Italian Summer Pasta Salad

 Italian Summer Pasta Salad1

 

After radio silence for 3 weeks, I’m back. Again. Can’t say for how long but I am here. So how are things guys? Here, monsoon has almost arrived and summer is officially over (for good!). But here I am, with a huge backlog of summer recipes. What am I to do when all these days I have been cooking all things “summery” regularly but not getting time to post them. Let’s just say that it is still summer somewhere in the world, right?! 😉

I love anything and everything Italian so when I came across this pretty looking salad on Sommer’s amazing blog I knew I had to get to it pronto. It is so good and SO refreshing! Zests of orange and lemon, al dente pasta, orange chunks, tiny tomatoes and torn basil all tied together with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. What’s not to love? Must try, whatever time of year it is for you.

I hope you’re having an awesome weekend.
Stay cozy, it’s gonna be a rainy one! xx

 

Italian Summer Pasta Salad3

 

Italian Summer Pasta Salad

Recipe scaled down & adapted from A Spicy Perspective

Yield: 2-3 servings | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Total: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat Farfalle pasta
  • 1 naval orange, zest and orange segments
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup scallions, cut into 1 inch segments
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • 3 Tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, zest the orange and lemon. Place the zest and the juice of lemon in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and whisk. Peel the orange, gently break the segments apart and seed them. Place them in the bowl.
  3. Slice the tomatoes in half and add to the bowl. Then pour the drained pasta over the tomatoes and gently toss to coat. Add the scallions and basil leaves to the bowl and toss. Salt and pepper generously, about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: I didn’t have scallions at hand so I had to skip them but they are highly recommended as it’d add some crunch & make the dish all the more flavorsome. 🙂

 

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5-minute Tomato Pasta Sauce ~ Meal for Two & Some Chit Chat

5-Minutes Tomato Pasta Sauce1

 

Let’s chat, shall we!? Time to end the lazy slump I’ve been rolling in lately. A lot’s been going on around here and I’m up for a full disclosure now. I did slip the news on Instagram couple of weeks ago but didn’t announce officially on the blog. So here it goes!! Drum-rolls please!!! I am going to LONDON this FALL for a one year postgraduate programme!!!!! WOHOOOO!!!!!!! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!! Sorry for all the yelling but I’m SOOOOO excited for this new chapter of my life to begin. This year has been truly magical so far!

I got the confirmed offer on my admission about a couple months ago but was skeptical on sharing the news as there were so many things to consider and plan for before I decide to accept the offer. Let’s just say I didn’t want to jinx it! I was ecstatic (to say the least) to get into this prestigious college. I was (still am!) over the MOON would be an understatement. I leave in September and there is so much to do. I need to visit my parents, apply for Visa, do the shopping, pack my bags and off I go. Fingers crossed for a smooth sailing!

Now here is a bit of not-so-good-news. Umm… I’m not sure if I’ll be able to continue blogging along with my studies but I’m not going to incessantly worry over something I can’t control. As of now, the only thing I’m sure of is that the programme is going to be very intense and I am going to have to give my 101% attention to it, even if blogging takes a backseat. I AM absolutely ready to prioritize. I love blogging so much therefore I’ll be blogging here as much as I can until September and after that we’ll see how things go. I would love to pop over in between during my stay in London to share my experiences in new country, food related or not. I will definitely try to stay as active as possible on Instagram nonetheless so do follow me there to stay in touch and be my companion on #LondonDiaries! 🙂

*Recipe*

This recipe I am sharing today is bonkers awesome! It is the quickest meal I have ever made (apart from toss-in-all-you-have salads or couscous!). If you can boil the pasta then you can make this recipe. This one here is basically foolproof! The tomato paste (Brand name – Splitz) I used for this quick pasta sauce is made locally in Bangalore and the ingredients list reads – Tomatoes. That’s it! It does not have any funky ingredients I can’t understand or pronounce, just pure tomato goodness without any color or preservative or salt! Too good to be true and but sadly, it is mostly available only in Bangalore. But fret not. You can go ahead and try any other good, organic tomato paste you can find in the store near you.

