Grilled Tuna Salad with Roasted Peppers and Zucchini

This is a salad I make several times every summer.  It is great right off the grill and even better, in my opinion, when allowed to sit at room temperature marrying all together.  The grilled tuna absorbs the vinaigrette and each bite is juicy and full of flavor.   I usually prepare this several hours ahead; roasting the peppers, sautéing the zucchini and finally grilling the tuna.

It’s perfect for packing up for picnics as no mayo is used.  Veggies can vary too; I have made it with green beans instead of zucchini and added slightly grilled cherry tomatoes.  The tastes of meaty chunks of fresh grilled tuna make it hard to ever go back to opening up a can of tuna!  For me, it’s a meal in itself and I like to include this at BBQ’s for my non-meat eating guests or part of an antipasto platter.

Grilled Tuna Salad with Roasted Peppers and Zucchini

For the salad:

2 large peppers, red, yellow or orange or combination

1 large zucchini, cut in half and cut in thin strips

1 lb wild caught tuna steak

1 cup cherry tomatoes, optional

2 teaspoons capers, rinsed well, optional

For the dressing:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

To roast the peppers:  Preheat a broiler or grill.  Char the peppers on all sides and immediately place in a paper bag of covered bowl.  Allow the peppers to steam and cool about 15 minutes.  Peel the skin off the peppers and discard the seeds and stem.  Cut lengthwise into thin strips, set aside.

To saute or grill the zucchini:  In a skillet over medium heat, warm about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the zucchini until tender and golden brown.  Or grill the strips in a vegetable grill basket as the slices should be cut small.  Set aside

To grill the tuna:  Preheat the grill.  Lightly brush olive oil on the tuna and sprinkle on salt and freshly ground pepper.  Grill turning once until cooked to your liking, about 2-3 minutes per side depending on thickness of tuna.  I like to have a bit of pink inside.  Remove from the grill, allow to rest until cool.

Combine the roasted peppers and zucchini in a large bowl.  Break up the tuna into big chunks and add to the bowl.  Add in the optional cherry tomato halves and capers.  Pour dressing over the salad and lightly toss.  Serve immediately or cover serve room temperature or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  Serves

Black Bean and Mango Salad

I live in an area that was once very rural; known for cattle raising and horse ranching.  While the rural feel is becoming a bit more urban as developers have changed the landscape of the community, it still has the status of a “western” town.  Riding my bike through the back roads, old farmhouses with broken fencing and overgrown land mix in with newly built homes.  Grazing horses can be seen in yards and occasional riders on horseback trot along the road.   

The mango trees are full of ripe fruit and I can smell the sweetness as I pass by.  Some trees are so loaded with fruit that many have fallen before their owners can collect them all.  I’m so tempted to save a few from their rotting future, but I keep peddling by because although I do not have my own mango tree, I am very lucky to have some coworkers that do!

Salads are my summer meals especially those that can be prepared ahead of time and keep for a day or two.  Using canned black beans makes this really quick and easy.  The mango flavoring is in the salad and in the dressing.  I served this along with grilled tuna, but it is great on its own for lunch.

Black Bean, and Mango Salad

Adapted from Bobby Flay’s Boy Meets Grill

2 14 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained

2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 scallions, thinly sliced including the green

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and chopped

1 large tomato, seeded and diced

Mango Dressing, below

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the beans, garlic, scallions and tomatoes in a large bowl.  Toss with the mango dressing and season with salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature.  Serves 4.

Mango Dressing:

1 mango, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the mango, lime juice, garlic, onion, ciltantro and cumin in a blender and blend until smooth.  With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper.  Can be refrigerated for 1 day, serve at room temperature.  Makes more than enough for the salad above.

No-Fail Kale Caesar Salad

My family and close friends definitely know my love (obsession) with cookbooks.  At times, I know they hesitate to purchase “yet another cookbook” for me, however, I am never disappointed in opening a gift to discover a new cookbook!  In fact, from that moment of first opening the gift, I cannot wait to find a quiet moment to flip through all the pages!   I especially enjoy the cookbooks with history and stories of the origins of the recipes.  My Italian cookbooks are like travel guides to the place I dream to go to one day.

