Israeli Couscous with Sautéd Squash, Roasted Tomatoes & Garlic

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I like comfort food.  Which usually means a mouthful of pasta.  I especially like it when it is small enough that I can simply scoop spoonfuls into my mouth.  Gosh, I hope that doesn't sound gross. But it is quite satisfying.  Which is why I love creating salads that fit that agenda.  As with my Orzo Salad, this Israeli Couscous dish has that same mouthfeel.  Flavor in every bite filled with the comfort of a pasta.  Small enough that it's easy to spoon, swallow and spoon again.  Oh, yeah, don't forget to chew.

I created this dish for a Ladies' Lunch for my Mom and the women's group at her condo.  They were gracious enough to allow me to cater the lunch for them, and I had a blast doing it.  I will post more about the entire meal but for now, let's focus on spooning some of this salad for your next lunch, dinner side dish or BBQ party.  When I came up with idea it was to satisfy what I thought the women would enjoy as well as a dish that would be easy to make given all the other items I was making.  What I didn't even realize at the time was that this Israeli Couscous plays off the same idea as my Garlic Rice with Sautéd Zucchini & Tomatoes.  I found that recipe as I was writing this one so I could share other zucchini ideas. And there it was, along with several others.

Apparently, there are a million ways to serve up zucchini.  So here's a quick reminder of a few I have experimented with and achieved success.  Try them out while the weather is zucchini friendly.
Zucchini Crudo with Shaved Parmigiano & Mint Oil
Zucchini Orzo Pie
Zucchini Carpaccio
Balsamic Bathed Carrots Wrapped with Zucchini
An Asian Twist to Zucchini Ribbons

Now back to the main attraction. This is one of those dishes that you can literally being cooking, cutting, sautéing all at the same time.  A multitasking wonder. So I have written the instructions in a way to be most efficient. 

Ingredients

1.5 cups Israeli Couscous
1 large zucchini, cubed
1-2 small yellow squash, cubed
1 medium shallot, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, oven roasted
4-5 whole garlic cloves
2-3 T basil, chiffonade
1 c olive Oil
1 t coarse salt
1/2 t pepper
*Note: You can alter the couscous to veg ratio if you like more of one.  Totally up to you.

Slice the squashes lengthwise first. Then strips, then cubes.

Slice the squashes lengthwise first. Then strips, then cubes.

 

Instructions

1. Roast the grape tomatoes in 1/2 c olive oil with whole cloves of garlic.  Refer to the oil roasted recipe in my post The  Great Tomato Caper.

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2.  While the tomatoes roast, cut the zucchini, yellow squash and shallots and sauté them separately in oil. Season with salt and pepper, adding half the shallots to each batch, once they are partially cooked.  You don't want to add the shallots first as they will burn.

Nice little cubes all the same size so you get a piece in every spoonful.

Nice little cubes all the same size so you get a piece in every spoonful.

Zucchini cubed up

Zucchini cubed up

3. While the squashes are sautéing, cook the Israeli Couscous as you would any type of pasta, in a large pot of salted boiling water.  Cook until al dente.  Drain and set aside in a serving bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil so it doesn't stick and let cool.

Gorgeous pearls of pasta

Gorgeous pearls of pasta

4.  Once the tomatoes are done, remove the garlic from their skins and mash them with a fork and course salt.  Add 1/4 c olive oil, pepper to taste and whisk together.

Grapes tomatoes oven roasted in luscious oil with roasted garlic.

Grapes tomatoes oven roasted in luscious oil with roasted garlic.

Sweet and tender garlic.

Sweet and tender garlic.

Smash to create a paste.

Smash to create a paste.

5. It is best to mix the roasted garlic oil into the couscous while it is still warm so the flavors absorb, but you can mix it at room temperature, too. Be sure to thoroughly incorporate.
6. Chiffonade the basil (cutting them in strips) and add to the couscous.
7. Then add some of the juices from the roasted tomatoes, the tomatoes and sautéed squashed. Gently mix until combined.  Serve room temperature.

