New Year’s Salad

New Year, new salad.  I welcomed 2011 with a tasty meal-sized salad for dinner – one of my favorite things to eat!  In a nod to the incoming year, I decided to use black-eyed peas for the protein component of my salad.  Who else follows the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for luck on New Year’s?  I don’t know where it comes from; all I know is that we always had them at my grandma’s house on New Year’s Day.  And I’ll tell you what – eating a fresh spinach salad with avocado, crunchy peppers, and black-eyed peas makes me feel lucky indeed.  But don’t feel like you need to save this salad for New Year’s Day.  I’ll be eating it all year to keep that New Year’s luck going!

New Year’s Salad

4 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
1 avocado, diced
2 bell peppers, cored and diced
1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
dressing of your choice (I used Annie’s Organic Goddess, but you can use whatever you like or make your own)

  • Create a bed of spinach by dividing leaves into two bowls.
  • Top spinach with peppers, then avocado, then pile black-eyed peas on top.
  • Dress and serve – that’s it!  Simple for 2011!  Serves 2.

Source: Covered In Flour


Lemony Avocado Halves

I really wasn’t sure what to call this post.  It’s my favorite way to eat avocado, but I can barely justify calling it a recipe… nor do I have a name for the dish, to be frank.  And I don’t even really know what this is.  Is it a side dish?  A salad?  An appetizer?  All of the above?

I know one thing: it’s delicious.  Rich, buttery avocado, enveloped in a sheen of extra-virgin olive oil and freshly-squeezed lemon juice, with the crunch of sea salt and cracked peppercorns on top… does it get better than that?  Oh, wait, it does!  Because avocado is good for you!  It’s a wonderful source of “good” heart-healthy fats – as is extra-virgin olive oil.  As Jamie Oliver would say, happy days.


2 ripe Hass avocados, split
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of sea salt (Maldon is nice)
cracked black pepper


  • After splitting the avocados, remove the pit.  Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh into neat mounds.  Arrange on a plate.
  • Dress with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice on each avocado half.
  • Season with a scattering of sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
  • That’s it!

Yield: Serves 2 to 4 (depending on if you want half an avocado or a whole one… you’ll probably want a whole one)

Source: I’m not sure.  I’ve been making these for years.  I might have seen it in a Martha Stewart magazine, or it might have been in Cosmopolitan when they do one of their “make people believe you’re Martha Stewart” blurbs.  I learned to make chocolate covered pretzels from Cosmopolitan, so don’t hate… Anyway, let’s just say inspired by Martha Stewart.

Hubby’s Grilled Tuna Salad


When you cook a lot, you learn to work around the ever-present possibility of some sort of fiasco – or at least, I have.  Cuts, burns, ruined rice or a repeat of the Great Pesto-Tastrophe of 2005 (we had pesto on the ceiling – I kid you not) are always a specter looming over my kitchen.  I’m never entirely surprised by misfortune in the kitchen and I’m not really fazed by it at this point.  My husband, however, still comes running whenever I say “ouch” and worries over the possibility of injuries that really just make me feel like a true chef.  Last week I got bitten by my bread knife (again – can’t stand that thing) and the one good thing that came of it is that hubby wouldn’t let me do anything except for sit on the couch and drink the tea that he would make for me.  All in all, it was a pretty relaxing injury!  But that evening I had planned a grilled tuna salad and we had already bought fresh tuna for it; obviously, we had to eat the tuna and we had to eat it right away.  So we did what any seafood-loving couple would do when the cooking half is grievously injured – the hubs cooked dinner while I drank wine and shouted instructions from the living room.  It turned out delicious – rich tuna, creamy avocado and a tart dressing.  What more can you ask for?  Except, of course, for the ability to do the cooking yourself.


Grilled Tuna Salad

2 fresh tuna steaks
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
grated zest of 2 lemons
6 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
10 dashes hot sauce
2 firm but ripe avocados, cubed
1/4 cup minced scallions
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

  • Grill the tuna steaks briefly, until just seared on the outside but still raw inside.  Remove from grill and allow to cool slightly before cutting tuna into large bite-sized cubes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, soy sauce, hot sauce, kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Toss the avocados in the dressing, then arrange on individual plates.  Top with tuna cubes and sprinkle with scallions and black sesame seeds.

Source: Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten

Wine Pairing: This is a very summery dish to me, with a lovely richness that is counterbalanced by the tart dressing – so you could choose a wine to complement either characteristic.  A nice Viognier from Virginia would stand up well.  Or you might choose to echo the tart notes from the dressing with a Vinho Verde – that would be my choice.  And, of course, you could always go with a Spanish rose – just be sure to be eating this dinner outside with candles and flowers if you go that route!

Spinach Salad with Smoked Salmon, Avocado and Pepitas


My husband and I met at a conference.  We sat together at dinner and both ordered the same thing – salmon Caesar salad – and discussed our mutual love of salmon.  The night he proposed, we went back to that same restaurant and he insisted on our sharing the salmon Caesar salad.  An auspicious start for a foodie romance, wouldn’t you say?  It has been eight years since our first conversation about salmon, and it’s still a popular topic of conversation and a frequent choice for dinner.  We love it all different ways – broiled, roasted, poached, pan-sauteed, grilled, smoked, raw in sushi… you name it.  So when I saw this dish on the Food Network, I knew it would be well received.  I was right – more than right, in fact, since this has become Our All-Time Favorite Salad.  Smoked salmon, avocado, pepitas, crisp greens, lime dressing… what more could you ask for?


Spinach Salad with Smoked Salmon, Avocado, and Pepitas

1/2 package washed baby spinach leaves (or other salad greens – which is what I had on hand)
2 Hass avocados
4 tablespoons raw pepitas (approx.)
juice of 1/2 lime
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 package wild-caught smoked salmon

  • Toss spinach leaves with lime juice, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt (like Maldon) and pepper until nicely coated.  Add half the pepitas and scoop out the flesh of one avocado.  Toss together.
  • Drape smoked salmon slices over the side of a large serving bowl.  Pour salad into serving bowl.
  • Top salad with remaining pepitas, and scoop the flesh from the other avocado to scatter over the top.


Source: Adapted from Nigella Lawson