We all love roasted vegetables. They taste delicious and they’re easy. But for the holidays or entertaining, it’s nice to add a little something extra to basic roasted vegetables. How about grapes?? Trust me on this one. They’re not quite expected, but they’re like sweet little juicy nuggets that enhance bitter vegetables like Brussels sprouts. I am on a mission to get people to love vegetables and eat more of them. And this recipe is a winner!Continue reading
I just dropped off my oldest at college this past weekend. Up until this point, nothing has made me feel as old as saying to someone, “I have a child in college.” And it doesn’t help when people respond with, “Wow!” Rub it in. Thank heavens for Mr. Picky who is in elementary school and still asks me to cuddle him at night.
My daughter goes to school in Dallas. So when I visit, I make sure to b-line for some good Tex-Mex food. You all know my weakness is guacamole and chips. Guacamole = healthy food. Chips, not so much. In LA you can find places to give you jicama with your guacamole. In Texas, not so much. So I try not to overdo it when I’m there, but I’m not always successful.
Although I grew up in New York, California cooking has stolen my heart. Lightness, freshness, color. It’s addictive. And the best avocados! Come visit me and we’ll have fun just prancing around the farmers markets. We can make this salad, which is like fancy-pants guacamole.
I taught this salad last year or the year before and it is one of my favorites. First of all, it takes minutes to pull together. Second, it includes two of my favorite foods, tomatoes and avocados, which I will remind you are both insanely delicious right now. Use whatever tomatoes look great and have fun mixing colors and shapes and sizes. Lastly, it’s basically guacamole that I can eat with a fork or on top of a piece of fish or grilled chicken and I don’t feel the need to have 25 tortilla chips along with it.
It also happens to look very pretty on a buffet. But tomatoes are leaving us soon, friends. Enjoy it ALL while you can, because you’re going to blink your eyes and they’ll be gone.
optional: serve with broken corn tortilla chips on top or around the side of the salad
Place the tomatoes, red onion and jalapeño on a platter. Arrange the avocado slices on top. Scatter the cilantro leaves all over.
Whisk together the lime juice, salt, hot sauce and oil together and drizzle all over salad. It’s best not to toss this salad, otherwise the avocados will get messy. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt if necessary. A sprinkle of flaky sea salt is nice.
Serve with tortilla chips on the perimeter of the platter or crushed on top, if desired.
The amounts for the ingredients are merely guidelines. Feel free to adjust quantities to suit your taste.
Do you remember the Dunkin Donuts commercial from the ’80s, where the guy wakes up super early in the morning every day and says, “time to make the donuts” ? That’s how I felt yesterday morning when I stumbled out of bed as the sun came up because it was “time to make the lunches.” Oy. How is it that I love to cook, but I dread making school lunches?
This isn’t a post about school lunches though. I’ll still post my kids’ lunches once a week on Instagram and Facebook so we can all share ideas. I just can’t believe it’s the beginning of school and I have not eaten what I think is enough tomatoes! Or eggplant. Or peaches. So now I’m on a mission to eat as much summer produce as I can before it is gone. And the first day of school is my warning bell.
I saw a post on Instagram the other day asking who was excited for pumpkin season? Uh, not me. What’s the rush? I would be delighted to eat watermelon and plums for a bit longer thank you. I want to make more of this Lentil and Grilled Eggplant Salad. I taught this salad in a class last year and I became obsessed with it, making it for friends and family all summer long. It has many of my favorite foods like grilled eggplant, which is much better than eggplant cooked any other way, in my opinion; hearty, protein-rich lentils, which are my favorite vegetarian protein source (Mr. Picky’s, too); and of course, the best of summer, ripe, juicy tomatoes.
I love the earthy, assertive flavors in this salad and especially the delicious, mustard-y vinaigrette. Dijon and lentils are great pals. This would be a perfect salad to bring to a Labor Day BBQ, especially if you don’t eat meat and make to ensure a vegetarian option. Or make this for dinner with something green on the side and you’re done. I’ve also added some goat cheese or feta for an extra salty bite. Many of my students like the precooked lentils from Trader Joe’s which would make this even easier to put together. Because I’m all about easy if it will make me cook something at home instead of getting take out. Gotta run — it’s already that time of day. Time to make dinner!
