Category Archives: salad

Hail to Watermelon and Its Rind


‘I know how a prize watermelon looks when it is sunning its fat rotundity among pumpkin vines and “simblins”; I know how to tell when it is ripe without “plugging” it; I know how inviting it looks when it is cooling itself in a tub of water under the bed, waiting; I know how it looks when it lies on the table in the sheltered great floor space between house and kitchen, and the children gathered for the sacrifice and their mouths watering; I know the crackling sound it makes when the carving knife enters its end, and I can see the split fly along in front if the blade as the knife cleaves its way to the other end; I can see its halves fall apart and display the rich red meat and the black seeds, and the heart standing up, a luxury fit for the elect; I know how a boy looks behind a yard-long slice of that melon, and I know how he feels; for I have been there. I know the taste of the watermelon which has been honestly come by, and I know the taste of the watermelon which has been acquired by art. Both taste good, but the experienced know which tastes best.’- Mark Twain

What can I say? For such a poetic admiration and knowledge of citrullus lanatus, I’d like Mark Twain’s spirit to guide me through my next watermelon picking, ‘cause those knocking tips never work for me. Which is why I liked the idea to make some watermelon pickles. I didn’t have to make a lot of research – the Bon Appétitmagazine has already hooked me on it last summer.

There were some red flags about the recipe including only 3 stars reviews, copious amount of sugar, zero water added, etc. You can find the recipe here.

Despite the flags, my loyalty to Bon Appétit has won. I enthusiastically worked the watermelon rinds  into the wonderful pickles while taking these pictures.

They smelled wonderful and turned out to be exactly like the ones on the BA images. I was anxious to try them next day.

The day after I took the first bite. Hmm. How should I describe it? You know those exotic chutneys you sometimes buy on liquidation that inevitably end up in the garbage after sitting in the fridge for 6 months? It was worse. The watermelon rind juicy freshness was completely gone – buried in sugar, salt and spice like a mummy. I can almost guarantee this listless thing could last in a jar for a century. Well, I still gave it a chance with a few more days in the fridge and a small tapas party. People would take a bite, but it would be the last one. It followed the destiny of the exotic chutney. Fortunately, I cut the recipe in half, so I had only two jars to throw out. I did made a note though about adding the ginger and anise star, because both sounded refreshing in the pickle recipe.

I started looking for the real authentic recipe of a watermelon pickle: the one that would put a smile on those faces surviving the great depression a century ago. I found a great one (with good reviews this time) in the “Root to Stalk Cooking – The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable” book by Tara Duggan (recipe follows).  I could finally get what was the fuss about the old-fashion treat (with much less sugar and prominent lemon flavor). Sorry, no pictures for obvious reason (I wasn’t sure it would work). People at the next tapas party had it with much more enthusiasm. I started adding it to salads and cold soups.

Still, as good as a classic watermelon rind pickle can be, as a great connoisseur of kosher pickles I insisted on finding some other trick that would keep that feeling of freshness of a watermelon and all its vital nutriments intact without boiling the rind.   

I came up with geniusly simple solution: chop the peeled watermelon rind (along with the chunks of watermelon) (2 cups); sprinkle it with quality salt (1/4 tablespoon); add a few slices of ginger and the anise star. Mix a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with the same amount of honey (preferably spiced) and add the liquid to the watermelon rind mix. Cool in the fridge for just 10-15 minutes and off you go (discard the anise star)! Incredibly fresh, youthful and invigorating! I use it now almost daily added to de-puffing shakes, soups, salads, salsas and relishes. I just love this simple healing mix.


