Strawberry-Bacon Salad for a Cheating Vegetarian

salad with dressing

“I am a vegetarian. But I also love bacon. And the only thing more satisfying than being a vegetarian is being a cheating vegetarian!” Sonia Mena, 2011.

Strawberries and bacon are the perfect complement to each other, sweet and salty, juicy and crunchy. I throw in some raw pecans and sprinkle everything over a bowlful of salad greens. Then I toss them with a strawberry-balsamic dressing flavored with black pepper and rosemary. A cheating vegetarian couldn’t ask for more!

For healthiest results, use organic or non-pesticide strawberries and greens and nitrate-free bacon (I found some at Trader Joe’s)

This makes 2 dinner salads or one large salad for lunch.

strawberries, bacon and pecans

Ingredients:

Salad:
1 slice bacon
3 ripe strawberries
¼ cup (or one handful) whole raw pecans
2 heaping cups of salad greens

Salad dressing:
2 small soft very ripe strawberries
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp water

a few few grinds of black pepper

a few needles rosemary, minced
1 Tb extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
salad without dressing

Salad:Fry bacon over medium heat until well done. Drain on paper towels. Crumble when cool enough to handle.
Rinse greens and strawberries. Put greens in bowls; either one large or two smaller bowls. Sprinkle pecans and crumbled bacon over greens. Slice strawberries over salad.

Dressing: Slice over-ripe strawberries into a blender bowl and add rosemary, black pepper, and balsamic vinegar and water. Run on liquefy until strawberries are mostly liquefied. Add olive oil and run on liquefy until oil emulsifies. Pour over salad and toss so that it coats the greens.

Caprese I said, not Caprice

Insalata Caprese

The foggy Berkeley summer is over, and fall sunshine kisses our green tomatoes, making them blush. I pick these crimson treasures, then top each slice with creamy fresh mozzarella, and crown them with a basil leaf. I anoint them with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. My daughter likes a sprinkle of  balsamic vinegar on them.

I first tasted Insalata Caprese (salad in the style of Capri), at the wedding reception of our friends Doug and Jason. The two grooms had just taken their vows, barefoot and in matching tuxedos, on the beach  in Provincetown, MA. At the reception there were these cherry tomatoes topped with little balls of fresh mozzarella and a fresh basil leaf, all held together with a toothpick. They were the prettiest things, and so tasty! I was trying not to be a greedy guest, but I kept sneaking back to the plate to pop one more into my mouth!

My friends Bob and Dawn served these mini caprese hors d’oeuvres at a party. They marinated the mozzarella  first, which added great flavor.

Mozzarella Marinade:
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 Tb minced garlic
3 TB fresh basil, minced
1 tsp sea salt

Buy an 8 oz container of small mozzarella balls, known as ciliegine, and replace the whey with the marinade. You can also buy a good quality mozzarella or Mozzarella di Bufala and cut it into small pieces. Marinade overnight.

I used del Cabo sweet 100s organic cherry tomatoes from Monterey Market in Berkeley. They are smaller and sweeter than supermarket cherry tomatoes. I want to grow my own next time!

The small basil leaves came from my little plants in my kitchen window. You also tear a piece of a large leaf if you don’t have any small ones.
Skewer a tomato, then a fresh basil leaf, then the ciliegine.

caprese appetixers with halved tomatoesI recently prepared them with the tomato split in half  on both ends of the hors d’oeuvre, with the cut sides facing each other. I sliced the rounded ends off the ciliegine to flatten it.

Pour some of the marinade over and garnish with fresh basil leaves. You can use the excess marinade to flavor hot pasta.

You can make a  delicious caprese  sandwich, especially made with Acme bakery’s herb slab or focaccia.

Caprese sandwich


Serves 2

2 slices good bread. I used a herb slab from Acme bakery, (which is conveniently located down the street.) You could also make this with focaccia, olive bread, French bread or baguette

2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, sliced thick. Dry farmed tomatoes have great flavor! (available at Oakland Fruitvale Farmer’s Market and at Monterey Market in Berkeley)

4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese.

4 basil leaves

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

several shakes salt and pepper to taste

Slice the bread and toast it. Cut the toast to fit each of the tomato slices.

On each piece of toast, place 1 slice of tomato,  then a slice of mozzarella, covering with a basil leaf. Drizzle 1 tsp olive oil on top, and shake a bit of salt. Manga!

Caprese eggs

I invented this breakfast take-off on caprese salad. These eggs cook with fresh basil and chives, diced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

2 servings

4 eggs

2 medium tomatoes, diced

2 tsp chopped chives – 4 chives

4 diced basil leaves about 1 Tb, plus two leaves for garnish

2 Tb grated mozzarella cheese (or diced fresh mozzarella)

¼ tsp olive oil

¼ tsp salt to taste

grind of pepper.

Cover eggs with hot tap water in a bowl for 10 minutes to warm them. While they are warming, dice tomatoes, basil and chives. Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet, add tomatoes and chives and a sprinkle of salt and spread out on pan. Cook over medium heat about 2 minutes, until tomatoes soften.

