When I think back to when I was growing up, I remember that we did not eat any differently during the summer months than we did during the winter months. When it was hot and my mother did not like the heat, she often fixed the meal ingredients as much as she could in the morning. Still, there was the cooking to do to put it all together during those hot evenings. The meals were not lighter, nor did they vary in content. It was never too hot for Sunday’s pasta dinner or veal scaloppine with mashed potatoes during the week. Salad was always served along side the dinner entree. Occasionally my father would grill steaks or sausage on a hot summer night because that was the time of year one could grill in NJ. Many a time, though, I did not feel like eating those meals in the heat.
As times have changed and society has gotten away from big, formal dinners due to hectic lifestyles and the growth of a multitude of convenience foods, meals of the present generation are more spur of the moment. The old conventions of what constitutes a meal has also relaxed, and if, we want a grilled cheese sandwich or a salad for dinner, we just do it. When it is hot, as it has been much earlier than usual this year, salad for dinner seems just right. I have put together a collection of some salad recipes than can be a great dinner meal on their own or paired with a grilled protein of your choice.
Avocado, Tomato, and Mozzarella Salad
Add grilled shrimp for a complete meal.
4 small plum tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
6 oz small buffalo mozzarella balls, torn in half
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
Basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 ripe Hass avocados, pitted, skinned, and quartered
Position a rack 5-6 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler. Arrange the tomatoes, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the garlic and scallions. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the tomatoes.
Broil the tomatoes for 4–5 minutes, or until they just begin to soften and the garlic is golden brown.
Place the hot tomatoes, garlic, scallions, and all cooking juices in a bowl. Add the mozzarella, remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, capers, and basil and toss gently.
Place 2 avocado quarters on each of 4 plates. Divide the tomato mixture evenly over the avocados and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Penne and Vegetable Salad
1 lb. penne
3 cups broccoli florets
2 cups asparagus tips
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 large carrots, cut into julienne
2 tablespoons chopped basil or oregano
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Cook the penne in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, according to the package instructions, until al dente.
Meanwhile, steam or microwave the broccoli and asparagus for 4 minutes. Add the snow peas and carrots and steam about 3 minutes more, until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a large bowl, then gradually whisk in the oil. Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl. Toss in the vegetables and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Roasted Zucchini and Mint Salad
Add grilled chicken breast for a complete meal.
8 zucchini, halved lengthwise
4 sprigs fresh mint leaves, chopped
About 2/3 cup croutons, see recipe below
About ½ cup toasted almonds
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh mint leaves for garnish
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Lay the zucchini on a baking sheet, skin side up, and bake for about 8 minutes, or until the zucchini are golden brown on the flat, fleshy side. Let the zucchini cool slightly and then slice into half moons. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F and make croutons.
In a bowl, mix the zucchini, mint sprigs, croutons, and almonds. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, toss, and then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange on a serving platter and garnish with fresh mint leaves.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 oz. (about 2 cups) bread cubes; (Italian or French bread), diced into 3/4-inch cubes.
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Toss bread cubes with garlic and olive oil to coat. Sprinkle lightly with salt and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until just golden brown. Halfway through the baking time, give the pan a shake to make sure the croutons toast evenly. Remove from oven and completely cool croutons. Store in an airtight container.
Shellfish Salad with Oranges and Fennel
Orange paired with anise-scented fennel is a traditional Sicilian flavor combination. This recipe adds shrimp and scallops, but you can use any fish you like in this recipe. Thinly sliced celery is a nice alternative if your market does not have fennel.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly ground coarse black pepper
3 navel oranges
2 large fennel bulbs, cored, trimmed, and thinly sliced lengthwise
2 cups dry white wine
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb. sea scallops, foot muscle remove and cut in half
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or fennel leaves for garnish
To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and the citrus juices. Whisk in the pepper and the salt to taste, Set aside.
Working with 1 orange at a time, cut a thin slice off the top and bottom to reveal the flesh, Stand the orange upright and remove the peel in wide strips, cutting downward and following the contour of the fruit. Holding the orange, cut along both sides of each segment to release the segments from the membrane. Using the knife tip, pry out any seeds from the segments. Squeeze the membrane over the bowl to collect extra juice that you can add it to the vinaigrette at serving time.
Place the fennel in a bowl, add half of the vinaigrette, and toss to coat evenly. Divide the fennel evenly among 8 salad plates, forming a bed on each one, or arrange the fennel in a bed on a large platter.
In a saucepan, bring the wine to a simmer over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook gently until they turn pink and are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Do not overcook or they will be tough. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl. Add the scallops to the pan and simmer gently until just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the bowl holding the shrimp. Drizzle about one-third of the remaining vinaigrette over the seafood and toss to coat evenly.
Place the orange segments evenly over the fennel. Then distribute the warm seafood evenly over the oranges. Add the orange juice from the bowl to the remaining vinaigrette and drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad. Top with the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 4 servings
Add grilled salmon fillets for a complete meal.
