Sunday, October 12, 2008

Potato Pancakes, Apple Compote, and Chocolate Zucchini Cake

While summer's bounty is at an end, I completely love the flavors of fall. Here are a couple of recipes to keep you cooking local through October:




Potato Pancakes

This recipe is based on the recipe for potato pancakes in The Joy of Cooking. I've made some slight changes.

Ingredients:

5 medium potatoes, peeled, washed, and coarsely grated (about 2.5 cups coarsely grated)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (may need 3 eggs)
1 tablespoon finely grated onion (I almost always use about 1/2 teaspoon onion powder instead. A cheat, I know.)
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

Peel, wash, and coarsely grate the potatoes. Then place handfuls into a dish towel and wring out excess water. Place the potatoes into a large bowl. Mix with the remaining ingredients (except the vegetable oil).

The resulting mixture should be kind of liquid-y: mostly potatoes, but definitely some liquid that settles to the bottom of the bowl. If the mixture seems dry, add a third egg. This is a very forgiving recipe. Sometimes I only use 2 cups of potatoes, sometimes I use more like 3 cups. Sometimes it's pretty liquidy, sometimes it's more dry. It always turns out yummy, though!

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with approx 1/4 inch of vegetable oil. Heat over medium high heat until hot. (As a tip, you can use a wooden chopstick to test the oil. When the oil is hot enough, bubbles should form around the tip of the wooden chopstick when you dip it in the oil. You can then use the chopstick along with a spatula to help flip the pancakes).

Drop spoonfuls of potato mixture into the hot oil. Use the back of the spoon to spread the mixture out thinly. The thinner your pancakes, the crispier they will become so flatten them according to your preference (very thin if you like crispy pancakes, thicker if you like them less crispy). Stir the potato mixture in the bowl between each spoonful you add to the pan so that the liquid doesn't just settle to the bottom of the bowl.

Fry until browned on the bottom, flip, and fry until the other side is browned. Remove to paper towels to drain.

These are delicious served with sour cream, applesauce, or the apple "compote" I'll include below.

______________________

Apple Compote

This isn't really a compote, but I'm not sure what to call it. Maybe a warm, extremely chunky applesauce?

Ingredients:

5-8 apples
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons water (or more)

Directions:

Peel the apples, and then shave chunks off directly into a large saucepan. Add a couple tablespoons of water, and place over medium low heat. Add the cinnamon and sugar and heat until warm and softened, about 15 minutes. This is another forgiving recipe. Cook it longer over a lower heat, though you will probably have to add more water if it starts to dry out. Cook it a really long time, and it'll keep getting more and more like applesauce.

The flavor and consistency of this is dependent on the apples used. I like to use a variety of apples. In the picture above, I used Macs, Jonagolds, and Mutsus, the varieties I picked earlier this week.

____________________

Okay, and dessert is really a summer dessert, that I've been meaning to post for a few months. But keep it in mind for next summer when those zucchinis are once again overflowing the crisper drawers!

Chocolate Zucchini Brownie Cake

I follow the linked recipe exactly and it turns out so amazingly. One of my friends has also make it subbing applesauce for the oil, and said it was still very good. My only complaint about the recipe is that they call it brownies. It's really more like a cake in my opinion. Whatever it is, it's delightful!

_____________________

Last note: I made this meal for my Pass the Plate meal. You can see the part of the plate, which I put the potato pancakes on. KitchenAid is selling platters to raise money for breast cancer research. The idea is that you buy a plate, register it online, then cook something for a friend or family member. Then they cook something and pass it along to someone else, who passes it to someone else, etc. Everyone registers the plate online as they pass it, and every time it gets passed, KitchenAid donates $5.

It was really fun to do, and such an easy way to help raise money for breast cancer research!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Savory Goat Cheese and Leek Tart and Fried Green Tomatoes



It’s been a wet and dreary early fall here in New England, which kind of dictated this unusual but in the end, wonderful meal.
We were supposed to go camping but the weather made that an impossibility. The only upside is that this weather is that it makes me want to cook, specifically something savory and fall-like, and a chance conversation with a friend about the fate of our tomato plants in this terrible weather led me to find a recipe for fried green tomatoes at Southern Living magazine. Paired with this tart I’ve been meaning to make from Local Flavors I had a great meal for a rainy Saturday night.
There are many other recipes online for fried green tomatoes, many of them with fewer ingredients. But this one is from Southern Living, first of all, and the additions are all things like buttermilk and cornmeal, second of all -- so it seemed worth the extra effort, to me. The next day I noticed that I’m not the only Boston-ite who was interested in this southern staple -- the folks at the Boston Globe had the same idea, so you can find a another recipe here. Theirs turns the tomatoes into little mozzarella sandwiches which I just might have to try.
The tart came together with surprising ease. I didn’t make my own crust since we had a frozen rolled one already, but your favorite simple pie crust would do nicely. Since my husband was unable to find crème fraîche at the store I substituted heavy cream. I was worried about the tart setting but there’s such a high leak/other stuff ratio it wasn’t a problem at all -- it’s different than a quiche, the vegetables really do hold the dish together. I had no fresh thyme so put some dried on top instead. While the tart is best served piping hot my husband is planning on taking cool leftovers to work and I think it will be a wonderful and different lunch.
I’ve never made fried green tomatoes before but I’ve enjoyed them at restaurants, most recently at the sorely missed Magnolia’s here in Inman Square. Mine were not nearly as pretty as some of the ones you can get elsewhere but they are easy to make and absolutely delicious. And what a great use for end of season tomatoes that won’t go red before the first frost. We ate them with a little hot sauce but I was thinking that some horseradish mayo would have been amazing as well.


Savory Goat Cheese Tart with Leeks
1 9-inch prebaked tart shell
6 slender leeks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 ounces goat cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup crème fraîche (or heavy cream)
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper
white pepper
2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves (or one teaspoon dried)

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Slice the leeks into thin circles and then rinse them thoroughly in water. Meanwhile, elt the butter in a skillet. Add the leeks and cook over medium heat until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Beat the goat cheese and the egg in a mixer until blended. Add the milk, creme fraiche or cream, a pinch of salt and a pinch of white pepper. Put the leeks into the pie shell and then pour the custard over them, mixing a bit with a spoon or spatula so they are evenly distributed. Put the thyme on top of the part and bake for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Apple Peach Blueberry Pie

Quick, it's that magic time of year when you can get fresh, local apples, peaches, and blueberries. And there's nothing better than Apple Peach Blueberry Pie.

I created the recipe for Pi Day this past year, expanding upon my mom's delicious apple pie recipe. And let me tell you, while I loved this pie in March, it's a million times better with ingredients fresh off the tree!



Here's my recipe for Apple Peach Blueberry Pie:

Ingredients:
6 to 8 apples (I like to use a variety of types, larger sized apples. If you use small apples, peel more like 10 to 12)
2 or 3 peaches
2/3 cup of blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons of butter (optional...I almost always forget it!)
2 pie crusts (make your own or buy from the refrigerator section...I won't tell!)

Directions:

Peel apples and peaches and thinly slice into a large bowl. Add blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir gently to coat and let sit for at least ten minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place bottom pie crust into pie plate. Add all of the filling. Cut up the butter and dot around on top of the filling. Top with second pie crust. Cut vents in top.

Place aluminum foil around the edges of the pie to prevent burning. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and continue baking an additional 10 to 20 minutes until the pie is nicely browned.


_______________________

For all you locals, we went to Parlee Farms to pick fruit. They are reasonably priced (we spent $39 for a peck of stone fruit and a 1/2 bushel of apples...over 30 lbs of apples, peaches, nectarine, and plums!) And, it's a lot of fun for kids with a hay ride out to the orchards, a small farm animal area, and a hay maze. They also have a nut-free bakery. It was such a joy to be able to buy a cookie for my son with nut allergies. And if that's not enough, they even had local fall strawberries in their farm stand. Local strawberries! In September! Yum.

