Archive for the ‘main course’ Category

Disappearing Zucchini Orzo

I traveled to Chicago for work the other month and had dinner with one of my dear friends, The Parakeet.   We both support the idea of buying locally grown food and she recommended the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver.  Its the story of a family that eats only local produce and meat for an entire year — quite the challenge!

The book was great, and the chapter on zucchini cracked me up.  It describes how zucchinis are so prolific during the summer months in the author’s farming community that people are desperate to get rid of them.  The author’s family would routinely come home to find a gift bag full of zucchini anonymously left hanging from their mailbox.  And instead of being mad, they’d think, “that is a *great* idea!”

In the spirit of being over-zucchinified (yes, that is a word), they came up with the recipe below, which I have adapted slightly, to help their zucchini disappear.  It uses a ton of the vegetable, and I was nervous I would be asking myself the question “would you like some orzo with your zucchini?”  But the final product definitely does not taste over-zucchinified…its fresh and delicious.  Perfect for me, since even the one plant’s worth of zucchini I have is a lot for just one person to eat!  I even got to put the onions in it since the zucchini had already disqualified it from BK consumption!


¾ pound orzo pasta
1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic
3 large zucchini

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
½ cup grated parmesan or any hard yellow cheese
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Bring 6 cups water or chicken stock to a boil and add pasta.  Cook al dente.

Use a cheese grater or mandoline to shred zucchini, sauté briefly with chopped onion and garlic until lightly golden.  Add spices to zucchini mixture, stir thoroughly, and then remove mixture from heat.

Combine with cheese and cooked orzo, salt to taste, serve warm or at room temperature.

Slightly adapted from “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” by Barbara Kingsolver.


Mexican Club Sandwich

Years ago, our local paper published the recipe for one of my favorite mexican restaurant’s club sandwich.   It quickly became a staple at our mealtimes, but has been on an extended moratorium lately.   A while back, I was heading out on a longer-than-usual work trip and made a batch of these for BK to eat while I was gone.  I know some might think that this was very old-fashioned of me, but really its just practical: I worry that if I don’t make food, I will come home to find BK has starved to death while standing in front of our pantry full of food and insisting that there is nothing to eat.

In any case, after eating four of these sandwiches in a few days, BK informed me he would not be able to stomach another for quite some time.  But the other week I informed him that I thought we should lift the moratorium.  He agreed we were ready.  And I’m so glad.  These sandwiches have everything: the four different kinds of protein make it hearty and satisfying; the onion slices provide a nice crunch; the jalapeno and chipotle give it a kick; the avocado adds a wonderful cool creaminess; and toasting it pulls everything together.

They keep pretty well, so feel free to bring the extras for lunch the next day.  For best leftover results, I’d recommend assembling ahead of time, but grilling and inserting the avocado right before you eat.  If that isn’t possible, make the full sandwich ahead of time and nuke it (with the avocado temporarily removed) for a bit before you eat.


4 slices bacon, cut in half to form 8 short pieces
2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 thin slices ham, cut in half to form 8 pieces
1 ½ tablespoons chipotle adobo sauce (from a can of adobo chili peppers)
1 ½ tablespoons low-fat sour cream
1 ½ tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
4 hoagie rolls or 4 ciabatta rolls about 6 by 4 ½ inches
1 can nonfat refried beans
4 ounces shredded or thinly sliced Chihuahua cheese (may substitute sliced muenster or provolone cheese)
½ cup thinly sliced white onion
2 pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and cut into thin slices


Heat a nonstick grill pan or George Foreman over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp; transfer to drain on paper towels.

While the bacon is cooking, cut each piece of chicken horizontally to form 2 equal portions, for a total of 4; place between 2 layers of plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness of 1/2 inch. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper to taste.

Wipe the excess fat from the grill pan or George Foreman, add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes on 1 side until lightly browned, then turn and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the ham to the grill pan or George Foreman for a few minutes to crisp it up a bit.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

While the chicken and ham are cooking, combine the chipotle adobo sauce, sour cream and mayonnaise in a small bowl.

