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Blog: The Chef Salad

Grilled Greens

Grilled Greens

" The quality of the final dish will never surpass the quality of the original ingredients” (Me, just now).

The first “old school” chef I apprenticed with motivated me out of fear, not pride. My mantra back then was, “Please don’t mess up, please don’t mess up, please don’t mess up….” Let’s face it, I was pretty inept. It was only after months in the weeds that I began to feel even the slightest ept.

I asked him what books I should check out from the library (when Amazon was still just a river). “Books? When I was in recruit depot the guys that cold swim were sent to the side of the pool and those that couldn’t had to jump in the deep end.”

Keep in mind a recipe is simply a list of ingredients with a particular set of directions on how to assemble. If you understand, and are comfortable with the particular methods and techniques involved you may then substitute ingredients according to your own likes and dislikes.

Starting with this post I want to put less emphasis on individual recipes, and focus on the skills and mindset necessary to make you a better cook. Not only will you start to think out of the box, but the box will be broken down and placed in the recycling bin. Forget about messing up. Your mantra for now on is “flavor, color, texture”.

  • 2 hearts of romaine 
  • 3 Belgium endive
  • 2 heads radicchio
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch flat Italian parsley
  • Coarse cracked black pepper


Over high heat, preheat grill or stovetop grill pan. 

Cut the romaine, Belgium endive, and radicchio in half lengthwise. Remove any outside leaves that are loosely hanging or discolored.

Cut lemon into quarters widthwise.

Roughly chop Italian parsley, or pick whole leaves from stems.

Place greens cut side down on hot grill for 3 minutes. When there is good color from grill marks, flip over for another minute or so. 

Repeat process for lemon quarters.

Place grilled greens in a large covered metal bowl. When all greens are in bowl gently toss with parsley and cracked black pepper.

Arrange greens on platter and garnish with grilled lemons. Sqeeze lemons on greens for service.

Serve with oil free dressing and homemade made crackers;)

Next post: Basic knife skills


Lettuce  lemon  grill  greens


Chickpea "everything" crackers

Crunch is good, whether from nuts, seeds, croutons, crackers, or raw vegetables. Add “crunchy” or “crispy” to a description and its bound to be a popular choice. In a salad the addition of texture adds a wonderful complement to greens, vegetables and dressings. 

I’m a firm believer that there are no “Chef’s tricks”. Cooking is all about skills and techniques. Once you are comfortable you can then let your imagination guide you.

Cracker dough is a great place to start as a novice. It is very forgiving and easy to work with. 

Some guidelines to follow, (no tricks to learn):

If dough is wet and sticks to fingers add more flour a teaspoon at a time. If it is dry and crumbly add water a teaspoon at a time.

When it is time to roll out the dough, do it directly on lightly floured parchment paper or a Silpat non stick baking mat.

Roll out as thin as possible.

I would rather use a lower heat to dry and crisp the crackers. A higher heat may add color before all of the moisture has evaporated. 

Chickpea “everything” crackers.

yield 3-4 dozen. Depending on the size you can greatly increase the yield.

  • Leaves from small bunch of kale, washed and dried well. Try to keep leaves large if possible (Save stems for your smoothie).
  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo/fava flour
  • 1/4 cup room temperature water
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (substitute kosher salt)
  • Dehydrated onion flake
  • Dehydrated garlic flake
  • Sesame seeds
  • Poppy seeds
  • Sea salt 
  • Kale chips, crumbled to a fine powder


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place dry Kale leaves on a sheet tray and bake for 12-15 minutes until crispy. Remove from oven and cool. 

Place flour in small bowl, dissolve salt in water. Gently stir salt water into flour. With tips of fingers of one hand incorporate water and flour until a smooth dough forms. Put to the side for 5 minutes to let flour absorb the moisture.

Place dough on well floured parchment paper and roll as thin as possible, periodically checking that the dough is not sticking. Lightly dust with flour if it starts to stick.

Generously sprinkle 2 tablespoons each of onion flake, garlic flake, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds over surface of rolled out dough. 

Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of salt on top of dough then dust with crushed Kale leaves.

With a rolling pin roll surface to embed seasoning into dough.

