Watermelon-Jalapeno Margarita

Summer Watermelon-Jalapeño Margarita

Summer Watermelon-Jalapeño Margarita

It’s hot outside and what goes better with a hot summer afternoon than watermelon. Well, there are more than a few ways to enjoy your watermelons. We recently bought a large watermelon that was bigger than we expected. Our housekeeper suggested that we make watermelon water, which we did.

Once we tried the watermelon water, we knew we had to try it in an adult beverage so we tried our hand at a margarita and we both think it turned out great.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon diced
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar (you can substitute honey)
  • 1 cup tequila,
  • 1/4 cup triple sec.
  • 2 cups of ice
  • 1 jalapeno, cut into 1/4 inch licked
  • 12 to 15 fresh mint leaves (you can substitute fresh basil)

Instructions

Mix the watermelon, lime juice, water, agave, tequila and triple sec in a blender and blend until super smooth. Stir in the ice, half the jalapeno slices and half of the mint leaves. (Do not blend the jalapeno slices, just stir them in with the ice) The remaining jalapeno slices and mint leaves are to garnish your drinking glasses. Stir very well and serve.

If you want your drink a little sweeter you can stir in some additional agave or some sugar. You can also taste your watermelon before you start mixing it. If the watermelon isn’t very sweet, you can throw in a few pieces of cantaloupe to add some natural sweet flavor.

Grilled Salmon with Basil & Mint Pesto

We have a mint plant that is very generous with its leaves. Meaning, we can’t use it fast enough. We also have a basil plant we got from Trader Joe’s which needed to be cut back a bit. So, I started looking for new ideas of uses for them. It just so happened that we also bought a large salmon steak earlier in the week. After searching the internet for inspiration, I settled on this simple recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 piece of salmon (or steelhead trout)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Make your pesto by chopping your mint and basil leaves and put into a food processor. Add the chopped garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients together until you have a pesto consistency.

Salmon coated with basil and mint pesto

Salmon coated with basil and mint pesto

Coat your salmon with the pesto and let sit for at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

Heat your grill to high heat.

Place the salmon on a cedar plank or a grill plate. We don’t have any cedar planks so we just lightly sprayed non-stick oil on a grill plate and put the salmon on the plate in the center of the grill. Cook the salmon for 20 minutes over medium-high heat.

After a few minutes, our grill started to flare up, which is common for our grill. To resolve this, I turned off the heat directly under the salmon and then turned on the outer burners to high. Our grill cooks very hot so this was more than enough heat for our salmon.

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We  didn’t use all the pesto on the salmon and had some leftover. We used it to coat some zucchini noodles as a side dish. We also served it with some lentils. It was a great, easy dinner.

Couscous salad with butternut squash, mint, and arugula

I love fall and all the colors and flavors that come with it. The weather gets cooler and the food gets hardier. One of my favorite additions to our table are the squashes that start showing up at the market. I think the one I like most is butternut squash. This little guy is so versatile and tasty. We just found our first batch at Trader Joe’s. We bought 2 really large butternut squash and we’ll be able to make at least 4 recipes with them. Yippee!

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Related to my last post, I have a ton of mint that I don’t want to go to waste so of course I started looking for a recipe to combine my squash and mint. This one even added the Israeli Couscous that we love. This recipe is inspired by a vegetarian recipe I found that uses vegetable broth and adds currants. We changed it up to make it more savory and trying to highlight the earthiness of the arugula and squash.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups of 1/2 inch cubes peeled butternut squash
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 1/2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

Mix your squash and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl and season generously with the salt and pepper. Then transfer to a large baking sheet and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, turning once or twice with tongs or a spatula. Cook until the squash is fork tender. (As a side note, the squash is good just like this and you could eat it right away – we do this a lot) Let the squash cool.

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Using a medium sauce pan, combine 1 tablespoon oil, couscous, 1 teaspoon salt and the broth. Bring this mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed. Toss the couscous with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and spread on a large baking sheet to cool.wpid-israeli-couscous-with-butternut-squash.jpg.jpeg

When ready, toss the cooled couscous with the butternut squash, mint, and add the arugula. You can use this as a side salad or a light lunch. You could even turn it into a main entree by adding some grilled chicken strips to it.

We served our dish with the arugula covering the couscous salad. Next time, I think I will put the arugula on the base and cover the arugula with the couscous salad. We paired this with some herb brined roasted chicken.

