custom blend of Moroccan spices. Loaded with fiber, low in fat, 100% organic and 200% vegetarian not to mention satisfying and the smell – if my kitchen walls could talk…nice hah?
But before we get to business please allow me to share some thoughts with you o.k.? You know, I wasn’t sure if I should post this recipe. I mean look at the pictures, besides that my photography is that so shabby, it’s pretty self-explanatory – linguine topped with grilled vegetables right? right. But wrong. You see, there is much more to it than just cooking and feeding a hungry mouths. Here is how I see it – I am very creative as you probably know but sometimes I don’t feel like cooking (happened to you?). And when I do, as tired as I might be, I’m out of ideas and not in the mood to be bothered with too much “kitchen” you know (happened to you?). And sometimes, just when everybody else in the household expects the genie in me to make magic…well…all I want then is hide (happened to you? please say yes so I wont feel left out here).

delicious moroccan grilled vegetables on linguine

Simply put – some days are just not your days. So what are you going to do about it? I’ll tell you what I do – I cook – but not just cook – I cook hot and spicy. Taking it out on the food? maybe. But I don’t just cook hot and spicy people, I go the extra mile and blend colors with textures and spices sometimes without even thinking, driving everybody crazy with a wicked aroma, while amusing myself and avoiding thinking about how the day that wasn’t my day was you know. But don’t get me wrong, hot and spicy doesn’t mean punishing your loved ones (think this option didn’t cross my mind?), but I’m all about balance. Just try not to lose it, get creative, get the genie out of you if you need to and get to business. After all, commands are fully obeyed on a happy stomach.
backyard grown tomatoesMy own grown tomatoes from my yard. Little jewels that inspired me to cook this dish.
I usually eye-ball almost everything (a method I inherited from my mother), but here I was more specific for those who need that extra help.

You know, when I made this dish my husband was literally starving. I mean not only for food but for a super creation and honestly, he didn’t expect to “experience” this kind of smell that just popped out from the spices, I mean he drooled. When he finally sat down to eat and took the first bites, he looked at me. I saw the fire in his eyes…he would get me arrested if he could… for doing that good.

So, shall we:
1 pkg of linguine, cooked (follow package directions)
zest of 1 lemon
2 of each of these fresh vegetables:
carrots, red onion, yellow onion, grape tomatoes
1 jar baby artichoke hearts in vinegar (you can use plain artichoke hearts in a can)
1 tsp shredded ginger
handful arugula
3 tbsp chopped parsley
any spices you have: 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or 1 cinnamon stick)
1 tsp of each: ground coriander, red sweet paprika, red-hot paprika, mustard seeds, cumin, nutmeg
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
olive oil
1 large garlic head (cloves separated with skin on) and save 7-8 cloves for the linguine
Peel the carrots, cut to large pieces and cook in a boiling for a few minutes or until tender. Drain well and put in a large mixing bowl. Drain the artichokes, pressing gently to remove any access liquid and add to the carrots. Peel and cut to large pieces or slices all the other vegetables (garlic cloves leave whole) and add to the carrots. Add spices and coat with olive oil. Season with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Combine all the ingredients making sure vegetables are well coated with the spice blend. Set a side and get the linguine sauce going.delicious moroccan grilled vegetables
Linguine sauce: cover the bottom of a medium non-stick pan with olive oil. Add 7-8 garlic cloves (I like to leave the skin on). Don’t let the oil get too hot, add 3/4 cup of water, be careful though and add parsley and lemon zest. Add the cooked linguine, season with salt and pepper and gently fold. Let simmer about 3 minutes while stirring. Remove from heat.
The Vegetables: get a hot non-stick skillet going. Carefully lay marinated vegetables in skillet, you will hear sizzling sounds (love that!) and in no time you will begin to feel high. The aroma is going to drive you crazy. and your dog too. Grill vegetables 3-4 minutes on each side, turning gently while trying to keep the pieces whole, until nicely charred.

moroccan grilled vegetables

Assembly: on a large platter, pick a pretty one you are about to impress your family and yourself, lay the linguine and pour over any liquid left from the pan. Top linguine with the heavenly charred vegetables, garnish with arugula.
delicious moroccan grilled vegetables on linguine

Enjoy. I know you will.