Parmesan Peppers Recipe

prepping peppers | pamela salzman

I just returned home from a beautiful vacation on Long Island with my family.  It’s always my favorite week of the year and I enjoy the time even more when the weather is perfection like it was last week (barring the crazy 30-minute quasi-tornado on Tuesday morning.) I try to visit my parents in August rather than earlier in the summer because my father’s vegetable gardens are much more abundant now.  I think one of the best, most rewarding things in life is to be able to grow your own food.  On so many levels it’s good for you and good for the earth.

prepping peppers | pamela salzman

It can be very confusing to know what’s in season these days since we can buy virtually anything at any time.  But if you’ve ever gardened, you know that certain vegetables are planted during certain times of the year.  When I was growing up, I knew strawberries were only around for a short time so I would eat as many as humanly possible to take advantage of nature’s little springtime gift.  Same with tomatoes.  In fact, my mother loves telling me the story of when I was little and I ate so many unripe green tomatoes out of my father’s garden that I made myself sick.  I guess you can have too much of a good thing.

parmesan peppers | pamela salzman

Here’s a newsflash for some people:  bell peppers are a summer vegetable.  Sure you can buy them all year, but they’ll be imported and likely not organic.  Another newsflash is that bell peppers are usually on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of most highly contaminated produce, so I always buy organic or not at all.  Yikes.  Now I look back and thank my lucky stars my father grew lots of peppers without pesticides.

parmesan peppers | pamela salzman

Sweet bell peppers have a soft spot in my heart because they were one of Mr. Picky’s first “approved” vegetables.  I can even remember the day he tried a stick of raw red bell pepper and said, “Hey, this is good!  It’s juicy!”  Munch, crunch.  Then I went overboard trying to put sweet bell peppers in everything because I thought they were my ticket to broadening his limited palate.  Well my strategy didn’t exactly work.  But I’m glad I went pepper-crazy because I found this recipe for Parmesan peppers and it has become a favorite.

parmesan peppers | pamela salzman

Parmesan peppers is one of the easiest and tastiest side dishes.  It gets multiple flavor boosts from garlic, thyme, lemon and Parmesan cheese, although I often use Pecorino, a sheep’s milk cheese.  It’s true that my son prefers his bell peppers raw (“juicy and crunchy”), I prefer the sweeter flavor and silky texture from roasted peppers.  One sliver of these peppers wrapped around a bite of fish or roasted chicken is just delicious.  And if you can find two (or even three) colors of peppers, this is a really beautiful side dish.  And I repeat, easy!

parmesan peppers | pamela salzman

So the big question is, does Mr. Picky eat this?  And the answer is, almost.  What does that mean?  Like most kids, he’s slow to come around to vegetables and he likes to try things on his own terms.  It’s annoying for sure, but it is pretty normal.  So the first couple of times I made this, he was like “no way I’m eating that.”  He did have the obligatory taste, but nothing more after that.  More recently, he has eaten an entire piece and declared, “it’s pretty good, but I’m fine with one piece, thanks.”  The last time he had one piece and said, “it’s good and I’m pretty sure I’ll eat more next time.”  Welcome to my world!

parmesan peppers | pamela salzman

While there are no guarantees in life, these peppers have always been a hit with everyone else who has tried them, including my two daughters. What I do know for sure is that summer and local peppers won’t be around forever, so do enjoy them while you can.

Parmesan Peppers
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2011
Ingredients
  • 4 bell peppers (a mix of yellow, red and orange is nice)
  • 1 clove thinly sliced garlic
  • 8 thyme sprigs
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino
  • juice of ½ lemon, if desired
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Stem, core and quarter bell peppers; place on prepared baking sheet.
  3. Toss with garlic, thyme and olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Arrange skin side down in a single layer and roast until softened, about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and preheat the broiler.
  6. Sprinkle the peppers with Parmesan and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and peppers are slightly charred. This will only take a minute or two.
  7. Remove from oven and drizzle with lemon juice, if you like. You can leave the thyme sprigs, but they are not to be eaten.
Notes
Feel free to leave out the cheese if you need. These are also great with a few capers sprinkled on when they come out of the oven.

