it’s finally summertime salad.

I have been making this salad since I was 9 months pregnant, when I was too hot and swollen and miserable to make much else. (Having a baby in August in South Carolina is about as ill-advised as getting married outdoors in August.) (Oh wait. Did that too.) It’s easy, and satisfying, and refreshing – all characteristics of a summer side, in my opinion. The original recipe wants you to cook the corn, but I prefer to cut mine off the cob and use it raw. Not only does it keep me from dirtying a pan, it remains crunchy and sweet! The original recipe also calls for cilantro in the dressing, which I leave out.

summer salad.

Summer Salad.
Adapted from here

for the salad
4 ears corn, cut off the cob
1 avocado, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/2 red onion, diced (optional)

for the dressing
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 freshly ground black pepper
6 tbsp. olive oil

Combine dressing ingredients in a small jar, shake vigorously to combine.

In a large serving bowl, combine vegetables and feta. Toss with dressing to taste (you won’t need all of it).

Summer is for lots and lots of veggies, and not turning on the oven,


Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

So, have you hopped on the kale bandwagon yet? If not, I have another delicious kale recipe to tempt you with… and this one has the added appeal of CARBS! If adding a bunch of bread to your vegetables doesn’t make them more appealing to you, then I have to assume you are broken, and I feel very sorry for you. (Kidding! I mean, I guess you don’t HAVE to love bread… but you probably should, I think.)

Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

ANYWAYS. The first incarnation of this recipe occurred a few weeks back. I was making some delicious grilled artichoke subs for dinner (recipe forthcoming!), and I ended up pulling the insides of my baguettes out, to make room for more artichokes. I could not, in good conscience, throw out perfectly good bread, so I was going to freeze it to make breadcrumbs with at a later date… but then it occurred to me that I could toast it up, and use it to make a panzanella salad! As luck would have it, I had a fresh bunch of kale in the fridge (it’s a staple – I ALWAYS have kale in the fridge), so I decided to make a kale panzanella. After a bit of tweaking, I’m finally ready to share the recipe with you!

Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
serves 2

one bunch lactinato kale*
3-4oz good bread, cut or torn into bite-size pieces**
half a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh parmesan (not grated!)
3 T olive oil, divided
juice of half a lemon
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T whole grain mustard
1 T honey
kosher salt

Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

*I find that lactinato kale is the most palatable (texture-wise), especially if you’re trying it out for the first time. Lactinato kale (also called dinosaur or tuscan kale) has flat, broad, dark green leaves that are kind of pebbled in texture… most other varieties are lighter green, and curly around the edges. They all taste pretty much the same, in my opinion!

**You want to use a good, hearty bread for this salad; now is not the time for regular sliced bread. I prefer not to use the crispy crust of the bread (I would use a soft baguette, or a loaf of ciabatta or other good Italian bread), but you certainly can if you’d like to!

1.) Preheat your oven to 375°. Line a small baking sheet with foil, and spread your bread pieces out on it. Toss the bread with about a tablespoon of olive oil (I used my olive oil mister, and it worked nicely), and toast it in the oven until it’s golden brown and crispy, about 8-10 minutes. Allow the bread to cool slightly.

2.) While the bread toasts, prep your kale. Remove the leaves from the tough stems, and discard the stems. Stack all the kale leaves together, and use a sharp knife to cut the leaves cross-wise into 1/2″ strips. Wash and dry the kale as necessary (a salad spinner is optimal, here).

3.) Add the kale to a large bowl, and add one tablespoon of olive oil, the lemon juice, and a pinch of kosher salt. Use your hands to work the oil and lemon juice into the leaves, until they’re all thoroughly coated and beginning to soften, about a minute or two.

4.) For the vinaigrette, add one tablespoon each of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, whole grain mustard, and honey to a small bowl. Add a pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper, and whisk to combine.

5.) Pour the dressing over the massaged kale, and toss it with tongs to evenly distribute the dressing. Add the cooled bread, and toss it with the kale. Divide the kale and bread mixture in to two bowls, and then top with the cherry tomatoes and fresh shavings of parmesan.

Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

I have tried several different dressings with this particular salad, and this one was definitely the winner. It’s got a bit of sweetness, a little bite – and some texture from the whole grain mustard. I also really, really love the pairing of the hearty kale with the crispy bread… it just works! Of course, you could switch up the toppings of this salad however you like (olive, artichoke hearts, cucumber, bell peppers), but I love the sweet tomatoes and salty parmesan together. I promise this salad will make a kale lover out of the most ardent kale hater!

Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

And then you get to feel smug and virtuous all day, because YOU ATE KALE,

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

In the last year or so, I have become moderately obsessed with Thai food. The tiny little Thai restaurant near our house sees my face a lot… and if I go too long without some pad Thai or curry, I start to panic a little. Despite my love for the cuisine, Thai food is complicated, and involves a lot of ingredients that are not terribly common or easy to find, so I’ve not really had the urge to try my hand at making anything (especially when, for $8 and a 1.5 mile roundtrip drive, I can have a nice, steaming order of massaman curry on the table in less than 15 minutes). I’m sure this salad is FAR from authentic, but it incorporates a lot of the tastes and textures that I love in Thai food – crunchy cabbage, salty peanuts, sour lime juice – and is nearly as satisfying as the real deal!

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing
serves 2 generously

one head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
one large heart of romaine, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
half a red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped
8oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
kosher salt
garlic powder
one batch of Peanut Lime Dressing

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

for the dressing:
1 T fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
1 T mirin (you can use sugar instead, if necessary)
1 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
large pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 T honey (optional)
up to 2 T water

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

1.) Let’s start with the chicken. Season the chicken well with kosher salt and garlic powder, add a few teaspoons of oil to a skillet, and cook over medium heat until cooked through. Set aside to cool.