Using either a cookie cutter or a knife, cut shapes and remove any trim. You may save trim to roll again for more crackers. A great idea also is to bake the sheet of dough whole, and roughly break up once it has cooled.

Place shaped crackers with parchment onto a cookie sheet and place in 325 oven for 10 -12 minutes until slightly golden and crisp. Check after 10 minutes, then every minute until desired result.

Remove from oven and cool completely.






sesame  poppy  onion  garbanzo  cracker


Oil Free Vegan Dressing

Now that you’ve dropped animal proteins and dairy from your lifestyle (not diet), it’s time for another big move. Eliminate processed oil. Canola, olive, avocado, safflower. Wait, what? Yes, drop processed oil from your food prep and recipes. From a culinarian point of view they are loaded with calories, and fat (actually they are 100% fat) with limited nutritional value. Eat olives and avocado rather than their extracted oil.

Whenever I use garlic as an ingredient in either a dressing or dip, I roast the cloves to soften the sometimes harsh flavors. While cooking may diminish some of the health benefits I find the final product much more palatable. I use a teaspoon of roasted garlic puree for every 2 cloves of whole garlic called for in a recipe.

Preheat oven to 300-325. Cut 1/4-1/3 inch off the flat, root end of a whole head of garlic. 

Place head of garlic on a 6” square piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of water on top and wrap the foil tightly around the garlic. The water will create steam to help soften the cloves. 

Place packet on a sizzle platter, small pan, or cookie sheet and roast in oven for at least an hour. Check to see if cloves have softened. If not, wrap foil and place in oven for 15-20 minute intervals until cloves are soft and golden. 

Cool completely and squeeze cloves from head. Store refrigerated until ready to use.

Tahini Dressing

yield: 1 1/2 cups

  • 4 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1/2 cup sesame tahini (may substitute hummus)
  • 1/4 cup Braggs apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4-3/4 cup water, as needed for desired consistency 
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

Using a blender or whisk, combine first 4 ingredients.

Add water 1/4 cup at a time to desired consistency. 

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add chopped parsley, combine well.

Creamy Avocado

yield: 2 cups

  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted about 3/4-1 cup
  • 4-6 cloves roasted garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Braggs apple cider vinegar  
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4-3/4 cup water, as needed for desired consistency 
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

In a blender combine the first 5 ingredients and completely incorporated together.

Add water 1/4 cup at a time until desired consistency.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Vegan Tzatiki

yield: yield 2 cups

  • 1 english cucumber, seeds removed, grated on large wholes of box grater
  • 1 cup non dairy yogurt
  • 2 cloves of roasted garlic
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper 

In a nonreactive bowl combine first 5 ingredients by stirring well.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.




Yogurt  Vinegar  Tahini  Dressing  Braggs


Grilled Salad with Chick Peas, Slow Roasted Garlic, Grape Tomatoes, and Baby Arugula

Only a foot of snow on the ground, it seems that spring is in the air. And spring equals grill. With relatively little planning almost anything can be cooked on the grill. Less clean up, deeper flavors, and big platters of food. What else is there?

Grilled Salad with Chick Peas, Slow Roasted Garlic, Grape Tomatoes, and Baby Arugula

This dish has a familiar Mediterranean feel. Substitute any vegetables that you prefer. I like the peppery overtones of the arugula, while others may enjoy mild spinach. The quantities are up to you. I like to start with “one” unit of each. Take notes and adjust amounts the next time. 

Serves 4

  • 1 cup whole cloves of peeled garlic

  • 1tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 medium size zucchini, quartered lengthwise

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced in 1/2” thick rounds

  • 1 sweet yellow (or orange) bell pepper, quartered lengthwise, seeds and membrane removed

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 small can (14oz) of chick peas, drained and dried well

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half

  • 1 large handful of baby arugula

  • 6-8 leaves large basil leaves, sliced thinly crosswise 

  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375ºF. Put garlic cloves in the center of a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper. Fold up the foil  and seal tightly. Bake for about 50-60 minutes or until soft. Open foil and cool, reserving oil.

