Zucchini, Tomatoes and Basil

Fall is here, but in sunny So Cal, we’re still getting the last of the summer crops. I love how easily this pasta comes together, making it a perfect weeknight family meal.

Whole Wheat Rotini with Chicken Sausage, Charred Tomatoes, Zucchini and Basil

Serves 4-6

4 cups (dried) whole wheat rotini (Trader Joes has a good organic selection)

4 chicken mild Italian sausage links (Trader Joes has a nitrate-free, natural choice) casings removed

1 zucchini, cut into large dice

2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into large dice, seeds removed

8 basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Olive oil, salt & pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot (6-8 quart) with water and 1/4 cup salt. Bring to a boil, add pasta and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente. Reserve a ladle of pasta water, then drain pasta in a colander.

Heat a large cast iron skillet to medium high heat, then add a splash of olive oil. Put sausage into the pan and cook while breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook sausage until completely browned, then remove from the pan. Bring pan up to high heat, then add zucchini. Allow zucchini to cook without stirring for a minute, until it is browned, then turn and cook until zucchini is browned all over and softened slightly. Remove the zucchini from the pan, then bring up to a high heat, adding another splash of olive oil. Put tomatoes in the pan and cook without stirring until tomatoes brown and blister. Turn the heat off, then add sausage, zucchini and basil back to the pan and stir together. Add pasta to the sauce and a bit of the reserved pasta water until sauce becomes thick and coats the pasta. Put on serving plates and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Japanese radish, cucumber, Meyer lemon

I finally did use up all 15 of the Meyer lemons that I impulsively purchased at the farmers market, and they make this zingy dish sing. 

Grilled Greek Drumsticks with Grilled Meyer Lemons and Red Quinoa Greek Salad

Serves 6

12 chicken drumsticks

Olive oil, salt and pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano, plus additional for garnish

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 Meyer lemons, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup cooked red quinoa

4 radishes, cut into cubes (I used white Japanese radishes)

1 cucumber, peeled and cut into cubes (no need to peel if you are using hothouse cucumbers)

1/4 cup Kalamata, Feta and Meyer Lemon Dressing

Season the drumsticks with olive oil, salt and pepper, then toss with the oregano, lemon zest and garlic powder until coated. Allow seasoned drumsticks to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium high heat. If using a grill, leave one section of the grill off, or if using a grill pan, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the drumsticks on the grill and cook without moving until char marks form, then turn to continue marking with char marks. When the drumsticks are completely browned, after about 15 minutes, move to the cool side of the grill and bring the lid down, or place on a sheet pan and put into the oven. Continue to cook the chicken until cooked to 165 degrees using an internal probe thermometer and juices run clear, about 15 to 20 more minutes.

Get a good char on the drumstick before turning, but don’t overcook it on the high flame, you’ll move it to a lower temperature to finish cooking it.

Meanwhile, season the lemon slices with olive oil, salt and pepper, and place on the hot section of the grill and cook until light char marks form and juices start to glisten. Quickly turn and cook on the opposite side.

Toss the red quinoa, radish and cucumber with the Kalamata, Feta and Meyer Lemon dressing, and serve with the grilled drumsticks topped with the grilled lemon slices and fresh oregano.

Kalamata, Feta and Meyer Lemon Dressing

Makes one cup

1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons kalamata olives

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Salt & pepper

In the cup of a blender, add lemon juice, vinegar, olives and Dijon mustard. Turn on blender to combine, then slowly drizzle the olive oil in as the blender runs. Dressing should become thick and creamy. Add feta cheese, then pulse blender quickly to just combine, cheese should be chunky in the dressing. Taste for salt and pepper, and season if desired. Stir dressing just before using if it separates. Dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Basil, Carrots and Broccoli

This is a versatile recipe that you can sneak just about any vegetable in, useful for my picky 7-year old, and also as we approach cruciferous vegetable season (I’m thinking of sneaking lots of cabbage in.)

Basil Turkey Meatballs with Hidden Veggie Sauce

Serves 4-6

1 pound lean ground turkey

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped basil

1 bell pepper, stem, membranes and seeds removed, roughly chopped

1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped

1 cup broccoli, tough stems removed, cut into florets

1 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

One 15-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes with their juices

1 teaspoon sugar

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, mix together the ground turkey, garlic, eggs, bread crumbs, and basil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Using lightly moistened hands, roll the mixture into 8-10 meatballs, about 3 tablespoons each.  

Add the bell pepper, carrot, broccoli, onion and parsley to the bowl of a food processor and run until the vegetables are chopped very fine. Add the tomatoes and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.  

