Tag Archives: #fusion

Blue Water Cafe: An iconic seafood restaurant in Vancouver, BC’s Yaletown

When visiting a new city for the first time, any foodie’s first question is, “Where do I eat?” I rely on cross-referencing friends’ recommendations with Trip Advisor and Yelp so I ensure I go to places locals would eat and not the easy, middle of the road places that happen to be popular. My first meal stop proved to a tough decision, but I ultimately chose Blue Water Cafe in the city’s Yaletown neighborhood. It was a great introduction to Vancouver’s Pacific Rim fusion cuisine and British Columbia’s burgeoning wine industry.


Vancouver, like many cities along the Pacific Rim, has an immense seaport and is a great source of fresh seafood. Coupled with its heavy Asian cultural influence, it’s a destination for sushi lovers. 


Blue Water Cafe is one of Vancouver’s elegant sushi bars, and like famed sushi spot Miku, it features the unique Aburi style – the fish partly torch-seared or grilled rather than fully raw. Yet Blue Water Cafe is well known also for its raw bar with a seemingly endless selection of oysters, as well as its cooked dishes. Its menu is one designed to have something for everyone. As such, it was no surprise to see an array of business dinners, locals, and travelers alike. What appealed to me was the relative lack of tourists, since Yaletown is a bit off the beaten path from the downtown waterfront area housing the cruise ship terminal and most large hotels. Yet Yaletown is an easy and fairly safe 15-20 minute walk from those areas.


I dined on a Tuesday night, and the restaurant was packed indoors and out. I recommend securing a reservation if you are able. Flying solo, I preferred to wait for a seat to open up at the bar (I hate sitting at a table by myself and enjoy watching chefs and bartenders work, as well as the communal nature of bars. Yet even bar seating required a wait at 7:45 pm! I sat between U.K. and Australian accents during my wait, and the accommodating, friendly hostesses set us each up with a beverage from the extensive wine and spirits menu.

I am a huge proponent of going local, so I ended my British Columbia wine virginity with a Spotted Owl Sauvignon Blanc from the Okanagan Valley. I later learned that this winery is well-known and well-established in that region. I was not terribly impressed, however. It was dry, with an almost Old World minerality but lacking the complexity of a flinty Sancerre or the crisp citrus notes of a New World Marlborough that compliment spicy food so well. I’d pass on that in the future – at least without food.


To my delight, a seat opened up at the sushi bar, giving me a view of culinary art in progressed. The sushi chef, one of four working the counter, appeared mildly amused as I watched and photographed his handiwork while waiting for my food.


To start, I needed some healthy greens, and I opted for the server’s recommendation of the special summer salad and not the seasonal salad I originally craved. The special was comprised of mixed lettuces, celeriac, savory summer melon, blueberry, and cubes of barrel aged feta (the latter of which doesn’t have any perceptible difference from “regular” feta). I would have liked the melon to be a bit more ripe and sweet to provide more complexity and contrast of notes, but it was quite tasty with interesting textures.
I paired the salad with a glass of Blue Mountain Brut, a sparkling rosé of Pinot noir from the Okanagan Valley. I found this wine to be pleasing, but again lacking a bit of complexity and balance, but not all that far off from a solid Cremant de Loire or Bourgogne.


For my main course, I chose a yellowfin tuna seared rare with flecks of sea salt with baby Dino kale, a bean trio of edamame, white and black beans. It was served over a wonderfully Unami sweet onion purée and a tangy soy-balsamic reduction that somewhat resembled Worcestershire sauce with notes of tamarind. It was. A. Ma. Zing. It was the best seared tuna i’ve had since Waterbar. The accompaniments were harmonious and nicely balanced.


Ready for a red, I chose an Okanagan, single vineyard Desperation Hill Pinot noir, from La Frenz in the Naramata Bench. I was pleasantly surprised at the complexity of this wine, as its 50 degree latitude is on the northern end of wine-growing regions – and red varietals are notably inconsistent at extreme latitudes. This delicate fruitiness paired well with the tuna and its accompaniments. It was a course to remember.