Finally, my favorite, watermelon gazpacho with macerated rind: I call it ‘hangover shots’ (huge party pleaser (before or after). The watermelon and honey-cider macerated rind add delectable sweetness and balance to tomatoes. The apple cider vinegar works magic with the glycemic index making it very good for health (if you are into these things) while lifting the umami of the tomatoes and watermelon. This soup is hydrating, rejuvenating and healing. By virtue of having the watermelon and tomatoes together, it doubles the amount of lycopene thus hugely boosting the immune system. Did I say it tastes amazing? The mint gives that pick-me-up finish to help bring you back to life along with the soup itself whether it from the heat, exhaustion or hangover. Gosh, it’s incredible how easy it is at times to make yourself happy.
Enjoy!
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LEMONY WATERMELON RIND PICKLES
Yields: 2 to 3 pints
Ingredients:
Rind from 3 pounds seedless watermelon
7 cups water, divided
5 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
Zest (in large strips) and juice from 1 large lemon
Instructions:
Cut the rind into 1-inch cubes to make around 4 cups.
Combine6 cups of the water and 3 tablespoons of the salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer to dissolve the salt, then add the watermelon rind and cook until fork tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the watermelon rind and divide among the pint jars.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup water with the remaining 2 tablespoons salt, the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and cloves. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
Stir the lemon zest and juice into the pickle brine. Pour the brine over the watermelon rind, distributing the spices and lemon zest evenly among the jars. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight before serving. (The pickles will taste very salty at first, but the flavor mellows overnight.)
Note: You will need two to three pint jars and canning lids and rings, cleaned well in soapy water. Because this doesn’t make a huge amount, you can store the finished product in the refrigerator for one to two months rather than canning it. You may have some extra brine, so feel free to add more rind if you have it.
Adapted from: “Root to Stalk Cooking – The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable” book by Tara Duggan, 13/08/2013
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MACERATED WATERMELON RIND CONCENTRATE
3 cups water
1 tablespoon quality sea salt (Maldon, fleur de sel, etc.)
1 cup honey (quickly made spice infused honey is the best for this recipe)
2 anise stars
1 knob of ginger, thinly sliced
Few lemon peels (optional)
6 cups peeled watermelon rind, half and half pink and white parts, coarsely chopped
1 cup cider vinegar
Instructions:
Bring the water and the salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add the honey and stir to dissolve. Add anise star, ginger and lemon peel to the honey water and stir. Pour the honey-water over the watermelon rind in a large ceramic bowl. Let cool to room temperature. Add apple cider vinegar and mix. Steep the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or up to overnight. When ready, use the macerated watermelon chunks and the liquid in salads/dressings, cold soups, smoothies, tonic drinks, etc. The mixture can be store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
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MACERATED WATERMELON RIND SUMMER TONIC
Strain the amount of liquid required from the macerated watermelon rind mixture. Pour 1/4 cup of the concentrate into a glass over ice and dilute with 3/4 cup water. Garnish with the cubes of watermelon, cucumber, and mint. 

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WATERMELON GAZPACHO WITH MACERATED RIND
Yields: 2 to 4 portions
Ingredients:
1 pound tomatoes, diced
1 pound seeded and cubed watermelon
½ cup macerated watermelon rind with liquid (see the recipe in the post above), OR 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1 small to medium size cucumber, diced (peeled and de-seeded if necessary)
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher, Maldon, fleur de sel, or any other quality salt (add more according to your taste)
Feta cheese, crumbled
5 to 10 spearmint leaves for garnish
Instructions:
Combine tomatoes, watermelon, rind, cucumber and olive oil in a blender or food processor. Give it a few pulses until chunky-smooth, but not too smooth. Let cool in the fridge if necessary. Garnish with crumbled feta and chopped mint. Enjoy!

Earth Day & Ethereal Shrimp Ceviche

‘Earth is our spaceship. There’s no other. Protect it…’ – was my verbal tribute to the Earth Day few days ago along with this Martian-looking image of the low tide vista some place beautiful. It brought the cozy memories of my most recent travel to Florida, and of course of all things ‘Floribbean’ including its food staple CEVICHE!
Shrimp Ceviche © http://www.letsheatit.com/

Bon Appetit magazine named ‘crudo’, which includes carpaccio, sashimi and other raw sea food creations seasoned with sweet, spicy and acidic components, the dish of 2014. Ceviche (raw seafood and fish) dish is hot on this list. Pristine fresh fish, scallops, even skate join this list with many inexpected spice takes on this Latin/Central American delight. I chose to showcase the Shrimp Ceviche starring freshly cooked shrimp reserving the hard core raw challenges for some hot days later this summer. Some authentic Peruvian recipes use raw shrimp, but I will stick to the cooked one because I wasn’t the one catching it, ha-ha.

The surreal scenery of one of our first nights in New Smyrna, FL with the gorgeous oceanview provides a perfect back drop for this kind of the dish and just to support the mood I found this amateur YouTube recording of the sunrise at the same place if you wish to see it in the day light or, at the sunrise to be exact.

