tropical cobb salad ginger lime vinaigrette

In case you didn’t get it from the 823 versions I’ve made on this site, I’ll tell you right now that I have a thing for Cobb Salad. Give me anything, I will Cobb-ify it, which basically means adding avocado, bacon, and blue cheese.

Lobster? Been there.

Salmon? Done that. With both grilled salmon and smoked salmon on the plate.

Bachelor in Paradise? Tropical Cobb Salad with Ginger Lime Vinaigrette, served on a board, obviously, because it’s for two.

By the way, as much as I talk about dating and relationships on social media, I have never seen a single episode of any Bachelor or Bachelorette series ever (it’s a principle thing).

Recipe for Tropical Cobb Salad with Ginger Lime Vinaigrette below. Ingredients and shopping resources follow.

TROPICAL COBB SALAD with GINGER LIME VINAIGRETTE [recipe]

makes one giant Salad Board to serve 2-4 people

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces chopped cooked turkey or chicken breast
8 ounces sliced deli-style turkey breast
12-16 ounces bacon, cooked
4 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced in half lengthwise
½ ripe fresh pineapple, peeled and cut into spears
1 large ripe mango
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half length-wise
2 large firm-ripe avocados (allot ½ avocado per person)
2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
4 heads of Little Gem lettuces or 4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
½ cup pickled red onions
¾ cup pepper jack cheese, diced
Ginger Lime Vinaigrette (see below)
thinly sliced serrano or jalapeno peppers
salt and fresh cracked black pepper
chopped fresh parsley
optional ingredients to include on board: fresh kiwi, fresh papaya spears, sliced fresh red onions, pickled peppadew peppers

DIRECTIONS

Assemble the Salad: Place the turkey or chicken breast in the center of a very large serving platter or board. Arrange the cooked bacon, hard-boiled eggs, pineapple, mango, tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers, lettuce, pickled red onions, cheese, and any other optional salad ingredients you might be using artfully around the avocados and turkey breast on the board.

If you are using chopped Romaine lettuce instead of the Little Gem lettuce cut into spears, dress the greens very lightly dressed with the Ginger Lime Vinaigrette, then tuck handfuls of the dressed greens into spaces between the other ingredients on the board. (Optionally, you can serve the greens from a separate bowl.)

Hit everything with black pepper and chopped fresh parsley.

Serve with Ginger Lime Vinaigrette in small bowls, Hawaiian rolls, and bottles of rosé.

GINGER LIME VINAIGRETTE {recipe}

makes about 2 cups

INGREDIENTS

2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup neutral oil like grapeseed

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, whisk together minced garlic, grated ginger, sesame oil, lime zest, lime juice, and salt. Vigorously whisk in a slow stream of oil until vinaigrette is blended and lightly creamy (the oil and other ingredients will not become completely creamy). Taste and add more salt if needed. Stir in water as needed to thin the consistency of the vinaigrette. Dressing will keep, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for five days.

RECIPE SUGESSTIONS, TIPS, and SHOPPING RESOURCES

  • Bacon: If you want to make your bacon look wavy like we did here, use this recipe for roasting bacon in the oven on a wire rack.
  • Eggs: are pasture-raised eggs. I use Vital Farms Alfresco Eggs, available at Whole Foods Market
  • Greens: According to sources, the original Cobb Salad was served with watercress. But this is almost nothing like the original Cobb Salad, so use whatever the hell greens you like, if any at all. The greens in this photo are Little Gem lettuces, which are basically tiny heads of Romaine lettuce.
  • All other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can’t find it at the farmers’ market.
  • The original Cobb Salad has blue cheese, which I LOVE, but I used pepper jack here because 1) some people are weirded out by the very strong smell of blue cheese, and 2) the jalapeno spice complements the sweetness of the tropical fruit on the salad board (and adding thinly sliced serrano or jalapeno peppers to the salad is a nice touch). Literally any cheese that you like works here though.
  • If the Ginger Lime Vinaigrette is too spicy/gingery, serve it separately as a dip, and dress the salad with a basic white wine, red wine, or Champagne vinaigrette. You can also cut the ginger amount by half in the recipe.
  • Speaking of wine, my favorites to drink with this salad are rosé, chenin blanc, and light bright sparkling white wines.

It looks impressive, but a DIY Sushi Hand Roll Bar is actually one of the less complicated ways to host a party, for both the host and the guests. Most of the ingredients are raw (fish and seafood) and fresh (vegetables), so the most work you have to do as the host is cooking and making the sushi rice. You could even go so far as buying pre-cooked rice (not recommended, but not not recommended either).

