Cilantro Marinated Grilled Zucchini

Here’s another recipe for all the zucchini that stares at you on your counter-top because you cannot keep up with cooking all the harvest.

Skip the tutorial, print the recipe, and get a-cookin’: Cilantro Marinated Grilled Zucchini

I’ll be using my double burner indoor grill pan for this recipe, but it would be pretty uh-mazing if you did cook the zucchini over a BBQ.

First off, I have to make a disclaimer.  Every time I use my grill pan, my fire alarm goes off from all the smoke, so I have to take a few precautionary measures.  Does this happen to anyone else when they use an indoor grill pan?  It happened at my last apartment too, and I wonder what on earth am I doing wrong?

First, I have to open up all the windows to the kitchen and dining room.

Second, I take out our trusty Hawaiian Breeze fan that is about the size of a small watermelon, but packs a punch.  This is the best fan we own.  I’ve nicknamed it Napoleon, small but effective.

Third, I position Napoleon (the fan) towards the grill pan and the stove vent-fan.

Fourth, I get our stove’s fan going.  It’s not a true vent, just recirculates the smoky air.  I’d like to give whoever invented that a gold star (sarcasm).

Fifth, I open up the garage door.

Here’s the set-up.  Notice the strategy to use Napoleon to divert smoke away from the evil smoke detector.

I can’t believe I just showed an open doorway to our garage online.  It could be worse, I suppose.

Slice up your zucchini into either length-wise or width-wise pieces, depending on your preferences.  Normally I cut mine along the length, but I had a 10-pound zucchini that I forgot about while we went on vacation to Seattle, and I went the circle route.  Eventually it’ll all get cooked and chopped and deliciously marinated.

After all this prep, then I get a-grillin’.  Preheating the grill pan is necessary, but once it’s ready, the process moves quickly.

Make sure to put oil on the zucchini to get grill marks and make sure they don’t stick- not a pretty sight.

Make a single layer, packing the slices in like sardines.  You’ll still have to do a second batch most likely, more if you have a single burner grill pan.

We’ll cook these on the hot grill pan for about 4 minutes on each side.  DON’T TOUCH!!  We want those enticing grill lines all over the zucchini for taste as well as color-interest.

After about 4 minutes, flip to the other side and cook another 4-5 minutes until cooked through but the squash maintains a slight crunch.  Repeat grilling the rest of the zucchini.  Set the grilled zucchini aside to rest while you prepare the marinade.

You’ll need a food processor or a blender.  And these ingredients: 2 bunches of cilantro, a couple sprigs of Italian parsley, 1 lemon, and 4 cloves of garlic (come on, don’t be shy from flavor).

Remove the tips of the cilantro stems.  Not too much, the stem flavor balances the exuberance of the leaves.

Rough chop these.

Rough chop the parsley.  Add cilantro, parsley and 4 minced garlic cloves to a food processor.  Also grate in the lemon zest and squeeze the juice in.

Pulse 20 some-odd times to break up the greens.  It’ll look like this.

Now we’re going to smooth it out a little bit more.  Add 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper.  Pulse until desired consistency.

Pour the marinade into a large bowl.

Chop up your cooled grilled zucchini and drop into the marinade.

Mix well.  With hands optional.  Let marinate at least 1 hour.  This dish makes a flavorful side and a drop-everything-and swoon topping for any salad.  There’s no need for dressing as the marinade has plenty of flavor and salad green coating capacity.

Cucumber Salad with Ginger and Mint

Have you ever read a Day in the Life of a Dog and Cat?  I love it!  It makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, and as a dog owner, I can completely relate to everything being a dog’s favorite thing.

Ginger is my new favorite thing.  If I had a tail, ginger would make it wag.  I love its sweet spiciness and freshness.  Ginger has an ego; no matter how little of it you put in, it will always get noticed.