Oh, those rear lucky days of fun in the sun, sandcastling, trying (and inevitably failing) YOLO (you only live once), dog-chasing sandpipers. Refreshing the taste buds in between with fresh ceviche and a glass of rose… 
Isn’t it the way life should be lived more of the time? Routine chores interrupted by whispering ocean breeze and spectacular sunset. Lazy seagul to watch while making your bed, hearing waves while falling asleep… 
The ocean-side theme has imprinted so much in my heart I’m even re-designing our bedroom based on this inspiration now. It’s going great and I will sure post the results once the project is done. You will see exactly this seagull picture framed among other things.
I’m also dreaming about visiting Peru quite often.

The first top notch shrimp ceviche I tried was not in Peru though. It was in Philadelphia at Nuevo Latino restaurant run by the renown Chef Guillermo Pernot. Two times James Beard award winner, Chef Pernot is a world’s expert of ceviche dishes and even published a book since called Ceviche with lots of exotic recipes worth trying. He now runs the chain of Cuba Libre restaurants specialized in ‘Criollo’ cuisine in Philadelphia, Washington, Orlando and Atlantic City.  Guess what, his shrimp ceviche is still on the menu! He serves his shrimp ceviche signature dish floating in the pool of the blackened tomato and pepper spicy gazpacho (the veggies are grilled, blackened and then ground in an old-fashioned way). Mine version is more of a hot day ‘take a break with rose’ style, but is nevertheless uber tasty.

Here are my few tips on how to make shrimp ceviche a success:
a. use the freshest shrimp of the best quality as if you were a real Peruvian, or just have caught this shrimp yourself in St. Lawrence river (at the level of Sorel) an hour ago;
b. salt matters: it’s not a joke – avoid table salt by all means, if you can’t afford to buy Maldon yet (my case), choose a quality flaky sea salt from Normandy for $2.99 from Avril/amazon or Greek sea salt, or Himalayan or other great salts that are 100% natural and not that ‘salty;
c. don’t overmarinate your ceviche;
d. customize the garnish and seasoning with your preferred things: I add mint, a dash of smoked chili or paprika and sometimes mix shirm with lime-brined fresh fish (that goes to the fish ceviche);

e) sweet potato chips are not just a staple in Peruvian cuisine, they are easy to make and supe-deliscious with ceviche.

A glass of nice pinot gris or rose will boost the indulgment. In no time you will be transported to some ocen-view place you feel like you belong to. If shrimp is not your thing, try lobster rolls (btw the images in that post were from the same place although during a day).

One last word: if you happen to be allergic to shrimp like me, the Nordic shrimp from Atlantic will guarantee your safety (I suppose you can find equivalents in other areas). Tested and approved by the undersigned.

Have fun making your shrimp ceviche and please let me know how it goes.
Great week-end cooking to all of you!
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Other great dishes with shrimp: Shrimp & Fish Soup Provencal ;
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SHRIMP CEVICHE RECIPE
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
1 pound (454g) medium small shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 limes, juiced
1 lemon, juiced + for seasoning
1 small orange, juiced (optional)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) quality olive oil
3 tablespoons (45 ml) maple syrup or honey
½ teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of smoked paprika or chili (optional)

1 teaspoon Kosher or flaky sea salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 small tomato, minced (optional)
3 tablespoons scallion or chives, minced
1/8 cup (35 ml) red onion or shallot, minced or thinly sliced
1 medium jalapeno (35 ml), cubed
1 small yellow, orange or red pepper (250 ml or 1 cup)
1 small cucumber (250 ml or 1 cup), cubed
1 small avocado, cubed for garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced for garnish (optional)
Plantain, tortilla chips or rice crisps for the side serving.
Instructions:
Add the shrimp to the large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 2-3 minutes.*
Drain and run under the ice cold water to chill. Cut the shrimp into 1-inch sized pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the lime, lemon and orange juices, combine and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.
Mix olive oil, maple syrup, lemon zest and smoked paprika. Add tomato, scallions, red onion, jalapeno and yellow pepper and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the vegetable mix into the shrimp mix and let sit at the room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.

