Cool Smoked Salmon and Edamame Salad

So I had a bunch of ingredients left over from the salad I made earlier this week. It’s still no-cooking kind of weather, so I wanted to make another salad that could be served cool, but I didn’t want to make the same one – come on, where would be in the fun in that? One of my favorite activities in the kitchen is using leftover ingredients as inspiration for an entirely new dish. I know, I’m a nerd…

The first thing I considered was the fresh dill. Fresh dill makes me think of two things: Tzatziki sauce and salmon. Now I can already hear your chiding, unamused thoughts: how does the starving artist afford smoked salmon? It’s quite simple – I paid a visit to my dear friend Trader Joe. He sells a wonderful Sockeye Salmon in a two-serving pouch for only $4.99. Though I didn’t want or need to make tzatziki, I did have cucumbers in my fridge. One of my favorite combinations is smoked salmon and cream cheese (on a bagel), but I can’t very well toss a salad with cream cheese and retain any kind of self respect. Instead I felt like Greek yogurt would be a good substitute. It gives that same creaminess as cream cheese but with far more nutritional value. Besides, what a perfect match for cucumber and dill. Here’s the full list:

  • 1/2 large cucumber, diced finely
  • 1 cup of cooked and shelled edamame
  • 2 very thin slices of red onion
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped dill
  • 2 scoops of Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 oz smoked salmon
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Basically I tossed together the cucumber, edamame, onion, and dill, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. Then I tossed in the yogurt, olive oil, and lemon, and stirred it to combine. Fold in your salmon at the end and voila. A gorgeous and satisfying summer salad.

Now if you happen to be on a pay day (or if you’re not a starving artist), using a fresh grilled filet of salmon would be outstanding. I also thought that topping it with some salmon roe would be really elegant, but let’s not kid ourselves, I will not be in possession of salmon roe for quite some time.

Happy Friday!

Cool Cucumber Dill Salad

Happy Monday, friends! Hope everyone enjoyed the weekend. The weather continues to be unbearably hot in LA, so I continue to be unbearably lethargic and uninterested in most aspects of life. I mean, come on, who really has energy for anything in this kind of weather?

As such, my weekend was pretty low key, but I was visited on Saturday night by my friend Katie, who I’ve known since college. I decided I was in no mood to have yet another meal out, nor was I in any mood to really cook anything and heat up my apartment even more than it already is. Assemble, yes. Cook? No. One good thing about this weather is that it continues to inspire me to create things that can be served cool and/or room temperature and don’t require a look of cooking… or effort… Also, with Katie comes an even more interesting challenge: she is allergic to wheat. I know, right? What a mind bender. Anyway, for some reason I found myself in the mood for something involving dill, so I decided I would go with a nice summer salad. Now normally I stay away from meats because they’re expensive and full of unnecessary calories. However, since I couldn’t give Katie any grains, I felt we needed some sort of protein to make this meal substantial. So, I wandered into the cold cuts section of my grocery store and discovered some peppered salami on sale. Perfect.

So here’s what I did. I cut the salami into strips and threw them into a screaming hot, dry cast iron skillet. I stirred them around and let them cook for about 7 minutes until they got some deep crisp and color. I then removed the crispy strips out of the pan onto a paper towel to cool while I prepared the salad.

The salad goes like this:

  • 1 cucumber diced into small cubes
  • About 3/4 lb of mini heirloom tomatoes, cut in quarters
  • 4-5 very thin slices of red onion
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese (maybe more)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and let it sit at room temperature to allow the flavors to meld. Once you’re ready to serve you can either stir in the crisped salami or get yourself a bowl of the salad and just sprinkle as much of the crispy meat as you want over the top. Of course if you’re a vegetarian, you can leave the salami out and still be left with an outstanding summer salad. I would also venture to say that if you’re not allergic to wheat, then you could do very well to add couscous to this recipe. It would stretch it out and make it that much more substantial.

For our dinner I assembled this salad (without couscous) and then we went out to the grill. I grilled us some zucchini spears and corn on the cob and that was all we needed. Delicious.

I gotta say, I’m liking this salad idea, so don’t be surprised if you find a few more variations on this in the days to come.

Mind-Blowing Shrimp Tacos

Friends, I love all my recipes, but every now and then I get one that causes me to freak out – this is one of them.

