Bucketful or Not, Conch Salad Recipe from My Key West Kitchen

A ray of sun on grey December day can be found in the pages of My Key West Kitchen (Kyle Books, October 2012) by father and son team of Norman and Justin Van Aken.


“Hey. Hey. I’m Frank, the Conch Salad Man. I’ll sell you the world’s best conch salad!” He was holding a huge white pickle bucket brimming with his conch salad. With no more explanation than that, he reached in and gave me a paper cup full. I tipped back a mixture of finely diced conch, tomatoes, red onions, Scotch bonnets, bell peppers, celery, citrus juices and herbs. The flavors of the sea were in there, too. Living in Key West was my culinary university; I never needed more formal training. The place was filled with honest, in-your-face flavors that came from the Cuban, Bahamian and African-American residents and wanderers who passed through. I didn’t move to Key West to re-invent the cuisine—I came to find a home. In the process, I found a path to both. In this recipe, you will taste the foundation of each. 

Serves 4 as an appetizer

1 pound cleaned fresh conch, diced

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 European (hothouse) cucumber, peeled and


1/2 yellow bell pepper, minced

1/2 red bell pepper, minced

1/4 red onion, minced

1/2 cup diced fresh tomato

1/4 ripe Florida avocado, diced, or 1/2 ripe Haas avocado (optional) 

Key west kitchen_Conch Salad-0045

Combine all of the ingredients except the tomato and avocado in a large bowl. Stir and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to develop.

To serve, fold in the tomato and avocado. Transfer to 4 chilled glasses or serving bowls. 

Ingredient Note: Those of us who have lived in South Florida for some time may remember when conch, freshly harvested from the sea, was readily available in grocery stores and fish markets. My first recollection of conch was watching young boys pulling them up onto the pier at Higgs Beach in Key West. A few weeks later, I learned to prepare a truly authentic Bahamian-style conch chowder using giant conch, or Strombus gigas Linnaeus, a mollusk that possesses a large “foot.”

They meander around on the ocean floor like aquatic peg-leg pirates, “jumping” and rotating to get food. The Bahamians taught us many ways to use this tasty creature and you can still sample fresh conch fritters, cracked conch, conch chowder and even conch carpaccio in Key West. If conch is unavailable, you may easily substitute shrimp in this salad recipe.

(* Recipe from My Key West Kitchen -Kyle Books, October 2012- by Norman and Justin Van Aken, all rights reserved, photography by Penny De Los Santos)

Fish for the People, Spicy Mackerel with Orange and Radish Salad from Fresh and Easy

Need a little hand holding in the kitchen, What to Cook and How to Cook it: Fresh and Easy (Phaidon, Spring 2012), the follow up to What to Cook and How to Cook it by Jane Hornby will fit like a glove.

I previously shared her Light, Simple and Vegetarian, Lemon and Basil Gnudi, today i went for a fish for the people.

Spicy Mackerel with Orange & Radish Salad

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus marinating

Cooking time: 6-10 minutes

Serves 6, easily doubled 

Note: Oily fish like mackerel and sardines are delicious with hot spices. Try them with harissa or curry paste, which cut through the richness of the flesh. Whole fish cook well on the grill (barbecue), but there are a few tricks to getting the best result. See page 13 for more information about cooking fish. 


6 small or 3 large fresh mackerel—ask your fish supplier to clean (gut) them and to remove the heads

1 tbsp harissa paste

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing

3 large or 6 small oranges

11 oz (300 g) radishes

1 red onion

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Mackerel salad


  1. Rinse the fish under cold running water to remove any blood, then dry with paper towels. Slash the flesh 3-4 times on each side for small fish or 5 times for large fish.
  1. Mix the harissa paste, 1 tablespoon of oil and plenty of salt and pepper, then rub this all over the fish. Marinate in the fridge for a few minutes (or up to 3 hours), while you make the salad.*
  2. Cut the top and bottom from each orange, then, using a serrated knife, cut away the skin and pith. Take care to follow the line of the orange flesh, so that you don’t trim too much of it. Cut into thin slices.
  3. Thinly slice the radishes and the red onion. Toss in a serving dish with the oranges, vinegar, and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Before you begin cooking, check that your charcoal is glowing white hot, or your gas grill (barbecue) is preheated to 400ºF (200ºC). Use a heat-resistant brush to oil the grill rack, then cook small fish for 3 minutes or large fish for 5-6 minutes on each side, until charred and cooked through. If your grill has a lid, then you can use it here. Test with a knife—the flesh at the backbone should flake easily. Toss the parsley leaves through the salad, then serve with the fish.** 

*About harissa—This feisty paste of dried red chiles, garlic, and spices is originally from Tunisia, but can be found in specialty markets and some supermarkets. As an alternative, stir 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 crushed garlic clove, and ½ teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander into 1 tablespoon chili paste or sauce.

