Salads for the summer

The summer is almost here, bringing us the delicious summer vegetables, and the favorite hot-weather food, fresh vegetable salads.
Salads are:
– Healthy
– Fast and easy to put together
– Easily adaptable to vegetarian and vegan diets
– Require little or no cooking, for these hot days
– Colorful
– Help us to stay in shape throughout the swimsuit season
– Fun picnic and backyard party food

Here are some of my favorites:

Classic Nicoise, and it’s variations, can be served as a complete dinner entree. Lettuce, cucumber, potatoes, olives, tomatoes, bell peppers, Italian canned tuna, eggs, anchovies, mustard vinaigrette.

This version has frisee, arugula, tomatoes, new red potatoes, fava beans, green beans, spring onion, Italian canned tuna, egg, anchovies, sherry vinaigrette.
Note: Please use good Italian tuna in olive oil; don’t try to substitute the supermarket “cat food” chunk tuna variety – tuna makes or breaks this dish. The use of fresh grilled tuna is a recent American restaurant invention. They use canned tuna in the South of France, I checked.

Rainbow kale slaw, adapted from Whole Foods website: thinly sliced black kale and red cabbage (salt the cabbages, then squeeze them with your hands to soften), red bell pepper, red onion, orange, sunflower seeds; dressed with orange juice + Dijon mustard + Tamari + olive oil.

Mediterranean garbanzo salad, adapted from Whole Foods website: bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, fennel, shallot, garbanzo beans, sheep’s milk feta in lettuce cups, lemon vinaigrette. I garnished it with chives flowers, just because I can.

Classic Greek salad: tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, olives, feta, good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, a lot of fresh ground black pepper. This is how they served it to me in Delphi: with a large brick of good feta on top. No silly feta crumbs 🙂

Shaved summer squash with almond salsa, adapted from the “Beauty Detox” cookbook.

Cucumber salad, mint yogurt dressing.

Daikon and zucchini salad, lemon basil vinaigrette.

And the all-time summer tomato favorite, Caprese salad: heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinaigrette. Simple and perfect. As perfect as the tomatoes are.

A party appetizer version: cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, basil leaves, on skewers, balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping.

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Menu for a low-carbohydrate diet today

My client S. has found out that restricting carbohydrates helps her to achieve her weight loss goals without giving up the satisfaction from meals. S. is a good cook herself, and had been cooking most of the dishes for her new low-carb, high-protein diet.

She is not very comfortable, however, with preparing red meats and seafood. To break the monotony of roasted chicken breasts and fried salmon fillets, S. asked me to cook a package of meals that she could keep in the freezer, in individual serving containers, and reheat whenever she is pressed for time, or feels like eating something different.

Here is what I cooked for her today. The chicken soup has onions, celery, and just one little carrot, finely sliced and sautéed in butter, and fresh green beans, red and yellow peppers, leeks, tomatoes, and black Tuscan kale.

Chimichurri, a bright fresh Argentinian sauce, made of parsley and oregano with garlic, dried red chilies, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, is as good with lamb as it is with grilled beef (or almost anything grilled), is totally addictive, and doesn’t add much carbs, calories, or weight to the dish – just a lot of flavor.

Menu November, 7

Chicken and vegetables soup
Shrimp stir-fry with peppers, spring onions, and bok choi

Leeks, spinach, and bacon frittata
Braised leeks
Delicata squash stuffed with beef and vegetables
Roasted Brussels sprouts
Lamb chops, chimichurri sauce

Kale with garlic and white wine

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Mill Valley, CA

Fall menu

Half way into the Fall, I have finally updated my Fall sample menu!
If you would like to order meals from me, but are not sure what you want, browse my menu for inspiration. The menu is just an example, hundreds of other dishes and variations are available.

Sample menu
Fall 2012

Zucchini and daikon salad, lemon dressing
Crunchy goodness. Sugar-, dairy-, and gluten-free, vegan, low-calorie, all vitamins

Baby arugula with cranberries and goat cheese, Sherry vinaigrette
California classic

Greek salad: Bell pepper, tomato, sweet onion, cucumber, feta; lemon vinaigrette
Fresh Mediterranean flavors

Baby greens with white beans and tomato, white wine vinaigrette
Delightful combination of texture, flavor, and color

Cucumber salad, yogurt dressing
Crunchy and creamy; made with non-fat yogurt for a zero-fat meal.


Salmon with dill sauce
Classic combination. Made with the local king salmon, when available

Garlic and lemon prawns
Extra large and full of flavor

Seared scallops
Caramelized to perfection. Add spinach and feta cheese for extra flavors.

