Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette

It’s been a long time since I posted this vinaigrette dressing, and it’s something that I make at least once a week. So, here ya go:

Here is how to make a quick and easy salad dressing that is healthier, cheaper, and about one million times more delicious than any of the bottled vinaigrettes that you have in your fridge. It’s perfect on salads, sandwiches, and mixed into mayonnaise for a party dip. Try not to drink it with a straw. 

Classic Vinaigrette



-1 tbsp. mustard (I love a fruity one, but honey dijon or grainy is also great)

-1/3 cup olive oil (a lemon or herb infused one is really nice, while chile or garlic can be overpowering)

                                                              -3 tbsp. vinegar (balsamic, sherry, red wine, port, fig…anything  A wine-y dijon mustard works well with a lighter red wine vinegar.  Sweet mustard matches with a heavier, darker vinegar.  Spicy mustard pairs well with sweet fig or sherry vinegar.  Experiment and see what works for you!)

-salt and pepper to taste

-1 diced shallot or 1/2 diced sweet Vidalia onion

1. Combine the onions/shallots and olive oil.



2. Add the vinegar. 

3. Add the mustard and whisk, baby, whisk. 


4. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasonings. 

5. Now just pour that dressing over your salad and enjoy. 

This is so tasty. It’s light, tangy, bright, and not too sharp. You can add some sugar but I never think that it needs any sweetness. I love it and often add herbs or some Romano cheese to the mix. 

And I do sometimes spoon it straight out of the jar. 

So, what the hell, you can, too. 

Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese chicken salad is SO under-represented on the east coast.

I don’t know why that is. Is it because Wolfgang Puck, creator of the world’s finest Chinese chicken salad, focused on the west coast in is heyday? Is it because NYC focuses more on dim sum and miso cod and less on the light food that you need on the incredibly hot, often arid weather on the west coast?

I don’t know and I don’t care.

Bottom line: I need Chinese chicken salad in my life. And here is what that salad needs:

-soft, moist, poached or roasted but certainly not grilled chicken

-cabbage, not lettuce

-something crunchy

-a dressing that is a little spicy, a little sweet, and incredibly tart and refreshing.

So what’s a gal to do?

Make it herself, of course.

Chinese Chicken Salad

chinese chicken salad Ingredients:

1 package shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix

1 shallot, half in large slices and half in small dices

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Enough wine or beer to barely cover the chicken in a shallow saute pan

1 cup cilantro, cleaned and chopped

1 tsp. chopped ginger

1 clove garlic, diced

pita chips or fried wontons

sesame oil

peanut oil

wasabi and mustard OR hot English/Chinese mustard

sesame seeds

hoisin sauce

rice wine vinegar

soy sauce

20141208_171918 1. Put the wine, ginger, garlic, and the sliced part of the shallot in a large, shallow saucepan. Put he chicken breasts in there, too. Set it to medium high until it simmers, then set it to medium low. Cover and check back every 3 minutes until the chicken is poached – you want to take the chicken out when it is still BARELY pink in the very center of the breast. As it cools it will continue to cook.  20141208_174018 2. While the chicken cooks, put the scallions, snow peas, and cabbage into a large bowl.  20141208_174142 3. Make the dressing. This is a ratio thing, so get ready for it:

2 parts oil: 1 part rice wine vinegar: .5 part hoisin sauce: .25 part hot mustard/mustard and wasabi combo

Everything else is negotiable. You are looking for a dressing that is light, sweet, tart, an only BARELY spicy. Don’t forget to put the diced shallot in there, too.
20141208_175706 4. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull it with 2 forks. Alternatively, you can make the chicken ahead of time and then pull it and make the salad the following day.  20141208_175903 5. Add the chicken, pita or wontons, and dressing to the salad. Make sure that the salad is well dressed – it’s the secret to what makes this so embarrassingly addictive.  20141208_180258 6. Serve – if you want, like I did, with super crispy, soy sautéed potstickers

This is what I crave…THIS is the stuff. Light, crispy, juicy, and hearty. A tiny punch of heat and whole lot of sweet and tangy. The slight bitterness of the cabbage plays off of the juicy, ginger infused chicken and the sweet snow peas. Wontons are traditional but all I had were some rather stale pita chips and – lo and behold – it totally worked! The chips soaked up the dressing and managed to stay a little crispy. And oh, that dressing…you could serve this a rubber band and people would clamor over that rubber band. The secret is the hoisin sauce – its sweet, viscous, and umami.

