Feeding Friends: Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Lebanese Fresh Tomato Salsa

Grilled Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Zucchini and Lebonese Fresh Tomato Salsa | Easy Healthy Recipe

While most food items tend to look prettier in food magazines than they ever do when prepared in my kitchen, there are a few dishes that take the cake (expertly styled with self-tanning spray, of course). I’ve intimately come to realize that skewers and kebabs are at the top of this list.

Usually on Martha’s Vineyard, my mother and I cave to my dad’s pescatarian ways and put our cravings for Kobe hot dogs and roast chicken on the back burner…at least until lunch the next day. But since Charlie was coming to visit, I figured it was as good a time as any to indulge in our carne cravings. And thus, a meal of surf and turf kebabs (with a 1:3 ratio of surf to turf) was born.

Grilled Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Zucchini and Lebonese Fresh Tomato Salsa | Easy Healthy Recipe Zucchini ribbons Grilled Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Zucchini and Lebonese Fresh Tomato Salsa | Easy Healthy Recipe

I came across this beautiful image of kebabs with zucchini thinly sliced and threaded onto the skewers like an elegant accordion. I thought this would be the perfect compliment to some lamb marinated in lemon, garlic, and Middle Eastern spices like ground cumin and ginger. I soon discovered that without a mandolin to cut the squash paper thin, this idea was much more beautiful in theory (i.e. in a magazine) than in practice.

Not only did 75 percent of my zucchini planks snap in half as I tried to thread them on the skewers, but even after a good soak, the bamboo still managed to catch on fire. The end result, though delicious, looked like a hot charred mess. At least, in comparison to the original inspiration.

Grilled Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Zucchini and Lebonese Fresh Tomato Salsa | Easy Healthy Recipe Grilled Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Zucchini and Lebonese Fresh Tomato Salsa | Easy Healthy Recipe Grilled Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Zucchini and Lebonese Fresh Tomato Salsa | Easy Healthy Recipe

Luckily, the second half of the dish, which was also inspired by a food magazine (for non-aesthetic reasons), turned out to be more of a success. Continue reading

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Meatless Monday: Penne Pasta Salad with Zucchini, Chickpeas and Olives

Easy Summer Cold Penne Pasta Salad Recipe with Zucchini, Olives, Chickpeas and Parsley | Greek | Gluten Free

Despite having spent every summer on Martha’s Vineyard for as long as I can remember, I’ve never had a whole lobster with my parents. I bring this up because earlier this week on the island, we were invited over to a friend’s house for a classic lobster dinner and asked to bring a pasta salad, something my family is a lot more comfortable preparing. The whole occasion was a treat for me. I love masquerading as a traditional American family, and I especially love doing so when wearing a bib is involved.

So before I tell you more about this Mediterranean penne pasta salad that I whipped up as our contribution, I want to talk a little bit about the magical display of lobster preparation and consumption that I witnessed on Monday. The table setting, complete with lobster themed plates, napkins, salt and pepper shakers, and other miscellaneous tchotchkes, was as close as I could come to the wholesome family lobster massacre of my dreams. But the cooking of the lobster, on the charcoal grill and basted in Cholula butter, was anything but ordinary.

squash zucchini Easy Summer Cold Penne Pasta Salad Recipe with Zucchini, Olives, Chickpeas and Parsley | Greek | Gluten Free Easy Summer Cold Penne Pasta Salad Recipe with Zucchini, Olives, Chickpeas and Parsley | Greek | Gluten Free

Grilling the lobsters took a bit longer than the usual boil. But the slow high-heat cooking process allowed for all the excess liquid in the lobsters to evaporate, leaving our plates pleasantly puddle-free when it finally came time to crack them open. The meat also tasted faintly smoky, though I was too busy fisting a bowl of Cholula butter to waste time dissecting the flavor nuance.

The highlight of the meal though was watching my parents squirming in their seats, unsure of how to eat their dinner.

I could have easily ended up this confused had it not been for college. Every year on the Sunday of Spring Weekend my school’s whitest, wealthiest frat would flaunt their dues money for all to see in the form of lobster and rib eyes. Since this happened on one of the main quads, the rest of us mere pedestrians were forced to watch with envy as each brother collected their surf and turf and ate it with glee. Or tried to.

Easy Summer Cold Penne Pasta Salad Recipe with Zucchini, Olives, Chickpeas and Parsley | Greek | Gluten Free Easy Summer Cold Penne Pasta Salad Recipe with Zucchini, Olives, Chickpeas and Parsley | Greek | Gluten Free Easy Summer Cold Penne Pasta Salad Recipe with Zucchini, Olives, Chickpeas and Parsley | Greek | Gluten Free

Freshman year my friend Swathi and I noticed that the majority of the frat boys would be too drunk at this point to want to bother with dissecting small scraps of meat from a mollusk. So we began a casual tag-teamed competition to see how many lobsters we could finagle for ourselves if we batted our eyelashes and asked nicely, or just took them while the unsuspecting brother was up searching for steak sauce. Under her tutelage I became a varsity level scavenger (one year we made it to 5!) and an equally proficient lobster cracker. And I was happy that I could at least pass down the latter skill to my parents this past week at the dinner table.

