Nateur Cooking with Valerie Rice: Grilled Zucchini with Chile Mint Vinaigrette

Nateur Cooking with Valerie Rice: Grilled Zucchini with Chile Mint Vinaigrette

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring. It’s still possible to indulge in your favorite foods, while nourishing your body at the same time. Here we share clean versions of delicious recipes that will leave you feeling and looking incredible and not to mention, insanely satisfied!

Name: Valerie Rice

Instagram: @eatdrinkgarden

Job description: Author of Lush Life: Food & Drinks from the Garden and Master Gardener

Favorite dish to serve at a dinner party:  Margaritas!  Oh wait, that wasn’t the question. Whether I am hosting an intimate dinner party or party for 100, I always serve a crudités and seasonal dip. It’s not only a great way to move through the haul from my vegetable garden, but it’s always light and fresh, so guests don’t fill up before dinner. Another benefit: I don’t have to turn the oven on, and it can be made in advance and changes with every season—making it easy to invite the same guests and not worry about reinventing the wheel.

Favorite skin food ingredient and why: I love Unfiltered Coconut Oil—I even have a container in the shower.It smells divine, helps moisturize the skin, and is great for removing tar from the bottom of our feet after beach walks (it’s a Santa Barbara thing).

Top three Instagram accounts for inspiration: Scrolling Instagram is my go-to for artistic imagery and inspiration.  I follow an eclectic collection of people, cooks, gardens, fashion, and I have a few favs: 

@yolandaedwards I met Yolanda through my friend and photographer @deweynicks  (also a great handle to follow). When travel has been minimal for me, I look to Yolanda for amazing travel inspiration and recommendations. She’s got a wonderful eye and captures the most amazing spots around the globe that help to fill my unrequited wanderlust. 

@rebekahmiles her studio is right near me in Ojai. I happened upon her feed, and I am obsessed with her pieces.  Her ceramics are an incredible combination of the freshness of California with the tradition of an Old-World Master.  

@rajatparr contributed to the wine pairings in my cookbook and is a dear friend. Raj’s latest obsession is with regenerative farming @phelanFarm in Cambria.  His feed is a font of inspiration for me,  I went for wine recommendations, but I stayed for compost. 

 Must-have cookbook: Lush Life of course! Seriously, though, I have collection of vintage cookbooks, and my go-to is Italian Regional Cooking by Italian Chef Ada Boni published in 1987.  For more current selections, anything by Alice Waters, David Tanis or Jacques Pepin will never steer you wrong.    

Top three kitchen supplies you can’t live without:  

Kitchen towels are the most underrated item in the kitchen.  I never cook without at least one towel on my apron.  I use them for everything, pot holders, underneath my boards on the counter, and even as a salad spinner.  Just wrap your greens in the towel and spin it around.  You might want to take this outside, as the water comes out like a treat.  (Sidebar: Cleaning salad spinners is the worst!)

A heavy, sharp knife. I picked up a knife in Japan that I use (and sharpen!) every day. 

My immersion blender.  That little stick goes with me from the bar to the stove, I whiz cocktails (they make swift work of whole citrus), dips, soups, and dressings, cold and hot, and they are smooth and perfect every time.  

Three things you always keep in your refrigerator: Greek Yogurt, eggs, and a big chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Because not only is everything better with Parm, these three-ingredients are workhorses for the bounties of my chicken coop and veg gardens.

Favorite online shop for kitchen supplies and / or specialty food items: I love my local Santa Barbara stores, but I have to admit that I do quite a bit of online shopping.  From seed catalogs, to housewares, to specialty foods, I am always looking for new inspiration.

My style of plating makes food the star of the show, and all my platters, linens and plates act as supporting cast. Current favs include: Colleen Hennessey a former chef and ceramist based in the Mendocino coast whose neutral palette works really well for my cooking style.

And at the other end of the spectrum stylistically,  La Double J a designer who makes bright and colorful pieces are that great as accents, although lately can’t stop myself from buying dresses!

And for linens and table dressings, Cabana is a special splurge that pulls it all together 

Terrain for specialty outdoor garden items. 

Go-to quick, healthy meal: Omelets, natch! As I always have veggies coming from the garden, and eggs from my chickens, omelets are the perfect 5-minute dish that are delicious with literally anything I have on hand. 

Favorite healthy treat: I love putting dried fruit in the freezer. Really, it’s delicious. Frozen Golden Berries are my absolute fav. They taste just like Sour Patch Kids!  I also love frozen dates and big golden raisins I find at our Santa Barbara farmer’s market!

Skincare mantra: I don’t have a complicated routine because I am all about simplicity.  My mantra is easily Cleanse, Moisturize, Sunblock.  And I never leave the house without a hat.

Eat this recipe for: A beautiful spring lunch or as a side dish.

Recipe: Grilled Zucchini with Chile Mint Vinaigrette

Reprinted with permission for Lush Life by Valerie Rice , copyright 2021 

4 to 6 Servings

This recipe is equally delicious with whatever squash you have on hand. I like planting a variety, my favorites being the Grey zucchini and Romanesco squash because they have an earthy flavor and creamier texture when cooked. Fresno peppers are easy to grow and more flavorful than jalapeños. They don’t need a lot of space to grow, just full sun and a terracotta pot and you’re in business.


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 green onion (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced

1 Fresno chile or ½ jalapeño, very thinly sliced

1 small garlic clove, very thinly sliced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from ½ lemon)

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint 

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (from 1 lemon)

½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt 

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 zucchini or yellow squash

Flaky sea salt 

½ cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Fresh mint leaves (garnish)

Prepare barbecue grill (medium-high heat). Whisk together oil, onion, chile, garlic, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, mint, lemon peel, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set vinaigrette aside.

Cut the zucchini lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices (keep some of the stem on so it looks pretty). Brush with oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Grill zucchini until lightly charred, turning occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes. Arrange zucchini on a platter; drizzle with half of the vinaigrette, adding more if desired. Sprinkle with tomatoes and mint leaves.