Break eggs on top of tomatoes and sprinkle a bit more salt and a grind of pepper and  basil. Sprinkle mozzarella on top of eggs.

When egg whites turn white, but yolks are still liquid, slide onto a plate. Garnish each plate with a basil leaf. Nice served with toast to dip into the eggs.


Raspberry-Pecan Salad

This easy salad combines some of my favorite foods: fresh raspberries, pecans and feta cheese. I like to use Bulgarian sheep’s milk feta.

Fill each salad bowl with about 2 cups baby spinach or butter lettuce. Toss with about 2 Tb Raspberry vinaigrette. For each serving, add  a handful of  fresh raspberries (about 10), ¼ cup chopped pecans, and 2 Tb crumbled feta cheese.


Nutritional Info for salad only (made with spinach)

  • Servings Per Recipe: 1
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 278.2
  • Total Fat: 25.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 16.7 mg
  • Sodium: 256.7 mg
  • Total Carbs: 9.3 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 5.5 g
  • Protein: 7.3 g

Watermelon Avocado Salad – ensalada de sandia y aguacate

avo watermelon salad ingredients
This refreshing salad is a perfect match for spicy dishes. I was inspired by Mexican street vendors who sell watermelon and corn topped with salt, lime juice and chili powder.

Serves 4

2 cups cubed seedless watermelon

1 large firm but ripe avocado, cubed

¼ cup cilantro leaves.

½ cob boiled or roasted corn kernels

Dressing:

juice of 1 lime

sprinkle of cayenne or hot chipotle chili powder

¼ tsp salt to taste.

Combine watermelon, corn and cilantro. Gently stir in avocado. Squeeze lime over salad, sprinkle cayenne or chipotle powder and salt, mix well. Serve immediately.

 

How ugly are your cucumbers?



I bought some cucumber plants from a grade school fundraiser last spring. I had no idea what kind they were. Now in September I’m finding these ugly little treasures hiding behind the leaves. They have got to be the funniest looking veggies around! And they have prickly little bodies, so they’re not even ugly and cuddly, (unlike those cabbage patch dolls). But peel them and bite into their crisp insides and yes! That is why I faithfully watered these babies! They add crunch to sandwiches and salads including the Quinoa Tabouli salad I made today for a lovely late summer meal.

quinoa tabouli

 

No Mayo Tarragon Chicken Salad with Yogurt

This chicken salad sings with flavor from anise-like fresh tarragon and fennel, balanced by thyme, lemon, and a bit of scallion.

I do NOT like mayonnaise,  plus it is loaded with calories (10 grams of fat in one tablespoon!), so I usually avoid chicken salads in delis and restaurants.  I use Mediterranean-style nonfat plain yogurt such as Karoun, which I find in Middle Eastern or South Asian markets. It is very thick like Greek yogurt, and has only 70 calories in a half-cup.

You can make the peas ahead of time. I suppose you could cook  frozen peas, but they won’t have the same crunch as parboiled fresh ones.

You can use a mix of light and dark meat, or just white meat, depending on what you want or have on hand. For the first batch I made, I used leftover roast chicken.

For the next batch, I poached boneless chicken breasts.  I salted them and browned them in olive oil. I then poured boiling water over it, and added a splash of white wine and a squeeze of lemon, several sprigs of tarragon and thyme and a spoonful of salt, and covered the pan, and boiled it for 10 minutes. I then turned off the flame and let it sit for  10 minutes. You can make the chicken ahead of time.

When making a large quantity for a crowd, I shredded the chicken by pulsing in the food processor. Then I transferred it to a large bowl to stir in the yogurt and other ingredients.

This recipe is pretty versatile for substituting vegetables. I added 2 Tb chopped pecans since my  South Texan husband loves pecans in almost anything.

1 cup shelled English peas

1 cup shredded cold chicken.

1 cup diced celery and/or jicama

2 Persian cucumbers, chopped.  (If you can’t find those, use 3/4 cup regular cucumbers.)

1/4  cup diced fennel root

½ cup plain nonfat Mediterranean or Greek yogurt

1 tsp minced fresh tarragon

½ tsp minced fresh thyme

1 tsp. minced shallot or red onion

1 Tb. minced green onion (scallion) about 1 stalk.

¼ salt or to taste

3 grinds pepper

1 Tb lemon juice (juice of 1 small lemon or ½ large lemon) preferably Meyer lemon

Shell about 1 pound English peas to make 1 cup, then parboil them for 2 minutes. Immediately cool them in ice water. I pour them through a strainer, then place the strainer in a bowl of ice water.

cooling peas in ice water

Dice chicken, cucumber and jicama, mix with cooled peas, and yogurt. Mince tarragon, thyme, shallot and green onion, add to chicken. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mix well.

I bought some pita bread when I picked up the yogurt, so I tucked my chicken salad into  it.