Category Archives: Dinner Tonight

Grilled Vegetable Soup

On Saturday evening we enjoyed dinner outside on our screened porch with friends.   Yesterday, a cold front moved in and dropped the temperature 20 degrees! It was our daughter’s grade 4-6 lacrosse play off game, and we were bundled up cheering from the sidelines. With a victorious finish and championship t-shirt in hand, we headed home with a few hours until dinner. We were all a bit chilled from sitting outside in the drizzle and wanted something to warm us up…soup would do the trick! I had a bunch of veggies in the fridge, so we fired up the grill and I made Grilled Vegetable Soup.   Grilling the vegetables adds an amazing amount of flavor and depth.  Warm crusty bread perfect for dunking, helped us forget all about   feeling chilled.

The summers here in Virginia are incredibly hot…those days will be here before we know it, so having a chilly day now and then until the  heat sets in is just fine with me.

grilled-vegetable-soup Grilled Vegetable Soup

For grilled vegetables:

1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly  ground pepper
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
2 Japanese eggplant, ends trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise
1 large Portobello mushroom
1 red bell pepper, halved, seeded
1 yellow bell pepper, halved, seeded

Whisk olive oil and next 3 ingredients together in a 1 cup measuring glass. Place vegetables in a large zip-bag and pour  marinade over vegetables; seal bag and marinate 30 minutes at room temperature.
Heat grill to medium high heat; add vegetables to grill and cook until vegetables are charred and softened, turning halfway through cooking time: 5 minutes for asparagus, 8 minutes for mushroom and peppers, 10 minutes for eggplant. Transfer vegetables to cutting board and cut into 2-inch pieces; set aside.

For Soup:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped Vidalia onion
2 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, peeled, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can whole Plum tomatoes (I like San Marzano brand), chopped
3 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
8 cups vegetable broth
2 (14.5 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained
Grilled vegetables
Salt and Freshly ground pepper

Heat olive oil in stock pot; add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic and salt, cooking until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, rosemary, vegetable broth, and garbanzo beans and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add reserved grilled vegetables and stir to combine; cooking until grilled vegetables are heated through , about 5 minutes . Adjust seasonings with salt and freshly ground pepper.

4 servings


Grilled Grouper with Quinoa, Asparagus, Mint, and Meyer Lemon Dressing

 Grilled Grouper with Quinoa, Asparagus, and Meyer Lemon Dressing

Grilled Grouper with Quinoa,  Asparagus, Mint, and  Meyer Lemon   Dressing

As the season for Meyer lemons comes to a close (peek season is November-April) , I feel like every time I see them at the market I should pick up a few…just in case they are gone the next time I shop.  meyer-lemon

What is a Meyer lemon exactly? A cross between a regular lemon and either an orange or a mandarin. They’re sometimes smaller than a regular lemon, rounder in shape, with a thin, soft, and smooth rind which has a rich yellow-orange when fully ripe. The rind lacks the typical lemon peel oil aroma and the pulp is darker yellow and less acidic than a regular lemon. The complex flavor and aroma hints of sweet lime, lemon and mandarin.   If you can’t find a Meyer lemon, you can add a bit of orange juice to regular lemon juice to mimic the flavor. Not quite the same, but will do in a pinch.

With Meyer lemons in hand, I picked up some fresh grouper from Yellow Umbrella Seafood (my favorite local fish shop) and decided to make a light, healthy dinner that would also work for my oldest daughter, who has been a vegetarian for three years.  Quinoa is my go to grain in a case like this….

Quinoa is a complete protein, which means that it has all nine essential amino acids. I love the versatility of this super grain.  Whether you prepare it savory or sweet, the texture is light and welcomes a myriad of flavors.


I put my Myer lemons to work with some mint, shallots, and olive to create a lively little dressing for my quinoa salad.  Here is the recipe for you to try…

Grilled Grouper with Quinoa,  Asparagus, Mint, and  Meyer Lemon   Dressing

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups water

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed

3 Roma tomatoes, diced

3/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled

Zest and juice of 2 Meyer lemons

1/2 tablespoon minced shallots

2 tablespoons mint leaves , cut into a chiffonade

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 (6-ounce) grouper filets (or other firm white fish)

Bring  water to boil in a medium saucepan; add quinoa, reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Fluff cooked quinoa with a fork and transfer to a large bowl to cool slightly.

Whisk together the Meyer lemon juice, shallots, mint, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil.

Meanwhile, heat grill to medium high and brush grate with oil. Place  asparagus directly on grill, cooking and turning asparagus as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Remove asparagus from grill and cut into 2-inch-thick pieces.  Add grilled asparagus, tomatoes and Feta to quinoa along with all but a few tablespoons of the dressing(reserve some to brush on the fish prior to grilling) and mix well. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Brush  grouper with reserved dressing and grill over a medium high flame for about 5-6 minutes per side, until opaque in the center.

Spoon quinoa salad in center of plate and top with grilled grouper

4 servings



Penne with Chicken Sausage, Roasted Vegetables, and Gorgonzola

Well, so much for the spring like weather we had earlier this week! We went from 82 degrees on Tuesday, to 37 degrees yesterday. It was a chilly, damp, gray day…as I headed to Whole Foods, I knew I needed to have something warm and comforting for dinner. I wasn’t sure what I was going to make, so I decided to walk around the store to see what inspired me. I began my journey in the produce section…I picked up some asparagus, baby bello mushrooms, and a red pepper; a perfect little medley for roasting. I found some lovely tomatoes; baby plum, exotic cherry, and yellow pear…color for my salad. I turned the corner from the produce section into the cheese area. Chilly days are prefect for wine and cheese. Hmm…gorgonzola would sure warm things up! Pasta with roasted vegetables and gorgonzola….that would be perfect for dinner….well, almost; add chicken sausage to the dish and we are set. I picked up a bottle of Joel Gott 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, which paired beautifully with the salt and spice of the gorgonzola. For this recipe, I am using whole wheat penne pasta, cooking it in a bath of white wine and chicken broth. This technique infuses the pasta with flavor…similar to making risotto, but without as much stirring.
Give it a try:

Penne with Chicken Sausage, Roasted Vegetables, and Gorgonzola

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil,  plus 2 tablespoons, divided

1 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces

8 ounces baby bello mushrooms, halved

4 cloves garlic, minced, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 pound chicken Italian sausage

1 pound whole wheat penne pasta

2 cups dry white wine

4 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 red bell pepper, seeded, roasted, seeded, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 cups Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

2 large Roma tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place asparagus, mushrooms, and 2 cloves of minced garlic on a baking sheet.  Add 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly and bake for 20-25 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat  2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Remove chicken sausage from the casing and crumble into oil. Cook, breaking up clumps, for about 5-7 minutes(until chicken is no longer pink). Transfer to paper towel lined plate; reserve.  Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil to a large skillet over very low heat. Add garlic, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the penne pasta, stirring well to coat.  Increase the heat to medium high and add white wine; bring to boil and cook until almost all of the wine has been absorbed by the pasta, stirring occasionally.  Add 2 cups of chicken broth, cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all of chicken broth has been absorbed by the pasta. Repeat with remaining chicken broth and cook until pasta is al dente. Add the lemon juice, roasted pepper, roasted vegetables,  chicken sausage, and tomatoes  to the pan; mix well. Add Gorgonzola and parsley; mix thoroughly.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with toasted pine nuts  and serve immediately.

8 servings