Eggplant caprese recipe

Ok, my kitchen is more or less back together except for a few cabinets, and I couldn’t be happier.  Never mind that every other room in the house has its contents spilled out into random hallways or in the living room which we never use.  It doesn’t even bother me that we are all still sharing one bathroom … I can cook again!  Takeout everyday was putting me in a cranky mood — and when Mama Bear ain’t happy, no one’s happy!  I think the novelty of eating out even wore off with Mr. Picky, although my husband keeps trying to remind me that I was “only” inconvenienced for five days.  Talk to the hand, dude.  Listen, I had to make a fruit crisp on the front porch Wednesday.

I did a great big shop at the grocery store and the farmer’s market on Tuesday and I was giddy with all the possibilities.  I think one of the reasons I get so excited when summer produce hits the stands is that I wait for it all year long.  Local peaches, corn and tomatoes are special!  I especially have a thing for summer tomatoes, and I’m hoping you do too, since there are lots of tomato recipes in the pipeline.  You know that once you’ve had a truly vine-ripened, sun-kissed tomato, you can never go back to those hard, tasteless orbs from the supermarket that have nothing to do with a real summer tomato.  I remember as child going into my father’s garden in the summer with a salt shaker to eat tomatoes with salt right off the vine.  Heaven.

Tomatoes make this girl’s heart grow fonder when they are paired with basil.  This classic combination is a favorite of mine and one I use in so many different dishes.  Just this past week, I posted recipes for pasta with cherry tomato sauce, as well as a frittata with garden vegetables, including tomato and basil.  In last summer’s classes, I taught pasta alla checca, which is a raw tomato and basil sauce.  Of course, the traditional salad on every Italian menu is a Caprese, which is nothing more than alternating slices of good quality tomato and mozzarella cheese with basil, olive oil and salt.  Several years ago I was in Italy with my family visiting a friend of my father’s on the Amalfi Coast.  We had all eaten a large lunch that day and weren’t really hungry for a full dinner, so our hosts pulled tomatoes and basil from the garden,  freshly made local mozzarella from the fridge, local olive oil and olives, and some bread from a bakery down the road.  I know it may not sound like much, but every ingredient was the best I had ever had, and to this day I consider that meal one of my favorites ever.

One of my go-to side dishes in the summer is simply grilled or roasted eggplant slices.  Occasionally I’ll add some mint and feta, but a few years ago I taught this recipe, which is essentially eggplant-meets-Caprese.  Eggplant is such a sponge and loves all that juicy-tomato-and-olive-oil-goodness.  I don’t eat very much dairy, so instead of big slices of cheese, I have added a few cubes mixed in with the tomato and basil mixture.  In this photograph I used fresh buffalo mozzarella, which is a little milkier and lighter tasting, but you can use whatever cheese you’ve got, including burrata, feta or goat cheese — or none at all!  I usually try to teach my girls to eat like civilized ladies, but I have found myself many a time eating this with my hands as an eggplant taco.  Like the other night when we couldn’t find the flatware.  It’s probably still in the living room…

5.0 from 2 reviews
Eggplant Caprese
Serves: 6
  • 2 medium eggplant, unpeeled, sliced crosswise into ¾-inch slices
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil + more for brushing eggplant
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped, seeded tomatoes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small handful fresh basil leaves, julienned
  • 4 ounces (or more if you like) fresh mozzarella, cubed
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place the eggplant slices on the paper and brush them generously on both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper, then roast for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool.
  2. Mix together the tomato, garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the basil. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Set aside.
  3. To serve, arrange the cooked eggplant slices, slightly overlapping, on a serving platter. Scatter the mozzarella chunks on top and spoon over the salsa. Remove the garlic cloves.


Summer garden frittata recipe

While I was away last week, my husband thought it would be a great idea to refinish the cabinets in the kitchen.  No wait, we might as well do all the cabinets in the entire house, he thought to himself.  Why do those four words generally end up as a bad idea?  Why do people think that a small project might as well be a big project?  We had a simple plan.  Mr. Picky and I would go back East to bring Daughter #1 to camp while my husband brought Daughter #2 to camp and we would come back a week later and my house would look like nothing had ever happened except that my kitchen cabinets would look pretty and fresh instead of beaten up because I’ve taught a hundred cooking classes in my kitchen.