In terms of other main courses, the Sablefish is the most popular and is great for summer poached in a light dashi-miso broth. The scallops with wild rice cakes smelled so amazing, I wanted some for myself. My sushi bar neighbors recommended both of these entrees.


I willed myself to skip dessert, but the restaurant makes the check a bit sweeter with a tiny cake duo. Tonight’s consisted of a poppyseed blueberry financier and “the world’s smallest carrot cake” with a dollop of berry buttercream. Both had lovely essences of orange and lemon zest. They were the perfect ending to a wonderful culinary welcome to Vancouver, BC.

Pasta Fresca Barkia: The best of Italian cuisine and Greek hospitality in Mykonos

Greek cuisine is fantastic. Whether you prefer surf or turf, meat or vegetarian food, Greek cuisine has something for everyone. Yet in the Mediterranean food wars (I made that up), Italian food wins the global battle. I would argue that no other cuisine has such is represented by more restaurants or appears on more menus around the globe, or remade in home kitchens around the world. Its universal appeal makes it that sort of reliable go-to for travelers, too. Its pretty hard to screw up pizza and pasta – though I assure you, I’ve seen that happen. Mediocre Italian is everywhere also, so when you find something special, you remember it. And Europe tends to hold onto the best traditions, so it shouldn’t be a surprise, given the millennia-old, complicated brotherly dynamic between Greek city-states and Rome that some modern-day Roman conquerors found their place in the wealthy desert isle of Mykonos.

In a small town packed with an enormous amount of shops and restaurants per capita, Greek food and international fusion (often on the same menu) comprise the majority of restaurants, with a small army of slick fast casual shops selling anything from gyros to crepes and gelato joining the clamor for tourists’ seats and Euros. When you smell fresh pasta sauces, it commands attention.

So while spending another long stretch in Greece, after 8 days of Greek cuisine, the smell of pasta drew in a small group of colleagues and myself into the quaint, if not crowded, Pasta Fresca Barkia to try something a little different.
Pasta Fresca Barkia passed our test: good pasta, large menu variety, and even tzatziki to keep alive our daily streak of eating the delicious cucumber-yogurt-garlic concoction.

Walk inside and you may well find yourself in very close quarters as they cram in as many seats as possible (what fire code?). But what it lacks in allowing personal space or freedom of movement, it gains back in charm, Greek hospitality, and a great meal chosen from a veritable pasta catalog.


Our group started with a few appetizers, most of which had a decidedly Greek flair. A large, crusty loaf of bread formed the base for a Greek bruschetta that layered traditional crushed tomatoes atop the spicy, funky local Myconian cheese. 


Caprese and Greek salads continued the Greco-Roman fusion, and, finally, our tzatziki. 


Theirs had a stronger tang from citrus or vinegar than other versions but was nicely balanced with garlic and a hint of dill.

Now, decision time. When I say the menu choices were endless, I’m not exaggerating. It was more difficult than a Thai menu. The restaurant itself makes a wide variety of pastas, from spaghetti and tagliatelle to fusilli, penne, rigatoni, to filled tortellini and ravioli to al forno (baked) canelloni and lasagna. You can watch a daily pasta-making demonstration – if you can fit it into your shopping schedule and not lose your way in Mykonos town’s maze of alleys, that is. With all variety of shapes and styles, an equally ridiculous offering of sauces and accompanying meats vie for your appetite.


I chose the rigatoni pesto rosso (red pesto) after significant deliberation. I prefer ridged rigatoni to its sister penne, as I find sauce clings to its ridges much better, and I don’t find sun-dried tomato pesto often on the menu. It was fresh and delicious. Though it wasn’t quite as garlicky as I would like, it was delicious, and the pasta was perfectly al dente.
Two of my colleagues chose the spicy penne d’arrabiata – which turned out much spicier than expected. The culprit was their homemade blend of dried red pepper flakes. I sprinkled a very scant pinch of the flakes (brought upon another’s request) on my rigatoni, and wow. The tiny amount added an inexplicable amount of heat.


