Summer Squash Linguine with Cheese

We returned from a wonderful vacation a few days ago, and I’m finding myself very happy to be home and cooking again! Not that we didn’t have an amazing time exploring the various treasures of British Columbia but after a long stretch of restaurant meals, I crave the simplicity of home-cooked food. This post was set up the week, assuming there would be time to finalize it and share while away but as with so many things, you live and learn. Everything about my daily life – even this blog – felt very distant as we explored gorgeous Salt Spring Island and dabbled in city travel with two little ones (the former is far easier).

And now, onto important matters, like: zucchini candy. Yes, zucchini candy. This phrase was coined by yours truly last summer after years of frustration trying to get the girls to willingly eat summer squash. After all, it is a quintessential summer vegetable.  It not just withstands, but thrives, in the harsh conditions of our little backyard plot. It is surprisingly versatile. And it happens to show up in droves in the CSA box, which means I am often on point to come up with creative strategies for preparing it.

Of course zucchini muffins go down easy, but not so the savory options. I tried the soup approach (which is incredibly delicious and simple – will post on this later). No love. I tried the simple saute with mushrooms. Lukewarm. Then, I hit the magic bullet: we grew our own. Suddenly, there was real pride involved in harvesting, which then leads to a greater willingness to eat the spoils. The outcome of  a quick saute on high heat with garlic and olive oil became “zucchini candy”. We struck gold. As long as it was served as a side dish, it disappeared alongside smiling faces.

So this summer’s test was to see whether I could incorporate it into a main course with any success. Since I’ve been personally obsessed with linguine for the past few weeks (on account of a transcendent version with anchovies and spicy peppers I had at Locanda recently), I decided to give a simple summer pasta dish a try. To my total surprise, they went for it hook, line and sinker. It seems as though a new quick, simple and delicious dinner (or lunch) is born!


Total time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4-6 or more  (easily scaled to the number of people you are serving)

  1. Working with a ratio of about 1-1 1/2 pounds of summer squash per 4 servings, cut squash in half, then slice into thin half circles. Thinly slice 4-5 garlic cloves. Chop a few handfuls of fresh sage if you have on hand (or parsley, oregano, tarragon, whatever you favor).
  2. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to boil for the linguine (or other pasta, per your preference) and cook according to package instructions or until al dente, remembering to generously salt the water before adding pasta. Be sure to reserve about a cup of cooked pasta water before draining the noodles.
  3. Warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and saute the squash over high heat, stirring often so it doesn’t stick or burn, about 10 minutes. It should be caramelized (brown) and soft, a darker in color and sweet to taste when ready. When you think the squash is almost ready, add the garlic slices and cook for a minute or so, until fragrant but not brown.  This would be a great time to add a dash or two of chile flakes (adding them later, upon serving works too).
  4. If you are using fresh herbs – besides sage – add them to the squash-garlic mixture in the last 5 minutes of cooking. If you are using sage, fry them in warm olive oil in a separate small pan and reserve as a garnish. This is totally optional.
  5. If your pan is large enough to hold the zucchini mix and all of the pasta, add the drained pasta and a bit of the cooking water to the pan. Toss to distribute the vegetables throughout the pasta. If you – like me – don’t have room to mix everything in one pan, create a saucier vegetable mix by adding about 1/2 cup (or more if dry) pasta water to the squash mix and cooking for a minute or two, making sure to scrape the delicious caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Drizzle lemon juice, to taste, on the pasta and serve with grated Parmesan cheese  (Asiago, Gruyere or another hard cheese would work great too) and a salad on the side. Don’t forget to sprinkle the fried sage on top if you made some.

Almond cake, where have you been all my life?

Several months ago, while at the grocery store buying cupcake sprinkles for Talia’s birthday, I spied the Odense almond paste in the baking section. For no particular reason, the pull was strong. We can home with a package of course, and promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward a couple of months, and let me present you with my latest baking discovery: almond cake! Moist and flavorful, pleasing for adults AND kids alike, it makes for the perfect dessert, not to mention morning coffee routine accomplice. My favorite part, aside from flavor of course? How very easy it is to make. There is virtually no prep involved, aside from making sure you remember to leave eggs and butter out on the counter to bring them to room temperature (quick fix: place cold eggs in hot water for a few minutes). This is also an excellent baking project to do with kids. The batter is fairly failproof, and older children could easily pull it off without adult supervision provided they are comfortable following basic directions and cracking eggs.

