Grilled Shrimp and Corn Salad with Avocado

I need to read more.  I feel well-informed of current affairs from reading various news media, but I don’t read enough books.  I used to love thumbing through books, especially historical fiction novels that had something to do with China and Mao’s Cultural Revolution.  Now I spend the majority of my day at work staring at a computer screen, only to come home to stare at a computer screen perusing through different food-related websites, my blog, and anything else of interest.  And then there’s the television.  I’m addicted to my television.  How pathetic, right?  I love my Bravo station.  Real Housewives of Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New Jersey, New York, and Orange County?  Yes, please!

The sad thing is that I can’t even remember the last time I picked up a book for leisure.  I even bought myself and my partner a Kindle in hopes that it would encourage me to buy books on-the-fly to read, but instead, it sits on my nightstand collecting dust.  At least my partner uses her Kindle and puts it to good use.  She has finished three books in a matter of three days, and working on a new book as we speak, while I sit here lazily on the couch, blogging, watching a recorded show of The Voice, and perusing through Food Gawker and Tastespotting.

Maybe I should finish this blog post and pick up my Kindle :)

Any good book suggestions?  What about Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto?

Grilled Shrimp Salad with Grilled Corn and Avocado (adapted from Epicurious)

1 pound large shrimp
1 large ear of corn, husked
2 lemons, halved
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained
6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
Salt and pepper

5 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice from grilled lemon
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Butterfly the shrimps by slicing almost through lengthwise, while leaving the shell on shrimp. Devein the shrimp, if necessary. Toss with olive oil, juice of one lemon, and season with salt and pepper.

Place the lemons, corn, and shrimp on the grill. Grill the shrimp two minutes on each side, until the shells are pink and the shrimp opaque; the lemons for about one minute, or until there are charred grill marks to caramelize the sugars of the lemon; and the corn has also developed charred grill marks around the diameter of the corn.

Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

When cool to handle, cut the kernels off the corn cob in a shallow bowl, and peel the shrimp. Arrange the lettuce on two plates or bowls [however, you like to serve your salad], layered with corn, black beans, avocado, and shrimp. Divide dressing between two plates. [You could toss the salad with the dressing instead. I think the salad looks "prettier" when arranged this way.]

Makes 2 servings.

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Have you ever noticed how much your taste changes as you get older?  I used to loathe cilantro, parsley, and carrots when I was younger.  Loathe is a pretty strong, and that’s exactly how I felt about those *things*.  The taste of cilantro used to make me gag.  The thought of carrots would send me running into the other room.  My Mom used to relate to me by telling me stories of how much she hated cilantro, too, when she was younger.  But she’d follow the story with telling me how my taste would change as I matured, but I didn’t believe a word that came out of her mouth!

I ate my words.  My Mom was completely right… “Mothers know best,” right?  I love cilantro now.  My affinity for it changed when I had my first tasting of Tom Kha Gai at my first Thai dining experience.  It was love at first bite.  However, it hasn’t been that easy for acquiring the tastes of parsley or carrots.  I don’t recall when exactly I started to come around enjoying carrots, but it definitely has been in the recent years.  I hate raw carrots, but I don’t mind stewed or roasted carrots.

Enjoying flat-leaf parsley has been a tougher challenge for me.  Flat-leaf parsley has such an overwhelming flavor to begin with.  I initially needed other stronger flavors to mask the taste of parsley, like basil pesto.  This has since changed as we’ve been eating and cooking more  Mediterranean foods that call for flat-leaf parsley.  We recently dined at one of our favorite local Mediterranean restaurants and sampled their vegetarian Meze plate, which included tabbouleh.  OMG, how could I have been missing this all these years?!  I’ve become addicted.  So much so that I made a LARGE batch a few days ago.  We’ve had quinoa tabbouleh several days in a row for lunch AND dinner :)

Quinoa Tabouleh Salad

2 1/2 large bunches flat leaf parsley, stems removed, finely chopped
3 roma tomatoes, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dices
3″ inches small English cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch dices
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1/4 cup quinoa, cooked
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste

In a large bowl, combine everything except for the lemon juice, oil, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt, to taste.

Toss the salad with the lemon vinaigrette.

