back to basics: simple zucchini & tomatoes with walnut pesto

a simple dish, a small compromise, and a most beautiful october sunset over the ocean:

La Jolla fall sunsets

in preparation and anticipation of the fast approaching holiday season with all the glorious food consumption it entails (it’s bad! already can’t stop thinking about what sides and pies to serve this thanksgiving) i’ve made the decision to feed us a lighter, simpler, and predominantly vegetarian diet for the next few weeks. after a few nights of different vegetable soups and a nice salad nicoise, it was time for a non liquid meal on the warmer side. lately i’ve been trying to cook with what i have as opposed to shopping for specific recipes, so i wanted to use the beautiful light green zucchinis i had picked up at the farmers market along with a large sweet onion, tomatoes (always abundant in my kitchen), garlic, and fresh basil. the plan was to serve the dish with yogurt and flat bread, sort of in line with a persian “borani kadoo”, but i realized i had a slight problem.

cooking minette's zucchini with tomatoes & pestowe have a dear visitor staying with us, and he doesn’t  like garlic at all, nor basil, for that matter. the dish would survive without the garlic, but my basil was starting to become slightly wilted and had to be used: pesto! dinner would be a simple “borani” (a typical persian appetizer served with yogurt) with an optional drizzle of lemony walnut pesto. everyone was happy. oh, and the sunset picture? i just had to share the magical moment i snapped with my phone a few nights ago-there are few things more beautiful than the special light of an autumn sunset over the pacific!

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                                          for 4 servings:

  • 4-6 light green zucchinis (peeled or not, your choice), sliced lengthwise in two or three portions
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced in rounds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (or omit and use pesto)
  • sliced ripe tomatoes (amount depends on what type of tomatoes you are using), sliced to about same thickness as zucchini
  • 1 tbs olive or avocado oil (best not to use olive oil for high heat cooking)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (optional if serving with yogurt without pesto)
  • for pesto see recipe

borani kadoo with pesto

in a heavy skillet or frying  pan, heat the oil, then add onions and allow them to caramelize (cook while stirring occasionally on med/low heat until they become light brown and glassy) before adding the zucchinis (and turmeric & garlic if using) and frying on both sides (turn carefully with kitchen thongs). season with salt and pepper. cover with tomatoes, and allow them to cook  (stirring very carefully if necessary because the zucchinis break easily- or cut zucchinis in halves before frying ) on medium/low heat for about 15-20 minutes. serve when any liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated and thickened.




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a sweet corn and lentil salad to round out the summer!

sweet summer corn salad

sweet summer corn salad with lentils

once again, i feel summer slipping out of our grips before we’ve even had time to truly welcome and enjoy it. this summer in particular seems to have blown by so fast it’s hard to believe it was ever here! this may have something to do with the fact that mr. sun chose not to grace us with [his} lovely warm presence as often as [he] typically does in sunny san diego! well, there’s still hope. summer has always been my favorite season-i’m just that much happier in the heat, soft sand on my feet, warm sun on my skin, sweet fruit in my mouth, the smell of the grill in the air, watching the children run free and the sun set over the ocean (it never gets old)! there’s the smell of peaches in the air, windows wide open, curtains blowing in the breeze, picnics, late nights, the best tomatoes ever, the occasional spoon (or two) of ice cream, did i mention the tomatoes?

La Jolla sunsets

one of those sunsets…

when it’s warm out, we tend to eat a little later, and a little lighter. often, if we find the time, we pack our dinners to eat at the beach. when i found sweet organic corn at the market (not so easy to find these days) a few days ago, i decided to make a light and easy salad for our beach dinner. i added small lentils as a good source of flavor and protein, and fresh lemon juice to round out the favors. the resulting (more than a simple) salad was a big hit. we’ll probably have it one more time before we officially bid summer goodbye-it’s only a few days past mid-August after all!

corn cut off the cob

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20 minute dinner ideas: chicken with creamy mushroom sauce

last night was supposed to be a pretty relaxed one where i would get home, change into comfy clothes, and take my time in making a nice dinner. well, it didn’t work out that way- – -by the time i got home i had very little time left for cooking, hungry faces looking at me, and a few defrosted chicken breasts in the fridge. it was time for one of those go-to 20 minute one pot (or skillet) recipes-chicken breast with creamy sauce- i (almost) always have the basic ingredients necessary: lemons, dijon mustard, whole wheat flour, chicken broth (or dry white wine), and fresh herbs (most often flat leaf parsley). luckily we had mushrooms and cream available as well-this was going to be a good dinner, after all. the main trick to making it a quick-cooking meal is to thinly slice the chicken breasts (horizontally). beyond that all you need is just enough energy to whip up this delicious dinner-if you have extra time on your hands, feel free to use it….slow down, take your time, enjoy….

for 4 servings:

  • 3-4 organic chicken breasts, sliced horizontally into 3 thin pieces each
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1/2-1 (depending on how sour/lemony you prefer it) lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1-2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
  • 1 tbs whole wheat flour (or thickening flour of choice)
  • 2 tbs cream
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper (to taste)
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refreshing vegetarian pasta salad

cooking minette's vegetarian pasta salad
the other day i was asked to bring a side dish to my sister’s dinner party. i decided on a vegetarian pasta salad mostly because i was having a busy day, and had to do my cooking a few hours ahead of time (this salad keeps really well up to 4 hours prior to serving). my preference is to serve pasta salads at room temperature (not cold), so this one was allowed to sit on my kitchen counter for a couple of hours before we left the house. it was a beautiful night, and dinner was served outdoors: delicious marinated grilled flank steak, green salad with fennel and arugula, an avocado-tomato salad (inspired by this recipe), and my pasta salad, which provided some starchy substance. the pasta was a big hit-at least with the kids, who were less worried about their waistlines (this is California, after all)!! the adults must have enjoyed it as well….the bowl came home empty. the ingredients (as far as the vegetables) for this salad can be easily substituted based on what you have available or is in season. this is a perfect bring along dish…give it a try-you won’t be disappointed.
tomatoes, basil chiffonade, and home made lemony pesto
ingredients for 6-8 servings:

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