So pull out your food processors if you have them and bake one for your next summer BBQ. Or “winter” feast, if you live in San Francisco. And don’t forget to let me know what you think.


Adapted from

Prep time: 10 minutes;

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes


  1. 7 oz almond paste, cut into pieces
  2. 1 1/3 cup sugar
  3. ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  4. 8-10 oz butter*, at room temperature, cubed
  5. ¾ cup white flour
  6. 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  7. ¾ teaspoon salt
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. 1 teaspoon almond extract
  10. 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  11. zest of one orange

* You can vary the butter content depending on your texture preference. Less butter makes for a slightly denser cake, more butter creates a richer version. Either works beautifully.

Preheat oven to 325º. Prepare a 9-10 inch in diameter, 2 inch deep cake pan** or springform pan by generously coating the interior with butter, dusting it with flour (excess flour should be shaken out) and lining the bottom with parchment paper (trim to the proper size). Yes, this seems like a bit of a pain, but you’ll thank me when you realize how much easier it is to remove the cake from the pan.

Cake pan, lined, dusted and ready to go!

Using a food processor (ideally) or a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, add the sugar, almond paste and the 1/4 cup of whole flour. Grind until the almond paste is completely broken up and the mix reaches a sandy texture.

Almond paste

Add the butter pieces to the almond-sugar mix, along with the vanilla and almond extracts. Process until the batter is very smooth and fluffy.

In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients: the remaining 3/4 cup flour, baking powder and salt.

Add eggs, one at a time, to the batter. Process each egg until it is just incorporated into the batter. After the last egg is added, zest one orange into the batter.

Finally, add the dry ingredients to the batter, processing half way through. The goal is to just incorporate the dry ingredients, but not overmix. Pour batter into pan and bake for 60-65 minutes, making sure it is brown on top when done.

Using a knife, loosen the cake from the sides of the pan and cool in the pan. Turn upside and tap to release it from the pan. Don’t forget to remove the parchment paper before serving!

We'll miss you, Dan and Matt!

** This recipe is calibrated for a 9 or 10-inch pan that is at least 2 inches deep. Do measure – I had four cake pans in my house, all which apparently meant for layer cakes and therefore 1.5 inches deep. The smaller pan means you run the risk of the batter running over. I now own a new cake pan – did I mention I love this cake?

The Perfect Egg

Is everyone else struggling to get back into work mode after the long holiday weekend? Productivity is not in the cards for me this week, and this includes the kitchen.

It started on Friday. I envisioned having ample time to prepare various delicious and fresh meals throughout this weekend but this lovely intention turned into a reality of leftovers and simple grilled offerings at BBQs. Though I did have time to make a summery version of my whole grain vegetable salad,with wheatberries. snap peas, carrots and feta (its time to put up some more preserved lemons!).

This is all to say that this week seems like a perfect one to focus on basics. A primer on eggs came to mind immediately, on account of their being a beloved culinary staple in most households and their versatility in meals throughout the day. And because most kids love them (sadly, though, not mine).

I recall having several “A HA!” moments when I came across a simple how-to guide in Saveur Magazine years ago providing specific instructions on how to make the perfect egg in every way possible. Hard-boiled eggs have never been better at our house, and I’m proud to say that after dozens of failed attempts, I can now poach an egg in a pan the old-fashioned way (no special device needed).

So you can imagine how happy I was to discover that all of this great technique to comes to us in the form of video. Enjoy! And don’t forget to check out the Sustainable Ingredients page to learn more about how to decipher all of those confusing labels found on egg cartons these days.

Essential Egg Techniques (

How to cook soft boiled eggs »

How to make fluffier omelets »

How to cook the perfect sunny-side up egg »

How to create delicious scrambled eggs »

A helpful trick for peeling hard boiled eggs »

The very best way to crack eggs »