I have a blackened seasoning mix I use on all kinds of meats and even vegetables. I’ve been making it for years—it started when I was inspired by a dish from a restaurant called Olde Village Inn in Nyack, New York—they used in on chicken strips that went on their Caesar salad. I still make that recipe, but also use it to blacken fish or chicken or meat for fajitas, or just make it plain, as in this recipe. I go through a lot of it, so I make my own, since I was going through the little pre-made bottles like water. If you don’t feel like making the recipe, any taco or Cajun seasoning will work. My favorite place to order organic herbs, spices and tea: Mountain Rose Herbs–they are so fresh, inexpensive and now you can buy them in small quantities.
I either grill recipes with the blackened seasoning or cook in in my cast iron pan with some oil. If you do grill, spray meat or fish with a little cooking spray so it won’t stick to the grill.
The salad is delicious and just discovered on my trip to Provincetown, MA in their natural food store. They used a white balsamic vinaigrette, but I choose a cider vinaigrette to go along with the flavor of the blackened meat.
It’s everything pumpkin now, and seeds can be found in natural foods stores. I found Go Raw sprouted pumpkin seeds at Whole Foods and they are delicious. Like nuts, I freeze seeds to keep them fresh a long time.
Blackened Pork Tenderloin
4-6 ounces per person
Blackening seasoning to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400. Rinse and dry tenderloin. Coat in blackening spice. Heat a cast iron or other oven proof pan on high and add oil to coat pan. When hot, sear meat on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake about 15 minutes, or until meat registers 160 degrees for medium. Let rest a few minutes and slice.
Blackening Seasoning (or buy any Cajun or taco seasoning mix) This will make a big batch for many uses
1 cup Garlic Powder
1 cup onion powder
2/3 cup paprika
1/3 cup cayenne
2/3 cup oregano
1/3 black pepper
1/3 cup cumin
2/3 cup lemon peel
1/3 cup tumeric
1/3 cup salt
Salad with Beets and Pumpkin Seeds
Mix of baby greens and arugula
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
1-2 roasted beets
¼ cup dried cranberries
2-3 ounces goat cheese
Roast beets: wash and cover in foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 1-1 ½ hours, depending on size. Let cool, cut ends off, peel and cut into bite sized pieces. Add remaining ingredients and serve. Dressing, below.
White balsamic or cider vinaigrette
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white balsamic or cider vinegar or other vinegar
I had friends over for Sunday brunch and decided to make gazpacho soup while tomatoes are still in season. Traditionally, bread is put into the soup, but I decided to make crostini out of a lovely buckwheat baguette, from Maison Kaiser. (When I do indulge in food high in carbs on the weekends, I only eat the best. Eric Kaiser is a third generation French baker who now has bakeries all over the world. His baguettes have won first place in France.) I added a few cheeses and some guacamole and that was our appetizer.
Gazpacho soup is a classic Spanish dish from Seville and is served chilled. If you want a creamier version, add more olive oil.
The key to great gazpacho is the tomatoes and I used heirloom from the farmer’s market. Many recipes blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, but I like mine chunky, so I blend the onions, garlic and half the vegetables in a food processor and hand chop the rest. If you like soup smooth, simply blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
If you are not watching your carbs, try gazpacho with a grilled cheese sandwich for an amazing meal!
2 cloves garlic
1 small red onion
2-3 Kirby cucumbers peeled
1 large bell pepper
2 pounds tomatoes, cored
salt, pepper to taste
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper
1 teaspoons balsamic vinegar or lemon
2 T olive oil
Blend the garlic, hot pepper and onion and half the vegetables in a blender or food processor and hand chop the rest. Chill 6 hours to overnight. Serve with hot sauce on the side.
At first glance, this recipe might look like a lot of work, but it really doesn’t take much time to prepare—and the payoff is totally worth it! The flavors are so delicious and complex. I made the pork roast the other night for the first time and decided it would be the perfect “company dish.”
I will be writing more about the topic, but this dish has numerous ingredients that are “umami”. Umami is the fifth taste; the others are sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami can be described as rich, meaty, and savory and gives dishes that extra layer that makes it memorable.
I’ve highlighted the umami ingredients in this dish and you can see that they are numerous. The vinegar, chicken stock and tomatoes all give depth and umami taste, as well as the pork and beans. Trust me, make this dish and it will become a favorite.
