Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti

salad with mango and vanilla vinaigrette


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A Splash of Vanilla in Your Salad

There are 4 basic tastes that come together to provide us with pleasure {hopefully} in the food we eat:  salty, sweet, bitter and sour.  There is also a savory taste, a fifth taste, known as umami.  Foods rich in umami include mushrooms, tomato paste, anchovies and green tea, among others.  Adding umami rich foods to a dish can elevate it to a new level, even though no one would ever be able to pick out that ingredient {for example, anchovies}.  How many people who love Caesar Salad know that there are anchovies in the dressing?  Many ingredients we add to our recipes are not in-your-face flavors, but are subtle, adding a layer that makes a difference in the final dish.

Desserts aside, I normally would not choose to eat something sweet over something savory.  While I can eat an alarming amount of chocolate frosting or brownie batter, I prefer a flavor profile that includes sour, bitter and salty over sweet. I enjoy a tart salad dressing, and when I make vinaigrettes, I am liberal with the vinegar, not adhering to the usual guideline of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil.  But I was thinking about vanilla the other day, and wondering how it would taste in a vinaigrette.  I found a recipe online for Vanilla Vinaigrette and tried it out on a green salad that included mango and avocado.  Consider me hooked on Vanilla Vinaigrette.  It not only has a great alliterative name, but tastes fantastic, adding a slightly sweet and tropical flavor when drizzled over the right salad.  Vanilla Vinaigrette isn’t for just any salad, but it is wonderful on salads that include fruit.  Fruit salads aren’t usually on my radar screen;  I love fruit, and don’t make fruit salads per se, but include fruit on many of our green salads.  What makes Vanilla Vinaigrette work is its subtle sweetness that mingles with the fruit. The fruits that work best with this dressing are tropical fruits and summer fruits, avocado included.  I love avocados, particularly the way they gently break down and become a part of the dressing.Green Salad with Mango & Vanilla Vinaigrette

As you can see in the picture, we added a bit of protein to our salad, in the form of a hard cooked egg.  I saw someone eating a hard cooked egg the other day, and the inside was atrocious, with an ugly gray-green ring around the yolk, so I thought I’d include the directions I use for making eggs with beautiful yellow yolks.

Hard Cooked Eggs
recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Put eggs in a single layer in a saucepan with a cover.  Bring them to a gentle boil {uncovered} and boil for 1 minute.  Turn off the heat, cover and let stand for 6 minutes.  If you are going to use them later, put eggs into an ice bath to stop cooking.  Otherwise, peel and enjoy warm with a bit of salt and pepper.

Vanilla Vinaigrette
adapted from Food.com

3 tbsp white wine vinegar {champagne vinegar also good}

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp sugar {original recipe called for 1 tbsp}- add more or less to suit your taste

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until well blended.

Notes:

  • I have always used romaine with this dressing, but a Manoa, Bibb or Butter lettuce would be fantastic.
  • Mangoes, lilikoi {passion fruit}, blueberries, stone fruit and avocado are all delicious!
  • Some herbs that work well are basil, mint, tarragon and cilantro.
  • Sweet onions are always a nice touch, and pretty as well.
  • Chopped macadamia nuts that have been lightly toasted in coconut oil & salted make a delicious crunchy topping!

Bon appetit!

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Piment d’Espelette and Other Mainland Fun

When you live in one of the top island destinations in the world, the need to leave for a vacation can seem silly.  Many who live here need to “get off the rock” periodically, but my husband and I have never felt the need.  We lived in Maui for 3 years before I discovered how much I love soaring above the clouds across the vast Pacific to visit friends and family on the Mainland.

