Cucumber Mango Miso Noodle Bowls

Cucumber Mango Miso Noodle Bowls

A few weeks ago, while I was making a list of potential upcoming summer recipes, I asked Jack “hey, what’s a recipe you really want me to make?” In the past, answers to questions like that are usually “pretzels!” or “pizza!” but this time it was “an asian noodle salad.” I asked if he could be more specific but he said “I just really really love noodles – you know, when they’re tossed in an asian-ey kind of dressing.” Not a huge help, but at least it was something.

So on a Monday when I felt I could use a little reset after weekend-eating, his idea (with a ginger-y sauce) sounded pretty good. This recipe is not an authentic version of anything, but when I got around to making said “asian noodle salad,” this was what I happened to have: a bunch of cucumbers, a ripe mango, a few limes, a jalapeño, and a bunch of mint. At first, I wanted to add peppers, cabbage, and everything colorful, but then I realized that I could make something delicious without tossing in the kitchen sink.

Cucumber Mango Miso Noodle Bowls

The tangy miso-peanut sauce is the real star – it’s also become a go-to recipe lately because its ingredients are so easy to keep on hand. Miso paste lasts about 1 year in the fridge and I store my fresh ginger in the freezer. Peanut butter, garlic, limes, are all regulars around here.

The second time I made this recipe, I served it to my family and added tofu on top to make it a bigger meal – the tofu is not pictured here, but I’ve included a recipe below. This recipe serves 3 on its own or 4 if you add the tofu (or whatever protein you like – chicken, shrimp, salmon, etc).

If you don’t have vermicelli rice noodles, brown rice stir fry noodles (the flat, thicker noodles) work well here. Pasta would also be fine in a pinch.

Cucumber Mango Miso Noodle Bowls

Skinny Lemongrass Mojitos

Skinny Lemongrass Mojitos

Summer has officially begun this week – and we’re making mojitos!

I hope your herb garden is ready because instead of the basic mint mojito, these are made with lemongrass and basil as well. Basically, I like to build cocktails the same way I approach salads – the more fresh herbs and citrus, the better.

Skinny Lemongrass Mojitos

To make these “skinny,” I skipped the sugar and sweetened these with Truvia Natural Sweetener instead. It has no calories and it’s sweetness comes from the stevia leaf. Personally, I’d rather splurge on a dessert than on a sugary cocktail so I love that these mojitos are on the lighter side! Since stevia is sweeter than regular sugar, a little goes a long way. 1/2 teaspoon of Truvia is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Skinny Lemongrass Mojitos

For awhile, I was intimidated by preparing lemongrass – but it’s so easy! Just peel off the outer leaves, exposing the softer part of the stalk, like this:

Skinny Lemongrass Mojitos

The next step isn’t pictured, but you want to take the back of your chef’s knife and bash that inner stalk so that the flavors of the lemongrass release. After that, dice it finely like this:

Skinny Lemongrass Mojitos

Muddle the minced lemongrass with the rest of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker – then shake it up and pour!

Skinny Lemongrass Mojitos

Grilled Ratatouille Tartines

Grilled Ratatouille Tartines

I love ratatouille – eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes all mingling together with flavors of fruity olive oil, thyme, oregano, and fresh basil… But it’s summer and what I don’t love is standing over a hot stove. So I came up with this simple GRILLED version of ratatouille that takes all of about 15 minutes to make. It’s not at all authentic, but I love how the char of the grill flavors these vegetables.

For easy summer eating, I assembled these as toasts. They’re a delicious snack with wine – but they’re hearty enough to double as a light dinner.

Grilled Ratatouille Tartines Grilled Ratatouille Tartines

Once grilled, I chopped up the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and tossed them with sherry vinegar, garlic and herbs de provence (which is basically a mix of dried thyme, oregano, rosemary, marjoram and lavender). I supposed you could mix all of those spices together separately but trust me, it’s just easier to buy the spice mix – you’ll use it again and again if you love these flavors as much as I do.

Grilled Ratatouille Tartines

To get the vegetables to stick to the bread, I put a slather of plain hummus, though you could use a spread of goat cheese if you like. Again, not authentic, but I didn’t want the vegetables to fall all over the place upon first bite.

Grilled Ratatouille Tartines

Serve with chilled rosé (we like this one, pictured, by Charles & Charles – you can find it at Whole Foods) Cheers!

Grilled Ratatouille Tartines

Farmers Market Asparagus & Potato Pizza

Farmers Market Asparagus & Potato Pizza

If you caught Monday’s post, I wrote all about my strategy for coming up with a dinner recipe while shopping on the fly at the farmers market. And, drumroll please… here’s what I made! It’s a big green, veggie potato pizza loaded with chopped asparagus, asparagus ribbons, cheese, flowering thyme, chives, and those pretty chive blossoms that I got at Chicago’s Logan Square Farmers Market. It’s spring on a plate… or rather, spring on dough.

