squash

Grilled Corn and Summer Squash Pasta Salad

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When I say “pasta salad” what dish comes to mind?

If I had to guess, I’d say for a majority of people this dish is typically made of macaroni noodles, maybe with some shredded carrot and chopped celery thrown in, and leaning heavy on the mayo to make it a thick salad that holds together. Is this what popped into your mind too?

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a pasta dish as much as the next one, but I think it’s about time we gave this summer classic an updated look- a recipe that’s just as easy to throw together and enjoy as one or with many people, but one that’s also more nutritionally balanced and servable as a main dish.

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Here’s what I’m proposing for a pasta salad redux…

  1. Consider a refreshed pasta base- if you haven’t tried a legume-based pasta, like Banza chickpea pasta, Barilla red lentil penne, or other plant-based noodles from Tolerant Foods or Trader Joe’s, I highly recommend giving them a go. These pastas are higher in protein, and therefore lower in carbohydrates, than traditional wheat varieties. Not sure how it’s going to taste? Try replacing only half of the pasta in the recipe with this new variety!

  2. Amp up the vegetables- while a small pop of color in traditional pasta salad is nothing to turn a nose up at, those shredded carrots are far from the 1 serving of vegetables I would recommend if serving this dish for lunch. Use the pasta salad as a vehicle for easily eating more veggies, rather than feeling like it’s a chore to eat ANOTHER leafy green salad on the side. Since we’re in summer, think about tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers- they are all great pastabilities!

  3. Make it a complete meal- if you can’t tell, by bulking up the vegetables I’m trying to inch this recipe towards becoming a one-stop, one-pot complete meal. To achieve this, my last recommendation would be to add a source of protein. If preparing pasta salad in bulk you could always make up the base, and then cook and add a new protein each day to your liking. I’m thinking chicken sausages, grilled shrimp, or more chickpeas would be easy ways to round out the dish.

  4. Keep it light, but not on the flavor- you may consider this sacrilegious at first, but I think the days of mayo being the mandatory condiment for pasta salad are over. With not much to offer besides saturated fat and an overpowering flavor, mayonnaise can easily be swapped for olive oil and additional herbs and spices without compromising on flavor. If you’re still craving a little creamy quality, consider a sprinkle of feta or goat cheese for texture and tang.

So, who’s on board to try this dressed up, but totally simple summer pasta salad? Dig in!

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Grilled Corn and Summer Squash Pasta Salad- serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. legume pasta

  • 1 large ear of corn, husk removed, cleaned

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1 large yellow summer squash, cut in half lengthwise

  • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)

  • 1/2 cup baby arugula

  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flake

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven’s broiler.

  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions or al dente. Drain, rinse under cold water, strain, and place in a large mixing bowl.

  3. To “grill” the corn indoors, rest the cleaned ear of corn over a stove burner. Turn on the burner to start a medium flame. The corn will start to crackle and pop a bit, while getting a char. Every so often use tongs to turn the corn so that the entire ear becomes lightly “grilled”. Once finished, let the cooked corn cool on a cutting board. When easy enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob and add them to the pasta.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the squash flat-side down. Sear the squash until the flesh starts to brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer the skillet to a rack 4 inches under the broiler. Continue to cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until the squash skin starts to soften and turn slightly browned as well. Remove the cooked squash from the skillet and let cool on a cutting board. When easy enough to handle, cut the squash into 1/2 inch-thick half moon shapes and add to mixing bowl.

  5. Add the tomatoes, arugula, feta, and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pasta mixture. Toss to coat and mix well, then taste and add salt and red chili flake. Serve with protein of choice for a complete meal.

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Mexican Kabocha Squash Skillet

Who else has skin that hates the dry winter weather? For the past two years I have developed painfully dry hands, but the funny thing is, it only affects two of my fingertips. I’m not kidding! My left hand stays hydrated after numerous hand-washes at work and at home, but my right hand has two stubborn fingers that dry out quite badly and I find myself constantly applying lotion. It is annoying to say the least!

Since that is the case, I’m all about cooking things that require very little dishes to wash; to be honest, this is what I’m always all about! The less time my hands can spend under running water doing clean up the better. So, I’m relying on easy, one-bowl, or in this case one-skillet, recipes when meal prepping my lunches.