 

Swiss Chard and Potato Gratin Recipe

Swiss chard and potato gratin | Pamela Salzman

A good friend from college gave a speech at our wedding about my husband’s penchant for all things that start with the letter “P.”  It was something I hadn’t thought of until then, but all my husband’s favorites do begin with P — Pamela (that’s me!), Penn (where we went to college,) Pittsburgh and their sports teams like the Pirates and Penguins, pizza (his favorite food), pasta (his second favorite food) and anything with Parmesan cheese.  Almost 19 years later, despite living in LA and eating my food every day which I assure you is not a lot of pizza and pasta, the man is still the same.  And that’s a-ok with me since I’m still in the picture, too.

getting prepped

In the same way I can get our son, aka Mr. Picky, to eat almost anything in a corn tortilla, I can pretty much ensure success with my husband if I put Parmesan cheese on it.  He even takes the liberty of adding Parmesan cheese where it may not really belong, but it’s his default if he thinks the dish needs improvement.  And if we’re out of Parmesan, no problem!  He’ll reach for the Pecorino, naturally.  I saw this recipe on the Whole Foods website for a Swiss chard and potato cake that looked divine, but was loaded with gruyere which doesn’t always agree with me in large quantities.  So I lightened it up a bit with Parmesan and we all loved it (except for Mr. Picky who would not try it because he is, ironically, Parmesan-averse.)  Not so easy my job, is it?

layering onions, potatoes, chard leaves and Parmesan

Dark green leafy vegetables are so abundant right now and always the perfect, super-nutritious addition to any meal.  I think this recipe, which is warm and hearty, is ideal for the transition into spring.  (Don’t worry, it will feel like spring soon!)  I haven’t tried this with any other leafy green, but I do think chard is perfect for the job.  I love bitter greens, and if you do too, I have no doubt kale would be great here.  I think spinach is a little too watery, but I could be wrong.

cover first with parchment and then with aluminum

This gratin would be perfect for Easter brunch or dinner, especially if you’re serving lamb or poultry.  Couldn’t you also imagine this with a side of soft scrambled eggs and a fresh baby greens salad?  Love it!  Of course you don’t need a special occasion to serve this, just a bit of time to allow this to cook.  So perhaps it’s not ideal for weeknights if you arrive home at 6:30 and you’d like to eat by 7:00.  Although I love this room temp and it reheats well (if that helps.)  Feel free (unless you’re married to my husband) to substitute Daiya vegan cheese for the Parmesan and to use all olive oil if you’d like to make this vegan or dairy-free.  Any way you make this, it’s a whole lot of goodness.

Swiss chard and potato gratin | Pamela Salzman

Swiss chard and potato gratin | Pamela Salzman

 

 

Swiss Chard and Potato Gratin
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium russet (about ¾ pound) or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced ⅛” thick
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, thick stems diced, leaves coarsely chopped
  • ½ - ¾ cup (depending on how much you like) grated pecorino romano or parmiggiano-reggiano
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat butter and oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, diced chard stems and cook until onions are translucent and stems are softened, about 5 minutes. Spread onion mixture evenly in the bottom of the skillet and remove skillet from heat.
  2. Place chard leaves in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat.
  3. Arrange a third of the potatoes in a single layer on top of the onions in the bottom of the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with a third of the Swiss chard and scatter ¼ cup of the cheese over the top. Repeat the process to layer the ingredients two more times, ending with the cheese.
  4. Cover skillet tightly with a lightly oiled piece of parchment paper then aluminum foil and bake until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 1 hour. Gently remove the foil then return skillet to the oven and bake until cheese is browned on the top, about 10 minutes.
  5. Set aside to rest briefly, then slice into wedges and serve.

