Maria Weigel is not a chef but she loves to cook for her family and incorporates interesting and clever ways to use vegetables and herbs to make her dishes delicious and healthy.
"I've never been a mainstream" supermarket shopper. "Never was," said the Massapequa native who shops instead at Stew Leonard's and Trader Joe's where notably she worked for 10 years.
Weigel worked in the store's food demonstration program where she developed some of her favorite cooking tips and recipe ideas.
"I absolutely loved my time there. When I started in '05, the demo station was quite different. We were encouraged to create quick combinations of ingredients," Weigel said in a Facebook message exchange with Daily Voice.
But that's not only where the avid cook learned her way around a kitchen.
"I learned from and love cooking because of my parents. I basically grew up in the deli and catering business they owned when I was a kid."
Today, the self-proclaimed "retired demo queen" loves to shop and prepare food and enjoys making a repertoire of dishes.
One example of how she uses a vegetable without overwhelming a recipe is turning it into a chiffonade.
The thin slicing technique - "I stack a cup of spinach then slice it with a chef's knife" - is good for baby spinach or herbs like tarragon or basil, Weigel tosses into fresh pasta or egg salad.
"This is the only way I could add fresh spinach to salads and have my family eat it," Weigel said.
Weigel made one of her signature dishes, Antipasto Pasta Salad, to go with barbecued chicken thighs for her family this week. The photo drew praises on a Facebook group where she posted it and led to the conversation with Daily Voice.
"They all thought it was basil, With the amount I put in, it would have been overwhelming. There is the smallest amount in my picture because most of it was on my husband's plate. I added in a healthy handful," she said.
Here's the recipe:
Cook, drain and cool one pound of pasta (she uses tortellini), then add a jar of marinated artichokes, reserving half the liquid, roasted red pepper strips, sliced Manzanilla olives, cubed mozzarella cheese, balsamic dressing, sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. For the final step add the reserved liquid and gently fold in one cup of spinach chiffonade.
"It's not so much hiding (vegetables), but cooking them in a way that makes everyone want to eat them," said Weigel.
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