Recently my niece, Nina, heard about this cookbook, specifically popular for one recipe, and immediately took her mother (my sister) to check it out.  And very soon after that, it arrived in my mailbox!  The cookbook, 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know is from the editors of Glamour Magazine.  It is truly a great first cookbook for young, single women or a new bride as it not only has easy recipes but also speaks to women as a guide for life.  The recipes have fun names; I particularly like the Seduction Pork Chops, He Stayed Over Omelet, Get Skinny Dip, Man Trouble Mojito, Bikini Season Baked Salmon, Hook Him Apple Pie….. I think you get the idea!  The book lacks photos which I don’t mind, but would probably be helpful for someone new to cooking.   

The No-Fail Kale Salad caught my attention as I have been attempting to find more ways to incorporate this highly nutritious veggie into my meals.  The fact that the salad needs to rest an hour with the dressing on it is actually a positive as this salad can be made ahead for a dinner party; not having to be tossed and prepared at the last minute.  In fact, I’ve eaten the leftovers the next day and they are still good, if not even better! 

By the way, I’m curious; does anyone know about this book and the specific recipe my niece wanted me to try??

No-Fail Kale Salad

Caesar-style salad with kale, pecorino cheese, and homemade croutons

Adapted from 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know

Juice of 1 lemon

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (to be divided, 4tb – 2tb)

2 garlic cloves, mashed

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper)

Red pepper flakes, generous pinch depending on preference of spice

4-6 cups loosely packed cups kale, preferably flat leaf purple kale – midribs removed and leaves thinly sliced

2/3 cup grated Pecorino Toscana cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano

1 small loaf ciabatta or other rustic bread cut into 1 inch pieces, about 1 cup

In a large salad bowl, whisk the lemon juice, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, garlic, kosher salt and pepper.  Add kale and toss well.  Add 2/3 of cheese, toss again.  Rest salad for 1 hour in the refrigerator, the dressing will soften the kale and give it a romaine like texture.   

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the bread cubes with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Spread cubes on baking sheet.  Toast for 7 minutes or until golden brown.   Remove from the oven and cool.  After the salad has rested at least one hour, add the bread cubes, toss again and top with remaining cheese and serve.  Serves 4.

I’m Stuffed! Ciabatta Salad Sandwich

If asked for my preference as to how I like my pizza, it would be topped with a salad!  Crisp, mixed greens mounted on a hot slice of pizza.  I don’t often if ever eat it out this way, but my daughter certainly has seen me do this many times at home and I believe I have caught her piling salad on her pizza too!  I finally spotted it on a menu in an Italian restaurant which made me feel quite happy I wasn’t the only one enjoying pizza this way!

The same goes for sandwiches; I’m not a deli meat kind of gal.  Grilled veggie Panini’s are fabulous but when I’m not in the mood or have the time to grill, a salad in a sandwich is quick and easy.  The ingredients vary depending on what I have on hand, but the method does have importance.  Trying to eat a sandwich with loosely mixed ingredients can become quite a messy undertaking.  Therefore, after much trial, error and messy hands, I have perfected my salad sandwich making!

To begin with, I love ciabatta bread.  It crisps up nicely when lightly grilled and the airy pockets make it lighter, less doughy bread.  Still, I cut it not exactly in half lengthwise, about ¾ of the way up and will remove some of the bottom half bread inside to create a “shell or bowl” to fill up with the salad.   I spread pesto on the inside of both and grill or broil until lightly golden.

Slicing tomatoes and cucumbers is better for layering in the sandwich than using chopped veggies which will tend to fall out easier.  Mixed greens of all sorts, arugula, spinach, romaine, crumbled cheeses, artichokes, garbanzo beans, avocado, roasted peppers, etc, etc, are mixed with a light vinaigrette and piled inside.  Sometimes I will lightly broil the filled bottom half to softly melt the cheese and rewarm the top half.  The top should be gently pressed over the salad and cut into individual wedges just before serving.

Since there is no mayo in it, it’s great to wrap up and take on a picnic or bike ride!

Picnic Time..PB and J Cookies and Watermelon Feta Salad!

