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Posts from the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

Well, well, well… (remember me?)


This poor little blog has been neglected the last couple of months by yours truly.  Blame my new job!  I’ve been traveling like crazy and have hardly been home to cook.  So to talk you into sticking around…here’s as much of a post as I can get out there.

Let’s start with the most recent addition to our kitchen…

For my birthday, Woody gave me a baking steel, from Modernist Cuisine. Which is very cute and thoughtful…he really knows the way to my heart.  It’s through Pizza!  And a couple of nights ago…the first time, we’ve both been in town at the same time in weeks, we made one of these…

…actually we made two…and left only crumbs!

This is the closest we have come to making Neapolitan style pizzeria pizza, with a blistered crust, fresh buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil.  I can’t wait to have it again!

I recently taught a 10 day course in Chico, CA and during a free afternoon, found myself touring the Sierra Nevada Brewery, which of course finishes with a tasting.  The hoppier the beer the better!  I loved the Hoptimum – it has an IBU (International Bitterness Unit) 100.  And their dry hop cold storage room smelled amazing!

Their operation is impressive, even more so because of their emphasis on being green! (Large solar array, hydrogen fuel cells, water treatment plant, etc.)  I really enjoyed Chico…quite a fun little town.  Of particular note is Chico Chai, Avocado Peach Margaritas at this place, and breakfast at Cafe Coda.

Feeling like something on the lighter side…

I experimented with a cold Soba noodle salad with seared tofu, sautéed mushrooms, steamed broccoli and fresh snow peas with a carrot, ginger miso dressing.  It needs a little tweaking, but certainly filled our bellies!

In early May, I had a craving for Chicken Tortilla Soup and whipped this up!

Those are house-fried tortilla strips on top, and the bowl is not ready until you’ve squeezed some fresh lime juice over the top and added fresh avocado as well!

Woody ordered some chile powders from New Mexico and was intrigued by this Blue Corn Pancake Mix.  We threw a batch together one morning, and can now speak from experience…it’s delicious!

Reaching way back (like late April), we made this awesome salad with roasted golden beets, fresh hazelnuts from Oregon, bacon and goat cheese!

I’m about to hit the road again tomorrow and I’ll be gone until the end of June.  I’m SOOOOO looking forward to July, summer produce at the farmer’s market, time to cook, patio sitting and a few slow weeks!

Until July…

Cheers!

 

DLW: Ditalini Pasta & White Beans with Garlic Rosemary Oil


I have been obsessed with white beans as of late.  No explanation…I just want them, all the time.  Also, tuna.  No idea why.

Luckily, Smitten Kitchen delivered and we whipped up this dish for dinner last week.  She mentioned that it makes enough to feed a couple starving armies…so we halved the recipe and still had plenty of leftovers for lunches during the week!

Ditalini Pasta & White Beans with Garlic Rosemary Oil

½ medium onion, cut into big chunks
½ medium carrot, in big chunks
½ celery stalk, in big chunks
3 garlic cloves, 2 left whole, 1 finely chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
¼ cup olive oil, divided
Coarse or kosh salt
1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 15-ounce can small white beans (such as Great Northern or Cannelini), rinsed
½ pound short tube pasta we used Ditalini
½ tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Pulse onion, carrot, celery, whole garlic cloves, parsley, and red pepper flakes (to taste) in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat 4 tbsp. oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add vegetable mixture to pot. (Quickly rinse, but no need to fully wash, food processor as you’ll use it again shortly.) Season generously with salt. Cook, stirring from time to time, until vegetables take on a bit of color, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook it into the vegetables for another minute. Add 1 cup water and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the pot. Let simmer until liquid has almost disappeared, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add beans and 2 more cups of water to the pot and simmer until the flavors meld, about another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, or still a little firm inside.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water from your drained pasta.

Transfer one cup of the bean mixture to your rinsed food processor and purée it until smooth, then stir it back into the sauce to thicken it. Add drained pasta and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to bean sauce and cook the mixture together, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until the sauce coats the pasta, about 1 to 2 more minutes.

To serve: Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a tiny saucepan over medium-low heat with garlic and rosemary, until sizzling stops. Divide pasta between serving bowls and drizzle garlic-rosemary oil over each.