Baked Parmesan Chicken Caprese Recipe

baked parmesan chicken caprese | pamela salzman

I hope you all had a lovely Fourth of July and that you had a day off of work at the very least.  If there’s one thing I think many of us need more of it’s a little rest and relaxation.  We had a nice mellow day with friends and no work all day at all.  Nice.  In fact, I even watched a little tv while I was putzing around the house before going out.  Computer time has wiped out my tv time in the last few years, so watching tv is a real treat for me.  Although it’s funny that when I have time off from work (i.e. cooking), I choose to watch the Food Network or the Cooking Channel.  I have my favorites to be sure, but some of the really popular shows I just don’t get.

Can anyone explain the appeal of “Chopped?”  I’ll tell you one thing — it’s not “reality” tv.  What’s reality about being given a bunch of ingredients not normally found in a regular person’s pantry and being forced to have to make something tasty out of it given the resources of an unbelievably stocked pantry?  I have learned so much from watching Ina and Giada and Tyler, but there isn’t much I get out of seeing what three chefs can do with graham crackers and squid in 30 minutes.  Does that show talent?  What do you think?

Let me tell you what I think takes some skill — making dinner for my family on a typically insane weeknight.  You think the judges on Chopped are tough.  Ha!  They eat everything, even cheese, unlike Mr. Picky.    Try making dinner for Daughters #1 and 2 and Mr. Picky under a time constraint.  During the girls’ finals week earlier last month, I had a day that did not go as planned and I found myself in a dinner prep predicament.  We always eat dinner together every night around 6:30/6:45 and I thought this was one of those nights, but no.  Daughter #1 had a study group at 6:30 and Daughter #2 switched her music lesson without telling me and she would be coming home at 6:15.  I found all of this out at 4:30 and I had soccer carpool to do.  Oh sure, easy, right?

Do the contestants on Chopped have two teenage girls yelling at each other about the last ugly photo one posted of the other on Instagram?  They do not.  And Mr. Picky is not bouncing a basketball in the kitchen while the chefs are trying to figure out what to make for dinner very quickly with the contents of a very basic pantry.  Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce!  Ok, think.  Do some prep now, then you have 15 minutes when you get back from soccer drop-off before driving to music.  “But the picture you posted of me was much worse than the one I posted of you!”  Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce!  I have chicken, tomatoes, white rice is fast, thank goodness I washed lettuce yesterday.   “Mommmmmmm, did you see what she’s getting away with?  So many people liked that picture already!”  “Really?  They liked it?  That’s good, right?”  “OMG, Mom!  No they didn’t like it!  Make her delete it!”  Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce!  I can bread the chicken now and bake later.  “I am NOT letting her drive me to school anymore.”  Whoa there, missy.  Now you’ve got my attention.  “Delete it this minute!”  Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce!  “STOP PLAYING BALL IN THE HO– USE, MR. PICKY!!!!”  Can you imagine doing this sober?  Why don’t I drink?  I need to rethink that.

I know this isn’t just my house, or maybe it is and I am deluding myself.  But I think a lot of home cooks have skills that you just can’t learn in culinary school or by watching some pros on tv.  I managed to pull something together that night that we ate at exactly 6:15 and we all liked it!  I would have likely gotten “chopped” on tv for something so unoriginal, but this is the kind of food we like to eat and it’s reasonably healthful.  One of the reasons this worked for me that night is because I was able to bake the chicken instead of sautéing/frying it.  I didn’t know if it would work, but I learned the technique of getting crispy breading by greasing up the chicken with some fat before dredging it from an old Gourmet magazine recipe.  That way, I didn’t have to babysit it on the stovetop, plus baking is more healthful than frying and MUCH less messy!  This would also be a great method to use when cooking for a crowd.