Top Twenty Hottest Food Trends 2015

For the week-end update and the January’s wrap up, I’ve collected some interesting data about the Food Trends for 2015. From the Food Channel to Better Homes & Gardens to Yahoo Food and many other sources, the experts and chefs agree on the following common food trends for 2015: 

ALL THAT VEG: Veggies are still going strong in 2015 to the greatest salumi-lovers chargin. The new crossbred vegetables like broccolette and kalette will enter the groceries and our kitchens. New cruciferous species are introduced by chefs (i.e. spigarello is the new kale according to Mario Batali). The underdogs like cauliflower and radishes re-emerge and will have a better standing throughout the year. 
I think it’s time to post my Cauliflower Lobster Dumplings Soup and/or Walnut Pesto Roasted Cauliflower soon. Stay tuned.
DIY FOOD BARS: From hippie lemon coconut cookies to healthy diy bites, raw food bars are becoming the new lunchables and your best traffic companion. Try this bites for some healthy breaks.
DUCK IS THE NEW CHICKEN: The duck’s popularity continues to grow and its healthier sustainable protein and fat are more and more recognized (along with duck eggs that cost the same as chicken eggs at Asian supermarkets). Roast it, use it in soups and stir fries, make some roasted duck skin salads (2014 restaurant hip). If not already, try this remarkable and easy duck roast to start falling in love with it. 
Follow with the duck skin salad for more adventure.
VEGETARIAN RAMEN: From NYC to Montreal and Toronto; from East coast to West coast, North to South, Ramen is still one of the most wanted foods, except this year vegetarian versions are more and more in demand. Pack it with all kind of Asian greens and herbs, miso/sriracha/and bunch of other flavors, add some sea weed and poached egg and you are good to go. Try to avoid the instant noodles unless you want to die a little each time you let 50% saturated fat and 2-days dose of sodium fuzz your digestive tract.
RABBIT IS THE NEW IT MEAT:Looks like my New Year’s Eve post on Cuban Rabbit Fricasse was right on time: rabbit is the next lean-clean light meat that can absorb all kind of flavors and make you feel light and good. 
Just wait until you try my rabbit lasagna!
SMALLER FISH:The time of the Old Man and the Sea has passed and the small fish is a new big fish logo now with all points sustainable. Try some Japanese smelts tempura or grilled sardines next and you won’t miss any big fish anymore.  
OYSTERS IN SEASON: Raw or baked, this highly sustainable and still very affordable bivalve is taking restaurant and home kitchens by the storm in 2015. Why not? The year of the Goat is all about elegance and class: let’s fancy this trend with a dash of sustainable kelp caviar, lime granita and a bit of mignonette sauce on a side.  
SEAWEED SAGA: 2015 is also about sophisticated cooking so many Japanese condiments have a strong presence including seaweed (fresh, dry or reconstituted) being added to stocks, salads and mains for added taste and umami. Great iodine booster besides other things, a pack of dried sea weed for the cup of morning miso or kombu for some hearty stocks make the most welcome additions to your pantry.
KEEP FORAGING:from edible weeds and berries to wild flowers to mushrooms and nuts foraging expands like never before to bring a touch of wilderness and rare flavors to the dishes and make our lives healthier and fancier. Check the recipes for Juniper Ham in Pastry; Cream of Foraged Greens; Almond Gazpacho with Violets; Fiddlehead Ferns Omlet and Pasta.
BREAD REVOLUTION: While the gluten free trend is still strong, there is a growing revolution in the area of artisanal breads (with multi and/or sprouted grain), which according to the world’s bread experts is going to expand over the next few years. Check this easy super-savory Cypriot-style bread recipe for the first hand exposure when making your own first artisanal bread.
FERMENTED & SOUR FOODS: Healthy gut has become the American priority in the war against the obesity. Fermented foods – yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and miso are trendier than ever. Use this fool proof kimchi recipe to join the movement. 