Figured I'd pass along the recommendation since we had such a great time!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Raw Fruit/Vegetable Salads


The latest "raw food craze" has sparked my interest in preparing more fresh fruits & vegetables for my family. Due to concerns with the overall safety of the current food supply and the need for proper nutrition in my food allergic family, I can't go totally raw - yet I can incorporate some of the basic ideas. Growing up on a fruit & vegetable farm in Michigan, it was as much of a delight to pick a fresh juicy green bean and eat it raw as it was to eat a plump strawberry warm from the summer sun.

Purchasing local produce is as close as I'll get to my childhood lifestyle, though affordability and convenience are now also concerns. Moving into the fall season, I thought I'd share a couple of great fruit/vegetable salad combinations, that are perfect to make in the evening and send for lunches/snacks the next day. Feel free to experiment/substitute any kind of vegetable or fruit your CSA sends (i.e. shredded beets/zucchini/jicama for the carrots, pears for the apples, etc.), or add unsweetened shredded coconut or other dried fruit.

Apple/Carrot/Pineapple Salad:
3 crunchy apples, peeled or unpeeled, chopped into chunks (whatever size you prefer)
about 1 can pineapple chunks (fresh or canned in their own juice, drained)
about 4 carrots shredded in a food processor or sliced into thin strips
1/4 c. dried currants or raisins (any dried fruit would work)
1/2 - 1 green pepper, thinly sliced and chopped
optional: chopped walnuts, pecans or any kind of nut

Just mix everything together, it will keep overnight and for at least a day in the fridge. You could choose to put some sort of dressing on it if you wanted (yogurt dressing - yogurt, lemon, and honey), mayo, or a vinaigrette. My kids liked this plain with a little honey drizzled on top (I shred the carrots in my Cuisinart, it makes them much easier to eat for the younger ones, and I used canned pineapple so some of the juice was enough "dressing"). I had to leave off the nuts for the kids (allergic), but they are easy to add last if the adults want some extra protein.

Option for busy people (pictured above): Shred 3 carrots, 1 apple, and 1 green pepper in your Cuisinart food processor. Dump in a can of pineapple juice. I made this for my kids to eat in the car or on-the-run.

Dairy/Egg-Free Fresh Coleslaw:
1/2 head cabbage, shredded (I use my Cuisinart food processor)
1-2 carrots, shredded
1-2 apples, peeled, cut into chunks
1/2 c. raisins, dried currants or cranberries/dried cherries

Dressing:
1 T. rice milk
3 T. white vinegar
2 T. orange juice
1 t. honey
1 T. lemon juice
6 T. olive oil

Just whisk the dressing together and mix in to the vegetables.

Fresh Beet/Carrot Slaw (from Martha Stewart's, "Great Food Fast"...a great cookbook arranged by season):
1 pound raw beets (shredded in food processor)
2 carrots (shredded)

Dressing:
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
1 T. honey
3/4 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. cayenne
salt

Just mix up the dressing and add to the vegetables. I adjust the spices in the dressing for my kids, but otherwise, this is a fun way to eat beets (though perhaps slightly messy).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Robust End-of-the-Summer Spaghetti



Our summer is winding down now, and we probably had our last visit the Kendall Square Farmers' Market last week.  We're heading off on vacation tomorrow, and once back will fall into the crazy routine of school, activities, and work, which will leave less time for trips to farmers' markets and cooking complicated meals.  I'll still try to get a post up here and there, and hopefully my fellow bloggers will continue sharing recipes as well.

I chose to make this recipe from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison.  I made a few modifications. I left out the anchovies, since we don't eat fish.  I also discovered after broiling all the eggplant that just-broiled eggplant tastes really, really good, so not all the eggplant made it to the dish.  I also thought the dish needed more protein, so added in a can of white beans.  

The dish was fairly easy to make, although it was time consuming.  If I did it again, I'd probably broil the vegetables in the morning, since they would have kept well.  I was wondering how the vegetables would combine with the olives, and whether the white beans would fit in, but it all came together quite nicely and made for a good meal.  I doubled the recipe so that we'd have lots of leftovers, but I never got to eat any leftovers since they disappeared from the fridge, so I guess it was a popular dish.

Something very strange happened when I was broiling the eggplant, though.  When I took out the second batch, parts of it were a fluorescent blue color.  It was perfectly fresh and cut right before it went in.  It looked like the blue-ness had somehow seeped from the pores of the eggplant.  I've done some googling to see if this is normal, but haven't found any information, so if anyone knows why some slices of my eggplant turned partially blue, I would love to hear the explanation.  I took a picture, since it seemed to need documentation, but I swear it was even bluer in real life.  (My son was doing watercolors in the next room at the time, so there's a slight chance there was some paint contamination, but I couldn't figure out how that could have possibly happened.)  


I just googled again and found this link about garlic turning blue, and googled again and found that eggplant also contains arthrocyanin, so perhaps I have answered my own question.  What did we do before Google when our food turned mysterious colors?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Barley, Kale, and Kidney Bean Stew

Rachel had recommended this recipe in the comments, and I wanted to give another recipe a try from the book Vegetarian Planet.  I hadn't yet cooked with kale this summer, and this looked like a pretty hearty dish.  Here is a link to the recipe.

We tend to enjoy lots of stew for leftovers, and were expecting guests for dinner, so I doubled the recipe.  The kale and carrots were both from the farmers' market, but I had to substitute in some baby carrots since my kids insisted on eating raw carrots while hopping around the kitchen like bunny rabbits, and that was hard to say no to!

There's a warning in the book not to oversalt, so I was careful to undersalt so that everyone could adjust according to their taste preferences.  The stew was good, and the barley was a nice change of pace for a grain.  One of our guests suggested adding more kidney beans, since they brought a lot of flavor to the dish, but there didn't seem to be enough of them.  It was quite easy to prepare, especially if chopping is done in advance.  Even though kale is in season now, it felt like more of a fall/winter dish.  I might make it again at some point, but I wasn't excited enough about it for it to be part of our regular meal rotation.



In addition to the stew, we also had some fried squash blossoms with dinner, following WhatACard's recipe here.  I'm sort of terrified of deep frying, but they came out really good, though were sort of luke-warm by the time they got to the table.  I didn't read that I was supposed to leave the stems on until I had already taken them off, which would have made them a little easier to handle in the scary hot oil.  The rest of it was pretty straightforward, though it did take a good amount of prep for such a small part of the meal.  My picture isn't nearly as pretty as the one posted earlier, but here's what they looked like.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Magic Pickles and Delicious Baba Ghanoush

True confessions time: I don't like cucumbers. At all. I mean, I don't even like them to touch my real food. Their icky flavor invades everything it touches. Yuck. But I love pickles. Oh, the hidden depths of me. So, when I saw the post on Boston Dish about making pickles, I figured I'd give it a go. I used the recipe she linked as my starting point, and made just a few changes.

Ingredients:

4 medium sized cucumbers (I only had regular cukes, no pickling cukes)
1 Tablespoon pickling salt
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh dill
2 cloves garlic
1 serrano pepper

Directions:

Thinly slice cucumbers and place in a large bowl. Add salt, mix, and place in the refrigerator for 90 minutes to 3 hours (no need to be exact...I forgot about mine!).

Place cucumbers in a colander and rinse under cold water, then return to the bowl.

Peel and crush garlic cloves. Cut the serrano pepper in half and remove seeds.

