Trottole Pasta with Summer Squash and Feta

by Michelle on July 26, 2017

I love a good pasta salad. It’s easy to prepare, is a filling side dish at barbecues and parties and can be customized to  whatever you happen to have in the fridge or the garden, especially during the summer months. The one thing that really makes a pasta salad stand out is the type of pasta you use. This is where you need to go beyond the elbow shaped “macaroni” salads of yesteryear (heavy on the tuna and mayo, no doubt) and branch out to a more sophisticated spiral. One of my favorite types of pasta to use is trottole. It’s pretty and hearty and makes whatever dish it’s used in look vibrant and appealing. I love the combination of feta, red onion and tomato in a salad like this one, but on the day I was making pasta salad for a party, I didn’t have any tomato. Alas, I did have an abundance of squash from the farmers market, so I decided to saute some up, throw in some kalamata olives for extra saltiness and then douse the whole thing in crumbled feta and olive oil. Yum, yum, yum! My guests raved about the flavor as I reveled in how easy it was to throw together. File this one away for your next party. Your guests won’t be disappointed!

Note: As with most of the salads I make, I rarely measure out ingredients. I mean, can you really go wrong with adding extra cheese? Start with these quantities and then add more to taste. If you aren’t serving it right away, the pasta tends to absorb the feta and olive oil when it’s in the fridge, so toss in another handful of cheese and give it another drizzle of olive oil before serving.


Trottole Pasta with Summer Squash and Feta

1 box of trottole-shaped pasta

2 medium summer squash (use yellow and green for added color) cubed

1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin

1/4 cup of kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

1/4 cup crumbled feta

Olive oil



Boil the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, cube the squash, add a little oil to a skillet and saute until tender. When the pasta is done and drained, add it to a large bowl. Add the cooked squash, the feta, red onion and olives. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld, or refrigerate and serve later, adding more feta and olive oil as needed.



Garlic Scape Pesto with Sunflower Seeds

by Michelle on July 13, 2017

I have been making garlic scape pesto for several summers now but I usually do so with slivered almonds or walnuts. But that can be hard to serve to a crowd because many people have nut allergies. So I was surprised and intrigued when my neighbor, Anne, a horticultural therapist, invited me to a cooking demonstration at the community garden she oversees. On the menu was garlic scape pesto, but her version was made with sunflower seeds! I’d never thought of this before. Not only do the seeds provide the same heft and chunk to the pesto as nuts do, but they are more allergy friendly. That weekend, I picked up my first batch of scapes from the farmers market and made my own pesto using sunflower seeds.

Yum, yum, yum. Since then, I’ve made several batches of this stuff and have served it at parties, much to the delight of my guests. Incidentally, if you’ve never seen a garlic scape before, they’re the long green, curly shoots that grow from the top of the garlic plant. You can often find them in early to mid summer in bundles at farmers markets or in a CSA haul (I’ve yet to see them in a grocery store) and they have a strong garlicky flavor—much more pronounced than a clove. So if you’re a garlic fan, you’ll probably love this recipe. Doubly so if you have a nut allergy.

Truth be told, I do not measure ingredients out for pesto. I do it completely by taste and go a little heavy on the cheese, because when is too much cheese ever really a problem, right?  I’ve also started adding half of an avocado to the mix because I like the creaminess it gives the pesto. I’m giving you loose estimations here but customize this to your taste. And then be sure to eat it with crusty bread, good quality mozzarella cheese, and heirloom tomatoes, if they’re available in your area.


Garlic Scape Pesto With Sunflower Seeds

6-8 garlic scapes, cut into 1/2 pieces

1 cup of olive oil

1/2 cup of parmigiano cheese, grated

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

1/2 of an avocado

A pinch of salt


Put everything but the olive oil and avocado in a food processor. Add some of the oil and turn the food processor on, adding more oil as needed and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Keep sampling the pesto and adding more of each ingredient to taste.  Add the avocado last, give it a final few pulses until it’s creamy and at the desired consistency. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.


It’s been months since I’ve posted anything new, mainly because I’ve been busy with other writing projects and have been relying on my favorite standbys when it comes to meal prep. However, now that summer is here, and my planting is done, and I’m just starting to see little baby zucchini and squash and tomatoes sprouting in the garden, I am ready to harness the season.

A few nights ago, some friends had come over for an impromptu pizza dinner and I wanted to make a quick salad to go with it. I had an abundance of watermelon, as well as some feta and arugula in the fridge. I threw it all together, tossed in some mint I had picked from my garden, drizzled it with good balsamic, olive oil  and a splash of lemon juice and served it to my guests. They raved! So did my husband, who isn’t a huge fan of either watermelon or feta. I filed this salad into the easy, weeknight side dishes folder that exists in my mind.

The next day we had family over for swimming and grilling and I wanted to make this salad again, but I wanted it to be a bit heartier, since I didn’t have time to make a pasta salad. I’m slightly obsessed with Israeli couscous right now (also called pearled couscous), a larger, slightly chewier version of couscous whose texture is similar to barley or farro. I thought it might pair well with the rest of the ingredients.

And oh was I right! This salad is fabulous! I made a big bowl of it and there weren’t any leftovers. It’s light, it’s flavorful, it has cheese and fruit in it…basically it’s everything a summer salad should be. Oh and I did I mention how easy it is? You’ll want to make this salad all summer long!

Note: I first became a fan of Israeli couscous after reading an article about it in Cook’s Illustrated awhile back. Their solution to maximizing the flavor and texture is to toast the couscous in the pot with a little bit of olive oil until it lightly browns, then add water and salt. This really brings out the couscous’ nuttiness. They also recommend spreading the couscous out on a baking sheet and letting it cool before adding it to a salad. Doing so allows it to retain its chewy texture without being gummy. Definitely do this.


Israeli Couscous With Watermelon, Feta and Arugula 

Serves 6

2 cups of Israeli couscous, uncooked (see directions below)

1 5-ounce clamshell of organic arugula

1-2 cups of watermelon, cubed

1/2 cup feta, crumbled (add more or less to taste)

6-8 sprigs of mint, chopped

Good quality aged balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Lemon juice to taste

Directions for couscous:

Heat the couscous with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until some of the grains turn golden brown. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until most of the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered for three minutes. Transfer the couscous to a rimmed baking sheet and allow it to cool for 15 minutes before adding to the salad.

Add the couscous, arugula, watermelon, feta and mint to a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, balsamic and lemon juice to taste. Give it a toss and serve immediately. (You can also make the couscous ahead of time and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the salad.)