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Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pecans, Bacon and Manchego Cheese

Brussels sprout salad with bacon, manchego cheese and pecans
Brussels sprout salad with bacon, manchego cheese and pecans

I love main course salads for dinner in the summer. I get the bacon from Hemlock Hill Farm, where the animals roam free. There are no nitrates in the bacon and it is beyond delicious! (It’s so good that I rarely eat any other bacon and buy several pounds at a time, freezing them in bundles of 4 slices.) If you live near or find yourself in Northern Westchester, NY, check them out. They have a store on the farm and the meat is the best you can find anywhere.

Speaking of which, I know “grass fed meat” is a buzz word these days, but there is some confusion. 100% grass fed is not necessary for your health or the welfare of animals—you want to know they are pasture raised; some grains are fine.

For example, at Hemlock Hill Farms, their beef, chicken, geese, goats and lamb are all pasture raised and their pigs are grain fed.  They have this awesome partnership with local brewers, Captain Lawrence Brewery and get their leftover barley from making beer.

According to the owner, “In the summer months we cut ‘hay’ which is in turn grass.  That hay we feed to them in the winter months.  Cattle, as all ruminants, must have some form of hay/grass in their diet always. On top of that they get spent barley in their diet which is an excellent by product that breweries make.  It’s a great feed source for cattle.  There is about 30% spent barley in their diet year round.”

Anyway, back to this salad. It is really tasty!

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pecans, Bacon and Manchego Cheese

Serves 8 as side, 4 main course

1 ½  pounds baby brussels sprouts, slicer attachment on food processor or cut in half and hand slice thin

¼ cup lemon juice

1 T olive oil

8 slices bacon, cut into pieces, reserve fat

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2 t Dijon mustard

3 T cider vinegar

Salt & Pepper

¾ cup pecan, toasted at 350 until lightly brown and fragrant; watch carefully—5-10 minutes–and chopped coarsely

4 ounces manchego cheese, chopped into small pieces

Cook bacon and remove from pan, leaving bacon fat. (Note: depending on bacon, you will either have the right amount of fat or too much. You can eye it and remove some or just make a bigger batch of dressing, which can be used on any green salad.)

Add garlic to bacon fat and cook a few minutes on low. Turn off heat. Wisk in mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, salt & pepper.

Combine everything and let sit for about 20-30 to wilt brussels sprouts slightly.

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Turkey Meatloaf, Caprese with Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella & Zucchini Salad

Caprese salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella
Caprese salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella

My newest obsession is fresh buffalo milk mozzarella. It started yesterday when I was checking out The New York Times recipes (I get daily emails on recipes, and store “my recipes box” on their website—love it!  See The New York Times Recipes  and found the “Classic Caprese Salad” and noticed that the author recommended buffalo milk mozzarella. So I headed over to Fairway, found it and made the dish last night.

Buffalo milk mozzarella is made in Italy, where the perfect climate for it produces cheese that is richer than regular cow mozzarella. It is soft and basically has an incredible “mouthfeel”. It is unbelievably good.

Many have tried but failed to produce anything comparable to Italian buffalo mozzarella, but there is one farm that makes artisanal buffalo milk mozzarella in the U.S. A place called Remini Mozzarella in Tomales, California, they do tours on Saturdays and I want to go!

When treated with affection and care, buffalo are as loving as dogs, according to the owner. At this farm, they handle all the buffalo and their babies and the animals produce milk only when they want to on a reward system. Ramini Mozzarella

The mozzarella from Fairway came in a bag with liquid.

Italian fresh buffalo mozzarella

Not sure how it stays fresh, because I read that the shelf life is only a few days—but I guess the liquid keeps it good. I will explore what buffalo mozzarella is at Zabar’s, because I can and because they have an amazing selection of cheeses. (Plus I got the only container they had at Fairway and am already worried about future supplies!)

So I made the Caprese salad with turkey meatloaf and zucchini salad. The Caprese salad was amazing, with tomatoes from a farm stand on Long Island that I got last weekend. And, of course the mozzarella.

The turkey meatloaf is a nice recipe, but I must admit, it holds together better with the addition of panko, which I left out.

Turkey meatloaf, zucchini salad and fresh buffalo mozzarella
Turkey meatloaf, zucchini salad and fresh buffalo mozzarella

Caprese Salad

Melissa Clark’s recipe in The New York Times:   

Mine was a little different, because I used grape tomatoes instead of regular sized Heirlooms. I cut up the mozzarella and tomatoes into small bite-sized pieces, and chiffonade-cut the basil. Then I added a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and tossed everything.