Speaking of cooking for a crowd, for the next episode of “Chopped,” I’d like to see a challenge where the chefs have to prepare a dinner party for 12 guests in Los Angeles.  “Oh, sorry, no gluten for me.”  “If you don’t mind, I don’t eat dairy.  Or meat.  Or eggs.”  “I’m easy.  I eat everything except nuts.  I am deathly allergic to all tree nuts.  Deathly!”  Now that’s something I would watch!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Baked Parmesan Chicken Caprese
Author: 
Serves: 4-5
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed (about 4 ounces), optional
  • 2 -3 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil, plus more for coating chicken and pan
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • ⅔ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino-romano or Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush a baking sheet generously with olive oil. You can line your baking sheet with parchment paper if you want and then brush the parchment with oil.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, basil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
  3. In a shallow dish (such as a pie plate), combine the bread crumbs, cheese, and paprika. In another shallow dish, pour a few tablespoons of olive oil.
  4. Slice the chicken crosswise in half so that you have two thin cutlets. Check out this post for a visual on what I'm referring to. You can remove the tenders if you wish and coat those separately. Sprinkle one side of the chicken pieces with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. This is the total amount of salt and pepper for all the chicken.
  5. Dip the seasoned chicken first into the olive oil and turn to coat. Then dip chicken into the breadcrumb mixture and press to coat both sides completely.
  6. Place the breaded chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Turn chicken with a spatula, not tongs which might break the breading, and bake another 3-5 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.
  7. Remove garlic cloves from tomato mixture and discard. Spoon tomato mixture on top of chicken.
Notes
This serves our family perfectly with no leftovers, but we're not big meat-eaters.  If one chicken cutlet is not enough per person, then increase the chicken and breading ingredients.

Grilled broccolini with lemon-parmesan breadcrumbs recipe

Every food magazine seems to be offering an entire grilling issue this month and for good reason.  In most parts of the country, summer is “the” season for outdoor cooking and grilling is an easy and tasty way to prepare a wide variety of foods we love.  If you’ve been hanging out at this site for a bit, you probably know that I’m not so fond of grilling animal protein too often since it can be carcinogenic.  Since this is not the case for other foods, I will, however, grill just about anything else from vegetables and fruit to potatoes and pizzas.

Although many of my students ask me for new ways to prepare chicken and fish, I tend to keep the animal protein simple and focus on interesting ways to cook my favorite food group, vegetables.  And I am always on the lookout for interesting, new vegetables to cook.  Enter broccolini!  I had never heard of broccolini until probably six or seven years ago, although it has been around since about 1998.  It is sometimes referred to as “Baby Broccoli,” “Chinese Kale” or the very appetizing name “Aspiration” (Who in the world came up with that one?  Certainly no one with picky kids.)  Broccolini is technically a hybrid between regular broccoli and Chinese kale, but it has a more tender stem and sweeter flavor than both.  Some people think it tastes like a cross between asparagus and broccoli and that seems pretty accurate to me.  However you call it, we love, love, love it!

Broccolini and all its cruciferous cousins are vegetables you want to include regularly in the meal rotation since they are nutritional powerhouses with lots of anti-cancer compounds.  We eat a lot of broccolini and broccoli, so I am all about mixing it up a bit so we don’t get bored with the same old, same old.  Broccolini is just made for the grill.  Its tender stems cook as quickly as asparagus do and the grill adds a fabulous charred flavor to the florets.  Normal broccoli tastes fabulous on the grill too, but you have to slice the thick stems in order for it to cook properly and then it looks a little awkward.