The other two chose a yin and yang – one a hearty and cheesy baked ravioli, the other langoustines (baby lobster-ish) with squid ink linguine. The latter was a more cosmopolitan take on a dish that is very typical of the Greek isles.

Everyone’s meal left us with no room for dessert, but in typical Greek form, we were served a lovely (complimentary) presentation of watermelon wedges over ice, served with a digestive, and tiny milk and while chocolate bonbons. To our pleasant surprise, the digestive was a homemade watermelon-infused moscato instead of the typical mastika. Mastika is a true digestive made from the sap of the mastic tree, which grows only on the eastern island of Hilos. Explaining the sap part goes a long way in giving an idea of its taste. To me, mastika tastes like sugar-laced wheat grass and weed killer. Occasionally, it can be infused with pleasant aromatics or fruit that help mask the musty mastika taste. I share this sidebar because mastika is presented at almost every restaurant after every meal, so to be given a digestive that actually tastes good – win!

Should you find yourself in Mykonos and in search of an alternative to the hoardes of Greek restaurants and tavernas, look no further upon Pasta Fresca Barkia. It was a happy accident when we stumbled upon it, and you’ll be grateful also.

The Talisman: A magical expat nook in southwestern Nairobi

The omnipresent developing world traffic of Nairobi, Kenya can’t stop expats from flocking to The Talisman, an eclectic, cozy gastropub for international culinary fusion or cocktails with friends. I joined that set for a night during my trip to Kenya, and the restaurant didn’t disappoint for food and atmosphere.

For those of you who haven’t visited sub-Saharan Africa, I’m guessing the image in your head is taken from The Lion King or, perhaps, nature documentaries: a grassy savannah with a sparse few stubby trees. Yes, Africa does have them, of course, but the city of Nairobi is certainly more green, hilly, and forested than one might expect. Or that just might be me.  

With the exception of downtown Nairobi with its skyscrapers, or its densely populated urban slums with human life beating out the plant kingdom (sometimes barely a victory), the city and its surrounding area is forested, not unlike a somewhat more tropical version of those seen in the US and Europe. The effect is that you can’t really see just how terrible the traffic is ahead of you, and you find places that are almost magical surprises in their existence within the forest.
The Talisman is one such surprise – and it should be, given that it is not the most easily accessible with a location on the opposite side of the city as its primary business and diplomatic districts. On a map, it doesn’t look quite so far. The distance is less than 6 miles (10 km) from the city center, but in Nairobi terms, its more like 60. Traffic in Nairobi is absolutely horrendous, and that means something, coming from someone who commuted in Lima, Peru and has experienced the world-class horror that is trying to drive through crowded Agra, India on a night particularly auspicious for weddings (which stop traffic completely). 
Nairobi’s baffling affinity for roundabouts, strobing road cameras, and U-turns in place of organized traffic control (signals or humans) is perhaps its own worst enemy. Bottom line, you must be very accustomed to the traffic and/or have a very good reason to drive across or around the city for dinner at The Talisman.


The Talisman itself is rather unassuming from its driveway, a rambling, one-story white stucco building that appears to be a converted residence, surrounded by tall trees. Inside, a network of rooms with working fireplaces and walls adorned with local art – impressionist landscapes and portraits – form separate dining areas, and its wooden bar evokes nothing of the gastropub marketed on its slick website. But its coziness grew on me, a respite from the traffic, from the crowded slums and bumpy dirt roads I passed through earlier in the day. I realize that probably sounds a little shallow, but it’s really all about unwinding after a day of overstimulation and too much jostling in a van.