Off the coast of Maui

Off the coast of Maui

So much so, that in the summer of 2014, I flew to Washington State twice in 2 months, for a whirlwind of food, family, friends and fun.  The second trip wasn’t originally planned, but was necessary, because I learned on the first trip that my friend Sally retired from teaching at the same school where I taught for 13 years.  There was a wonderful retirement party with great food, drink and conversation with my school friends…I loved it!  My recent sojourn to the Mainland ended about a month and a half ago, after a too-short trip to celebrate my second cousin Betty’s 80th birthday.  A more enthusiastic and loving person you will not meet, and I could not imagine missing her birthday bash.  Too many years ago to count, I flew from Washington, D.C. to Hawaii, and said that I would never fly straight through between the East Coast and Hawaii ever again; the trip is too long, and if it can be broken up with a fun layover stop, why not.  So stop I did, in Orange County, California, where my Aunt Debbie lives.  Because we are so close in age, we are more like sisters than aunt and niece, and had much catching up to do.  Apparently we gain superhuman stamina when we are together, because a lot of our catching up was done in the wee hours of the morning {as late as 4:30 one morning-yikes!}.  We had a blast for almost a week at her house, before we took off for Washington, D.C. and the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where my family tree has many roots. If you are in Southern California, near Costa Mesa, I highly recommend that you pay a visit to Surfas Culinary District.

Eat at the Surfas Cafe

Eat at the Surfas Cafe

Describing the food at Surfas

Describing the food at Surfas

Whether you are a home cook or a professional, you will find Surfas a delightful place to spend some time. Until you can get there, click here to take a virtual tour of the store.  Surfas has a cafe, a fabulous olive bar and they also offer wine tasting during business hours.  My aunt Debbie and I were admiring a beautiful jar of what can only be described as gourmet maraschino cherries; they were much larger than the maraschino cherries usually seen on the grocery shelf, and their color was deep, rich burgundy, like a fine Merlot.  The wonderful lady behind the counter said she happened to have an open jar, and offered us a taste.  Oh my goodness!  I don’t know about you, but as a child, I loved the maraschino cherries in fruit cocktail, on hot fudge sundaes and everywhere else they made an appearance.  The neon red cherries have not appealed to me for many moons, but these lovely cherries were luscious.  There were some gorgeous dry pasta offerings, which we could not resist.  We made a beautiful pasta salad with the multicolor pasta pictured below, and it was just as colorful in the salad as it was dry!

Zebra Pasta

Zebra Pasta

Multicolored Pasta

Multicolored Pasta

I restrained myself from making too many purchases at Surfas, because of luggage limitations, but did buy some fleur de sel and a jar of Piment d’espelette, which I was excited to find.  Clocking in at only 4,000 Scoville units (habanero peppers rate up to 350,000 which is 100 times hotter than jalapeños), the Espelette pepper provides just a touch of heat, though our friend Sue, who orders Thai food with “zero stars” would find it decidedly spicy.  Along with the whisper of heat, and the intensely rich pepper flavor is a bit of fruitiness, which makes Piment D’espelette extraordinarily tasty in my book.  I made a quick and tasty Creamy French Dressing a couple of days ago, which is so much better than the bright orange stuff in the bottle {which I loved as a kid}.

Creamy French Dressing on Green Salad

Creamy French Dressing on Green Salad

Creamy French Dressing adapted from chezbonnefemme.com

2 tablespoons champagne wine vinegar {or white wine vinegar}
1 teaspoon sugar (or more, if you like a sweet “French” dressing)
1 teaspoon Piment D’espelette or 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika {I like the Piment d’Espelette}
Salt and freshly ground back pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a blender, combine all ingredients except the olive oil. With the blender on its lowest setting), slowly add the oil in a thin stream through the opening in the lid. Watch out, because even though the quantities are small, the dressing will splash out the top of the blender.  Check the dressing. It should be somewhat thick; if it is not, blend until it reaches the consistency of an American “French” dressing. Serve. Or, store in a covered container for up to 1 week. Whisk well before using.

