roasted zucchini with ricotta and mint

July 24, 2014 § 47 Comments

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Our weather has slipped back to clouds and rain.  I had two full days out in the garden this past weekend so really I don’t mind at all.  The cool temperature was like having the air conditioner on.  Why oh why did I allow two weekends to go by without tending the garden?   It took a good solid eight hours to catch up with the weeds and pruning!   I am not complaining, I am just sore from sitting in a squat position for hours. The yard looks magnificent and it’s time to sit down to a wonderful lunch of roasted zucchini with fresh ricotta and mint.

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I picked up a delicious fresh ricotta from my favorite Metropolitan Market and roasted two trays of 1/2 inch diced zucchini.

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You could grill the zucchini if your kitchen is too hot to turn on the oven.  Simply slice the zucchini into two long halves, brush with olive oil, grill and then dice into 1/2 inch pieces.   Recipe slightly adapted from Food & Wine.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 5 medium zucchini , diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh ricotta, for serving
  • Mint leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450°. Spread the diced zucchini on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the zucchini are browned around the edges. Using a non stick skillet toast the cumin and fennel seeds until aromatic.  Crush the seeds.  You can either spin it quickly in a blender or hammer slightly in a sealable bag.  I used a coffee grinder I bought specifically for grinding seeds.  Sprinkle the zucchini with the crushed red pepper, cumin seeds and fennel seeds and roast until fragrant, about 2 minutes longer.
Transfer the zucchini to a bowl. Toss with the lemon juice and season with salt. Dollop the ricotta alongside the zucchini and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with the mint leaves and serve.

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apricot, strawberry and lavender crumble

July 21, 2014 § 67 Comments

Am I ever glad it is crumble season!  A simple crumble is the essence of summer.  My favorite dessert involves baked fruit with either crust or a crumbly mixture of oats, nuts and butter.  And here we have it.  A homey apricot strawberry crumble, a little bit tart, slightly sweet, a crispy toasted topping and with a subtle hint of lavender.

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We have a ravishing lavender bush happily growing at the side of our house.  It sits next to the rosemary bush and I think they are in a friendly competition to grow larger and more beautiful than the other.   This area is the bumblebee’s main thoroughfare between the garden in the front of the house and the back. This little spot is a wonderfully buzzing place in our yard.   And oh so fragrant too.

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I’m sure you’ve eaten lavender and enjoyed it—it’s one of the predominant ingredients in the mild, savory blend known as herbs de Provence. On its own, lavender has a lovely floral flavor with hints of mint and rosemary (it’s kinfolk) and, used correctly, it makes the perfect essence for cakes and of course, vanilla ice cream.

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A subtle amount of lavender adds a nice floral flavor.

I n g r e d i e n t s

crumble

  • 1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for baking dish
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup dry toasted chopped pecans

filling

  • 4 apricots, pitted and cut into sixths (about 2 cups)
  • about 15 strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1 tablespoon lavender flowers
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon flour

Combine all crumble ingredients in a medium bowl and massage together with your fingers until butter is incorporated and mixture forms small clumps. Refrigerate until mixture is cold, at least 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 1/2-inch shallow round baking dish or pie plate. Place a non-stick skillet over medium high heat and dry toast the chopped pecans, shaking pan occasionally.  Combine all filling ingredients in another medium bowl. Transfer to baking dish and top with crumble. Bake until bubbling in center and crumble is browned, about 40 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes.

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grilled dinner

July 15, 2014 § 74 Comments

Light the charcoal, and in the time it takes for the coals to be glowing hot you have a “one grill” dinner ready to cook.  I always love “one pot” meals and here we have applied the same concept to the grill.

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One big plate for the center of the table, a glass of vinho verde (or ice tea for the young one) and you are set for a balmy summer evening dinner.