SPECIALTY PASTAS: Gluten free movement resulted in some outstanding specialty pastas (brown rice, kamut, buckwheat, spelt, etc.) that are now available at the restaurants and in stores. Make your next pasta meal special with this Pasta con le Sarde recipe and spaghetti of your choice.
SPICES & SMOKE ON A RISE: Learning how to season food in more than just salt and pepper has never been more exciting. From Cajun Spice and New Orleans food chronicles in the Chef movie, to Middle Eastern Za’atar mix the spice empire is raising its bar high this year. Check these simple Cajun and Zaatar spice mix DIYs, or try the some juniper berries in your next recipe. Add some smoke whenever you can and/or use more of the smoked paprika and chili seasoning.
FANCY COOKIES: The wheat revolution brought more focus on home-made cookies. From chocolate chips to Eccles cakes to gluten free hazelnut chocolate bites or candied ginger scones packed with dried fruits (coming soon) – gran style cookies with some modern health twist are very much in. FYI, cannabis is becoming a popular baking ingredient further to more and more of its legalization in many places.
BITTER IS A NEW BOLD: Wake up your bile and liver!  The watercress, ginseng, green collards, coffee, dark chocolate rubs and other acrid, astringent taste sensation evoking foods are in and ready to help your liver recovery.  Try the watercress salad for a difference.
SIPPING BROTH: Healthy broth is predicted to take over by the end of 2015. Anything that can increase the body’s alcalinity is a hot trend.  I’m already making my own miso soups for breakfast, but I’ve also experimented with a bunch of vegetarian broths that can boost your energy in the morning. Like this rainbow broth (red color is given by beets) that is great to kick start the day on a positive note with something less boring than smoothie. Stay tuned. And hey, mark my words: the Ginseng Chicken Soup will be a giant hit by the end of the year or earlier.
HOME BREWING & CANDYING: The DIY alchemy has never been stronger, from home-made apple cider to specialty vinegar to DIY rose water, to making your own primitive fermented drink, beer, wine or cider – I’m in, and ready to finally go and buy that special ‘mother’ to start brewing the real deal. Candied orange, lemon and ginger are also now very hot ingredients.
WINE CASUALIZED: Here is a bit of good news for everyone: from liquor stores to big gulps to future AA people and the rest of us.  A bit of wine each day is better than getting wasted during the week-end and that’s the whole thing about the great red cell cardio benefits.  
Make it casual. Make it French. Make it quality over quantity. Start using it in cooking sparingly: from stew, to soup to the dessert jelly, a splash of wine works wonders in cooking.  
ETHNIC BECOMES GLOBAL: The word ethnic is being removed from the chef’s vocabulary. Food and trends have turned global and we are all contributing to it. There will be no more polemic as to the origin of borscht.
RESTAURANTS – MY KITCHEN, MY RULES: The restaurants start discouraging the food photography and cell phones in general focusing on their food rather than opinion, which is the great news to those who want to be inspired by the food quality and cooking innovation rather than formality of the rating in social media. Example: this guy gave me the stink eye (aka dirty look) after I was taking the picture and I think he was absolutely right: it is disturbing.
REPLICATING RESTAURANTS: This is one of my favorite things and I’ve already been doing it for years. What’s the point of going someplace they serve what you can make at home in minutes (and without an extra pound of re-fried butter in it)? However, if it’s something extraordinary like this or that, I’m always in, and impressed and would like to go back even if I can deconstruct it and make it at home. I’m a big miss in general for the Michelin type of restos simply because I don’t like to feel like the honorable cadavre staring at some kind of tiny food in jello or smoke displayed (yes, I’m talking about micro cuisine) on a perfectly clean plate and reminding of the sad future of food and humanity. But some hearty hole in the wall with down to earth alternative burger packed with fresh ingredients and flavors: YES, PLEASE.

