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Radish Pineapple Mint Quinoa Salad

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Back in February, I started a little garden plot at the Mueller Community Gardens in my neighborhood. First months were rough. I started from seeds that my good friend Elizabeth gave me. Imagine all the possibilities when you are handed a box full of incredible heirloom seeds varieties from purple long green beans, carrots, greens, turnips, roman zucchinis, watermelon cucumbers, radishes, lipstick chili, melons you name it. Little did I know the challenging scenarios of starting a vegetable garden from seeds. But, nothing like five buckets of patience, a couple good days of rain, plenty of steamy sunshine and a little everyday care to make it grow. Also helpful was the good pinch of serious advice from friends and the experts, like farmer extraordinaire from Boogy Creek Farm, Carol Anne. She is always willing to help and giving the greatest advice. From her, I learned that planting a row of green beans besides the tomato plants will give tomatoes company and will help them grow together. She also emphasizes the importance to give enough space in between tomato plants for best flavor and juicy tomatoes, and pointed that leggy tomato plants need to be transplanted deeper among many other details that have been very valuable to apply on my little, garden. Also every other good samaritan that was visiting the community gardens, like David, who gave me advice from seedling spacing to how to keep the water hose untangled! I’m very grateful for all. Thank you!

Using the best of advice, applying it, and with all my expectations tossed through the window, the garden worked its own magic in a serendipitous way.

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Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad

Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad_ingredients_Yes, more please!

Sweet peppers are what you can find at the markets in Austin, Texas right now. Beautiful varieties, colorful, different shapes and sizes. Perhaps one or two sassy ones among the bunch, but mostly they are fleshy, sweet and flavorful.

For me, grilling these kind of sweet peppers bring the best flavors in them. The sweet mild flesh with the charred pieces of skin are what inspired me to make this salad. We love to grill at this time of the year when it does not feel like you are grilling your self over, September its a better Grilling Time for us.

Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad_Grilling-Sweet-peppers

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Ceviche de Pulpo-Octopus Ceviche

Octopus-Ceviche-de-Pulpo_Tostada_Yes,more-please!

Octopus, the smartest, flexible and unique looking creature of the bottom of the sea. Eight arms, purple skin, side eyes, camouflage expert and a bag of attitude that will ink any snoozy neighbour. Why is this mollusk so intimidating? texture?, tentacles? I think Octopus are phenomenal, lots of personality and intelligent creatures.
Please, Do not judge by appearances this invertebrate is so delicious!. The meat is extra white, when is cooked properly, the texture is tender and mildly fishy, almost sweet. If you are lucky enough to get a fresh octopus you will taste the freshness of the sea water. You will have to tenderize the hell out of it before cooking,  like people from the Mediterranean smash their octopus against beautiful sea rocks right after being caught, or massage them until their arms are floppy and relaxed. But if you buy it previously frozen, from a good Sea food source half of the work is done for you and it saves you from doing the villain job.

 

If you follow my simple recipe instructions your Octupus will be tender, and flavorful, ready for ceviche, or just a simple drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oil sea salt, lemon, smokey paprika and you have “Pulpo a la Gallega”. But, today, for me on a Summer day, Ceviche is my dish of choice. Trust me on this one.

I chose slightly different vegetables than the commun ceviche, like Cherry and Sun Gold tomatoes, which balance the acidity of the traditional ceviche adding a sweet balance. Also instead of red onions which for me are too strong and can overwhelm the delicate Octupus flavor, I chose shallots, they have a milder, onion and garlic profile that complements the Octupus. A good punch of heat with sharp and bright Serranos thinly sliced, that tickle your tong with out setting it on fire. Fresh cilantro, Mint and seedless cucumbers which add a lot of crunch and freshness to the dish.

If you want to eat like a Mermaid along with your Sailor this Summer, this Ceviche de Pulpo-Octopus Ceviche recipe is for you.

Jazz it up!

