Fig and Prosciutto Salad

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For someone who, not long ago, would gag at the suggestion of a salad for dinner, it’s slightly unsettling that this has been the Summer of Salads. In just a few short months, I’ve brought you a tuscan kale salad, a cucumber caprese salad, and a watermelon mint steak salad. And just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be any more salads up my sleeve? I bring you this: a blue-cheese-stuffed and prosciutto-wrapped fig salad. If you think that sounds pretty fancy for a salad, it is. But whoever said salads had to be boring?

I’d been on the lookout for figs at the farmer’s market for months now. I remember one time in May, I thought I’d seen figs in the Central Market flyer, so I went determinedly to go find some. After painstakingly browsing each fruit bin, Mr. Little Fish decided to just ask a worker where we could find them. “See those bins with the bananas? Right next to them.”  Yes! I thought, as I quickly shuffled between the crowd to get to them. Alas, upon arrival, only lowly dates sat in their place. Of course, when we went to ask again, employee-man said he thought we’d said dates, but figs, well, they didn’t have any. Sigh.

So, I waited, drooling over the fig pictures that kept popping up on my instagram. I had never even tried fresh figs before, only dried, but I had convinced myself they would be my new favorite thing. So, I went to the farmer’s market every weekend, crossing my fingers that this would be the time. Once, I happened across Confituras (find them on instagram!), a local small-batch jam maker, at the farmer’s market and bought some of her sugar fig jam, which was so good that I temporarily forgot about The Search for Figs.

But then, one Saturday, my friend M realized that she had weekends to herself again, so we decided to celebrate. I suggested going to the lobster roll truck at the farmer’s market, because when else is a great time to buy a $16 sandwich than when you’re feeling celebratory? So, off we went, with butter lobster rolls on our minds, and all thoughts of figs forgotten. But lo and behold, at the tiniest table in the whole market: baskets and baskets of fresh figs. Despite the odd looks I was getting from my friend M, I couldn’t contain my joy. I strolled right up to the vendor, said “that one!” while assertively pointing at the cute container on the corner, and handed over the cash. I was a woman on a mission. Feeling giddy with accomplishment, I asked the vendor was his favorite way to eat the figs was, and he suggested wrapping them in prosciutto and grilling them. PURE GOLD, I thought.

The idea went even further when, two stalls down, I happened across my favorite goat-cheese maker, CKC Farms. The enabler than I am, I convinced my friend M to try their plain goat cheese while I sampled there baby blue. Although I’m not typically a fan of blue cheese, I loved this one! It was very silky and smooth and had that lovely creaminess that goat cheese has. Remembering my plan for the figs, I declared that before wrapping them in prosciutto, I would first stuff them with this cheese. Meanwhile, my friend M shot darts at me with her eyes as she handed over the cash for the goat cheese she couldn’t stop herself from buying. =)

Thus, this salad was born on a weeknight after work two nights later. I paired it simply with a bed of arugula, some walnuts sprinkled over the top, and with a dash of balsamic vinegar. You can add whatever you’d like to it. You could even go fancier by reducing the balsamic vinegar with some honey until it’s a lovely, sweet syrup.  If you’re not a fan of blue cheese, this would work just as well stuffed with regular old goat cheese or, if you’re dairy-free, no cheese at all. Also, I ate this as a meal itself, but it would definitely make a great side for a steak on a date night (you’re welcome. 😉 !

Fig and Prosciutto Salad
Serves 2

IMG_7881Ingredients:

1 pint fresh figs, gently washed and dried
3 oz prosciutto
1 small package baby blue goat cheese
4 cups baby arugula
1-2 tbsps walnuts
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp bacon fat or butter, for grilling

Directions:

1.  Using a sharp knife, delicately cut each of the figs in half. If they are very ripe, they will be a little mushy and you don’t wanna squish them too much.
IMG_78852.  Use a spoon to put a tiny bit of blue cheese in the center of each fig half. The amount should be proportional to the size of the fig and to your own personal preference.
IMG_78873.  Then, since my figs were quite small, I tore each piece of prosciutto into threes and carefully wrapped each third around one fig half. Make sure to wrap it fairly tightly so that the fig stays in the prosciutto when frying.
IMG_78884. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat, and add the fat. Once the fat is melted and/or started to lightly smoke, use tongs to place each fig half in a circle lining the outside of the pan and work clockwise until you get to the center. This will help you remember which figs hit the heat first, so you’ll follow the same pattern when it comes time to flip. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Use tongs to flip each fig over, and allow to sit another 2-3 minutes, until desired brownness. Remove from plate and turn off the heat.
IMG_78905. On a separate plate, put down about 2 cups of the arugula. Top with 4-5 figs, a tablespoon of walnuts, and more blue cheese crumbles, and drizzle about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over it. Enjoy!
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Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Salad
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 pint fresh figs, gently washed and dried
  • 3 oz prosciutto
  • 1 small package baby blue goat cheese
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1-2 tbsps walnuts
  • 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp bacon fat or butter, for grilling
Directions
  1. Using a sharp knife, delicately cut each of the figs in half. If they are very ripe, they will be a little mushy and you don't wanna squish them too much.
  2. Use a spoon to put a tiny bit of blue cheese in the center of each fig half. The amount should be proportional to the size of the fig and to your own personal preference.
  3. Then, since my figs were quite small, I tore each piece of prosciutto into threes and carefully wrapped each third around one fig half. Make sure to wrap it fairly tightly so that the fig stays in the prosciutto when frying.
  4. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat, and add the fat. Once the fat is melted and/or started to lightly smoke, use tongs to place each fig half in a circle lining the outside of the pan and work clockwise until you get to the center. This will help you remember which figs hit the heat first, so you'll follow the same pattern when it comes time to flip. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Use tongs to flip each fig over, and allow to sit another 2-3 minutes, until desired brownness. Remove from plate and turn off the heat.
  5. On a separate plate, put down about 2 cups of the arugula. Top with 4-5 figs, a tablespoon of walnuts, and more blue cheese crumbles, and drizzle about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over it. Enjoy!

Tuscan Kale Salad

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I had originally planned on posting a delicious and summery cucumber caprese salad, which you may have seen if you follow me on instagram. But, then, I realized that I’d been eating the same side all week, and I decided that I should post this kale salad instead. It’s very rare that I eat the same thing every single day, but this salad is just so darn easy and so flavorful that I’ve had with my pulled pork, with my tuna cakes, and with whatever cold cuts I could find in the fridge.

Now, I have to admit something: I’ve only had kale once before. Yes, it’s this hugely popular superfood in the health world in general and in the paleo world in particular. Yes, it’s loaded with a ton of great nutrients for very little calories. And, yes, it seems like really no one can get enough of it. But, sometimes, when something is all over the place at all times, I get a little hipster. I don’t participate on principle. And when/if I do, I don’t tell anybody about it. Weird, I know.

And what do you know, the one time I tried kale (and nobody knew) was Snap Kitchen‘s version of this salad. They ‘re where I got the idea to make this at home when I saw organic chopped kale at HEB earlier this week. While I initially just picked up the salad as a perfect, low-risk way to try this supposedly amazing green, it really blew me away: it was beautiful in its simplicity. So, when I brought my very own bag of kale home with me, I knew I would try to mimic the flavors. With only six ingredients, I figured it couldn’t be that hard to get it right.

And I nailed it! Spicy, citrusy, and salty. The best part is that this takes all of 5 minutes to make. Then, because kale is such a sturdy green, it can stay good for 2-3 days without wilting and getting gross (in fact, I thought the salad was even better the next day!). So, with summer around and everyone trying to spend more time outdoors rather than in, I decided I couldn’t keep this from you!

Tuscan Kale Salad
Serves 1

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Ingredients:

3 cups chopped kale, thick stems removed
2 tbsps olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Directions:

1. In a small bowl with a lid, add the kale and squeeze the lemon:
sthe garlic:
IMG_7695The red pepper flakes:
IMG_7698And the olive oil, salt, and few grinds of pepper:
IMG_77012. Cover the bowl with the lid, and shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes, until the kale leaves are well-coated.
3. Stick the bowl in the fridge, and let the salad rest for at least 10 minutes, and up to 2 days.
4. Serve, and enjoy!
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Tuscan Kale Salad
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 3 cups chopped kale, thick stems removed
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Directions
  1. In a small bowl with a lid, add all the ingredients.
  2. Cover the bowl with the lid, and shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes, until the kale leaves are well-coated.
  3. Stick the bowl in the fridge, and let the salad rest for at least 10 minutes, and up to 2 days.
  4. Serve, and enjoy!

Tomato basil bisque

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Ever since I came back from a girls’ trip to New Orleans a couple weeks ago, I have been on a major veggie kick.  The first week I got back, I ate a salad every day.  I don’t even like salads. But the decadence we indulged in during our trip made me crave raw and fresh fruits and vegetables so much, that all I wanted was huge bowls of uncooked veggies. I went through one whole pack of spinach and one whole pack of romaine lettuce all by myself that week. Eventually, though, I did graduate to other veggie-based meals. My coconut carrot soup has been in the queue again, I made these fantastic zucchini boat enchiladas, and I’ve been putting ridiculous amounts of greens in my morning smoothies.