I’m picking up where Wolfgang puck left off – because the East coast deserves its own Chinese chicken salad.

Minute Steak Salad with Goat Cheese and Pickled Onions

The minute steak is much maligned. People think that it is cheap, thin, and tough…a little like Tara Reid. BUT…if it is prepared properly, with a bit of acidic marinade and a VERY QUICK sear so it is left quite rare…it is cheap, thin, and divine. London broil for a fraction of the price – a perfect luncheon for one.

Of course, the way to do this the right way is to serve it on a crusty roll with sautéed onions, melted swiss cheese, and plenty of Tabasco sauce.

But, in the interest of using up the arugula in my fridge, I made it a steakhouse salad instead.

Salads are wonderful, even and especially in the winter. They can be a refreshing,filling, and – yes – even a little bit indulgent – ending to a day of eating cereal and microwaved burritos at work.

Minute steak salad with goat cheese and pickled onions

minute steak salad


2 minute steaks (or 1 leftover flank steak, skirt steak, filet mignon…nothing too fatty)

1 bunch arugula, washed and dried

1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (I love bucheron)

1 dash Worcestershire sauce

1 recipe pickled onions

drizzling of steak sauce


1. Put the Worcestershire sauce and the steaks in a zip top bag. Marinate for 30 minutes or so.


2. Put the stove on high and put the steak in a notstick skillet, or a one that is greased with a wee bit of oil.


3. For small minute steaks, cook no more than 1.5 minutes per side. Remove them and let them rest so the juices redistribute.


4. Cut the steak into bite size pieces. That color in the photo is ideal…no grayer than that.


5. Put all of the ingredients into the salad bowl and eat immediately.

This is what makes minute steak good – quick cooking and complimentary side components. Warm steak, juicy and salty, softening the rough arugula and bringing out its slightly bitter tones. The onions are piquant and the tomatoes are soft and sweet. The goat cheese warms under the heat of the steak, melting slightly and releasing its tangy,savor flavor. The steak sauce is sweet and spicy – making this more of a meal and less of a salad. The important step is to eat this while the steak is still warm and that the steak be very rare so it’s still juicy even though it’s thin.

And, now…a slow clap for the minute steak:


Simple Tomato Cucumber Salad

There are some recipes that are really so simple that they don’t require printing on a blog.

Or…do they?

After all, I grew up in the kitchen. My mom was always in the kitchen, teaching me how to separate eggs (with my hands), how to tell when a chicken is roasted (when the drumstick wiggles away), and how to combine flavors (dill and lemon – good. Dill and vanilla extract – bad.).

But a lot of people didn’t grow up cooking with their parents or grandparents. They didn’t go to culinary school and went straight from eating in the dorms to eating out. Now they might want to cook.

So this recipe is for them. It might seem simple to you – it does to me. But at a recent dinner where I served it, a friend was so delighted that it occurred to me that some people might not know to make this simple, satisfying recipe. So, here goes.

Cucumber-Tomato Salad


2 tomatoes, diced very finely

1/4 red or sweet onoin, diced very finely

1/2 large cucmber or 1 small cucumber, diced v ery finely

juice of 1/2 lemon

tsp. of salt

2 tsp. olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients. Then, let marinate for 30 minutes, taste for seasonings, and serve.

That’s it. This is best in the summer, when the tomatoes are juicy and the onions are sweet. However, it’s even good in the early spring, like now. Just make sure that the dice on all the veggies is very fine – that really makes this salad refreshing and easy to eat. This is just the jumping off point – add some dill and oregano to make it Mediterranean. Add za’atar to give it a middle eastern feel. Cilantro and half a clove of smashed garlic for a Mexican feel and some herbs de Provence give it a decidedly French flavor. Go with your instincts and with flavors and herbs that you like. The point is that this is a chameleon salad. It is fabulous as a relish for burgers or as a side to  a heavy meal. It is simple, but it totally makes a meal come together.

And if you are someone who is a beginner in the kitchen, maybe this is just the recipe you needed to show you that cooking can be simple, intuitive, and most of all, enjoyable.