Roasted Pork Shoulder with White Beans, Kale and Zucchini
2 pounds boneless pork butt
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 small carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 springs thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
1 cup white beans, soaked overnight in cold water, drained and rinsed
1 ½ cups chicken stock
2 zucchini or yellow squash, julienned into “pasta” with a Julianne peeler or spiralizer
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 cup chopped tomatoes
6 ounces fresh kale or collards, washed stemmed, and roughly chopped
Tie meat with string to prevent it from falling apart when cooking. Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy, ovenproof casserole over high heat and sear meat until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil from pan. Reduce heat to medium and add the carrots, celery, onions, thyme and half the garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the beans, stock, red vinegar, and 1 cup of water or more to cover ingredients. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until beans are tender.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat and sauté remaining garlic for a minute. Add tomatoes and cook 3 minutes, add kale and cook about 5 minutes, or until kale is wilted.
When beans are cooked, remove thyme, carrots and celery and add salt and pepper to taste. Add tomato and kale mixture. Place pork butt on top and cover. Bake for 40 minutes to an hour, until meat is very tender. Add more water if needed during cooking time.
Remove from oven and allow to rest in pan for 10 minutes. Untie roast and cut ¼ inch thick slices. Add zucchini to mixture and allow it to wilt.
Going away on vacation and sticking to a low carb/low fat diet when staying at a hotel isn’t easy, because proteins and vegetables just aren’t as available as high carb and high fat foods are. I just spent a long weekend at the Jersey Shore, with its infamous boardwalks. The boardwalks are loaded with food stands and restaurants with items like fried Oreos, funnel cakes, ice cream, Philly cheese steaks and lots more empty calorie foods. (One surprise is that a semi healthy food place called Mogo: Korean Fusion Tacos always has a long line. And yes, I had some and it’s pretty decent.)
I do have some high carb foods on weekends, and I indulged on this long weekend. But I kept the carbs in moderation and did a lot of bike riding, walking and swimming, so while I doubt I lost weight, I don’t think I gained. (I don’t weigh myself because I’d get way obsessed and crazy over the numbers.) I also kept the high carbs to ones that were worth it, like good quality bread and avoided sweets.
When my husband and I go away for a week, we stay at rentals with kitchens, so some meals, like breakfast, we eat in. But for a long weekend, we just stay at a hotel and all meals must be eaten out and it gets tricky to get healthy food. (The one thing I did bring from home is my Green superfood powder/psyllium/flax/matcha tea mix that I use as a base for my morning smoothie. I just mix it with water and drink it. Gross, but keeps me operational…)
Now, our hotel offered “breakfast”: industrial bagels and pastries and juice on the weekends. I passed. Instead, I ate at Hoagitos, where they serve breakfast sandwiches with delicious, chewy rolls and at another stand that makes nice omelets and I had a slice of whole wheat toast, leaving the second piece and the hash browns.
I did have a couple salad meals—skirt steak with Caesar salad, shrimp with a fusion Asian salad. By now, I’m so used to eating lots of vegetables that I crave them.
I indulged a bit, but didn’t go crazy. The food was good, but not great—but it wasn’t all that important, either. Food isn’t my main focus in life.
We got back to the City in time for the eclipse; I was planning on taking out food for dinner, then decided I needed real food and cooked instead. I made chicken breasts on the bone with a dry rub and vinegar and coleslaw and it was so freaking good! Not sure if it was because the food I had been eating was just OK, or what, but I highly recommend both recipes.
About the dry rub: my nephew introduced me to it and it was created by Silkworm and Bottomless Pit bassist Tim Midyett. Midyett sells it, but it’s easy to make and his is much saltier than my version. I do one part of each ingredient and it’s perfection. You may not be familiar with sumac; it is a deep red, slightly sweet spice often used in Middle Eastern cooking. It has a somewhat bitter, lemony flavor.
You can buy sumac on Amazon or in some grocery stores. I get a 2-ounce container, then use 2 ounces of all the other ingredients; put it into a freezer Zip-lock, freeze and I have it for months all ready to go! I put this rub on ribs, beef (what it was intended for) and last night for the first time, chicken. I also like to add unfiltered cider vinegar when I use the rub. Amazing.
Midyett recommends grinding in a spice grinder (you can also use a coffee grinder) but I don’t bother.
The recipe is for the coleslaw I made. I have used other cabbages, julienned Lactincto kale, shredded jicama, celery root, and broccoli stems. Any hard veggie you have will work. I salt the cabbage for about an hour to make it crisp and more flavorful, as salt draws water out. Salting the onion makes it milder.
I used some crème fraiche because I had left over from the cucumber salad I made the other night. All mayo is fine too—or omit both and use more oil. Slaw is something to experiment with and works with many different ingredients.
