Butternut squash ravioli

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Jon and I have been saving our yummy wine from Italy, and decided to splurge and open a bottle for dinner on Valentine’s Day. 🙂Montecucco 2009 Wine from ItalyTo go along with the wine, Jon requested homemade ravioli. I decided to make butternut squash ravioli since this dish is one of the few ways I can convince Jon that he wants to eat butternut squash. I started off by sauteing some diced shallots and onion, adding salt, pepper, and fresh sage.

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After the shallots and onion were soft and flavorful, I added frozen butternut squash. The frozen butternut squash works just as well as baking your own, especially since you don’t have to attempt to cut up the squash! Once the squash is cooked, just mash it up with a spoon, and your filling is ready to go.

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Whenever I make ravioli, I am almost always “lazy” and use wonton wrappers (or eggroll wrappers) for the dough.

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After placing the filling, I sealed the ravioli together with water and then trimmed the edges to make them look extra pretty.

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Assembled Ravioli

My herd of assembled ravioli!

I usually let the ravioli dry a little bit before cooking them to go into the pasta sauce.

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The ravioli only need to cook for a few minutes, and then they are ready for the sauce.

While the ravioli dried, I started the sauce by sautéing onion and sage in some olive oil. I had a little bit of filling left over, so that went in the pot as well.



Once the onions were soft and flavorful, I made a roux by cooking a little flour, and then adding some veggie stock, almond milk, and white wine to the pan.

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Once the sauce is thickened, the ravioli gets mixed in (gently!) and it is ready to serve. Some freshly grated pepper or nutmeg is a perfect topping.

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Butternut Squash Ravioli

4 shallots, minced

1 small onion, minced
1 onion, finely diced
20 fresh sage leaves, in a chiffonade
16 ounces butternut squash, diced (frozen works well)
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
24 ounces vegetable broth
6 ounces white wine
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 package wonton wrappers
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp flour
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Once the oil/butter is heated, add the shallots the minced onion and a small amount of sea salt. Sauté the onion until it is very soft and slightly caramelized. 
Add half the sage, along with the allspice, nutmeg, and some freshly ground pepper. Sauté for 1-2 minutes to toast the spices, then add the butternut squash. Add a small amount of veggie broth then cover. Cook until the squash is very soft and then mash the squash with the onion/spice mixture. Taste the squash mixture, and adjust seasoning if needed. 
Remove the squash mixture to a bowl. In the same pan, start the sauce by heating the remaining vegan butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté with a little salt until it is caramelized. Add the flour and sage, and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the vegetable stock. Cover and bring to a low simmer to thicken the sauce. 
Meanwhile, start forming the ravioli. Place a wonton wrapper on a cutting board or plate, and add about 2 tsp of the squash filling into the center of the wrapper. You may need to use more or less filling depending on the size of your wrappers. Brush water on the edge of the wonton wrapper, then fold in half and pinch to seal the edge together. You can also use a ravioli cutter to help seal the edges and make the ravioli extra pretty.
Continue forming ravioli until you have used either all of the wonton wrappers or all of the filling. If you run out of wrappers before filling, you can add the extra filling to your sauce. 
By now your sauce should be thickened slightly. Add the white wine and vinegar, then cook for another minute. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. 
Cook the ravioli in well-salted boiling water in batches of 10-12. They will only take 2-3 minutes to cook, and will float to the top of the water when they are done. Gently remove the ravioli from the water and add to the pan with the sauce, stirring gently as you add each batch to keep the ravioli from sticking to each other. Serve in shallow bowls topped with freshly grated pepper and a little vegan “Parmesan” cheese (of course, you can use the real stuff if you prefer!). 
Makes 4 generous servings.
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Semolina Dumplings with Stuffed Mushrooms and Arugula Salad

Continuing my love of pasta, I’ve discovered a way to make a pasta-type dish but without all the kneading, rolling, and cutting of dough. These semolina dumplings take a little while, but involve nothing more than sprinkling water over semolina flour. Plus, they are sturdy enough to stand up to a spicy tomato vodka sauce!

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I started off by placing the semolina flour in a shallow dish. Then, I just drizzle water over the flour, shake the pan, and scoop out the dumplings.

Semolina Flour

After drying slightly, the dumplings need to boil for just a few minutes, and then are ready to add to the sauce.

