Monthly Archives: July 2013

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

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Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

If you read last week’s post, you’ll know that the travel bug has been gnawing at me lately. This week, I’ve been able to send him back into hibernation (for the time being) with a visit to family in Napa, California.

My only regret in traveling this time of year is that I have to leave my vegetable garden behind. Right now my garden is practically a jungle of vines and leaves reaching in all directions. Baby vegetables of all varieties nestle in their bowers and I eagerly await the day I can pick them and incorporate them into my own cooking. The zucchini, summer squash and green beans are maturing almost faster than I can pick and eat them.

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

One of my favorite ways to prepare fresh summer zucchini is on the grill. Sometimes I’ll just serve grilled squash as a side to whatever I’m making, sometimes I’ll throw slices of grilled zucchini on a quick summer tartine (a grilled, open-faced sandwich — one of my favorite summer dishes). But for a hearty meal, I like to stuff the zucchini with whatever I might have on hand and serve it as the star of the show.

For this dish, I’ve taken the traditional flavors of an Italian caprese salad — tomato, mozzarella, and basil — and combined them with nutty farro for a vegetarian stuffing that is full of delicious flavor yet is also filling.

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

I like to slice the zucchini in half length-wise and grill them for about 2 minutes cut-side down to cook and soften the interior. This allows me to easily scoop out the interior of the zucchini. I prefer to use my melon-baller for this, it gets the job done quickly and easily.

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

I then stuff the zucchini with my caprese farro mixture, top it with a bit of shredded parmesan cheese, and place it on the top rack of my grill for about 5 minutes with the lid down. The cheese melts, the tomato releases its warm juices, and the resulting flavor combination is divine. It’s the perfect quick fix for meatless Monday.

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

But as much as I love cooking from my garden, I do enjoy traveling. And I love Napa. It’s a quaint, cute small town that bustles with the constant ebb and flow of tourists. The wine is, of course, world-renowned, but some of the best chefs in the world also head here to set up shop. Being a foodie, I enjoy sampling these restaurants for inspiration and ideas for my own creations.

I visit Napa every other month, not for vacation purposes but to give my uncle a regular break from caring for my 93-year old grandmother who has dementia. We have two regular activities when I visit: shopping for whatever necessities she has on her list and taking her in for a pedicure. My Nana tires quickly, so I keep each of these activities brief, stretch them out over two days, and couple each with lunch. Which is a great way to satisfy my desire to sample the various area restaurants.

Kitchen Door Napa

My pick for our first outing on Thursday was Chef Todd Humphries’ Kitchen Door. I had to have the banh mi sandwich with sweet potato fries that all the yelpers were raving about, and it didn’t disappoint. It was sweet, tart, crunchy and savory — absolutely delicious! In fact, on Saturday night, after a long day celebrating my cousin’s bar mitzvah in Oakland, I found myself back at Kitchen Door with a girlfriend visiting from Sacramento. Our wonderful waiter, Cory, indulged us as we chatted nonstop for 4 hours and worked our way through 2 carafes of a chilled albarino, an Asian inspired chilled vegetable and rice noodle salad, and the most amazing chanterelle pizza I’ve had.

My Nana showing off her manicure and pedicure

On Friday, after pedicures and manicures, I took Nana out just past Yountville to Chef Cindy Pawclyn’s Mustards Grill. What I love about this restaurant is that they have their own massive garden, accessible for wandering, that supplies the restaurant. The result is exceedingly fresh dishes that rotate regularly depending on what’s in season.

Mustards Grill

I splurged on this outing – or I should say Nana indulged me – and I ordered the rather overpriced seafood tostada. On this particular day, it was a tender swordfish steak on top of a crispy corn tortilla, topped with a tart jicama slaw and greens, and surrounded by mildly spicy black beans and dusted with crumbly cheese. It was absolutely delicious.

Of course, I can’t wait to get back home and continue my kitchen experiments from my own garden.

