- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Although I eat my share of meat, I often prefer vegetable-based entrees this time of the year.

As an occasional vegetarian, I’m seduced by the variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables that beckon at summer farmers markets, but this doesn’t mean I’d be satisfied with a plate of steamed vegetables. Nor, I assume, would you.

My preference is for a vegetarian main course that’s a balance of vegetables, starches and seasonings that is filling, though not overwhelming. The combination of vegetables, cheese and pasta suits my appetite.

Pasta salads make excellent vegetarian meals. The formula is simple. Start with a chunky pasta and add raw vegetables, herbs, cheese, oil and vinegar and you’re set.

Pasta skillet dinners are delicious options, as well. Cook your favorite summer vegetables, add a cream sauce and pasta, and you have a quick dish.

For pasta salads, I suggest tender vegetables such as baby spinach leaves, small broccoli florets, grape or cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced zucchini or summer squash. For pasta skillet dinners, baby spinach also works well. Steamed asparagus, broccoli, cooked beets or cooking greens such as kale or Swiss chard are excellent. The following recipes give you guidelines for a pasta salad and a skillet dinner. Vary the recipes according to what’s available in your market.

Farfalle and fresh mozzarella salad

4 cups cooked farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

1 cup diced fresh mozzarella cheese

cup chopped scallion

2 tablespoons capers

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

teaspoon crushed dried oregano

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

teaspoon salt

teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Spoon cooked pasta into a serving bowl.

Add the mozzarella, scallion, capers, tomatoes and oregano. To make dressing, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Pour dressing over pasta mixture and toss gently but well. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over and toss again.

Serve at room temperature.

Makes 2 servings.

Swiss chard and penne

1 medium-size bunch Swiss chard

1 tablespoon canola oil

cup whipping cream

cup grated Asiago cheese

3 cups cooked penne pasta

Salt, freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts, optional

Wash chard but do not dry. Remove stems and cut into 1-inch lengths. Chop leaves into 1-inch pieces.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chard stems and saute over high heat 1 to 2 minutes. Add chard leaves and saute 2 to 3 minutes or until tender.

Add cream and cheese and cook over low heat 1 minute, or until cream is slightly thickened and coats the chard.

Add the cooked pasta and salt and pepper to taste and heat through. Stir in walnuts, if desired.

Makes 2 servings.

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