Guess what?  This is what my kitchen still looks like!  And so does the rest of my house until who knows when.  So yours truly is in a bit of a funk because she didn’t get to make and photograph the sure-to-be-adorable and tasty raspberry-blueberry-yogurt popsicles she wanted to post today for Fourth of July.  Pouty face.  And yours truly has been eating take-out since she returned home from Long Island on Friday night.  Verrry pouty face.  I’ll get to the frittata in a minute.  What I’d like to discuss is takeout.  I definitely struggle with finding places to eat when I do need to eat out.  Fresh, organic, seasonal prepared food is not as common as you would think, even in Manhattan Beach, California. So I’ve been to Le Pain Quotidien for breakfast two days in a row and Veggie Grill for lunch two days in a row and Whole Foods for one meal.  And here’s what I’ve got to say — holy $$$$$! friends.  How do people eat out all the time?  It’s downright unaffordable.  Not only that, it’s beyond difficult for everyone to agree on what to eat.  Dinner should not be a democratic decision!  Seriously, the last few days have totally reinforced what I have said about cooking at home being easier, cheaper and always more healthful.

Now let’s get to the frittata, which I photographed at my house two weeks ago and again at my parents’ house last week (two different frittatas, naturally.)  I was going to post this recipe next week, but like I said, my husband thought it would be nice to surprise me.  Pouty face.  In any event, a frittata recipe fits in perfectly with my anti-takeout sentiment.  Eggs, and therefore frittatas, are an incredibly versatile and high-quality source of inexpensive protein.  They are also very easy to make on the fly with whatever you’ve got in your kitchen/garden.

I prepare frittatas all year long varying the ingredients based on what’s in season.  Click here for a delicious swiss chard frittata recipe.  A few weeks ago, when I saw zucchini blossoms at our farmers’ market with beautiful, tender zucchini, I knew I had to make what I call “Summer Garden Frittata.”  It’s the frittata I make most often in the summer and it’s really about celebrating whatever my garden or market has to offer.  My family inhaled these last week.  You certainly don’t need to use zucchini blossoms, especially if you can’t find them, but I think they’re so pretty and they have a nice, subtle flavor.  The blossoms without a zucchini attached are the male flowers which basically just sit around the plant doing absolutely nothing while the female blossoms actually produce zucchini.  Why not put those males to good use?  I’m here to tell you that if you don’t find something for them to do, you never know what kind of trouble they’ll create for you.

Summer Garden Frittata
Serves: 6 (although when I'm hungry, I could eat a fourth of this frittata)
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil + additional
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 3 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), ends trimmed and sliced thinly by hand or by the slicing disk of the food processor
  • Fine grain sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese or goat cheese or feta (optional, but I used feta in the photographs)
  • 5-6 zucchini blossoms (optional, I used 4 large ones)
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes or 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 10-inch skillet, warm the olive oil. Sauté the scallions until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the zucchini slices and a generous pinch of salt and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir the cooked zucchini mixture into the eggs and combine well.
  3. Place the skillet back over medium heat and add a little extra oil if the pan seems dry. Pour the egg and zucchini mixture into the pan. Arrange the zucchini blossoms on the surface of the frittata or chop and scatter on top. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the ricotta and the cherry tomatoes around the frittata. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake until firm, about 40 minutes.
Alternatively, bake in a larger skillet for less time for a thinner frittata.

Or, cook gently over medium-low heat, covered until slightly set on the bottom, 15-20 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil until the top is slightly puffed and golden, about 3-5 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.


Pasta with 5-minute cherry tomato sauce recipe

Mr. Picky and I had the most glorious week on Long Island visiting my parents.  My sisters and their kids came to be with us too, so it was quite a full house.   It kind of felt like summer camp with lots of old fashioned fun outdoors from morning til dusk except for the brief break to watch a few games of Euro Cup soccer.  Even though the kids were always playing ball, swimming or taking turns on the hammock, I felt as though we were always eating.  Italians tend to linger at the table for quite a bit, so breakfast morphed into lunch, and lunch lasted for hours, although I surmise that was due to the daily wine.  I finally realize why my parents drink so much espresso.

Whenever I come into town, I am in charge of organizing and cooking all meals, which I don’t mind one bit.  The deal for the week is that whoever cooks, doesn’t have to clean up, so I think I have the better job.  It isn’t difficult to cook for my family.  They are so appreciative, easy going and I’m the only one with a child named “Picky.”  My sisters’ kids are the most fantastic eaters and they are all younger than mine!  I still kept it simple, making frittatas, tacos and salads for lunch and grilled chicken, roasted salmon and more vegetables for dinner.  My father’s garden is loaded with a variety of berries, herbs and greens right now, which was such a pleasure for me.

