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?

ingredients

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

vinaigrette:

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?

Ingredients:

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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

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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

Perfect Mediterrenean mother-shocker roasted salmon

I have a confession to make: The only reason why I eat salmon is because I know it’s healthy, rich in fatty acids and vitamin D. The second reason is because I make it – it’s totally customized to my liking and I think you will like it too.

I don’t eat salmon if it taste like well…salmon. My family will not eat it unless I cook it my version (for the same reasons I’ve stated above). Too many restaurants I’ve been to cook it almost the same way but nothing that made me ask for more. It’s time for something else I thought and so I came up with this: baked/grilled salmon jazzed up with spices and vegetables where the second star is red tomatoes, to create a rich, little spicy, red sauce that supports not only the scale of the dish but every taste bud.

When I first made it and took it out of the oven it came out so colorful and rich looking I was shocked. I had to pause and stare at my plate for a while before I took the first bite.

perfect roasted mediterrenean salmonSo beautiful and it’s not even baked yet.

red fresh tomatoes

mediterrenean baked salmonThe spices are felt with every bite and the cinnamon stick adds this warm gentle aroma that only enhances what you are about to eat.
delicious mediterrenean baked salmonShall we?
Ingredients:
Fresh salmon with skin attached, clean and dry
3 medium peeled chopped tomatoes
5-6 smashed cloves of garlic
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fava beans (frozen or fresh)
2 tbsp red sweet paprika
1 tbsp red-hot paprika
1 tsp cumin powder
pinch kosher salt
pinch black pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup cold water
olive oil (to drizzle)
sage leafs (for garnish)

 

Preparation:
In a large heavy glass baking pan spread chopped tomatoes, garlic and onion. Sprinkle with some salt and black pepper. In a small bowl make a mix of the spices except for the cinnamon stick, with 1/4 cup olive oil to create a paste. Rub the salmon with the paste  making sure it’s all covered. Place the salmon skin side up on top of the tomatoes/garlic/onion bed. Spread the fava beans around the fish and add the cold water to the side of the pan, shake it a bit to distribute the water. Garnish with sage leaves, add the cinnamon stick and drizzle everything with olive oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Place pan on middle rack oven, 350º and bake between 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Remove foil, spoon over the fish some of the sauce to keep it moist.  Be careful things are hot. Turn broiler to 400º and grill the fish for about 5 minutes or less, until skin turns rich crispy golden brown color.

Discard sage and cinnamon stick.  Now go fancy – On a large beautiful china place, maybe in a contrasting color, lay a nice piece of this gorgeous looking salmon and top it with the tomatoes and beans. Spread some sauce around it.

Get a good fresh country bread, stick it in the oven for a couple of minutes to warm things up and serve it with the fish. All you need to do now is eat.

Bon appetite.