Because hand rolls are literally rolled by and in your hands, there is no need for special tools like bamboo rolling mats. It’s all very casual for the guests.

If you have it in you to cook even a little, you can make Ginger Tamari Roasted Tofu and tamago, seasoned egg omelet, yourself, but even those are available ready-made at Japanese markets. Both the sesame baked tofu and the tamago in the photo above are store-bought.

Detailed how-to and recipes below. Shopping notes and resources follow.

DIY SUSHI HAND ROLL BAR [how-to]

serves 4

Ingredients

1 package toasted nori
4 cups sushi rice (cooked, seasoned rice, recipe below)

Fillings
Fish and Seafood (pick 3-5, or everything, whatever)

  • cooked shrimp
  • 6 ounces salmon (raw, sashimi grade), sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 6 ounces tuna (raw, sashimi grade), sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 cup spicy tuna [recipe below]
  • 4 ounces cooked crab
  • 1 small box uni (sea urchin)
  • various roe and caviar

Vegetarian Fillings

  • 4 ounces tamago (sweet, seasoned omelet recipe coming soon)
  • ginger sesame roasted tofu [recipe link below]
  • roasted beets

Fresh Vegetable Fillings

  • carrots, julienned and blanched
  • mango, sliced
  • avocado, sliced
  • cucumber, julienned
  • radishes
  • radish sprouts
  • seaweed salad

Garnishes

fresh shiso leaves
toasted sesame seeds
lemon, sliced or cut into wedges

Sauces

soy sauce
wasabi
pickled ginger

Directions

Place toasted nori, rice, and fillings in small bowls, on plates, and on serving platters. It is helpful to keep similar ingredients together, e.g. all the raw fish on one larger plate together, vegetarian fillings together. Let each person place about 2 tablespoons of sushi rice on a sheet of toasted nori, add their own fillings, and carefully “roll” into a cone.

Provide individual plates and small sauce bowls for soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger to each person eating.

Some suggested filling combinations:

  • spicy tuna + cucumber
  • salmon + avocado + mango
  • crab + avocado + cucumber (California roll)

sushi hand rolls

sushi hand roll ingredients

How to Make Sushi Rice (seasoned rice)

Cook medium- or short grain brown rice in your trusty little rice cooker.

For every 1 cup of cooked rice, gently stir/mix in:

  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

My favorite rice is organic Kokuho Rose Brown Rice from Koda Farms, a California-based Japanese rice farm, who sells directly to consumers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market on certain Wednesdays and Hollywood Farmers Market on Sundays. I have seen 5-pound bags of the organic brown rice at Japanese grocery stores (Nijiya and Mitsuwa) and even at some Whole Foods Markets in Los Angeles.

Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear, then soak the rice in filtered water with a pinch of salt overnight before cooking.

I use an electric rice cooker by Cuckoo to cook Asian rice. It is the most ridiculously expensive single-function kitchen tool I own but I couldn’t successfully cook rice in a regular pot on the stovetop if my life depended on it.

I use organic brown rice vinegar. Currently I have a bottle of both Marukan brand and Eden Foods. Both of them are available at Whole Foods. I have also tried Kikkoman (not organic) and Nakano (organic). I can’t remember what these latter two tasted like, but let’s just assume they were unremarkable since I didn’t buy them again. If you cannot find rice vinegar, substitute apple cider vinegar. The flavor is different and the acidity is slightly stronger, but for handrolls, in which there are a lot of other ingredients, the taste of apple cider vinegar will be fine.

Spicy Tuna [recipe]

Stir together:

  • 4 ounces finely chopped sashimi grade tuna
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped, about two tablespoons of green parts only reserved for garnish
  • optional: you can stir in about 2 tablespoons Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise if you like the creamy style spicy tuna. I think mayo is disgusting; and with fish it’s absolutely revolting. But hey, everyone is different.

