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.

Asian Green Bean Salad

Doing dishes is more fragrant with the Lily of the Valley and lilacs that are out! Next are the peonies!

Doing dishes is more fragrant with the Lily of the Valley and lilacs that are out. Next are the peonies!

I am always looking for new-to-me salads to make. When I recently was invited to a potluck garden party, my first thought was to make the first of the season macaroni salad. But given that I’m trying to be careful with the carbs these days, even if I was going to be offering it to others, I wanted to make something that had a little bit of carbs, lots of veggies, and lots of flavor.

This recipe, found on cookinglight.com was a perfect solution. Any time there are veggies in a salad, I never measure; my rationale is a salad is never hurt by adding too many vegetables! With some whole grain linguine and lots of green beans, red pepper, celery, ginger, plus a flavorful dressing, I made a choice that was a hit! I also dusted it with sesame seeds for a little more flavor and crunch.

One note, I have only chili pepper sesame oil in my cupboard at the moment, so I thought using it for the dressing would give the dish a little kick. Well, even I thought it had too much kick when I tested it! I actually thought about including a warning disclaimer with it! But it turned out, there were other chili heads at the party who liked it because I came home with an empty bowl! Use tamari sauce in place of soy sauce and either gluten-free noodles or all veggies for a gluten-free alternative. I thought this would be great with a piece of salmon or chicken. Would be tasty in the salad as well!

asian green bean saladAsian Green Bean Salad         

This recipe first appeared in the March 2008 issue of Cooking Light and is by reader, Linda Dalton of Stoughton, Massachusetts.

Makes 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

3 ounces uncooked linguine
1 pound green beans, trimmed
2 cups diagonally sliced celery
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup (1/2-inch) slices green onions
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Dressing
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

To prepare salad, break linguine in half. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add beans during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Place mixture in a large bowl. Stir in celery, bell pepper, onions, and cilantro.

To prepare dressing, combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until blended. Add to salad; toss well. Cover and chill.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: France’s New “Food” Law

(Mario Proenca/Bloomberg News)

(Mario Proenca/Bloomberg News)

Just going to my own supermarket, and it is probably small compared to yours, I sometimes look at the abundance of food and am totally blown away that there is that much food in every supermarket in the country, even the world. It’s enough to make my head hurt because of the enormity and makes me ask, how do we do it? And what happens to the food that isn’t that great, but also isn’t saleable?

France recently passed a bill that makes it illegal for supermarkets to throw away food that is edible or passed its sell by date. Grocers either have to donate the food to charity or have it made into compost, energy, or animal feed. Think you can get away with it? The fines are steep, $82,000 if you don’t comply.

According to this op-ed piece in the Washington Post, nearly $160 billion in food doesn’t get eaten each year in the U.S. That is staggering. Interestingly, as I was researching this piece, I found that other European countries may be addressing this issue. I didn’t find one article that talked about the United States thinking about it. I compost, so I always figure I’m feeding my bunnies and other animals that frequent our meadow, but this does make me think twice about tossing out sad-looking veggies. Just more food for thought.

Spiced Chicken Thighs and Parsley Couscous

I’ve really gotten into spice rubs for meat lately. Easier and less messy than marinades, they are a nice way to spice up (no pun intended) a boring piece of meat, with spices and herbs that already are in the cupboard.

This was an easy Sunday dinner. Always one for looking for simplicity, by browning and roasting the chicken in the same pan, it makes a one-dish supper–less cleanup! I had Israeli couscous in the cupboard, so I used that, which made it more of a pasta side dish. If you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative, quinoa or rice can certainly be used. Served with the first corn of the season, it was a delicious meal and the leftover chicken was perfect on my salads for lunch!

herbed chix

Spiced Chicken Thighs and Parsley Couscous
This recipe originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Sip on a cool glass of ginger lemonade for just 32 cents per serving: Bring 4 cups water and 1/3 cup sliced fresh ginger to a boil in a medium saucepan; remove from heat. Steep 30 minutes. Strain; discard solids. Mix the liquid with the juice of 2 large lemons and 3 tablepoons honey. Serve over ice.

Serves 4 (serving size: 2 thighs and about 1/2 cup couscous)

2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed and skinned (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2/3 cup uncooked couscous
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine cumin, sugar, chili powder, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper, lemon rind, and black pepper in a small bowl; rub spice mixture over both sides of chicken. Heat a large ovenproof skillet or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan, placing it skin side down; cook 5 minutes on each side or until chicken is browned. (If necessary, work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.) Transfer pan to oven. Bake chicken at 425° for 14 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 10 minutes before serving.

3. While chicken rests, heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add couscous and garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring frequently. Carefully stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and chicken stock. Bring liquid to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 4 minutes (avoid opening the lid). Fluff couscous with a fork, and stir in parsley and lemon juice.

summer_box1MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Lovethesecretingredient.net
Far be it for me to think I’m the only food blog out there worth reading (there are zillions out there, so I know I’m only a teeny spec in the cyber world!). But I came across Mary Frances’s blog, Love the Secret Ingredient, a couple of years ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading her adventures in the kitchen since then. She cooks a little bit like me; I have this in the fridge, what can I make?

She’s had a project for the last few months that I really admire: seasonal food boxes, all to benefit Feed the Children. I ordered the summer box (pictured), and received a delicious spice rub, some yummy salsa, and other goodies. And the box was totally gluten-free. This sort of project is totally out of my realm, so I’m excited to find something foodie related–and impressed she took her blog and food interest to the next level!

I’ll be ordering the fall box soon! Check it Mary Frances’s blog at www.lovethesecretingredient.net.