Grilled Shrimp and Watermelon Greek Salad

It’s starting to get really hot over here in Los Angeles. Well in all honesty it’s been hot for a while now, but I’m just barely starting to notice it. The last thing anyone should be doing during this time of year is cooking in a hot kitchen for hours and hours. That sounds like torture. So to make things a little bit easier for us, I’m throwing this refreshing summer salad right at your face. Minus the standing over a hot grill/grill pan part, this is actually a quick and easy recipe that you can have ready in no time at all. The kind of recipe we need during the week. Sure, I have you grilling a few things along the way, so okay maybe we’re not avoiding the heat like I mentioned earlier BUT in my defense, the grilling part is super quick and the flavor you get from it is incredible, so it’s totally worth it. We can suffer for a few minutes all for the sake of food, right? Right. 

Have you ever had watermelon, mint and feta together? The combination is out of this world delicious. The kind of thing that upon first hearing about, you’re skeptical, because it sounds super suspicious so you eat it with caution, but three bites in and you’re hooked. It’ll be the best thing you’ll taste all summer trust me. When you throw grilled shrimp into the mix, all bets are off. Go home because this salad has just won at life. It was inspired by a salad I just recently tried at a restaurant. I won’t mention the name of it because it’s the type of establishment you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve eaten at. We don’t need to dwell on that piece of information though, let’s move on. Anyhow, the salad had mixed baby greens, watermelon, feta and a mint honey vinaigrette and it was everything I never knew I wanted. The watermelon was really refreshing because it was super cold and added a great texture to the salad, along with the salty bits of feta throughout. I know I’m going on and on about this salad (we get it Jonathan), but I was pleasantly surprised. So I decided to go home and give it a go and try to make it myself like the restaurant’s version, but completely different and nothing like the original.

Changing topics now, Julian and I are going to an event at La Brea Bakery tomorrow at their flagship store here in Los Angeles, which is La Brea Bakery’s hometown and it just so happens to be Julian and I’s hometown so it’s kind of meant to be. In honor of their Breaking Bread Tour (a bread truck going across country handing out free bread to people, dreams people dreams) which launches on Wednesday at the store, and in honor of summer I thought it would be the best idea I’ve ever had to come up with a recipe that goes well with grilled bread. Plus something about bread and salad together just makes me really happy. I can’t do fully healthy because then I feel like I’m not living my life to it’s fullest so I find myself getting a salad with a side of fries or salad with lots of croutons. That kind of thing because it just feels like the perfect balance. In this case, I’m using their organic wheat loaf which is the bee’s knees, if bees had knees. This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, I just really happen to love La Brea Bakery. I didn’t think it was possible but Julian probably loves it even more than I do, so I guess it’s a match made in heaven. The two of us around all of that bread, getting to learn about all of the behind the scenes and history of the Bakery, sounds pretty dangerous. We’ll probably clean out the place, watch out. To find out more about the Breaking Bread Tour and to follow the truck around to see if it’ll reach your city, check the site out here. (Again, not a sponsorship, just love bread. Can you blame me?!)

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Mediterranean Gyro Fries

The only thing better than crispy french fries is french fries topped with all of the things. You already know about my fascination and love for carne asada fries. Fries topped with cheese, grilled steak guacamole, tomato, sour cream and salsa verde. It’s a big thing here in Southern California, so if you haven’t tried them for yourself yet, I highly recommend it. If you have and you’ve fallen in love, just like I have, then I suggest you join me on my next french fry adventure. I’m now bringing you Mediterranean Gyro Fries. It’s all the things we love in gyros and Greek salad, piled on top of homemade crispy french fries. We can feel good about it because most of the ingredients are healthy. Most. I mean sure, there are fried potatoes at the base of this recipe and sure garlic aioli and feta cheese probably aren’t the healthiest BUT everything else is good for you and those definitely outweigh the irresistible ingredients. In my humble opinion. 

It’s Friday, we should be living life and not be worrying about anything for the next two days. We only live once. The weekend is for letting loose and having fun, but still being adults and making responsible decision. (That’s just in case my mamma is reading this, wink wink). I don’t know about you, but making and eating french fries all day long most definitely counts as having fun. I have to admit, homemade fries can be a little more work than we want to be doing on the weekend, but whenever crispy potatoes are the end result of anything, it instantly becomes worth all of the effort. There is no greater payoff. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth necessarily. I’d much rather skip dessert if it meant having a second helping of something savory, preferably something savory and deep fried. Cakes and cookies can come and go and I won’t budge, but as soon as fries (or potatoes in general) and cheese and bread come into the picture, I lose all self control. It’s a real problem. Send help. 