There is something quaint and nostalgic about an old-fashioned picnic.  Not that my menu is particularly old-fashioned, but the simplicity of a picnic under a shady spot in the park.   No toting plastic coolers filled with ice, bags of charcoal or fancy food; just a nice wicker basket, a red checked tablecloth and simple bites to eat.  After being closed up in an air-conditioned office all day, I enjoy being outdoors; sharing a bottle of vino and feeling the warm breeze.  Spur of the moment, packing up my basket and heading out! 

For this little picnic, I packed up my Quinoa Tabbouleh  , some whole wheat pita bread and a Watermelon Feta Salad.  The salad is simply made with chunks of watermelon and feta, mint, olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper and a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar.  Balsamic vinegar can be simmered until reduced to a thick glaze or purchased as such.  I packed the balsamic glaze separately to drizzle on at serving time. 

For drinks a mason jar of freshly made lemonade kept chilled with lemonade ice cubes and for dessert, these fun little PB & J cookies!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

Adapted from Real Simple Recipes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 large egg

3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (or use chunky)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups crispy rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)

1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry seedless jam

Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper or Slipat.  Cream the butter and sugars on high in a large mixing bowl. Lower to medium speed and add the egg, peanut butter, and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture on low speed. Beat until incorporated. Fold in the rice cereal.

Using a small ice cream or cookies scoop place balls of dough on the baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Gently press the cookies with the back of a fork to create classic hatch marks. Use the end of a wooden spoon to create a shallow well in the center of each cookie and fill with a spoonful of jam.  Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

As the warmer weather approaches (that is, hotter weather for us Florida folks), refreshing salads begin replacing my cooler weather, hot comfort soups.   Tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulgur but with my new love of quinoa, I simply switched it out.  Tabbouleh is a salad that tastes better made ahead and is still good up to two days, if it lasts that long.  Like making a big pot of soup to last a few days, salad dishes like this are great to have in my frig ready to take for lunch or pack up to head to the beach. 

I made Quinoa Tabbouleh as a side dish with my roasted lamb on Easter.  The fresh parsley and mint in the Tabbouleh complimented the lamb nicely and carried the Mediterranean theme of my dinner.  Being able to make it the day before is a plus for me as I like to prep as much as I can before a dinner party.  Along with the lamb, I roasted asparagus, rosemary potatoes and organic carrots in a rainbow of colors.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

2 cups quinoa, rinsed well
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup fresh  parsley, chopped
4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Lemon zest for 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Combine well rinsed quinoa and water in a saucepan.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.  Fluff the quinoa with a fork and spread out evenly on a baking sheet to cool completely.  Combine the cooked quinoa with the remaining ingredients, tossing to combine well.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Serves 6.

Brussels Sprout Slaw and Savory Onion Drop Biscuits

Just as I enjoy pumpkin and the fall colors in everything I make from October through November, I now turn my dishes into more holiday fare of cranberries, winter squashes, pecans, and the rich reds and rich desserts that just declare holiday splurging!  I want to say it’s my favorite time of the year, but every season seems to be my favorite in one way or another.   

 So while the entrées and desserts tend to be on the richer and more elegant side, a steady diet of party food can definitely do some damage.  Therefore, I like to mix in healthier dishes still keeping with the seasonal theme.  This brussels sprout slaw has been a hands-down winner at any dinner party or luncheon.   It’s festive and elegant to pare with a standing rib roast and holiday casual pared with a roasted turkey Panini.  The slaw can also be a wonderful light lunch salad served with savory onion biscuits! 

 I’m not all that patient to make rolled and cut biscuits.  I like this recipe as I prep together the dry ingredients ahead of time.  An hour or so before I bake them, I add the wet ingredients and scoop the dough into my cupcake tins.  I will place the tin in the frig up to the moment I am ready to bake them so they bake up hot and fresh when we are ready to eat!  More specifically, if I was serving with a meat dish, I will bake the biscuits while the meat is resting!

Brussels Sprout Slaw

For the vinaigrette:

¼ cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Pecans:

1 cup pecan halves

2 – 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Slaw:

1 ½ pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed

2 cups angel hair cole slaw

1/4 cup dried cranberries

 For the Pecans:  Preheat oven to 325.   Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Mix pecans, maple syrup and salt and pepper.  Layer on baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, stirring once.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Pecans can be made ahead up to 2 days, stored airtight.

