July 31, 2012

Little Green Courgette...

Farmer's Market Summer Squash & Zucchini

Anything that has "fritter" in it's name, sign me up. 
I mean honestly, how bad can it be?!  I feel justified in making these because they are green, which as we all know means they're healthy...

Well, they are made from zucchini and that should count for something, shouldn't it?  The simplicity of this recipe should also count for something.  

When most of you think of zucchini, you don't exactly jump up and down with glee do you? 
Truth be told, I do.  I love it.  It is without a doubt one of my favorite vegetables. 

I like it in soups, battered and fried alongside a beer, shaved into ribbons and tossed with pasta... I adore it on the grill with it's smoky char marks beckoning me to eat more and I like a good zucchini bread as much as the next girl, but of the hundreds of things you can do with zucchini, this is a pretty tasty option.

It is my new favorite summer supper...  The transformation of this common, less than illustrious vegetable into something extraordinary is supremely satisfying.

Zucchini Fritters
  • 1 lb. zucchini (about 2 medium)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 shallot
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil for frying
  • sour cream for serving

Grate zucchini on large side of box grater or put in food processor and shred.  I would normally use the food processor, but the idea of lugging it out and then washing everything seemed more of a hassle than it was worth for 5 minutes of grating.

Mix the shredded zucchini with a teaspoon of kosher salt and set inside a fine mesh colander over a bowl to drain.  Place a small plate on top to weigh it down.  I usually put a can or jar of something on top of the plate for added weight.  Let zucchini drain for 30 minutes.

Wrap zucchini in a clean dish towel, or cheesecloth and squeeze excess water out (there will be alot of it)  This will prevent your fritters from being mushy and what you want is that super crisp crust on the outside!

Heat olive oil in a medium heavy bottomed pan over medium to medium-high heat.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, shallot, lemon zest, salt, pepper and cheese.  Whisk together, then add zucchini and lemon juice.  Stir in flour and mix until combined. 
When I make potato pancakes, I always add about a 1/4 tsp of baking powder.  I didn't add it here, but if you want a lighter, fluffier fritter add baking powder with the flour.

Carefully drop spoonfuls of batter into hot oil, about 2 inches in diameter.  Cook for a few minutes on each side until deep golden brown.  Remove from heat and set on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Zucchini Fritters with Sour Cream

    July 24, 2012

    London Calling...

    Cherry season is so short, about 3-4 weeks actually, that when I see them starting to appear in the markets I can hardly contain myself.  I go on cherry overload and I know I'm not alone.  I buy bags and bags of them, but then a few days pass and I realize I haven't touched them.  Like most people, I was brought up not to waste food and in professional kitchens, that is a cardinal sin.

    There are a couple of pounds of cherries in my fridge and I've eaten my fair share of them as is, but I'd like to actually make something with them!  Hmmmm...  gears turning, little librarian in my head frantically thumbing through cookbooks, whizzing past shelf after shelf on the rolling ladder...

    Cherry pie, cherry cobbler, cherry muffins, cherries jubilee, cherry crisp... Cherry ice cream, cherry slushies, cherry lemonade, cherry jam, cherry tart, black forest cake, peach raspberry galette, cherry crostata... 

    The cherry recipes are endless and all sound like a great idea, but then it hits me.  The Olympics are in less than a week and in LONDON!  Cherry scones it is!   

    I don't own a scone pan, but if you do feel free to break it out.  I simply don't have room for many single purpose items.  The other option with these is to pat the dough out to roughly an inch thick and cut scones from there. Lightly flour the counter,  shape dough into a rectangle, cut into squares and cut squares on the diagonal to form triangles.

    However, if you also have little to no counter space scooping may be the way to go.

    Put on a pot of tea and pass the clotted cream & jam please...

    Cherry Scones
    -yields 15 mini scones
    • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
    • 6 tbsp butter
    • 4 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/4 c. sour cream
    • 4 tbsp whole milk
    • 1 lg egg
    • 1 1/2 c. cherries, pitted and chopped

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Cut butter into small pieces and place in freezer. 
    In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together all dry ingredients.

    In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg and sour cream until completely smooth.  Set aside.

