It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
I absolutely love this pasta dish from Noble Pig. The ingredients are quite simple–pasta, either fresh or frozen, summer squash and bit of cheese and cream. But when these ingredients are pulled all together the results are truly delicious. The secret is the combination of cream and parmesan cheese combined with bright and tangy lemon zest. It is unexpected yet so welcome. And as an added bonus you truly get a balanced meal in a single dish thanks in part to a generous amount of squash. What a perfect end of the week meal. Enjoy!
CREAMY RAVIOLI w/ SQUASH, LEMON & CHIVES
16 to 18 ounces cheese ravioli
1 Tablespoon olive
1 shallot, chopped
3 summer squash (zucchini and/or yellow squash; about 1-1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
Kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the squash and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to the skillet.
- Cook, tossing often, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the cream and lemon zest and cook until the vegetables are tender and the cream is slightly thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the squash mixture, grated cheese and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water to the cooked ravioli and toss gently to coat. Add additional reserved water if the sauce is too dry.
- Serve sprinkled with the chives.
Zucchini are everywhere this time of year. You can bake it, steam it and turn it into desserts. I’ve always been a fan of zucchini bread. After all, the addition of shredded zucchini ensures that your bread is moist and flavorful. And if a plain zucchini bread is good, one infused with chocolate is even better. This recipe is adapted from Once Upon A Chef and is moist, rich and filled with chocolate making it more of a decadent dessert than a quick bread.
Brown sugar adds depth to the bread as dose a touch of instant coffee which only enhances the chocolate flavor. And the addition of chocolate chips ensures that every bite is just that much more chocolatey. If you don’t tell anyone they won’t even know that the bread is packed with a vegetable. This bread is sure to disappear so why not make two loaves instead of one? After all, zucchinis really are plentiful right now.
CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 cups shredded zucchini, gently packed
1 cup miniature chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large microwave proof bowl until just melted.
- Stir in the brown sugar until completely smooth.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and stir until incorporated.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda and instant coffee in a medium bowl.
- Add to the butter mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
- Stir in the shredded zucchini and chocolate chips.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread evenly.
- Bake for 60-65 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the loaf cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.
Yields: 1 loaf
Here is a twist on a traditional pasta salad that I’ve adapted from Savory Simple. Grilled vegetables are the featured ingredients of this dish; I’ve used colorful bell peppers, fresh corn, leeks and two types of squash. A light grill gives them a slightly smoking and charred flavor without overpowering the dish. Kielbasa adds protein and additional flavor to the salad. And it is all built upon a bed of orzo. If you prefer you can use another small pasta. With the exception of the yellow and zucchini squash, the vegetables are all grilled whole so allow them to cool slightly before attempting to slice them.
The salad tastes best when eaten at room temperature so if you make it ahead of time—which you can easily do–simply allow it to sit outside of the refrigerator for half an hour before serving. The salad is substantial enough to be a meal unto itself on a hot summer evening or can liven up a buffet table. And since this is barbecue season, why not make a bowl of this salad for your next backyard event?
GRILLED KIELBASA & VEGETABLE ORZO SALAD
1½ cups orzo
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large green pepper
1 large yellow pepper
1 large red pepper
1 yellow squash, sliced in half lengthwise
1 zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
1 ear fresh corn on the cob
1 link kielbasa, or other Polish sausage
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo according to package instructions and then drain.
- Place the cooked orzo in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Preheat a grill to medium-high.
- Using tongs to carefully place the whole vegetables (only the yellow squash and the zucchini will be cut up) and the kielbasa on the hot grill and then close the lid.
- Grill for 4 minutes then using tongs, flip the vegetables and the kielbasa and continue cooking for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove everything from the grill and allow to cool for several minutes until it can be handled comfortably.
- Slice the sausage thinly and add to the orzo.
- Remove the stem and seeds from the top of the peppers, peel away the skin, then dice the roasted peppers.
- Scrape the corn kernels off of the ear and add them to the salad.
- Trim the end off of the leek and thinly slice the white part of the leek and add it to the salad.
- Cut the yellow squash and zucchini into thin slices and add it to the salad as well.
- Toss everything together, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve.
This time of year gardens and markets are bursting with zucchini, providing cooks with so many options. These green squashes are so versatile–your dishes can be sweet or savory; it can be eaten raw or cooked; you can bake, steam or saute the squash. The options are endless and here is yet another use for zucchini: quiche.
Quiche is a favorite summer time (or any time of year for that matter) dinner dish for me. It can be eaten hot, warm or cold meaning you can bake it in the morning and not have to turn on the oven come dinner time. And a quiche can be filled with just about any ingredient–including zucchini. This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light and combines thinly sliced zucchini with diced ham and tangy goat cheese. The results are light, flavorful and make for a perfect light dinner. Pair it with a green salad and a cool glass of white wine and dinner is served.
ZUCCHINI & GOAT CHEESE QUICHE
12 ounces zucchini, very thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 1/4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 ounces lower-sodium ham, diced
2 ounces plain firm goat cheese, crumbled
2 thyme sprigs, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- Prepare the crust according to the recipe. Roll the dough and press it into a deep dish pie plate.
