Beet-Tomato Soup & Shaved Zucchini Salad

I've been looking forward to farmer's market season for months. Yeah, our local farmer's market technically goes all winter long, but only the meat/dairy people are there. It's not until May that all the produce farmers set up shop. We have a few weeks still before the veggies really hit their summer stride, but some really great springtime deliciousness can be found.

This soup & salad meal made use of some of the late-spring produce that I picked up yesterday. A big pile of tiny baby zucchini -- only about 4 inches long, and very thin -- became a shaved zucchini salad with sweet pistachios and salty parmesan. (Never eaten zucchini raw? It's great. It's got a really nice crunch to it.) And two bunches of beautiful beets got transformed into a delicious beet and tomato soup with cumin, kind of like a summery southwestern take on borscht. Together, they made a beautiful and wonderfully fresh Sunday dinner.

Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan and Pistachios
From Food & Wine
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pounds small, firm zucchini, very thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline
  • 1/3 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons lightly salted roasted pistachios
In a small bowl, whisk the oil with the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the sliced zucchini with the lemon dressing. Add the Parmesan and the pistachios, toss again and serve.

Beet-and-Tomato Soup with Cumin
From Food & Wine
  • 1 pound medium beets
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more for garnish
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Creme fraiche (for garnish, optional-- I couldn't find any at the store, so left it out)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (for garnish, optional)
In a large saucepan, cover the beets with water. Bring to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until tender, about 1 hour; if necessary, add more water to keep the beets covered. Drain the beets and let cool slightly, then peel and coarsely chop.

Wipe out the saucepan and heat the olive oil in it. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chopped beets, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes release their juices, about 5 minutes. Add the 1 teaspoon of cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the vegetable stock and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a food processor. Rewarm the soup in teh saucepan and season with salt and pepper if needed. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with dollops of creme fraiche (if using). Sprinkle with a little cumin and the parsley and serve.

Thai Curried Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu

This dish is just easy comfort food in a bowl. Noodles, tofu, and broccoli swimming in a curried coconut broth with a squeeze of lime. What's not to like about that? Did I mention you can make it in about 20 minutes? Yeah. That's right. My work is done here.

Thai Curried Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu
From Vegetarian Times
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red or yellow Thai curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 15-oz can light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 package firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 5-6 oz dry fettuccine
  • 5 cups broccoli florets
  • Lime wedges
Heat oil in medium pot over medium-high heat. Saute shallots in oil 2 minutes. Add curry paste, curry powder, and turmeric; cook 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk, broth, and brown sugar, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in tofu and simmer for 10 minutes.
Cook fettuccine in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package instructions. Add broccoli to pot for last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain, and add to tofu-curry mixture. Mix well and serve with lime wedges.

Stuffed Zucchini with Cheesy Breadcrumbs

If you're anything like me, you feel really fancy whenever you stuff a food with another kind of food. It's just so exciting! And delicious! This is a nice springtime twist on stuffed zucchini. It's bright and fresh with lemon, artichokes, parmesan, and white wine (very convenient if you have some wine left over from making pasta e fagioli with spinach last night). Great as a side dish or on its own.

Stuffed Zucchini with Cheesy Breadcrumbs
From Cooking Light
  • 3 slices day-old whole-wheat bread
  • 4 medium zucchini
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place bread in a food processor; pulse until fine crumbs form. Set aside. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Chop pulp. Place zucchini halves, cut sides up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini pulp and onion; saute 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add artichoke hearts, thyme, and garlic; cook about 1 minute. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until most of liquid evaporates. Combine breadcrumbs and onion mixture in a large bowl; stir in cheese and remaining ingredients. Spoon breadcrumb mixture into zucchini shells. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until just tender.

Pasta e Fagioli with Spinach

Man, I can't believe I haven't posted in over a week. Things have been so busy over here -- we're starting on the wedding planning process, and I'm also trying to throw together plans for a vacation in early August. (If you have any tips on wedding venues in DC or can't-miss vacation spots in Washington State, I am all ears!)