A bowl of goodness that is pure pleasure to eat spoonful after spoonful.

A bowl of goodness that is pure pleasure to eat spoonful after spoonful.

This is one of those dishes that is both hearty but light at the same time.  The couscous is a pasta so it does do the job of satisfyingly fill you up, but the lightness of the veggies make it feel summertime fresh, especially served room temperature or even chilled.  

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I made this out of love.
Love of pasta.
Love for my Mom.
Love to share with others.

 

Print Friendly Recipe

 

Sunday Blues - of the Soothing, Swooning Kind

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So the story goes... I needed to go to IKEA.  You must be wondering why, since I don’t need another napkin or tablecloth, dish or candle, or anything for that matter.  But alas, we did need a new patio table. Pause a moment, to digest the thought that we are replacing our 17 year old IKEA teak table with the exact same table. Not only proving the enduring quality of some of IKEA’s items, but lo and behold, the table's solid quaility has kept it on their selling list after all these years.  Since we loved it so much, why mess with a good thing.  And that was what steered my vehicle to IKEA.

The brand, spanking new  IKEA table . And it was the very last one standing in the aisle. I totally lucked out.

The brand, spanking new IKEA table. And it was the very last one standing in the aisle. I totally lucked out.

Now, I'm sure many of you have wandered through IKEA and know that there is only one route... the one they force you to take through the entire store.  Naturally, on my search for the table, I picked up a few other items along the way.  It’s one of those stores where you say, “oh, this is only $5, and that is only $3”. But by the time all your items roll down the conveyor belt into the big blue plastic IKEA bag you just purchased (again) to carry home your 'stuff', it is too late and the complete and utter sticker price shock of the final total hits, and hits hard.  Every dollar truly does add up, my friends. It’s a brilliant tactic.  Price a bunch of stuff low, creating a false 'inexpensive'  buying experience and then when the customer hasn't realized it they just spent a fortune in your store.  There is a sucker born every day, and I was born again on that day.

In filing up of my big blue bag, I happened upon blue and white dish towels. Why? you ask. Didn't I just say I don't need another thing?  Well, because I am drawn to simple, pretty things.  I can’t tell explain exactly why, but I absolutely adore the stark contrast of blue against white. Like a vision of some Greek village. It makes my knees buckle.  So I bought two packs. I wasn’t sure if I would make pillows out of them.  Use them as actual dish towels? Incorporate them into one of my apron designs?  I just had to have them.  It’s a sickness, I fully recognize that.  Who gets swoony over dish towels?  Apparently... ME.

I did none of the above with them. Instead they came to the rescue in another way. We were hosting a BBQ this past Sunday and since I was feeling quite under the weather I didn't have a tablecloth plan.  Literally 1 hour before the guests arrived I still had decided what the table would look like. These dish towels would now become napkins that would grace my outdoor table-scape.  I guess my hubby knew that blue and white swoons me because when I asked him to pick me up flowers in the city at Dahlia, what did he choose? Blue and Whites.  It was fate.

3 arrangements lined the center table and created a harmony of blue.

3 arrangements lined the center table and created a harmony of blue.

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As I unrolled the dish towels, I realized each one was a different graphic design, and if even possible, I loved them that much more. So my need for high contrast, plus my obsession with not being matchy-matchy was thoroughly satisfied. A cornflower blue tablecloth tossed down, white dishes stacked up in order of food served, topped with blue and white IKEA dishtowels twisted once pluse florals to repeat the theme... I’d say Sunday afternoon blues are feeling just fine.

A single, simple twist of the 'napkin' placed over the stack of dishes creates an laid back vibe. LOVE LOVE LOVE the different graphic pattern and how easy and casual it makes it all feel.

A single, simple twist of the 'napkin' placed over the stack of dishes creates an laid back vibe.
LOVE LOVE LOVE the different graphic pattern and how easy and casual it makes it all feel.

Zucchini Crudo

Zucchini Crudo

Cucumber/Smoked Trout rounds are easy.  Chop the trout into small pieces, mix with sour cream, using a scoop dollop onto a slice of cucumber and top with more sour cream.

