Salads, Vegetables

Spicy Cucumber Salad

Spicy Cucumber Salad |

Has anyone been to Momofuku? Visiting a David Chang restaurant has been on my short list for many moons. And a few weeks ago serendipity intervened. I was in DC for work and as the cab pulled up to my hotel, I spied a telltale electric pink 'milk' sign belonging to Momofuku CCDC just across the way. Cue the heart eyes emoji. But my luck didn't stop there. By some small miracle I had no plans for lunch or dinner that night. I made a quick calculation as to whether this good fortune outweighed the impropriety of going to the same restaurant twice in one day. It totally did and so I went. Don't judge. 

Among the many ridiculously delicious things I ate between my two outings (pork buns, shrimp buns, spicy noodles), it's the cucumber salad that's been occupying my daydreams. It's the kind of salad you want to eat a bucket of - crunchy, refreshing, salty, and spicy. I more or less did eat a bucket since the cucumbers were such a perfect foil to the rest of the rich, heavy fare we ordered. Although I had the good sense at the time to ask our server how it was made I did not have the good sense to write it down. Of what she shared all I recall is 1) it's finished with togarashi and 2) the dressing contains pureed scallions. Curiously though you use only the light and dark green parts. This stayed with me since it's the opposite of what I've been conditioned to do with scallions. 

I did a bit of Googling but the internet failed to turn up a recipe so below is my best attempt. Is it spot on? Of course not. I'm no David Chang. But it was pretty darn good and should hold me over until Momofuku sets up shop in Boston.

Cukes |
Spicy Cucumber Salad |
Spicy Cucumber Salad |
Cucumbers |
Spicy Cucumber Salad |
Spicy Cucumber Salad |


  • 4-6 mini seedless cucumbers (these require no peeling and have less water than the big honkers)
  • 2 scallions, roughly chopped (light and dark green parts only, toss the white bulb)
  • Handful cilantro leaves (about 1 cup, loosely packed)
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled + roughly chopped
  • 5 Tbs. neutral oil (canola, peanut, or safflower)
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted
  • 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
  • Togarashi spice
  • Kosher salt


  • Chop cucumbers into small chunks (split in half and then slice crosswise into 1 inch pieces).
  • Line a colander with paper towels. Place cukes in colander and sprinkle generously with salt.
  • Let the cucumbers sit at room temperature (or in fridge)  for about 30 minutes. This will infuse flavor and also sweat out some water.
  • While you're waiting make your dressing. Place scallions, ginger, cilantro, oil, rice vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a blender. Puree until smooth and taste for seasoning.
  • Toast almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and beginning to brown. Let cool and then roughly chop.
  • When ready to dress and serve, pat cucumbers dry with a fresh paper towel.
  • Toss cukes, dressing, almonds, and serrano chile in a bowl. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with togarashi and a few more almonds.


Grain, Grapefruit + Avocado Salad

Grain, Grapefruit, + Avocado Salad |
Grain, Grapefruit + Avocado Salad |

It wasn't my intention but I may have struck breakfast salad gold with this one. How do I know? Because it's the first thing I've reached for three mornings in a row now. I suppose it makes sense. Several breakfast regulars are present: grapefruit, yogurt, avocado. Usually mornings find me stuffing one of these three in to my bag hoping it doesn't burst/explode/get smushed on my trek into the city. But together in a whole-grain studded salad the whole lot fits neatly into tupperware and becomes quite commuter friendly. That's worth waking up for if you ask me.

The prep for this, or any grain salad really, involves some legwork but the results are worth it. Besides being heartier than a green salad, cooked grains do a fabulous job at sopping up dressing, especially if left to refrigerate overnight. Here I used both quinoa and farro because I had them on hand. There's no magic to this combo though. You could skip one to simplify or swap in wheat berries, bulgur (cracked wheat), brown rice, or barley.

A few notes on cooking these grains. There are as many methods for cooking quinoa as there are grains in your pot. For this salad I used a 1:1.25 grain to water ratio and followed these tips from Food52. The results were perfectly fluffy. As for farro, I used to cook it as you do rice. But then I got hip to treating it like pasta and have never turned back. Simply cook at a rolling boil until it reaches your desired al dente-ness. Guess work eliminated!

