This quick and colorful dish became a regular appearance on the dinner table this summer. It’s full of healthy veggies and makes great use of those fresh CSA items that I didn’t always have a plan for.
Summer Spaghetti Primavera
- 5 oz. uncooked spaghetti
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 large handfuls green beans, rinsed and trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-in. pieces
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2-3 large summer squash, cut into 1/2 in. dice — I used a combo of yellow crookneck, zucchini and pattypan
- 2 Tbsp. pesto
- Parmesan cheese
Cook spaghetti according to package directions and drain. (I’m a huge fan of this energy-saving technique.) Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add green beans and garlic. Sauté 2-3 minutes. Add squash and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until squash has softened and is slightly golden. Toss spaghetti, vegetables and pesto together. Divide between two plates and top with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.
My husband is a great sport when it comes to what I do in the kitchen. He is willing to try anything I cook and he’s patient when I got on about improving something he finds already quite delicious. And he’s not a picky eater. Really there are only three things I cannot get him to eat: beets, eggplant, and okra.
Beets taste just a little bit too much like dirt for his preference (I even baked them into delicious cupcakes, with no success.) And eggplants and okra are slimy. And when okra isn’t slimy, it’s fuzzy. I get it, I do. But I also keep receiving these three vegetables in our CSA box in rather unavoidable quantities, which means I’m always having to come up with some way to cook or preserve them so that I can enjoy them all by myself before they go bad.
I’ve baked and pickled. (I’m quite excited to see how the pickled eggplant turns out!) And unfortunately I have composted as well. But today I wanted to try a little something different. Enter okra fries.
So we just got back from vacation this week, and as my mother says, the first day back from vacation is always the hardest day of the year.
Because we had been out of town, I hadn’t been to the grocery store in a while, and I wasn’t about to go on that first day back. So dinner was going to have to come out of whatever odds and ends we had in the pantry. Enter the Big Ass Pancake.
The original recipe just refers to it as Big Pancake (also often known as the Dutch Baby), but I prefer the added word, partly in homage to hilarious local blogger and artist Robin, who paints this great, and aptly named, piece here. I have recently become quite enamored with my cast iron skillet—so it’s role in this recipe was the first selling point. The second was that I had almost everything it called for. I say almost because I had to make “milk” out of fat free half & half and some water.
Nevertheless, the Big Ass Pancake turned out delicious in a big ass way. I halved the recipe to make just one pan, and my husband and I split it, topped it with some homemade applesauce, powdered sugar and a few drops of lemon juice. The resulting dish was somewhat like a cross between pancakes and french toast—and my husband said it reminded him of croissants. But it was good; and I will make it again. Probably this weekend.
P.S.: If you’re curious about cooking with cast iron but worried about the maintenance, check out this article for a super-easy way to keep up the best pan you’ll ever own.
After throwing away a few too many half-eaten packages of bacon, I finally got smart. I put a serving of bacon (2-3 slices) in each compartment of a muffin tin and froze it, them transferred the bacon piles to a jar.
I am not, of course, the first person to think of this. I am told that my great-grandmother used to roll up individual slices like sleeping bags before freezing them. Smart lady.
On Friday I completed the third 5k race I have ever run. I came in at 36:01, despite a last-ditch sprint effort to make it 36 even.
By the end of the third mile, I was dead tired and pretty sure I was about to throw up. The temperature on the course was approaching 90 degrees, and although I downed water all day I still didn’t feel hydrated enough. This particular race ends with a gradual but really rather awful uphill climb, and even if you’ve run it before, the whole last mile seems to sneak up on you.
But I did it. And if you’ve seen the rather pixelated photo of my finish line moment (I hope you haven’t; it’s not too flattering) then you would see how happy I was to finish that race, and more than 4 minutes faster than last year. The smile on my face tells much more of the story than the time on the clock.
It took me more than a year, and a whole lot of lifestyle changes to get to the point where I was able, both physically and emotionally, to run it. Those may be stories for another day, but I do want to mention a couple of things I found helpful in my journey to 3 miles:
- Getting good shoes: Any running reference or website will tell you this. But you don’t have to spend tons of money—I got mine when a local running shop was having a huge sale. Talk to the people at the store who can help you with fit and the right style for your foot/stride.
- Considering clothing options: Like me, you may think that a T-shirt is the most comfortable piece of clothing you own, but many athletes will tell you that 100% cotton is the worst thing you can sweat in. For me, investing in the right clothing was not only helpful in running (I am way more comfortable in lightweight shirts and shorts that don’t ride up), but it also sent a message to myself that I was serious about my training.
- Having a plan: Many, many people swear by the Couch-to-5k program, and I would too—if I had ever finished it. Oops. But seriously, it is a wonderful way to take something that looks huge and undoable (three miles!) and to put it in perspective. I highly recommend their iPhone app, which will play your music and time your running intervals, so you can focus on your workout instead of your watch. (Bonus: Get the $0.99 GPS add on and geek out over your routes and pacing.)
- Setting a goal: Is there an upcoming 5k in your town? Sign up for it, just leave enough time for safe training. Sites like Active.com maintain lists of athletic events and are often the registration portals as well.
- Training on the appropriate surface: If you’re planning to race on the road, then train on the road. There is no comparison between treadmill and asphalt running, even with your treadmill’s incline raised. It’s not even close.
- Creating a support system: Running buddies are wonderful things. But if you choose to workout solo, get someone to run the race with you, or at least find a friend or family member you can talk to about it—someone who will be supportive of your goal and will keep you going when you don’t want to work out.
Have fun! And may the wind be always at your back.
A very pink (and very tasty) pilaf.
Happy Memorial Day everyone!
And happy unofficial start to summer. I hope everyone had a wonderful (and perhaps long) weekend. We managed to get quite a few things done around the house, not the least of which was a bit of cleaning made easier by the revelation that we have those cool tilt-in windows. Who knew?
We also had some good friends over for some good food and some celebrating. I thought it might be a good ideal to kick off some new habits (posting regularly will be one of them, I hope—more about the others lately) by sharing our menu.
A Memorial Eve Cookout:
- Rosemary & Thyme Spread with Crostini—Discovered and wonderfully prepared by our friend. She bookmarked this site for later review, and I think I’ll have to, too. Beautiful photography.
- Beer & Bison Burgers with Pub Cheese—Saw these in this month’s Sunset magazine, and HAD to make them. My husband basically slapped them on the grill and forgot about them until we were ready to eat, and they came out perfect. Oh, and the pub cheese makes a really tasty (if a little garlicky) dip for pita chips.
- Grilled corn on the cob
- Grilled broccoli raab—Prepared according to this suggestion. This was a first for all of us, I think, and we were quite pleasantly surprised.
- Quinoa & Beet Pilaf—I found this through the @nytimesdining tweets, and when I learned that there would be beets in our CSA this week, I knew we had to make it. I cut back on the caraway seeds because hubs isn’t really into it, and I was afraid it would be really beet-y (ya know, really taste like dirt), but it came out really wonderfully balanced. The leftovers were great cold tonight.
- And for dessert… Chocolate Eclair Cake! — Also lovingly made by our friend with her grandmothers recipe. This is one of those church cookbook staples, and it was just as amazing as I remember it. I have so many memories of eating this sweet treat on emotional evenings on church trips. Every bite reminded me of why summer is so great. Sounds cheesy, but true.
Except for a little of the cooking time, we got to spend the entire evening in the back yard with the fire pit and some cold beers. And after all was said and done I only had about a half-dozen mosquito bites. Not a bad start to summer at all.