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In order for a salad to achieve entree status, it must be exciting, varied in texture, and include higher calorie ingredients to keep me sated (think meat, cheese, nuts, avocado…). This salad is colorful, crunchy, and doesn’t skimp on flavor.

2 hearts of romaine, torn into bite-size pieces
1 head radicchio, thin slice
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 roasted red peppers, thin slice
4 oz salami, medium dice
10 oz croutons (homemade from stale bread will make this dish extra-special, but store-bought is just fine in a pinch. I used whole wheat focaccia to make homemade croutons)
2 oz pecorino, shaved
Vinaigrette of your choice (lemon or red wine vinaigrette is particularly well suited for this salad)

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat.

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This summery dish requires no recipe and demands very little from you. Simply use the freshest, ripest figs you can get your hands on, assemble, and enjoy as a first course or dessert.

Fresh figs, quartered
Extra-virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pecorino or parmesan cheese, shaved

Arrange figs on a plate or platter, drizzle with oil and vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with cheese shavings.

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Notes: a pop of green would do this dish some good. Think spicy, like arugula, dandelion greens, or watercress. Not too much–just a few leaves scattered on top.

The restaurant I used to work for created a Tunisian-inspired savory oatmeal. I completely fell in love, and have been making my own version ever since (first blogged here). This one is a perfect springtime recipe that takes advantage of asparagus and sweet green peas, and pairs them with a spicy harissa oil.

1 1/2 c steel-cut oats (use certified gluten-free oats if gluten is an issue)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 c fresh or frozen green peas
2 Tbsp harissa paste
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 stalks medium asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a bias
5 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
4 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
Lemon juice, for garnish
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional–omit for a vegan and dairy-free recipe)

1. Prepare oats according to package directions; season with salt and pepper.
2. If using fresh peas, blanch for 2 minutes and place under cold running water to cool. If using frozen, thaw.
3. Combine harissa and oil and set aside.
4. Spoon oatmeal into bowls and top each with asparagus, peas, scallions, pine nuts, lemon juice, harissa oil, and cheese (optional).

Serves 4.

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While traditionally pesto is made with basil, this recipe switches it up with vibrant, peppery arugula that goes perfectly over whole wheat pasta. I made arugula pesto in the past, but neglected to understand the value of recording the recipe. Here is my official first attempt at a delicious and deceptively healthy pesto.

5 cups packed arugula
3/4 cup pecorino, broken up into chunks
3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 clove garlic
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
Juice 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and whirl until smooth (alternately, if you like pesto with a bit more texture, pulse until desired consistency is reached).

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Use as a dip for vegetables or crusty baguette, sauce for pasta (makes enough for 1 pound), garnish for soups, condiment for sandwiches, etc. (I served it with whole wheat pasta, garnished with grated pecorino and freshly ground black pepper.)

With these 40- and 50-degree days, I am getting ready for spring. This salad takes advantage of crisp, raw asparagus, both shaved with a vegetable peeler and thinly sliced for both texture and presentation. Served alongside stewed chicken to lighten the fare.

1 bunch asparagus (the thicker the stalks, the better)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup pecorino, shaved (using a vegetable peeler)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel and discard the rough, bottom inch or two of the asparagus stalks.
2. Peel half the asparagus stalks over a bowl. Do not peel the tips: leave them whole.
3. Thinly slice the other half of the asparagus on a bias, again, leaving the tips intact.
4. Add pine nuts (I left them raw out of sheer laziness, but feel free to toast), shaved pecorino, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Gently toss to combine.

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A spin on a dish my dad and I made this past Christmas dinner. Beef Wellington (pate, mushroom duxelles, the whole bit) was served with roasted yukon gold potatoes and shallots, and a salad of shaved brussels sprouts, walnuts and apples julienne with a brown butter vinaigrette. Round two, here we go:

24 oz baby yukon gold potatoes
3 tbsp cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
10 oz brussels sprouts
1/2 apple (I used a Granny Smith for its tartness, but any crisp, firm apple will work)
4 oz pecorino, broken into small chunks
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Toss the potatoes with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste. Roast for about 25 minutes or until fork-tender.
3. Meanwhile, trim the ends off the brussels sprouts, halve, and thinly slice.
4. Julienne the apple (and leave the skin on, will ya?).
5. Halve the potatoes and toss with the brussels sprouts, apple, pecorino, lemon zest and juice and the rest of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

photo(2)This dish will do as a side, but I’ve been mackin’ on it for dinner the past few days and have not been sorry about it. You won’t be either.