I love summer rolls — crunchy, fresh, and flavorful all wrapped in a delicate rice paper wrapper. Summer rolls are one of those things I never thought I could make at home. The wrappers, the rolling, the sauce! Not only are they way easier than I imagined, but they can be quite the nutritious dish to boot. Filled with loads of raw veggies and herbs, a summer roll is like a salad all wrapped up in a neat little package. In the video above, I go a pretty traditional route with avocado, cabbage, carrots and herbs, but also I use less traditional roasted sweet potato sticks and shredded Brussels sprouts. Rice paper is so neutral. Who says you couldn’t put a cobb salad in there or poached chicken, corn, cabbage and barbecue sauce? I say the sky’s the limit and can we talk about perfect these would be for school lunches?! Per-fect!
If you want to make these in advance, cover them with a damp paper towel and refrigerate for ideally up to one day, but I’ve even kept them 2 or 3 days.
8 (8-inch) rice paper rounds, plus additional in case some tear
1 large sweet potato, (peeled if desired) and cut into ¼” matchsticks
unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
sea salt and black pepper to taste
4 medium brussels sprouts, thinly sliced or shredded
¼ head of small red cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded, grated, or julienned
1 large avocado, cut into thin slices
handful each of fresh mint leaves, basil leaves and cilantro leaves
Other possibilities: cooked shrimp, chicken, tempeh or tofu, cooked rice noodles
To make the sauce: whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl or a glass jar and set aside. *
To make the summer rolls: Drizzle the sweet potatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 18-20 minutes until tender.
Fill a shallow baking dish or a skillet with warm water. Soak 1 rice paper round (make sure there are no holes) in warm water until pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the water and transfer to a plate or cutting board.
Spread 2 teaspoons of peanut sauce on the rice paper (or omit and use as a dip once rolls are assembled) and top with 2-3 large mint leaves, 1-2 large basil leaves, a pinch of cilantro leaves, a
pinch each of the Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and carrot, a few sticks of sweet potato, and a couple of avocado slices, taking care not to overstuff. Roll up rice paper tightly around filling, folding in sides and continue rolling.
Transfer summer roll to a plate and cover with dampened paper towels.
Make the remaining rolls in the same manner. Serve rolls halved on the diagonal.
Store in the fridge covered with a damp paper towel 2-3 days.
* Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature and re-emulsify before using.
You are going to have so much fun making these summer rolls!
I hope you had a fantastic 4th of July weekend! There’s a good chance if you hosted a party, that you have some leftover hamburger or hot dog buns lying around. What were you planning on doing with them? Bread crumbs? Great idea. Croutons? Another great idea. Putting them in the freezer for the next time you make burgers or dogs? Good luck with that one. My freezer is basically one-third buns. They’re all freezer-burned too, because I was lazy and threw the bags in there and didn’t bother to wrap the buns tightly in foil first. And my kids reject previously frozen buns. They would rather eat a hot bog or a burger without a bun over one that has been previously frozen. It’s kind of annoying since we’re a family of 5 and you can’t buy a bag of 5 buns. And I cannot handle wasting food, even a silly hamburger bun.
So I came up with this strata using leftover hamburger buns that had been sitting in my freezer and that I absolutely knew would end up in the compost bin. Stratas are kind of like savory bread puddings, more bread-y than an egg-y quiche or frittata . I actually prefer a frittata, but my husband and kids love their bread! I posted a strata on my site a few years ago with spinach, tomatoes and feta. Super delicious and I love that you can put it together the night before to soak in the fridge and then you bake it in the morning easy peasy.
I essentially took what I had — a large tomato, half a red onion, a handful of baby mozzarella balls and a jar of roasted peppers in the fridge, plus some basil from my patio, and combined them with eggs and milk and voila! No one had any idea that I used leftover, previously frozen buns. And no one had any idea they were all different, including a whole grain sprouted bun! Of course, gluten-free buns work equally well. A strata is so versatile that if you had some leftover roasted zucchini, you could throw it in there too. Or a link of leftover sausage or a handful of corn kernels. And if you wanted a higher proportion of eggs, go for it. Just bake until the strata feels “set.” So no liquid gushes out when you push on the center of the strata and it kind of bounces back a bit.