Next time we make this, we will wait until the very end to add in most of the beans as we found that we liked them a bit toothier and less mushy.  And please, don’t underestimate how critical the garlic rosemary oil is at the end.  I would even recommend making more of the oil for leftovers and dredging some crusty bread through it.

This is a great vegetarian hearty and filling dish despite looking a little bland.  Who knows, next time I might go crazy and throw some lightly dressed arugula on top!

Apple Tart with Salted Caramel


My January was packed and I am just now getting a chance to feel that urge to get organized and start the new year off on the right foot!  I cleared out my entire email inbox yesterday.  I’m going to repeat that!  I CLEARED OUT MY ENTIRE INBOX!  The last time that happened was two years ago.  So now, my inbox is nearly empty (less than 15 emails sitting in there just waiting to be archived), but it seems as though I’ve got some photos to sort through (yikes)!  In my sorting and organizing, there are a couple of dishes that were ignored and never made it into a post, so this is a Throwback Dish - as in I cooked it sometime in the last year…and am just now getting around to posting it!

Deb over at Smitten Kitchen posted this last fall while I was visiting my brother and his family in Portland, OR…it was too much to resist!  (disclosure – cell phone pics – please excuse!)

Mosaic Apple Tart with Salted Caramel

Tart base
14-ounce package puff pastry, defrosted in fridge overnight
3 large or 4 medium apples (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits

Salted caramel glaze
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or half as much table salt)
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Heat the oven to 400°F.  Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and roll out your puff pastry dough to about the size of your sheet pan, use flour to prevent the pasty from sticking to your counter.

Peel your apples, core them and cut them in half.  Slice the apple halves thinly…a mandoline makes quick work of this…or slice thinly with a knife.  Now…the puzzle begins.  Starting on the outer edge, lay the apples around the border slightly overlapping each other, spiraling inward until you reach the center.  We  didn’t fit every apple slice in after circling in, so we went around and tucked in the extra slices wherever the tart needed them.  Sprinkle the apples with 2 tablespoons of butter and then dot with the butter.

Bake for 30 minutes, the edges of the tart should have started to brown a bit.  The tart will look dry – don’t worry…you’re fixing this problem with the salted caramel!  

About 10 minutes before the tart comes out of the oven, start the caramel.  In a saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of sugar over medium high heat, continue cooking it until it is coppery in color.  

 Off the heat, add the sea salt and butter and stir until the butter melts and is incorporated. Add the heavy cream and return to the stove over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until you have a lovely, bronzed caramel syrup, just another minute, two, tops. Set aside until needed. You may need to briefly rewarm it to thin the caramel before brushing it over the tart.

After the tart has baked, transfer it to a cooling rack, but leave the oven on. Using very short, gentle strokes, and brushing in the direction that the apples fan to mess up their design as little as possible, brush the entire tart, including the exposed pastry, with the salted caramel glaze. 

Return the apple tart to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the caramel glaze bubbles. You should let the tart cool completely before serving…but I won’t tell!  Serve it up plain or give it a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.  

Very delicious right after it came out of the oven topped with the salted caramel sauce…but equally good the next day, and the day after as well.  I may have had a slice whenever I walked through the kitchen.  It also tasted even sweeter since I had some little hands helping me lay out all the apples thanks to my niece!

Cranberries – Four Ways for Your Turkey Day!


Thanksgiving is probably my most favorite of the major holidays.  It involves a lot of cooking, a lot of food, and usually a lot of family and friends.  Expectations are only to enjoy a meal together…no gifts are exchanged, no pressure for a new years eve kiss, no costume to come up with…just eating and hanging out with folks you like, and maybe even love!

However…I can be picky when it comes to those traditional turkey day recipes.  First, stuffing and I have issues.  Spoiler alert:  stuffing is just soggy bread!  At least in my head, that is all it is…and no one likes soggy bread.  Second, let’s talk sides…I think the side dishes that make the cut for a thanksgiving feast should be savory in nature…I just can’t get on board with marshmallows and brown sugar in my sweet potatoes.  Third, I’m not the biggest fan of putting fruit on my meat…which means cranberry ________ (fill in the blank) on top of my roasted turkey.  But this year, I’m ready for change.  Go big or go home right…?

So I went BIG and made FOUR different cranberry accoutrements for this years turkey.

