Saturday, May 26, 2012

Strawberry-Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Almonds

I like to make this salad when locally grown strawberries are in season, and it's usually a hit at parties and picnics as well as elegant dinners.

The balsamic vinaigrette wonderfully complements the strawberries and spinach. The goat cheese complements the strawberries. And the lightly toasted almonds add a delightful crunch.


1/3 cup sliced almonds
6 to 8 ounces (4 to 5 cups) baby spinach leaves
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
3 to 6 tablespoons Honey-Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette (or your favorite prepared balsamic vinaigrette)
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled

Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over low to medium-low heat for few minutes until lightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the spinach and the sliced strawberries in a large bowl. Add the dressing, tossing well. Use only enough dressing to lightly coat all of the greens and strawberries.

Add the toasted almonds and the goat cheese. Toss lightly, and serve.

-- 4-6 servings

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pasta and Cannellini Salad with Asparagus, Bell Peppers, and Walnuts

This is a vegan-friendly variation of our popular recipe for Tortellini Salad with Asparagus, Bell Peppers, and Walnuts.

Bowtie pasta and cannellini beans replace the tortellini. The beans are a satisfying substitute for the creamy tortellini filling. There's nothing missing here!


8 ounces dried bowtie/butterfly pasta (farfalle)
1 pound fresh asparagus
1 can (15.5 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into julienne slices
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into julienne slices
1 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 to 4 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar*, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, shredded or coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Rinse the pasta in cold water to stop the cooking, drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, rinse the asparagus and break off the tough ends. (If you hold the asparagus spear at each end and bend it slightly, it will break at the right spot.) If using thicker spears, trim off the larger buds near the bottom of the stalk as desired. Cut the asparagus spears diagonally into 1-inch pieces. Blanch the asparagus by boiling (or by microwaving with a small amount of water) for 1-3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking, drain, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta, asparagus, cannellini beans, bell peppers, and walnuts.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar until well blended, and then whisk in the basil, salt, and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the pasta mixture, and gently toss until all salad ingredients are coated with the dressing.

Refrigerate if not using immediately. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.

-- 4-6 servings

* Note: I like to use white balsamic vinegar in pasta salads, because the more common dark version will turn the pasta brown, which some people find unappealing. But if you don’t mind the color, the dark balsamic vinegar works fine in this recipe as well.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tortellini with Peas and Parmesan

This was inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe. However, her recipe uses a butter base, and I found it cloyingly buttery.

Here, I lighten it up by substituting good olive oil for the butter. I also tweaked the ingredient proportions per my own personal tastes. The results, in my opinion, are far tastier than the original - and much healthier. (Sorry, Martha!)


1 pound frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving as desired

Boil the tortellini in salted water according to the package directions, adding the peas for the last minute of cooking. Drain.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the garlic, and saute for a minute or two, just until the aroma starts to emerge. Do not let the garlic burn. Remove the garlic from the pan and discard it.

Add the tortellini and peas to the same skillet, along with salt and pepper to taste. (Go easy on the salt, as the Parmesan we’ll be adding is salty.) Saute over medium heat for a minute or two to combine all the flavors.

Stir in the 2 tablespoons of Parmesan.

Serve with additional Parmesan for topping as desired.

-- 4 servings