Serve with falafels, hummus, pocket bread, and anything else you’d like.

Makes 4 servings.

Arugula Salad with Roasted Cauliflower, Golden Raisins, Parmesan, and Toasted Pine Nuts with a Lemon Vinaigrette

This is our first weekend home in over a month, and while it’s good to be in the comfort of our own home; I was feeling somewhat nostalgic of our trip we took to the Russian River.  It was the perfect weekend get-a-way, kind of trip, that wasn’t too far, but just far enough to relax, eat, and drink plenty.  We kayaked eight miles down the Russian River, enjoying the company of one another and the scenery around us.  We visited… oh who are we kidding, wine-tasted at some of the most beautiful vineyards/wineries around Sonoma county.

We also dined at some amazing restaurants, too.  The one restaurant that we constantly reminisce about is Boon Eat + Drink in Guerneville, CA.  It was such a sweet restaurant right off the one main street.  The food was simple and seasonal; creative, but not over-the-top.  It was, well, perfect.  The one dish that still stands out to me the most was the arugula salad with roasted cauliflower, golden raisins, and toasted pine nuts tossed with this spicy, lemon dressing.  It was just so fresh and crisp.  The flavors of each ingredient complimented one another so well.  It was brilliant.

 I’ve been meaning to recreate this dish, and what not a better day than today while we reminisce of our trip.  And I must say, my creation is pretty spot on, if not better.  I’m just sayin’ :)

Arugula Salad with Roasted Cauliflower, Golden Raisins, Parmesan, and Toasted Pine Nuts with a Lemon Vinaigrette

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 bunches baby arugula
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/8 crushed red chili pepper flakes
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste. Place onto a large baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and crushed red pepper flakes until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the arugula with the lemon dressing, toasted pine nuts, and golden raisins. Plate the salad, and garnish with shaved parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

We had a small tasting of a similar dish at a backyard wedding we recently attended.  The original was made with red and yellow beets, and butternut squash with a lemony vinaigrette with a hint of truffle oil.  The salad was very tasty, but a little mushy from the butternut squash.   So while I was consuming my large plate of food [It was, in fact, a very large plate of food... my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  But what's new?], a light bulb came on… roasted sweet potatoes.  It would be the perfect substitution flavor- and texture-wise.  And so what did I do two days after the wedding?  Well, I recreated this dish, of course, and it was perfect.

Inspiration.  It such a lovely thing.

What inspires you in the kitchen?

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

4 large beets
3 large sweet potatoes, skinned and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 small shallot, finely diced
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon truffle oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. [I usually like to double wrap mine in foil.] Drizzle the sweet potatoes with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a singe layer on the baking sheet. Place the foil-wrapped beets on the same baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender, but slightly crispy in the outside. Stir the sweet potatoes once or twice during roasting. [Watch the sweet potatoes closely, because they can go from perfectly roasted to imperfectly burnt.] Roast the beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the shallots, lemon, olive oil, and truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Remove the sweet potatoes firstly from oven, followed by the beets when they have cooked through, and allow to cool just enough to be easily handled. Once cooled, peel “skin” off the beets. [They'll come off easily with just your hands... no need for a paring knife.] Slice beets into 1 inch cubes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the beets, sweet potatoes, and vinaigrette. Gently toss to combine all the ingredients. Divide onto small plates, sprinkle with chives, and drizzle with a little truffle oil, and enjoy!

Makes 4 to 6 small salad servings.

Roasted Asparagus and Enoki Salad Drizzled with Truffle Oil

We had the best wood-fire wild mushroom pizza drizzled with truffle oil during our vacation week of gluttony.  It was to die for.  I’ve been craving that pizza since, but because we are on our quest to lose the weight that we gained from our vacation, I wanted to cook something that involved mushrooms and truffle oil minus the carbs.

On our way back home from vacation, we stopped by the Korean market and got some beautiful oyster and enoki mushrooms.  I was so excited to make my asparagus and oyster mushroom salad (the enoki mushrooms were reserved for miso soup tomorrow), but to my dismay, the oyster mushrooms started to grow fungus on itself and not in a good way :(  I was so distraught.  [Yes.  Distraught.  Haven't you learned that I'm a bit of a drama queen, yet? :)]  I really, really wanted that warm salad tonight with the truffle oil.  Actually, I just really wanted the truffle oil.  So fortunately I still had the enoki mushrooms and thought I’d give it a try instead, and sure enough it tasted just as good!