Halibut with white wine sauce
Our local halibut with the classic French sauce

Hake with creamy wild mushroom sauce
The delicate fish is adorned with the fall bounty of wild mushrooms in a rich sauce

Grilled rainbow trout
One of the tastiest and the least appreciated fishes, rainbow trout is best grilled whole with the simple seasoning of lemon, rosemary, and thyme. If you don’t have a grill, I’ll broil the trout for you.


Chicken saltimbocca
“Jump in mouth” chicken with prosciutto, sage, and mushrooms. Leave out the optional provolone topping to make it dairy-free

Chicken cacciatore
Another Italian classic chicken dish, “hunter style chicken”. Good over pasta, or with any of my side dishes

Mediterranean lemon chicken
Skinless chicken legs marinated with lemon, garlic, and oregano, and roasted to golden perfection

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
Roasted garlic makes a sweet and fragrant sauce in this classic dish from Normandy

Roasted game hens with rosemary and thyme
Golden crispy skins, tender fragrant flesh. Two servings each.

Moroccan spicy chicken
Tagine-inspired dish made with apricots, lemon, green peas, and North African spices

Turkey meatloaf
Gluten-free meatloaf is made with quinoa flakes that give it light and fluffy texture

Turkey cutlets with cranberries
Tasty low-calorie dish.


Beef medallions wrapped in bacon
Pure luxury

Beef fajitas
Slices of beef sirloin, marinated with lime, cumin, and chili, then seared to perfection with bell peppers and onions. Served with whole-grain flour tortillas

Pork medallions, red wine sauce
Healthy and flavorful

Grilled pork chops and pears
Sweet and savory

Lamb chops with goat cheese sauce
Oh, so good!

Bison burgers
Leaner and tastier than beef, buffalo meat is good for you. Cooked to medium to preserve it’s natural juiciness

Meatballs in tomato-sage sauce
Good over a pasta, or serve with any of my side dishes

Cabbage braised with pork, sausage, and apples
A comforting one-pot meal for cold days.


Spanish tortilla
Classic Spanish tapa egg dish filled with potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Serve hot or cold

Whole-wheat pasta with mushrooms, white beans, and arugula
Crimini mushrooms add deep earthy flavor

Roasted bell peppers stuffed with quinoa
Colorful and delicious. Gluten-free

Acorn squash stuffed with wild rice
The taste of Fall. Gluten-free

Quinoa pasta with squash and bell peppers

Goat cheese, caramelized onion, and wild mushrooms tart
Made with high-quality all-butter puff pastry, the tart combines comforting sweet and earthy flavors. Can be made as individual tartlets

Cannellini beans with kale and tomatoes
A favorite from Tuscany. Warning: black Tuscan kale can be addictive.


Saffron risotto
Wild rice with garlic and herbs
Rice pilaf with vegetables
Quinoa pilaf with mushrooms
Quinoa with lemon and zucchini
Buckwheat kasha
Farro risotto
Polenta with fresh corn

Polenta with pumpkin
Roasted sweet potatoes
Roasted kabocha squash
Spaghetti squash
Braised white cabbage
Rosemary and garlic potatoes

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Francisco Bay Area

Indian home cooking, Part II

A few more recipes that I learned from my Indian client’s mom, not all of them spicy.

Vegetable curry

2 Tbcp olive oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1-1/2 tsp cumin seed
1-1/2 tsp turmeric
5 medium potatoes, cubed
1 large eggplant, cubed
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-1/2 tsp ground coriander
1-1/2 tsp goda masala
2Tbsp jaggery
Chopped cilantro, to garnish

In a heavy pan over medium-high heat heat the olive oil. Add mustard seeds, heat until the seeds begin to pop. Add cumin seeds and turmeric. Add potatoes; cook, turning, until potatoes are browned and almost cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add eggplant, cook until both eggplant and potatoes are tender. Add ground cumin, ground coriander, goda masala, and about 1 cup water to thin the sauce. Season with jaggery and salt. Reduce heat to medium, cook 5 more minutes. Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top.

Chicken fried rice

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 spring onions, white parts chopped (reserve green parts for garnish)
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 inch ginger, grated
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 green bell pepper, cut into short strips
1 carrot, cut into short strips
4 cups cooked rice

Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, cook until tender and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add black pepper, grated garlic and ginger, chicken. Cook until chicken starts to brown. Season with soy sauce.

Add green bell pepper and carrot. Cover and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 7-8 minutes. Add cooked rice, stir, top with chopped green onion, cover, let stand 5 minutes.

Spinach salad

2 bunches spinach, chopped, cooked, drained
1 cup yogurt
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Tadka: 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp black mustard seed, 1-1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1-1/2 tsp turmeric, 5 large cloves garlic, chopped, 4 red chili peppers, broken down, with seeds.

Lightly mash the spinach with your hands. Mix spinach with yogurt, season with salt and sugar.