Then, one day, my mother-in-law gave us a whole sackful of on-the-vine tomatoes she’d bought for 50 cents at Sprout’s (that woman should be a professional deal-finder), and I was inspired: We had taken her to Le Madeleine for Mother’s Day that day, and having been reminded of my own mother’s love for Le Madeleine’s tomato basil soup, I decided to make it myself.

I never would have imagined that something as humble as a tomato basil soup would be the thing that would make Mr. Little Fish close his eyes in delight  and mumble little happy food noises to himself, but it was. He liked it so much he bragged about it to our guy friends and requested it again within a week!  And I have to admit, it’s pretty damn good. The best part is, it’s also pretty damn easy, particularly if you have an immersion blender. Although most bisque recipes I found called for quite large amounts of the heavy cream and butter, I lightened it up some without sacrificing the flavor (but don’t be afraid of the fat!). It’s neither paleo nor dairy free, but you could easily omit the cream completely for a gazpacho-like soup or you could substitute coconut milk, although that would change the flavor a bit.   And with tomato season either already here or about to start wherever you’re from, it’s perfectly timed!

Tomato Basil Bisque
Serves 5-6, depending on appetite

IMG_7171Ingredients:

5 tomatoes, diced large
4 cups tomato juice (look for ones with just tomatoes and water)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, diced small
4 tbsp butter (1/4 cup), 1/2 tbsp divided separately
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup basil, to taste
Kosher salt and ground pepper

Directions:

1. In a large pot, saute the garlic and shallot in a 1/2 tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Saute for about 4-5 minutes, until the onions start to soften.
2. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato juice to the pot.  Simmer on medium heat for 35-45 minutes, until the mixture is reduced. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop, but I was more than happy with the taste and texture at 35 minutes.

3. Lower the heat to low, remove the pot from the heat, and add in the basil leaves. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture well for about 5 minutes. If you do not have an immersion blender, allow the soup to cool for 10-15 minutes, then add it in small batches to your blender. It is better to err on the side of cooler before transferring it your blender, because if it is too hot, it will explode, so be careful!
IMG_71824. Return the pot to the heat (which should be on low now). Add in the remaining butter and the heavy whipping cream. Stir well until the butter dissolves and the soup is heated through.
IMG_7183The color of your soup will change to a lovely bright orange color:
IMG_71875. Season with the garlic powder, salt, and pepper, to taste, and serve garnished with more basil leaves, or with a balsamic reduction sprinkled over!
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5.0 from 1 reviews
Tomato basil bisque
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 5 tomatoes, diced large
  • 4 cups tomato juice (look for ones with just tomatoes and water)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, diced small
  • 4 tbsp butter (1/4 cup), ½ tbsp divided separately
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup basil, to taste
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
Directions
  1. In a large pot, saute the garlic and shallot in a ½ tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Saute for about 4-5 minutes, until the onions start to soften.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato juice to the pot. Simmer on medium heat for 35-45 minutes, until the mixture is reduced. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop, but I was more than happy with the taste and texture at 35 minutes.
  3. Lower the heat to low, remove the pot from the heat, and add in the basil leaves. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture well for about 5 minutes. If you do not have an immersion blender, allow the soup to cool for 10-15 minutes, then add it in small batches to your blender. It is better to err on the side of cooler before transferring it your blender, because if it is too hot, it will explode, so be careful!
  4. Return the pot to the heat (which should be on low now). Add in the remaining butter and the heavy whipping cream. Stir well until the butter dissolves and the soup is heated through.
  5. Season with the garlic powder, salt, and pepper, to taste. Mix through, and then serve garnished with more basil leaves, or with a balsamic reduction sprinkled over!

Mom’s Quick Chili

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I’ve been very lucky that the weather here has been cooperating with my recipe posts.  Because chili isn’t really a summer food, is it? But I’ve had this recipe in the queue for a while now, and now that it’s gloomy, rainy, AND cold outside, it really is just perfect timing.  Plus, it was Mother’s Day on Sunday, so what better way to honor my own mother than by posting one my favorite recipes from her.

Brownsville, where my parents still live and where my brother and I grew up, at only 6 hours South of Austin, doesn’t ever really get a “winter” to speak of.  Once, in high school, it snowed. Just once. Luckily for a lot of people in Brownsville who had never seen snow before, it happened to fall on Christmas Eve and lasted throughout Christmas day.  It was actually quite magical to hear the entire neighborhood running around the streets at midnight. And it’s easy to understand why: it was the first time it snowed in over 100 years. 100!

But aside from the 100-year snow, it really doesn’t get that cold down there. You could get by without ever owning a heavy coat (although I heard this year there were a few more cold fronts), and even when I visited them in December, I was wearing jeans and a short sleeve shirt out on the water (Brownsville has the very lovely side benefit of being a 20 minute drive from South Padre, which used to be my point of reference when telling people where I was from). I wore boots that day, and I was hot.

