Pearl Couscous and Tuna Salad with Preserved Lemon

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This is my new go-to summer picnic salad. It’s lemony, salty, and rich, thanks to lots of olives, tuna, and a healthy dose of avocado. This keeps well in the fridge so make it the night before and you’re good to go.

1 cup pearl couscous
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (5-ounce) can tuna packed in olive oil, drained
2/3 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon
1 avocado, peeled and cubed

1. Cook couscous according to package instructions; drain and set aside. Let cool.

2. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a large bowl. Whisk in olive oil and add salt and pepper. Add cooled couscous and toss to coat. Flake tuna with a fork; add to couscous. Gently stir in olives, celery, onion, parsley, dill, avocado, and preserved lemon. Season with salt to taste and serve.

Tiny Baked Potatoes with Chickpeas

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Full of sweet, savory, creamy, and crunchy textures and flavors, this these potatoes with spiced chickpeas are kind of like loaded potatoes in appetizer form — if loaded potatoes were vaguely South Asian or Middle Eastern.

Ingredients:

3 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes, halved (or quartered) to about 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons nigella seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Zest plus one teaspoon juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon honey
3 green onions
2/3 cup sour cream
2 to 3 tablespoons mango chutney

1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Toss potatoes with half the oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Season with salt and bake for 45 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through baking time.

2. Meanwhile, transfer the chickpeas into a bowl and pat dry. Toss chickpeas with remaining oil, cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon teaspoon of the nigella seeds, and the paprika. Season and spread on another baking sheet or roasting pan.

3. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until just beginning to brown. Stir through the lemon zest and honey and return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, until well-browned and crisp.

4. Chop half of the green onions and stir into sour cream with the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Finely slice the remaining green onions and set aside.

5. Arrange potatoes on a large platter, and dollop 1 teaspoon of the green onion sour cream to each potato, with a little mango chutney. Scatter the chickpeas on top. Scatter the reserved green onions and remaining nigella seeds, plus a little more black pepper. Serve warm.

Winter Crunch Salad

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Even though it’s March, I’m still making this mixed salad of hearty winter greens spiked with savory Parmesan and crunchy seeds and apples. Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe, this salad gets better after sitting in fridge for an hour or two. I’ll be eating this well through springtime.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1/2 small shallot
1 Meyer lemon
1 small garlic clove
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 bunch Tuscan kale (about ¾ pound)
5 or 6 ounces Brussels sprouts
2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated
1/2 apple, halved and thinly sliced

1. Make the vinaigrette: Finely chop shallot half and transfer to medium bowl. Juice lemon over bowl. You should have about 2 tablespoons juice. Using a microplane, finely rate garlic clove into bowl. Whisk in 2 Dijon mustard and olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

2. Wash and dry kale, then pat leaves dry. Strip leaves from thick stems, discarding stems, then thinly slice leaves. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Trim knobby end of Brussels sprouts. Cut sprouts in half lengthwise, then arrange halves cut side down on board and very thinly slice. Add to bowl with kale.

4. Drizzle dressing over kale mixture; season with salt and pepper. Lightly massage and toss with your hands to coat.

5. Add cheese, apples, and sunflower seeds and toss lightly to incorporate.

Portobello Mushrooms with Pesto and Garlicky Almonds

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It’s mushroom season! Maitake, oyster, enoki, need I go on? This easy side (or vegetarian main) is a mycophile’s dream because you can adapt it to any type of large mushroom. I use portobellos but king oyster or any hearty mushroom works excellently. Served atop pesto and with crunchy almonds, you can eat this on its own or with pasta.

Portobello mushrooms with pesto and almonds

Ingredients:

1/2 cup almonds
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
6 portobellow mushrooms (about 2 pounds), trimmed, gills removed
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 1/4 cups refrigerated pesto

1. Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Spread almonds in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in oven until toasted, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

2. Coarsely chop almonds. Place almonds, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is finely chopped. Transfer mixture to a small bowl.

3. Score each side of the mushrooms with a 1/8-inch-deep diamond pattern. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Place mushroom halves, cap sides down, in hot oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook mushrooms, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip mushrooms and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking mushrooms until tender and golden on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove mushrooms from skillet. Return skillet to medium-high, and repeat process with remaining olive oil, mushrooms, salt, and pepper.

4. To serve, spoon pesto onto a serving platter. Top with mushroom halves and almonds.

Gazpacho Salad

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If gazpacho were a salad, this would be it. Adapted from a Food and Wine recipe, this salad is peak summer: juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumbers bound by a tangy, garlicy, and yes — tomatoey dressing.

Gazpacho salad

Ingredients:

2 English cucumbers or 5 Persian cucumbers
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons basil leaves, plus more for garnish
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, divided
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion, rinsed under cold water
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Peel cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, and if using English cucumbers, remove seeds. Cut cucumbers into 1/2-inch slices; set aside. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Cut tomatoes into 3/4-inch pieces (about 5 cups).

2. Combine 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, lime juice, basil, garlic, and 2 tablespoons vinegar in a blender. Process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Season dressing with salt to taste.

3. Combine onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar in a large bowl; toss to coat. Add bell peppers, cucumber slices, remaining chopped tomatoes, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; toss to combine. Stir in tomato dressing. Let stand for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drizzle with oil, and season with salt to taste. Garnish with basil and serve.