Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cheesy Summer Squash Saute

This recipe is a summer standard of my mother-in-law's. You can use yellow squash, zucchini, or a combination.

Olive oil
2 medium summer squashes or zucchinis, sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
1 large onion, chopped or in long slices
1/2 cup finely chopped basil, or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 - 1 cup shredded cheddar or jack cheese

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and squash or zucchini and saute, stirring occasionally, over low-medium heat for several minutes until tender and lightly browned in places. Add the basil, salt, and pepper and stir. Sprinkle the cheese over the vegetables and turn off the heat. Serve once the cheese is melted.

Serves about 4.

Variations: Try other herbs and/or add some minced garlic.

Zucchini Basil Quiche

Continuing on the zucchini basil theme...

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh basil
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 9-inch piecrust with fluted edges

Preheat the oven to 375˚.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook just until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the salt, pepper, and basil, and cook until the basil is just wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and drain the vegetables to remove any extra liquid.

Beat the eggs and milk in a medium bowl.

Spread the cheese over the crust in the bottom of the pie plate. Spread the zucchini mixture over it. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, being careful not to overflow the pan. (This is why fluted edges for the crust are useful.)

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the quiche is cooked through in the middle and has begun to brown on top.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 3-4.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Zucchini Basil Pancakes

My best using-up-zucchini recipe yet. And tasty to boot! A food processor makes quick work of the shredding.

6 medium zucchinis, shredded
2 1/2 tsp salt (1 tsp + 1 ½ tsp)
10 scallions, green and white parts, in thin rounds
10-12 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil
1 1/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup white flour or whole wheat pastry flour
4 large eggs, beaten
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed
5-6 cups good quality tomato sauce
Optional toppings: Shredded cheddar and/or additional grated Parmesan cheese

Set the shredded zucchini in a colander over the sink, sprinkle lightly with 1 tsp of salt, and let sit for about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix the scallions, garlic, basil, Parmesan, and flour. Add the beaten eggs and combine thoroughly. Stir in the remaining 2 tsp of salt and the pepper.

Squeeze the liquid out of the zucchini using a towel or your hands. Get out as much as you possibly can (the drier it is, the better the pancakes will hold together). Add to the ingredients in the large bowl and mix well.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet or two. Add the pancake mixture by large spoonfuls, to make pancakes 3-4 inches in diameter. Try to shape the pancakes a bit so they are round and solid, and about 1/2-3/4-inch thick. Fry until golden brown on one side and reasonably solid, about 3-4 minutes; then flip and cook the other side. You may need to add more oil between batches. Keep finished pancakes warm on a covered plate or in the oven while you cook the rest.

Heat the tomato sauce in a saucepan while you cook the pancakes.

Serve hot, topped with tomato sauce and, if desired, grated Parmesan or cheddar.

Serves about 4.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pizza with Feta and Basil

I used Chase Hill Farm feta for this, which had a nice salty pungency. And basil from my garden. If you have fresh tomatoes, try pre-baking the crust then using sliced tomatoes instead of sauce--I'll be doing that later in the season when our own tomatoes are ripe.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3/4 - 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
4 oz crumbled feta
2-3 oz shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Paint the crust with olive oil.

Spread the tomato sauce over the crust, then scatter the basil over it. Top with the crumbled feta and mozzarella.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Roasted New Potatoes and Fennel with Goat Cheese

Yesterday was cool and rainy, a good chance to use the oven. I had originally been thinking about a gratin with these ingredients, but I didn't have enough time so I kept it simpler. Another time I will have to try the gratin, but this was delicious. I served this alongside broiled pork chops from Bostrom Farm, which were delicious seasoned only with salt and pepper.

1 lb new potatoes, in 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped
Olive oil
1/4 tsp dried tarragon (or some fresh if you have it)
Salt and pepper
1-2 oz crumbled goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the potatoes and fennel together in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat, then add the tarragon, salt, and pepper and mix. Roast for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until vegetables are tender.

Place potato and fennel mixture in a bowl and add the goat cheese. Stir to coat.

Serves about 4.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Orzo with Zucchini, Chicken, and Feta

In addition to zucchini, mature onions and garlic are appearing in the farmers market (as well as my garden!), so after using a lot of scapes, green garlic, scallions, and spring onions, now it's time to switch over to the more standard versions.

I served this as a main dish, but it could also work as a side dish, especially if you leave out the chicken. I liked it with the cilantro, but next time I am going to try it with basil, which might be even better.

1 1/2 cups dry orzo
Salt and pepper
olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs zucchini, shredded (about 4 cups)
2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups chopped cilantro
6-8 oz. crumbled feta

Cook the orzo in a large pot of salted water, then drain.

