We’re here in the in between. Winter is on its way out but Spring still feels a world away. We’ve seen the same offenders in our vegetable drawers for months and I, for one, am ready for a change. But the frozen rain and threats of snow persist, keeping the asparagus from venturing out of the earth and the Rhubarb from turning to its ready-to-use ruby red (unless it’s green rhubarb).

Within our current limited resources I’m trying to make our salads a bit more exciting. And as is often the case I find a bit of restriction a great exercise in creativity. I’m constantly looking for new flavor combinations and new methods of cooking the same ingredients I’ve been working with for months.

I’ve always been a fan of salad. I find comfort in knowing I’m not alone. It really wasn’t until I started stretching my imagination and moving beyond greens doused in blue cheese dressing (although, at times, nothing can be better) that salads started to really inspire me. Now I find myself dreaming of salads and enjoying them daily.

If I’m having this much fun with them now, imagine what Summer will bring.



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Orange Salad with Cocoa Nibs // Grilled Zucchini Salad // Avocado Salad with Warm Jalapeño Vinaigrette

Orange Salad with Cocoa Nibs

serves 1

1 orange

2 Tablespoons cocoa nibs

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons aged balsamic

2 cups fresh spinach

salt and pepper


Carefully cut the rind of the orange off, taking as much of the white pith as you can. Cut the orange in rounds.

In a small bowl add the spinach and place the orange rounds on top. Sprinkle with the cocoa nibs and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy immediately.


Grilled Zucchini Salad
serves one

2 small zucchini
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (I used basil, mint, tarragon, and cilantro)
salt and pepper
lemon juice

Using a mandoline (or a steady hand and sharp knife) very thinly slice the zucchini.
Toss the zucchini in olive oil and salt and pepper.
On a hot grill pan or indoor grill, sear the zucchini until dark marks appear, about 30 seconds. Flip over and repeat on the other side.
Toss the grilled zucchini in a bowl with the fresh herbs and a hefty squeeze of lemon. Taste and add more salt if needed.


Avocado Salad with warm Jalapeno vinaigrette
serves 2

¼ cup coconut oil
1 Tablespoon chopped shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
½ to 1 sliced Jalapeno, deseeded (depending on how spicy you want it)
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 avocado
greens (spinach, cress, arugula, cilantro) or 1 cup cooked quinoa

In a skillet add the coconut oil and shallots. Cook for 2-3 minutes until just golden around the edges. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and cumin. Cook for 1 minute more then turn off heat. Stir in a pinch of salt and lime juice.
Pour ½ of the warm vinaigrette over half of an avocado that is sitting on greens.
If using quinoa stir some of the vinaigrette in the quinoa. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in chopped cilantro and cubed avocado.


58 Responses to “a salad, or three”

  1. Katie

    These salads look beautiful! The grilled zucchini in particular is speaking to me, thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Lucy

    So simple yet so delicious looking! I’m definitely going to try the avocado and grilled zucchini salads!

  3. Louisa

    Oranges and cocoa nibs? I’m in! I happen to have some cocoa nibs in the cupboard I have no idea what to do with. Salad time!

  4. Patent Attorney

    A well-timed post, as summer approaches salad will be top of my menu as heavier foods start to become too much for the heat. Thanks for sharing these recipes – the zucchini one especially looks delicious.

  5. Quiddy

    Ever tried this salad dressing? Olive oil, Balsamic vinegar and maple sirup. I serve it with baby spinach, chickpeas, tomatoes and mozzarella salad.

  6. la domestique

    I’m really feeling the salads right now- must be spring fever! I often make an avocado salad with jalapeño vinaigrette to serve with seared sea scallops. Love the idea for cacao nibs on the citrus salad and can’t wait to try it!

  7. lauren @ wwob

    delurking to say these salads are uhhmazing. the first one is genius – thank you so much!! I never would have thought to add cacao nibs.

  8. Lauren

    Great post!!! I also love salads and am forced to eat them more and more due to a no-grain diet. Thankfully, this just breathed new life into my salad life 🙂 Than you!

  9. Jasper Naomi

    so clean, so crisp. love your composition. it’s evident you put effort and care into your work! love your cocao nibs container!!!!!!!

  10. Kelsey

    I would have never thought to combine the orange and cacoa – very neat. and the zucchini salad will be in my life as soon as they hit the farm stand 🙂

  11. Mikaela Cowles

    What a way to make salads into a celebration weather be damned! Love it. And, I can’t wait to try orange and cocoa together. Perhaps I too will be dreaming of salads soon. Delightful. Absolutely delightful.

  12. Divya Yadava

    Love the salads, especially the orange and cocoa nibs. I know orange and chocolate go together, but would never have thought to pairing orange with cocoa nibs in a salad! So creative.

  13. thelittleloaf

    What a gorgeous collection of salads! I think the courgette one is my favourite, although actually they all look incredible…such a perfect way to welcome in the warmer weather 🙂

  14. Clara

    Your pictures, as always, are exquisite, Ashley. Props to you for giving us 3 salads! I think I’ll try the zucchini one first.

  15. sara

    oh man. that zucchini one looks SO delicious! They all so, but I love grilled zucchini. Not to mention that I am impressed you blogged three salads at once, high five. 🙂

  16. Sando

    What gorgeous photos! Simple salads are something I treasure. These combinations you came up with look + sound incredible! Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  17. Stash

    So envious that zucchini is available in your neck of the woods. It’s not in season here until the middle of the summer.

    Also, that salad with cocoa nibs is pure genius. (I thought it was star anise at first until I read the recipe.)

  18. Kimberley

    These salads make me so excited for spring! I love all three. I am so especially intrigued by that warm jalapeno dressing – I can see myself slathering it on everything. Lovely!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Kimberley – I have future plans for that dressing as well. If you want more heat add the full jalapeno as the process of sauteeing makes the heat very subtle. Hope you like it!

  19. Jen

    What a lovely combination of yummy ingrediants! I must confess, i don’t know what cocoa nibs are, but they sound divine. I know what those licoricie cherry nibs are, but not these. Anyway, your photos make salads look extra fantastic. Thank you!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Jen – Cocoa nibs are roasted and cracked cocoa beans. It’s like chocolate without the sugar and refinement. They are crunchy, almost nut-like with a hint of chocolate. Basically, they’re magic.

  20. jen

    The orange salad looks amazing! Thanks for sharing. And congrats on a Saveur nomination, too! Cheers!


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