Homemade Croutons

My son’s latest cooking success are these croutons, which are easy and quick to make. They will dress up any salad, especially one like a spinach salad that may need more crunch, and they are deliciously garlicky. Make them with any good bakery bread — the original recipe called for pumpernickel, but we used a loaf of brioche the last time and it was fantastic.

3 cups cubed or torn bread, such as pumpernickel, brioche, or Italian
2 Tbsp. butter
1 garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Put butter and minced garlic in a microwave-safe dish and heat until melted. Spread bread pieces on a baking sheet, drizzle with butter mixture, and toss to coat. Bake 8-10 minutes or until nicely toasted. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

The bit of crunch from the cucumbers and pine nuts combines with the flavorful fresh ingredients to make a wonderful salad or side dish. Definitely use fresh lemon juice and herbs — there is no substitute in this dish. The quinoa provides protein and a nice texture.

I don’t remember where I got this recipe, but it must have been while living in London because of the metric measurements. The equivalents are listed below.

Serves 4 as a main course salad; 6 as a side dish

250g (8 3/4 oz.) dried quinoa
3 red tomatoes, chopped
1 small cucumber, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Handful of pine nuts or roughly chopped walnuts
Bunch of mint, chopped
Bunch of parsley, chopped
Lots of salt and pepper
Sprinkling of cinnamon

Put quinoa in a pot with 500 ml (2 cups) water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed.

Mix the quinoa with the rest of the ingredients, then place in the refrigerator. Serve cold.

Black Bean Salad with Ginger Tamarind Dressing

A very easy, healthy, and filling salad full of flavor. This keeps well in the fridge, so it’s perfect for lunch over several days. It would also be nice as a side dish at a cookout or pot luck.

3 15-oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
3 stalks celery, diced
1 cup corn
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1 Tbsp rice wine (mirin)
1 Tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. tamarind paste
1 tsp. sesame oil

In a large bowl, mix the beans, celery, corn, and shallot. Put the rest of the ingredients in a small jar and shake until blended. Pour over the beans, mix, and serve.

More on tamarind paste:
Tamarind paste comes from the fruit of the tamarind tree and has a subtle, citrusy, sour flavor. It is used around the world but is especially popular in Asian cooking. I use it in this recipe for Malaysian Rendang Curry.

The consistency of tamarind paste can vary widely depending on the brand. Some are runny and others are thick (my curry recipe actually calls for tamarind “pulp,” which simply means a thick tamarind paste). Don’t worry too much about the consistency, however — if it’s too thick, you can always thin it in water; too thin, and you can just use more.

In a recipe like the black bean salad, the amounts are entirely up to you. Change the amounts or even the ingredients based on what you have or can find.

Tamarind paste is available at Asian grocery stores and farmer’s markets, online, and even in the international section of some grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can substitute lime juice mixed with brown sugar.

Vertamae Grosvenor’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Vertamae Grosvenor was a national treasure. I learned about her from her PBS program in the late 1990s, “America’s Family Kitchen,” when I was really getting going with my cooking and saving every interesting recipe I saw. Her show was about the food of the South Carolina Low Country, and I remember seeing her standing in the studio kitchen, smiling and speaking with authenticity about the culture, flavors, and ingredients.

In the days before everything was put on the internet, I had to scribble down the recipe quickly as she said it on air. That’s why it’s in the step-by-step format below. Based on a couple of versions I’ve seen online, I think I got it mostly right — but regardless, the recipe I wrote down is delicious and one of my favorite healthy dishes.

Vertamae died in 2016. She worked for many years with NPR, and they wrote a beautiful tribute describing her fascinating life. The delicious food she wrote and spoke about was only part of the cultural legacy she left behind.

Serves 6-8

Mix in a large bowl:

1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced yellow pepper
1/2 cup diced orange pepper

Add, a cup at a time:

6 cups canned black-eyed peas, drained (4 15-oz. cans)

Mix gently so as not to bruise the peas. Then mix in:

1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped scallions/salad onions (I tend to omit this)
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. basil, cut or torn into large pieces
Salt to taste (generously is OK)
1/2 cup Italian dressing (I substitute red wine vinegar and olive oil)

Marinate overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with a sprig of basil and 1-inch pepper rings.

Homemade French Dressing

20200829_194844This is a tangy-sweet dressing, not too thick, that works really nicely with crunchy salad leaves. Though it doesn’t have the creaminess of the bottled kind, this homemade version tastes much more special. And you can always add more mayonnaise than called for here if you prefer a thicker dressing.

This recipe makes enough for one bag of salad leaves, or 4-6 servings.

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. agave syrup or honey
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • A scant 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • Freshly ground black pepperto taste
  • Tip of a knife of mayonnaise, or more to taste

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients with a whisk until blended.

Adapted from a recipe at the blog Five Heart Home.

Moroccan Orange Salad with Cinnamon


This recipe is originally from Mourad Mazouz, the owner of the London restaurant Momo. It’s a wonderful, easy, and elegant way to serve oranges as part of a meal. Bonus: It can be plated up and made ahead.

We had a “breakfast for dinner” night and this was on the table with homemade pancakes and breakfast sausage. Everyone finished their plate, including my children, who devoured it. My son even enjoyed the garnish of fresh mint!