Tomato & Mozzarella Tart

Tomato & Mozzarella Tart

Cucumber topped with smoked trout & sour cream

Cucumber topped with smoked trout & sour cream

InterMezzo
Steamed Mussels with ciabatta

Steamed mussels with herbs, garlic and wine.

Steamed mussels with herbs, garlic and wine.


First course
Pasta with fresh herbs & garlic, grated Parmigiano Reggiano & Roasted Tomatoes

Main Course
Grilled Iberíco Pork Shoulder & End Loin  
Grilled Langostinos
Corn on the Cob
Nectarine/Corn Arugula Salad

Presa Iberíca and Pluma Iberíca are pork should and end loin cuts from Iberíco pigs. The pork is marbled with flavorful fat that melts in your melt like no other. You can buy them these frozen only at  Despaña SoHo .

Presa Iberíca and Pluma Iberíca are pork should and end loin cuts from Iberíco pigs. The pork is marbled with flavorful fat that melts in your melt like no other. You can buy them these frozen only at Despaña SoHo.

Large and juicy, langostinos on the grill are divine.

Large and juicy, langostinos on the grill are divine.

Nectarine and Raw Corn Salad over Arugula and Boston Lettuce with an orange/lime vinigiarette.

Nectarine and Raw Corn Salad over Arugula and Boston Lettuce with an orange/lime vinigiarette.

Dessert
Peach Cobbler
Honey Dew
Cheese/Fruit Plate
S'Mores

This is a recipe from Ina Garten

This is a recipe from Ina Garten

Creates a nice crust to crack into with warm peaches below, then served with whipped cream

Creates a nice crust to crack into with warm peaches below, then served with whipped cream

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It was a wonderful day filled with LOVE. 
Food made with LOVE.
New  friends and old friends full of LOVE.
And blues that make you the other 's' word -  swoon

 

The new white marble LOVE addition to my collection was gifted to me with love by Angelica. You can never have too much.

Love is is the air. Angelica and Marcos

Love is is the air. Angelica and Marcos

JuanCarlos manning the grill, fortified with hydration.  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanCarlos manning the grill, fortified with hydration. Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Gathering around the grill with our friends from Bilboa, Spain: Ana, JuanFran, their daughters, and Cecila   Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Gathering around the grill with our friends from Bilboa, Spain: Ana, JuanFran, their daughters, and Cecila

Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Who doesn't love the hammock. Also, in blue and white.  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Who doesn't love the hammock. Also, in blue and white. Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanFran, quite the chef himself, giving JC a hand.  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanFran, quite the chef himself, giving JC a hand. Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

We have the A-OK sign!  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

We have the A-OK sign! Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Amore!!!  Photo credit: asithappens.format.com

Amore!!! Photo credit: asithappens.format.com

Zucchini Carpaccio

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Carpaccio refers to raw, thin slices.  Most people typically use this method for beef or fish. But why limit its focus.  The technique can be applied to any food really.  That's when I elected to employ its useful style to zucchini; both green and yellow. 

Once upon a time on a warm summer's day in the country, I had zucchini. AGAIN.
Another dilemma of what to do with this ubiquitous kinda bland veg. And so, the idea of creating a dish that would be fresh and cool given the heat of the day sparked the idea for carpaccio.  Slice it thin.  No need to cook it.  Add a zingy sauce and call it day.  

That is how this dish came to be. Out of sheer not wanting to turn on the stove or oven or eat anything hot.   I don't need to bore you with any more adjectives, adverbs or other fancy descriptions.  This is a simple once upon a time story, with a happy ending.  Now, down to the 'how to'.

Ingredients

1  zucchini, thinly sliced approx. 2 c
2 small yellow squash, thinly sliced approx. 2 c
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c white wine vinegar
salt

 

Dressing
1-2 T honey (depending on your taste)
1/3 c fresh lime juice
1/3 c fresh lemon juice
1 T rice wine vinegar
1/4 shallots. minced
1.5 T mint, finely chopped
1.5 T basil, chopped
1+ tsp salt / 1/4 t pepper to taste

Instructions

1. First things first.  Thinly slice the red onions so they have time to pickle. I use a mandolin for this so I can cut them quickly, evenly and thinly. Next, combine the red and white vinegar with salt and submerge the onions.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the zucchini and dressing.

