How do I begin to explain my joy of tacos, something so part of me, such a fundamental element of the flavors of my childhood? If you're a long-time follower you already know that Mexican flavors are my ultimate comfort food.Read More
Around here summer is quickly moving in the direction of fall. Although I am anxiously anticipating the arrival of persimmons, parsnips, and Brussel sprouts, I am sad to see summer coming to an end. So before it completely disappears I wanted to celebrate its fruitful bounty with a big pasta dish of my favorite Mediterranean flavors. I don't think anything screams summer to me more than a mix of grilled summer vegetables, glazed with balsamic vinegar, and tossed with al dente Papparadelle, lemon-garlic dressing, olives, and pine nuts.
I grilled the vegetables in my oven, but if you have an outdoor grill by all means use it. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and let it cook on the grill alongside the vegetables. And if you're gluten-free, don't think this pasta dish is not for you! Use brown rice noodles or quinoa pasta, or sub in cooked quinoa and turn this into a big quinoa salad platter.
This is a festive, crowd-pleasing pasta and a summer favorite for us. So get out the largest pasta bowl you own and make this for your next outdoor get-together. I hope it becomes a favorite of yours too.
Ratatouille Pasta Salad
Notes: Gluten-free? No problem...use brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, or turn this into a large quinoa salad platter.
- 375 gr (3/4 of lb.) papparadelle or tagliatelle
- Mug full of reserved pasta water
- 1 juicy lemon
- 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Balsamic Grilled Vegetables (recipe below)
- Large handfull pine nuts, toasted
- Handful Kalamata olives, pitted
- Bunch of basil, torn
- Cook pasta to al dente (usually 1-2 minutes shy of package directions). Reserve a mug full of pasta water before draining.
- In the meantime, in a very large mixing bowl add zest and juice of lemon, olive oil, balsamic (or leftover balsamic dressing used to glaze vegetables, if there is any), and cooked mashed garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- se tongs to toss cooked, chopped vegetables with pasta. Fold in pine nuts, olives, and basil.
- Finish with extra black pepper and serve family-style immediately, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to pass at the table.
Balsamic Grilled Vegetables
Notes: I used 2 small-mediumzucchini, 1 small eggplant, 1 red onion, 1 red bell pepper, and 1 carton cherry tomatoes. Use as many or few vegetables as you'd like. I cooked cherry tomatoes last because they need less time, 4-5 min total. You can also leave them raw and toss them into pasta at the end.
- Mix of summer vegetables*
- 1 large clove garlic, with skin on
- 2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil, melted
- 2-3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- Generous pinches of salt/pepper
- Set oven to broil. Mix coconut oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper in a large bowl. On a large cutting board, cut eggplant and zucchini in 1/4 inch planks on a diagonal. Remove core from bell pepper and cut into 4 pieces. Slice onion into 1/2 inch thick rounds, leaving layers intact.
- Toss vegetables with dressing in bowl (be careful to keep onion mostly intact) and place on baking sheet. This may need to be done in several batches, depending on the amount of vegetables you use. Cook garlic clove with first two batch, or until soft to the touch.
- Broil in upper third of the oven for 4-5 minutes, flip, and cook another 3-4 minutes. Repeat with remaining batches.
- Chop vegetables into bite size pieces. Remove garlic from skin and use a fork to mash into a paste. Mix into lemon dressing made below.
We decluttered and reorganized our bookshelf and office last weekend. As a planner and a checklist lover I consider myself an organized person. But I am less enthused by deep organizational work involving tangible objects, such as organizing the bookshelf. It overwhelms me. While no single step is difficult I paint a mental image of the process being messy and chaotic: pulling down all the books, sorting them into piles to stay or be boxed up, oh and while we're at it rearranging some surrounding furniture, cleaning behind the furniture, then cleaning the bookshelf, and finally re-shelving the books.
But at the end of the day I love the feeling after the work is complete and we are enjoying the space. It's a cleanse for the reading nook and once again makes it feel zen and functional, exactly what I like to achieve in our home. This is the end goal I keep in mind and is what drives me to create a plan of attack, a strategy to get off my butt and tackle a seemingly overwhelming project.
This mindset also applies to food shopping and preparation. I don't always enjoy the planning and preparation bit. Do you ever feel this way? But I am deeply nourished and satisfied by home-cooked, plant-based, whole food meals showing up on my table. I value what they contribute to my health, my sense of well-being and lifestyle of wellness. Living and cooking this way is a non-negotiable for me because I see how each step supports my vision of wellness.
By creating this vision of wellness we enable ourselves to rise above the daily, mundane tasks and apply meaning to planning, shopping, and cooking (and reorganizing bookshelves!). When our tasks are aligned with our values, we will value our tasks.