This garlic-marinated chicken cutlet with grilled potatoes recipe is slightly adapted from Everyday Food – Great Food Fast.  If you are unable to purchase pre-cut chicken cutlets you may slice your own.  Place one hand flat on top of a chicken breast and, holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice it horizontally from the thick end to the thin end into 1/4-inch-thick cutlets. It’s OK if not every slice runs the length of the breast.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1-1/2 pounds baby red new potatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • coarse sea salt & fresh ground pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds chicken cutlets (about 6)
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed

Light your briquets.  Fold a four foot long sheet of aluminum foil in half to make a double-layer sheet.  Place the potatoes on the double layer and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.  Form a packet, folding the foil over the potatoes and crimping the edges to seal.  Place on the grill and cook, turning over once, until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Leave the potatoes wrapped in foil to keep warm.

While your potatoes are cooking make the marinade: In a large dating dish, whisk together 1 tablespoon of olive oil, why garlic, vinegar, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add the chicken; turn several times to coat.  Let marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes while potatoes are cooking.

In a large bowl, toss the asparagus with a tablespoon olive oil.  Season with salt & pepper.  Working in batches if necessary, grill the asparagus, turning occasionally until lightly browned and tender, 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears.  Set aside.

Lift the chicken from the marinade and drill until browned and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side.  Remove from the grill.  Cover the chicken with foil to keep warm.

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Serve this grilled dinner family style on a big platter and let everyone help themselves.

 

 

summertime corn soup

July 10, 2014 § 68 Comments

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Despite the fact that it is summer and the heat has a way of killing our enthusiasm to turn on the stove, I did it anyway;  I made corn soup.  And what a delight!  Sweet corn and tomatoes are the quintessential tastes of summer. Adding a nice plump jalapeño to the soup pot created a softly spiced bowl of summer goodness.

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After shucking your corn and before cutting kernels for a soup you want to eliminate as much silk as possible. A helpful little technique in removing the silk from your corn is to dampen a paper towel and wipe the ear from tip to stem to capture any clinging strands.  A few silk strands left on an ear of corn that’s destined for the grill is no big deal, as they will be quickly singed off.  On the other hand, it is not very pleasant to come across a silk string in your soup.  DSCN2659

Recipe slightly adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 4 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 3 medium red potatoes
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar

Hold each ear of corn with the flat end in a large bowl and use a sharp knife to cut down the cob, removing the kernels.  You should have about 2 cups of kernels.  Reserve the cobs.  In a heavy based stockpot, heat the olive oil, then add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook over low heat until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the cumin, coriander, chili powder, jalapeños, and garlic to the pot and sauté until the jalapeños are slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cook until they release their juices and soften, about 10 minutes.  Add the potatoes and reserved corncobs, and 3 cups of water.  Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender but still firm, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the corn kernels and cook for 1 minutes more, until the kernels are heated through.  Remove the pot from the stove.  Remove the corncobs.  Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until about half of it is puréed, or put half of the soup in a blender and purée it, and then combine.  Add the half and half and cheese and return the soup to the stove.  Heat over low heat until the cheese is melted; do not boil.  Taste and season with more salt as needed.  Ladle into soup bowls and serve right away.

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Save the corncobs!  Simmering the corncobs in the soup intensifies the sweet corn flavor.

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Serve topped with red chili flakes and cilantro flowers.  And don’t forget the glass of vinho verde.

tomato pie

July 7, 2014 § 68 Comments

Savory pies are just about my favorite thing.  With left over ingredients from our caprese salad I knew just what to make for breakfast Saturday morning.  You could call this caprese pie.

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the lovely papercut art by Nikki McClure, a wonderful artist from Olympia, Washington…

Whenever I head out to the market I always ask the guys if there is anything special they would like me to pick up.  And my son always says “CAPRESE SALAD”!  I am not kidding when I say always.  He loves it, especially made with the fresh stretched mozzarella available at our market.  I am always delighted when he doesn’t request something sugary or a highly processed snack food.   And it is quite satisfying having your teenage son in the kitchen preparing a caprese salad for dinner.

