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Tuna & Olive Pasta, And Rachael Ray

Give me a chance to explain.

I know Ms Ray is generally vilified, what with her “EVOO” and “delish”, along with her annoying daytime television show. Many people have the right to be irritated by her. I am. Sometimes. But I have to admit, I used to watch the original ’30 Minute Meals’, and I own several of her cookbooks.

No, I usually cannot make those ’30 Minute Meals’ in 30 minutes, but I think Ms Ray was on to something. She makes real food. I mean, have you really looked at her recipes? Have you actually tried any of them? The ones I’ve tried have all been rather tasty. And every one of them calls for real food. Rarely they will ask for a a bit of tortilla chips, or a pre-packaged cornbread mix (Ray doesn’t bake), and the occasional pesto. She does choose ingredients for convenience and speed, such as chicken cutlets or frozen spinach, but it’s still good food…if you purchase the ones right for you. If you want to buy fresh, organic spinach and cook it down for a recipe, go for it. It’s a recipe, not a mathematical equation.

That’s what recipes are for…at least to me. They give you a guideline to follow, making adjustments or substitutions as you see fit. A recipe is a technique. Mix and match (or omit) ingredients depending on your mood or your market. Eat good food, and have fun.

The following isn’t a recipe by Rachael Ray, but it was inspired by her ‘Tuna Pasta Puttanesca’ in Just In Time.

Looks tasty to me

Looks tasty to me

Spicy Tuna & Olive Pasta

  • 1/2 lb spaghetti, cooked
  • 2 cans tuna in water, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c chopped mixed olives (I used a spicy mix from the olive bar at the market)
  • 14 oz. can diced tomatoes (I used a pint I had in the cupboard)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • scant 1/4 c vermouth

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes, and cook until garlic is fragrant. Add tuna and olives. Cook for about a minute, then stir in the vermouth. Cook down the vermouth about 5 min, then add tomatoes. Simmer on low for 5-10 minutes. Add pasta to skillet and toss to combine. (I simmered it for a few minutes to allow the pasta to absorb some of the sauce.)


Dreary days and spicy tomato soup.

Since I’ve been in Massachusetts there has been 4 snow storms. I’ve been here 2 months. Welcome to New England, right? I usually love snow, but this year I’m waiting for Spring. I’m craving brightness. I want the freshness of Spring. I guess I’m looking the rebirth that comes with the season to coincide with my new beginning. I’m waiting for the crocuses to emerge, the asparagus to appear in the market, the sun to warm my bones.

Bright flowers for a dreary day

Bright flowers for a dreary day

But right now it’s snowing.

The (financial) demands of moving have kept my cupboards lean. Thankfully I preserved a lot last summer, both in jars and frozen. (Yes, I packed up all my frozen produce and moved it from Ohio to Massachusetts.) Fortunately/unfortunately, you have to get creative sometimes during lean times. Sure, I have some preserved things, some beans (uncooked), rice, pasta…. But what to do when you don’t want to wait for beans to cook, and you’re tired of pasta with tomato sauce? Flipping through my cookbook collection just made me more frustrated as I kept finding recipes I wanted to make only to find I was missing a major ingredient. Normally, I substitute. Sometimes when I’m tired and hungry, I don’t want to think about flavor combinations and what could fill the giant void of ‘X’ main ingredient. Too technical. Blah.

So, I stared at my cupboard. Tomatoes. Chicken stock. Cumin. Onions. Tomato soup! Wait! I have squash in the freezer. Southwest-style tomato soup!

Warms from within

Warms from within

And here ya go…

Spicy Tomato & Squash Soup

  • 1 qt, or 1-28oz cans- chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 c chopped zucchini, cooked
  • 1/2 med onion, diced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, minced (or any spicy pepper, such as chipotles)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 c chicken stock
  • 1/4 c chopped cilantro
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lime (optional)

In a large pot, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno and garlic, and cook until onion is translucent. Add tomato paste, cumin, salt & pepper, thoroughly combining. Cook until tomato paste just takes on a brown color. Add tomatoes and zucchini; cook for 5 min. Finally, add chicken stock. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 30 min, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings as needed. Right before serving, stir in cilantro and lime juice.


*I used yellow squash, but any summer squash will work. *Adding shredded rotisserie chicken will make a heartier soup. *Adding crisp tortilla strips and avocado will make this like a tortilla soup. *Switch up the cumin for other spices to take this soup around the world. *make this vegetarian by using vegetable stock or water.