Sunday, August 21, 2011

Zucchini Bread Pudding

Are you in a zucchini rut?  Is your fridge stuffed with them and you're sick of just roasting them?  Have you eaten as many marinated zucchini salads as you can stomach?  This zucchini bread pudding, or stuffing, is a great way to use up a lot of zucchini.  While I love roasted zucchini on it's own and can eat it nearly endlessly all summer long, this is a delicious alternative to break up the monotony.  Since it's warm and bready, you may want to leave it for a cooler summer day, though I think it would be great chilled, too.  Serve it for brunch with fresh fruit or lunch and dinner with a (non-zucchini) salad.

- 1 loaf whole grain bread, about 7 c. cubed.  Look for something that is about half whole wheat and half white or sourdough; make sure it's not too heavy or dense.  Ideally leave the cubes out overnight to get a little stale or toast them in the oven a bit to dry them out, but you can use fresh bread with fine results.
- 2 1/2 c. coarsely grated zucchini, about 2 medium.  (More zucchini could be used, but you would need to squeeze the excess moisture out.)
- 1 1/4 c. diced onion, about 1 medium
- 2 tbsp. minced sun dried tomatoes
- 2 eggs (if you like eggs, you could use 3 or even 4 for an eggier, richer filling)
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 c. finely grated parmesan cheese

- In a large bowl combine the bread cubes, zucchini, onion, and dried tomato and toss to distribute evenly.
- Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, olive oil, basil, salt, and spices.
- Pour the liquid over the bread mix and toss to distribute.
- Press the bread down into the liquid.  Cover and let soak for 1 hour.
- Butter the inside of a cast iron skillet.
- Pour the bread mix into the skillet and press down firmly.
- Spread the parmesan evenly over the surface.
- Bake in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Optionally broil for a few minutes towards the end if the top needs help browning.

While any casserole dish can be used, the cast iron really helps create a delicious, crispy, caramelized crust.  You could also use muffin tins, (or cast iron muffin molds!), to make individual portions that would make a lovely presentation turned upside down.  Just be sure to reduce the baking time so they don't dry out.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Marinated Eggplants

So, maybe you're getting a little tired of baking with eggplant and heating up your kitchen: it is August, after all.  Well, do I have the recipe for you!  This marinated eggplant is one of my favorite summer meals.  Okay, you do have to the stove top for a little bit, but you can make a batch to last a week and it's definitely worth a little sweat.  I found this in Recipes from an Italian Summer, a wonderful cookbook for working with summer produce.

- About 1 1/2 lb. eggplant, any variety large enough to slice
- 3/4 c. flavorful olive oil
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, and roughly chopped
- 10 mint leaves, chopped
- a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper

- If the eggplant is thick-skinned, peel it.  Slice the eggplant into 1/4" rounds.
- Sprinkle the slices with salt and let them drain over a colander for 30 minutes.
- Rinse the eggplant slices and pat them dry.  Brush them lightly with olive oil: it's important to use a brush and a light hand here, (don't drizzle!), or they will just soak up the oil in some spots.
-  Heat a heavy skillet over high heat.
- Add the eggplant slices in a single layer, cooking them in batches.  Turn them once to lightly brown them on both sides.  They should lose a lot of their moisture and appear a bit shriveled.
- Whisk the remaining oil, (most of it), with the remaining ingredients.
- Create a layer of eggplant and add a few spoonfuls of the dressing, being sure to get some of the chunky bits.
- Repeat, stacking layers, until all of the eggplant and dressing is used.
- Cover and chill for at least 6 hours before use.

This eggplant is delicious served with some mozzarella or as part of a caprese salad.  It is sublime, if a tad oily, sandwiched between sourdough with some mozzarella and pressed into a panini.  I think it would be a great accompaniment to a tender chimichurri-marinated steak.  If, for some reason, you have extra marinade it makes great salad dressing, too.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Deviled Eggplants

Have you ever wondered why we call them eggplants when they don't really look like eggs?  We may be more familiar with the dark purple aubergines that tend to grace grocery store shelves, but there are indeed some that are truer to their namesake.  These 'Ghostbuster' eggplants from my garden are a great example, with some shorter varieties appearing even more egg-like.

I may hate eggs, but I sure do love eggplant.  When all of the other summer produce is crying out to be eaten fresh, eggplant is full of opportunities to bake, saute, grill, and broil to your heart's content.

These 'deviled eggplants' are simply delicious.  Though baked and filled with rich lamb meat, the flavor profile keeps them summery.  Be sure to pick smaller eggplants with tender skin: go for the pale purple, marbled, or white eggplants instead of the deep purple.  With their thinner skin and lack of bitterness, they didn't require any special treatment.  If shopping in a grocery store where only dark purple are available, look for the smallest, youngest eggplants.