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As for the pie, I always follow Molly Katzen’s quiche formula whenever I make a custard style pie.   Her recipe has never failed me.   Once you assemble the basic groundwork, choices for the filling are limitless.  After your crust is in place the first layer to place upon the crust is grated cheese.   The fat in the cheese melts and forms a moisture resistant barrier between the filling and the crust, thus helping to keep the crust from getting soggy.  For the filling, vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms and onions need to be steamed or sautéed prior to layering onto the pie.  Here I used uncooked tomatoes which was quite nice in keeping a fresh, raw flavor, much like caprese salad.  After applying the filling over the cheese, add the custard, which is 4 eggs and 1-1/2 cups milk, top with cherry tomatoes and bake in a 375°F oven for 35 – 40 minutes.  Simple, straightforward. casual or elegant.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • basic pie crust
  • 1 cup grated cheese, such as swiss, gruyére, sharp or medium cheddar
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, 1/8th inch slices (I used enough for 8 round slices)
  • 3 roma tomatoes, sliced
  • a few sprigs basil
  • approximately 20 cherry tomatoes, sliced in 1/2
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cup milk

Prepare your pie crust and place onto your pie pan.  Deposit both the grated cheese and parmesan directly upon the crust.   Add roma tomato slices, mozzarella slices and basil.  Beat together 4 eggs and 1-1/2 cups milk and pour it over the top.  Finish the top with cherry tomatoes.  Bake 35-40 minutes at 375°F.

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beets & eggs

June 23, 2014 § 86 Comments

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We love beets and more often than not we have a couple of roasted beauties in our refrigerator wrapped in foil and ready to toss in a salad, pack in our lunchbox during the work week, or a few on hand to cook this lovely breakfast on a Saturday morning.  You could add a cut up baked russet potato and 1/2 a diced onion into the skillet and call it red flannel hash.  Today’s beets & eggs are kept clean and starch free.

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We have been keeping it fairly simple in the kitchen lately, nothing too elaborate.  I haven’t followed a recipe in a couple of weeks. I am just sticking to dishes we know and love.  I enjoy cooking meals that just sort of come together naturally from instinct.  Beets and eggs fall into this category.  This breakfast comes together quickly if you have roasted beets on hand.  Simply pierce beets several times with a fork, wrap in foil and bake in a 450°F oven for one hour.  After cooling off you may refrigerator them for 3 or 4 days.  They peel very easily once they are roasted.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 2 roasted beets, peeled and cut
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 organic eggs
  • sea salt and pepper
  • fresh dill
  • feta cheese

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add beets and toss around until well coated.  Cook until warmed through and lower the heat to medium.   Crack the eggs around the circumference of the skillet. Cover the pan and let the eggs poach until desired doneness.  Season with sea salt and pepper and serve with fresh dill and feta.

stroganoff

June 16, 2014 § 83 Comments

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A ribbony Pappardelle pasta dish, lovely and creamy with a modest hint of mustard and dill.

Yes I realize it is grilling season and that is exactly why I picked up beef tenderloin at the market the other day.  However, living in the Pacific Northwest leaves you with many options when it comes to seasonal cooking.  Because of our mild weather we have the opportunity to grill in the winter (on Christmas day!) cook soups on the hottest days of summer (our average high last summer was 73°F), and make beef stroganoff on a cloudy and cool June afternoon.

Apparently this Russian dish became all the rage in the United States during the 50′s and was considered a gourmet dinner party favorite.   In the spirit of vintage, perhaps this delicious rendering will inspire your next small gathering menu.   After all, entertaining should be comfortable, simple, slow and meaningful.

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 I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 and a 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, well trimmed and cut into 1 x 1 squares
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 pound small crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • small handful chopped fresh dill
  •  16 ounces  pappardelle pasta
  • 1 tablespoon paprika

Pat meat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat until very hot. Working in batches, add meat in single layer and cook just until brown on outside, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped shallots and sauté until tender, scraping up browned bits, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms. Sprinkle with pepper and sauté until liquid evaporates, about 12 minutes. Add wine and allow to evaporate a bit, then add beef stock. Simmer until liquid thickens and just coats mushrooms, about 15 minutes. Stir in crème fraîche and Dijon mustard. Add meat and any accumulated juices from baking sheet. Simmer over medium-low heat until meat is heated through but still medium-rare, about 2 minutes. Stir in chopped dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl. Add remaining 4 tablespoons butter and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Divide noodles among plates. Top with beef and sauce. Sprinkle generously with paprika.

 

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