While the orzo cooks, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the zucchini and chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste and saute until the zucchini is tender (just a few minutes). Stir in the cilantro and remove from the heat. Drain off excess liquid, then combine the zucchini mixture with the orzo in a bowl. Stir in the feta.

Serves about 6.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Scrambled Eggs with Basil

This is one of my favorite summer breakfasts, preferably paired with some toasted rosemary olive oil bread from El Jardin Bakery. It's super easy, but the basil really transforms scrambled eggs into something special. You can use other herbs, too, but basil is my favorite. For more pungent herbs (e.g. thyme, sage, oregano), you'd want a smaller quantity.

2 eggs per person
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil per egg

Beat the eggs in a bowl, then stir in the basil. Heat some butter or oil in a skillet and cook the eggs, scrambling as you go, until cooked through.

Serve hot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Potatoes with Peanut Sauce

Mmm, another tasty way to serve new potatoes, along with the scallions and cilantro in season now. You can also substitute noodles for the potatoes, though that would make rather less of a locally based dish.

1/3 - 1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp peanut or canola oil
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (preferably natural)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2-3 tsp chili paste
Up to 1/4 cup water
Up to 1/4 cup sugar or honey
1 1/2 - 2 lbs new potatoes, in bite-sized chunks
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Start by making the peanut sauce: Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, peanut oil, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, and chili paste in the blender and blend until smooth. Add water a little at a time, blending in between, to reach the desired consistency. The sauce should be thin enough to pour but thick enough to stick to the potatoes.

Taste the sauce and add a little bit of sugar or honey at a time, blending in between, until reaching the desired level of sweetness. Let the sauce sit so the flavors can blend some more while you cook the potatoes.

Boil or steam the potatoes until tender. Don’t overcook, or they will fall apart when you mix them with the sauce.

When the potatoes are cooked, toss them with the peanut sauce.

Serve topped with the scallions and/or cilantro.

Serves 4-6.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pizza with New Potatoes, Goat Cheese, and Basil

This was an excellent combination of both flavors and textures. I used a standard chevre, but a ripened goat cheese would probably be nice, too. I sliced the potatoes very thin and put them on raw, but if you'd like to slice them thicker or pile them higher, steam them briefly before putting them on the pizza.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 lb new potatoes, sliced as thinly as possible (1/8-inch or less)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Paint the crust with olive oil, then spread the tomato sauce over it. Place the potato slices on the pizza in a single layer, each slightly overlapping its neighbors. Sprinkle with basil, then scatter the goat cheese over everything.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are done.

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mmm...Camembert

My happiest discovery at the farmers market this week was the Camembert cheese on offer from Chase Hill Farm. This has been one of my husband's favorite cheeses since he spent a year in Normandy as a teenager, and it has grown on me as well. We bought some and it did not disappoint! Excellent flavor, and a lovely, gooey interior. This cheese is also available at Green Fields Market.

If you're not familiar with Camembert, it looks a lot like Brie but has a stronger flavor. Try it on crackers or bread. It is also good with sauteed greens on pizza or in a crepe.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Freezing Zucchini and Summer Squash

On the off chance that anyone ends up with an overabundance of zucchini... And, of course, even if you don't grow it, you can buy extra at the farmers market or stash away some of what comes in your CSA box for use later in the winter. Frozen zucchini is pretty versatile and can be tossed into a variety of different dishes. You can do this with other types of summer squash as well; ones without large seeds in the center do best.

1. Grated: best for baking, though also not bad with pasta. Grate the zucchini, then steam it for a minute or two and promptly cool. Pack into freezer bags or containers in amounts you will want to use later (e.g. 1 cup for zucchini bread).

2. Sliced: slice 1/4-inch thick, in rounds or half- or quarter-rounds. Pack directly into freezer bags without blanching, in amounts you will want at one shot later (e.g. for a stir-fry or stew). If you want to bread and fry zucchini later, tray freeze it first to ensure that it will not stick together.

You can also saute zucchini before freezing and then just thaw, warm, and serve, or add to pasta dishes or pizza or the like. Or take it one step further and saute with other vegetables such as onions, garlic, or tomatoes, and freeze the mixture.

Zesty Fried Zucchini Rounds

In this dish, slices of zucchini are coated with chickpea flour and Indian seasonings and fried in oil. You can use other types of summer squash in place of the zucchini, and if you don't have chickpea flour, it's okay to substitute white or whole-wheat flour. Leftovers don’t keep very well, but if you have some, they will do better reheated in the oven or toaster oven than the microwave. These are good eaten straight with a little salt, but are also nice with a little chutney or plain yogurt for dipping.