 

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Serving size: Makes 2 servings of 2 "boats" each
  • Calories: 197.8
  • Fat: 7.7
  • Saturated fat: 3.6
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.4
  • Carbohydrates: 20.7
  • Sugar: 0.3
  • Sodium: 383.6
  • Fiber: 2.3
  • Protein: 12.0
  • Cholesterol: 12.2
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
The classic caprese flavors of fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil combine with nutty farro in a garden fresh, grilled baby zucchini shell for a super easy and delicious Meatless Monday summer meal.
Ingredients
  • 2 large baby zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry farro, cooked according to package directions, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup (1 oz.) shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • ½ cup loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • dash of freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup (1 oz.) shredded parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat your grill and spray the cooking grate with nonstick spray.
  2. Brush the cut-side of the zucchini with the olive oil.
  3. Grill the zucchini cut-side down for about 2 minutes or until the interior is tender.
  4. Remove the zucchini from the grill and scoop the interior out with a knife, spoon, or (my favorite) melon-baller.
  5. Mix together the farro, mozzarella, tomato, basil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Use the stuffing to fill the hollows in the zucchini. (Don't be afraid to overfill as the mixture will cook down slightly.)
  6. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the tops of the stuffed zucchini.
  7. Place the zucchini boats on the top rack of the grill -- away from the direct flame -- and cook with the lid closed for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the stuffing is warmed through. Serve immediately.
Notes
Tip: to keep your zucchini boats from tipping on the grill, slice off a very thin section of the back (rounded) side of the zucchini halves.

For more preparation tips, check out my video demonstration of this recipe.

 

Curried Quinoa and Strawberry Salad

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Curried Quinoa and Strawberry Salad

I’ve been feeling a bit of wanderlust lately. I know, I know — I just took an amazing trip to Ireland in March. I shouldn’t be feeling this junkie jones to wander so soon, right? I just can’t help it. Travel – or rather the act of exploring new places, connecting to different cultures, and sampling the local food – is like heroin in my blood.

I’ve been trying to feed the travel bug this summer by exploring my backyard. Well, not literally my backyard but the surrounding area. I’m making a point of trying 1 new local restaurant a week, and if you aren’t already aware Portland is a mecca of fabulous food finds. I’m organizing a monthly hike followed by a stop at a local brewery with extended family and friends. I spent a day visiting nearby wineries and tasting their delicious fare, something I will be doing again before the summer is out.

This week I am leaving for my bi-monthly visit to my Nana in the charming town of Napa, California. It’s not exactly a vacation, but I so enjoy the down time surrounded by my loving family. I always leave feeling pampered and cherished, and isn’t that how we should all feel after visiting family? And of course, I always try to find the time to drink some fabulous local wine and try one of the many amazing restaurants while I’m there.

But still the travel bug is gnawing at me. It’s telling me I need to plan another trip to somewhere new in the very near future. Do you have a passion for travel? Where is your favorite destination?

This week, I bring you an entree salad that has become a Meatless Monday staple on my table during strawberry season, which is admittedly on its way out.

Curried Quinoa and Strawberry Salad

This is really a simple salad, taking about 15 minutes to whip up. It starts with quinoa cooked in a bit of curry powder and garlic and a bed of baby spinach and chopped basil leaves.

Curried Quinoa and Strawberry Salad

I like to spread the quinoa over the baby spinach while its still warm to slightly wilt and soften the spinach. Then I toss the mixture in a creamy yogurt-based dressing, top it with strawberries, pine nuts and crumbled goat cheese, and voila! Dinner is served.