The Best Blue Cheese Dressing

If this next picture doesn’t make you drool, just open up a new page and check back here tomorrow. Because this post is all about this stuff:

Blue cheese. Some people call it stinky, I call it heavenly.  At its finest, it’s creamy, pungent, tart, salty, and even faintly sweet at the finish.

 And it’s slightly moldy. But a little bit of mold never hurt anyone. In this case, it’s gonna help you create the best blue cheese dressing on the face of the planet.

Blue Cheese Dressing


1 1/4 cup mayonnaise

about 4 oz. Danish blue cheese (NOT pre-crumbled…buy a wedge of the good stuff)

2 tbsp. white vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Just combine the stuff. That’s really all you have to do. I don’t add mustard or onion powder or anything else that lots of really other good cooks do. Just add the ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste. You know that the seasonings are right when you start salivating. I just go for the pure, creamy texture and that sharp, funky taste.

The difference between fresh blue cheese dressing and the bottled stuff is huge. This dressing is so thick and rich that it practically stands up on its own. The taste is complex and so fresh tasting that it is almost alive – blue cheese can seem stodgy and cloying, but this isn’t. It’s great for chicken wings, hamburgers, and onion rings.

Of course, it’s pretty great on a salad, too.

Chances are you aren’t even reading this last sentence because you are at the store, buying some blue cheese to make this dressing today.

At least, I hope that’s what you’re doing!

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Parmesan Dressing

I have always loved cheese.

And not just because I’m a humongous ham.

That’s it for the food puns, I promise.

When Whole Foods approached me and asked me to participate in a campaign involving Parmesan cheese and childhood memories, I was all over it.

I mean, Parmesan cheese has been with me through many important phases of my life:

-As a young child, when I would bury my buttered, overcooked linguine noodles in Lawry’s seaoning salt and Parmesan cheese from a green can. The effect was slippery, salty, and very rich – clearly, I loved umami flavors even as a kid.

-As a pre-adolescent, when I would beg my mom to take me out of gym class so I could go home and watch classic movies with her while eating Progresso Pasta e Fagioli soup. I would sprinkle that same dusty green can over the top of the soup while it was boiling hot, so the cheese absorbed the liquid’s color and formed a semi-solid sheath over the top.

-As a pubescent teenager, all big bangs and buck teeth. By that time, Bristol Farms had opened near my small hometown, and I had tried real Parmesan cheese. Whoa. Incredible when grated into spaghetti carbonara. It was nutty and rich and SO unlike that shelf stable stuff.

-As a young adult, when I would spend hours making sauce from scratch on the weekends, tossing in the rind of a Parmesan cheese wedge to give the sauce such deep flavor.

-And as a less young adult, when I eat int in chunks, dipped into truffle honey.

I just love Parmesan cheese.

And you are going to love it in this salad. It is light but satisfying, full of flavor, and once you have the prep work done, it comes together in 10 minutes.

And, of course, it’s Parmigiano-riffic.

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette


1 lb. Brussels sprouts, sliced thinly with a knife or mandolin or in the food processor

3 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup olive oil, divided

juice of 1 lemon

1 cup Parmesan cheese

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tbsp. mustard

1. Combine the 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, and Worcestershire  sauce in a bowl.

Add the Parmesan cheese to the dressing and stir. The dressing will turn very thick and pale cream in color. Don’t taste it now – or do, but don’t be surprised if the state is very acidic, bordering on bitter. The oil from the sauteed sprouts mellows that.


2. Take the sliced sprouts and…

saute them in an oiled pan over medium-high heat for about 7 minutes, or until the sprouts are soft and crispy-brown in some parts.

3. Remove the sprouts to a bowl and…

top with half of the dressing.

4. Stir and  let come to just above room temperature. Then, taste and add more dressing if necessary.

5. Serve room temperature or slightly warm, with extra Parmesan cheese on top.

See why this is so tasty? The sprouts are warm and soft, with crunchy, caramelized edges. The dressing is absorbed into the sprouts, leaving them citrusy, savory, and saturated with that salty, nutty Parmesan flavor. This is ideal as is, no need to add a chicken paillard or slab of poached salmon, though you certainly could, and to great effect.