Sumac Dry Rub Roasted Chicken Breast and Slaw
Sumac Dry Rub Roasted Chicken Breast
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
4 pieces of chicken breast, bone on
Sumac Dry Rub
Put dry rub on both sides of chicken and place on a sheet pan with parchment paper to prevent sticking skin side down. Bake 30 minutes. Turn chicken. Add a bit of vinegar to each piece and cook another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and turn chicken to let it soak up juices. Let rest 15 minutes and serve.
Sumac Dry Rub (I do 2 ounces of each spice)
1 part good sea salt
1 part black pepper
1 part sumac
1 part ground coffee
1 part garlic powder
1 part unsweetened cocoa powder
Combine ingredients and either grind in a coffee or spice grinder or don’t bother. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in freezer for an even longer shelf life.
1 small head of savoy cabbage, quartered, cored and shredded in a food processor or hand sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced thin on a mandolin
1 tablespoon salt
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded in a food processor or on a box grater
Juice of one lemon or cider vinegar or other vinegar
Place the cabbage and onion in a colander and mix the salt into it. Let it sit for an hour, rinse well and squeeze dry. Whisk together all the ingredients except the carrots. Add the vegetables and let sit 15 minutes or more. This will stay good overnight, as well.
This time of year, Kirby cucumbers are abundant at farmer’s markets. Unlike those you buy at the grocery store that become soft and rotten in days, fresh ones from your farmer’s markets can last a week or more. I like to make cucumber salads; sometimes with oil and vinegar, other times with a crème based dressing. This one is really good. When you salt and drain the cucumbers, the flavor becomes more intensified and they stay crisp if you have leftovers for the next day.
This dressing, for 6 Kirby cucumbers, should be enough to make salad dressing. It is also delicious on cold, poached salmon. You can use sour cream, but crème fraiche makes it even better.
Cucumber Salad with Dill Sauce
½ bunch dill, stems removed and chopped
4 ounces sour cream or crème fraiche
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Juice from ½ a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
6 Kirby cucumbers
Cut off ends and peel, if desired; I use a carrot peeler to peel stripes. Cut cucumbers into ¼ inch rounds and place in colander. Mix salt in and put something heavy on cucumbers for one hour. Rinse and shake dry. Mix ingredients and toss cucumbers and let sit about 15 minutes.
There will be more than enough dressing; if you have leftovers, make salad dressing. Put into a food processor 1 clove garlic, more dill, extra virgin olive oil, juice from half a lemon, salt and pepper and the extra dressing.
I experimented for years on this peanut sauce and it is now pretty much the bee’s knees. Since I first tried Chinese cold noodles and sesame in college, I was obsessed with it. My boyfriend introduced me to it from a Chinese restaurant in New York City; at the time, it was the spiciest food I had ever had and the first few times I had the dish, it took me forever to eat it—but I loved it and was hooked! I made it for years with noodles. (Note: if you want to make it with noodles, double the sauce recipe and use a pound of Chinese noodles. Top with cucumber, omit zucchini.)
I first made this recipe on warmed up ciabatta with slices of cucumber. This is the low carb version and it is delicious!
If you have not had baked tofu, it is really—good! The outside forms a crust and the texture is chewy, giving it a nice mouthfeel. The tamari on the outside also gives it more flavor.
The condiments I use:
Peanut Sauce on Tofu with Cucumbers and Zucchini “Pasta”
1 pound extra firm tofu
1 cucumbers, julienned
2-3 zucchini, julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ inch piece of minced ginger
2 tablespoons black or white sesame seeds
3 pieces of chopped scallion
1 tablespoon San-J® All Purpose Szechuan Hot and Spicy Sauce
1/2 cup crunchy or smooth natural peanut butter
1 tablespoons tamari sauce, (wheat free soy sauce) plus a teaspoon for tofu
Preheat oven to 350. Cut tofu in half crosswise. With paper or a kitchen towel, cover and place something heavy on top to remove any water. Brush tofu with tamari sauce and bake, 45 minutes, until lightly browned.
Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil on low in a sauté pan; when hot, add garlic, ginger, scallion, hot pepper flakes and sesame seeds and cook until softened. Add peanut butter, Szechuan Hot and Spicy Sauce, and tamari and stir. Add enough water for a thick but pleasing consistency. Turn off heat and add sesame oil and cilantro.
Heat 1 tablespoon in a sauté pan on high and add zucchini when hot. Stir until just starting to get limp and add some sauce.
Plate: put zucchini down, then arrange tofu and add cucumber. Top with sauce.