This salad is a winner for summer produce.  Cucumbers are producing like it’s the end of the world (I suppose for them it is since they are annuals), so are the peppers.  Fresh ginger  gives the soft flavors of cucumber and sweet pepper a little wake-up call.

Printable Recipe: Cucumber Salad with Ginger and Mint

Don’t close your eyes…you might miss the making of this salad; it’s that fast.

Start with olive oil and rice wine vinegar in your salad bowl.

Rice wine vinegar is ideal because it acts like a secondary character- letting the cucumbers, peppers, and ginger take center stage.  It has a tangy sweetness to it.  Other possible variations- keep it light- apple cider vinegar or white vinegar.  I think balsamic would be a little too heavy, but that’s just me.

We’re going to use a microplane to grate in a 1 inch piece of ginger.

There’s a lot of goodness that hides behind the grater.  Give it a good tap on the bowl or use your fingers to get every last fresh bite.

Don’t forget to sniff the ginger.  It smells like childhood.

Sprinkle on salt and pepper.

Add your sliced cucumbers.

And a diced up sweet pepper.  Forgot the picture because the ginger mesmerized my sense of smell and rendered me frozen for a few minutes.

Grab some fresh mint, and stack up the leaves.

Sniff it because you just can’t help yourself.  (If you have a tail, wag it because the smell of mint is happiness.)

Roll up your mint leaves-

We’re going to chiffonade these as best we can by cutting them into little ribbons.  It just looks prettier than if we rough chopped them.  Though, of course, to each his/her own.

If you have it, add in the juice of 1 lemon to help the mint and cucumber retain their gorgeous green color.  I love that green- it sings.

Mix well.  Serve at room temperature.  Taste summer.

Zesty Zucchini Gratin

Zucchinis have invaded my subconscious.  They are everywhere and will not let up.  It reminds me of when I tried to jog 6 miles on a treadmill for the first time and compared it to Tartarus.  Am I really making a dent in this harvest?

I have a measly 2 plants, and for the past 3 weeks I’ve harvested between 6 and 9 zooks (my term of endearment) each week!  My grandma says, “Zucchinis don’t forget to grow.”  They are truly a plant for the novice gardeners.  Zucchinis have the ability to boost one’s self esteem like a good bosom buddy.

This recipe got its inspiration from a blog called In Erika’s Kitchen.  I like how her recipe wasn’t the swimming-in-cream-French-style gratin.  It was simple: zooks, cheese, bread crumbs, bake.  Still…I’m not the kind of girl to follow an already beaten path.  I wanted to spice it up a bit, so I added a couple of spices and used pepper jack instead of mozzarella.

Printable: Zesty Zucchini Gratin

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Prep you baking dish.  I’m using a 9 x 13 inch glass one.  You can use cooking spray (the clean way) or a little bit of olive oil that you swish around with your fingers (the dirty way or a great job for a kid).

Prep your zooks (zucchinis).  Slice them to make circles about 1/2 inch thick.  1/2 inch is about as thick as a magazine.

Grate up about 2 cups of pepper jack cheese.  I love this cheese and its little flecks of chili peppers.  Definitely a surprise on your tongue.

However, pepper jack cheese alone is never enough spice goodness for me, so I added a jalapeno.  To tame down the spiciness, just cut out the seeds and membranes using your knife.  See exhibit A.

We’re going to cut the jalapenos into long thin slices.  Then dice them up into tiny pieces, about the size of their seeds- you don’t want people with a dainty tongue to get caught with a chunk of jalapeno in their mouth (though I love that).

That’s all the prep we need.  Thank you, thank you very much.

Did you prep your baking dish?  If you haven’t, I’ll wait…

OK, make a layer of zucchini, overlapping each one with the previous one.

Sprinkle about half the cheese and half the jalapenos over the top.

Sprinkle the spices.  1/2 teaspoon of paprika (the brick red color) and 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder (the earthy colored one).  Layer 1 complete.

Arrange a second layer of zucchini in the same way as the first, overlapping.