 Zucchini Salad

1-2 zucchini, ends removed and sliced into ¼” slices

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400. Place zucchini in a single layer on a sheet pan and coat with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast 7-10 minutes until slightly brown. Place zucchini in a bowl, add vinegar and toss.

Turkey Meatloaf

Serves 4; preheat oven to 350

1 pound ground turkey

4 scallions chopped or 1 small red onion thinly sliced on a mandolin, chopped and squeezed

¼ cup milk

1 egg

1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Salt & Pepper

Handful parsley, chopped fine

½ package of unflavored gelatin (I add this to all my meatloaves because it gives it a nice texture. There is a scientific reason behind it, but the cookbook that explains it is in storage. Try it!)

½ cup panko or breadcrumbs if you are not restricting carbs

Mix the gelatin with the milk and add the egg and let sit a few minutes to allow the gelatin to soften. Add remaining ingredients. Bake for 30 minutes in a meatloaf or cast iron pan.

Summer Cherry, Goat Cheese and Chick Pea Salad

Summer Cherry, goat cheese and chick pea salad
Summer Cherry, goat cheese and chick pea salad

This recipe, from The Week, was a bit out of my comfort zone. Cherries in a salad? But I had a bunch of them, and they were not really sweet and I wanted to use them up. My low carb version did not include the brown rice; had I used a grain, I would have chosen wheat berries instead. I also added kale, which was not in the recipe.

Beans are not really low carb, but I still use them because I do not like eating meat or fish every day. Beans also have a lot of fiber which you can subtract from the total carbs, so they aren’t that bad.

Let the goat cheese get to room temperature and toss some or all of it into salad; it will break down and the flavor will enhance every bite. You can use remaining in small pieces which looks nice.

The upshot was that the salad was really delicious and I will be making it again!

Summer Cherry, Goat Cheese and Chick Pea Salad

Serves 2 as main course

2 cups cooked brown rice, warmed or wheat berries my idea (Did not use either)

Small bunch or part of a large head of Lacinato kale, sliced Chiffonade*

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

¼ cup lightly packed chopped or chiffonade fresh basil leaves

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white balsamic, white wine, sherry or cider vinegar

½ tsp sea salt, more as needed

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, more as needed

32 fresh cherries (about 9 oz), pitted and quartered

1¾ cups home-cooked or 15 oz unsalted canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3 oz goat cheese, crumbled or in pinches (about ½ cup) at room temperature

Combine the brown rice (if using), kale, scallions, basil, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, cherries, and chickpeas in a mixing bowl, stirring to incorporate. Add all or most of the goat cheese. Taste, and add more salt and pepper as needed. Allow to sit about 15 minutes to soften kale.

*Chiffonade is a slicing technique in which vegetables are cut into long, thin strips. This is accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, then slicing the leaves perpendicular to the roll. Slicing tough veggies like kale in this mannor makes it softer and easier to chew when raw. It’s also very pretty!

Chiffonade

Brazilian Style Fish

Brazilian Style Fish
Brazilian Style Fish

I had a version of this recipe at my friend’s house several years ago and loved it. Am not sure why it took me so long to finally make it, but it is delicious and it will be making more frequent visits to my dinner table. It is very easy and it makes a terrific meal for entertaining. If you are eating food high in carbs, rice and/or bread would make a nice addition.

Like Chioppino, there is something about fish in a tomato base that is just so fresh tasting and delicious.

My friend used Monkfish, but I couldn’t find any, so I used Swordfish. Note: if you see Monkfish, “the poor man’s lobster,” grab it—it’s a meaty and tasty fish. Try this recipe with it or Mark Bittman’s Monkfish with Meatsauce.

Good choices for this recipe are any firm-fleshed fish like Mahi Mahi or shellfish.

I added baby spinach a zucchini “pasta,” so the dish is a complete meal and I served it in a bowl with spoons.

Brazilian Style Fish

Serves four

1 1/2 lbs. monkfish, swordfish, mahi mahi or other firm-fleshed fish or shellfish cut into bite sized chunks

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 – 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and chopped finely (or use a pinch of ground cayenne)

1 red or orange bell pepper seeded and sliced

2 stalks celery chopped

1”  fresh ginger chopped

8 large cloves garlic chopped and divided

28 oz. can peeled whole tomatoes

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp cinnamon (this may not sound like a lot, but it is the perfect amount)

Celtic sea salt and pepper to taste

1 can unsweetened coconut milk

6 ounces baby spinach

2-3 medium zucchini, julienned

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 C cilantro chopped

  1. Sauté jalapeño, onions, peppers, celery, ginger and half the garlic in oil until the vegetables are softened.
  2. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, cinnamon and salt. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add coconut milk and fish and cook until done, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and zucchini for a minute
  5. Just a minute before fish is done, add remaining chopped garlic.
  6. When fish is done, add lime juice and half of cilantro. Correct seasoning, adding salt, cayenne, cinnamon or more coconut milk as desired.
  7. Serve garnished with remaining cilantro and lime wedges.

