If you’ve been to Jon & Vinny’s in LA, you may recognize this salad which they call Gem Lettuce, Calabrian Chili Dressing, Parmigiano, & Bread Crumbs. It’s basically a spicy Caesar salad with the most delicious breadcrumbs and baby romaine leaves. It’s insanely good and worth every bit of the $16.50 they charge for one portion. Or is it? Well, we can make it at home and it’s just as good, friends! I make it all the time when I have people over or we want a really great Caesar. Ok, let’s do it!Continue reading
My kids can’t get enough of these zucchini fries and I can’t get enough of hearing them beg me for vegetables! After I returned home from New York last week, my son, the one and only Mr. Picky, said, “I don’t know what you’re making for dinner this week, but please include zucchini fries!” Pinch me.
I know the recipe is posted on the Today Show website, but I didn’t actually demo the recipe during my segment and I do have some tips to share. Keep in mind, if you love zucchini fries when you go to a restaurant, these are similar, but not exactly the same. Those are deep-fried, and we all know deep-fried food, EVEN A VEGETABLE, is really, really bad for you. Sorry to remind you, but restaurants use the lowest quality oil to fry foods and they use it over and over and over again. It is like a big vat of inflammation and free-radicals and transfats and likely GMO’s — everything you want to avoid. So we’re going to bake these, ok?
They’re still going to be crispy and tasty, they’re just not going to be greasy. Perfect reason to dip these fries into something. I eat them as is, but my husband (just a grown-up kid really) likes these dipped in tomato sauce (homemade recipe here) or Ranch dressing (homemade recipe here) and my son will also eat them with mustard. I find two things to be true with kids and vegetables — they love dips and they like things that resemble French fries. That makes this recipe a double winner!
But I’m not going to lie — even though this is an easy recipe, requiring no special skills or culinary training, they’re kind of a pain to make because you’re dipping a lot of zucchini sticks into egg and then breadcrumbs and arranging them just so on a baking sheet. My advice is to get your kids or someone to help you and then this becomes no big deal. You can also cut the zucchini in the morning to save on prep time before dinner.
I know so many of you have zucchini coming out of your ears right now. Try not to let them grow too big. For this recipe especially, you want to select small to medium zucchini which contain fewer seeds and aren’t bitter like some big ones. And the trick is to cut them into the size no bigger than a normal adult finger. If you cut them too big, they won’t get tender enough and if you cut them too small, they can get dried out.
The only problem with this recipe is that it never makes enough. It says “serves 6,” but that’s hardly true. I actually never got to eat 1 fry during the entire month I taught this recipe because there were never any left. Once you start, you can’t stop. So for the first time, I can’t answer the question “how long do leftovers last in the fridge?” No matter how many you make, there won’t be any!
- Unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 4 medium zucchini
- 1 cup dry bread crumbs (use GF breadcrumbs to make these GF)*
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (omit to make these dairy-free)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large eggs**
- Unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil spray
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and brush parchment with olive oil.
- To cut your zucchini into fries, cut each zucchini in half crosswise. Cut each half lengthwise into halves or in thirds, and each one of those pieces into 4 sticks or into ½-inch wide sticks.
- In a shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, red pepper and salt. In a separate shallow dish beat eggs very well.
- One by one, dip each zucchini stick into the egg mixture, then into the bread crumb mixture. Shake to remove any excess and place on the baking sheet.
- Once all are coated with breadcrumb mixture and on the prepared baking sheet, spray with olive oil.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, flipping over halfway to ensure browning on both sides. Serve plain or with marinara sauce or Ranch dressing.
**You can also dip the zucchini in olive oil instead of eggs for an egg-free version.
For more great zucchini recipes, check these out:
Grain-free Chocolate Zucchini Cake (seriously the bomb!)
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas! Even though you haven’t heard from me in a few days, I have been cooking up a storm nonetheless! We arrived in NY to visit my family and between Christmas Eve for 79 people to breakfast-lunch-dinner for our clan of 15 every day, I’ve been busy in the kitchen. What has been fun is the team effort. My sisters, my mom and I have been planning and preparing together which really is the only way when you’re trying to figure out what to make that most everyone will like. My husband is actually pitching in as I type this and making baked ziti with my mother for tonight’s dinner. It is seriously hilarious listening to him explain his “method” to my Italian mother. Also nice to have the night off so I have a few minutes to write something for you lovely readers!
I always find at this time of year many of my friends and students are looking for a winner hors d’oeuvre for all the entertaining and football-watching they do. I have quite a few on the site already and you can check out the segments I did for our local news the last two years, but I would love to share this popular (although I wouldn’t say the most healthful) dip that is always very popular. Hot spinach artichoke dip is something my husband and my kids love to share in a restaurant. They somehow rationalize all the sour cream and cheese with the presence of spinach in there. This is a lighter version, but still warm, creamy and tastes just like the one you’ve had at your favorite restaurant. My kids like to scoop this onto crostini, pita chips or even tortilla chips. Although I’ve eaten the dip with sweet bell pepper strips and blanched cauliflower, I think they probably had the better idea.
