Category Archives: Salads

Gluten-free Potluck – Italian Cannellini Bean-Quinoa Salad

Shauna Ahern introducing the dinnerShauna James Ahern greeting everyone

When the invitation to attend a potluck dinner for NYC food bloggers that Shauna James Ahern (aka Gluten-free Girl) and her husband were having last week during their #AmericanPotluckTrip tour, checking out various cities around the country and meeting food folks as research for their next cookbook about classic American recipes, I knew I was on board to join in.  This was a great chance to connect with fellow NYC food bloggers and writers and to enjoy eating a variety of delicious dishes.  Besides, I’d been thinking about the gluten-free items that we’d tried at Big Summer Potluck and had the idea for an Italian Cannellini Bean-Quinoa Salad to contribute to the feast – a dish both gluten-free and vegan.

Gluten-free table dishesThe Gluten-Free Dishes Table Display

The gluten-free section of the room at our host location the GE Monogram Design Center in Midtown filled up a long table, while the non-gf dishes could be counted on the fingers of one hand and were segregated on the other side of the room.  The Diva That Ate New York (Jackie Gordon) brought her incredible version of gluten-free spinach knishes – fried in schmaltz – which were gobbled up quite quickly.  There was a pecan-covered Pineapple Cheese Ball created by Michelle Buffardi that was also a huge hit.  For those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth, Jackie Ourman made a stack of the NYC deli classic Black & White Cookies that got a lot of attention.  My favorite, however, had to be the Flourless Brownie Cheesecake brought by Susan Palmer of The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen.

Italian Cannellini Bean SaladItalian Cannellini Bean-Quinoa Salad

I’ve always admired Shauna for all of her hard work to help those who suffer from gluten-related intolerances and allergies.  She puts her whole heart into helping out those who have been diagnosed and who are trying to figure out how to feed themselves without getting sick and suffering other ill affects on their health and well-being.  I’ve often referred folks to her site when they mention to me that they need to follow a gluten-free diet so that they can find guidance and can get their hands on some terrific recipes.  It was so nice to be a part of this evening and to get to try all the great gluten-free dishes.

Mise en placeMise en Place – really

I’d love to be able to be all neat and tidy in typing up the recipe that goes along with the dish that I brought, but the truth is that I walked into the door of my apartment at 5:45 p.m., having just started my first day as a production chef at a catering company, with shopping bags in hand from Whole Foods and a rough outline of what I was going to make in my head.  The event started at 6:30 p.m., and I live at least 30 minutes away in travel time.  I knew I was going to go in the vegan and gluten-free direction.  I was also going to draw on Italian taste profiles to add lots of flavor to the dish as well as to highlight one NYC cultural culinary influence, as the event invitation had asked us to do.  From there, I just decided to wing it, eyeballing the proportions and relying on gut instinct to make it all come together.  Here’s a guess at what I did, but, really, this is a free-form dish that you can alter to fix yours and your family’s preferences.

Buon appetito!

Italian Cannellini Bean-Quinoa Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Potluck-sized

Italian Cannellini Bean-Quinoa Salad


2 Tbsp. Parsley, chopped

1 Tbsp. Garlic, minced

2 tsp. Oregano, chopped

2 tsp. Basil, chopped

1 tsp. Red Wine Vinegar

1 tsp. White Wine Vinegar

1/2 tsp. Salt

1/4 tsp. Black Pepper

1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 c. Quinoa, cooked (about 1 1/2 cups uncooked)

2 cans Cannellini Beans, rinsed

1/2 c. Artichoke Hearts, chopped (reserve some for decoration)

1/3 c. Roasted Red Peppers, chopped (reserve some for decoration)

1/4 c. Black Olives, chopped (reserve some for decoration)

1/4 c. Pine Nuts, toasted (reserve some for decoration)


Did I mention that I was kind of pressed for time in making this dish? I'd had some herbs from Gourmet Garden from our goodie bag at Big Summer Potluck, so I decided to use those (yes, they are also gluten-free). I guesstimated how much I would need to make the dressing, tossed in a few dashes of red wine vinegar and thought I'd add some lemon juice for extra acidity.

When I found that the lemon I had was a bit moldy, I threw in some white wine vinegar, and that seemed to do the trick. Then, I whisked in enough olive oil to balance out everything and make the dressing come together. Taste everything to make sure that the seasoning is balanced.