    Add chilled butter to dry ingredients and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add wet ingredients and pulse until just combined.   Do not overmix!

    Remove dough from food processor and put in large bowl.  Add cherries and mix just until incorporated.   Try to be as gentle as possible with this as the cherries will bleed a bit when pressed too much and the dough will become tough if overworked.

    Using a medium (3oz) cookie scoop,  scoop out dough and place on baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Very lightly press down the top and sprinkle with coarse sanding sugar. 

    Return tray to refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes.   Bake for 13 - 15 minutes.

    July 19, 2012

    Too much of a Good Thing?

    This is about the time of year when people who are lucky enough to have prolific gardens start to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of gorgeous bright red tomatoes and beautiful zucchini that their loving care has yielded.   A problem I'd like to have, quite honestly...

    Growing up, my grandparents next door neighbors had a garden behind their house. By the end of July, it was practically bursting at the seams.  Every summer we were the grateful recipients of brown paper grocery bags filled with tomatoes and cucumbers from his garden.  The trade off was the newspaper.  One of us was sent next door to give them the paper every day after my grandparents had read it and in turn, every few days he left a bag of fresh from the ground veggies on the back porch.  Not a bad arrangement.

    If you find yourself overrun with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, etc...  this recipe is perfect!  It utilizes all of the wonderful produce of summer in a healthy vegetarian dish that is... well, super yummy.  

    Ratatouille can be eaten warm,  at room temperature or even cold. It is substantial enough to stand on its own or it can be served alongside roast chicken or tossed through your favorite pasta.

    I have sandwiched it in a crusty ciabatta roll for lunch or served it on sliced, toasted baguettes as an hors d'oeuvre with a glass of wine.  This recipe is the epitome of summer, there really is no wrong way to enjoy it.

    So, next time you are out in your garden or like me, gazing wistfully at other people's gardens, hands on hips, wondering what the heck to do with all of those little gems you've grown...  now you know.


    There are many variations on this dish.  Some call for sliced vegetables, some rough chopped, some demand that each veggie be cooked separately, some just throw them all in the same pot.  As long as you are cooking, enjoying the process and the food tastes good...  do whatever makes you happy.

    This is a variation on Julia Child's recipe.  I changed a few things to make it more to my taste, feel free to do the same from here.  More of what you like, less of what you don't.

    • 1 lb eggplant, peeled & cubed
    • 1 lb zucchini, diced
    • 1 red pepper, diced
    • 1 yellow pepper, diced
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
    • 3/4 lb firm, ripe tomatoes, peeled & seeded, chopped
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • 2 tbsp kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • a few sprigs fresh thyme
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 tbsp minced parsley
    • 1 tbsp basil, finely sliced (chiffonade)
    Toss eggplant with 2 tsp salt and set inside colander to drain.  Place a small plate on top to weigh it down and let stand for 30 minutes.

    Heat a few tbsp olive oil over medium heat and saute eggplant for a few minutes until lightly browned.  Remove eggplant from pan, add zucchini and saute until lightly browned. Remove zucchini & set aside.

    In the same pan, cook onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes until tender, but not browned.  Add more oil if necessary.  Add garlic, thyme & bay leaves, season with salt and pepper.

    Add tomatoes and cook over low heat for 5 minutes until tomatoes render their juices.  Then raise heat and simmer for several minutes until liquid has mostly evaporated.
    Return eggplant and zucchini to the pan and stir to combine. 

    Let simmer for a few minutes allowing flavors to combine, remove from heat and stir in parsley and basil.

    Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc


    July 15, 2012

    Redemption Brownies

    Recently, I made brownies and did not have chocolate in the house to melt down.  So, I made them with only cocoa powder.  It was an epic fail.
    Lesson learned, do not take short cuts with brownies. 

    Feeling extremely unsatisfied with that batch of bad brownies, my craving for them was unfulfilled.
    Seeking redemption, I decided that this effort had to be proportionately as good as the last batch was bad...  meaning, these brownies had to rock. 

    I had about a cup of dulce de leche left over from this and aside from eating it straight from the container with the biggest spoon I could find (a thought which I seriously entertained), I decided that I should be a bit more creative.

    Needing to expunge the memory of these humdrum brownies, it was clear that this was what my leftovers were intended for.