This packet is definitely going with me everywhere I travel. I guess it’d be a blessing during my soon-to-start student life! What a cheap, no-fuss and delicious meal option with so many possibilities. Add any number of vegetables to this dish to make it more hearty and fulfilling. Just a heaping Tablespoon of this potent tomato paste is enough for one portion. You can tell I’m quite impressed! What can I say, sometimes simple is truly THE BEST! xx

 

5-Minute Tomato Pasta Sauce2

 

Quickest Tomato Pasta Sauce ~ Dinner for Two

Yields: 2 generous servings | Prep time: 2 minutes |Cook time: 15 minutes | Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups macaroni pasta
  • 1 cup pasta water, reserved after boiling
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • Scant 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dry basil herb
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • Shavings of Parmesan cheese
Directions:
  1. Cook pasta as per the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.
  2. In the meantime, heat the pan on a medium-high heat. Add olive oil, garlic and onion and sauté for a minute. Add tomato paste and salt and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, scraping and stirring occasionally. The tomato paste will turn brown and this will enhance the flavors. Mix in basil and pepper and cook for another minute.
  3. Stir in 3/4 cup of reserved pasta water to the tomato paste and magically you’ll get your pasta sauce ready! If you want thinner consistency sauce, add remaining 1/4 cup pasta water too. Stir in the drained pasta. Divide between 2 serving dishes. Top with some shavings of Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Notes:
*You can add vegetables of your choice to make the meal more hearty. Just sauté the vegetables along with garlic and onion before adding tomato paste to the mix. Zucchini, broccoli, eggplant, bell peppers…. sky is the limit!
*You may also top the pasta with capers or olives.
*Use whole wheat or quinoa pasta to make this meal healthier. 
*Use penne or spaghetti pasta instead of macaroni.

Vegetable Whole-Wheat Noodle Bowl ~ For Two

Vegetable Whole-Wheat Noodle Bowl ~ For Two1

 

This peanut butter-flavored dish is a cinch to throw together. So convenient on a weeknight or when you’re just lazy. Just boil a pot of water, saute some vegetables and whisk together some sauces from your pantry. Dinner is served!

Vegetable Whole-wheat Noodle Bowl

Serves:2 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Total: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

For noodle bowl:

  • 2 nests of whole wheat noodles
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into 2 inch thin strips
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 small bunch of scallions (spring onions), finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lightly toasted white sesame seeds*, for topping

*You may use toasted peanuts too instead.

For sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • big pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp of hot water (or a little more to achieve a thin yogurt-like consistency of sauce)

Directions:

  1. Boil a medium sized pot of water. Add the whole wheat noodles and cook according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add oil and sauté  garlic for about 30 seconds. Add red pepper and broccoli to the pan and sauté for another 5 minutes over medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Whisk together all the ingredients for sauce, adding the hot water in increments at the end. You are going for a thin yogurt-like consistency.
  4. Once the noodles are cooked and drained, toss together the noodles, sautéd vegetables and scallions.
  5. Portion into small bowls and top with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Skinny Zesty Salad

Skinny Zesty Sala1

 

After hogging lots and lots of sweets and fried stuff during 5 days of festivities in the past week, believe it or not, but my digestive system needed a break. So I am doing a cleanse/detox for few days.

I made this skinny salad for lunch one day and have fallen in love with it since then. It is so versatile, protein-packed and healthy even for people with diet restrictions. Yes! It is suitable for all the vegetarians and vegans out there! A complete meal in itself.

Add any or all of the ingredients mentioned below or whatever you have in your refrigerator. Don’t like uncooked Paneer/tofu? Don’t worry! You can grill it with a bit of olive oil and some seasoning before adding it to your salad or skip it. I once made this with just apple, pear, pomegranate and it was still lip-smacking!