Roasted Asparagus and Enoki Salad Drizzled with Truffle Oil

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmedd and cut to 3-inch lengths
2 packages enoki mushrooms, cut 2 inches off the base and pull/shred apart
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small block of parmesan cheese
Truffle oil, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss asparagus and enoki mushrooms with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread onto a cookie sheet and roast for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms start to brown and the asparagus spears are tender. Remove from oven.

Toss the roasted asparagus and mushrooms with the lemon juice and arrange onto a platter. Shave the parmesan over the salad, and finish with a drizzle of truffle oil.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4 side salads.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

watermelon feta salad

What a delicious sweet and savory combination! Who knew watermelon and feta paired so well together! When I first saw this combination on one of the food competition shows, I thought it sounded and looked strange. I didn’t get it. But I also didn’t get the sweet and savory combination back then either. And mind you, this was many, many years ago before I became a glutton for food. We’ve been buying seedless watermelons at the farmer’s market for the last month, and it finally dawned on me to try this salad tonight! OH EM GEE, why did we not try this salad sooner?!

Watermelon and Feta Salad

1 (2 to 3 pound) seedless watermelon, rind removed
1 large block of feta
2 cups good quality balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 bunch fresh basil leaves

Special equipment: 2.5 inch cake ring

Place the vinegar in a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot. Heat on low, so that you have a light simmer. Reduce until syrupy, or to desired consistency, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Be careful not to burn the balsamic reduction. Once cooled, store at room temperature.

Using the 2.5 inch cake ring, cut out watermelon rounds and cut it in half horizontally. Set aside.

Depending on the size of your feta block, cut into 3/4-inch thick layers. Using the 2.5 inch cake ring, cut out feta rounds. Set aside.

Arrange the salad with the watermelon slices on the bottom, followed with the feta rounds, and then two fresh basil leaves. Repeat until all the watermelon and feta rounds have been used. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction, and finish with fresh cracked black pepper.

Hawaiian Pineapple Coleslaw

My friend/boss had her wedding at the Hilton Waikoloa located on the Big Island of Hawaii. The backdrop of her wedding was the view of blue waves crashing against the rocks, and the sun setting. The scenery was beautiful, breathtaking, and oh so romantic. The wedding was simple and sweet. It couldn’t have been anymore perfect.

The dinner. Oh em gee. It was one of the best wedding meals ever was in Hawaii. It was just absolutely phenomenal. It was so fresh and so flavorful. And trust me, we know good wedding food from so-so wedding food. We consider ourselves wedding food experts. Why so confident, you wonder? We attended six weddings last year, and we have four weddings this year. That’s a whole lot of weddings and wedding meals.

The first course was a salad, followed by some of the yummiest clam chowder ever. Then came the main entree… a clam/shrimp bake presented in these gigantic steamer baskets. Holy smokes, it was AMAZING. But one of the most memorable parts of that dinner was the Hawaiian pineapple coleslaw served with the main course. I’m not usually a big fan of coleslaw because of the copious amounts of mayonnaise that is involved. But that coleslaw was incredible. It was crunchy, sweet, tangy, and not so mayo-y. It provided a refreshing contrast to the seafood, corn, and potatoes. I wish we could have boxed some of the leftovers to nosh on back at our hotel because it would have made for the perfect midnight snack! We swore that we’d come home and attempt to make the Hawaiian pineapple coleslaw, but just didn’t. Well, our barbecue cook-out served as the perfect purpose to bring it back. And ya know, it was good as we remembered it to be.

Hawaiian Pineapple Coleslaw

6 cups of shredded green cabbage or 1 head of cabbage, shredded
1 1/4 cup of fresh pineapple, chopped into small dice
1/3 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
2/3 cup of reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix cabbage and pineapple in a large mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, and agave syrup.

Add dressing to the cabbage and pineapple slaw. Mix thoroughly to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover, and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

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