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Pasta Mains (Vegetarian)

Zucchini Noodles with Summer Sauce and Avocado Cream

Zucchini Noodles with Summer Sauce and Avocado Cream

Pasta la vista wheat noodles. There’s a new, much lighter, more summery, awesome-sauce pasta in town. And it goes by the name of Zucchini Noodles.

Today, I’m sending a hello to the early August garden. With it is coming a hello to noodles in my bowl that allow me to go in for seconds, maybe even thirds, without feeling weighed or wheated down.

The zucchini noodle is one that’s taken the Internet world by a rage, and I’m coming with it –and for good reason, too.

Zucchini Noodles with Summer Sauce and Avocado Cream

Similar to my coconut flake mission I described for this recipe, my mission for finding a julienne peeler to make these noodles was not a short one. Many steps were taken, and many stores were visited for the making of this recipe. Fortunately, no humans were harmed, even after a slight hangryness set in.

Apparently in Philadelphia, kitchen stores like to take off the very same days that this girl likes to create a big, food-filled mess in the kitchen. So on Sunday, off I went by foot to three different places across the city until I finally came across the right peeler to craft this recipe. Well worth it, I assure you.

I also assure you it shouldn’t be that hard to find the tool you need for zucchini noodles, nor will it be expensive. Most kitchen stores have julienne peelers, which do the trick, and mine cost me just $8. You can also use a tool called a Spiralizer, but don’t ask me about the specifics. I chose to go for the cheaper and smaller option, i.e., the peeler.

Zucchini Noodles

You should find the julienne peeler rather easy to use. Simply place your zucchini on a flat surface, and slide its blade from one end to the other. Repeat until you get down to the end.

I placed my leftover zucchini scraps that didn’t make it through the peeler right into the blender to make my avocado cream. Just give them a quick chop, and they should easily meld into the cream.

With a bowl full of the whole summer garden – sweet corn, juicy tomatoes, fresh herbs – this is a good place to start the zucchini noodle marathon that’s bound to follow. Here, you get a whole bunch of fresh ingredients to keep things light, but also a richness from the avocado that pulls it all together. For presentation purposes, keep it all separate like pictured below. But you’ll definitely want to give everything a good mixing with your fork before diving in. Let me know what you think!

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Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

I’ve never been good at desk jobs.

My brain says yes. But my body says no. And then my brain gets confused. And then I get confused. And my mind says, “What am I supposed to do with my life?!”

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

We’ll see if that question ever gets answered. In the meantime, I’m juggling office life with photoshoot life, and keeping my workdays and work weekends busy. It’s been exciting on both fronts, and I am happy to say I’ve finally come across a company on the front end of that which is working to make my uncertainty at least a little easier. The very nice people at this company, at least mildly, know desk life gives me trouble.

And so they’ve granted me permission to spend one day per month cooking the office lunch. Um, can you say dream job perk?

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

After spending the 9 o’clock hour perusing the aisles of Whole Foods to gather the first lunch’s ingredients, I almost thought, “Could this be my dream job?” Shopping at Whole Foods, maybe. Cooking day-in-and-day-out in a hot, windowless kitchen, probably not.

The company lunch creation was super fun though, and definitely a success. On tap: a herb-laced spring garden salad with sungold tomatoes (my favorite cherry) and red onions, along with a simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette. This Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers, Roasted Eggplant, and Crispy Tofu recipe. And a finale of fresh ginger juice shots to finish out the meal with some pep.

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

I decided to create this recipe based off of three primary factors. 1) Who doesn’t love noodles? 2) Though pasta is a pleaser, there’s no way I was showing up with a boring/non-creative recipe. 3) I’ve been entirely inspired by cucumbers lately. Don’t ask me why, but they’re the one summer veg. I’ve been consistently buying as of late.

So this was born, and it’s definitely going on the repeat list. SO MUCH FLAVOR. The sesame sauce adds that first depth, and then the cilantro and scallions make sure not one bite goes flavorless. You’ve also got the velvety, roasted eggplant adding to the creaminess of the sauce, with crunch cukes lightening the whole dish up, and crispy tofu adding in some protein. Oh, and ginger, too. Okay, I’ll stop listing off the ingredient list now. But you get the idea of how it all comes together.

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

If you can’t get this on your workplace’s table, get it on your dinner plate. And enjoy ideally at room temp., but really whatever temp. your set on at the moment.

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Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Sometimes, nothing is more beautiful than a simple bowl of pasta.

It’s when I’m really hungry that these words couldn’t feel more true, and this time of year, that means after a long, hot summer run. After one of those, first I want watermelon. And then I want pasta.

Summertime (er, late springtime). It feels so good.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

When the weather is nice, I spend a ton of time outside. More often than not, that means after work, I’m out strolling, cycling, running, or just hanging around until the sun just sets. I could be with my friends. I could be by myself. It doesn’t matter – when it’s warm out, I’m out. And I’m loving every minute of it.

However, this often leaves me locking up my bike at the end of the evening and heading inside with a sudden realization of hunger, and the urge to eat ASAP. Anyone else turn into a monster on occasion, too?

If so, you know that’s when simple recipes like this prove themselves to be rather handy.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Here, a quick saute of some onions, squash and spinach create a light and easy sauce for a meal you can make in under 30 minutes. It’s filling, yet not in the kind of way that will weigh you down on a balmy summer night, and is spruced up with parsley to make it feel extra fresh.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

I don’t cook with a butter a lot, but I find that adding a Tbsp. to this enhances the inherent butteriness of yellow summer squash. Feel free to use all olive oil if that’s your preference. However, a little browned butter goes a long way to enrich the sauce, and pairs well with the lemony tones of the parsley.