For the vinaigrette:  Whisk mustard, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil together.  Season with salt and pepper.  Can be prepared ahead up to 2 days. 

For the Slaw:  Add trimmed brussels sprouts to a large pan of salted boiling water.  Cook until bright green and crisp tender about 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Cool completely.  Thinly slice to resemble slaw.  Can be made ahead, and chilled.  Store all ingredients separately.

About one hour prior to serving, toss the brussels sprouts, angel hair cole slaw, dried cranberries, ½ cup of the pecans and vinaigrette.  Allow to marinate for one hour.  Top with remaining pecans and serve.

Savory Onion Drop Biscuits

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon herbes de provence, or a mix of thyme, sage, basil, marjoram

4 tablespoons cold butter diced

3 tablespoons chopped green onion

3 oz cheddar cheese

½ cup milk

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, baking powder, salt and herbs.  Cut butter into flour using two forks or pastry cutter.  Add green onion, cheese and milk and stir together.  Dough will be sticky and clumpy.  Using an ice cream scoop, drop dough into a well-greased cupcake tin or baking sheet.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm from the oven.

Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup and Roasted Pear Salad

I am on Day 4 of my wellness cleanse and I truly feel great!  I normally eat fairly healthy so through the elimination of either the gluten or dairy or maybe both, my body feels lighter and I seem to have more energy and alertness.

Planning meals does take some thought.  There is an abundance of allowed food, however, pulling it all together to create a filling, appetizing meal can be tricky as key ingredients such as flour, dairy – eggs, milk, cream cannot be used.  Of course, there are substitutes that can be used like almond milk, gluten-free flours and egg replacements.  Again, it takes some testing and time to develop dishes I will enjoy and feel satisfied.

Recipes online and in books are certainly not lacking.  Prepared frozen gluten-free foods are also readily available.  At this beginning stage though I am more inclined to prepare my own meals using basic ingredients.

The following is my menu through today, Day 4.  I have not felt hungry or any cravings for missing foods.  In fact, I look forward to planning and preparing my meals.  I have lots of ideas in mind but so far I have decided on my meals as the day approaches.

Day 1, posted previously

Day 2:  Breakfast:  Oatmeal with pumpkin puree, cranraisins, walnuts and almond milk.  Lunch: Leftover Quinoa Pasta with Carmelized Onions, Cabbage and Walnuts.  Dinner:  Roasted Veggie Quesadilla and sauteed cauliflower with onions.  For the Quesadilla I used a brown rice tortilla, hummus replacing cheese for the ‘glue’ and roasted slices of zucchini and red and yellow peppers.

Day 3:  Breakfast:  Gluten free waffles, pumpkin almond butter and agave drizzle.  Lunch:  Large chopped salad.  Dinner – Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup and Roasted Pear Salad, recipe below.

Day 4:  Breakfast:  Gluten free waffles, pumpkin almond butter and agave drizzle.  Lunch:  Leftover Pumpkin-Apple Soup and freshly made Roasted Pear Salad.  Dinner:   Brown Rice Pasta with Spicy Eggplant Sauce.

Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup

1 small cooking pumpkin, about 2 pounds, cut, into cubes or use 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

1 large apple, seeded and cut into wedges

1 large onion, cut into quarters

1 large yam, cut into cubes

1 large garlic bulb, slice off top, drizzle with oil, salt & pepper and wrapped in foil

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 to 6 cups vegetable broth

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning or Cayenne (depending on your level of spiciness)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place cut pumpkin, apple, onion, and yam on large baking sheet.  Drizzle on oil, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Place foil wrapped garlic bulb and baking sheet in oven and roast until fork tender and lightly browned, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Place the roasted mix into a blender and add vegetable stock to cover.  Blend until very smooth.  For a very smooth soup, strain through a fine strainer into a large sauce pan.  Add remaining vegetable stock and all seasonings and heat soup about 15 minutes.  Taste to correct seasoning to your preference.

The soup can be made a day ahead.  Reheat over medium heat.  Serve with toasted corn tortilla as mock crutons.