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Potatoes with Ginger and Mint

Earlier this summer we bought a mint plant. It was part of our effort to create a more well-rounded herb garden. At some point we realized that 8 basil and 4 rosemary plants didn’t give us all the options we wanted. The mint plant has been the most bountiful but the problem is that we don’t really cook with mint, like ever. So, I’ve had to look up recipes for this culinary gem.

This time I chose potatoes because we have a bag of them and wanted to do something different with them .I was surprised that there were so many recipes that had potatoes and mint. I finally picked one from Martha Stewart as a starting point. Of course we modified it, mainly because I think she under seasons her food to make it more appealing to a wider audience. Sorry, but I like flavors so we doubled most of her ingredients!

This recipe has some ingredients that don’t sound like they should go together but it turns out really good. I guess if anything, I’d say it has a Middle Eastern flavor with a little Mediterranean influence.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 3 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3/4 cups fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime

Directions

First, heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Then, add the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of the ginger. (You’ll add the rest of the ginger towards the end) Cook this about 7 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are brown. Then season with salt and pepper.

Next, remove the pan from the heat and add the water. Stir in the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, cayenne pepper, cumin and turmeric. Then return to medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender and the water has evaporated. After about 10 minutes our potatoes were getting really tender but the water had not evaporated so we scooped out the potatoes and then reduced the water and then put the potatoes back in to finish them.

Finally, add the remaining ginger, the mint, lime zest, salt and pepper. Cook this until the mixture thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Once you’re done, stir in the lime juice.

We were really surprised by this recipe. You get a tartness from the lime but it’s not in your face and the mint gives just a subtle hint of sweetness without bringing a strong mint flavor to the dish.

Grilled Artichoke with Mint

I don’t know about you, but artichokes are a little intimidating to me. Up until last year, I had never eaten a fresh one. In fact, the only exposure I had to them came from bottled artichoke hearts. This changed last year at an AMICI dinner here in Austin, TX at Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant. We had the pleasure of sharing our table with Carmelo himself and he taught us how to eat a stuffed artichoke.

Last year we prepared a couple of stuffed artichokes and they did turn out great but I just purchased some from the new Trader Joe’s in Austin and wanted to try something different. I was surprised that I found some recipes to grill them but then again, it seems like you can find a recipe to cook just about anything on the grill if you look hard enough. This time I really wanted to try something with fresh mint because I just bought a mint plant for the patio. I found a few recipes so I just borrowed from all of them to create a recipe I wanted to try. I also learned that this is a traditional preparation from Rome, where they use a lot of mint.

Ingredients

  • 4 artichokes
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon mint, chopped

Directions

First, get a bowl of cold water and add the juice of 2 lemons. I know fresh lemons are best, but we didn’t have any so I used lemon juice concentrate, about 2 tablespoons.

Cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke and the bottom of the stem. Some people said to cut off all but 1 inch of the stem, however, I just cut of the bottom 1/4 inch and left the rest. It tasted great so I don’t recommend cutting it completely off. Next, snip off the sharp points of the leaves and pull off the tiny leaves near the base of the artichoke. If you have the lemons, rub the cut parts of the artichoke with your lemon to keep it from turning brown. Otherwise, just move on to the next step, which is to soak the artichokes in the lemon water mixture for about 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, rinse the artichokes and then place them in a steamer basket over simmering water and  allow them to cook for 25 to 35 minutes, until the heart is tender.

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Once steamed, allow them to cool. The picture above is one I took while out artichokes were cooling. Notice that they lose their bright green color during the steaming process and take on a camo-ish color. While the artichoke are cooling, prepare the butter mixture. Melt the butter in a glass bowl in your microwave or on the stove. Then add the olive oil, minced garlic and mint and then mix it thoroughly.

The, cut in half length wise and remove the fuzzy choke. I used a pairing knife along the bottom to give it a clean cut and then a spoon to scoop it out. This way, you don’t risk losing any of the tender heart. Now, brush all sides of each artichoke with the butter mixture. Try to get it under the leaves as you are brushing it by gently lifting the leaves and separating them. Save the remaining butter mixture for dipping at your table.

Grill the artichokes for 8 minutes under medium heat. You can vary the time a little depending on your grill. Start with the leaf side down and check them after 4 minutes. They should have a golden color with nice grill marks. Then, turn them over and repeat. This side will probably cook a little faster so keep an eye on them. One you pull them off the grill, you can drizzle them with some of the remaining butter. Serve them warm or at room temp.

grillingartichokesIn the picture above you can see our artichokes grilling. We also had grilled squash with our meal so on the right you can see the squash grilling.