Last week, my friend Julia came over to my apartment for a little potluck lunch. Both Julia and I are really into healthy, wholesome eating (at least as often as we can!), so we decided that we’d each bring a couple things, set it all out on the patio, and enjoy the fall weather. Well, literally the moment we took the food outside, it started to rain, but no matter — we curled up in the living room, gabbed about family, marriage, and being in weddings (oh, if only you knew!) and feasted. The best thing is that all of the dishes we made left us feeling super full, but still really energized for the rest of the day — funny how eating whole foods does that, no?
Today, I thought I’d share a few of the recipes that I contributed to our indoor picnic: a simple berry salad dressed with balsamic syrup and fresh mint; and a “kitchen sink” vegetable and bean salad, topped with a lemon vinaigrette made with herbs freshly chopped from our garden (delish!). And, I prepped some easy baked pita chips to go along with Julia’s hummus and pesto! Speaking of which, you can also head over to Julia’s blog to read her take on our lunch, and grab recipes for her Vegan Basil Pesto and her Almond Butter Cookies (which would be amazing with a cup of tea!). Here are my recipes:
Berry Salad with Balsamic Syrup and Mint
This salad can work with any fruit (think apples, peaches, plums, nectarines), but I particularly like it with berries. I happened to have a ripe D’Anjou pear at home as well, so I incorporated that too, which I think helped kick up the sweetness! Regardless of which fruit you use, the process remains the same — and is effortless.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 16 oz package organic strawberries, rinsed, hulled and cut into quarters
1 1/2 pint organic blueberries, washed
1 D’Anjou or Barlett pear, washed, cored, and diced
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, cleaned and chopped or cut into a chiffonade
In a small sauce pan, heat the vinegar over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the volume of the vinegar by half (so that half of the amount evaporates/reduces), until the vinegar is syrupy and easily coats the back of a spoon. Cool for just a minute or two.
Add all of the prepared fruit and the mint to a bowl, and pour the vinegar over the top. Gently fold so that the syrup coats most of the fruit. Refrigerate, covered, until you’re ready to serve.
“Kitchen Sink” Vegetable Salad
The great thing about a “Kitchen Sink” salad like this is you can throw in whatever vegetables you have on hand. Have half of a cucumber? Dice it up and add it! Some leftover pieces of celery? Add ‘em in, if you want. The same goes for ingredients like shredded kale, spinach, peppers, and even leftover cooked veggies like butternut squash or Brussels sprouts. If you wanted to add a little more protein, you could also add in chopped nuts like walnuts or almonds, and even pieces of cooked diced chicken.
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 zucchini, washed and grated
1 orange bell pepper, washed, seeded, cored, and chopped
1/2 medium head of radicchio, shredded
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, seeded and large diced
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp good quality Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
A mix of whatever fresh herbs you’d like (I used 1 sprig oregano, 1 sprig thyme, a few leaves each of basil and parsley)
1/4 cup+ of extra virgin olive oil
— sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix together all of the vegetables in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk together until emulsified and thickened. Taste the dressing — if you’d like it to be a little less acidic, play around with adding more oil or honey. There’s really no right or wrong here!
Pour the dressing over the vegetables, and gently toss to combine. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
Easy Herb Baked Pita Chips
1 package of pita bread, your choice whether it is whole grain or white
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp herbes de provence
–kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 350. Cut the pita bread into eighths, to create wedge chips. On a large baking sheet, spread the pita chips out evenly. It’s okay if some are overlapping.
Drizzle the olive oil over the pita, and sprinkle with the herbs, and some salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss to combine, being sure each piece is coated; then, re-distribute the chips around the sheet.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, then remove from the oven. I like to use tongs to flip most of the chips over, so that both sides will crisp evenly. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the chips have crisped up and have turned brown.