 

Ceviche de Pulpo-Octopus Ceviche

Serves 2 hungry sailors or 4 mermaids…

2 Medium Octopus, I used previously frozen from …*
3/4 cup Cherry tomatoes cut in halves
3/4 cup Sun Gold tomatoes cut in halves
1/2 English Cucumber, small diced
2 Shallots thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1-2 Sprigs of Mint just the leaves torned.
1 Serrano thinly sliced
1 Habbanero thinly siced optional
3 Juicy limes = 1/3 cup fresh lime juice approx.
1 lemon, the juice and the zest
1 glug Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste, optional

1-2 Avocado Hass
Corn Tostadas, or crackers…
Extra lime for wedges
Cholula, Valentina, Hiuichol or Tabasco hot Sauce

* Thanks to Steven, Fish Monger at Whole Foods Market- Domain, Austin for saving me some octopus!

Preparation Method:

1.Fill a large pot with at least 1.5 Gallons of water. Add 1 tablespoon sea salt and 1 large bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Once Water is boiling place the two octopus into the pot and lower the heat to low simmer. Cover pot with a lid and cook for 25-35 minutes.
Cooking times:
Usually this medium-small octopus cook very fast and they are tender. If you decide to use a bigger Octopus, increase the cooking time at least for 1 hr. and 30minutes, depending on the size.
How to tell when is cooked?,Use a fork and prick the wides part of the leg. or in between the leg and head if it feels tender and inserts with no trouble, octopus is done! Remove from hot water into a iced water bowl to prevent overcooking.Octopus-Ceviche-de-Pulpo_how-to-cook-octopus_Yes,-more-please!

2. Meantime your octopus is cooling off, Chop all your vegetables, do your prep.

Octopus-Ceviche-de-Pulpo_prepping-the-ceviche
3. Once your octopus has cooled down slice each arm into 1/4 inch to 1/4 inch slices, discard the center and slice the head like if you where slicing a calamari, or into dice, what ever you prefer. Place into a plater and squeeze the lime juice, add salt and olive oil.

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4. Add All the chopper Vegetables, Toss well and live it rest for 15-20 minutes. Smash 1-2 Avocados season with a bit of salt an lime juice. This will be the glue when you built your tostada.

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Octopus-Ceviche-de-Pulpo_with-avocado,-cherry-tomatoes-and-shallots_Yes,more-please!

Call all the Sailors, Mermaids and Drummers!

Serve with tostadas and a cold beer…Enjoy!

Music Pairing: Caravan Written by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington

Version from the movie Whiplash

Octopus-Ceviche-de-Pulpo_Summer-recipes_Yes,more-please!

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Peach Sweet Corn and Halloumi Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

Peach-Sweet-Corn-and-Halloumi-Salad-with-Lemon-Basil-Vinaigrette_best-salad-for-summer_Yes,-more-please!

This salad sums up summer in one plate. It is the kind of salad you eat and feel so happy and satisfied, sunshine on a plate. Fresh sweet corn and juicy peach season is here in Austin and I can have this salad almost every day until the last peach. If you are like me and bought two little baskets of peaches at the market, because one did not seem enough for your peachy desires, well we are in the same boat. The good thing is that extra peaches are not a problem once you get the hang of this salad.And if you still have some peaches left over, bake a pie, make this fantastic mini peaches and cream empanadas you have a good alibi for as long those peach baskets last you….

Peach-Sweet-Corn-and-Halloumi-Salad-with-Lemon-Basil-Vinaigrette_Texas-Peaches_Yes,-more-please!

Let me describe you this salad. Imagine the flavor of fresh sweet corn crispy yellow kernels, in combination with juicy bright sweet tangy floral peach slices, a few pieces of pan seared golden Halloumi cheese salty, crusty outside, and creamy gooey inside, over fresh arugula and greens. All come together with a delicious sweet and tangy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette. It is ridiculously good. It is. Because yes. All the sweet, juicy tangy, salty briny, herb flavors together, one bite of these salad you are hooked!

Peach-Sweet-Corn-and-Halloumi-Salad-with-Lemon-Basil-Vinaigrette_Texas-sweet-corn_Yes,-more-please!

