Cooking and Chef Recipes

Posana Kale Salad

Kale salad

September is the most sultry time of summer: muggy, hot days, even if the calendar officially says autumn starts on Sept. 23. The divas like to stay out of the kitchen and escape to someplace cool, and this year our getaway was to Asheville, N.C., where you can splash in icy mountain water at places like Sliding Rock and Skinny Dip Falls. Ahhhhh!

We kicked back in high style at the gorgeous Inn at Biltmore, tucked back in the astounding 8,000 acres of the Biltmore Estate, relaxing in Adirondack chairs on blissfully cool morning and evenings with soothing views of Mount Pisgah in the distance.

Forays into town for supper (Forbes magazine named Asheville one of the Top 5 "secret foodie" cities in the U.S.) were rewarded with remarkable tastes like this kale salad at elegant Posana Cafe, where every dish is gluten free, and Chef Peter Pollay appreciates his local farmers.

Summer Salad with Tofu from the Divas of Dish

Divas tofu salad

Summer's heat has settled in, so the divas don't bother turning on the stove when we can trump up a cool, satisfying supper. And we're not talking about a bowl of lettuce, but a dish that satisfies the craving for sweet, salty and crunchy, plus adds a punch of protein.
We use firm tofu, but you can always substitute shredded deli rotisserie chicken if you prefer.
Pour a cool Riesling and you've got an easy dinner with minimal prep and maximum time for floating in the pool.

Summer Salad With Tofu
Serves 4

2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic-chile paste
1 teaspoon honey
7-ounce package firm tofu, sliced into matchsticks
1 small head broccoli, trimmed and sliced finely on mandoline
1 cup shredded carrots
4 radishes, thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Coarse salt, to taste

Mix together sesame oil, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, chili paste and honey in the bottom of a bowl large enough for salad.

Add remaining ingredients and gently toss. Season with salt.

Diva confession: If you don't own a mandoline slicer, you missing a super-easy way to create thinly sliced veggies with precision and ease. You can buy inexpensive versions at most kitchen supply stores.

Cool-as-Cucumber Lemonade

Divas Lemonade

Cucumber vodka: How could the divas resist? Amidst myriad flavored vodkas, there it stood. The result? A refreshing, ultra-skinny cocktail to knock our muumuus off.

A hard lemonade with a soft side, this dreamy little number is like a margarita without all the puckering. Fresh mint, mixed and mashed a bit in the cocktail, gives the drink just the right amount of edge, while chilled sparkling water keeps everyone hydrated. The perfect, skinny summer sipper to serve beachside, poolside--or just front porch-side.

Is it five o'clock yet?

Cool-as-Cucumber Lemonade
Makes 1 cocktail

Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
6 or 7 fresh mint leaves
Ice
1 shot cucumber vodka
Sparkling water, to taste
4 or 5 slices seedless cucumber

Juice the lemon and pour into cocktail glass. Drizzle in agave and add mint. Using a pestle or large spoon, mix and mash the mint into the juice and agave. Add ice, vodka and sparkling water, to taste. Stir in cucumber slices and serve immediately.

Diva Confession: Sip this summer refresher sans the alcohol, adding a bit of fresh squeezed cucumber juice to replace the flavored vodka.

Chill and Be Chili Watermelon and Jalapeno Salad

Divas watermelon

It's the perfect sweet/hot side for your backyard barbeque, think girl-next-door charm with just right amount of edge. We can't resist this chill and be chili watermelon salad. At once ice cold and smokin' hot, the dish is a simple concoction of complex yum with gorgeous summer color.

Bridging the gap between cooling salad and the refreshingly unexpected dessert, you can make it your own with finely diced cucumber, crumbled cotija cheese or a smattering of sliced kalamata olives. Fresh mint is our herbaceous pick for this dish, but minced fresh basil or cilantro are also delish.

Guilt-free Donut Holes

Divas Donut holes

Bathing suit weather is enough to send the divas into a slight state of panic, but we've found a favorite new way to exercise: Barre3, a tough love hour of ballet, Pilates and yoga all rolled into one.
Ashley, our beautiful instructor, brought these delicious, no-bake treats one morning – who knew that vegan could be so satisfying? Made in less than 30 minutes with just six wholesome ingredients, there's no guilt with these summertime sweets. Go ahead, have two.

Zucchini Tzatziki

Divas Tzatziki

Trading cuke for zuke, this cool and crunchy twist on traditional Greek tzatziki will make your taste buds smile. An app with all the savvy nutrition of Greek yogurt and bountiful zucchini, the divas scoop it up in style with colorful crudités, toasted whole-grain pita (or on the sly with a spoon).
But it's more than just a dip. Pair this versatile go-to wonder with chicken marinated in lemon and oregano or atop a juicy lamb and feta burger. It's the cooling balm for spicy, complex curries, but just as delish scooped over a humble baked potato for big fat Greek flavor.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallop and Salmon Skewers


divas scallops

With all the buzz about omega 3s, we look for creative ways to get fresh wild salmon, one of the best sources, in our diets. Scallops, high in protein and low in calories, pair with chunks of bacon-wrapped wild salmon in this snazzy, quick, promise-they'll-love-it dish for Father's Day or your next party.

Start to finish, you can serve this updated version with about 30 minutes of prep time.

Line the baking dish with foil to make clean-up a breeze. And for instant gratification, experiment with sauces from your grocery store, where fabulous chipotle concoctions are all the rage.

Divas of Dish: Summer Fruit Salad with Fresh Mint Dressing

Divas Fruit Salad

Eat your fruits and veggies – mom's advice sticks with us, so return the favor and serve her a bowlful of yum that's sweet, tart and full of good health.

It's blueberry, cantaloupe and peach season in Florida, so look for locally grown goodies to chop and toss in this super-easy salad – the recipe comes from "Field to Feast, Recipes Celebrating Florida's Farmers, Chefs, and Artisans," (co-authored by diva Pam Brandon). Buttery Bibb lettuce provides a backbeat that lets the fruit sing.

The delightful dressing brings in more goodness with fresh mint and limes. Just don't overdress – another bit of mom advice, but this time we mean the salad, not you.

Southwestern Chili Dogs for Cinco De Mayo

Divas chili dog

April showers bring May flowers, as well as several other reasons to celebrate glorious spring. Like Cinco de Mayo, a favorite excuse to drink and devour all things divinely Mexicano.

Mustard your courage, relish something new and ketchup with old friends. Here's a dog that's muy caliente. Like the burger, creative cooks are desperately seeking new tricks for old dogs, dressing buns in big, fat style with spicy southwestern chili, chopped avocado, cheese, 'maters, scallions and a handful of crushed tortilla chips. To round out this fabulous fiesta, serve with chilled gazpacho and ice-cold cerveza.

Sesame Sriracha Roasted Cauliflower

Divas cauliflower

We didn't like it when we were kids. It was one of those veggies completely misunderstood by the mid-century modern cook (you know who you are).

That is, until cauliflower's super power was revealed. Crunchy, cruciferous and creamy in color, the hard-headed orb makes for tasteless crudités (please pass the fat-laden dip), but give it a blast of heat from a spicy sriracha-sesame marinade and a 400°F oven, and the makeover is undeniable. Crisp and golden at the edges, the once hard-to-love veggie is now thoroughly forgiven.