Being that we’re having summer weather here in south Florida we’re well into our salads. All my friends who grew up here are salad people, obsessed with cold, crunchy, live food. Weekends and summers found us on the beach. Junior and senior years of high school we spent at the club, that would be Dana, Andrea and me, lounging in the pool, playing tennis or catching rays. All our plans were created there…whether it be a date, outfit or college. Someone in our group, never us but somebody, always had a boom box blaring with the 70’s sounds of Doobie Brothers, Earth, Wind and Fire or Stevie Wonder that made us so happy. We all knew they were good, good days. We loved the waves rolling in the background. We loved the ever so slight breeze which cooled the droplets of pool water running down our flat, toned tummies and lean, tanned legs. We took delight in the smooth coral stone under our feet after burning up on the beach. The in our dangerously low-cut black maillots, the three of strolled about the pool and beach as though we owned the place. It was home to us and we were always welcomed. We charged little dinner salads for lunch and chased them down with enormous iced coffees laced with half and half and who knows how many packets of Sweet’N Low. Late in the day we moved our lounge chairs into the shade, under clusters palm trees set in islands of grass. They were easy days. Pretty and safe days. Certainly not days that would prepare us for the hard knocks and bumps of life which we’ve all felt! But I know this trio thoroughly embraced these times. We each cried over different boys or our parents. We danced on the beach as though no one was watching, and quite frankly, no one was. And laugh. My goodness! A laugh a minute. Even if we had to stoop to cheap humor by grabbing one of Dana’s majestic boobs and hollerin’, “Titty!” while leaping into the pool. None of us remember not knowing one another, that’s how long we’ve been the closest of friends. In all those years we’ve shared umpteen sleepovers and girl’s weekends and although the iced coffees have been upgraded to tequila we still go crazy over our salads. Crispy, ambrosial and what we want.
This is the perfect salad if you have a couple of leftover ears of grilled corn. We throw a few extra ears on the grill so as to have this salad the following day. The recipe for this salad is just a guideline. Add more or less of any ingredient depending on your taste. If you’re not up to making your own tortilla strips, merely crumble a few tortilla chips over the salad right before serving. I also serve this salad with grilled shrimp or fish on top as well as grilled boneless chicken breasts. It’s delicious as a wilted salad, too. Any all ready mixed, leftover salad topped with fresh tortilla strips or chips is fabulous. Stay cool!
Mexican Chopped Salad with a Creamy Cilantro Dressing
Tomorrow is my favorite and only brother’s birthday. I tease him because we are so different yet our lives seem to run along the same parallels. Tommy is wonderful. He rescues me when my dishwasher is falling out of the wall and when my life is falling apart. He often walks the dog and constantly walks with me through Scripture. He gives me strength to get up…the kind of strength needed when life knocks you down so hard you can’t breathe. He doesn’t simply say “C’mon. Get over it.” No. And he doesn’t judge. He gently offers two hands to lift me up out of the secluded corners of pain; he softly brushes off the mud of hard knocks and always has soothing words and hope when my soul has been hurt and buffeted. I lean on him as frequently as he leans on the kitchen bookcase, long and graceful legs crossed, drink in hand, patiently waiting for a taste of whatever I’m cooking. He is my treasure. It hasn’t always been this way. Tommy was separated from our family when he was married. We missed him terribly but he’s back with us now and we’re damn glad. He’s the family prankster, always leaving a couple of sweet potatoes and the odd grapefruit on James’ bed pillows as his calling card. James always came out of his bedroom jubilantly stating, “Uncle Tommy was here!” When I lived at my parents’ house before Jimmy and I married, Tommy hung a few brightly colored bras of mine and a few pairs of bikini panties on the paddles of my bedroom ceiling fan. Round and round they leisurely rotated for any and all to see. He was just pleased as punch at my outrage. As goofy as he sometimes is, he is equally sharp-witted and highbrow in his humor, right up my alley. But his heart…his huge, sweet, kind and giving heart is something to behold. As I type this my eyes sting with tears. My emotions are so close to the surface; I know my 3:00 tequila has nothing to do with it, I love my baby brother so. To celebrate his birthday he’s coming over for dinner tonight and one of his dishes will be these asian brussel sprouts. Because he’ll eat anything and everything, he was given the childhood nickname of “Pigdog” by our little sister and me. I happen to know for a fact he LOVES these brussel sprouts. I have 4 pounds for 3 people. So happy birthday, Pigdog. I love you!
