Panzanella Bread Salad with a Spicy Twist

Looking for a no-cook recipe you can toss together in less than 15 minutes? It’s hearty, rustic, vegetarian and hardly takes any effort at all. I first saw Lidia Bastianich make panzanella bread salad years ago in one of her visits to the Italian countryside. I don’t remember her recipe exactly but she basically tossed a few ingredients into a bowl and mashed them all up with her hands. So simple, so easy and so delicious I had to make this panzanella bread salad with a spicy twist!

spicy-panzanella

Panzanella is a bread salad made with tomatoes and popular in the Tuscan region of Italy. The bread is soaked with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil and basically that’s it!

italian-bread

cubed-bread

I added chopped cherry peppers that I pickled some time ago and it gave the panzanella a nice tangy, spicy flavor. It’s not over the top spicy but if you want it spicier you can add your own pickled hot peppers. Adding a little of the pickled juice will work as well but that’s entirely optional.

panzanella-ingredients

cherry-tomatoes
Take all the ingredients and mash them up for a bowl of zesty Tuscan flavors! You have to try this one, it’s sure to be a hit at your next event! Have you made panzanella before? If so, what are your favorite combinations? Please, chime in!
spicy-panzanella2

 

Spicy Panzanella
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cubed
  • 1 lb ripe cherry tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup pickled cherry peppers, chopped
  • 4-5 large basil leaves, torn apart
  • ¼ - ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper
Instructions
  1. Add bread to a large bowl and toss in tomatoes, cherry peppers, basil, drizzle in olive oil and vinegar. Add just a pinch of salt & pepper.
  2. Mix all ingredients with your hands and squish everything together so all is well mixed.
  3. Serve in a large bowl and have as a side or main course.

 

 

A Healthy Spicy Snack to Satisfy Your Cravings

If you’re looking for a healthy, spicy snack to satisfy your cravings then you should give these a try. Cruncha-Ma-Me are all natural, freeze dried veggie snacks made with edamame (soybeans) and come in a variety of flavors.

edamame snack

A sweet friend of mine who’s always sharing her gluten free goods and knows I’m always looking for spicy foods got me the jalapeno flavor. The heat is mild but will leave your lips tingling for a good while. It’s a very tasty treat that delivers a nice kick and will keep you from reaching for those sugary snacks that you know you shouldn’t be having!

edamame-snack

Cruncha-Ma-Me have 3g of fiber and 8g of protein and at only 90 calories they’re perfect for satisfying those cravings without the guilt that snacking usually brings. They also contain no dairy and come from non-GMO soybeans. How’s that for super-healthy snack? Just eat them right out of the bag or toss them into your salad for an extra crunch!

Have you tried any of the other flavors? If so, let me know in comments!

 

Healthy and Spicy Grilled Sockeye Salmon Recipe

I picked up this beautiful wild Sockeye salmon on my way home from work. Isn’t she a beauty? I was looking for an easy and healthy meal that wouldn’t take too long and grilling has been the only option for me lately. I have refused to turn on the stove even though weather has been a little cooler than normal this August, July was an inferno! The Sockeye is lovely to look at but even better eating it so as soon as I walked in the house I got to prepping for this healthy and spicy grilled Sockeye salmon recipe! Yes you’ll pay a little more for wild sockeye salmon but aren’t you worth it? 🙂 You just have to treat yourself once in a while!

sockeye-salmon

Sockeye salmon is bright, fresh and all natural and is known across the US as “red salmon” because of its rich, red hue. The Sockeye gets its color from a diet rich in zooplankton and shrimp. Sockeye salmon isn’t the most fatty of salmon or the most popular, the king salmon is, but the sockeye has a stronger salmon flavor. Salmon is one of my favorite fish and nothing like eating natural salmon from the wild, you just feel better eating it. There have been several times when I’ve gone to buy salmon at my local supermarket only to put it back after seeing they’ve add food dye. That’s been done to farmed salmon for years, if it’s not pink enough they’ll add some color for you! The FDA says it’s safe but I’ll bet on nature any day! So sometimes I splurge a little and pay extra for quality as a special treat to myself! I wanted something healthy and easy to make so making this spicy grilled salmon recipe was the perfect after a long day at the office!

salmon

Salmon has many nutrients and it’s meatiness makes it a very filling fish. It’s so simple to prepare, just a little salt and pepper will do most of the time but you know me, I had to turn the heat up and make it spicy! Grilling the fish was also a better option for me considering the heat wave we’ve had this Summer, it gets the skin nice and crispy as well. I first seasoned the salmon with a habanero sea salt but wanted a much bolder heat. I picked up this amazing habanero horseradish sauce from DEFCON Sauces at the NYC Hot Sauce Expo last Spring and had been saving it for a grilled steak dish but this sauce took the salmon to another level.