In a medium saucepan, place all remaining ingredients (except the cucumbers). Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir until all the sugar dissolves. Take my advice and do not put your face over the boiling vinegar. And if you do, certainly don't take a big breath. Just my two cents, based on hard-learned experience!

Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the cucumbers. Cover, refrigerate, and wait around 24 hours. Then voila! Magic occurs, and those cucumbers have become pickles! Keep refrigerated and eat within 2 weeks. Or 5 days, if you're us.

These pickles were surprisingly good. I took them to a picnic, and overheard a couple of elementary school kids talking about how good they were. And how sweet they were. These pickles are pretty sweet, which isn't a big surprise given the huge quantity of sugar in the recipe. The longer the pickles sat in the fridge, the more sour they became. So if you don't like very sweet pickles, you may want to give it a few days before you try them.

________________________

On an unrelated note, one of my favorite eggplant dishes is Baba Ghanoush. However, I've never been able to find a recipe that is anywhere near as good as our favorite, which sadly is from a restaurant in Atlanta. Not exactly some place we can just pop in when the urge takes us. So in my ongoing quest to find a great Baba Ganoush recipe, I tried one from The Figs Table by Todd English and Sally Sampson. I was intrigued by this recipe as it included mint, an ingredient I never thought to try in Baba Ganoush. I made a few minor changes to the recipe:

Ingredients:

4 Chinese Eggplants
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of one lemon
8 mint leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
minced scallions, lemon zest, and additional olive oil for garnishing
Pita bread

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick egglants all over with a fork, then rub with olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet, and roast in the oven, turning once, for approximately 30 minutes (until soft...depends on the size of your eggplant). Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 mintues.

Peel the garlic cloves and throw into a blender (or large food processor if you're lucky enough to have one. My mini just didn't seem up to the challenge of four eggplants!). Cut then ends off each eggplant, cut a slit down the side of each eggplant, and peel the skin off with your fingers. Add the flesh of the eggplant to the blender. Add the tahini and blend until smooth. You'll have to stop and use a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients around from time to time.

Add the lemon juice, mint leaves, salt, and pepper, and continue blending (and stirring when necessary) until the mint leaves have been completely incorporated.

Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Remove to a plate, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and garnish with scallions and lemon zest. Serve with pita bread for dipping.


We enjoyed this recipe, although it still didn't quite live up to our restaurant favorite. The mint was a very interesting addition, and this worked just fine with Chinese Eggplant (the original recipe called for one regular eggplant). While this was good, though, I'll probably keep searching for the elusive "perfect" Baba Ghanoush.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Calabacitas Casserole

Hello, cooking and blogging friends!

This is my first blog post, after spending most of the summer away. (Away in places like Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, where all you can get are delicious, fresh local veggies and fruits ... but that's another post!) One recipe-planning scheduling issue that I'm having in my push to use the farmer's market as our meal-planning driver is that I'm used to planning meals on the weekend and getting all of the week's food shopping done then. Our local farmer's market in Davis Square is on Wednesdays, and it's hard for me to get into the routine of waiting until then to plan. I know I could find a weekend market, but part of the appeal of farmers market shopping for me is walking to it, and seeing neighbors there, etc.
I decided to go with a squash and zucchini recipe because squash and zucchini seem to be still abundant, though I know posters have been supplying "use-up-zucchini" recipes for a while. This recipe, Calabacitas Casserole with Polenta and Cheese, was retrieved by a friend from the Food Network site in 2005, and I'm happy to see it's still here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/calabacitas-casserole-with-polenta-and-cheese-recipe/index.html

Essentially, the key ingredients - corn kernels, garlic, a green chile pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and tomatoes (recipe recommends a can of stewed tomatoes) - are sauteed.

They are then placed in a baking dish and topped with polenta and cheese. (Photo is taken before baking.)


This is a really comforting dish, and our kids were more open to it than they are to other all-mushed-together foods because the polenta and cheese part, at least (yes, the less-healthy part!), almost tastes like a mini-pizza. They ate some of the veggies, but like many of my casserole-type things, alas, it would be better to keep some zucchini and squash separate so that they can eat those without the influence of the spicy pepper, chili powder and garlic.

Here is a picture of the yummy but messy-looking leftovers, of which there are plenty:




To make the dish even more in season than the recipe linked above, you could cut the kernels off corn on the cob, and you could modify the tomato part to use fresh tomatoes. I haven't tried that yet, mostly because the recipe as written is quite quick - I also have relied on the pre-made tube of polenta rather than making my own. It's a good dish to start in the morning - chopping everything - and then very quick to assemble and cook (8 minutes) at dinner time.
I bet this could be made with many other veggies - I love that the polenta allows you to use less cheese, and yet the dish has an overall cheesy, comforting feeling.
Happy eating!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Corn and Tomato Salad. Plus, Zucchini cookies

It's hard to believe, but I think I'm finally getting sick of corn on the cob. We've been eating it nearly every day for almost a month, and I'm just starting to look for recipes besides shuck-heat-eat. One of my girlfriends had mentioned she made a corn and tomato salad, but couldn't remember the recipe. So I just winged it. I mean, corn, tomatoes, what else does it need?


I guess I thought of a few more ingredients!

Ingredients:
3 ears corn
20 or so cherry tomatoes
10 leaves of basil
Splash of olive oil
Slightly larger splash of balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

Shuck corn, removing all corn silk. Boil the corn for about 2 minutes. Place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and cool them down. When they are cool, cut off the kernels (be careful, the corn may be hotter near the cob). Put the corn kernels into a bowl.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl with the corn.

Mince the fresh basil, and add to the bowl. Splash in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add a few cracks of pepper and salt, give it a stir, and you're done. If you have time, let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour to let the flavors develop. Or just eat it right away.

We all enjoyed this, although I wasn't that happy with the visual appeal of the dish. Our corn from the CSA was very light this week, nearly white without any sprinklings of yellow. And we had picked mostly golden cherry tomatoes at the farm (I rooted through the salad to get some of the few red cherry tomatoes in the picture above). The balsamic vinegar almost made the light colors look muddy. I don't know, this is all aesthetics...it tasted just fine. But if I was making it again, I'd look for yellower corn and redder tomatoes. Or I'd try a red wine vinegar instead of balsamic. It needs something to brighten up the colors of the dish to match the bright, fresh flavor. Let me know if you figure it out!

_______________________

This week I also made the chocolate chip zucchini cookies mentioned in Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I followed the recipe exactly, so I won't reprint it here, and I have to say while they were okay, I was a bit disappointed. The cookies were very soft and cakey, no crunch at all, no matter how long I cooked them (well, within reason. The recipe called for 10-15 minutes cooking, I went as long as 20 minutes with one batch. Still very soft).


They were okay, but nothing special. If I was going to make baked goods from zucchini in the future, I'd probably stick with zucchini bread. And if I felt like adding vegetables to my cookies, I'd probably stick with oatmeal carrot chocolate chip cookies.

But I include this here in case you want to give it a go for the novelty of the recipe, or because you're making all the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle recipes, or just to steer you away if you were on the fence. But as I said, they weren't bad. I mean, it used a whole bag of chocolate chips. How bad could they be? And at the very least, my boys are eating them as fast as I'll let them. Hey, it counts as a vegetable, right?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

Although our favorite chard with tofu and tomato dish is still a summer staple, my husband found an article in the New York Times that encouraged me to try something different with chard.  The title intrigued me, since I could figure out how to stuff chard, but it turns out that you just roll balls of rice and cheese in chard, so that made more sense to me.

The New York Times only allows subscribers to access its archives after a certain point, but I found a copy of the recipe online here so everyone can access it.