Ginger Tamari Roasted Tofu [recipe here]

breakfast nachos with hash browns chips
{ click for Breakfast Nachos with Hash Browns recipe }

Fluffer Smutter Dirty Smores Sundae

Fluffer S’mutter Dirty S’mores Sundaes [recipe]

makes 4 extremely large sundaes, which should probably feed 8

INGREDIENTS

8 slices of banana bread, toasted or grilled
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 scoops each of chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter ice creams
1 large banana, cut into 1/8-inch slices and sauteed in butter and sprinkled with brown sugar
8-12 large marshmallows, burnt over a flame (I used a burner on my gas stove)
1/2 cup dark chocolate fudge sauce

DIRECTIONS

Spread 2 tablespoons peanut butter on one side of each slice of toasted banana bread. Place two toasted banana bread slices against opposite sides of each bowl, kind of like a banana bread taco.

Place one scoop each of chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter ice creams between banana bread slices in each bowl.

Add 4-5 slices caramelized bananas and 2 burnt marshmallows to each bowl. Drizzle each bowl with dark chocolate fudge sauce.

Enjoy immediately.

RECIPE SUGESSTIONS, TIPS, and SHOPPING RESOURCES

  • Banana Bread. There are several recipes for banana bread on this blog, but my current favorite is The Ultimate Banana Bread Recipe aka The Most Unnecessarily Complicated Banana Bread Recipe in the World. The recipe might be a little too much effort for something that is going to be part of a larger dessert with so much other “stuff” in it, but its’a good opportunity to try the recipe out! Otherwise, literally ANY banana bread works here.
  • Peanut Butter. Use any creamy peanut butter that’s not “natural,” which is usually great for most purposes, but in a dessert, just get the peanut butter that has sweetness added to it. I like Justin’s nut butters.
  • Ice Cream. Don’t bother using ice cream that’s too fancy, i.e. upwards of $10 a pint. You just need a few scoops of good chocolate, good vanilla, and any kind of ice cream that has some form of peanut butter. Ben & Jerry’s has a Peanut Butter Cup ice cream and Tillamook has a Double Peanut Butter flavor. Both brands are available in most grocery stores.
  • Caramelized Bananas: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add sliced bananas and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Cook until golden and syrupy, stirring often to keep from burning, about 7 minutes.

banana-bread-cooksillustrated-sliced

banana bread, cooks illustrated

frozen-ripe-bananas

The Most Unnecessarily Complicated Banana Bread Recipe in the World {recipe}

based very closely on a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated, their original measurements and instructions, where different from mine, indicated in parentheses

This is the perfect recipe for five of the 87 ultra-ripe bananas you’ve had to throw into the freezer because every Sunday you buy a half dozen bananas convinced THIS is the week you will start your wellness lifestyle and blend fruit smoothies every morning for breakfast after yoga, but by Friday you have nothing but half a dozen over-ripe bananas, the beginning of a fruit fly problem, and four pounds you gained because you skipped yoga altogether and ate leftover pizza dipped in Ranch dressing for “breakfast” at 3PM instead.

Or that might just be me and you have frozen bananas expressly for this purpose.

This recipe can be made with very ripe bananas that have not been previously frozen, but “steamed” in the microwave oven to get the same soft, liquid-rendering effect. For those detailed instructions, check out the original Cook’s Illustrated recipe (link below)

INGREDIENTS

5 frozen very ripe bananas + 1 ripe, but not frozen banana for topping

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (Cook’s Illustrated: 1¾ cup)
¾ cup whole wheat flour (Cook’s Illustrated: none, use all all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(Cook’s Illustrated: ½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional), 2 teaspoons granulated sugar for banana topping)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper (to make it easier to remove the baked loaf from the pan for cooling).

Defrost frozen, peeled bananas by placing in a microwave-safe bowl, covering bowl loosely with paper towel and defrosting in microwave oven for about 3 minutes, or until mostly thawed. Pour microwave-thawed bananas and liquid into a fine-mesh strainer over medium bowl and allow to thaw completely and drain on the countertop.

Whisk all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Transfer banana liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with until smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined. (Cook’s Illustrated: Fold in chopped walnuts if you’re using them.)

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Arrange banana slices on top, on either side of loaf.

Bake banana bread until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Baking time can take anywhere from 55 to 75 minutes depending on your oven; mine took 65 minutes.

Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.

