When it comes to summer meals, convenience is key. Most of us want to enjoy the outdoors and limit time in the kitchen. I find salads paired with grilled meat, poultry or fish are a quick way to get the dinner on the table.
Try preparing a pasta salad such as this Tri Colored Tortellini in the morning or evening before you plan to serve. With all ingredients in house it simply takes about 15 minutes. Let it sit and marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving (the longer, the better to allow the flavors to be absorbed into the pasta). A multiple pound batch can last up to 5 days in the fridge. It covers starch, veggie and dairy all in one dish. For vegetarians, its a full fledged meal!
1lb of tri colored cheese tortellini
½ chopped sautéed red pepper
1 head of steamed organic broccoli
½ red onion chopped
1 can of quartered artichoke hearts
1 cup of chopped pepperoni (try Boar’s Head pepperoni stick or if you’re a Chicago land local try uncured by Hasselmann Farm)
1 cup of Kalamata olives
½ cup of cubed smoked Gouda cheese
1 cup of shaved Parmesan
1 ½ cups of Newman’s Own Family Recipe Italian dressing
Salt and Pepper to taste (try 1/4 teaspoon of ground fresh pepper)
Package of Hasselmann's Garlic and Onion Brats
Cook tortellini 5-7 minutes. Strain and immediately pour 1 cup of the Italian dressing over, toss and let cool. Steam the broccoli until a firm soft. Chop the red pepper in 1” strips, sauté in olive oil. When broccoli is down, separate the broccoli into small florets. Combine the warm ingredients (broccoli and peppers) with the cooling tortellini and toss. Add in onion, artichoke, chopped pepperoni, olives and shaved Parmesan. Pour remaining ½ cup of Italian dressing over and toss. Save the cubed smoke Gouda until chilled or right before serving, if it’s added to the mix while its warm, it will melt. Refrigerate in covered glass (plastic absorbs dressings) or stainless container until ready to serve. Before serving toss in Gouda and let sit at room temperature for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. Drizzle more Italian over if needed. Pasta should not stick together, but shouldn’t be too oily.
Grill Brats on charcoal grill over medium-low heat between 300 and 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160-165 degrees. Turn them at half way mark to evenly char each side.
Summer is here and so are picnics, bbq's and family parties! A fast, simple and savory appetizer that packs a green punch with an Italian flair is prosciutto wrapped asparagus. It takes 5 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook.
The key is choosing Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and a quality Parma or San Daniele Prosciutto. Two regions in Italy that are known for their excellence in curing meats.
*Choose a high quality prosciutto, Parma and San Daniele are regions in Italy both known for their excellent prosciutto.
A great way to move out of the heaviness of winter is to eat lighter food. The best way to do that is to incorporate lots of delicious spring vegetables such as, asparagus, broccoli, peas, cauliflower, spinach, kale, kohlrabi to name a few. The simplest way to do this is in preparing salads or one of my favorites, a spring Pasta Primavera. It's a very flexible dish and can be made with your preference of vegetables. It's a nice "in-between season dish" because it's served warm for those cool spring evenings. Still it's lighter because it's filled with vegetables rather than meat and you can choose to dress it with just olive oil and cheese or a cream sauce for a heavier flair.
10 ounces of Trader Joe farfalle pasta1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 white onion sliced
3 medium Cal-organic rainbow carrots cut into match sticks
1/2 of medium red pepper sliced
1/2 of medium yellow pepper sliced
2 cups of 2” cut asparagus
2 cups of broccoli florets pre steam
1 medium zucchini sliced
1 medium yellow squash sliced
5-6 large white mushrooms sliced
4-5 Campari tomatoes quartered
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 cup of fresh basil chopped
1-2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano
2-3 teaspoons of dry Italian seasoning
Cook pasta until tender.
Sauté all vegetables in large deep skillet. Begin with heating oil medium-high heat, add garlic, onion, carrots. After 2 minutes add peppers, squash, zucchini, mushrooms, then tomatoes and broccoli last. Toss vegetables and add salt and pepper and dried Italian seasoning. Turn down heat after 5 minutes and simmer for additional 2 or until vegetables have softened. Pour veggies over cooked pasta and toss with Parmesan Reggiano and fresh chopped basil. Add additional olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Looking for a great use of your abundant summer tomato and fresh herb harvest? My dad has a great red sauce recipe that screams vitamin value with fresh produce from the garden.
The basic style of Dad’s sauce originated from my grandparents land lady in 1934. It is a Genoa style Bolognese sauce. Bolognese is an Italian meat based red sauce, originating in the city of Bologna, Italy. Ground beef, beef short ribs or pork short ribs or a combination of both can be used. Bill has called it his modified Marinara, because he sometimes eliminates the use of meat and always uses anchovies or capers for flavor, which is typical of Marinara.
