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Grilled Vegetable Antipasto

14 Jun

emerald city

In Italy they have a course called antipasto, or “before the meal.”  Typically it consists of cured meats, cheeses, and marinated vegetables.   I decided to put a little California spin on the antipasto by grilling the vegetables after brushing them with a simple vinaigrette.  Delicious?  Yes.

Summer = grilling season = summer squash season.  Not a complicated equation.  Summer squash is starting to pop up, including beautiful pale green varieties of zucchini like that pictured above.   Zucchini is best when it’s fairly small, before the seeds get too big and make the entire vegetable fairly bitter.  These small zucchini are great for slicing up length-wise and tossing on the grill.  They work well in sandwiches or salads, too, but there is something wonderfully pure about having it as its own course.

Zucchini has blood sugar regulating powers, and is high in Vitamin C and manganese.   It also boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, which makes it a great partner for beets.

not a planet

The beet, another antioxidant powerhouse, also happens to be delicious on the grill.  No need to even peel them, just scrub them, chop off the top and bottom, then cut into slices just like you did with the zucchini.   Beets are already sweet in their natural state, but when you grill them they caramelize.  The sugars are drawn out to make the entire experience quite candy-like.  It’s pretty incredible.

So start off your summer barbeque with a platter of grilled vegetable antipasto.  It’s so incredibly easy, healthy, and makes a wonderful first course.

Grilled Vegetable Antipasto (serves 3)

you won't get this at the olive garden

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1 large or 2 small beets, scrubbed clean
  • salt
  • handful chopped parsley

METHOD:

1.  Preheat your outdoor grill to medium-high heat, or put a grill pan over medium-high heat to preheat.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil.  Set aside.

3.  Slice the zucchini into approximately 1/8″ slices, lengthwise.   Trim off the tops and roots of the beets, then slice into approximately 1/8″ slices, horizontally.

4.  Brush all the vegetables with the vinaigrette using a basting or pastry brush.  Place them on the grill oiled-side down, then brush the other side while they start to cook.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Cook the vegetables for about 3 minutes, then use tongs to flip them over.  Cook for about 6-8 minutes total, removing them as they start to get tender.  The zucchini will cook a little bit faster than the beets, so remove those first.

5.  Transfer to a platter and serve topped with the chopped parsley.  Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature.

Arugula Potato Salad

31 May

I'm a rocket man

Now that memorial day has passed, most people would agree that grilling season has officially begun.  We used our outdoor grill for the second time ever yesterday, which was pretty amazing and pathetic at the same time.  I do plan to use it more, I promise.  But the best part about a barbeque in my opinion is always the side dishes.  Especially the salads.  I realize that sounds boring, but hear me out.

My favorite salad component is anything but boring.  It’s arugula, also known by its street name, rocket.  It’s peppery and filled with an intense flavor that you would never expect from its unassuming exterior.  It’s an excellent source of B vitamins, vitamin K, folate, and iron.   It’s great both raw and cooked, but personally I prefer the former.  This can spice up any salad, quite literally.

And when you think of barbeques and salads, what often comes to mind?  Potato salad, of course.

don't mind us, we just came out of the sauna

Who needs a potato salad drenched in mayo?  Not I.  In fact the reason potatoes have an unmerited bad reputation health-wise is because most people serve them drenched in sour cream, butter, or mayo.  Or worse yet, they deep fry them.  Without such Paula Deen-esque abuse, potatoes are actually incredibly good for you.  They’re high in vitamin C and B6, they’re linked with brain and cardiovascular health, and are said to lower blood pressure.  So put them in a French or German style potato salad, where they have a lovely mustardy vinaigrette.

Such loving treatment of potatoes deserves the addition of our buddy arugula.  The result is a tangy, spicy potato salad that will make a great side dish for your next barbeque.  Or you can just eat it as your meal and call it a day.  A happy, happy day.

Arugula Potato Salad (serves 4 as a side)

they all lived together in a teeny tiny house

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.25 lbs. baby or fingerling potatoes
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 2 tsp honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 4 cups (loosely packed) arugula, tough stems removed

METHOD:

1.  Cut the potatoes to equal sizes, about 1/2 inch in length – if they are very small, leave them whole.  Place in a heavy pot and fill with cold water up to about 1 inch above the tops of the potatoes.  Salt liberally and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce to simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 12 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.  Drain.

2.  While the potatoes are cooking, make the dressing in a large salad bowl.  Whisk together the mustard, honey or maple syrup, and cider vinegar.  Slowly stream in the olive oil, whisking constantly.  Finally, stir in salt and pepper to taste, and the parsley.

3.  Once the potatoes are drained, but while they are still hot, add them to the dressing.  Toss together to coat, and cover the bowl with foil.  They will soak up that dressing like nobody’s business.  Let cool slightly, then refrigerate for at least one hour.

4.  When you are ready to serve, add the arugula to the potatoes and toss everything together well.  Serve immediately.

Shaved Asparagus and Couscous Tangle

26 May

lounging around

Guess what?  Asparagus is still in season.  In our house we’ve had it roasted, steamed, sauteed, every which way.  How about raw, you ask?  Yes, we do that too.  Now I fully admit that picking up an asparagus spear and sinking your teeth into it might not sound like the most enticing thing.  That’s why we shave it.

Shaving asparagus is kind of therapeutic.  You take each spear, one by one, and run your vegetable peeler along it to create super thin asparagus noodles.  It’s fun.  You should try it.  They will have just as much folate and potassium, in fact maybe even more nutritional value because you’re not cooking any of it out.  In the end you have a pile of asparagus ribbons that are just begging to tangle with some other vegetables, fruits, and grains.  Let’s indulge them.

Corn - check!

There’s that sweet corn again.  Also excellent raw, with its sweet pop-in-your-mouth kernels.  You can easily cut the kernels off the cob by placing a small bowl upside down inside a larger bowl.  Stand the corn cob on top of the bottom of the smaller bowl, and run your knife down the cob, all around it, to remove every last kernel.   They will fall into the larger bowl and you’ll save yourself a mess.

Next?

Tomato - check!

If tomatoes are available in your neck of the woods, please grab one and add it to this tangle.  (And no, tangle is not a technical term, it is what I decided to call this dish for reasons that will become obvious when you see the finished product below).  Let’s power up the antioxidant value of this dish, yes?  Chop up a tomato and throw it in.

After we add some citrus and herb action, we can serve this cool veggie-fruit conglomerate over warm Israeli couscous.  Sounds good, right?  It really is.  It’s a refreshing blend of flavors, textures, and temperatures.  It makes a fabulous light dinner.

Shaved Asparagus and Couscous Tangle (serves 2)

the tangled web we wove

INGREDIENTS:

  • small bunch asparagus, about 10 spears
  • kernels from 1 corn cob (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt, plus a pinch later on
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup (uncooked) whole grain Israeli couscous
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

METHOD:

1.  Shave the asparagus into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler.  Place the asparagus ribbons, corn kernels, and tomato in a medium bowl.  Drizzle with the lime juice, salt, and parsley.  Toss everything to combine.  Set aside.

2.  Let the asparagus et. al. mingle together while you cook the couscous.  Bring a scant 3/4 cup water to a boil, then add the couscous and a pinch of salt.  Reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot.  Let simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the couscous is tender.

3.  Divide the couscous between two shallow bowls and top with a heaping pile of the asparagus, corn, and tomato mixture.  Serve while the couscous is still warm, drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil on top.

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