Tag Archives: cherry tomatoes

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

The potluck is big in my family. At every family gathering there is a tasty spread, sometimes more varied than others. There was the year of six potato salads. All very similar since we all use my grandma’s recipe with our own little twists. But that’s another story. While I love potato salad, I usually opt to bring something for potlucks that is a little more temperature friendly. Call me paranoid, but mayonnaise-based food sitting out in the sun or at room temperature for hours makes me nervous.

This pasta salad is the answer to all of your potluck questions (or what to eat for your midnight snack questions). It tastes great hot cold or in between. It can be made ahead. As the veggies and noodles marinate in the beautiful vinaigrette, they just improve with time. And you get to use up all the extra veggies in your fridge. There is no downside here. Make this. Make it today. Don’t wait for the next potluck. You will love having this in your fridge.

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

1 or 2 summer squash or zucchini, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup olives, halved
1 tbsp. capers
1-2 banana peppers or sweet peppers, sliced or diced
2 tbsp. pesto
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 package rotini

In a large bowl combine pesto, olive oil, red wine vinegar and capers. Add salt & pepper to taste. Add all veggies, stir to coat and let sit for at least an hour.

The veggies. Marinate at least an hour for the most flavor.

The veggies. Marinate at least an hour for the most flavor.

Cook pasta until al dente. Rinse with cool water to stop cooking. Add to bowl with veggies and cheese, toss to combine. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Eat!

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Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

I hardly ever make appetizers since I don’t entertain much and I just don’t think to make appetizers for everyday meals. But when the opportunity presents itself, I love to make little bites of deliciousness. I made these little tomato bites last time I hosted my book club. So simple, so yummy. They didn’t last long!

Obviously making these at the height of summer when the tomatoes and basil are ripe in the garden is the optimal situation. But luckily, cherry tomatoes and basil are available in the store year round and even in the winter, the cherry tomatoes are pretty tasty! I make my own pesto, but any store-bought variety would work as well in a pinch.

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Basil pesto (click here for my recipe or you can use whatever pesto floats your boat)
Cherry tomatoes

Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Use a melon baller or spoon to scoop out the tomato guts and discard them. Spoon or pipe in pesto (a ziplock bag with the corner cut off works great for this if you don’t have a piping bag).

And that’s it! You can chill these or leave at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers if you have any.


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Tossed Caprese Salad

It’s nice to have a salad once in a while that doesn’t involve lettuce.  When you eat salad often (which I try to do) sometimes you just can’t look at another lettuce leaf.  There is just something about this simple salad that reminds me of summer.  And truthfully, summer is my favorite time to make it, with vine-ripened tomatoes and basil from the garden.  But I make it year round, because I love these flavors together so much.  And even in winter the cherry or grape tomatoes taste sweet and juicy. Do yourself a favor and spring for the fresh mozzarella for this one.  The taste and texture are completely different from the rubbery stuff and well worth the extra buck or two.

So toss this one together, kick back, and think sweet thoughts of summer days.

Tossed Caprese Salad

Tossed Caprese Salad

Tossed Caprese Salad

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (I usually leave the tomatoes out at room temperature for maximum flavor)
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn or sliced in ribbons
1 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed
1-2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra version olive oil
Salt & fresh ground pepper

Toss together all ingredients until the oil and vinegar coat the cheese and tomatoes somewhat evenly.  Serve at room temperature.

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BLT Pasta Salad with Feta and Olives

In one of my many flashes of brilliance, I decided to turn one of my favorite sandwiches into a pasta salad.  And I just have to say, it was incredible!

The greens make for a lighter than usual pasta dish and the bottled dressing make it quick to throw together (and your waistline will thank you for skipping the mayo!).  I used a Champagne Vinaigrette I found at Trader Joe’s that is one of my current favorites, but feel free to use a different brand or even a different vinaigrette if there’s one you love.

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta & Olives

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta & Olives

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta and Olives

4-5 strips of bacon
12 ounces rotini pasta
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 big handfuls of mixed salad greens
1/2 cup black olives, halved
1/2 cup feta
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup Champagne Vinaigrette dressing
Salt & pepper

Heat water to boiling.  Boil pasta until it is tender.  Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.  Drain well.

Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp.  Remove from skillet and let drain and cool on paper towels while you assemble the salad.

In a large serving bowl combine tomatoes, greens, olives, green onions and feta.

Bright fresh veggies and cheese.

Bright fresh veggies and cheese.

Add pasta and bacon and toss to combine.  Add salad dressing, starting with 1/4 cup and adding more as needed to lightly dress the pasta.

I am in love with this dressing, but feel free to substitute one you like if you can't find this one.

I am in love with this dressing, but feel free to substitute one you like if you can’t find this one.

Taste and add salt & pepper or more dressing if needed.  Toss and serve immediately.


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Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

Heirloom tomatoes are pretty cool.  All sorts of varieties that you never see in the store.  Normally I only find them at farmer’s markets and they are just about irresistible.  But this time I spied some heirloom cherry tomatoes at Trader Joe’s and just had to snatch them up.  What didn’t go directly into my mouth ended up in this delicious pasta dish.

I make about a million versions of this particular dish depending on what’s in season and what’s in my fridge at any given moment.  This version included a double bump of basil since I had leftover pesto I had made a day or two before and then I also threw in some freshly picked pesto leaves from my garden as well.  The veggies are barely cooked, just warmed really to release the juices and get warm.  It’s absolutely bursting with summer flavors.

Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes (or the regular ones will do), halved
1/2 cup black olives, halved
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup basil pesto (click here for my recipe or use your favorite)
2-3 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes or strips
Handful of fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped or torn
1 pound pasta (I really like some sort of corkscrew shape for this to catch all the little yummy bits)

Get everything chopped before you start cooking, because this all comes together very quickly.

All ready to meet their destiny!  Love the pretty colors.

All ready to meet their destiny! Love the pretty colors.

Boil pasta until tender.  While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook about a minute until fragrant but not browned.  Add onion and saute a bit until slightly tender.  When the pasta is just about done, add tomatoes, olives and pesto.  Cook and stir just a couple of minutes to heat through.  I prefer the veggies barely cooked so they still have that garden fresh flavor.  Toss in some fresh basil, mozzarella and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Drain pasta and add to pan with veggies and cheese.  Toss to combine and serve immediately.  Top with a sprinkle of parmesan if desired.

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Cherry Tomato & Pesto Pasta

Popping a cherry tomato in my mouth instantly transports me to a perfect childhood moment.  I close my eyes, revel in the bright, sunny taste and the lovely “pop” of the tomato bursting in my mouth and for a split second, I’m a kid again, standing in the sunshine, raiding somebody’s cherry tomato plant while their back is turned.

I am an ungifted gardener to say the least, but I always plant a cherry tomato plant, just to have a few moments like these throughout my summer.  I also always plant basil, since it’s the one thing I actually have had consistent success with.  Not to mention, pesto is just about the most perfect condiment for well…anything.

I have discovered through my farmer’s market travels this summer that while the early bird may get the best choices, the fat, lazy bird who likes to sleep in gets the best prices.  I scored two overflowing pints of cherry tomatoes last week for less than half of what I would have paid in the grocery store.  On the ripe side, these babies needed to be used right away, so into my pasta they flew.  Add some freshly made pesto and there was magic.  Tasty, tasty magic.

Cherry Tomato & Pesto Pasta

1 pkg. pasta
3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
2-3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half and divided
1/2 cup – or more – pesto (see below for my recipe or use your favorite)
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated parmesan for the top (optional)

Cook pasta until tender, but still firm to the bite.  Prep all of your ingredients ahead of time because this dish comes together very quickly.

All ingredients prepped and ready to go. Beautiful!

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and about half of the tomatoes to the pan.  Cook one or two minutes.  Add pesto and continue to cook another minute or two.  Drain the pasta and add to the pan.  Add the rest of the tomatoes and the mozzarella.  Toss well to combine.  Add a pinch of salt & pepper if needed. Serve immediately and top with parmesan cheese if desired.

Basil & Walnut Pesto

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt & pepper
Handful of walnuts (or any other nut you like)
1/4 cup of fresh parmesan
3-4 cloves garlic
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients except for oil in a food processor or blender.

Loading up the food processor to make pesto.

Whirl it up until finely chopped, scraping down the sides once or twice.  Add olive oil in a slow stream until the pesto is the consistency you like.  You can adjust this to your preference.  It can be coarsely chopped or a fine puree, it can be thicker or thinner, whatever you like best.  For my pasta recipe I wanted it a little chunkier; for a spread on a sandwich, I would probably blend it a little more.  Any leftovers can be stored in a sealed container for a couple of weeks in the fridge, or frozen.  Drizzle with olive oil to keep it from turning brown.

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A Darn Good Grilled Cheese

I asked my daughter, Claire, if I should bother putting something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich on my blog.  She replied that not everyone knows how to make a good grilled cheese sandwich so…why not?

When Claire was little one of her favorite snacks (and mine) was “square cheese”.  You know, the little individually wrapped slices of something called processed cheese food.  Otherwise known as American cheese.  Goes great with bologna.  I liked to fold it up into a stack of tiny squares and eat them one at a time.  But these days, square cheese doesn’t find its way into my fridge much.

For these sandwiches I used Tillamook cheddar, in my opinion one of the best cheeses ever.  When I moved to the midwest to go to college, this cheese was one of the things I missed.  You can use whatever cheddar cheese you like best, but I’m sticking with this one.  Time was, I did not like using this cheese for grilled cheese because it didn’t melt as easily as the American cheese.  But the trick is to cut it in thin slices and layer, layer, layer.  Melty goodness awaits.  The sweet cherry tomatoes are the perfect complement to the bite of the cheddar.

Melty Perfection

Grilled Cheddar & Cherry Tomato Sandwich

Sourdough bread
Cheddar cheese, sliced thinly, enough for 2 layers per sandwich
Cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
Butter (at room temperature)

Very lightly spread one side of bread with butter.  Heat skillet or grill pan over medium low heat.  Place one slice of bread butter side down, spread with one layer of cheese, then a layer of tomatoes, then another layer of cheese. Sprinkle lightly with salt & pepper if desired.  Top with the other piece of bread (also spread lightly with butter on the side facing out).  Cooking slower will help both with melting all the way through and with not getting black grilled cheese – nobody wants that.  Cook over medium low several minutes, flip gently but quickly, so the tomatoes don’t fall out. If they do, just tuck them back in. Cook for a few minutes on the other side until cheese is melted and both sides are golden brown.

Building the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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