Bread, tightly wrapped in plastic will keep for a few days. You can also slice the loaf and freeze!

banana bread, cooks illustrated recipe, with cream cheese and honey

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

There is nothing like simply sawing off that first, thick, caramelized end slice of banana bread as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, but you only get to do that once. After, toast a slice of banana bread, then:

  • spread with whipped cream cheese + fresh berries
  • spread peanut butter + honey + toasted walnuts
  • make a Fluffer Nutter ‘Nana: peanut butter + grilled marshmallows
  • make a Fluffer S’mutter Ice Cream Sundae: peanut butter + grilled marshmallows + chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter ice creams + caramelized banana slices + hot fudge

banana bread, cooks illustrated recipe, with peanut butter and marshmallows

Notes and Shopping Resources

  • Bananas: It is best to use bananas that are so ripe, the skins are almost nearly black without actually becoming fermented. When this happens to your bananas, peel them and place them in a plastic zipper-top bag and freeze for use in this recipe. If you are using bananas that have not been frozen, just microwave them as indicated, but for only 1 minute. Proceed with the same recipe from there.
  • Flour: I use organic flours from King Arthur Flour, and keep them in airtight bags in the freezer to maintain freshness for longer since I don’t use flour often enough to buy new flour regularly, and also keeps little critters out. If you keep flour in the freezer, let your measured amount sit out on the countertop at room temperature for a few minutes.
  • Nuts: Nuts do not belong in banana bread. EVER. But if you think you need to add them, go ahead. Just don’t tell me about it.

sparkling sangria with melon, poolside
Though Champagne is the first wine that comes to my mind when someone says “sparkling,” true Champagne is probably a little “strong” for sangria, never mind that it’s normally too expensive at $50+ to dump into a pitcher with a bunch of other liquor, juice, fruit, and maybe even ice. Save Champagne for a glass by itself, and make sangria with an affordable Cava from Spain or Prosecco from Italy.

Don’t mistake “affordable” with “cheap,” though. Cheap wine and bottomshelf liquor are probably why you have somewhat hazy and altogether horrible memories of sangria from your 20s. Or 30s. Or last week or whatever. Stick with decent alcohol, and stay away from too much sugar in the form of soda, juice, or you know, just sugar, too.

For the ginger flavor, I LOVE Fever Tree ginger BEER (not alcoholic), but any brand of strong-ish ginger beer will work. If you can’t find ginger beer, or find the ginger taste too strong or spicy, use ginger ale.

Sparkling Melon Sangria {recipe}

INGREDIENTS

1 750 mL sparkling wine like Cava or Prosecco
1 cup vodka
1 12-ounce bottle of Fever Tree ginger beer
1 to 1½ cups each of cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon balls
to serve: ice, fresh mint leaves, lime wheels, colorful straws

DIRECTIONS

Pour the sparkling wine, vodka, ginger beer, and melon balls into a large glass pitcher. The glass pitcher is solely for aesthetics — you can see the bright, colorful melon. Cover the pitcher tightly, and refrigerate — overnight is best but even just a few hours in the refrigerator is better than nothing.

Right before serving the sangria, add ice, fresh mint leaves, and lime wheels to the pitcher.

This sangria does not keep, not because it won’t taste good the next few days, but you will probably drink half of it by yourself before you even serve it, and then what.

cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon prep

sparkling sangria with melon

sparkling melon sangria with cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon
{“White Sangria” is Number 67 on my List of Things to Do This Summer}

THIS SUMMER’S ANTHEM…IN A SAUCE

One year it was Salsa Verde.

Another year it was Green Goddess

This year, I’m pretty sure THE sauce that will appear in my meal prep every week, that will be served alongside roast salmon at every dinner party, that will be eaten straight from the container with a spoon with refrigerator door open in the middle of the night while I contemplate life’s deeper mysteries is 

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto is herb-y. It’s bright. It’s got that certain “je ne sais umami” from toasted pistachios. And it’s also the easiest recipe to make because the pistachios I use are roasted, salted, and already shelled. Um, yes, thank you Wonderful Pistachios No Shells. 

So far I have mixed Pistachio Pesto with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells into pasta, dolloped onto hard boiled eggs for a richer quick breakfast, and drizzled onto avocado toast. And that was just Friday.  

Complete, detailed recipes for Pistachio Pesto with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells and Pistachio Pesto Pasta below, followed by cook’s notes and shopping resources. And once you’re done making Pistachio Pesto Pasta for lunch or dinner, go to this post and make Wonderful Pistachios Sea Salted Dark Chocolate Bark and Wonderful Pistachios Matcha Dark Chocolate Bark for dessert! 

