Cabbage Nectarine Salad

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My nectarines were of the perfect ripeness today — succulent but not too soft. I used them to make this simple cabbage salad and it turned out absolutely delicious — sweet and tangy with a hint of mint — a summery transformation of a cool weather vegetable. I used a sweet mulberry vinegar, but I imagine cider or white vinegar will work perfectly with it too.

Cabbages are one of the most nutritious vegetables, but few ever talk about them. They just seem so common place and boring. However, the seeming blandness is why I love them — they are versatile. I have often stir fried them or used them in Chinese pork vegetable dumplings. I have also pickled them or made salads with them.

As you can see here — cabbages are beautiful.

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Cabbage Nectarine Salad

Ingredients:

1 small head of cabbage, outer leaves removed and shredded (about 6 cups)

2 to 3 nectarines, thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 to 3 cups)

3/4 cup toasted walnuts

2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped (optional)

Dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons mulberry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Gently toss together sliced cabbage, sliced nectarine, mint leaves with the dressing. Let sit for 10 minutes for the juice from the nectarine to release into the salad. Add walnut before serving.

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Lobster Salad with New Potato & Pickled Onion

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While enjoying this lobster salad, Peter told me that I had successfully turned him into a salad lover, and I was very happy to hear that.  For a long time, he didn’t appreciate salads because he associated them with the old iceberg lettuce that he had eaten too much of at the cafeteria during his college years. 

Growing up, I didn’t eat any salad because my mother believed all foods should be cooked before eating.  She had a point there because all the vegetables grown in China back then were fertilized with the most abundant and inexpensive organic material human waste.  however, I have been converted to a devout salad eater since my arrival in the US.  To me, the spirit of the American salad is like the spirit of her culture — with rich and diverse influences and open to infinite possibilities — any food can be a salad. One unique salad that I’m sure most of you have not tried is beef tendon salad in spicy oil.  You can order it in Terra Cotta Warrior, one of my favorite Northern Chinese restaurant in San Francisco.  Terra Cotta Warrior also serves a crunchy pig’s ear salad, which I am yet to try. 

Sky is the limit when it comes to salad.  It can be raw, steamed, fried, pickled or cured; it can be savory, sweet, spicy, tangy or bitter. Or all of the above in one plate.  Need I go on any longer?

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Lobster Salad with New Potatoes and Pickled Onion

INGREDIENTS

1 12-ounces bottle pale lager

5 fresh lobster tails

1 pound new potatoes or small Yukon Gold and/or red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 cups arugula

2 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

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PREPARATION

Bring beer to a boil in a large heavy pot. Add lobsters, cover, and steam until shells are bright red and meat is cooked through, 8 — 10 minutes. Remove from pot with tongs and let cool 10 minutes. Crack shells; remove meat.  If you don’t have pale lager and don’t want to make a trip to the market, you can boil the lobsters in water with a few slices of ginger and 1/4 cup cooking wine.

Meanwhile, place potatoes in a large saucepan and add water to cover by 2″; season with salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 10–12 minutes; drain. Cut potatoes in half or crush them a little with a fork.

Bring vinegar, sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add onion, bring to boil again and then remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes; drain. Let pickled onion cool.

Whisk lemon juice and 2 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl; season with salt. Add tarragon, pickled onion, potatoes, and lobster meat; toss to coat. Add arugula, if using, and toss to combine. Drizzle with more oil; season with pepper and more lemon juice, if desired.

DO AHEAD: Lobsters can be cooked and meat removed 2 days ahead; cover meat and chill. Onions can be pickled 1 day ahead; cover and chill. Potatoes can be cooked 1 day ahead; cover and chill. Bring potatoes to room temperature before using.