What’s also cool about this is that you can make it for breakfast, lunch or (Meatless Monday) dinner. I served it in these photos with some lightly dressed arugula and I think that’s the best accompaniment or just a simple green salad. But any non-starchy vegetable, like green beans or summer squash, would be great, too. Because bread is the main ingredient, I wouldn’t serve another starch with a strata. But I would serve it with a cold glass of rosé. Happy summer!
1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing skillet
½ large red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk or unsweetened, plain hemp milk or milk of choice
¾ teaspoon sea salt (or 1 teaspoon if your mozzarella is unsalted)
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
6 ounces bocconcini (baby fresh mozzarella cheese), drained if in water
1 large tomato, seeded (if desired) and diced
1 roasted red or yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
a handful of basil leaves, julienned
5-6 ounces of whole wheat, spelt or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes, about 8 cups, preferably a little stale
For the Salad:
6 ounces baby arugula
good aged balsamic vinegar
unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 3-4 minutes, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds, then remove from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, sea salt and pepper. Stir in the bocconcini, tomato, roasted red pepper, basil, bread and onion-garlic mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. You don’t have to soak overnight, but I love the way the bread soaks up the mixture. Feel free to put it straight in the oven.
If you soaked it overnight, remove the strata from the refrigerator and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 10-inch skillet (or a 9-inch pie plate or equivalent) with olive oil and pour the strata mixture into the skillet.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until egg mixture is set and top is golden brown.
Remove strata from oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the strata is cooling, toss the arugula with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil (just enough to coat) and sprinkle with salt.
Top the strata with the arugula salad and serve, or cut the strata into serving size pieces and top each piece with arugula salad.
Unbaked strata can be frozen if wrapped tightly. Thaw in the refrigerator before baking, uncovered.
MINI-STRATAS: grease 4 individual ramekins or muffin tins. First layer bread then vegetables and cheese. Last, pour egg, milk, salt and pepper on top. Refrigerate overnight, if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
The moment we arrived in Lake Garda on Wednesday for the last leg of our trip, I looked at my husband and said, “Good luck getting me on that plane back home.” The vistas are breathtaking, the air is clean, and the food is to die for. Total heaven here. Check out my Instagram and Facebook page for some pictures.
One food combination that I will never tire of is tomatoes and basil. And if you add some high quality mozzarella, I am even happier. I do so many combinations of tomatoes and basil in the summer, whether it be in soups, salads, pasta, eggs, grains, on toast, and on and on. Needless to say, I have been indulging like crazy in Italy, where I will argue you find the best tomatoes!
I made this soup at home before I left. The recipe is from Angelini Osteria, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in LA, and was printed in the LA Times recently. I didn’t waste any time making it! Trust me when I tell you that you must use great, flavorful tomatoes here. Otherwise, the soup will probably taste like nothing. I’ve tasted other Italian tomato soups in the past and they’ve all tasted like tomato sauce. Not this one! It’s so light and fresh with just a little essence of basil. It is summer in a bowl! Also, did you know that tomatoes are very rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer compound. But the lycopene becomes more available when the tomatoes are cooked. Bonus!
I couldn’t help but drizzle some good olive oil on the soup and tear a smidge of burrata into it, too. If you want to keep this dairy-free or vegan, just forget the burrata and add a piece of grilled bread rubbed with some garlic. You really can’t go wrong.
Sadly, this vacation is coming to an end soon. But I am excited to get back in the kitchen in a few days and cook again. I’ve been so inspired by all the places we have visited. I am also looking forward to seeing many of you next week in class. Lots of stories to share and yummy food to make!
I ate an excessive amount of pasta growing up. My mom prepared it about three times per week and then we usually had it also on Sundays when we went to spend the day with my mom’s family or my dad’s. Pasta was part of our heritage, not just an easy dinner and not eaten plain with butter the way I know many kids prefer it. (Coincidentally, my father is visiting this week and on Day 2 he was already asking for a plate of spaghetti!)
Ironically I don’t make pasta much for my family, and not because we don’t like it. We do! And it’s not because pasta is a processed food, because it is and I try to limit those. But, I don’t eat much pasta because I can’t stop myself from overeating it! Did you know 1 serving of pasta is 1/2 cup? Basically, I try to keep my carbohydrates to 2 servings per meal to avoid blood sugar spikes and to attempt to maintain a healthful weight. Unfortunately, overeating pasta for me is very, very easy. I think I can consume 4 cups of pasta no problem. I know I can make a dish with mostly veggies and some pasta, but I always end up eating seconds. And thirds.