2.) While the chicken cooks, chop and prep all your vegetables. I like to shred my cabbage and romaine into roughly 1/2″ wide pieces.

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

3.) For the dressing, whisk together all ingredients except the honey and water. It will take a minute for everything to fully incorporate, but just keep whisking and it’ll eventually smooth out into a nice, creamy dressing. Once you have everything well-combined, whisk is as much water as you need to get a nice, drizzle-able consistency (I used about 2 tablespoons). Taste test your dressing; I found mine to be a LITTLE too sour/acidic, so I added a tablespoon of honey. If you’re happy with it the way it is, carry on!

4.) Once your dressing is made and your vegetables are prepped, shred your chicken (or cut it into bite-size pieces).

5.) Toss the cabbage, romaine, carrots, and bell peppers together. Pile this mixture on to each plate, and then top with shredded chicken, chopped peanuts, and cilantro. Drizzle the dressing over the top, and serve.

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

I don’t think I’ve ever attacked a salad with such intensity in my life! The flavor and texture combinations in this salad are fantastic – and the light, crunchy vegetables keep it from feeling too heavy. It would be absolutely perfect on a hot summer evening (not that it will ever be HOT in Michigan again… I’ve given up hope), or for a summer barbecue. I can’t wait to make it again!

I won’t tell anyone if you accidentally eat a spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar,

Peppered Pork and Parmesan Flatbread Sandwiches

I have recently discovered a new favorite show on the Food Network: Heartland Table. There have only been a handful of episodes thus far (maybe 6 or 7 total) but every time I see an episode, I want to make EVERYTHING, immediately. I basically watch the episode, drool a lot, and then run to the Food Network website to pin every single recipe. Makes for a nice little Saturday morning.

This is the first recipe I ever made from that show, and I’ve made it a couple times since. It requires a bit of time standing over the stove, but it’s pretty simple… and the smell of that thyme- and garlic-rubbed pork roasting is so intoxicatingly fantastic, you’ll dream about it at night.

Peppered Pork and Parmesan Flatbread Sandwiches

Peppered Pork and Parmesan Flatbread Sandwiches
adapted from here
enough for 8 sandwiches, with pork left over

For the pork:
one 3-pound pork loin, fat cap left on
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup very coarsely ground pepper
canola oil, for searing

For the basting sauce:
5 T butter
3 T apple cider vinegar
2 T chopped fresh thyme
6 cloves garlic, grated
remaining pepper from the pork crust

For the sandwich spread:
1/2 cup mayo
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of black pepper
zest and juice of half a lemon
one large garlic clove, grated

For the sandwiches:
8 pitas (or wrap of choice), lightly toasted/warmed
sandwich spread (above)
thinly sliced pork
1/2 cup large parmesan shavings

Peppered Pork and Parmesan Flatbread Sandwiches

1.) Remove the pork from the fridge about half an hour before you’re going to cook it, to let it warm up a bit. Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat, and add a couple tablespoons of canola oil to the pan (while you’re at it, preheat your oven to 375°). While the pan heats, pat the pork loin dry; sprinkle it with the teaspoon of kosher salt, then cover it in the black pepper, using your hands to firmly press it on to the pork to be sure it sticks. Reserve any unused pepper for the basting sauce.

Pork Loin with Pepper, Garlic, and Thyme Crust

2.) Once the pan is hot, sear the pork on all sides, including the ends. While the pork is searing, heat a small sauce pan over medium heat, and add the butter to it. Once the butter bubbles up, add the apple cider vinegar, garlic, chopped thyme, and remaining black pepper. Remove the mixture from the heat.

Peppered Pork and Parmesan Flatbread Sandwiches

3.) When the pork has been seared and the basting sauce is ready, use a brush to baste the pork with the sauce, and then place the entire pan in the oven. Roast the pork for about 50 minutes, removing it from the oven every 10 minutes to flip it and baste it. Try not to pass out from the heavenly smell emanating from the oven.

4.) While the pork roasts, make your sandwich spread. Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl; cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

5.) Remove the pork from the oven, and let it rest for about 15 minutes. If you’re planning to only use the pork cold, set it aside and allow it to cool for about an hour, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until it’s thoroughly chilled. You’ll want to thinly slice the pork as you need it; keeping the loin whole will prevent the pork from drying out.

Pork Loin with Pepper, Garlic, and Thyme Crust

6.) To assemble the sandwiches: spread the warmed/toasted pitas with the mayo sauce. Layer on arugula, parmesan shavings, and very thinly sliced pork. Wrap, and enjoy!

I’m really not kidding you – the smell of this pork cooking is one of the best things you’ll ever experience in your life. And not only does it smell like heaven, but it imparts a TON of flavor into the pork (which I suppose is kind of the point). The pepper-y, garlick-y crust has a great hit of spice – next time, I think I’d try this pork on a salad filled with parmesan, some pine nuts, and a lemon vinaigrette.

Peppered Pork and Parmesan Flatbread Sandwiches

You could also make this pork into a great little appetizer! Cut some grilled pitas into wedges, spread with the lemon mayo, add a couple leaves of arugula, a piece of pork, and some parmesan – then spear the whole thing with a toothpick. Best of all, it can be served at room temperature, so it can be made and assembled ahead of time.

You know that if I’m recommending cooking a giant piece of meat, it must be pretty fabulous,