defcon-habby-hotsauce

The label reads a little scary but don’t be afraid! If you can handle jalapeno heat or a bit of habanero or scotch bonnet peppers you can handle this sauce. Also, it’s not just pure heat, the flavors are bold and well balanced and you can really still taste the horseradish. It’s truly a great sauce. I’m not a fan of products that only burn so always look for great flavor and if it’s not hot enough I can always add extra heat but didn’t have to with this sauce. I grilled the Sockeye salmon first then after it was almost cooked I generously spread the sauce on top. It’ll also be great on steak I’m sure so you may see that next time!

spicy grilled salmon

While the salmon was grilling, I tossed a quick baby spinach salad with red onions and nectarines for some some added sweetness and was done in about 15 minutes! So simple and easy and just what I need after having a long day at work. If you live in the city or an apartment and don’t have a grill get yourself an indoor stove top grill or prepare your salmon on a George Foreman grill, either will work like a charm.

 

Spicy Grilled Sockeye Salmon
Recipe type: Seafood
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb wild sockeye salmon
  • Habanero Sea Salt
  • 2 tbsp Defcon Habby Horse Hot Habanero Sauce
  • Bunch of baby spinach, washed
  • small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 nectarine, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp ginger balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat up the grill then season the salmon with the habanero salt. Place the salmon on a grilling rack so fish doesn't stick to the grill. Place the rack with fish directly on grill and cook for about 10 minutes.
  2. Right before salmon is done, spread the horseradish sauce over salmon and leave on grill for another minute.
  3. Prepare a quick salad by tossing the spinach, red onions, nectarines, olive oil, vinegar in a bowl and add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Place the salad on a plate and top with salmon.

 

Vegetarian Spicy Sushi At Beyond Sushi

Move over fish and make way for vegetarian sushi! Yes, there is such a thing and it’s tucked away in Chelsea Market in NYC, one of it’s newest locations. Beyond Sushi is a vegetarian sushi shop that has sprung up around NYC serving sushi style “green” rolls made with healthy vegetarian ingredients that will make any carnivore look twice!

mango-sushi

Located across from Jacques Torres Chocolate shop, Beyond Sushi makes fruit, vegetable, and seaweed green rolls tightly wound up in black rice and mixed grain rice. I never had black rice before, actually I never even knew it existed! Wild rice yes, but black rice is something completely different and according to Beyond Sushi it’s “packed with 18 amino acids, rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc & beta carotene.” The rice contains anthocyanin which after a quick search I found out it is what gives blueberries, blackberries and other flowers, fruits and veggies that deep blue, purple color. The rice tastes similar to brown rice and is very popular in China.

black-rice-benefits

For me not only does food need to taste good but it should look appetizing as well. Beyond Sushi’s green rolls look like tiny works of art; they’re beautiful, colorful and surprisingly flavorful. I’m not a vegetarian but do like eating healthfully and sometimes vegetarian options are lacking in the flavor department. These rolls however looked too good to pass up and had interesting flavor combinations with plenty of spicy options to choose from!

seaweed-sushi

The individual bites are very tasty, try the seaweed bite and mango bite topped with jalapeno wasabi!

seaweed-soy

Another to try is the “La Fiesta” which is made with avocado, pickled jalapeno, chayote and served with a mango chili oil. One of my favorites is the Spicy Mang, made with avocado, mango, cucumber, a spicy veggie topping and served with a toasted cayenne sauce. There’s great texture too from the crunchy cucumber, and nice creaminess from the avocados. The spicy sauce balances out the sweet mango, giving it a well rounded flavor. These are mildly hot and spicy for me but the flavors are wonderful and very unique!

spicy-mang

spicy-mang-roll

I must say though they aren’t very filling. I did get a whole roll with two individual bites and felt very satisfied but was hungry a couple hours later. For my next visit I’ll add the marinated julienned carrots served with a hot pepper paste or the Zen salad served with jalapeno peanut butter sauce, that should do it!

beyond-sushi-menu

Beyond Sushi was conceptualize by Guy Vaknin, a finalist in the popular US chef competition show Hell’s Kitchen, and according to their site have two locations. One in Union Square, the other in Chelsea Market.