The recipe was time consuming, but seemed pretty worthwhile.  I'd probably make it as a special occasion meal, but it was a little involved for a regular dinner.  Risotto on its own is time-consuming, and this added several more steps after the risotto.  For those who don't want to read the whole recipe, basically you make risotto, wrap mozzarella cheese in balls of the risotto, and then wrap a poached chard leaf around it.  You make six of these and put them in a pan, then put about half an inch of vegetable broth in the pan, and bake for 10 minutes. Here's a picture of it when it came out of the oven.


I felt like the end product was a little salty for me, so would probably do half broth and half water for the risotto next time.  Otherwise, it was really good and the melted mozzarella and the risotto tasted great together.  The saffron added great flavor, and the lemony taste was pretty obvious too (and I did actually zest the lemons, Lee!).  The chard didn't really taste like much, but was crucial for holding the whole thing together and presentation.  I found that I needed a lot of chard leaves to make this work since some were too small or had holes in them, so I had to be picky.

I think the kids would have liked the risotto and cheese part, but they were sort of put off by the chewy green wrapping.  They love mozzarella cheese (or "Cinderella cheese" as my 3-year-old calls it), so had some pieces of that on the side, along with lots of bread. Here's a picture of a kid's plate, which shows a cross-section of the stuffed chard.


I also had some broccoli from the farmers' market, so tried a new broccoli side dish from Local Flavors.  It's called Braised Broccoli with Olives.  It turned out fine, but I think I prefer the fresher and crisper taste of simple roasted broccoli.  Here's the recipe:

4 small heads broccoli or 1.5 or more pounds broccoli sprouts
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion
1 tablespoon chopped majoram or oregano
3 garlic cloves, coarsley chopped
2 tablespoons olive paste or finely chopped Gaeta olives
grated zest of 1/2 lemon

1. Separate the stalks and peel them, then chop into 1/2 inch pieces.  Separate the broccoli into florets and peel the base of the crowns.
2. Cook the broccoli in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Reserving a cup of water, take out broccoli and chop into smaller than bite-sized pieces.
3. Cook the onion, majoram or oregano, and garlic in a skillet for 5-7 minutes until the onion is soft.  Add in the olives or olive paste, then add the broccoli and stir to coat.  Season with salt and pepper and add the lemon zest, then add in the reserved water and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

I couldn't find Gaeta olives at Trader Joe's, so I just got a small can of chopped black olives and used the whole thing since I like olives.  Make sure you peel the stalks really well, since I missed a few spots and it was pretty obvious.  I was all about the lemon zesting when prepping this meal, but lemon juice would probably have had the same effect.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Curried Carrot-Walnut Burgers and Eggplant Gratin

Among other things, we got carrots and eggplant from the farmers' market last week. I decided to try a recipe for Curried Carrot-Walnut Burgers from the great cookbook, Vegetarian Planet by local author Didi Emmons. I bought this cookbook a couple years ago and have flipped through a few times thinking of the possibilities, but had never attempted a recipe. I also just bought the cookbook Local Flavors by Deborah Madison, since Lee keeps talking about it, and decided to make Eggplant Gratin as a side dish.

Curried Carrot-Walnut burgers
2 tablespoons canola or corn oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1.5 cups sliced white button mushrooms
1.5 cups cooked and drained chick peas
4 medium carrots, grated
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
unbleached white flour (for dredging and forming the burgers)

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil, add the onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add spices and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Put chickpeas and contents of the pan in a food processor, and run in spurts until everything is well-chopped.

3. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Flour your hands and form the mixture into patties. Heat oil in a skillet, and cook the patties four minutes on each side until the bottoms are golden brown.

This recipe was somewhat successful. Unlike my husband Josh, who is a chemist, I tend to be pretty approximate with recipes. I think this recipe would have come out better if I had been more precise. I added in an extra carrot because we had a bunch and threw in another handful of walnuts becuase I like them. When it came time to form and cook the patties, the texture did not seem quite right, and I had a really hard time keeping them together. It helped to squeeze handfuls of the batter to drain them a bit, but it was still quite delicate work flipping the burgers. Towards the end, I added in some flour to the batter, and then everything worked much better and it was easier to cook.

Overall, this recipe was a good amount of work. For some reason anything involving the food processor seems complicated to me, and since the ingredients had to be cooked first, then transferred and chopped, and then cooked again, it took quite a while. I also had to wait a while before forming the patties since the mixture was too hot to touch at first. I really liked the final product, though. I had one on a bun, but that seemed like a lot of starch, so then just ate a few more like pancakes with ketchup on top.



I also made the following recipe for Eggplant Gratin. It said it could be served at room temperature or warm, so I made this in advance while the burger batter cooled.

2.5 pounds eggplant, peeled if white
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced
4 large eggs
1 cup milk or light cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
10 large basil leaves, torn into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350 and oil a casserole dish. Cut the eggplants into rounds half an inch thick. Salt and set aside.

2. Heat some oil in a skillet and cook the onions for about 12 minutes. While onions cook, combine the eggs, milk, cheese, vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and pepper.

3. Rinse salted eggplant and wipe off water with a towel. Heat oil in the skillet and fry each piece of eggplant. Turn right away in the oil and then fry until golden.

4. Mix the eggplant with the onions, basil, and salt and pepper. Put it in the dish and pour the egg and milk mixture over the top. Bake until golden, firm, and puffed for 30-40 minutes. Dish should cool for a bit before serving, or can be served at room temperature.

This dish was good, but time consuming. Frying the eggplant took a while, so I'd make this dish again if I could come up with a shortcut for that step. The rest of the steps were easy, and I like that it could easily be made in advance. My 3-year-old helped by tearing up the basil.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Kathirikkai Vengaya Masala and Bok Choy Poriyal


Hi all,

Well, I was browsing the web for recipes and I came across a bunch of really yummy sounding Indian style recipes that use ingredients we can currently get at the local farmer's market. This one and the following one can be found on a website called Just for Fun, http://jasu.wordpress.com/. But don't worry, I am also printing the recipe here.

First one is for "spicy fried eggplant in a tomato tamarind sauce" (only a translation of the tastes, not an actual translation of the title unless this was a lucky guess). And by the way, it is not spicy or doesn't have to be - you control the chili powder.

Ingredients
For the gravy
Sliced onion - 2 medium size
Chopped tomato - 2 medium size
Ginger / garlic paste - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Chilly powder - 1 tsp
Tamarind paste - 1/4 tsp

For the fry
Indian Eggplant / Kathirikai - 5 to 6 medium size
Chilly powder - 1 tsp
Corriander powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Salt
Add all the powders to the eggplant and marinate it for 15mins. Heat little oil and fry the eggplant slices and keep it aside

Method
1. Heat little oil in pan and pop mustard and then add the sliced onion, ginger garlic paste and fry until the onion is half done (soft) . Add the chopped tomato, chilly powder and turmeric and cook till oil separates from the gravy.
2. Add the tamarind juice and cook for 2 to 3 mins. Finally add the fried eggplant slices and mix it gently.
3. Cook on low flame for few more minutes. Enjoy with biryani or any kind of pulao. You can also have this with white rice , curd rice too.

Now with the Bok Choy Poriyal, my husband was helping to prep and decided the recipe on the site didn't quite make sense so he googled another recipe. Before I realized it I was cooking a much more complicated recipe than the original, which was so simple, I thought it would be nice to make it alongside the eggplant. Needless to say this dinner was on the late side, but worth the wait.

Here is the complicated recipe that I used. Don't ask me what a nos is. I was not totally sure about all the measurements but took an educated guess. I did not use fresh coconut, but instead used dyhdrated coconut flakes bought at Whole Foods. They rehydrated to some degree during cooking so they worked for me. I also did not use
curry leaves as I had none so I used Indian style curry powder, just a dash. I don't know what Split black gram is and didn't have time to look it up, so I didn't use that either. And where it says mustard, I used black mustard seed, which is what they meant.


