Tag Archives: vegetarian

Tomato Salad

This past spring I finally had the opportunity to join a CSA. For those of you not in the know yet, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It basically means at the beginning of the year (typically around March) you buy a share of a local farm and then each week you get to pick up your freshly grown produce. To be honest, the only downside I’ve found with being part of a CSA is that I don’t have a reason to visit the farmer’s market as often. I LOVE the farmer’s market. I actually remember the first time I visited the Saturday market here in CoMo. I was on the phone with my mom at the time and as I drove up and saw the market in all its glory I gave my mom the “I’ll call you back!” and hung up on her. I was that excited. Luckily, she doesn’t appear to have held it against me over the years.

Anyway, I have to plug the Root Cellar here. They were the only reason I was able to do it. I’ve wanted to join a CSA since about 2006 but could never fork up $400-$500 all at once to pay for a year’s worth of produce. Lucky for me, since the Root Cellar is a local grocer the put together their own CSAs from several local farms and are able to sell them on a weekly basis. This means that for $20 a week I get a TON of produce – all of which is local and most of which is organic. For example, this past week I got the largest eggplant I’ve ever seen, peaches, basil, greens, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, summer squash and onions. Which leads me to the recipe…

…in a second. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of tomatoes and basil. Tomatoes are one of my favorite, favorite, favorite parts of summer. It’s like summer doesn’t really happen for me until I cut into the first truly red tomato of the year. I’ve been known to eat a pint of cherry tomatoes for lunch. Mmmmm. I digress. But even with that the tomatoes can pile up on me if I don’t eat them consistently. To help with that I’ve been making tomato salad as a way to use both them and the basil up. It’s super easy and I can use up leftovers in a lot of different ways. I’ll eat this on top of a bunch of greens as a salad, put it on top of a piece of fish or eggs, add in shrimp to make a quick lunch or mix in some pine nuts for a snack (what I was doing in the picture below). Here’s my recipe – though if you know me you know I don’t actually measure anything, which is why I don’t include any here. Sorry. You’ll live. And it will probably still taste good.


1-2 medium tomatoes, diced – I try to remove most of the seeds as well

1/2 small red onion very thinly sliced – or more considering your social situation

1-2 glugs olive oil – if you keep good olive oil in the house, now would be the time to use it

3-4 dashes (maybe 1 Tbsp) balsamic vinegar – fun fact:  it’s taken me at least 3 years to learn how to spell balsamic correctly

1-2 cloves garlic – or more considering your social situation

basil, chiffonade – lots! that stuff is GOOD!

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – I don’t have anything to write here, I just wanted to be consistent


Put in bowl. Stir. Taste. Adjust. Eat. Repeat.

Other options:

  • jalapeño and cilantro instead of basil
  • add in mango
  • add in pine nuts
  • lime and avocado instead of balsamic and basil


Filed under Appetizers, Crazy Quick, Lunch/Dinner, Salads

Layered Butternut Squash Casserole

I don’t lose a lot of things, but recipes are one of them.  Not the new recipes that I’m wanting to try but the old recipes that I want to remake.  This would probably frustrate me immensely if it weren’t for the fact that I think it’s why I’m comfortable tweaking and reinventing recipes to my own tastes.

It usually goes like this:  I get it in my head that I want to make a certain dish.  There’s something specific that just sounds good, you know?  So I search everywhere for this perfect recipe that I swear I have somewhere.  Then, unable to find the recipe I figure…oh well, I’ll just wing it.  Enter today’s recipe.  The third recipe I’ve done this “ummmm…let’s make it this way…” method to, in just the past month.

The first time I had this dish was at a work-related potluck party.  I didn’t make the original myself but I did have the recipe somewhere at one point in time.  Gaaa.  Anyway, a delicious dish!  It’s lasagna-like, but instead of using noodles it uses thin slices of butternut squash.  So if you want a jazzy spin on a common comfort food then you’d probably really like this recipe.  It also works well to assemble ahead but bake off later.  Actually, the more I think about it, this would be the perfect main dish for a dinner party.  I always think the more time you can spend out of the kitchen when you have people over the better.  So with this you could toss together a salad and premake what I call “caprese on a stick”, an appetizer I saw for the first time at a New Years party this weekend.  Simple as the toothpick itself, you layer on a cube of fresh mozzarella cheese, a basil leaf and a grape tomato.  Done.  Then get the heck out of the kitchen while dinner bakes.

One last note before I post the recipe.  I meant to add some lentils into the sauce to get in some protein but, well, forgot.  So if you want to make this a true one dish meal, but don’t feel like adding in any meat that would be an option.  Just cook them in some broth until soft (but not mushy) and stir into sauce just before assembling lasagna.