But no matter the temperature, the one thing that always made me feel like it was wintertime was when mom would break out this chili. This is a no-fuss chili.  It has beans. It cooks in 30 minutes. It’s warm, comforting, and straightfoward–all qualities that remind me of my mom. She is all those things and more, and although I’ve changed the recipe to lighten it up a little bit, there’s no changing the memories of coming home to a house filled with the smells of a simmering pot of chili on the stove. And even though it’s totally May and not at all winter (global cooling, amirite?), there’s no day like today to fill your belly with the cozy warmth of chili.

Mom’s Quick Chili
Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey or other meat
2 cans Rotel original
2 cans pinto beans, undrained
3 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic powder or more, to taste
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp each chili powder, cumin, and paprika
Optional toppings: cheddar cheese, saltines, sour cream, green onions

Directions:

1. In a large pot, cook the ground meat and diced onions over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes (if you are using turkey, you may want to add about a tsp of oil so that the turkey doesn’t stick. You don’t need to do this for beef). Make sure to mix it around frequently so that the meat doesn’t get stuck to the pan.

2. Once the meat is cooked, add all other ingredients and mix well. If you like a more watery chili, add about half a cup of water. Simmer on medium/medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes. Stir frequently so that nothing gets stuck to the pan.

3. Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream on top!
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Mom's Quick Chili
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground turkey or other meat
  • 2 cans Rotel original
  • 2 cans pinto beans, undrained
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder or more, to taste
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp each chili powder, cumin, and paprika
  • Optional toppings: cheddar cheese, saltines, sour cream, green onions
Directions
  1. In a large pot, cook the ground meat and diced onions over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes (if you are using turkey, you may want to add about a tsp of oil so that the turkey doesn't stick. You don't need to do this for beef). Make sure to mix it around frequently so that the meat doesn't get stuck to the pan.
  2. Once the meat is cooked, add all other ingredients and mix well. If you like a more watery chili, add about half a cup of water. Simmer on medium/medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes. Stir frequently so that nothing gets stuck to the pan.
  3. Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream on top!

Shrimp a la Vindell

Growing up, my parents had a pretty clear division of labor when it came to cooking in our household.  My mom, living most of her formative years in Missouri with her large extended family, was more of the holiday chef, cooking recipes that my grandma made at home, likely passed on to her from her mother before her.  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I always remember my mom getting out this little green recipe box, full of carefully handwritten but well-worn recipes. We would always get a few of the classic dishes from there, although my mom would also put her own spin on things. She runs a tight ship on the holidays, and the comforting and delicious smells and tastes we get every year always remind me that I clearly get my meal-planning skills from her.

My dad was the more day-to-day chef, making the easy and fast weeknight meals. My dad is always experimenting in the kitchen, drawing on his familiarity with Nicaraguan and Mexican food, recalling the time during his hippy days (he came to the US in the 70s) when he “went vegetarian,” and reminding us, often, of his experience working as a cook in a pancake house in Missouri. He is one of those people for whom cooking comes naturally: he always seems to be able to just throw something together–a pinch of this, a dash of that–and have a finished product that is successful.  It’s a skill I have learned to cultivate to some degree, but I envy how it’s a skill that just is for him.

This recipe is one such dish that he just threw together one night years ago, thus why I have called it Shrimp a la Vindell. It’s fast, easy, and healthy.  It’s also versatile–throw it into tacos, eat it with rice or veggies on the side, or wrap it in some lettuce and quinoa for lettuce wraps. From my family to yours on Easter weekend!

Shrimp a la Vindell
Serves 4

IMG_6928Ingredients:

2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 box button mushrooms, sliced thin
1 Serrano pepper, diced small
3 green onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
Optional: one shot of tequila
Salt, pepper, and more garlic powder, to taste

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Once hot, add the shrimp, mushrooms, Serrano, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the pan. Cook until the shrimp are pink (the pan I used was a little too small, so the shrimp were crowded. Thus, I used a lid to help keep the steam in to cook them, but it’s not necessary.)

2. Once the shrimp turn pink, add in the tequila shot if you are using it.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.
IMG_69313. Serve in lettuce wraps on top of quinoa or with veggies on the side!

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Shrimp a la Vindell
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 box button mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1 Serrano pepper, diced small
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Optional: one shot of tequila
  • Salt, pepper, and more garlic powder, to taste
Directions
  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Once hot, add the shrimp, mushrooms, pepper, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the pan. Cook until the shrimp are pink, about 3-5 minutes (the pan I used was a little too small, so the shrimp were crowded. Thus, I used a lid to help keep the steam in to cook them, but it's not necessary.)
  2. Once the shrimp turn pink, add in the tequila shot if you are using it.  Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.
  3. Serve in lettuce wraps on top of quinoa or with veggies on the side!