Ingredients
1 no

Onion (diced)
1 bunch Bok choy
2 clove Garlic (crushed)
¼ cup resh grated coconut
¼ tsp

Mustard
¼ tsp

Cumin seeds
¼ tsp

Split black gram
2 nos

Dry red chilli
2 nos

Curry leaves
1 dash

Salt (or to taste)
3 tsp

Oil
1 pinch

Turmeric powder
1 dash

Asafoetida
Instructions


Simple solution to clean the Bok choy is to cut off a small portion of the stalk at the bottom. This would easily separate the stalk and makes cleaning quick and easy. Both stalks and leaves are edible, rinse them under cold water and chop finely. Heat oil in a pan, splutter mustard, dry red chilli, cumin seeds, split black gram and curry leaves. Fry the onions and garlic for a while then add the chopped bok choy with turmeric, asafoetida and salt. This veggie cooks quickly and in about 5 to 7 minutes it becomes tender. (Do not cover to cook) Add the fresh grated coconut, toss a couple of times and serve with rice.

A note of caution: watch the turmeric. No more than what is suggested. It can quickly overtake the other ingredients.


"Just for fun," here is also the original, simpler, recipe that attracted me. But as you can see, the instructions refer to ingredients that are not listed. That is what sent my husband googling.

Ingredients
Bok Choy / Chinese Cabbage - 3 medium size
Shallot Onion - 3 to 4
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Grated Coconut - 2 tbsps
Garlic pods - 2
Green chilly - 2

Method
1. Wash and chop the leaves.
2. Grind green chilly, cumin, garlic, coconut into a coarse paste.
3. Heat little oil and pop mustard, add the sliced onion fry for a minute. Add chopped leaves and fry for 2 to 3 mins. Add the ground paste , salt and sprinkle little water and cover it with a lid and cook for few more mins.
4. Open the lid and fry until all the water evaporates and the leaves cooked well. Serve with white rice as a side dish.

Anyway, I recommend the basic ideas.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

fresh tomatillo salsa

This is an easy yummy way to use fresh tomatillos. We made this a lot last summer, and as we just got a batch of tomatillas from the farm (and the cilantro, garlic and chilis, too), we made some last night. It is from Rick Bayless', Mexican Everyday, which is a great book.

4 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
1 large garlic clove
hot green chilis (he recommends 2 serrano or 1 jalepeno), stemmed and roughly chopped
1/2 - 1/3 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
salt

Put it all in a blender or processor with a little (1/4 cup) water and 1/2 tsp salt. Get it to the consistency you like (I like it sort of runny). When you put it in a bowl you can add extra water if it needs it. Season to taste. It's best eaten right away.

He includes lots of variations (add parsley, add lemon zest (we do that), try mint, etc...)

I chopped the chilis seeds, pith and all because we like it spicy, but adjust for yourself!

rachel

Corn Fritters with Arugula


I must warn you, this dish is pretty decadent, for corn. And I say that as a woman who usually prefers her corn on the cob grilled, drizzled with butter, lime juice and cajun pepper and then rolled in parmesan cheese. So if you’re the sort who frets that anything more than a little butter and salt might be too much for your ears, this is not the recipe for you.
But for the rest of us...trust me, these fritters are just as good as they sound.
(It’s another one from Local Flavors, and seriously, I’m not on the payroll. I’m just suffering from a new cookbook crush. I’m sure when my summer fling is over I’ll go back to my old favorite, The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home).
Cutting the corn and getting the milk for this recipe is a messy business, though sort of fun in a weird way. So if you’re cooking for company either do this well in advance or outside unless you are having the kind of guests who won’t mind that your kitchen is covered in corn flecks.
My version ended up a bit more fricassee than fritters which I attribute to not quite enough flour, too small a pan, and the fact that I’m a Lutheran from Long Island and my people do many things well but cook balls of things in oil is not one of them. Those of you from more fritter-friendly cultures will not have the same problems, I suspect.
I have to say almost forwent the arugula since the bunch I had slated for this dish had to pinch hit for spinach in another recipe the previous. But my husband offered to go fetch some more and I’m glad he did, even though ours was no longer local Farmer’s Market yumminess but rather from a neighborhood grocery store that I normally don’t buy anything from that’s not beer, chips or in a factory-sealed can. But the sharp flavor of arugula contrasted against the cheesy corn is what makes this dish. Arrange it around the fritters and make sure each plate has enough to have some in every bite.

6 ears sweet corn
2 eggs beaten
4 scallions, finely sliced
1/2 cup chopped parsley (having no parsley, I substituted some cilantro which worked nicely)
2 tablespoons shredded basil or dill
1 cup grated aged cheddar
1/3 cup flour (I used whole wheat flour)
salt and pepper
butter or oil for frying
a few handfuls of trimmed arugula

1. Slice the kernels off the corn with a sharp knife and then squeeze out the milk with either the back of the knife or a butter knife. Mix the corn kernels with the eggs, scallions, herbs, cheese and as much flour as can be easily absorbed. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Coat a pan generously with oil or butter and heat. Divide the batter into sixths and drop into the skillet. Fry over medium heat until golden brown, about two minutes a side.
3. Put the fritters on plates with the arugula and eat immediately.

Black bean and corn salad? Salsa? And another bonus zucchini recipe

I love corn on the cob. I mostly just eat it lightly steamed, or occasionally grilled. But, I've been trying to branch out a little and try some new recipes. One thing I decided to throw together was a corn and black bean salsa. Or salad. I'm not sure which I'd call it, but it was yummy.


Ingredients:

1 can (15 oz.) of black beans
4 ears of corn
3 green onions
1 tablespoon fresh minced cilantro (or more to taste)
Ground cumin to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste

Directions:

Husk corn and cut the kernels off the cobs. Everyone has a favorite way to do it, but if you're a newbie, here's what I do:
1) When you husk the corn, leave the stems intact (don't break off!)
2) Cut a small amount of the bottom (tip end) of the corn off so you have a flat surface (and it gets rid of the kernels that are generally too small or a little yucky at the tip).
3) Get out a big roasting pan. Holding the corn upright in the pan, use a sharp knife to cut rows of corn off. Keep turning the corn until you've cut off all the kernels. The roasting pan will catch all the kernels as they fall from the cob.

In a medium pot, boil water, then add the corn. Boil for about 2 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. (You could also cook the corn on the cob before you cut the kernels off. I just didn't have time to let the corn on the cob cool before cutting it, so I cut it first). Place corn into a large bowl.

Drain and rinse black beans until the water runs clear. Place into the bowl with the corn.

Thinly slice the whites and greens of the green onions and add to the bowl.

Add the olive oil, minced cilantro, ground cumin, and salt. Stir gently and well.

Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

That's it. You can eat it as a salad, but I especially liked it as a salsa with pita chips.

For once, this was something my three year old boys would actually eat. They especially loved picking out their black beans, and loved to spoon it onto pita chips (although it would mostly fall off the chips before it reached their mouths).

___________________

And here's a quickie bonus recipe: Zucchini Grinders. It's a vegetarian sandwich inspired by a meatball sub. Except you use zucchini instead of meatballs. It's a favorite in our house that I make a few times each summer. When I made them last night, I threw in 4 small diced tomatoes while I sauteed the zucchini. I didn't even bother to peel or seed the tomatoes. You could also add in some eggplant or mushrooms or onions or peppers or really, whatever you happen to have around. Or just follow the recipe as written as it is quite yummy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Summer Vegetable Couscous (sort of)

I modified this recipe so much I feel like I can barely post it, but figured it's still worth sharing with others.  It's from The Classic Zucchini Cookbook.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, slivered
1 green or red bell pepper, diced
2 medium-sized yellow summer squash or golden zucchini, quartered and sliced
2 medium-sized zucchini, quartered and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1.5-2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
1.5 cup seeded and diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1 cup water
1.5 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups boiling water
salt
1.4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions: Cook the onion and pepper for 3-5 minutes until soft, then add the rest of the vegetables and spices and saute for 5 minutes, then simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir in cilantro.  Cook couscous separately and serve together.