**Cooking fish on the grill—Inevitably, some fish skin will stick to the grate. Oiling helps, but if you plan to cook a lot of fish it makes sense to invest in a grill basket for fish—a wire cage with handles that sandwiches around the fish and can be turned easily. Oil this too. Alternatively, heat a grill pan (griddle) on the grill. That way the fish flavor won’t be transferred to the grate beneath. 

If it rains—Preheat the broiler (grill) and cook the fish on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes, turning carefully once.

(* Recipe reproduced with permission from publisher, excerpted from Fresh and Easy by Jane Hornby - Phaidon Press, Spring 2012- Photographs by Stephen Joyce, Illustrations by Emily Robertson)

Ensalada de Gambas, Shrimp and Fennel Salad with Grapefruit Aioli from Espana

Aioli does not always mean a visit to the South of France as this recipe from Espana, Exploring the Flavors from Spain (May 2012, Gibbs Smith) by James Campbell Caruso , chef and owner of La Boca restaurant in Santa Fe.

Ensalada de Gambas/ Shrimp and Fennel Salad with Grapefruit Aioli

The shrimps are pan-seared and then tossed with the salad so that you experience hot, cold, and the crunch of fresh fennel.

Serves 6

1 egg
2 whole cloves garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup olive oil, divided
2 grapefruits, sectioned; divided
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, slivered
3 fennel bulbs, cleaned and
cored, thinly julienned
1 red onion, julienned


To make an aioli, put the egg, garlic, and lemon juice into a blender. Puree well. While the motor is still running, slowly pour in 3 ⁄ 4 cup olive oil. Then add 6 sections of grapefruit and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Season the shrimp with salt, pepper, and parsley. Heat a sauté pan with the remaining oil. Cook the shrimp along with the slivered garlic on high heat for about 2 minutes per side, until the shrimps
turn pink. In a bowl, toss the shrimp, fennel, onion, and remaining grapefruit sections with 4 tablespoons of aioli.

Divide onto six small plates, giving each plate 2 shrimp. Spoon a tablespoon of aioli onto each plate.

(* Recipe from Espana, Exploring the Flavors from Spain by James Campbell Caruso- Gibbs Smith 2012- photography by Douglas Merriam)

Counterpoint to a Spicy Dish, Honeydew Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing from Ripe

I continue the honey do recipe thread with this salad from  RIPE by Cheryl Sternman Rule published by Running Press (2012).

I previously shared her Tarragon Lime Green Tea, a thirst quencher for 90 degrees weather.

Honeydew Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

On my bookshelf at home, my copy of The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins has a recipe for chicken salad with pale green fruit, and it’s got a scribbled notation on it. “Excellent*” it says, though frankly, it’s a little tough for me to tell if the handwriting is mine or my mother’s. (I inherited the book when she passed away.) The combination of cucumber, honeydew, and green grapes, my springboard for this recipe, has enthralled me since I first ate that dish many years ago.

Serves 4

1/2 medium honeydew, seeded, flesh scooped with a melon baller
1/2 medium English cucumber, seed membrane scraped out, cut into half moons
1/2 pound (227g) seedless green grapes, cut in half (about 11/2 cups)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon canola or olive oil
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon honey
11/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
4 large fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced

Honeydew Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing-Image

In a large serving bowl, combine the honeydew, cucumber, and grapes. Whisk the lime juice, oil, water, honey, and poppy seeds in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, and pour over the honeydew mixture. (Scrape any stubborn poppy seeds onto the salad.) Top with mint, give a good stir, and serve immediately.

Tip: Serve this summery salad as a counterpoint to something spicy, like a curry.

(* Recipe reprinted with permission from RIPE © 2012 by Cheryl Sternman Rule, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Book Group. Photography © 2012 by Paulette Phlipot.)

Perfect Summer Lunch, Cucumber-Basil Egg Salad Recipe from Chicken and Egg

Official start of Summer is 2 days away. Here is a perfect summer lunch recipe for Thursday or Friday in case you need fresh ideas from Chicken & Egg 'A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes' by Janice Cole, Photographs by Alex Farnum (Chronicle Books, 2011).

Cucumber-Basil Egg Salad

The glories of summer are captured in this pale green egg salad redolent of fresh basil, green onions, and crunchy cucumbers. Serve it surrounded by greens or tucked into pita loaves or slices of crusty bread for a satisfying lunch. 

6 hard-cooked eggs, diced

3/4 cup seeded, diced cucumbers (about 1/2 cucumber)

1/4 cup minced shallots

1/2 cup sliced green onions (green part only)

3 tablespoons lightly packed chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 

Chicken and Egg_Cucumber Basil Egg Salad (2)

Gently combine the eggs, cucumbers, shallots, green onions, and basil in a medium bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.