This is hardly a recipe and at its simplest you just coat the broccolini in olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and grill few minutes on each side.  The only trick is to avoid burning the florets which is possible if you just stay at the grill the whole time and don’t leave to check your email.  Done.  This is super easy for weeknights and cool enough to serve to your foodie friends.  If a simply grilled vegetable isn’t sophisticated enough for you, you can brush the cut side of a couple lemons with olive oil and grill them cut-side down for a few minutes to squeeze on the broccolini with or without a dusting of Parmesan cheese.  Or, make these ridiculously addictive Lemon-Parmesan Breadcrumbs which are so good on these broccolini as well as grilled asparagus, pasta, roasted cherry tomatoes and just about a hundred other things.  I have successfully used many different gluten-free breads to make them, used Pecorino (sheep cheese) instead of Parmesan (cow), and eliminated the cheese altogether.  I’ve heard the saying, “you can’t make everyone happy.”  I’m not so sure about that!

Grilled Broccolini with Lemon-Parmesan Breadcrumbs
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 bunches broccolini, washed, dried, dry ends trimmed (about 1 pound)
  • Unrefined olive oil for drizzling the broccolini + 2 Tablespoons
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • A few slices of fresh bread or a roll, but nothing too “flavored,” hard crusts removed
  • 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • Zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
Instructions
  1. Preheat a grill over medium heat. Too hot and the florets will burn. Not hot enough and you won’t get a char.
  2. Drizzle the broccolini with oil and toss with your hands until they’re evenly coated. (I put them on a sheet pan.) Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Make the breadcrumbs: cut the bread into cubes and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process into crumbs. Measure 1 cup of crumbs.
  4. In a small bowl, combine crumbs with Parmesan, lemon zest and a pinch of salt.
  5. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the breadcrumb mixture and the garlic. Toast the breadcrumbs, stirring frequently until they start to turn golden brown, like toast. Carefully taste the breadcrumbs to make sure they’re crunchy, but don’t burn your mouth doing it. When they’re done, immediately transfer to a bowl, otherwise they’ll burn sitting in the pan. Remove garlic and discard.
  6. Place broccolini on the grill and cook until tender, but slightly charred, about 3 minutes. Flip over and cook the other side another 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the broccolini. Place on a platter and scatter the breadcrumbs on top or serve separately.
Notes
You can skip the breadcrumbs and serve instead with lemon wedges and/or shaved or grated Parmesan.

Egg-Free Avocado Caesar Salad Recipe

I hope you all had a lovely Easter or Passover holiday.  Ours was so nice thanks to my mother-in-law took care of the meal and all I had to do was show up with desserts.  But now I’m ready to move on from anything to do with coconut or eggs.  In fact I am going to be a rebel and just omit eggs in recipes where you would normally expect to find them!  I can be crazy that way.   One thing that has surprised me in teaching cooking classes the last few years is how many people have food intolerances/allergies.  If you or one of your kids is one of those people, you are not alone.  The most common allergens I run across with my students are gluten, dairy, nuts and eggs.  There are others of course, like soy, corn, mangos and shellfish, to name a few.   Then there are people who can’t tolerate garlic, which I’m not sure how I could live without.  But eggs is a big one.  So it’s always in the back of my mind when I come up with a recipe and I try to share egg-free versions of anything I teach.

 

Caesar salad dressing is traditionally made with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, lemon juice or lemon juice and red wine vinegar, mustard and raw egg yolks.  Normally I substitute mayonnaise for the egg yolks because I’m not always comfortable serving kids raw eggs, but sometimes mayonnaise contains egg, too.  So to make this dressing egg-free, but still creamy, I tried using one of my favorite rich, nutritious foods — avocado — and a new favorite salad dressing was born.  The color is a tad green, but you won’t notice it once it’s tossed with the lettuce.  And the avocado does nothing to change the flavor of the dressing so you would otherwise have no idea that you weren’t eating a regular Caesar salad.  Do I dare say this is even better than a normal Caesar?  I made this for a working lunch at home yesterday and my assistants and I couldn’t stop eating it.  So goooooood!