1 medium zucchini, in 1/4-inch rounds
1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
Dash cayenne pepper
1 large egg, beaten
Oil for frying

Mix the flour and spices together in a small bowl.

Dip each slice of zucchini into the beaten egg. Let the excess egg drip off. Coat with the flour mixture, then set aside on a plate. You may want to do this and then fry the slices in a couple batches, rather than coating them all first and then frying.

Generously oil a heavy skillet. Fry the squash rounds for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Place on a rack or paper towels to drain off excess oil.

Serve immediately. Sprinkle with salt if desired.

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pre-Ordering Bulk Blueberries

Two farms in Heath, The Benson Place and Burnt Hill Farm, are taking pre-orders for blueberries in 5-, 10-, and 20-pound boxes. The Benson place also offers u-pick options starting later this month. Call ahead if you want to pick on a weekday; on weekends you can start picking from 8:30am to 2:30pm. Both farms grow lowbush "wild" blueberries rather than the highbush varieties typically found in stores and farmers markets. Lowbush berries are smaller than highbush berries, and the flavor is slightly different.

Blueberries are super easy to freeze--just wash them and load them into freezer bags. They can be dried but it's probably not worth the bother (for me, anyway!) because they require pre-treatment ahead of time. And, of course, blueberry jam is always an option. Frozen berries can be used later in pies and crisps. They also work well in smoothies if you either tray freeze them first or manage to spread them out in their bag so that they don't all stick together in a big clump.

Snow's ice cream (part of Bart's) will also be offering blueberry ice cream made with berries from the Benson Place for a limited time--keep an eye out for it at local stores.

Update: Thanks to the reader who pointed out that the ice cream, which is called CISA Berry Local Ice Cream, has berries from Burnt Hill Farm as well as The Benson Place.

Polenta with Chard and Feta

Those big bunches of rainbow chard are just too pretty not to buy now and then! And the garlic that is getting pulled now is just about mature, but it is fresh when you get it at the market, rather than dried and cured for storage, as it will be later in the season. The stalk is no longer edible, and the cloves will have to be peeled (the outsides are too tough) even though the skin is not papery yet. Chase Hill Farm is a good source of local feta.

3 cups water
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 cup polenta cornmeal
Olive oil
1 small head fresh garlic (or 4-5 cloves), minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch chard, coarsely chopped
2-3 oz. crumbled feta
Black pepper to taste
3/4 cup tomato sauce
3 oz. shredded mozzarella

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt, and whisk in the polenta meal. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue to stir with a spoon. Be careful, as the cooking polenta is viscous and can bubble up and burn you. Cooking time will vary with the type of polenta you are using. The kind I get at Green Fields Market, in the bulk section, thickens up very quickly. You want it to be pretty stiff for this application. When the polenta is cooked, remove from heat, cover, and set aside for now.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and onion and saute until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the chard, in batches if necessary, and cook until wilted. Add freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Drain off all the excess liquid.

Preheat the broiler while you assemble the dish.

If you were using a cast iron skillet to cook the vegetables, clean it out and dry it. Otherwise, use a comparably sized pan (7x11-inch is good, 8x8 is a little small). Lightly oil your pan, then press the polenta into the bottom of it and smooth it into a relatively uniform layer. Top with the tomato sauce.

Spread the chard mixture over the tomato sauce, sprinkle with feta, then top with mozzarella.

Put the whole thing under the broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese begins to brown. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Raspberries

Strawberry season is over and raspberries have taken their place. Upinngil Farm has u-pick raspberries available, and you can also get them at their farm stand or Green Fields Market.

Raspberries are best if you don't wash them at all, because washing makes them turn kind of mushy--so you definitely want to know where they come from and how they were grown. Once picked, they don't last long, so eat or cook them right away. They don't dry well, alas, but can be frozen. All fruits will be soft after thawing, but raspberries will be completely mushy, so you probably want to tray freeze them first so you can add them to pie filling or whatever without having to thaw them first in order to separate them. And, of course, raspberries make great jam.

Parsley Potatoes

My mom made a version of this fairly frequently when I was growing up, and it was always a family favorite. She made it with conventional potatoes and dried parsley, and that's not a bad way to do it in other seasons (though I would definitely go for organic with the potatoes). But try it now, with new potatoes and fresh parsley, and it is a revelation. Simple, but so good. Sort of addictive, really.

1 1/2 lbs or so new potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks but not peeled
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. The exact time will depend on the size of the chunks, but it will be faster than with winter potatoes.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add the parsley, salt, and pepper, and stir to coat. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Oh-So-Easy Strawberry Sorbet

The fresh strawberry season is just about over, but if you socked some away in the freezer you can continue to enjoy them. The basic idea here is from Mark Bittman.