Let’s start simple…

Straight up Homemade Cranberry Sauce 

1 cup water
1/3 lb. fresh cranberries
½ cup sugar
½ tsp. grated orange rind (optional)

Boil Water.  Add sugar and cranberries.

Cook 10 minutes or until all skins pop (longer cooking, thicker sauce).

Skim froth and add optional orange rind.  Chill.

 

Next…Cranberry Relish

1 navel orange, quartered, with peel
2 cups fresh cranberries
¾ to 1 cup sugar

Process orange quarters, sugar and cranberries in food processor until fairly fine.

Chill.  Stir occasionally.

 

Moving into the slightly less traditional, we have a…

Garlicky Cranberry Chutney 

(from Madhur Jaffrey‘s Cookbook: Easy East/West Menus for Family and Friends)

1 inch fresh ginger
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
½ cup apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp.’s sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 lb. can whole berry cranberry sauce (I couldn’t find a 1-lb. can…so I used a 14 oz. can instead)
½ teaspoon salt (or less)
ground black pepper.

Cut ginger into paper thing slices, stack them together and cut into very thin slivers.

Combine ginger, garlic, sugar and cayenne in a small pot.  Bring to a simmer; simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes or until about 4 tbsp.’s of liquid are left.

Add the can of cranberry sauce, salt and pepper.  Mix and bring to a simmer.  Lumps are okay.  Simmer on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes.

(pardon the missing photos…I lost my daylight and apparently got distracted and forgot to take any more photos until it was done.)

Cool, store and refrigerate.

 

And finally…

Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish

(I’ll warn you…this is not in the traditional category!  Found via The Splendid Table on NPR)

2 cups whole fresh cranberries
1 small onion (or half a larger onion)
¾ cup sour cream
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp.’s prepared horseradish

Grind the raw berries and the onion together – rough chop the onion and toss both into a food processor, pulsing until they are ground…but not puréed.

Add everything else and mix together.

Put in a plastic container and freeze.

Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw.  When served, it should have some little icy slivers, and be thick, creamy and have a color similar to Pepto-Bismol.

 

There you have it…three pictured below and 1 in the freezer for tomorrow.  I’ll let you know my thoughts, ratings and a verdict on which cranberry sides passed muster.

(left to right: Garlicky Cranberry Chutney, Cranberry Relish, Cranberry Sauce; Not pictured: Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish)

What cranberry dish are you partial to?  Any weird hangups about holidays or about food…or about holiday food…?      …….?         Bueller….?      Bueller….?

Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake


Prompted to bring a dessert over to a friend’s house for a small potluck dinner, I began scheming to find a dessert that was not overly sweet, involved a bundt pan (the husband’s been asking for of a bundt-something-or-other), and brought out the best of late summer (no pumpkin or other quintessential fall ingredients involved).

Thank you Interwebs…and Martha Stewart!

I stumbled upon her recipe for Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake and it seemed perfect!  A buttery, citrus cake with the added brightness of ginger.  I am definitely adding this one to my recipe box, it was quick, a bit intriguing with the crystallized ginger and had just the right amount of sweetness.  Don’t you just hate it when Martha is…well, Martha?

Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake (via marthastewart.com)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard 12-cup bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, ginger, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in lemon juice.
  2. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in three parts and sour cream in two, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until incorporated (do not overmix). Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Firmly tap pan on a work surface to level batter.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes (if cake browns too quickly, tent loosely with aluminum foil). Let cake cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. (To store, wrap cake in plastic, and keep at room temperature, up to 3 days.) Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

As previously mentioned, we carted this bundt over to our friends and let it cool a bit more before dusting with powdered sugar (as Martha suggests), and unfortunately ended up with no pictures of the sliced cake as it disappeared quite quickly.

I just love how bundt cakes get that lovely dark crust on the outside and hide their fluffy cake texture inside.  I think I’ll be making this again soon!

Roasted Corn Cakes with Tomato Avocado Salsa


I know that it is now, technically, October…however, Los Angeles is not behaving that way and therefore I feel completely justified cooking like it is still seriously summer…as in triple digits!  Also…I wasn’t joking when I said we have been on a serious corn and tomato kick – and this recipe uses both!