This is a simple salad that works well on a hot summer day and is very easy to make.
I like ham, but in small doses. About once a year, I’ll buy a pound (nitrate free and humanely raised), quarter and freeze it and use it to enhance flavor in a dish. This dish is a perfect example, as I use 4 ounces of ham for four portions.
Flageolets are baby kidney beans and are very creamy and tasty. If you can’t find them, regular kidney beans are fine. It is worth seeking out dried beans, because there are so many more varieties available than in canned. That said, I do use canned beans for the convenience. One tip with dried beans—do not add salt to them until they are almost done.
Summer Flageolets, Ham and Kale Salad
1 Bunch lacinato kale, cut chiffonade (arugula also works well)
Handful parsley, chopped
¼ pound cooked ham, diced small
1 cup raw flageolets or one 15 ounce can, drained and rinsed
1 medium red onion, sliced thin on a mandolin, chopped and squeezed of excess water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive or walnut oil
1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
Follow cooking directions for beans and drain liquid. Add onion, ham and parsley to beans. Mix oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and divide into two. Mix half the dressing with the bean mixture when beans are still warm and the remaining dressing with the kale. If you are using arugula, wait until you are ready to serve to mix.
You can also use chicken in this recipe. I made a marinade for the pork chops with soy sauce to compliment the cucumber salad and the dishes worked nicely together. The herbs and lemon really wake up the pork and give it more flavor. I ended up with extra dressing, so I added some champagne vinegar and a bit more extra virgin olive oil and made a delightful salad dressing for later use on salads.
Called pai huang gua in China, the smashed cucumber salad is very popular there and is trendy in Manhattan, served at many restaurants. It is the perfect, cool salad for summer and is easy to make. As opposed to the slick surface of a sliced cucumber, smashing them opens them up and coarsens their surfaces to make them better to hold the dressing. Smashing also helps to remove their seeds.
Seared Pork Chops
4 bone-in or boneless one inch thick pork chops
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
Pepper, as needed
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Mix ingredients and add pork. Marinate 2 hours to overnight. Heat a cast iron pan on high and add enough extra virgin olive to coat bottom. When hot, remove marinade from chops and reserve. Cook chops about two minutes per side, until brown. Lower heat to low, add marinade, cover and cook five minutes. Check while cooking and add 1-2 tablespoons of water if liquid is needed. Plate chops and drizzle any remaining liquid on top.
Garlic and Herb Dressing
¼ cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chopped mint
1 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chives
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt, more as needed
Black pepper, as needed
⅛ teaspoon chile flakes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine the herbs, garlic, lemon, 1 teaspoon salt and chile flakes. Stir in 1/2 cup oil or use a small food processor to combine ingredients.
Plate chops and add dressing on top.
If you have leftover dressing, add champagne or white wine vinegar and more olive oil, if needed, to make salad dressing for later use.
Smashed Chinese Cucumber Salad
2 pounds thin-skinned cucumbers like English, Kirby or Persian
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil (I use peanut oil only when I cook Asian dishes and like Loriva roasted. They don’t add chemicals and it tastes fantastic; refrigerate for long shelf life.)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Small handful whole cilantro leaves, for garnish
2 teaspoons toasted white and/or black sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
Rinse cucumbers and pat dry. Remove ends. Cut crosswise into pieces about 4 inches long. Cut each piece in half lengthwise.
Place a piece of cucumber cut side down. Lay the blade of a large knife flat on top the cucumber and smash down lightly with your other hand. The skin will crack, the flesh will break down and the seeds will separate. Repeat on other pieces. Break or slice diagonally into bite-size pieces, leaving the seeds behind. Scrape any additional seeds off. You can also remove seeds first, cutting them away with a knife, then smashing cucumbers.
Place the cucumber pieces in a strainer and toss with salt. Place something heavy on top of the cucumbers to serve as a weight and let drain 30 minutes or in the refrigerator until ready to serve, up to 4 hours.
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine salt and rice vinegar. Stir in sesame oil, peanut oil and soy sauce, garlic and peppers.
When ready to serve, rinse cucumbers well and shake to drain off any remaining liquid and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss. Garnish with cilantro and sesame seeds and serve.
I love main course salads for dinner in the summer. I get the bacon from Hemlock Hill Farm, where the animals roam free. There are no nitrates in the bacon and it is beyond delicious! (It’s so good that I rarely eat any other bacon and buy several pounds at a time, freezing them in bundles of 4 slices.) If you live near or find yourself in Northern Westchester, NY, check them out. They have a store on the farm and the meat is the best you can find anywhere.