Add the rest of the cheese and jalapeno.

Shake the bread crumbs over the top.  I had panko (Japanese style bread crumbs; they give more crunch), but any kind will suffice.Cover the pan with tin foil.  Neat trick- coat the foil with cooking spray to avoid the cheese cooking off onto the foil.

Bake for 35-40 minutes.  For the last 7-10 minutes, remove the foil to create a crispy top.  Chow down and congratulate yourself on yet another dent into the mountain of zucchini you have.

Moroccan Lentil Salad

Lentil beans are the poor man’s feast.  We always have a bag on hand for emergencies.  Fast. Cheap.  Tasty.  Better yet, healthy and low-fat.  Also, they are filling.

Cheap+filling=delicious.

I grew up on lentil soup or some variation of bean soup.  This is a lentil salad, meaning it is not liquidy and can be a chameleon like hummus.

If you need healthy brown bag lunches and are tired of PB ‘n J, try this Moroccan Lentil Salad.  Sounds like a commercial, but I’m serious.  Cook it on Monday and it’ll give you between 3 and 4 different lunches, depending on how much you want to eat.  Put it on top of salad, fantastic.  Inside a wrap-mmm good.  As a side dish next to fish- you’ve got your protein for a year.  You get the idea.

Printable Recipe:Moroccan Lentil Salad

We’ll start with green lentils, though in reality they look brown.  Food has a lot of misnomers.  Ever heard of red cabbage?  It’s really purple.  Red onions too, really purple and white.  Maybe the powerful person who called green lentils green thought green was a better color than brown.  Who knows, but we must oblige.

We’re going to cook a cup of lentils, really a fistful, with 3 cups of water.Don’t forget to cover it!!  Trap in the steam.  Trap in the heat.

Salt?  NO!

Bay Leaf? NO!

But lentils are soooo plain, what about some other flavor?

Just you wait…

Bring it up to a boil and then lower it to simmer.  This will cook for about 30 minutes.

Now we’re going to make the secret: Morrocan dressing.  It’s got a hint of cumin, a little pirouette from lime juice, color from turmeric, and ginger and garlic pizzazz.  Pizzazz I tell you.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Whisk it all together in a small prep bowl. Enter the greens from stage left.  We have cilantro, mint, and zucchini.  Notice the green theme?  Another reason these lentils should be green lentils. That there is my second zucchini from the garden and I have a gazillion more about to avalanche into the house in the next 2-3 weeks, so I got to stay on top of it and try to add them EVERYWHERE.  Well, except my morning coffee.  Don’t want to taint that moment of bliss.

The last 7-10 minutes of cooking the lentils, I slide in the chopped zucchini for good measure. The lentils should be done in 30 minutes or so.  You want them to keep their shape, but you also want them well…cooked.  Over 30 minutes is fine, under no way.  I’d say 40-45 minutes max, just in case you forget about it.  And no, that doesn’t mean I forgot about the lentils either, but thanks for thinking of it.

Put lentils and cooked zucchini into a medium sized bowl.  There shouldn’t be any liquid.  If there is, you may need to drain them first.  Pour over the fragrant dressing, take a whiff, and mix. Also add some fresh chopped mint.  Oh goodness, that smells so good.  Sometimes I wish you could just scratch and sniff the computer screen.I was going all healthy so I put a heaping 1/2 cup of the lentils on top of mixed salad greens, then sprinkled on fresh chopped cilantro and shredded carrot.Buen Provecho!

Tangy, Minty Black-eyed Pea Salsa

This black-eyed pea salsa starred alongside Kahlua-Spiked Ice Cream Pie for our End of the World BBQ.  It’s a sweet and tangy salsa with plenty of substance from the black-eyes peas, bell peppers, corn, and tomatoes.  The addition of mint gives the salsa a tropical feel to match its brilliant rainbow of red, green, yellow, mixed with the dual-toned peas.

Printable Recipe: Tangy, Minty Blackeyed Pea Salsa.