Did I mention that Caesar salad is also very simple to prepare at home?  That’s one reason I’m not likely to order it in a restaurant.  I have a thing about ordering food in a restaurant that can be easily made at home.  I don’t mind paying for handmade pasta, high quality sushi, or foods that are either unusual or labor-intensive that I can’t reproduce at home.  But even the novice cook can make a delicious Caesar dressing for a fraction of a restaurant’s price.  I can buy an entire head of romaine lettuce at the farmer’s market for $1 and probably make Caesar salad for 4-6 people for under $4.  You’ll think twice about spending $12 for one portion.

 

Salads are a great way to use the topping bar method with your kids.  Many children do like Caesar salad,  but if yours are unsure about all that lettuce, allow them to add whatever they like to their plate, even if it’s something that you might not eat on the salad — olives, pecans, dried fruit, popcorn, avocado, chopped up chicken tenders.  That’s not what’s important.  We’re just allowing them to have some control over what they eat while encouraging them to eat the same food we do.  They’re still finding their way.

I don’t add cheese to the actual Caesar dressing, but instead sprinkle it on top of the chopped lettuce and then toss with the dressing.  If you are dairy-free, you can leave the cheese out completely or substitute Parma (vegan “Parmesan cheese”) or nutritional yeast and a little extra sea salt.  And if you’re vegan, omit the anchovies and add a drop of vegan worcestershire sauce.  Dairy-free and vegan peeps, did you think I was only going to give love to my egg-free friends?  I have more than enough to go around.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Avocado Caesar Salad
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • Dressing (makes about 1 cup):
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (you can add more if you’re skipping the cheese)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 1-2 anchovies** (optional, but traditional)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 Tablespoons water
  • Salad:
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese* or a wedge shaved into thin strips
  • croutons for garnish, if desired
Instructions
  1. To make the dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water to make it thinner, if desired. Taste for salt and pepper, but be conservative with the salt since the cheese is salty.
  2. Place the lettuce in a serving bowl or on a platter and sprinkle with grated cheese and croutons. Depending on the size of your head of lettuce, you may have more dressing than you need, so just toss lettuce with enough dressing to coat lightly. Or toss salad with dressing and garnish with shaved cheese.
Notes
Other options: You can also take a head of romaine, cut it in half, brush with olive oil and grill it for a Grilled Caesar Salad. Other sturdy lettuces could be radicchio, endive or red romaine.

*Try Parma or nutritional yeast for a dairy-free option.

**Vegans can drop the anchovies and add a drop of vegan worcestershire sauce instead.

Late summer minestrone

late summer minestrone|pamela salzman

Oh, I am not very good at goodbyes.  And saying farewell to summer is just inevitable now, isn’t it?  My minestrone soup is one of those recipes that bridges summer and fall.  Zucchini and tomatoes are still plentiful in the farmer’s markets, but the weather is showing signs of cooling down.  We’ve had a few chilly and foggy beach days in the last week and that was my signal to make this favorite soup of ours.  The word minestrone means “big soup” in Italian.  To me it means, “use what you’ve got, ” especially lots of veggies.  No matter what, it’s always hearty enough to be called a meal, but light enough for the season.  My mom used to make it with elbow macaroni or the smallest of pastas, but I adore farro and find that it adds a heartiness that the pasta doesn’t.  Plus, it has more to offer in the way of fiber and protein.  Combined with white beans, this is a well-balanced meal that almost always makes its way into thermoses in tomorrow’s lunch box.  Have I mentioned lately that making school lunches is not my favorite morning pastime?  I know, I’m such a whiiiiiner.  But Daughter #1 is trying to be an overachiever this year and start school at 7:00 am.  Do you know what this means?  I need to be making lunch around 6:00 am OR I could just reheat minestrone five minutes before we need to leave the house.  Sounds like a plan!

