Some days I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Today was one of those days. I read on the deck, worked in the flower beds, then hiked through the woods to the main road. In between all that, I put together this pasta salad, crisped up some chickpeas and zucchini, smashed strawberries with sugar and stirred together a shortcake. After all, I do like to eat good homemade food.
This pasta salad is especially good when you make it ahead of time so the flavors have a chance to mingle. Sometimes I add a jar of chopped artichoke hearts or shredded cooked chicken.
The chickpea and zucchini with yogurt dish is something different and flavorful that comes in handy when vegetarian friends come to call. I’m a big fan of the chickpea and always have cans of them on hand. As a matter of fact, a whole shelf in my pantry is dedicated to them. Crispy chickpeas can be added to so many recipes to add texture and crunch or just eat them out of hand sprinkled with your favorite spices.
And since it’s July, we must make strawberry shortcake. This recipe happens to be from my maternal grandmother. She whipped this giant biscuit together in no time flat, cut it into wedges and split them while still warm, then buttered the wedges before piling sugared berries or peaches on top. There was whipped cream, of course, and sometimes this alone was supper. Yes, Grandma had it going on.
Greek Tortellini Salad
1 20-ounce package refrigerated cheese tortellini
1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 large English cucumber, chopped
1 cup Kalamata olives, pits removed, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the tortellini according to the package directions then drain and rinse with cold water. Place the tortellini in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, red onion and feta cheese.
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Pour dressing over salad and toss until well-coated. Yield: 8 servings
Crispy Chickpeas with Zucchini & Yogurt
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 small garlic cloves, minced
2 cups plain yogurt
Sea salt and red pepper flakes
5-6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Zest and juice of 2 large lemons
4 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2-1 cup fresh mint, oregano, basil, parsley or a mixture of all, chopped
Spread chickpeas out in a single layer on paper towels and pat dry. Zest the lemons.
Stir together garlic, yogurt and a couple pinches of salt in a bowl until mixed, then divide among four serving plates, spreading to cover the bottom of each plate.
Heat 4-6 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chickpeas and cook, stirring to ensure they color evenly, until golden and crispy, about 10 minutes. (They’re going to crackle and pop as they fry so be careful.) Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chickpeas to paper towels to drain briefly. Season well while still hot with finely grated lemon zest, salt and red pepper flakes.
Add another tablespoon or so of oil, if needed, to the pan and warm again over medium-high heat. Add zucchini — you will not fit it all in one layer at a time. Don’t move it until it’s browned underneath, then turn in sections, repeating the don’t-move-until-browned method until the zucchini is tender and browned in spots. Season well with salt and pepper.
Divide zucchini and place onto prepared yogurt. Cut the zested lemons into quarters and drizzle the zucchini with the juice. Sprinkle chickpeas on top of zucchini. Finish with a small drizzle of olive oil and fresh herbs. Yield: 4 servings
Grandma Scanlon’s Shortcake
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. In a glass measuring cup, beat eggs then stir in melted butter. Add enough milk to measure 1 cup. Gently stir into dry ingredients and add more milk if needed to form a stiff dough.
Spoon dough into a buttered 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top and cooked through. Yield: 6-8 servings