Mediterranean Tuna Salad

I have never been much into eating tuna salad, maybe from time to time but never something that I would crave. Thinking of tuna salad, I generally picture dried out tuna from one of those Chicken of the Sea pouches doused in mayo and not much else. I made my own occasionally, usually when I was going on healthy eating initiatives, never considering tuna salad to actually be something delicious. Recently, on one of my many regular trips to Whole Foods, I was starved and wanted something quick but healthy from their prepared foods. There were pre-made sandwiches with lots of bread, which looked good but I wanted to keep it light. Different kinds of chicken salads were displayed along with tuna salads. After almost giving up, I noticed a tuna salad with kalamata olives. Anytime I see something with olives in it, I will certainly give it another look. Upon careful examination, this tuna salad, a Mediterranean tuna salad, had not only olives but also artichoke hearts-now they were speaking my language. I was on my way with a container of Mediterranean Tuna Salad, whole wheat pita bread and whatever else I got suckered into buying just from being in Whole Foods!

After getting home and putting my things away, I indulged in this delicious, perfectly seasoned tuna salad using wedges of the pita bread to scoop it up. Now, getting food on the go and picking up lunch is not really my style; I always prefer to make things myself. With this in mind, I was determined to recreate Whole Foods' Mediterranean Tuna Salad. This turned out not to be a problem since the recipe is easily found on their website. There were even more ingredients than I imagined and feel free to check the Whole Foods recipe out at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/670. Their recipe is excellent but I like to add my own spin and simplify. Check out my spin on this delicious, refreshing and healthy summer salad.

Lizzy M.'s Mediterranean Tuna Salad

1 can of albacore tuna, drained

1/2 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup Kalamata olives (Greek olives), roughly chopped
1 quarter of a small red onion, diced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
Juice of half of a lemon
Zest of half of a lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt (can also use sour cream or mayo)
3-4 basil leaves, torn or sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried or fresh oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper


1. After draining the tuna well, set aside. Chop all ingredients and place in a mixing bowl.

2. Mix all ingredients together well. Taste here and add any seasoning if you so desire. If you prefer a creamier texture, then add more yogurt and/or olive oil.

3. Serve cold over a bed of greens with wedges of toasted or warmed pita bread or any other kind of bread that you like.

I hope you enjoy this simple, refreshing and healthy recipe that makes tuna salad much more than just tuna salad.


Thai Turkey Burgers

As we approach the official summer, the weather gets warmer and warmer allowing for more and more nights spent relaxing and grilling outdoors. When one think of grilling, the usual suspects come to mind like hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken. While those staples of grilling certainly get put on the menu once and a while in the summer, I love to get creative with the classics and mix things up a bit. I also try to eat a healthy diet. Although I go for an all-beef burger once and a while, we try to change it up with 99% fat free ground turkey. With the right flavors, a low fat turkey burger can be just as delicious and interesting. In fact, I think turkey gives way to more of a blank slate in order to make any number of styles of burgers. There are no limits to what you can do...Greek burgers, Mexican Burgers, Italian Burgers or, maybe, Asian Burgers.

On a recent grilling nig
ht, I opted to pull out the ground turkey and create a Thai version of a turkey burger. With ginger, lime, cilantro, and soy sauce on hand, I knew I could pull it off. I decided to add spicy mayo, avocado, and a cabbage and cucumber slaw to complete this dish. If you like Asian flavors, then I recommend keeping things like fresh ginger, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and Asian chili sauce on hand. You can keep fresh ginger in your freezer wrapped in plastic wrap or in a plastic bag. Whenever you are ready for the ginger, take the edge of a spoon to scrape off the brown skin before you use the ginger. Using a zester or microplane to grate the ginger is the best way to get a small amount of ginger well distributed throughout whatever it is you are cooking. Your family and friends will love to try something different, so give your grilled dinners a creative spin to give your guests something to talk about.