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2. Thinly slice both the zucchini and yellow squash using a mandolin.  Unless you have a sushi master skill of using a knife, the only real way to get these thin enough, and consistent, is to use a mandolin.  Sorry, sometimes it's just that way. I like to make sure that I am slicing them so they are round, not oval.  I just groove off the overall visual look. But go ahead and slice as you like, just as long as they are thin. Then begin to layer them.  Again, I like order and visual appeal. So my aesthetic is one color for each row in a circular fashion.  I overlap slightly as I go to create a wheel of green and yellow swirls. But lay them down in whatever fashion suits your style.

Round and round we go. Layer anyway you like. I like circles.

Round and round we go. Layer anyway you like. I like circles.

It looks neat and visually appealing... and mesmerizing.

It looks neat and visually appealing... and mesmerizing.

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3. Once that is done, make the marinade/dressing.  Combine the lemon and lime juices, vinegar with honey, shallots, mint and basil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over the entire dish and allow the dressing to settle in for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour to absorb and "cook" the zucchini.  Drain and add the pickled onion in the center.

The first couple of times I made this dish I used regular basil. This time around I had purple basil, so that's what I used.

The first couple of times I made this dish I used regular basil. This time around I had purple basil, so that's what I used.

Sometimes I start my circles with yellow squash, then zucchini. Other times the versus. I know, I live dangerously.

Sometimes I start my circles with yellow squash, then zucchini. Other times the versus. I know, I live dangerously.

The purple basil adds another color pop.

The purple basil adds another color pop.

Warning, this dish is tart and tangy. (Use more honey to balance the flavor to your palate. I like it tangy.)
Perfect for the summer.
Perfect for BBQ meats.
Perfect solution to not sweating over a stove. 
Another zucchini dilemma solved. 
Another happy ending.

Ciao 2017 - A Year that Warmed My Heart

Another year.  Another 365 days of "what did I do with all that time?"  I do recall many moons ago an older person said to me that time goes by faster when you are older.  I didn't quite get it, but now that I am older, I see that it is true.  But I still don't get it. Time flies by quicker now. But how? But why?  Is it because as adults we wish for the weekends to come so we can have some rest? Only to find out that we have cleaning and laundry, errands and bills to attend to.  Is that why time blows past us?  Who knows, except, here it is the end of 2017 and I am still wondering what happened to March!!  What have I done with all that time?

I have accomplished some things but will readily admit that I wasted too much time.  2018 will be about making more of each moment. Well, that was the goal of 2017, so wish me luck... again.

As the year comes to a close some of you will host big parties.  Great.  But if you are like me, and don't make such a huge deal out of New Year's Eve, or feel pressure to do something, or maybe you feel sad because nothing special is happening.   Please remember it's just another night like the one before it and the one after it.  You can choose to how to honor it or not. You can use it to ump start a fresh beginning. But if you don't have big plans, so what.  You can do what JC and I like to do.  Sit quietly, rejoice in what we have now and make a list of our wishes  for the coming year. Without pressure but just gentle reminders of what we would like to reach for.

As we wrap this year, that was filled with tons of emotion for most of us, let me share some moments of just how lovely a year can be.  (Lots of photos, so keep scrolling for another message from me.)

January
Shared time with my sister Jill and nieces, Nikki and Gabrielle, as we cooked together making the original "something from nothing" recipe, Zucchini Orzo Pie and an old family tradition, stuffed breads.

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February
Starting the month with an invite from our family friends, the Marzullos, to kick start a month of eating well.
Celebrated my birthday with my parents in Miami showing them cool restaurants for them to visit, like Prohibition. Then back home to celebrate another Pisces birthday with my 'niece', Lauren, serving up a traditional Spanish tapas lunch.