Semolina Dumplings

This sauce is spicy and almost a little bitter from the vodka, but it is a great combination with the chewy semolina dumplings!

Tomato Vodka Sauce

Semolina Dumplings with Tomato Vodka Sauce

3 cups semolina flour
1-2 cups of water
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can of crushed tomatoes (28 ounces), preferably San Marzano
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup vodka
1/4 cup almond milk or vegan cream
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Start the sauce by heating the olive oil over medium heat in a wide sauce pan, then adding the onion and garlic to saute until lightly browned. Add the red pepper flakes and saute for another minute then add the vodka. Cook for about 3 minutes. Next add the crushed tomatoes, and cover. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce for at least 20 minutes, or as long as it takes you to prepare the dumplings. Just before adding the first batch of dumplings, add the cream and adjust salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if you’d like a spicier sauce.
  2. Put the semolina flour into a shallow dish or plate, and have the water in a glass or measuring cup.
  3. Make small wells in the semolina flour, and then dribble a small amount of water (maybe 1-2 tsp) into each well. Allow the water to sit for about 5 seconds, or until absorbed by the semolina flour.
  4. Shake the dish lightly, then scoop out the dumplings and place on a sheet pan to dry. Repeat until the semolina flour is gone.
  5. Cook the semolina dumplings in batches by gently adding them to well-salted boiling water. Stir once to make sure they aren’t sticking, and then scoop out with a pasta spoon or strainer, placing immediately into the sauce and stirring to coat the dumplings.
  6. Continue until all the dumplings are cooked, and serve with a fresh green salad.

I always feel like I should have a little extra veggies with the dumplings, so I like the combination of a nice arugula salad and stuffed mushrooms.

First, I remove the stems from the mushrooms, and place the caps in an oiled baking dish.

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The stems get minced up, and sauteed along with some minced garlic.

Mushrooms sauteing

I love fresh parsley, so I usually chop that up to add to the mushroom mixture. You could also use fresh basil, or of course dried parsley or basil.

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Next, I added some white wine, followed by some bread crumbs.

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After the breadcrumbs absorb all the liquid, the filling goes into the mushroom caps.

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The mushrooms are baked until they are browned and the stuffing is crunchy. These are perfect as an appetizer, or even an entire meal. 🙂

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For the arugula salad, I love mixing lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper, then tossing the simple dressing with fresh arugula (or spinach).

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Stuffed Mushrooms

8 ounces whole button mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 cup bread crumbs, plus extra if needed
2 Tbsp vegan Parmesan cheese (or real, if desired)
1/2 cup white wine
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Brush a baking dish with 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, then place the mushroom caps into the dish, stem side up. Mince the remaining mushroom stems.
  2. In a saute pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes, being sure not to brown it too much. Add the minced mushroom stems and 1/4 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is softened and fragrant. Add the parsley and cook for another minute.
  4. Next add the white wine. Bring to a light simmer, then remove from the heat.
  5. Mix in the Parmesan, if using, and about half of the bread crumbs, stirring to combine. Continue adding bread crumbs until you have a moist mixture that holds together if pressed into a ball. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.
  6. Use a small spoon to place a scoop of the mixture into each mushroom cap, pressing as needed to hold the mixture together and in place.
  7. Cook the mushrooms for about 15 minutes, then check for browning. You want the mushroom caps to be browned and the stuffing to be crusty on top.
  8. Serve as an appetizer or with an entree as a side dish.

Simple Arugula Salad

One small container of fresh arugula
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Coarse sea salt
Optional, 1/4 cup shredded vegan or real Parmesan cheese

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice and olive oil over the arugula. Next, add lots of freshly ground pepper and about 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (use less if you have a finely grained sea salt). Add the cheese if using. Toss to combine, and taste to adjust salt and pepper if needed.

This simple salad pairs perfectly with any pasta dish or vegetarian pizza. Serves 4.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

This ravioli is one of the few ways that Jon actually asks for butternut squash. He will eat it in other formats, but wrap it up in pasta dough and serve in a creamy sauce and he gobbles it up!

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As with almost all my dishes, I started off by dicing up onions, and sautéing them in olive oil. This dish also uses lots of fresh sage, with about half going into the ravioli filling, and the rest going into the sauce.

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Once the onions were softened and the sage had released lots of flavor, I added the butternut squash. If you were feeling very ambitious you could dice up a fresh squash, but this is one of those times when using frozen is actually better (and easier)!