Make tadka: Heat olive oil in a small heavy pan. Add mustard seed, keep heating until mustard seeds start to pop. Add cumin, turmeric, garlic, cook to brown the garlic. Add chilies. Brown lightly.

Pour tadka over the salad.

Salmon Bhapey
1-1/2 lb. thick salmon fillet from the centre of the fish, skinned
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
½-1 fresh, hot green chilli, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 oz. very ripe tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons mustard oil
1 tablespoon water

Cut the fish fillet into 2.5 cm (1 inch) squares. Grind the mustard seeds coarsely in a clean coffee-grinder or mortar.

In a shallow bowl large enough to hold the fish, combine the mustard seeds, green chilli, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, cayenne, tomatoes and mustard oil. Mix well. Add the water and mix. Add the fish and mix gently. Cover with a plate or aluminium foil and set aside for 10 minutes.

Place the covered bowl in the steamer, cover the steamer and steam gently for 10 minutes. Remove the bowl, toss its contents gently to mix, then cover the bowl and put it back in the steamer. Cover the steamer and steam for 10-15 minutes or until the fish pieces are opaque.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Francisco, CA

Menu for a special diet today

I’ve been too busy to write a full-size post recently, but here is a quick update.

Today’s client has a strict diet with multiple restrictions: no grains, poultry, milk products, legumes, shellfish, canned or fermented foods; some vegetables, herbs and spices (for example black or red pepper) are also excluded.

Here is her menu, simple and wholesome. All vegetables, local king salmon, eggs, and Full of Life Farm’s stew lamb coming from Mountain View Sunday farmers market, the rest from Whole Foods.

Beef and vegetable soup
Salmon with lemon-parsley gremolata
Sautéed new potatoes
Frittata with bacon and caramelized onion
Beef meatballs, tomato sauce
Braised cabbage
Pork stir-fry with kale, asparagus, and red onion
Lamb and eggplant stew

Roasted yams

Packaged as individual servings, to take to the office for lunch or to have for dinner.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Palo Alto, CA

Today’s menu, vegetarian

Root vegetable soup with spinach and dill

Bulgur with radishes, spinach, and pine nuts
Roasted carrots

Steamed broccoli with chickpeas and mushrooms
Cucumber salad with yogurt dressing

Quinoa-stuffed peppers
Roasted Brussels sprouts

Braised collards and radish greens with garlic and white wine
Green beans with lemon and garlic

Bulgur with radishes, spinach, and pine nuts, a Whole Foods recipe, is my current favorite vegetarian dish. The interplay of textures and the harmony of the flavors make it perfect, served hot or at room temperature.

Radishes spell early spring, and right now they are the best: juicy, crunchy, spicy-sweet, and inexpensive. Besides the favorite bulgur dish, I added a few carrots to the roasting Brussels sprouts (winter meets spring), and used the greens for the braised greens dish. The client requested collards and turnip greens; but wherever I went, turnips were sold already trimmed, but the radishes were proudly displaying rich fresh green tails, so I made the substitute.

In making this menu I used my client’s Blendtec blender. In the blender competition between VitaMix and Blendtec, I clearly prefer VitaMix – after all, I own one! But Blendtec comes close second. It wet-chops vegetables for the mirepoix just a bit slower than my VitaMix, and mixes the salad dressing just great.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Palo Alto, CA

Today’s menu, vegetarian

Green pea soup with garlic

Buckwheat kasha with mushrooms
Cabbage and carrot slaw

Whole-wheat pasta with beans and greens
Broccoli salad with hazelnuts and cranberries

Red bean and walnut stew with cilantro
Brown rice with garlic and herbs

Leek and potato frittata
Roasted root vegetables

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Palo alto, CA

Today’s menu

Since I got my own VitaMix blender, I’ve been playing with it every spare minute, learning new techniques.

Today’s clients have a VitaMix blender too, so a big part of their menu was made in the blender:
Cream of asparagus
Cabbage and carrot slaw
Salmon with gremolata
Chicken roasted with olives, sweet onions, and lemon
Beef pot roast
Meatballs, sage and onion gravy

Roasted asparagus
Smashed potatoes with garlic and herbs
Buckwheat pancakes

Cabbage with bacon and caraway

Zucchini puree for the baby

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Burlingame, CA

Winter vegetarian menu

It’s a trend: more people are choosing plant-based diet. Recently, some of my meat eating clients were ordering more vegetarian dishes, a couple of mostly vegetarians switched to completely vegetarian diets, and I get requests for vegetarian, vegan, and raw food all the time. It’s easy to see why: California local seasonal produce is so fresh, tasty, beautiful, and inexpensive! And it’s good for you.

So I have put together a list of vegetarian dishes that I cooked recently. It reflects the winter market and cold weather requirements for hearty comfort food, with an accent on root vegetables, cabbages, sturdy greens, mushrooms, and grains.