Place the lentils and the wine in a medium saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the wine has been absorbed.
Add the stock or water, onion and garlic to the saucepan with the lentils and bring to a boil over high heat, lower to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and reserve.
When the lentils are done, drain and pick out onion and garlic pieces and discard. Place lentils in the serving bowl and pour a tablespoon of the dressing onto the warm lentils and stir gently to combine. Reserve remaining dressing.
Turn your grill on to medium-high heat. Brush the eggplant and red onion with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill the eggplant and onion until tender and slightly charred (not burned).
Chop the grilled vegetables into bite-size pieces and add to the lentils. Add the chopped tomato, parsley leaves and walnuts.
Toss the salad with the remainder of the dressing and taste for salt. Serve warm or room temperature.
I thought since I am vacationing in the Mediterranean with my family for three weeks, I would post some new recipes that complemented my travels. When I return (if I ever return!), I will definitely write up my itinerary and any do’s and don’t’s which I learned that might be helpful for your planning purposes.
If you’ve hung around this blog long enough, you’ve read that Mediterranean food is my favorite. It’s my comfort zone. It’s exactly the way I like to eat – fresh, seasonal, organic food, mostly veggies, legumes and whole grains, olive oil, more fish than meat, a little sheep or goat cheese and yogurt,. Mediterranean cuisine is also considered to be among the most healthful in the world. More importantly, I think the food is just downright delicious, but simple. Of course in order for simple food to taste amazing, each ingredient has to be the best.
This is where sometimes we have trouble duplicating something we’ve eaten, even if we have the exact recipe. For example, there’s no secret Greek salad recipe. I have made and eaten a lot of them in my life, some forgettable and some outstanding. It just comes down to the ingredients that were used.
Chicken Souvlaki is an easy, light dinner I can pull together quickly and one that I know everyone will eat. It’s basically a grilled, marinated chicken and veggie kabob, which I love to serve with a very tasty cucumber-yogurt sauce called Tzatziki. My family likes to eat it with grilled pita bread (which is literally store-bought pita that I put on the grill just to get a few char marks) or garlic rice. You can also serve the kabob over a Greek salad which would make for a great light summer dinner.
Check out my recent Instagram and facebook pictures from Greece and Turkey. We will be finishing off our trip next week in Venice and then Lake Garda, so expect some Italian recipes soon!
1 ¼ pounds boneless-skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 Persian cucumbers, chopped or coarsely grated (personal preference)
1 cup full fat Greek yogurt (Straus makes a great organic one)
½ Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint or dill (optional)
8 small plum tomatoes, halved (or large ones quartered)
½ small red onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
6 whole-wheat pitas (optional)
Whisk together lemon zest, 1 ½ Tablespoons lemon juice, 1 grated clove of garlic, oregano, thyme, 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Add the chicken, and toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 45 minutes or refrigerated, covered, for up to 6 hours.
Meanwhile make the tzatziki sauce: Stir together the remaining lemon juice and garlic, the cucumber, yogurt, vinegar, herbs (if using) and ½ teaspoon salt. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.
Heat the grill to medium-high. Thread the chicken, tomatoes, and onion onto 6 skewers. Brush with remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, and season with pepper.
Grill skewers, turning, until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Grill pitas until charred, about 2 minutes per side.
Serve skewers with charred pitas and tzatziki sauce.
*Not all skewers are the same size. This recipe would probably make 8 9 ½-inch bamboo skewers.
This is the first year that my Thanksgiving menu has not been finalized so close to Thanksgiving. I am not freaking out yet, but I might need an intervention. I come up with new recipes every year for the Thanksgiving classes I teach and then I want to include them in my personal Thanksgiving dinner. The problem is, the last few years I have just added to the menu without taking anything off and I think I am now at maximum menu capacity. Also, there’s no balance to a meal with four Brussels sprout dishes, now is there? I keep asking my husband, “can we just take stuffing off the menu?” And he looks at me like I’m crazy. Then he asks me, “why don’t you take the sweet potato casserole off the menu?” Then I look at him like he’s really crazy. I think I’m just going to take my Thanksgiving CEO job a little more seriously and make the tough choices. Some dishes just aren’t going to make the cut this year (unless I get a few more ovens and a few more hours in the day) and I am prepared to deal with the backlash from my people.