 

Low Carb Summer Chicken with Pesto, Zucchini and Tomato Salad

Chicken breat with pesto, zucchini pasta and tomato salad

For those of you jumping in now, my recipes are low carb/low fat and high in deliciousness! Prepare these dishes and I promise you that you will not feel like you are restricting your intake in anyway. I’ve been eating low carb/low fat for six months now, with some exceptions on the weekends—I mean, for fucks sake—I live in NYC with the best bread in the world and we might be doomed with 45!

Seriously, these recipes are loaded with lean proteins and a wide variety of vegetables with good fats like extra virgin olive oil and avocado. I cook with mostly organic and local when possible and eat free range/pasture raised meat and sustainably harvested fish. I also use spices and fresh herbs, and ingredients that impart umami flavors so you don’t miss the mouth feel of high carbs.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are handy, but if you aren’t careful, they are easy to ruin by overcooking, becoming flavorless and tough. That said, cooking some dishes with boneless chicken breast isn’t a problem, like when you brown them quickly and then make a sauce; but for plain chicken, I prefer to cook them on the bone, because the skin and bone keeps them juicy and tender. Chicken on the bone is less expensive, too.  I just discard the skin, so they are still low fat. Cooking time is 95% hands off, as you use the oven and a timer so you don’t have to pay attention.

I have made many a roasted chicken and like all the parts, but prefer the breast. Since my local grocery store sells Murray’s chicken parts bone-in, I have been buying and roasting them like crazy this summer. It is so much easier than cutting up the whole chicken! I use them in my salad for lunch and for a quick dinner. The basic recipe is so easy and foolproof. Add a few ingredients and change the dish entirely. When it’s hot, I like to roast the poultry in the morning and eat it for dinner cold. You can certainly use dark meat instead of, or in addition to, the breast.

Note: if you are using dark meat, save the meaty bones and freeze them. When you have a good amount (1-2 dozen or so) you can make chicken bone broth. (You can save breast bones, too, but the broth won’t be rich enough with dark meat and cartilage.) I’ll post the recipe another time. You can freeze stock in small containers or zip locks and use in recipes, drink (they are the latest health craze) or add them to your dog’s food and make their meals healthier and tastier.

Chicken and Pesto with Zucchini and Tomato Salad

I made this dinner last week with the Scapes and Basil Pesto

Tomato Salad and Scapes and Basil Pesto

I had made and frozen earlier. A quick tomato salad from the farmer’s market and zucchini “pasta” completed the meal. A perfect low carb, fresh, easy to make summer dinner!

Zucchini and julienne/vegetable peeler
Zucchini and julienne/vegetable peeler

To make zucchini “pasta”, use a vegetable/julienne peeler or spiralizer. Mine is from Amazon. Simply use julienne side to make “pasta”. Turn zucchini and use until you hit the seeds. For this dish, I heated a saute pan with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and stirred in zucchini until in softens; about a minute or two. Add a bit of slat and pepper and it’s done.

 

Lemon Chicken Parts Roasted Bone-In

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Chicken parts, rinsed and dried

Salt and Pepper

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper for easier cleanup. Place chicken skin side down and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 30 minutes and flip. Add more salt and pepper and cook 30 minutes. Add lemon juice to chicken when you remove it from oven.  Allow chicken to sit 10 minutes.

Scoop some pesto onto the chicken and zucchini and add tomato salad.

Farmer’s Market Tomato Salad & How to Prepare Raw Red Onions

tomato salad
Farmer’s Market Tomato Salad

I like red, raw onions, but not the way I usually find them in dishes—in chunks or thick slices—because the flavor is overpowering (and gives me heartburn, to boot). Instead, I slice them on the thinnest blade on my mandolin, squeeze out the excess water and chop a bit.

(As the photograph makes clear, mine is a cheap plastic one I probably bought on Amazon for about $10. But it works great! If you don’t have a mandolin, do yourself a favor and get one, as you will use it a lot and it slices vegetables so easily and quickly!)  Then I add it to many of my summer salads like potato, tomato, chicken and more. Prepared like this, you don’t taste the onion separately; it melds in with the dish.

