4 Summer Salads + My Brother’s Nashville Video

summer salads

Did you know May is National Salad Month? To celebrate, Tim and I will be spending the next few days at the DOLE Salad’tude Bloggers Summit* in Monterey, California (yay!). We’re actually up in the air as this post publishes, looking forward to what the next day or so will bring. You can expect photos and stories of the trip to be posted here soon!

But meanwhile, we thought you might like to celebrate, too—say with some delicious summer salad recipes? Here is a roundup of four of our favorite summer salads, all previously posted at Food Loves Writing. Plus, as an extra-special, first-ever-of-its-kind bonus here at the blog, we’ve got a video, made by my super savvy film-making brother. He and my friend Jackie visited last month and he made this fun and food-centric for one of his classes. Enjoy!

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Satsuma, Red Onion and Pomegranate Salad

satsuma, red onion and pomegranate salad

I know I could write this post about our holidays—our first Christmas traveling to both Ohio and Chicago; our first year of giving gifts as a couple; our first Christmas stretching between two families because we are our now our own. I could tell you about all the food we ate—the amazing, high-quality, enjoyable meals of homemade braciole and fork-tender pot roast and filet mignon kabobs. I could tell you, the way I’ve told Tim, how humbling it is to be outgiven, the way we were by both our families, who generously, thoughtfully gave us with gifts far beyond our needs or expectations.

But the truth is, the only thing that keeps coming out when I try to write this post is something much more simple, something much less interesting or profound. It’s the thing I can’t stop thinking about lately, the reasoning behind purchases and lunches and a fridge stocked with greens:

I love salad.

satsuma

I know, I know, this isn’t the kind of revelatory factoid you want someone to drop on you at a dinner party. It doesn’t provoke much response or invite lengthy discussion. Salad is boring. What’s there to say about it? We eat salads before we do something interesting, like, say, have a chicken dinner. Yet nonetheless, I love it, I really do. I love the way I feel when I eat salad, particularly afterwards, so light and refreshed and, I don’t know, clean. I started craving it in the midst of our holidays, probably when my digestive system was so overloaded with back-to-back-to-back delicious meals that it didn’t know what to do with itself, and I’ve had one almost every day since.

And lately, there’s been one ingredient in particular I’ve been especially loving on my salads: pomegranates. Tim showed me how to harvest the seeds—arils, they’re called—and our local Aldi sells them for less than a dollar a piece, so we’ve had pomegranates on our salads like routine.

(Our method, if you’re curious, goes like this: cut off the tip of the fruit and carefully slice four or five indentations, top-to-bottom around, as if you’re cutting it into wedges. In a bowl filled with water, separate those chunks under water and pull apart the seeds. Everything but the seeds floats to the top and can be discarded; the water can be strained. Once you get the hang of it, it takes 10 to 15 minutes. And in the end, you have a bowl full of juicy red jewels to enjoy.)

separating pomegranate seedsstraining pomegranate seeds

pomegranate arilspomegranate arils

On Sunday, for our weekly dinner with friends, which this week fell on New Year’s Day, we brought the salad pictured in this post, one that combined pomegranates with sweet satsumas and thin pieces of red onion.

assembling the salad

I love how colorful it looks, how reminiscent of other seasons, the kinds filled with flowers and farmers markets, and I love how it pairs different flavors and textures: crunchy pomegranate seeds that burst into juice, sweet citrusy satsumas, spicy red onions.

satsuma red onion pomegranate salad

Oh salad. There’s just nothing like it. And while you could say it’s just that crazy salad love talking, after three helpings, I could have had more.

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on salad (and other things)

Yesterday for dinner, we made a salad.

I like salad.

strawberries

I like salad especially this time of year, when the weather’s crazy hot in Nashville, the kind of hot where your shirt sticks to your back and sweat beads on your upper lip and walking down a street holding your fiancé’s hand means having to wipe your palm on your pant leg afterwards. This particular year, the heat has brought with it cicadas, ugly little flying creatures with bright red eyes and loud chirping noises, camped out in the trees, on my house, and, for a tragic few minutes Monday morning, right in my freshly washed hair. It’s been something.

But thankfully, these 90-degree days have also brought with them the more agreeable experiences of popsicles, tank tops, week-long visits from my brother (which included the purchase of one very expensive white dress), homemade ice cream, flip flops, Memorial Day grilling, and, back to the original topic, giant summer salads.