If you are still looking for a winner side dish or two to add to your Thanksgiving menu, then look no further than these delicious vegetables. I think what every Thanksgiving table needs is a little more color, i.e. vegetables and a little more texture, i.e. something other than soft, mushy food. I love this recipe because it’s more interesting than just roasting vegetables with olive oil or coconut oil. A little sweetness from the maple syrup, some acidity from the white wine and a touch of tang from the mustard — how good does that sound? No marshmallows, no canned cream of something, no swimming pool of heavy cream. Just beautiful vegetables tasting like they should. You can choose whatever vegetables in whatever quantities you like and they are all super nutritious so you won’t go wrong there. But….I’ll tell you what you shouldn’t omit. Love, love, love the parsnips, and the red onion and the Brussels sprouts. If you’re trying to keep it simple, do those three (or sub halved shallots for the onion) and pick either butternut squash or carrots or sweet potatoes to join the party.
A little advice though — one year I made 6 sheet pans of these in one oven — two pans side-by-side, three racks — and they didn’t caramelize as beautifully as I would have liked. Too much vegetable closeness. And they take a little time in the oven, so you need to plan for your turkey to rest for about 40 minutes and then allow 10-15 minutes for carving and that timing should be about right. But if you are reheating stuffing, sweet potato casserole and other stuff, you’ll need to roast these veggies before the turkey goes in and then just do a quick reheat before serving. That will work just fine. And if there’s no way you have room to add these to this year’s Thanksgiving menu, there’s always Christmas dinner, which is less than four weeks after Thanksgiving. Ok, now I’m freaking out!
Shop the tools I used for this recipe by clicking on the images below:
¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil or unrefined coconut oil
2 Tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 Tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
½ pound butternut squash, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
2 carrots, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 red onion, peeled and cut into sixths or eighths (keep root attached)
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 medium sweet potato (e.g. Garnet or Jewel), peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
10 medium Brussels sprouts, halved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. (I've noticed that darker sheet pans, even lined with parchment paper, caramelize vegetables better/more quickly than light-colored pans.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, syrup, mustard, wine and thyme. Make sure the maples syrup is well incorporated. Add all the vegetables and toss to coat.
Spread evenly between the two pans in one layer and sprinkle well with salt and pepper (about ¾ teaspoon salt or more.)
Roast vegetables until tender and slightly caramelized, about 50 minutes, tossing after 30 minutes. You may need to rotate the pans if they are not side-by-side in the oven or if your oven has hot spots.
These are just examples of vegetables that work nicely together and with these flavors. Feel free to concentrate on fewer vegetables, and use more of them.
The kids are going back to school tomorrow, which means that my favorite season is UNofficially over. No more lazy days and waking up late or reading for pleasure instead of for a test. Back to making lunches at 6:30 am and soccer carpools. Not so fast! The good news is that summer isn’t officially over until September 22nd and there are tomatoes to prove it.
If you’re new here, I am mildly obsessed with summer tomatoes, i.e. tomatoes grown in soil and hot July and August sun until they’re sweet and juicy and drippy with intense tomato flavor. My garden doesn’t produce that many so I supplement with tomatoes from my local farmers markets or GROW, my favorite local market which always seems to find great produce from local farms. I’m a lucky girl for sure! I try to take advantage of the fleeting tomato season, so I buy a ton and seem to use tomatoes almost every day in some way, even for breakfast or in between meals. Just now I took a handful of yellow grape tomatoes and ate them as a little snack like candy, which is what they tasted like. Yum!
It’s always my preference to keep things simple when the ingredients are perfect, like sliced tomatoes and avocado on grilled bread with sea salt, but gazpacho is a recipe that is worth the extra 5 minutes to make. We’ve been enjoying some hot weather here in Southern California so it’s the perfect time to enjoy this cooling, no-cook soup. My version of gazpacho is not exactly traditional, but just as delicious and possibly a tad more healthful. In Spain, it is very typical to add day-old bread, which I omit. I don’t notice the lack of bread one bit, and I think if you’re going to indulge in bread, you might as well actually know you’re eating it. I also don’t use canned tomato juice, which normally contains BPA or aluminum or both. Yikes! Not only that, I think you can get a cleaner, more tomato-y flavor from using awesome fresh tomatoes, not to mention more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants like lycopene.