Whole grains like farro, barley and brown rice I don’t overeat as easily. A few years ago I ate a fried rice dish at Ammo in LA that was a game changer. I always assumed fried rice to be Asian-inspired, but this one wasn’t. And it’s not fried, by the way. Just sautéed. It just had lots of seasonal market vegetables and brown rice all sautéed in olive oil. It made me think about all the possibilities for fried rice and I have enjoyed making versions of that dish since then. My favorite combination I came up with is this one here, which has an Itailian twist. I am crazy for it because it makes me feel like I’m eating all the yummy flavors I would put in pasta and it feels more satisfying because the brown rice has so much more fiber than pasta.
But just like regular fried rice, this is a great way to use up bits of leftover veggies or any kind of grain, for that matter. And it is super quick (as in minutes) to throw together. I probably eat a version of this recipe for lunch more than anything else if I am working at home. Now that I think about it, I am going to make this for my parents this week!
1 or 2 cups of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps wiped clean with a damp paper towel and sliced thinly
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a few leaves of fresh basil, thinly sliced
2-3 cups baby leafy greens like chard, kale and spinach or 6 stalks of kale, stemmed and leaves chopped or more
3-4 cups COOKED short grain brown rice
chicken stock, vegetable stock or water, if necessary
optional accompaniment ideas: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese, poached or fried egg, toasted, chopped nuts, hot sauce
Warm a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and when warm, add the garlic and chili flakes. Sauté until the garlic is just starting to turn golden on the edges, about 30-60 seconds.
Add the cherry tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until the tomatoes just start to lose their shape and the asparagus and mushrooms are tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the fresh basil and sauté until wilted.
Add the cooked rice, the greens and another pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until the rice is warmed through and the greens are wilted. If the rice and vegetables are sticking to the pan, add a splash of water or stock. Serve immediately with or without suggested accompaniments.
Cooked quinoa, millet or lentils can be subbed for the rice. You can also use part grain/part chickpeas. Or omit the tomatoes and basil and use different quick-cooking vegetables like thinly sliced fennel, diced zucchini, shredded carrots, blanched cauliflower florets, peas, scallions. And use different ingredients to add in later, such as cooked beets, sliced oranges, avocado, olives and so on. There are unlimited combinations!
I remember the first time I ate an artichoke, I really ate the artichoke. Or at least I tried to. I had no idea that I was supposed to scrape the meat off of the leaves with my teeth and not (attempt) to eat the entire thing. Ooops. I just kept chewing and chewing and chewing and thinking, “why on earth do people love artichokes so much? This is terrible!” Fortunately, I was taught how to properly eat an artichoke before I swore them off for good.
But for many years I thought artichokes were too intimidating to cook at home, and were only a special treat to be ordered in restaurants. Until one day I saw my grandmother making stuffed artichokes and I quietly stood by and took mental notes. I’m sure you know what I am about to say. So easy! Really, once you learn how to trim an artichoke, the rest is a piece of cake. I am hoping these photos can help you get past any artichoke anxiety you might have.
Artichokes are so versatile. You can eat them hot, warm, room temperature, even cold. It’s fun to dip the leaves into a sauce or a vinaigrette before nibbling the tender meat on the bottom of the leaves. Mayonnaise sauces are probably the most popular, but I prefer to keep things lighter and fresher. I love this artichoke preparation which I first had at the Ivy Restaurant in LA. I could eat tomato-basil salad on most anything, from fish and chicken to pasta and toast. On artichokes, this classic combo is just as delicious, with the juice from the tomatoes creating a vinaigrette of sorts with the olive oil. Love it!
Artichokes are a good source of folate, fiber, and vitamins C and K. Artichokes are also packed with antioxidants; they’re number 7 on the USDA’s top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list. I also read somewhere that artichokes used to be considered an aphrodisiac. Well now.
I was advised by my produce friends at Grow in Manhattan Beach that artichokes are more tender when the leaves are more closed and tighter than more open. A little frostbite on the outer leaves is completely fine, just check to make sure the stems don’t have any evidence of rot. They’re in season now, so get them while you can!
Trim the artichokes: Remove the outer layer of small, tough leaves from the stem end. Trim the stem to create a flat bottom and discard cut stem. With a very sharp serrated knife, cut off the top 1 inch of each artichoke. Use scissors to snip the thorny tips of the remaining leaves. Artichokes should fit into your pot so that the lid fits tightly.
