Green bean and pancetta salad

Green bean and pancetta salad.

Green bean and pancetta salad.

My mom couldn’t stay in Vancouver long enough to spend Christmas with us.  So last week before she left, I made an “early Christmas dinner”.  My mom isn’t very interested in large portions or heavy meat dishes, so I made a salmon wellington as the main dish, and a green bean and pancetta salad as a side.

I quite enjoyed the green bean and pancetta salad.  Any salad that calls for pancetta or bacon is going to be a hit in my books!  This salad is easy to prepare and savoury–a winner.


  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 5 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1/3 cup minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender. Drain. Rinse with cold water and drain well.

Cook pancetta in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp, stirring often. Transfer pancetta to paper towels, using slotted spoon. Pour off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons fat from skillet. Add shallots and chopped rosemary to skillet and cook over medium heat 2 minutes, stirring often. Add beans and stir to coat. Add oil and lemon juice and stir until beans are heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with pancetta.


Summer dinner: Garlic and Pepper Marinated Flank Steak and Summer Salad

We put on a lot of weight while we were on vacation. I really blame my parents for cooking all the amazing food for us.  Hehe.  So Cliff decided that he needs to go back on South Beach and cut out carbs for a week.  I’m going to somewhat follow that, but still eat whole wheat toast and bran cereal.

So for dinner tonight, I made a steak and salad entree.  This combines two recipes from Epicurious, which by the way, is a life saver of a gazillion recipes.  I tend to rely on the rating of the recipes quite a bit to decide if I want to attempt something.  Flank steak is something that is less pricy and really easy to make.  You can easily just do salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary and it will taste great.

I found this recipe on Epicurious to try, which I happen to have all the ingredients for.  But when I read the reviews, a number of people commented that adding lime juice to the marinade will really up the game of the steak.  Lime juice?  I would have never thought of putting lime juice on a steak.  But I figured if 5 reviewers in a row said the same thing, I should try it.  Then I got the salad recipe from here.  It sounded good.  I like all the ingredients, and it sounded easy.

So the modified recipes are as follows:


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 large flank steak (about 2 pounds)
  • juice from 1 lime

Combine first 4 ingredients in shallow baking dish. Add steak and turn to coat with marinade. Cover and refrigerate 3 to 6 hours.

Prepare barbecue (high heat) or preheat broiler. Season steak generously with additional pepper. Grill or broil steak to desired doneness, brushing occasionally with marinade, about 5 minutes per side for medium rare. thinly slice steak across grain and serve over the salad.


  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup baby arugula or chopped regular arugula
  • 1/2 cup (generous) diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded, finely chopped (about 4 teaspoons)

Mix tomatoes and all remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

So, I have to say, adding the lime juice to the steak marinade was a really good decision.  I think I would have liked the steak without the lime juice, but I REALLY liked it with the lime juice.  It brightened the flavor of the steak and also lightened up the taste.  I really didn’t expect the effect to be so life changing, but I don’t think I can live without lime juice on my flank steak anymore!  Two thumbs up for the flank steak.  Cliff really enjoyed it too.

Now, the salad.  It was just, meh.  It was not bad or anything, but it really wasn’t all that impressive.  It felt like I ran out of ideas and just threw together something to get a check-mark on the daily veggie intake box.  Now I’m going to be on the hunt for a good salad to go with my new favorite flank steak!

Just in case you’re wondering, no, we didn’t give Joshua this dish for dinner.  I wasn’t sure if he should be eating medium rare steak at 18 months.  So I grilled up a tomato basil marinaded pork chop for him and served it with some noodles he loves.  Jackson’s on W. 4th sell these marinaded pork chops and they are super tender and takes no effort to prepare.

Asian Pear and Avocado Salad with Garam Masala Syrup

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a little while here.  Last week was a little crazy with work, and then I got sick with the flu on the weekend.  Oh the flu, how I loathe the flu.  Argh!

Anyway, just before I got the flu, I did keep my promise to myself on my weekly cooking challenge of making a new dish.  I tried a pear and avocado salad with garam masala syrup.  The name of the salad threw me off because it sounded so odd.  I mean, I understand using garam masala in cooking meat dishes.  But in a salad?  Really?


This recipe came from Epicurious, cut-and-pasted here:

For garam masala syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 (2-inch-long) piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 (1- by 1/4-inch) pieces fresh ginger, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons green or white cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 10 whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

For salad

  • 1/4 cup raw green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (not roasted)
  • 2 firm-ripe California avocados (1 to 1 1/4 lb)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Asian pears (1 lb total)
  • 4 oz mixed microgreens or baby greens (4 cups)

Make syrup:
Bring all syrup ingredients to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer until syrup is reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep, covered, 1 hour. Pour syrup through a sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.

Prepare salad:
Heat a dry heavy 10-inch skillet over moderate heat until hot, then toast pumpkin seeds, stirring constantly, until puffed and beginning to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer seeds to a plate and season with salt.

Halve, pit, and peel avocados, then thinly slice lengthwise. Gently toss slices with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste, then gently toss with 1/4 cup syrup.

Halve pears and core, then thinly slice lengthwise. Toss pear slices with remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup syrup.

Drain pears, reserving syrup, and arrange slices on 4 plates. Transfer avocado slices to plates with a slotted spoon, discarding syrup. Toss greens with reserved syrup from pears and salt and pepper to taste. Mound greens next to avocado and pear slices and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.


The recipe says to use 2 cups of water, but I don’t find that necessary.  1 1/2 cup was plenty and it took long enough to reduce it down.  I wouldn’t suggest using 2 cups of water.

I didn’t have pumpkin seeds, so I didn’t put those on.  I think it would have been good with some pumpkin seeds or maybe toasted cashew nuts.  And I didn’t use asian pears, as I had some Bartlett pears on hand at the perfect ripeness.  I don’t think using Bartlett was a distraction from the salad.

Now, the real star of the show, of course, is the garam masala syrup.  Oh yeah, that was one very interesting dressing!  The guinea pigs I made the salad for all agreed that the dressing was interesting, and took a little bit of getting used to.  But at the end everyone decided that they liked it.  The ginger flavor really came through, but you can also tell there are a lot of other flavors working their magic together.

My favorite part of this recipe was making the garam masala syrup.  Cliff gave me a mortar and pestle set for Christmas 2 years ago, and I love every chance I get to use it.  I used it to crush up the peppercorn, cardamom pods, and coriander seeds.  All the spices, ginger, sugar, gets boiled and reduced down to a thick and golden colored syrup.  It is spicy, sweet, tangy, and just…interesting!

This is something that doesn’t take a lot of effort, especially when my box of “exotic spices” are properly stocked on my shelf, but gives an interesting twist to a regular dinner.  Two thumbs up!

Sorry, no pictures of the final salad.  I was so excited to eat it that I forgot to take pictures of the salad.