    Making brownies from scratch takes about 5 minutes longer than making them from a box.   The only extra step is melting chocolate into butter, the rest of the process is the same. 

    To say that brownies from scratch are the same as boxed mix is like saying cheese in a can is the same as an aged cheddar.

    We have all used boxed mixes or frosting in a can, but sometimes you need to have the real thing and this is most definitely the best brownie I have ever made.

    Dulce de Leche Brownies

    • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
    • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1 cup dulce de leche

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Line an 8-inch square pan with a long piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil that covers the bottom and comes up over the sides.  Place another sheet over, making a large cross with the edges that overhang the sides.  Grease the bottom and sides lightly with butter or non-stick spray.

    Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted.  Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder until smooth.  Let cool slightly, to ensure eggs do not "scramble" when added.  Add eggs, one at a time, then stir in sugar, vanilla, then flour, just to combine.  Do not over mix.

    Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Drop one-third of the dulce de leche, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly.  Do not drag the knife through too many times, or you will not have lovely pockets of dulce de leche, you will have incorporated it into the batter.

    Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining dulce de leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter, drag a knife through to swirl again.  Try not to drop the dulce de leche exactly where you did underneath, that way you will get an even distribution throughout.

    Bake for 35 - 45 minutes.  The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm.  Remove from oven and cool completely.   Lift out of pan with overhang of paper/foil.

    These brownies actually become better the second day and will keep well for up to 3 days.

    Recipe: David Lebovitz,  The Sweet Life in Paris

      July 10, 2012

      Thai Chicken Salad

      In my continuing effort to avoid turning my kitchen into the sweltering fires of hell,  I decided that this time I would cheat a little.  Just a little,  and it's for the greater good.   The heat index is hovering in the triple digits while beads of sweat are pooling at the nape of my neck.  The least entertaining thought at this moment is "let's fire up the oven".

      Store-bought roast chicken: In the winter months, this would be considered sacrilege... but in the blistering heat of summer, it is sweet salvation! 

      As if buying the chicken wasn't enough, the food processor is going to do the majority of the work!  Yep, this might be the perfect summer recipe.  The amount of work involved barely even registers.  If you don't own a food processor it isn't the end of the world, just a bit of chopping & grating.

      For this recipe I only used the breast meat,  reserve the rest for sandwiches or soups,  the carcass for stock, etc.

      For the dressing:
      • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
      • zest and juice of 2 limes
      • 4 tbsp vegetable, canola or grapeseed oil
      • 1/2 shallot, finely sliced
      • 1 clove garlic, minced
      • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
      • 1 red Thai chili (green if you can't find red), minced 
      • salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

      I went to 5, yes FIVE stores trying to find a red chili but with no luck, so I ended up with green.  The main difference is the heat level.  I couldn't find a pepper with a decent amount of heat to it, so I had to use what I could find.  If this happens to you as well and you like a little heat in your food, you can add a dash of sriracha or any other hot sauce that you like.

      Combine all ingredients and set aside.  Let dressing sit for at least 30 minutes.  The acid will help break down and mellow garlic & shallot and the flavors along with the chili pepper will infuse dressing.   I like the acidic bite of vinegar & lime juice however, if you find it's too much cut the limes to one.

      Thai Chicken Salad
      • 1 small head green cabbage
      • 2 - 3 medium carrots
      • 2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded or finely sliced
      • small handful of salted peanuts, roughly chopped
      • 1 bunch scallions (green onion), sliced on bias
      • 1 cup snow peas, thinly sliced on bias
      • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
      • 2 tbsp Thai basil, chopped
      • 2 tbsp mint, chopped
      • salt & pepper to taste

      Shred cabbage and carrots in food processor. 

      Combine all ingredients in large bowl, pour dressing over top and mix thoroughly.
      How's that for easy?!

        July 05, 2012

        Can't Stand the Heat...

        Summer time is when I really enjoy salads.  The anemic tomatoes of winter are happily forgotten and replaced with gleaming, juicy, bright red beauties.  The delicious, but boring cucumbers can go on hiatus along with their carrot friends. 

        The same ol' stuff that routinely finds its way into your salad can go by the wayside to make room for things like stone fruit! 