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This week I’ve come up with a hearty winter squash bake gone Mexican style! Kabocha squash is one of my favorite winter squashes because you can eat the skin no problem, and it’s not overly sweet like I find a delicata to be. To go with the squash, I decided to use dried black beans I had in the cupboard that were begging to be soaked and cooked up. Pairing squash and beans is quite typical in Mexican culture as these two foods, along with corn, have a beneficial relationship when grown side by side in the fields. They’re called the Three Sisters, and when paired together you end up with a complete protein, which goes to show that animal protein isn’t the only way to get all your protein building blocks! With the spirit of Mexico in mind, I was guided to flavors like chili and cumin to heat up the dish. Finally, I stuck with melty cow’s cheese for the finishing touch, but if you’re wanting to keep this recipe vegan I’d recommend trying out Siete Foods Cashew Queso.

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This quick skillet bake had the house smelling amazing and I’m excited to be digging in to it for lunch! And all that’s left to clean up is the skillet- maybe I should give my hands a break and have my husband take care of that, right?

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Mexican Kabocha Squash Skillet- serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1 small-medium kabocha squash, or about 2 cups cubed squash

  • 1 small poblano pepper, chopped

  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 cups black beans

  • 1 can diced tomatoes

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1.5 cups shredded cheese, mix of cheddar and monterey

  • To serve: 1 lime and avocado slices

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare kabocha squash by cutting in half width-wise, scoop out the seeds, and cut squash into half moon strips about 1/2 inch size. Then cut squash moons into small 1/2 inch cubes. Place two cups of cubed squash into a 8 inch cast iron skillet and add chopped poblano and bell pepper. Toss vegetables with a bit of avocado oil. Roast for about 15-20 minutes until squash is fork-tender. Remove skillet from oven.

  2. To the skillet, add black beans, canned tomatoes, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, and salt. Mix everything together so that spices are evenly mixed in. Create an even layer of the mixture in the skillet and top with shredded cheese. Return skillet to heated oven and bake for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted. If you’d like, slide it under the broiler for a few minutes for a crispy cheese crust on top.

  3. Serve with a squeeze of lime and a few avocado slices. This serves two hungry people for a dinner main course, or can be divided into 3 portions for lunch to be served with snacks.

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Tomato Basil Spaghetti Squash

Are you looking for a classic spaghetti squash dish to add to your fall recipe collection? I’ve got you covered! As October hits I become a little squash crazed and find myself using different varieties most weeks throughout the fall and winter- acorn, spaghetti, butternut, or kabocha, I love them all and think you should too.

My first foray into squash season this time is the versatile spaghetti squash. Coming back from Italy, with pasta on the brain, my most natural spaghetti pairing right now was with tomato sauce, so that’s where the inspiration for this later summer, early fall recipe comes in.

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I took some short cuts by using jarred tomato sauce (plus good summer tomatoes are pretty much gone in the Northeast by now), and I used dried basil, but fresh leaves could certainly be added at the very end instead if you happen to have a fresh bunch. Roasting the squash takes the longest time, but the other ingredients can be prepped in mere minutes. And I find an Italian dish just isn’t authentic unless finishsed with cheese, but even that step can be flexible. I used grated parmesan, but you could easily top the stuffed squash boats with some broken pieces of mozzarella and slide under the broiler for a few minutes for melty perfection. When pulling it all together, I think it’s fun (and creates less dishes!) when served in the squash skin, but if not eating right away it stores nicely for a day or two in the fridge.

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Buon Appetito!


Tomato Basil Spaghetti Squash- serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 small spaghetti squash

  • 2 cups tomato sauce- I used San Marzano Marinara, but I’m a big fan of Rao’s too

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced

  • 2 garlic cloves, diced

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas

  • 3 handfuls chopped kale leaves

  • 1 tbsp dried basil

  • olive oil

  • parmesan to finish

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degress. Prepare the squash by cutting it in half lengthwise. With a spoon, remove the seeds (which can be saved, cleaned, and roasted for a snack). Rub the inside of the squash with a thin layer of olive oil, then place cut side down so laying flat on a baking sheet. Place in oven and roast for 30-40 minutes until able to pierce the outside skin easily with a knife. Remove from oven, carefully flip over, and let cool for a few moments. When able to handle safely, use a fork to pull away at the flesh of the squash, creating spaghetti noodle-like strands. Set aside.

  2. To a large, heated saute pan add olive oil to coat the bottom. Add in the onion and saute for a few minutes until it begins to soften, then add the garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

  3. Add the reserved cooked spaghetti squash to the pan, along with the kale, tomato sauce, dried basil, and chickpeas. Mix everything well and cook for about 5 minutes to let the kale soften and to bring all the flavors together.

  4. To serve, use tongs to transfer the mixture to bowls, or back into the emptied squash skins for a fun presentation. Top with freshly grated parmesan to your heart’s content!

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