Grain, Grapefruit, + Avocado Salad |
Grain, Grapefruit + Avocado Salad |
Farro |
Lime Yogurt Dressing |
Grain, Grapefruit, + Avocado Salad |
Serves 4-6


Grain, Grapefruit, + Avocado Salad

  • 1 cup cooked farro (1/2 cup dry)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (1/2 cup dry)
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and sections removed from pith (Don't worry about keeping the sections in tact. You'll want to tear into bite-sized pieces for the salad.)
  • 1 avocado, cut into chunks
  • 4 scallions chopped (white and light green parts)
  • 1/2 head small radicchio
  • 2 Tbs chopped parsley

Lime Yogurt Dressing

  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I prefer full fat but use what you like or have on hand)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • Salt + pepper


  • Cook your grains and allow to cool.
  • Make your dressing. Whisk together yogurt, honey, lime juice, salt and pepper. Add olive oil and blend until smooth. I like to shake everything together in a ball jar - it makes for simple storage.
  • Assemble your salad. Tear radicchio leaves into your serving bowl.
  • Add cooled grains, chopped scallions, and parsley.
  • Add dressing and toss. (You likely will not need it all. Save the rest for another use.)
  • Taste grains for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper as necessary.
  • If you're preparing the salad to eat later, stop here. Cover and refrigerate. 
  • When ready to serve add grapefruit and avocado and toss gently. Enjoy!

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Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad

Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad |
Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad |
Chopping Watermelon |
Chopping Cucumber |
Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad Mise En Place |
Feta |
Basil |
Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad |

My heart is so happy right now I could squeal! We've just returned from our family's 29th annual reunion in South Carolina. Back when I was a wee lass my grandparents had the good sense to institute a summer tradition of gathering their five children plus families for a week at the beach. God bless them, they stuck with it. I've always cherished this trip but have grown to appreciate it more with each passing year. With a new crop of itty-bitty babies our head count this summer totaled 33. Besides the good company, I adore that this week is a true vacation. There's nowhere to go, nothing to see. Upon arrival it takes but minutes to fall into the familiar routine we've perfected over nearly three decades. Tennis/jogging/straight up lounging in the morning; lunches of build-your-own honey baked ham sandwiches and pimento cheese (while it lasts); afternoons on the beach, stocked coolers in tow; cocktails and hor d'oeuvres on the porch; dinner together at the big long table (actually three pushed together to make one); party and card games in the evenings. Sleep and repeat. It's magic. Scroll on for a few snaps.

Every night a different family takes a turn cooking dinner for the crowd. Some version of this watermelon salad usually makes an appearance, and for good reason. It's simple, brilliantly pretty, and a surefire crowdpleaser.

The beach house...

The beach house...

...and 180 degrees.

...and 180 degrees.

South Carolina surf.

South Carolina surf.

My adorable grandparents with their five children. Props to my mom for holding her own with four brothers!

My adorable grandparents with their five children. Props to my mom for holding her own with four brothers!

Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad |


Serves 4

  • 1 small watermelon, cubed (if you have a large melon, use 1/2)
  • 4 Persian cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and diced
  • 1 serrano chile, sliced into thin rounds (if you don't like heat, omit!)
  • 8 oz. feta*, cubed 
  • 12-16 basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 12-16 mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • Juice of one half lime
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil


  • Toss watermelon, cucumber, serrano, feta, basil and lime juice in serving bowl
  • Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil
  • Serve immediately (If allowed to sit the watermelon and cucumber will release water. Toss ingredients as close to serving as possible.)

*A few notes on feta from our resident cheesemonger. High quality feta will make this salad sing. Feta can be made from cow's milk, goat's milk, sheep's milk, or some combination of these. In the States cow's milk is the most ubiquitous, found in those little vacuum sealed squares at the grocery store. Those will do in a pinch but you're better off seeking out a feta packed in brine. 100% sheep's milk is my favorite. French, Greek, or Bulgarian are all excellent bets but never rule out the feta you find at your local farmer's market. 

Vegetables, Salads

Asparagus Salad

Asparagus Salad |
Asparagus Salad Prep |
Asparagus Salad Prep |
Asparagus Salad |
Asparagus Salad |
Asparagus Salad |

I had the good fortune recently to spend a few delightful days with my grandparents in Georgia. Nana and Pops, as us kids call them. When Sunday came around Nana sent me home with this handsome little plate. Isn't she sweet? Happily unattached from the set to which she once belonged, I tucked her into my suitcase with visions of lunch for one. Nana would be pleased to see her gift getting some action these days, though she'd disapprove of this particular use. You see, Nana detests vegetables. They could be steamed, sous vide, hand-plucked, or wild-foraged  - it doesn't matter, she's not interested. I'll admit I did empathize with Nana the first time I heard the notion of raw asparagus salad. Sounds woody. And tough. I'm happy to report though that it's remarkably delicate, and dare I say, beats roasting. I won't go so far as to say this salad would convert my nana, but she's 91 so I'll give her a pass.