Wait…two last notes before I post.  I just realized I never took a final shot of the finished product!  Whoops.  Three missing items in one post.  That’s got to be a record of some sort.  I probably shouldn’t even post this, buuuuuuut…

Layered Butternut Squash Casserole


  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1/8″ slices
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/8″ slices
  • 28 + 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 15-17 leaves of fresh basil
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium heat and add in onion and lightly salt.  Saute onions, stirring occasionally until caramelized.  Remove from skillet and set aside.
  3. In same skillet, add in 2 more Tbsp olive oil, mushrooms and lightly salt.  Saute mushrooms until soft, add in garlic, cook for additional 30 seconds then add in crushed tomatoes.  Let sauce simmer, uncovered over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. In 9×13″ baking dish layer ingredients as such: 1/3 of sauce, 1/2 of squash, all of ricotta, 1/2 of basil, 1/2 of mozzarella, all of zucchini, next 1/3 of sauce, other 1/2 of basil, other half of squash, last 1/3 of sauce and last 1/2 of mozzarella cheese.  You can reserve some of the basil to top the casserole if you want to be decorative.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for additional 25 minutes.  Remove from oven, top with parmesan cheese and let sit for 15-20 minutes to cool.


Filed under Main Dish

Pomegranate and Pistachio Couscous

Pom seedsPomegranates are in season now.  I consider them the shooting star of the produce world.  For about 4 or 5 weeks out of the whole year you can find them in the grocery store and when you see them you have to buy them.  If you tell yourself, “I’ll pick one of those up next time.” there won’t be a next time.  Trust me, I learned the hard way.  And then you have to wait another 47 weeks before you get a chance at one again.  Luckily, pomegranates keep right on your counter top for a week or two.  So if you’re tied up with Christmas decorating and holiday parties it will wait patiently for you.


When I get an ingredient that I haven’t played around with much, I like to search through some cookbooks and trusted websites for starter recipes.  Check out my links on the left if you want to know what I mean.  But I couldn’t find anything this time around that really jumped out at me.  Mostly everything out there involves turning it into a chutney or a dessert and I wasn’t in the mood for either.  But I did come across a recipe in the NY Times’ archives that combined pomegranates and pistachios and that gave me an idea…

I’ve had a jar of Israeli Couscous sitting in my pantry for what feels like forever now.  I hadn’t been a fan of couscous originally.  I thought it was mealy and bland.  Then this summer my friend had cooked up a dish where the base grain was an Israeli-variety couscous.  Totally different story.  Instead of being mealy, Israeli couscous is a much larger, pearl-like grain.  It’s soft and absorbs flavors like a blank canvas.  It can be the perfect base to carry a flavorful dish, and that’s exactly how I used it.  When you cook couscous in a good broth, then pair it with sauteed winter veggies and a great cheese you have a super savory dish.  Add the pomegranates in and you get, quite literally, these bursts of bright, tarty-sweet flavors.  It’s quite a combo.

So this dish is a super quick one to throw together on a week night.  You can scavenge in your fridge and pantry for ingredients you already have on hand and find what works just like I did.  All in all, it took me 30 minutes, and that’s including stopping for photographs.  And in the end you get a super-flavorful homemade dish that includes one of my favorite winter veggies – kale.  Your most intensive step is likely going to be getting the seeds out of the pomegranate, and you can do that while your couscous cooks.

Speaking of, did you know that?  That it’s the seeds of the pomegranate that we eat?  A pomegranate is actually one huge berry with hundreds of water-laden seeds inside.  When you look at a pomegranate with that in mind you can see it.  It’s shaped just like a big, red blueberry!  If you’ve never deseeded a pomegranate before, check my tips and tricks below.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did!

Pomegranate and pistachio couscous

Pomegranate and Pistachio Couscous


  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium broth
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small bunch kale, washed well and torn into 1-2″ pieces
  • 3/4-1 cup red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • seeds from one pomegranate (will only need about half)
  • 1/4 cup asiago cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup de-shelled pistachios
  • kosher salt


  1. Cook couscous according to package directions using a good broth as your liquid.  I choose to use low sodium broth so I can salt to my taste preferences vs. the manufacturers.  Therefore, when couscous is done, salt to taste.
  2. While couscous is cooking, remove seeds from pomegranate and reserve.  See footnotes.
  3. In your biggest skillet heat olive oil over med-high heat.  Add in torn kale and cabbage.  It should crackle and pop like bacon when added to the pan.  Add a pinch of salt and toss in the oil until the kale gets bright green and starts to go down in size but still retains its structure and texture (read:  not mushy).  In last 30 seconds or so toss in garlic then remove from heat.
  4. In bowl or on serving dish, lay down bed of kale and cabbage and top with couscous.  Top ad lib with pomegranate seeds, asiago cheese and pistachios.

Serves 2 as a main dish, likely with leftovers to spare.

How to deseed a pomegranate

    1. Change out of any white cloths…just in case.
    2. Fill large mixing bowl with cool water.
    3. Cut pomegranate into quarters trying to keep the inside of the pomegranate facing your cutting board (to minimize juice squirting up at you).
    4. Hold quarter of pomegranate under water and with your hands flip rind of pomegranate inside out, similar to how some people like to eat orange segments.  Seeds should start to pop off rind by themselves.
    5. Still in the bowl of water, use your fingers to pop off any remaining seeds.  The seeds will sink to the bottom while the white, spongy membrane will all float to the top.
    6. Skim all the white stuff out of the water and then pour out your seeds into a colander.
    7. Voilá!  You’ve just separated the seeds from the rind!


Filed under Great Grains, Lunch/Dinner, Main Dish