Bucatini with Roasted & Fresh Tomatoes

This is a wonderful seasonal dish to make with summer tomatoes. It was especially fabulous with my new favorite pasta, bucatini, too. We ate it warm but it could also be enjoyed at room temperature. The crunchy, cheesy croutons really added something special.

I used store-bought ricotta as a shortcut, but included a link to freshly made ricotta below. This recipe was (very slightly) adapted from Martha Stewart Living. Quick and delicious!

Yield: Serves 4
  • 1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes (3 cups)
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 slices rustic bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces (1 1/2 cups) (I used Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (1/2 ounce), plus more for serving
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into a 1/2-inch dice (2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup packed shredded fresh basil, plus sprigs for serving
  • 3 tablespoons shredded fresh mint, plus sprigs for serving (I omitted the mint)
  • 12 ounces bucatini, spaghetti, or linguine
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In an 8-inch square baking dish, toss cherry tomatoes with 3 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until bursting and charred in spots, 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet, toss bread with 2 tablespoons oil and Pecorino Romano; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, about 12 minutes.
  4. Toss diced tomatoes, basil, and mint (if using) with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup liquid; drain.
  6. Return pasta to pot; toss with roasted tomatoes, their oil, and 1/2 cup reserved pasta water. (Tomatoes should coat pasta but not create much of a sauce.) Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Divide among plates, then give each a dollop of ricotta, a spoonful of fresh-tomato mixture, and a sprinkle of croutons.
  8. Serve, garnished with a sprig or two of herbs, a generous drizzle of oil, and some cheese and pepper.

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Salad-Topped Hummus Platter

The culmination of my daughter’s summer theatre camp involves days of dress rehearsals followed by matinĂŠe and evening performances. She absolutely loves it all and it is worth every second, but it was also difficult to prepare and eat dinner during this time. That’s show business, right? 😉

This genius quick, healthy, and filling appetizer turned dinner saved the day the evening of her final performance. The recipe was adapted from Ina Garten via Smitten Kitchen.com. I made my favorite hummus, added arugula, used a peeled CSA cucumber, and substituted red wine vinegar for lemon juice in the dressing. I could eat it all summer long!

  • 2 cups prepared hummus
  • 2 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces or 225 grams) grape tomatoes, quartered, plus more to taste
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, or multiple small cucumbers, unpeeled, chopped
  • 1/4 medium red onion, chopped small, optional
  • 1 T red wine vinegar or juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp sumac
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, or a mix of parsley, mint, and chives, plus more for garnish
  • 2 large handfuls baby arugula, to taste
  • warm naan or pita, for serving
  1. Prepare hummus in a food processor.
  2. Spread hummus on a large plate with the back of a spoon, creating swirls and cavities. Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, just to freshen it up.
  3. Mix tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, red wine vinegar/lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons olive oil, sumac, plus salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
  4. Stir in herbs.
  5. Top hummus with arugula. Heap salad on top of the arugula. Finish with additional sumac and/or fresh herbs.
  6. Serve with warm naan or pita wedges.

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Creamy Buttermilk Dressing

This recipe uses a combination of full-fat cottage cheese pureed with buttermilk to get its creaminess instead of using mayonnaise. It was fresh and tasty. This dressing would work well with one of my favorite quick and light summertime meals of grilled chicken sliced over a cold salad. I made it when I was receiving an exorbitant amount of lettuce varieties in my CSA share. 😉

The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by chef Eli Dahlin of Dame in Portland, Oregon. I used fresh CSA parsley instead of tarragon. I also increased the amount of minced shallots.

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese (4% milk fat)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot
, minced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon or parsley
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium head of red leaf lettuce, torn
  • 2 heads of Boston lettuce, torn (or any other combination of lettuce)
  • sliced or cut tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, avocado, or other vegetables, for topping, as desired
  • crumbled feta cheese, for topping, optional
  1. In a blender, puree the buttermilk with the cottage cheese, vinegar, Dijon and 
shallot until smooth.
  2. Scrape the dressing into a small bowl or jar and stir (or shake) in the chopped herbs; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a serving bowl, toss the lettuces with some of the dressing and assorted toppings.

Note: The dressing can be refrigerated overnight.

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Summer Squash Gratin

I had to make this lovely summer gratin as soon as I saw a photo of it. So pretty and colorful! 🙂 It is a wonderful celebration of the bounty of summer squash.

We ate it as a vegetarian main dish with a crusty sourdough baguette. It would also be a fabulous side dish. This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Laura Rege. I used sweet cipollini onions from my CSA box in addition to the leeks.

After adding an additional sautéed CSA cipollini onion, I also made a mini-gratin with my leftover filling. 🙂 Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish (plus an additional mini-gratin, above, optional)
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 small leeks, white and tender green parts thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 cipollini onions, halved and cut into slices (plus 1 additional onion if making a mini-gratin)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (plus 1 additional T if making a mini-gratin)
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably 
on a mandoline
  • 3 medium yellow summer squash, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably on a mandoline
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely shredded Gruyère (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 plum tomato, very thinly sliced crosswise
  • flaky sea salt, for finishing
  • crusty bread such as a sourdough baguette, for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over moderately high heat. Add the leeks, and onions, if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Spread in a 9-inch round baking dish.
  5. Using a mandolin, slice the squash lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices.
  6. Meanwhile, on 4 large baking sheets, spread the zucchini 
and yellow squash and brush with the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Sprinkle with the cheese and let sit until slightly softened, about 5 minutes or up to 1 hour.
  8. Tightly roll 1 piece of zucchini and set it on the leeks in the center of the dish.
  9. Working 
outward from that center slice, continue rolling and coiling additional pieces of zucchini and yellow squash until you reach the edge of the baking dish.
  10. Season the tomato slices with salt and pepper, then tuck in intervals between the zucchini and squash.
  11. Scrape any cheese off of the baking sheets and sprinkle on top.
  12. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, 
until the zucchini and squash are tender and browned 
in spots. (I cooked mine for 33 minutes, and 27 minutes for the mini)
  13. Remove from oven. While hot, sprinkle with sea salt.
  14. Let cool slightly, then 
serve with crusty bread.

I’m sharing my summer gratin at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #180, co-hosted by Tracey @My Baja Kitchen and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. Enjoy!

Note: If making the additional mini-gratin, saute the additional onion, adding 1 T wine cooking as directed above. Place in the bottom of a mini-pie dish and layer remaining squash and cheese. Cook as directed.

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Fiesta Friday Badge Button I was featured

Orecchiette with Greens, Mozzarella & Crispy Chickpeas

I love a recipe that gobbles up the greens from my CSA share. I have made this dish a couple of times using whatever combination of greens I had available. Recently, I used turnip greens, kale and spinach but I have also used chard and baby collard greens in the past. The classic combination of basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella was a nice complement to the sautĂŠed greens as well.

This quick dish was adapted from a Food and Wine staff favorite recipe, contributed by Marcie Turney. I doubled the recipe, decreased the red pepper flakes, and increased amount of fresh mozzarella. SO delicious.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and patted dry
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound greens such as Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens, spinach, stemmed and leaves coarsely chopped (or more, as desired)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 16 large basil leaves, torn or chiffonade
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the orecchiette until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium, deep skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Transfer them to a paper towel–lined plate, sprinkle with the cumin and coriander and season with salt and black pepper. Discard the oil and wipe out the skillet.
  3. Add the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened, 3 minutes.
  5. Add the greens and cook, stirring, until wilted, 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
  6. Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring until incorporated.
  7. Add the mozzarella and basil and toss. Add more pasta water, if necessary.
  8. Spoon the pasta into bowls, sprinkle with the chickpeas and serve.

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Iceberg Wedge Salad with Green Goddess Ranch Dressing

This post is belated because I’m still recovering from my husband’s extravagant birthday feast. Recovering from preparing it… and from eating it (for many, many days!). 😉 I must say that it was well worth every minute AND every bite.

His special celebratory feast usually involves fried chicken with biscuits and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. I have made Caesar salad as our “vegetable” in the past, but this year he requested a wedge salad. Yay! I love a change.

This recipe was adapted from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn, via Martha Stewart Living. I used 4 tablespoons of buttermilk to adjust the consistency of the dressing. I also adapted the way the iceberg lettuce was sliced to modify the serving size and simplify the eating process. We all LOVED it!

For the Green Goddess Ranch Salad Dressing:

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives and/or scallions, plus more for garnish, optional
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste or 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons mild vinegar, such as white-wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
  • buttermilk or milk (optional)
  1. In a large bowl or blender, whisk or blend all the ingredients except the buttermilk.
  2. Add just enough buttermilk to thin to the desired consistency, if needed. (I used 4 tablespoons.)
  3. Pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to combine. Shake well before using.

Note: Dressing will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To Complete the Salad:

Yield: 4 Servings

  • Green Goddess Ranch Dressing (recipe above)
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, cut into thick slices or wedges
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy
  • English cucumber, cut into slices
  1. Prepare Green Goddess dressing and set aside.
  2. In a 9 x 13-inch pyrex baking dish, bake bacon at 350 degrees for 20 to 3o minutes, until crispy.
  3. Place 1 iceberg lettuce slice/wedge and 4 to 6 cucumber wedges on each plate.
  4. Pour some dressing over top with crumbled bacon and minced chives over each serving, as desired.

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Happy Mother’s Day & Cooking for a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge

Happy Mother’s Day! I wish all of the mom’s out there a beautiful and relaxing day. ❤ While Mr. BrookCook and my kids take care of me and the cooking today, I have time to share a special mother-daughter cooking project.

In order to earn a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge, my daughter (with my help) had to cook a complete breakfast, a healthy dinner, and a delicious dessert. Understandably, she wanted to make meals that she wanted to eat! This was actually a great opportunity for her as she is harder to please when menu planning. It was a lesson in itself to see how much time and work is required to put together an entire meal. 🙂

We made Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for breakfast with fruit salad on the side. She loved cutting all of the fruit herself. For the “healthy” dinner, she prepared a No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below) with Simple Caesar Salad. Healthy enough, right? She loved it so much we have already made it again.

We made a Lemon Meringue Pie, using a store-bought pie crust, for dessert. Not only did she make the pie, she typed out the recipe to share with her Girl Scout Troop. A big project! She did a great job and I was very proud of her. I hope that she continues to enjoy cooking more and more in the future. ❤

No-Boil Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Pasta:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 T coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more, to taste
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar, divided

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
  7. Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil.
  9. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

For the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then panko mixture.
  2. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.
  3. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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