Sunny Outside Cafe Salad (a/k/a Quinoa Mediterranean Salad)

On Thursday evening I stopped by my grocery store to pick up a few things that I need for the next week.   My Fairway has a great olive section with barrells full of different types-castelvetrano (I’ve visited there!!) , kalamata, pitted, unpitted etc.. but they also have sundried tomatoes, marinated artichokes and mushrooms. The list goes on and on. You get your own container and fill up on what you want.  Since they’re all the same price you can mix and match whatever you want in the same container.  I knew I was going to pick up some more quinoa and I felt like having a nice salad for dinner.  A mediterranean salad came to mind.  Sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta and oh yes! I have about 2 cups of baby spinach in the fridge at home (I was supposed to use it earlier in the week but didn’t so I’ll be glad to use it up!!).

This turned out to be a delicious  briny, bright, super tasty concoction of many of my favorite flavors.  In my mind I was back sitting at this cafe in Siragusa, Sicily, where Husband and I visited in October 2010. Is this not the cutest place ever?


I had a huge bowl of it for dinner and I had a large bit left over for lunch the next day.  I did not put the dressing on the left-overs but kept it in a small container until I was ready to eat.

I put some of my favorite ingredients in but if you don’t like kalamata take them out and put in black olives.  Play around with it! Perhaps different cheese (queso fresco would work) or adding artichokes or peppers. The amounts below are really just estimates. I didn’t measure as I was going.  I also made a basic viniagrette which worked really well with the other ingredients. Enjoy!!


Quinoa Mediterranean Salad

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry quinoa, cooked as per package instructions, and cooled (yield about 2 cups). I like to use chicken stock instead of water.
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped small
  • 1/3-1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped small
  • 4 cups baby spinach, stems removed, washed and chopped small
  • 1 peperoncini pepper, chopped small
  • 3ozs feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2-1 clove garlic, minced fine
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning (or combo of oregano, basil etc..)
  • 1 tsp honey (if needed)

**Note: If you’re omitting the cheese you don’t have to cool the quinoa in the ingredients list above. I cooled it because I didn’t want it to heat the feta. Feel free to eat it warm with everything else**

Instructions (really it can’t be any easier? I feel like I’m insulting you by even writing these):

  1. For the salad: add all ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine.
  2. For the dressing: combine all ingredients in a small bowl, whisk well to combine. (I generally use a measuring cup and give it a few long whizzes with my immersion blender.) Taste. Add honey if needed. Whizz again.
  3. Pour dressing over the portion of the salad that you intend to eat right away.  Set the rest aside.

Celery Root and Mandarin Orange Salad

Recently I was looking through my Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Cooking Light Magazine and came across a salad named ‘Celery Root & Arugala Salad’ with the heading ‘Love This Ugly Root Vegetable’. How can you resist a title like that?! It’s almost a challenge!! So I took the challenge. I knew that my store had celery root (also named celeriac) as I had seen it the week before and, since I hadn’t ever eaten it, I was curious. I’m so glad that I tried it! It takes a bit like celery, but a bit of a lighter taste, and has the consistancy of jicama. It’s crunchy, it’s tasty, it’s inexpensive. It would be great on tacos or salads or burgers etc…

The salad turned out great. I changed the name because I felt the oranges played a far more important role than the arugala. It’s so easy to make-just a few minutes of prep, a few minutes resting the ingredients in the dressing and voila! delicious!! This salad also keeps extremely well. I had left overs the next evening and everything was still good and crunchy and delicious so it’s a great salad to make to bring to work the next day for lunch. Isn’t that just gorgeous?


Celery Root and Mandarin Orange Salad


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice  
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups matchstick-cut peeled celery root
  • 2 cups thinly diagonally sliced celery
  • 1/4 cup very thinly vertically sliced red onion
  • 3 cups satsuma or other mandarin orange sections cut into 3s (fresh not canned if possible)
  • 1 cup baby arugula 
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves


  1. Combine extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add celery root, celery, and onion; toss to coat. Let celery root mixture stand 30 minutes. Add orange sections, arugula, and parsley; toss gently to combine.