Ingredients (Serves 2-4, depending on sides):
- 2 eggplants (about 6-8" long)
- 1/3 c. died sweet onion
- 1/4 lb. ground lamb
- 1/4 c. chopped parsley
- 1 egg
- 1/2 c. greek yogurt (nonfat)
- dashes of salt, black pepper, and cumin to taste (1/4 tsp each, to start)
- panko bread crumbs
- olive oil

- Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise and scoop out the interior, leaving about 1/4" around the edge.
- Dice the scooped out eggplant and set aside.
- In a large skillet, add a scant drizzle of olive oil and the onions.
- Sautee until the onions for about 3 minutes, then add the lamb and seasonings.
- Stir to break up the lamb and brown it, then add the eggplant.
- Sautee the mixture for about 5 minutes, then add a few tablespoons water to deglaze the bottom.
- Continue to cook until the eggplant is tender.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg together with the yogurt and parsley.
- Stir the yogurt mixture into the meat mixture until evenly combined and cook just another two minutes.
- Sprinkle the inside of the eggplant shells with a dash of salt then spoon the mixture into them, mounding it a bit on top to use it all.
- Sprinkle the top of the eggplants evenly with the panko and add a very light drizzle of olive oil.
- Bake the eggplants in the oven for 30 minutes at 350.
- Serve immediately.

I served this with a light simple salad of tomato, cucumber, and onion flavored with fresh parsley, dill, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Easily multiplied to serve a crowd, these can be prepared earlier in the day for easy hosting.  Simply make the filling, stuff the eggplants, cover, and refrigerate.  Add the panko and put them un the oven, allowing a little extra time since they are now chilled.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Cucumber Yogurt Salad (or Dip!)

I never thought I could have too many cucumbers, but with my vines doing so well this year I'm finding it hard to keep up with the cucumber (or two) a day that need picking and eating.  This simple little salad is a classic and fresh way to use them up.  I quite like it for breakfast, as my sweet tooth is not always an early riser.  To make it into a dip simply mince the cucumbers or send them through a food processor.

- 2 cups chopped cucumber (half quarted, half chopped more finely)
- 1/2 c. minced red onion
- 1/2 c. chopped dill
- 3/4 c. greek yogurt (I used 0%)
- 1/4-1/2 tsp salt, to taste
- 1/4 tsp. paprika (optional)

- Umm...  combine everything and stir.

If you like a thicker texture, don't let the cucumbers sit in the yogurt for more than 2-3 hours prior to serving.  For dip, I recommend squeezing out some of the excess water from the cucumbers.  It will taste good, regardless, but I found it to get a little soupy after a day in the fridge.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Pattypan squash are just so cheerful and adorable that I feel compelled to use them in a way that takes full advantage of their shape; it would seem a crime to chop them up beyond recognition.  Slicing them in half and stuffing them with a light flavored goat cheese is the perfect way to give them a little boost and maintain their sunshiney state.

- 3 pattypan squash
- 3 tbsp plain goat cheese
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 3 tbsp panko bread crumbs
- salt and pepper to taste

- Slice each squash in half and scoop out the pulpy interior to form a round hollow.  Sometimes one half will have a smaller opening, so widen it a bit to allow for more stuffing.
- In a small bowl mash together the goat cheese, parsley, green onion, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until it is thoroughly blended.
- Press a spoonful of the goat cheese mix into each hollow of the squash.
- Roll each squash half, face down, in the panko to coat the goat cheese.
- Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, (placing them in muffin tins help keep them upright), until the squash is tender.
- Place the squash under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to brown the tops a little extra.

I served mine with some fresh roasted green beans.  They can easily be a main course, a side, or an appetizer-- maybe even finger food?  Make any amount you'd like, just plan on 1 tbsp of goat cheese per (whole) squash.  They'd be delicious with basil or chives instead of the parsley, too.  Bacon bits instead of the panko would make them extra decadent.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Black Bean Burgers

Summer is a time for grilling, cookouts, barbecues, picnics, and all manner of meat-centric gatherings.  In fact, I recently attended a party where the main event was a rather scientific preparation of the burgers, involving liquid nitrogen and deep frying.  Delicious (and potentially dangerous?) as it was, one may wonder about our social fascination with meat: is it always necessary?  (I suspect that our wonderful host would say that yes, it is.)

I'm certainly no vegan and probably never will be, but these black bean burgers from the Veganomicon are so good that I'd have no problem passing over the beef, (at least now and then).  If you're really craving a rare, juicy burger they might not quite hit the spot, but they might create a craving of their very own.  They're very easy to put together so it's no hassle to accommodate vegetarian and vegan friends without resorting to those gross frozen versions.  So take a break from the veggie kabobs, grilled portobello caps, and tofu dogs and try this vegan black bean burger instead!