 

Curried Quinoa and Strawberry Salad
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Serving size: 3 cups
  • Calories: 473.2
  • Fat: 19.1
  • Saturated fat: 3.2
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 4.0
  • Carbohydrates: 59.0
  • Sugar: 21.8
  • Sodium: 292.1
  • Fiber: 10.1
  • Protein: 18.7
  • Cholesterol: 5.0
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This easy salad of curry spiced quinoa and sweet strawberries over tender baby spinach in a creamy yogurt sauce has become one of my favorite go-to Meatless Monday meals. And, at about 15 minutes to prepare, it is a true weeknight wonder.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup white quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 6 oz. raw baby spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • ½ cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ lb. fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • ¼ cup (1 oz.) crumbled goat cheese
Instructions
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add the quinoa, 1 tsp of the curry powder and the garlic.
  3. Stir, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.
  4. Meanwhile, toss together the spinach and basil in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Once the quinoa has cooked, spread it warm across the top of the spinach and let sit for 1-2 minutes to allow the heat of the quinoa to lightly wilt the spinach.
  6. Whisk together the yogurt, remaining 2 tsp of curry powder, salt, olive oil, lemon juice and honey.
  7. Pour the dressing over the quinoa and spinach and toss to combine well. If desired, transfer the mixture to a clean salad bowl for presentation.
  8. Top the salad with the strawberries, pine nuts and goat cheese. Serve immediately.

 

Spicy Grilled Tuna Wraps with Minted Yogurt Sauce

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Spicy Tuna Wraps with Minted Yogurt Sauce

I blame fast food for my obesity experience. Rather, the lifestyle of being a single mom, shuttling my kids from home to daycare to school to activities, and not having the time or energy to create authentic, healthy meals.

My kids are grown now, they are 19 and 22, but my life is still full. After work, I typically spend at least an hour at the gym before going home. At least once a week I meet up with friends after work too, which means I usually don’t get home until around 6:30 at night. And if I have to stop by the grocery store to pick something up, forget about it. My cooking style and level of enthusiasm changed for the better during my weight loss journey, I rarely indulge in fast food, so during the week I look for dishes that are quick and easy to prepare.

Spicy Tuna Wraps with Minted Yogurt Sauce

That is how many of my dishes come about during the week. Sometimes it’s a happy accident that I quickly jot down to share, other times it’s a planned experiment. Either way, I look for dishes that satisfy my post-workout hunger pangs and are quick to put together. These wraps are just such a dish.

Spicy Tuna Wraps with Minted Yogurt Sauce

I whip up a thick glaze of spicy sriracha, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a touch of worcestershire sauce for flavor depth. Then I coat strips of albacore tuna steaks in the sauce and grill them up on my barbecue. Finally, I wrap them in a low-calorie, multi-grain wrap with a generous dollop of a creamy yogurt and mint sauce, packed with crunchy cucumbers as well. I often add lettuce and tomatoes as well, but just the spicy tuna with the cool yogurt and mint is enough to make me go “Mmmmm…” And aren’t those the best kind of meals?

 

Spicy Grilled Tuna Wraps with Minted Yogurt Sauce
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 4
  • Serving size: 1 wrap
  • Calories: 389.7
  • Fat: 16.7
  • Saturated fat: 3.0
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.8
  • Carbohydrates: 27.5
  • Sugar: 5.0
  • Sodium: 572.6
  • Fiber: 8.0
  • Protein: 39.6
  • Cholesterol: 38.0
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Seafood
Grilled, sriracha spiced tuna is the star of the show in this healthy wrap, smothered in a cool, minted yogurt sauce. At less than 30 minutes to prepare, it's a perfectly delicious weeknight meal.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. albacore tuna steaks (fresh, wild caught), cut into 1" strips
  • 2 tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup nonfat, plain Greek style yogurt
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, diced (or 1 cucumber with seeds removed and diced)
  • ¼ cup chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 4 Flat Out multigrain flatbread/wraps
Instructions
  1. Preheat your propane grill.
  2. Whisk together the sriracha, 1 tbsp olive oil, balsamic vinegar and worcestershire sauce.
  3. Coat the tuna in the sauce and set aside.
  4. Combine the yogurt, cucumber, mint, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt until well blended. Set aside.
  5. Grill the tuna on low heat for about 2 minutes on each side until cooked through. (I suggest grilling them in a grill basket to keep them from slipping through the grate.)
  6. While the tuna is grilling, warm the flatbread on the top rack of the barbecue.
  7. Arrange the grilled tuna on the warmed flatbread. Top with about ⅓ cup of the yogurt sauce. Roll up and serve immediately. (Optional: add lettuce, tomatoes or other veggies as desired.)