This was sort of a thrown together meal from things I had around the kitchen.  I didn't have couscous, so made it with quinoa instead.  I didn't have a pepper or cilantro, so I just left those out.  I didn't have summer squash, so I just used lots of zucchini.  So I'd basically call this "Zucchini and Chick Peas with spices over quinoa."  I also used a ton of chickpeas, since we had a 7-pound can in the pantry older than my youngest child that I was happy to finally open.  (As I've explained to Josh, just because you can get something really cheap at Costco, it doesn't mean we actually need it.)

The meal turned out OK.  It's something I would make again if I had all the ingredients on hand, but wouldn't necessarily shop for.  Since I probably doubled the amount of chickpeas, I should have used more tomatoes and spices to make the meal more flavorful.  I think the pepper and cilantro (which I left out) probably would have added some nice flavor as well.  There was a note saying you could substitute mild chiles for the pepper, which I meant to do, but then forgot about.  

If you try this recipe and actually follow the directions, let me know how it turns out!


Friday, August 1, 2008

Melon and Tomato Salad with Mozzarella and Oregano; Scrambled Eggs with Mushroom and Tomato

This is from a photocopied recipe that appeared in the kitchen.  Katie's friend Crissy had passed in on a while ago, and it got shuffled in with other papers, and reappeared right when we had ingredients to make it.  I made fresh mozzarella last weekend so this seemed like a good thing to try.
1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, cut into 1" cubes
2 tomatoes, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Fresh mozzarella- the ball I made was probably 3/4 pound- sliced

Mix melon and tomato cubes, drain in colander 5 minutes to remove excess juices.
Mix melon, tomato, oregano, oil and vinegar without mushing up the tomato.
Arrange slices of cheese on a platter, season with salt and pepper, and put melon mixture onto slices. The recipe says to do a spoonful onto each slice, but there was a lot of melon mix, so I just dumped it on a bed of cheese slices. Fresh oregano and melon is something I'd never heard of before but it's a very good mix of flavors. The salad would probably also be good with the little fresh mozzarella balls (ciliegie) just mixed in.

The other recipe I made was a breakfast for dinner dish. During my cheese making last weekend, in addition to the mozzarella and an attempt at monterey jack (aging until October), I also made creme fraiche. I had seen this video a while ago and had been planning to try it out. We tend to get a lot of cherry tomatoes from the garden, although I've never bothered cutting off a whole cluster.

3 eggs
1 cluster of 4 cherry tomatoes
Mushrooms- I used baby bellas, stems removed
1 Tbsp creme fraiche
1/2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp minced chives
olive oil
salt and pepper
whole wheat bread, thick slice toasted.

I actually tripled the recipe to feed the whole family. Heat oil in a frying pan, put the entire cluster in the pan and the mushrooms upside down, add salt and pepper and cook over medium heat. The mushrooms ended up with a little pool of their own juice in the caps.
Crack eggs into saucepan and add butter. Stir over medium heat with a rubber spatula. As eggs start to congeal on bottom of pan, remove from heat and keep stirring until the pan cools too much to cook more, then put back on heat. Once the eggs are semi-solid, add salt and pepper and remove from heat, continuing to stir- eggs will keep cooking until done from residual heat. Mix in creme fraiche until melted through, mix in chives, and serve eggs over toast with cooked tomato and mushroom on the side. Only part of the tomato cluster made it to the plate, the kids demanded to eat the other two.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Black Bean and Summer Squash Stew

We're catching up to our zucchini production- the plants have slowed down and we keep making recipes like this one. Based on the ingredients and suggested servings (serve with chips, over rice, or in a burrito) I thought it sounded like a zucchini chili. From the Classic Zucchini Cookbook
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 diced onion
1 diced sweet red pepper (forgot to buy one of these)
2 diced green chilis (I used canned)
2 yellow squash or zucchini, sliced and quartered
4 tomatoes
2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and washed
salt and pepper
fresh cilantro (also didn't have this)
Heat oil in a large pan. Cook onion and peppers until onion is translucent (~5 min). Add squash and cook until softened (~5 min more).
Add tomatoes and beans, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook over med-low heat 15-30 minutes.
Add cilantro. We served it over quinoa:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese

I must admit that beets aren't my favorite, and I'm trying not to let my kids catch on. I mean, they're sweet. They're such a bold, pretty color. Shouldn't kids be attracted to beets? Shouldn't I? But I keep persisting, thanks to our CSA, in trying to make delicious beet recipes. I doubt I'd go out and buy beets, but when they show up in our share, I figure I'm obliged to try to enjoy them.

This time I decided on Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese, borrowing quite heavily from this recipe. Not my favorite food picture ever, but my kids were pretty amused that I'd used the flowered dessert plates to make the beets look like a flower.


Here is the recipe with my changes:

Ingredients:

2 bunches of small-ish beets (about 8-10 beets)
4 small eating onions from the CSA (about 1/3 cup minced) (you could substitute regular onion or shallots)
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
plenty of crumbled goat cheese (for those eating local in MA, I'm in love with Capri goat cheese from Westfield Farm)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove any beet greens, leaving a small amount of stem. Wash the beets and place in a baking dish. Toss with some olive oil until lightly coated. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil (or a lid) and bake about 45 minutes to an hour, until beets are easily pierced by a fork.

While the beets are roasting, mix together all the other ingredients besides the goat cheese. Set aside.

After beets have cooled slightly, cut off the top and bottom and use your fingers to remove the skin. Slice thinly into rounds.

Place the beets onto a serving dish and top with the vinaigrette and crumbled goat cheese.

__________________

These were the most delicious beets I've ever eaten. They got rave reviews from everyone who tried them, which unfortunately did not include our children, who are persisting in their vegetable ban.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Green Beans with Lemon and Pine Nuts


This side dish is very simple but really flavorful and a nice way to use fresh green beans. I found it on epicurious and used some beans from the Farmer’s Market and fresh parsley from our garden. As is my usual practice I substituted lemon juice for lemon zest because I’m beginning to think lemon zest is part of some sort of conspiracy by the lemon lobby to get me to remove all the skin on my right hand one recipe at a time via microplane grater. Also it never seems to taste like much, to me.

1 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest (or a tablespoon of lemon juice)
4 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the beans in a pot of boiling salted water for about five minutes. Drain well. Transfer to a bowl and toss with all the other ingredients. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Cilantro Serrano Cream Sauce

Yesterday I got the urge to go to a Farmers' Market. I checked a handy-dandy Massachusetts Farmers' Market list, and saw the only Sunday market was in Charles Square in Cambridge. So it was an easy decision where to go! There were only about 5 or 6 vendors there, and I couldn't find any eggplant, which was the original reason for making the trip, but it was still fun and we got plenty of stuff.

One of the neat things we got was a bunch of squash blossoms. Let's be honest: squash blossoms are one of those ingredients that are a big pain in the patootie. They're a lot of work, they have to be used nearly immediately, and they are relatively expensive (we paid $4 for a bunch of about 12 blossoms). But I just can't resist, at least once a year.



