Creamy Cucumber-Avocado Salad

This fabulously easy salad was creamy and delicious. We ate it as a side with grilled vegetable and fresh ricotta sandwiches, but it could also be served as a light summertime main dish.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen.com. I used avocado mayonnaise, chipotle Cholula hot sauce, and cilantro. My kids thought that it tasted like guacamole. 🙂 Great.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

  • 1 seedless cucumber (about 3/4 to 1 pound), washed and chopped into chunks
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and diced
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used avocado mayonnaise)
  • juice of half a lime, plus more to taste
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Chipotle Cholula, to taste
  • chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
  1. Combine cucumber, scallions and avocado in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, and hot sauce; adjust to taste.
  3. Drizzle salad with dressing and garnish with chopped herbs.

Kofta Sandwiches with Tomatoes & Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

These sandwiches are a great weeknight dinner. Using ground turkey or chicken instead of beef, lamb or pork makes them a little bit lighter as well.

After seeing sandwiches served in taco racks at NYC’s Chelsea Market, I used taco racks to assemble these messy sandwiches. Genius! 😉

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I used ground turkey instead of ground chicken and added lemon juice, garlic, and herbs to the sauce.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1.25 pounds ground turkey or chicken
  • 1/2 white onion, diced small
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley and cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced large (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1/2 a lemon, more to taste
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 to 4 T minced fresh dill
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise or 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 4 small naan or pitas, warmed
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint or cilantro, for serving
  • sliced or chopped red onion, for serving, optional
  1. In a large bowl, combine ground meat, diced onion, chopped parsley/cilantro, cumin and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.
  2. Using your hands, form mixture into 8 oval patties.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss together cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and dill; season with salt and pepper. Add additional lemon juice, if desired.
  4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium to medium-high. Cook patties until browned on all sides and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes. (I cooked the meatballs until the internal temperature reached 165 degrees.)
  5. Divide patties and tomatoes among warm naan or pitas. (I assembled the sandwiches in taco racks.)
  6. Top with cucumber-yogurt sauce and mint or cilantro. Top with red onion, if desired.
  7. Fold to enclose (if not using taco racks) and serve.

Za’atar Chicken Schnitzel with Israeli Salad

I made all of these sautéed chicken dishes months apart, but it seems right to share them at the same time. 🙂

My Austrian sister-in-law has traditional schnitzel with freshly made mayonnaise and cucumber salad for dinner every Christmas Eve. It is absolutely delicious. I loved this Middle Eastern variation.

This recipe was adapted from Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons with Mindy Fox. I substituted chicken thighs for chicken cutlets and cooked the dish in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Perfect.

This schnitzel would also be wonderful served as a sandwich in a pita with hummus.

Yield: Serves 4

For the Israeli Salad:

  • 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp za’atar
  • 1 tsp sumac, optional
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the Schnitzel:

  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 1/2 T za’atar
  • freshly grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 chicken cutlets, about 1 pound
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • lemon wedges, for serving

To start the salad:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the bell pepper, cucumber, onion, tomatoes, parsley, and mint.
  2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the schnitzel:

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Place an ovenproof platter or a baking sheet int he oven to warm.
  2. In a wide, shallow bowl, stir together the flour, 1 tsp salt, and a generous pinch of pepper.
  3. In another shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs and a pinch of salt.
  4. In a third shallow bowl, combine the panko, za’atar, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt.
  5. Place each piece of chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat pounder or a rolling pin, gently pound each piece of chicken to 1/4-inch thickness.
  6. Pat the meat dry and season both sides lightly with salt and pepper.
  7. Dredge in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess.
  8. Dip in the eggs, letting excess drip off, then gently press into the panko mixture to completely coat.
  9. Transfer the chicken to a large plate.
  10. Heat the 1/2 cup of oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium to medium-high heat, until hot but not smoking. (I used a cast iron skillet over medium heat.)
  11. Fry the chicken in 2 batches, turning once, until cooked through and crispy, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  12. Drain each batch on paper towel-lined plates, season with salt, then transfer to the platter in the oven to keep warm.

To finish the salad:

  1. Add the 2 T oil, lemon juice, za’atar, sumac, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper to the vegetable mixture.
  2. Toss to combine.

To serve:

  1. Serve the schnitzel with the salad piled on top (or vice versa!) with lemon wedges on the side.

Salad-Topped Hummus Platter

The culmination of my daughter’s summer theatre camp involves days of dress rehearsals followed by matinée and evening performances. She absolutely loves it all and it is worth every second, but it was also difficult to prepare and eat dinner during this time. That’s show business, right? 😉

This genius quick, healthy, and filling appetizer turned dinner saved the day the evening of her final performance. The recipe was adapted from Ina Garten via Smitten Kitchen.com. I made my favorite hummus, added arugula, used a peeled CSA cucumber, and substituted red wine vinegar for lemon juice in the dressing. I could eat it all summer long!

