grilled vegetable sandwiches

Summer is ending.  Fall is arriving…slowly, but arriving.  We had a couple of evenings recently where we sat on the patio and enjoyed what had the makings of a cool breeze.  I think we’ve survived another desert summer!  Which is good and bad, because that means summer veggies are going by the wayside.  But it also means fall root veggies, key to many comfort foods and soups, will be in abundant supply.

While flipping through a cookbook looking for something entirely different, I came across these grilled veggie sandwiches which sounded (and looked) delicious.  My usual cooking routine includes incorporating a meatless meal or two each week.  And, since no one has put up too much of a fight, I’m not rocking that boat.  These veggie sandwiches were the perfect meatless meal, and made for a tiny celebration of the end of the season by using the last of the summer veggies.  For those of you in colder climates, the benefits will be two-fold: enjoying the last of summer vegetables and lighting up the grill one more time – before the lid is frozen shut!  Enjoy!!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches (recipe courtesy Cooking Light Superfast Suppers, Oxmoor House Publishing)

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sliced©zouptonuts

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp light mayo
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into eighths
  • 1 (1 lb) eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 sweet onion, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Directions:

  • Prepare grill.
  • Combine mayo and minced basil; cover and chill.
  • Combine oil and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add bell pepper, eggplant, onion, and zucchini to dressing mixture;; toss vegetables to coat.
  • Place bell pepper and eggplant on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill about 6 minutes.  Add onion and zucchini; grill 5 minutes.  Turn vegetables often, baste with dressing, and cook just until tender.  Remove from grill and keep warm.
  • Place bread on grill, cut side down, and grill 2 minutes.  Turn bread, cut side up, and place half of cheese slices on bottom half of bread.  Grill 1 minute or until cheese begins to melt.
  • Spread mayo mixture over top half of bread.  Top bottom half with vegetables, remaining cheese slices, and top half of bread.
  • Serve immediately.

sandwich©zouptonuts***Cook’s Notes:  I used a grill basket for the veggies, which made worries about losing vegetables through the grill grates a non-issue.  Choose a nice, hearty roll.  The ciabattas are great because they hold up well to the moisture from the dressing, grilled veggies, and melted cheese.  Also, I came across this little gem while working on the post; the website for the book Simply in Season, which offers a fruit and vegetable guide for tips on how to choose, store, prepare, and use selected fruits and vegetables.  Good stuff!

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grilled cod with lemon, mint, and basil

If I’m going to be committed to tracking and sharing the recipes I thought were great…or, even good, a couple recent efforts left me with the niggling idea I should also track and share recipes I thought had potential…even if they didn’t live up to my expectations when I made them.  After all, cooking and photographing takes a bit of effort.  It’s time I sometimes don’t even have (ask my husband, who has sat patiently waiting to eat while I shoot one, last picture of the plated meal before the light gets bad).

In the current case, I didn’t shoot any prep shots because it was one of those days we were running behind and I just really needed to get dinner moving.  But I had time to plate and shoot.  Then came the eating and the point at which I thought, thank goodness I didn’t spend a bunch of time shooting the prep for this average recipe.

Because that’s what I thought it was:  average.  Not because I don’t like fish.  I do.  And, not because I don’t like lemon and basil and olive oil.  I do, I do, I do.  What I discovered upon eating this dish is how much I dislike mint.  Or, at the very least, how much I dislike mint in this quantity.

That’s where I started thinking I should share it with this caveat:   Too.  Much.  Dang.  Mint!   Three tablespoons of mint was simply overpowering.  Granted, cod is a relatively bland, yet buttery-textured fish.  It has great potential for any preparation, whether grilled, poached, or pan-seared.  And this recipe could have been great had it not been for the mint.

With that said, this is what I’d do differently next time:  leave out the mint entirely and substitute chives, for instance, or flip-flop the proportions by using three tablespoons of basil, which I adore, and only one tablespoon of mint.  Either way, the overwhelming taste and smell of mint needs to be eliminated.  Unless, of course, you love mint, which might find you preparing this fish exactly as the recipe suggests.  It’s a blank canvas.  Have at it and enjoy!

Grilled Cod with Lemon, Mint, and Basil (recipe courtesy Healthy 100 @ Florida Hospital)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 (4-oz.) cod fillets

Directions:

1. Preheat grill to medium.  In a small bowl whisk together oil, lemon juice, mint, basil and garlic, reserving half for sauce.  Brush one side of each fillet with lemon and herb mixture.

2. Place fillets on grill. Grill 4 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Transfer fillets to a serving platter, drizzle with remaining lemon and herb sauce, and serve.

grilledcod©zouptonuts

hoisin-grilled chicken with soba noodles

If my kid had to choose one thing to use as a dipping sauce…because, well, meat can’t be eaten in our house unless dipped in something, she’d choose barbecue.  Her sauce of choice is Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet & Tangy.  She’ll put it on everything, but particularly her least favorite meat of all time: chicken.

Isn’t chicken supposed to be every kid’s favorite meat?  I mean, it’s generally tender, virtually devoid of any offensive flavor (or, flavor of any sort unless dredged in Sweet Baby Ray’s)?  Well, not my kid, I guess, resulting in this recipe being a sort of double whammy – she detests chicken and the sauce is NOT Sweet Baby Ray’s.  The sauce is better, in my opinion, but I don’t have the culinary sensitivities of an eight year old.

