Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sage Advice

A Fresh Sage Leaf

Not too long ago, my friend Nicole told me about one of her organizational secrets, which I happily adapted in my home.  We’re both subscribers to EatingWell; it was, in fact, Nicole who got me hooked on this magazine.  Any magazine subscriber knows that you’ve got to have some sort of system for dealing with a publication that shows up in your mailbox 10-12 times a year.  A single magazine poses little threat to order, but 10 of them?  Times multiple years of subscribing?  It gets to be quite a stack.

Nicole told me that she likes to organize her issues of EatingWell by season—all the summer issues together, all the autumn issues together, and so on.  The way the system works is that when it’s time to pick out new recipes, Nicole goes to the stack that matches the current season, pulls down her magazines, and flips through them to find what will become that week’s meals.  I think this is a wonderful idea.  For a long time, I’ve felt kinda funny about how magazine publications always come out well ahead of the seasonal shifts.  Like it’s September right now, still summer according to the calendar, and the October 2010 issue has been on my table for weeks, featuring recipes for wintry things like casseroles and Brussels sprouts.  But to me, it definitely still feels like summer.  I know my latitude plays a big part in this, but even when I lived in Chicago, early September was a time to hold onto summer, not dive head-first into a wintertime feast.

The seasonal approach to magazine organization makes so much more sense to me.  It’s a way to catch all those great recipes at the right time of year, which is probably not the time when you first saw them in print.  It’s how I caught today’s recipe, a simple and very flavorful saute of seasonal vegetables, made heartier with the inclusion of a can of white beans.  It sounds humble—indeed, it is humble—but I’ve made it twice in the last few weeks, and I wouldn’t mind making it again this week.

A Weekday Lunch

This recipe, Summer Squash & White Bean Saute, comes from the August 2008 issue of EatingWell.  I probably would have never made it had I not been inspired by Nicole’s example.  But flipping through my old summer issues, it caught my eye, then it bounced onto my grocery list and into a skillet on my stovetop.  It’s a great weeknight dinner, perfect for those nights when you want to cook but need a simple, easy recipe that will give you plenty of time to sip some wine with dinner and unwind after a long day.  This recipe is also really versatile.  Here I must confess that I have yet to make it the same way twice.  The original recipe calls for fresh oregano and two fresh tomatoes.  I’ve decided I like fresh sage better than oregano, so I use sage instead.  And about those tomatoes: the first time, I used one fresh tomato because it’s what I had on hand.  The second time, I added the tomatoes after the saute was done, and I used four of these totally delicious slow-baked tomatoes.  Really, you should use what you have or follow your heart.  If you’ve got time to slow-bake some tomatoes, do it: they are amazing.  But fresh tomatoes are great too.

One last thing: I think this dish is at its best on the first night.  It gets a little juicy/soggy as it sits around, which I don’t like as much.  But for leftovers, I think it would be great over hot pasta, especially if you take a few minutes and cook off some of that juiciness.

Summer Squash and White Bean Saute

Adapted from EatingWell

Serves 3-4

At its best, this dish has lots of wonderful textures.  The vegetables go tender-crisp in the skillet, the white beans are soft and creamy, and the whole thing is infused with just the right amount of salt.  Here it wouldn’t be a bad idea to use a really great olive oil, like the extra-virgin olive oil from Pasolivo.  You only use a tablespoon for cooking, and I think it adds a lot of flavor to a simple dish.

1 tablespoon very flavorful extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, halved and sliced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 summer squash: zucchini, yellow summer squash, or one of each, halved lengthwise, then halved again and chopped

2 leaves of fresh sage, chopped finely

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 15-oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed

1-2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Parmesan cheese, either 1/3 cup grated to stir into the saute or a block you can shave with a vegetable peeler

1)  In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, then cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.  Add the summer squash, sage, salt, and pepper, then stir, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp.  Stir once during this time.

2)  Stir in the white beans, tomatoes, and vinegar.  Increase the heat to medium and cook until everything is heated through.  Remove from the heat.

3)  If you like, stir the grated Parmesan into the finished dish.  Or use a vegetable peeler to make long shavings of cheese with which you can garnish each plate.


Nicole said...

I'm glad my system is working for you! I feel like I can take full advantage of EW this way. This salad sounds really good and FAST, which is a big plus. Here in Boston, the temperature has not been consistently above 70, so I'm starting to contemplate fall foods like squash, apples, and stews. In fact, I pulled out my fall EWs yesterday to find a meatloaf recipe that we're making tonight. Stuffed acorn squash and pumpkin pie may be on the menu soon...

Laurie said...

Very similar to what I made for dinner last night, though we had peas instead of beans (Hubby shelled them), peppers instead of tomatoes, rosemary instead of sage and halloumi instead of Parmesan.

There's white beans defrosting and tomatoes ripening for dinner tonight. It's most definitely soup weather here, though the calendar stubbornly says it's summer.

Enjoy your sunshine!

Rosiecat said...

Yes, fast indeed! I definitely need those recipes these days, unfortunately, especially ones that pack in lots of vegetables.

Ooh, I'm jealous of your cooler weather! It's still so hot down here--I'm wilting :-( Stuffed squash and pumpkin pie sound delicious.

Fresh-shelled peas? Yum! That sounds delicious, Laurie. And I love halloumi cheese, though it took me a couple of tries to learn to like it. But baked (broiled?) in a hot oven until it caramelizes? Ooh, so good.

Would you like some of my sunshine? I'll send you some if you send me some cooler weather.

Anonymous said...

Rats! If my zucchini plant hadn't died early, I could make this one out of the garden tonight. AMPD

Laurie said...

Oh yeah, I'll trade weather with you. Hope you have decent raingear!

Rosiecat said...

Oh, no! That's so sad about your plant, AMPD! So no zukes this year? Or are you buying them from somewhere else?

Laurie, I'll buy some rainboots. You should bring your sunglasses :-)

Hillary said...

I live and die by my Eating Well magazines. That may be a bit dramatic, but you get the point ... I sometimes feel like my own blog is a repeat of their current issue. :)

Rosiecat said...

Ha! Hillary, I think EatingWell has been doing a really fantastic job for the last year or two, so I definitely understand your enthusiasm. Some of my favorite recipes on this blog have come from EW, but I don't post recipes fast enough to keep up with the latest issue. I'm still digging around in 2008's issues ;-)

Shannon said...

that is a great way to organize food magazines! and white beans (cannellini being my favorite) are often underused in my kitchen of late... i think it's only b/c i find chickpeas and black beans at costco when my friend takes me! alas, i need to get on that one, this sounds delightful :)

Rosiecat said...

Shannon, I love all beans! So I'm with you on the chickpeas and black beans. But white beans are definitely the creamiest and most delicate of the beans, in my opinion.