I first stumbled on this recipe through Pinterest (you can follow @lizfisch) and then I happened to have everything in the house to whip up a batch.  The best part is that the source of the pin is easy to find.  Thanks to EzraPoundCake for posting the recipe, which actually comes from “Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen“.  I made a few changes to the recipe from EzraPoundCake, including roasting the corn before shucking and not adding any jalapeno peppers (didn’t have any on hand…and as previously discussed…I can’t take the heat!) to the tomato salsa.

Corn Cakes

3 ears of corn, shucked and roasted
1 cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup diced red onion
¼ cup thinly sliced basil
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. well-shaken buttermilk
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Canola oil for frying
Chopped Tomato & Avocado Salsa (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a brown paper bag or paper towels.
Cut the corn from the cobs into a large bowl, and scrape the stripped cobs with the back of the knife (or a spoon) to release the juices into the bowl.

I find the easiest way to do this is to set a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl and use the smaller bowl as the base for the cob.  The kernels tend to fly all over the place as you are cutting them off and you can maximize the stability of the cob while also catching the majority of the kernels.

Place 2 cups of the corn kernels into a food processor, and pulse several times, until the corn is slightly puréed but still chunky.

Scrape into the bowl with the remaining corn kernels.  Add flour, cornmeal, onion, basil, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper to the corn. Stir to mix.

Add the eggs, buttermilk and butter, and stir just to combine. (Do not overmix.)


Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add just enough canola oil to barely cover the bottom, and heat until sizzling hot.

One heaping tablespoon at a time, scoop the batter into the skillet. Cooking in batches of 4 to 5 to avoid overcrowding, fry the cakes 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown.


Drain on the lined baking sheet, and place in the oven to keep warm while cooking the remaining corn cakes. Serve warm topped with a heap of Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa.

Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa

Makes about 2 cups

1-2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 scallion, minced and trimmed
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
juice of ½ lime
1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tsp. white wine vinegar
kosher or sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

Place all of the ingredients (except the avocado) in a bowl, and stir to mix. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve, for up to 2 days.

Just before serving, add the avocado, and mix gently.

Once you’ve got everything ready to go, stack two corn cakes on a plate and top with salsa, garnish with more of the freshly chopped herbs, sliced scallions or minced red onion…any or all of them will do.

Anyone still hanging onto summer favorites out there?  Anyone…?  Bueller…?

Okay, I’ll make a promise…I’ll move on to fall dishes, as soon as the LA cools off a bit…I’m not asking for much…let’s say, highs in the 70′s?  Until then, I consider it summer!

Deal!

 

 

Hybrid Enchiladas with Green Chiles & Cheese


I am currently jealous of any person currently living in an area where the daily high temperatures are not rising above 70º.  Here in southern California…we’re still in the thick of the heat.  Today we had a major dip and the high was only 84º!  Last week, husband and I were enjoying a late summer vacation around the Teton region in Wyoming and Idaho and although it was certainly cooler…it was still ridiculously hot for this late in September.  Wild fires still abound and our days were filled with smoky haze.  However the brisk early mornings and waning light left me hungry for fall weather.  Casserole weather.

I love enchiladas as they tend to include cheese (love), corn tortillas (love) and they beg to be topped with the quintessential Tex-Mex garnish of sliced canned black olives.

No, these hybrid enchiladas will not get you more miles to the gallon…but they are a mixture of enchilada preparation styles from both my family and my husband’s family.

Woody likes his enchiladas on the spicy-side and I prefer it a bit milder so I tried to maximize the flavor of the sauce while not creating a volcanic sauce that would ruin the fun of my dinner.  Truly…I winged it.

In its most basic form, enchilada sauce is tomato sauce that has been flavored with chilies, onions and spices.  There are plenty of recipes out there to use as a starting point.  You’ll also notice from the above photo, that I used a portion of prepared enchilada sauce in making my sauce.  I tend to not love the sauces straight from the can, but they can enhance the depth of your sauce and make things a bit more complex.

Enchiladas can be made with flour or corn tortillas.  I like both, but they are very different, with corn being more authentic.  To use corn tortillas and make them malleable, you need to soften each one in a bit of hot vegetable or canola oil first.  Heat a shallow fry pan that is at least the size of your tortillas with ¼” of oil in the bottom.  You are not trying to make crispy tortillas…rather they should soak up a bit of oil which will make them easy to roll without tearing and ripping.  Using tongs, slip each tortilla into the warm oil for no more than 5-15 seconds per side and stack warm on a plate.  It’s best to do more than you think you will need so you don’t have to go back and repeat this step.  When the oil gets low, just add a bit more and let it heat back up.  If the oil is spitting, it is probably too hot.

