Way back in January, my husband and I went on our first trip to Europe together. Zurich, Athens, and Rome were our hosts for a glorious two weeks or so. The food was amazing just about everywhere we went, but each city had its standouts. Switzerland had its chocolate. Greece had its glorious grilled meats. And Italy, of course, had its pizza.

Actually, I think Italy’s pizza was tied with its pasta, and gelato. Just about everything seemed to have been made to perfection out of gorgeous ingredients. But Rome offered pizza like we had never seen it before. The sheer variety and quality of all the pies we tried left a lasting impression on us. 

All I have to say is, food ideas make the best souvenirs. 

This pumpkin and squash blossom pizza is inspired by one of our favorites from our time in Rome. These squash blossoms look almost too gorgeous to eat, but don’t be fooled; they’re delicious. Atop a sauce of garlicky pumpkin puree, the squash blossoms taste subtly of zucchini and are delicately floral. Milky, aromatic goat cheese pairs beautifully with it all, rounded out with a bit of honey. Shredded mozzarella melts beautifully under the broiler, the perfect finishing touch to a uniquely tasty creation.

Special pizza toppings call for an extra-special pizza crust. Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough fit the bill perfectly. Crispy on the outside but somehow still tender, it provides the perfect base to the intricate toppings. 

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When I was a kid, we’d occasionally host our cousins from Taiwan for a few weeks during the summer. Those days were always filled with our typical summer activities like grilling sweet corn and taking bike rides while it was still light at 7:30 in the evening, but they were made extra special by having friends around in the form of long-lost cousins. As a family that loves to eat, food always figured into the equation too, and there was no better summer treat for us than fresh fruit.

I happen to love the fruits I grew up with, but it’s difficult to compete with Taiwan’s lush tropical fruits. My cousins would go on and on about the fruits they usually enjoyed during that time of year: mangoes the size of dinosaur eggs, juicy lychees fresh off the branch, speckled dragon fruits in their vibrant pink shells. But among our humble selection of summer fruit, one stood out even to my cousins: blueberries. They couldn’t get enough of them. That was when I first began to realize how special blueberries really were. 

Even today, I have a hard time doing anything with fresh blueberries other than just eating them raw, in their pure, unadulterated state. That’s probably because they’re only really great for what seems like a few precious weeks before going back to being less-than-ripe and discouragingly expensive. But the other day I was given a huge box of blueberries that we didn’t end up devouring right away. For once, I had blueberries to “use up.” It isn’t every day that inspiration just falls into your lap like that.

These blueberry streusel sweet rolls are packed with blueberries and topped with crumbly, buttery streusel. While my taste-testers thought these were yummy on their own, I personally thought that the rolls could use a little extra moisture, so I whipped up a blueberry cream cheese to serve on the side, which was the perfect touch. 

If you don’t have an abundance of blueberries, or you simply can’t bear to spare any for baking, don’t worry. I understand. Luckily, frozen blueberries will do just as well in these.

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Chicken salad can be a confusing thing. When people say “chicken salad” do you usually think of a salad with lettuce and tomatoes and other chopped veggies with some grilled chicken on top, or do you think of cold diced chicken and celery in a creamy sauce? I tend to think of the former by default, not that I have anything against the latter. In fact, I really love the latter, but I just don’t think of it much because out here in sunny LA, chicken salads in the first sense are just everywhere, while chicken salads in the second sense are a much rarer sight. 

I think part of it has to do with the differing nutritious values of the two: that is, the “creamy sauce” part of the cold diced kind of chicken salad doesn’t usually earn it any points in the health department. Heaps of mayo, though delicious, are never really appealing from a diet standpoint. It’s too bad, because (a) it doesn’t actually take all that much mayo to get a nice creamy coating on the chicken and veggies, and (b) chicken salad (in that sense) is delicious. We’ve been missing out.

This greek yogurt chicken salad is, in my opinion, the best of both worlds. It’s still delicious and creamy and crunchy and everything that I love about this kind of chicken salad (the chicken! the celery! the apples! the raisins!), but it’s also a little healthier than a traditional chicken salad. Low fat greek yogurt takes care of the creamy part, while adding even more protein and calcium without too much fat. It’s also the perfect thing for these hot days when I don’t want to turn on my stove–a cool, refreshing lunch that doesn’t require one heat-generating appliance, as long as there’s already some cooked chicken on hand. 

I could eat this all day, by itself or on whole wheat toast, or on crunchy leaves of romaine. Happy doesn’t begin to cover it; I think I’m going a little crazy for (the other) chicken salad.

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Since I’ve been trying to create and eat more salads this summer, I’ve been experimenting with new dressings and flavor combinations. But lately, I’ve realized that a lot of the time, what I look forward to most in a salad has been the non-veggie ingredients. Juicy grilled chicken, a sprinkle of crunchy wontons, freshly crumbled sharp feta, or a creamy dressing can make just about any salad pretty tasty, but what about a salad that’s purely vegetarian? 

On Tuesday, I shared the recipe for a Cilantro Lime Dressing with avocado oil and a bit of garlic. Though I’ve poured the stuff onto various combinations of greens and other ingredients, I think my favorite way to use this dressing is in this healthy, fresh summer salad that’s just packed with gorgeous summery vegetables.

Corn has long been among my favorite summer produce. Do I really have to explain why? It’s basically nature’s candy. So why blister it? I think blistering the corn helps to caramelize its natural sugars, bringing out even more sweetness and richness without adding anything to it. You can do this on the grill, but I find that doing it in a pan on the stove is just as effective and a whole lot easier if you’re not already having a barbeque day. 

What I love about this blistered corn and avocado salad is that it’s so rich in flavors and textures, but it’s a purely veggie salad. True, adding some chicken or cheese might make it even tastier to some, but on the days when you’re craving something light and refreshing, this is a great go-to. 

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Cilantro Lime Dressing

Cilantro. You either love it or you hate it. I think it’s pretty apparent from its presence on this blog that I fall into the former camp. I use it to garnish just about everything. I’ve spun it into a pesto. I’ve pulsed it into falafel. So it’s only fitting that during this the year of the veggie, I blend it into a salad dressing.

If this is the year of the veggie, it is also turning out to be the summer of the lime. I am at least as big a fan of lime as I am of cilantro (see here, herehere, and here for some favorites). After several months of seeing small, expensive limes in the store, it seems as though lime season is finally hitting its peak. Judging by the number of lime recipes I’ve posted in just the past few weeks, I guess I’m definitely relishing these days of juicy, delicious, and cheap limes. 

This cilantro lime dressing is surprisingly flavorful. When I tried it on its own, it didn’t seem like much, but when I tossed it with some salad, I could suddenly taste the herby snap of cilantro and bite of fresh garlic. It’s as delicious on thinly sliced kale as it is on crunchy romaine, but it’s particularly great when you toss some ripe avocado into the salad as well to add a little creaminess to the mix. 

I used avocado oil because I love the way the oil emulsifies as it pulses in the food processor. The result is a surprisingly thick salad dressing that clings to your veggies much better than your typical vinaigrette. And if you can’t use it right away, that’s fine. It doesn’t even separate after being stored in the fridge for a few days. If you don’t have avocado oil, feel free to use olive instead. I’m not sure it’ll create quite the same texture as the avocado oil, but it’s bound to be plenty tasty anyway. 

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