Cut the rolls in half lengthwise. Line them up on a large cutting board or work surface covered with wax paper. Spread the chipotle mixture on the cut sides of the bottom halves of the ciabatta; spread the refried beans on the cut sides of the top halves. Cut the chicken into pieces as necessary to cover the chipotle spread. Layer the ham, crisped bacon and cheese, pressing down as you go. Scatter the onion and jalapeno pepper slices on the cheese, and complete the sandwiches with the top halves of the ciabatta.

If necessary, spray the same grill pan with nonstick cooking oil spray and heat over medium to medium-low heat; as an alternative, heat a George Foreman grill or panini press.  Add as many sandwiches as will fit, bottom side down, weighing them down (if using a grill pan) with a heavy cast-iron skillet or a plate with heavy cans on top.  If using a grill pan, cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned and crisp and turn the sandwiches over and cook about 2 minutes on the second side.  If using a George Foreman or panini press, grill for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp .  Transfer the sandwiches to the cutting board or work surface and open them between the chicken and ham layers. Add several slices of avocado and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Re-close the sandwiches.  Invert to right side up and cut in half, pressing down firmly.  Serve warm.

Adapted from “Rosa’s New Mexican Table,” by Roberto Santibanez, via The Washington Post, June 2007.

BBQ Chicken and Grilled Veggie Revelation

My feelings about BBQ chicken could have really been summed up as “meh.”  Until now.  It was BK’s turn to pick dinner and BBQ chicken it was.  I faithfully basted the little guys with some BBQ sauce and let them sit for a few hours.  Then we grilled.

Well, I don’t even know what to say.  They were crispy and carmelized and BK cooked them just perfectly.  Its been two days and I can’t stop thinking about that amazing BBQ chicken…

Who knew?

Same with the vegetables.  I don’t dislike veggies, but I don’t gobble them up.  But zucchini, onions, potatoes, asparagus or peppers brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with some coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, then grilled so they have a bit of char on them?  So good.  I know this probably falls into the “how were you so completely unaware of this” camp, but I just love them.  And lucky for me, BK hates onions and zucchini, so I get them all to myself.  I gobbled them up.  Just like a turkey.  Gobble gobble.

P.S.  In case you were wondering, that first home-grown zucchini tasted amazing.  Like freshness and butter and hard, hard work battling amazon plants and bugs.

Sirloin and Summer-Vegetable Kebabs with Chimichurri

The cavemen had it right: fire + meat = deliciousness.

My husband, BK, and I moved in the fall and now have a deck with a grill.  I have quickly become obsessed with grilling, so much so that BK has suggested we buy a propane reader, stat.

The recipe is perfect for summer.  We actually put all kinds of veggies on the kebabs…squash, zucchini, red and green peppers, tomatoes, onions…although only I eat the onions.  BK has termed onions “weird” and “evil” and refuses to eat them or anything else in the “onion family,” which he broadly defines to include scallions, leeks, shallots, and chives.

I’ve made the chimichurri with dried herbs before out of desperation …its not perfect, but it’ll do…you just have to let the dried herbs sit in the liquid for a while so they aren’t crunchy.


1 pound beef sirloin tips (cut into 1 ½ inch pieces)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 medium zucchini
1 small yellow summer squash
1 onion
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano
2 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt


Marinate beef sirloin tips in 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and freshly ground pepper in a shallow dish for 30 minutes. Soak 4 wooden skewers in water. Meanwhile, slice zucchini and summer squash into 1/2-inch rounds. Cut onion into wedges and red bell pepper into 1-inch pieces.

Heat grill to medium-high. Thread beef onto skewers, alternating with vegetables. Grill for 7 to 8 minutes per side. Whisk together parsley, fresh oregano, garlic cloves, extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon juice, and coarse salt. Drizzle sauce over kebabs.

Source: Martha Stewart Living

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