This post generously sponsored by Wonderful Pistachios. Any opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep The Delicious Life dating and eating.

pistachio pesto pasta with spinach zucchini and feta
PISTACHIO PESTO with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells [recipe]
makes about 1 1/4 cups

INGREDIENTS

1 clove garlic, lightly crushed and inner green germ removed
1/3 cup Wonderful Pistachios No Shells
1 cup parsley leaves and tender stems
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt + more to taste

DIRECTIONS

Pulse the crushed garlic clove in a food processor until finely chopped.

Add the Wonderful Pistachios No Shells and pulse again until pistachios are finely chopped.

Add parsley and basil, pulse until chopped, then while the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.

Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, pulse, then taste and adjust. The pesto will be salty from the pistachios and the salt, but not too salty. You can always add more salt to the pesto later, or season the final dish (which may have additional salt from the cheese and other ingredients).

Keep any leftover Pistachio Pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

PISTACHIO PESTO PASTA with ZUCCHINI, BABY SPINACH, and FETA [recipe]
serves 6

12 ounces pasta
1 large zucchini, cut into a shape similar to your pasta (see note)
1 cup Pistachio Pesto with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells (recipe above)
2 cups baby spinach
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
lemon juice and zest, optional

Place zucchini in the bottom of the colander you will use to drain the cooked pasta.

In a pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta into the colander with zucchini. Shake the colander to drain out as much water as possible, and give the zucchini extra time to heat.

Pour pasta and zucchini back into the pot in which you cooked it, and add baby spinach.

Toss pasta, zucchini, and baby spinach with Pistachio Pesto in the pot until everything is well-coated. Add feta cheese and very gently toss. Plate, then sprinkle with additional feta, lemon juice, and lemon zest if using.

Notes and Shopping Resources

  • Pistachios: I used Wonderful Pistachios No Shells for the Pistachio Pesto. The pistachios are already shelled, making them easy to throw into this recipe and any other pistachio recipe (and snack on, while you’re cooking!). You can find Wonderful Pistachios in their bright green package in the produce and snack aisles of most grocery stores.
  • Pesto change-o: Make this Pistachio Pesto with 1 cup of any leafy greens or herbs you have on hand to replace the parsley. Arugula makes this pesto much stronger and more peppery, baby spinach keeps the pesto pretty mild. Just be sure to keep the minimum 1/4 cup of basil; you can make the pesto with all basil, which will give the pesto that familiar pesto flavor. I do not recommend cilantro here, or ever, because cilantro is disgusting.
  • Cutting zucchini for the pasta: If you are using a short pasta like penne, slice zucchini lengthwise, then cut each half on the bias into 1/4-inch thick pieces. If you are using long pasta like spaghetti or linguine, and you happen to have a spiralizer, spiralize your zucchini into long noodles! Otherwise, the bias-cut slices are perfect.
  • Plant-based: As printed, Pistachio Pesto with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells recipe is 100% plant-based. The recipe for the pasta can be made 100% plant-based and dairy-free by leaving out the feta cheese or substituting a plant-based cheese.
  • Gluten-free: As printed, Pistachio Pesto with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells recipe is 100% gluten-free. The pasta recipe can be made gluten-free by using a gluten-free pasta product. I have tried it with a quinoa and brown rice based pasta and it tastes great!

MORE IDEAS to USE PISTACHIO PESTO:

  • Pasta Salad: Toss Pistachio Pesto with short pasta like penne, tomatoes, other fresh vegetables, and diced mozzarella cheese, then chill for a pasta salad.
  • Grain Bowl: Stir 2 tablespoons of Pistachio Pesto into a cup of hot cooked grains like quinoa or brown rice, then use that as a base for a Grain Bowl.
  • Salad Dressing: Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 cup of olive oil, shake into a vinaigrette, and use on a green salad with crunchy cucumbers and snaps, or drizzle over a plate of sliced avocadoes and nectarines and feta.
  • Pizza Sauce: Spread 2-3 tablespoons of Pistachio Pesto on shaped pizza dough in place of tomato sauce. Favorite toppings with Pistachio Pesto are mozzarella or burrata, then prosciutto and fresh figs added after the pizza is baked.
  • Savory Yogurt Dip: Stir into plain yogurt for a savory dip for crudites.
  • Sauce: Serve Pistachio Pesto as a sauce over pan-seared salmon or roast chicken.
  • Side Dish: Cut broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, radishes, anything into bite-size pieces, toss with a little olive oil, and roast at 400°F for about 35 minutes. Toss hot roasted vegetables with 2-4 tablespoons of Pistachio Pesto. 
  • Eat it straight out of the container with a spoon.