Sunday, July 30, 2023

Garden Fresh: Half Baked Harvest's Simplest Zucchini Parmesan Pasta

 I love a garden fresh pasta made with ingredients straight from the backyard: zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and basil. A garden fresh pasta like this is a good reason to especially if you top it with fresh Burrata! Fresh veggies and cheese...always a win!
 The zucchini sauce is best, in my opinion, if you grate some of the zucchini and cut the rest into bigger and smaller pieces. This way some of the zucchini melts into the sauce and you have some smaller chunks of zucchini and some larger. However, if you wanted a smoother sauce altogether you could simply grate all the zucchini. Make it your own!
 This is a simple pasta dish consisting of zucchini that gets cooked down with butter, pasta water, and cheese until it makes a fresh tasting sauce that coats the pasta. Short pasta shapes are best and I'm a big fan of farfalle, or butterfly pasta.You can chose to keep this dish rather simple by just tossing the pasta with the zucchini sauce, or you can top it with some cherry tomatoes and creamy, dreamy Burrata cheese! I look for any excuse to enjoy Burrata. It is quite simply the best topping of all!

I loved this garden fresh pasta. It was light and fresh and simply singing with summer flavors! It is a delicious way to use up all that zucchini on hand!

Simplest Zucchini Parmesan Pasta

Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

by Tieghan Gerard

Serves 6-8

1 pound pasta, any cut works

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3-4 medium zucchini (yellow or green, shredded or chopped)

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

chili flakes, to taste

salt and black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 cup grated Parmesan 

1/2 cup grated Pecorino or Manchego cheese

1 cup fresh basil, chopped

Optional: Burrata cheese for topping, if desired

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Just before draining reserve 1-1/4 cups of the pasta cooking water. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini, garlic, thyme, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook until the zucchini is golden, 5 minutes. Mix in the butter. Using the back of your spoon or potato masher, mash down the zucchini until it becomes a chunky sauce.

Add 1 cup of reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the pasta, parmesan, and pecorino, and toss until melted. Add more pasta water if needed to thin the sauce. Remove from the heat, toss in the basil. Serve topped with more cheese, if desired, and enjoy!

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Summer of Salads #9: Mark Bittman's Sichuan-Style Cucumber Salad {The Most Delcious Cucumber Salad Ever}


You're gonna think I'm crazy. But that's ok. I'm gonna say it anyway. This Sichuan-Style Cucumber Salad is one of the best things I've ate all year! I'm not kidding.

I had another salad planned this week but my friend gave me two beautiful cucumbers from her garden and since we're making Cool Treats this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs I decided I'd made a cucumber recipe. Because nothing is as cool as a cucumber, right?

This is NOT your typical cucumber salad served all summer long. This cucumber salad will BLOW YOUR MIND! I'm still not sure why on earth this is so dang delicious, but I ate the ENTIRE recipe all by myself. I couldn't stop! Something wonderful happens when you cut those cucumbers and let them sit for 30 minutes with salt and sugar sprinkled over top and then combine them with a soy sauce/sesame oil dressing with garlic and fresh hot chile and cilantro and lime juice and peppercorns! I mean WOW, I absolutely inhaled this. 

I even tried to put half away in the fridge but I kept licking my lips and getting that taste and I found myself going back to the fridge and eating the rest straight outta the bowl!

There is so many wonderful flavors going on here and the cucumber is just so bright and fresh and crunchy and flavorful and delicious. It's just simply addictive! Please get some garden fresh cucumbers and make this! I can't recommend it enough!

Sichuan-Style Cucumber Salad
Adapted from Mark Bittman
Serves 2-4

1 pound cucumbers
about 2 teaspoons slat
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns*
1 small clove garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh jalapeno or other hot chile
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice or rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
chopped cilantro, to your taste
NOTE: I couldn't find Sichuan peppercorns so I just used fresh cracked black pepper!
If the cucumbers are seedy (you'll know as soon as you cut into one), cut them in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. (If they're not seedy, don't!). Chop the cucumbers, I like 1/2" or slightly bigger pieces. Put them in a colander or strainer and sprinkle with the sat and sugar; toss a bit and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes.

Grind the peppercorns in a spice grinder. (If you have a spice grinder than can handle it, add the garlic and chile, too - I used a mortar and pestle for this). Otherwise, mince the garlic and chile and combine with the peppercorns.

When the cucumbers look darker and slightly shriveled, toss the colander a few times to remove as much liquid as possible that's clinging to them. (You don't have to rinse; if anything, you'll wind up adding salt.) Put the cucumbers in a bowl and add all the other ingredients except cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish with cilantro and serve. Bittman says room temperature is best, but I liked this as cold as can be best!