What does your vision of wellness look like? What action steps are you taking to achieve that vision? (For inspiration check out this post, especially Lissa Rankin's health cairn.)
This red leaf lettuce salad is a great example of how preparing a meal does not have to be time-consuming nor complicated in order to align with our vision of wellness. I will often make salad for dinner. For a well-rounded salad, I keep a few things in mind.
Eastern medicine traditions, specifically the ancient science of Ayurveda, suggests that balancing the six tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent, bitter) in a meal supports balance and health in our body, clarity, and helps us to feel nourished and satisfied, thus diminishing cravings. I try to incorporate as many of these tastes as possible and also balance the macronutrients and textures. I've created a quick reference guide for you below. Hope this is helpful when creating your own salads. And in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this red leaf lettuce salad!
Constructing a Salad
*examples are not exhaustive
Carbs (greens, fresh fruit, dried fruit, leftover grains)
Protein (legumes, lentils, quinoa, nuts, eggs, tempeh, seeds, cheese)
Fat (avocado, nuts, cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, other cold-pressed oils such as flax)
Crunchy (nuts, seeds, lettuce, some vegetables)
Chewy (dried fruit, some grains, semi-hard/hard cheese, sun-dried tomatoes)
Creamy (avocado, some beans, cheese)
Juicy (stone fruit, citrus fruit, tomatoes)
Sweet (fruit, grain, starchy vegetables, dairy, sugar, honey)
Salty (salt, soy sauce, sea vegetables)
Sour (citrus fruit, pickled/fermented food, vinegar)
Pungent (mustard, black pepper, ginger)
Astringent (lentils, green apples, grape skins)
Bitter (dark leafy greens, sprouts, beets)
Red Leaf Lettuce and Nectarine Salad
1 nectarine, chopped
4-5 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 avocado, chopped
Semi-hard goats cheese
Handful pistachios, shelled
A few handfuls red leaf lettuce, chopped
Whole Grain Mustard Dressing
1 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp. honey
Make the dressing in the bottom of a wide bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add salad ingredients on top*, then toss gently with two forks or salad servers.
*If you want to make this 30 minutes or so in advance, add the salad ingredients to the dressing, layering n the order listed. Then toss with dressing when ready to serve. This way lettuce does not get soggy.
I made this dish on a recent cold and rainy weekday evening after work ran over an hour later than usual. It's rare to find a recipe that is elegant enough for a dinner party but just as practical to make for a fast weeknight dinner. I nominate this meal, as you can serve it as rustically (straight from the pan) or elegantly as you'd like and can count on it coming together in less than 25 minutes, creating next to nothing to clean up later. I didn't even use a cutting board. The secret is that the whole meal cooks in one pan, the ingredients are quick-cooking, and the only prep work required before starting the cooking process is to push some garlic through a garlic press. This is a great pantry meal to have on file, assuming you keep a few lemons and garlic in your fridge. And you can pick up the shrimp the day of or keep some in the freezer for times like these.
When we eat fish, I have three rules of thumb that generally guide my decision on what to buy: sustainability, mercury level, and a preference for wild-caught versus farmed. Look for this certified sustainable seal, or something similar, next to the fish if buying fresh, or directly on the package if buying frozen. If the fish is wild-caught, it should also say on the label. Additionally use this and this reference if you're curious to read about mercury levels in fish.
Bulgur and Shrimp Skillet
Inspired by A Couple Cooks
Notes: You want medium or course grade bulgur for this recipe. If the package says it will cook in approximately 15 minutes, you have the right grade. You don't want fine bulgur that steams in just a few minutes. I use passata here but crushed tomatoes would also be great or diced tomatoes, quickly crushed/pureed using a hand blender or food processor.
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced with garlic press
- 2 tsp. dried thyme (or Herbs de Provence)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups bulgur
- 1 680 g (~30 oz or 2 3/4 cups) jar passata
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups water
- 1 - 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 200 grams medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
- Basil, to finish
- Parmesan shavings, to finish
- Heat olive oil in a large saute pan with sides over medium-low heat. Add garlic, thyme, lemon, and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat in oil and cook gently for a minute, until fragrant.
- Deglaze pan with balsamic vinegar. It should simmer and reduce after just a few seconds. Then add bulgur and stir around to coat in flavored oil and vinegar.
- Toast for a minute until it starts to smell nutty, then add passata, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1 tsp. salt.
- Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally so bottom does not stick, until bulgur is almost cooked through. If it's dry or the bottom is starting to stick, add another 1/2 cup water. You want a loose risotto-like sauce. Taste mixture at this point and adjust for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.
- Place shrimp on top of bulgur, season shrimp with salt and pepper, cover and cook for another 7-8 minutes, until shrimp are pink and cooked through.
- Squeeze lemon over shrimp, tear basil and scatter around, and serve. Pass parmesan to shave at the table.