Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

stormI remember reading last winter that the powers that be who predict weather said it was going to be a cooler than normal summer for the Northeast. I tend to poo poo those predictions, but so far, they are correct. My lilacs weren’t as hardy as they’ve been in the past; I picked one blossom, which immediately started to wilt when I put it in water. I find myself wearing sweaters more than not and I haven’t had one alfresco dinner yet this year. I had planned one for the other evening, but see the above skies right before it was ready. But when I do get a nice evening, this will be the perfect meal to serve; greens, protein, healthy oils, and big, bold flavors all in one bowl.

This is a sort of deconstructed nicoise salad, which I love to make in the summer. This came together quickly; as the water boiled, I chopped the tomatoes and olives and let them steep in their juices. I had exactly six ounces of gluten-free penne in the cupboard, so I chose to use that up instead of opening a new box of cavatappi. This also is a perfect dish to make after a visit to the farmer’s market; fresh tomatoes, green beans, and lettuce, it will taste amazing! As I was cooking this, I thought of lots of ways to change things up; basil instead of oregano; chicken instead of tuna, or if a vegetarian, maybe some sautéed flavorful mushrooms; white beans in place of green beans; or another grain in place of the pasta. I also thought adding some freshly chopped cucumbers or other veggies would be tasty. Once you have an outline of a recipe, adding and substituting is really easy, go with what YOU like!

cavatappi saladCavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives

This recipe first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

6 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta

12 ounces green beans or yellow wax beans, trimmed and halved

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups tomato wedges

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

20 pitted kalamata olives, halved

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

5 ounces canned or jarred sustainable white tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta; cook 5 minutes. Add beans; cook an additional 3 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender and pasta is done. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain.

2. While pasta water comes to a boil, combine oil, juice, pepper, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add tomato, oregano, and olives; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in pasta mixture and lettuce. Divide among 4 plates; top evenly with tuna.

Serves 4 (serving size: about 2 1/2 cups pasta salad and 1/4 cup tuna)

MVK’s Like of the Week: To Lose Weight Eating Less is Far More Important Than Exercising
We’ve all heard the adage, if you want to lose weight, eat less, move more. But a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times examines how eating less (and healthy) may actually be more important for your waistline than just relying on exercise. While I won’t throw out my Fitbit any time soon, I always read these sorts of articles with a wary eye. Of course, exercise has its health benefits and just because you’re exercising doesn’t give you free rein to eat whatever you want (trust me, I know!). I can say for myself, cooking at home, walking, and really watching what I eat away from home are three tips that have worked well for me through the years. But it’s always a challenge, especially the older you get.

And while I read this cautiously, I found it interesting, whether or not you believe it. You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, To Lose Weight Eating Less is Far More Important Than Exercising.

Italian Chickpea Salad Plus the Endorsement of the Week

Don’t have time to make dinner? Too hot outside? All of the above? This recipe will fit both of these scenarios. All you need is a can of beans, some veggies, olives, basil, and some dressing and you are well on your way to supper! And trust me, this takes about 15 minutes to put together!

I play trivia every Tuesday night (don’t ask how my team “Loose Lips” does; while we are usually at the bottom of the leader board, we always have lots of fun) and on these evenings, if I don’t eat in town, I end up eating when I get home close to 9 p.m. And even I don’t want to fix something for dinner that late, so it tends to be an egg, some cereal, or a glass of milk before I head up to bed. A couple of weeks ago, I started to feel this was bad nutrition; I really needed to eat a light dinner. I had in my mind a bean salad with a tangy vinaigrette would be a simple and healthy dish to serve on top of some greens. So before I headed out the door, I created this dish that was ready to eat when I got home!

Leaving it in the fridge for an hour or two to let the flavors marry is perfect, but you can also eat it right away. If you serve later, add the basil right before serving. I’ve made this with sweet onions in place of the shallots, and black olives in place of kalamatas, it’s all good. Whatever you have on hand (or don’t) will work. Add extra cucumber if you don’t have the tomatoes, or vice versa. And if you don’t have basil, fresh oregano would be a lovely alternative. Substitute white beans or another light bean if that’s what you have in the cupboard. And while this salad is vegan and gluten-free, I don’t think adding some tuna packed in olive oil is such a bad idea. Or some crumbled feta or ricotta salata cheese. It will all taste delicious!

Happy Eating!

italian beanItalian Chickpea Salad

I realized after I started working on the ingredients for this salad that it is reminiscent to one I posted last summer, Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas, with a few additions and subtractions. Either salad is a quick and nutritious meal, whether it’s for lunch or dinner!

