BLT.

For the longest time, I had a crazy strong aversion to any recipe or dish that involved the term “wilted”. I always thought it was a fancy way of saying “we cooked this stuff for waaaay too long, but hey! just toss something crunchy in and with it and it’ll be like new”.

That being said, the new-ish craze of grilling lettuce was certainly not anything I was excited about or intrigued by at. all.

But then I tried a salad with grilled romaine lettuce. Hells yes.

And charred-like tomatoes. Hells bigger yes.

And then I combined those with blue cheese, prosciutto (what’s not to love about this, really!) and croutons. Shit just got real around here, no?

Charred BLT Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2012;  serves 4

time commitment: less than 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into ribbons
1 1/2 c (1/2-inch) cubed whole-grain bread (about 2 ounces)
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/8 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
2 romaine hearts, halved lengthwise
Cooking spray
1/4 c chopped green onions
2 oz blue cheese, crumbled

instructions
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil; swirl to coat. Add prosciutto; cook 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove prosciutto with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels. Add bread to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Combine prosciutto and bread. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add tomatoes; cook 5 minutes or until skins begins to split, stirring frequently. Pour tomatoes and olive oil into a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Coat cut sides of lettuce with cooking spray. Place lettuce, cut side down, on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Cook 2 minutes or until well marked. Place 1 lettuce half on each of 4 plates. Divide prosciutto mixture and tomato mixture among servings. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon onions and 1/2 ounce cheese.

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Avocados in Paradise

Wherever Paradise is located, I’d love to go there someday. I think I could get used to lying on the beach, traversing mountains whenever I please, and climbing trees to knock down coconuts. I think I could be really happy watching the sun set from a warm pier with a cute little poodle or two at my side and a nice glass of really old Spanish wine in my hand.

I’m not sure if I’d really need a computer. Or a phone. And maybe I could even do without pork if I had endless coconuts, and seafood, and pretty pretty things to look at. Of course, there are tons of versions of Paradise, but that’s the one I have in mind today.

I’d have to make sure I’d have regular access to these two things: avocado and grapefruit. If grapefruits weren’t so dang messy, I’d delve into one at my desk every single day. But since they are, I settle for home-eating of said fruit. I used to eat these things like they were going outta style in the 80’s. My mom would cut them in half, give me and my brother each one half in a bowl, and sprinkle some sugar on top. Many of you might not have a clue about what a “grapefruit spoon” looks like, but we had a handful in my house – they’re like regular spoons, but somewhat pointy and serrated, so you can easily scoop out the fruit – genius! Sure, the juice always dripped into the bowl, but that was the best part – sugary grapefruit juice. Hells yes.

We didn’t consume avocado in my house. I was probably 25+ when I realized the awesomeness of guacamole, and avocado soup, and all sorts of other avocadocontaining lovelies. I don’t think they’d be very good with sugar on top, but otherwise I can imagine I’d eat an avocado most any way – even ice cream. And maybe plain while sitting at my desk.

If I did have both of those things in Paradise, I’m guessing I’d be alright eating this salad pretty much every day for the rest of my life. Okay, not every day, but at least a few times a week. Avocados are always tasty out West, and grapefruits are making their winter debut as we speak type. And when they’re both tossed around in, get this, more grapefruit (juice! vinaigrette!) it is really, really something.

The shrimp certainly don’t hurt the cause, either.

Of course, maybe your Paradise doesn’t have these things. Maybe your Paradise has chocolate and butter and bacon. Or cheeseburgers?! And cell phones and the internets. Yeah, those things are all good, too. For this month at least, this is what I crave. Next month is a whole other story.

Shrimp, Avocado, & Grapefruit Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2011; serves 4

time commitment: ~45 minutes

ingredients
2 1/2 T olive oil, divided
1 lb peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1/2 t salt, divided
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 grapefruit
2 T chopped fresh tarragon
2 t brown sugar
1 t chopped shallots
6 c chopped romaine lettuce
1 peeled avocado, cut into 12 wedges

instructions
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 t oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 t salt and 1/8 t pepper. Add shrimp to pan; cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done, stirring frequently. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Peel and section grapefruit over a bowl, reserving 3 tablespoons juice. Combine grapefruit juice, remaining 2 T oil, remaining 1/4 t salt, remaining 1/8 t pepper, tarragon, brown sugar, and shallots in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add lettuce; toss. Arrange 2 cups lettuce mixture on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with 3 avocado wedges; divide shrimp and grapefruit sections evenly among servings.