But the best thing about Parmesan cheese is that when you add it do a dish, it makes the dish a meal on its own.

Guess that;’s why I’ve always loved it.

*Disclaimer: I was compensated for participating in this campaign. The recipe is original.*

Clean Out the Fridge Quinoa Salad

This recipe is a clean out the fridge one…you know, the type where you went crazy at the farmers market, spent $60 on gorgeous tomatoes, scallions, peppers, zucchini, and then ate out for the next 2 days. This is where you get to throw all of those veggies together into a dish that is so delicious that no one will ever guess that it is a last-ditch attempt to save the contents of the fridge. Instead of using pasta, quinoa is a high fiber, protein filled grain that is not only healthier but..dare I say it…delicious? The beauty of this is that it can be made ahead of time, served cold, and has a million variations. This is a jumping off point – think of this as a guideline, not a hard-and-fast recipe.

Clean Out The Fridge Quinoa Salad


1 cup quinoa

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1.5 cups your favorite vinaigrette

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bunch scallions, chopped

3 peppers, diced

1. Combine the quinoa and broth in a large pot, and set over high heat. When it boils, turn the heat down to medium high, let it boil for 20 minutes or until the quinoa is al dente, then turn off the heat. THEN, cover for at least 10 minutes or until the little white tails appear. That is a very important part of the cooking process…that means that the quinoa is really tender. I have never actually overcooked quinoa, but undercooked quinoa is akin to eating gravel. Take that as a warning.

2. After it is fully cooked, spread the quinoa out on a tinfoiled pan to help it cool quickly.

3. In the meantime, mix the other ingredients together in a large bowl.

3. When the quinoa has cooled to just above room temperature, add it to the bowl with the vegetables. Combine until well incorporated. You don’t want the quinoa to be totally cool because some heat helps it absorb the dressing.

4. Let chill for at least 1 hour or up to overnight and serve.

So fresh and bright. After it has sat for a few hours, the flavors all marry and meld into one symphony of taste. The juicy tomatoes, sweet peppers, sharp scallions, and bright vinaigrette all combine with the wheaty taste of the quinoa. If the dressing is seasoned properly, it won’t even need any additional seasonings or spices! It is filling but not at all hearty or heavy –  light enough to bring to a picnic but elegant enough to serve as a first course at a dinner party.

And no one has to know you were cleaning out the fridge. Unless, of course, they read this blog.

Lazy Girl’s Salad Lyonnaise

Sometimes I get a craving for Paris. The gorgeous people. The exquisite architecture.

But, mostly…the food.

Wild-tasting beef, fresh, cold oysters and coarse country terrines.

When these cravings hit, I do one of two things:

1. I go eat ramen, one thing that the Parisians really can’t do better than we New Yorkers can


2. I make a lazy girl’s salad Lyonnaise.

The real salad Lyonnaise uses  bacon lardons that are fatty, chewy, and crunchy all at once. The real salad Lyonnaise uses French frisee, which is sweeter and more tender than the bitter, overgrown stalks we get here. Real salad Lyonnaise is served as an appetizer, not a main course, because…

What French person do you know who would eat a salad as a main course?

So this is a salad Lyonnaise using ingredients you probably already have in your house. It can be made in a matter of minutes  and it is satisfying on every level. The best thing about this salad may well be the dressing – do not use olive oil here. The walnut oil is so subtle and nutty that it allows the flavors of the other ingredients shine through, whereas olives oil would overwhelm the salad.

Lazy Girl’s Salad Lyonnaise


1 serving salad greens.

1 poached or soft boiled egg

3 strips bacon(preferably thick cut and unsmoked), diced

juice of 2 limes

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup walnut oil

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. honey

black pepper to taste

1. Fry the bacon in a pan over medium heat until the bacon is very crisp and brown.

2. Mix the citrus juices, oil, mustard, honey, and pepper together in a bowl. Taste it – it should be rather acidic, because the egg yolk will dilute it. Add the dressing to the greens.

3. Top with the bacon and the egg.

4. Serve.

This salad is such a great rip off of a classic dish. The tender baby greens work well with the bracing, tart-sweet dressing. The soft egg should spill its golden yolk over the leaves when you break it, mixing with the dressing and adding a buttery, fatty component. The bacon is salty and crunchy, and the entire effect is rich and also bright. This is ideal with a side of  rare flank steak or just a hunk of garlic bread. It is an ideal light lunch, or a perfect breakfast – it is bacon and eggs, after all!

