The summer of eating healthy continues. I'm trying to eat a lot more fruit and vegetables--and I am loving so many different kinds of foods. I love that I live in a place that produces so much good produce.

Recently, I bought a new cookbook with a gift card that someone gave me: Sara Forte's The Sprouted Kitchen: Bowl + Spoon. Check out the link and you'll find inspiration (and recipes) for some really good food. I decided to try a recipe tonight which I chose by assessing which recipe I could make using ingredients that I already had. I did have to go out and buy some basil, but other than that, I had everything in my pantry. I chose the recipe for "Double-Pesto Zucchini Noodles."

I loved this dish. It was so beautifully green and the pesto added enough richness that the dish seemed indulgent. I basically made a single serving of the zucchini, but made extra pesto to use in the next few days. I think I might have to buy another zucchini tomorrow so I can do a repeat! Here's the recipe, mostly following the instructions in the book (with a few notes on how I diverged from the recipe).

Double-Pesto Zucchini Noodles

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5 large zucchini (I only used one zucchini so I scaled everything back except the pesto since I know I can use it in so many ways)

Sea salt

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Pesto:

1 large clove garlic

1/4 c. toasted pine nuts

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 t. sea salt

1/4 t. black pepper

2 c. firmly packed basil (I think I only had about a cup, so I used a little less of the other ingredients)

1/2 c. olive oil

1/3 c. grated Parmesan

**

1 pound vine-ripened tomatoes, stems attached (I detached mine since I was using the toaster oven to roast them)

2 T. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 c. white beans, rinsed and drained

Freshly ground pepper

1/3 c. toasted pine nuts

1 c. basil julienned

3/4 c. shaved parmesan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slice the zucchini into thin strips (the recipe suggests using a julienne peeler, but I don't have one so I used a knife). Place the zucchini onto paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt--and let them sit for 20 minutes, then blot and get rid of as much of the water as you can (but do so gently!).

While the zucchini sweats, make the pesto. Place the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend.

Rub the tomatoes with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and then roast in the pre-heated oven until they begin to get soft. For me, this took a little over 15 minutes since my tomatoes were large.

In a frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for about a minute. Add white beans, salt and pepper, and saute until the beans are warm. Add the zucchini and saute for ONLY another 5-6 minutes. Toss the zucchini "noodles" with 1/3 c. of the pesto, pine nuts, julienned basil, and parmesan. Make sure to add a tomato on the side of the dish.

The recipe suggests adding red pepper flakes and lemon zest, but I totally missed this step and the dish was still delicious.

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Recently, I read a New York Times article about the composed salad, in French, the "salade composee." Something about this concept intrigued me, so Monday I bought a lot of beautiful, fresh, organic vegetables and made my first composed salad. It was the perfect summer meal: so fresh and delicious.

Yesterday, I was going to lunch at a friend's house and decided to bring my second composed salad. Another friend had just given me a lovely dish to put it in. Here's a photo:

Although one can put anything in this salad, here's what mine contained:

Grape tomatoes, sliced in half

Cucumbers, peeled, halved, and seeded

Shredded carrots

Breakfast radishes, sliced thinly

Arugula sprouts

Capers

Shallots (diced)

A mix of feta and various olives

I sprinkled it with an Oliviers and Company herb/salt mix, squeezed lemon on top and drizzled with good olive oil.

I can imagine so many other ingredients to put in it: tuna or smoked trout, red peppers, peas, fava beans, lentils. This is such a versatile salad, one that I'm sure I'll eat repeatedly throughout the summer!

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Awhile back, my friend Janet took up a challenge to make a recipe each Tuesday from a cookbook by Dorie Greenspan. A month or two ago I was out of town and had an evening to myself. I sat in a bookstore poring over Greenspan's newest cookbook, Around My French Table and was quite smitten with the book. I couldn't afford to buy it that weekend, but recently acquired a copy. There were so many recipes I wanted to make and, because I miss Janet who lives across the country in Baltimore, because Janet is an excellent cook, and because I knew that Janet loved Dorie Greenspan, too, I wrote her an email suggesting that we bake (and blog) together over Spring Break. If you know my fascination with cookbooks (not cooking), you know that was quite the commitment for me. This is installment #1 of 4, if all goes as planned.

I sit typing this with a loaf of Savory Cheese and Chive Bread (a quick bread) in the oven--the lovely smell of baking bread wafts into the living room where I'm sitting. I can't wait to try a piece for lunch.

As it turns out, I didn't quite have the right ingredients, so here's my adaptation of the recipe.

1 3/4 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2-1 t. salt
1/4 teaspoon black powder (Dorie suggests white)
3 large eggs
1/3 c. 1% milk (Dorie suggests whole)
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 c. grated Gruyere (the original recipe calls for an additional 2 oz. of Gruyere cubed, but I didn't have enough)
1/2. c. minced fresh chives

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bread pan with Pam.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and milk for about a minute. Then add the olive oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently stir in . . . just enough for the batter to come together. Stir in the cheese and chives to make a thick dough. Spread in the bread pan and bake for about 35 minutes. Let the bread cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides and turn onto cooling rack.