My colleague and I were seated in their covered outdoor patio – the covering fortunate after a wet afternoon during this winter rainy season. A charcoal grill whimsically in the shape of a grinning frog (the mouth full of coals) kept us warm as the evening darkened. It was perhaps a bit too dark without a candle, but that addition made our meal feel a bit more rustic – never mind that anything but African cuisine is part of the menu. 

Having skipped lunch, I was the hungriest I’d been on my trip to Kenya, and my colleague had a bit of a scare owning to playing prawn roulette at dinner the preceding night, so we both chose starters: me a beetroot and goat cheese tartlet and him that African staple, spicy chicken wings (sarcasm). The tart was layered, with caramelized beets and onions lining the shell and crowned with goat cheese.

Excited to see wine flights on the beverage list (which I discovered to be an alien concept to the British, apparently), I decided to be adventurous and try a Sauvignon blanc flight that included variants of the varietal from Chile, South Africa, and Kenya. The Kenyan wine had an intriguing aroma of toasted marshmallows. I should have guessed right there what that meant, but I eagerly took a sip. The wine had a cloying white-grape juice flavor, which was masked by a smokiness best described as tasting like the grapes were grown in a field surrounding by heaps of burning trash (a real and not abnormal odor around Nairobi and the Rift Valley). Oh well! I now know not to drink Kenyan wine anytime soon. Rift Valley Wine: When you miss that toasty, garbage ash aroma.

For my main dish, I chose a Moroccan spiced beef stew, served with a minted couscous that looked like tabbouleh but was certainly couscous; soft pita; yogurt, chutney, and hummus. The hummus tasted subtly and weirdly of bananas – I am going to guess that was all me. Who makes banana hummus? It was a fun palette of sweet, salty, tangy, and earthy flavors at once. It was satisfying and filling to my empty stomach. 

My colleague ordered steak, which came with “matched potatoes”.  No, I don’t believe that was a typographical error on the menu. These were little fried potato cakes that made French fries seem pedestrian. If I return to the Talisman, I definitely would order those potatoes as a side dish.

If our beef-heavy meals weren’t enough, chocolate desserts were our downfall. We split a chocolate fondant (molten cake) and a seasonal special – a Bailey’s brownie, both served with ice cream; both were fantastic, but the brownie was other-worldly with the clear flavor of Irish cream infused throughout. I need no other words to describe the sensation other than YUM.

Stuffed, satisfied, and relaxed after a day of overstimulation, The Talisman was the perfect culinary antidote we needed.

Healthy Diplomat: Vegetarian Quinoto-stuffed peppers

Tired of boring old quinoa? Need new ideas for healthy entrees – vegetarian or not, or just an impressive side dish for guests? Try this Peruvian inspired delicious bell pepper stuffed with a goat cheese quinoa risotto, also known as quinoto. It is rich, yet light – typically under 300 calories per serving and a great alternative to traditional risotto.

At the end of my first trip to Peru a few years ago, I tried quinoto for the first time. The creamy quinoa dish was Peru’s answer to Italian risotto. It was velvety, nutty, and very heavy. 

  
Determined to make it at home, I transformed my typical quinoa pilaf into a lighter version with the addition of a few ounces of tangy chèvre. A small amount goes a long way and makes it taste far more decadent than it actually is. Lest you think it too light, the high protein, high fiber content in the quinoa, along with a full, sweet bell pepper gives it enough substance to really satisfy you – or your guests.

Tips: I prefer to use chicken broth if cooking for carnivores, but vegetable broth adds plenty of flavor and depth for vegetarians. 

  
Also, quinoa can be very messy. When rinsing (which removes the bitterness from the husks surrounding the seeds), F you don’t have a fine sieve, I like to line a sieve or colander with paper towel to ensure the seeds don’t escape, and then scrape the seeds off the paper towel. You’ll certainly lose a few, but fewer of them!

  
Not a fan of goat cheese? Try parmesan or cotija cheese for a similar texture – and different flavor.