Cook the artichokes: Fill a large saucepan with 2 inches of water and add the garlic, bay leaves and lemon. Arrange the artichokes in the saucepan STEM SIDE UP. Bring water to a boil, cover and lower to a simmer. Steam artichokes for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size) or until stem can be pierced easily with a knife. Remove artichokes from the saucepan and set aside until cool enough to handle. I like to put them in a colander stem side up to cool.
Make the salad: In a medium bowl combine tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the chokes: Pull out the center leaves of the artichoke. They are the ones that are closed together and light purple at the top. Underneath that you will see the spiky, lighter leaves around the heart. The fuzzy choke is hidden underneath. With a spoon, scoop out the spiky leaves and the choke and discard. Take care not to remove too much of the meaty heart which sits just underneath the choke. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
Arrange artichokes on a platter and spoon tomato salad into each of the cleaned out artichokes.
These can be served warm, room temperature or cold. Artichokes can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated. After removing the choke, they can also be quartered, brushed with oil and grilled.
I hope you all had a lovely Fourth of July and that you had a day off of work at the very least. If there’s one thing I think many of us need more of it’s a little rest and relaxation. We had a nice mellow day with friends and no work all day at all. Nice. In fact, I even watched a little tv while I was putzing around the house before going out. Computer time has wiped out my tv time in the last few years, so watching tv is a real treat for me. Although it’s funny that when I have time off from work (i.e. cooking), I choose to watch the Food Network or the Cooking Channel. I have my favorites to be sure, but some of the really popular shows I just don’t get.
Can anyone explain the appeal of “Chopped?” I’ll tell you one thing — it’s not “reality” tv. What’s reality about being given a bunch of ingredients not normally found in a regular person’s pantry and being forced to have to make something tasty out of it given the resources of an unbelievably stocked pantry? I have learned so much from watching Ina and Giada and Tyler, but there isn’t much I get out of seeing what three chefs can do with graham crackers and squid in 30 minutes. Does that show talent? What do you think?
Let me tell you what I think takes some skill — making dinner for my family on a typically insane weeknight. You think the judges on Chopped are tough. Ha! They eat everything, even cheese, unlike Mr. Picky. Try making dinner for Daughters #1 and 2 and Mr. Picky under a time constraint. During the girls’ finals week earlier last month, I had a day that did not go as planned and I found myself in a dinner prep predicament. We always eat dinner together every night around 6:30/6:45 and I thought this was one of those nights, but no. Daughter #1 had a study group at 6:30 and Daughter #2 switched her music lesson without telling me and she would be coming home at 6:15. I found all of this out at 4:30 and I had soccer carpool to do. Oh sure, easy, right?
Do the contestants on Chopped have two teenage girls yelling at each other about the last ugly photo one posted of the other on Instagram? They do not. And Mr. Picky is not bouncing a basketball in the kitchen while the chefs are trying to figure out what to make for dinner very quickly with the contents of a very basic pantry. Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! Ok, think. Do some prep now, then you have 15 minutes when you get back from soccer drop-off before driving to music. “But the picture you posted of me was much worse than the one I posted of you!” Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! I have chicken, tomatoes, white rice is fast, thank goodness I washed lettuce yesterday. “Mommmmmmm, did you see what she’s getting away with? So many people liked that picture already!” “Really? They liked it? That’s good, right?” “OMG, Mom! No they didn’t like it! Make her delete it!” Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! I can bread the chicken now and bake later. “I am NOT letting her drive me to school anymore.” Whoa there, missy. Now you’ve got my attention. “Delete it this minute!” Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! “STOP PLAYING BALL IN THE HO– USE, MR. PICKY!!!!” Can you imagine doing this sober? Why don’t I drink? I need to rethink that.
I know this isn’t just my house, or maybe it is and I am deluding myself. But I think a lot of home cooks have skills that you just can’t learn in culinary school or by watching some pros on tv. I managed to pull something together that night that we ate at exactly 6:15 and we all liked it! I would have likely gotten “chopped” on tv for something so unoriginal, but this is the kind of food we like to eat and it’s reasonably healthful. One of the reasons this worked for me that night is because I was able to bake the chicken instead of sautéing/frying it. I didn’t know if it would work, but I learned the technique of getting crispy breading by greasing up the chicken with some fat before dredging it from an old Gourmet magazine recipe. That way, I didn’t have to babysit it on the stovetop, plus baking is more healthful than frying and MUCH less messy! This would also be a great method to use when cooking for a crowd.