If you never had Halloumi, it is a firm brined cheese that when pan-fried or grilled holds it’s shape and gets crusty golden. It is a bit salty, and texture-wise along its warm its gooey on the inside, then becomes a bit chewie, a pleasent chewie. I bought it in this fantastic shop called Phoenicia Bakery and Deli here in Austin, Tx. It is a fabulous store. They carry foods from around the world but their emphasis is Mediterranean and Middle Eastern specialties. Cheeses, olives, pantry items, spices, preserves, teas, coffee, dry fruit, to mention a few. They also make the best freshly baked pitas in town. Not to mention they have a small menu for lunch, with great falafel, Gyros, Kafta and Shawarma. Dessert?… no problem from Pistachio Baklava to delicate pastries filled with pine nuts and rose water. And for me their fresh Feta cheese is the best in town, they have 3 different kinds, Bulgarian, French and sheep’s milk simply delicious. You have to go, it is a must…

Peach-Sweet-Corn-and-Halloumi-Salad-with-Lemon-Basil-Vinaigrette_Halloumi-Cheese_Yes,-more-please!

If you are not in Austin you must try to find a specialty food shop were you can buy this delicious cheese… Explore and try something new! Get your inner peach and make this glorious Peach Sweet Corn and Halloumi Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette fresh salad. Lunch, dinner or both, it travels great for a picnic on the park or to daydream about summery days at the office. All you have to do is to close your eyes and almost feel your feet on the green grass, the sun warming up your eye lids and a warm breeze asking you is it summer time yet?….Run and get peachy now! Enjoy.

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Spinach Ambrosia Salad with Dijon-honey-grapefruit vinaigrette

 

Spinach-Ambrosia-Salad-with-Honey-Dijon-Grapefruit-Vinaigrette_ingredients_Yes,-more-please!

Semantically Ambrosia is a powerful word, the food or drink of the immortals, Greek goodess, sweet luscious juicy fruits, sweet honey smells, something that will bring  youth, pleasure, and health. In my crazy fantasy food world I imagine Homer, Penelope, Aphrodite, and Sappho and their ambrosia offerings of sweet and incredible nectars.  But the enchanted elixir got shattered when I Googled “ambrosia salad” and the record sounded broken. To my surprise his ambrosia salad it is an abominable concoction from the 50’s. Where all the Greek Gods must of been under the marshmallow influence, along with cans of syrupy fruits like cherries red no.5, pineapple chunks of yellow no.5 undistinguished cubes of fruit matter, bright green grapes and that fluffy component all tied up into a sweet coma. That’s what I call fulminating love…(Pepé Le Pew style hehhee)

Being lost in translation and trying to rescue the origins of the word,  this salad came to my mind. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of “no wimpy salads” and a lot of encouragement to try and thrive while you feed not only your body, but the enticing act of eating consciously present and awake.

Althoug, I can not promise all of this matters in just one salad, I will assure you that this is not a wimpy one. In fact it does have the Ambrosia elements, fruits, smells textures, sweet, salty, acidic, juicy, creamy, crunchy all the components that make a salad a memorable meal, and the kind of salad you will crave the next day and perhaps the next weekend too. Spinach, strawberries, avocado, grapefruit segments, cucumbers, salty, creamy feta cheese, and crunchy nutty and meaty walnuts, all carefully combined and drizzled with a simple three ingredient Dijon-honey -grapefruit juice vinaigrette.  Needless to say the salad is healthy, energetic, nutritious, beautiful  and delicious.

This Spinach Ambrosia Salad with Dijon-honey-grapefruit vinaigrette  is what you need to welcome Spring and feel like a greek goddess, Enjoy!

Spinach-Ambrosia-Salad-with-Honey-Dijon-Grapefruit-Vinaigrette_Yes,-more-please!_greek-goddess-salad

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Watermelon Wedge Salad

Watermelon-wedge-salad_fresh-and-crisp!_ready-to-serve

Its hot in here! Austin is reaching 100F temperatures. All I can think of is something refreshing. I’m craving lots of juicy ingredients. So what to make?… Watermelon and iceberg lettuce together its the ultimate ode to crisp and fresh.
Inspired by the classic wedge salad, I played with summer flavors and made a Watermelon Wedge Salad. It consists of one head of iceberg lettuce cut into quarters plus a good sweet crisp watermelon dressed with a light and clean, olive oil + salt + black pepper dressing. 
One bite has it all; crisp crunch of the iceberg lettuce, tangy lemony light dressing, sweet juicy watermelon, creamy and salty pancetta, fragrant basil adds a great herb note.