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Garden Fresh: Pasta alla Bersagliera {Pasta Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino}

 Disclaimer: I watch a fair amount of YouTube. The kids at school think they have a claim on YouTube and that adults and/or teachers just don't watch it. They are always so surprised to hear me talk about it.

I love the cooking and travel vlogs, among others. This week I discovered the Pasta Grammar channel and I watched them make a dish called Pasta alla Bersagliera, which is a pasta dish based off Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil). The Bersagliera sauce is just like Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil, except they add in little red Italian peppers (peperoncino) and a couple tablespoons of tomato paste. The YouTube video that inspired this dish is below if you'd like to give it a watch!

I was so glad to discover this dish because I have some of the ingredients out in my garden: little red peppers, basil, and I decided to add some cherry tomatoes.  
It's real simple! You place the olive oil in the pan with the cherry tomatoes, tomato paste, sliced red peppers and cook that down for a little bit. Then add the garlic and cook over low heat (being careful not to burn the garlic) until the garlic imparts its flavor and is a slightly golden brown. Some people toss the garlic, but I kept it and garnished my dish with it! The sauce will look broken, but that's okay. It will come together when you add the pasta and the pasta cooking water.
I researched many Spaghetti Aglio e Olio recipes prior to making this. Some called for one garlic clove, some called for 3, and others called for 8. I decided on 3 garlic cloves and 3 little hot peppers. I like that you can vary the ingredients based on your personal taste. Some people might want to add less garlic, or maybe more. Some might only like 1 pepper while others prefer more. It's up to you! The beautiful thing about cooking in your own kitchen is making it your own! This is a spicy and flavorful delight and tastes quite fresh and delicious! If you have the ingredients on hand you might want to try it!

                         Pasta alla Bersagliera or Pasta Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino 

                     Adapted from Pasta Grammar/Youtube and Giada De Laurentiis

                                                          1 pound spaghetti

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, germ removed

1-2 red peppers (pepporicino) 

handful of cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

reserved pasta water, amount depending on how you like your sauce

Notes: This recipe and the measurements is based off of Giada De Laurentiis' Spaghetti Aglio e Olio and I have simply substituted the red pepper flakes for red peperoncino and added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. I got this idea from watching Pasta Grammar on Youtube and since I had the red peperoncino on hand I decided to adapt Giada's recipe and give it a go! This is a combination of their recipes with a little personal touch of my own with the cherry tomatoes. I don't claim it was authentic!

Place 6 quarts of salted water in a a large pot and bring to a boil.

In a medium to large skillet place the olive oil, cherry tomatoes, tomato paste, sliced peppers, and garlic (garlic should be left whole with the germ removed). Cook the mixture over low heat until the garlic becomes slightly golden brown. You do not want to burn the garlic! Remove the garlic. Add about 1 cup of hot water from the pasta pot and set aside.

When the pasta pot comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook about 2 minutes less than package directions. When the pasta is almost done, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain pasta and add the pasta to the pan with the oil and tomato sauce. Stir and decide how much pasta water you need to make your sauce and pasta come together. Garnish with basil or other herbs, if you like and serve. 

 From The Garden @ IHCC

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Summer of Salads #8: Heidi Swanson's Fruit Salad with Thai Herbs

 This week at  I Heart Cooking Clubs were taking a trip right in our own kitchen. It is so much fun to explore the flavors of other places.  

Today, we're taking a trip to Thailand. When I saw Heidi Swanson post her gorgeous Fruit Salad with Thai Herbs the other day, I knew I had to make it ASAP. 

I've never worked with lemongrass before and I have always wanted to! Now, does the addition of lemongrass make this recipe Thai? Probably not, but it is Thai-inspired with the lemongrass and the mint and well... I threw in a mango to add a little color and make it a little more tropical.

I love the jewel tones of this fruit salad. It's a color palette I've had my eye on for awhile now. Plus, plums and stone fruits are really underrated. Here I have a variety of plums, apricots, cherries, mango, strawberries, and blueberries and they are all glistening in a sweet citrus honey dressing with bits of minced tender lemongrass and mint! 

This is a beautiful and delicious version of fruit salad that I will be sure to make again and again. We loved it! I'd like to make it again with solely tropical fruit such as pineapple, mango, papaya, etc. Heidi Swanson says to garnish this with yogurt, coconut, or walnuts and of course you can, but I honestly it didn't need anything else. It was perfect with just the fruit! 

Fruit Salad with Thai Herbs

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

by Heidi Swanson

Serves 4-6

Fruit Salad

5-6 cups of season fruit (Heidi uses nectarines, pluots,

 cherries, blackberries, loganberries, and peaches)*


3 tablespoons fresh lemon and/or lime juice

2 tablespoons honey

a pinch of salt

the tender interior of a stalk of lemongrass, minced

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

20 mint leaves, cut into strips

To serve: toasted coconut, dollops of creme fraiche or yogurt, toasted walnuts 

Notes: Any fruit can be used, but I used a variety of plums, mango, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and apricots.