Blackberry Zinfandel Steak Skewers

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I love wine. For those of you that know me, this won’t exactly be a shocking revelation.

It is amazing to me that something can taste so dramatically different depending on the grape, the soil, the surrounding environment, the weather, and the fermenting method. The flavor can even be different between two identical bottles. This is why wine tasting is so much fun for me.

On Friday I took a trip to the Hood River area of Oregon to sample some of the local wineries. It’s an opportunity to support local businesses and drink some really good wine. And a day spent sampling some really good wine is always a day well spent.

We started with Cathedral Ridge Winery, which was the most upscale of the wineries we visited and had a lush picnic area with a stunning view of Mt. Adams. Their Rock Star Red blend was divine, albeit a bit overpriced for my budget.

Next up was Pheasant Valley Winery, very laid back in comparison to our first stop, and boasting one of the best local Tempranillos that I’ve had. They have inexpensive plates to nosh on as well, which was a nice respite before we moved on to our next stop, Marchesi Vineyards, owned by an Italian family and featuring Italian varietals that you don’t often see in Oregon. I thought the wine here was just okay, but the winery was just lovely with a sunny patio, rocking band, and enthusiastic crowd.

The final stop was Naked Winery, which has average wines but a great marketing hook. After all, sex really does sell. The wines have tantalizing names such as Booty Call, Tease, Fling and Foreplay. The bartender was young and very cute, and it was quite fun saying things like “How about a little Foreplay?” or “I’m ready for Penetration now” and “Mmmmm, that was quite the Climax, wasn’t it?”

Blackberry Zinfandel Steak Skewers

Zinfandel is one of my favorite wines. A good Zin is full-bodied and jammy, typically with flavors of sweet blackberries or juicy cherries. Some of the best Zinfandel comes from California where the warm sunshine makes for plump, juicy grapes. I not only love to drink a good wine, but I also love to cook with it.

Blackberry Zinfandel Steak Skewers

I combined a good Zin from California’s Lodi valley with some sweet summer blackberries for an easy marinade that I let steak soak in overnight. It turns the beef a lovely hue of purple.

Blackberry Zinfandel Steak Skewers

Of course it wouldn’t be summer without the grill. While I could leave the steak whole, I like to cube it up and skewer it then grill it. It makes for easier portion sizes and cooks quicker. I served it here with some broccolini and crushed potatoes topped with gorgonzola, also prepared on the grill, but these skewers also are amazing with my Grilled Beet Salad, available in my Salads Cookbook, just $1.49 in multiple e-reader formats.

Blackberry Zinfandel Steak Skewers

 

 

 

Blackberry Zinfandel Steak Skewers
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Serving size: 1 skewer
  • Calories: 272.4
  • Fat: 17.5
  • Saturated fat: 5.8
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.6
  • Carbohydrates: 4.8
  • Sugar: 2.8
  • Sodium: 357.9
  • Fiber: 1.6
  • Protein: 21.4
  • Cholesterol: 60.0
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Beef
Flavors of tart blackberry and jammy zinfandel wine infuse tender steak in this delicious barbecue recipe. Try it at your next cookout!
Ingredients
  • ½ cup fresh blackberries, crushed with the back of a fork
  • ¼ cup zinfandel wine
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • ½ lb. beef loin strip steak, all visible fat removed and cut into 1-2" cubes (8-10 cubes total)
  • 4 bamboo skewers, soaked in cold water for 30-60 minutes
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the blackberries, wine, fennel seed, olive oil and worcestershire sauce.
  2. Pour over the steak cubes so that the meat is submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat your grill.
  4. Arrange the steak on the skewers.
  5. Grill 2-3 minutes on each side for medium done-ness. Serve immediately.
Notes
The nutritional value of the marinade has been reduced by ¼ to account for the portion that is discarded.

 

Click here for a video demonstration of Blackberry Zinfandel Steak Skewers