Mix together the cooked quinoa and the beans. Add the dressing and toss it all together to coat the quinoa and the beans with the dressing.

Mix the chopped artichokes, red peppers, and black olives together separately. Then, add them to the quinoa-bean mixture. Once that is done, add the toasted pine nuts.

Pour salad into serving container. Decorate the top of the dish with the reserved artichoke hearts, red pepper pieces, chopped black olives, and toasted pine nuts. This dish can be made several hours in advance and should be served room temperature.


Gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan

The Experimental Gourmand now on

UPDATE: Due to the editorial changes that took place at in 2013, I decided to remove my recipes from their website, as my content no longer fit with their website’s mission.

For those who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve already seen my exciting news, but I wanted to share this with everyone who drops by this site, too.  Thursday, I announced that I’ve published some of my recipes on, a site that lets you search for dishes to make based upon entering the ingredients you have in your cupboard.  For those who are based in the New York City area, you can also link your account to a D’Agostino loyalty card to make this an even better way to maximize those grocery-store dollars.  Hopefully, this service will be available for other stores’ cards soon.

Here’s what I’ve uploaded to the site so far:


Quinoa with Broccoli – super simple to whip up for a quick weeknight dinner or for lunch






Salad with Balsamic Vinegar-Fig Reductionfull of greens and goodness, this is a unique way to use up that bottle of balsamic vinegar that’s been lurking the bottom of your kitchen cupboards




No-Mayonnaise Carrot Salad – light, refreshing, and with a hint of smokiness from the cumin-scented dressing, this is a perfect salad for summertime picnics or barbecues





Seared Scallops with Parsley Salad and Bacon – this dish was the hit of a luncheon that I hosted for some friends.  The original post also walks you through a step-by-step tutorial on cooking scallops





Smoked Salmon Hash – I’ve reposted this recipe several times in round-ups for entertaining, holidays, and brunch.  It is super easy to make and is so delicious




I hope that you go to and check out the recipes from the amazing food writers who are listed there.  I’m honored to be in such great company and am looking forward to posting many more great meal ideas on their site.  One word about my profile picture on the site, it was taken by my friend Kim Elphinstone.  I had brought him a half a batch his favorite cookies, Chocolate Chip with Sea Salt, for his time and photographic skills.  After several hours of shooting, I was ready for a snack so I started to dive into them.  Turned out that they were the perfect prop!  (Yes, I did eat that cookie when we were done.)

Buon appetito!

Artichoke Salad

Artichokes are another one of those things that took me a while to really like to eat, along with asparagus, mushrooms, and a few other foods.  Then, a few years back, I had them raw and thinly sliced dressed with olive oil and parmesan cheese.  I think I kind of fell in love with them then.  The creamy nuttiness of the cheese went along perfectly with the crunchy vegetable which picked up the fruitiness of the oil and the slight tang from the lemon juice and carried it along in delicious harmony.

When I was in Rome this past winter, I made it a point to eat this salad in several restaurants to get a feel for how it was put together.  Actually, I think I pretty much had artichokes every day that I was there, as the Romans are artists in preparing this vegetable for the table.  I’ve wanted to recreate the same dishes at home, but I get a little put off by all the prep work involved.  Then, I saw these baby artichokes at the Greenmarket and picked them up to give it a try.  I cleaned them per these instructions, and then just tossed them together with the minimum of ingredients to make an easy salad to salute the end of summer.

Artichoke Salad

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

Serving Size: 2 adults (the kids will probably not touch this)


1/2 Lemon, juiced

4 baby Artichokes or 2 full-sized Artichokes

1 tsp. highest quality Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

1 pinch freshly ground Black pepper

1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese


Put 1 tsp. lemon juice into a bowl with 1 c. water to keep the artichokes from turning brown (If preparing these in advance, you can leave them in this acid bath until ready to assemble the salad.).  Strip outer leaves from artichoke to the white part.  Cut off the top 1/2 inch where the choke has started to form (no need to scoop out the whole thing if using the baby ones).  Rub the artichoke with a slice of lemon to keep it from turning brown, if not putting in the water with lemon juice.