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or roughly 2 ½ cups
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, cut horizontally, seeded, and roughly chopped
¼ cup chopped kalamata olives
1-2 TBS finely chopped fresh basil

Dressing

1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, add the chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, and olives. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, and shallots. Add to the chickpea mixture and toss gently. Add the basil before serving if you’re letting it sit for a couple of hours. Or eat immediately.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Picnic in Provence, a Memoir in Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

provenceIn 2011, it was just dumb luck that I came across Elizabeth Bard’s first food memoir, Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes, while I was perusing the food memoir section at a bookstore. A story of living in Paris, meeting the man of your dreams, it was a truly fun story and one of the better food memoirs I’ve read. So imagine my delight when I was in the same section of the same bookstore (the Northshire in Manchester, Vermont. It has the BEST food memoir selection I’ve ever seen!) to find that Bard has continued writing and has moved to Provence!

Picnic in Provence, a Memoir in Recipes is a true delight. Now married to Gwendal and in tow with tiny Alexandre, Bard retells the story of finding the small town of Céreste in the heart of Provence, where she and her family move into the home of poet René Charr. Now she’s not a visitor, she is entrenched in day-to-day village life. And what I liked about this is Bard shows us life in another country as well as her vulnerable side; as a new mother, she writes about her questions and fears with her son when it appears he prefers his father to her. The back and forth of should she give up her U.S. citizenship to become a French citizen? (She does.) What it’s like to be an American living in a country where there is a certain “style,” ie. French women don’t get fat. One of my favorite chapters was when her friend, Courtney, visited. A woman who suffered from bulimia and binge-eating, Bard turns to look at her own eating habits and those of France vs. the U. S. “A French diet is a balancing act. If you eat a little extra dessert at dinner, you have a bowl of soup or a plate of steamed vegetables the next day for lunch. I call it the quiet diet. It’s nobody’s business but mine.”

Throughout it all, Bard gives us mouth-watering recipes and food descriptions. “There’s something a little greedy about roasted tomatoes. Slick with olive oil and mellowed with garlic, pulpy like a supermarket romance novel, they are my attempt at pleasure hoarding. I want to be able to peek into the freezer in December and know I can use this spark of sunshine to light up a winter pasta sauce or guarantee a sensational base for braised veal shank or white beans.” (I’ll be doing that this summer.) French cooking isn’t about fancy cooking with sauces, most of it is simple, local, fresh food since you go to the market regularly throughout the week. White Beans with Tomatoes and Herbs, Zucchini Gratin, Lentil and Sausage Stew, Arugula Salad with Chicken, Fresh Figs, and Avocado, Mulled Wine Roasted Plums. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

I won’t spoil the ending for you like the book jacket did for me (grrr), but I have a feeling in the next few years I will find yet another chapter in Bard’s food life on the shelf of a bookstore. If I’m lucky enough.

The Last Supper: Marinated London Broil

Look how green everything has gotten! It's an emerald sea!

Look how green everything has gotten. It’s an emerald sea!

I sometimes play this game with myself when I’m bored and think about what I would like to eat for my last supper. Of course, I create a fictional story and I’ve been told I can have whatever I would like for my last supper. So 1. I can order whatever I would like to eat or drink with no worry about future calories; and 2. Someone else is doing the cooking. I always start and end with the same things, an extra dry extra big vodka martini and a slice of homemade pie, but the middle dishes of the meal always changes. Sometimes lobster, roast chicken, pasta, beef, sometimes all three. But I have to admit, this week’s recipe might be the one I would request!

Rarely do I buy beef but when I do, I tend to buy a less expensive cut and marinate it to tenderize it. This marinade, with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, has just the right amount of salt and sweetness and the added lemon juice lends the sour. Shallots have become my new favorite onion; they have a distinct flavor that to me is a cross between a mild red onion and leeks. Instead of fresh thyme, I just added ½ teaspoon of dried.

Everyone always says to let your meat rest at least 10 minutes before cutting it and that is wise advise. The juices in the meat redistribute and finish cooking internally, and when you slice against the grain, it comes out perfectly. And this would be terrific on the grill!

steak2Marinated London Broil

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3 ounces)

This recipe first appeared in the May 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1/2 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (2-pound) boneless top round steak, trimmed
Cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Pierce steak with a fork. Add steak to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning every 30 minutes.

2. Preheat broiler.

3. Remove steak from bag; discard marinade. Scrape shallots and garlic from steak; discard shallots and garlic. Place steak on broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle steak evenly with salt and pepper. Broil 4 inches from heat for 6 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Washing and Storing Summer Berries
BerriesWPNow that it’s berry season, I read this article with interest. I try to wash my berries when I get home from the store and place in containers for easy eating. But I always find, regardless how quickly they get eaten, a few berries here and there get moldy. This article had great information on how to prevent that (with raspberries, rinse when you’re about to eat) and other tips! You can read the whole article by clicking here.