Mandolin
Mandolin

This is the simplest tomato salad. You can add fresh mozzarella or feta cheese, basil, and Greek olives. Tomatoes are best when not refrigerated, so the key to this salad is to prepare just before you eat and serve it at room temperature. I use balsamic vinegar to give it a bit of added sweetness and it also helps bring out the tomato flavor. I make this dish when tomatoes are in season and can be purchased at the farmer’s markets, because locally grown are infinitesimally better than commercial hot house varieties.

Farmer’s Market Tomato Salad

Grape tomatoes (or any other) cut in half

Red onion, sliced thin on a mandolin

Splash of balsamic vinegar

Splash of extra virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and serve at room temperature.

Tomorrow I’ll post my dinner from the other night, which was roasted chicken with this tomato salad, zucchini “pasta” and the scapes and basil pesto I posted last week.

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Did You Know You Need Fat to Absorb the Nutrients in Veggies?

If you eat your salad with a non-fat dressing and with no added fat like cheese, your body will not absorb all the nutrients in the vegetables you are eating.

Vegetables containing lycopene and beta-carotene, known as carotenoids, have been shown to help prevent heart disease and cancer, need fat to be absorbed into the body.

Dietary fats are also an important nutritional factor not only because your body needs them for building healthy cells and to produce hormones, but fat is also required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. This includes vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which your body needs to perform important functions.

You don’t need large amounts of fat to absorb the nutrients in vegetables, however. Use healthy extra virgin olive oil as a base for your dressing, some avocado or cheese (I like to sprinkle a bit of parmesan on my salad for extra flavor.)

Speaking of salad dressings, most commercial dressings are nasty and the no-fat ones are especially bad. Most commercial dressings contain inferior oils, chemicals, artificial sweeteners and sugars. Virtually all list the number one ingredient as water, and this includes expensive, organic varieties. Low or no fat dressings are loaded with artificial and natural sweeteners. Basically, buying prepared gives you a vastly inferior product that is way more money than making your own dressing.

So, no surprise that I always make my own dressing and it takes only minutes with my small food processor. I have a couple of Oxo salad dressing containers

Oxo Salad Dressing Containers

to store them and am always making different recipes, so I am never bored. Because there is acid and salt in the dressings, they can last for weeks.

I do have some formal salad dressings, like Caesar, but most are based on the classic vinaigrette and I just make whatever I am in the mood for. You need oil—my staple is extra virgin olive oil, but I use walnut for light dressings. You want to stock different vinegars, as they are one of the main flavors. I use unfiltered organic cider, balsamic, rice, red, and white or sherry. Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar is nice and lemon and limes. You will want Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Fresh garlic. Other ingredients you can use are fresh or dried herbs like parsley, chives and dill. Hard cooked egg, hot sauces, capers. You can try pickle juice and pickles, soy sauce, sesame oil, anchovy paste or anchovies, Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, sour cream, crème fraiche, avocado, tomato paste, spinach and shallots.

Variety of oils and vinegars

If you like prepared dressings, read the ingredients and try to copy it, using the better ingredients listed here. I am pretty sure yours will be far better and healthier, too boot!

The basic vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, salt and pepper. I usually add Dijon mustard. The nice part about mustard is that when you mix it in, it emulsifies the ingredients—meaning the dressing stays mixed.  I usually add a clove of garlic. After that, I either keep it simple or add items from the list, above.

I eat salads every day for lunch and usually have chicken, but sometimes I have shrimp or beans. I usually have the protein the same way for the week and make it on Monday. If I have plain chicken, any dressing will work, but if I make spicy blackened chicken, for example, I’ll want something creamy, like Caesar. I just mix it up and have been eating salad almost every day for years and have not gotten bored yet. (I do take breaks on the weekends.)

One thing that makes me crazy (I’ll admit when it comes to food, the list is long…) is when I order a salad and the dressing comes on the side because then I must attempt to dress the salad evenly. It is almost impossible to do with a fork, and the upshot are under and overdressed bites.

I strongly recommend using a flat-bottomed bowl and a good pair of tongs or salad “hands” to get the job of an evenly coated salad done right.

Salad Bowl and “Hands”

Because homemade dressing doesn’t have water as the first ingredient, start with the smallest amount you think you’ll need. Toss and taste. Add accordingly. Do this and you won’t be using a lot of dressing and each bite will be perfect.

