Pumpkin Lasagna

Pumpkin Lasagna sounds a little strange, right? Even though it gets put in a lot of sweet seasonal things, pumpkin is just another squash when it comes down to it, and it makes an absolutely delicious lasagna! I made a full batch of this and it has made many a lovely lunch and dinner for Tim and me. If you’ve never tried pumpkin in a savory dish, I would definitely recommend trying this out – it is definitely going to become a regular dinner item in this house!

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Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Oreganata Pasta

Having an herb garden is the most amazing thing. Tim and I did some serious gardening this spring – we have a regular garden with tomatoes, squash, green beans, jalapenos, and potatoes.  We also have this amazing planter that runs along the garage (about 15 feet); it has perfect soil and perfect shading, and it has become my herb and flower garden. We have green onions, two types of basil, parsley, thyme, chives, sage, and even cilantro (which I despise). Every night when I’m making dinner, I get such a thrill out of walking to the back yard to snip what I need.

I’ve been visiting the garden often lately because I’ve been making a lot of Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipes. She was on the cover of Bon Appétit a couple months ago, and I made two of the recipes – the Halibut with Mango Avocado Salsa (Thanks, Karen!), and this one, and they were both so great that I bought her new cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. What I like about her style is that it’s to the point, simple, and natural. She talks about her kids a lot, which I like, and includes a significant number of vegetarian recipes for a non-vegetarian cookbook…at the same time, my very carnivorous boyfriend found plenty of options, too. I’m sure I’ll be posting more from her!

Beer and Gouda Risotto

Despite the fact that it has been been between 80 to 100+ degrees every day for the past few weeks, I have been craving risotto like a mad woman. Nevermind the fact that it requires about an hour (maybe a little less) over a hot stove in a house that doesn’t have central air conditioning. I know it’s not just for the excuse to open a bottle of wine (or beer, in this case), and I certainly don’t enjoy sweating any more than necessary. Risotto is fun to experiment with; it’s an enjoyable way to pass the time and end up with a dish that feels like I put a little work into it, even though all it really requires is stirring and sipping a cool beverage.

one for the risotto...one for the cook

I usually use a dry white wine for risotto (see here and here), but this time I wondered if beer would be a successful switch. I’ve been obsessed with Firestone’s summer release, Solace, so that was the beer I decided to use…because of course I had to drink my accompaniment! It will be fun to experiment with beers of different intensities. Solace is on the lighter side. I’d be very curious to try a porter risotto – but maybe I’ll wait for the fall for that one!

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Fried Fish Sandwiches

This recipe was inspired by summer – there’s nothing like a lazy meal on a hot day (preferably by the water). These sandwiches take me to one of those typical fish joints on the beach where they call your number over a loudspeaker when your order is ready – because of course, who wants to be indoors in the summertime? Easy, quick, fresh and delicious; and honestly, not that bad for you compared to other fried things you might imbibe in this summer (Deep Fried Twinkies?).

If you want to class up your homemade fried fish even more, I would recommend pairing these with a bright Rosé. I am beyond obsessed with Villicana Winery’s 2010 Rosé – I literally take it to every summer social event and drink it at home, too. The wine goes great with spicy foods and while this fish isn’t particularly spicy, if you wanted to up the cayenne to a full teaspoon or sprinkle some on while cooking, you’d definitely get a nice kick. Cheers!

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Tomato Risotto

I have to tell you: I’ve fallen in love with risotto. It’s versatile and able to incorporate whatever produce I have on hand. It is an elegant dish but just takes a little time and a lot of wooden spoon action. It’s a great way to showcase spring ingredients while still feeling cozy on cool evenings…and while I don’t need an excuse to stand at the stove sipping white wine, this certainly is a romantic way to do it.

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Pasta with Sweet English Peas

At our tiny Paso Robles Farmer’s Market, I have found just one vendor who carries Sweet English Peas. I have been buying a few handfuls every Tuesday afternoon for the past couple weeks – fresh peas are so much fun! We don’t have a rocking chair or a wraparound porch, but shelling fresh peas evokes the image of a Southern Grandma prepping dinner on a quiet afternoon.

One thing that might surprise you if you are used to frozen peas is the size of fresh peas. They’re huge and plump compared to the itty bitty guys in the plastic bag. Fresh peas are tasty right out of the pod and “pop” in your mouth when you bite down on them, releasing their bright, springtime flavor. Fresh peas are best served simply, like in this pasta dish.

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Pesto Trapenese

Spring is officially here, and being on the Central Coast, that means it is almost summer! All the signs are here: the garden is taking off, sundresses and sandals have made their way back into the daily rotation, and I’ve been craving soft serve every evening.

Although this is certainly more a late-summer meal and would have been infinitely better had the tomatoes been from our own garden instead of the grocery store, it was still just fine as it didn’t involve standing over a hot stove and was quick and fresh and just what we were craving on one of our first long summer nights of the year.

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