Oh my gosh, I just love Houston summer weather, but I really don’t like to sweat; not even in the gym. I just don’t like to sweat. Period. And … I especially don’t like to sweat when it’s late afternoon and the sun is still glaring through the windows as I’m in the kitchen preparing dinner. I tried wearing a 1980s sweatband while cooking but, seriously, it didn’t match my apron. The solution? I make easy, cool entrees and salads in this hot weather. So “Please Join our Table” as I whip up some summer salad dishes sweat-free!

Fresh Tomato Basil and Ricotta Whole Wheat Pasta Salad

(Tastes like a Margherita Pizza in a bowl)

8 ounces whole-wheat spiral or farfalle pasta
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 12-ounce container cherry tomatoes, about 14, cut in half, lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups fresh spinach leaves (stems removed)
1/2 cup fresh basil (leaves only), torn or rough chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated or shredded (your choice) pecorino Romano cheese
1 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese

Cook the pasta about 1 minute less than the package directions, barely al dente. Drain and save about 1/3 cup of the pasta water. In a large 12-inch saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the chopped garlic, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 3 minutes. Do not burn the garlic or it will become bitter. Add the tomatoes and stir, then add the salt and red pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until just warmed through. Add the drained hot pasta to the tomatoes with the fresh spinach. Toss and cook until spinach barely wilts. Add the grated pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and more salt if needed. If the pasta is a bit dry, add more olive oil and 1-2 tablespoons of pasta water to the pasta mixture until desired consistency is achieved. Top with generous dollops of fresh ricotta and chopped basil. Drizzle with more olive oil. Garnish with toasted garlic pita bread and serve immediately.


Our Grandson Levi is on the golf team at Sam Houston State. This is one of his salad requests when he shows up for the weekend with a few of his golfing buddies. They can’t get enough of it!

Karen’s Golfer’s Delight Quinoa Salad With Greens

1 tablespoon hot water; more if needed to thin the dressing
3 tablespoons whole-milk Greek yogurt or Duke’s Mayonnaise
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
2 anchovy fillets
5 drops Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish)
5 cups greens (I use romaine and baby kale, chopped)
1 1/2 cups quinoa, cooked per package directions
2 cups cooked, peeled shrimp or breast meat of duck, turkey or chicken or the protein of your choice, coarsely chopped
3 green onions, sliced on the bias, approx. 1/2 inch pieces
Black pepper to taste
Croutons, optional

In a food processor/blender combine the first nine ingredients. Pulse until it becomes a smooth dressing. In a large bowl, combine dressing with greens, quinoa, shrimp (or turkey or chicken) and green onions. Divide onto four salad plates. Top with more cheese, freshly ground black pepper and croutons.

Karen Boughton
Author: Karen BoughtonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I grew up in a big, Greek, cooking family. I married my high school sweetheart and soon had three daughters. My husband and I worked in the family’s Greek restaurant, “Zorba’s,” for several years before moving to Baton Rouge and eventually Corpus Christi. There I taught microwave cooking classes for Amana.in studio and on television for three years before moving to Kingwood in the late '80s. I reached out to learn more about regional and international foods, spending 16 years in management in private athletic/dining/country clubs for ClubCorp, where I embraced health and cooking. In 2008 I joined the Tribune Newspapers as food editor, the same time that I became a nutrition advisor and USANA Health Sciences Associate. These two passions have given me better health and the freedom to live life my way.