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.
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
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.