1 large 106 oz can of tomato sauce (or 5-6 pounds of garden grown roma tomatoes, or a combination of large beef steak, romas, and vine tomato variety ground in food processor)
4 small 6 oz cans of tomato paste or 2/ 12oz
1 lb of pork ribs or short ribs with bone
Olive Oil ( try Tuscan Herb from The Olive Tap)
1 cup or more of chicken broth
Lean flat King Oscar anchovies
1 large sweet onion (garden grown if possible)
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 large green pepper or 2 medium (garden grown if possible)
2 medium carrots (garden grown if possible)
2 stalks of celery (garden grown if possible)
1.5 cup of red wine
1 cup of freshly grated pecorino romano cheese or parmesan reggiano
1 tblspn of local honey
Dried Italian seasoning
Fresh basil, flat leaf Italian parsley, oregano (garden grown if possible)
Ground black pepper
Ground sea salt
In a large pot, combine the tomato sauce and paste and put on medium high.
In a cast iron pan, use a generous amount of olive oil approximately 3-4 tablespoons (preferably Olive Tap’s Tuscan Herb) and turn to medium-high heat.
Cut up short ribs and brown in pan on medium-high approximately 8-10 minutes, turning over half way through. Turn on low for remaining 3-5 minutes
Add 1 cup of chicken broth to the tomato sauce and then add the browned meat.
Blend up the carrots, celery, onion, green pepper and flat parsley in food processor. Add additional olive oil to the cast iron pan and sauté the vegetables on medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Then add to the sauce.
Grate a cup of cheese (pecorino romano or parmesan reggiano) and finely chop the can of anchovies and add to the sauce. Chop a bunch of fresh basil (approximately 10 large leaves) and remove leaves from 3 sprigs of fresh oregano and add to the sauce. Bury the top of the sauce with dried Italian seasoning, grind in fresh sea salt and black pepper (a sprinkle) and stir.
Add a tablespoon of honey, drizzle some Worcestershire sauce and add cup and a half of red wine, stir and bring to a boil. Then turn to low simmer for 4 hours.
Taste half way through and add ground salt and black pepper to taste.
Enjoy on top of pasta of choice and sprinkle with parmesan reggiano and cut fresh basil. Mangia!
Fresh ingredients are the key to incredible salsa. If possible gather vegetables from your garden or farmers market. When my tomatoes aren’t ready for harvest, I get organic “On the Vine” tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes from the local farmers market. Why? Because you don’t want something that’s been sprayed with ripening agents or has traveled hundreds of miles, it’s way more cool (and more healthy) to grow your own or buy local.
My neighbor cuts up every ingredient for her homemade salsa, bless her heart, but for my impatient heart, there is my Cuisinart food processor (any food processor will do).
4 large garden tomatoes
1 large Vidalia onion
1 green Pepper
3 cloves of garlic
¼ can of Chilpotle peppers in adobo sauce
½ -1 cup of cilantro leaves (no stems)
1 teaspoon fresh ground peppercorn
1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt ground
1 teaspoon of cumin powder
1 teaspoon of chipolte chili pepper
2 tablespoon white vinegar
½ of organic lime juiced
Cut tomatoes in quarters. Pulse in food processor a couple times, DO not blend, this will make tomato juice. Leave tomatoes partially chopped. Pour into mesh strainer and put tomato juice aside.
Slice peppers in strips and de-seed and de-stem. Use a glove for Jalapeno, juice will burn your skin. Add ¼ of the 12 oz can of chipolte peppers in adobo sauce, more if you desire a smokier taste. Finely chop the garlic cloves. Put all four ingredients into processor and pulse until chopped, but not blended.
Add back the strained tomatoes to the mix of peppers and garlic. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, chipolte chili pepper powder, juice of lime, vinegar and leaves of cilantro (no stems) to the mix. Pulse until blended 3-6 times, don’t over blend. Sample with a tortilla chip to determine the salinity factor or salt level, (chips that are salted alter the taste of the salsa). If you prefer less spicy add in 1-2 extra tomatoes and additional lime juice. Otherwise Happy Fourth and enjoy the savory fireworks!
Chill salsa before serving. Drain if you prefer less liquid, and add to tomato juice liquid. Save this mixture for homemade Bloody Mary’s on the 5th! Cheers.
Happy Summer! A great season for herbs and fresh garden recipes!
Now into the third issue, my mission for The Meal continues to refine it self. My hope is to reignite the passion towards food and the meal and the purpose it serves in strengthening the family and fortifying the community. In the Summer Issue, I introduce Julie Brailsford, who happens to be fortifying the San Diego area with her business Healthy Creations. Her Take- and- Make and ready to cook meals provide families a convenient way to have meals at home with more time around the table. We only met recently via phone conversation, but our similar values and vision of the meal intersected to connect us. Read more in the Summer print publication of The Meal!