As Costco week continues, I notice the sprouted corn tortillas left over from my tortilla chips recipe last week. I’m not really a big taco person – lots of ingredients and lots of work for little reward in my opinion – but, scanning over all the goodies I’ve amassed I realized I could make a pretty fresh and tasty taco with little effort. First I need to make a few modifications to my shrimp and tomato salad recipe from yesterday. I’ll bold the differences:

  • 6-7 tomatoes, sliced into quarters
  • 1 green onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese (or more)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • a few generous pinches of kosher salt
  • a few generous grinds of black pepper
  • 12-15 cilantro lime shrimp, coarsely diced
  • 2 spoonfuls of the sauce from the shrimp container

Toss all the ingredients into a bowl and let stand on the counter for at least 20 minutes. When ready to build your tacos, heat your tortillas in a hot, dry skillet for a minute or two on each side, then move to a place. Place a few thin slices of avocado onto the tortilla with a little pinch of salt to season. Spoon on some of the shrimp and tomato mixture. Top with a drizzle of Super Easy Tzatziki sauce (I always have some in my fridge). These tacos were unbelievable – fresh, full of flavor. I could have eaten 10 of them. It’s the perfect summer meal. And because it’s from Costco you could whip up a huge batch and serve it to a group of friends. The best part for me is that all I did was buy an avocado – everything else was already in my kitchen. Fresh, easy, satisfying – true starving artist heaven.

Stay tuned for more!!

Cheap and Easy Shrimp and Tomato Salad

Day two of Costco week showcases one of my favorite purchases at the store: tomatoes on the vine. I’ve seen them with a variety of names: campari, amorosa, this time they’re labeled “cocktail” tomatoes. Whatever they are called, they’re always small, perfectly ripe, and totally delicious. Being Costco, they come in a rather large box, but you’d be surprised how fast they can go – especially when you’re a starving artist. One of my absolutely favorite t treatment of ripe summer tomatoes is simple yet crave-able.

  • 6-7 tomatoes, sliced into quarters
  • 3 very thin slices of red onion
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • a few generous pinches of kosher salt
  • a few generous grinds of black pepper

I toss all of the ingredients into a bowl and let it sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes for the flavors to meld before eating. Though the salad is amazing just as it, I was feeling exceptionally adventurous (indulgent? loose?) this week so I decided to splurge on a bucket of Costco’s fantastic cilantro lime shrimp – $13, easily enough for 4 applications. I added about 10 shrimp to the salad and let it marinate with everything else –  unbelievably fresh and delicious. I’ve been eating quite healthy lately so I just ate it straight up, but if you were to add some crostini to the mix, you would not be sorry. Now you may notice that this recipe is a bit small. That is because the first and only rule about fresh tomatoes is to NEVER refrigerate them. So, however you decide to prepare them, make only as much as you plan to eat. I promise you, putting this in the fridge will destroy it.

Next I’ll be taking this same concept and transforming it into outstanding shrimp tacos. Like, really REALLY outstanding. You definitely don’t want to miss it.

Hope everyone is having a good week!

Maple Vanilla Fruit Salad

Well friends it looks like this is going to be Costco week. I’ve said it before I’ll say it again – I love Costco. Starving artist’s best friend. I went at the end of last week and ended up with quite a bounty of items. As you know, the point of Costco is bulk, and as you further know, the starving artist loves a bargain that he is able to morph into many diverse treats. First up – berries. I bought a gigantic bucket of gorgeous strawberries for $5 as well as a sizable container of blackberries for $4. Of course the majority of these beauties are destined for my juicer, but since I have SO many I thought what a perfect opportunity to make a fruit salad. But throwing fruit in a bowl is not good enough for the starving artist – no no. I need to use my pantry to make it sparkle. I immediately went for the maple sugar – I’m sure you remember me talking about it in my Maple Roasted Sweet Potato post.  I sliced 7 strawberries and placed them in a small bowl with a few handfuls of blackberries and some blueberries I got from Trader Joe’s for $2.99. I threw in about 3 tablespoons of maple sugar. two to three drops of vanilla extract, tossed it all together, and let it sit on the counter for a good 20 minutes (as long as an hour would be even better). When I was ready to eat it I sliced up a banana and tossed that into the mix along with a handful of sliced toasted almonds for crunch. Delicious.

If I really had it my way I would have used the innards of a vanilla bean instead of extract, but I’m the starving artist – there is no budget for such luxury. Also if you’re looking to make it completely over the top you can drizzle on a little maple syrup before you eat. And of course, this is fruit salad, which means you can put in whatever you want. Maple and vanilla are two of my favorite flavors on earth, and I love fresh berries, so this salad does it for me, but there are so many possible variations. Here are some ideas:

  • Top it with a dollop of your favorite honey-flavored greek yogurt
  • Use granola instead of almonds for added flavor and texture
  • Instead of maple, use plain sugar and toss in a few finely diced leaves of mint.
  • Almond extract would work well in this application, as would peppermint, just be careful – potent stuff
  • Use any combination of fruit you love – pineapple, grapes, mango, pear, apple, etc, etc.

Stay tuned for more treasures from Costco, including what to do with a huge tray of campari tomatoes and how you can put a bucket of cilantro lime shrimp to excellent use. God I love summer.