Speaking of cooking for a crowd, for the next episode of “Chopped,” I’d like to see a challenge where the chefs have to prepare a dinner party for 12 guests in Los Angeles. “Oh, sorry, no gluten for me.” “If you don’t mind, I don’t eat dairy. Or meat. Or eggs.” “I’m easy. I eat everything except nuts. I am deathly allergic to all tree nuts. Deathly!” Now that’s something I would watch!
2 -3 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil, plus more for coating chicken and pan
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped
¾ teaspoon sea salt, divided
⅔ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Pecorino-romano or Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon paprika
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush a baking sheet generously with olive oil. You can line your baking sheet with parchment paper if you want and then brush the parchment with oil.
In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, basil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
In a shallow dish (such as a pie plate), combine the bread crumbs, cheese, and paprika. In another shallow dish, pour a few tablespoons of olive oil.
Slice the chicken crosswise in half so that you have two thin cutlets. Check out this post for a visual on what I'm referring to. You can remove the tenders if you wish and coat those separately. Sprinkle one side of the chicken pieces with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. This is the total amount of salt and pepper for all the chicken.
Dip the seasoned chicken first into the olive oil and turn to coat. Then dip chicken into the breadcrumb mixture and press to coat both sides completely.
Place the breaded chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Turn chicken with a spatula, not tongs which might break the breading, and bake another 3-5 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.
Remove garlic cloves from tomato mixture and discard. Spoon tomato mixture on top of chicken.
This serves our family perfectly with no leftovers, but we're not big meat-eaters. If one chicken cutlet is not enough per person, then increase the chicken and breading ingredients.
We had such a nice Labor Day weekend. I hope you did, too. We were able to squeeze in some beach time, family time, yoga (for me) and our annual block party, which was great fun. The combination of the balmy weather and refrain from “labor” made me wish that summer would last just a little longer. Although, as I mentioned in my gazpacho post, I am riding the summer tomato train for as long as possible. Since this may very well be my last recipe of the year with tomatoes, I am sharing a goodie.
The inspiration for this recipe came from Deb at Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Gourmet magazine. The original recipe called for Israeli couscous, which I couldn’t help but substitute out for a more whole (and tastier) grain like farro. But what makes this dish special is the incredible dressing which uses slow-roasted tomatoes as it’s base. What could be better, tomatoes and grains with a tomato dressing? It’s the perfect recipe for a tomato-fanatic like me!
Ok, I can read your mind. It’s not the fastest recipe on the planet. The cherry tomatoes have to be washed, dried, halved, arranged on a baking sheet and roasted for an hour. Although you don’t have to arrange the tomato halves like soldiers in the photo here. I thought it would look nice that way, but now I realize it just makes me look obsessive compulsive. Anyway, I was making this on Friday afternoon to bring to the beach for a potluck, and I tried timing the tomato prework. Excluding the roasting bit, I think it only took me about 15 minutes which I did while watching an episode of “Barefoot Contessa.” Can I just say I wish Ina Garten would invite me over to cook, play bridge and drink cocktails with her and her friends, especially TR. Sigh. Speaking of Ina, do you remember her Orzo with Roasted Vegetables from 2001? Gasp, was that really 11 years ago? You know, the one that we all made a gajillion times for every backyard barbeque and potluck for years. Loved it, but OD’ed on it for sure. Ina’s salad was easy, but definitely involved some labor, and yet we all thought it was worth it.
Ok, this recipe is like that for me! A little extra work, but worth it, worth it, worth it! I taught this last September and again to a group this past July, all the while thinking how divine it is and how much I love it. And then, while watching Ina on Friday afternoon, that orzo salad popped into my head and I changed this recipe on the spot by cutting the amount of farro in half and adding a bunch of roasted vegetables in its place. The good news — it was A-MAZING, so much better than the original! The bad news – it was A-MAZING, so much better than … the way I had taught it to A LOT of students. Guilty face. Well, I guess that’s what blogs are for!
Farro with Roasted Vegetables and Roasted Tomato Dressing
Author: Pamela, inspired by Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen
2 pints cherry tomatoes, about 1 ½ pounds
6 small-medium garlic cloves, UNpeeled
¼ cup unrefined cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil + additional for vegetables
¼ cup warm water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt + additional for vegetables
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper + additional for vegetables
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
5-6 medium zucchini
1 cup farro
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
⅓ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (only if you’ve got it)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Halve tomatoes through stem end and arrange cut-side up in one layer on a large baking sheet. Add garlic to pan and roast about 1 hour, or until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around the edges. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes.