Lucky for us, it’s the weekend and I’m here to make sure we all lose our self control together. I’ve decided that my sole purpose in life is to tempt you with guilty food. I’ve been practicing my “Oooh ahhh, look at this. You know you want it. Come on, everyone else is eating it,” lines to throw at you. It helps to be prepared. It’s also a lot more fun when you have someone else being gluttonous alongside you, isn’t it? Gorging on a big pile of fries all by yourself is just sad, although not the worst thing that can happen I must admit. I’m sure there are worse punishments in life. This recipe is definitely worth sharing, so grab your friends, your family, your pets and eat like the kings and queens you are. 

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Mediterranean Taquitos

It doesn’t take a lot for me to be impressed with food. I love food so much that I try not to discriminate against anything—except for my hatred of coconut and mango but that’s a story for another time—so I’ll essentially eat everything that is presented to me and I’ll thoroughly enjoy it too. I tend to get really excited over the simplest of dishes. They don’t necessarily have to be super fancy with a million ingredients, half of which I can’t even pronounce, in order for me to like it. Where’s the fun in that? Good food can be simple and you don’t have to sell your arm or your leg to get it either. I’m all for trying new things and expanding palate because I’m a firm believer of having to try everything at least once before writing it off as something I do not care for. How else will you know if you like something or not, if you don’t try it? There’s nothing more unnerving, or scary for that matter, then when I overhear people say they don’t like a certain dish or ingredient, yet they’ve never tried it before and refuse to give it a chance. Come on, let’s be more adventurous. Food isn’t scary. Food is delicious.

A few weeks ago I visited a Mediterranean restaurant by my place—we’ve made a promise to venture out and explore our neighborhood more because there are so many options close by to us and yet we always end up going to the same restaurants—and they make the very best Greek-style street food around. I decided to try something new and picked the Mediterranean Taquitos, although if I’m being honest I probably would’ve picked the taquitos regardless because I happen to really love taquitos. But that’s not the point of this story. They were incredible and I couldn’t stop talking about them all night so Julian eventually told me to make them for my blog, mainly because he wanted some at home but also because I’m sure he wanted me to stop talking about them. Little did he know that I’d still be talking about them till this day and now I’m mentioning them even more because I’ve just barely shared them with you. 

I’ll be talking about these taquitos for a while, and no one can stop me. Can you blame me though? I know that when you give them a try yourself, you’ll be talking about them too. Go ahead and make them already so we can have a discussion around the water cooler. There’s so much to talk about, like the delicious yogurt-marinated chicken filling, the flaky lavash and of course that creamy feta and olive sauce on top of a crisp Greek-salad topping. It doesn’t get any better than that. 

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Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza)

I’ve been on a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean kick lately, as I’m sure you can tell with this recipe and the couscous a couple posts back. I think I’ll go on record to say that this is my favorite cuisine. Ever. In fact I’ll even go as far as to say that hummus is my favorite thing on the planet. Period. Point blank. I’d eat it every single day, If my mom would let me, but sadly I can already hear the “you need a well balanced meal, eat something else” lectures. Unfortunately this isn’t a hummus post so let’s turn our attention back to what’s important. Although this here is a hummus post. I don’t use the word “favorite” lightly (insert montage of the 250 times I’ve used it on the blog so far) so this is some serious stuff, but not really because I actually say it all the time. I have a new favorite every day. I’m sure half of you are looking at the title and content of this post and thinking “oh my gosh, what in the world did Jonathan make? Is he crazy or something? He’s lost his mind. What is this weird flatbread looking thing with the reddish-brown stuff on top?” Well, if you’re not familiar with this dish, you’ve been missing out and quite frankly I feel sorry for you. But have no fear, I’m glad to be the one to open your eyes. I feel honored. On the other hand, the rest of you are intrigued and maybe thinking, that Jonathan sure knows what he’s doing. He’s such a smarty pants, and what do you know I am wearing my smart pants today. Whichever group you fall under, you’re all right. I have lost my mind, but in the best way possible, I promise. I’m coo coo for lahmacun, what can I say?

I know right off the bat that this post will probably—okay most definitely— bomb and go down in flames. (Weeeeeeeewhoosssshh KA-BOOM! See that friends? That’s the post going down in fiery flames!) Most people won’t like or appreciate it as much as I do, and I’m okay with that. More lahmacun for me. Really though, what isn’t there to like? Crispy flatbread topped with seasoned meat and veggies? Yes please, count me in. I’m all about different textures and flavors when it comes to eating, so I decided to make a homemade tzatziki sauce to go on top of it. I live for the heat—hot from the oven not spicy heat—from the pizza and the cool freshness from the cucumber yogurt sauce. And because I know my mom would be reading this, I topped it with diced tomatoes and shredded purple and green cabbage. I’m sure she would have disagreed with me just eating bread and meat so I had to throw a few more veggies in there somehow. Plus I really like purple cabbage. In all honesty I just love the way it looks. It’s bright purple for crying out loud! For those of you who do know what I’m talking about and happen to love this dish as much as I do, well then, we’re now best of friends, write to me every five minutes. We’ll share a few Turkish pizzas together and eat hummus everyday. It’ll be a blast, I assure you.