Lightly toss zucchini, onion, and yellow pepper with olive oil. Place on preheated grill until scored with grill marks, 6-8 minutes. Flip and grill for another 6-8 minutes.

Cut zucchini to 1 inch lengths, separate onion into rings and cut peppers into 1 inch pieces.

In a large bowl place cut vegetables, chick peas, tomatoes, roasted garlic, and reserved oil. Toss well to combine.

Add arugula, basil and sherry vinegar. Gently toss together and season with salt and pepper.

grilling  greens  garlic  chick peas


Shaved Fennel, Red Onion and Citrus Salad

Refreshing, crunchy, and sweet. In addition to its medicinal properties fennel is a year round go to ingredient. The base, stalks, and leaves all can be used whether in salads, stir frys, soups or stews. Fennel used with citrus will also provide a great helping of Vitamin C.

Shaved Fennel, Red Onion and Citrus Salad

You may substitute blood oranges, ruby red grapefruit, or even Tangelos. Just avoid lemon or lime segments, they are too acidic to eat whole.

Serves 3-4

  • 1 large bulb of whole fennel, sliced very thin using the slicing attachment of a food processor or a mandoline*

  • 1 small red onion peeled, cut in half and sliced very thin on mandoline

  • 2 large Navel oranges, skin and pith removed

  • 1 pink grapefruit, skin and pith removed

  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley, leaves left whole

  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin oil oil

  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

* A mandoline is a hand held slicer with a fixed blade. The item to be sliced is placed on the surface and slid through the fixed blade. By adjusting the blade the degree of thickness can be controlled.

Over a small bowl, using a small paring knife remove orange segments by carefully slicing on both sides of membrane. Save leftover membrane and reserved juice.

Combine sliced fennel, red onion, citrus segments, and parsley leaves in large bowl. Toss together.

Squeeze citrus membranes over ingredients to add reserved juice. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on the red pepper flakes.

Toss together and serve.

Citrus Fennel Vitamin C


Why "The Chef Salad"?

When I began Run, Cook Eat, there was a singular objective: help individuals take control of their health and fitness by teaching them how to cook.

Match the proper techniques with quality ingredients and anyone can become proactive about their health. That was my stance, and for the last few years I’ve been a pretty vocal proponent of using a whole food, plant based diet as the foundation of that approach.

The feedback was positive, but soon I was seeing a recurring theme. Many of the comments were goal-oriented—readers wanting to lose a few inches, drop a few pounds, get ready for summer. “It’s not working.” “I don’t have time to go the gym.” “What am I supposed to do with this info?”

I firmly believe that we all know how to cook. It’s innate. What we are lacking is the motivation or desire to tap into that skill. Instead, we look for quick fixes, easy ways to get us to our goals. Recipes can only do so much in that regard.

But recipes, I learned, can be a path to health. They can be a way to start slowly, an introduction to a whole food plant based lifestyle. And when they are salad recipes, we are all predisposed to like them, since salads by nature are big bowls of flavor, color and texture. Seasonal ingredients, minimally processed, not made but grown. By building your self confidence you start to venture outside your comfort zone. Eventually you break  away from recipes towards creativity and personal tastes.

So that’s how salads and I ended up together, and that’s why I’m finding myself back where I started, blogging to help people realize that:

When you start with quality ingredients, it’s not what you do to them that makes you a good cook, it’s what you don’t do to them.

whole food plant based  recipe


Sweet Chili Cucumbers

Because English cucumbers tend to be grown in hot houses, they are available all year-round, and are great for adding crunch to winter salads. They’re the star in this recipe, which is about as simple as they come—and one of my favorites. In just 15 minutes, the vinegar and salt pickle and crisp the cukes by drawing out the water. After that, they get tossed with Thai sweet chili sauce, some roasted peanuts, bell pepper and scallions. An easy side to serve with brown rice and steamed vegetable dumplings.

