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Archive for Vegetables/Salads/Herbs

TIP OF THE SAY: Season Your Feta


Feta, plain and seasoned. Photo courtesy


If you enjoy a homemade Greek salad or other recipes accented with feta cheese, here’s how to make them even better:

Roll the feta cheese in dried or fresh herbs before cutting into cubes or strips, or crumbling. It adds instant flavor and dimension. For starters, consider basil, chives, cracked black pepper, dill, oregano and thyme. If you like heat, consider red chili flakes.

While you’re at it, develop your own signature Greek salad recipe by adding complex flavors and textures beyond the classic six ingredients: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, feta, Kalamata olives and stuffed grape leaves.



  • Romaine, torn into bite-size pieces
  • Tomatoes, cut into wedges (or cherry tomatoes)
  • Cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • Red onion or sweet onion, sliced
  • Bell pepper, sliced into strips or diced into squares
  • Radishes, sliced
  • Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves)
  • Anchovies/sardines
  • Feta, cut into cubes or crumbled
  • Kalamata olives
  • Peperoncini
  • Capers
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Oregano plus optional dill and/or flat-leaf parsley
  • Dressing: extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice or red wine vinegar
    The one thing you don’t need is salt: Feta, which is cured in brine (salt water), has enough on its own.

    In Greece, the dish is horiatiki, which translates into country, peasant salad or rustic salad.

    Serve it with crusty peasant bread and a dish of good olive oil for dipping.



    1. TOSS lettuce with bell pepper, black pepper, capers, cucumber, herbs olives, radishes and tomato.

    2. DRESS with oil and vinegar/lemon juice if desired (or serve dressing separately). Plate.

    2. TOP with anchovies/sardines, feta and peperoncini.

    Feta is Greece’s most famous cheese*, a pure white, aged curd cheese that crumbles easily. While the cheese has been made since antiquity, the modern name came into the Greek language in the 17th century, from the Italian word fetta, slice, referring to slicing the cheese from the brick.

    Authentic feta is a sheep’s milk cheese, or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milks. Outside of the European Union, where it is protected designation of origin (PDO) product, it can also be made of cow’s milk. The cheese is semi-hard, with a flavor that can range from mild and milky to salty with a very tangy acidity.
    *Other Greek cheeses.



    Feta cheese with olives, a drizzle of olive oil and bread: a delicious mezze (appetizer). Photo by Frente | Wikimedia.


    Authentic feta is formed into bricks and salted and cured in a brine solution. It is aged in wood barrels for 60 days, creating a creamy, tangy cheese with citric notes.

    Only 2% of the feta consumed in the U.S. actually comes from Greece. Much of it is saltier feta from Bulgaria and other countries. Some feta is simply too salty. You can soak oversalted pieces it in water or milk to remove some of the saltiness.

    Find more favorite types of cheese in our Cheese Glossary.



    RECIPE: Grilled Salsa Salad


    Like salsa? Make a “salsa salad.” Photo


    Sweet and savory, this delicious salad is perfect for grilling season. It is from Melissa’s wonderful new The Great Pepper Cookbook, The Ultimate Guide To Choosing And Cooking With Peppers.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, total time 35 minutes.


    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 6 large roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 3 limes, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 large avocados, halve lengthwise and pitted
  • 1 large mango, halved lengthwise and seeded (do not peel)
  • 1 sweet onion, thickly sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 15 dried tepin chiles, ground (see section below)
  • Salt
  • 1 head butter lettuce


    1. PREHEAT grill to medium heat.

    2. BRUSH tomato and the next 5 ingredients (limes through onion) with oil.

    3. PLACE fruits and vegetables on grill rack. Grill, rotating halfway through grilling to achieve even grill marks, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set limes aside.

    4. PEEL and finely dice remaining grilled fruits and vegetables.

    5. TOSS fruits, vegetables, cilantro and chile in a bowl. Squeeze in lime juice. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

    6. SERVE with butter lettuce leaves.



    Tepin chiles. Photo courtesy



    The tepin (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum) is a hot chile that is native to southern North America and northern South America. It is also called chiltepe, chiltepin/chiltpin, chiltecpinas and chile tepin, variations of the Aztec name. In English, they are called turkey, bird’s eye, or bird peppers, due to their consumption and spread by birds.

    Sold fresh or sun-dried, tepin is a small, searingly hot chile. It has a dry, musty flavor that produces a quick burn.