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March
Stirring it with love with Gabrielle at her workplace, Traditions, in Charlotte, NC promoting my Think...then Jump™ children's book series and reading to the kids. Back home, taking in nature with a walk through our favorite local spot, Rockefeller Park.

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April
Another trip to Italy, because... Well, it's Italy and you can never get enough. And let's not forget this is the land of beauty, love and of course...pasta.  All things I hold dear.

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My own fresh pasta made in the Tuscan Hills.  Recipe here

My own fresh pasta made in the Tuscan Hills.  Recipe here

My hubby, falling in love with Cortona in the Tuscan region of Italy.

My hubby, falling in love with Cortona in the Tuscan region of Italy.

May
JC's birthday, celebrated as usual with good food and wine.

Cucumber, radish, mint salad

Cucumber, radish, mint salad

Roasted pork loin

Roasted pork loin

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June
A full month of gatherings with family and friends, both in NY and Miami.  

Us and the Nardolillo Family.  Finally, after many dates were thrown around, we found one in June!

Us and the Nardolillo Family.  Finally, after many dates were thrown around, we found one in June!

Always love visiting Miami for sun and the warming of my soul.

Always love visiting Miami for sun and the warming of my soul.

Miami gang,  Marta and Me with JC to celebrate Emilce's Birthday.

Miami gang,  Marta and Me with JC to celebrate Emilce's Birthday.

Krista and Me.  I babysat for her.  Yes, I did and now she is getting married!

Krista and Me.  I babysat for her.  Yes, I did and now she is getting married!

July
Spent the 4th sharing good times, good food and good fun with dear friends Emily and Lorne at their Bay home.

Rocked a successful event aboard a NYC nighttime cruise that Despaña co-sponsored.  Boy, was I tired after that one.

A NYC visit from my bestie, Dominique, ending a perfect  girl's day with her daughter, Lauren.

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Despaña Gang AKA Chicas Poderosas = Powerful Girls!

Despaña Gang AKA Chicas Poderosas = Powerful Girls!

Dominique and Lauren. Don't you love those smiles!

Dominique and Lauren. Don't you love those smiles!

August
Too many photos to even think about sharing from our trip to Northern Spain, but the highlight was spending time with our dear friends, Marcos and Angelica, at their home in Amieva, Asturias.

Amieva, a beautiful view

Amieva, a beautiful view

Marcos, Angelica and JC

Marcos, Angelica and JC

Angelica and me

Angelica and me

September
How do you celebrate fall with Cuban in-laws?  Roast a pig.
How do you celebrate a friend's birthday? Call and say "I'm coming over with food and cake!"

How do you celebrate a life? By honoring it with memories, laughter and love. Sharing as a family a most beautiful memorial to rejoice in life of my dear Aunt Catherine.

Porky the pig in La Caja China, the Chinese roasting box

Porky the pig in La Caja China, the Chinese roasting box

I made a gluten free cake to celebrate Carl's birthday.

I made a gluten free cake to celebrate Carl's birthday.

Alla familia

Alla familia

Aunt Catherine's favorite hat and her corn cob pipe.  No button nose here.

Aunt Catherine's favorite hat and her corn cob pipe.  No button nose here.

October
Thanks to my sis, Alys and Mastercard, we got to visit the Chiluly exhibit at the NY Botanical Gardens

Then had a wild production experience as Team Despaña, Angelica and Master Carver Jaume Guerra were slicing up jamón on The Untitled Action Bronson Show appearing on Viceland TV.

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Angelica & Jaume showing how it's done.

Angelica & Jaume showing how it's done.

Action Bronson checking out the jamón

Action Bronson checking out the jamón

November
NYC Marathon with my amazing sis, Alys.

Stats that make her cream of the crop.

Stats that make her cream of the crop.

Family support after 26.2 miles.  Ready for a meal.

Family support after 26.2 miles.  Ready for a meal.

December
That time of year when spending time with flour, butter and sugar is how I pass my time, baking up a storm. Thankfully, I had one brave soul to help me, my niece, Gianna to the rescue.