In a Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs and cook over moderate heat, turning, until golden but not quite cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the tomato sauce and sugar to the skillet and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired. Return the meatballs to the skillet and simmer, turning, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Meyer Lemons

I found these Meyers at the farmers market, and I couldn’t resist buying far more than I needed…the word for that is greed, right? I did, however, resist the urge to tie a feedbag around my nose, drop a lemon in it, and walk around the market inhaling their floral sweetness. Just barely.

Chicken Provencal with Tomatoes, Green Beans, Roasted Meyer Lemons and Olives

Serves 6

Olive oil

1 pint of green beans, stems removed

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and pepper

1 shallot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup white wine

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 large, fresh tomatoes diced, or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with juices

1 cup of homemade chicken stock or good quality boxed chicken broth

1/4 cup black cured olives, such as kalamata or nicoise

2 Meyer lemons (or regular lemons), ends trimmed, cut into thin slices

Heat a Dutch oven over medium high, and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat olive oil and add green beans to the pan, allowing them to sear, then stir to turn. Season with salt and pepper, then cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the green beans from the pan and hold.

Add another splash of olive oil, then add chicken thighs to the pan.  Sprinkle the chicken with flour, salt and pepper, and sear until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and brown, another 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and hold. Add the shallot and garlic to the pan, stirring and cooking until softened and slightly browned, then add the wine to the pan and stir, scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook wine until it is reduced by half and slightly syrupy. Add the thyme springs, tomatoes and chicken stock, then add the chicken back into the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, then cover with a lid slightly cracked, and cook for another 20 minutes, until liquid is thickened. Remove the thyme sprigs.

Heat oven to 350 degrees, and place lemon slices on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, until lemons are soft, juicy and have slightly browned edges. Lemons can be roasted 3 days in advance.

Stir green beans, roasted lemons and olives into the chicken and season with salt and pepper, then serve.


Meyer Lemon Stone Ground Mustard Dressing

1/2 shallot, minced very fine

Zest and juice of one Meyer lemon (or a standard lemon)

1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar (Champagne, white balsamic, rice wine will all be fine here)

2 teaspoons of stone ground mustard

1 teaspoon of honey

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper

In a large bowl, add the shallot, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, mustard and honey. Whisk together to incorporate, and then drizzle in the olive oil slowly while continuing to whisk. Season with salt and pepper.

Alternately, put all of the ingredients in a container with a lid that seals tight. Shake the dressing until it has thickened and season. Store dressing in the refrigerator for up to a week, stirring before use.

Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini, Basil

Here’ a tip for tender, fresh veggies that you envision not eating by the end of the week: roast ’em. Just throw them on a sheet pan, slap a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper on top, and let them hang out in a 400 degree oven until they start to blister, brown and soften. Then, after they cool, you can store them and give them another life in a sauce, crostini topping, or even toss them in a soup. I roasted cherry tomatoes that were tart and sassy, and gave them even more depth and sweetness, as well as zucchini that got a hit of caramel with the high heat. I matched these up with a fish preparation that can be done in a snap: foil pouches. Pop them in the oven for a steamy, aromatic and delish dinner.

Tilapia with Roasted Tomatoes, Zucchini and Basil

Be sure to season the fish generously with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Serves 6

1 pint cherry tomatoes

2 zucchini, cut into half rounds, about 1/2-inch thick

Olive oil, salt & pepper

4 tilapia filets

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon fresh lavender, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 lemon, cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon torn basil leaves

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Season tomatoes and zucchini with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast in the oven until they start to blister, brown and soften. Remove from oven and set aside for immediate preparation, or cool and store in the refrigerator for 4- 6 days.

Prepare foil packets using 18 inches of foil wrap and placing it on a sheet pan. Place tilapia on top, then season with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and lavender. Put the roasted tomatoes and zucchini on top of the fish, pour the white wine over, and place the lemon slices on top. Fold the edges of the foil packet together, forming a seal.

Heat oven to 350 degrees, and put sheet pan with the foil packet in, baking for 20 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakey. Open foil packet and put basil leaves on top of the fish and serve.

Winter Squash, Summer Squash, Tomatoes

Here’s my new favorite fall fix, slightly sweet with warming spices, with a tang of tomatoes and the savor of legumes. I’ve made this stew with sugar pumpkin, butternut squash, zucchini, and sunburst squash, with fantastic results, and can think of many upcoming variations with carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow crookneck squash, which makes this recipe a keeper, in my books.

Moroccan Squash Stew with Chickpeas and Saffron Almond Israeli Couscous

Peel the squash using a sharp chef’s knife, scrape out the seeds and cut into 1-inch chunks. You can save time by purchasingn pre-cut, packaged butternut squash.