Asparagus Salad Aftermath |


Serves 1
  • 8 asparagus spears
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 egg
  • Vinegar
  • Pecorino cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon wedge
  • Sea salt


  • Snap the woody end off asparagus spears. Using a vegetable peeler shave into ribbons leaving the tips intact. Add asparagus tips to to ribbons.
  • Toss asparagus with pine nuts, a dusting of grated Pecorino, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. Set aside.
  • To poach egg bring a small saucepan of water with a glug of vinegar to a simmer (the vinegar will keep the whites from dispersing).
  • Crack egg into a ramekin, keeping yolk intact 
  • Pour egg into the simmering water as close to the surface as possible (as opposed to letting it drop). Adjust heat if water is bubbling too vigorously.
  • Poach egg for 2 minutes (for a soft boil) or 4 minutes for a firmer yolk; remove from water with a slotted spoon
  • Let cool for a moment before topping salad with egg. Enjoy immediately.


Winter Panzanella + Walnut Vinaigrette

Radicchio + Endive |
Winter Panzanella |

If you're looking for more ways to incorporate bread into your diet, panzanella is a great place to start.

Ha! If only I had that problem. In my household it's more like, 'Do you find yourself bringing home every gorgeous loaf of french bread that makes eyes at you? Are you ashamed when you discover you've eaten 3/4 of your baguette in one sitting, slicing little bread coins one after the other and slathering each with butter and sea salt? You had to, right, because tomorrow it will be dry and craggy?' If you're silently nodding your head, then panzanella is your new best friend. It turns your bread habit into a virtuous one. It turns that bread into salad. I understand that in order to be in possession of day-old bread for panzanella you're still going to have to stop yourself from eating fresh bread. No easy feat. But the promise of panzanella (added bonus: really fun to say) is better motivation than scolding yourself for downing too many refined carbs.

My favorite panzanellas are the classic kind full of tomatoes, cukes, and other summery goodness. But seeing as we're six months away from July in every direction,  and my devotion to bread intensifies in due proportion to dropping temperatures,  a winter edition was in order.

Crushed Walnuts |
Walnut Vinaigrette |
Radiccho + Endive |
Panzanella Bread |

After the bread and a nice, sharp vinaigrette for said bread to sop up, there are no rules. I chose bitter greens, lemony artichokes, and buttery walnuts partly because they look pretty together but mostly because it's what I had on hand. And next time I'll do the same.

Winter Panzanella |

Winter Panzanella + Walnut Vinaigrette

Serves 2-3

Walnut Vinaigrette

Makes ~1 cup
  • 1/4 unsalted walnuts, toasted
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
  • Salt + Pepper


  • Toast walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until aromatic, about 4 minutes
  • In a food processor, pulse walnuts and garlic until finely ground but not a paste
  • Whisk together walnut-garlic mixture, lemon juice, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper
  • Add olive oil in a steady stream while whisking to incorporate
  • For best results, make 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to develop; will keep in fridge up 5 days


  • 1/2 loaf day old crusty bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 3-4 cups)
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 heads radicchio (also called treviso or chicory)
  • 2 heads Belgian endive
  • 1 eight oz. jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped in quarters
  • Handful parsley leaves


  • Heat oil In a large skillet toast over medium heat for about one minute
  • Add bread cubes and salt
  • Toast bread cubes turning frequently until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes; if things begin to get smoky, reduce heat to low
  • Remove from heat and let bread cool
  • Tear (or chop) radicchio and Belgian endive leaves into small pieces
  • Combine all panzanella ingredients and dress with walnut viniagrette; serve immediately or allow to sit for 15 minutes to allow bread to sop up dressing


Napa Cabbage Salad + Peanut Dressing

Napa Cabbage Salad Mise En Place |
Napa Cabbage Salad with Peanut Dressing |

Well, we did it. Cut the cord. Cable television is no longer taking up residence at Chez Nichols. Good riddance Guy Fieri, Sister Wives, and Dance Moms. So shameful, yet so addictive. This isn't the first time we've abstained from cable. It's been an on-again, off-again saga. Regrettably we've always come crawling back for the one fix Netflix and Apple TV can't deliver: live sports. With the Patriots playoff game only days away, I'm reminded why relapse is an ever-present threat.