Makes about 1 cup

For awhile, I’ve been thinking about knitting again, something I have not done since moving to Maui.  Occasionally it’s cool enough in the morning and evening to wear a light knitted scarf, and it’s certainly cool to wear one when scoping out Haleakala.  So before I left, I did some research on the knitting stores close to my aunt’s house.  I decided to visit Yarn del Sol, and was happy I did. I know the basics of knitting, but haven’t knit for a few years and wanted a short refresher.  There was a lovely woman, whose name I unfortunately do not remember, at Yarn del Sol who sat down with me and helped jog my memory of a particular cast on that I like, as well as a few other things.  I appreciate her assistance and look forward to knitting again! I have not knit a single stitch since I returned home {I am not surprised}, because there seems to be more hours in the day to do “extra” things when you are on vacation.  Once you are back on your home turf, there are  tasks that you did not do on vacation, so I will have to figure out how to fit knitting into my days, and then the issue is where to purchase the kind of beautiful yarns that, as far as I know, are not for sale anywhere on Maui.  There is no shortage of those gaudy hued acrylic yarns that our grandmothers often used to knit potholders and afghans.  Lest you think I don’t care for those kinds of afghans, I assure you this is not the case.  We have what we call “Grandma’s Crazy Afghan” on our sofa for Jack the cat to lie on, and for us when we have chilly feet.  It was one of my husband’s grandmother’s belongings that we both wanted after she passed away.

Jack on Grandma's Crazy Afghan

Jack on Grandma’s Crazy Afghan

A few other fun times in Southern California included a delicious dinner at the Lake Forest location of Avila’s El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant.  I had Shrimp Botana, which included soft handmade corn tortillas, charbroiled shrimp {quite a few!!!}, avocados, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeños and fresh lime wedges.  And…if that weren’t delicious enough…there was a bowl of clarified butter {!!!} to mingle with the hot sauce.  It was a dish I have never had before, and a very good choice for dinner.  A lunch of delicious fish tacos was enjoyed at Bear Flag Fish Company in Crystal Cove; this is a small and very casual place with a lot of great energy!  We entertained at home a couple days before we flew to the East Coast.  I had the pleasure of meeting some of my Aunt Debbie’s friends, and eating some great food that we prepared {and Bourbon Slushies!}.  My aunt has a very sweet dog named Honey, who I treated to lots of pets and scratches {and ice cubes that came pouring out when I didn’t pull my glass away from the ice dispenser fast enough…she loved that}.  And I mustn’t forget the tiny hummingbirds who were trying hard to outgrow their equally tiny nest, just outside the sliding glass door to the back.  It was fun to watch mom swoop in for mealtimes!  By the time we returned from Virginia, they had moved on to bigger digs; my aunt was happy, because they created quite a mess under the nest.

Holly

Honey

Read about our adventures on the East Coast in a future post.

Bon appetit!


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Breakfast Salad with Creamy Dressing

I’ll begin with a few “ifs” before I tell you about one of my favorite breakfasts.  If you are among those who can only eat “breakfast food” for breakfast, consider making this for lunch or dinner.  Personally, any good food qualifies as potential breakfast food, though I have never warmed up to cold pizza, which seems to have quite a following.  If your mornings are chillycold, freezing, and a hot and hearty breakfast is what you require, put this one in your pocket for spring and summer.  If you enjoy plain yogurt, healthy and delicious, and teeming with live active cultures {so good for you!}, consider using it as a creamy component for your breakfast salad’s dressing.  Yes, I said breakfast salad.  I love getting a head start on healthy eating by enjoying a breakfast that includes vegetables {and I much prefer savory flavors to sweet}. Using yogurt in this way is something I came up within the last 3 years or so.  I came up with it partly because I have always loved eating falafels with plain yogurt, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lemon {so delicious!!}.  The other thing that got me thinking about plain yogurt as part of a vinaigrette is that my Aunt Debbie, who is so close in age that she is more like my sister, mixes in a little plain yogurt when she tosses a green salad, in addition to an oil and vinegar based dressing.  Adding plain yogurt is a great way to enjoy creamily dressed salads without feeling like you’ve gone over the top calorie-wise, not that there isn’t a time or place for that.  I love going over the top every now and then! Anyway, this is somewhat of a blueprint, rather than a recipe.  Put it together however you like, with whatever vegetables you have on hand.  It will be great and your body will thank you for starting the day off with delicious healthy food.

