To die for salad #1: Shrimp over Argula & Fennel with corn.

Summer Salad with Shrimp, Corn, Arugula, Cukes

Go ahead, smell your computer screen!

I love salad.

I could probably fill a blog up with my salad executions as I rarely make the exact same thing twice(!)

So if you are looking for inspiration, go no further than your nearest farmer’s market. Poke around and see what’s fresh. If you want to make something that sort of looks like the one I picture here, here’s what you need:

  • Fresh young arugula
  • Young fennel
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Uncooked, peeled and deveined frozen shrimp
  • Seasonings
  • Oil

Pretty straightforward prep work. Wash and spin those salad leaves. Make sure that you don’t overspin them, but they need to be dry. Peel and slice those cukes.  Add a few well sliced cuts of fennel if you like that anise taste. (If you want to mellow that flavor, you can simply sauté it is a little olive oil for a few minutes on the stove and then let cool before adding to your salad.) Salt some boiling water and add an ear or two of corn. Boil for 3-5 minutes — take them out to cool and dry off.

Defrost your shrimp by putting them in a bowl and running water over them. Or be lazy and leave them in the bowl with cool water for 10 minutes and rinse them out.

So, I use The Pampered Chef Chili Lime Rub and coat my shrimp generously before throwing into a hot pan that’s been lightly coated with olive oil. Keep moving them around until they pink up. It takes only a few minutes, so watch that pan!  When close to done, just take it off the heat and put them on a plate to cool a bit. Take your cool corn and remove the kernels with a knife. (If you do this a lot, I have a tool for that as well. Shocking, right?)

When you are ready to assemble just take a big bowl and toss everything in.

Now the key ingredient?  WALNUT OIL and SALT.  I love La Tourangelle Roasted Walnut Oil and Maldon’s Salt.  (I can buy both at my local Wegmans but you can readily buy these online if your story doesn’t carry them.)  I toss everything — and I mean everything — with just these two simple ingredients. Actually I glug in some oil (you need to be the judge there) and then after I toss this, I pinch some salt between my fingers and casually sprinkle it on with one hand while holding my white wine in the other! What is so special about this salt? My friend Robin sold me on it when she showed me how the crystals are thin and triangular shaped. They are crunchy. You don’t need a lot to really get a bang of taste out of this seasoning. Trust me. You will want to keep this on your table and you will find yourself pinching some and putting it on everything including watermelon!

Riffing ideas?

OK, like I said, I rarely make the same thing twice. I’ve made this same basic salad and added sliced, hard boiled eggs, cilantro, red onion, julienned carrots, sourdough croutons, walnuts… you name it. Sometimes, I roast the corn before I remove the kernels.

Your job is to take the basics and improvise. But try that oil and salt. Trust me, it is decadent!

PS Kirby cucumbers are even better in this salad than regular, large cukes. Look for them!







It’s a “Magic Rice Salad” (think Chris Martin ate it before writing his song!…ERM…!)

rice salad

Beyond delicious mix of rice, quinoa, nuts, fruit…cook today, eat all week.

Looking for a side dish to wow them at your next picnic? Something you can make today and eat all week? When I hear “Mom, can you make your rice salad again?” I know I have a good thing going.

Get a nice big bowl — so that you can put in all your ingredients and toss them around.

Cook up and cool to room temperature 1 cup of rainbow quinoa (“keen wah”) Ratio: 1 cup of dried quinoa to 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes and shut it off until the water is absorbed. Or, you can do it in your microwave. 5 minutes on high and 15 on medium power. Done.

Cook 2 cups of jasmine rice – which expands to about 4 cooked — and let it come to room temperature. (I have a rice cooker — best investment I ever made.)

While they are cooking — finely chop 3-4 carrots, 3-4 celery stalks — I use The Pampered Chef food chopper to get tiny pieces — so you wind up with about 1 cup chopped of each.

Add a cup of each of the following to a bowl:

– dried cranberries
– golden raisins
– chopped walnuts

Put it all in a the big bowl.

In a separate bowl mix up a vinaigrette of your choice. I used a black cherry balsamic vinegar (about 1/3 cup), a little maple syrup (3 tablespoons?) and 1/2 cup of good extra virgin olive oil. Add a pinch or three of salt. Mix it up ‘good’.

Pour the vinaigrette over the rice/quinoa/veggie/dried fruit/nut mix. Carefully toss to coat everything. Taste. Season as you wish with more salt or make more vinaigrette.

As good as this is the first day, if you let it sit overnight in the fridge, it’s even better the next day!!!


The other one people seem to like is my riff on the basic Fiesta Salad.
The basic recipe calls for  white rice, can of black beans (rinsed), corn, red onions, chopped peppers (red, orange, yellow.) Cook/chop, mix in a bowl. Eat.
Me? I added shrimp and chicken sausage (lime chipotle) and tossed it with a lime based vinaigrette and top it off with shredded cilantro. (I use my Pampered Chef salad scissors to cut those leaves up in a jiffy.)
BTW, I call this “magic” salad because just about everyone I know “magically” likes this and asks for the recipe. So there it is!  If you make this, tell me how you “riffed” on it yourself.


Sweet Potato Pancakes


Sweet! Easy to make and better than white flour based cakes!


If you have a craving for something — different — and don’t have any desire to work hard, take your basic potato pancake recipe and mess around with it.

I just shredded a couple of peeled sweet potatoes (yams), added an egg, two tablespoons of coconut flour, two tablespoons of coconut oil, a teaspoon of baking powder and baking soda — little pinch of salt… and voila! Pancakes.  I add a little brown sugar if we’re having a breakfasty meal and garlic and onion if we’re looking for a more savory dish.

To riff on this one — use a different kind of flour — try a different oil. If you are gluten free — try sorghum or almond flour. Yum! If you aren’t — regular flour or wheat flour is delicious.

When it comes to toppings, I go with whatever I’ve got in the fridge:

– sour cream with a little honey stirred in

– cream cheese

– butter

– fig jam

And if you decide to serve this for dinner, you can sauté some kale with garlic and serve it on the side.



“We don’t need no stinkin’ recipes!”

Actually, we do! Well, I do. I like having recipes to give me an idea of what it would take to make something that might resemble something else. But I look at recipes like guidelines, not orders. It’s no secret that I love to improvise. I love spontaneity and the novel pleasures that arise when a happy collusion occurs between ingredients. But I’m not a trained chef or baker. I’m just a chick who enjoys playing with food!  If you think about it, over 365 days, if you eat between 4 and 5 times a day (including snacks or preparing food for others) — you have 1,500 chances to experiment!  And if you are trying to lose weight or eat healthier you have an ever greater reason to make adjustments to keep yourself interested and on track. Pan Riffing is my place to share my “riffs”  — those moments of sheer serendipity where a basic recipe off the web is made better because it’s adjusted for me! Since I’m often asked to share my recipes, I thought it would good to show you how I bend the rules. I encourage you to take what I have done and make it your own, too!