- Prick the crust all over with a fork then place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the crust. Place a layer of pie weights, beans or rice over the top of the parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Bake the for 15 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment paper and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool slightly.
- Place the zucchini in a large bowl; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand 15 minutes or until liquid is released.
- Drain the zucchini in a colander, squeezing a handful at a time to remove liquid, and pat dry.
- Combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, milk, thyme, pepper, eggs and flour in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.
- Sprinkle the ham and goat cheese evenly over bottom of prepared crust then arrange the zucchini over the cheese.
- Pour the egg mixture over zucchini, top with the thyme sprigs and sprinkle with the paprika.
- Bake at 400° for 35 minutes or until egg is set.
- Let the quiche stand for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.
A fun, easy and delicious family friendly meal? Yes, that is what you have with the fun pasta dish courtesy of Cuisine at Home. There is really something for everyone in this dish. Kids loved the “frizzled” prosciutto which is essentially strip of prosciutto that have been cooked until they are crispy. A healthy dose of both yellow squash and zucchini ensure that there are vegetables in every bite while the mild white wine and cream sauce disguises the squashes from vegetable adverse dinners. But for me the best part is the combination of the fresh basil, mint and lemon zest that tops the entire dish. There are truly so many flavors in one bowl that everyone is sure to leave the table happy.
SUMMER SQUASH PASTA w/ FRIZZLED PROSCIUTTO
8 ounces small dried pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces prosciutto, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium yellow squash, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Salt & pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of water according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and cook until crisp. Transfer to a paper lined plate to drain.
- Add the remaining oil to the skillet. Add the onion, zucchini and yellow squash. Cook until the onion softens, about 6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the wine and cook until it is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
- Add the cream and pasta, tossing to coat. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, basil, mint, lemon zest and prosciutto.
- Add the reserved pasta water if necessary to thin the sauce.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
I was a fan of ratatouille long before the Pixar movie about the French culinary inclined rat made this classic vegetable dish a common household word. Bursting with fresh vegetables ratatouille is hearty enough to be served on its own as a stew yet tastes equally good when served alongside grilled meat. Ratatouille is the perfect way to use your fresh vegetables when your garden or farm share is out of control (I’m looking at you zucchini) but I also find it incredibly comforting during cold winter months. This recipes comes from Epicurious but I think of it more as a method than an exact formula. If I have plenty of eggplant or zucchini on hand I will use more of that; sometimes I will use a single variety of bell pepper while other times I will add a rainbow of them. It all depends upon what I have on hand and what looks good. Regardless of what formula or combination you use, you just can’t go wrong. And as tasty as this dish is when it is first cooked, it tastes even better when reheat the next day.
2 1/2 lb tomatoes
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
4 assorted bell peppers,cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick pieces
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Set a large pot filled with water over high heat.
- Cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and when your water boils, blanch the tomatoes for 1 minute.
- Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.
- Coarsely chop the tomatoes and transfer to a 5-quart heavy pot along with the garlic, parsley, basil and 1/3 cup oil.
- Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
- While sauce is simmering, toss the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the onions in 3 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Transfer the onions with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook the bell peppers with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the peppers with a slotted spoon to bowl with onions.
- Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook the zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Transfer the zucchini with a slotted spoon to bowl with other vegetables.
- While zucchini are cooking, pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Add remaining oil to the skillet and cook the eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to12 minutes.
- Add the vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour.
- Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.
I’ve been doing a lot of baking recently. I blame the weather; once the temperatures turn cool I crave rich and decadent desserts. But sometimes a girl needs to bake something a bit lighter (and so do the collective waistlines of her husband’s office). So my answer is this light and tangy lemon zucchini bread from Plucky’s Second Thought. This quick bread is indeed quick as it comes together in minutes. This is a lighter version of a traditional zucchini bread with the lemon and buttermilk adding a nice tang. The lemon glaze on top adds a touch of sweetness without being overpowering. And with the zucchini…..you could even say that a slice of this counts as a serving of vegetables!
I baked this as a single loaf but you could also make eight miniature loaves or 18 muffins. Simply reduce the baking time to 25 to 30 minutes for both of these versions. Regardless of the shape you bake them in you are sure to love them. Enjoy!
LEMON ZUCCHINI BREAD w/ LEMON GLAZE
For the bread:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup grated zucchini (skin intact)
For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 5 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Using a wire whisk, beat the eggs in a medium bowl.
- Add the canola oil and sugar and blend well.
- Stir in the buttermilk, lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Using a rubber spatula fold in the zucchini until completely combined.
- Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and fold until just combined. Do not over mix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely.
- While the loaf is cooling, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice stirring until smooth.
- Spoon the glaze over the cooled bread and let sit until set.
Nothing satisfies on a cold day more than soup. Most weekends I will make a big pot of whatever strikes my fancy. I allow it to simmer on low all afternoon then we enjoy it with crusty bread for a Sunday night dinner. There are always leftovers which is perfect since soup tastes better the next day. I have yet to find a soup that I didn’t like but this minestrone is a soup that I absolutely love.