Lizzy M.'s Thai Turkey Burgers

1/2 lb 99% fat free groun
d turkey (My recipe is based on two servings. Use 1/4 lb. per person.)
2 tbsp Tamari (dark soy sauce)
1 tsp spicy mustard
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, grated

1 tbsp red onion, diced small
1 tbsp cilantro

Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Zest of half of a lime
Half of an avocado, mashed

Spicy Sauce

1/2 cup light sour cream or non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp Asian chili sauce

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Splash of Worcestershir
e sauce
1 tsp smoked paprika
Sea salt

Cabbage and Cucumber Slaw

1 cup green cabbage, sliced thin or shredde
1/2 cup cucumber, sliced in thin long sticks
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
1 green onion, diced
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
Zest from the other half of lime
Juice from half of the lime
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Prepare the slaw first
by chopping all ingredients, cabbage, cucumber, onions, and cilantro. Mix these ingredients with the lime zest, lime juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Prepare the spicy sauce by mixing all ingredients well and refrigerating. Feel free to add more chili sauce and/or smoked paprika to add more spice. If you want less spice, then add more sour cream or yogurt to cut the spice a bit.

3. In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients except for the ground turkey. Mix these ingredients well before adding the ground turkey. Once the ground turkey is added incorporate the saucy mixture well with turkey. Form round patties to make the burgers.

4. On a hot outdoor grill or indoor grill pan, cook the turkey burgers for about 5 minutes on each side or until firm to touch. You need to make sure the turkey is cooked all the way through. One way to do this is to allow for the burgers to rest under some aluminum foil for about 4-5 minutes before eating.

5. Take and mashed avocado and add a dash of salt. Mix well. On each hamburger bun, spread the avocado on the bottom
of the bun. Place the hot turkey burger on top of the avocado. Next, add a generous dollop of the spicy sauce and pile the slaw right on top. Place the top bun over the slaw and serve. Serve the extra slaw on the side of the burger.

Get out and get grilling. Try new recipes and ideas that will be healthful and flavorful for you and your family. Turkey makes for the perfect canvas to create any kind of burger, so why not try a Thai Turkey Burger!


Vetri Ristorante

Of all the amazing and highly-rated restaurants that I have visited in places like New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Florence and Beijing, I have yet to find a restaurant, where every single bite that I took during my meal was a clear definition of what I hope for my heaven to be like (or taste like). That is until May 26, 2010. For my 3rd wedding anniversary with my husband, we decided to take our celebration to the highly-acclaimed, Vetri Ristorante, located just east of Broad Street in Center City Philadelphia. Knowing how challenging it is to get a reservation in chef and owner, Marc Vetri's intimate 40-seat trattoria, we called well in advance, and still only had the option for either a six o'clock or nine o'clock seating. We opted for the early reservation to leave plenty of time for a relaxing meal and after dinner drinks. With much anticipation of this special dinner, I found myself studying Vetri's website. At first glance, even my adventurous palate was a bit intimidated by this menu but the more I studied the more I realized that I actually wanted to try everything.

After rushing to get ready for d
inner after work, we hopped a cab to Center City on a hot and sunny Wednesday evening. I decided that we should exit the cab early to avoid traffic and death, walking the rest of the way. We made it to 13th and Spruce Streets finding the humble little wooden Vetri sign in front of what appears to be a traditional Center City town home. Walking into the entryway, we were immediately greeted and brought to our perfect little table for two right by the large front window-a pretty good score being that only 2 tables in this 40-seat restaurant are near the windows. This was just icing on the cake because any seat in Vetri would have been just as good. I felt as though we were entering someone's lovely home with all-wood floors, a decor of rustic elegance, and the smell of fresh Italian cooking from the kitchen.

As we got comfortable at our white linen covered table, we quickly found a Barbera red wine to order. Just as soon as the freshly-baked, out-of-this world bread arrived, an Italian white bread and a Focaccia variety, served with a bowl of olives and olive oil, our superb Italian red filled our wine glasses. After a few gulps of delicious wine, my husband and I turned our full attention to the beautiful menu with a cover made of wood just like the sign out front. We picked out our appetizers and ordered 3 varieties of pasta. The waiter mentioned that we could order half portions of the pastas in order to sample as many as possible. Marc Vetri offers a menu of classic Italian cuisine inspired by fresh, seasonal ingredients married with simplicity and elegance, which comes together as a work of art. Starting out by cooking in South Philadelphia with his Sicilian family, Marc Vetri's culinary experiences took him to California, New York, and likely his most valued experience, Bergamo, Italy. In 1998, Vetri, following his dream to open his very own restaurant, found the perfect place on Spruce Street in Philadelphia, which was once the location of Philadelphia's top restaurant, Le Bec Fin. 12 years later, Vetri remains not only one of the top restaurants in Philadelphia but also one of the top Italian restaurants in America. "Possibly the best Italian restaurant on the East Coast" is what Mario Batali said of Vetri. With all of this hype, I wondered if my dinner at Vetri would live up to these high expectations or if I would be disappointed.