The quinoto can be made in advance. Stuff the peppers, then tightly wrap and refrigerate overnight before baking.

  

Quinoto stuffed bell peppers


Servings=4
Difficulty=Easy

  • 4 large red, orange, or yellow bell peppers
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine, optional
  • 1 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 c. Sun-dried tomatoes, julienned finely
  • 1/2 small red onion or 1/4 large red onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 1/2 c. Crimini or button mushrooms, washed and diced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 2 oz. chèvre cheese, plus additional for topping

Place the broth and quinoa in a 2 quart (medium) saucepan and bring to a boil over the stovetop. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring every two minutes or so. Meanwhile, remove the caps, ribs, and seeds from each bell pepper. Set aside.

  
While the quinoa cooks, sautée the vegetables: Over medium heat, place about 1 Tbsp olive oil into a nonstick or cast iron skillet. Once the oil is hot, sautée the garlic and minced onion for about 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Add in the tomatoes and mushrooms. Sautée another 3-5 minutes or until the mushrooms have reduced in volume by about half. 

  
Remove from heat and set aside.
When the quinoa has absorbed all but a small amount of liquid, add in the wine if using and allow it to heat and evaporate. Next, stir in the vegetables until fully incorporated, over medium low heat. 

  
Fold the goat cheese into the quinoa mixture. Remove from heat. If serving immediately, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

  
Stuff each pepper with roughly one cup of the quinoto, leveling off. Spread a few teaspoons of goat cheese atop the quinoto. Wrap each pepper in aluminum foil. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until approximately 45 minutes before serving; preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  
On a baking sheet – or placing the peppers upright in a large muffin tin – bake the peppers (covered) for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet/tin from the oven. Unwrap peppers and return to the oven for 10-15 more minutes. Remove them from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a garnish of roasted red pepper coulis and basil for drama! Disfrute!

The Healthy Diplomat’s Mediterranean-inspired turkey burgers

The all-American hamburger gets the CD international treatment with infusion of flavors that span the northern and eastern Mediterranean. An oh so easy classic you might just turn into a weeknight menu staple!

  
America has a love affair with the poorly named hamburger. Though the name refers to its attributed origin – immigrants to the US cooking steak in the style of Hamburg, Germany, it always threw me off as a child, thinking it was made from ham. And clearly, the rest of the world has embraced the burger concept as a signature American export – one that has moved well beyond fast food, judging by the explosion of gourmet burger joints throughout the Americas. I’ve seen fancy pants burger houses in places as far flung as Peru, Oman, Austria, Lithuania, and Hong Kong. The meat patty (or non-meat) on a bun concept resonates with an audience receptive to culinary globalization.

Ok, enough waxing philosophical. Let’s get down to business. You just want to know about THIS burger, right?? Ok, ok you all know I like to get a little too much into the “diplomat” before delving into the culinary.

So I recently joined an old friend’s seven day clean eating challenge, complete with set meal plan. When she mentioned that she was looking to me to put my own spin on the recipes, I tried to step up to the challenge.

When it came time for the turkey burger, I wasn’t the most confident. Homemade burgers have never interested me, as I’d prefer even a pseudo-beef cheeseburger from McDonalds over DIY. But I decided to incorporate a few of my go-to healthy ingredients to spruce up an otherwise bland patty.

A few key points to ensure your burger is a success. First, do NOT use the leanest ground turkey; a bit of fat is necessary to ensure a moist, juicy burger. You can substitute ground beef, bison, chicken, or lamb if you prefer. 

Incorporating fresh ingredients and spices inside the patty makes every bite addictive

Third, mixing/massaging veggies and spices directly into the meat produces a delicious patty that needs no bun or sauce; however, Greek tzatziki only enhances the burger’s Mediterranean flavor . Try making it yourself with my recipe here; omit the feta cheese if you’re trying to keep it “clean.” 