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Once the squash is cooked and flavored with turmeric, a little cayenne, and other great flavorings, it is ready to be made into ravioli.

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The ravioli are very easy to make, if a bit time consuming. It is a little easier if you make an assembly line with several wonton wrappers laid out at once to be filled and formed.

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The filling is just about the perfect amount to use one packet of wonton wrappers, resulting in a very-satisfying fleet of ravioli.

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The sauce was simmering away while I formed all the ravioli, so it was all ready for them as they came out of the cooking water.

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The ravioli cook in batches in just a few minutes, and float to the top of the water once they are ready.

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After all the ravioli was cooked and had simmered in the sauce for a minute, it was ready for serving. The ravioli is perfect topped with freshly ground pepper and a little vegan Parmesan cheese. Yum!

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Butternut Squash Ravioli

1 onion, finely diced
20 sage leaves, in a chiffonade
16 ounces butternut squash, diced (frozen works well)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
24 ounces vegetable broth
6 ounces white wine
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 package wonton wrappers
3 Tbsp vegan butter, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp flour
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 Tbsp of the vegan butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Once the oil/butter is heated, add the minced onion and a small amount of sea salt. Sauté the onion until it is very soft and slightly caramelized. 

Add half the sage, along with the turmeric, allspice, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper and some freshly ground pepper. Sauté for 1-2 minutes to toast the spices, then add the butternut squash. Add a small amount of water, then cover. Cook until the squash is very soft and then mash the squash with the onion/spice mixture. Taste the squash mixture, and adjust seasoning if needed. 

Remove the squash mixture to a bowl. In the same pan, start the sauce by heating the remaining vegan butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté with a little salt until it is caramelized. Add the flour and sage, and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the vegetable stock. Cover and bring to a low simmer to thicken the sauce. 

Meanwhile, start forming the ravioli. Place a wonton wrapper on a cutting board or plate, and add about 2 tsp of the squash filling into the center of the wrapper. You may need to use more or less filling depending on the size of your wrappers. Brush water on the edge of the wonton wrapper, then fold in half and pinch to seal the edge together. Continue forming ravioli until you have used either all of the wonton wrappers or all of the filling. If you run out of wrappers before filling, you can add the extra filling to your sauce.

By now your sauce should be thickened slightly. Add the white wine and vinegar, then cook for another minute. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. 

Cook the ravioli in well-salted boiling water in batches of 10-12. They will only take 2-3 minutes to cook, and will float to the top of the water when they are done. Gently remove the ravioli from the water and add to the pan with the sauce, stirring gently as you add each batch to keep the ravioli from sticking to each other. Serve in shallow bowls topped with freshly grated pepper and a little vegan “Parmesan” cheese (of course, you can use the real stuff if you prefer!). 

Makes 4-6 servings.
Recipe created by Jennifer

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White Beans with Kale and Cabbage over Farro

I’m finally starting to recover from my annual sinus infection, which usually takes me out for a solid week. This year seemed especially bad, but now that I’m feeling better I’m back to cooking for more than just basic sustenance (or letting Jon feed us!). This dish was loosely inspired by a recipe in Mollie Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate, but with a fair amount of improvisation.

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I started off by cooking some farro using a similar method to risotto. After sautéing some onion in olive oil, and toasting the farro, I gradually added homemade vegetable stock until the farro was cooked but still chewy.

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While the farro was cooking, I started off by sautéing onions, celery, and carrots. Once these were soft and flavorful, I added several of my favorite herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, and sage), along with some red pepper flakes, which are truly a staple in my kitchen. Next I built up the sauce by adding some vegetable stock and white wine vinegar.

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After the sauce had come to a simmer, I was ready to add sun dried tomatoes, kale and cabbage. (Jon says sun dried tomatoes and cabbage? Seriously?!?)

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The veggies cooked for a few minutes, and then I was ready to add the white beans. Fortunately, I had previously cooked some white navy beans, so I had plenty of fresh beans available for this dish. Yum!