If you’re not sure of what to look for at the store or what’s inside here you g.


Adapted from Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2013 Issue.

Caprese Salad Platter

One of my great loves is fresh mozzarella cheese. I have a store by me that makes it by hand every morning and, if I stop in on the way to work, when I buy it it’s still warm. Yummy!!!

To me that delicious cheese, really sweet ripe tomatoes, balsamic glaze, olive oil and basil make one of the most perfect combinations known to woman (and man too!).  These small one-bite sizes are perfect for appetizers for parties etc… and because the balsamic glaze is thick it doesn’t drip like the plan balsamic vinegar.

This platter is such a snap to put together. I often bring it to other places and just assemble it there. Cut up the cheese and tomatoes as instructed below, put olive oil in one small container (or ziplock baggie) and do the same with the balsamic glaze. Tote along some basil and toothpicks and a small platter and off you go. Easy peasy.  I brought this to my Mom’s for Thanksgiving along with the Loaded Potato Bites and Kalamata Olive and Tomato Crostini.

Caprese Salad

  • 1 ball of fresh salted mozzarella-about 1 lb
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes
  • a few basil leaves, cut into small shreds
  • 2-3 tbsp very high-quality olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp very high-quality balsamic glaze
  • toothpicks

Take the  mozzarella ball and cut off the rounded sides so that you are left with a square or rectangle that will easily be cut into cubes (eat the rounded pieces that you cut off:).  Cut the remaining cube of cheese into small 1/2×1/2 inch cubes.

Cut each tomato in half the short way.

With a toothpick spear a piece of the tomato then the mozzarella. Repeat with remaining cheese and tomatoes and place them on the platter.   Sprinkle with the basil and then the olive oil and balsamic glaze.

Tips: if you are prepping the cheese and tomatoes at home you can put the cubed cheese in an airtight container for a day or 2.  For the tomatoes keep the pint container, rinse it out, and when you have the tomatoes halved put them back into the pint container. Place a folded paper towel in a small plastic container in which the pint container can fit into. This will keep the tomatoes from getting soggy and if juices come out the paper towel will absorb them. I don’t suggest keeping the pre-cut tomatoes around too long-a few hours at the most.

Green Bean Salad

I seriously love this salad. Crispy veggies and a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. It’s super easy to make and it’s delicious!! The original recipe only calls for 1/4 cucumber but since I love them I changed it to include the entire cucumber. The original recipe also only called for 1/2 pint of tomatoes but I throw in the whole pint. Why not?

Green Bean Salad


  • 1 pound fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 European cucumber, cut into small cubes
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Coarse salt and pepper


  1. Steam green beans in 1/2 inch boiling water covered for 3 or 4 minutes. Cold shock beans by running under cold water and drain well. Place beans in a bowl and combine with onions, cucumber and tomato. Dress salad with a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Season salad with coarse salt and pepper, to taste.

Adapted from Rachael Ray.


What a delicious combination of onion, red pepper and tomato. I made this on Sunday morning and put it in the fridge to cool and then was invited to a friends house for some wine and apps.  I brought some with me and it was great chilled and put onto toasted pita wedges.  This can be served warm, cold or at room temperature and is so versatile! Put it on a sandwich or on a cracker or eat as a side salad…the list goes on an on. Such a fresh refreshing little salad.

Peperonata (Braised Sweet Peppers, Tomatoes and Onions)


  • 1lb (500g) red bell peppers (capsicums), stems, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup (2fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tomatoes, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Cut the bell peppers into 2 inch squares. In a saucepan over low heat, combine the peppers, olive oil, onion and bay leaves and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened and have released their juices-about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer gently until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves.

Serve warm or chilled.

Slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma Florence cookbook.