As the spring vegetables begin to appear at the market, I will introduce more asparagus, fresh beans and peas, artichokes, spring onions and garlic, and exciting fresh green salads. And yes, this is the time of the year when I get so tired of winter squashes that I cannot wait to take them off the menu till next fall.

My Winter Vegetarian Menu
Vegan dishes are in green. Dishes in brown contain milk, cream, cheese, or eggs.

Sweet potato and parsnip soup
Cabbage and potato soup with caraway
Creamy cauliflower with greens
Butternut squash with chai spices
Leek and potato soup
Green peas and garlic soup
Lentils and spinach
Wild mushroom and barley
Winter minestrone

Cream of asparagus
Cream of broccoli with almonds
French onion soup

Farro with mushrooms, balsamic vinegar and thyme
Whole wheat pasta with mushrooms, arugula, and pine nuts
Caponata linguini
Quinoa pasta with marinara sauce
Spaghetti squash marinara
Quinoa cakes with garlic, lemon, and parsley
Vegetable Thai-style red curry
Black bean and pumpkin chili
Mediterranean chickpea stew
Vegetable paella
Kale, mushroom and tomato sauté
Acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and vegetables

Black bean and artichoke burritos
Forager’s mushroom tarts
Wild rice Forestier
Baked mashed potato casserole
Spanish-style potato and spinach tortilla
Broccolini and bell pepper frittata
Stuffed portabello mushrooms
Broccoli and mushroom mini-quiches
Buckwheat pancakes with dill sour cream
Eggplant Parmesan
Vegetable pot pies
Roast beets and arugula vinaigrette with walnuts and goat cheese
Russian potato salad

Roasted Brussels sprouts
Sautéed Brussels sprouts and mushrooms
Green beans with garlic and lemon
Brown rice and beans
Sautéed potatoes
Sautéed Tuscan black kale
Braised collards and turnip greens with garlic and white wine
Orange glazed carrots
Israeli couscous
Buckwheat kasha
Garlic and herbs smashed potatoes
Red beans and walnuts salad with cilantro
Marinated red onions
Spicy cabbage and carrot slaw
Roasted kabocha squash
Quinoa pilaf with zucchini and lemon
Roasted root vegetables (parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, watermelon radish, celery root, etc.)
Honey glazed turnips
Baked apples

Cauliflower gratin
Carrots and sweet potatoes puree
Saffron risotto

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Francisco Bay Area

Hey, Sweetie! Tasting California wildflower honey

I don’t have a sweet tooth. At all. Indifferent to chocolate. Order cheese and wine for dessert. Eat fruit preserves one or two times a year (with cheese). I love fruits, but prefer them not too sweet. When I bake, people who don’t like their desserts too sweet spoon sugar on my tarts. Those who like sweets, don’t eat them at all.

Honey is different. The flavor of a good honey is so complex that you are not annoyed by the sweetness, you just enjoy the whole experience. It’s as balanced as a well crafted wine.

I actually come from a honey producers family: my dad keeps bees at his country house near Moscow. He usually gets a few liters of honey to give to the family and friends, and some extra to sell. The varieties that he gets are clover, linden, buckwheat, and mixed summer flowers, depending on the season.

Now, where are my dad and his bees, and where am I? No chance to get our family honey, so I get mine from the farmers market.

Our farmers market honey people, Marchall’s Farm, move their bees following the flowers, in order to produce single-origin honeys.
Here is what I got in their signature red mesh bag:
– Orange blossom honey – very floral, not too sweet
– California sage honey – delicate, very light herbal taste, not sweet at all
– Wild blackberry – SWEET, complex, fruity
– Star thistle honey – very complex, winey, slightly bitter (pleasant) aftertaste

I like my honey served at teatime on a slice of a very strong hard cheese. traveling in Bashkiria as a student, I fell in love with their dense white buckwheat honey, and the way they spread it generously over a thick slice of a Swiss-style local cheese.

Marchall’s farms suggest paring their honey with a blue cheese, but I don’t want to deal with the mess. So here were are, pairing a French Comte with California sage honey and white tea. You can try this with an off-dry German Riesling too.

Other suggestions for cooking with honey:
– Mix 1 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp Olive oil, 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce dash of Tabasco, 1 tsp ground black pepper. Use to marinate beef or chicken for the grill.

– Use a mixture of 2 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp dry mustard, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper as a rub for grilled chicken breasts

– For a tasty slaw, dress 2 cups shredded cabbage and 1/2 cup shredded carrot with 1 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper; mix well.

РParboil young carrots, turnips, rutabagas until almost tender. Saut̩ in butter, glaze with honey and balsamic vinegar

– Use instead of sugar to sweeten Turkish coffee

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA