Jersey No-Cook Pasta Sauce

All summer long, I’ve been covering the Blackwood Farmer’s Market for the Gloucester Township Patch. It has been pretty much a dream, combining two of my favorite things: food and writing. 

One of my favorite things is finding out everyone’s favorite recipes. One of the weekly vendors, Dave Monteleon Farms, is always bursting with tomatoes, fairy tale eggplant, beets, corn, peppers, peaches, basil and everything under the Jersey Summer Sun.  Doris Monteleon shared her favorite summer pasta recipe.

The recipe uses Juliet tomatoes, which sort of look like mini-plum tomatoes. You can truly use any tomato you like–I used Juliets plus a few tomatoes from our own backyard garden. To my recipe, I tossed in a few cloves of fresh garlic (Doris did not include this ingredient in her original recipe).

This sauce is bursting with garden goodness–you can taste the sunshine and the rain in every bite. It sort of makes you believe that miracles do happen–after all those tomatoes just started with a tiny seed in a green house way back in the dark days of winter.

The leftovers (if you have any) are great cold. I am eating some right now. ( :


The goodies:
1 pint Juliet tomatoes, plus 2 or 3 medium tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
handful of fresh basil
3 T. olive oil
salt/pepper
1 pound curly pasta noodle, such rigatoni or cellentani
1 ball fresh mozzarella, diced

 The work:
1. Quarter the smaller Juliet tomatoes and coarsely chop the larger tomatoes. Place in a large bowl.
2. Grate or mince garlic. Coarsely chop fresh basil. Combine garlic, basil, tomatoes, olive and salt/pepper.
3. While the tomatoes mixture is sitting, cook pasta according to package instructions.
4. Drain cooked pasta. Add mozzarella to tomato mixture.  Top the pasta with the cheese/tomato mixture. The cheese melts, the tomatoes release a little juice and the basil sings.

It is THAT good!

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Pattypan Squash and Zucchini butter bake

The thing I love most about squash is the variety. There are hundreds of varieties. My first favorite has always been acorn squash–cut in half and baked with butter, salt and pepper, until it melts. Or butternut squash roasted and made into a smooth, hearty soup. And then there is spaghetti squash–which is divine when prepared like pasta.
My new farmer’s market find is the Pattypan squash. I’ve seen this little summer squashes before the grocery store–typically about an inch in diameter. The pattypan squash I found was gigantic in comparison; about 5 inches across. It sat in my refrigerator while I obsessed about what to do with it. One crazy Wednesday night (Lily has horseback riding and then I teach), I came up with this delicious butter bake as a side dish for vegetarian sloppy joes (Morning Star crumbles plus sloppy joe sauce).
This recipe is so easy and the squash melts like butter in your mouth. Feel free to substitute any summer squash and to use whatever herbs you have on hand.
The goods:
1 medium to large Patty pan Squash or a handful of small patty pan squash, sliced thin
1 small zucchini, sliced thin
4 tablespoons ghee or melted butter
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
kosher salt

black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh herbs–parsley, chives, basil and cilantro
The cooking:
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a baking dish, begin layering as follows:
Pattypan & Zucchini, (to cover the bottom of the pan)
a sprinkle of garlic
a tablespoon of herbs
a tablespoon-ish of butter
Keep layering and top with any remaining butter.
Bake for 20 minutes (or until soft and buttery).

Came-home-from-vacation-and-there-was-nothing-to-eat Taco Salad

After our fabulous mini-break last week, the last thing I felt like doing was going to the grocery store. I was also sick of take-out and my wallet was sick of paying for a meals out. We always seem to have something rattling around in the freezer and pantry. And this time of year, the garden typically has something to offer.


I went foraging through the reserves and found all the perfect ingredients for this fantastic (and meatless!) taco salad. The best part–you can make this salad with what you have–toss new stuff in or leave out items you don’t have.

Ingredients:
Lettuce (we had some romaine in the fridge and some red leaf in the garden), torn in bite size pieces
Cucumber, sliced
Sweet onion (a great cool, dark place staple), chopped
Red pepper (i had a some bit of red pepper that I chopped and froze before we left.
I just took it out of the freezer and thawed it before adding to the salad)
Shredded cheddar (I keep blocks of cheese in the fridge and shred as I need it. keeps me from eating too much!)
Black olives
Morning Star Meal Starter Crumbles (from the freezer. greatest, easiest item ever)
Envelope of taco seasoning
Can of fat-free refried beans
Pico de Gallo or salsa
Tortilla chips
Your favorite vinaigrette (I used Good Seasons Italian)

Directions:
Place lettuce on large dinner plate, leaving a hole in the center (like making a wreath of lettuce).

Sprinkle all veggies, cheese and black olives on top of lettuce. Warm up refried beans. Prepare MS Crumbles according to package directions (swirl of olive oil in a pan, add the crumbles). Then add taco seasoning with water to Crumbles.

Put a scoop of refried beans in the center of your lettuce wreath, add a scoop of MS Crumbles on top, followed by some pico de gallo and garnish with a tortilla chip. Serve with extra tortilla chips and salad dressing on the side.

And enjoy. It rocks and tastes way better than take out!

An oldie, but a goodie: Seven Layer Salad

This is from my fabulous mother-in-law, Olga, who is living a fabulous life as a Grammy, wife, mother and friend. She is one of my best friends and one of the best cooks I know.


I think Seven Layer Salad is comfort food. It reminds me of potlucks and barbecues. I’ve experimented with other modernized versions, but nothing quite beats the original.

One note: if you have fresh peas–this absolutely rocks. Just steam the fresh peas and chill them for a couple hours before layering in your salad.

The directions are super easy:
Tear up one head of romaine lettuce in a large bowl and layer over that in order.
1/2c.celery
1/2c.green pepper
1/4c.onion
10oz. frozen peas. Thaw and dry on paper towels (or use fresh, as noted above)
1pt real mayo
2Tsugar
dash of salt
1c. grated cheddar cheese
8 strips of bacon fried crisp and crumb
Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Serve the next day. It rocks!