1-10 oz.package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
1 large bunch of arugula
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Add the juice and rind of the lemon to a small saucepan and place the artichoke hearts in the pan with enough cold water to just cover the artichoke hearts.
Add a pinch of salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook the artichokes for 5 minutes. Drain well and let cool.
Divide the arugula and artichokes among 4 plates. Sprinkle with cheese and pepper, and drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Salad of Roasted Peppers, Olives and Fontina – Piedmont Style
The cuisine of Piedmont includes numerous, interesting cooked vegetable salads that are served as appetizers. This dish is often served as a first course, but you can add a grilled beef tenderloin steak or sirloin steak to complete the meal.
1 each large, yellow, red and orange bell peppers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Freshly milled white pepper
2 tablespoons sliced, pitted imported green olives
¼ pound fontina, cut into long, thin strips
Arrange the peppers on a grill rack above a charcoal fire, or 2 to 3 inches under a preheated broiler, or in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F.
Roast them until they are charred all over and tender inside, turning them frequently to insure they blacken evenly. Set aside to cool.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingertips, peel off the skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the stems, ribs, and seeds. (Do not do this under running water; it will wash away some of the smoky flavor.) Cut the peppers lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips and place in a bowl. Add the oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, olives, and cheese and toss gently to mix well. Serve at room temperature.
Cannellini Beans and Tuna
Serves 8 or more
2 cups (1 pound) dried cannellini (white kidney) or Great Northern beans
1 small onion, peeled and halved
2 whole cloves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
¼ cup olive oil
1 (6-ounce) can Italian-style tuna fish packed in oil, drained and flaked
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Rinse the beans and place in a bowl of cold water to cover. Set aside for 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 275°F. Drain the beans and place them in an ovenproof casserole. Stud the onion halves with the whole cloves and bury them in the casserole with the garlic, thyme, and sage. Add enough cold water to cover by ½ inch and cover the casserole.
Place casserole over low heat and bring contents to a simmer. Remove from the heat and place in oven. Bake until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes. (Check after 15 minutes to be sure that the liquid is simmering and is still above the level of the beans, adding boiling water if necessary.) Season with the salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Set aside, uncovered, until cooled.
Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
When ready to serve, remove the onion, garlic, and herbs. Fold in the oil and drained tuna. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with parsley.
- Roasted Mini Pepper and Fresh Basil Relish over Grilled Salmon (karistaskitchen.com)
- Grilled Vegetable Garden Salad (faithfulprovisions.com)
- Garden Couscous Salad (yesiwantcake.com)
- Jazz Up Your Salads (healthfoodienut.wordpress.com)
- Salad Dressing And Sauce (thevreelandclinic.wordpress.com)
- Salad Days: Three easy salads and a Salad Dressing Masterclass (3outof3.wordpress.com)
- Boston Lettuce, Snap Pea, and Radish Salad with Green Garlic and Buttermilk Dressing, and Goodbye Dan Melia! (brooklynguyloveswine.blogspot.com)
- Is your salad as healthy as it seems? (dynamicfitnessuk.wordpress.com)
- How to Eat Hass Avocados (avocadocentral.com)
With over 500 different types of pasta available, it is not only, one of the most popular foods in the world, but it can be served in hundreds of different ways. The drying process is also a key to the flavor of pasta. Slow drying at low temperatures helps to preserve the nutty flavor of the durum wheat. This method of slow drying pasta is an art as well as a science, since drying times vary depending on the shape of the pasta and outdoor relative humidity levels and temperatures. This subtle difference of a slow-dried pasta can be tasted best before you add the sauce.
There is archeological evidence that noodles existed in China about 4,000 years ago. Spanish colonists brought pasta to the U.S, but it wasn’t until the large immigration by Italians in the last half of the 19th century that pasta gained popularity. By the 1920’s, pasta was a comfort food throughout America.
Pasta is a healthy food. It is a source of complex carbohydrates, thiamin, folic acid, iron, riboflavin and niacin, and it contains only negligible amounts of fat, cholesterol, or sodium. Fettuccine Alfredo is high in calories from heavy cream, butter and Parmesan cheese. Make pasta healthier by serving it with a tomato-based sauce that contains clams, shrimp, peppers, mushrooms, chickpeas, or other low fat foods and flavorings.
A one cup serving of cooked pasta contains about 40 grams of carbohydrates. And in the context of a balanced diet, 40 grams of carbohydrates is not over doing it. It is the same amount of carbs as in a cup of rice, for example. The problem is that, when it comes to pasta, we seem to think that a larger portion is the norm. For example, a one-cup serving of rice looks perfectly appropriate to us—actually generous, but put one cup of pasta in front of us and it doesn’t look right at all.
If you’re trying to figure out how much to cook, a serving of dried pasta is about two ounces. For long, thin shapes, that’s a bundle the size of a dime. For smaller shapes, it’s about a half cup. You can also mentally divide up the box. Each one pound box contains about eight servings. Once it’s cooked, a serving of pasta equals one measuring cup, or about the size of your fist.
