Let It Grow! – Tuna Steaks with Ginger Chile Marinade

I think I’m addicted to growing things.  I honestly thought it was a little whim that would pass after a tad of experimentation, but nope, I believe it’s here to stay.  Last year, late Spring-ish or early Summer, we played around with a little gardening.  A few tomatoes here, some beans and carrots there.  “Borrowed” crates that served as planters. (You can read all about the beginning of this adventure here.) The kids got a kick out of it and I enjoyed watching them as they explored and enjoyed the wonder of real food growing right in our own back yard.

Summer turned to Fall and the tomatoes kept right on producing.  In fact, we picked some on Christmas day. The corn and beans turned barren and we replaced them with a few winter harvest items – like cauliflower and lettuce.  Then there was a brief lull and we let things have some unattended “alone time”.

My parents came to visit mid-March.  Even though he is 85 years old, it’s always best to have a few “projects” up my sleeve to keep my dad busy.  So this year’s project entailed the rental of a chain saw and the extraction of a huge, and I do mean huge, palm tree stump.  It had been occupying a good little chuck of my precious postage-stamp backyard, and my mind was racing with the possibilities of what could be planted there if I could only get rid of the palm.  As luck would have it, post-palm stump removal, I passed by a neighbor’s home as they were doing a little remodeling.  I spied on their driveway, a tile crate and just knew it would be a perfect planter.  There’s something about the scrounging / re-purposing / upcycling aspect of my gardening approach that gives me an extra little thrill.  I sent the hubs on a planter recon mission, and he returned with my new “planter” in tow, mumbling something about ” . . . whatever it takes to keep the wife happy, blah, bah, blah.”

I feel like a veritable little country girl planted in the middle of Orange County with a garden which boasts 3 tomato plants, 3 cabbage plants, 1 cucumber plant, 1 zucchini, 1 crook neck squash,1 cauliflower,  2 lettuce, 1 red pepper, basil, thyme, and multiple pumpkins (note to self on pumpkins – – – if you toss whole pumpkins in your compost, there’s a VERY good chance you will experience spontaneous pumpkin generation when using said compost soil!)  My children, in their delusions of grandeur, were talking the other day about how we could run our own farmers market with our harvest.  Easy girls, easy!  Anyway, here’s a little shot of my ridiculously small, but massively enjoyable backyard garden.


And here’s my challenge for you – grow something, anything, even if one small thing, in your own backyard this summer and experience the joy for yourself.

In keeping our food real this past week, I served up these Tuna Steaks with Ginger Chile Marinade.

To start off the marinade, I grated some fresh ginger.


I whisked the ginger with some rice vinegar, sesame oil, peanut oil, soy sauce, and fresh chopped parsley.  Then I added in this little guy for a bit of a kick.


I seasoned the marinade with a little pepper and then set aside about 3 Tablespoons.  The rest I poured over the tuna steaks and let marinate (refrigerated) for about 40 minutes.


After marinating (the tuna, not me), I preheated my grill and sprayed with a little non-stick oil.  I grilled the tuna for only about 4 minutes total to keep them nice and rare.  In fact, these ones were a little too done for my taste.  Next time, I would stay closer to a minute and a half per side if preparing steaks of a similar thickness.


I served them atop a bed a steamed spinach and brown rice, accompanied by some balsamic cherry tomatoes, and spooned the reserved marinade over each steak.


Yummy, easy, and quick!  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Here’s the complete recipe for Tuna Steaks with Ginger Chile Marinade

Want to explore more ahi recipes?  Have a gander at these:

Grilled Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna with Orange Ginger Soy Sauce

Marinated Ahi Tuna Salad

Homegrown Right in Our Own Backyard – Spicy Black Bean Cakes

It’s no secret that I am totally intrigued by Michael Pollan and his musings on food. Many of his complex thoughts are boiled down in the 12 Commandments for Serious Eaters.  One of the things he mentions in commandment 10 is that everyone should grow at least some of their own food at some point.