        Sometimes we are on auto-pilot and occasionally get stuck in a bit of a rut. Considering all of the amazing things available to us in the summer, this is the time to branch out and mix it up.

        Making a salad for dinner is a great option. The clean up is pretty minimal and the ingredients are merely a suggestion.  Use it as a jumping off point for an idea;  if you don't like an ingredient, swap it out for something you do like...

        Perhaps the most important reason to go with a meal that takes about 10 minutes from start to finish:

        Generally speaking, most of us are less inclined to spend hours in front of a stove during a 90+ degree heat wave.  The air is stagnant.  It just hangs there... completely still, while your tolerance for anyone within a 5 foot radius decreases exponentially by the minute.

        Spinach Salad with Nectarines & Blue Cheese
        serves 1 hungry girl
        • 3 oz fresh baby spinach (a little more than half of a 5oz container)
        • a handful of toasted, sliced almonds
        • 5 -6 dried figs, sliced in half or quarters
        • 1 ripe nectarine, pit removed & thinly sliced
        • 2 oz blue cheese, broken into bite size pieces

        There are only 5 ingredients in this salad, so make sure they are of the best quality you can get.  Spring for the good cheese, don't buy the stuff that is already crumbled.  It tastes like Styrofoam.  Make sure the nectarine is ripe & luscious, under ripe fruit doesn't have any flavor.

        Normally when I make this salad, I add in crispy prosciutto.  Place a few paper-thin slices of prosciutto on a non-stick (Silpat) silicone baking sheet if you have one or parchment paper if you don't, put this on a rimmed baking (cookie) sheet and bake at 350 degrees until super crispy.

        Fresh mozzarella works beautifully in this salad if you don't like blue cheese.  As with the blue cheese, get the good stuff, not the shredded cheese in a bag that you would throw on a pizza.

        Fig Vinaigrette
        • 1/2 shallot
        • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
        • 3 tbsp fig balsamic vinegar (not the sweet, reduced balsamic glaze)
        • 1 1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar
        • 3/4 cup olive oil
        • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
        In a blender (or with a stick blender) combine all ingredients EXCEPT oil.  Blend on medium speed until thoroughly combined, then lower speed and slowly drizzle in olive oil. 

        (If you are fighting the urge to do your worst Bill Cosby impression, then clearly your dressing resembles chocolate pudding and you've taken your vinaigrette too far.  Thin it out with a splash of vinegar or a tbsp of water.)



        July 01, 2012

        On the Go...

        It's finally summer and you know what that means...  picnics, barbecues and long days at the beach.
        This pasta salad is perfect for taking on the go.  It is light, yet substantial and dressed in a light vinaigrette, so no worries over gloppy mayo sitting out in the sun.

        I love this particular pasta salad because of all the veggies in it and you can even add more...  broccoli, julienned zucchini, summer squash, cauliflower, red bell pepper, summer beans, etc. would all be great in this salad.  The beauty of summer is that so much fresh, gorgeous produce is available! 

        One of my goals in summer is to avoid turning on the stove most days...  The black tar roof of the building I live in is my ceiling, need I explain further how I have come to understand what a roast chicken must feel like in the oven?!

        Another goal, I'll be honest is to make enough for left-overs.  I made a big bowl of pasta salad that will feed me for a few days.   I can have it for lunch the next day and maybe as a side for dinner the day after that... or with the 4th of July celebrations right around the corner I will pack it up and take it with me to a barbecue to enjoy with friends.

        Mediterranean Pasta Salad
        • 1/2 lb orzo (tri-color if you can find it)
        • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
        • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
        • 2 tbsp olive oil
        • 1/3 cup marinated, quartered artichoke hearts
        • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
        • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
        • 1/2 cup cucumber, quartered & thinly sliced
        • 1/4 cup pitted, oil-cured black olives
        • 1/3 cup feta, crumbled (or ricotta salata if you don't like feta)
        • 1 tbsp lemon zest, grated
        • 1 tbsp capers
        • 2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
        • 1/4 bunch parsley, finely chopped
        • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

        Cook orzo according to package instructions.   Toss orzo with olive oil to coat pasta.
        Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.  Season with salt & pepper.