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Gluten-Free is Me: Creamy Spanish Gazpacho (Salmorejo Cordobes)

Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy

The first time I tasted Salmorejo Cordobes was not in Cordoba. It was in a small town in Southwestern Spain, about half an hour up the coast from Cadiz, one of the oldest port cities in Andalusia.

I was traveling by myself after college graduation and had just come off of a rather unfortunate three days in Malaga, where I spent most of my time curled up in the fetal position on my hostel bunk bed, making non-so-discrete trips to and from the communal bathroom every 20 minutes. The one afternoon I was well enough to venture out, 5 blocks from the hostel I was jumped by a group of 13-year-olds with leopard spotted buzz cuts. They didn’t take my wallet, since it became apparent their goal was to reap their profit through humiliation. So they just punched me repeatedly in the arm while pouring my gringa industrial-sized water bottle over my head in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded street. Needless to say, I was excited to head to Cadiz, even if my dignity, along with a few empty boxes of Imodium, stayed behind in Malaga.

After a few more successful nights in Cadiz, I decided to take a day trip to check out one of the nearby beaches. As per usual, I found myself on a public bus unsure of whether or not I was actually going where I thought I was going. I somehow always end up traveling alone in Spanish speaking countries even though I can barely say my name in Spanish. And this being one of the first trips of this sort, I was even more clueless than usual. But my technique was to scope out the crowd for a youngish looking person with a sweet face who might speak decent English and want to take pity on me. And on this particular bus, that person was Rose.

Tomatoes Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy

It turned out that Rose was looking for the same beach and was equally clueless. Fortunately for both of us, Rose was from Madrid and could ask the bus driver using sentences that weren’t 50 percent Italian, 20 percent Spanish, 20 percent English, and 5 percent gibberish. Her English wasn’t great, but she managed to ask me if I’d like to go to the beach with her and have lunch.

We spent the afternoon chatting on our towels, passing my Spanish to English phrase book back and forth and writing out words in the sand. I’m sure our 4 hours of verbal toiling probably amounted to less than my Jewish high school friends say to each other in a 5 minute phone call. But I still managed to learn some key facts: Rose was a journalist living in Madrid, she was engaged and her wedding was in the fall. And apparently I was now invited. Over lunch, Rose also introduced me to the best cold soup I’d ever tasted.

Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy Salmorejo Cordobes - Creamy Spanish Gazpacho | Cold Tomato and Bread Soup Recipe | Gluten-Free, Healthy, Easy
Salmorejo is basically the Andalusian version of gazpacho, the cold tomato soup ubiquitous in the North. But theirs is basically the “bisque” version,  smooth and creamy without chunks of vegetrables. Instead of the heavy cream we find in our similarly complexioned warm tomato bisque, this cold soup gets its orange, silky body from lots of olive oil and some stale bread. The soup is served tapas style, like the majority of dishes in the South, in small Terracotta ramekins garnished with crumbled hard boiled egg, strips of Jamon Iberico or Serrano, and even more olive oil. Continue reading

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Meatless Monday: Jalapeno Sweet Corn Salsa

Corn-Jalapeno Salsa

It feels sacrilegious to say it, but I don’t always love to cook. As lucky as I am to be able to go to work in my kitchen every day, sometimes mincing shallots or dekerneling corn is the last thing on earth I want to do. I wish my love of standing over a stove was an unflinching constant in my life. But sadly, I too am human, and there are very few well-loved activities that won’t go out the window when you have a class 5 earthquake happening in your head.

What’s in conflict with this is that I very rarely don’t want to eat a home cooked meal. But at times like this weekend, when I’ve been cooped up in a car for 4 hours and am generally run down, I do not want to rise to the challenge of project managing dinner. I barely want to rise to the challenge of standing.

This summer has been a downward spiral for my cooking thanks to several factors. For one, I’ve been traveling every single weekend, and sometimes during the week. This has meant full body exhaustion upon returning to my apartment. And it’s also meant an empty fridge that feels silly to attempt to fill when I’m just heading back out the door 3 days later. The second is that full body exhaustion on more than one occasion devolved into a full blown flu.

Corn Corn

Ironically, the times that I most want to be fed a home cooked meal—when I’ve been eating out on the road or am in need of sick day pampering—are the times when I’m least likely to want to cook. They’re also the times when you feel particularly lucky to have a nice boyfriend who makes a mean scrambled egg or a mom on hand.

Yesterday the baton was passed from one to the other as I arrived at my parents’ house on Martha’s Vineyard to a kitchen counter covered in homemade marinated kale, shrimp salad, and bluefish spread. It was just the kind of summer lunch I’ve been craving, especially after a weekend that involved gorging on this.