So do your body a favor, give yourself a break from cooking and make this hearty salad! 🙂

Skinny Zesty Sala2

Skinny Zesty Salad

Serves: 2 as a side and 1 as a main-course

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 200 gm Paneer/extra-firm tofu, cut into 2 inch-long thin strips
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped into thin strips
  • 1 small yellow zucchini, cut into semicircles
  • 1 small apple, thin slices
  • 4 Tbsp black olives
  • Bunch of lettuce
  • few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped

For dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Juice from 1 lemon, or more to taste
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat a small pan on stove and add 1/2 Tbsp oil to it. Add garlic and broccoli florets. Stir fry till cooked, approximately for 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to burn garlic. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for dressing.
  3. In a medium bowl, add stir-fried garlic and broccoli florets. To this, add prepared paneer/tofu, bell pepper, zucchini, apple and black olives. Pour dressing over it and toss nicely.
  4. In a salad serving bowl, arrange lettuce at the bottom. Add salad on top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately*.

*If serving later, refrigerate the salad and add apple just before serving.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Mediterranean Couscous1

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

This salad is just that. Simple yet flavorful. Hearty yet sophisticated. Perfect lunch/dinner for those lazy, laid back days. Even better when you have only 15-20 minutes to put up a dinner and have scarce produce in your pantry. You just need couscous and throw in as many or as less veggies you have and you’re all set!

You know I’m a sucker for those lazy, quick recipes and this one here ticks all the boxes for me. And ignore my reflection in a spoon in a pic below.. Thank you! 😛

Mediterranean Couscous2

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup couscous (I used Barilla Cous Cous)
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped or 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small English cucumber, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp sliced black olives (If using canned, drain and wash)
  • 2 Tbsp grated cottage cheese (can be substituted with Feta)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

For dressing:

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Make couscous according to the package instruction. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Add onion, tomato, cucumber, olives, cottage cheese and cilantro.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for dressing. Season it with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour the dressing over the couscous salad and toss until well combined. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

*This salad can be made in advance and will keep fresh in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
*You can make this salad vegan by replacing cottage cheese with tofu or simply omit it.

Skinny Zucchini Boats

Skinny Zucchini Boats5

My favorite vegetable of all-time! Such a versatile little thing… So much to create and experiment with! It was about time to get more creative and make these beautiful zucchini boats… Stuffed… Stuffed with cottage cheese filling and freshly prepared Marinara sauce! Oh yeah… you’re in for a treat!

Like I always say.. very easy and quick to prepare and perfect as a side or main course!

There are two parts to this dish – 1> filling and 2>fresh marinara sauce

Shucking the zucchini is lots of fun! If using medium sized zucchini then you can part them in middle and then divide them in half, lengthwise. If using smaller zucchinis then just divide them lengthwise. After this zucchinis are hollowed-out and stuffed with the prepared filling and topped with Marinara sauce. All the elements here are raw so it all comes together in no time! Bake them and they are ready to be gobbled!

Eat as many as you want as they are pretty light and low-cal! 😉Skinny Zucchini Boats1Skinny Zucchini Boats2

Skinny Zucchini Boats3Skinny Zucchini Boats4

Skinny Zucchini Boats

Yields: 8 zucchini boats | Serves: 2 for lunch/dinner and 4 as side-dish

Ingredients:

Marinara Sauce:

  • 4-5 tomatoes, blanched, skin peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Skinny Zucchini Boats:

  • 2 medium zucchinis, halved and cut lengthwise
  • 100 gm cottage cheese, grated
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, diced
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

For Marinara sauce: 

  • In a small pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and saute garlic. Be careful not to burn.
  • Add tomatoes, bay leaf, chili flakes, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the bay leaf and mash tomatoes nicely. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

For Skinny Zucchini Boats:

  • Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F. After cutting zucchini in half lengthwise, use a spoon or melon baller to scoop out flesh, leaving 1/4″ thick. Discard the flesh or use it in your next veggie recipe.
  • In a small bowl, mix together cottage cheese, red bell pepper, parsley, chilli flakes, salt and pepper.
  • Place scooped out side up on the baking sheet and season it with salt and pepper. With spoon, fill each hollowed-out zucchini with about 2 Tbsp of cottage cheese stuffing and press firmly. Top it generously with marinara sauce.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or till zucchini is cooked through. Serve hot!