2 cups of diced winter squash, such as butternut, sweet pumpkin

Olive oil, salt & pepper

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves

1-inch segment of fresh ginger, minced

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1 cup of summer squash, such as zucchini, sunburst, yellow crookneck

1 cup of seeded, diced tomatoes, or canned diced tomatoes if fresh are not in season

1 cup homemade vegetable stock, or good quality, low sodium packaged broth

1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup of Israeli couscous

1 1/2 cup water or stock

1 pinch of saffron

1/4 cup toasted almonds

Heat oven to 350 degrees, and season winter squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until soft and slightly browned. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add a splash of olive oil. Add onions, garlic and ginger, and cook until slightly soft. Add spices, stir and cook until spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in summer squash and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, then cook for about 2 minutes, until vegetables are slightly soft. Then add stock, garbazo beans and roasted winter squash, bring to a boil and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until liquid thickens and consistency is stewy. Remove the cinnamon stick and season with salt and pepper.

Bring water to a boil in a small pot or tea kettle. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat, and add a splash of olive oil. Toast the couscous in the pan for about 2 minutes, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of crumbled saffron threads and water. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover pan and cook for another 5 mniutes, until couscous is tender. Turn off the heat and keep pan covered for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Fold the almonds into the couscous and serve with the squash stew.

Fuji Apples and Kale

Say hello to fall flavors with a tasty, savory saute of kale, caramelized onions and apples, served with a hearty helping of maple glazed grilled pork chops.

Maple Glazed Pork Chops with Onion, Fuji Apple and Kale Saute

Serves 4

Pork Chops:

2 10-ounce thick cut pork chops (bone on or off)

Salt, pepper and olive oil

2 sprigs of thyme, stems removed

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Onion, Apple and Kale Saute

1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil (I like butter)

1 organic yellow onion, cut into thin slices

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 sprigs of thyme

2 organic Fuji apples, cored, cut into thin slices

1 bunch of kale, stems and ribs removed, finely chopped

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

For the pork chops: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Season the pork chops with salt, pepper, coat with olive oil, and sprinkle thyme leaves on. Heat a grill or grill pan until very hot (once you can hold your hand over the grill and feel heat radiating) and sear the pork chops until defined char marks form (about 3 minutes.) Turn over and cook the other side for another 3 minutes, then transfer to a baking pan. Put the pork chops in the oven and continue cooking until the meat reaches 145 degrees, using an internal probe thermometer, about 10 more minutes, basting with the juices a few times. Allow the pork chops to rest, then slice for serving.

For the saute: Melt butter or heat olive oil in a large skillet set at medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to brown, then lower heat and continue to cook until the onions caramelize, turning a golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and apples, and cook until apples soften, then add the kale and cook while stirring until kale turns vivid green. Add vinegar and maple syrup, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Serve with the slice pork chops.


My favorite elective in high school was horticulture. I was the captain of my motley crew of agronomists, consisting of the “stoners” of my class who were hoping for an easy way to skate through their senior year. I, however, took my role seriously. Clipboard in hand, I would peruse the crops, assign tasks and take notes. Occasionally, I would encounter a sneakily planted pot seed, and “weeding” took on a whole different meaning. But we had fun, and sometimes I granted permission for a scraggly marijuana plant to grow, if only to see our teacher, Mr Kinsella, blow his top.

Most of all, I loved watching the broccoli plants grow. They would tower over the rest of the rows of vegetables, stalks sweet and tender. I loved the simplicity of their survival: plant, water, flourish. How could something so easy be so delicious? I hope that you’ll find this frittata as effortless and rewarding.

Broccoli, Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata

Serves 4

2 cups of broccoli florets

8 eggs (or 4 whole eggs and 6 egg whites)

1 tablespoon butter

1 shallot, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

salt and pepper

Heat broiler. Fill a small sauce pan with water and a few pinches of salt, then bring to a boil. Prepare a bowl with ice and water. Put the broccoli in the boiling water and blanch until vivid green, about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the ice bath until chilled. Drain well.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk until whites and yolks are well combined. Season the eggs with salt and pepper. Heat a 10-inch nonstick, stovetop-to-oven (one without a plastic handle that may melt in the broiler) skillet over medium heat, and melt the butter in the pan. Add the shallots and thyme and cook them until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes and heat through, about a minute, then add eggs. Distribute the vegetable mixture evenly through the egg mix, then let eggs set, about 1 minute. Using a flexible silicone spatula, lift the edges of the set eggs, allowing the uncooked eggs to run beneath them, and cook for another minute. Sprinkle the goat cheese evenly on top of the eggs.

Place the skillet under the broiler and continue to cook eggs until they are set, fluffy, golden, and the cheese has melted, about 3 minutes. Remove the frittata from the oven, cool slightly and cut into wedges for serving.