I’ve been obsessed with these asian brussel sprouts for a couple of weeks now. I eat them as a snack they’re so doggone good. Hot, warm or cold, I think they’re fabulous. I find most of the ingredients at my grocery store, Publix, but the bonito flakes I picked up at Whole Foods. Fresh Market probably carries them as well. The sriracha chili sauce adds a tiny bit of heat so if heat ain’t your thing leave it out. The honey gives the sprouts a smooth sweetness while the lemon grass, ginger and fish sauce round out this deep flavor blast. I include any random sprout leaves to the roasting pan as they become crisp and savory during the roasting process much like potato chips. In retrospect maybe they are best straight out the oven but they’re mighty fine the following day, too. Hope you like ’em!
I hate saying goodbye to friends. I loathe it. It saddens me beyond measure. But that ‘s what I did this past Tuesday. Over coffee my friend, Craig, and I caught up with each other after not seeing each other for a good three or four years. We kept in touch every now and again through Facebook. Craig is a professional chef on yachts…yachts that cater to A-list movie stars. The opposite of that penny-ante galley position I accepted for one summer in the Abacos. Regardless, I look at his life as one big, fat adventure. We chuckled over adventures gone wrong, shared and rejoiced culinary triumphs and discoveries. Both of us had lost close friends and understood the encompassing heartache and profound loss. He announced he’s trading palms for pines. Turns out Craig is moving to the Pacific Northwest. And although I don’t see him often enough and may not ever see him again, I rejoice in his leap for the good in life, his optimistic outlook towards life situations. We’ll continue laboring to recognize goodwill, tolerance, charity and beauty in the darker corners of our personal worlds no matter the struggle. That said, I will miss him. He left me with happiness, a bag of his homegrown tomatoes and a fabulously simple recipe. I share that with you.
I don’t include specific amounts of ingredients in this salad as it can be made as small or as large as you wish. As with all simple recipes the quality of your ingredients is paramount. If you try to cut corners or even leave out a component, the recipe will be compromised. When the outcome is less than perfect or an utter disappointment you’ll know why. French thyme, whether fresh or dried, will not yield the same results. It must be lemon thyme. If you can’t find it in the produce department at the grocery store most likely you can pick up a pot at your nursery or gardening center. It’s well worth the trip! This salad is best served at room temperature. Any bits left over are fabulous the following day tucked into an omelette. And the dressing is like liquid sunshine drizzled over a mixed green salad, boiled new potatoes, asparagus or roasted chicken. Imagine it on grilled shrimp or mahi. The possibilities are without end. Enjoy!
I began the day after Christmas. In anticipation for the new year I pulled out my favorite water-glass. I made a silent pledge to myself that I would drink a minimum of eight glasses of water a day. It’s a good thing for me because I try to chug an entire glass if I’m tempted to mindlessly cheat. I can meet that minimum easily as I’m tempted often. I had already started working out but I still needed to go through my work out apparel and weed out any old running bras and shoes. That done I focused on my overall nourishment for the year. That mammoth jug of Coquitos I made, rich and thick with coconut milk AND cream?? I sent James off with it to a New Years Eve party. I actually threw out some of the chocolates given to me. That REALLY hurt. Most painful was this. One and three-quarters pounds of crispy, salty paradise in the form of BBQ potato chips. Jesus, Mary and Joseph give me strength! But out they went, into the garbage.
In 2016 I will celebrate, or at least try to, a milestone birthday. I’m not particularly looking forward to it. I know people say, “Oh, it’s just a number!”. “Oh, shut up.” is what I think when I hear that. However, I am committed to this as the year of kindness, acceptance and tolerance. Not only towards others but to myself as well. I’m not going to fret over my blog or insta numbers. I will write and post when and what makes me happy. Nor will I allow myself to get all twisted up when a family member sneaks a taste of something I’m cooking or baking. Glasses left about the house? Big deal. Toast crumbs on the kitchen floor? Who cares! Dirty feet on the bed? It’s just sand.
This is the year of gentleness. And happiness. So as I approach the birthday which is on the other side of my salad days, I choose graciousness, affection and goodwill. I will take care of my body and my soul. And do my best to take care of those around me. It doesn’t mean no more “cheesy-wheezies”, as my father calls any food or drink that’s bad for you. Of course there will be cheesy-wheezies! But as my mother used to say, “Everything in moderation including moderation”. For me that breaks down to one small glass of wine but only if I want it. I don’t have to have it. So if I don’t feel like wine I’ll stick to my water and not let the vino become a habit. I’ll still post a festive cake or decadent drink but I’ll keep those at arm’s length. In other words, I’ll gift them to neighbors. So far so good. When I informed Jimmy of my aspirations he reacted without thinking, CLAPPED HIS HANDS and cried happily, “Oh boy!”. As he often says, “It’s so nice when you’re nice.” And it is. Happy New Year y’all!
This is what was for breakfast. It’s a new day! Bring out the goat cheese, avocado and a few thin slices of toasted whole grain bread. A spritz of fresh lemon juice and a quick scattering of red pepper flakes along side your favorite fruit completes breakfast or lunch. Use your imagination and be creative. No recipe needed.