My kids like gazpacho because they think it tastes like a blended salad and they can add an assortment of toppings. As I’ve mentioned, I’m big into topping bars, especially for soups and salads, because I think it gives the kids more control over what they’re eating and I notice they tend to eat more of a food when they can make it their own, so to speak. Our favorite topping with gazpacho is creamy cubes of avocado with give the perfect balance to the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar. But don’t let me stop you there. Croutons, grilled corn kernels, chopped shrimp or crab are all fantastic additions to the top of this bowl of summery goodness. I’ll come clean and confess I’ve even put out popcorn for Mr. Picky to add. Whatever works, people. I love pairing cool gazpacho with chicken kebabs and chimichurri sauce or a summer frittata for a light dinner. But one of my favorite ways to serve it is in little shot glasses as an hors d’oeuvre. With Labor Day weekend around the corner, here’s one way you can keep that summer feeling going strong.
2 cups large chopped unpeeled Persian cucumbers, about 3-4
½ small red onion, cut into chunks*
4 large (about 2 ½ - 2 ¾ pounds) ripe tomatoes, cored and cut in half crosswise to remove the seeds, cut into chunks
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons Sherry vinegar
¼ cup unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
1 avocado, cubed
Place the cucumber in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer the cucumber to a large bowl. Repeat the process with the red onion and transfer to the bowl with the cucumber.
Take half of the tomato and pulse in the food processor until chunky and add to the bowl.
Smash the garlic cloves and place in the food processor with the remaining tomato pieces, salt and pepper, vinegar and oil. Process until smooth.
Transfer mixture to the bowl with the cucumber and onion and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
Before serving, garnish with avocado. Can be made several days ahead.
You can add finely diced radish for pepperiness; hot sauce or jalapeño for heat, croutons for crunch, or a dollop of sour cream. You can also use yellow heirloom tomatoes for a yellow gazpacho.
*Onion can be soaked in ice water for 15 minutes to take the edge off the raw flavor.
Have you ever read a cookbook or food blog where an unbelievable, creative recipe was put together with “odds and ends” from the pantry or produce bin? I am always in awe of people who can do that. Those same people go grocery shopping without a list and simply buy what looks good and then create a meal around it. I too can use bits of this or that and turn it into something fairly tasty, but it usually ends up as a frittata, Pantry Pasta, or some sort of fried rice dish. Definitely enough to get an acceptable dinner on the table, but nothing that will win me any accolades.
One day a few years ago, I decided to try my hand at “throwing something together.” I figured I had done this many a time at salad bars, I should be able to do this within the limitations of my own pantry and refrigerator. Whereas I pride myself on keeping things simple, on this particular day I got a little carried away. It all started with some quinoa, corn and cilantro which sounded Southwestern to me. Pretty soon I was dicing up red pepper, red onion and opening a can of black beans. Just when I thought I was done, I spied a mango and that went into the mix, too. After squeezing in some lime juice, olive oil and cumin, I had myself one fresh and tasty salad that I could happily bring to a backyard barbeque or serve to guests, even that same day to my mother-in-law who is slightly skeptical of quinoa.
I’ve made this salad countless times since then and changed it up every time. Red onion has been replaced with scallions or shallots. Ripe avocado and toasted pumpkin seeds have found their way in on many an occasion. When corn is crazy fresh and sweet, I just cut it off the cob raw and use it that way. With Father’s Day coming up, I am thinking about including this on the menu, but I might just leave out the quinoa entirely since I made quinoa tabbouleh last year on Father’s Day. Although my husband likes quinoa just fine, he doesn’t consider it very “manly.” Please. I keep trying to tell him how much protein it has — it’s like eating meat, but without the saturated fat and cholesterol. But it’s his day and I aim to please! So I think next weekend I’ll make this with extra corn and beans and thrown in some “manly” diced up grilled chicken. Regardless, “creating” this salad was a good exercise for me in learning how to be flexible, but also gave me some confidence to use what I’ve got — in more ways than one.