As the seasons change, so does this soup.  I have used jarred tomatoes instead of fresh, and frozen shelled peas and cabbage for the zucchini.  Don’t be put off by the piece of rind from a wedge of Parmesan cheese.  It’s a little secret ingredient found in so many Italian kitchens.  One you see how delicious it makes this soup, you’ll never throw it out again!   My mom would make this soup or pasta e fagioli whenever we would come to the end of a piece of Parmesan.  In my house, my kids and husband love this soup so much that we buy buy the cheese just for the rind!  Mr. Picky even likes this soup.   His favorite thing to do is add a leftover meatball, chopped up into his bowl and he’ll have seconds, thank you very much.

late summer minestrone|pamela salzman

This week I will be harvesting almost all the basil and parsley in the garden and making a mountain of pesto to freeze in small quantities for the upcoming months.  At least I can make summer last a little longer in my own way.

late summer minestrone|pamela salzman

5.0 from 4 reviews
Late Summer Minestrone
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil + more for drizzling
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped or 1 14.5 ounce can, diced with juice
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • ¾ cup farro
  • Piece of rind from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (if you have it)
  • 4 small zucchini, medium dice, about 4 cups
  • 1 ½ cups cooked white beans (e.g. cannellini, Great Northern), rinsed if canned
  • Handful of greens, coarsely chopped
  • Chopped basil leaves or pesto for garnish (optional)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Do not allow the vegetables to brown.
  2. Add the tomatoes with the juice, parsley and ½ teaspoon sea salt. Cook for 5 minutes more, until the tomatoes are fragrant.
  3. Add the stock and 2 teaspoons of sea salt and bring to a boil. Add the farro and the parmesan rind and bring to a boil again. Lower the heat so that the soup simmers. Cook about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the zucchini and cook another 10 to 15 minutes, until the farro is tender but still has a little “toothiness.”
  5. Add the cooked beans and heat through. Add more stock, if desired.
  6. Add the chopped greens and stir until wilted. Adjust seasonings and serve with chopped basil leaves and freshly grated parmesan cheese and/or drizzled olive oil on top or a spoonful of pesto.

Chickpea and deconstructed pesto salad

Summer around my house is very loosey-goosey.  We lack a bit of structure when school is not in session.  On any given night, it varies who will be here for dinner and I often find myself cooking for either just two people or for an army.  This can be tricky for me since I make my menu for the week every Sunday night, but over the years I have also learned how to be flexible and not anxious if I have enough fish for 5 and all of a sudden we’re down to 2.

Daughter #1 and I found ourselves solo for dinner last night, but it was late and neither one of us had the motivation to do anything more than open a can of chickpeas.  Of course we’re girls and we are just fine eating a meal without meat and still calling it dinner.  We made this chickpea salad and grilled up some zucchini, because who can eat a meal without zucchini in it these days?  It’s taking over the world!!  Remind me next spring not to plant so much.  And the two of us stood at the kitchen counter leaning over the salad bowl shoveling in spoonful after spoonful of chickpea salad, exclaiming “this is so good!” after every bite, alternating with dropping ribbons of grilled zucchini in our mouths.

This is hands-down the easiest salad you will ever make and if you are growing your own basil, you likely already have everything you need to put this together in five minutes.  Thank goodness for pantry staples!  This is fabulous to bring to a barbeque or picnic since you can make it ahead and nothing happens to it.  It’s even great the next day.  Last night I added halved cherry tomatoes at the last minute and I have also thrown in chopped, blanched green beans to make it more substantial.  Be forewarned, there is a nice punch of raw garlic which I love, but if you don’t care to eat garlic, you can just smash it and add it for a subtle undertone.  The idea is to make a salad with all the flavors of pesto without having to make pesto.  Actually, the idea of this salad is to barely do anything at all, but still eat something utterly delish.

Chickpea and Deconstructed Pesto Salad
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-4 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt or to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup grated pecorino-romano (sheep's milk cheese) or parmesan cheese (cow's milk cheese)
Instructions
  1. Combine all salad ingredients in a serving bowl and toss well to combine. That's it!
Notes
Also delicious with halved cherry tomatoes (see lead photo), arugula and/or blanched green beans. I added some thinly sliced radicchio once and that was nice, too.