Loaded Salmon Nicoise Salad

Salmon Nicoise salad may be my favorite salad ever. And that's saying a lot because I eat a lot of salads (check some of them out here, here, and here). But in order for a Nicoise salad to be worthy of this fame, it has to be loaded. Like in I-can't-fit-anymore-on-this-plate loaded (just look at these pictures!). For me, the fun and flavor of Nicoise salads comes from its toppings. Lots of toppings. My personal favorites are roasted potatoes, dilly bean, cornichons (aka gherkins), hard-boiled eggs, olives, feta, avocado, and of course, wild salmon. You can really let your creativity shine when it comes to toppings, though. Fresh or canned tuna is traditional, I think, but any other protein would work just as well and don't limit yourself on the veggie opportunities. Great creative!

Speaking of creativity, I've been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's new book - Big Magic - on tape and loving it. It's about finding and embracing your creativity (whatever that means to you) and living life to the fullest. It's not cliche, I promise. I have always thought of myself as an adventurous person willing to take measured risks and not one to really go along with the crowd or bow down to authority. After college I bought a one-way ticket to Maui, lived there for a few months, and then traveled the world for six years while working on a small cruise ship. I definitely haven't walked the typical path. But over the last few years, I feel life has been a become a bit boring and monotonous. Grad school will do that to you. Don't get me wrong, though, I love what I'm doing for work and I couldn't ask for a better partner, but I also feel like the adventurous side has taken a bit of a backseat. Noah and I talk about it all the time and we have some plans in the works for breaking out of this rut that I'm super excited about (more to come soon, hopefully!). But if you're like me, and need some inspiration to help you take hold of your creativity again, I highly recommend checking out Big Magic.     

Ok, that was a tangent, back to the salad. I really don't feel like I need to say much more about this salad other than it's crazy good and incredibly filling and satisfying. Please do use wild salmon if you can to help support the fishermen. Friends don't let friends eat farmed salmon. That's it. Enjoy! 

// Salmon Nicoise Salad // makes 4 large or 6 small salads
You can either plate these salads on individual plates or make one huge platter to share. If you're sharing just be sure your guest don't steal all the goodies. Also, as I mentioned above, the toppings are totally customizable. Pickled and roasted veggies work great. I've also done goat cheese and herb-marinated feta.  

For the potatoes:
1 pound baby potatoes, any kind will do
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the salad dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced red onion or shallot
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the fish:
2 lbs salmon fillets, bones removed
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Oil for the pan

For the lemon, butter, caper sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup capers
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of salt

Salad and Toppings:
2 heads red bibb lettuce, washed and torn into pieces
4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onions
1 avocado cut into slices or formed into roses
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup cornichons
8 tomato wedges or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup mixed olives
24 dilly beans
Lemon wedges
Parsley for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°. If using larger baby potatoes, cut in half. If using smaller ones, leave whole. Toss potatoes will olive oil, garlic, and salt and place in a baking dish. Cover with tin foil and bake for 35-40 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. Set aside until needed

2. While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients. Set aside until needed. Prep toppings as needed until potatoes are done

3. Reduce oven heat to 250°. Place salmon filets on a lightly oiled baking sheet and season evenly with salt. Cover loosely with tin foil and bake for ~40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 135-140°. Remove from oven and let cool slightly

4. When fish is almost done, melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in lemon juice, capers, and salt. Remove from heat

5. To assemble salad, divide lettuce among number of plates you're using. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of dressing over lettuce. Top salads evenly with potatoes, eggs, red onions, avocado, feta, cornichons, tomatoes, olives, and dilly beans (I like to make small piles of each ingredient). Place salmon on top and spoon 1 tablespoon lemon, butter, dill sauce over fish. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley. Dig in! 

Mozzarella + Pomegranate Salad

Is it just me, or is anyone else ready for spring? I feel like we're getting teased here in Seattle with a handful of beautiful sunny, warm days followed by a week of blustery, rainy  ones that leave me feeling antsy. Cabin fever! Noah and I did brave the shifty weather this past weekend by going on an overnight bike ride to Woodinville. It's about a 25 mile ride one-way on a rails-to-trails path. We rented a really cute Airbnb and did some wine tasting once we got out there. It was  a great quick break from the normal routine. This year Noah and I have both decided that we want to do more traveling and go on more adventures. It's scary how easily you can fall into a routine and not noticed how fast the weeks and months go by! 