I suppose you could wait for it to cool, but I ate a slice right away.

By the way, in checking Dorie's blog in preparation to write this entry, I found that one can sign up for "French Fridays with Dorie," a community of home cooks making one of her recipes every Friday.

I'm not sure why, but when I was first introduced to a recipe involving salmon and cream, it seemed like an unlikely pairing. I have since discovered how wrong I am, so I'd like to share two recipes that are meant to be served with pasta.

Fresh Salmon and Cream (thanks to Grete who introduced me to this combination):

Saute some onion in a skillet until soft. Add some fresh salmon, breaking it into small pieces as you cook it. When the salmon is cooked through, add some half and half (or cream, if you'd rather). Cook it down a bit and then add a tablespoon or two of pesto. Simmer until the pesto integrates with the cream. Serve on any kind of pasta (I like it with rotelli).

Fettucini with Smoked Salmon (thanks to LaReesa for this recipe, which I made tonight).

12 oz. fresh fettucini, or 6 oz. dried

1 T. butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

4 oz. white mushrooms, thinly sliced

3/4 c. heavy whipping cream ( I used half and half and cooked a little longer)

3 oz. smoked salmon, coarsely chopped

salt and pepper

2 T. freshly grated Parmesan

chopped fresh parsley

Cook fettucini as per the instructions on the package. Meanwhile, heat medium skillet over medium high heat and add butter to coat pan. When butter stops sizzling, add shallots and mushrooms. Cook stirring continuously until mushrooms soften, about 3 minutes. Add cream and smoked salmon and stir until the liquid reduces by half, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat.

Toss noodles with sauce. Top with parmesan and parsley.

I'm not exactly sure why, but I have a crush on the small Kerr jars used for canning (the cursive writing on the side, the diminutive size, the satisfying seal of the lids?). It all started when I bought some quince jam at the Farmer's Market. I loved the Kerr jar it came in which, once empty, was perfect for homemade vinaigrettes.

Recently, I lost the jar. I thought I'd just go get some more jam, but then I saw a recipe for pickled veggies that I couldn't get out of my head. I couldn't help it, I had to buy a box of the Kerr bottles--and, last weekend, I sliced beets, carrots, and jalepenos and brined them.

I now have a crush on the beautiful colors in these jars. And tonight for my SJVWP meeting, I served spring greens with goat cheese as a side salad--and allowed my guests to add whichever veggies they wanted. Esther and Karen were ideal diners, since they both come from cultures (Dutch and Swedish) that value the pickled veggie.

I sent them home with a bottle of pickled beets, even though Esther confessed that I'd left my original jar at her house.

Pickled Veggies (adapted from Sunset magazine)

3 c. white vinegar

1 1/2 c. rice vinegar

1 c. plus 2 T. sugar

3 beets

6 jalapenos

2 carrots

Whisk vinegars, sugar, and salt in a bowl with 3 c. water until sugar dissolves. Slice vegetables into very thin slices. Put the veggies in jars, gently tamping them down and cover with brine. Chill, covered, at least one day.

A few months ago, I was in Berkeley to meet some friends at Jupiter. I arrived a little early, so I walked down to Pegasus, a bookstore I love, to kill some time browsing. I collect cookbooks, so after looking at some of the new books, I moved to that section and found a gem. In fact, this may be the perfect cookbook: Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi. It has a gorgeous cover (check my link to Amazon) with a picture of roasted eggplant with pomegranate seeds--and the interior is filled with beautiful, imaginative recipes for vegetable dishes. Although I'm not vegetarian, I tend to cook vegetarian food at home. But I'm also bored by many of the vegetarian cookbooks I own, which is why Plenty was such a great find. I love that the recipes combine ingredients in interesting and innovative ways--and that they include "exotic" spices and herbs. I also find just about every picture appealing; I turn each page and think "Oh, I want to make THAT!"

Picture from the book
Picture from Plenty

Today I cooked a dish adapted from the cookbook: Puy Lentil Galettes. I left out the galette part and only prepared the lentils. The result was a fresh tasting, slightly (surprisingly) sweet, and healthy dish. I highly recommend it. Here's the recipe:

Puy Lentils (adapted from Plenty)

Ingredients:

1 c. puy lentils

2 bay leaves (mine were quite small so I used four)

1 t. cumin

1 t. coriander

4 T. olive oil

1 medium onion (roughly chopped)

2 large garlic cloves (minced)

3/4 c. Greek yogurt (I used non-fat)

2 c. baby spinach leaves

3 T. chopped cilantro

2 T. chopped mint

juice of 1 lemon

salt and black pepper to taste

1. Cook the lentils in a quart of boiling water with the bay leaves for 20 to 30 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil and fry the onion for 6 to 8 minutes until golden and very soft. Add the cumin, coriander, and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add to the lentils and cool.

3. Add the yogurt, spinach, herbs, and lemon juice to the lentils. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!