Sweet Chili Cucumbers

Thai sweet chili sauce, made with red chile peppers, rice wine vinegar, garlic and fish sauce, and sweetened with fruit or sugar, is a great condiment/sauce to keep on hand. It’s available in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

Serves 2 to 4 

  • 1 english cucumber, peeled in ½ inch intermittent strips and diced into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • ¼ cup Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 1 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
  • ¼ cup each small dice of red, yellow, orange sweet bell pepper
  • ½ cup thin sliced scallions, green part only

Place sliced cucumbers in a bowl. Whisk together vinegar, sugar and salt, pour on top of diced cucumbers, and mix well. Set aside for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes carefully pour off liquid. Add chili sauce, peanuts, diced peppers, and scallions. Toss well to evenly coat cucumbers.

Thai sweet chili sauce  scallions  bell peppers


Roast Fingerling Potato Salad with Balsamic Shallots and Curly Endive

If you think mayo-drenched potato chunks when you hear “potato salad,” then you will be surprised to see just how fresh and light potato salad really can be—like this one. It starts with roasted fingerling potatoes (which get tossed with olive oil and rosemary before going into the oven), and includes balsamic-roasted shallots, curly endive and whole grain mustard. The slightly bitter endive is a great foil for the creaminess of the fingerlings and the sweetness of the shallots. Serve this salad warm from the oven—the hot potatoes will wilt the endive.

Roast Fingerling Potato Salad with Balsamic Shallots and Curly Endive

Be sure to use a sauté pan large enough to hold the shallots in a single layer so that they brown evenly.

Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 pound whole shallots, root end trimmed, peeled. Cut in half widthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small head curly endive rinsed well, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

Salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss fingerling potatoes with the olive oil and rosemary and place on a cookie sheet, cut side down. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Roast 20 minutes. Remove from oven.

While potatoes are in the oven, place shallots, and olive oil in a saute pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Over medium heat saute until shallots begin to brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Pour balsamic vinegar on shallots and stir to coat well.

Place pan with shallots in the oven until they can be easily pierced with a small knife, another 15 minutes.

In a large bowl place potatoes, shallots, curly endive and whole grain mustard, toss to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

shallots  rosemary  potatoes  curly endive


Italian Parsley Salad

Italian Parsley Salad

I found a version of this recipe on the inside of a matchbook, in a shoebox labeled “think outside the box," a collection of ideas and inspiration that had been growing over the years. It hadn't occurred to me to use parsley as a salad green until I came across this recipe, and boy am I glad I did. It makes a great partner for the red onion and capers, with some tomatoes thrown in for freshness. So simple, yet so delicious.

Italian Parsley Salad

Turn this salad into a meal by serving it atop thick slices of grilled whole grain bread.

Serves 4

  • 2 cups lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1 small red onion, halved, 1/2 thinly sliced lengthwise (reserve other half)
  • 4 Italian plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise ⅛ inch thick
  • ¼ cup small capers, drained
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, toss together parsley, basil, red onion, sliced tomatoes, capers and red pepper flakes. Add olive oil and lemon juice, and toss until evenly combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grilled bread.

vegetarian  vegan  tomatoes  red onion  parsley


Fresh Fig Salad with Watercress, Pears, and Pecans


If you’ve never tried a fresh fig, this is a great place to start! Chewy, smooth, crunchy, and sweet, they’re a real treat in season. A great source of fiber, and rich in antioxidants. They pair well with pears in this new take on the fruit salad. 

Fresh Fig Salad with Watercress, Pears and Pecans

Here’s an easy way to prepare watercress: Cut off the bottom third of the stems and discard; transfer the watercress to a bowl of cold water and wash well. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Serves 4

  • 2 ripe Anjou pears, cut in half, cored and cut into ¼ inch dice. (I prefer to leave the skin on for the contrast in color and added nutrients)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 8 Black Mission figs; stems trimmed, figs cut lengthwise into eighths
  • 2 heads watercress, washed
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl toss together the diced pears and lemon juice (While adding citrus to the dressing, the acid in the lemon juice will help prevent the pears from oxidizing).

Add the figs, watercress, pecans and olive oil to pears and toss together to combine.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

watercress  vegetarian  vegan  pecans  pears  figs

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“It seems more common than not that there is a disconnect between the information the medical profession provides, and the realities of shopping, preparing, cooking, and actually enjoying a meal based on a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. I will show others how to bridge that gap."