(I mean, the salads don’t exactly make up for having to be swatted at on your way into a weekday lunch, but they certainly help.)

pouring oil on the salad

The idea for Tuesday’s salad came pretty simply: Tim got a block of Parmesan as a birthday gift, and we all know Parmesan works wonderfully atop a salad. We bought some berries and arugula and combined them with Trader Joe’s balsamic, olive oil, salt, pepper, honey, and big shavings of Parmesan.

adding some Parm

And while we both thought the salad needed the extra crunch of nuts—pine nuts? walnuts? toasted almonds? and Tim really liked the sound of adding a sheep’s milk feta throughout, even as it was, it made a refreshing meal. Oh and on the side, there was garlic bread: toasted rosemary sourdough topped with butter and sliced roasted garlic. Pure perfection.

garlic bread

Given that this recipe is still a sort of work in progress, two things:

1) I’d love to hear your versions or ideas for improvements.
2) I feel like I should offer you something else today.

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Chicken Waldorf Salad Wraps

chicken waldorf salad wraps

These wraps, which I’ve had for lunch for the last three days, illustrate one of the best parts of working from home. Because, are you ready? When you call your kitchen table your office, this is what happens: you pull open your Google Reader on a casual Tuesday afternoon, see a recipe you’d like to try and, instead of just bookmarking it for later, you walk to the kitchen right that moment, pull out ingredients and, in minutes, see exactly what it tastes like.

chicken waldorf salad

Like I said though, that’s just one of the best parts of working from home, and since a couple of you have been wanting an update on the self-employment situation anyway, it’s probably time I told you about some of the other benefits.

First of all: It’s been almost five months, can you believe that? Five months since I set my alarm for the same time every morning. Five months since I said, Oh, I can’t; I have to work. Five months of setting my own schedule and working fewer hours (and, admittedly, also making less money). People ask me all the time how it’s been going, and I’m sorry to say my standard answer is awful—something about how things are up and down, how I’m still learning what I’m doing, that I’ll reevaluate after six months. I’ve got to work on that because, really, the truth is: it’s been good.

chicken waldorf salad wraps

I went through my financial records last week, determining my average monthly income and budgeting time for upcoming projects, and you know what? It’s been really, really good. I’m not rich, I’m not all sunshine and roses all the time, but every one of my needs has been provided, I’ve gotten several new clients when I lost one, I have the free time like I’ve always wanted. So while I know myself and therefore realize things may seem very glass-half-empty come tomorrow morning, right now, this moment, I am thankful—thankful to sip homemade chai tea lattes at my computer, to run errands in daylight, to have time to work out or clean or, no kidding, take naps in the afternoon. I am thankful to not be making a lot but to always be making enough. And I want to remember this feeling.

holding a wrap

In a recent post at A Sweet Spoonful, Meg wrote about remembering forward to next November, imagining what you’d like to change about your life as if it will really happen. And ironically, it got me thinking about last November, when I never would have guessed I’d leave my job or, launch into something risky or, work for myself like I’d always wished I could. I’m so glad these changes came, for as long or as short as they end up lasting, and I’m so glad to find myself where I am right now—working in blue jeans while I eat homemade chicken salad wraps, counting my blessings.

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(My Kind of) Curried Chicken Salad

chicken salad sandwich

Chicken salad is the #1 thing I don’t order at restaurants.

And I think this makes perfect sense.

I mean, first of all, who wants chicken salad when you can get a tomato mozzarella panini or a sandwich with basil pesto or heck, a juicy burger made from locally sourced meat?

But second, and even more importantly, chicken salad is what you call a risky food. Trust me: bad chicken salad is bad. Like, rip-your-mouth-out bad. B-A-D bad. Three years ago, the last time I ordered it in a restaurant that I remember, I was up the whole night afterward, sick. Violently sick. And the next day, when I called the manager of said dining establishment to let him know, he didn’t believe me.

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Roasted Tomato & Zucchini Quinoa Bowl

roasted tomato and zucchini quinoa bowl

Earlier this year, I was innocently wandering through the grocery store, filling up my cart, when I spotted a turquoise box with a picture of what looked like a rice pilaf next to a filet of grilled salmon, the words “gluten-free,” “cooks in 10 to 15 minutes” and “organic” staring me in the face. I’d heard of quinoa before, never tried it, and the whole idea intrigued me.

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simple summer panzanella

Oh, summer. You are an expert wooer. Just the minute I want to hate you, while I’m pushing up another hill on my bicycle, sweat dripping down my neck while I slap a bug off my face, you hit me with a gorgeous sunset over wildflowers, the kind that makes me pull my massive camera out of my backpack, right there on the trail, while I literally gasp out loud.

You know just how to do it. Alongside a sticky night, in sidles a conversation about scraping snow off your cars. Just after a crazy rainstorm, there’s a farmers market packed with produce. On a lazy Saturday afternoon at home, you have me roasting grape tomatoes from a local farm.

slicing tomatoes

There are those who hate you, Summer, those who are immune to all your charms, who—very fairly—cite heat and humidity and insects and all that comes with those things, from big hair to body odor to incessant scratching of ankles, and I listen to them, I do, but look, between you and me: it doesn’t matter.

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