It is more of a method rather than an exact recipe; I will use whatever vegetables I have on hand or whatever looked good at the market that morning. I like to be heavy handed with the vegetables and go lighter on the pasta and beans but you could easily add more of the later if that is to your liking. Not only is this soup vegetarian but it is also low in sodium. Rather than using a pre-made broth, I simply add water as the soup base and allow the cooking vegetables to flavor the broth. The results? A rich, tasty and satisfying soup that everyone will love. Serve it with crusty French bread and dinner is served.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 leek, quartered and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small eggplant, diced
1 cup Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 26-ounce can tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup small pasta (shells or elbow macaroni works well)
1 large handful fresh basil, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese, to serve
- Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot set over medium high heat.
- When the oil shimmers, add the onion, leek, celery and carrots and stirring occasionally, cook until soft but not brown, 4-5 minutes.
- Add in the zucchini, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, beans and canned tomatoes. Stir well.
- Add enough water to the pot to cover the vegetables by 1 inch.
- Bring the soup to a simmer then reduce the heat and cook uncovered until the vegetables are soft, 35-45 minutes.
- Add in the oregano and thyme and season with salt and pepper.
- At this point you can proceed to the next step or cover the pot, turn the temperature to the lowest setting and allow to sit until you are ready to proceed.
- Return the temperature to medium-high.
- Once the soup is boiling again, add the pasta, stir well and cook until the pasta is al dente, approximately 6-8 minutes.
- Stir in the basil, adjust the seasonings and serve, topped with grated parmesan cheese.
It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
This pasta is a regular part of my dinner menu rotation; I substitute whatever vegetables are fresh and in season. This version uses the last of the local zucchini from my neighborhood market along with a healthy dose of fresh grape tomatoes. The pancetta adds saltiness and additional flavor to the dish but you can omit it and turn this into a vegetarian entrée. Alternatively, for a lighter and healthier dish, you can reduce the amount of pasta and substitute additional vegetables. I do this often and my family is none the wiser.
GARLICKY ZUCCHINI & TOMATO SPAGHETTI
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions with 1 cup of cooking liquid reserved
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced pancetta
1 small red onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
2 medium zucchini squashes, cut into cubes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups mixed grape tomatoes, halved
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the liquid, return to the cooking pot and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet set over medium-high heat.
- Add the pancetta and stirring occasionally, cook until crispy and browned.
- Add the onion and garlic and saute for an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Add the zucchini to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the squash is browned and is slightly softened.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up any browned bits.
- Stir in the tomatoes and cook until heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the vegetable mixture into the cooked spaghetti and using tongs, toss until the vegetables are evenly distributed. Add up to 1 cup of the reserved cooking water if the mixture seems dry. (I usually use about 1/2 cup).
- Divide the pasta among warmed shallow bowls and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
We are deep into the heart of zucchini season so here is an easy recipe to help you use up your stash of these green squashes. Growing up, baked zucchini was always a summer time staple on our dinner table since year after year my mother’s garden produced baseball bat sized squashes. By the time September rolled around I actually grew to dread seeing another baked zucchini on the table.
But times and tastes have changed and baked zucchini is making a regular appearance on my own family’s dinner table. This version has a Mediterranean flavor with mild Italian sausage and sautéed fennel complimenting the usual breadcrumbs and zucchini filling. I like to use round zucchini since I think they make for a prettier presentation but you can easily substitute any small zucchini that you like. Or if you must, use a baseball bat sized squash and simply cut it into smaller portions before stuffing.
SAUSAGE & FENNEL BAKED ZUCCHINI
6 small zucchini
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 fennel bulb, cored and diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ppound mild Italian sausage, crumbled
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- Scrub the zucchini, trim the ends and pierce with a fork on all sides. Place the zucchini in a steamer basket.
- Fill a large saucepan (larger enough to hold your steamer basket) with one inch of water and bring to a boil. When the water boils, add the zucchini and steam for 5 minutes. Remove from the water and all to cool.
- When the zucchini is cool enough to handle, slice in squash in half, or slice off the tops if using round squash, and scoop out the insides leaving 1/4 inch of of flesh. Chop the scooped out filling and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and fennel and saute until soft, 7-9 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.
- Place the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a separate medium-sized skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage and cook until it is no longer pink 5-7 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to crumble up any large pieces. When the sausage is cooked, drain it and add it to the vegetable mixture.
- Add the tomatoes, breadcrumbs and the zucchini filling to the sausage and vegetables and stir well to combine. Adjust the seasonings if necessary.
- Scoop the mixture back into the zucchini shells, heaping the filling to fill. (You may have extra filling which can be placed in a buttered casserole dish and baked alongside the zucchini in the oven).
- Place the zucchini in an ungreased rimmed baking dish and sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top of the zucchini.
- Bake for 20-25 minute until the cheese has melted and the filling is heated through.