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Adapted from Epicurious

Red Cabbage Mango Jalapeno Lime Slaw

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Angela’s prom dress is too long.  I took it to the neighborhood mom and pop shop to have it shortened.  The shop is two blocks from where we live and I have used them before to reheel my shoes or have my jeans taken in.  I was usually quite pleased with the results.  The owners are a couple from Ukraine.  He repairs shoes and she does alteration.  I took Angela there to have her dressed hemmed in.  After we dropped off the dress, Angela began reading the Yelp reviews on the shop and became very alarmed.  Apparently, there were some very negative reviews by customers whose shoes got lost or messed up.  Thinking back, the shop did look very dirty and disorganized.  Now Angela began to freak out that she would not have a dress to wear on Saturday.  When Peter came home from work, Angela told him that I had taken her gown to a place where it might get ruined or lost.  “What place?” Peter asked.  And I told him.  “She is my patient,” he said, “I did an angioplasty on her a couple of weeks ago.”  So Peter promised Angela that he’d stop by at the shop and say hello tomorrow.  In Angela’s eyes, daddy is the hero who will rescue the prom dress from an uncertain fate brought on by mommy.

For food, I prepared a slaw.  I love cabbage, and slaw is my favorite way to eat it.  Today’s slaw is savory, sweet, acidic and spicy all at once — refreshing, light and satisfying. 

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Red cabbage Mango Jalapeno Lime Slaw

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups (1/2 small) red cabbage, shredded fine 

1 mango, julienned

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup cilantro

1 red jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 large lime, juiced

1/4 cup slivered almonds

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Preparation:

Mix first 7 ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes.  Toss with slivered almonds and serve on its own or with grilled meats or fish.

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Adapted from skinnytaste

Zesty Lime Shrimp and Avocado Salad & Shrimp Spring Roll with Crunchy Peanut Sauce

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Audrey and I are all packed and ready to go.  We leave tomorrow for Las Vegas to act together in a little film called Adeline.  I will keep you posted of our adventure in sin city.  So Angela will be the main blogger when I am away.

Peter LOVES shrimp, but we very seldom buy it because no one else in the family is interested in eating shrimp.  Today I saw some really fresh jumbo shrimp at Costco and decided to make it for Peter.  He had them for both lunch and dinner and was a very, very happy man.  Even I, the reluctant seafood eater, enjoyed them.

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Zesty Lime Shrimp and Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined and poached (you can also buy cooked prawns)

10 cherry tomatoes,

1 hass avocado, diced

1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced fine

1/4 cup chopped red onion

2 limes, juice of

1 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

salt and fresh pepper to taste

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Preparation:

In a small bowl combine red onion, lime juice, olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper. Let them marinate at least 5 minutes to mellow the flavor of the onion.

In a large bowl combine chopped shrimp, avocado, tomato, jalapeño. Combine all the ingredients together, add cilantro and gently toss. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

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Adapted from: skinnytaste.com

Shrimp Spring Rolls with Crunchy Peanut Butter Sauce

Ingredients:

10 oz. cooked jumbo shrimp (sliced lengthwise into two halves)

1 package rice paper

1 head of butter lettuce, cleaned and separated

1 handful cilantro

1/2 a cucumber, cut into match sticks

1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced

1/2 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced lengthwise

1 carrot,  julienned

Ingredients for the sauce:

1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Fresh juice from 1/2 lime or lemon

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Preparation:

To make the chunky peanut sauce, just mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

Arrange all the filling ingredients and prepare a cup of warm water. Lay a piece of spring roll skin on a smooth flat surface such as a clean cut board.  Pour a small amount of warm water on the spring roll skin and spread the water with your calm or fingers.  Layer 3 slices of shrimp, a lettuce leaf, cilantro, sliced prawn, jalepeno, cucumber, avocado, carrots and about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the sauce. Fold the top over the filling, then the sides and roll tight to close. Repeat with remaining rolls. These taste the best freshly made, but will keep in the fridge under a damp paper towel for 2 days.

You can also use a large bowl of warm water and dip the spring roll skin in the water before laying it on a flat surface for wrapping.

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These rolls are perfect for a quick lunch on the go. Peter never takes lunch hour and always eats on the run.

Let’s Get Freekeh!

