Make Your Own Rules! Aka You’re the Boss & Cooking is More Fun that Way

I just returned from a 4-day camping trip/music festival. First day back was busy and hot. No time for a trip to the store and there was a hungry family to feed & we spent too much money on food at the festival:

 

What did I have on hand?

1 giant zucchini that I should have picked before I left. 1 slightly shriveled peach, 1 quart of cooked rice in the freezer as well as a loaf of bread, a head of lettuce that still had a decently fresh core, plenty of herbs in the garden, red lentils in the pantry, plus 1 onion and a few cloves of garlic, a bit of butter, spices and a can of coconut milk. And a handful of roasted, salted cashews.

 

The Menu:

Zucchini & Herb “Butter” + Toasted Bread

Red Lentil Dhal & Rice w/ Plenty of Mint

Green Salad w/ Peaches, Mint & Cashews

 

The Verdict:

Delicious + enough for lunch the next day + cooking without spending an (extra) dime makes me very happy

 

My “Rules” (for this meal):

  • Don’t hesitate to serve an Indian-inspired dish next to a French-inspired one next to an undefinable salad
  • Rich nuts like cashews can stand in for cheese in salad
  • Nuts are critical pantry staples
  • Grating the zucchini and squeezing out some of the liquid before sauteeing it makes it cook more quickly and have a better consistency
  • A zucchini that looks too big to be good can be delicious sauteed with plenty of butter & herbs
  • Grating vegetables is easy and often leads to creative uses
  • Growing a few herbs pays off big time
  • Fruit is wonderful in green salads
  • Butter & salt make everything better

What are you cooking on the fly these days?

 

Happy summer!

 

P.S. Need more regular tips and inspiration to eat well and spend less? Use discount code SUMMER for 20% of a subscription to the Seasonal Recipe Collection. 

 

Summer Squash Herb “Butter”

–inspired by Food52.com

 

Whenever you have a lot of squash this is the prefect thing to do. Grated, it cooks down quickly, turning into a sweet and savory side dish or spread. Spread it on toast in place of actual butter or add a thick layer in a sandwich with  tomatoes and/or soft cheese. You can use it as a pizza topping or a pasta sauce too.

 

Serves 4 as a side, 2 as more of main with an egg or a hearty salad, etc.

 

About 4-5 medium zucchini or any kind of summer squash (feel free to use less or add extra — cooking times will vary)

1/4 cup olive oil or butter (I prefer butter in this one)

½ a medium onion, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, mint, basil or parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Squeeze of lemon juice or drizzle of vinegar

 

Coarsely grate the squash on the large holes of a box grater. Squash is really the easiest thing to grate so it won’t take much time at all. If you feel like it you can sprinkle the pile of grated squash with a little salt and let it sit while you sauté the onions. Even in just a couple of minutes it will release a bit of liquid. Before adding the grated squash to the pan you can then squeeze handfuls of the squash over a sink to release some extra liquid which will speed up the cooking a bit. But don’t worry if you don’t–it will be just fine.

 

In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil/butter. Sauté the onion for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Add the squash and a few generous pinches of salt and toss and cook and stir over medium to medium-high heat until the squash is nice and soft and almost spreadable, about 15 minutes. If you scorch the bottom, turn the burner down a bit but don’t worry about the browned areas. They will add flavor and be sure to scrape them up and reincorporate. Just before the end of the cooking time add the herbs and incorporate well. Cook another minute or two, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and a little lemon juice—you don’t need much but just a little brightens it up nicely.