  
I serve it directly over salad, but it’s perfection with a multigrain bun. Finally, this recipe uses portions for a single serving; simply multiply to make as many as you need. Definitely make and eat them as soon as cooked. They are so easy to make, minimal prep is needed!

Mediterranean inspired turkey burgers

Difficulty: Easy

Servings: One

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) ground turkey
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped, fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Red onion, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Sun-dried tomatoes, julienned and chopped
  • 1-1/2 tsp. zata’ar spice blend
  • Pinch of sea salt and black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, massage the spice blend, salt and pepper blend throughout the meat. Next, add in the fresh vegetables and basil and massage to incorporate all evenly. Roll the mixture into a ball; press onto a firm surface (cutting board or wax paper atop counter) with hand to flatten to about 1/2 inch thick patties.

Grill or pan fry (with a slight amount of olive oil or cooking spray in a nonstick pan, or, preferably a cast iron skillet) for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until slightly brown and cooked through (poultry should have lost all pink color; beef/bison or lamb may be cooked for less time on higher heat to produce a pink center). Serve over salad, lettuce wrap, or bun, topped with 1-2 Tbsp. tzatziki sauce.

Blackwood: Trendy Thai fusion in San Francisco

San Francisco is well known for its food culture. Its history of Asian immigration has made Asian cuisine -both traditional and fusion particularly strong.

While the city’s Marina/Cow Hollow neighborhood is not exactly the place to go for authentic international dishes, its trendy cafes and enthusiastic crowds are the perfect atmosphere to play with modern American reinterpretations of Thai food.

Even from curbside, it is evident that Blackwood is not your typical Thai restaurant. Sleek wood, outdoor fireplaces, and clean modern lines clue the casual visitor into the restaurant’s American roots. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love traditional Thai flavors, but Blackwood’s fusion brings out the best from both Thai and American cooking styles. Come in with an open mind, and prepare to be wowed.


I visited on a Friday night, and the restaurant had no shortage of patrons. A short wait at a next door bar passed quickly as our table was readied. Blackwood’s atmosphere,which reminds me a bit more of Los Angeles than SFO, buzzes with yuppie energy but tamed by the open flow of the indoor dining space and the mellow bliss of diners satisfied with their food and friends.

The menu offers plenty of variety – from appetizers that lean more American to a range of entrees. Main courses included slightly cleaner (less greasy) traditional Thai curries, wok fried noodle dishes, fried rice, and unexpected chef’s specialties, such as a Wagyu burger called the One Percenter’s Burger, bacon-wrapped scallops, pan-seared fish, short rib tacos, and the Blackhawk Belly pork slow cooked with Chinese Five Spice Blend.

the Marina Tower

My group decided to feast family style, and our meal was truly outstanding. We were perhaps overly ambitious and ordered way too much food, but we were in no danger of leaving either hungry or dissatisfied.

For starters, we chose the fabulous Marina Tower, Millionaire’s Way, and Pumpkin Fries. Those alone could have fed us nicely. The Marina Tower was a large tuna tartare accented with avocado and mango. The Millionaire’s Way took bacon-wrapped asparagus to another level. Thick slabs of dense, maple cured bacon imparted sweet smokiness to the often pungent asparagus. The pumpkin fries resembled wedge potatoes with a pleasantly crisp exterior and sweet, mealy insides complimented by a tangy sweet and sour peanut dipping sauce.


For main dishes, we did a chicken Pad See You (Ew), Tom Yum noodle soup with chicken, and delicious shredded beef fried rice. The large soup was a shareable portion, as were the entrees.

Pad See You, Foreground; Millionaire’s Way, background

I think the photos (however poorly lit) speak volumes more about the precision of Blackwood’s presentation and flavor than I am able to share in words. Our feast included every range of taste – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and unami- and texture, combined in both comforting and unexpected ways. Don’t take my word for it: Try it yourself during a visit to San Francisco!

Sweet and spicy Thai-inspired chicken sausage and arugula salad

Sweet and spicy. That might describe my own personality a bit, but it definitely fits this salad. An easy, healthy meal for a hot summer day, or if you’re like me, year round!