We’re dividing this recipe into three acts, as if it were a delicious play or story we’re unfolding. It’s really just so I can justify the fact that I was dying to play with my new chalkboard and take some fun photographs. So that’s what I did. I mean after all I did go through all that trouble of painting and making the chalkboard so why not use it? The first act is the crust. That’s what we’re going to work on first as it needs to rest the longest.

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Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Let’s just face the cold hard facts. Sometimes it’s way too hot to get in the kitchen and rattle them pots and pans (sorry Bill Haley) over the fire or heaven forbid, turning on the oven. Talk about torture. On those days I just don’t eat. No I’m kidding (mamma, of course I eat). On those days I actually try not to cook. I guess I should say I don’t like to make extravagant meals, slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end, because I actually do cook, they’re just super fast dishes with minimal actual “cooking” involved. Not to mention, who wants to eat a hot meal when it’s deplorably hot outside as well? I don’t folks, I don’t. That’s when these easy and refreshing meals come into the picture. Recipes that cool me down without making me spend too much time in the heat of the kitchen. Recipes that are super easy to put together, and utilize ingredients I already have on hand in the fridge or pantry because the last thing I need is to have to go to the market to buy ingredients for dinner. Is it too much to ask for to have such recipes at my disposal? No, not really. That’s totally reasonable. Yes I just answered my own question and no I’m not ashamed of it. Welcome to the inside of my head ladies and gentleman.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that I’ve put up a healthy recipe on here. High-fives and pats on the back are totally appreciated. I’ll even accept some A-OK’s and thumbs up. I mean I deserve brownie points for such a feat. Cue the flying pigs. Start the freezing over of hell. For the greater part, most of my recipes are rich desserts that are full of butter and sugar and chocolate and you know what, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what breakfasts of champions are made of. I just don’t want you guys to think that’s all I bake and cook and eat so I thought I’d show some variety with this dish, which I happen to make at home all the time. It’s a hit. Just ask my family, they’d tell you, “It’s a hit!” I may or may not have paid them to say that, no big deal. So why not let it be a hit at your house too? You can even take all the credit, go ahead I’m giving you permission. When someone asks you how’d you come up with such a delicious recipe you can say you made it up. “I don’t know how I come up with such things. I surprise myself sometimes. I guess I’m a genius.” Look at that, I’m even telling you what to say. Free of charge. You can pay me by making the recipe and trying it out for yourself. And if you want to invite me over to help you eat it, well I won’t complain.

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Hummus

Hummus…Hummus…Hummus. Where do I even begin with this one? It’s really simple to make, yet packed with so much great intense flavor. I know many of you might be tempted to buy this dip/spread at the market, like at Trader Joe’s. You know who you are. Now I don’t have a problem with the hummus at Joe’s, I actually think its pretty good, but I definitely would choose the homemade one any time. I think the hardest part about this recipe is trying to figure out how to put the lid on the food processor right, and turn it on. Seriously, it’s a challenge for me at times. I’ll spend 10 minutes struggling with the lid and trying to turn it on, before I realize that the bowl isn’t locked in properly. Its actually a funny sight. But this one is extremely easy. Just dump it all into the food processor and pulse it until creamy and smooth. Make sure the bowl and blade are locked in properly. Easy right?

This actually happens to be one of The Canadian’s favorite snacks. He eats it at work, on breaks. So here’s another vegetarian one for him, and all you out there who don’t eat meat, and want a healthy snack packed with protein. Make it for yourselves just once, and you wont go back to Joe. Want to make it even healthier? Skip the pita bread that I served it with, and place carrot and celery sticks around instead. But come on….you have to give me a break here. I’m already not having meat, you gotta let me still have my bread. I need my carbs.

I thought, for some weird reason, that it would be cool if I shot this one entirely in vertical shots. So that’s what I did, all for except two, other than the first one and one of the very last, each shot is vertical and from up high. It was a nice change, I’m usually stuck with a horizontal mindset.

Okay enough of my yapping:

Once you have all your ingredients ready, grab your food processor.