Besides cooking for the family, one of my other favorite things to do when I go visit is to check out the local natural foods stores.  Yep, that’s a fun outing for me.  I love to see what the Long Island stores carry that mine don’t.  This time around I was pleased to see many new sprouted grain products on the shelves.  I was able to buy Shiloh Farms sprouted spelt flour for pancakes and a sprouted wheat pasta for one night’s dinner.  There’s only so much quinoa and millet my father will eat.  Soaking and sprouting grains, nuts and seeds helps to neutralize phytic acid, which binds with certain minerals and prevents them from being absorbed by the body.  Soaking and sprouting helps to make the grains more digestible and the nutrients more absorbable.  It’s a much more healthful food that way.  I promise to do a post on this soon!

Even though I was happy to cook this week, I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen when I could have been on the hammock with a book or chatting with my sisters.  So I thought spaghetti with 5-minute cherry tomato sauce would be perfect and it happens to be my favorite pasta dish too, and not just because it’s a quickie.  Sweet cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil — how can you go wrong?  I even like it better than pasta all checca, which is essentially the same thing, but raw.  I love the silkiness of the barely cooked tomatoes and how it coats the pasta.  You get a little more depth of flavor when you cook the garlic and tomatoes even just a little.  The key is to halve the cherry tomatoes or you can use peeled and seeded beefsteaks, so that you get a nice juicy sauce.  I never simmer the tomatoes too much, though.  You don’t want it all to evaporate on you.

 If your garden or market has some new summer tomatoes that you’re anxious to use, do try this recipe.  All the kids slurped it up and asked for seconds.  It’s such a classic, as well as fresh and easy.  In fact, after you make it once, you’ll see how this sauce can be the basis for many other dishes including chicken and fish as well as beans with vegetables for a summer vegetable ragu.  The tomato season is just getting started and so are my recipes with my favorite summer vegetable (fruit, if you must), so look out for more of those.  If there are any gardeners out there, please share what’s coming up in your backyard!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Pasta with 5-minute Cherry Tomato Sauce
Serves: 6
  • ¼ cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 pounds cherry tomatoes (about 2 ½ -3 pints), stemmed and halved
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup basil leaves
  • Kosher salt for pasta water
  • 1 pound whole grain pasta, such as whole wheat or spelt
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino-romano cheese (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium low heat. Add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes and swirl over medium until fragrant. When the garlic just starts to turn golden around the edges, increase the heat to medium and add tomatoes and 2 big pinches of salt plus pepper to taste. Cook tomatoes, stirring, until they start to lose their shape, about 5 minutes. Check seasoning and remove from heat. Tear or slice basil leaves and stir into tomato mixture.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon of kosher salt. Cook pasta until al dente. The time will vary depending on the type of pasta you use. Remove a ladleful of pasta water and reserve.
  3. Drain pasta and transfer to the skillet with tomato mixture and toss gently to combine. Add a little reserved pasta water if mixture seems too dry. Serve with cheese, if desired.



Kale Pesto Recipe

When I was a child, my family ate pesto all the time in the summer and early fall.  In fact, to me the smell of basil, garlic and cheese in the food processor is synonymous with warm, lazy days at the beach or on my parents’ hammock under a big, breezy tree.  It was one of the few things my mom made without a recipe because she made it so often and could likely do it in her sleep.  Also, my father always planted way too much basil so Mom was forced to use it  up more quickly than it grew.  Traditional basil pesto is the only pesto that I ever knew until I started over-planting my favorite herb, parsley, and mixing it with basil for an ever better (in my opinion) pesto.

But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I heard about the huge spectrum of pestos out there not made from basil but from all sorts of herbs like cilantro and mint to leafy greens such as spinach and arugula and even peas or sun dried tomatoes.  The result is a brave new world of pesto-adorned dishes beyond pasta in the summertime.  The good news is that all pestos are super simple to make and help me make my boring meals more exciting.  “Another turkey sandwich?”  No, a turkey sandwich with pesto!  Oooh, ahhh.  “Grilled fish” doesn’t have the same appeal as “grilled salmon with cilantro pesto!”  Although when I introduced kale pesto to my family, they were skeptical.