Serves 6

In addition to Chicken and Egg, the memoir and cookbook, Chronicle Books is publishing this summer (August 2012) Chicken and Eggs, 10 Prints or 10 images from the book, ready to frame.

Providing inspiration to turn part of the lawn into an edible garden for Green Day # 228

(* Recipe from Chicken & Egg 'A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes' by Janice Cole, Photographs by Alex Farnum, Chronicle Books, 2011, reproduced with permission of publisher)

Chameleon Roasted Beet and Blood Orange, in Fish Tacos or with Cocktails, from Salads Beyond the Bowl

What's not to like in a chameleon like recipe that can add a new dimension to various dishes cocktails.

With one of her creations from Salads: Beyond the Bowl (Kyle Books, May 2012), Mindy Fox achieves just that.

Roasted Beet and Blood Orange pico de gallo

The versatility of this salad perfectly captures the spirit of this chapter—I’ve tucked it into fish tacos, generously spooned it over double-thick pork chops and served it with cocktails as part of a mezze. The beets and oranges for this dish are cut into forkful-sized pieces, which I like, even for tacos, but they can also be chopped into smaller pieces, as for classic salsa.

Serves 4 to 6

4 medium beets (about 1 pound), trimmed

3 medium blood oranges

13 cup very thinly sliced red onion

1 small hot chile, very thinly sliced crosswise

1 tablespoon very good extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Fine sea salt

2 tablespoons thinly sliced cilantro leaves

Flaky coarse sea salt

Beet and Blood Orange

Preheat the oven to 400ºF with the rack in the middle.

Put the beets in a baking dish and add water to come about 1/2 inch up the side. Cover the dish tightly with foil and roast the beets until they can be easily pierced through to the center with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour or more, depending on the size of the beets. Uncover and let the beets stand until cool enough to peel.

Meanwhile, using a sharp paring knife, trim off the tops and bottoms of the oranges. Stand 1 orange on its end and carefully cut the peel and pith from the flesh, following the curve of the fruit from the top to the bottom.

Cut each section away from the membranes, and place in a large bowl.

Squeeze the juices from the membranes into the same bowl. Repeat with the remaining oranges.

Peel and cut the beets into 1/2-inch-wide wedges, then transfer to the bowl with the orange sections and juice. Add the onion, chile, oil, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, then gently toss to combine. Let the salad stand at room temperature for 5 or 10 minutes, then adjust the salt or vinegar to taste, if necessary (the acid will vary a bit, depending on the juiciness and acidity of the oranges).

Transfer the salad to a shallow serving bowl and sprinkle with the cilantro, then crush a few generous pinches of flaky coarse sea salt over the top to taste.

(* Recipe from 'Salads: Beyond the Bowl' by Mindy Fox- Kyle Books, May 2012- Photos by Ellen Silverman, reproduced with permission of publisher

Freaky Food? No, Just a Freekeh Salad from Salad for Dinner by Jeanne Kelley

No reason to freak out, you read Freekeh, a grain I have not heard of until now and the star of this recipe from Salad for Dinner 'Complete Meals for All Seasons by Jeanne Kelley (Rizzoli USA, April 2012).

I previously shared her Singapore Style Raw Fish Salad as well as her Green Goddess Salad and with Persian Cucumbers.

Here comes the

FREEKEH SALAD with Apricots, Grilled Halloumi, and Zucchini
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 6 SERVINGS
Freekeh, a tasty Levantine grain, is made from green wheat that is sun dried and toasted by burning the chaff. The toasty flavor pairs nicely with grilled zucchini and salty halloumi cheese. Halloumi, a firm grilling and frying cheese from Cyprus, can be purchased, along with the freekeh, at a Middle Eastern market, but it’s also turning up at more and more specialty markets and even supermarkets. If you prefer, crumbled feta cheese makes a nice substitution. When fresh apricots are not in season, use thinly sliced dried apricots instead.

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing
2 cups freekeh
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 pounds zucchini (about 3 or 4), cut lengthwise into quarters
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (8.8-ounce) package halloumi cheese, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, pressed
4 firm-ripe apricots, pitted and sliced
3/4 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds or pistachios
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves


HEAT 2 TABLESPOONS olive oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the freekeh and stir until the grains are coated with olive oil and lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Add 31/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer until water is level with the freekeh and holes appear in the center of the cooking grain, about 10 minutes. Cover and simmer over low heat until all the water is absorbed and the freekeh is tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the freekeh to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.