Also, be sure to stick with angel hair or spaghettini when choosing your whole wheat pasta. While this sauce is certainly flavorful, it’s delicate, so to truly experience all of its nuances, a thinner pasta works best.

Pasta_SummerSquash_blog

Pair this with a side salad, and a cold beverage of your choice, and you create a no-fuss summer meal for any night of the week.

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Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

Field

If the thought of pesto, tossed with shaved asparagus and roasted tomatoes, seems far off from camping, I’m with you. But if that thought, along with the image of mint mojitos by the fire, sounds amazing, I’m undoubtedly with you, too. 

This year I learned you need to book a campsite well in advance if you want to tent it out over Memorial Day weekend. Because apparently everyone else wants to do that, too.

So much for spontaneity these days. Oh, and having the planning part covered by mom. Big kid problems.

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

I was determined to go camping this Memorial Day, and a bunch of booked campsites wasn’t going to get me down.

Plan B – Camp out at my madre’s house, a haven 2 hours outside the city that might as well be taken from the pages of Henry Thoreau. See field photo above. Not a bad alternative. (Just don’t compare my writing to Thoreau. I prefer a caveman-like brevity to never-ending sentences.)

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

Plan B turned into a bunch of Philly and hometown friends joining me for mojitos by the fire made from just picked mint via mom’s herb garden. It turned into watching hot air balloons sail, and then the sun fall, from the comfort of our front deck. It turned into setting up tents in a free backyard. And it turned into a conclusion of sleeping soundly inside.

Ah, yes. A mint-mojito-shaved-asparagus campout was never destined for sleeping outside, was it? To be fair, I will blame my friends for coercing me indoors. And also to be fair, we had one lone camper who roughed it out in his tent.

Asparagus

Now onto the food. While pesto might not seem like standard camping fare, for my vegetarian family, it was always a go-to. It keeps well in a cooler, and tastes fine both hot or cold. Plus, we always make it in large batches during the summer, when the garden basil’s at its peak, so it becomes an easy meal to pop out from the freezer.

It’s still too early to see basil thriving. But both my mom and I still have several pesto batches holding out from last season in our freezer.

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

When you’ve got the pesto part already made, sprucing it up to make it a little richer and fancier becomes easy and fathomable. Although, the pesto itself is not hard to make — so even if you don’t get a chance to make it ahead of time, I still recommend taking the time to include the tomatoes and asparagus seen here, too.

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

Asparagus has always been a springtime favorite, but it’s only been recently that I’ve discovered its utility in raw form. Slightly grassy and crisp, here it adds a refreshing and light crunch to what can feel like a full-bodied pasta dish. It pairs well with the tomatoes, whose flavor is drawn out and intensified via a little time in the oven. I love roasted tomatoes, so when I’m making this recipe, I’m roasting extra for me, and me only.

Grape Tomatoes

Maybe this isn’t your ideal grab-and-go camping dish, but it’s definitely an all-star bowl to include at your picnic or BBQ outing. It’s best hot, but still tastes great at room temp., and since it’s vegan, it’ll survive outside, too. Plate it up alongside a hotdog, and I challenge you to determine the winner. My bet’s on the pesto.

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Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts

Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts

Okay, so I lied. I said I wasn’t going to do any food blogging this week given the first week of actual spring-like weather. I had a packed schedule of tennis, running club, concert photography, yoga teaching, and wedding photo meetings, in addition to some First Friday festivities I’m headed to tonight. Not to mention my regular full-time job. Whew, just listing all that out is starting to make me feel the soreness from my first tennis match a bit more.

Somehow, however, I still managed to get in the kitchen. With my camera, too! That’s true love, ladies and gents.

But it’s also a result of the weather, the same reason I thought I wouldn’t be doing much cooking. Oh spring, how I love thee.

Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts How many of you also feel a sudden onslaught of energy once springtime arrives? Maybe it’s the extended hours of daylight. Maybe it’s because my body isn’t working so hard to stay warm. Maybe it’s just because I’m all around happier. Whatever it is, spring gives me pep. And I’m all about it. Ya feel me? No complaints here. Even if my shins are killing me, and my shoulders are a bit sore. And my friday night might be cut a bit short because I really probably could use some sleep. It’s spring so none of that matters.

Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts

My brother just moved to L.A. I’m visiting him this summer, and after I do, my mom thinks I’ll never come back. If this trip were in the winter, she’d probably be right. I’m pretty sure one day I will unite with a warm weathered locale, and never turn my back on it again. Will it be L.A.? Who knows. I have my doubts, though I’ve yet to ever go there, so I can’t say for sure.

What I can say for sure is I could gush about springtime forever. If that makes me a boring weather-conversationalist, so be it. Me and spring, and summer too, have a deep connection. If you’re in on that, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, well, sorry.

Brussels Sprouts

I’ve also got a deep connection with mushrooms. I love ’em. Chewy and full of flavor, there is not a shitake I wouldn’t want in my pasta. Here, they team up with some shredded sprouts, which get coated in a light olive oil, garlic and Dijon sauce. Tossed with parsley, salt and pepper, this feels like the perfect early springtime dish before the abundance of other seasonal veggies start to shower my kitchen. It’s light and fresh, but not too delicate on flavor. The sauce can certainly hold its own to a hearty whole wheat pasta, so make sure to go that route when you make this.

Alright, I’m off to brave a few April showers. Enjoy!

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