Roasted Pear Salad

For the salad, I roasted one pear (per 2 servings) while roasting the veggies for the soup above, sprinkling the pear with oil and kosher salt.    I topped the roasted pears over a salad of mixed greens, chopped cucumbers, green olives, cranraisins and walnuts.  For the dressing, I prepared a 2:1 olive oil to Pear Infused Balsamic Vinegar (or white balsalmic vinegar), Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and dried oregano and thyme.

Falling Fall Fruit Platter

A ripe pear, a crisp fall apple, ruby-red grapes and the sensual, delicate fig.  I love to enjoy the fruits of the season and sometimes the most simple ways are the best!  I can be oh so happy and satisfied with a plate of fresh fall fruit, a small piece of white aged cheddar and a glass of Cabernet!

Now my son would not be happy with a plate of fruit for dinner.  So having some Italian sausage on hand, I prepared an Autumn Sausage and Apple dish.  In a large skillet I sautéed a few Italian sausage links until they were nicely browned, but not yet cooked through.  I then added a thinly sliced medium onion, dried oregano, sage and thyme and cooked until the onion became soft and was beginning to brown.  I added one apple, peeled and sliced into wedges.  To deglaze the pan and add some additional liquid, I poured in about 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar and a few tablespoons of chicken stock.  I covered the pan slightly allowing all the ingredients to simmer slowly and finish cooking.  The apples became very tender, the onions caramelized soft and the sausage was crispy, moist and flavorful.

Falling Fall Fruit Platter

Serves 2

1 ripe pear of your choice
1 apple of your choice
1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved
2 – 3 figs, quartered
2-3 tablespoons walnuts or pecans

For the dressing:
Juice of one orange, about 5 tablespoons
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
salt & pepper

Prepare the dressing by heating the orange juice, honey and marmalade until dissolved.  Remove from the heat and add the Grand Marnier and salt and pepper to taste.

Cut up the fruit and combine with the nuts on a plate or bowl.  Drizzle the warm dressing all over.  Serve at once.  Leftovers can be refrigerated and used within a day.

Mixed Grilled Shrimp, Scallops, Zucchini and Peppers with Papaya Salad

I have finally found a great little place to shop for seafood.  One would think living in Florida it would be easy.  The Fish Peddler was recommended by Chef Jean Pierre.  A small, friendly seafood store with a large selection of fresh, high quality seafood and many accoutrements to compliment a dish.

Like a kid in a candy store, or like me in a cookbook aisle, I wanted to buy it all!  Luckily, we were there for a purpose, a requested dinner of shrimp and scallops.  Gorgeous large Key West pink shrimp and beautiful, ivory colored jumbo scallops.  Along with the seafood, we grilled zuchini and peppers and served it all with yellow rice and a refreshing papaya salad.

Grilled Shrimp and Scallops, Zucchini and Peppers

4 servings

16 large shrimp
8 jumbo scallops – cut in half
2 medium zucchinis sliced in half and cut into bite size chunks
1 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange pepper, cut into chunks

For the marinade:

3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
1/2 cup oil
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 small red onion
1 tablespoon honey
salt & pepper

For the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 small red onion
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon cilantro
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper

Combine the marinade ingredients in a small blender and emulsify well.  Set aside.  Can be made one day ahead.

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small blender and emulsify well.  Set aside and can also be made one day ahead.

Devine and clean shrimp.  Cut scallops in half (if using jumbo).  Marinade seafood no longer than 1 hour prior to cooking.  Marinade zucchini and peppers in the same marinade, separate containers.

Heat a grill to medium heat.  Thread shrimp and scallops on separate skewers as shrimp will cook faster than the scallops.  Thread zucchini and pepper combined on skewers.  Grill until lightly charred and tender.  Shrimp will curl slightly and scallops should be firm to the touch.  Remove and plate to serve.  Drizzle on some of the vinaigrette.

Papaya Salad

1 large papaya, ripe, gently soft
3 limes
1 small red onion, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 green onions, cut thin on the bias
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, sliced thin
salt and pepper

Peel and seed the papaya and slice into wedges.  In a small bowl, juice the limes, add the red onion, ginger and olive oil.  Mix well.  Drizzle over papaya, and gently toss.  Sprinkle on green onion and mint.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.