A Tasty Beginning to 2013

My New Year’s Eve typically consists of a pot luck dinner with friends, usually incorporating some kind of theme.  This year is a “Top Chef” competition.  Guests are asked to bring a salad, candy, and beer, with a prize going to the very best in each category.  The array of salads is a sight to behold, on par with what any restaurant might offer.  I love pot luck dinners and can honestly say that I prefer a good one to going out to dinner.  Shocking, I know.

In keeping with the theme, I make a salad from “Top Chef All-Stars” winner Richard Blais.  I am not very adept when it comes to  food presentation, but I think I did a passable job.  I am certainly no Top Chef, but this salad is good and not terribly complicated to make.

Richard Blais beet salad by me

Roasted Beet Salad with Orange, Avocado & Dannon® Oikos® Greek Nonfat Yogurt Dressing  click to view recipe


The evening’s award winning recipe is  Fuyu persimmon salad with cumin-lime vinaigrette.  The fresh fennel is not in the original recipe and it’s a very nice touch.  My friends make a separate version without the chopped walnuts, which I greatly appreciate!

pomegranate salad

Fuyu persimmon salad with cumin-lime vinaigrette (adapted from Los Angeles Times)
Servings: 8 servings

Note:Fuyus are the small, crisp persimmons (I also use Sharon, an Israeli persimmon.  Should be quite hard)  Some people do not peel the persimmon – I prefer peeled.  Available during winter season at Asian markets

2 pounds Fuyu persimmons
1 large fennel, thinly sliced to compliment pieces of persimmon
Juice of 1 lime  ( I like the tiny key limes)
1/2  teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 serrano chili, seeded and minced  (we like to use Sriracha hot chili sauce instead – or do a combo for the dressing)
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (Trader Joe’s has seeds in a small container)
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted (I use whole)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. Cut off the tough green calyxes and slice each persimmon in 10 to 12 wedges.  Again  ~ I peel.

2. In a small, lidded jar, combine the lime juice, cumin, about half of the chili, a dash of salt and the walnut oil.

Tightly cover and shake hard to mix well. Taste the dressing on a small piece of persimmon. There should be just enough chile to add a suggestion of heat. If you’d like it hotter, add

more and shake again.  I like to put a few pieces of mint in too.

3. Combine the persimmons, fennel and the dressing in a work bowl and toss to coat well. Turn the salad out into a decorative bowl and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, walnuts and cilantro  (I mix it all up).  Taste and add more salt or lime juice if necessary.  Garnish with mint & serve with lime slices

You’ll find lots of different recipes online – some with apples, honey, cheese  ~ experiment!


I am a big tabbouleh fan.  It makes for a refreshing dish year-round and this version is light and satisfying.  I tend to buy tabbouleh ready-made, but this recipe has me convinced that it’s time to tackle tabbouleh making sometime soon.


Tabbouleh (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated August 2012)

serves 4

3 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup medium grind bulgur
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
2 scallions, thinly sliced

1.  Toss tomatoes and 1/4 tsp salt.  Transfer to strainer and let stand for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
2.  Rinse bulgur in fine-mesh strainer under cold water.  Drain well and transfer to bowl.  Stir in 2 tbs lemon juice and 2 tbs juice from tomatoes.  Let stand 30 to 40 minutes.
3.  Whisk 2 tbs lemon juice, oil, cayenne, and 1/4 tsp sald.  Add drained tomatoes, soaked bulgur, parsley, mint, and scallions and toss gently.

Cover and let stand at room temperature until bulgur is tender, approximately 1 hour.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.


There are two brussels sprouts dishes to choose from on our New Year’s Eve buffet, which is not a bad thing at all.  Brussels sprouts are among my two favorite vegetables (fighting it out with cauliflower for the lead).

brussels sprouts salad

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad with Smoked Feta and Candied Pecans (Well’s Vegetarian Thanksgiving 2012 The New York Times)

1 pound brussels sprouts
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 1/2 cups whole roasted & salted pecans
4 ozs smoked feta
4 tbs olive oil
2 tbs golden balsamic vinegar

Tearing apart the brussels sprouts. Cut off about 1/3 of the stem end and pull the leaves apart. When you get to the core, split it in half and throw in with the leaves.