This dinner is perfect for a busy weeknight. If you're quick at chopping tomatoes, you can make this whole thing in about 20 minutes. It's healthy and gives you everything you need in one bowl: carby pasta, protein-packed beans, and nutrient-rich spinach. And the sauce is so fresh and delicious, with tomatoes (you can get good ones now! summer is here!) and white wine. Bonus: it only uses a little bit of wine, leaving the rest of the bottle for you to drink with your meal.

Pasta e Fagioli with Spinach
Paraphrased from Appetite for Reduction
  • 8 ounces small whole-wheat pasta (such as elbows, orecchiette, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • 14-ounce can of navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (such as pinot grigio)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • A bag of baby spinach
Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions; drain. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes, beans, wine, oregano, thyme, and salt. Bring to a boil; once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce, pasta, and spinach, stirring well to combine, until the spinach is wilted. Serve.

Orzo Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing

Pasta salad is one of those things that you can make in a million different ways. I may be exaggerating, but it's entirely possible that there are literally a million different pasta salad recipes floating around. I remember when I was in high school I used to make a pasta salad with walnuts and lime juice and maybe feta? It was super popular at parties (no, seriously). Well, this pasta salad is totally different but so very good. It's distinctly southwestern, with corn, black beans, and avocado, and it's got this great spicy buttermilk dressing that covers every bite with flavor. It's a great recipe to add to your pasta salad repertoire.

Orzo Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing
From Cooking Light
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed and drained
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 peeled avocado, cut into wedges
Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain. Place orzo, corn, and next 3 ingredients (through beans) in a large bowl; toss.

Combine buttermilk, 2 tablespoons cilantro, and next 8 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle over orzo mixture and toss. Top with avocado; garnish with remaining cilantro.

Parmesan Polenta and Spicy Sausage Sauce

What's that, you say? I made something with sausage?!? Don't worry, guys, it's not real sausage. I went to Whole Foods last weekend and picked up some delicious, meatless, sun-dried tomato Italian sausage. Yum! The texture isn't quite like meat sausage, but if you're just slicing it up and using it to flavor a sauce, you'll never notice. The flavor is spot-on. Of course, if you're one of my carnivorous friends you can make this meal with sausage of the animal-product variety, though of course I would encourage you to try this veggie version. It's very yummy and filling, and goes great with a side of sauteed spinach.

Parmesan Polenta and Spicy Sausage Sauce
From Cooking Light
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 ounces sun-dried vegetarian sausage, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Two 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add sausage; saute for 3 minutes or until browned. Add onion; saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; saute 30 seconds. Add oregano, pepper, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 cup basil to pan; cook 5 minutes or until sauce thickens.

Combine broth and water in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Add polenta; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until thick, stirring freqently with a whisk. Stir in cheese. Serve polenta topped with sauce and remaining basil.

Veggie Pad Thai

Happy Cinco de Mayo everybody! There's nothing like celebrating a Mexican holiday with some Thai food, am I right? (Okay, that makes no sense, but it's not like Cinco de Mayo is a real Mexican holiday anyway, so whatever.)

This is a really easy recipe for pad thai you can make at home. It's not exactly an authentic pad thai recipe, as it skips all of those hard-to-find ingredients (tamarind paste, anyone?). But it tastes pretty similar and is delicious in its own right.

Veggie Pad Thai
Adapted from Everyday Food
  • 8 ounces dried rice noodles
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Vegetables (optional), such as zucchini, broccoli, bell peppers, etc., chopped
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Chopped roasted, salted peanuts
Cook or soak noodles according to package instructions. Drain. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, lime juice, and soy sauce.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high. Add scallion whites and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add eggs and cook, scraping skillet with a rubber spatula, until eggs are almost set, about 30 seconds. Transfer egg mixture to a plate.

If adding vegetables, add them to the skillet along with 2 additional teaspoons oil. Cook until tender. Add noodles and soy sauce mixture to skillet; cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are soft and coated with sauce, about 1 minute. Add egg mixture and toss to coat, breaking eggs up gently. Serve noodles topped with scallion greens, cilantro, and peanuts.

Variations: Vegans can omit the eggs. Just cook the vegetables with the scallion whites and garlic.