Wash, cut, and arrange the fruit in a large bowl or on a platter. 

Whisk together the citrus juice, honey, salt, lemongrass, mint, and vanilla and set aside.

Drizzle the fruit with about half of the dressing and taste. Add more dressing, if desired. Then add coconut, nuts, and creme fraiche, or yogurt, and serve.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Summer of Salads #7: Broccoli Salad

 I decided on the Summer of Salads series for my blog this summer because I'd really like to find some go-to salad recipes that I can prepare on a Sunday and then take to work for lunch when we go back to school next month.

So, this week I made your typical Broccoli Salad. This is not a new invention, but I happen to love it and you know what....after 14 years of food blogging I can honestly tell you that I have never made Broccoli Salad until now!

Well, what can I say? This is the same Broccoli Salad that everyone knows and loves. A mix of ingredients that you'd never think would go well together, yet manages to taste delicious. Broccoli, sharp cheddar, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, red onion and BACON - all tossed in a zingy and zippy mayo dressing.

I made this salad, along with Mark Bittman's Classic American Potato Salad, for our 4th of July picnic and it was a hit! I will absolutely make this Broccoli Salad again! Everyone really enjoyed it. However, I thought the broccoli would hold up to the dressing the following day and be just as good or even better, and it just wasn't. Therefore, this recipe is not a contender for making on Sundays and packing in my lunch throughout the week like I was hoping, but it is delicious if made and eaten same day!


Broccoli Salad

Adapted from Sugar Spun Run

Makes 6-8 servings


5-6 cups broccoli florets (about 2-1/2 heads of broccoli) 

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, thicker, not finely shredded

2/3 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup crumbled bacon

1/2 cup salted sunflower seeds

1/3 cup red onion, diced into small pieces


3/4 cup mayo

1/4 cup sour cream

1-1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/t teaspoon pepper

Combine broccoli florets, cheddar cheese, dried cranberries, bacon, sunflower seeds, and onion in a large bowl.

In a separate small bowl whisk together mayo, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper until smooth and well combined.

Pour dressing over broccoli mix and toss or stir well.

Broccoli salad may be served immediately, but for best flavor refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Make sure to toss or stir well before serving. Keep refrigerated. Salad is best eaten within a day.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Summer of Salads #6: Classic American Potato Salad


We're halfway through our Summer of Salads series and I'm coming at you with a customizable recipe for Mark Bittman's Classic American Potato Salad! After all, it is almost the Forth of July and cookouts call for potato salad.

Mark Bittman's recipe comes from the infamous How To Cook Everything which is a real go to for me when I want to have a guideline recipe that I can tweak and make my own.

Bittman's Classic American Potato Salad recipe calls for 1-1/2 pounds waxy (new) potatoes to 1/2 cup mayo and 1/4 cup onions, salt and pepper. After that he gives you various different variations or mix-ins to try including: roasted red pepper, bacon, capers, pickles, relish, hard-boiled eggs, peas, cheese, etc.

I chose to go with some add-in's that my mom always used which was: 2 tablespoons of sweet relish, 4 hard-boiled eggs (two mixed into the salad and two for garnish), paprika, extra onion, 1 teaspoon of  Dijon mustard, and about 1 teaspoon of celery seed. 

The potato salad turned out delicious and I believe this will be my new go-to! 

Happy 4th of July to all who celebrate!

 Classic American Potato Salad

Recipe adapted from How To Cook Everything

by Mark Bittman

Makes 4 - 6 servings

1-1/2 pounds waxy potatoes, such as red new potatoes

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

1/4 cup minced onion

Mayonnaise to taste (start with 1/2 cup)

salt and black pepper

4 hard-boiled eggs

1 teaspoon celery seed

1-2 tablespoons pickle relish or 1-2 pickles, chopped, to taste

paprika, for garnish

Notes: You can add whatever you like to this salad in order to make it your own. I added 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped into the potato salad and then 2 hard-boiled eggs slice in halve to the top of the salad for garnish. I also added 2 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish, 1 teaspoon celery seed, extra red onion, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and then I garnished the top of the potato salad with a dusting of paprika.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil; salt it. Peel potatoes if you like (or wash and scrub them well), then cut them into bite-size pieces; cook them in the water until tender but still firm and not at all mushy, 15 minutes or so. Drain, rinse in cold water for a minute, then drain again.

Toss the still-warm potatoes with the parsley and onion, Add mayonnaise until the mixture is as creamy as you like. Season with salt and pepper and then mix in your additions to your salad at this time: sweet relish, hard-boiled eggs, Dijon mustard, paprika, celery seeds, etc. Refrigerate the salad until ready to serve.