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After the beans were warmed through, they were ready to be served on top of the farro. With all the veggies in this dish, it definitely felt like a good dish to continue getting me healthy. 🙂

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White Beans with Kale and Cabbage over Farro

2 cups uncooked farro
2 onions, finely diced
6 cups veggie stock, heated
5 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 bunch lacinto kale, removed from ribs and torn into bite size pieces
1/3 head green cabbage, finely chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano, basil, sage, and thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups cooked navy beans

Start the farro by heating 3 Tbsp olive oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Add 1 of the onions and sauté until slightly softened. Add a small amount of salt, then add the farro. Sauté the farro for a few minutes, then add about 2 cups of the veggie stock. Cover, and add veggie stock as it is absorbed until the farro is plumped up but still chewy. I needed about 4 cups of stock and it took about 25 minutes to cook. You could also use similar grains such as whole wheat berries.

While the farro is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, and sauté until softened. Next add the celery and carrot along with some sea salt. Cover and allow to sauté until the veggies are quite soft and slightly browned. You may need to add small amounts of veggie stock to the pan to keep the veggies from sticking. 

Once the veggies are quite soft, add the garlic, herbs, and red pepper flakes and cook for a few minutes. Next, add about 1 cup of veggie stock, the white wine vinegar, and the sun dried tomatoes. Reduce heat slightly and cover to allow the sun dried tomatoes to soften in the sauce. 

Once the sun dried tomatoes are plumped up and soft, add the cabbage and kale, stirring well to combine. You’ll probably want to add a little more sea salt at this point. Cover the pan, and allow the kale and cabbage to cook slightly in the sauce. You want the kale to be cooked, but still somewhat crisp. 

Finally, add the white beans and stir gently to combine. Cover and allow the beans to simmer in the sauce for a few minutes until they are heated through. Before serving, taste the bean mixture and adjust salt and add a little more white wine vinegar if you want the sauce to be a little sharper. 

To serve, place the farro in an individual soup bowl, and top with the bean mixture. 

Mediterranean Pasta

One of the ways I commonly cook is to make what Jon calls “pasta concoctions”. Sometimes these turn out really well and end up on the menu, and other times…

A more successful pasta concoction is what we call Mediterranean Pasta, which is basically a tomato sauce with olives, artichoke hearts, and lots of other yummy vegetables.

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Although there are a fair number of ingredients in this recipe, it is quite easy to make. I started off by sautéing most of the veggies along with turmeric and tomato paste until everything is slightly softened and flavorful.

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While the veggies are cooking, I chopped up the artichoke hearts and cut the olives in half.

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I then finished adding the other ingredients to the sauce, including vegetable broth, tomatoes, and red wine vinegar. After everything was combined, I covered the sauce to simmer for a few minutes.

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This sauce tastes fairly rich because of the olives, so I like to serve it with a simple salad.

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By the time the pasta is done cooking, the sauce has simmered long enough to thicken slightly and meld all the flavors together. I used rigatoni, but you could use any larger pasta shape such as penne or rotini. I love pictures of pasta. 🙂

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Next I mixed all the pasta into the sauce, hoping my pan was large enough to hold it all! Make sure to save a little bit of the pasta cooking water to add to the sauce.

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Finally, I dished the pasta into bowls and topped with a few red pepper flakes.

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Mediterranean Pasta

1 lb Rigatoni, cooked al dente
1 onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, miced
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
8-12 ounces pitted olives (Greek mix, kalamata, or similar), sliced in half
4 artichoke hearts, quartered
10 peppadew peppers, finely diced
5-6 sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced (I prefer the vacuum packed ones rather than the ones packed in oil)
1 cup vegetable stock
1 large can (28 ounces) crushed or diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp red pepper flakes plus more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the water for your pasta.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, then add the garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until softened. Do not allow the garlic to brown. 

Add the diced peppers and peppadew peppers, and sauté for a few minutes, flavoring with salt and freshly ground pepper. After the peppers are slightly softened, add the turmeric and tomato paste. Sauté for a few minutes to release the flavors of the turmeric.

Next, add the veggie stock and red wine vinegar. After the sauce is simmering, add the sliced sun dried tomatoes and cook until softened. 

Stir in the diced or crushed tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, red pepper flakes, and more salt and pepper if needed. Cover and reduce heat to medium. The pasta water should be boiling by now. Salt the water well, and cook the rigatoni until al dente. It will cook for a minute in the sauce, so you don’t want to overlook the pasta in the water.

Allow the sauce to simmer while the pasta is cooking. When the pasta is done, taste the sauce to adjust seasoning, then add the drained pasta along with about 3 Tbsp of the pasta cooking water. Stir to combine, and allow the pasta to cook in the sauce for another minute or two. 

