By Cal Orey
As we’re edging into fall it’s still too warm to cook and bake. The thing is, I’m a bit tired of no-cook meals: salads, salads, salads. But this month, to turn on the oven is just not happening. The dilemma is, I’m a bit jaded on rabbit food. So, I decided to stir things up a bit in the kitchen for you and me.
This Stir-fry meal takes me back to a time when I was in grad school. I went on a cooking strike (again) while studying for oral exams during Indian summer in the San Francisco Bay Area. I digress. One night I opened up the freezer door and instead of being greeted by ice cream, I got a head’s up. A dozen boxes of Lean Cuisine quickie microwave pasta meals greeted me...
...It was a sign. Images of the film Sleeping with the Enemy come to mind (the scene where all the canned food is lined up in a row). My mate left the nondescript food and was leaving on a jet plane for work to go to fun by-the-water places while I stayed home and hit the books (not unlike now while I write books for a living). Each night, day after day, as I nuked and consumed the dinner-in-a-box I was envious of not being free and on the road, living real life and savoring real food. But I survived.
Fast forward to present-day. Instead of eating frozen food, I can and do whip up the real stuff. While the heat is on it’s time to turn to pasta and summertime vegetables. Not only is this easy breezy dish easy to create, it’s fast and fresh. Translation: You can get out of the kitchen and leave cooking and baking for autumn when the air is crisp.
PENNE PASTA WITH STIR-FRY VEGGIES
2 cups cooked Whole Grain Penne pasta (or Tri-Color Penne)
1 tablespoon European-style butter
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
¼ cup green bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup zucchini, chopped or sliced
¼ cup Roma tomatoes, sliced
¼ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, shavings
Fresh basil (garnish)
In a saucepan, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and butter in large sauté pan or wok over high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and tomatoes. Stir-fry until all ingredients are hot, vegetables tender. Cook for no longer than 5 minutes. Drain pasta. In a large dish, place pasta (you can drain or not) fold in vegetables. Top with cheese. Drizzle with olive oil. Serves 4. *If you want to add lean protein, try 8 ounces jumbo shrimp, cooked, rinsed. Add to the vegetable mix and stir-fry along with the colorful bunch.
This quickie real food hits the spot for lunch or dinner. Add slices of herbal bread from your favorite local bakery. And don’t forget iced tea with fresh lemon slices. Go ahead and treat yourself to a scoop of cold gelato (chocolate chip with mint sprigs) for a treat after. So, this is how we do in the summertime on the South Shore. No time to bake indoors when there’s plenty left to do outdoors as the dog days of summer (and walking the dog) linger on.
--Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, and Superfoods) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is www.calorey.com .