Kale, which is my absolute favorite superfood, is more nutrient-dense than most any food on the planet, so I try to incorporate it into our meals however I can.  I love how hearty and flavorful kale is, but it can be a little bitter for the kids if I don’t try to work around that.  My standard pesto is made with pine nuts or pine nuts and walnuts.  Both are soft nuts that get ground very easily, but can be also be a tad bitter.  So I subbed blanched almonds to keep the pesto from getting too harsh and loved it, even though almonds don’t grind up quite as finely.  The only other change I made was to add a touch of lemon juice which brightens the whole thing up and again, cuts any bitterness.

I made kale pesto in two different ways.  The first with all kale and the second with mostly kale plus basil.  All kale pesto tastes reminiscent of broccoli which makes sense since they’re both in the cruciferous family.  It’s so totally yummy with a hearty whole wheat or spelt pasta, stirred into soups like lentil, mushroom-barley or minestrone or slathered on a quesadilla with leftover roasted veggies and cheese.  I imagine it would be great on a baked potato with veggies or in an omelet with goat cheese and mushrooms.  Then I made another version with mostly kale and some basil and it tastes much more like the version you’re used to, but more substantial and maybe with a little more bite.  So many people in my classes this month thought it was even better than an all-basil pesto.  In class we ate it poured on a grilled chicken paillard.  Sunday, I took some pasta with kale-basil pesto and chickpeas in Chinese takeout containers for a beach picnic and then used the leftovers yesterday on a grilled whole wheat pizza with ricotta, sauteed garlic spinach and fresh mozzarella.  Insane.

Feel free to use whatever kale you can find, but the curly green variety tends to get processed more finely in the food processor if that matters.  Although in these photos I did use the Dinosaur (Tuscan) variety because I typically have that on hand for salad and juicing.  However you try it, and I hope you do, pesto is a busy cook’s good friend anytime of year.  Tell me your favorite ways to enjoy it!

Kale Pesto
Serves: makes just under 2 cups
  • ½ cup blanched almonds, walnuts, pine nuts or a combination (use sunflower seeds for a nut-free pesto)
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 3 cups kale (dinosaur or curly green), stemmed and torn into large pieces (so it’s easier to measure)
  • 2 cups basil leaves (or use all kale)
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¾ cup unrefined, cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
  1. Toast nuts, stirring frequently, in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly golden. If you are a “nut-burner,” just skip this step and put them in the food processor raw. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If you're using sunflower seeds, just use those raw.
  2. Place nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until very finely chopped.
  3. Add kale, basil, salt, pepper and lemon juice and pulse until chopped.
  4. With the food processor running, add olive oil in a steady stream until you achieve a smooth texture. Add cheese and process until well combined.
  5. Taste for seasoning and add additional olive oil to make a looser pesto.
*Pesto freezes really well!

Homemade Marinara (Tomato) Sauce Recipe

Growing up in an Italian home meant never eating tomato sauce out of a jar.  Ever.  It wasn’t until a 6th grade girl scout camping trip when I tasted my first spaghetti and “Ragu” and it was an experience I would never forget.   Unfortunately, I proceeded to get completely sick after I ate the foreign sauce and my mother had to come pick me up.  Since then I’ve always had a thing against jarred.