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On my Costco trip today, I saw something I hadn’t before — freekeh, which the autocorrect kept insisting is “fresh.”  Since I have two vegetarians at home, I am always looking to try new nuts or grains.  Standing by the grain isle, I instantly googled freekeh.  I learned that it is an ancient grain originated in the Eastern Mediterranean and it has been popular for centuries in the Arabian Peninsula. Technically it’s a type of roasted green wheat and the process of making the product seems quite arduous (but definitely worth it!) It contains very high fiber and protein and it also has a relatively low glycemic index, which means its energy is released slowly through out the day.  It is loaded with more calcium, iron and zinc than comparable grains such as quinoa.  I decided to give this Californian grown exotic grain a try today by putting a twist on Gina Homolka’s Mediterranean Quinoa Salad.

It turned out delicious — perfect for a warm summery spring day.  There is something magical about the combination of lemon, olive oil and feta.  And the kalamata olives give it a fruity pungent kick. Both girls prefer the nutty, fragrant taste of freekeh to the more earthy quinoa. 

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Mediterranean Freekeh Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked freekeh (you can also use quinoa or couscous)

2 1/4 cups water or broth

1/4 cup red onion, diced

1/2 – 3/4 lemon, squeezed

1/4 cup (about 10) kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cups cucumber, peeled and diced (from 1 English)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered or diced

1/3 cup low-fat crumbled feta

salt and fresh pepper, to taste

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Preparation:

Cook freekeh in a rice cooker with 2 1/4 cup water, or according to package instruction.  Once cooked, fluff the grain and let it cool.

While the freekeh cools, dice all the vegetables. Add the red onion, olives, cucumber, tomatoes to the cooled quinoa, and squeeze 1/2 lemon over it. 

Drizzle the olive oil over the freekeh then add feta, salt and pepper to taste and toss well. Taste for salt and adjust as needed, add more lemon juice if needed.

Eat up!  Get freekeh!

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Adapted from:

skinnytaste.com

Beet Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

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When Audrey visited me on the set of Marco Polo in Malaysia last year, she often rehearsed dialogue with Benny, the actor who played Kublai Khan.  Audrey would read all the other characters to help Benny memorize his lines. Did the acting bug bite her then?  I was surprised when Audrey expressed her interest in acting this week and sent in an audition tape to a young director who is shooting a short film in April.  I told her that she can do it if the shooting happens during spring break.  I have never wanted to involve my children in acting.  The profession can be a treacherous one because hard work doesn’t correlates with success.  There is too much uncertainty and not enough security in this business.  But I guess it’s no use telling her how acting is a bad profession when I do it myself.  I have long learned that you can’t teach your children by telling them things.  What you teach is what you are. 

We will find out in a few days if Audrey will do her debut role in Las Vegas during spring break.  Should I keep my fingers crossed for her?

If there is “beauty sleep,” is there beauty food?  I think the salad I made for dinner comes close to “beauty food” if there ever is one. 

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Beet Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

Ingredients:

3 small cooked beets

1 avocado

1 large pink grapefruit

Salt and Pepper to taste

This simple salad is it’s own dressing.  With the oil in the avocado and the citrusy juice from the grapefruit, all you need is a little salt and pepper if anything.  I used organic cooked beets from Love Beets.  It took me less than 10 minutes to make this delicious and satisfying salad.  Give it a vigorous toss before serving to mix the flavors of the three ingredients.

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Gluten-Free Coconut Pancakes & Snap Pea Salad with Sesame Dressing

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Both Audrey and Peter were up by 7am.  Peter was going to work and Audrey was going to taking her practice SSAT today.  We were all a bit tired because Peter got called at 1am and then again at 3am, and Audrey went to bed late.  But the three of us enjoyed our coconut pancakes peacefully while the humming birds flitted about the lemon tree and the golden Californian light streamed through the windows. 

Coconut Flour Pancakes

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup coconut milk (drinking kind, not canned kind)

2 tbsp organic, cold-pressed coconut oil

3 eggs

1-2 tbsp honey

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Maple syrup to taste

Coconut oil for cooking

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Preparation:

Thoroughly mix the eggs, coconut oil, and honey together. Add the coconut milk and vanilla extract.