Meatless Monday: Buttery Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts! They used to be the vegetable I avoided until a friend of mine made me try them years ago. I always thought they would taste like cabbage, which I’m not a fan of, but they were surprisingly different and only resemble cabbage in appearance. Brussel sprouts are nutty, buttery, nutritious and so filling. They are the perfect accompaniment to grilled meats and seafood but can also be enjoyed alone. They are also one of the healthiest of vegetables, packed with all sorts of nutrients.

roasted_brussel_sprouts

Brussel sprouts are high in protein and fiber, low in calories and loaded with anti-oxidants to help protect against heart disease and cancers. Also, according to doctors and nutritionist, adding a little extra kick from spices will also help rev up your metabolism.  Sometimes I will have these after getting home late from a good work out at the gym. They are light, and quick and easy to make. They are so tasty there is really no reason not to add them to your diet.

Spicy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1 lb brussel sprouts
1-2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
dash of salt & pepper

1. Rinse the brussel sprouts in water and peel off a layer or two and cut each in half. Heat up a cast iron skillet or heavy bottom pan on medium heat and add butter. As butter is melting toss in brussel sprouts and stir.

2. Add the garlic, pepper flakes and the salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook for about 8 minutes until the brussel sprouts are tender and nicely browned.

Enjoy in a bowl with a glass of white wine!

Meatless Mondays: Spicy Red Beans and Rice

When I made this dish I was thinking about the Cajun Red Beans and Rice but since I’ve been making beans since forever, I decided to spice it up Latin style. I used to have the Cajun version at an awesome restaurant in Belmar, NJ called Ragin’ Cajun many years ago. I haven’t been there in ages and not sure what it’s like now but man, the food there was insanely good. Everything was fresh, homemade, spicy and flavorful! Sometimes the owner/chef would step away from kitchen to check on customers. Always great food, always great service. From the spicy beef tips that weren’t always on the menu, the chicken baton rouge (my favorite!), the shrimp etouffee, to the roasted whole garlic that melted like butter when you spread it over hot, crusty rolls…delicious, I can still taste it now! I have been wanting to go back but sometimes life just gets in the way. I read that the original owner is still there and do plan to get down there before the summer crowd and the crazy Parkway traffic starts. It’s just one of those places you never forget…I hope business has been good for them over the years.

So even though I was thinking Cajun and have been wanting to travel to New Orleans for a while now for some good food, habit had me reach for the chipotle instead and went for more Latin flavors. I think I’m going to do a Cajun series though, or attempt to, although I’m not going to put okra in anything!  That’s one veggie I just can’t stand…and celery. So be on the look out for a “Missing NOLA” recipe series. I love that place!

I prepared the beans the way my Mom taught me growing up; Dominican style but with lots of heat. It’s so easy and great if you’re looking for more hearty vegetarian options and gluten free dishes. This dish is loaded with carbohydrates but there’s also plenty of protein, fiber and sweat inducing heat that makes it a great balanced meal. I actually had it with slices of avocado sprinkled with a little salt but it never made it in the photo. I was so hungry I just wolfed it down!

I also found this great chipotle sauce that I added to this recipe. It’s made by La Morena brand of canned chiles and sauces. I usually get their chipotle in adobo sauce, which is a must for any spicy food lover, and quickly grabbed a can while at my local market. When I got home I noticed it was just sauce and Oh My Goodness! So glad I did because this sauce was amazing. I hope you like this recipe!

Red Beans and Rice

1 can red kidney beans
1 small onion, cut in half & sliced
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
1 4oz can chipotle sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2-3 sprigs cilantro, stems are good, you can remove them later
1 cup water
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups rice + water for cooking
salt

Heat oil in saucepan on medium heat. When oil is hot add the onions until translucent. Add tomato paste, chipotle sauce, garlic and stir vigorously until all ingredients are well blended. Add the kidney beans and stir. The beans will be a bit dry with just the paste and you want them to be saucy so add cup of water and stir. Add the ground pepper, red pepper flakes and cilantro and let mixture boil. Turn down heat and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. The beans are already cooked so idea is to let the flavors blend well and water boil off a bit, the beans should not be runny. You can remove the sprigs of cilantro when it’s done.

For rice, heat about 2 cups of water on high heat in a separate saucepan and add salt to taste. Then add a tsp of oil and rice. Water should cover rice completely, about 1/4 in above rice level. Let water boil off and when this happens, turn heat to low and cover saucepan. Cook rice for about 20 minutes until fluffy.

In a bowl, spoon beans over rice and serve while it’s piping hot. You can also add avocado slices seasoned with a pinch of salt.