First, create the dressing by adding rice wine vinegar, olive oil, cumin, ground mustard, salt, and the zest and juice of 2 limes.  Rice wine vinegar has a sweeter taste than others, not quite as pungent as other vinegars.  Limes feel more tropical to me, but I’m sure lemons would be a fine substitute (although use 1 only since they are larger than limes).  Whisk all of this together and let it sit.While the dressing sets, prep and mix the remaining ingredients.  Finely dice up the red onion.Cut the red and green bell peppers into strips, then turn them to dice into small pieces about the size of corn kernels.  Combine all the diced vegetables in your large bowl.  Add the minced garlic.To prep the tomatoes, I used Roma, cut them in half, then slice each half into 4 long half-moons.  Turn these half moon slices to the side and dice to make small pieces the size of corn kernels (noticing a pattern?).Drain and wash the black-eyed peas and corn and drop them in with the peppers and onions.Pour the dressing on top of the salsa.  Mix with your hands because it’s more fun.Strip the mint of its leaves and discard the stalks.  Layer the mint leaves on top of one another.  Aim for 7-9 leaves, more takes a little dexterity.  Roll up the leaves as if they were a cigar wrapper.   Thinly slice the stacked and rolled leaves.  You will have tiny ribbons of mint.  Your hand will smell like mint and it will freshen up your entire kitchen.  Mint is exhilarating like that.  This simple process has a fancy French name, chiffonade.  Use it at your next cocktail party.

Of course you can start munching on the salsa (I had it for dinner the night before the BBQ), but it really develops its flavor through overnight refrigeration.  Take it out a few hours before the party to bring the salsa to room temperature.  I love it with blue tortilla chips.  I may be a snob, but in my humble opinion, blue tortilla chips have better corn flavor, plus it adds another cool color to the mix.

Sauteed Green Beans with Lemon

Have you noticed a lemon trend among my cooking creations?  It’s mainly because our lemon tree is so full of them.  They look like yellow lanterns.  I love our lemons; they are fresh, very flavorful, and best of all, just outside my backdoor.

The other night I wanted a quick dinner, so we heated up some Trader Joe’s Diner-style Mac-n-Cheese.  Couldn’t just eat that though, too guilt-inducing, so I added a little green in the form of green beans.  in the time it took to heat the frozen dinner in the oven, we had our vegetable side dish.  Cooking with green beans, more than any other vegetable requires instincts.  They take longer than most vegetables to cook and can instantly turn too mushy if overcooked.  You want the balance of crisp but cooked.  Here’s a secret…just keep tasting them until it’s your desired done-ness.  🙂

Only 8 ingredients

Here’s what you need,

From the top:

A cleverly placed wedding photo mug…I couldn’t refuse
Olive Oil
Dried Sage
Cayenne Pepper
Dried Thyme
5 cloves of garlic, minced (no vampires here)
1 shallot minced (or 1/2 an onion)
Zest and Juice of one lemon
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and washed

Bring a pot of water to just under boiling.

You want little simmering bubbles

Put the green beans in and blanch for 4 minutes or so, until they become a bright, beautiful green color.  There’s no way around it, blanching is instinct, so go with your gut’s ability to discern beautiful colors, in this case Spring green.

I love that green...simply divine

Lift the beans out with a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Kris was washing a bunch of our lemons while I did this, and it made for quite a beautiful color contrast.


Dump out the water/ice and set the beans aside.  Meanwhile, saute the shallot, garlic, and lemon zest in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.


Add about 1 teaspoon EACH of dried thyme and sage.  If you like it a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Also add the lemon juice.  Cook together for a minute, then add in the green beans and saute until tender but not mushy.  After 5 minutes taste.  Keep tasting a bean every minute until they are the tenderness you and your loved ones prefer.  My guess, you’ll cook ‘um for 7-10 minutes.

Sorry, I forgot the finished picture, we were too hungry.

Paz y amor!