I know I say this all the time, but I LOVE letting local produce lead my meal planning. These fresh impromptu meals just really make me excited to make and play with food. Which is why we love this partnership with Sub-Zero – their Fresh Food Matters Initiative is all about getting into the kitchen to make meals for your family using fresh fruits and vegetables.

Farmers Market Asparagus & Potato Pizza

So let’s get cooking!

To make these pretty asparagus ribbons, you don’t need a fancy kitchen tool, just a regular vegetable peeler. This peeling technique works best with asparagus that’s on the medium-to-thick side so that you can get nice long peels. After you’re done peeling, chop up the bits that are left and toss those onto the pizza as well.

Layer the pizza with olive oil, garlic, cheese (I suggest gruyere or white cheddar – your favorite vegan cheese would work too), thinly sliced small potatoes and the chopped asparagus bits. Bake it until the potatoes and the dough are both nicely browned.

Farmers Market Asparagus & Potato Pizza

After the pizza comes out of the oven, layer on the pretty toppings – the asparagus ribbons, and chive blossoms if you have them (if you don’t – just use more chopped chives!)

Farmers Market Asparagus & Potato Pizza

Heat this up for a few more minutes so that the asparagus lightly wilts. Serve this fancy pizza with a pale rosé. Cheers!

Farmers Market Asparagus & Potato Pizza

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

The farmers market is my happy place for meal inspiration. When I feel really stuck in a cooking rut, I head to local weekend markets. Collecting fresh seasonal produce always helps me combine flavors in interesting ways (what grows together goes together), BUT it can be a little daunting to think on the fly at the market… especially if your goal is to come out with the ingredients to make that night’s meal. In the past, I’ve written about stocking up on produce and making a cooking plan for the week, but this time I’m going to focus on one task: how to go to the farmers market and gather ingredients for dinner that night.

For this post we’ve partnered with Sub Zero’s Fresh Food Matters initiative to share these ideas for cooking and eating real, fresh, locally-grown food – obviously a topic that I’m passionate about! Shopping local markets is my favorite way to connect with local growers and to support the community around me.

Now about dinner… A few Sunday’s ago, Jack and I headed to the Logan Square Farmers Market in Chicago. Having just moved from Austin to stay in Chicago for the summer, this market is pretty new to me (as is getting used to the midwest climate again) so I had no idea what produce to expect once we got there. During this little trip, I stuck by these guidelines, which work no matter where you are:

1. Have a plan, sort of.

Before you go to the market, have in mind some super basic meal formats that are adaptable to a wide range of produce. Things like pasta, pizza, tacos, frittatas, and big grain salads. Of course, you don’t have to stick to these exactly. Let inspiration hit you. But I find it helps to have a framework in mind so that my mind isn’t all over the place. For example, tons of spring vegetables can be grilled and tossed into a lemony pasta. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, leeks, etc. can be baked into a big frittata. Lots of vegetables can be chopped and creatively combined atop a pizza. You don’t have to reinvent the meal wheel to feel creative while cooking.

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

2. Walk the market once before making purchases.

This might sound obvious, but once I start seeing pretty vegetables, I get tempted to start collecting. Resist the temptation! It helps to take one inspirational lap before you start narrowing down a plan. This is also a great chance to talk to the vendors – you can ask where and how their produce was grown or ask them how to cook a particular ingredient that you’re not familiar with. In my case, I asked the guy at Sandbox Organics – “how do I use these gorgeous chive blossoms?” It turns out, you can use them just as you would the chive stems, they have a mellow onion flavor.

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

3. Build a meal around the 1 or 2 ingredients that look the best and that you were initially drawn to.

On this particular day – those chive blossoms had my heart the second I saw them, so I knew I would get those. At the same stand, the radishes also looked amazing, and later I came across some beautiful asparagus. Once the meal came together in my head, I went back and got them all.

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

4. Stop for a snack if you need a few minutes to jot down ideas.

If you feel stuck, grab a beverage, snack or lunch at the market (during our trip, we took a falafel break and enjoyed some music) and give yourself a few minutes to collect your thoughts. I like to write down all of the vegetables I was just inspired by before narrowing down to what I actually want to buy.

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

5. Finalize your plan and choose supporting items.

At this stage, I was thinking about perhaps an asparagus Niçoise salad with fresh eggs and chive blossoms. I remembered some potatoes that looked good that could fill out the meal. Asparagus soup with chive oil also sounded good – I had seen a vendor with some great baguette that would be yummy on the side. I also thought about a big veggie pasta dish (similar to this one), or a strawberry grain salad. Decisions, decisions…

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

Stay tuned for Thursday’s post to see what I made!

This post is in partnership with Sub Zero. Check out freshfoodmatters.com for some great seasonal guides to buying, storing, and preparing fresh produce and join the online conversation using #FreshFoodMatters!