Fresh Start: Lobster Strawberry Waldorf Recipe

I chose this luscious salad to signify the fresh start for all the good reasons. We are way past New Year’s resolutions time, but my question remains: how do I feed myself better and healthier for the next twelve months without sliding to the four letter word (like diet or the opposite)? The answer for now: baby steps, right choices, practice…
This time I won’t attach any numbers. I will just make a short public pledge and we’ll see in 2016 if it was a good motivator. If successful, I might even add before and after images to demonstrate what worked best.
Here we go – I’m gonna make a change
Increasing Self-awareness:
I will steal more afternoons to experiment with food and meditate. 
I will eat more veggies/fruits and will lighten up on meat. 
I will continue living in a beautiful self-delusion that I’ve been almost a vegan for the last few years. Every time I notice my distending belly I will start dancing like no one is watching. 
I will still be at war with sugar, but I reserve the right to eat my desserts hopefully without breaking my creative xxx pounds. 
Most of the time, I will appear as a measured and reasonable eater keeping the occasional outbreaks of gluttony dark and confidential for my own secret therapy. I suspect this is what Chef David Chang is doing from time to time and agree and consider it all normal human experience (I’m sure, Deepak Chopra would agree on that).

Mastering Ramen
I will follow my passion for the gastronomic science and plunge into the poetic marvels of Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisines for new discoveries and diversity.
Ingredient exceptions for this year: fugu, pig’s testicles, snake’s bile, armadillo and wildebeest eyeballs. 
I will re-visit good ol’ European and new American recipes with the new eyes for some psychedelic twists. 
I will not be threatened by the old or the new and I will keep doing what I like to do best: deconstructing, simplifying and demystifying haute cuisine whenever I feel inspired.
Ultimately, I intend to create and post interesting and healthier dishes more often.
I hope this will be a step forward towards something amazing. 
Home & Travel:
I will add my own personality to my residence’s decor.
I will forage my first morrel mushroom this year.
I will visit the lands I’ve dreamed of like the drifting Sable Island full of wild horses.
End of 2015 resolutions.

I start my 2015 inauguration with Waldorf salad, or, as any food network personality would call it: my twist on it. It might not be the new spicy thing all America wants these days, but it’s definitely light, festive and nutritious. It also allows to stretch one lobster tail to 4-6 portions without breaking the bank.

It WILL stop you feeling hungry for a while, temporary waiving the need for stretchy pants and lifting up your mood due to the auspicious combination of the lean proteins and low-carb dietetic ingredients and helping you to pass by the candy aisle at the supermarket faster than usual. In short, it’s a win-win dish for a weekly dinner or celebration. I guess Oscar Tschirky (maitre d’ of the famous Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel) had a special feeling about it when creating it back in 1893 for the hotel’s opening ball. 

Tschirky invented number of other New York’s originals, but this one stood out as his most popular one and is still served at the hotel today in its prime. Something tells me people at the Astoria ball back in 1893 would also very much appreciate strawberry-lobster addition to this creation.

In 1896 Cook book by ‘Oscar’ Tschirky wrote: ”Peel two raw apples and cut them into small pieces, say about an inch square, also cut some celery the same way, and mix it with the apple. Be careful and don’t let any seeds from the apple to be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with good mayonnaise.”
Many wondrous renditions have been created with this base, mostly varied with the dressings and garnish. The basic ingredients always stayed the same, just nuts were added (against Tschirky’s will) eventually. Don’t miss Waldorf Astoria culinary and many other legend’s haunt when visiting NYC to try this now all-American classic in its traditional or contemporary twist.
Otherwise, just give this salad a shot in your own kitchen. The essential ingredients of this salad (with suggested mix & match for vegetarians and carnivores) are:
Bed of fresh lettuce, radicchio or endive leaves for the crisp base;
Celery (green stalks or root; OR jicama root);
Apples (green, red or both);
Grapes (or raisins, or craisins (dried cranberry));

Slightly toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans or hazelnut);
Juice of lemon or lime (to prevent apples from darkening and add some tang to the salad).  
Dressing: mayonnaise or aioli (mixed with sour cream, or yogurt or buttermilk, or just water). In my case I used truffled aioli just because I had it in my fridge mixed with a bit of buttermilk for a contemporary touch. If craving spicy, add a dash of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne or hot smoked paprika. 
Optional fruit garnish like fresh strawberry, kiwi, orange, or other. 
Optional extra (protein) garnish like: lobster, crab, crab stick, smoked or cooked chicken, smoked salmon or trout, smoked or roasted duck, even grilled octopus.
Want to have it vegetarian? Omit the lobster and try the buttermilk dressing (without garlic) from this recipe for an added flavor.

Simple 15-minute steps anybody can master:

I hope you all had a great fresh start in 2015 be it a new suit, sparked new love/memoir, more veggies, great idea, or just a peace of mind. I also hope you will keep visiting and supporting my culinary endeavors in 2015.
Cheers! 
PS: The napkins are saying: ”I’m happy every hour” – something to think about…
Two years ago: Eggless Tiramisu
Three years ago: Walnut Sables

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WALDORF SALAD (WITH LOBSTER & STRAWBERRY GARNISH)

Yields 4-6 potions

Ingredients:
2 unpeeled Royal Gala apples, cored, cut in cubes or julienne strips
2 unpeeled Granny Smith apples, cored, cut in cubes or julienne strips
2 stalks celery, diced
1/3 cup raisins, OR craisins, OR ½ cup fresh grapes cut in half
1/3 cup mayonnaise, OR aioli
1/3 cup buttermilk, OR light sour cream
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice, plus more for sprinkling apples
Salt and white pepper to taste
8 lettuce, OR endive, OR radicchio cups
½ cup roasted walnuts, OR pecans, toasted
Sliced strawberries for garnish
Chopped lobster tail for garnish
Instructions:
Sprinkle apples with lemon juice and mix with celery and raisins. Whisk together mayonnaise, buttermilk, yogurt and lemon juice. Pour over salad. Add salt and pepper. Place lettuce cups on the plates. Fill with salad. Sprinkle walnuts on top. Garnish with sliced strawberries and chopped lobster tail.