  • 2 cups prepared hummus
  • 2 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces or 225 grams) grape tomatoes, quartered, plus more to taste
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, or multiple small cucumbers, unpeeled, chopped
  • 1/4 medium red onion, chopped small, optional
  • 1 T red wine vinegar or juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp sumac
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, or a mix of parsley, mint, and chives, plus more for garnish
  • 2 large handfuls baby arugula, to taste
  • warm naan or pita, for serving
  1. Prepare hummus in a food processor.
  2. Spread hummus on a large plate with the back of a spoon, creating swirls and cavities. Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, just to freshen it up.
  3. Mix tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, red wine vinegar/lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons olive oil, sumac, plus salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
  4. Stir in herbs.
  5. Top hummus with arugula. Heap salad on top of the arugula. Finish with additional sumac and/or fresh herbs.
  6. Serve with warm naan or pita wedges.

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Iceberg Wedge Salad with Green Goddess Ranch Dressing

This post is belated because I’m still recovering from my husband’s extravagant birthday feast. Recovering from preparing it… and from eating it (for many, many days!). 😉 I must say that it was well worth every minute AND every bite.

His special celebratory feast usually involves fried chicken with biscuits and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. I have made Caesar salad as our “vegetable” in the past, but this year he requested a wedge salad. Yay! I love a change.

This recipe was adapted from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn, via Martha Stewart Living. I used 4 tablespoons of buttermilk to adjust the consistency of the dressing. I also adapted the way the iceberg lettuce was sliced to modify the serving size and simplify the eating process. We all LOVED it!

For the Green Goddess Ranch Salad Dressing:

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives and/or scallions, plus more for garnish, optional
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste or 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons mild vinegar, such as white-wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
  • buttermilk or milk (optional)
  1. In a large bowl or blender, whisk or blend all the ingredients except the buttermilk.
  2. Add just enough buttermilk to thin to the desired consistency, if needed. (I used 4 tablespoons.)
  3. Pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to combine. Shake well before using.

Note: Dressing will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To Complete the Salad:

Yield: 4 Servings

  • Green Goddess Ranch Dressing (recipe above)
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, cut into thick slices or wedges
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy
  • English cucumber, cut into slices
  1. Prepare Green Goddess dressing and set aside.
  2. In a 9 x 13-inch pyrex baking dish, bake bacon at 350 degrees for 20 to 3o minutes, until crispy.
  3. Place 1 iceberg lettuce slice/wedge and 4 to 6 cucumber wedges on each plate.
  4. Pour some dressing over top with crumbled bacon and minced chives over each serving, as desired.

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Turkish-Spiced Halibut Skewers With Yogurt Sauce

Many people grill year-round, but our grill hibernates during the winter. 😦 Thankfully, it is unseasonably warm here this week (Yay!), so I am going to share a couple of belated grilling recipes.

This first recipe is an adaptation of a Turkish dish typically made with local swordfish and fresh bay leaves. This version, from David Tanis of The New York Times, uses firm-fleshed halibut with thinly sliced lemons and onions. The fish is only marinated for an hour, grilled, and served with a wonderful and fresh cucumber-yogurt sauce.

We ate the skewers with hummus, warm naan, Israeli couscous, and steamed spinach on the side. If grilling season is over for you, this dish can easily be replicated using a broiler. Great!

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless halibut or other firm-fleshed fish
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small lemon, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 garlic clove, grated or smashed to a paste
  • 8 bay leaves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 small cucumber, about 2 ounces, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

  1. Cut halibut into large chunks of equal size and thread onto skewers. You should have 4 kebabs weighing about 6 ounces each.
  2. Lay them in a shallow dish. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, put cumin, coriander, paprika, red pepper flakes, onion, lemon, minced garlic and bay leaves. Add olive oil and stir together.
  4. Spoon mixture over fish skewers and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Put yogurt in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then add garlic paste, cayenne and cucumber.
  6. Mix mint, dill and parsley together, add half to yogurt mixture, and reserve the rest. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  7. Heat a grill or broiler. When it is hot, cook skewers for about 2 minutes per side, until just opaque. (Leave some lemon, onion and bay leaf clinging to fish, so they char a bit.)
  8. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining herb mixture, if desired. Serve with yogurt sauce on the side.

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