Cooks I love…

I have to admit…I’m a big fan of the Food Network.  Nothing makes me happier than curling up on the couch with a cup of tea, and watching the Barefoot Contessa whip up something delicious.  As a culinary enthusiast, I love watching cooking shows because it always gives me great new ideas on different preparation, seasonings, and exciting new flavors.  At the same time, I have one BIG gripe about some of the shows on the food network.  HOLY BUTTER!  Ok…if you’re trying to be healthy…these shows definitely do not promote it AT ALL.  Every show, from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, to Home Cooking with Paula, to even my dear Barefoot Contessa use recipes that often call for sticks and sticks of butter or cups of olive oil.  However, there is one Food Network star that I would love to highlight for her beautiful, vibrant, veggie-ful cuisine that doesn’t rely simply on fat for flavor.  Giada De Laurentiis’ food is like a breath of fresh air in a sea of butter.  Her bubbly personality is fun to watch and her food is full of healthy ingredients that would make any nutritionist happy!  And yes…she’s also very pretty (according to D)…haha

Here are my take on a couple of recipes that would be perfect for a light summer dinner with friends, with some slight modifications to make as healthy as possible!

Skewered Greek Salad



  • 24 grape or small cherry tomatoes
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, cut into 12 (1/2-inch) cubes
  • 12 pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/2 small red or sweet onion, cut into 12 (1/2-inch) pieces
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • Special equipment: 12 (6-inch) bamboo or wood skewers


  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Skewers: Thread the skewers starting with a tomato, then a piece of feta cheese, an olive, a piece of onion and finish with another tomato. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

For the Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, red wine vinegar and oregano. Whisk in the olive oil until the mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Arrange the skewers on a serving platter. Spoon the vinaigrette over the skewers and sprinkle with the chopped oregano.

Grilled Salmon with Citrus Salsa Verde


2 large oranges
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil — I might use 1/8 cup instead of 1/4, see how it tastes though
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 scallions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable or canola oil, for oiling the grill
4 (4 to 5-ounce) center cut salmon fillets, skinned, each about 3-inches square
2 tablespoons amber agave nectar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salsa: Peel and trim the ends from each orange. Using a paring knife, cut along the membrane on both sides of each segment. Free the segments and add them to a medium bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, scallions, mint, capers, orange zest, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Toss lightly and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

For the salmon: Put a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Brush the grilling rack with vegetable oil to keep the salmon from sticking. Brush the salmon on both sides with the agave nectar and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the salmon to a platter and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Spoon the salsa verde on top of the salmon or serve on the side as an accompaniment.

And for dessert……

Shaved Melon Salad with Mint Sugar

This salad looks like tricolor pappardelle pasta, with vibrant ribbons of pink, green, and orange melon. If you don’t want to bother making the melon shavings, just use a melon baller or cut the fruit into cubes—the salad will still be beautiful.

1/2 small seedless watermelon (about 1 lb)
1/2 honeydew melon, seeds removed (about 1 lb)
1/2 cantaloupe melon, seeds removed (about 1 lb)
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, plus mint sprigs, for garnish
1/2 cup turbinado or other coarse sugar  — I would use 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 here!

1. Cut each melon lengthwise into inch-wide slices. Hold melon slices at the peel end and use a sharp vegetable peeler to shave long ribbons of melon flesh into a large serving bowl.
2. In a small bowl, combine mint leaves and sugar. Add mint sugar to the shaved melon and gently toss.
3. Arrange melon salad on individual salad plates. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings


  1. Susie says:

    As a fellow Food Network groupie, all I can say is – you got this one right, S! I enjoy watching Barefoot Contessa a lot, and I can take Paula Deen in limited doses – but the butter/oil thing is just way beyond control (how about the Neelys, you forgot them – so much frying!) Let’s not forget some of the other FN shows that depend upon a lot of prepared foods – oh, I forgot to mention Rachael Ray who also uses way too much of her beloved EVOO (extra virgin olive oil, so annoying that she uses that acronym constantly).

    Still – Food Network is great fun to watch, especially when one is working out – and occasionally is the inspiration for some terrific meals!


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