Now, I know we're not alone in this camp. As I've learned it's actually quite a trendy move. So trendy in fact that some big wigs have figured out how to capitalize on our situation. Apparently ESPN is leading the charge to unbundle a sports package that you can buy a la carte. I think we're about to enter a new era, my friends.

But in the meantime I've been looking for ways to fill the time House Hunters marathons used to occupy. This salad on repeat is one of them. I think this is our third go round in two weeks. I have to say it's far more satisfying than even the most tempting reality TV.

Peanut Dressing or Sauce |
Napa Cabbage Close Up |
Napa Cabbage Salad Mise En Place |
Napa Cabbage Salad + Peanut Dressing |


Napa Cabbage Salad

  • 1/2 head napa cabbage (also known as Chinese cabbage, napa is much more delicate than regular green cabbage and thus better suited for salads like this)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped 
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 Thai chiles, finely diced (if you don't like heat, leave these out)
  • 3 green onions, finely diced
  • 1 package ramen noodles, crushed and lightly toasted in a dry skillet (discard the seasoning packets)
  • 2 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds

Peanut Dressing

  • Juice of one lime
  • 3 Tbs. peanut butter
  • 3 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 2 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. siracha
  • 1/2 sesame oil



  • To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, about 1 minute.
  • Cut the cabbage into thin strips: lay the half cabbage head on a cutting board and cut in half lengthwise, leaving the root end in tact. Then cut the remaining halves in half again lengthwise. Now cut all three sections crosswise into half inch strips until you reach the root end.
  • To prep the ramen noodles, crush lightly while still in packaging. Open package and discard seasoning packet. In a dry skillet over medium heat toast noodles until lightly browned, about 4-6 minutes.
  • Toss cabbage, cilantro, bean sprouts, green onions, chiles, ramen noodles, and sesame seeds with peanut dressing and serve. Tofu, chopped nuts, shredded chicken, or grilled salmon would all be top notch adds.


Lemon Tahini Dressing (+ Veggie Bowl)

Veggie Bowl and Lemon Tahini Dressing |
On Saturday, he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon.

That night he had a stomach ache.
— The Very Hungry Caterpillar

My office has a lovely tradition whenever one of our colleagues welcomes a new baby. Everyone brings a favorite childhood book to build the baby his or her very own library. It was for this reason that I found myself holed up last week catching up on a few classics: The Snowy Day, Old Bear, and that imperishable favorite, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. (No need to fret, mom, I was simply the designated book collector, not the parent-to-be). 

Sifting through children's books is a first-rate way to spend an afternoon. I need to pencil it in more often. Sure there's the nostalgic value and the dreamy illustrations. But it's the simple, headline-free instructions for daily living that I need more of. For instance, if you're not familiar with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, (or if it's been a while), the book is about a wee caterpillar who is born with an insatiable appetite. As if programmed he chomps through everything in front of him. See? We can identify already. Within a week our caterpillar friend learns that good things upon good things will eventually produce diminishing returns in the form of a belly ache. With the parade of holidays and parties, parties and holidays I've endured over the last month I'm right there with the little guy. This is a meal to counteract the indulgence. Vibrant, crunchy things drenched in rich tahini sauce is atonement in a bowl, and it's not even January yet.

Gosh, I think I've earned myself a cookie.

Lemon Tahini Dressing |
Veggie Bowl with Tofu |
Veggie Bowl + Lemon Tahini Dressing |

Lemon Tahini Dressing


  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed into a paste
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 4 Tbs. warm water
  • Dash cayenne
  • Salt + Pepper


Whisk or puree all ingredients until smooth. You may need more water (add 1 Tbs. at a time) to achieve a pourable consistency. Let sit for a bit for the flavors to meld.

Use as a dressing for salad or vegetables of your choice. This veggie bowl contains roasted sweet potatoes, shredded cabbage, blanched broccoli, diced tofu, spanish peppers, and sesame seeds.


Kale, Celery, + Fennel Salad

Kale, Fennel, + Celery Salad |

Today was a win. Today I finished the very last of our wedding thank you notes. I remember reading that Emily Post's permissible window for sending thank-yous is within 3 months of the occasion. Whether Emily Post is still in charge of these things, I do not know. But since I've beat the deadline (by a full 3 weeks!) I am going to go ahead and say, yes, she is still is the beacon on all things etiquette and, yes, that is from whom I'm taking my cues. I wish Emily were here right now so I could ask if that is the correct use of 'whom'.

