It’s the middle of summer and that means two things: 1) I don’t really want to cook, and 2) produce is at its peek. Tomatoes are the sweetest they are going to be all year. The squash are ginormous! I’m eating peaches, plums, berries and watermelon any chance I get just to keep them from over ripening. Not that I’m complaining. These are all good things that will pass too quickly.
Thankfully, because the produce is SO good right now you don’t need to do a lot to it to make it into an amazing meal. Less is definitely more here folks.
In Rome, Cheese (cacio) and Pepper (pepe) are the two magical ingredients and turn ordinary spaghetti into a rich and delicious dish. I’ve married the beautiful summer produce with this classic Italian pasta to create the ultimate, barely have to cook, summer meal.
There are a plethora of techniques for incorporating the cheese into the noodles. (Google it if you are interested.) The truth is that cheese doesn’t mix well into even the starchiest pasta water. So in this recipe I didn’t even try. I’m keeping the cooking to an absolute minimum here and letting all the magic happen on the plate and in your mouth which is where it should be.
And even though the days are so long and it feels like summer is never going to end, before you know it the farmer’s market peaches and plums are going to be replaced with apples and pears and the zucchini and yellow squash with pumpkins and gourds. So get to it and enjoy!
Summer Vegetable Cacio e Pepe
Beautiful produce combined with this classic Italian pasta dish to create the ultimate, barely have to cook, summer meal.
Cut the zucchini and yellow squash on a spiralizer using the medium size blade. If you don’t have a spiralizer, cut into thin rounds.
Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil and add 1/2 t. salt. Cook the spaghetti 6-8 minutes until al dente. Do not drain. Do not over cook! Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
Heat a large stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat.
Add the grape tomatoes and the remaining 1/4 t. salt. Cook 6 – 8 minutes until tomato skins begin to brown and split.
Using tongs, transfer the cooked spaghetti from the pasta water and into the skillet with the tomatoes. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Gently toss to combine.
Add the zucchini and yellow squash and gently toss to combine. Allow to heat through 2-3 minutes. If all the liquid evaporates, add more of the reserved pasta water.
Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper to taste.
Serve immediately. Using tongs, place one scoop of the hot spaghetti mixture onto a plate. Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan. Top with another scoop of the hot noodles and grated Parmesan.
We enjoy eating soup all year round. Lentil soup is great in the summer because it cooks quickly and isn’t too heavy. This recipe uses just a few ingredients to create rich, fiery, flavor. Add a hand full or two of chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley and mint into the soup or save them as part of the mix-ins so everyone can add their own amount and flavor combinations.
I came up with the mix-ins to solve two issues: 1) No one in our family likes the same things in their soup. And 2) We needed to put a few random leftovers to good use. Creating a mix-in bar with whatever you have on hand will allow even the pickiest eater to make a dish to their liking. I hope it helps you make meal time a little more fun and enjoyable.
Add tomato paste, harissa, turmeric, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Add lentils and water. Stir to combine.
Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until lentils are cooked through.
Serve soup in individual bowls. Top with mix-ins.
*Harissa is a North African pepper paste. Many different varieties are available. Some my be spicier than others so add a little at a time and taste to see if you want it spicier. I get mine from Le Market in Valley Village. They make it fresh weekly and sell it there.
Pomegranate Iced Green Tea is the drink that gets me through the long, hot summer days. Whether I’m picking up my kids from camp, getting back from the pool or just looking for a late afternoon refresher, this is my go to drink of choice to keep me cool and calm until the sun finally sets. I love green tea because its caffeinated but won’t keep me up at night if I have a glass past 4 p.m. Instead of sweetening it with sugar, the pomegranate juice adds just the right amount of sweet and tart flavor.
It makes a great base for a wine spritzer by adding sparkling Muscato wine or use it as a mixer and add a little liquor to make it into a super refreshing cocktail. I keep a pitcher of this tea in the fridge all summer long so it’s always ready to go whenever I crave it, usually between 3-4 in the afternoon when I realize there are still around 5 hours until the sun actually sets.
Make a pitcher and take a minute to enjoy the long summer day. Before you know it, the kids will be back to school!
Pomegranate Iced Green Tea with Spritzer and Cocktail variations.
Iced green tea with pomegranate juice and iced tea cubes
8Green Tea Bagspreferably Twinings Pomegranate, Raspberry & Strawberry Green Tea
Place tea bags in a large heat proof pitcher and add boiling water. Allow to steep and cool to room temperature.
Use 2 cups of the tea to make ice cubes.
Add Pomegranate Juice to the cooled tea and refrigerate until chilled.
Serve with iced tea cubes, Pomegranate Arils and sliced Strawberries.
*To make the Strawberry Pomegranate Iced Green Tea Spritzer, pour 6 ounces of the iced tea/juice mixture into a tall glass with ice. Add 2 ounces pink muscato wine. Garnish with pomegranate arils and strawberry slices.*To make the Strawberry Pomegranate Iced Green Tea Cocktail, pour 6 ounces of the iced tea/juice mixture into a tall glass with ice. Add 1 oz vodka or liquor of choice and 1 oz. seltzer. Garnish with pomegranate arils and strawberry slices.