14 March 2010

21-Day Purification: The Final Countdown

We're through Day 16 of The Process and feeling great!  We have reintroduced lean meat and fish into the diet, and this evening we had some neighbors over for dinner.  The menu included grilled salmon, portabellas, tomatoes, and beans.  (Obviously, the beans were not grilled.)  It was also the 2010 debut for The Big Green Egg.  She had been hibernating in her Big Green blanket since November, and she seems to have weathered the record-breaking snowy winter without a shiver.  Friday marks the conclusion of The Process, and we'll be crowning our achievement by resuming our neighborhood happy hour tradition here at the house.

Back to tonight's dinner event, it was a fairly straightforward affair.  I marinated/glazed the salmon with a modified vinaigrette dressing.  It was very heavy on the garlic, and I let it marinate for about 30 minutes in the glaze before grilling.  By grilling the salmon skin-side-down on foil, the skin sticks to the foil after grilling and the fish lifts right off of the skin.  The portabellas were brushed with olive oil on both sides just before grilling, and then I drizzled some balsamic vinegar into the underside of the caps.  The tomatoes were straight out of an English breakfast, but "broiled" up-side-down on the grill to render a beautiful carmelization and grill marks.  (As the proverb goes, you eat with your eyes first.)  As they were approaching doneness, I turned the tomatoes over such that they were cut-side-up, drizzled them with some balsamic, and dusted them with our new favorite organic seasoning, Spike Vegit.

Here's the menu:

Grilled Portobella Caps

4 portabella mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
seasoning to taste

Preheat oven to 200F.
Brush both sides of the mushrooms with olive oil.  Drizzle the vinegar into the caps, about 1 teaspoon each.  Sprinkle with seasoning.  Let rest face-up for 2-3 minutes so the mushrooms can absorb the vinegar.
Place on the hot grill underside-down.  When the mushroom starts to shrivel (4-5 minutes), flip them and grill an additional 3-4 minutes.
Remove from grill, cover with foil, and keep warm in the oven.

Grill-"Broiled" Tomatoes

4 small hot-house tomatoes, top quarter removed
olive oil
seasoning to taste
balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 200F.
Drizzle the exposed flesh of the tomato with a little olive oil.
Place flesh-side-down on the hot grill.  When the tomatoes start to soften (3-4 minutes), turn them over and drizzle the exposed flesh with some of the vinegar.  Continue grilling flesh-side-up until the tomatoes are tender, about 3 minutes more.  (Hey!  The tomatoes take about as long as the mushrooms!)
Remove from grill, cover loosely with foil, and keep warm in the oven.

Grilled Salmon

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup minced garlic (This sounds like a lot, and it is, but remember that 1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons.)
2 tablespoons dill weed
fresh-ground pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 salmon fillet, skin-on, about 1-1/2 pounds
6-8 thin lemon slices

Make the marinade by combing the first 6 ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk briskly to blend.
Place the salmon skin-side-down on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil slightly larger than the fillet.  Turn up the edges of the foil to prevent the marinade from dripping over the edge.  Brush 2/3 of the marinade over the flesh of the salmon.  Let marinate out of the refrigerator 20-30 minutes.
Transfer the foil and fish to the hot grill.  Close the grill lid and maintain a temperature of 350F.  After 10 minutes, pour the remaining marinade over the fish and continue grilling with the lid closed until done.  My fish was about an inch at the thickest, and I grilled it for 18 minutes.
Remove the fish and foil from the grill and use a spatula to divide the fish into 4 equal pieces.  Serve each with one of the cooked lemon slices.  For a more dramatic presentation (remember, eyes first), grill 4 new lemon slices on one side for about a minute and place atop the fish (grill marks up) before serving.

As you can tell, balsamic vinegar is one of our favorite ingredients.  In addition to being a marvelous marinade for meat and fish, it also makes a great semi-sweet reduction.  Drizzle the reduction over fresh berries and vanilla ice cream for a deliciously decadent dessert.  And if that's not enough, Tom mixes a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar with 8 ounces (a high-ball's worth) of soda water for a refreshingly dry tonic.

To quote Einstein, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."  This dinner was simply sensational.

08 March 2010

21-Day Purification: Half Way There!

Today was Day 10, and we're still going strong.  I have increased energy during the day, sleep much better at night, and have shed a few pounds along the way.  I also now find that when my alarm clock sounds at 6:00 AM for me to get up for my 7:00 AM conference call, it is much easier to get out of bed right away without hitting the snooze button countless times.  This purification thing is not all bad!

