Tuna Pasta Salad

  We have reached that point in the summer when I don’t like cooking anything complicated, especially if it will heat up the kitchen at the hottest part of the day. Grilling is always an option, but sometimes you just want something light and cool for supper. Enter this salad! It has a lovely combination of protein and carbohydrates that will leave you satisfied, but not sluggish. It keeps well for about 48 hours in the refrigerator, so if you have a small family, you can have leftovers for lunch the next day with no problem!

This salad is meant to be served at room temperature or a little warm, but it is also very good cold, especially if you add an extra squeeze of lemon.

A note about canned tuna. I try to buy the most sustainable tuna I can afford, and prefer tuna packed in olive oil. Trader Joes has a very affordable Skipjack tuna that is dolphin safe. If you decide to use tuna packed in spring water, you may need a bit more olive oil to keep the salad from getting dry.

Tuna Pasta Salad (makes 4-6 servings)

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 2 cans of tuna, drained
  • 1 head of butter or Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions.
  2. Drain pasta and toss with the olive oil. Set aside to cool about 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the tuna, lettuce, olives, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  4. Add the cooled pasta to the bowl. Toss all ingredients together.
  5. Correct seasonings as needed.
  6. Serve immediately at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.

Enjoy!

Pasta alla Ceccha

Pasta alla Ceccha

  Some summer days just beg for easy cooking, and this past week was full of them! Sometimes serendipity intervenes and provides you with what you need. At a race I ran last week, one of the vendors was giving away yellow tomatoes. Tomatoes!!! So we came home loaded down with little packages of delicious tomatoes, just in time to make a dish that is summer simplicity at its best. 

Italian cooking makes the best use of simple, ripe, seasonal foods and this dish  is one of my favorite ways to get our pre-run carbs without turning the kitchen into a sauna. The sauce is a raw tomato sauce that is flavorful and satisfying without being heavy. Tossed with hot pasta, it fills your kitchen with the amazing aroma of basil and garlic. Try this with your best, ripe summer tomatoes! This recipe is based on one from Giada deLaurentis and is a favorite summer staple.

Pasta alla Ceccha (serves 4)

  • 1 lb pasta
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes or the equivalent in ripe, regular tomatoes
  • 3 green oinions, white parts and a little of the green
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ounce parmesan cheese
  • A generous handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1″ pieces
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente.
  2. In a food processor, combine all remaining ingredients except mozzarella. 
  3. Pulse until all is combined but still chunky. Don’t puree ( although if you do, it’s not the end of the world).
  4. Toss the sauce with the hot cooked pasta.
  5. Add the fresh mozzarella and serve immediately.

See? Easy peasy! Enjoy!

Eggplant Tomato Stacks

IMG_2011I think I made it all the way to adulthood with an intense dislike for eggplant. To me, eggplant was a bitter, slimy, vegetable that was typically served fried and greasy in some version of eggplant Parmesan. I’m not sure when my eggplant revelation came about, but eggplant is now one of my favorite summer vegetables. I love it grilled, roasted with garlic and especially baked in this wonderful, healthy re-make of eggplant Parmesan.

Here is the secret to great tasting eggplant–buy it fresh from your local farmer’s market. The longer eggplant sits, the more bitter it can become. Also, eggplant picked for grocery stores is often picked under-ripe, before it’s true sweetness is developed.

This recipe makes the most of fresh, local eggplant, tomato and basil–all in abundance in North Carolina during the summer. We used local mozzarella from Hillsborough Cheese Company, so only the Parmesan Reggiano, olive oil and salt were store-bought. We used some of our yummy Roasted Tomato Sauce, which is my favorite discovery from last summer (well, maybe it’s a tie with Mae Farm Bacon Onion Marmalade).

Think of this recipe as lasagna with eggplant replacing the noodles. This is no greasy, fried, chain restaurant dish–it is flavorful, nourishing and rich in antioxidants and fiber. And your house will smell A-MAZ-ING while it is baking. Tom commented several times that it is hard to believe this is a meatless dish. If you substitute vegan cheese, it would be a completely vegan dish. Like it’s lasagna cousin, this freezes and reheats well, making super tasty leftovers. Healthy, local and delicious. Win-win-win. Yum-yum-yum!

Eggplant Tomato Stacks (makes 6 servings)

  • 3 medium eggplant (we used several baby eggplant and one medium)
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 quart Roasted Tomato Sauce (or 1 jar from the store)
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated (you can use part-skim to reduce the fat)
  • 1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Wash eggplant and slice into 1/4″ or so slices. Put slices on the baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. Roast eggplant slices for about 12 minutes–until they are fork tender.
  5. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add one layer of the eggplant. Top with 1/3 of the tomato sauce, a sprinkling of basil leaves, 1/3 of the mozzarella and 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times, ending with cheese on top.
  6. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly and golden brown on top.
  7. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Pasta with Shrimp, Green Beans, and Tomato

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Oh, this pasta.

So good I could have licked the bowl (and maybe I did). Chock full of summer goodness and garlicky basil pesto. I love Julia Child, but I have to say, Italians can rock out some fresh produce. And seafood. Ummm…Wait, can I have pasta for dessert?

This dish was supposed to be my supper the night before my first 10K, however due to an emergency at work, that didn’t happen. Instead, it became my post-race night supper. And it was very delicious, light, but satisfying. If you don’t like shrimp, you could use some pulled chicken instead. The green beans and tomatoes came in our Produce Box this week!

Pasta with Shrimp, Green Beans and Tomato (makes 6 servings)

  • 1 lb. pasta (we used organic casarecce pasta)
  • 1lb. shrimp, peeled
  • 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, washed, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 pint fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto (or more, if you like)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1. Fill a stock pot with water and bring to a rolling boil.
    2. When pasta water is boiling, add several tablespoons of kosher salt to the pot.
    3. In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil at medium heat. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.
    4. Add the pasta and beans to the boiling water. Cook according to pasta directions.
    5. Add the shrimp to the sauté pan. Cook until barely pink. Then, add the tomatoes and continue cooking until shrimp are completely pink and opaque (this should be about 3 minutes). Don’t over cook!
    6. Drain the pasta and green beans and add pasta mix to a large serving bowl. Add the shrimp and tomatoes to the bowl. Add the Parmesan cheese and pesto and mix together well.
    7. Serve immediately.
  • Fish with Fennel and Tomato

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    This is an oldie, but a goodie! Just made this again this weekend and was reminded of how wonderful I few simple ingredients can be!

    Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image often helps me get through the most stressful workdays and puts a smile on my face in the most tiresome meetings. It’s my mental happy place.

    This recipe may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. A culinary happy place. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local fennel, local tomatoes we froze whole over the summer and parsley and thyme from our garden, this is a quick, summertime winner. If you want to grill your fish, you could do that and make the sauce in a separate dish–easy!

    Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

    • 4 fish fillets (we used local Spanish Mackerel)
    • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
    • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
    • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
    • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
    • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
    • 1/2 cup unpitted olives (optional)
    • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed (optional)
    • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
    • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
    1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
    3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
    4. Cook fish to your preference (I pan seared ours, but grilling would be great also).
    5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
    6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…
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