    Small (approximately 1/2 inch in diameter) and round or oval in shape, looking a bit like large dried cranberries, the name means “flea” in Nahuatl, the Aztec language. The tepin is easily crushed and sprinkled on beans, salsas and other Mexican dishes, and to add a red-hot note to soups, sauces and vinegars. Its thin flesh makes it perfect for pickling.

    Substitutes: cascabel, cayenne or pequin chiles.

    Check out the different types of chiles in our Chile Glossary.

    Editor’s note: THE NIBBLE uses the word “chile” instead of “pepper.” When chiles were first encountered by Columbus’s crew in the Caribbean, they related the spicy heat to the black peppercorn and long pepper which were known in Europe.

    Peppers and chiles are not related, but the misnomer, pepper or chile pepper, has endured in the English language.



    FOOD FUN: Grilled Potato Skewers

    As much fun as the country fair, but tastier:
    your own grilled potatoes on a stick. Photo
    courtesy Stix Mediterranean Grill | New York


    Grilled potatoes on a stick: What fun!

    We expanded on this idea from Stix Mediterranean Grill in New York City and created this recipe, which was a hit on Memorial Day.

    Stix flavored the skewers Greek-stye, with crumbled feta cheese and oregano (shown in the photo).

    We made them more colorful, alternating the potato slices with copacetic ingredients: grape tomatoes, gherkins and olives. You can add whatever you like, from colorful bell pepper strips to pearl onions. For kids of all ages, how about frankfurter chunks?

    We left the skins on the potatoes: better nutrition and no peeling time!



  • Yukon Gold or other small potatoes
  • “Alternates”: cherry or grape tomatoes, gherkins, hot dogs, olives (pitted), pearl onions (parboil for softeness)
  • Seasonings: cracked black pepper, minced chives, oregano, red pepper flakes, smoked salt
  • Optional dip (we mixed Greek yogurt with grainy mustard)
  • Preparation

    1. BOIL potatoes to an al dente consistency.

    2. DRAIN and set aside. When cool to touch, halve the potatoes and thread onto skewers, alternate potatoes with cherry tomatoes, gherkins, olives, etc.

    3. GRILL and serve hot, with or without a dipping sauce.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Chinese Chicken Salad

    Since we were a mere tot, we’ve loved Chinese chicken salad. This American invention combines Asian ingredients into a delicious fusion.

    There are variations on the name, but the rules are neither hard nor fast: “Mandarin” refers to the mandarin segments in the recipe. Chinese Chicken Salad uses mandarin or pineapple plus fried chow mein noodles. Thai chicken salad substitutes rice noodles (shown in the photo) for the chow mein noodles. Asian chicken salad, the most generic term, indicates a sesame-soy-ginger vinaigrette or peanut dressing.

    We recently had this “Mandarin” chicken salad at Cafe SFA, the restaurant in Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. It’s easy to whip up. Using fresh mandarin segments instead of canned makes a huge difference, as does fresh ginger instead of powdered ginger in the dressing.

    If you don’t like ginger or peanut dressing, use plain vinaigrette of rice vinegar and vegetable oil, with a touch of sesame oil (taste it—some varieties are very strong, others are on the light side).



  • Roasted chicken strips
  • Mandarin segments or pineapple cubes
  • Shredded carrots
  • Sliced radishes
  • Rice noodles or Chinese fried noodles


    They call it Mandarin; we call it Thai because of the rice noodles and peanut dressing. Photo courtesy Café SFA.

  • Peanuts (any type—we used both raw and honey roasted; you can substitute cashews)
  • Spring salad mix
  • Shredded red cabbage (you can substitute white cabbage)
  • Green peas, sugar peas and/or edamame
  • Sesame dressing or peanut dressing (recipes below)
  • Optional garnish: black and white sesame seeds (we toasted them)


  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon powdered ginger)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil or other salad oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2/3 cup olive oil

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a blender and blend on high.



    This variation, from Bullock’s tea room in
    Sherman Oaks, California, substitutes shrimp
    for chicken. Photo courtesy




  • 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 shallote, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons peanut butter (you can substitute tahini)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (preferably toasted)
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a blender and blend on high.
    How To Toast Sesame Seeds

    Stovetop toasting: In a large frying pan, heat the sesame seeds over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally. They are ready when they darken and become fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.