Unless you have your ticket on Air France booked already, this is your fastest way to get to the City of Lights, in taste anyway. 

Angry Roasted Peach and Kale Salad

This is called a the angry salad. Why? Well, you get to hack up some sundried tomatoes, you get to use up peaches that are a little under-ripe or sour(because don’t you get angry when you buy bad peaches?! I know I do.), and you massage kale. You know, the way that Muhammad Ali massaged George Foreman’s face.

That kind of massaging.

Beating up the kale is really the key to this recipe – it makes the kale as tender as romaine, while still maintaining its signature minerally taste.

Angry Roasted Peach and Kale Salad


1 head kale, leaves removed and spines discarded

1 peach, diced

10 sundried or oven dried tomatoes, diced

1 large handful basil, chiffonaded

1/4 cup walnut halves (preferably roasted)

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 cup olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and put the peaches and basil on a tinfoiled baking tray. Put the tray in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the peaches are very soft and the basil is dark and shriveled, but does not taste burned.

2. While the peaches cool, combine the mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, and cheese in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Now take those kale leaves. Crunch them in your hand. Wring them out like they are the necks of TSA agents who have made you go through separate security screenings because of a button on your jeans. Oh yeah, now you are getting steamed.

Use that anger. Crunch the heck out of those kale leaves. In about 3 minutes, your hands will start to smell like steamed broccoli, and the kale will suddenly give up resistance. It will go from dry and papery to limp somewhat moist. It will turn dark green and shrink considerably in volume.

You have now subdued the kale.

4. Add the rest of the ingredients. Toss well. Taste for salt and/or pepper.

5. Serve. 

This salad is extremely multilayered and complex. It is best when made about an hour before eating, because then the dressing saturates the sundried tomatoes, making them juicy and savory. The peaches release their sweet juices, mingling with the acidic, umami-forward dressing. The kale relaxes even more, but – amazingly – does not wilt! It retains its color and crunch even after sitting in the fridge. The walnuts add a luxuriously fatty component and the basil turns sharp and peppery in the oven, contrasting with those sweet, delicious peaches. This is a fabulous salad for a picnic or to take on a road trip because it stands up so well to being made ahead of time. It would be great topped with some poached salmon or fried chicken cutlets.

Even though this is called an angry salad, you can’t help but feel happy as you eat it.

Sweet and Tangy Broccoli Slaw

I love coleslaw. I love Asian slaw. I love Mexican slaw. Pretty much, if there is some cabbage tossed in a tangy, bright dressing, I will eat it! When I made the chipotle-plum brisket, I knew I needed something crunchy and cool to compliment the hearty beef. Thus, this slaw was born. It takes awhile to marinate, but because of the broccoli slaw, it stays crunchy and vibrant. Don’t skip the scallions – they really perk up the dish.

Sweet and Tangy Broccoli Slaw


1 package coleslaw

1 package broccoli slaw

1 bunch scallions, white parts chopped

2.5 oz. Jalapeno Tabasco sauce

3/4 cup olive oil

1 heaping tbsp. Dijon mustard

3 tbsp. sugar or to taste

1. Mix the oil, Tabasco, and mustard in a Tupperware. Add the sugar and let it sit in the fridge for an hour. When it comes out, taste it – if it is too spicy, add some more sugar. If it needs more acidity, add some vinegar…etc. You know what I say – there is no right or wrong here, just make it to your tastes.

2. Place the slaws in a large bowl with the scallions.

3. Top with the dressing.

4. Toss and let sit for at least an hour or up to 3 hours.

5. Serve.

This slaw is so great with BBQ meats. It is light, tangy, and has just a bit of heat from the jalapeno. It isn’t a burning heat, just a quick prickle at the front of your tongue. The broccoli slaw adds extra texture and crunch and the scallions add the perfect onion-y tang to the slaw. It really adds dimension and acidity to hearty meats, making even brisket seem lighter and more multifaceted.

Which, of course, means that you can eat more of it. 

And now you know why I love coleslaw.