Asparagus and Zucchini Panini with Kale Chips

A couple of years ago, Jill’s grandma gave us a Wolfgang Puck Panini Maker as a gift. Honestly, I switched out the interchangeable plates and primarily used the panini maker as a waffle maker instead but this week Jill was craving panini for dinner. Because asparagus and zucchini are in season, we used these vegetables as the base of the panini. Kale chips sounded like the perfect, light side dish to pair with our cheesy, crispy panini.

I basically followed the recipe for kale chips featured on the popular food blog Kath Eats Real Food (KERF) using Lacinato Kale and seasoning it with some Hawaiian Red Salt that caught my eye at Earth Fare. Of course, you can always make kale chips with other varieties of kale and kosher salt or other seasonings.

Red salt and washed kale
Red salt and washed kale

Although I may have put a little too much salt on the kale chips, I liked the contrast between the deep dark green of the kale and the bold, clay-like red color of the sea salt.

Kale ready to go into the oven
Kale ready to go into the oven

The ingredient list for the panini is relatively short:

  • Sliced bread (whatever looks best at the bakery)
  • Pesto (store bought)
  • Grated part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Asparagus
  • Zucchini

To make the panini, spread one and a half teaspoons of pesto evenly over two slices of bread. I used a tuscan boule from the Earth Fare bakery for this sandwich. Then, I sprinkled about an ounce and a half of shredded mozzarella over the two slices of bread. I sliced the zucchini into thin circles and I sliced the asparagus in half and then in half again lengthwise (to keep them from rolling around on the sandwich and also help them cook evenly). Grill the sandwiches on the panini maker until the cheese melted and the bread had golden brown grill marks.

Making the panini
Making the panini

Jill and I split the sandwiches, each taking half of the asparagus panino and half of the zucchini panino. Though we enjoyed both, the consensus was the asparagus panino prevailed over the zucchini panino in taste. I thinkthe way the asparagus was sliced allowed for more mozzarella to melt between the vegetables, giving the asparagus panino delicious advantage over the zucchini panino. The kale chips paired well with the panini, making a dramatic (and healthy) alternative to potato chips. Although it seemed a little strange at first, we followed the KERF suggestions and ate the kale chips with ketchup and loved the flavor combination.

Panini with kale chips
Panini with kale chips

I encourage you to cook up some asparagus while it is in season and to be adventurous enough to make kale chips. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Rainbow Farfalle

A few months ago, Kaitlin and I were wandering around World Market (love that store!) and I was captivated by a box of rainbow farfalle. Farfalle, also know as bow-tie pasta, is one of my favorite shapes and, even better, the unique colors of the pasta came not from food coloring or dye but natural sources like beets, carrots, and spinach. I drooled over the box but ended up not purchasing it, only to be surprised when I received it as a gift for my birthday! Thanks, Kaitlin! Here is Artie’s recap of the delicious dinner he made the next night:

These fun bow-tie pastas had such unique multicolored striping, we didn’t feel that covering them in a jar of pasta sauce would do them justice. Instead, I opted to serve the pasta with an assortment of vegetables that mimicked the colors of the pasta.

Rainbow Farfalle
Rainbow Farfalle

To mimic the red, green, and beige stripes on the pasta, I decided to serve the pasta with tomatoes, zucchini, and chickpeas.

Vegetables that mimic the colors of the pasta
Vegetables that mimic the colors of the pasta

While the pasta boiled in salted water, I sautéed a couple cloves of garlic in olive oil over medium heat. I added diced pre-cooked chicken sausage and  sautéed until the edges started to turn light brown and crispy. I added diced zucchini and a can of peeled plum tomatoes. I seasoned the mixture with salt, pepper, dried oregano, and dried basil.

Chunky Homemade Pasta Sauce
Homemade Pasta Sauce

When the mixture cooked long enough to soften the zucchini (about as long as it took the pasta to finish cooking), I drained off the excess liquid from the sauce (the canned tomatoes can be a little big juicy) and gently folded in the pasta. The dish was topped with freshly grated parmesan.