Green Cabbage, Zucchini, Rainbow Chard, Maui Onion and Cilantro

I must need a vacation, because in every farm box I’m discovering sunny Mexico. Only a few weeks ago, I turned cauliflower, broccoli and collard greens into tasty little soft tacos, throwing the veggies into a skillet with some onion and garlic, and cooking them until they were tender but crisp. I spiced the mixture up with a minced chipotle pepper and the adobo sauce that they are packed in the can with, toasty cumin and black beans. Then I tucked them into my favorite Trader Joe’s tortilla, which combines wheat flour and stone ground cornmeal, giving them a pillow-soft texture with a nice chew. I topped them off with a little sour cream I infused with lime zest and juice, then I ate them before I could even take a picture!

My giant jar of cumin and favorite salsa verde for enchiladas.

I have been so enamored with Mexican flavors lately that my friend, Suzy, who works for a spice distributor, gave me a giant container of cumin. It shouldn’t take me long to use it, since every couple of weeks, I make Farm Box Veggie Enchiladas, filling them with vegetables that I’ve sautéed with cumin, coriander and my (up to this point) secret sauce. I’d love to tell you that I tired over a batch of homemade roasted tomatillo salsa, but there’s no need to when I can throw these super-delicious enchiladas together on the fly.

You can use all sorts of vegetables in this dish, from firm carrots or radishes, to quicker cooking greens. The key is to add the veggies to the saute pan in different stages, hard varieties go in first, soft varieties are quickly cooked at the end. You’ll also want to use a good quality cheese, such as a fontina and aged cheddar blend, and great tortillas that are kissed on an open flame until slightly charred.

Farm Box Veggie Enchiladas

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

6 cups of assorted seasonal vegetables, diced

Salt and pepper

1 16-ounce jar tomatillo salsa

2 cups grated cheese

1/2 cup toasted pepitas

12 corn tortillas

Sour cream, lime crema (sour cream mixed with lime zest and lime juice) or avocado slices

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin and coriander, cooking until golden brown. Add vegetables, in stages if needed, first cooking the firm vegetables, then adding the softer vegetables. Cook until slightly softened but still crisp, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat. Cool the vegetable mixture to room temperature, then add in 1/2 of the tomatillo salsa, 1 cup of cheese and pepitas. Stir to combine.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare a casserole dish (11″ x 7″) with two tablespoons of tomatillo salsa spread around the bottom. Turn on a gas burner, and place a tortilla on the open flame. Cook until slightly charred, about 30 seconds, then flip over, using tongs, and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Add 3-4 heaping tablespoons of the vegetable mixture to the center of the tortilla, wrap the sides around the mixture, then place in the casserole dish, seam side down. Continue to toast and fill the tortillas, nestling them closely in the dish until all are filled and folded. You may have additional mixture left over, which can be sprinkled on top of the tortillas. Pour the remaining tomatillo salsa over the top and sprinkle the remaining cheese.

Put the enchiladas in the oven and bake until cheese is melted, browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly, then cut and serve. You could top the enchiladas with sour cream, lime crema or avocado slices if you wish!

Kolhrabi and Greens

Rotiserrie Chicken Shepard’s Pie with Kolhrabi Mash and Greens

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup sliced carrots

1/2 cup sliced celery

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock (use homemade or low-sodium, organic)

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups shredded, cooked rotiserrie chicken

1 cup organic, frozen peas

For the kohlrabi mash and greens

1 head kohlrabi, peeled (I just cut the skin away with a chef’s knife) and cut into 2-inch cubes

3 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 cups chopped greens, such as beet greens, kohlrabi greens, chard, kale or spinach, washed and spun dry

Kosher salt and coarse-ground pepper

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook until softened, then add parsley, thyme and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine, then add wine, stirring and scraping all brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, and cook until wine is reduced by half and slightly syrupy. Add stock and cream and stir to combine, then bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking until cream is reduced, and sauce coats a spoon. Stir in chicken and peas, then remove from pan and place in an 11 x 7 casserole dish.

Make the kohlrabi mash:

Put the kohlrabi into a large pot, cover with water and add a generous pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and reduce to a simmer. Cook kohlrabi for about 30 minutes, until slightly tender. Add the potatoes in with the kohlrabi, return to a boil, then simmer, cooking until both the potatoes and kohlrabi are tender and translucent. Drain kohlrabi and potatoes well in a colander. In the same pot, melt butter and slightly heat milk and cream.  Put kohlrabi and potatoes back into the pot, and mash with a potato masher until smooth, mixing in with the butter, milk and cream. Adjust consistency with additional warmed half and half, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. 

  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add olive oil to the pan. Put greens into the pan, and stir until wilted. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan, and cook greens until soft, from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the type of greens. Season with salt and pepper. Fold cooked greens into the kohlrabi mash.

Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Spread the kolhrabi mash on top of the chicken mixture, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven until cheese is browned and chicken mixture is bubbling, then cool slightly and serve.