Different Types of Pasta
You can vary the type of pasta you serve based on your nutritional needs or what other ingredients you are going to combine with the pasta.
Alternative Grain Pastas: This category includes Kamut® (a whole grain pasta), spelt pasta (made with 100% spelt flour) and quinoa (an ancient grain pasta similar to rice).
Durum Semolina Pasta: This is the best choice for wheat-based pasta. Durum wheat is a high-gluten, exceptionally hard wheat, while “semolina” refers to the milling texture (that of fine sand). If your pasta has a rich ivory color approaching yellow, you can be sure it is made with durum semolina.
Egg Noodles: They may be delicate, but egg noodles absorb sauces more readily than regular durum noodles. These are best eaten with light sauces.
Gluten-free Pasta: The primary ingredients used as flour in gluten-free pasta are brown rice, corn, a combination of corn and quinoa, potato and soybeans.
Whole Wheat Pasta: This pasta choice offers nutrition and a rich, nutty flavor that stands up to robust sauces. Since production varies, if your first experience with whole grain pasta doesn’t meet expectations, try another brand before giving up on this healthy pasta choice. Vegetable combinations are best used with this type of pasta.
How To Cook Pasta
The term “al dente” in Italian literally means “to the tooth” and can be best translated as “chewy” or pasta that is boiled just to the point of being cooked through, yet remains firm. Americans prefer their pasta to be cooked longer. This is unfortunate, because the length of time pasta is cooked can have quite substantially different effects on blood glucose and the softer the pasta, the higher the glycemic index. (The Glycemic Index (GI) is a numerical scale used to indicate how fast and how high a particular food can raise our blood glucose (blood sugar) level.)
For 1 pound of pasta, use a pot that’s at least 8 quarts. When the water has boiled, salt it generously—about 2 tablespoons.
- Add the pasta; stir it right away so it doesn’t stick. Push longer pasta down into the water with tongs or a spaghetti fork to make sure it’s totally submerged. Stir occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- When the pasta begins to soften, try tasting it. If you bite into a piece and see a thin, starchy line inside, keep boiling.
- To achieve the al dente texture, cook the pasta a minute or two under the recommended cooking time.
- Drain the pasta in a colander. Don’t rinse, the starch that remains on the pasta will help the sauce adhere.
Save a cup of the boiling water before you drain the pasta. The starch in the water will help thicken the sauce and help it coat the pasta.
My family certainly likes pasta with a tomato based sauce and we always have plenty of that on hand. In order to eat less meat and less fat, I have also accumulated a number of recipes that utilize vegetables, fish, citrus flavorings and low-fat sauces. Here are some recipes that are good for you:
Penne with Artichokes
- 1-9 oz package frozen artichokes, defrosted
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 oz sun-dried tomatoes, in oil, drained and sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- 12 ounces penne, cooked and drained ( or any short pasta of your choice)
Combine artichokes, water and lemon juice in medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until tender. Cool artichokes, then cut into thick slices. Reserve the artichoke cooking liquid.
Cook and stir 3 tablespoons garlic and 1 tablespoon oil in skillet over medium-high heat until golden. Reduce heat to low. Add artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes; simmer 1 minute. Stir in artichoke liquid, red pepper flakes, parsley, salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes.
Stir together the bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.
Pour artichoke sauce over pasta in large bowl; toss gently to coat.
Sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese mixture.
Pasta with Asparagus and Shrimp in Lemon Sauce
This recipe can be adapted to whatever vegetables are in season and your protein or herbs of choice.
- 1 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch lengths
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 lb large ( any size is fine) shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound short curly pasta, such as corkscrews, fusilli, chiocciole (small snails) or small shells
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated and the juice from the lemons (should be about 4 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Lemon slices for garnish
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, drop in the asparagus and cook until tender but firm. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon to a bowl and reserve.
- Bring the water back to a boil, drop in the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook about 1 minutes. Add the shrimp and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the asparagus and cook until the shrimp are cooked through (just pink) and the asparagus are warmed, about 2 minutes more. Add the lemon juice and toss. Remove from heat.
- Return the pasta to the pot and toss it with 1/2 of the Parmesan, 1/2 of the parsley, lemon zest, remaining olive oil and reserved cooking liquid. Season with salt and a generous sprinkling of coarsely ground fresh pepper. Pour into a serving bowl.
- Arrange the shrimp and asparagus on top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese and parsley. Garnish with lemon slice.
This recipe is under 350 calories per serving.
- A Gluten Free Pasta Dish Loaded With “Cancer Fighting” Veggies! (beefitwithtracy.com)
- W is for Wheat – Semolina Can Get Chefs Talking Wheat (janiceperson.com)
- The Dish on Pasta: Maligned Food Actually a Healthy Carb (livescience.com)