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Low Carb Burger, Mushrooms and Asparagus Dinner

Burger, Mushrooms and Asparagus Dinner

I love to eat burgers with buns; crusty ciabatta and Eli’s soft brioche rolls are my favorites. However, a burger without a bun is actually pretty good, too. The key is good meat. I use either free range beef or buffalo. When meat is free range, it has more flavor and is leaner than animals raised in confinement.

Burger with mushrooms and asparagus

Some of the meals I cook have lots of ingredients; but not this burger dinner—it is simple and delicious.  Change things up with caramelized onions instead of mushrooms (or use both) or add tomato slices, raw onion and lettuce or any other toppings you enjoy.

If you would prefer to eat the burger with your hands, try steaming collard greens and using them as the “bun,” which is a trick I learned from the restaurant, Bareburger. 

If you like ketchup, but want to avoid the sugar, just mix some concentrated tomato paste with a bit of white or cider vinegar and viola—instant low carb ketchup!

Burger, Mushrooms and Asparagus

Serves 4

1 ½ pounds beef or buffalo, divided into 4 burgers

1 pound shitake and oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped

2 pounds asparagus, tough ends removed

Handful pine nuts

3 ounces goat cheese

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Grill or pan-fry on a cast iron pan burgers until done to your liking. In extra virgin olive oil, sauté mushrooms. I used shitake and oyster, but portabella, cremini or plain white mushrooms are fine, too.

Asparagus with goat cheese and pine nuts

On medium to low, sauté pine nuts in a tablespoon of butter until golden brown. Remove nuts. Put asparagus in pan and cover with water; cook until done, about 5 minutes. Drain well and mix with nuts. Add a couple ounces of goat cheese, and salt and pepper.

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Low Carb Fish “Tacos” Salad

I love fish tacos, but thought I could’nt eat them on my low carb diet, then realized all I needed to do was omit the tacos and viola! I simply increased the veggies and served the fish on top of the greens. The richness, textures and flavors of this dish are so satisfying that I don’t miss the tacos at all!

Fish “Taco” Salad

I usually use Mahi Mahi or Swordfish, but didn’t like the Mahi I saw and don’t eat swordfish too often because it has a lot of mercury, so I went with Trader Joe’s Dover Sole and it was delicious. Really, any fish or shellfish you like is fine. I live in a NYC apartment and can’t grill, but if you can, grilled fish or shellfish is my favorite way to eat fish tacos.

 

Fish “Taco” Salad

Serves Four

1 1/2 pounds fish

Either grill fish, saute it in a pan with a little olive oil or bake at 375 degrees; coat with a little olive oil, salt and peper and cook about 9 minutes.

 

Salad

Small red cabbage, sliced thin on a mandolin or food processor

1 medium red onion, sliced on thinnest blade on a mandolin

Romaine, chopped

1 avocado, small chunks

Handful grape tomatoes, cut in half

2 Kirby cucumbers, sliced  on mandolin/food processor

4 radishes, sliced on mandolin/food processor

Chipotle Pepper Sauce

1/2 cup sour cream / greek yogurt/crème fraiche

Handful cilantro

1/2 cup mayo (You could omit and use only sour cream)

1 canned adobe chipotle pepper with sauce (freeze remaining)

1 small garlic clove

Zest of one lime and juice

2 Tablespoons of tomatoes

Salt

Zip all ingredients together with a blender

Toss salad with some pepper sauce to evenly coat. Add more sauce to cooked fish.

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Scapes Garlic and Basil Pesto

If you are lucky to get your hands on some scapes garlic, you can make a nice batch of pesto and freeze in containers or zip lock bags. Scapes are garlic and strong, so you may want to cut the strong flavor with basil, cilantro or parsley. I just made a batch with basil. If you are freezing, omit the parmesan until you are ready to use it.

You may make a much bigger batch than this recipe and freeze in portions. Thicken or thin pesto with more or less oil.

Scapes garlic

Look for scapes at your farmer’s market and CSA. Because they have gotten so popular, you might find them at your grocery store; I got these at Whole Foods.

 

Scapes Garlic and Basil Pesto

1 cup or about ½ pound scapes, cut into chunks

1 medium bunch basil, stems removed

½ cup Extra virgin olive oil

½ cup pine nuts, toasted until lightly browned at 350 for about 5 minutes

¼ cup grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. I will be using some of this on roasted bone-in chicken beast next week. Pesto goes with lots of things, including pasta, fish, chicken and vegetables. It freezes beautifully!

I

scape-and-basil-pesto

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