Vegetables on cutting board

Yogurt

Yogurt with lettuce

Dressed salad on yogurt

Closeup of Dressed Salad

Yogurt salad bowl

You may need a spoon

 

Breakfast Salad with Creamy Dressing

Put some plain yogurt in the bottom of your bowl.  Top with lettuce, fresh or sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, quartered artichoke hearts, thinly sliced fresh  jalapeños and thinly sliced onions.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with red wine vinegar & extra virgin olive oil.

Notes:

  • I use Kirkland artichoke hearts packed in water.  If you have oil packed, I suggest patting off as much of the marinade as you can with a paper towel.
  • Use whatever plain yogurt you like, but make sure it has live active cultures for the health benefits.  Any level of fat is fine, although whole milk yogurt can be a bit rich with the olive oil.  We like Nancy’s Organic Yogurt.
  • Use whatever kind of vinegar you like and have in your pantry, but not too much. . .just a few splashes.
  • Use good extra virgin olive oil, but not too much. . .just a drizzle.
  • Fresh herbs are always a great addition!
  • We buy the sun dried tomatoes in olive oil at Costco.  I have never been a fan of the herbs in these tomatoes, because they taste too strong to me.  I recently discovered a way to prep these tomatoes which I think makes them taste better.  I put the quantity of tomatoes I think I’ll use over the course of the week in a bowl, then cover them with boiling water.  Let them stand for 5” or so, and then drain them on a paper towel.  Blot them to get most of the moisture off & store them in a jar or other covered container.
  • Do not be tempted to put too much yogurt in the bowl, as it will be too soupy.  I put about a 1/2 cup at the most.
  • I do not mix everything before I eat it.  It is just like a regular green salad when you start eating, but then you get some of the yogurt and it becomes a salad with a creamy dressing.

Bon appetit!


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Maui Girl Eats Lunch. . .@ Home

Plate salad with salmon

Plate Salad with Salmon & Red Wine Vinaigrette or Homemade Thousand Island Dressing

There is no such thing as too much salad.  We love salads and eat a lot of them.  Main dish salads are called “plate salads” at our house.  A plate salad is big, beautiful, healthy and delicious, and they are a great way use up odds and ends you have lurking in your refrigerator, as well as vegetables {and fruits too!}  specifically prepared  for a salad.  We baked a salmon for dinner a few nights ago, so for lunch we had a plate salad with leftover salmon and a few other vegetables to add color, crunch and flavor.  Every now and then my husband gets in the mood for a creamy dressing, so I made Thousand Island Dressing for him.  I enjoy creamy dressings, but a red wine vinaigrette sounded right to me, so I whisked up a few ingredients and had a delightfully sharp dressing for my salad.  I don’t use recipes for these dressings, but the general idea is written below.  It’s simple to whip up your own fresh salad dressings, and certainly tastier than purchased dressings.  Not to mention a lot less expensive and better for you.  What a deal!!

You can take this salad any way you want, depending on what you have handy.  The base of our salad is a mix of romaine, red leaf lettuce and quite a bit of cilantro.  If you are a member of the “I hate cilantro set,” feel free to leave it out or substitute another fresh herb{s} that you enjoy.   Top the greens with diced celery, sliced jalapeños, grated raw beet, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts {packed in water}, sliced onions and salmon.  Season with good quality salt {kosher, sea salt, Maldon, Fleur de Sel, etc.} and freshly ground pepper.

Plate salad with salmon 3

Plate salad with salmon 2

 

Thousand Island Dressing

Mayonnaise {homemade or store bought}

Ketchup {good quality, not the stuff with high fructose corn syrup and other disagreeable ingredients; we use Annie’s}

Yogurt, low fat or nonfat, about 1-2 tbsp {optional, but good if you want to lighten the dressing up a bit}

Sweet pickle relish {good quality, not the stuff with high fructose corn syrup and other disagreeable ingredients; we use Woodstock Organic Sweet Relish Sweet ‘n Sassy}

Minced onion {just a bit, because there is onion in the pickle relish}

A few shakes of Worcestershire Sauce {can be left out if you don’t have it}

A few drops of apple cider vinegar, if you want a bit of tartness

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

A pinch  of sweet paprika

Freshly ground black pepper

A shake {or more} of Tabasco Sauce

Put enough mayonnaise in a bowl to make the amount of dressing you want.  Add enough ketchup to make it as pink as you think it should be.  Add remaining ingredients and mix.  Voila!  You have homemade Thousand Island dressing.

