Category Archives: Salads

Ensalada de Nopalitos (Cactus Leaf Salad)

This is one of my favorite dishes from Mexican cuisine. If the cactus leaves in the grocery store or farmer’s market look intimidating, don’t let it stop you from trying it. The result is a crunchy, flavorful salad that adds a wonderful tangy flavor to any Mexican meal.

Try to find cactus leaves (nopales) that are already de-spined. In some Mexican grocery stores, you’ll find some that are already chopped up in little bags. I prefer to work with the whole leaf, but if you can only find the chopped-up kind, don’t despair, it will work, too.

Now, let’s talk slimy. Nopales, like okra, release a slimy liquid when cut. A good way to loosen the slimy from the cut leaves is to throw a very clean copper penny into the pot when you are boiling them. Apparently it neutralizes the slime. I don’t know if it’s an old wives’ tale or if it really works, but try it and see what you think!

Ensalada de Nopalitos

4-6 large cactus leaves (a little more than a pound)

2 cups water

2 small white onions, chopped, divided

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp dried oregano, divided

1 dried chile de arbol, wiped clean & toasted

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 copper penny

2 tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 Tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lime


1. Slice the nopales into 2 inch x 1/2 inch strips that are all equally the same size.

2. Place the nopales in a saucepan with the water, vegetable oil, one of the onions, chile de arbol, oregano, salt and the penny and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the water has evaporated and the nopales toast slightly in the pan. Remove the copper penny.

3. Allow the nopales to cool to room temperature. Place them in a salad bowl and add the chopped tomato, the other chopped onion, olive oil, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and dried oregano.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste – serve!


Posted by on June 3, 2009 in Salads


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Golden Beet, Avocado & Shallot Salad

I picked up these golden beets at the La Jolla farmer’s market last week. I love beets of various colors. My favorite are probably the chioggia beets, which have concentric pink and white circles inside. If you can find those, you can definitely substitute them in. Red beets have a stronger flavor and a staining red color, so I would hesitate before using those, but if you’re in a pinch, use ’em.

I added blue castelllo cheese from Trader Joe’s to this salad, but you can eliminate it if you want to make this yummy salad vegan. It is wonderful served slightly warm, when the beets are still steaming slightly.

One last note: microwaving veggies is actually one of the best ways to retain nutrients, so I cooked the beets this way (place ’em in a microwave-safe bowl, cover them with a little water and microwave them for 6-9 minutes or until tender), but if the idea of using a microwave leaves you aghast, you can either roast them in the oven (cover the beets with foil and roast in a 400 degree oven until tender) or boil them.

Golden Beet, Avocado & Shallot Salad

3-4 Golden or Chioggia Beets, cooked, peeled and cubed (1/2 inch cubes, approx)

1 Avocado, pitted and diced

1/2 Shallot, finely diced

1 Tbsp of Blue Castello Cheese, crumbled

4 Tbsp Olive Oil, extra virgin

3 Tbsp Cider Vinegar

1 Tbsp Whole-grain mustard

Sea Salt


1. Mix the beets, avocado, shallots and cheese in a nice salad bowl.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil and mustard to create a nice vinaigrette. Add more oil or vinegar to taste.

3. Add the dressing to the salad and sprinkle with sea salt. I like using the Black Cyprus salt from Salt Traders for a dramatic effect!

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Posted by on March 27, 2009 in Salads


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Spring Crunchy Grain Salad

So, as promised, here is the recipe that I entered in the Trader Joe’s recipe contest this spring. The inspiration was a roast chicken stuffed with olives, oranges and onions covered with an herby rub. I needed a side dish and was looking for something warm and comforting, a dish that resembled a stuffing. But, it being spring and all, it needed a fresh, crunchy, light update. Hence, this recipe was born. While we served it with roast chicken, you can easily serve it for lunch on its own.

The recipe uses Trader Joe’s ingredients, but you can easily make it with regular or Israel Couscous. Israeli Couscous has larger pearls and makes for a nice, squishy salad.

Spring Crunchy Grain Salad


1 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend (you can substitute Isreali Couscous or even regular couscous)
2 oz (roughly 1/4 package) of Trader Joe’s Light Feta Cheese
2 small Fuji apples
4 celery stalks

1. Bring 1 3/4 cup water to a boil. Stir in the Harvest Grains Blend. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer with a cover for about 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.
2. Chop the Fuji apples into small dice and the celery stalks into thin slices and add to the Harvest Grains Blend.
3. Crumble the feta cheese over the salad.
4. Voila! You’re ready to go!

p.s. The Trader Joe’s recipe contest allows for only four ingredients, but to further spice up this salad, I would add some toasted pine nuts, drizzle a good glug of a fine olive oil and sprinkle generously with fresh-ground pepper.

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Posted by on May 20, 2008 in Grains, Salads


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Modern Day Ceasar

Who doesn’t love Caesar salad? s_romaine_heart_lettuce.jpgTangy, garlicky dressing on crunchy Romaine lettuce, interspersed with sprinkles of perfectly salty Parmesan cheese and anchovies.

But I find most Caesar salad dressings to be too rich, sometimes the result of an addition of mayo, other times it’s either too much cheese or too many eggs.

Cameron Lyon, my sister’s boyfriend, came up with a simple recipe that pares down the ingredients (I know, for those who are purists, this is heresy) and that significantly lightens up the salad. You still get that tangy taste without all of the salmonella or fat. This recipe also works fabulously well with Boston Bibb lettuce, but be sure to tear apart the leaves of this delicate lettuce rather than use a knife or the edges will brown.

1 head of Romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 tsps of anchovy paste or 4 canned anchovies, mashed

1 Tbsp stone-ground mustard

1 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsps fresh-squeezed lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, finely diced

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Pepper, to taste

Combine the anchovies, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and 2 Tbsps of cheese until it becomes a thick paste. Pour over the Romaine lettuce and toss the rest of the cheese. Grind pepper just before serving.

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Posted by on March 14, 2008 in Salads


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