Salad on a Stick

by Lisa

With summer fair season coming up, and  barbecues and neighborly dinners, I thought this would be a good time to share our latest favorite thing: salad on a stick.  Another recipe straight out of last month’s Food and Wine, this one is endlessly adaptable, and it’s going to be a regular on our summer table. I served this first for dinner with the Pickled Shrimp, then brought another batch to book club. Both times it was a huge hit, probably because the only thing better than something on a stick is something on a stick with bacon. My kids would eat bacon everyday if they could.

The original recipe is a take on a classic wedge salad:  iceberg, bacon, blue cheese.  The technique is this: spear alternating bites of romaine lettuce and bacon onto a bamboo spear. Serve with homemade blue cheese dressing.  These disappear fast–neither kids nor adult can’t resist. The only note of caution: don’t overcook the bacon. It needs to be slightly tender so it doesn’t crumble on the spear.  I’ve learned to cook bacon in my oven:  put cold bacon on a foil lined try into a cold oven. Turn to 350 degrees and bake for 12-17 minutes, until ends start to curl and bacon reaches desired cripsness.

Not surprsingly, blue cheese is not a big hit with the kids. So they used ranch dressing instead of blue cheese.  But if you like blue cheese, try this recipe. It’s pretty great. Try it.

Also exciting: you can vary this recipe endlessly: use fresh Thousand Island dressing, cherry tomatoes, mini cucumber spears, green onions, mushrooms, peppers–anything you can put in a salad that you can spear is fair game for the skewer.  Plus: these spears keep and travel beautifully, and there’s no need for forks.

Imagine the possibilities:

  • romaine,+ provolone + pepperoni + pepperoccini+ red pepper + red wine vinaigrette=classic Italian-American antipasto on a stick
  • Cherry tomatoes + mini-mozzerella balls + fresh basil leaves + balsamic vinagrette=Caprese on a stick
  • Celery + carrot + romaine or iceberg leaves +  Thousand Island=crudite on a stick
  • Mozzarella +roasted red peppers + marinated artichokes
  • Tomato + Watermelon + feta + red wine vinagrette
  • shrimp + romaine + green goddess dressing

Blue Cheese Dressing Recipe is here.
We’d love to hear your ideas below! Happy grilling!

Pickled Shrimp

By Lisa

It’s no secret to readers here that I’ve been in a bit of a cooking slump.  But as the weather changes, and my event schedule slows down a little, and the end of the school year approaching, things are getting a little jolt of renewed energy. I am still not over the loss of Gourmet, but I read the recent issue of Food and Wine with interest for the first time in months and months. And in it, I found this recipe for pickled shrimp, which called to me for some reason. I had a good bag of shrimp from Pietro, and all the ingredients, and took a deep breath, and made the new dish later that week.


I forgot the part about it needing to chill for 8-10 hours, so I pulled together the Sundried Tomato Gnocchi, and we ate these shrimp the following night, as we watched Harry Potter, The Prisoner of Azkaban.  So, while I had to make 2 things one night, I had nothing to do the following night, which was Friday, and who doesn’t want a no-cook dinner on Friday night? Also, once the shrimp are cleaned and peeled, this comes together in minutes. It’s really fast.

So, for lots of reasons, including how they taste, these are one of the best new things I’ve made in a long time.  Ella liked them, Finn liked them less (a little too much heat) and they made the kitchen smell really delicious, tart and pickle-y. A lot like summer. I used a premade spinach dip, which sounds strange, but it cuts the heat, so I’d make sure to buy a good one or make the one in the recipe.  If there are any leftover, I’m sure they’d be great on Day 2. Or for a picnic. Or an appetizer.  However you use them, you won’t be sorry.

The recipe is here: Pickled Shrimp with Creamy Spinach Dip.