I went with a fairly traditional stuffed squash blossom recipe I came up with based on what I had on hand. Then I battered them and deep fried. My husband made cilantro serrano cream sauce, that was a perfect accompaniment. Here are the recipes:

Stuffed Squash Blossoms:

Ingredients:

Approximately 12 squash blossoms
12 oz. ricotta cheese
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons finely diced onion (or shallots)
1 teaspoon butter
Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

Gently wash the squash blossoms, then reach in and remove the inside stuff (the stamen, I think it's called). It's fine if the blossom rips down one side.

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Finely dice the garlic and onion, and add to the pan. Saute until slightly softened. You can skip this step if you like the crunch/bite of raw onion and garlic.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, onions and garlic, and black pepper to taste.

Place the cheese mixture in a pastry bag with no tip. Believe me, I used a tip and learned my lesson. Even though I had very finely minced the garlic and onion, about halfway through stuffing the blossoms, a piece that was slightly too large got stuck in the tip and I had to take the whole thing apart to get the tip out. After that, I used the bag with no tip and it was fine. Anyway, load up the pastry bag and fill each squash blossom until about 1/2" from the top. Don't overfill, especially if you ripped the blossoms along one side, as it will just all leak out. Twist the top slightly to seal the blossom. Repeat until all blossoms are stuffed.

For the batter, I used this recipe as a starting point, but had to make some changes. It made far more batter than I needed, so you might want to have some other veggies on hand as well to batter and fry.

Batter ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup ice cubes
1 1/2 cups cold water (or less...add slowly)
additional flour for dredging

Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the egg, ice cubes, and about 1/2 of the cold water. Stir them together (a single chopstick is the best thing to use...you definitely don't want to over mix). Keep adding water until you've reached a thin pancake batter consistency. Don't make this early...you need to use it pretty soon after you've mixed it.

Place enough vegetable oil in a wok or heavy bottomed pan to fry the squash blossoms. Heat over high heat. I only put enough oil to cover about 1/2 the blossom and then just flip the blossom halfway through cooking.

Roll the squash blossoms in flour to coat, then hold the stem and dip the blossom in the batter until coated. If the batter doesn't cling to the blossoms, it's too thick. Add a little more cold water to thin it.

Place the blossom in the hot oil. Repeat until all blossoms are in the oil. It'll probably be time then to start flipping the first blossoms you added to the oil. The batter should be golden brown when finished, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove to paper towels to drain.

_______________________

You can eat the squash blossoms plain if you'd like. We served ours with a cilantro serrano cream sauce, following the linked recipe. It's a perfect recipe for all you Waltham Fields members as we're getting Serrano peppers now as well as garlic. Our garden is also full of cilantro, so it's really the ideal time for this recipe.

We thought the recipe as written was slightly too mayonaisse-y. If we make it again (and we will), we'll probably replace some mayo with milk or cream. Oh, and we only used one serrano pepper to make it less spicy for our kids, and more importantly, because we only had one serrano pepper. It was just slightly spicy. If your kids will eat spicy foods, I'd probably use at least two peppers. Or make it with one, take some out for your kids, then add an extra pepper or two to the rest of the sauce for the adults.

The cream sauce was delicious over chicken as well. Probably not of interest to all you vegetarians, but I figured I'd mention it for any other omnivores who pop by.

_______________________

I should add why I thought this was a kid-friendly meal. I figured: flowers, neat. Cheese, always a hit. And deep-fried, that's a home run! The flavor of the stuffed blossoms is fairly plain. Good, but not overwhelmingly flavorful for young palates.

Of course, my kids would have needed to taste these to realize they would have liked them. Ah well...maybe people with more adventurous kids will have more luck! The adults in our house loved these, and one of my sons really loved to help prepare them even if he didn't try it. So it wasn't a total loss.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Caprese salad, Grilled herbed squash, grilled corn on the cob

When your veggies are very fresh, sometimes the less you do with them the better. These three dishes aren't really recipes aside from methods of cooking or presenting the food.
As I mentioned in an earlier post we usually grow a basil plant on our porch to have fresh leaves on hand. It's not enough to do batches of pesto but it's good for adding to sauces or for this traditional Italian salad.
Two large fresh tomatoes
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella
fresh basil leaves
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
Obviously, the higher quality all of these are, the better this will be. I got the tomatoes from the Friday Harvard square farmer's market. The mozzarella wasn't great, it was from costco. We've been making our own cheese and mozzarella is one of the easier ones, but I didn't have time to make a batch for this. (The other cylinder in the picture is our first attempt at cheddar, check back in 6 months to see how it turned out.)

The preparation is just to slice up everything evenly and layer it together, then drizzle some oil and vinegar over it. I always try to get equal numbers of things (although certain people around the house don't mind when there's extra slices of cheese.) Slice up the limiting reagent, in this case the tomatoes, then calculate how many times you'll need to cut the other ingredient. Cut the tomatoes vertically in half, then cut each half into slices. In this case I had 28 slices of tomato so I quartered the cheese then cut it into 7 slices. I actually used a whole pound instead of a half so the slices are think. Put alternating layers of tomato, cheese, and basil on a plate- if you really want to get anal about presentation you can pay attention to things like alternating which direction the half moons of tomato are facing on each layer, or using whole basil leaves if you have a lot.
In our continuing efforts to use up zucchini from the garden, I grilled some of them along with the summer squash from the Kendall market. Cut them fairly think or they'll fall apart on the grill- each squash into three or four slices the length of the fruit. Layer them in a container and sprinkle with oil, vinegar, and herbs (in this case rosemary, basil, and oregano from the porch.) Here's the batch marinating, along with the finished salad:

People have different opinions about grilling corn. I cut off the tops with the husks still on, cut off most of the stem, remove the tougher outer leaves, then soak in water to avoid charring on the grill. This corn was also from Kendall- corn from local farms tends to have ear worms, another good reason to cut off the tops. Soak for about an hour, then wrap each in foil. Everything then went on the grill:

For cooking the squash, flip when the edges appear cooked, then take it off when the juices start to bubble from the middle of the slice- that means it's cooked through. Rotate the corn every five minutes or so. The whole cooking took about 15 or 20 minutes. Unwrap the corn and husk- again, for presentation, you can leave the open husk on as a handle if you want. Here's the final result:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Artichoke and Asparagus Sauté with Toasted Bread Crumbs


Here’s another recipe from my beloved “Local Flavors” (now recently re-released and available in paperback!) Of course, the author, Deborah Madison is from Santa Fe so artichokes are “local” to her. Not so much for us New Englanders. But most of the rest of the ingredients can be had locally grown -- asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini and scallions.
I liked the looks of this recipe on the page because I’m always a fan of those vegetarian recipes that tend to strike fear in the heart of meat eaters. (No meat! No pasta or rice! Just a pile of green stuff on a plate! *cue running, screaming carnivores*) The very best ones are able to transcend their ingredients to become something more, and this dish does not disappoint.
I made a few changes, of course, because I always do. I used baby artichokes and ended up using about five of them, and I wish I’d used a few more. Instead of regular zucchini I used these chunky globe ones I bought at the Farmer’s Market, but I don’t imagine that made much of a big difference in taste. In the original recipe she says to slice the asparagus thinly on the diagonal and since a. I wasn’t really sure what that meant and b. there are not enough hours in the day for me to spend one of them slicing a pound of asparagus into slivers, so I just cut them into pieces like I normally do for recipes.
Also, she isn’t really clear on how you use supposed to use the bread crumbs, once you make them -- so I tossed some in at the end with the parsley and then added a few more as garnish, with the cheese.
I found it difficult to figure out what the meal would actually be *like* from the recipe so I’ll let you know that it ends up as a hearty summer stew. I served it with a yummy loaf of sourdough bread and it was perfect. No pasta required.