Tonight, we prepared one of our best dinners, yet, since embarking on this three-week adventure.  We had some odds and ends left in the refrigerator that needed to be cooked or composted.  These included:

a zucchini
some white onions
some mushrooms
baby spinach

I concocted a stuffed zucchini main course (remember, we ain't eatin' meat).  Tom sweated the spinach with some fantastic smoked garlic cloves he had gotten a few days ago at Whole Foods.  We needed a third item on the plate, so we cooked some frozen Lima beans; it had been years since I had Lima beans, and I had forgotten how buttery, starchy, and delicious they are.  We finished our three-veggie medley with a sliced avocado (from Mexico!) sprinkled with Spike Vegit seasoning - our new all-natural organic favorite.  (Thanks to the Richeys for that recommendation!)

The Process allows us to start having fish and lean meat tomorrow, but we will continue preparing and enjoying these hearty vegetable dishes for the remainder of the 21-day process and long after that!

Stuffed Zucchini for Two

1 zucchini
2 small white or yellow onions, chopped
6 medium mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F.
Slice the zucchini in half length-wise.  Use a spoon to dredge out the seeds down the center of each half, about 1/2 inch deep.  Discard the seeds.  Sprinkle the flesh of the zucchini generously with sea salt.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Use a paper towel to wipe off excess salt and rendered water from the surface of the flesh.
Brush the flesh side of zucchini lightly with olive oil.  Place flesh-side-up on a baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the zucchini is slightly softened.
Meanwhile, saute the onions in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 4-5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and seasoning, and saute for 3-4 minutes longer.  The mixture should be dry.  Remove from heat.
Spoon the onion and mushroom mixture into the troughs of the zucchini slices, pressing down with the inverted spoon to pack it in.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Return to oven and bake 15-20 minutes more until the stuffing is heated through and the edges of the zucchini start to brown.

NOTE:  This would be great with some Parmesan cheese mixed into the partially cooled onion and mushroom mixture before stuffing.  It would also be great topped with a dusting of Parmesan.  I omitted the Parmesan in ours because The Process doesn't allow dairy during the 21 days.

Another NOTE:  There are two reasons for generously salting the exposed zucchini flesh:  (1)  It seasons the "base" of this dish.  You can salt it heavier than you normally would because you're going to wipe most of it off.  (2)  Rendering some of the moisture from the zucchini prevents it from getting soggy as it bakes.

Some day I will remember to photograph this stuff before we devour it.  Until then, though, you'll just have to imagine how pretty the plated food was or, even better, prepare it for yourself!

03 March 2010

21-Day Purification: Days 2-4

The Process is going well.  After the Day 1 smoothie snafu, we now have that process down to a science.  And along the way, we have learned lots of different ways to season and serve fruits, vegetables, and condiments.  It turns out that with a good mix of fruit and veggies at each meal, the cravings for meats and sweets are WAY diminished.

Our day 2 dinner is a case in point.  Tom went to the local Half Price Books bookstore and found a large hard-bound vegetarian cookbook marked down to $9.98.  In it, he found a recipe for Sesame Eggplant.  The problem with that recipe, though, is that seeds are forbidden on The Process.  No problem, though; there are enough other flavors in this that omitting them was a no-brainer.

The broccoli is simple and delicious.  You can spice it up as much or as little as you want (with allowable spices, of course).  When roasting it, just be sure to check it regularly to make sure it's not over-cooked.  Nobody like soggy droopy broccoli spears.

The salad dressing is rich in flavor and versatile, with the Tamari giving it a nice Asian tint.

Sesame Eggplant Sans Sesame

large skillet
flat-bottom dish or zipper bag for marinating

1 standard eggplant or 4 Japanese ones
2 tablespoons Tamari (soy sauce made without wheat)
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Garlic-Chili Roasted Broccoli

large mixing bowl
sheet pan

1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Spike seasoning
1 large head broccoli, cut into thing long spears

Prehead oven to 425F.
Place the oil, garlic, chili powder, and Spike in the mixing bowl.  Add the broccoli and coat evenly.  Place broccoli on the sheet pan.
Roast until the ends are crisp and brown and the stalks are just tender, abut 15 minutes.

Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Marinate in Tamari for 1 hour.
Heat the oil in the skillet.  Add the ginger and brown the eggplant, turning it several time adding water (not more oil) as needed to keep it moist until tender.
Sprinkle with lemon juice and parsley.

Ginger Dressing


1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon Tamari

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until the oil is emulsified and the mixture looks creamy, 1-2 minutes.

We've had this dressing with cucumber and tomato salad (pictured), spinach and mushroom salad, and as a dip for crudites.  Store left over dressing in the fridge for 2 or 3 days.  Note that after a few hours it will go "flat" and separate; you can reconstitute it (make it thick again) in the blender, or if you don't mind it being a little runny, just shake or whisk it to mix.

The only thing I really miss now is sashimi.  But we can have that starting next week (with wheat-free soy sauce, of course), so we'll see you then, Fai and Rex!