Corn-Jalapeno Salsa Corn-Jalapeno Salsa Corn-Jalapeno Salsa

Perhaps because the grass is always greener (especially when the grass is actually chives), but as soon as I got to experience my own Feed Me moment, all I wanted to do was cook again. After lunch I sat down by the water reading food magazines and immediately launched into a 20-item cooking to-do list for this site. Continue reading

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Tastetrotting: Healthy Greek Potato Salad

Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade

Before going to the motherland, I had a much higher opinion of Greek octopus and potatoes than their salad. I thought that the romaine with limp olives and hyper processed crumbled feta was the Greek equivalent of General Tso’s Chicken and Baked Ziti i.e. what silly Americans eat when they think they’re having Chinese or Italian food.

But it only took me until the ferry terminal on my first day in Greece to realize I was very wrong. Contrary to what my snarky Greek friend texted me in response to my instragram—that, they just call it “salad” here—Greek Salad is on just about every single menu you’ll come across in Greece. And it’s written as such on all the tourist menus. It’s also something that Greeks and tourists alike will eat with just about every meal.

My main gripe with the anemic Greek salads in the US was the feta (it smells like feet). But when I sat down at the ferry terminal to try my very first authentic Greek salad, I realized that what I had known as feta was very different from what was on my plate. First of all, the Greek’s serve their feta in blocks on top of the salad. The cheese itself is moister, firmer and much more mild than what I’ve tried in the past. It also works perfectly in harmony with the other ingredients—especially the raw onion and olives, two other things that I don’t usually opt for in my salads.

Potatoes Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade

My favorite part of Greek Salad in Greece is that the olives are thrown in unpitted. This makes it really strange to actually take the aforementioned bite of all the ingredients together in one mouthful. The first time I did, I almost swallowed a pit and choked. But then I figured out how to kind of gnaw on the olive while eating other things. I was intrigued to watch a real Greek eating Greek salad to see what their technique was. I found this observation very useful in learning how to eat ramen without leaving the restaurant with a gentle mist of it all over my clothes.

I wondered if in Greece there was a similar childhood myth about swallowing the olive pit and having a tree grow in your stomach, much like what my parents told me about watermelon growing up (and perhaps one reason why I don’t eat watermelon). If this type of dexterity–like being able to tie a cherry stem in a knot with your mouth–meant you were a good kisser, as the consensus was in middle school, perhaps the Greeks French kiss better than the French? Unfortunately, that I was not able to find out.

Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade Healthy Greek Potato Salad with Olives and Feta | Quick & Easy | Gluten-Free Homemade

But I’ve digressed…

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Meatless Monday: Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes with Rice (Yemista)

Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian

I’ve never really been a huge fan of stuffed vegetable side dishes. They always just seemed a bit hokey to me. Sure, the visual is sometimes great – down right adorable, even. But it feels like a lot of extra work in a recipe to produce something that doesn’t really make the final dish taste that much better.

Consider the bread bowl. I ate many an Au Bon Pan (ABP, for connoisseurs) broccoli cheddar soup in one of these bad boys in my pre-autoimmune gluten renaissance. It’s not technically stuffed, but I think it’s a worthy example of how food vehicles are not always everything you hope and dream for. The best part of the bread bowl, in my opinion, was scraping your spoon along the bottom and getting that gooey soaked dough on your spoon in every bite. But the crust, which made up most of the bowl, always was a little stale. Most bread bowl eaters I encountered discarded the majority of their hallowed out boules at the end of the meal. I personally never once finished one. Not even in my chubby 5-slice-a-day college years.

Tomatoes Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian

So I’ve always been a little bit of a hater when it came to gutting a zucchini or pepper as a potential home for my side dishes. Wouldn’t you rather just eat those veggies diced and lovingly sautéed in your meal than in one never-quite-cooked-enough bite with a smidge of rice/quinoa/cheese?

I thought as much for a long time. But then I went to Greece.

During my Alive Tribe retreat on the island of Evia, we were fortunate enough to stay in a beautiful villa that came equipped with a handy man who also cooked. Elias was such a Jack-of-all-trades, we started calling him the Greek Chuck Norris. Though personally, for sexiness’ sake, I would describe him more as a Greek Daniel Craig.

For all his manly prowess, which included wandering into the water with a Leatherman to pop several sea urchins from their rocky perches, Elias turned out to be the most graceful of cooks. We ate one beautiful meal after another produced by his man hands, and they were all perfectly simple, rustic, and elegant. So it’s no surprise that Elias was the one to finally change my opinion of hallowed out baked vegetables. And he did so with this Greek stuffed tomatoes recipe.

Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian Greek Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe with Rice (Yemista) | Vegetarian

The secret to Yemista, I learned, was a longer cook time so that the tomatoes get fully baked and caramelized. And the second secret, which extends to all Greek cooking, is a crazy amount of olive oil. Continue reading

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