2 pints frozen strawberries
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
Water as needed (optional)

Let the strawberries thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes or so, then process in the food processor until smooth. Add sugar and, if desired, water (for a softer consistency). When smooth, either serve immediately or transfer to a sealed container in the freezer. If you put it in the freezer, run it through the food processor again before serving.

Serves 4.

Variations: You can add all sorts of things to the basic recipe. Some options:
1. a few drops (up to 1/8 tsp) orange extract
2. up to 1/2 tsp almond extract
3. a splash of triple sec or rum
4. juice instead of water
5. a little grated fresh ginger

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Zucchini and Chicken Tortilla Pie

Summer squash season is upon us. Most of the farmers market vendors had some yesterday, and we were given two fairly large zucchinis from a friend's garden. Here's what I did with them--quite tasty and an easy way to use up a good quantity of squash.

Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium-large zucchinis, shredded
2 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
2 10-inch tortillas
4-6 oz. shredded sharp cheddar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini, cumin, salt, and pepper, and saute another 3-4 minutes. Drain the veggie mixture in a colander.

Spread one tortilla in the bottom of a 10-inch cast iron skillet or other oven-proof pan. Top with half of the veggie mixture, then half of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Bake the tortilla pie for about 15-18 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.

Serves about 4.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cilantro-Lime-Ginger Sauce

I seem to be on an Asian kick the last few days. I made this sauce from a bunch of cilantro that I bought at the farmers market. We used some of it tonight as a rub on grilled steak, where it was quite tasty, though I think it would probably be better as a condiment than a rub. Try it over grilled chicken or fish, or tossed with vegetables over rice.

1 medium bunch cilantro (about 2 1/2 - 3 cups)
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp canola oil (or more to taste, for a thinner sauce)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

Sesame-Garlic Grilled Summer Squash

A friend gave us summer squash and zucchini from her garden today. She took a gamble with an early (mid-May) planting and it has paid off in plants that are quite a bit farther along than my own. Here's a great way to use either yellow squash or zucchini.

3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium yellow squash or zucchinis

Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic in a small bowl or jar.

Slice the squash lengthwise into 1/4-1/2-inch slices. For the outside slices, peel off some of the skin so the marinade will be able to soak in.

Spread the squash slices on a plate or baking sheet. With a spoon or pastry brush, generously spread the soy sauce mixture over each slice. Let sit for up to an hour.

Place the squash slices marinade side down on the grill. Spread the tops with more of the marinade. Grill over medium-high heat for five minutes, then turn over and grill for another 5-6 minutes, until tender.

Serves 2-3.

Tart Cherries

Clarkdale Fruit Farm is selling tart cherries at the Greenfield farmers market, courtesy of the El Jardin Bakery booth (Clarkdale folks will not be there themselves). I bought a couple quarts last week, pitted them, and put them in the freezer. Tart cherries are okay eaten out of hand, but don't really compare to sweet cherries for that application. On the other hand, they are definitely superior for use in pies, preserves, etc. Like cherry pie at Thanksgiving? Freeze some tart cherries now!

To prepare tart cherries for freezing (assuming you don't have a cherry pitter; I don't), remove the stems and pits. I have found the easiest way to remove the pits is to partly squeeze and partly pull apart each fruit with my fingers. Sometimes the pit will come out if you pull the stem just right, too. You'll want to do this in a bowl over the sink, since they are quite juicy. Then pack the pitted fruit into freezer bags and stash it away--unless, of course, you have a hankering for some cherry pie sooner rather than later.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lime-Basil Beef and Snow Peas

I think the peas are about the only thing in the garden that genuinely likes this cool, rainy weather. They have been producing bountifully, especially the snow peas. I combined them here with beef from Wheelview Farm, scapes and scallions from the farmers market, and Thai basil from the garden. Cilantro would work well, too. I used stew beef, sliced thinly, because it was what I had, but sirloin or flank steak would be better. Serve this over rice.

1 lb beef, in small chunks or slices (stew beef, sirloin, or flank steak)
3 Tbsp lime juice
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1-3 tsp Asian chili paste (to taste)
2 Tbsp grated ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil
1-2 cups chopped scapes
3-4 scallions, in thin rounds (white and green parts)
1/2 lb snow peas
1 cup loosely packed chopped Thai basil

Combine the beef, lime juice, soy sauce, chili paste, ginger, and salt and pepper in a bowl and stir well. Let it sit for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.

Heat about 1 Tbsp canola oil in a wok or very large skillet. Add the beef mixture and cook over high heat, stirring periodically, for 2-3 minutes or until done. Add the scapes, scallions, and snow peas and cook until just tender, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the basil until it wilts, then remove from heat.

Serve over rice.

Serves about 4.