The good news is that a delicious tomato sauce is quite easy to make, requiring very few ingredients and high fructose corn syrup isn’t one of them.  In fact, the simpler the better.  My mom would make tomato sauce in the winter a little thicker and richer than summer tomato sauce.  She always started out sauteeing thinly sliced onions in olive oil and adding either canned tomatoes from the supermarket or tomatoes we had canned from our garden over the summer.  Depending on the acidity of the tomatoes, sometimes she would add a pinch of sugar.  Mom would also use tomato paste which gave a fantastic richness to the sauce, as well as dried oregano and basil since 30 years ago fresh herbs like this were definitely not available in New York in the dead of winter.  This was her Sunday ritual and we often used the sauce multiple times during the week for pasta and various “alla parmigiana” recipes.
Fast forward to the 21st century where I have my own family which is crazy about Italian food of all kinds.  Although he’s never admitted it, I think my husband might have married me to ensure eating red sauce-laden dishes on a regular basis.  So I have been making my own pretty good sauce for many years, but I never really pushed myself to make a great sauce until Rao’s gave me a run for my money, literally.  Once my husband tasted this new tomato sauce, he was completely hooked.  I would not have cared that much except for the fact that Rao’s is insanely expensive (anywhere from $8-$11 for a 32 ounce jar) and I had just educated myself about the risks associated with consuming canned tomatoes, which all commercially prepared tomato sauces use.  Well, drat.  So I challenged myself to come up with a sauce that would make my husband happy flavor-wise and me happy both nutritionally and financially.
For many years I have been using Pomi chopped tomatoes in tetra-pak boxes which the company assured me are BPA-free and don’t leach aluminum.  In addition, they use non-GMO tomatoes, although they are not certified organic.  These are my first choice for tomatoes for sauce since I like a little texture in my marinara.  If you really insist on organic tomatoes, your option is Bionaturae Organic strained tomatoes in a glass jar or Lucini whole peeled tomatoes (pricey.)  Again, for me it’s a preference of texture that I choose Pomi.  I also believe that a delicious sauce doesn’t skimp on the olive oil and neither does Rao’s at 48 grams of fat in a jar.  I don’t use quite that much, but I’ve tried to make sauce with very little olive oil and it just isn’t the same.  Lastly, I take my BFF, the immersion blender, and puree about half of the sauce in the pot before adding fresh basil and in my opinion, this is what makes the sauce great.  The softened onions and oil get blended with the tomatoes and add a subtle sweetness that takes the place of my NOT BFF, sugar.But before you consider making this delightful sauce it is always recommended to opt for a clean corp house cleaning services.
Since pasta is a processed food which your body converts to sugar rather quickly, and one which is easily overeaten, I don’t make pasta all that often.  That said, we do find many uses for tomato sauce including meatballs (recipe coming on Friday), pizza quesadillas on sprouted or spelt tortillas, as a dipping sauce for some vegetables, and for my husband’s favorite dish, “insert any food here” alla Parmigiana.  Cooked tomatoes also have the bonus of being loaded with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, and in addition, they increase the iron absorption of whatever food with which you combine it.  Even more reason to say “mangia!”

Homemade Marinara (Tomato) Sauce
Serves: makes about 5 cups
  • ¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced or 2 28-ounce containers of chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi
  • 1 7-ounce jar of tomato paste (optional, for a richer, thicker sauce)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • A small handful of fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced*
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté gently until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste with 2 generous pinches of sea salt and bring to a simmer. Cover the sauce, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Puree about half the sauce with an immersion blender or pass through a food mill. (You can also blend half the sauce in a blender or food processor. Put the sauce back into the saucepan.)
  4. Add the basil and simmer for another 5 minutes or longer, if you have the time. Taste and adjust seasoning.
If fresh basil isn’t available, you can add a few dashes of dried basil and dried oregano.


clean corp house cleaning

Green Goddess Salad

I just spent a lovely four days in Park City, Utah enjoying the clean air and the peace and quiet (outdoors, of course; indoors I have my three kids and two of their friends, so no peace and quiet in the house from noon ’til midnight.)  There are no televisions and I insist that the kids leave the phones in their bedrooms so we can hike and dine without the ping of 6 iPhones.  Heaven.

Of course, with travel comes a deviation from eating the way I like to eat.  I consumed a little too much guacamole and chips a little too late at night, and then someone tried to torture me by buying a container of Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter.  I had mentioned it was like a more healthful Nutella, not that it was actually healthful.  By the end, I missed my juicer and my garden and all I wanted to eat were salads and vegetables.  In fact, I was craving this Green Goddess Salad while I was on the plane home.

No, I didn’t name this dressing after you.  The original Green Goddess dressing was created at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in the 1920’s, for the English actor George Arliss.  Arliss was staying at the hotel and dined there every evening before he performed in a play called “The Green Goddess.”  There are so many variations on this dressing, the base of which is usually mayonnaise, sour cream and tarragon — the only herb I don’t like.  Can we still be friends?  So considering I am using none of the above, I don’t know if I can actually call it a Green Goddess dressing.  One day last summer, I tried to clean out some little bits of herbs that were lingering and blended them into my own version of the dressing and we all loved it.  So feel free to adjust the recipe according to whatever herbs you have on hand, even if it’s tarragon.  The kids think it tastes a little like ranch dressing.  So I made more the next day and used it as a dip for raw vegetables.