I filled these enchiladas with jack cheese and Ortega green chiles.  Cut the cheese into ¼ to 1/3 inch logs and slice the canned whole green chiles into lengthwise slices.  Place one of each onto a tortilla and roll tightly and place the seam side down into a baking dish.  Continue until you have filled the pan and squished in as many as possible.

While I was building the enchiladas, my sauce was bubbling away on the stove.  When the pan is filled, it is time to lade the sauce over the enchiladas.

I started the sauce with sautéing a thinly sliced onion which is why it looks a bit chunky and stringy.

Smooth sauce over the top, letting it settle into the nooks and crannies.  Tope with shredded cheese and (of course) sliced black olives.

Now it’s time to bake this delicious pan of cheesy goodness.  You can also wrap it with foil and freeze it at this point – I had enough to feed an army…so I froze a whole second pan for sometime in November!  Bake at 350º for 20-30 minutes (from frozen it will probably need more like 45-60 minutes – and you can put it directly in a cold oven, and that way you can avoid the risk of your dish breaking from temperature shock as it will heat up with the oven).  If it is browning too quickly, cover with a piece of foil.

Let it stand for a few minutes once you remove it from the oven and then serve it up with your favorite sides.  We went with beans and a little garnish of fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream (which didn’t make it into the photo).

Side note:  I out-spiced myself with this particular dish.  In my attempt to satisfy my husband’s need for some heat…I went a bit far with the chiles, cayenne and chile powder.  Oops!  At least one of us loved it!  The sour cream helped me cool down the dish for my pathetic pallet.  

What are you cooking now that the weather has turned (in most places)?

 

 

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie


For many years there was truly only one smoothie that I could get behind.  Strawberry banana.  Period.  Tropical flavors aren’t really my thing; mentioning a juice-fast in my kitchen may as well be a punishable offense; and (surprise, surprise…) I’m a bit picky when it comes to fruit on my plate or in my glass.  However, I have broadened my smoothie horizons as of late, learning to love a non-berry-banana concoction.

Only 5 ingredients and poof…you have a delicious and filling breakfast.  I start with the banana…just peel and dump it into the blender.  Next, I add a large spoonful of peanut butter.  We happen to use creamy, but since you’re blending, the crunchy kind would work fine.  Next, I pour in a 3-4 tbsp.’s of almond milk and then somewhere between ½ to 1 cup of whole milk.  (I always start with less and add more if it is too thick.)

Top with a handful or scoop of ice, again, you can always add a little more later.  Blend away until it is smooth and creamy.

You want it to be thick without being icy but still thin enough that you can suck it through a straw with no problem!  When making this for two, I start with 2 whole bananas and then guess on the amounts of everything else.  With the temps being so high lately, this is a great cool way to start the morning.

What’s been your favorite smoothie recipe this summer?  What recipes do you use to help beat the heat?

Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Shaved Baby Zucchini & Toasted Pepitas


When someone utters the words “…this is the best thing we’ve made…ever!”  ’nuff said.

Squash blossoms are available for only a short period of time in the summer and are the epitome of ‘seasonal’.  They are typically picked in the morning and brought to the farmer’s market that day and are best used within a couple of hours.  This dish is perfectly simple and refreshingly light without being short on flavor.

I spotted the original recipe on epicurious as we were walking through the farmer’s market trying to solidify our dinner plans.  Our modified recipe is shown below.

Besides squash blossoms, in looking for shallots, we stumbled upon green shallots, which I don’t believe I’ve used before.  I am positive the dish would have been delightful with regular, good ‘ole shallots…but I believe the green shallots made it just a touch more special!

Let’s talk tomatoes!  Tomatoes in the summer are serious business.  It is not summer without tomatoes that need nothing other than to be plucked from the vine and tossed in one’s mouth and with a tiny squeeze of the jaw burst forth with flavor and juice.  These miniature (sometimes referred to as Sweet 100′s) citrusy orange delights would have been so offended had we tried to cook them…they would have sprouted legs and walked right out of the kitchen (original recipe called for roasting the tomatoes).