What is not to like ?

This recipe is a pairing of summery ingredients that work divine together. Much like a summer gathering of good old friends having a good time.
Easy, fast and fun to make, in a blink of an eye this salad is ready to cool you down.

Music pairing: Our favorite music band : SPOON just released its new album: “They want my soul “
that is what is playing on the background.

Keep it fresh. Enjoy!

Watermelon-wedge-salad_ingredients

Watermelon Wedge Salad

Serves 4 warm souls

1 head of iceberg lettuce
4 cups seedless watermelon chilled.
½ cup goat cheese crumbs.
2 half inch thick slices of pancetta.
Small bunch 6-8 large leaves fresh basil.
2-3 tablespoons fresh finishing extra virgin olive oil
2 juicy lemons
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Preparation:

1. Cut the pancetta in small cubes, sauté until crisp and render the fat. Place them over a paper towel to absorb the excess fat.

Watermelon-wedge-salad_render-pancetta
2. Remove the hard steam of the lettuce. Cut the head lettuce in four wedges.
3. With a melon baller scoop 4-5 cups of watermelon balls.

Watermelon-wedge-salad_pin--poing-and-wedges

Watermelon-wedge-salad_ready-set-go!
4. Place the lettuce wedges on a plater, and drizzle olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, generous amounts of kosher salt and black pepper.

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5. Add the watermelon balls, crumbled goat cheese, crispy pancetta.

Watermelon-wedge-salad_close-up-ingredients

6. Tier the basil leaves and sprinkle on top, add the rest of the lemon juice a little extra drizzle of olive oil, serve.

Note: Make sure your watermelon is cold, place it into the refrigerator hours before to ensure maximum chill! This salad taste better when the crisp clean iceberg lettuce and the juicy watermelon are cold.

Watermelon-wedge-salad_squezee-lemonand-EVOO

Watermelon-wedge-salad_Yes,-more-please!

Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the freshest of them all?

Music Pairing: Spoon – They want My Soul

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Sweet Potato Salad

Sweet-Potatoe-Salad_ingredients

It takes a lot to be a sweet potato…to be more precise 95 days. Along with plenty of ground space and long warm days; they grow best in an imperfect soil. Sweet potatoes grow fast. Deer, japanese beetles, and many other insects love to nibble on their sweet leaves causing light damage to the plant. However, sweet potatoes are so vigorous that they usually outgrow foliage pest problems. When they are ready to harvest, they need to be cured 10 days after they have been cut to develop their sweetness. In late summer, Sweet potatoes often produce flowers that resemble those of morning glory, the ones that are blue and look like a phonograph.

When I learned about the life of a sweet potato, it reminded me of my life.
I, like the sweet potatoes, have grown on an imperfect soil, raised from a divorced parents I grew up in a not so perfect family. It takes a lot to be complete and to develop your persona considering this circumstances. I grew up fast. And just like sweet potatoes I’ve been vigorously fighting life problems and circumstances that in most cases have allowed me to grow new foliage. Both of my parents have helped me in being who I am today and for that I’m infinitely grateful for every bit of it.

Now, for quite a while, I’ve been trying to find my so called “purpose” utilizing my passions and skills. Eight months ago, after a long stretch of unfulfilling jobs, I decided to start this cooking blog with Ian, my husband. Finally I felt I could cultivate the life I was meant to be pursue. And we have. We post, we photo shoot, we write, we share, we eat, we laugh and listen to music, we’ve seen the blog grow and will keep it coming!.

To Ian who often I call “My sweet potatoe” some days is hard to harvest,
but always sweet when I’m with you.

I made this salad thinking of him enjoying the process and watching this blog bloom.

Thank you to all our family, friends and readers for your time, comments and support. You, reading the blog, making the recipes sharing and commenting that’s what keep us going. Enjoy!

