Tomato-Almond Pesto

Tomatoes are in season! They are giving off this wonderful tomato-y smell that you just know is full of tomato-y flavor.

So what better to do with these ripe, red tomatoes than showcase them in a pesto?

Words cannot describe how fresh and delicious this pasta is. The flavors of the produce are really showcased since the pesto is raw…which also means it retains all of its nutrients! The toasted nuts add a soft crunch (yes, I know that is an oxymoron) to the sauce, and the basil and garlic  will fill your kitchen with such a wonderful smell…

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Salad of the Week: Fiesta Salad

France was wonderful. And I fully intend to keep bringing you French treats throughout the summer. But I would also like to fit back into my pants…hence, the post-France diet. The plan: make a humongous amount of salad once or twice a week, store it in individual containers, and have a ready-made, healthy salad waiting for me at lunch every day! Even if you didn’t eat nothing but macarons and croissants for 2 weeks, going on a high-veggie diet is always good for you (and your summer clothes)!

The first salad is a result of several whim purchases…which I realized tied together rather well once I got home. In fact, just add rice and beans and you will practically have a Chipotle salad here. I’m calling it a Fiesta salad, since the sum of the ingredients vaguely reminds me of Mexican food.

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Artichokes and Hollandaise

Well between readjusting to normal life, unpacking, and going to work, I didn’t write one post last week!

But all that is over…prepare for a French delight: hollandaise sauce. I was inspired to try this during our stay in Fontainebleau, though not because I tasted it during our adventures. That’s right. I brought Julie and Julia with me to watch while I was in France, and this was one of the first dishes showcased in the movie. A bit pathetic…but I promise to share some of the awesome foods I ate in France just as soon as I get them right.

I have long been curious about artichokes. I mean, they are just so weird-looking, and I am under the distinct impression that almost no one serves them at home. What better way to investigate than by whipping up a buttery, tangy sauce to dip the petals in?

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Leek Tart a.k.a. baking quiche in France!

Macarons. Beautiful fresh veg from the local market. Pain au chocolat. Comté and dijon on a baguette. Crème au chocolat with an espresso. Wine at lunch. Crème brulée. Hot chèvre. Croissants.

Good grief. Food in France is an art…and I gained 5 pounds during the week my husband and I spent there, because everything was too delicious to pass up!

But I have to tell you a secret. Even though Paris was wonderful–full of well-known monuments, tourists, and boulangeries–my favorite time in France was when Dave and I visited his brother in Fontainebleau, a little town about 40 minutes outside the city. Dan described it as the ideal French provincial experience, and almost every second of our time there was perfect.

On our last afternoon in Fontainebleau, we were invited to join the local pastor’s family for dinner, and Dan suggested we bring a quiche (which can also be called a “tart” in France). We got a huge leek from the marché, fresh French eggs, and beautiful chèvre. I got the privilege of making the crust for the tart (because even in France, where pastry reigns, a homemade pie crust is a thing of beauty).

For those of you that fear making pie crust, please set aside your worries and give it a try! I promise promise it is not as challenging as it seems, and you will never want to eat the cardboard crusts from the grocery store again. Homemade pie crust is flaky and flavorful, and it really takes minimal effort.

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Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Sandwiches

I have a sandwich obsession. There’s just something so enticing about vegetables piled high and spread with a creamy sauce, stuffed between two pieces of thick bread…

It brings me back to my childhood. Most little kids had moms who regularly made them sandwiches for lunch. I mean, I didn’t even know it was possible to eat something besides sandwiches for lunch until I was in middle school and discovered leftover pizza (I was really a picture of health, haha). But for some reason this one image sticks out in my head, of my mom leaning into the back of our old brown Caravan, wide brimmed hat protecting her from the harsh beach sun, wrapping up sandwiches in paper towels to protect from from the sand. I don’t think the paper towels helped much, but that special mom touch made the sandwiches seem so wholesome, like a gourmet meal, even though they were nothing more than slices of meat and cheese with a little bit of mayo.

For Christmas this past year, my husband got me a vegetarian sandwich book. I’m pretty sure his excitement over the possibilities in the book came from a sandwich I had already made him: grilled eggplant and tomato with a peppery mayo sauce on focaccia.

Now that it’s summer again, it’s time to indulge in ripe tomatoes and deep purple eggplants and enjoy this sandwich at its best!

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Spinach Frittata

Well the past two weeks have been incredibly hectic for me as I finished out the teaching quarter. Unfortunately, I’ve had very little time to bake or cook much of anything. Instead, I spent all of my free time grading papers and quizzes and writing an English proficiency test for the school.