    Oven toasting: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and bake until the seeds darken and become fragrant, about 15 minutes.

    Allow the toasted seeds to cool; then store in a covered jar at room temperature.


    Raw salads are not traditional fare in Asia; Chinese salads are typically made of parboiled or stir-fried vegetables. There are different types of cold chicken salads, mostly from Szechwan, such as pong pong (or bong bong) chicken: shredded chicken and bean sprouts dressed with a peanut butter, red pepper and garlic sauce.

    We checked our favorite source,, for the scoop on the emergence of the Asian/Chinese/Mandarin/Thai chicken salads we know and love today.

    According to American food historian Sylvia Lovegren, Chinese ingredient-inspired salads and dressings originated by the 1930s. But these early “Oriental” salads were nowhere close to what’s on menus today. One recipe circa 1923 consisted of diced prunes, dates, figs, chopped nuts, diced pineapple topped with “one cup salad dressing,” a vinaigrette or spiced mayonnaise.

    The “modern” recipe seems to have been introduced in California, and was made popular at Johnny Kan’s restaurant in San Francisco, a Cantonese restaurant that opened in 1953 (and is still operating). It combined shredded iceberg lettuce, strips of cold roast chicken and crispy chow mein noodles, fried noodles made from a combination of wheat and rice flours. The salad was tossed with a slightly sweet sesame oil-tinged dressing with flecks of hot red peppers or pepper flakes.

    The Asian-inspired salads that we know today evolved in the mid-1960s, adding more ingredients (mandarin segments, pineapple, vegetables) and more complex dressings, including the popular ginger-soy-sesame and peanut recipes.

    Asian-style salad dressings—soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil—were promoted in the 1980s as healthier alternatives to mayonnaise-based dressings for green salads. Thai flavors were introduced in the 1990s, with the growing popularity of Thai cuisine.

    Recent additions include edamame, borrowed from Japanese cuisine. Play around with it and create your own signature Asian salad. It will generate a huge demand!



    RECIPE: Three Pea Salad


    Three-pea salad. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky
    | Bittersweet Blog.


    Before spring turns into summer, try this delicious spring pea salad from Hannah Kaminsky. Spring peas, also known as English peas, are a seasonal delight that can we enjoy as a side, in salads, and in soup.

    Says Hannah:

    “Spring is on my mind, driving me to the point of distraction. Longer, brighter days captivate me while simultaneously throwing of my finely tuned rhythm, and the influx of fresh, vibrant produce easily overwhelms my senses. What to eat first? Where to go, what to do?”

    The best cure for seasonal disorientation is immersion, so let’s jump right in and celebrate the other reason for my pea-brained state: Peas! In all their green glory, this simple salad combines snow peas, pea shoots, and English peas to showcase their myriad textures, flavors, and shapes. The rather silly, rhyming title doesn’t do this combination fully justice, but was unavoidable thanks to the matcha tea-infused dressing, lending equal parts bitterness and sweetness to the blend.

    In case you’re suffering from an equally pea-brained daze, a heaping helping of this bright, fresh homage to the humble pea might just be the antidote.”



    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 6 ounces snow peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 ounces pea shoots
  • 8 ounces raw English peas
    Green Tea Dressing

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon yellow miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon rice Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste


    Fresh spring peas are a delight. Photo courtesy RSVPea.



    1. TOSS the sliced snow peas, pea shoots and English peas together in a large bowl.

    2. WHISK together in a small bowl all of the ingredients for the green tea dressing. Beat the mixture thoroughly until smooth.

    3. POUR dressing over the vegetables, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.



    RECIPE: Tofu & Tomato Skewers

    Tasty tofu and tomato skewers. Photo


    We love mozzarella and tomatoes. Caprese salad is a favorite, along with skewers of mozarella balls with cherry tomatoes and basil leaves.

    But we’re also trying to eat more vegan dishes, part of our personal commitment to save the planet. (Animal methane is the leading cause of greenhouse gas.) You’d be surprised how delicious a tofu substitution can be. Try this easy recipe from House Foods, which adds a bright herb sauce for dipping.


    Ingredients For 10 Skewers

  • 1 package extra firm or super firm tofu
  • 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 10 bamboo skewers

    For The Herb Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large shallot
  • ½ bundle Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • ½ bundle cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grounded black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


    1. WRAP tofu with paper towel and place on plate. Microwave for a minute to remove excess moisture.

    2. PLACE garlic and shallot in a food processor and give it a quick whirl. Add parsley, cilantro and give it another whirl.