I know you busy you all are and what you really want to know is how you can do this ahead of time so you you’re as relaxed as Ina when her guests arrive. Oh how I’d love to be invited over for cocktails and cards with Ina! But I digress. You will blend this whole concoction together in no time — no sauteeing or blanching — and keep it covered in the fridge until the next day when you want to serve it. Then uncover it and bake it for about 25 minutes until hot and melted and bubbly. I usually time this to be ready about 15 minutes after I’ve told my guests to arrive since no one these days shows up exactly on time, including yours truly. This dip is really best served hot and because there’s cheese in it, the longer it sits out, the more it firms up. So it’s best if you don’t have this out too early. I also recommend if you’re going to make a few for a longer cocktail party or football game to stagger them about an hour apart so you can serve a nice hot one a few times. Very recently I discovered a new and incredible way to eat leftovers of this dip — blended with beaten eggs and baked as a frittata, which is this photo right below.
Now you can have your fabulous hors d’oeuvre for New Year’s Eve and the beginnings of an amazing New Year’s Day breakfast. Does it get any better than this???
- 10 ounces artichoke hearts frozen, defrosted or packed in water, drained
- ¼ cup chopped shallots
- 1 clove garlic
- 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I do this in a thin clean kitchen towel) or 10 ounces fresh spinach, steamed in a little water until wilted and excess water squeezed out
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cup Vegenaise or mayonnaise (I use soy-free Vegenaise.)
- ⅔ cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (I use Pecorino.)
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a food processor, coarsely chop the artichoke hearts with the shallots and garlic.
- Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Place in a 9 or 10-inch oven-proof dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, until hot and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
You can assemble this in the baking dish the night before, remove from the refrigerator before you preheat the oven so it's not ice cold, and then bake.
Daughter #1 is my 15-year-old who used to turn her nose at her plate if food groups were touching. So you can imagine how very satisfying it was for me when she sighed, “I could eat Kale, Mushroom and Brown Rice Bake every day.” Sigh. Actually, both my daughters are crazy about this rice and veggie quasi-frittata and I am thrilled to cook them something so healthful and substantial for breakfast, lunch or dinner. At the moment, the girls are on a brown rice bake kick and I’ve had to make it three times in the last two weeks!
With teenage daughters usually comes a little drama, even first thing in the morning. It usually involves someone borrowing someone else’s clothes without asking or someone posting a picture on Instagram of the other one sleeping with her mouth open. But who knew that even breakfast food could fuel more than just hungry bodies? Yesterday morning there was only 1 piece of brown rice bake leftover from the day before and Daughter #2 was the first one in the kitchen. You know what they say about the early bird…. Daughter #1 was not the early bird yesterday, nor is she any day for that matter, but apparently she dreamt all night of brown rice bake instead of the boys from One Direction. Do you know where this is going? I watched it unfold in slow motion as #1 opened the refrigerator looking for the breakfast of her dreams while #2 savored another forkful of the last of the rice bake. I knew what was next. “Where’s the rice bake?” No response was really necessary as my glance shot over to her sister who looked hesitant and terrified as she finished the last bite. Hell hath no fury like a hungry teenage girl robbed of her rice bake. No further details necessary.
What’s the point of airing my family’s dirty laundry? Oh merely just to share how much we love Brown Rice Bake and to encourage you to make it! Although most of us (except for Mr. Picky) love frittatas, this is less eggy and more rice and vegetables bound with just enough egg to hold it all together. The rice and (optional) sliced almonds give every bite great texture. It’s super satisfying for any meal and a great way to use up leftover cooked brown rice and whatever vegetables you have lying around. Think of this recipe as merely a roadmap to deliciousness – there is more than one way to get there. Spinach, broccoli, leeks, asparagus, zucchini – all perfect here.
I felt bad that Daughter #1 was disappointed yesterday so last night I sautéed all my vegetables and pre-measured the rice, cheese, salt and almonds, so all I had to do this morning was crack some eggs and measure a bit of milk. I was so excited to surprise my lovely daughter with a new brown rice bake when she woke up this morning. It’s noon and I’m still waiting for her to wake up. Just praying there’s some rice bake left when she does…..
- 2 Tablespoons unrefined extra-virgin olive oil or ghee
- 4 ounces mushrooms (such as shiitake*), chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 large kale leaves, stemmed and chopped (or more if you like)
- Sea salt
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups cooked brown rice (or barley, farro or spelt)
- 5 Tablespoons sliced almonds, divided
- ½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, divided
- 4 large eggs
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup whole milk or unsweetened hemp milk
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease an 8x8 or 9-inch round baking dish. You can also use a 12-cup muffin tin, greased or lined with silicone liners.
- In a large skillet heat the oil/ghee over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms, onions, kale and a pinch of salt for about 3-5 minutes or until just beginning to soften.
- Add in the garlic. Continue cooking until everything is softened and the mushrooms are golden, about another 3 minutes.
- Place the rice in a large bowl. Stir in the mushroom mixture, ¼ cup almonds, and half the Parmesan cheese.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Fold the eggs into the rice mixture, then pour into your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the reserved half of cheese and 1 Tablespoon of sliced almonds.
- Bake for about 30 minutes or until set.