SO how often have you said or heard someone who just picked through the fridge or pantry eating almost a complete meal say “I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?” Just mindlessly popping “shtuff” into the mouth, sometimes with no knowledge of what even went in! This is how it all begins. Dis-ease. No, you aren’t getting cancer just because you eat standing up. But like everything else, actions have a compounding effect and overtime eating “shtuff” takes its toll.
You’re digestive system is the gateway to health. It’s how we assimilate energy into our bodies. It is a precious system that’s complexity is overlooked. It requires the recruitment of all the senses to run properly. The five senses initiate brain activity which signals chemicals to release hormones to either assist or combat digestion. That’s why it’s important to slow down and take the time to eat a meal.
The issue has even sprung organizations such as Slow Food. A movement which strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and culture, originally derived from the Slow Movement, or slow living. WHAT? Slow living! In America, the speed of light society?! Yes, slowing down to eat impacts both our physical and mental digestion in favorable ways.
Dis-ease begins with digestion both in the gut and in the mind. If you don’t believe it just look at the abundance of digestive aids filling entire drug store aisles and click through any television channel during prime time to catch the anti anxiety-depressant drug of the day. Our guts and minds are clogged. We are out of balance. However this isn’t a new concept, for over 5000 years Ayurvedic philosophy has taught this principle.
Ayurveda is the ancient traditional Indian medicine which teaches preventing disease by balancing your body with nature, or the five elements. It is a preventative system that uses food, herbs, oils, purification and meditation as a means to staying healthy. Ayurveda reinforces the discipline of removing toxic food and toxic thought from our lives. I was fortunate to study Ayurveda in India multiple times. One of the main themes that arose repetitively during this experience is that food is medicine and medicine is food. This Ayurvedic concept long preceded what Hippocrates of 400 B.C. eventually affirmed and would be famously quoted for “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
We know by now in the 21st century that WHAT we eat is important. Eat live food and live longer, eat dead food and die faster. In simple terms, what grows and is picked from the ground is healthier than what is refined, packaged and shelved for weeks or even months. But in present times we must be reminded that HOW we eat is equally important to our health.
Bio Energy (life force) of a mushroom courtesy of Kirlian.com
In the Indian culture, not only the quality of the food, but how it is prepared and who you share it with is important. Long before the energetic fields of food could be photographed (http://kirlian.com ), Indian people have known that foods made with loving hands and good intention have more Prana, or life force, than foods that are not. This life force, or Prana, is the basis for your health. This life force comes from live food and the people and energy that surround it. It takes more time to find it, to prepare it and consume it. That’s why we are among a sicker society than ever before, because people don’t have the time or want to take the time. (If you’ve never thought about the “Prana” of that burger rapidly slapped between two buns by the fast food worker whose ticked off because they’re overworked and underpaid, you will now. Their energy and mood get transmitted to the food your eating!)
It’s not rocket science to figure out that if you sit down, take a deep breath, see, smell and feel your food before taking a bite, you’re body is more prepared to digest with ease, than with DIS-ease. When you’re in a hurry, angry, stressed or nervous you release chemicals that inhibit proper break down of your food, incomplete break down of food produces toxic by-products that if not eliminated, build up in the system. In the same way, if your mind is filled with toxic or unpleasant thought you release stress hormones which continually break cells down rather than build them up. Ayurveda and yoga philosophy emphasize meditation before eating to clear your mind and calm your body.
So put your mind and gut at ease, slow down, take a deep breath, sit down and eat a meal with friends.
It’s taken me over 7 years to post this mostly because I told myself I wouldn’t teach something unless I could master it myself. Then the years passed and I figured if it hasn’t happened by now it may never, or I could be dead before it does! So what is this mastery I’ve strove for? It is as simple as sitting down to eat, every meal, every time. Preferably at a table, not standing up, lying down, in the car, while typing, texting, reading, arguing, or to ever eat alone if at all possible btw pets count as eating companions).I wanted to be able to write authentically in the work I call “The Meal” which many of you have heard about for almost a decade now. I finally realized that if I write truthfully it’s just the same as authentically so TRUTHFULLY, I have spent many hours yelling at my mother, husband, child and other family members to “SIT down and eat”, but haven’t been able to completely do it myself. It’s a modern struggle we have to just pop food in our mouths without any conscious realization of what’s going on, what’s going in or even remembering that we just ate!
Eating food is more than just the physical action of chewing, satiation and digestion. It is a process, that once sacred, has become mundane or abused. It is the process of earth matter and energy becoming part of our being and consciousness. We’ve heard it a thousand times: We truly are what we eat. And what’s even more important to our health is WHO we eat with, HOW we eat, and even WHERE we eat.
The meal is equally simple and complex. I’ve compiled personal stories and research regarding the spiritual, social and cultural aspects of the Meal from my travels, studies and professional life in health care. There is no better time to share than in a New Year, while I’m alive, healthy and still trying to master the art of sitting down for the sacred experience of eating. Maybe this year we can all endure the challenge together. Happy New Year and let’s eat!