Again, make sure its locked properly before you pour in the ingredients. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve placed all the stuff inside and then tried turning it on, only to find out the blade isn’t hooked properly. Which then forces me to empty all my ingredients and fix the blade. And pour everything back in.

Me and electric gadgets and gizmos don’t always see eye to eye.  They like to mess with me.

Open your canned garbanzo beans, drain and rinse under cold water in a sieve.

Reserve some of the liquid of the beans, for later.

Dump them into the food processor bowl.

Throw in some Tahini paste. Which is just ground up sesame seeds. This is a classic hummus ingredient, you can find it anywhere now.

Next, peel three garlic cloves and add them to the mix.

You need garlic, another level of great flavor. Don’t skip it, if you’re not a big fan of raw garlic, just use less.

Grate in some lemon zest.

Only the yellow part of the skin, once you start going into the white pithy part, it gets bitter, and we don’t want bitter hummus. So only grate the yellow part.

Now juice some lemons and throw it in.

Please, please, please, DO NOT use that already juiced “lemon” product in a bottle. Squeeze out some fresh lemon juice. You’ll see, it provides much better flavor than that supposed lemon juice from the green bottle.

Season with Salt and Pepper, Paprika, and Cumin.

Throw in some Parsley, olive oil and a little bit of Rosemary.

My sister and her friend would be happy campers right about now. One is obsessed with garlic, and the other is addicted to rosemary. It’s in everything they make.

No kidding.

Everything.

Place the lid over the food processor.

Now turn it on and blend until everything is smooth and combined and the hummus is creamy.

It might take a bit for it all to come together, especially if you packed it up to high heaven like I did.

If you find that it isn’t blending, grab that reserved garbanzo bean liquid we saved earlier.

Add it to the hummus, slowly, while the processor is on. Stream it in, until it’s creamy and smooth. You don’t have to use the garbanzo bean liquid. If you’d like, you can use water instead.

I like that little bit of added flavor, so I just use that reserved liquid.

Take off the lid and scrape down the sides of the bowl, with a spatula, to make sure everything gets well blended.

Oh and look at that. What do you know…..

He’s baaaaaaaack!!!

I think it’s my duty, now, to feature him in some way, shape or form, in every post….or at least until you guys get bored of seeing him.

Let me know if his little precious face starts to bug you. I’ll stop.

What?!? I can stop. But why would you want me to? Just look at him.

Once he scrapes down the sides, replace the lid.

Pulse once again until smooth and creamy.

Look how much fresher this looks rather than the store bought one.

No artificial flavors, additives or preservatives, thank you very much. Just pure, fresh, and simple ingredients that we can all pronounce.

Try a spoonful, no one will know. And if they do catch you, just tell them you’re head of quality control.

You’re doing them a favor. Tasting it to make sure it’s good enough for them to eat.

Pour it into a bowl and make it presentable for your guests.

Even if you’re the only one eating it, make it presentable for yourself. You count. You deserve it.

I sprinkled it with a little paprika, just for color. And put a sprig of parsley. Go all out. Be fancy.

I couldn’t resist having at least two horizontal shots. Oops.

Make yourself a little plate. I served it with warmed pita bread. You can toast them in the oven as well and make them into Pita Chips.

Or like I said earlier, you can serve it with fresh cut veggies.

Although I do have to pass on something to you all. The Canadian shared with me his secret way of eating hummus. Apparently I was eating it wrong. He gave me some useful tips. Even photographed it for me so I wouldn’t get lost.

I’ll reenact it for you, and share his secrets. Don’t tell him I told you though.

The Canadian prefers eating it with a cracker. Triscuits to be exact.

**This is a reenactment**

Grab yourself a cracker, like a triscuit or a wheat thin will do just fine.

This was my first mistake, I ate it with pita bread. What was I thinking?

You then schmear it with the hummus. Don’t dip it, spread it. That is very important. You want to make sure to coat the entire cracker.

That was my second mistake, I’m a dipper from way back.

And then you eat it. Take a bite.

So there you have it, The Canadian’s secret. It’s genius. That’s the only way I’m eating hummus from now on.

Go on and make it, it’s great for parties and family get togethers. Your guests will love it.

Enjoy.

Hummus

Ingredients:
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 cups canned Garbanzo Beans, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 8 tablespoons freshly squeezed Lemon Juice (3 lemons)
  • 4 tablespoons water or liquid from the garbanzo beans
  • 2 tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 Paprika, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tbs Parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped Rosemary
Preparation:

Drop in all the ingredients into the food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, with a rubber spatula, periodically to make sure you get all the ingredients well incorporated. Taste seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Serve chilled or at room temperature with warmed pita, crunchy pita chips, or fresh veggies.

Enjoy.