Simple Mediterranean Flavors Go Far: Olive Oil, Lemon and Garlic.

If you’re new to this blog, please read this first!

lebanese-squash-kousa-summer-recipe-mediterranean-simple-dinner-michelle-chahine-sinno

As Pat Conroy wrote:

a recipe is a story

And I now know–and am continuing to explore how–these recipes are a part of my story.

Being back on the Mediterranean last month in early September really reminded me of the wonders of olive oil and lemon juice– and garlic of course!

Today,  I want to share one of my favorite side dishes that works well both towards the end of the summer because of its freshness, and in the fall because, as anyone who walks into any market can attest, it’s squash season.

A couple of years ago, while I was rediscovering how to eat, I found this white summer squash at the supermarket, and I immediately thought of one of the dishes I used to love when I was a teen in Lebanon.

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I had become so used to seeing regular zucchini, that I was surprised to find them so casually at my neighborhood Ralph’s (Kroger-subsidiary in Southern California.

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I immediately bought a bag-full and was so excited to recreate an old favorite out of memory that evening. This is the perfect recipe to share in post #2 of delicious childhood recipes from Lebanon that make for simple, easy, quick and healthy dinners. To make it a full meal, you can roast some chicken in the oven, and make this easy 15-minute dish when you’re ready to eat:

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (Tip from my mom: Squeeze a lot of lemon juice every few days and keep a small jar in the fridge at all times to reduce cooking/salad-making time in the evenings.)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed (I love this garlic press I found at Williams-Sonoma. Another great way to reduce prep time).
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 3 lbs white squash (You can use regular zucchini, below left, if you can’t find these).

  1. Crush the 2 large garlic cloves and pour salt over them in a medium-sized bowl. Mash a bit with a fork. (This is a tip from my mother-in-law who’s a great cook. Really unleashes the fresh flavor of the garlic)simple-dinner-recipe-squash
  2. Then pour in the olive oil and lemon juice over the garlic and salt, and whisk all together. Let them sit together to infuse.
  3. Boil a large pot of salted water.
  4. Wash the squash and cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces.
  5. When the water boils, add the squash pieces, cook for 3 minutes and drain well. You want them a bit crispy because they’ll continue to cook once they’re off the heat. Don’t worry if they brown a bit too.
  6. Add the squash to the bowl with the sauce mixture. Add a dash of black pepper. Toss and enjoy! (Yes, that easy).

Best when served fresh and warm, but does OK if you have leftovers for lunch the next day.

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I recommend serving this in a small bowl. You want to have plenty of the sauce with each bite of squash.

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Note: You can use this sauce and method with so many other vegetables, including thin green beans and potatoes. I’ll share these at a later point. But I love the combo with squash.

 

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Summer Treats

What’s your favorite thing about summer?

The longer days? Sunny weather? Specific seasonal activities?

And how do you make the most of the summer season?

You may have noticed so far on this blog that I truly feel a key component to a balanced life is appreciating and noticing every season. And while I don’t like to pick favorites between the four, summer definitely opens up boundless potential for de-stressing and being outdoors.

One deterrent to really enjoying it, of course, is having to work too much. Now, this is often unavoidable. We can’t all go back to the days when we were at school and had 3 or 4 months off (though how I wish we could!)

But what is avoidable is the rushing to and from work, and missing out on the joy of summer that for some reason seems to only be associated with children.

For example, we can savor summer treats; either on our way to work in the mornings by stopping for some iced tea and sitting outside a bit enjoying the sunshine–bonus points to meeting friends over iced tea or coffee before getting to the office–or on our way home, like stopping for a cheerful summer ice cream cone in the early evenings, just because.

Roris Ice Cream Michelle Chahine Sinno

When we were kids, did we need an excuse to have ice cream on a warm summer day after running around? No. So why do we need it as adults? We need to take ourselves a lot less seriously, and summer is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the carefree feeling of childhood days at the pool– and embrace that feeling!

I love this “Itty Bitty” cone and scoop in the photo above from Rori’s here in Santa Monica, CA (about the size of your thumb, for $1.75). It’s a perfect way to combine making the most of the season with being mindful about really enjoying food and not overindulging. (Key word: “over.” I’m all for indulging and finding that balance! #LifeAfterWhole30)

Here are some other suggestions of ways to still enjoy the summer even during work days:

  • Make outdoor plans in the evenings since it doesn’t get dark until 8pm. (Minjay helps me with that on our daily walks.)
  • Make a list of specific summer activities you do not want to miss out on (from paddle boarding to baseball games to outdoor concerts), and plan them in advance for the weekends.

What are your ideas on how to make the most of summer and let all our inner kids out to play? I’d love to hear some below! Join the conversation on work-life balance.