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Foodist Approved: Lebanese-style Grilled Eggplant with Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Quinoa

by | Jul 21, 2015
Grilled eggplant with chickpeas and tomatoes

Grilled eggplant with chickpeas and tomatoes

Vegans, vegetarians, and vegetable aficionados rejoice—you need not be a meat-lover to have fun grilling this summer. Vibrant vegetables (and fruit!) can benefit from the sear of a hot grill as much as a juicy burger or steak.

Thick slabs of eggplant brushed with olive oil and spices, transform into melt-in-your-mouth goodness when charred to perfection.

Grilling is faster than cooking on the stovetop and it requires less cleanup. Ready to get your grill on?! Here are a few tips to get you started:

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Foodist Approved: Shrimp Skewers with Grilled Tomatoes, Avocado, and Peaches

by | Jun 16, 2015
shrimp skewers

shrimp skewers

I did a little dance this week out of excitement as my husband and I got to eat our first cherry tomatoes of the season from our garden. Doing so inspired me to come up with a fun summer recipe for tomatoes besides my usual Caprese salad.

These vibrant, Mexican-themed skewers threaded with cherry tomatoes, avocado, and peaches highlight the season’s best flavors. The shrimp pairs perfectly with the grilled, juicy fruit for a light summer dinner (yes, tomatoes and avocados are fruit).

Whip together a creamy, sweet and spicy sauce for drizzling over the skewers by reserving some of the marinade and stirring it into whole milk yogurt. I like to serve seafood kebabs on top of rice with a side of salad greens.

Because the shrimp cook up in a matter of minutes, I grill them on separate skewers from the fruits and veggies. Don’t forget to soak your wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes prior to getting started to prevent them from burning.

No grill? No problemo. You can simply stir-fry the avocado, peaches, and tomatoes in a little olive oil, add in the shrimp and cook until no longer opaque, and then stir in enough marinade to coat.

Happy summer, Summer Tomato readers! Eat lots of tomatoes and enjoy the sunshine!

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For the Love of Food

by | Mar 28, 2014
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week Real Food lays the smack down on diets, running won’t combat poor eating, and beer is meat’s best friend.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).
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Gateway Vegetables: My Story As A Born Again Foodie

by | Jun 20, 2011

Photo by woodleywonderworks

Cheryl-Ann Roberge lives in Seattle and enjoys dining with strangers at restaurant bars, yoga and sea salt caramels. Follow her on Twitter @Pigeon_Feather.

Gateway Vegetables: My Story As A Born Again Foodie

by Cheryl-Ann Roberge

If you had told teenage me that she would one day be a vegetable lover, spice fanatic and adventurous eater, she would have sent her canned ravioli flying towards your face.

My name is Cheryl-Ann Roberge, I reside in Seattle and I am a born again foodie. This is my story.

The nineties were an underwhelming time in my food life. Eggs were one of the few things I enjoyed eating that didn’t come from a box or can. Even at a young age I tried to pick all of the oregano out of my spaghetti. I hated fruit and veggies. I tolerated apples and canned vegetables when required.

At age seventeen, I proudly declared that I would never learn how to cook and that I would live solely on canned ravioli.

It was simple: I didn’t like anything that had real flavor.

Epiphany

Two years into my “adult life” I was existing on of a steady diet of Easy Mac and cafeteria food.

Vegetables were the most difficult for me. But ironically, veggies were also the key that would open the doors to foods I would never have been interested in otherwise.

I went on about my business of eating meat with noodles or meat with rice or meat with bread and I was pretty happy with the rotation. I worked in the dorm cafeteria circuit at the university I attended in Milwaukee, WI and I liked telling people I was a lunch lady.

On a hot July day, my world was changed. A special picnic for new student prospects was being served outdoors and I was staffed to work. The picnic served food much different from the typical cafeteria fare. After the new students had been served, the cafeteria workers breaked for a meal together. I loaded my plate with a burger and whichever pasta salad I knew I wouldn’t eat much of.

I made my way to the grill and found it covered with a vegetable medley that I’d never seen served before. I kept walking. Mike the chef called me back and stuck veggie-filled tongs towards me. “I don’t do veggies, Mike.”

“These are different,” he explained. He was excited that he’d been allowed to make food he thought tasted good. Mike had once opened his own restaurant, but failed and ended up as a chef at the cafeteria where creativity was always superseded by budget. This was his banner day.

I declined once more before he gave the overhaul speech that broke me down. He lowered juicy, grill-marked asparagus, onion, zucchini and squash onto my plate as I shot him a look of disinterest. The veggies were cooked very simply: tossed with oil, salt and pepper and flung onto the grill. I’d never had something like this before.

I didn’t come away with a huge affinity for onions that time, but I had my first ever delightful experience with something I’d always found disgusting. I suddenly loved squash and zucchini, and thought asparagus was okay too.

Mike told me that I’d made his day. I raved for a week. My whole idea of food turned upside down, and it was just the beginning of a ten year revolution.

I’ve since learned to like onions, spinach, fish, shellfish, beets and strawberries. After discovering sushi, wasabi became my gateway into loving spicy food, which I’d never been able to tolerate.

My journey hasn’t ended. Last fall I took my first trip to Italy where I discovered cantaloupe served alongside dinner entrees. I had always been lukewarm about the fruit, but something about having light, juicy melon after a slice of delicious lasagna made me appreciate its sweetness in a way I never had. Now my least favorite fruit salad element has become a favorite.

