Roasted Broccoli and Citrus Salad with Labneh

Roasted Broccoli and Citrus Salad with Labneh - A Thought For Food

The magic of roasted vegetables never ceases to amaze me. A single ingredient, tossed with a bit of oil and sprinkled with salt, can be transformed into a robust, complex dish. I've only recently started cooking this way, though. I'd gone for many years only occasionally using the oven. I've always been drawn to preparing meals on a stovetop, finding the quick results of sautéing more satisfying than the longer process of roasting vegetables (as I type this, I realize it's evidence of how impatient I can be). However, when my schedule allows it, I prefer this slower method, letting flavors develop. 

This broccoli salad pairs the deep caramelized notes that form from roasting with bright citrus. Creamy labneh is both rich and tangy that turns this into a more substantial side. If you only have a thick Greek yogurt available, that'll also work.

Roasted Broccoli and Citrus Salad with Labneh - A Thought For Food


Servings: 4-6 as a side

1 large head broccoli, cut into 1  1/2-inch florets, stems peeled and sliced
Olive oil
1 ruby red grapefruit, peeled and segmented
1 cara cara orange, peeled and segmented
1/2 cup labneh
1/4 cup pine nuts
Black pepper
1 lime

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil.

Place broccoli in a mixing bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over broccoli and toss to coat. Transfer broccoli to baking pan, making sure to spread it out, so the florets are flat on the pan and season with salt and black pepper. Transfer to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until edges have browned.

To toast the pine nuts, heat a small saute pan over medium-low heat. Add pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until golden-brown (keep a careful eye on them as they can easily burn), approximately 3 minutes.  

To plate, spread labneh on the bottom of a platter or wide serving bowl. Place broccoli and citrus on top. Sprinkle pine nuts over, and zest lime on top. Season with salt and black pepper.

Roasted Broccoli and Citrus Salad with Labneh - A Thought For Food

Gin Coconut Cooler

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It took me 14 years of living in New England, but I finally made it to Portland. The word all over Boston was that this city had an impressive food and drink scene. I'd heard restaurants named over and over again by friends within the hospitality industry. Now, people who live in Boston traditionally fall into two categories: those who head up to Maine, and those who go down to the Cape. We fall into the latter group, and it's almost impossible to get us to take any trips from April through November. Which only gives us the winter months to get away. Towards the end of last year, I told Eric I couldn't take it any longer. We had to go.  

During our time in Portland, we stayed at the Press Hotel, a charming property centrally located within walking distance to many great restaurants, bars, and shops. Our first stop was at Eventide, a seafood-extravaganza that made this pescatarian very happy. From there we got drinks at the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club and Blyth and Burrows, which are just a few blocks away from each other (and only a couple minutes from where we stayed). Dinner was even more convenient: at Union Restaurant, on the ground level of the Press. After dinner, we walked briskly through the 19-degree air to the other side of town for some drinks at Bearded Lady's Jewel Box, a bar so charming I wish I could've bottled it up and taken the whole vibe home. The night ended around the corner at Chaval, a Spanish-themed restaurant and bar. Too full to get more than some tapas, we ordered the boquerones and a cocktail and were perfectly content. That was just our first night. The rest of the weekend was spent doing more of the same: trying bites at different spots, meeting chefs, bartenders and distillers along the way. By the end, we felt like we were a part of the community (which shows just how warm and welcoming everyone is). There will undoubtedly be a return trip, and I don't expect it'll take us as long to get back up. 

Activities like our trip to Portland are what get us through the winter months. I'm always trying to plan things for the weekends. Shows to see, restaurants to check out, friends to brunch with. It's the only way we can deal with the snow and cold. Another thing that helps me forget about the dreary weather is festive cocktails. These usually involves lots of lime and herbs (typically, mint). I know some folks (including my wonderful husband) who have major issues with cilantro, but I can't get enough of it in drinks. The fragrant citrus notes pair beautifully with the botanicals of a dry gin. A little heat (and a slight tingly/numbing effect) is provided from the Sichuan peppercorn syrup, but the creamy coconut milk keeps it mellow.

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Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food

Gin Coconut Cooler
Yield: 1 drink
Tools: cocktail shakermuddlercocktail strainer
Glassware: Rocks glass

1 oz Sichuan peppercorn simple syrup (see recipe below)
1.25 oz lime juice
6-8 cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
2 oz gin
.5 oz green chartreuse
1 oz full-fat coconut milk

Add lime juice, cilantro, and simple syrup to cocktail shaker. Muddle cilantro. Add gin, green chartreuse, and coconut milk, along with 3-4 ice cubes, and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass. Fill glass to the top with crushed ice. Garnish with cilantro.

Sichuan Peppercorn Simple Syrup
Yield: 1 cup
Tools: saucepan, strainer

3  tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

In a small pot, bring water to a boil. Add Sichuan peppercorns to the pot, turn off heat, and cover with a lid. Let steep for 30 minutes. Strain Sichuan peppercorns from the pot, reserving liquid. Put the liquid back in the pan, along with the sugar. Set over medium-high heat. Whisk until sugar has dissolved. Take off heat. Let the syrup cool completely before using. Store in a container in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food

Mezcal Paloma

The majority of the time, I'm the one who prepares dinner.  It makes sense. I'm home before Eric, I can often get to the store... plus, I enjoy doing it. It's not that he can't cook or that he's not good at it (he's actually very good), it's just become a task that I've taken over. But why not find some time to cook together? The idea has been lingering in my mind ever since I read Ashley's Date Night In, a cookbook featuring recipes and stories from the evenings she and her husband spend preparing dishes. I found the whole thing truly inspiring and at one point even suggested it... but over a year went by gone and we never followed through. A few weeks ago, however, after a particularly hectic week, Eric suggested that we spend our Saturday night at home. The lightbulb flickered on. "Hey, we have all of these cookbooks around. Why don't we make something from one of them?" We pulled out a recent addition to our collection that features authentic Chinese recipes, made a list, went to the store, and cooked up a storm. The food was incredible. Probably the best we've ever made. And we did it together (all while sipping on palomas). This past weekend we did it again, this time going in a more Mediterranean direction: braised octopus, roasted eggplant, whipped goat cheese, and homemade pita (that evening we went with martinis).

The paloma, featured here, is an easy, refreshing drink. Typically it includes tequila, but I like the slightly smoky notes the mezcal provides. A simpler version of the recipe can be made by using grapefruit soda instead of the fresh grapefruit juice, sugar and soda water, but if you have grapefruits on hand, I prefer this method. 


Highball or rocks glass

1 drink

Kosher salt
1 lime wedge
1/4 ounce lime juice
2 ounces grapefruit juice
2 ounces mezcal (or tequila)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces soda water
1 grapefruit wedge, for garnish

1. To rim the glass, pour salt onto a plate. Rub the rim of the glass with the lime wedge and then dip the rim into the salt, spin slowly until rim is lightly coated in salt.

2. Pour lime juice, grapefruit juice, mezcal and sugar into a glass. Using a spoon, stir until sugar has dissolved. Fill glass with ice cubes and top with soda water.