Balsamic Tomato Sauce And Simple Nectarine Salad

Change is hard. Necessary, but hard. Miguel left his job of 4 years last week. He started a job at a different advertising agency this week, which is offering him an amazing opportunity he could not say no to. But I think any kind of major life change is like changing schools. You miss your old friends, your old routine, the familiarity of it all. But eventually you make new friends, find a new routine (or that’s what I keep telling myself), but that doesn’t make the transition time any less unsettling. So since we’re a package deal, the change feels like a big deal for me too. We’re in a bit of a transition time.

The reason I bring that up is because Miguel took a couple days off before his new job Balsamic Tomato Sauce and Simple Nectarine Saladstarted, and I made this for dinner. This is a meal I’ve made actually quite a few times since delicious cherry tomatoes appeared at the market, but I decided to post it after talking to a friend, who is also a nurse, recently. We were talking about how difficult it can be to make dinner after a long day, especially since our long day can be 14+ hours with commute. She said she doesn’t want to spend much time cooking dinner after work (who does), but is tired of take out. I timed myself when I made this meal and it took 30 minutes start to table, and I wasn’t trying to set any land speed records either. It does take a bit of planning to make sure you have everything in the house but I’ll usually spend about 30 minutes planning meals on my day off so I hardly have to think when dinner rolls around.

This dish was very loosely inspired by a cherry tomato marinade for meat, but the two recipes are so different it isn’t even worth posting a link. I made two servings, since I didn’t need lunch for the next day, but the recipe is easily double-able. I prefer to cook vegetarian, but you could add some sausages if you’d like to add meat.

  • 1.5 pints whole cherry tomatoes
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound penne
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 large handfuls arugula
  • 1 nectarine, pit removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup parsley, coarsely chopped

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When the pan is warm, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute shallots for about 3-5 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add your minced garlic, saute for another minute until fragrant. Add your cherry tomatoes. Allow the cherry tomatoes to cook for about 10 minutes (you’ll see the skin start to wrinkle), stirring frequently. Meanwhile, set a pot of water to boil for the pasta.

While the cherry tomatoes cook, put two large handfuls of arugula in a small bowl. Coarsely chop your nectarine and add to the bowl. Set a small non-stick pan to medium heat and toast the walnuts for 5-10 minutes. When toasted add the bowl with the arugula. Dress the salad with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

While the walnuts toast, use the back of your spoon to smash the cherry tomatoes to form a sauce. Allow the sauce to reduce for about 10 minutes.

While the sauce reduces, use the same non-stick pan you used to toast your walnuts to toast the pine nuts. Allow to toast for about 5 minutes then tip in to a medium sized bowl. By now the water should be boiling. Cook your pasta according to package directions. With about 1 minute left on your pasta timer, use a ladle to put 1 ladle-ful of the pasta water in the same bowl as the pine nuts. Drain your pasta, add to the bowl with pasta water and pine nuts.

Stir in the balsamic vinegar to your reduced pasta sauce. Pour over the pasta, toss to coat evenly. Crumble the feta cheese on top. Enjoy!


Quinoa and Kale Salad

My birthday is coming up next week. I’m turning 31 and starting to wonder how I became a “grown up”. Besides the year I got married, this was probably the biggest year of my life. Since my last birthday my husband and I bought a house, and did a mini-renovation in less than two weeks (they were carpeting our stairs as we moved in), an experience which probably took a couple years off our lives. I never knew I’d want to know so much about the differences between hardwood floors. We traveled to Paris, a city I found hard to leave at the end of our stay, where we fell in love with the architecture, culture and food. We experienced a handful of different regions in Italy, learning that loving food and eating local is the norm and a way of life there. I learned that jury duty–6 weeks of it to be exact–is not as exciting as movies make it out to be. And our new puppy (read starter baby) was born on March 21st, and we bring him or her home on May 18th! We figure if we don’t screw up a puppy, we’re safe not screwing up a human baby. What a year! This time last year I had no idea that these experiences were ahead of me and it’s exciting to sit here wondering what I new things I will learn between now and my next birthday.Kale, quinoa

Now for how this relates to my post: my aunt took me out to celebrate my birthday at a new restaurant near my house yesterday, Fast Food Français, and since we were celebrating, some day drinking and dessert seemed appropriate. So I was ready for something light and healthy for dinner. And since eight out of ten times when I ask Miguel what he wants for dinner he says “salad”, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to make him salad for dinner. This recipe serves 6 as a side, 3 as a main dish. Unlike other types of greens that get mushy, kale salad holds up very well for leftovers.

  • 2 bunches lacinato kale, large stems removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, diagonally sliced into 1/2” pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups quinoa (makes 2.5 cups of cooked quinoa)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • sesame seeds
  • 1 avocado, slices
  • Crumbled feta (optional)

Lemon-Tahini Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 4 lemons
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup Tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, ground finely in a mortar & pestle
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Bring a small saucepan to medium heat. When the pan is warm, add your dry quinoa and toast for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, about every minute or so. After your quinoa has been evenly toasted, add water to the pan. Be careful, I’ve found when I’m adding water to a pan after toasting quinoa, the hot water has a tendency to sputter. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, until you can see the white germ around the quinoa, telling you that it’s done cooking. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes when it’s done cooking.

