This recipe is a bit of a late spring, early summer, love story. It’s the time of year when you get to fall in love with your ingredients again, and find new ways to make them shine. This year, I became acutely aware of the spring fling many foodies, farmers, and chefs have when asparagus is at its peak. Their shared obsession with the fleshy and flavorful spears is a borderline infatuation – with nearly every recipe or menu boasting a new method for preparing this springtime fantasy.
As soon as Deb’s recipe for pasta salad with roasted carrots and sunflower seed dressing popped up on my Instagram feed, my heart fluttered and I knew I had to court it in my kitchen immediately. I could already taste the sweetness of the oven-roasted carrots melting in my mouth against the slight crunch of the sunflower seed dressing, effectively masquerading pasta as a healthy lunch.
I fell in love with this recipe even more in practice because it tricks you into thinking it’s going to be labor intensive with the roasting, boiling, blending, and saucing involved. But each piece comes together smoothly while the other piece is cooking along, making it a well-orchestrated dish for an early summer weeknight meal. While the foundation of the recipe below sticks closely to Deb’s recipe genius, I opted to add some vegetable diversity and pay homage to our springtime debutante, asparagus. I swapped the carrot tops out for parsley for a brighter and less bitter taste.
Spring Vegetable & Sunflower Pesto Pasta
Total time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4-5 people
Source: Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta Salad with Roasted Carrots and Sunflower Seed Dressing
One bunch asparagus (thick stalks work well here)
Preheat the oven to 500° F and fill a large pasta pot with water, salted and put over high heat to come to boil. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
While the oven is preheating, peel the carrots and the bottom half of the asparagus stems, snapping the stems where they are naturally pliable. Lay the carrots and asparagus out on the baking sheet with room to wiggle. Douse the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Pop the baking sheet into the preheated oven and set a timer for 15 minutes, tossing the vegetables halfway through. After 15 minutes, remove the asparagus from the baking sheet and place on a cutting board. Pop the carrots back in for another 5 to 7 minute depending on their girth. Alternatively, you can leave the asparagus in the full time if you like them rich and melt-in-your-mouth like I do.
Once the water in the pot comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and set aside. You can let the pasta cool completely as Deb suggests, but I found I prefer this pasta salad slightly warmed by the residual heat of the pasta and vegetables.
Blitz together in a food processor the sunflower seeds, parsley, Parmesan, lemon zest, salt, garlic powder, red pepper and ground black pepper. The consistency should be finely crumbled, but not so far that it turns into a paste. Add the crumbles to a large mixing bowl and stir in the olive oil and lemon juice.
Now you are ready to put it all together. Slice the asparagus and carrots into 1.5” pieces, cutting any thick segment in half or in quarters. Toss the pasta and sliced vegetables in the large mixing boil with the sunflower pesto.
Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Granola is one of those staples that either fails to rise to the task of morning nourishment, on par with a sad bowl of cold cereal, or comes in with flying colors. Growing up, my mom’s mystical granola was up there in the same league as blueberry pancakes or a well-executed breakfast sandwich. In college, I’d fend off hungry roommates from my coveted yogurt container filled to the brim with the crispy oats, pecans, and cranberries. This was the granola I knew best, and damn, was it good.
However, there came a point when I realized I couldn’t drive to New Hampshire every time I needed a granola fix and my wallet couldn’t subsidize $8 sacks of granola with barely enough contents for a week of breakfasts. Cue the Internet, and Cookie + Kate’s supremely simple and satisfying granola. It would be exaggeration to call this recipe life changing, but I will admit to it being mind altering. With this recipe in hand you can make yourself a two week supply of granola with all your favorite fixings in the perfect ratio (for me, that means heavy on the oats and dried fruit, light on the nuts and seeds) in under 35 minutes.
While my go-to combination is still pecans, dried cranberries, and a hint of cinnamon, I wanted to give you a variation more suited to the summer months. The turmeric and ginger give the granola a pop of color and an unexpected, but welcome, warmth beneath a blanket of tangy yogurt. The dried papaya and apricots could easily be swapped for your favorite fruits, but I enjoy the textural diversity of the chewy papaya and soft apricots against the crunch of the oat clusters and rich macadamia nuts.
coconut macadamia granola
Total time: 35 minutes (plus cooling for a few hours or overnight)
Serves: 15-20 portions
Source: Adapted from Cookie + Kate, “The Very Best Granola Recipe."
4 cups thick rolled oats
* ½ cup of honey gets you more crunch and glaze, but not in an overly sweet way. If you do want to cut back the AM sugar rush – this works just fine with 1/3 cup, but I wouldn’t use any less than that.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Pour the oats, coconut flakes, chopped macadamia nuts, turmeric, ginger, and salt into a large bowl. If your coconut flakes are oversized, break them into more manageable-sized flakes with your fingers. Toss the dry ingredients together with a spoon (or your hands). In a small bowl, melt the coconut oil in the microwave to bring it to a liquid state (15 to 20 seconds will do the trick). Add the honey and vanilla extract, and whisk gently to incorporate with the oil.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl. Stir until everything is well coated. The granola will be a delightful yellow hue from the turmeric.
Spread the granola out in an even layer on the lined baking sheet. Pop the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 26 minutes, stirring halfway through. In the meantime, chop up the papaya and apricots into bite-sized morsels.
Once lightly golden, take the granola out of the oven and let it cool completely on the baking sheet without touching it (important step to achieve your desired granola chunk-age). After the granola has cooled completely, sprinkle the papaya and apricots over the top and break up the sheet of granola into chunks to combine with the fruit. Store in an airtight container and revel in your newfound freedom from store-bought granola.
Enjoy with yogurt, fresh fruit, and a drizzle of honey.
It seems almost like a requirement for every food blog to have some variation of lentil soup presented to the Internet. Some are curried, some are meaty, and some are a little bit detox-y. But in my experience, nothing stands up to this simple, but flavorful, veggie-heavy, and stew-like version.
The recipe came to life during a particularly brutal New England winter, in a drafty apartment in Jamaica Plain I was sharing with my sister. This lentil soup is particularly good at satisfying you the same way a pile of pasta does – while making you feel less guilty about prior gastronomic indiscretions. I’ve borrowed my sister’s method of frying up the tomato paste with aromatic onions and garlic and included some tweaks to bump up the flavors.
Two Sisters Lentil SOup
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 8 hungry souls or 2 with leftovers for several days
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
* Any other dry cooking wine you have hanging around in the back of your fridge will work. You can also cut this and have a totally delicious soup.
* I prefer half red lentils and half green lentils for variety in texture.
* I used 2 tsp. chicken bouillon and 6 cups of water, but you can also do this recipe with water only and compensate with extra spices and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Mince garlic and dice onion. Measure out all spices into a small bowl. Rinse lentils in a mesh strainer thoroughly and check over for any little rocks.
Warm olive oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until golden and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add all the spices and stir to combine with the onions and garlic. Toss in the tomato paste and fry for 1-2 minutes (add more oil as needed). Right when everything is starting to brown and seems like it's seconds from disaster, pour in the Marsala wine to deglaze the pan. Now, add the lentils, broth, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and then reduce to low.
While the broth is coming to a simmer, chop the carrots and potatoes. Once the broth is simmering, add in the carrots, potatoes, and canned diced tomatoes. Cook until vegetables and lentils are tender, about 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prep the chard by chopping off the grungy ends, cutting the leaves in half along the stem, and slicing thinly into ribbons. When the veggies are cooked through, toss in the chard and cook until wilted, about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in a cozy bowl with ample Parmesan and bread for dipping.