 

Red Wine Vinaigrette for 1 Plate Salad

2 anchovies

Small clove of garlic

Kosher salt

Dijon mustard, about 2 tsp

Red wine vinegar, about 1 tbsp

Extra virgin olive oil, about 3 tbsp

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a mortar and pestle, or on a cutting board, mash together anchovies, garlic and salt until they are a paste.  If your mortar is large enough, whisk in Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to taste.  Otherwise, scrape paste into a small bowl and whisk in remaining ingredients.

Notes:

  • Jalapeños are interesting in that they can taste super hot when eaten alone, but sliced in a salad, they are mellow, crunchy and deliciously green {my favorite flavor!}.  Not exactly sure how this works, but it’s an observation I have made.  It doesn’t always hold true, but in my experience, it usually does.
  • My husband and I have speculated that Thousand Island dressing got its name because of the pickle relish, which represents the “islands,” but this link, as well as a few others do not support our hypothesis.  We still like our theory!
  • The pickle relish doesn’t have to be drained well; a little liquid is good for thinning the dressing a bit, making it easier to distribute over your salad.
  • Check out other salad dressing recipes here!

Bon appetit!


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Mixed Greens Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese & Walnuts

Apologies for the extended hiatus from this blog!!  When I saw the date of my last post…GASP!  I knew it had been a while, but I didn’t realize that I had been away for almost 2 months.  I did take a trip to the Mainland, which I will share soon, but that was only 10 days.  As I have mentioned before, time gets away from me on an almost daily basis, so there you have it.  And on to salad!

I love salads of all kinds, and can eat them any time of the day.  Salad for breakfast?  No problem!  This salad is simple, quick to assemble and delicious.  What made it so good was the combination of roasted beets, creamy goat cheese and walnuts.  Dress with a homemade vinaigrette {recipe from my friend Barb} and enjoy.  It doesn’t require many ingredients or much effort to create a tasty salad dressing, sans additives that you probably don’t want.

Beet, Goat Cheese and Walnut Salad 2

Mixed Greens Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese & Walnuts

Mixed greens, washed and spun dry
Roasted beets {you can use steamed beets if you prefer}
Onion, thinly sliced {sweet or red onions are good here}
Soft fresh goat cheese
Walnuts, broken
Salt & freshly ground pepper

Put mixed greens of your choice into a bowl or plate {I used arugula and romaine}.  Top with roasted beets, onions, goat cheese and broken walnuts.  If you have some whole walnut halves, put one on top for a pretty garnish.  Season salad with salt and pepper and drizzle with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Roasted Beets
{from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone}

Peel 2 large beets and cut into 1/2 inch dice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place diced beets on a foil-lined sheet pan, so they are not over-crowded {or they will steam instead of roast}.  Toss beets with just enough olive oil to lightly coat {too much oil will yield greasy beets}.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Roast the beets for 25-30 minutes, until the juices begin to caramelize and the beets are tender but firm.

 

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp Meyer lemon juice {regular lemon is fine}
3 tbsp maple syrup or brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in a jar & shake to blend.

Notes:

  • On my trip to Washington State, I had a salad almost identical to this one, but it included fresh blueberries.  I highly recommend the addition of berries to this salad.
  • I am a huge fan of maple syrup, so I generally use it over brown sugar.

Bon appétit!


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“Lettuce is like conversation; it must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.”  Charles Dudley Warner

Red Leaf  LettuceRed Loose-leaf Lettuce

Did you know. . .

. . . . . .that all lettuces are not created equally?  More on that in a second.