But happily, I am now (more or less) free for the summer! And I had the privilege to kick off my summer with brunch with my sisters in law! I decided to make a frittata, which also allowed me to reward myself with a new skillet!

This dish was such a winner. It’s healthy and delicious, full of my favorite vegetables. It’s quick to make, and actually a great way to do eggs for brunch—more exciting than scrambled eggs, and even if you have to travel with it, the skillet keeps the eggs warm. Plus, it serves about 8 people for brunch (depending on how much other food you have, it could serve more!).

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Ricotta Gnocchi

I guess I’ve been kind of on a ricotta kick lately…and there’s no end in sight, because the second I tasted this gnocchi, I immediately declared that I would make it again before the week was up. It’s just that good.

And what’s not to love? Cheese, butter, the kick of red pepper…

Most of us have had gnocchi before. Those little Italian pasta pillows…sometimes more like lumps than pillows. I once made the mistake of buying prepared gnocchi, because I’d heard you have to have special tools to make proper potato gnocchi. The store-bought version tasted like rocks and sat about as well in my stomach.

But these babies are heavenly. Light on the inside and crispy on the outsides, they were so flavorful that I ate my entire meal in about 5 minutes, because I just couldn’t wait to take another bite.

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Greek Caponata

My husband and I don’t have a cable plan at our house. This is really no big deal, as Hulu keeps us knee deep in shows to waste time watching. The main drawback for me is that the Food Network hasn’t really caught on to the online episodes trend. Sure, they do have some episodes online, but for a very limited number of shows…and the episodes posted never seem to change.

Alas!

So what happens is that every time I get near a TV that has the Cooking Channel or the Food Network, I become attached to it and I soak up every second possible of Ina and Giada and whoever else is on. Sometimes, I get really lucky with a great, figure friendly, vegetarian dish like this Greek Caponata, which I saw one glorious December day on Everyday Italian, and have waited anxiously to make once warm-weather vegetables were readily available. Which is now!

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Creamy Hummus

This last week has been one of the most stressful weeks in my memory. I had two final projects due at the very beginning of the week (gah…30-page papers!), and I had to give quizzes to my students…then they had a meltdown about the quizzes, so I had to improvise my subsequent lessons so I could help them return to a calmer, more confident place. Anyone that knows me knows that I worship planning. Improvising freaks the crap out of me (yikes…maybe teaching is not my calling).

I also made many failed recipes recently: caramel sauce (I decided to refrigerate it so it would set faster…which caused it to bec0me extremely hard, more like toffee) followed by caramel candies (way stickier than I thought…ultimately a great, stretchy, sticky mess), golden gazpacho (is it supposed to taste like you are eating a grainy, raw tomato?), and last-minute microwave brownies (I know…that sounds like a horrible idea…and apparently when you halve the recipe, it actually IS a horrible idea). How frustrating! I keep trying to make great foods, but they are not coming out as intended!

However, I did have one minor success this week: Creamy Hummus!

I actually made a small gaffe on this recipe, as well (note to self: don’t start cooking 3 minutes after waking up). I made a double recipe of this hummus to serve to my students on quiz day…but in my sleepy stupor, I forgot to add the cumin! I actually didn’t notice this when I was sampling the hummus during school, though I thought the garlic was stronger than I remembered from the previous time I’d made it. Fortunately, none of my students (even those that grew up eating hummus regularly) noticed!

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Zucchini Ricotta Galette

I have mentioned previously that I am obsessed with several other food blogs, one of which is SmittenKitchen. About six months ago, when I was trolling through Deb’s archives, I discovered a delectable vegetarian entree called a galette, which could also go by the name of crostata or even “rustic tart.” I was, in a word, smitten.

The first galette I tried was a spicy autumn variety with butternut squash. The galette was an immediate hit with my husband and his meat-loving best friend, so I knew I would have to try some of the other variations posted on SmittenKitchen. Thus, I am bringing you a lighter and brighter filling that fits the spring weather. Last weekend, when I announced that I was making a galette for dinner, my husband practically started drooling.

Although delicious, the Zucchini Ricotta Galette is a once-in-a-while kind of meal. For one thing, it is loaded with cheese, but the biggest kicker is that it takes about 2 hours to make! I only ever make it on weekends, often when I am procrastinating other chores. It’s worth the wait, but it’s not a low-maintenance meal by any stretch.

That being said, please do carve out some time to make yourself a galette! Serve it with a nice, colorful salad. I promise, you will be happy if you do…

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