Serve in pasta bowls topped with additional red pepper flakes, if desired. If you aren’t eating vegan, it would also be really good topped with a little bit of crumbled feta or tangy goat cheese. Since the sauce is rich, it is nice to have a simple salad on the side.

Serves 6-8.

Spicy Olive Tapenade

We were going over to a friend’s house for New Years Eve, so I wanted to bring some food. One of Jon’s favorite dishes currently is this spicy olive tapenade. If you’re not sure that the olives are pit-free, I would suggest chopping by hand of sorting through them before putting into a food processor. It’s a little time consuming to do by hand, but better than destroying your food processor with olive pits!

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Spicy Olive Tapenade

1.5 lbs mixed pitted olives (kalamata, Greek mix, chile olives, etc.)
6 peppadew peppers
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes (use less for a less spicy tapenade)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 clove garlic, very finely minced

In a food processor or using a large knife, chop the olives and peppers together. If using the food processor, be sure not to over process as the tapenade is best with slightly larger pieces. Chop the peppers at the same time into similarly sized pieces. 

Mix together the chopped olives and peppers with all of the other ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

Serve with freshly grilled or toasted bread that has been brushed with olive oil. Perfect with hummus or other dips and spreads.

Summery Dinner with Bruschetta and Watermelon Salad

Recently, Jon and I had some friends over for dinner. Since it was a hot summer evening, making something that didn’t involve the oven or stove being on for hours seemed like a good idea. Still feeling inspired by our recent Italian adventure (I will finish writing about it!), I decided to make bruschetta with two toppings and a watermelon salad.

The first bruschetta topping was made from tomatoes and basil that came fresh from the farmers market, along with garlic, olive oil, and salt. So easy, but so yummy.

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The second bruschetta topping was made from cannellini beans, and included onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and of course, olive oil. It was inspired by a recipe in Gina Stipo’s Ecco la Cucina. It’s not exactly the most photogenic dish, but it definitely tastes good!

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Finally, I decided to add a summery watermelon salad to balance out all the bread I knew we would be eating. The salad includes feta (real cheese, hence the “mostly” vegan), parsley, mint, and pepper, with a dressing made from red onions, lime juice, and olive oil.

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With Jon, Liz, and Arushi helping to oil and grill the bread, it was a fun and easy dinner!

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Bruschetta with Tomatoes

3 large tomatoes (not Roma; use heirloom or other flavorful tomatoes)
4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
Bunch of fresh basil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Crusty bread, brushed with olive oil and grilled

Chop the large tomatoes, discarding of loose seeds and extra liquid. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half (thirds, if larger). Place all the tomatoes into a bowl

Julienne the basil, and add to the chopped tomatoes. Add 3-4 Tbsp olive oil and the garlic, then salt and pepper to taste. Allow the flavors to meld together at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

While the tomatoes are resting, slice the bread. Brush each side with olive oil. Grill the bread on each side until there are nice grill marks.

Taste the tomato mixture and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve family style with a platter of bread and the bowl of tomatoes, allowing everyone to top their own bruschetta. Make sure you have lots of napkins available, as it can be a little messy!

White Bean Hummus

Inspired by Gina Stipo’s Crostini con Cannellini in Ecco la Cucina

1/2 onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups cooked cannellini beans (drain and rinse if using canned)
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary, chopped
1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil, plus more
Salt

Sauté the onion and garlic with a little salt in olive oil until softened. Add the cannellini beans, thyme, and rosemary, and cook for several minutes.

Mash the beans with a fork, then add the olive oil and 1 Tbsp vinegar, and mix together. You can add more olive oil to make a smoother hummus. Taste, and add salt if needed. If you want to add a little sharpness, add the rest of the vinegar.

Serve on grilled bread that has been brushed with olive oil. Drizzle with very good olive oil just before serving.

Watermelon Feta Salad
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer

8-10 cups diced watermelon
6 ounces crumbled feta
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 3 limes
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1/4 parsley, chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil
Pepper to taste

Put the onion slices in the lime juice and allow to soak for at least 15 minutes. Mix together the rest of the ingredients, except for the olive oil.

Add the onions and the lime juice, along with the olive oil. Mix all the ingredients together, and season with pepper, if desired.