- 1 can black beans (you can certainly make your own, but canned is really perfect for this recipe)
- 1/2 c. vital wheat gluten (find this at 'health food' type stores: Bob's Red Mill makes some)
- 1/2 c. bread crumbs
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 c. water
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste or ketchup
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1/2 c. onion, minced or grated

- Mash the beans with a fork in a mixing bowl so there are no whole beans but they retain some texture.
- Add everything else and mix together to evenly distributed.
- With your hands, knead the mixture a bit to help it come together.
- Divide the mix into six equal parts and press it into patties.  They should be 1-1.5" thick, depending on your buns (they won't shrink much).
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add a light drizzle of olive oil.
- Cook the patties in two batches for 5 minutes on each side, pressing down firmly but gently with the spatula.  Add additional oil between batches if necessary.

We served our black bean burgers on whole wheat buns with tomatoes, red onions, kale, ketchup, and whole grain mustard.  I really like using kale instead of lettuce on burgers: it has such a nice bite to it.

To freeze the black bean patties, allow them to cool and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.  To reheat, bake in the oven or defrost in the microwave and finish in a skillet.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Cakes

Remember how I said that buttermilk cake was an easy and great base for any number of variations?  Well, here's one of them!

To the basic recipe I added 1 tbsp lemon zest.  I placed fresh, seasonal blueberries in the bottom of a regular-sized muffin tin and spooned the batter on top.  After baking them for about 10 minutes I inverted them onto a plate and voila!  A dozen individual cakelettes, perfect for entertaining!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Vegetables and Socca

I experimented with growing carrots this year.  I selected an heirloom variety called 'Parisian Market', which are small round carrots that grow to about 1-2" in diameter.  Overall it was a success and I had quite the bounty of delicious, sweet carrots.  I did, however, learn that my soil is a bit rockier than I realized.  This led to some rather unusual carrots being pulled from the ground...

Next year I'll try my carrot cultivation in pots to avoid this (and make weeding easier), but until then I'll have a bit of added humor on my plate.

I wanted to keep my preparation simple, so I tossed these carrots and some zucchini with olive oil, cumin, and salt.  I roasted them until tender (you may want to start the carrots ahead of the zucchini) and served them alongside fresh spinach sauteed with garlic and some slices of socca flavored with rosemary.    Nothing fancy here, but it was a very satisfying meal.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Oatmeal Pancakes

When I first saw these oatmeal pancakes, I was intrigued.  I had recently tasted some oat and cornmeal waffles at a local restaurant and had creative breakfast foods on the brain.  I've tinkered around with the recipe a bit and have found many delicious variations.  Here are two of them.

- 3/4 c. flour
- 1/4 c. cornmeal (coarse gives more crunch, but make sure it's not too coarse--ahem Bob's Red Mill-- or it won't cook enough.)
- 2  1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp cardamom (optional)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 1 c. cooked oatmeal (rolled oats, not quick or steel cut)
- 1 egg

- 1 c. flour
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp. orange zest
- 1 c. milk
- 1 c. cooked oatmeal (rolled oats, not quick or steel cut)
- 1 egg

- Whisk together everything but the (butter)milk, zest, oatmeal, and egg.
- Whisk the (butter)milk, zest, oatmeal, and egg together separately.
- Gently fold the dry into the wet until just combined.  This is a slightly thicker batter than usual, but it turns out wonderfully.
- Heat up a cast iron skillet.  When hot, add a little butter (just enough to give the pan a light coat).
- Drop in the batter, 1/4 c. for each pancake.
- Cook until you see bubbles rising to the surface then flip once.
- Serve hot with butter, honey, and fresh fruit.

These pancakes are a little heartier than the usual suspects and really keep you feeling full and energized all day.  Sure, regular fluffy pancakes are tasty but I really enjoy the well-rounded flavor that these have. I also like to tell myself that they're just a tad healthier.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pizza with Zucchini and Kale Pesto

I've made this kale pesto a few times since I first thought of it and I've loved it more each time.  It's now one of my favorite pizza toppings, imparting a lovely earthy vegetable flavor to every bite.  It's also a great way to use up a bunch of kale quickly.

Kale Pesto
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¼ c. quality extra virgin olive oil
- 2 c. packed kale pieces
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 sun dried tomato halves, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes.

Throw everything into a food processor and blend until the desired consistency is reached.  You can add a bit more olive oil to thin it out if you want.

To make this pizza, simple push out your pizza dough and spread the kale pesto over it.  Top it with thinly sliced zucchini, some red onion, and some slices of fresh mozzarella.  Bake in a 475 degree oven 15-20 minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly and browned.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jewels of Summer

Stop everything you're doing.  Just drop it.  Get up and go to a farmers' market.  Buy heirloom tomatoes. Bring them home.  Slice them gently with a sharp knife.  Arrange them on a plate.  Sprinkle them with freshly ground pepper and sea salt.  Drizzle them with the best olive oil you have.  Eat them.

You're welcome.