PS: This version is the closest to the one of Chef John Doherty (I added grapes/raisins), who was an executive chef of the Waldorf Astoria restaurant for more than 20 years.

Healthy Break: Watercress Cucumber Lettuce Chopped Salad


I realized recently that I rarely showcase chopped salads, yet we eat them regularly in various combinations and dozens of interesting dressings. I used to think they were just plain boring side dish to help digest the main, lacking substance, and too common to talk about. Not surprisingly, they faded into the oblivion on this blog often just making a background dish in photos. I think it’s time now to rescue this dish category, given that I’m currently going through another course on nutrition, thus the importance of fresh veggies in our daily diet can no longer be ignored.  This salad tastes fab and features a super-potent watercress greens and healthy-delicious apple cider vinegar/honey/olive oil dressing.
The recipe was initially inspired by Cucumber Watercress Salad recipe by Rachel Ray’s from her 30 Minute Passport to England Food Network episode (dressing with white vinegar, honey and dill). Then there was Mark Bittman’s watercress salad with delicate rice vinegar dressing and sesame seeds. Then I tried Martha Stewart’s take with Dijon mustard adding the robust tang to the dressing. Finally, I came up with my version of this chopped salad adding lettuce to the ingredients and using home-made apple cider vinegar mixed with honey, lime juice and some olive oil for an extra health benefit. Sometimes I scatter a bit of roasted salted nuts, like cashews or pistachios for an extra crunch and substance. I already know that this version is my favorite, but feel free to experiment with the above additions and you will find yours.  
Peppery bittersweet watercress is one of the oldest greens consumed by humans through the centuries. It is an amazing digestive and powerful antioxidant loaded with vitamin C, A, chlorophyll, calcium and potassium. It maintains the body’s water balance, promotes clear skin and acts as natural antibiotic to boost immunity. Early Romans considered it a valuable brain food strengthening the nervous system. Today, due to the unique phytochemical it contains, it is known primarily for breast, liver, colon and prostate cancer-fighting benefits, which sounds like a rarely powerful food ingredient.   
Watercress goes perfectly well into variety of fresh salads with greens and most of the popular salad veg, including, of course, the radishes.  In fact, I find the trio of arugula, watercress and radishes, full of pungent slightly bitter tang nuances, to be one of the most interesting salad combinations with watercress. When dressed with equally strong home-made blue or feta cheese dressing, it makes a perfect juxtaposition to a heavier main dish.
Naturally, you can get the best from watercress eating it fresh (preferably organic) in salads or juices. I personally love to have a glass of blended watercress, celery, green apple, parsley and pineapple cocktail in the afternoon (whenever I can (which is on Sundays at best, but, I’d like it to be more often)) to boost my energy level. 
In this salad the watercress bitterness is tamed by cucumber, lettuce and cider-lime-honey dressing, which makes it an excellent companion for spicy grilled mains, such as this mystery BBQ dish, which will follow with the next post shortly. Stay tuned.
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WATERCRESS CUCUMBER LETTUCE CHOPPED SALAD
Ingredients:
2 cups watercress leaves, chopped
1 small head Romano lettuce, chopped
1 English seedless cucumber, chopped
3 tbsp honey
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 lime, juiced
3 tbsp orange juice or water
4-5 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh dill for garnish, minced (optional) 
3 tbsp crashed roasted salted cashews or pistachios
Sea salt to taste
Instructions:
Combine lettuce, cucumbers and watercress in a large bowl. Whisk the honey with apple cider vinegar, lime juice and orange juice or water. Add olive oil. Pour over salad and toss to combine. Season with salt and dill (if using) and toss salad again. Garnish with dill and roasted nuts it you wish. Serve immediately.