With the great thank-you-note project wrapped and the scent of productivity still lingering in the air I decided to keep it rolling and make this salad. I heart this salad. I was reminded today that even though I always get the slightest bit annoyed midstream by the number of steps*, the end result is totally worth it. It's hearty, perfect for winter, and can hold its own the day after. Boom. 

*Go ahead and chuckle. There aren't really that many steps at all, I know. 

Lacinto Kale |

I used lacinto kale (which I still don't know how to pronounce, anyone?) but any variety would do. 

Chopped Kale |
Fennel Bulb |

Imagine a plus sign hovering above this fennel bulb. Those are the planes you want to cut along, once lengthwise, once crosswise. You'll end up with 4 quarters, each with the root end still intact which makes for easy, breezy slicing.

Shaved Fennel |
Shaved Celery |

Celery: apparently good for more than mirepoix and bloody marys.

Chopped Hazelnuts |

Don't you just love that hazelnuts are also called filberts?

Grated Pecorino Romano |

This is Pecorino Romano. Parmesan works just great too.

Kale, Celery, + Fennel Salad |

Kale, Celery, + Fennel Salad

Serves 4
  • 1 bunch kale, tough stems removed, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 bulb fennel, shaved on mandolin (1/16 inch is the setting I use)
  • 2 stalks celery, shaved on mandolin (also 1/16)
  • 2/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped (I have substituted almonds, walnuts, and even pepitas. Whatever you fancy!)
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon


De-stem and shop the kale. Shave the fennel and celery. Toast the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and aromatic, about 3-4 minutes. Roughly chop nuts. Grate the cheese. Toss all ingredients together until well coated. Finish and salt and pepper. If I'm in the mood for heat (which is pretty much always) I like to serve with big pinches of red pepper flakes.

You can serve immediately but I think this salad is at its best when its dressed and left to sit for about 30 minutes, allowing the rough kale to mellow just slightly.




Carrot Salad

Carrot Feta Salad |

I turn the big 3-0 this week and this blog is something of a gift to myself, a fresh hobby to ring in a new decade. While I assure you this very important birthday will be marked by cake at some point, today it is marked by carrots. But they aren't just any carrots. They're the new rainbow mix that just appeared at our Whole Foods. I sincerely hope they aren't just pinch hitting for Thanksgiving because, goodness look at them!

This salad is a riff on one I've made several times with grated carrots. While wonderful, I wanted to give a new version a whirl. A version for those I-don't-want-to-pull-out-the-Cuisinart-and-clean-all-those-attachments days. And I'll say this hit the mark.

Happy birthday to moi!

Peeled Carrots |
Moody Carrot Sticks |

I cut these into your classic 'carrot stick' shape but really any cut would do - large chunks, small coins, whatever you please. The lengthwise cuts here highlight the awesome golden core of the purple carrots.

Garlic in Mortar and Pestle |

If you're not a garlic enthusiast you may want to proceed with caution. The bite of the raw garlic is an awesome foil for the carrots' sweetness, but scale back according to your taste.

Carrot Salad Mise En Place |

Rainbow carrots aside, nigella seeds are really the star of the show here. I was introduced to these little buggers recently and have been sprinkling with abandon ever since. They're edgy - literally, shaped like roughly chiseled sesame seeds. The flavor is subtle, a little smoky, a little peppery but their visual effect is striking. I haven't seen these widely available in grocery stores yet but of course we live in the golden age of specialty food mail order so not a problem.

Dressed Carrots |
Carrot Feta Salad |


Serves 2-4


  • 6-10 carrots, peeled
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and ground to paste
  • 1 tsp. nigella seeds
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley (have dill, mint, basil on hand? sub or a try a combo)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta


  • Peel carrots and cut to your liking; I did your classic 'carrot stick' shape though you easily do big chunks or coins
  • Bring salted water to a boil (use enough water to submerge carrots by 1 inch)
  • Cook carrots in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork but not yet mushy (cooking time will depend on size of your cuts)
  • Drain carrots, let cool
  • Grind garlic in mortar + pestle until you have a thick paste (adding a pinch of salt helps this along)
  • Place carrots in serving dish, dress with lemon juice, a few glugs of olive oil, garlic and nigella seeds
  • Give it all a stir, top with chopped parsley and feta
  • Serve at room temperature

Make ahead and marinate in the fridge to amp up the garlic factor.