About five minutes before you would like to serve the salad, slice the artichokes into thin slivers (julienne) and put half of them on each of two plates.  Drizzle each pile of artichokes with the olive oil and 1/8-1/4 tsp lemon juice and sprinkle the black pepper over it.  Dress each plate with half of the parmesan cheese shavings.  Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

No-Mayonnaise Carrot Salad

Do you have a food phobia?  I’m not talking about just a normal dislike or won’t-eat.  I mean, do you have something that actually strikes terror in your heart and makes you gag when thinking about it or even coming within 100 yards of the smell of it?  That is me with any kind of mayonnaise-heavy salad dish.  You know the ones I mean.  They lurk on the tables at Boy Scout potlucks, show up menacingly at soccer picnics, and loiter at neighborhood barbecues, trying to squeeze in next to the potato salad.

Grated carrots

There’s a series of these salads which date from my 1970s childhood (separate from the sequence of equally-disliked Jello salads).  Ambrosia Salad, Waldorf Salad, and the one that I probably despise most of all, although it is tough to pick just one, Carrot Salad.  Part of my dislike is that I’m not a big fan of raisins in things, which I now know is not that uncommon.  Then, there’s the whole globs of processed mayonnaise, which I also can’t stand as I’ve mentioned before.  So, put those two things together alone and the dish is not likely to be a hit with me.  Carrots, I think, are the innocent bystander in all of this, as I like those raw or cooked.

Dried dates

At a baby shower a couple of years ago, I was introduced to a whole different kind of carrot salad, one I could actually enjoy.  There were bits of sweet dates amongst the crunchy, shredded carrots instead of the dreaded raisins.  Toasted almonds, one of my favorite things, added a heartiness, and the chopped fresh cilantro brought an herbal brightness to the mix.  In place of the goopy mayonnaise was a light, smokey cumin-based vinaigrette.  My tastebuds were so happy that at last I could be freed from the horror of the carrot salads of the past!

Cumin vinaigrette

As it was such a hit, this recipe was quickly added to the keeper file after it was emailed around to everyone.  I’ve adapted the recipe somewhat and added some more instructions from the original.  With the temperatures set to reach record highs today, something cool, crisp, and refreshing, like this salad, seemed to be perfect.  The components can be prepared in advance, with the dressing added at the last minute, to keep everything fresh and crunchy.  The flavors would pair well with grilled meats or fish or it could be part of a vegetarian meal or mezze set-up, something else that would be a great solution for a no-cook dinner.

Annette’s No-Mayonnaise Carrot Salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Serving Size: 4-6


1/4 cup blanched slivered Almonds

2 cups grated Carrots (3 large carrots, approximately)

1/2 cup chopped Dates (about 8 of them)

2 Tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro


1 Tbsp white wine Vinegar

2 tsp. Honey

1 tsp. ground Cumin

1 pinch Salt

1/4 cup Olive Oil


Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put almonds in one layer on a baking tray and toast until golden brown, about 5-10 minutes (check them after 5 minutes to see how they are doing).

In the meantime, grate the carrots and chop the dates and cilantro.  Put these ingredients into a bowl and toss to combine.  In a separate bowl, put in the vinegar, honey, cumin, and salt.  Add the olive oil to the vinegar mixture in a steady stream while stirring with a whisk until completely incorporated.

When the almonds are done, set them aside to cool while assembling the rest of the ingredients.  If preparing in advance, wait until the last minute to mix everything together so that the salad doesn’t become mushy.  If serving right away, pour the dressing into the carrot mixture and toss to combine.  Sprinkle the almonds on top.

Buon appetito!

Insalata di rucola con funghi e grana padano (Arugula Salad with Mushrooms and Grana Padano)

It’s been a massively busy few weeks with lots of food events taking place in New York plus a few other things going on.  I’ve been churning out articles for a couple of sites which means I’ve kind of been neglecting things here.  Not being around the apartment much, I’ve been turning to some simple but delicious recipes from my Italian days to keep myself fed between activities.  This Insalata di rucola con funghi e grana padano (Arugula Salad with Mushrooms and Grana Padano) has a bit of snap and bite to it and is the perfect kick-off to a great meal or can stand as a light lunch or dinner all by itself on a hot summer’s day.

Arugula from the Greenmarket

I first had this salad when I was a student in Bologna, Italy.  Scaccomatto, one of the restaurants that we would treat ourselves to sometimes, had many traditional dishes on the menu but, boldly for this town, often had more imaginative fare, all made with top-quality ingredients.  When I was last there, they had licorice pasta, probably made in-house as I have yet to locate it elsewhere, which enthralled my sister-in-law.  It was served with seafood and was delicious.