It is difficult to express to you just how surprising and lovely these realizations can be. I live for them, and I try every new food I can. I plea bargain with other picky eaters I meet. I pester them to try new things. I invite them over for dinner and try to introduce them to something they’d never try.

Why should you try and try again?

As children, most of us are naturally adverse to beer, coffee and wine. A sip might be granted by a grandpa wearing a grin, which of course is followed by a grimace from the grandchild.

So how do most of us end up liking all three beverages despite the horrible trials we go through?

Practice, exposure and repetition are the keys to comfort. I expanded my taste in music the same way. I started listening to any music I could get my hands on and, as with food, I started having mini music epiphanies too.

Consider this: Why did most of us enjoy listening to the radio when we were children? We knew the songs and they were comforting, like canned ravioli.

How do country music haters end up enjoying Neko Case or Ryan Adams? It’s fresh and it didn’t come out of a can. You get the point.

A Simple Request

As a born again foodie I sit here in Seattle writing to you, Picky Eater. I’m late to work, because I care that much about your palate. I want you too to discover the pleasure of new foods. It has changed my life and given me unforgettable experiences with old friends and new.

As a bonus, it’s easier to get out and exercise because I’m not so weighed down by the processed junk food that I used to love. And my waistline is trim now.

Change your ways for those last two reasons if you must, but try new foods because they will eventually taste good and the rest will follow. Just don’t expect it all to happen over night.

What’s your gateway veggie?

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Grilled Fennel With Lemon Oil

by | May 24, 2010
Grilled Fennel

Grilled Fennel

This grilled fennel turned out absolutely amazing and was very simple to make. I got the idea from a dish I tried recently at a local restaurant, Pizzeria Delfina, but honestly did not believe my version would be anywhere near as awesome. To my surprise, it was pretty darn close. Needless to say I am super proud of myself for this one and I hope I can convince you to try it.

Fennel is a unique vegetable that looks like a cross between celery and an onion, but tastes like neither. The flavor resembles anise or black liquorish when raw (a taste I still really struggle with), but takes on a sweeter, more herbal flavor when cooked. I have always been a fan of cooked fennel, despite my aversion to raw preparations. But I had no idea how far this misunderstood vegetable could be elevated by throwing it on the grill.

Don’t have a grill, you say? Awesome, neither do I. Backyards aren’t exactly standard in city apartments. For this recipe I used an apartment-friendly alternative to an outdoor grill, the humble grill pan.

A grill pan is special because it features raised ridges that can leave those wonderful, coveted grill marks on your food. Grill marks not only give your food a lovely appearance, they also add a unique flavor because sugars and fats caramelize where they come in contact with the hot pan. This effect cannot be achieved in a standard fry pan and the grill pan is a delicious alternative for cooking meats, fish and most vegetables.

My favorite grill pan (also the favorite of Cook’s Illustrated) is only about $40, far cheaper than a traditional outdoor grill or indoor electric grill. You can buy it at Amazon.

Feel free to use which ever grilling method is easiest for you.

When picking out your fennel, I recommend using several baby fennel bulbs rather than one large one (they’re in season now). Baby fennel is more tender because it does not have a large, hard inner core like full-sized fennel. A tender center allows you to leave the bulb mostly intact on the grill, making it easier to turn and cook evenly.

I purchased Lisbon lemon olive oil from Stonehouse Olive Oil at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. You can find lemon oil at specialty grocery stores, and it is a wonderful ingredient for spring vegetable dishes. But if you prefer, you can make due with extra virgin olive oil and a meyer (or regular) lemon.

This is a side dish. I paired mine with asparagus ravioli and sorrel.

Grilled Fennel with Lemon Oil

Ingredients:

  • Fennel (~1 lb)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon olive oil (or 1/2 Meyer lemon juice and zest)
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh Italian parsley, chopped

If you are using baby fennel, cut off the green stems and the very bottom of the root (but not so much that the layers have nothing to attach to). Then cut the fennel in half lengthwise, and then again into 4-6 bite-sized wedges.

The goal is to get your fennel into manageable chunks, which means (ideally) all the layers would still be attached at the bottom. This is much more difficult if you have removed the core. In my experiment (I made the mistake of buying large fennel) I removed the core on one half before cooking and left the other half with the core in while cooking. It was easier to get the fennel to cook evenly on the half where the core was still attached. You can remove the core after cooking if it is still tough.

If you are using a large fennel bulb simply trim off the stems, slice off the bottom and cut the bulb in half lengthwise. Cut each half into even-sized wedges, about 0.5 inch thick.

For an outdoor grill, simply brush your fennel wedges with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and grill until soft and tender, turning occasionally.

For a grill pan, heat the pan on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes. Lightly coat fennel in olive oil and sea salt (use a bowl and stir). When the pan is hot, add 1-2 tbsp olive oil and gently swirl it in the pan so it coats the surface. Place fennel in a single layer on the hot grill, lower the heat to medium and cook until translucent, tender and slightly browned, turning occasionally. For me this took about 10 minutes. I recommend using tongs with nylon headsto turn your fennel in the pan.

Your fennel should have grill marks and be caramelized in places. I suggest exercising patience and allowing fennel to become extremely tender, but you can choose your desired crunchiness. Remove the fastest cooking fennel pieces from the grill when they are done and place them in a bowl.

When all the fennel is finished cooking, drizzle it lightly with lemon oil (or juice and zest) and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Adjust salt and zest if necessary.

Have you tried grilling fennel?
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