Peel the garlic and put in a blender with oil, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper and ½ cup roasted tomatoes. Blend until very smooth.
Turn the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the asparagus on a large baking sheet and drizzle with oil plus a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste. Chop the zucchini into 1-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil and arrange in one layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast asparagus for 12 minutes or until tender. Roast zucchini 35 minutes or until caramelized. Chop asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a few substantial pinches of kosher salt and the farro. Cook until farro is tender, but still al dente, about 20-25 minutes. Drain very well and transfer to a serving bowl.
Add olives, remaining tomatoes, asparagus, zucchini, herbs and dressing to farro. Toss to combine and taste for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.
We’re baaaack! What an amazing trip. The five of us had an unbelievable 3 1/2 weeks together in Europe. We shared so many great experiences, met interesting people and really grew together as a family. People have been asking me what was the best part of our trip and I know it sounds corny, but what I enjoyed most of all was the five of us just being together. Most importantly, and this is the mother in me talking, no one got sick, hurt or lost and we made it home in one piece. Hooray!
I learned a new expression on this trip and it’s not in a foreign language. My daughters kept saying to me, “YOLO, Mom. YOLO.” Huh? Is that Dutch? Apparently YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once.” This often came up in regard to food. The first five days of the trip I was able to avoid bread, pizza (except for that tomato and cheese pancake in Amsterdam), pasta and desserts, but my family was going for it. Big time. Eventually, I think around Copenhagen, I gave in and basically had a carb fest for 2 1/2 weeks. It was fun while it lasted, but it also reinforced what I already know about wheat and refined foods — overdoing it is never a good thing. And I’ve got my tight jeans to prove it.
Although it was a nice break to be out of the kitchen for a few weeks, I am happy to be back, cooking the food that makes me feel good. I especially have a craving for fish and vegetables since the last half of our trip focused mostly on apple strudel, meat, apple strudel, potatoes, apple strudel, and bread. This fish in parchment recipe is one of my favorite, easiest and most healthful ways to prepare fish. It’s also the perfect light dinner for summertime, especially if you have some herbs growing in your garden. Feel free to change the herbs in the recipe to suit your tastes or you can even add some thinly sliced, quick-cooking vegetables to the packets. I used baby spinach leaves in these photos, but I also like diced fresh tomatoes and zucchini. Or if you have some roasted or grilled vegetables from last night’s dinner, throw those in. You really can’t go wrong.
Lucky for me, only Daughter #2 is still holding out on seafood, but everyone else loves fish, including this preparation. Wild, cold water fish is high in important anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats, which help support brain and cardiovascular function, as well as balance inflammatory influences in our lives, both from diet and lifestyle. Steaming the fish in parchment actually helps to protect those fats from oxidation since the temperature inside the packets is low. I am eager to start cooking for family again the way I know they and I should be eating. Because like I always say friends, YOLO.
½ teaspoon sea salt (you can use an extra pinch if you like salt)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
6 4-6 ounce portions of wild fish, such as halibut, salmon or mahi-mahi, defrosted, if frozen
6 14-inch squares of unbleached parchment
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper in the bowl of a mini-food processor and process until the herbs are finely chopped. Add the olive oil and process until well combined. Add lemon zest and pulse once or twice.
Place each piece of fish in the center of a sheet of parchment. Spread a heaping spoonful of the herb mixture on top of each piece of fish.
Bring 2 opposite sides of the parchment together and fold. Continue to fold all the way down until you reach the fish. Twist both ends of the parchment so that it looks like a hard candy wrapper. Place each packet on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes based on the thickness of the fish.
Transfer each packet to a plate and use caution when opening – the steam will be very hot!
You can make the fish packets in the morning if you like and keep them refrigerated. If you cook them straight out of the fridge, add an extra minute or two to the cooking time.
Other suggestions: you can also add to the packets quick-cooking vegetables such as baby spinach leaves, julienned zucchini or finely diced tomatoes. For longer-cooking vegetables, blanch or steam them first, then add to packets.
If you enjoy this, check out my other recipe for Halibut in Parchment with Cilantro and Ginger! There you can see step-by-step photos for how to fold the parchment paper.