Green Goddess is a creamy dressing that’s a nice break from traditional vinaigrettes, and one that works well with crisp and sturdy lettuces.  There are dozens of ways to enjoy this salad, even as a main course, since so many things work well with the dressing.  Here I used tomatoes and radishes, which are both perfectly obvious, but you can add hard boiled eggs, shrimp, poached chicken, cucumber, avocado, and/or corn.  One day I took a few beefy tomatoes from the garden, sliced them up and drizzled this over.  Whatever you do, don’t leave out the anchovy paste — it really adds a little salty something and doesn’t taste at all fishy.  Your kids and your picky spouse don’t need to know it’s in there.  In fact, they don’t need to know anything other than you made up your own Ranch dressing.

Green Goddess Salad
Serves: 6
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, leave washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • Any of the following:
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Chopped or sliced cucumber
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Cubed avocado
  • Raw or cooked corn kernels
  • Quartered hard-boiled eggs
  • Dressing:
  • ½ cup whole plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 Tablespoons basil leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped dill (if you have it)
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or two anchovy fillets
  • ½ - ¾ cup unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil (depending on how thick or thin you like it)
  • ¾ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Place all dressing ingredients except oil, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. With the motor running, slowly pour in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Toss lettuce in a serving bowl with enough dressing to coat lightly. Either toss remaining salad components separately with dressing or arrange on top of lettuce and drizzle with dressing.
The original Green Goddess dressing contains lots of tarragon. Feel free to experiment with other different fresh green herbs such as tarragon, cilantro, chervil or mint.

For a dairy-free version, use ½ cup silken tofu in place of the yogurt and increase lemon juice to 3 Tablespoons. I’m sure you could also substitute ½ of ripe avocado, but I haven’t tried that.

Zucchini “pasta” recipe

We’re in pasta mode this week, but transitioning to zucchini mode, so I couldn’t help but post a recipe which covers both.  In the low-carb craze of the 90’s (although I’m not sure it’s over), I was intrigued by the idea of using things like zucchini and spaghetti squash in place of pasta.  “With the addition of tomato sauce, you will feel the same satisfaction of eating the real thing, but without the carbs!”   Those same people try to make veggie burgers taste like beef.  Don’t make me laugh.

That fact is, the first time I tried this method of cutting zucchini in the shape of papardelle noodles and adding some cooked down tomatoes, basil and garlic, I loved it.  Did I feel like I was eating regular pasta?  Not really.  Did I care?  Not at all.  I think this zucchini is absolutely terrific in it’s own right.  My husband, who is a pasta-lover, said, “I like this because I don’t feel gross after eating it.”  Aww, shucks.

When I taught this in my classes two years ago, I went against my better judgment and cooked the tomatoes and zucchini in the same pan.  I, like most people, enjoy cooking more than I enjoy washing dishes, so I am always conscientious of how many pots and pans I use.  But cooking the zucchini too long can make it watery, as does adding acid and salt too early.  So the best way is to do this is in two separate pans side by side.  If you really detest the idea of washing a second pan or if you don’t have 2 large ones, cook the tomatoes first and transfer them to a serving bowl.  Then cook the zucchini in the same pan and add the tomatoes back.  On the same note, don’t allow this to sit too long before serving, because the zucchini will start to release its water.  Unless of course you’re trying to photograph it, and you need to wait for the steam to subside so it doesn’t fog up your lens.

I know many of you are desperate for things to do with the abundance of zucchini from your gardens.  First of all, let me give you a pat on the back for growing something.  Love that!  But can I give you a little advice?  Stop competing with your neighbor for who can grow the biggest squash on the block.  We’re all guilty of it, but there’s nothing good that comes out of it.  Size does matter here, but smaller is better!  When you allow the zucchini to grow to the size of a regulation baseball bat, you end up with spongy, seedy and not tasty zucchini.  Pick them when they’re small and tender and you’ll be able to keep up with production, too.

If you like to come home from work and have dinner on the table in 15 minutes, then you’re better off cutting your zucchini in the morning or the night before.  I showed two methods for this above, either using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, but it does take a little longer than normally prepping zucchini.  If you wanted to make this into a full meal, toss all of it with some freshly cooked pappardelle noodles, white beans for protein and a dusting of parmesan cheese, and it will all be worth it.

