Beat the Heat

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Categories: Food & Dining

We’ve arrived at the time of year when everyone complains about the heat and humidity of Oklahoma. When I hear someone say, “Can you believe how hot it is?” I can’t help but chuckle. I’ve lived in Oklahoma my entire life, so how can I be surprised at the sweltering heat we get every single summer? One of my best memories of childhood was going to church camp in July, where we had no electricity in our cabin, and we had to wear long pants the entire week. There were always a couple of kids who had to go home because they were overheated, and we were given salt tablets to help us stay hydrated. The best part of the day was when we got to go swimming, and the best part of the entire week was Sadie Hawkins Night when the girls got to chase the boys. Whomever we caught was our date for dinner.

Now that I’m all grown up, I have other things to look forward to in the summer. I’m usually traveling abroad, but this year is different. My friends around the world keep in touch as we all look forward to meeting again. Since most of us like to cook, we often send each other photos of whatever we’re making. Rachael in England is making elderflower cordial, and Diana in Bali is making fish stew. Inbal in Israel is making chocolate lava cakes I taught her on a Zoom call.

In Italy, my friend Diane makes spaghetti with zucchini and garlic. We made it together many years ago in her apartment in Rome. She used tiny zucchini she bought at the market and sautéed them in garlic and olive oil with a pinch of chile flakes. I’ve never been a huge fan of zucchini, but when we sat down to eat that heaping plate of pasta, I couldn’t believe how delicious such a simple dish could be. I learned an important lesson that day. If you’re using fresh ingredients and really good olive oil, you don’t need to fuss with much more. And it usually takes just minutes to make.

The farmer’s markets are brimming with summer zucchini this month, and I highly recommend trying this recipe. I’ve added a few other ingredients, but you can keep it simple with just zucchini, garlic, and olive oil if you prefer. If you’re still complaining about our Oklahoma heat, remember that we’ll be buttoning our sweaters and wishing we had fresh vegetables from the garden in a few short months. Meanwhile, instead of saying, “Can you believe how hot it is?” say, “Let’s make pasta!”

Spaghetti with Zucchini

Makes 8 servings  - This was the first dish I learned to make in Rome with my friend, Diane. She had purchased the smallest zucchini that morning at the Campo de Fiori market, and we sliced them thinly into little “coins” for a simple sauce to blend with spaghetti. We finished the dish with fresh basil picked from a pot sitting in her kitchen window. This dish takes just minutes to make, yet it is light and filling. A perfect summer dish!


  • 1 pound dried spaghetti

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

  • 4 small zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)

  • Zest of one lemon

  • 8 basil leaves

  • Salt

  • Black pepper

  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

  • 3 tbsp. butter

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add an abundance of salt, then add spaghetti. Stir to prevent sticking. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and stir for thirty seconds. Add zucchini and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stirring to coat in the oil. Cook for three minutes, then remove from heat. When spaghetti is tender, transfer it to the pan of zucchini, using tongs. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the lemon zest. Stir in basil, parmesan cheese, and butter. Taste to see if more salt is needed. Serve immediately.

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