Summer’s here! The farmers’ markets and roadside stands are all open in New England where I live. Even the grocery stores are loaded with locally grown produce. I can’t think of a better time than summer to be in the Zone, surrounded by all these gorgeous vegetables. The best part is it takes little preparation to indulge. I like to keep it simple in my “think out of the box!” approach to being the Zone. Try these tips and tricks for three of my favorite vegetables.
Tomatoes come in various shapes and sizes and in about every color imaginable. The best way to enjoy tomatoes straight out of the garden is to slice and serve them with a tiny bit of sea salt sprinkled on top. Here’s a little progression showing how to turn a beefsteak or similar variety of tomato from a small side salad into a full meal with just a few additions.
- Try a simple salad of bite-size chunks of tomato, some chopped cucumber, and a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar.
- If you have a minute to spare take it to another level. Give that salad a little Italian flair by adding oregano and a few small balls of low-fat mozzarella.
- To take it a step further and turn that salad into a complete Zone meal. Start by adding more vegetables, like sliced onion, chopped Bell pepper, some black beans, or all three. Don’t forget the protein! Shrimp or pre-cooked boneless skinless chicken or turkey breast would be great. You’ll need a little more flavor with all those additions, so try a southwestern twist by giving it a few squeezes of fresh lime juice and maybe stirring in some cumin, chili powder, or both. Top it with chunks of avocado or a moderate drizzle of olive oil and you’ve completed the transformation into a fully balanced Zone meal.
This beautiful purple vegetable is an excellent addition to your Zone meals. Grilled eggplant is the way to go to keep it fast and easy. You can use any color eggplant. If you don’t have a grill, make it in the oven under the broiler. Follow these steps.
- Slice the eggplant about 3/8 of an inch thick.
- Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place on the grill over medium-high heat, about 2 or 3 minutes on each side.
- They’re done when you see grill marks on each side and they feel tender (not spongy) when pierced with a fork.
Serve immediately. I like it straight off the grill. You can also serve it with a side of warmed marinara sauce for dipping.
What could I possibly say that’s new and different about lettuce? Two words; Grilled lettuce. I know what you’re probably thinking. I was also a bit skeptical at first. Follow these steps.
- Slice a small to medium head of Romaine lettuce in half lengthwise removing any loose outer leaves.
- Brush the cut side sparingly with olive oil.
- Place cut side down on the grill over direct high heat keeping the grill open.
- Watch closely and remove from the grill as soon as the cut edge begins to brown.
Serve cut side up, 1/2 or 1/4 lettuce head per person. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with vinaigrette dressing. My favorite is with a Zone-friendly ranch dressing and halved cherry tomatoes.
Have a wonderful summer everyone. Enjoy!
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