Warm Bacon + Onion Salad

This salad demonstrates how a little bit of bacon can transform your peppery arugula greens from basic to bonkers. This salad is warm and cozy like a fuzzy blanket on a rainy day. Add some chopped grilled chicken or shrimp and it could be a meal in itself!

SHOPPING LIST: 1 box of arugula, 1 package bacon, red onion, blue cheese, dried cranberries, stoneground mustard, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, black pepper

Rough chop 6 pieces of bacon, keeping the pieces fairly large as they will shrink while cooking. As always, start your bacon in a cold pan and then put the heat over medium-high. While your bacon is sizzling, fill your serving bowl with the arugula. Top with 1/3 cup of dried cranberries and 1/3 cup of blue cheese crumbles and set aside.

Slice 1/2 a red onion. When your bacon is sufficiently browned, use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the grease, placing it on a paper towel to strain the excess oil. Add your sliced red onion to the bacon grease and sauté until soft and golden. Season your onions with salt and pepper. Again, using a slotted spoon, add your onions on top of your arugula and your crispy bacon bits as well.

In a small bowl, combine 2 tB. stone ground mustard, 2 tB. apple cider vinegar and 1 tB. and whatever bacon grease remains in your pan . Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over your arugula salad and give the salad a quick toss so the mustard-bacon dressing really coats all of your greens.

Using a green like arugula is great for a salad like this because it can hold up to the warmth of the onions. Other friends you might want to add to this party? Our favorite quick candied pecans, a diced avocado (tossed in lemon juice, of course) or the addition of ANOTHER green – like frisee – would be wonderful as well!

Quick Candied Pecans

We use these babies in lots of recipes so it made sense to finally give them a little attention of their own! Whether you use them for any of the following recipes, throw a bowl of these on your next cheese plate or add a handful to a bowl of vanilla ice cream, these candied pecans are easy and versatile in so many ways!

SHOPPING LIST: pecans, confections sugar, salt, cayenne pepper

Take 1 cup of pecans and lay them on a baking sheet and throw them in a 350 degree oven for 4 minutes. Set up a strainer in your sink and then, in a mixing bowl, combine 2 tB. of confectioners sugar with 1/2 tsp. of salt and 5 dashes of cayenne pepper. When the pecans emerge from the oven, put them in the strainer and run water over the nuts so they are equally wet. Then, toss the wet nuts in the bowl of spiced confectioners sugar. Replace the seasoned nuts on your baking sheet and bake them another 5 minutes in the oven until they are crunchy and candied. Allow them to cool.

Feel free to double or even triple this recipe as you can ALWAYS save these in a jar for future uses – or just to nibble on as a delicious snack.

Tomato and Feta Cauliflower

Here we go again. Another night staring at a few heads of cauliflower and trying to figure out how to make it interesting. Thankfully, my love affair with sun-dried tomatoes IN OIL continues (see the 3-Way Tomato Salad for more sun-dried tomato inspo).

SHOPPING LIST: 3 heads of cauliflower, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, feta cheese, coconut oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, using the convection function if you have that option. Remove the florets from your cauliflower and lay on a sheet pan. Drizzle with melted coconut oil and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder. Toss well so all of the florets are equally coated in oil and seasoning and bake for 40 minutes.

The key here is actually the super garlicky oil that that sun-dried tomatoes are preserved in. Once your cauliflower is done roasting, use a large spoon to drizzle about 4-5 tB. worth of the oil over your cauliflower and place the tray under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until your cauliflower is blistered.

Remove the roasted florets into your serving dish and add 1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes (removed from the oil) and 1/2 cup of feta. I chose NOT to slice the sun-dried tomatoes because I thought they looked beautiful full-sized against the larger cauliflower florets – but you could totally give them a rough chop or slice them in half if you prefer smaller bits. Just remember, at many gourmet markets you will find specially packaged “sun-dried tomato olive oil” so purchasing your sun-dried tomatoes IN OIL actually gives you two products in one! You can also use this garlicky tomato oil in your salad dressings, as a drizzle for a classic tomato/mozzarella salad, or even as a topping on pizza!!

Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken

I had the ABSOLUTE pleasure of traveling to Vietnam with my husband when the world was normal and traveling was a thing and there are a FEW dishes that stick out in my mind – one in particular was the lemongrass chicken at Cuc Gach Quan. It’s just one of those restaurants where you feel like someone’s grandmother is in the kitchen, and you’re eating in their living room, and each dish is more incredible than the next. Needless to say, I’ve never had Lemongrass Chicken like theirs, so the next best option was to do it myself!

SHOPPING LIST: 3 chicken breasts, jalapeño, scallions, chopped garlic, dried lemongrass, grapeseed oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper

I’m going to link here to a similar version of the lemongrass I used because you want to make sure you are using a FINELY cut product like THIS. Lemongrass isn’t always the easiest thing to find fresh so using a dry product allows us to get the same result with an ingredient that is accessible to most everyone.

Chop your entire bunch of scallions and thinly slice your jalapeno. In a saucepan, add 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add your scallions, sliced jalapeños, 2 heaping tB. of chopped garlic and 1/4 cup of your dried lemongrass. You want to really fry your spices for 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, chop your chicken into cubes. (As a very good Indian friend taught me, DO NOT season your chicken yet because it will omit too much water – WAIT until your chicken is nice and browned).

When you spices are browned and fried, add your chicken, increase to high heat and DO NOT TOUCH YOUR PAN. Let it really get a nice brown on one side. After 5 minutes, give it a quick toss and 2 tB. of fish sauce and 2 tB of soy sauce. Use a wooden to spoon to remove all of the browned bits from the bottom of your pan and season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook another 7-10 minutes or until your chicken is fully cooked through.

I didn’t put any garniture because I really wanted you to see the bits of fried garlic, jalapeño and lemongrass on the chicken but if you have leftover scallions or fresh Thai basil a little bit of fresh herbs would be a lovely finishing touch.

Creamy Cucumber + Radish Salad

SHOPPING LIST: 2 English cucumbers, 2 radish, red onion, parsley, lemon, mayonnaise, salt, black pepper

Slice the ends off your English cucumbers and then thinly slice both cucumbers. Place all of your cumber slices in a strainer and toss with 1 tB of salt. Mix well and allow to strain 10-15 minutes so that some of the liquid leaves your cucumbers. This is a very important step if you are making this dish ahead of time so that it doesn’t become watery as your cucumber omit their natural liquids.

Next, thinly slice your radishes and reserve in a bowl of cold water until it is time to compile your salad. Mince 1/2 of a red onion and add to the bottom of your serving bowl. Rough chop a handful of parsley leaves – leaving you with about 1/4 cup of chopped parsley. Add your parsley to the onion.

Over a small bowl, use a microplane to remove the zest of one lemon. Add the juice of the entire lemon to the zest. Add 1/3 cup of mayonnaise (obviously my vegan friends can substitute with a plant-based alternative), 1 tB. of black pepper, 1 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp of red pepper flakes. Mix your dressing well.

Give your cucumbers in the strainer a final shake to remove the excess liquid. Add the cucumbers to your onions and parsley and then use the strainer to remove the liquid from your radishes as well. Once all of your ingredients are in the bowl, give your creamy lemon dressing an extra good mix and pour over the contents of your bowl. Toss your cucumber salad and CHILL. I love a salad like this to have to be served a little bit cold – also, the chill will keep your cucumbers CRUNCHY!

Fig + Rosemary “Baked” Brie

You know that Dalmatia Fig Jam that you always buy and put out with your cheese plates and MAYBE someone takes a spoonful and then you put it back in your pantry until you make another cheese plate? Or maybe that’s just me. Either way – let’s put that bad boy to FANTASTIC use. I know, “baked brie” doesn’t scream summertime – but this isn’t en croute. A full-sized wheel of brie in a cast-iron skillet with a fantastic topping makes this warm, gooey brie perfectly positioned at your picnic, poolside or dinner table. Just don’t forget the crackers.

SHOPPING LIST: large brie cheese, fig jam, dried rosemary, red pepper flake, walnuts, balsamic glaze, salt, black pepper

Unwrap your large wheel of brie and place it in the center of your cast iron skillet. In a small bowl, combine about 3/4 cup of your fig jam with 1/2 cup of walnuts. Add two pinches of salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 2 tB. of dried rosemary and 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes and mix well. Top your brie with the fig mixture.

NOW – you have two options. You can either bake this in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes OR since you are making this in a cast iron skillet, fire up your BBQ and you can GRILL your skillet for the same 25-30 minutes period. Grilling it will infuse the brie with a bit of a smokey flavor which is lovely as well.

When your brie is melty and popping at the seams, finish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze for an extra burst of tangy sweetness. Aside from traditional crackers, I love serving this with my favorite ever – Aurora Tostones – or a freshly sliced French baguette.

Grilled Shrimp and Halloumi Skewers

I mean you put grilled halloumi cheese in/on anything and you’re off to a great start. These simple shrimp skewers not only benefit from alternating cubes of this blackened, salty cheese, but the homemade lemon parsley marinade, which takes just seconds to whip up in your food processor, bathes each skewer in bright, beautiful flavor.

SHOPPING LIST: 1 lb. cleaned, deveined shrimp, halloumi cheese, cherry tomatoes, lemon, fresh parsley, chopped garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper

This made 4 skewers but they were tightly packed so you could totally stretch this and make 4-6 skewers with this recipe. Toss your raw shrimp in salt and pepper. Then take one package of halloumi cheese. My store-bought cube of halloumi allowed me to slice the brick into three horizontal slabs from which I made cubes, trying to emulate the size of the cherry tomatoes. I don’t know if you can tell from the photo but these heirloom cherry tomatoes were variations of green and red and just so beautiful. So begin skewering, shrimp –> halloumi –> tomato. When your skewers are set it’s time to make the marinade.

In your food processor, add the zest and juice of one lemon. Add one heaping tB. of chopped garlic and then about 1/2 a bunch of parsley leaves – it would be almost one cups worth of fluffy leaves. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and process until you still have bits of parsley — this is NOT going to be a pesto or puree-like consistency but more like a thin dressing. Season with salt and pepper to tase and then rub your skewers with 3/4 of your marinade.

Get your grill blazing hot and grill your skewers about 4 minutes on each side – until your shrimp are cooked through and your cheese is nice and blistered. Before serving, drizzle the remaining 1/4 of your marinade over your finished skewers.

One thing to note is that the inclusion of the grilled halloumi is seriously be the STAR of these skewers for me. With that said, this would be a great idea for completely VEGETARIAN skewers. Layer up a bunch of your favorite veggies – slices of red onion, zucchini, tomatoes, what have you, with the cubes of halloumi and the same parsley lemon dressing for a super satisfying ALL vegetable meal.

Spicy Scallop Crudo

Raw scallops are my favorite. Scallop sushi. Scallop crudo. If you have access to fresh, sea scallops – it’s simply the best way to enjoy these gems of the sea. The texture is rich and velvety but also light and silky. You can thinly slice them and literally do nothing more than a squeeze of lemon and some sea salt – or you can take it up a notch. This is clearly the latter.

SHOPPING LIST: 1/2 lb. sea scallops, olive oil, wasabi sauce, wasabi peas, sea salt

First, you have to understand, that as soon as you start slicing your scallops they begin to oxidize so you want to slice them and serve this dish IMMEDIATELY! The only real prep here is crushing your wasabi peas – so take about 1/4 cup in a plastic bag and bang on them with the edge of a jar and you’re ready to get going.

Turn your scallops on their side and try to slice as THIN as possible. I like to layer them a bit for presentation’s sake but feel free to take liberty here. You could display your scallop crudo slices in horizontal lines or scatter them around your platter. When your scallop slices are displayed on your platter you will give them a drizzle of HIGH QUALITY olive oil (note the green color – this not the same olive oil you would cook with), a drizzle of wasabi sauce (I’ve mentioned here before I use the Kikkoman brand, Inglehoffer makes a great option too), a sprinkle of sea salt and then your wasabi peas to finish. I love the little bit of crunch against the smooth scallop and of course the extra spice is always welcome in my house.

SOMETIMES my local fishmonger has wasabi tobiko which is the absolute BEST finishing touch but alas he was out. In my search to link wasabi tobiko, I just learned that you can buy it on AMAZON – so I guess I don’t have any excuses for next time!

Spicy Korean Cucumbers

First we did the Jewish-style Dill-icious Cucumber Salad. This is a similar concept with a COMPLETELY different flavor profile + technique.

SHOPPING LIST: 3 English cucumbers, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, honey, chili garlic sauce, gochugaru Korean chili flakes, sesame seeds, chopped scallions, garlic salt, salt

I like to use English cucumbers for this – the long, thin, “seedless” kind. Either way, slice your cumber in half lengthwise, use a spoon to remove the seeds and then sprinkle the inside with salt and allow the cucumber to rest in a strainer (salt side DOWN) for 10 minutes so the salt will draw out the natural water from the cucumber. SKIPPING this step will result in a watery pickle! Don’t do that.

In the meantime you can make your pickling liquid. Combine 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar, 2 tB. sesame oil, 1 tsp. honey, 2 tB. chili garlic sauce, 2 tB. gochuchang Korean chili flakes, 2 tB. sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp. garlic salt and 3 tB. chopped scallions.

I love doing a pickled cucumber salad because it honestly gets better the longer it sits in the pickling solution. Sometimes, when the cucumbers start running out, I’ll add a whole new batch to the same liquid for a quick and easy refresher without starting over!

Creamed Corn + Crab Pasta

My husband loves crab pasta. So when I’m feeling like a sport (ha!) I’ll grab a pound of lump crab meat. My typical crab pasta recipe is essentially the same as the Lemon Ravioli (a la Misi) – with a boatload of crab thrown in at the last minute. But you know me – always trying to think outside of the box – and always looking into my pantry for inspo. What else does the prince love? Crab and corn chowder. And because we’ve been loving a good (actually, GREAT!) cornbread around here, I always have canned creamed corn on hand.

SHOPPING LIST: 1 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat, 1 can creamed corn, 3/4 box of pasta, olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Bring your pasta water to boil and make sure it is HEAVELY salted because you are going to use your pasta water. I added 2 tB. of olive oil to my pasta water as well because I was using angel hair pasta which I find particularly likes to stick together. As always, use whatever pasta you prefer or have on hand. Especially with angel hair, you want to make sure to PAR COOK your pasta so you can finish cooking your pasta in the super easy sauce. When it’s time to strain the pasta, make sure to save 1/2 cup of your pasta water.

In your sauce pan, melt 2 heaping tB. of. butter. When the butter is melted, add 1/2 cup of the creamed corn and 1/3 cup of your pasta water and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes (if you’re like me and want everything to have a kick but also, the red pepper flakes add a little pop of color). As your sauce thickens, add back your pasta and continue cooking over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes until your sauce is thick and creamy (did you know that creamed corn is a NATURAL thickening agent?!?!).

At the last minute, throw in all of your lump crab. Give the pasta a quick toss and serve immediately. You do not want your crab to “cook” – so you could even do this last step in your serving bowl if you are nervous about your beautiful lumps of crab turning into mush – which will happen if you cook them too long. But you’re paying attention to my explicit instructions so that would never happen to you 🙂