We are quickly approaching Saturday, and that means getting creative to eat all the fruits and vegetables from last week’s farmers market.  We have half of this glorious head of red leaf lettuce left.  It is happy lettuce.  Why is my lettuce happy?  We’ll get to that in a moment.  But first, a little background.  I am reading an interesting book called Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.  You may think that it sounds like a book that Euell Gibbons might have penned; Gibbons was an authority on noshing on wild foods, but Robinson puts a different spin on eating “wild.”  Robinson discusses how many nutrients have been bred out of the foods we eat to make them more palatable {i.e. sweeter, less bitter}.  She also talks about which varieties are the most nutritious and how to prep, store and eat them.  It isn’t the kind of book that requires you to sit down and read it cover to cover, although you could do that.  To me, this is a great reference book that should be on the bookshelf of everyone who wants to eat food that is as healthy as possible.  And now, back to those happy leaves of lettuce.  According to Robinson, there are 2 rules of thumb for selecting lettuce with the highest phytonutrient content.  The first is color.  You may think that the deep, dark green romaine that you have been eating is the best, but indeed it is not.  Lettuces that are red, purple or reddish-brown are the richest in phytonutrients.  The second factor is even more surprising.  Would you have ever guessed that lettuces whose leaves are loosely arranged on the head would be more nutritious than those that are tightly compacted?  Not me for sure.  Well, it turns out that the leaves that are exposed to the sun’s damaging UV rays produce antioxidants, which are a kind of “sunscreen” for the plant.  Because a loose-leaf head of lettuce has many leaves exposed to the sun, more of the leaves produce the phytonutrients that are so good for us, and we benefit when we eat them.

Now that you know what to look for in a head of lettuce, I’ll tell you why my lettuce is happy.  It has been properly prepared so that it will retain and even increase its nutritional value.  Robinson states that when you get your lettuce home, you should pull the leaves off and soak them for 10 minutes in very cold water.  The leaves’ temperature will drop, which slows down the aging process.  Soaking them will help to maintain crispness.  After soaking, spin or towel dry them thoroughly {I could not live without my salad spinner}; moisture on the outside of the leaves invites decay-you want the water inside the leaves.

Red Leaf Lettuce Cleaned and Bagged

Label the pin-pricked bag and you can reuse it for the next head of lettuce.

Tear up the leaves before bagging them.  What’s that you say?  Tear up the leaves now, not when I make a salad?  Apparently, another way a plant defends itself {against gnawing animals, for instance} is by producing phytonutrients to “fend off the intruder.”  The antioxidant value of the lettuce is doubled by tearing up the leaves prior to storage {the tearing being like the animal gnawing the leaves}.  Place the greens in a Ziploc bag and prick it 10 {quart size bag}-20 {gallon size bag} times with a needle or pin.  The reason for the pinpricks is for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide; the lettuce does not stop respiring {breathing} on harvest.  If you seal it up in a bag, then it uses up all of the oxygen and the carbon dioxide level rises, and it will die from lack of oxygen.  If you leave the lettuce in the open, then it respires too quickly, and uses up its stored sugar and antioxidants, making them unavailable for you. Prepare your lettuce correctly and eat within a few days for best quality.   And enjoy that salad knowing that you have done everything you can to make it more nourishing!

Champagne vinaigrette. . .it sounds so elegant.   As a kid, I loved Girard’s Champagne Dressing; not so much now, because I don’t buy prepared salad dressings.  They are full of ingredients that aren’t necessary for good dressing and they are expensive.  Homemade salad dressings are so much better than prepared dressings, and I always have the ingredients to make some kind of dressing, even if it is just extra virgin olive oil and vinegar {or other acid}.

Salad with Grapefruit and Blue Cheese

We had this salad for dinner tonight.  The salad was composed of the red leaf lettuce, grapefruit sections {supremes to be exact}, red onion, toasted walnuts and blue cheese.  I didn’t actually whisk together a vinaigrette, but simply showered the salad with freshly ground salt and pepper, then drizzled it with Champagne vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  Yum!  It was not only beautiful but delicious as well.