I am often made fun of for appreciating things that come in small proportions (read: I love anything that is small or comes in a miniature size).  Prime examples of such behavior: I refuse to use anything other than the mini-taster spoons when eating ice cream from a shop; we shouldn’t even talk about the number of small bowls that crowd my cupboards; and I am addicted to small notepads and mini-books and have recently discovered some half-size mechanical pencils; so my love for baby vegetables should not surprise anyone!

How can you resist these little guys!?!

Make sure to roast the pepitas, the nuttiness and the crunch are very important for the final dish!

For squash blossoms

2 teaspoons olive oil
1-2 oz mild fresh goat cheese (6 tablespoons) at room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted until they puff
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
6 male squash blossoms with stems (not with baby zucchini), stems trimmed to 1 inch

Filling:

Stir together goat cheese, cream, pumpkin seeds, basil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and set aside.

Pipe filling into each blossom and twist ends of petals gently to close.  We used a ziplock bag and cut off the tip to pipe the filling into the squash blossoms.  Chill them covered, until ready to fry.

*We realized that we should have made the mixture immediately upon returning from the farmer’s market and filled the blossoms as soon as possible as the flowers were open when we bought them and closed up tighter and tighter as the day went on making it more difficult to fill them later on without ripping the delicate petals.

For vinaigrette and shaved squash

1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon minced green shallots
2 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 baby zucchini, rinsed and stems discarded

Purée vinegar, shallot, oil, pepper, and salt in a blender until smooth and emulsified.

Slice squash paper-thin (lengthwise) using a mandoline, then overlap squash slices decoratively on 2 plates.  Do this shortly before frying the blossoms and plating the dish, otherwise the slices will dry out.

For tempura batter and frying

6 cups vegetable oil (preferably canola or grapeseed)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chilled sparkling water

Make tempura batter and fry blossoms:
Heat 2 inches of oil in a 3-quart saucepan to 350°F on thermometer.

Set a bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water, then whisk together flour and salt in smaller bowl. Then whisk in sparkling water until combined well.

Working in batches of 2 or 3, coat blossoms in batter, lifting each out by its stem and letting excess drip off, then fry, turning, until batter is crisp (it will not brown), 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer blossoms as fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels, drain, then season with salt.

For topping

2 tablespoons green (hulled) pumpkin seeds, toasted until they puff
Handful of small basil leaves (preferably Thai) or sliced larger leaves
1 cup small cherry tomatoes (sweeter the better), halved lengthwise or served whole 

Assemble plates:

Drizzle vinaigrette over squash slices, then arrange 3 fried blossoms in middle of each plate. Sprinkle remaining oven-dried tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and basil around blossoms and season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately and enjoy with a glass of white wine – we went with a 2008 Russian River Chardonnay.

The crisp raw zucchini where perfect paired with the crunch of the tempura and the richness of the goat cheese…add in the juicy tomatoes and the acid from the vinaigrette…and it was perfection!  Seriously…perfection!

We are dying to make this again…but just might have to wait until squash blossoms are back in season next summer!

What are your favorite completely seasonal dishes for summer?

 

Dinners…that don’t look much like dinner!


Have you ever had so many events and nights out that all you want to do is just veg on the couch at home?  Obviously you need to eat, but putting much effort into dinner…especially anything that would typically look like a dinner, is just way to hard.

We’ve had a lot going on this last month or so…in fact sometimes May/June tends to feel a lot like the holidays when you find yourself eating nibbles from the hors d’oeuvres tables and cookies and having perhaps a few more drinks during the week than you planned…when following an ‘eat healthy plan’ seems all but impossible.

Our solution – popcorn, apples and cheese.  My husband grew up with this meal as a Sunday night tradition.  It’s easy, feels like a treat and doesn’t require a lot of planning or shopping!

As mentioned here, I crave salty snacks…and popcorn is one of my favorites.  In fact, I would dare say that our air popper is one of our most used small kitchen appliances.  This particular evening, I popped up 3/4 cup of popcorn, drizzled it with melted salted butter and sprinkled it with salt.  I sliced up a Gala apple and some Dubliner cheddar cheese and settled in on the couch to watch some indulgent reality TV.

It is the perfect antidote to an overly busy social calendar…and feels somewhat healthy too!

What is your go-to, quick fix, alternative-to-typical-dinner meal?

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