What have you been up to for the past couple of months? I've been putting together an e-book to help you survive the annual zucchini invasion.
23 ZUCCHINI: FAST, FUN, EASY RECIPES FROM THE PERFECT PANTRY® KITCHEN includes, yes, 23 recipes (17 of them brand new, the rest updated favorites) for how to cook zucchini with some of the great pantry ingredients I know you have in your cupboards and spice rack.
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Remember when spinach salad meant warm bacon dressing and chopped hard-cooked eggs, and we all loved it and felt oh-so-sophisticated when we ordered it at a café? Did you know (I didn't) that spinach salad, an adaptation of a German dish of dandelion greens with a bacon-vinegar dressing, probably originated in Pennsylvania Dutch country, and not in the kitchen of a French chef? These days, when it comes to spinach salad, there are no rules, as this version with bell pepper, olives, feta cheese and pine nuts proves. There are a few secrets to making great salads that draw on ingredients in your pantry, and they all come down to this: be fearless! Combine unlikely ingredients, using whatever's in season. Take a sauce you'd made for pasta, or a chutney, and thin it with some water to make a salad dressing. Don't be afraid of color. If you don't have baby spinach for this salad, pluck a few lettuce leaves from your garden. And if you don't have good feta, try ricotta salata or another salty cheese.
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When we lived in Boston, friends with plots in the local community garden would deposit zucchini on our front stoop, and as we didn't have our own garden, my husband Ted and I relished the unexpected gift of other people's bounty. Little did we realize we were doing them a favor by taking those excess zucchini. Here in rural Rhode Island, it's common for folks to come to visit in late summer brandishing zucchini large and small, their eyes begging us to take those all-too-abundant vegetables off their hands. I love the small zucchini, tender enough to eat raw, or toss on the grill, or dice into this zucchini, bacon and feta quiche. (Save the canoe-size specimens for flotation devices. Or for soup.) Quiche tastes best at room temperature, which makes this recipe great for make-ahead entertaining.
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Have you had your fill of asparagus yet? Neither have I. However, I am a little bit over asparagus soup, asparagus frittata, and asparagus stir-fry, which is why this vegan brown rice salad with asparagus, avocado, pecans and basil pesto is such a welcome addition to the Spring repertoire. If you have pesto in your freezer from last summer -- any kind of pesto will do -- please use it here. I've tried kale pesto I froze last September, and red pepper pesto (which, I admit, improved the color of the finished dish), made from a jar of roasted peppers. And if you don't have your own pesto and don't want to make it from scratch, take some help from the grocery store and buy a good-quality pesto to make the dressing for this salad. There's no mayonnaise to spoil in the heat, which makes this salad perfect for picnics and summer potlucks.
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