Corn Salsa with Lime

Wow! This salsa was delicious!! Light, cool and super flavorful!! A little sweet, a little tangy, a little spicy! It’s great on it’s own as a side or in the beef tacos I made with it.

Corn Salsa with Lime

Corn Salsa with Lime


  • 4 cups (20 oz) cooked sweet yellow corn (either fresh or frozen)
  • 2 vine ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 scallion, diced
  • 1-2 jalapeños, diced (remove seeds unless you like it really spicy)
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 limes, juice of
  • chipotle chili powder, to taste
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste


Combine all the ingredients and refrigerate for about an hour. Makes about 6 cups.

From Gina at Skinnytaste


The Cute Hedgehog Fruit Salad

For the 4th of July my Aunt invited me to her house for a cook-out and asked me to bring a fruit salad. I perused a few websites and found this: If you haven’t been to this site check it out-lots of cool ideas. The instructions are pretty lengthy though…but it’s super simple!

So off to the store I went to buy the parts of my hedgehog. Imagine my surprise the next day when I cut into the watermelon and it was yellow. Yeah-I missed the sticker on it that read ‘yellow watermelon’. But no big deal. I think it turned out better this way. I added the blueberries and strawberries to make it red, white (yellow) and blue.

I cut the watermelon and removed the fruit the day before and then left in a colander in my sink to drain the juice.

The Cute Hedgehog Fruit Salad


  • Yellow watermelon, round and seedless
  • Strawberries-1 pint
  • Blueberries-1 pint
  • Any other red or blue berries or fruit

What you’ll need:

  • Cutting Board
  • Large Kitchen and Paring Knives
  • Green Dry Erase Marker
  • Toothpicks
  • Large bowl and spoon
  1. Wash the watermelon under cool running water and pat dry.
  2. Cut strawberries into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Placing the watermelon on its side, cut ¼” off the light yellow ground spot on the bottom so that it sits flat. Be careful not to cut too deep into the white part of the rind – this would allow liquid to leak from the bottom of the carving. Place the watermelon so that its stem will be the nose.
  4. Find a point at the top of the watermelon about ¼ of the length of the watermelon. Using the dry erase marker, from that point, draw vertical lines half way down both sides of the watermelon. Then, from both points on the sides, draw horizontal lines straight to the back of the watermelon. If you are happy with your proportion, use your knife and cut the lines. Remove this whole portion and place to the side.
  5. Using a large spoon, scoop out the fruit from the removed section and from the base. Chop this fruit into small cubes, drain and set aside.
  6. Use a small paring knife make many small cuts to the edges of the head and body, as shown in the photo. These cuts should be short, small, irregular, angled, curved and almost resemble flames from a fire. Small irregular cuts create the look of the hedgehog’s coarse coat.
  7. Take the removed rind and cut a 1 ¾” strip from the flat end. You now have a slightly rounded strip. Cut a triangle from the center of the strip to make the nose. To attach the nose, place toothpicks just above the stem spot to both side, and slide the base of the nose over the other end of the toothpicks, rind end down. You may need to secure with an additional toothpick. Put one in the tip of the nose and place a blueberry on the end.
  8. Using the rest of the removed rind, cut four equal sized rectangles for the feet. Trim the backs of the rectangles thinner than the front, and then make two cuts on the front of each piece to create a point making the shape of a paw. Attach with toothpicks rind end down to the bottom edges of the hedgehog as shown.
  9. To make the ears, draw two curved triangles that come to a point into the edges of the face area where desired. Carefully cut with the paring knife. Using your finger, gently push out the cut shape from the inside until it’s only slightly protruding, being careful not to crack or break the rind.
  10. For the eyes, simply place 2 toothpicks slightly above the nose and put a blueberry on each end.
  11. Finally, replace the hollow space of the hedgehog with the watermelon cubes. Place toothpicks in the cubes at the top to create the hedgehogs’ coat.

Adapted from

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