Tag Archives: salad

Emerging from the holiday food hangover

After a brilliant Thanksgiving dinner, an ample supply of leftovers and various other festivities during the weekend, I’m officially stuffed! With the holiday behind us, my husband and I were craving something clean, healthy, and flavorful  – in other words, something that would taste good and make us feel good. We definitely don’t buy into the idea that eating well should feel like a form of deprivation. Last night, we put together a soup and salad combo that rose to the challenge.

I found this recipe for Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut chicken soup) on Food52, one of my favorite sites to search for dinner inspiration. The galangal (use ginger if you can’t find it), lemongrass, and lime really brighten up the flavor of this soup and contrast perfectly with the creamy coconut milk. Since we’d eaten plenty of poultry over the last few days, we opted to use shrimp instead. They only require a few minutes to cook, so we added about 6 ounces of shrimp (peeled and deveined) to the hot soup 3 to 5 minutes before we were ready to eat.

To go with the soup, I made a cucumber salad with smashed ginger and garlic, based on a recipe in Plenty, one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s fantastic cookbooks. It’s been one of our favorites since it landed on the kitchen bookshelf a couple of years ago; it’s full of creative vegetable dishes that have definitely expanded our culinary repertoire and the gorgeous photography doesn’t hurt either. The cucumber salad is a great option when you’re looking for a fresh, clean dish. The cucumbers make a great partner for the garlic, ginger and vinegar and the result is vibrant and pleasantly sharp.

The soup and salad combo makes enough to feed a hungry couple for dinner, with leftovers to supply lunch for one of you the next day.

Cucumber salad with smashed ginger and garlic
From Plenty

3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil or olive oil (not extra virgin)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 a red onion, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 garlic cloves, peeled
4 small, or 8 mini cucumbers (about 1 1/4 lbs in total), peeled
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
3 tbsp chopped cilantro

  1. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the sliced red onion, combine well, and leave to marinate for up to an hour.
  2. Place the ginger and salt in a mortar and pound well with a pestle. Add the garlic and continue pounding until it is crushed, but stop before it becomes a paste. Using a spatula, scrape the garlic, ginger and salt mixture into the bowl with the onion and dressing and stir everything together.
  3. Cut the cucumbers lengthwise in half, then slice on an angle into 1/4 inch thick slices. Add the cucumber, sesame seeds and cilantro to the bowl. Stir well and let the salad sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Before serving, stir the salad again, and if a lot of liquid has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl, pour some of it out. Taste for seasoning, and add a few more drops of toasted sesame oil if you like.

A week with Maia & Pat

Meet Maia & PatMaia & Pat

Where do you live? Cincinnati, OH

How long? 1.5 years

Favorite foods? Maia – chocolate, Nutella, crusty French baguettes, full-fat Fage yogurt, strawberry ice cream, anything with coconut, lamb chops, veal cutlets, short ribs, duck breast and poached eggs (and I could think of more if I had time!); Pat – steak

How often do you eat together? We eat dinner together almost every night, and we usually eat brunch together on the weekends.

Who’s the cook at your house? Pat is the fried egg & grill expert. Maia takes care of everything else.

What’s your go-to meal(s)? We love lamb burgers with some baked sweet potato “fries” on the side – amazing. We’re both big fans of steak. We might have a filet mignon with a side of asparagus on the weekend, but on a weeknight we’ll go for a simpler version of that dish – like flank steak with a big salad. Lately, we’ve been making our version of a Greek salad almost every night, with tomatoes, cucumbers, sauteed bell peppers, and a generous slab of feta cheese on top (even better when it’s roasted in the oven!). Maia’s Bulgarian, so she’d call this a shopska salad, but Pat’s christened it the “Maia salad.”

What’s your ideal meal? Maia – it definitely involves lots of tasting and sharing, and some good friends. A tapas style spread with warm olives, a couple of good cheeses, some cured meats, grilled flank steak, roasted peppers, an arugula salad and some good crusty French bread would do it; Pat – steak.

How has your relationship influenced the way you eat? Maia – When I was living alone, it wasn’t uncommon for dinner to be made up of a couple of types of cheese, a couple of slices of that crusty baguette I’m obviously craving and a glass of red wine. In the last year and a half, we have had a grand total of one meatless dinner. And Pat limits his intake of refined carbs so the baguette is out too. We eat more meat than I did before, and probably more salads as well. We eat fewer sweets (not counting the ones I sneak in at the office), almost no bread, pastries, rice or potatoes, and almost never go out during the week. But we can blame our puppy for that last one – we hate to leave her alone at night after being at work all day; Pat – I eat significantly better than when I was by myself, and I find myself much more interested in food and trying a wider variety of foods.

What surprised you about each other’s eating habits after you moved in together? Maia – I had no idea that Pat was so disciplined!; Pat – I had no idea that Maia had such strong feelings about bread!

What are your guilty pleasures? Maia – I sneak in most of my “bad” eating at the office. If Pat didn’t see me eat those three Ferrero Rochers, they don’t count, right?; Pat – If I’m stressed, I can eat large quantities of food, and it isn’t always good for me. I can go through half a box of girl scout cookies if it’s a stressful time.

What’s one thing you can’t agree on? Maia – Pat is very disciplined. If something isn’t good for him, he won’t eat it – at all. I’m much more moderate – I like to eat everything and I don’t feel badly about it, but I do try to keep the proportions on the healthier side. (Pat agreed!)

Any dietary restrictions? If so, how does it impact your meals?  Maia – Pat avoids all the tasty starches: bread, rice, potatoes, anything with flour in it, etc. We pretty much don’t keep that stuff in the house and substitute with more vegetables, fruit and meat. Full disclosure though – I’ll indulge when we are out; Pat –  I agree, Maia is much more moderate than me and does a good job of trying to keep up with my diet. If I’m around it, I’ll eat it and she is pretty considerate about not putting “it” in front of me.

Let’s see what was on their table…

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Spinach salad with dates & almonds

A few weeks ago, we had some friends over for dinner to celebrate my husband’s birthday. My favorite part of having friends over for dinner – besides the great company – is planning the menu. Whether it’s nibbles or a sit down dinner, I love pulling together a handful of dishes that will serve as the backdrop to a great night. For this occasion, we promptly turned to Jerusalem, a cookbook that has been getting a lot of love in our kitchen since my husband bought it for me as a Christmas present. Very simply stated, it’s a collection of recipes from the various cuisines that meet in its eponymous city, and it has inspired many a meal that we’ve cooked in 2013, including my husband’s birthday dinner. One of our favorite recipes from the book is a spinach salad with dates, topped with spiced toasted pita bread and almonds – sweet, spicy and crunchy. And it went down well with our friends too – clean plates all around and a few requests for the recipe too. If you’re looking for a unique salad (and I’m always looking for them), then give this recipe a spin.  

Spinach salad with dates and almonds

Serves 4

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

½ medium red onion, thinly sliced

3 ½ oz Medjool dates, pitted and quartered lengthwise

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

about 3 ½ oz pita bread (or 2 small pitas), roughly torn into 1 ½-inch pieces

½ cup whole unsalted almonds, roughly chopped

2 tsp sumac

½ tsp crushed red pepper

5 oz baby spinach leaves

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice


  1. Put the vinegar, onion and dates in a small bow. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain any residual vinegar and discard.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the butter and half of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the torn pita and the chopped almonds and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove the pita from the heat and mix in the sumac, crushed red pepper and a pinch or two of salt.
  3. When you’re ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.