3 large, 4 medium, or some number larger than five baby artichokes, trimmed and quartered
salt and pepper
1lb asparagus, cut into small pieces
1/2lb mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 bunch scallions, including an inch of the greens, chopped
2 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (I used lemon juice instead)
1/2 cup fres bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 white wine
1 cup water
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook the artichokes in one quart of salted water until tender-firm, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and slice thinly. Cut the rest of the vegetables as described.
Chop the parsley and garlic together and add the zest or lemon juice. Brown the bread crumbs in 1 tablespoon of oil and set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet (and I do mean large, this dish almost maxed out my biggest chef’s pan) and add the artichokes, asparagus and zucchini. Cook over high heat for a few minutes, then add the scallions and mushrooms, and cook for five minutes more. Add some salt.
Add the wine and let it sizzle and reduce. Then add the water and simmer for a few more minutes until all the vegetables are cooked. Toss them with the parsley and garlic mixture and the bread crumbs and then garnish with the cheese.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Orzo with Zucchini

I'm almost ashamed to post this recipe as I can't believe it's taken me this long to get around to making my first post here! I have been faithfully reading everyone else's posts and enjoying the recipes. Great stuff—thank you.

As we all know, 'tis the season to eat zucchini. I don't know about you, but I don't find very many recipes that include zucchini that make me go WOW. Just last night, I was watching Iron Chef America and one of the judges commented that he was not sure how the chefs were going to showcase zucchini because it really doesn't have that much flavor. Personally, I agree. I find it watery and bland. But it's good for you and there's always plenty of it—and then some—at this time of year.

A couple of months ago, my book club read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegatable, Miracle. While I didn't love the book, I did enjoy some of Kingsolver's recipes, including the following for Orzo with Zucchini. I've made a few changes from the original (most notably, I've upped the cheese content significantly). Here's what's great about this recipe:
  • It uses a TON of zucchini.
  • It's very forgiving.
  • It tastes good hot, warm, or at room temperature.
  • It's really easy.
  • It can be a main course or a side dish.
  • It's kid-friendly.
  • I repeat: IT USES A TON OF ZUCCHINI!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Orzo with Zucchini
1/2 lb. orzo
3 T. or so olive oil
a lot of zucchini: five or six small ones, two or three large ones, or even more
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 c. or so grated/shredded cheese of your choice (the original recipe calls for parmesan, but I've used goat cheese, parmesan, asiago, or feta)
salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook orzo according to package directions.
2. Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Squeeze out excess water.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Saute grated zucchini and onion over medium heat until well-cooked and beginning to brown.
4. Combine cooked orzo with cooked zucchini and onions. Stir in cheese.

That's it! Told you it was easy. Enjoy.

Zapple bars

We're getting deep into the zucchini cookbooks now. Due to a miscommunication Katie bought some zucchini and summer squash at the farmer's market on Thursday, when we still had two from the garden in the fridge. Then the next day we got six more from the garden, giving us a total of 10 (followed by six more today.) We had a party to go to yesterday so we looked for some dessert dish to make and found Zapple bars in the Classic Zucchini Cookbook:
Filling:
5.5 cups peeled diced zucchini
1/2 cup lemon juice (recipe says fresh, I used bottled)
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Crust:
2.5 cups flour
1.25 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter
1 tsp vanilla (the recipe has this in the ingredients but never says to add it, I assumed it went in with the butter)

Heat oven to 350F.
5.5 cups of zucchini was three large ones. As you can see here, it hardly made a dent in our zucchini stocks:

Cook zucchini and lemon juice in a saucepan (not iron- boiling acid + iron is bad.) Bring to boil and simmer 10 minutes until zucchini is tender. Add sugar and spices, cook 2 minutes more. This came out very watery but I didn't drain it, which led to the "bars" being more like a pie or crisp. It couldn't be cut into bars that could be held, so if you really want bars maybe drain excess liquid at this point.
Mix dry ingredients for crust in a food processor. Add butter and vanilla, mix until crumbly. Press half of this mix to cover the bottom of a greased 9x13 glass dish and bake 10 minutes. Pour filling on top and crumble rest of crust mix on top. This amount of crust didn't quite cover the whole thing and also dissolved some in the watery mix, so you could either make more crust mix or use a smaller pan for thicker bars. Bake 40 minutes. Cool completely before cutting- we had to go to the party so we brought the whole dish along and ate it like an apple crisp:

People at the party couldn't believe it was zucchini, the only way you could tell this wasn't green apple filling was the presence of zucchini seeds. This suggests two principles for future recipes:
1. Lemon juice + sugar + zucchini is a reasonable substitute for cooked apples. Probably less healthy than the real thing.
2. If you add enough sugar and butter to anything, it will taste good. This recipe had a half a pound of butter and about 2 cups of sugar, so don't be fooled into thinking the zucchini makes it good for you.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Beans with Peanuts, Eggplant with Plum, and Zucchini Pancakes

This week, I had a lot of different vegetables to use. I still had some leftover eggplant from the previous week, and couldn't resist buying green beans again from the farmers' market. They actually weren't all green beans, since they also had yellow wax beans and beautiful purple beans. I was tempted to make the curry recipe from last week again, since it was so good, but decided to try something new. We also had a ton of zucchini to use up from our garden. I couldn't find a recipe that looked interesting and included all these ingredients, so I made decided to make zucchini pancakes with two different vegetable side dishes.

I got both side dish recipes from the Moosewood cookbook Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without by Mollie Kantzen. I love this cookbook, but find that there isn't much protein in many of the dishes, perhaps because they are meant as sides.  I found a recipe for the beans with a protein component called Green Beans with Crunchy Peanut-Lemon Coating, which I found posted online here.

The recipe was fairly easy to make, although I did have to bring out the blender to chop up the peanuts. I wondered how it would have tasted if peanut butter had been used instead of the chopped peanuts, since I think it would have coated the beans better. It was a great recipe and we all liked it for dinner. It said to serve hot, so I prepared the peanut mixture ahead of time and then cooked the beans right before dinner. The leftovers tasted great right out of the fridge the next day, so I might just make the whole dish in advance next time, especially on a warm summer day. The only disappointing thing was that the beautiful purple beans turned green when I cooked them, which was kind of fun to watch, but my 3-year-old had been excited about eating purple beans. Thankfully he munched on a few raw before I cooked them!

The eggplant dish I chose from the cookbook was even easier to make, and really good. It's called Stir-Fried Eggplant with Ginger-Plum Sauce.

1/3 cup plum jam (don't use the big chunks)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I just used regular mustard)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste
2 large eggplants (about 3 pounds)
2 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
red pepper flakes to taste (optional) -- I left these out

1. Mix the first four ingredients in bowl.
2. Cut the eggplant into small slices. I used a Japanese eggplant so I cut it in half and sliced it, but with a larger eggplant the recipe says you can make 1/2" thick sticks.
3. Heat oil in a pan and add eggplant and salt. Stir continuously to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the eggplant is tender and half the size it was when started.
4. Mix in the sauce. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Since this part could be served at room temperature, I made it in advance. It was really easy to make and really good. The only tough part was finding plum jam, which I found at Whole Foods. (After tasting the plum jam, I realized that I probably could have substituted baby food prunes, which we always have on hand, but that certainly didn't sound as delicious as plum jam.) I was thinking this dish would be great with tofu added too, and then it could be a main dish if served over rice or quinoa. This also tasted great right out of the fridge the next day.

The last thing I made was Zucchini Pancakes, using this recipe. The nutritional information was a little frightening, but I decided to skip the step where you rub the pancakes with butter. The recipe was easy and the pancakes turned out great. The kids were very excited to be eating pancakes for dinner, and we served them with a bit of sour cream on top. I thought we'd be having the leftovers for breakfast, but there weren't any leftovers!