Add the coconut flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix, but not too much!

Melt a dab of coconut oil in skillet on medium heat.  Ladle a 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.  Flip the pancakes when they begin to bubble and the bottoms are golden brown. Flip pancakes only once; over-handling toughens them.

Eat right away.

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Adapted from: paleohacks.com

By 8am, the house was quiet and empty.  Angela would not wake up for at least another 4 hours.  I turned on my iPad and began reading Dog Beach. a fast paced action novel written by John Fusco, the creator of the Marco Polo series. 

I bought the book about a week ago and was waiting to read it when I had a stretch of quiet and relaxed time.  Today seemed perfect.  By 12:30pm, everyone was up and back.  I was so immersed in the story that I really didn’t want to put the book down, but it was time to fix lunch. 

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I took a little break from the breakneck action, and made a refreshing salad with snap peas.  The season for peas is short and I want to enjoy their crunchy sweetness while it lasts.

Peter went back to work.  Angela rolled out of bed and rushed to karate practice.  Andrey disappeared somewhere in the house, and I went immediately back to the book.  John used such vivid verbs that I could see the action in front my eyes as I read.  I loved the characters he created, especially the hard-boiled, taciturn stunt man, Louie Mo.  The book is essentially about a shared adventure — a master’s swan song and a newcomer’s debut.  Beautifully done, John!

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Snap Peas, Edamame, Radish Salad in Sesame Dressing

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh snap peas, trimmed

1/2 cup of cooked shelled edamame

1 bunch radish

1 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon 100% pure sesame oil

1 tablespoon xylitol or golden brown sugar

1 stock minced green onion

1 tsp roasted sesame seeds

A dash of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Wash and thinly slice the radish, transfer to a bowl.  Add 1/4 tsp salt.  Mix and let sit for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, blanch the snap peas in large saucepan of boiling salted water for 1 1/2 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water and drain again. Transfer to large bowl.  Add cooked edamame beans.

Squeeze the radish juice dry and add to the large bowl with the snap peas and edamame.  It’s important that you squeeze the juice out to get rid of the spiciness of the radish.

Whisk vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, xylitol or sugar, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. (Peas and dressing can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand separately at room temperature.) Pour dressing over snap peas, edamame and radish in large bowl; toss to coat. Season salad to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

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Adapted from: epicurious.com

Massaged Raw Kale Salad with Apple, Avocado & Feta

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This morning, I went on one of my favorite hiking trails — Land’s End — with two old friends.  No matter how many times I walk there, I’m blown away every time by its amazingly rugged beauty.  The three of us — all mothers who have families to cook for —  talked about food while we walked, which is much healthier than the other way around — talking about walking while pigging out.  My friend Jane told me about a kale salad that she loves.  It sounded so easy and delicious that I decided to give it a try as soon as I got home. 

Jane uses feta cheese, dried cranberries and honey roasted almond slivers.  I changed the recipe using what I have in the fridge and the pantry: avocado, apple and chopped almonds.  It turned out to be very delicious.  The sweet Fuji apple complemented the hint of bitterness in raw kale beautifully.  Avocado gave it creaminess while chopped almonds gave it crunchiness.  And I found the combination of lemon and feta so simple and special that it is magical.

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Massaged Raw Kale Salad

Ingredients:

2 bunches lacinato kale, ribs removed and discarded (12 oz total without ribs)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste

2 tbsp freshly squeeze lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)

1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese (crumbled)

1 medium Fuji apple (cored and diced)

1 avocado (diced)

1/4 cup chopped dry roasted almonds

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Preparation:

Slice the kale into 1/4-inch thin ribbons. In a large bowl combine the kale with oil and salt. Using your hands, massage the kale for 3 minutes until the kale softens.

Coat diced apple and avocado with lemon juice to prevent yellowing.

Toss kale with the lemon juice, then add apple, avocado and feta cheese.  Sprinkle chopped almonds before serving.  The recipe makes 4 meal size servings.

