Three Unique Salads so Fun and Full of Flavor- You just might Feel Famous

If you could be a salad what kind would you be?

A Bacall Bacon and Blue?  A Cusack Cobb (Joan or John)?  Or how about a Turkey and Tomato Terminator?

And mine?
It would have to be a Chef Di's Chef Salad- Chicken, Cilantro and a TON of Cheese!

But no matter what your star ingredients, these three salads are a sure way to keep you as fit and fabulous as those famous Hollywood Stars.

Old Hollywood...

My favorite era.  And a time when salads made their mark, and being named after one was everything.

In the book Hollywood Dish, chef Akasha Richmond, owner of Culver City's organic restaurant Akasha, writes that in the 1940s, studio PRs gave out stars' favorite healthy-salad recipes to magazines, which encouraged salad-eating nationwide. Marilyn Monroe lived on salads... when she wasn't living on champagne.  And Paul Newman and Natalie Wood craved shrimp salads.

Pure foodie magic.

So, in keeping with the Old Hollywood theme, plus some famously rich stories about growing up in California, here are a few creations named after some of my stars.  All full of flavor, with just enough creativity and boldness for an award-winning plate.

(all recipes below)

California Caprese Salad with Pancetta and Avocado

Thinking of California, avocados come to mind.  When my family moved from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara at age 12, we ended up moving to a house with about 40 trees in the front yard- some of which ended up in an Avocado Ice Cream for a 4H event.  We were lucky to live in a development that allowed us to have horses, and I even had a pig that I raised and sold at the fair- blue ribbon winner! To this day I still love avocados (avocado ice cream- not so much)... and bacon (sorry Maynard).

West Hollywood Wild Rice Salad with a Dilled Greek Yogurt Dressing

I had just turned 21 and a group of friends were going to check out The Roxy Nightclub in West Hollywood.  I'll never forget... me, walking into the club in a "Pretty in Pink" red and white striped preppy shirt and a white mini.  I even had a red bow in my hair.  Yes, I stood out a bit among the black and all things Gothic.  I kind of looked like this salad.  Man, West Hollywood is wild.

Santa Barbara Spinach Cilantro Couscous and Lime Shrimp Cocktail

My first real boyfriend- who I later married, worked on the boats from age 11.  Hard for him, as he had to get up at 3am, chum and fillet fish all day, and came home covered in scales.  But good for me, as he always came home with wads of cash.  I was 17 when we started dating and allergic to fish... but not shellfish.  And to this day my best date memories were at Brophy's on the breakwater in Santa Barbara.  Sometimes fried clams, mostly shrimp...

always virgin Pina Coladas.


California Caprese Salad

This is the simplest of the three salads.  Just layer together sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves, along with cut avocado and pancetta (I buy it prepackaged and cut into tiny cubes.  Then I simply stick it in the microwave for a few minutes until cooked and crunchy.)

Then top with your favorite Balsamic Glaze or simply drizzle with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

West Hollywood Wild Rice Salad

1 box Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice, prepared per package directions using the spice pack, but minus the butter
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tomato, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or 1 tsp. Drizzle of your choice)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dill

Prepare the rice and set it aside to cool.  Once cool, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and serve.  This is great on its own or stuffed in a pita with extra veggies and lettuce.  It's also wonderful topped with chopped dry roasted peanuts (I couldn't as I'm allergic).

Santa Barbara Spinach Cilantro Couscous and Lime Shrimp Cocktail

1 bag frozen large shrimp- (make sure and buy them raw), defrosted
1 box Israeli couscous, prepared per package directions
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
Handful of baby spinach
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 lime
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon seasoning of your choice (I used Parisien which is a mix of dill, chives, tarragon, etc.)
A few sprinkles of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup olive oil + some for marinating shrimp
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper

For the Shrimp: Place defrosted shrimp in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro and juice from one lime.  Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.  Then place shrimp and liquid into a small skillet and pan fry for a few minutes on each side until just cooked through.  Chop some for the inside of the salad and keep some whole for a garnish.

For the Salad: In a large bowl add the cooked couscous (I do this while the couscous is still warm so it wilts the spinach nicely), garbanzo beans, spinach, red onion, 1 tablespoon Cilantro, 1/4 cup olive oil, the champagne vinegar and balsamic vinegar and cooked shrimp. Season with seasonings of choice, salt and pepper.

Serve warm or cold.