Another salad?  Isn’t this kind of cheating?

Perhaps.  The cook-from-scratch purist in me is embarrassed to pass off my  go-to salad as a recipe.  Ok, so I’m a purist except for peeling and chopping vegetables and fruits – I have no shame in shortcuts that buy me a virtual sous chef.

But I do (expletive) love salads. As in I eat one every day in which I am in a country with potable water.  Even then, the first thing I’m willing to risk my strong stomach for is a salad. Ask anyone who was in Tunisia with me when I got food poisoning from a grilled chicken salad this past year. Even then, I’m pretty sure it was the chicken and not the raw vegetables that made me ill. It stopped me from eating salad from that establishment, but the self-imposed salad ban lasted all of a week. If you knew me as a very, very picky child and even teenage athlete, it has to be pretty funny to see me now. You could only get me to eat salad once before the age of 17 – and that was only because it was in front of my idols. I am not exaggerating.  The joke is on me! Anyhow, you can see why I chose to share such a simple meal suggestion.

This particular salad is a version of one I’ve been eating almost every single day (when I’m not traveling) for at least two years. I say that to vouch for its nutrition, deliciousness, and versatility.   

The dressing makes this salad amazing. Trader Joe’s Asian Style Spicy Peanut vinaigrette does not resemble truly authentic Thai flavors  – they are too clean and Americanized, missing elements like oil, tamarind, basil, and fishiness, but I still find it pleasant.  I’ve introduced many people to this dressing and seen way more “Wow!” reactions than “meh.” It has enough sweetness to overpower the bitterness of arugula and broccoli slaw, peanut butter for richness, and jalapeno to kick things up at the finish.  I believe it works well with almost anything you could put in a salad except for dairy. It is a bit thick, so I add rice wine vinegar or lime juice to cut it.  

Arugula forms the base of the salad. Arugula is my favorite green. It is the right size, requiring no cutting or chopping like Romaine or Bibb lettuces. It has just a hint of bitterness and a forgettable (in a good way) texture as compared to a mesclun mix with frisee and radicchio. Julienned carrots or broccoli slaw are its companion. Sweet apple chicken sausage, which needs no further description, is the perfect compliment to the vegetables.  I often add chilled, cooked lentils (available, pre-packaged in many supermarkets) for fiber and more protein (not pictured). They also soak up the dressing nicely. Shelled edamame, black beans, or garbanzo beans (chickpeas) also make good fiber sources.

I have an addiction to Trader Joe’s pineapple-mango salsa (try it with plaintain chips!), and in the early stage of that addiction, I added it to this salad. It has become the secret weapon of this salad, adding intense flavor and more heat without a lot of calories (it does have agave nectar in it, so don’t go overboard).  Using it on the salad also prevents me from killing it with plaintain chips in two sittings.

Sundried tomatoes, sprouts, and diced bell peppers are great additions to this salad, as are chopped peanuts or cashews, if you are vegetarian or just want more variety and texture. Once again, I leave you to make your own decisions. If you don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s, many of these ingredients are still accessible from other brands, or you can make a similar dressing or salsa yourself.

Sweet and spicy Thai chicken sausage and arugula salad

  • Servings: Individual
  • Difficulty: Easy (what else?)
  • Print

  • 3 cups baby arugula, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2/3 cup julienned carrots or broccoli slaw
  • 1/2 cup cooked, cooled lentils or beans
  • 1 link/piece, sweet apple chicken sausage (recommend Trader Joe’s or Applewood Farms brands in the U.S.)
  • 1/4 cup pineapple mango salsa
  • 2 Tbsp. Trader Joe’s Asian Style Spicy Peanut vinaigrette  (or equivalent salad dressing)
  • 2 tsp. rice wine vinegar or lime juice

Combine all ingredients and toss thoroughly to mix. Serve immediately.