Here we are in March…in like a lion, out like a lamb. In south Florida we are most definitely enjoying lamb-like weather. Jimmy and I are found in the courtyard often, reading and writing, the dog typically sprawled at our feet. Jimmy will spend his mornings outside working on his laptop, leisurely smoking his pipe which, by the way, smells positively heavenly. We read the New York Times in the morning and take pleasure in a simple happy hour or dinner in the evening. Clearly the mosquitos haven’t found our house yet…but they will. In the meantime, if it’s morning or evening, assume we’re puttering outside. This dish is a spring and summer joy. Simple and healthful, it may be served as a vegetable side dish or as an entree with a piece of grilled tuna or chicken atop. It’s lovely at a picnic or poolside as it travels extremely well. Spaghetti squash is much lighter than pasta and undeniably lower in calories. Those who are allergic to wheat will love this alternative. No more sneezing and itchy eye! Regardless of your reason to try this dish, I think you’ll truly enjoy it and so will your family.
Fresh Tomato and Pesto Spaghetti Squash
- 2 spaghetti squash, medium size
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 pints grape tomatoes
- 1 1/2-2 cups fresh basil leaves plus a few sprigs for garnish
- 1 7-ounce container of store-bought pesto or approximately 1 cup of homemade, I use store-bought, reduced fat
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese. This is completely optional and may be left out for a dairy-free, vegan or paleo dish. It’s still absolutely delicious.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 400°. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil and cover foil lightly with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.
- Cut both squashes in half lengthwise.
- Using a large, metal spoon, scoop out all the seeds from the squashes. Discard the seeds.
- Place the squashes cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the flesh is fork tender. I check them at 45 minutes and return to the oven checking for doneness every 5 minutes or so.
- While the squashes are baking finely mince the garlic and place in a medium size, non-reactive bowl. I use glass.
- Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the garlic.
- Using your hands, rip the fresh basil into small, bite size pieces and add them to the garlic-tomato mixture.
- Add the pesto and olive oil to the tomato mixture. If using parmesan cheese, add it as well. Mix thoroughly so all ingredients are well combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the squashes have baked.
- Remove the squashes from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes or until they’re easy to handle.
- With a small paring knife cut the flesh of the squashes lengthwise down to the shell being careful not to cut through to your hand, making 3 or 4 parallel cuts, each cut about 3/4″-1″ apart. This allows bite size pieces and makes it easier to assemble the dish.
- With a large, metal spoon scoop the flesh out of the squashes and place into a large bowl.
- Pour the tomato-pesto mixture over the squash and gently toss until all the squash is well coated.
- Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with any fresh basil leaves and serve.
- If serving within a few hours the bowl may be covered with plastic wrap and then transferred to the serving platter right before serving.
It’s the season of Lent and, for those of you who don’t know, that means no meat in our house. For a total of 40 days and 40 nights. It wasn’t easy when my husband and son decided to abstain but over the years we’ve kind of gotten into the rhythm of it to the point we now feel perfectly comfortable kidding around about the dish we truly miss. It goes something like, “Oh, my gosh. You know what I really craved today? A burger. A great big, juicy burger with lettuce and tomato and pickles and mustard, ketchup and mayo. With a big pile of crispy fries.” Then the other person replies, “I know. I’d totally kill for a chicken wing. Super hot and covered with sauce. I couldn’t stop thinking about them.” Every year it’s the same song and dance. This salad, however, alleviates some of the pain. I won’t lie and say it’ll take the place of meat but it does fill the hole. It’s wonderful topped with a warm fillet of fish just off the grill. I scoop it onto bruschetta followed by a slow drizzle of olive oil for a tempting and pretty hors d’oeuvre. White beans will never take the place of crispy, spicy sopressata on a pizza, comforting spaghetti and meat balls or a savory, homemade chicken salad sandwich but for right now, they’ll do. They’ll do just fine.
One of the finer points of this salad is that it requires no marination time. Once it’s prepared it can be served. That said, it can also be put together a few hours prior to serving and it’s still fantastic. The recipe is easily halved or doubled with perfect results. The salad travels well to parties and picnics, feeds a crowd and is pretty inexpensive to make. Meyer lemons are much sweeter and not as sour as regular lemons but if Meyers are not available in your area, no worries. Regular lemons are just fine and no one will know the difference. This bean salad can be served as a main dish or as a side.
Meyer Lemon, White Bean and Mint Salad
- 4 15-ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 bunches of flat leaf parsley, rinsed and dried
- 2 bunches fresh mint leaves, rinsed and dried
- 1 small red onion, chopped and all tough skins discarded
- 1 large Meyer lemon or 2 regular lemons
- 3/4 cup good olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the parsley and mint leaves and place in a large bowl.
- Zest the lemon then juice it, adding both to the bowl with the parsley.
- Add the olive oil to the parsley mixture and stir well until all the ingredients are completely combined.
- Add the beans to the parsley mixture and gently toss so as not to break up the beans but to completely coat the beans with the parsley mint mixture.
- Taste for salt and pepper.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until serving.
This vegetable soup is perfect for those nights when you crave warm, comforting soup but have little energy, never mind time. The vegetables are cut into good-sized chunks, cook until tender then are blitzed with an immersion blender or in a food processor or blender. The recipe makes quite a bit but the soup is even more flavorful the following day and packs well for lunch at one’s desk. It’s incredibly thick and hearty so often I serve it alone. Paired with a grilled cheese sandwich of some sort, the soup with half a sandwich will leave you stuffed and satisfied. If you prefer your soup thinner, by all means, add a bit more water or broth. Make certain to blend until smooth and the end result will be a creamy, velvety meal. Enjoy!
Creamed Vegetable Soup
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 medium onions, cut into eighths
- 7-9 cloves of peeled garlic
- 5 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ rounds
- 5 medium organic carrots, cut into 1/2″ rounds
- 5 stalks of celery, cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 7 large tomatoes, cut into eighths and core end trimmed off
- 1 pound fresh green beans, stalk end snapped off
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 large handful fresh basil leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large dutch oven or soup pot heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Stir occasionally, and cook until they begin to turn translucent.
- Add the garlic, zucchini, carrots and celery and continue stirring. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften.
- Add the tomatoes, green beans and oregano. Stir until all the vegetables are well combined and the oregano is evenly distributed.
- Add water to the pot just up to the vegetables but not covering them. You can always add more water if needed.
- Bring to a boil then drop the heat down to a medium simmer, cover and cook for 45-60 minutes or until the carrots and green beans are tender and completely cooked through.
- Add the basil, stir, then process until smooth with an immersion blender or transfer to food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
- Add salt to taste
- Add freshly cracked black pepper over individual servings.
- May be served hot, warm or cold.