Cremini mushrooms from the same market

Scaccomatto has always had a special place in my heart and food memories because of that and is one of the places that I try to get to when I’ve been able to return to that town.  In this salad, which I copied from what I remember eating at the restaurant, the peppery arugula (the small-leafed Italian variety) is combined with very thinly sliced, meaty cremini mushrooms and delicate shavings of creamy, slightly sharp grana padano.  Rectangular, soft, barely crisp croutons drizzled with olive oil decorate the side of the plate.  Actually, come to think of it, the bread was probably fried in the olive oil.  Whatever the case, I think I managed to come up with a good approximation of it.

Bread from Hot Bread Kitchen

Insalata di rucola con funghi e grana padano (Arugula Salad with Mushrooms and Grana Padano)

Serving Size: 2 people (easily scaleable)

Prep Time: 15 minutes


2 slices hearty Country Bread

2 cups Arugula (Italian-style), approximately

1 cup Cremini mushrooms very thinly sliced

12-14 shavings Grana Padano cheese

1/2 tsp. Lemon juice, freshly-squeezed

1 tsp. top-quality Italian Olive Oil

2 grinds of Black Pepper (or 1/2 pinch)

2 pinches of Salt

1 clove Garlic

extra Olive Oil for drizzling

Grana Padano


Toast bread in toaster or in broiler.  While bread is cooking, toss together arugula and mushrooms with lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl.  Season with pepper and 1 pinch of the salt.  Divide salad between two plates making sure to have an even distribution of mushrooms and arugula on each.

Lay strips of the cheese on top of the salad, again dividing them equally.  When the bread is toasted, rub a garlic clove cut in half over one side of the bread.  Drizzle with a little bit more of the olive oil and sprinkle some of the remaining salt  on top of the toasted bread and place one slice on each plate.  Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

Kitchen Witch Tip:

Many of the key ingredients for this dish came from the Union Square Greenmarket.  The arugula is from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, the mushrooms are from Bulich Mushroom Farm, and the bread is from Hot Bread Kitchen.


Thanksgiving Dishes – A Roundup

This year things are going to be a bit different for me for Thanksgiving.  As I’m no longer working in an office, the annual ritual of folks passing by my cube, looking for those last-minute recipe hints or swapping holiday cooking disaster stories (for the record, I don’t have any of those) is not going to be taking place.  This also means that I don’t have to confess to anyone that I’ve never actually made the centerpiece of the meal: the turkey.

My mother always made the turkey and gravy.  I wasn’t even allowed near it, except when it came to pulling out the innards (which, thankfully came stored in a plastic bag shoved down its inside).  At every other meal to which I’ve been invited, it is usually the host who takes care of this.  Even when my roommates and I had folks over to eat many years ago, I was able to get out of poultry duty.

I’m the first one to volunteer to bring dessert or a side dish to the meal, if it is a potluck, and will almost-willingly peel the mounds of potatoes it takes to feed my large and carb-friendly family (although I’m really looking for someone in the next generation who can take over from me on that), but I’ve never tackled cooking the big bird.  This year will be no different, as far as I know.

So, what I’ve been promising everyone is that I’ll pull together some of the side dishes that I’ve posted previously that might be suitable for the occasion.  I’ve also linked to two other new dishes that I created recently using products that I recently discovered via Schoolhouse Kitchen.  These might not all be the same things that were served at the first harvest celebration held by the Puritans in Plymouth, but they should be very tasty and might give you some new ideas to carry over to your own family’s annual table.  I hope that you enjoy them.

Buon appetito!

Spiced Pumpkin-Pecan Muffins with Maple Butter

Buttermilk Biscuits
(I’m partial to the ones with Cheddar and Chives)

Pears and Cheese
(without the salad, this could also be a dessert course)

Winter Squash Soup with Gruyère Croutons

Spinach Salad

Spiced Pecan and Pear Salad

Baked Couscous with Spinach and Pine Nuts 
(a potluck standby, this can also be made vegan by omitting the cheese)

Farro Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Thyme-Roasted Mushrooms 
(this can also be made vegan by omitting the butter and cheese)

Roasted Parsnips with Schoolhouse Kitchen’s Bardshar Chutney

Sweet Potato Mash with Schoolhouse Kitchen’s Squadrilla Chutney

Chocolate-Pecan-Bourbon Pie