I love hoisin sauce.  I love Asian-inspired dishes.  I won’t go so far as to say I love chicken because handling raw chicken is enough to make me contemplate full-time vegetarianism.  But once it’s cooked, I’m OK with it.  Fortunately or unfortunately, chicken is flavorless unless you do something good to it.  In this case, the sauce.  The hoisin adds sweetness and the chili-garlic the heat.  I love the savory warmth of dark sesame oil, too.  But the really interesting flavor comes from the Chinese 5-spice blend.

You can make your own at home; it’s a combination of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and Szechuan peppercorns, but 5-spice blend is readily available in the spice aisle at your local grocery store.  The spice adds a deeper warmth to an already savory combination of flavors.  Overall, this Asian-inspired barbecue sauce was quite good.  Don’t worry, Sweet Baby Ray’s.  A certain eight year old will  make sure my pantry remains well stocked with your products.  Nice change of pace, though.  Enjoy!

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Hoisin-Grilled Chicken w/Soba Noodles (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, July 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 3 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 ounces uncooked soba noodles (or pasta of your choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 tsp lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste), or 1 tsp chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken; toss to coat. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken; cook 10 minutes or until done, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Thinly slice across the grain,
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add noodles; cook 2 minutes. Add peas; cook 1 minute or until noodles are tender. Drain. Combine rice vinegar and next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Add noodle mixture; toss to coat. Arrange about 1 cup noodle mixture in each of 4 shallow bowls. Top each serving with about 3 1/2 ounces chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and onions.

hoison_grilledchicken©zouptonuts***Cook’s Note:  Per the picture, I was convinced I had Soba noodles in my pantry when I didn’t.  Substituting any pasta will serve you well, however.

chicken on the grill – easy marinade

Grilling and salads.  That’s what I’m doing, lately.  This was a last minute marinade that came together with stock pantry items and had nice flavor.  It’s nothing wild or over-the-top, so it’s pretty kid friendly, but had nice flavor which I attribute to my substitution of fresh, minced garlic instead of garlic salt.  The fresh garlic gives a bigger flavor punch while also reducing sodium in the finished product.

I served this with Harvest Grains Blend by Trader Joe’s and a green salad for a light, tasty dinner that didn’t involve heating up my kitchen in this desert heat.  If you’re bored with chicken (I completely understand that), I think this marinade would work nicely with pork, shrimp, or fish, as well.  Enjoy!

marinade©zouptonuts

Chicken on the Grill (recipe adapted from Grilling: Food Writers’ Favorites)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp garlic salt (I used 1 Tbsp fresh garlic, minced, to reduce sodium)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

Directions:

In a large resealable bag, combine oil, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and garlic salt.  Add chicken cubes.  Seal plastic bag and turn to coat all chicken pieces evenly.  Refrigerate at least 30 to 45 minutes, turning once or twice.

Remove chicken from marinade and discard remaining liquid.  Thread chicken cubes on metal skewers.  Place skewers on gas grill over medium-high heat.   Cook about 10 minutes, turning occasionally, or until chicken is done.

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Cook’s Notes:  Give this marinade a kick with some red pepper flakes or a splash of hot sauce.  Instead of a side salad, skewer some veggies and cook those on the grill with the chicken.

flank steak with pepita relish

I’ve made this recipe so many times but the timing and preparations have never really coincided with an opportunity to shoot some pics, as well.  See, I don’t cook to photograph.  I cook to eat.  If I manage to squeeze in a few shots of the process….well, then, a blog post is born.  But for the most part, I plan dinner and photograph depending on the octave of the “I’m hungry” chorus.  If tummies seem content, I take pics.  If tummies seem on the verge of mutiny, I don’t.

For whatever reason, this meal is not one I’ve ever been able to photograph.  Until now.

I love these for a lot of reasons; they’re easy to throw together (the relish is a quick prep), the cilantro and lime give them a decidedly southwestern flavor (add hot sauce, sour cream, etc., if you’re so inclined), and if I have any leftover flank steak, it makes for the perfect cold steak salad the next night.  Also, I have a well documented obsession with wrapping food in other food.  This recipe satisfies the desire.  Weird.  I know!

The recipe originated at Real Simple and calls for skirt steak; the flank steak is just a little leaner.  The leftovers, if you have any, are nice if you can’t get out of the office for lunch and are just as yummy cold.  Enjoy!

Flank Steak with Pepita Relish (recipe adapted from Real Simple)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb flank steak
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 8 6-in flour tortillas
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 c pepitas
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Directions:

Bring steak to room temperature for even grilling.  Season the steak with salt and pepper and place on pre-heated grill, grilling until desired doneness (about 5 minutes per side for a nice, medium-rare steak).  Remove from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.

Warm the tortillas according to the package directions.

In a medium bowl combine the onion, cilantro, pepitas, oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper, to taste.  Mix well and serve over warm tortillas.  Add sour cream, optional.

Cook’s Note: Flank steak is a fickle cut of meat.  It can be quickly overcooked and become tough and unappetizing.  Pay close attention to the grill.  Also, you should always slice flank steak against the grain or the steak will be too chewy.  If you pick up the steak with some tongs, the grain will be obvious.