    3. COMBINE chopped herbs and add vinegar, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and olive oil in a bowl.

    4. CUT tofu in cubes in the same size as the cherry tomatoes. Place two tofu cubes and two tomatoes alternately on skewers. Brush tofu with the sauce and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Brush a couple more times until grill mark is shown. Brush tofu again before serving.

    5. SERVE with herb sauce.



    Use only extra firm tofu so the cubes will hold their shape. Photo courtesy House Foods.


    You can also make tofu Caprese salad.

    Tofu is made in a variety of firmness levels, ranging from soft to extra firm, depending on the use. Desserts and smoothies, for example, use soft tofu; grilling requires extra-firm tofu, the texture of which is similar to meat.

    House Foods’ line of Premium Tofu products that are made with non-genetically modified (non-GMO) soybeans grown in the U.S. See all of the products at



    TIP OF THE DAY: Hasselback Potatoes

    The potato recipe that wins the award for “simple and elegant” is Hasselback potatoes. Simply by making a series of deep parallel cuts along the top of the potatoes, they open into this visually arresting fan. They are also called accordion potatoes or pillbug potatoes (because the segments resemble the shell of the pillbug—yuck!).

    While they look fancy-frilly, they take little extra time over a standard baked potato: All you need are good potatoes and a sharp knife. Then, just slice, brush with butter and bake.

    The cooked potatoes have the crispy edges of French fries, and the soft, creamy middle of mashed potatoes. The thinner the slices, the better the end result.

    The recipe was created at the famous Hasselbacken (“Hazel Hill”) restaurant in Stockholm’s Hasselbacken Hotel, an elegant edifice that opened in 1748. They are a favorite dish in Sweden, enjoyed for breakfast, appetizers, lunch and dinner sides, and snacks. The skin of the potatoes is usually kept on.



    Hasselback potatoes. Photo courtesy The Kitchn | Apartment Therapy. See their step-by-step recipe preparation.



  • Medium-size potatoes (a starchy or all-purpose potato; we use russets or Yukon Golds)
  • Butter, melted or softened (substitute olive oil)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional garnishes: bacon, blue cheese, breadcrumbs, dill, garlic, red or black salt, rosemary
  • Optional garnish: crème fraîche, sour cream, fresh herbs or microgreens


    Baking beauties. Photo courtesy The Kitchn |
    Apartment Therapy.



    1. PREHEAT oven to 450°F. If you decide to peel the potatoes, place them in a bowl of cold water to prevent discoloration.

    2. SLICE a bit off the bottom of each potato so that it can “sit” in the pan. Insert a thin skewer parallel, 75% of the way to the bottom of the sitting potato. This prevents the knife going all the way to the bottom, so all the slices remain connected, and enables you to make very thin vertical cuts. This requires careful knife work but is not difficult.

    3. PLACE the potatoes in a baking dish and brush with butter; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

    4. PLACE in the oven and bake 30-40 minutes until done, brushing the potatoes with butter halfway through.
    Recipe adapted from


  • Crispier: For the crispiest exterior, toss the sliced, raw potatoes in hot fat (butter, butter and olive oil, or lard, before they go into the oven.
  • Garlicky: Use garlic butter or place small slivers of garlic between the slices.
  • Herbed: Slip rosemary or dill springs between the slices.
  • More: Sprinkle blue cheese crumbles, breadcrumbs, chili flakes, crumbled cooked bacon, lemon zest, Parmesan or other choice over the potatoes during the last ten minutes of cooking.
    Check out the different types of potatoes.



    RECIPE: “Barbecue” Potato Salad

    What to bring to a barbecue? Barbecue potato salad, a recipe from QVC’s chef David Venable, who blends barbecue sauce in with the mayonnaise.

    Says David: “In my opinion, it’s really not a barbecue without a side of potato salad. While the classic version is near perfection, sometimes it’s fun to play with the flavors (a sure sign of a confident cook!) This dish mirrors the flavor of your favorite barbecued meats.”



  • 4 pounds new potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 pound smoked bacon
  • 1-1/3 cups mayonnaise
  • 2-1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 1 hard boiled egg, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Optional garnish: fresh chives, chopped


    Barbecue potato salad. Photo courtesy QVC.



