Farmers’ Market Pasta with Leeks, Spinach and Summer Squash

Recently Cook’s Country magazine arrived in the mail for the first time, and I think it has potential to be a good one. As a subscriber of the now defunct Cook’s Illustrated Entertaining¬†editions, I am assuming this magazine was sent in its place. Slowly but surely, life is starting to feel normal again. Well, normalish. Normalish enough that I actually opened up the magazine and looked at some recipes instead of filing it away unread. Any progress is good progress, right?

Of course I went to the quick and easy recipes first. I try to do a lot of my cooking and food prep in the morning before work, because I’m not usually home until 7:00 pm — and by then, I’m in no shape to tie my shoes let alone work with fire. A recipe like this is right up my alley: fresh, flavorful, one pot, and with some added protein, it’s a complete meal. It looked way too beige for my liking, so I added some cherry tomatoes. Since I also added a bit of arugula, I skipped the basil in the original recipe, but that might be preferable if you are just using spinach. This is both good served warm and at room temperature, and a nice change from the normal pasta salads we see this time of year.

Farmers’ Market Pasta with Leeks, Spinach and Summer Squash
inspired by Cook’s Country June/July 2013

1 pound penne or similar pasta
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, & washed thoroughly
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 yellow summer squash (about 8 oz each), halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 oz (6 cups) baby spinach, chopped coarse
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 ounces good Parmesan grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Optional: 2 cups grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp
Optional but recommended: a handful of arugula

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add penne and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup cooking water, then drain penne.

2. Heat oil in now empty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add leeks and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add squash and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water and cook, covered, until squash is tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in penne, spinach, Parmesan, tomatoes, remaining 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, and butter until combined. Add cooked chicken, salmon or shrimp, if using. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing extra Parmesan separately.


Orzo and Roasted Vegetable Salad

This is one of my all-time favorite pasta salads which was introduced to me by one of my favorite hostesses. It’s so simple, healthy, and — dare I say — elegant for a pasta salad. It is also open to improvisation, so feel free to add or subtract vegetables to your liking.

While you can certainly use a store bought basting oil to roast your veggies, I prefer to use my own concoction. Just add one clove of minced garlic and some fresh herbs such as thyme and parsley to about half a cup of olive oil, stir well, and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Plain old olive oil works just fine, too.

Tiffany’s Orzo and Roasted Vegetable Salad


1 box orzo

asparagus (but I used broccoli rabe because: 1) it’s awesome and 2) no asparagus in the house)

red, yellow, orange peppers


red onion

eggplant (I used three different colors since I’m so fancy and kind of a showoff)

olive oil

kosher salt

fresh herbs such as basil, parsley and thyme (dried if you’re lame like me)

feta cheese

black olives

Mix veggies in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes or until brown. I like to do the eggplant in one batch and everything else in a second batch. Cool veggies.

Cook orzo according to package directions. Cool orzo.

Mix orzo with veggies, olive oil, salt and pepper, and add feta cheese, fresh basil, sliced cherry or grape tomatoes, and juice from 1/2 a lemon.

Three kinds of eggplant to impress one’s guests.

Veggies awaiting their orzo mating

Ready to party!