Quick Side: Roasted Zucchini and Yellow Squash

Cooking seasonally is just the way to go, amiright? The flavor profile of your whole meal goes up, like, a billion, just by using fresh, in-season stuff. That’s an official statistic, I believe. We’ve had a gloriously hot and sunny week here in Chicago so far, made even more glorious by its juxtaposition against the greyest, gloomiest, rainiest weeks (months?) ever, so tonight was a grill-everything kind of a night. So while the Grill Master handled the grilling of some beautiful early-season Midwestern corn and these chicken skewers, I quickly threw together this easy side of beautifully bright and luscious zucchini and yellow squash. Just a few ingredients (5!) and a pop in the oven and you’re good to go. Perfection. ZERO leftovers. YAY! (and boo!) Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEED
* 2 medium-sized zucchinis
* 2 medium-sized yellow squashes
* olive oil
* garlic salt
* Italian seasoning

WHAT TO DO
Preheat the oven to 350. Wash your zucchinis/squashes and cut off the ends. Cut each into approximately 1/4-inch slices on the diagonal (they’re just pretty that way). Lay out your slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil over them and sprinkle with garlic salt and Italian seasoning so they all get a bit of everything.

Bake 15-30 minutes, depending on how long it takes to cook or grill the rest of the meal. They’ll be great at 15 and also great at 30 (beyond that, though, they’ll be mushy). The seasonings give them just enough punch to pull out the natural sweetness in the in-season veggies. It’s actually a perfect balance. And that’s an official statistic, too.

Serve hot or cold or anywhere in between.

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Meatless Monday: Asparagus “Noodles” with Pesto and Tomatoes

aspnoodles2Vegetable “noodles” are super popular right now. I am familiar with and appreciate the criticism – not a noodle is NOT A NOODLE. I’m not eating veggies as noodles because I’m under some delusion that they taste just like pasta. But I actually think they’re super fun to make and eat, and they’re usually pretty and can pair really nicely with a sauce because of the veg connection. But a certain person in this house has made it explicitly clear that the next time I try to serve him a zoodle (zucchini + noodle) he’ll walk out of the house to go get a taco with meat. But he only said this about zoodles, so I sneakily planned this dinner and didn’t tell him we’d be eating “noodles” (we can call them ribbons!) of asparagus instead of pasta. MWA HA HA!

I found the inspiration for this recipe on a blog I love and follow, Pinch of Yum. But because we go Meatless on Mondays, I modified it, removing the bacon (I know! Just because it’s Monday, I swear it!) and adding bright and juicy grape tomatoes. If you want the original, it’s right here. But my all-veg version sings of seasonal goodness and offers a bright, light, easy, and shockingly fast to make dinner — multiple servings of which were consumed BY ALL. Seriously. Here you go.aspnoodles4

WHAT YOU NEED
* 2lbs asparagus
* olive oil
* 1 small jar pesto sauce (or make your own – here‘s a great recipe!)
* 1/2 bag frozen peas
* 1pt grape tomatoes
* fresh Pecorino Romano to grate

WHAT TO DO
Wash and then trim both ends of the asparagus. Use a vegetable peeler to peel wide ribbons of the asparagus. As you go, it’ll reach a place where you can’t quite get the thin ribbon anymore – I discarded these pieces, but you could certainly chop them up and cook them into the dish, or use them in another meal on another night.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it glistens, add the asparagus in batches, tossing the ribbons of asparagus just enough to get them softened but not soggy. Just 30 seconds to a minute at most, tossing constantly. Add a tiny bit of oil for additional batches if needed.

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While this is going on, warm the pesto over medium low heat until heated through.

Move the asparagus ribbons to a large bowl. Add the pesto and toss gently to mix through.

Add the peas and tomatoes to the pan where you cooked the asparagus, still over medium heat. Add a bit more olive oil and a pinch of salt and cook until the tomatoes just blister and the peas thaw and warm – just two or three minutes is all it takes. Add the peas and tomatoes to the bowl with the asparagus and carefully mix them in.

Grate fresh Pecorino Romano over each serving and enjoy! MMMMMMMMM…

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Cucumber, Avocado, and Feta Salad

It sure doesn’t feel like May around here. It’s been dreary and rainy and cold forever. I’m pretty sure my Vitamin D has reached severely deficient levels thanks to these last 3 months or so of where-are-you-sunshine? But I know it’s coming. I just know it. A glimpse here and there, no matter how brief, has me completely reassured that a good gross-hot summer is just around the corner. I don’t know where that corner is, or how to get myself there more quickly, but when I get there, and I get around it, I’m going to need to change my clothes three times a day. I just know it. And I’m preparing for it by reintroducing summer-feeling foods into our meals. Like this very simple, happy, bright, light, fresh salad. Just a few basic ingredients and you’re good to go. I didn’t, but add in some fresh herbs (dill or parsley would be perfect) and it’ll be even better. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEED
* 1 English (seedless) cucumber, diced
* 1 ripe avocado, diced
* crumbled feta cheese (as much as you like)
* juice of half a lemon
* 1T olive oil
* lemon pepper, to taste

WHAT TO DO
Prepare your cucumber and avocado and add them to a bowl. Top with feta. Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil on top. Finish with a little lemon pepper (regular black pepper will work just fine, too). Toss carefully to mix. Serve. Preferably with a tall, cool mojito (amiright?!).

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Stovetop Macaroni with Chicken Sausage and Spinach

This is a nice, easy, light, weeknight-friendly, seasonally-transitioning dinner. The chicken sausage gives it the heartiness of a cold-weather comfort meal, while the use of a smaller pasta and no sauce keeps it lighter and springier. You could easily change out the pasta and add a little white wine sauce or marinara or pesto and change the whole thing up. But this is the basic version, and it’s perfect just the way it is (if you ask me). Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEEDmacsausspin1
* ~10oz small elbow macaroni pasta (I had a 32oz box, and used approximately a third of it for three people)
* 1 small sweet onion, diced
* olive oil
* 1 package sweet Italian-style precooked chicken sausage, sliced into rounds
* 2t minced garlic
* a few healthy handfuls baby spinach
* Himalayan pink salt (you can get this at Trader Joe’s!) or sea salt, to taste
* lemon pepper, to taste
* 1/4C sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
* ~1/4C grated Parmesan cheese
* fresh basil, for garnish

WHAT TO DO
Boil water for pasta in a pot and cook the pasta to al dente. Drain almost completely, but reserve a tiny bit of the pasta water in the pot to keep the pasta from sticking (this will also help all of the other ingredients and flavors to stick to the macaroni when you combine everything later!).

While the macaroni is cooking, heat a little bit of olive oil, about a tablespoon, in a large high-sided skillet (I like this Cuisinart everyday pan – I actually use it almost every day – but anything like this works fine – so would a large pot) over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Don’t let it start to brown. Add the chicken sausage and cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring and turning occasionally to allow the slices to brown on both sides. Add the garlic and stir to combine.

Reduce heat to low. Add the cooked pasta to the pan, and again, stir to combine. Add in the spinach, a few handfuls at a time, and allow it to start to wilt by folding it in carefully with the contents of the pan. Add more as it wilts until you have a nice balance. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then add the sundried tomatoes and Parmesan and again, mix carefully to combine.

Cut the basil into ribbons to garnish and serve! Buon Appetito!

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