Speaking of travel, we'll be getting on a plane in a few weeks and heading overseas to Spain. I can't wait! We're planning on posting lots of photos and adventure stories and maybe even some recipes if we ever getting around to cooking amidst all the delicious food we are sure to encounter. I'm so excited for tapas :) This week, while housesitting for friends, we want to sit down and plan out some fun things to do over there. Anybody have any suggestions or ideas?  Our only itinerary right now is spending a few days in Barcelona before renting a car and heading north toward the coast. We'll have three weeks to go where we want and do as we please :)

Now on to the recipe. I came up with this mozzarella and pomegranate salad this winter because I cannot get enough of pomegranates when they're in season. I love the meditative task of taking out the seeds, I love their bright red color, I love their tart-sweet juiciness, and I love the burst of  flavor as you bite into them. (Ok, I don't love the stain they leave on the cutting board and my fingers, but I'm willing to overlook that because their season is so short). I was also ready for some spring flavors, so I threw in some chopped up mint, basil, and fresh lemon to liven things up.  The soft, sweet mozzarella balls are a nice contrast to the firm, tangy pomegranate seeds. I'm hoping someday that I'll be able to master making these at home, but that has not happened yet... 

// Mozzarella + Pomegranate Salad // serves 4-6
This salad comes together super quick and is a great  easy lunch or light appetizer. Pomegranates are only in season during the winter months  (October - February), but substitutions could be make for a refreshing summer salad.  I'd probably swap out the pomegranates for strawberries or raspberries. Melon balls might be interesting to try as well. Use full-fat mozzarella for best results

 16 oz small mozzarella balls (2 oz containers)
1 small bunch of lacinato kale, about 2 cups packed and cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup packed basil, chiffonaded
Scant 1/4 cup mint, chiffonaded
1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds, about 1 medium-large pomegranate
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

1. Drain mozzarella balls in a colendar and set aside

2. In a medium bowl, combine the kale and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Gently massage kale with fingers until kale turns dark green, about 1-2 minutes

3. Add basil, mint, pomegranate seeds, red onion, olive oil, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss in mozzarella balls. Taste and season with more salt if needed and black pepper

Tempeh-Wakame Salad

We've been kind of quiet around here lately, enjoying some much needed downtime after our busy holiday travels. I haven't been doing much cooking (!), instead relying on easy things like beans and grains and roasted whole chicken (we've vowed never to buy chicken breasts again - whole chickens are so much better). It's also been rainy and grey, which doesn't help with motivation or inspiration...

During my traveling days I remember seeing women steaming big blocks of temeph in banana leaves in Indonesia. It was an eye-opening moment because while I had eaten tempeh numerous times before, I always assumed it originated from Japan or China or Korea (it is soybeans after all). But nope, it's from Indonesia. And it's delicious. This salad is a perfect combination of tempeh, wakame seaweed, sunflower seeds, and veggies. I hope you try it!

// Tempeh-Wakame Salad // Serves 4-6
Like tofu, tempeh needs to be marinated to take on the flavors on the dish. I would recommend at least 30 minutes, but  a few hours is the best. Also,  2 tablespoons of wakame may not seem like a lot, but it expands quite extensively!

For the marinade:
2 8-oz packages of tempeh
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

For the dressing:
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup mayo
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon mellow miso
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons wakame
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced, ~3/4 cup
5 stalks celery, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
3 tablespoons roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds

1. Cut the tempeh into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a shallow oven-safe dish. The tempeh should fit snugly. In a small bowl whisk together the rest of the marinade ingredients (soy sauce through ginger). Pour marinade over tempeh, making sure all sides of tempeh are coated. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, up to two hours, flipping tempeh occasionally to make sure all sides get marinated

2. Preheat over to 350 °. Bake tempeh for 15 minutes. Flip tempeh then bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool

3. In a bowl or measuring cup whisk together the dressing ingredients (lemon juice through salt). Set aside

4. Place wakame in a medium bowl and steep in 2 cups of hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside

5. In a large bowl combine the tempeh, wakame, onion, celery, carrot, sesame seed, and sunflower seeds. Toss well. Pour the dressing over the tempeh and stir until everything is well coated. Season with salt as needed