*Cheese-lovers don’t be disappointed! ~ Top zucchini boats with mix of grated Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese before baking. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or till cheese melts completely.
*Basil-lovers can replace parsley with basil leaves, both in filling and Marinara sauce.

 

Skinny Basil Veggie Kebabs with Corn Salad

Skinny Basil Veggie Kebobs with Corn Salad4

This week is going to be fun, though I will have to wait for the weekend for really good stuff to begin. I am celebrating my 28th birthday this Friday! I think birthdays should be a month-long celebration but we are all time-pressed in life! Not that it’s any excuse to ignore the small joys life brings our way but sadly, that’s the cruel reality!

Still nothing can slow down the excitement which is coursing through me! Another year has passed by and this year I am feeling more grown-up than ever! It is true that at the moment I am amongst the mayhem in my life as career transition and so much more is happening. Life is a mess right now.. nonetheless a beautiful mess!

Let’s leave it at that and talk about our today’s recipe. It is a very simple yet delicious way to include so many veggies in your dinner. A light yet filling. I made this last week for dinner and it was so gratifying to get to eat it between the all-week ice-cream madness happening in the house!

Skinny Basil Veggie Kebobs with Corn Salad1

Skinny Basil Veggie Kebobs with Corn Salad2

Skinny Basil Veggie Kebobs with Corn Salad3

It was kind of cleaning-my-refrigerator day so whatever I had on hand I put that under the marinade and I was glad I did! You can also throw in whatever you have at home. Button mushrooms would be a great addition! I prepared the marinade the night before so the flavors were super-intense. But you can do this at least 4 hours before grill time. It makes a super-quick week-night dinner!

I don’t own a grill so I used my convection oven which came with rotisserie. Veggies could not get charred at all in the oven but they cooked perfectly. Nice and juicy! But if you own one (needless to say in that case, I’m totally J), it will make a great recipe for a BBQ party and the veggies will char beautifully!

Skinny Basil Veggie Kebobs with Corn Salad5

Skinny Basil Veggie Kebabs with Corn Salad

Serves: 2-3

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients:

Marinade:

1 and 1/2 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup yogurt (I used home-made)
4-5 cloves of garlic
salt and freshly cracked pepper, as per taste
1 tsp garam masala powder
dash of lemon juice

Kebabs:

1 zucchini (medium sized)
1 bell pepper (I used yellow)
1 large red onion
1 large tomato (de~seeded)
200 gm cottage cheese

Corn Salad:

1 cup boiled sweet corn
1 small cucumber, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dry basil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp yogurt

Directions:

  1. At least 4 hours before, blend all the ingredients for marinade to a smooth puree. Adjust the seasoning as per your taste. Cut veggies into 1″ cubes and toss with marinade in a bowl. Cover it and refrigerate until ready to cook.
  2. When ready, light grill. Using the wood or skewers, insert the veggies. Place on grill and cook on each side for 3-4 minutes till the veggies are uniformly charred.  *I don’t have grill so I used rotisserie function of my convection oven and cooked as per the instruction manual. Hence the char was missing but kebabs were cooked beautifully.
  3. While veggies cook, mix the ingredients for corn salad in a bowl and toss thoroughly.
  4. Serve skewers topped with remaining marinade (if any) alongside the corn salad.

*You can make this recipe vegan – by replacing yogurt with soy yogurt in marinade, replacing cottage cheese with tofu and in corn salad, omit mayonnaise and use soy yogurt instead.