Gianna, directly home from college and before seeing friends, helped me make cookies... all day.

Gianna, directly home from college and before seeing friends, helped me make cookies... all day.

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I also had to say ciao for now to my nephew, John, as he moved away to Colorado.

So as we close the books on 2017, I wish for you all the health and love life has to offer... And there is an abundance of it. There truly is no end to that well.  You can continue to tap it and unearth it's riches.

May you find the path you were searching for.

May the passions you dream of become realities.

May the struggles you have be released and resolved.

May good friends, good food find their way into your home.

May each day bring a wonderful mixture of laughter and smiles, inner peace and joy, satisfaction and accomplishment, confidence and strength.

May you step closer to knowing and loving your true self and rejoice in your essence.

I wish all these and so much more for you.

Happy New Year

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When It's Hot... Jump into a Lettuce Boat

I don't know where you live but it's a scorcher right about now in NY.   We've been waiting for summer to really arrive and now it's officially a swamp.  Speaking of weather, I've been under it for some time now. So before this heat wave landed upon us (even though it's summer) I made a ginormous batch of soup.  I have been eating it for days. And since it was a ginormous quantity, I figured I would be enjoying it again and again as well as serving it to my hubby and sister.  But with the thermometer outside soaring damn near human body temp, I don't care how much soup I have left over. Frigging 95 degrees screams for something cooler.

I had some ideas. Well, I always have ideas.  Main one.  Use up the egads amount of tomatoes and basil I bought last week.  It's a fact that I am very easily enticed at the farmer's market by produce's beauty.  But in all fairness,  I bought them in anticipation of hosting guests for a Pizza Sunday Party. Those plans were foiled.  Which left me with more tomatoes and basil than two people can comfortably eat unless forced by some game show stunt. Since last week's basil-ed potatoes went over so well, I made another batch of that sauce and quickly got to figuring out the rest.

The abundance. Don't be fooled. That is only half the tomatoes and 1/3 of the basil I STILL HAVE!! (Plus some went into that ginormous soup. And don't forget to look at that beautiful blue bowl by  Miller Pottery

The abundance. Don't be fooled. That is only half the tomatoes and 1/3 of the basil I STILL HAVE!! (Plus some went into that ginormous soup. And don't forget to look at that beautiful blue bowl by Miller Pottery

I had romaine lettuce.  Perfect as boats to fill with good shit. (The heat made me curse.)
I had zucchini and yellow squash.  
I had hearts of palm and chick peas. Ever present in my pantry.
I had thoughts. (sometimes good; other times, well...)

Zucchini and Yellow Squash cubed.

Zucchini and Yellow Squash cubed.

Even though it was hot out, the zucchini and squash needed to be cooked in my opinion.  Reason: I just really wasn't feeling their raw essence for this dish.  Since it was cleaning day and the house was gleaming, no way was I going to make a mess of the stove.  In the oven went the squashes.  And a few tomatoes whole, too.  I roasted them at 400 degrees until nicely caramelized.

Oiled, salted and peppered for the oven roasting.

Oiled, salted and peppered for the oven roasting.

Everything else, cut up and ready.  I sliced up some more tomatoes raw.  One, because I had a ton, and two because I'm a fan of duality.  Warm tomatoes, cool tomatoes.

Once the  veggies were out of the oven, the only chore that remained; Assembly.  I don't need to hold your hand for this part, do I?  Take your leaf and stuff it with what you love. A little of this and little of that and drizzle some of that banging basil sauce a top.  (Chop up some leftover chicken, or toss in some tuna. Be creative.)

Assembly line. Fill your boats!

Assembly line. Fill your boats!

Light but satisfying.  Cool yet with just enough warmth to make it feel like dinner and not a snack.  Crap, I think I yanked this one out from nowhere, and hit it out of the park.  (The heat made me say that part, too.)  Jill and JC loved them. Yeah, I won't be eating soup.  I got me some leftover lettuce boats to my rescue.

When the weather is too hot to think.  Just jump in a boat and bring along whatever's in your kitchen.