Our meal began with the "F
oie Gras Pastrami with Fruit Mustard" and the "Artichoke Salad with Arugula and Parmesan". The foie gras pastrami, sinfully decadent, melted in your mouth like butter while the richness was cut by the sweet fruit mustard. The artichoke in the artichoke salad, cut in thin long slices, maintained a bite as if al dente and was dressed ever so lightly to highlight the flavor of the artichoke, the peppery bite from the arugula and the sharp nuttiness of the shaved Parmesan. After the surprises of flavor and textures from our first course, we knew this dinner would just keep getting better and better. And it did.

Our second course included a dish that may be the dish that I would request if I knew it was my last meal on this earth. Heaven on a plate, an appetizer that could spread world peace is none other than the "Spinach Gnocchi with Shaved Ricotta and Brown Butter". These gnocchi were unlike any I have ever had. Large, fluffy, soft pillows of flavor dance in your mouth as you taste one of these. It is as if Vetri met up with Paula Deen for a minute and she told him-more butter please. Well, he listened and butter, that is-brown butter (and plenty of it) makes the already phenomenal gnocchi into something orgasmic. I kid you not-I am thinking about his gnocchi right now and could almost bring myself to go to Vetri this weekend and order nothing else but the spinach gnocchi.

With all of the magnificence of the spinach gnocchi, there are still four more courses that deserve much attention. Also with our second course came the "Tempura Soft Shell Crab with Bitter Greens Slaw and Red Pepper Cream", an exemplary and perfectly fried soft shell crab, which was enhanced by maintaining the freshness of the crab without overpowering it with too much tempura. The red pepper cream added the perfect sweetness and tartness to compliment the rich crab and bitter greens. Each bite of the soft shell crab had the ideal ratio of crispness on the outside with a juicy burst of flavor on the inside. After the gnocchi and the soft shell crab, we were getting a little bit full but had to suck it up for three simply sublime half courses of house made pastas.

Our three pasta dishes arrived at the same time but my first bite was from the "Fazzoletti with Duck Ragu and Gaeta Olives". The Fazzoletti, rectangular sheets of pasta, similar to the shape of a Lasagna, constisted of just the right thickness to hold the saucy duck ragu. Incredibly tender and succulent pieces of duck almost melted in with the sauce, pasta and fresh Parmesan, while the bold Gaeta olives, small oval black Italian olives, infused a surge of salty, tart flavor.

The next bite
was from the delicate dish of "Pea and Robiola Agnolotti with House Cured Prosciutto". The best part about this dish for me was that I forgot the ingredients that were in it, so with each bite my palate was exploring these flavors trying to pinpoint what they were. Notes of sweetness and nuttiness came from the peas and Robiola, a soft-ripened Italian cheese, as the buttery tenderness from the Agnolotti, a form of Ravioli seen in the Piedmont Region of Italy, brought a luxuriousness all enhanced by the salty bite of the house-cured prosciutto.

The final pasta of the evening was th
e "Ramp Ravioli with Ricotta and Lemon Zest". These Ravioli, firmer and more defined than the Agnolotti, were stuffed with ramp, a kind of seasonal spring onion, along with the creamy ricotta cheese. The ravioli was garnished with a garlicky-onion infused oil and lemon zest making this pasta a savory masterpiece.

After this feast, we had to forgo the dessert although we felt a bit guilty being at this divine restaurant and not partaking in dessert. There is always next time and for me there must be a next time. Next time at Vetri, if I don't go for the chef's tasting, which can either be a 5 course or a 7 course feast, then I will certainly be ordering a full portion of Spinach Gnocchi and dessert! If you plan to be in the Philadelphia area or live in the area, then I can recommend with out a doubt of uncertainty that you will have one of the most memorable meals to date at Vetri.

1312 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Related Posts with Thumbnails