Prepare a grill to medium-high heat or heat a stovetop grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush all sides of the zucchini with olive oil and sprinkle with the cumin seed, cinnamon, and some kosher salt. Brush the halloumi generously with olive oil. Grill the zucchini and halloumi until the zucchini is well browned on all sides and tender, turning occasionally, and the halloumi is browned on both sides, turning once, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil with the vinegar and garlic to blend. Add the dressing to the freekeh along with the apricots, green onions, almonds, and parsley. Cut the zucchini and the halloumi into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the salad. Mix briefly to combine and serve. (The salad can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

(* Recipe reproduced with permission from 'Salad for Dinner' Complete Meals for All Seasons by Jeanne Kelley- published by Rizzoli USA, April 2012- Photos by Ryan Robert Miller, all rights reserved)

Green Lunch, Tender Carrots with Miso and Tahini from Salads: Beyond the Bowl

As the weather warms up, salad centered cookbooks are sprouting.

A few days ago I received Salads: Beyond the Bowl (Kyle Books, May 2012) by Mindy Fox.

Looking for a green and healthy lunch, today's recipe does it.

Tender carrots with miso and tahini

Big thanks go to my friend, Linsey Herman, for helping me perfect this recipe.
I appreciate her keen taste for flavor balance, especially with Asian ingredients, and her brilliant addition of honey. You’ll find miso paste in the refrigerated section of most good supermarkets.

Serves 4

1 pound medium to large carrots
2 teaspoons tahini
2 tablespoons white or yellow miso paste
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon good extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves


Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, using an adjustable-blade slicer, shred the carrots into 1⁄8-inch-thick matchsticks (this can also be done with a good sharp chef’s knife, carefully, by hand). Blanch the carrots in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 11/2 minutes, then run
under cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, miso, 2 tablespoons warm water, lemon juice, oil, honey, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and pinch each salt and pepper. Add the carrots and toss to combine and evenly coat, then add the cilantro and mint, and toss once more. Adjust the seasoning, if desired.

Please note, dish on the right of photo is 'Roasted eggplant and tomatoes with cashew-parsley pesto', another recipe from the book.

Green Lunch for Green Day # 222

Previously: Beeswax Salve, A Natural Way to Keep Wooden Kitchen Tools in Top Shape

(* Recipe from 'Salads: Beyond the Bowl' by Mindy Fox- Kyle Books, May 2012- Photos by Ellen Silverman, reproduced with permission of publisher)

Papaya Salad, Sunny Days Are Here Recipe from Meat Free Monday Cookbook

Earth Day is almost here (April 22, 2012). It has nothing to do with salad going tropical.

Today's recipe, excerpted from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook (Kyle Books, Spring 2012) is perfect for Summer like Spring we've experienced this week.

Papaya Salad


Papayas, or pawpaws as they are known in some parts of the world, are sweet, perfumed tropical

fruits with deliciously soft flesh. This is an ideal dish for communal eating on a hot summer

evening, with everyone tucking in using lettuce leaves as scoops.

2 garlic cloves, peeled

3–4 small fresh red or green chiles, chopped

2 yard-long beans or 20 French beans,

chopped into 2-inch lengths

11/2 cups fresh papaya, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

1 tomato, cut into wedges

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons lime juice

Papaya salad


Boston lettuce leaves

Pound the garlic in a large mortar, then add the chiles and pound again. Add the beans, breaking them up slightly, then tip into a bowl. Add the papaya to the bowl and lightly mash together, then stir in the tomato and lightly mash again.

Add the sugar and lime juice, stirring well, then transfer to a serving dish. Serve with lettuce leaves, which can be used as a scoop for the mixture.

(* Recipe from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook edited by Annie Rigg, photography by Tara Fisher, Kyle Books- March 2012, reproduced by permission of the publisher)

Hold the Chocolate, Cucumber Basil Egg Salad Recipe by Janice Cole, Lunch Tomorrow

Hold the chocolate.

As Easter closes in on us, I wanted to reassure you, eggs are not just to be painted, decorated and sweet tasting.

Straight from Janice Cole urban chicken coop survival tale, Chicken and Egg, A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes (Chronicle Books, 2011), comes a recipe for tomorrow's lunch if you can't decide what it will be.

Cucumber-Basil Egg Salad

The glories of summer are captured in this pale green egg salad redolent of fresh basil, green onions, and crunchy cucumbers. Serve it surrounded by greens or tucked into pita loaves or slices of crusty bread for a satisfying lunch.

6 hard-cooked eggs, diced

3/4 cup seeded, diced cucumbers (about 1/2 cucumber)

1/4 cup minced shallots

1/2 cup sliced green onions (green part only)

3 tablespoons lightly packed chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Chicken and Egg_Cucumber Basil Egg Salad

Gently combine the eggs, cucumbers, shallots, green onions, and basil in a medium bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.

Serves 6 

I know it's not Summer yet.

(* Recipe from Chicken & Egg by Janice Cole-Chronicle Books, 2011- reproduced with permission of the publisher- all rights reserved)