Speaking of which, I know “grass fed meat” is a buzz word these days, but there is some confusion. 100% grass fed is not necessary for your health or the welfare of animals—you want to know they are pasture raised; some grains are fine.
For example, at Hemlock Hill Farms, their beef, chicken, geese, goats and lamb are all pasture raised and their pigs are grain fed. They have this awesome partnership with local brewers, Captain Lawrence Brewery and get their leftover barley from making beer.
According to the owner, “In the summer months we cut ‘hay’ which is in turn grass. That hay we feed to them in the winter months. Cattle, as all ruminants, must have some form of hay/grass in their diet always. On top of that they get spent barley in their diet which is an excellent by product that breweries make. It’s a great feed source for cattle. There is about 30% spent barley in their diet year round.”
Anyway, back to this salad. It is really tasty!
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pecans, Bacon and Manchego Cheese
Serves 8 as side, 4 main course
1 ½ pounds baby brussels sprouts, slicer attachment on food processor or cut in half and hand slice thin
¼ cup lemon juice
1 T olive oil
8 slices bacon, cut into pieces, reserve fat
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 t Dijon mustard
3 T cider vinegar
Salt & Pepper
¾ cup pecan, toasted at 350 until lightly brown and fragrant; watch carefully—5-10 minutes–and chopped coarsely
4 ounces manchego cheese, chopped into small pieces
Cook bacon and remove from pan, leaving bacon fat. (Note: depending on bacon, you will either have the right amount of fat or too much. You can eye it and remove some or just make a bigger batch of dressing, which can be used on any green salad.)
Add garlic to bacon fat and cook a few minutes on low. Turn off heat. Wisk in mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, salt & pepper.
Combine everything and let sit for about 20-30 to wilt brussels sprouts slightly.
My newest obsession is fresh buffalo milk mozzarella. It started yesterday when I was checking out The New York Times recipes (I get daily emails on recipes, and store “my recipes box” on their website—love it! See The New York Times Recipes and found the “Classic Caprese Salad” and noticed that the author recommended buffalo milk mozzarella. So I headed over to Fairway, found it and made the dish last night.
Buffalo milk mozzarella is made in Italy, where the perfect climate for it produces cheese that is richer than regular cow mozzarella. It is soft and basically has an incredible “mouthfeel”. It is unbelievably good.
Many have tried but failed to produce anything comparable to Italian buffalo mozzarella, but there is one farm that makes artisanal buffalo milk mozzarella in the U.S. A place called Remini Mozzarella in Tomales, California, they do tours on Saturdays and I want to go!
When treated with affection and care, buffalo are as loving as dogs, according to the owner. At this farm, they handle all the buffalo and their babies and the animals produce milk only when they want to on a reward system. Ramini Mozzarella
The mozzarella from Fairway came in a bag with liquid.
Not sure how it stays fresh, because I read that the shelf life is only a few days—but I guess the liquid keeps it good. I will explore what buffalo mozzarella is at Zabar’s, because I can and because they have an amazing selection of cheeses. (Plus I got the only container they had at Fairway and am already worried about future supplies!)
So I made the Caprese salad with turkey meatloaf and zucchini salad. The Caprese salad was amazing, with tomatoes from a farm stand on Long Island that I got last weekend. And, of course the mozzarella.
The turkey meatloaf is a nice recipe, but I must admit, it holds together better with the addition of panko, which I left out.
Mine was a little different, because I used grape tomatoes instead of regular sized Heirlooms. I cut up the mozzarella and tomatoes into small bite-sized pieces, and chiffonade-cut the basil. Then I added a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and tossed everything.
1-2 zucchini, ends removed and sliced into ¼” slices
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 400. Place zucchini in a single layer on a sheet pan and coat with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast 7-10 minutes until slightly brown. Place zucchini in a bowl, add vinegar and toss.
Serves 4; preheat oven to 350
1 pound ground turkey
4 scallions chopped or 1 small red onion thinly sliced on a mandolin, chopped and squeezed
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt & Pepper
Handful parsley, chopped fine
½ package of unflavored gelatin (I add this to all my meatloaves because it gives it a nice texture. There is a scientific reason behind it, but the cookbook that explains it is in storage. Try it!)
½ cup panko or breadcrumbs if you are not restricting carbs
Mix the gelatin with the milk and add the egg and let sit a few minutes to allow the gelatin to soften. Add remaining ingredients. Bake for 30 minutes in a meatloaf or cast iron pan.