Zucchini "Pasta"
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 pounds small zucchini
  • 4 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, cored and chopped (seeded and/or peeled if you like)
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Small handful of basil leaves, slivered
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)
  • Grated or shaved Parmiggiano-Reggiano or pecorino-romano cheese (optional)
  1. Trim the ends off the zucchini. Cut in half lengthwise. Slice lengthwise on a mandoline very thinly (thinner than ⅛-inch) to resemble pasta noodles. If you don’t have a mandoline, you can use a vegetable peeler.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the sides begin to turn golden. Add the tomatoes and season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the basil.
  3. In another large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and sauté until just tender, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and transfer to the tomato mixture with tongs, leaving the extra liquid in the pan. Toss to coat with the tomatoes. You can add an optional tablespoon of unsalted butter at this point to enrich the sauce, but not necessary.
  4. Serve with freshly grated cheese, if desired.
Instead of cooking fresh tomatoes, you can add 1 cup of warmed tomato sauce to the cooked zucchini and serve with grated cheese on the side.



Pasta alla checca recipe

pasta alla checca (raw tomato sauce)

When people tell me they don’t know how to cook, I know what they really mean.  They mean to say they don’t know how to cook well off the fly or they don’t have a deep repertoire of dishes that they can prepare with ease.  I say if you can read, you can cook.  Furthermore, most people can cook something they ate as a child, if nothing else.  If I learned zip about cooking and never stepped foot in a kitchen after I left home, I would at least be able to make Pasta alla Checca.

I actually got a little choked up in a class last month when I reminisced about how I ate this pasta dish weekly during the summers of my youth.  Pasta alla Checca is nothing more than pasta with a raw tomato and basil sauce.  Sounds simple, but the success of the dish relies on the quality of the tomatoes.  If you have divine tomatoes, the pasta will be fabulous.  If not, it will be forgettable.  Therefore, I implore you only to make this dish in the summer when tomatoes have a chance of being splendid.  If you make this dish in January with pale, dreary tomatoes and email me that you don’t know why this didn’t taste like very much, I might just direct you back to this post.

We always had beautiful, tasty tomatoes and basil growing in the backyard and this was an easy weeknight dish for my mom to pull together after a day at the beach or if was too hot to do too much in the kitchen.  My mom was not one for creating extra work for herself, but she always insisted on peeling the tomatoes for this dish.  I have made it both ways and she is totally right — peeling the tomatoes is worth every minute of the 5 minutes it will take you.  When the tomatoes are without their skins, they release more of their juices and flavors and everything just tastes so much richer and more…tomato-y!  My mom used to buy that atrocious plastic-wrapped Polly-O mozzarrella, cube it and marinate it in the tomato mixture while she was cooking the pasta.  When the hot pasta hit the cheese, it melted ever so slightly and yours truly would fight her sisters for it.  If you decide to go this route, keep in mind the garlic cloves are crushed in the sauce and tend to look very much like melted mozzarrella, so you might want to pull out the garlic before serving.


pasta alla checca (raw tomato sauce)

If you are not eating tomatoes right now, you’re missing out.  Even if you don’t eat pasta, make the tomato mixture and put it on top of any number of things — steamed green beans, grilled eggplant, grilled bread, poached or grilled fish or chicken.  The season is short and fleeting and nothing says summer like a real sunkissed vineripened tomato.  To this day, just the aroma of this tomato and basil mixture immediately makes me think summer.  The good news is, you still have plenty of summer left to enjoy it.

pasta alla checca (raw tomato sauce)

Pasta Alla Checca
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, about 6 medium (or more if you like a high ratio of tomatoes to pasta)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup torn or sliced fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste (I think ¾ teaspoon is about right.)
  • 1 pound dried pasta (I like a pasta which catches the tomatoes, such as orrecchiette or conchiglie. My mom always made it with spaghetti.)
  • Kosher salt to season the pasta water
  1. In a pot large enough to fit the tomatoes, fill ¾ with water and bring to a boil ("instant hot" from your sink won't work, already tried it.) Cutting through the skin, make an “x” on the bottom of each tomato with a knife. Turn the heat off and submerge the tomatoes in the water for 20-30 seconds, depending on the size of the tomatoes. Remove the tomatoes from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a cutting board. Peel (non-negotiable), core, seed (if you want) and chop the tomatoes.
  2. Place the tomatoes in a serving bowl. Add the garlic, basil, olive oil, and a few healthy pinches of sea salt to taste. Toss to combine.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 Tablespoon kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions or until al dente. Remove 1 cup pasta cooking water and reserve (you won't need it if your tomatoes are juicy.) Drain the pasta. Immediately add to the serving bowl with the tomatoes and toss to combine, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid if necessary to moisten the pasta. Remove garlic before serving, if desired.