Finding My Second Wind

Butternut Squash Salad
I will be talking about that bowl of loveliness in a moment – I promise.

But first, I have to talk about this:

New blog header

Don’t you just adore it?! Don’t you want to hug it and squeeze it and call it George?! I sure do. Luckily, I have a very creative friend who was willing to put some brain power into making me a fancy new header. I’d become a little bored with the “google images” and also felt a little guilty (a little) for stealing images of pretty pictures I didn’t take…

You’ve heard me talk about my buddy Jennifer (aka JSimps, or sometimes just Simps), right? Jennifer recently started her very own design biz using Etsy, and she uses her blog, Second Wind Studios, to talk about her new creations and various other things. I’m sure she’d love to design a new header for you too, if you’re in the market for one! She also designs invitations (yes, for weddings too!), cards, pottery, etc. Head on over and chat with her – she’s very nice!

cubed butternut squash

I finally came out of my sickness slump on Friday, following a trip to my Jewish internist a few floors down. I only see him when I’m desperate, which is due simply to my aversion of taking medicine unless all else fails – it did, once the cookies were gone. Aside from my one annoyance with him, which is his inability to read anything in my chart before walking in (yes, I know…big whoop), he’s a pretty nice guy. I only wanted to punch him once at this visit – right after he made the assumption that I was a nurse because I’d switched specialties (pediatrics to cancer), because surely I wasn’t a doctor.. and what is a genetic counselor, anyway? Meh…
But the meds slowly relieved the ickiness, and by Friday I was feeling more like a 6 than a 3, which was good since the parentals were en route. Yes, my (divorced) parents, for whatever reason decided it’d be a good idea to drive up together from North Carolina for a weekend. Who flies these days, anyway – right?! Well, 17 hours later, they were here (yes, 17…. starting from Wilmington, meeting up in Fayetteville, & making pit stops at various intervals), and both were in need of a stiff drink!
Unlike most divorced parents, they can stand each other for a few days (with a few wise quips at each other thrown in for good measure), and they even choose to without any coercion. So visit they did, and cook I did thanks be to the z-pak, the aforementioned cookies, and a lot of sleep. They are super-easy guests in that right – no touring the city or fancy restaurants required, just visiting and eating whatever I make them!
roasted squash with cranberries and pine nuts
For dinner one night, I insisted on using butternut squash as a side dish, in some way. I’ve seen them in the stores and at the markets, and have literally been fiending for the nutty, creamy vegetables since last year. My friend Jenn from The Whole Kitchen recently blogged about a tasty squash salad, and I found a version that reminded me a little of her Colorado find. It had everything I love – chipotle pepper, homemade ranch dressing, said squash, dried cranberries, and nuts. How could I go wrong?

For most of you – this salad will be nothing short of nirvana. I’m serious. For me, it was too -although my salad nirvana was achieved sans lettuce. Being a supertaster and all, I am highly sensitive to bitterness (hence the need for added flavor in my coffee & pure hatred of brussel sprouts). Though I’d never tasted escarole, I always like to try everything once, so I went with the recommended lettuce for this recipe and gave it a shot. I could have easily been eating aspirin, and attribute it to the escarole bitterness (which in lettuce doesn’t usually bother me – I love arugula, frisee, and endive) coupled with a spicy dressing. Next time I make this salad (and there will be a next time), I’m using romaine, and you should too. I’m saving escarole for other salads with more sweetness to counterbalance that hefty bite. Pops & Chris ate all (or most of) the lettuce, mom left some behind and ate around it like me.

Maybe she’s a supertaster too?

Romaine & Butternut Squash Salad w/ chipotle-ranch dressing
Adapted from Cuisine at Home; serves 8

ingredients
1 1/2 lb butternut squash, peeled & cubed
2 T evoo
salt & pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/4 c buttermilk
2 T fresh lime juice
2 t honey
1 1/2 t minced chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce (San Marcos, gluten-free)
8 c romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/4 c toasted pine nuts

instructions
preheat oven to 400 F. cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. toss squash with oil, salt, and pepper. roast on the baking sheet until browned, 25-30 minutes. cool to room temp.


mince garlic with 1/2 t salt to form paste then place in bowl. add mayo, buttermilk, lime juice, honey, and chipotle. mix and blend with immerision blender until smooth (or puree in food processor). season as needed. refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 2 days.


toss romaine with desired amount of dressing. toss in squash, cranberries, and pine nuts.