Rainbow Farfalle with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Sausage
Rainbow Farfalle with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Chicken Sausage

With the rustic taste of the hearty vegetable sauce and the playful colors of the pasta, this rainbow farfalle dish affirmed the quote by Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, “Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”

Eggplant and Zucchini Pasta Bake

This dish is a recipe I created based on several ingredients that I happened to have and needed to use. I harvested three Japanese eggplant and a bowl full of heirloom tomatoes from my garden and wanted to use them while they were still fresh. Also, while visiting our friends Joshua and Erika Spence over the 4th of July, we stopped at the Winter Park farmers market and bought whole wheat mafaldine pasta from the Pappardelle’s Pasta stand. I had been waiting for the perfect time to use the pasta and decided not to wait any longer.

The ingredients

To make this dish, you need the following ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • 3 zucchini, cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • Tomatoes (I used three medium-sized tomatoes and five small, slightly larger than cherry tomato-sized, tomatoes), quartered
  • 2 bell peppers (I used one red and one yellow pepper), chopped
  • 8 oz Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 26oz jar pasta sauce (I used Field Day Organic Roasted Garlic pasta sauce)
  • 1/2 lb whole wheat pasta (I used mafadine, but a farfalle, ziti, or rotini would work well too)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Saute the onion and garlic in about two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Then add the eggplant and the zucchini. Saute for five minutes.

Eggplant fresh from my garden

Add the diced tomatoes to the pan and cook for another five minutes, stirring gently to distribute the heat. Add salt and pepper.

Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes from my garden

Stir in the jar of pasta sauce and turn the heat down to low. Simmer the vegetable mixture for 10 to 15 minutes minutes, stirring occasionally.

Vegetable mixture
The vegetable mixture before adding the pasta sauce

Prepare the pasta according the the directions on the package while the vegetable mixture simmers.

Dried whole wheat mafaldine

When the pasta has finished cooking, add the pasta to a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and cover with the vegetable mixture. Stir to mix well.

Pasta and veggies in a baking dish
The pasta and veggies in a baking dish

Top the pasta and veggies with a layer of mozzarella cheese.

Mozzarella Cheese Topping
Mozzarella Cheese Topping

After adding the mozzarella cheese topping, bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the cheese turns a light golden brown color.

The cheese has turned golden brown
Bake until the cheese turns a light golden brown color

Serve and enjoy.

Finished dinner on a plate

This dish is reminiscent of a spaghetti casserole, but the tomatoes make the sauce is a bit more vibrant than I typically find in a casserole and the whole wheat pasta complements the dish well without dominating the flavor. The whole wheat pasta also holds up well with the hearty sauce and vegetables.

Zucchini and Tomato Risotto

When we went to Georgia for my Grandma’s birthday, we received an abundance of zucchini my parents grew in their bountiful garden.  Not totally sure what to do with all of the zucchini, Jill and I started looking through cookbooks for inspiration. I came across a recipe for risotto. While I did not make the recipe I found, I did get inspired to make a risotto. This is my blending of two classic foods:  zucchini with tomatoes and risotto.

To make this risotto the way I did, you will need the following ingredients:

Ingredients on display

  • 1 and 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 5.5 oz tomato Juice
  • 5 shallots, finely diced
  • 5 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chardonnay
  • 15oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan cheese

To create the liquid for the risotto, I poured the vegetable broth, tomato juice, and liquid from the can of diced tomatoes into a pot over medium heat. Before the liquid began boiling, I turned the heat down to low and let the liquid simmer.

In a large skillet, I heated a nice glug of olive oil over medium heat. I didn’t measure the olive oil, but it was probably about 2 tablespoons. I sautéed the shallots until they were soft and add the zucchini and Chardonnay. I cook this for about 5 minutes, while stirring often.

Zucchini and Shallots
Zucchini and Shallots

I then added the arborio rice and cook the mixture for another minute. I added about a cup of the warm vegetable stock-tomato juice liquid to the zucchini, shallot, rice mixture and stirred until the liquid was absorbed. I then added about a half of a cup of the liquid and stirred until it was absorbed. I did this until all of the vegetable stock-tomato juice liquid was absorbed. I then added the diced tomatoes to the risotto and stirred for a few minutes.

Risotto Cooking on the StoveI turned the heat down to low and seasoned the risotto with salt and pepper. I then shredded parmesan cheese over the top of the risotto.

Risotto plated