    1. COVER the potatoes with water and bring to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat, with 1 tablespoon salt. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes; drain. While the potatoes are cooking…

    2. RENDER the bacon until crisp in a large skillet over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Drain the bacon on several paper towels and break into small, bite-size pieces. Set aside.

    3. MIX the mayonnaise, mustard, barbecue sauce and hard boiled egg in a large bowl. Slowly add the potatoes to the dressing and let them absorb the liquid, about 15 minutes. Add the celery, red onion, thyme, salt and pepper and refrigerate until well chilled.

    4. GARNISH with the bacon and chives just before serving.

    Find more of David Venable’s recipes at



    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Dandelion Greens


    Dandelion greens, the delightfully edible
    weed. Photo courtesy


    The scourge of the well-kept lawn—and one of the first signs of spring in the veggie universe—is the delicious, nutritious vegetable, dandelion greens.

    The slightly peppery greens are much more nutritious than broccoli†.

    A relative of the sunflower*, the crowns, leaves and stems are all recipe-worthy. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine.

    Cultivated dandelion greens from the market are less bitter than the wild ones you can forage. A rule of thumb is to taste a leaf to determine the degree of bitterness—and thus, how much to include in your dish.

    Alas, you can’t just dig them from your lawn, or other chemically-treated area. But should you be hiking through a mountain meadow or untreated area with a spade and a basket, there’s bounty awaiting you. (Wild plants that have gone to flower are much more bitter—pass them by.)



    Discard the tough lower portions of the stems. Depending on the recipe, cut the leaves crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Cook the greens in a pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until the ribs are tender (about 10 minutes). As with spinach, then rinse under cold water to stop cooking, drain in a colander and gently press out excess water.

  • Sauté the crowns and/or leaves with onion and garlic; season with a pinch of salt and fresh pepper or crushed pepper flakes.
  • Add to a salad (how about mixed greens, beets and almonds, or goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts?).
  • Substitute in any recipe that calls for bok choy or kale.
  • Make pesto (add some pumpkin seeds) for pasta and other recipes.
  • Serve wilted greens as a side.
  • Mix with collards, kale and/or spinach.


    Dandelion greens have long been a homeopathic treatment for a broad spectrum of problems: acne, digestive problems, eczema, edema, gout, jaundice, swelling and inflammation, even viruses. It has potent laxative and diuretic properties, as attested by its French name, pissenlit, “wet the bed.”

    Our word, dandelion, comes from the French dent-de-lion, “lion’s tooth.”

    *From the botanical family Asteraceae and the tribe Cichorieae (yes, chicory), the genus and species are Taraxacum officinale. While Asteraceae is a large genus of flowering plants, two species, T. officinale and T. erythrospermum, are found as weeds worldwide.

    †One cup raw brocoli: 581 IU vitamin A, 89.4 mcg vitamin K, 41.4 mg calcium, .6 mg iron. One cup raw dandelion greens: 2712 IU vitamin A, 151 mcg vitamin K, 103 mg calcium, 1.7 mg iron.


    GIFT: Grilling Vegetables Basket

    Are you guesting on Memorial Day or holding your own shindig?

    If it’s the former, and you don’t have an assigned dish to bring, here’s a fresh idea:

    Instead of a bottle of wine or a pan of brownies, how about a basket of freshly picked vegetables? Your hosts will have something to grill and enjoy after the party food is gone.

    Melissa’s, purveyor of premium produce, has put together a barbecue gift basket of Anaheim chiles, Asian eggplant, red or yellow bell peppers, chayote squash, elephant garlic, fennel, cipolline or Maui onions, plantains and portobello mushrooms.

    The idea is to provide better versions of standard grilling favorites, plus something new. (When was the last time you grilled fennel or plantains?)



    A gift for your barbecue hosts. Photo courtesy



    Fun skewers that circle the plate. Photo
    courtesy Charcoal Companion.


    The Melissa’s gift basket also includes:

  • A set of four circle kabobs.
  • A grilling basket to keep cut veggies from falling into the fire.
    The price is $64.99 on
    Send it as a Memorial Day gift for dear friends and family, or a thank-you gift to your Memorial Day hosts.

    You can put your own basket together by going to the best produce market in town and picking out unusual versions of family favorites (Asian eggplant instead of conventional Italian eggplant, for example).




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