Bring a pot of water to boil in a large saucepan. When you reach a rolling boil, blanch your asparagus slices for 3 minutes, until crisp tender. Drain in to a colander and rinse will cool water to stop them from overcooking.

Put your sliced kale in a very large bowl. Mix the ingredients for your dressing together in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Pour about half of the dressing over the kale. Get in there with your clean hands and literally massage the dressing in to the kale. I know it sounds crazy and weird, but trust me, the kale will better absorb your dressing this way. Reserve the other half of your dressing.

Add your chopped fennel bulb, minced shallots, blanched asparagus, cooled quinoa, toasted almonds, and a couple tablespoons of sesame seeds to the sliced kale. Use the reserved dressing to dress the rest of your salad. Toss to coat. Top with a few avocado slices and some crumbled feta if you’d like. Enjoy!

Carrot and Beet Salad with Orange-Miso Dressing

When I was first starting to cook, I would spread out about 100 cookbooks around me, Beets, carrots, orange-miso dressinglooking for a recipe that interested me. And, inevitably, I would find some sort of side dish that sounded delicious, but wasn’t a complete meal in and of itself. Then I would spend more time trying to find a main dish that would go with this side dish I had gotten myself so set on. It would drive me crazy and usually got to be a very complicated process (if you can’t already tell).

So I wouldn’t want to post this side dish and have you all think, ‘This sounds great, but what do I do with it!!’ I’ve made this salad a number of times, and most times I’ve served it with quinoa patties or quinoa cakes from one of my favorite bloggers (and one of the nicest people ever), Marin Mama Cooks. For a lighter dinner or lunch, you could even throw in as much cooked quinoa as you’d like in to the salad itself. Or, if you’re not a big quinoa fan, a couple hard boiled eggs in the salad might work well for lunch or a light dinner too. Chicken cooked your favorite way would make this a complete meal, as would a simple pasta with store-bought pesto (or homemade if you’re feeling like it).

  • 1 bunch beets, peeled and chopped in to 1/2” pieces
  • 4 carrots, peeled, chopped in to 1/2” slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground peppper
  • Arugula
  • Sesame seeds

Orange-miso dressing

  • Juice of 1/2 a navel orange
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey

Preheat your oven to 425˚. Make sure that your carrots and beets are roughly the same sizes so that they will cook evenly and be finished cooking at the same side.

In a 8 x 8 square baking dish, coat your vegetables with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with about 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Bake the vegetables for roughly 40 minutes, until they are crisp tender. Use a fork to test when your carrots and beets are done, the fork should need a bit of force to pierce the vegetables but it should go all the way through.

While the vegetables cook, combine the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and whisk well with a fork. Put as much arugula as you’d like in a bowl, I used about 3 big handfuls of arugula and I still had a bit of dressing left over. When the vegetables are done cooking, set them aside for about 5 minutes to cool before putting them in the bowl with your arugula. Add about a tablespoon of sesame seeds over the top of your salad, and pour the dressing over. Toss to coat and enjoy!

Apple & Barley Salad

I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe because I didn’t think it was “fancy”enough. But Arugula salad, Apple, Barleythen I realized this blog isn’t supposed to be about only “fancy” recipes, but my everyday journey trying to eat healthy and not spending my life in the kitchen trying to do so. What does fancy mean anyways?? So here we are.

When I’m not working, I like to make different things for lunch. Ideas can be hard to come by so I’m always looking for inspiration. In this case, inspiration came while in the check out at Whole Foods. I noticed a banner hanging from the ceiling above me with a picture of barley and apples, or something like that. So I decided to add a couple things and turn it in to a salad. I make this lunch for myself often, and although un-fancy, it’s always super easy and delicious.

  • 1/2 apple diced (I use Braeburn or Honey Crisp, but any kind of apple will do)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup barley (I use Mother’s quick cooking barley for this recipe, but you can use regular barley just the same)
  • 1 medium shallot diced
  • 2 big handfuls of arugula


  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the barley, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until tender, which will only be about 10 minutes if you use quick cooking barley. If you’re using regular barley, it will take a bit longer, about 30 minutes. Once the barley is cooked, dump in to a strainer and rinse with cold water to cool.

While the barley cooks, add your arugula, apple, shallot, and pine nuts to a bowl. Add the cooled barley to the bowl. To make your dressing, whisk the olive oil, apple cider vinegar and thyme together in a small bowl. Pour over your salad and toss to coat. Enjoy!

(And I realize I said I would post the recipe from my beet salad but the picture is completely un-appetizing, so I’m going to make it again at some point and hope to get a better picture.)