Sweet-Potatoe-Salad_ready-to-eat!

Sweet Potato Salad

Serves 4-6

3-4 medium size sweet potatoes.
1 medium size red bell pepper dice into cubes
1 english cucumber with skin small diced
½ cup celery into small dice, including the leafy parts
½ cup red onion
1 tablespoon of roughly chopped capers
3 tablespoons of fresh mexican mint -yerbabuena chiffonade* see picture below.
(if using spermint, or mint use a little less since the flavor is a bit stronger.)

Sweet-Potatoe-Salad_mint-chifonade

For the vinaigrette:

6 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin Olive Oil I used
3 tablespoos rice vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup of fresh mandarin juice or orange juice
1 teaspoon dry or fresh dill
1 garlic clove grated
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Preparation:

1. Wash, peel, cut into cubes and boil the sweet potatoes. Cook until firm or al-dente.
When cooked drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Live them air dry.
2. Dice, cut, shifonade all the rest of the vegetables and combine them all in a bowl.
3. Wisk all the vinagrette ingredients.
4. Combine the vinaigrette, cooked sweet potatoes and the rest of the vegetables.
Toss until well combined. Serve.
5. This salad taste great if you make it ahead of time. Serve at room temperature.

Sweet-Potatoe-salad_vinaigrette

Sweet-potatoe-Salad_assamblingSweet-Potatoe-Salad-Yes,-more-please!

 

 

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Avococo Salad Dressing

Avocado-Dressing-ingredients

Wicked! Is how I describe this creamy dressing. Avocados the natural butter of the fruit kingdom, and coconut milk make a fantastic duo. Lemon Zest, Lemon juice, salt pepper and herbs is all you need.

You have to try this dressing, forget about that white stuff you have been dumping on your salads and make this spectacular dressing on a blink of an eye!

I used this avocado-coconut dressing over a Boston Lettuce, thats what I found on my farmers market incredible fresh and so beautiful that I could not resist to bring it home with me. I’ve included step by step photos of a 4 step easy method to leaf and separate with out bruising this gorgeous and delicate Boston lettuce, I really believe you gonna find this method a keeper for your vegetable techniques.

Avococo dressing drizzle liberally, over lettuce, carrots, fish chicken, your hiking boots, it’s delicious everywhere!…Celebrate and be green green green Spring time is here!

Avococo-salad-Dressing~Yes,-more-please!

Avococo Salad Dressing

Makes about 2-2.5 cups of dressing, it stays good for about 4 days, avoid plastic, save it in a glass jar with an air tight lid.

1 medium size ripe avocado
1 to 1-1/2 cup coconut milk (depending on avocado size and preferred consistency)
4 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil.
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
the juice and zest of a lemon
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1  garlic clove
6-8 sprigs of parsley, basil, or cilantro. (use only the leaves)
1 teaspoon dry dill
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh black pepper.

Preparation:

Place all ingredients on a blender or on a glass of an immersion blender, puree until smooth and desired thickness. If needed, adjust thickness by adding a bit more coconut milk.
Keep it on a glass jar with an air tight lid, it will keep for about 4 -5 days.

Avocado-Dressing-all-ingredients-to-the-blender!

How to wash and de-leaf a Boston lettuce?…

Wash:

Holding the head of lettuce upside down, submerge the lettuce into a big bowl with iced water and shake a few times. Leave the lettuce floating for a few minutes to allow the little dirt particles to sink to the bottom. Remove from water, shake several times, and live it air dry upside down over a clean kitchen towel. Shake 2- 3 more times to make sure all water is out. Then proceed to de-leaft.

De- leaf the lettuce:

1. Run a pairing knife around the back of the stem.
2. Gently pull the core of the stem.
3. Hold the head of lettuce in your hands and place your thumbs in the center, gently pull apart.
4. With a small lettuce, like this one, half will make a great portion, if bigger, arrange and divide leaves in 4 portions.

How-to-leaf-a-boston-Lettuce~Yes, more please!

Dress your lettuce and Enjoy!

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 Avococo Salad Dressing, Yes, more please!

 

 

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