1 ½ cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed if canned (1 can)
1 ½ cups fresh or cooked corn (cut from 2 large ears)
¾ cup diced red pepper (1 small pepper or ½ large)
½ large red onion, diced (soaked in ice water if you want to cut the harsh onion flavor)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon sea salt
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
⅓ cup fresh lime juice (about 1 ½ limes)
⅓ cup unrefined, extra-virgin olive oil
Rinse quinoa in a bowl with water or place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Transfer to a saucepan and add a healthy pinch of sea salt and 1 ¾ cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and place a kitchen towel over the pot. Place the lid over the towel and let sit covered for 5 -10 minutes.
Transfer quinoa to a serving bowl, fluff with a fork and cool slightly. Add beans, corn, red pepper, onion, (optional) jalapeno and cilantro. Sprinkle with cumin and sea salt.
In a small bowl combine lime juice and olive oil. Pour over salad and mix well. Taste for seasoning.
Options for substitutions/additions: Also delicious in this salad are sautéed zucchini, diced celery, diced fresh mango, sliced scallions, diced tomato or diced avocado.
If I had to pick one cuisine to stick with for the rest of my life, it would be a tough a call. But I could easily live off of Mediterranean food every day. I love the emphasis on fresh vegetables, olive oil, legumes and whole grains, cheeses and fish. Whether it’s Italian, Greek, or Israeli, this way of eating is definitely my comfort zone. And living in Southern California makes cooking Mediterranean-style quite easy with an availability of similar varieties of fresh produce, nuts, dates and olives.
As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite things to do is to take a not-so-healthful food that I love and turn it into something I can enjoy regularly. Many years ago I decided to try making falafel (the deep-fried Middle Eastern chickpea nuggets) a little less “deep-fried.” (Ok, not everything Mediterranean is healthful.) Many iterations later I found myself with a delightful, substantial chickpea burger which in turn began my obsession with veggie burgers. I don’t love meat and poultry so much, although I think they are excellent sources of protein if you can find organic, pastured varieties. But I do love hearty, flavorful vegetarian food that makes me feel satisfied, especially anything bean-based which is loaded with low-fat protein and tons of insoluble fiber. I also like having recipes like this for entertaining when I always like to offer a vegetarian option (you’d be surprised how many people choose not to eat meat these days.)
These chickpea burgers are a favorite of mine and my whole family, even Mr. Picky who I am pleased to announce tried one for the first time last week with ketchup. Do what you’ve gotta do, friends. They are definitely a far cry from falafel, though. In fact, the only ingredients that falafel and these chickpea burgers have in common are chickpeas and cumin. But if I do it right, they’re crispy on the outside, moist on the inside and with flavors that remind of falafel. I usually eat veggie burgers sans bun since I find that they are plenty starchy without adding bread. But when serving them to family and friends, I offer warmed, whole wheat pita halves and an array of yummy toppings including sprouts, avocado, tomato slices, lettuce, cooked onion and most importantly, a creamy and refreshing sauce. In my opinion, it’s all about the condiments!
Chickpea burgers (and veggie burgers, in general) are fabulous for entertaining and for busy weeknights since they are best formed in advance and refrigerated so they firm up a bit. Out of the fridge, they cook up in minutes on a hot griddle or skillet. Once you realize how tasty these are, you’ll make a double batch and freeze half. If you freeze them, just don’t forget to place a piece of wax or parchment in between each patty so that they don’t stick together (ask me how I know this.) These burgers may not take you back to your last visit to the Mediterranean, but I hope they’ll keep you from visiting the freezer section of your supermarket! Enjoy~
Place the chickpeas, egg, garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne, lemon zest, flour and parsley in food processor. Pulse until a coarse mixture forms that holds together. It should be moist and sticky.
Place chickpea mixture in a bowl and mix in grated carrot and red onion. Take a ½ cup of the mixture and firmly press it into a patty about 3 ½ inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick. You can also form these into mini-patties for appetizers. Place on a plate or a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. Cover if refrigerating for more than a few hours.
Heat a couple tablespoons of oil or ghee in a large skillet over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add patties to the skillet (do this in batches, if necessary) and cook until crisp and golden brown on the underside, about 6 minutes. Carefully turn over and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 3-5 minutes more.
Serve with or without a warmed pita half or a hamburger bun and suggested toppings.