Blanch leaves in boiling, salted water until they turn bright green. Run the leaves under cold water to stop the cooking. Dry the sprout leaves.

Spread the sugar in a cold 10-inch frying pan and melt it over medium heat. Once the edges of the sugar start to melt, stir the sugar until all the lumps disappear. Remove from the heat. Toss the pecans in the melted sugar until coated. Transfer to a plate to cool completely. Once the pecans have cooled, break the mass apart using your hands. Roughly chop the pecans.

Cut the feta into a 1/4-inch dice. (instead of smoked feta, may use regular feta cheese and add 1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke to the dressing.)

Place 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of vinegar into a large frying pan over low heat. Once the dressing is warm, place the sprout leaves in the pan and toss with the dressing. Transfer to a large plate. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 4 servings

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Recipe with Balsamic, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts

 (Makes 3-4 servings, recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration from Fine Cooking Magazine on roasting vegetables, November 2007.)

1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut into quarters
2 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 T Parmesan cheese (preferably fresh grated)
1 T pine nuts (preferably toasted, could substitute other nuts of your choice)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Trim brussels sprouts, remove any discolored leaves, and cut into quarters (or halves if they are small.) Put sprouts in mixing bowl and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Cover roasting pan with foil if desired, and spray with non-stick spray if needed. Arrange sprouts in a single layer on roasting pan, and roast 20 minutes, turning occasionally, or until sprouts are slightly crisp and golden brown on the edges.

When sprouts are nearly done, toast pine nuts in a dry pan about 2-3 minutes, until barely starting to brown. (Be careful, they can go from lightly brown to overdone quite quickly.) Put cooked sprouts back into mixing bowl and toss with parmesan cheese. Arrange on serving plate and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve hot.

Sometimes all you need are some good ingredients from Trader Joe’s and you have a simple but delicious salad.  This crunchy salad is great for a party, but it also makes a perfect  weeknight dinner.  You can add chicken or tuna if you are looking for extra protein.

Asian salad 

Asian Salad

Trader Joe’s Healthy chopped veggies (comes in a pre packaged plastic round container)
Peanuts, cilantro, Craisins to taste
Trader Joe’s Asian peanut dressing

….and voila!


Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried-Cherry (Cranberry) Vinaigrette (adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2010)

makes 8 servings

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper plus additional (for sprinkling)
  • 1/3 cup dried tart cranberries
  • 1 1/2 pounds trimmed slender green beans
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted , chopped

Whisk first 6 ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in bowl. Mix in dried cranberries; set aside.

Fill large bowl with water and ice; set aside. Cook green beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl with ice water; cool. Drain.

Toss green beans, walnuts, and vinaigrette in large bowl. Let stand at room temperature. Transfer to platter and serve.


Last but not least, our spread includes a wonderful corn pudding souffle.  My freezer is almost never without a package of roasted corn from Trader Joe’s.

Corn pudding/souffle

1 1/2 bag of  roasted corn from Trader Joe’s (frozen food section)

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons plain yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups milk

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

thinly sliced tomatoes to garnish


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Place 3/4 bag of corn and next 7 ingredients (in order listed)in a large food processor…process until smooth

3. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, stir in chives, and remaining corn. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 2 quart baking dish and sprinkle with chives.

4. Bake for  30 minutes

4. Remove from oven to top with cheese and  place sliced tomatoes around periphery of baking dish. Return to oven and bake for another 1–15 minutes.


Thanks to my friends for sharing their recipes or adapted recipes from our “Top Chef” New Year’s Eve Buffet.   Best wishes to all for a delicious 2013!

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Send an email to lorisue6@gmail.com