I have changed the recipe a little from the original, which I got at some point while we were in London. His calls for regular oranges that are seedless, which I couldn’t find at this time of year, so I used mandarins. His recipe said to slice the peeled oranges, which is difficult with mandarins, so I broke them up into sections and cut the sections into small pieces. That was more accessible for my children anyway.

Serves 4

5 mandarin oranges, peeled with pith removed
2 Tbsp. powdered (icing) sugar
2 Tbsp. orange juice (best if freshly squeezed)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 sprigs of mint leaves

Separate mandarins into sections, then cut each section into four pieces and divide them evenly onto plates. Sprinkle with sugar (depending on your preference, you may not want to use it all), then orange juice, then cinnamon. Put a sprig of mint on each plate. Serve chilled.

Hard-boiled Eggs

There isn’t much to say about this recipe, but it’s a basic one that ought to be in your cookbook somewhere. I’ve been making more of these lately so we can dye them for Easter eggs.

1. Wash eggs to be hard-cooked in warm soap and water.

2. Place eggs in a single layer in an enamel, glass, or steel pan.

3. Add enough tap water to come at least 1 inch above the eggs.

4. Cover the pan and rapidly bring the water to a boil. Then turn off the heat. If you’re using an electric range, take the pan off the burner.

5. Leave the cover on the pan. Let large eggs sit for 15-17 minutes; medium eggs about 3 minutes less; extra-large about 3 minutes more.


6. Heat retained in the water will continue to cook them, so remove eggs with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Cooling helps prevent the green rings that sometimes form around the yolks.


Don’t worry if the eggs crack a little during boiling, because they are still cooked and perfectly edible. If you dye them, part of the egg underneath the shell will be colored, but since most egg dyes are food-safe it won’t matter.

To eat them, tap the eggs gently on a hard surface to make cracks, then gently peel off the shell.

Slice or cut them into chunks, sprinkled with a little salt. Chop them for an egg salad sandwich or crumble them for a salad. Or make them into deviled eggs — see my recipe here.

Quinoa, Feta, and Pomegranate Salad

This is one of my favorite salads of all time. It’s easy, loaded with protein, and the texture is wonderful. Note that the quinoa and broccoli need to be cooked beforehand and left to cool; I tend to cook them the day before I make the salad just to make things easier when I put the ingredients together.

I got the recipe from a colleague in London in the summer of 2009.


Serves 6

300g (10.5 oz.) quinoa
200g (7 oz.) tenderstem broccoli
200g (7 oz.) feta cheese
1 handful pumpkin seeds
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 large handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
4 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Cook the quinoa according to the package directions and leave to cool. Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into bite-size pieces and lightly steam until tender.

Once the hot ingredients are cool, stir them together gently along with the feta, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds, herbs, and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Waka Waka Salad (Guy Fieri’s Crunchy Cabbage Salad)

salad This was so delicious at dinner tonight that we couldn’t stop eating it. I mean, it was really delicious. Thank goodness this recipe is enough for eight people, because between the two of us, I think we ate half of it.

I served this as a salad alongside sesame chicken. It’s not so much a cole slaw as a proper salad because the cabbage pieces stay so crunchy and it’s mixed with just a vinaigrette — but you could easily serve this in place of a cole slaw, maybe at a backyard cookout.

The recipe was in Better Homes & Gardens last year. A slightly different version is on the site of the Food Network, where Guy has a show. Here is the recipe as we made it, with a few tweaks from the original.

Serves 8

3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or more, to taste)
1-2 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 ramen noodle packages, noodles broken into small pieces and 1 seasoning packet reserved
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head Napa cabbage (or regular green cabbage), sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/4 head red cabbage, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
Half a large bunch of cilantro (fresh coriander), chopped
1/4 cup whole dry-roasted unsalted peanuts

In a bowl combine the oil, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and 1/2 packet of the ramen seasoning. Add salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large bowl mix the cabbages, onion, carrots, and cilantro.

Just before serving, whisk the dressing and pour it over the salad. Top with the ramen noodle pieces and peanuts.

Guy added fried wonton skins as a crispy accompaniment, but we didn’t want to take that extra step and didn’t feel they were necessary. If you want to try them, though, check out the recipe on the Food Network site.

Chopped Salad with Olives and Dill

IMAG1927Look, there’s nothing fancy about this salad, but it’s easy to make and easy to eat, with a few special ingredients to make it unique. Everything is chopped and fits on a fork, unlike a baby spinach or spring mix salad with leaves that awkwardly flop around and require a knife. It’s a great standard to have in your cookbook for any meal.

Serves 4

1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup pitted and halved black olives
1/2 cup haricots verts (French green beans, steamed and cut into 1-inch pieces)*
1/2 cup peeled and diced English cucumber
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped dill, large stems removed

In a small bowl, combine onion, vinegar, salt and pepper and let stand for five minutes to blend the flavors. Add olive oil and whisk, then set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the remaining ingredients, then top with dressing and toss to combine.

*An easy way to steam the haricots verts is to place them in a microwave-safe dish with a tablespoon or so of water. Microwave for 30 seconds or so, but stop if you start hearing the beans pop!

I adapted this recipe from one I found at Epicurous.