I made the salad minus the chopped almonds in the afternoon and let it sit in the fridge cover for a two hours. By dinner time, it actually tasted better.  Kale is such a hearty vegetable that the salad doesn’t get soggy.  I have always liked kale, but today was the first time I tried it raw.  It was a great variation in preparing this super food.

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When the children were little, they were fascinated by the stories of the ship wrecks that happened in the treacherous waters between Land’s End and the Marin Headlands.  As they looked into the depth of the water they conjured up images of underwater treasures along with skeletons. Many of our walks together was ship wreck themed.  One of the ships that sank was called SS City of Rio de Janeiro that had sailed from Hong Kong to San Francisco. The story was that launching of the lifeboats was difficult because the officers were English speaking Americans, while the seamen were non-English-speaking Chinese. Most of the people on the ship perished.

“They died because they were not bilingual,” I told the girls, trying to stress the importance for them to learn Chinese.  But it didn’t work.  With their brows raised, the girls asked, “So — not being bilingual equals death in a ship wreck — is that what you are trying to say?  Do you even hear how ridiculous you sound?”  I was a typical Chinese mother trying to teach her American children.

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Quinoa Chickpea and Avocado Salad

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The weather has been so warm and sunny here in San Francisco lately that I could completely pretend it is summer.  So I decided to make this cheery, summery, delicious dish.  Try this salad!  It will transport you to June for a day.  

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Quinoa Chickpea and Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup quartered grape tomatoes

15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup cooked quinoa (You can cook it with chicken broth or vegetable broth to give it more flavor.)

2 tbsp red onion, minced

1 tbsp green onion, minced

1 1/2 limes, juice of

kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste

1 cup diced cucumber

4 oz diced avocado (1 medium hass)

Preparation:

Combine all the ingredients except for avocado and cucumber, season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Just before serving, add cucumber and avocado.

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Recipe adapted from skinnytaste.com

Lobsters and Love Junkee

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Costco is one my favorite stores in the world.  It has everything.  A friend once said to me, “If Costco doesn’t carry it, we don’t need it.”  I probably wouldn’t go so far, but I could certainly live quite happily with what Costco offers.  Not only I buy daily staples like milk, eggs and bread, I also buy my fancy food items there.  Today, I bought 6 huge fresh lobster tails for about 40 dollars.  They are so fresh and sweet that they could be enjoyed plain.  I think I have managed to find the perfect foil to the perfect food through this salad.

Citrus Lobster Salad with Avocado and Arugula

Ingredients:

4 fresh lobster tails

4 teaspoons finely chopped shallot

2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon table salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 mandarin oranges (or other citrusy fruits such as orange and pink grapefruit) 

1 1/2 firm-ripe California avocado

2 oz baby arugula

Coarse sea salt to taste (optional)

Preparation:

Boil water in a large steamer.  When the water is boiling, put in the lobster tails.  Steam for 10 minutes.

When lobster is cool enough to handle, peel the shells and remove the veins on the back of the lobster.  Cut the meat into 1/2-inch-thick slices and chill lobster in covered container. 

While lobster chills, stir together shallot, lemon juice, and table salt in a small bowl and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Add oil in a stream, whisking.

Peel mandarin oranges. Halve avocado lengthwise, discarding pit and peel.  (Save 1 half, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for another use.)

Divide avocado and all of lobster meat between 4 salad plates and arrange mandarin orange slices around them. Top with arugula and drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt (if using) and serve immediately.

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After taking the pictures of my lobster salad, I turned my camera toward Audrey, who was staring at the computer screen in her newly acquired torn jeans and statement tees.  I was surprised by how mature she grew over night, on the cusp of adolescence.  We are lucky we live in the digital era when we can easily preserve in frames the fleeting moments of our children’s lives.

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Audrey’s new clothes were generously provided by Love Junkee, which was described by Angela’s friends as being “like Brandy Melville, but cooler and not overpriced.”

Recipe inspired by Epicurious