Salad “Nicoise” for Kids

by Lisa

This dinner began with a piece of albacore, which we eat with some regularity.  We can buy it fresh at our farmers market and it’s a favorite with everyone.  I’m not sure what sent me down the composed salad path, but it might have had something to do with the week of composed salads we ate after Easter and something to do with the fact that I’m tired of the Korean style tuna we’ve been eating–delicious as it is. And it definitely had something to do with the fact that Finn doesn’t often like his foods all mixed up. So if I can separate ingredients without trouble, sometimes I do. For this salad, I made this easy dressing with what I had on hand.  I didn’t have a lot of traditional Nicoise ingredients (potatoes, olives) but I had other things: a tender Boston bibb lettuce and some baby Romaine, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, white beans, artichokes.  I did a quick pan sear of the tuna, roasted the baby artichokes, steamed the green beans. I topped the tuna with the dressing and set out the other ingredients out on the counter with the dressing.

Here’s the very best part: kids get to choose what goes on their plates.  I dressed each ingredient individually in the glass bowl, which is the traditional way to prepare a Nicoise in any case, and then set it on their plates.  Caroline & I are together on this: when you can give kids choice and control, that’s always a good thing. This was Finn’s custom plate: tuna, white beans, green beans, lettuce. He came back for seconds.  I think we also had some fresh bread.

The second best part: everything can stay at room temperature so it was ready to go for my husband and I later that evening. In one of those great moments when what makes the kids happy makes the grown up happy, we had a win/win kind of night. And: you can endlessly adapt this: substitute canned tuna or salmon, fresh snap peas or carrots….whatever you have on hand.

Salmon “ceviche” Tacos

By Lisa

I have been cooking a little more these days, and spring is making it easier: new food, fresher produce, etc.   Last weekend I picked up a bag of salmon backs, which are my favorite cut of salmon for their economy, flavor and ease of preparation. And then I found some Mexcian limes, which to my mind make any meal worth eating.  And I came up with these tacos. Citrus marinated salmon, topped with chopped green onion, cilantro, and cumin cream sauce.  We ran out of tortillas, so my husband and I ate them with middle eastern flat bread, which might have been better. They’re totally delicious and were a huge hit with the kids, who added guacamole. They’ll add guacamole to anything. & really, why not?

These are easy enough to get on the table tonight, just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

Salmon “ceviche” tacos

serves 4

  • 3/4 lb salmon (1 1/2 lb if you use backs, since there is a lot of bone)
  • juice of 1 orange, 2 limes, 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stalk chopped fresh green garlic, including greens (or 1 clove garlic or 1 stalk green onion)
  • soft taco shells
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  • Mexican lime for garnish (if none are available, use regular limes)
  • cumin cream sauce, see below

Cumin cream sauce

Mix equal parts plain, greek style yogurt with mayonnaise, the juice of one lime, and 1 tsp cumin, a pinch of salt.

  1. Marinate salmon in ziplock bag in refrigerator with citrus, salt, and chopped garlic. for at least 1/2 hour or longer.
  2. Grill or broil until cooked through.
  3. Shred salmon into flakes.
  4. Serve on tacos with cilantro, cream sauce, and limes  for garnish.


by Lisa

My new favorite appliance is my Breville pannini press. Actually, we’ve had it for a while, but getting rid of the microwave (actually, the microwave sort of exploded and we haven’t replaced it) has made counter space for the rice cooker & the pannini press, both of which I now use all the time.   The press is great for quick marinated & grilled meats for rice bowls (think Thai chicken skewers, etc) & clean-up is really fast.  But not so long ago  Trader Joe’s started carrying this bread, and our life changed (a little).

This bread makes a perfect pannini–and it makes all the difference between a run of the mill grilled cheese and a sandwhich that’s something special. The bread is not too thick, the crust grills perfectly and it’s very, very fresh–just the right combination of crisp and soft.   Pannini has become one of the kids favorite dinners–and one thing I’ve turned to a lot over the past month of crazy book launch things-to-do. We serve them with a sides of green salad, and there’s not much faster on a weeknight.  The kids like them simple:  cheddar or mozarella; or salami or mortadella and mayonnaise.  Kory & I like some variation of meat + cheese + thin slice of crisp fruit for crunch. For instance:

  • mortadella + provolone
  • salami + cheddar
  • prosciutto + mozzarella + apple
  • ham + cheddar + apple
  • provolone  + pear
  • cheddar + tomato
  • turkey + jack + apple

You get the idea:  whatever you like; whatever you have on hand.  Make a few variations, cut them up , and serve a platter–and there’s nothing like a platter to bring a family together.  Also, giving the kids a choice–even a small one–makes them happy.