When I was a kid, my parents put in a sizable garden EVERY year.  Tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, corn, carrots, peas, cukes and probably a lot more stuff that I just don’t remember.  I do remember exactly what my mom did throughout the summer and especially as days started getting shorter and summer drew to a close.  She “put up” all the veggies.  She froze the corn, beans & peas.  She made her own tomato sauce, tomato paste, & ketchup.  She let cucumbers sit in crocks and made the most tasty pickles.  As a kid this all just slipped by me as a part of summer.  Now as a grown up (on most good days, anyway), and with the current state of food and eating in our country and culture, I find this all absolutely amazing.  I wish I had paid more attention to the spices that went into the crock for pickles, how the jars were sterilized, what she added to the tomatoes to make that ketchup (the ketchup that I whined incessantly about asking why we couldn’t just eat Heinz like everyone else!).

This past spring the family got bit by the gardening bug. Big Little One and Medium Little One attended a gardening workshop for kids where they learned about planting a “Three Sisters Garden” – corn, beans & squash.  They came home with little seed packets (one kernel of corn, one squash seed, and one bean seed).  I decided we should take a leap of faith and go for it.

Determined to not pay $100 at Home Depot for a box garden (can you say highway robbery?), I got creative.  I ended up “borrowing” a little wooden crate deal from behind the local supermarket.  I’m pretty sure they were done using it, so I may just borrow it indefinitely.  It was the perfect size and so into the fresh new soil went the corn, beans and squash accompanied by some tomatoes, carrots, radishes, pumpkins, basil, and lettuce.


Just like that, our already cramped, postage stamp-sized SoCal backyard had a garden! The troops were amazed.  I think the Hubs was too.  There weren’t many gardens being tended in Paris when he was a kid growing up.

Even more amazing?  The stuff actually grew!  (with the exception of the lettuce whose refusal to flourish we chose to attribute to “bad seeds”)


Now I’m sure you hearty midwestern stock are just shaking your heads and chuckling about now.  But for my little born and bred SoCal girls, this has been the highpoint of their summer!  Especially the Medium Little One who has been out in the yard in her PJs every morning without fail, watering “her” (yes, we have territory issues) garden.  She just about squealed when we ate “her” corn, tomatoes, squash and green beans all in the same meal!

So thank you, Michael Pollan, for reminding me to grow some of our own food and for stirring up memories of the gardens of my childhood.

We have now cleared two more flower beds and added to our veggie patches.  Don’t worry, I’m on the straight and narrow with the borrowing thing and paid for 2 more box gardens fair and square from Tuesday Morning.  In the current anticipated crop lineup: green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, eggplant, 2 more tomato plants, & zucchini.

We enjoyed our very own own tomatoes the other night as an accompaniment to these great Spicy Black Bean Cakes.

I kicked things off by grating a sweet potato in the food processor.

bean burger sw pot

In a skillet, I heated some oil and then sauteed a few scallions.  I added in some cumin, some garlic and a finely diced jalapeno.  I moved that little mixture to a bowl and then rinsed and drained 2 cans of black beans.  I added the beans to the scallion mixture  and then mashed them coarsely with a potato masher – leaving some of the beans in tact for a nice texture.  I seasoned with some salt and pepper at this point.

bean burger mash

Next, I added in the grated sweet potato, an egg, and some fresh bread crumbs.

bean burger mixture

I formed about 8 equal sized balls from my mixture and then flattened them into patties.  I placed the patties on a baking sheet brushed with oil.

bean burger raw

I broiled the patties  in the oven for about 10 minutes.  Then I gave them a flip and broiled another couple of minutes on the other side.

I mixed up some lime jalapeno sour cream to go with the bean cakes. Just a  little bit of lime juice and some diced jalapeno mixed with the sour cream gave things the perfect amount of kick.

bean burger sour cream

I roasted our home grown tomatoes with some olive oil and balsamic and served the tomatoes and bean cakes with a little green salad. Quick.  Easy.  Healthy.  Done.

bean burger final

Here’s the complete recipe for Spicy Black Bean Cakes , adapted from Martha’s Great Food Fast cookbook.