End of Summer Pasta Salad

End of Summer Pasta SaladAs summer winds into autumn, I begin to be lulled into a false sense of satisfaction, as crisp nights cause me to begin to dream of sweaters and boots and cooking hearty meals in the kitchen. Then, BAM!, the hot days come back with a vengeance, a t-shirt feels like too much clothing, and there’s no way I’m turning the oven on after all. Happens every year. You’d think I’d learn.

Despite the heat wave, my body has decided it’s pasta time, remembering the chilly mornings before the 100 degree F days. I thought I’d compromise with my cravings by making a cold pasta salad, something assembled, the only heat required being boiled water. I paired dinner with a Red Meritage, enjoying the play of flavors with the different salad ingredients.

End of Summer Pasta Salad


Serves 6-8

1 lb conchiglie pasta
a few splashes of sundried tomato and garlic vinaigrette
4 oz capers
2 roasted red peppers, diced
3 oz kalamata olives
6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 basket of cherry tomatoes
1 slicer tomato, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (I used Pennyroyal Farm’s Pepper Moldune. It gave the salad a nice hint of heat.)

Put a large pot of water over high heat. Cook pasta to package directions.
While pasta is cooking, put mushrooms in a large bowl and drizzle a bit of vinaigrette over them. Toss mushrooms until they’re fully coated. Toss roasted peppers, olives, capers, and sliced tomato into the bowl, mix well, and set aside. This will give the mushrooms a chance to soak in the flavors of everything else hanging out with it.
Once pasta is finished, drain and rinse with cold water until the pasta is cool. Work the pasta through your fingers a bit, since conchiglie likes to nest into clumps.
Add cooled pasta, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle on a bit more vinaigrette and toss until everything is happily mingled.
You can serve right away, or cover it and leave it in the fridge until the next day, as it will be even more flavorful after a night’s rest.

Eggs with Sherried Mushrooms on Toast

Breakfast during the week is oatmeal with blueberries plus a hint of pure maple syrup and a dash of half and half. Once the weekend rolls around, I’m usually craving something a bit more complicated.

My favorite Sunday breakfast has become a dish that tastes amazing, but isn’t really that hard to do. Most of it can be accomplished while holding a cup of coffee in your left hand, constantly sipping the liquid, black elixir of life.

Eggs with Sherried Mushrooms on Toast

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
3/4 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cooking sherry
Four 1/2-inch-thick slices of whole grain bread (I used Alvarado Street)
2 tablespoons butter
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400°.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, about four minutes. Add the onion, stir and cover for three minutes. Add the sherry and cook until almost evaporated, a little over one minute. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside.
Place bread slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake for about 6 minutes, until toasted. Turn off oven. Transfer the toasts to plates.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Crack the eggs one at a time into the skillet. Cook the eggs to your preference. Mine is over-easy. My Charles’ is scrambled. (I love the way that the creamy yolk tastes when it mingles with the mushrooms.)
Spoon the mushroom mixture onto the toasts and top with the fried eggs.
Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe.

Dinner Salad

While we were on vacation a week ago, Charles and I did something that we hadn’t done in years — buy a meal from a fast food joint.

The effects were immediate. We felt bloated, lethargic, not quite right. A few hours later, large, angry pimples had erupted all over my face — something that hadn’t happened since high school. The worst part was that my blood sugar was wonky for most of our vacation and followed into the work week.

What to do? I thought the best option was to make a dinner salad, filled with different colors, textures, and flavors. With assorted spring greens as the base, I layered grape tomatoes, crimini mushrooms, avocado, black olives, garbanzo beans, and a small smattering of sauteed chicken breast.

It was just what we both needed to feel more like ourselves again. It had been so long since we had eaten true junk food, we had forgotten the consequences. The results may have been more pronounced since we usually eat such a clean diet, but it really brought home how important it is to eat as healthy as possible as often as possible. My body thanked me.