Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Southwestern Grilled Vegetables

Any seasonal vegetables will work here, but I do recommend including a tomato and some onion for their flavors. As the tomatoes soften and cook, they will spread themselves over the rest of the vegetables, contributing to the seasoning. Peppers will be nice here when they're ready. I used summer squash and eggplant along with the tomato and onion.

8 cups mixed seasonal vegetables, cubed
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
A couple fresh limes, quartered (optional)

Toss the vegetables in a bowl. Combine the vinegar, oil, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and miss well. Drizzle over the vegetables and stir to coat. Let sit for up to 30 minutes if you have time.

Grill the vegetables in a grill basket. Start them over high heat, stirring every 5-7 minutes. After 10-15 minutes, reduce heat to low and continue to grill until tender, another 10-15 minutes. If you like, turn the heat back up for a few minutes at the end for additional browning.

Top the vegetables with cilantro and a drizzle of fresh lime juice at the table.

Serves about 4.

Creamy Roasted Summer Squash with Fennel, Shiitakes, and Artichokes

You can skip the artichoke hearts in this dish if you like - they're certainly not local - but they are a nice addition if you're in the mood for a treat. The rest of it blends together in a wonderful medley of rich, sweet, and nutty flavors, and a touch of melted cream cheese at the end ties it all together with a bit of tangy creaminess.

2 medium summer squashes, cubed or in rounds
1 pint shiitake mushroom tops, in large bite sized pieces
1 medium fennel bulb, in bite sized pieces
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed (optional)
Walnut oil (or substitute canola)
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp cream cheese, warmed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with oil and add salt and pepper. Toss to coat thoroughly. Spread in a single layer (at least more or less) on a baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until vegetables are tender.

Return vegetables to mixing bowl and add the cream cheese in small dabs. Toss with the hot vegetables to distribute throughout.

Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Vietnamese Grilled Eggplant Skewers

I often use a grill basket for grilling veggies in chunks, but sometimes I use skewers to mix it up. It also saves me a bit of room on the grill. Eggplant worked well here, but you could use whatever vegetables you like. If you use bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them well ahead of time; I use these bendy stainless steel ones that hook together in a loop.

Nuoc Cham:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili paste
2 Tbsp lime juice (ideally fresh)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

2 medium Asian eggplants (the long skinny ones), in rounds or cubes (peeled or not as desired)
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 cup chopped herbs: Cilantro, Thai basil, mint, or a combination

Make the Nuoc Cham first so it has time for the flavors to blend while you prepare the skewers.

Toss the eggplant chunks with the canola oil and rice vinegar. Sprinkle liberally with salt and toss. They will soak up the marinade quickly. Thread them onto skewers.

Grill the eggplant over medium-high heat for about four minutes per side, turning the skewers once.

Serve the eggplant hot, topping with nuoc cham and sprinkling generously with the herbs.

Serves 2-4.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Chorizo and Squash Scramble

I was going to make a frittata but decided at the last minute that a scramble would be quicker and easier. I really liked the combination of flavors and textures here. We had leftover grilled chorizo from Hager's farm, which went in here nicely. I served this for dinner, but it would also work for brunch or lunch.

2 cups shredded summer squash or zucchini
4 ounces cooked chorizo, diced
10 large eggs, beaten
2 ounces cream cheese, in small cubes
1-2 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
Oil or butter for cooking
1 can black beans, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the squash or zucchini in a strainer over the sink. Sprinkle with salt, mix, and let stand for 10-15 minutes to release excess liquid. Then squeeze out as much water as you can using your hands or a dish towel.

Combine the eggs, cream cheese, and cheddar in a bowl.

Heat a little oil or butter in a large skillet. Add the squash or zucchini and saute for 2 minutes or so. Then add the chorizo and beans. Continue to saute over medium heat until warmed through. Add the egg mixture and cook, scrambling, over low-medium heat until cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-5 as a main dish.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Greek Squash Fritters

You can make these with either summer squash or zucchini or a combination. The addition of feta and ground walnuts gives them enough protein to make a main dish. A bit of yogurt or sour cream on top is nice. I served these for dinner, but they could do for brunch as well.

2 lbs summer squash or zucchini, shredded
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup walnuts, ground or finely chopped
5-6 ounces crumbled feta
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
2 eggs, beaten
Olive oil
Plain yogurt or sour cream for topping

Place the shredded squash in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Stir to mix the salt in, then let sit in the sink or over a bowl for 10-15 minutes to release excess liquid. Press out as much extra liquid as possible using your hands or a dish towel.

Place the drained squash in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, walnuts, feta, oregano, parsley, and pepper and mix well. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture, then stir again to coat. Add the eggs and stir to coat again.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet or two. Drop spoonfuls of the squash mixture into the hot pan, flattening to no more than 1/2-inch thick. Cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side, then carefully flip and cook the other side. Keep cooked fritters warm on a covered plate or low oven.

Serve hot. Pass yogurt or sour cream at the table for topping.

Serves 4-6.

Mashed Summer Squash with Cheddar

This is a slightly different twist on the usual summer squash or zucchini preparations. We all liked it, including the kids. I served it with grilled chorizo alongside, and my seven-year-old swore that bites of the two dishes together was the absolute best way to consume them. If you like this, I think it's a theme that could be riffed on pretty extensively - I'm thinking of additions like chilies or bacon, or substitutions like goat cheese for variety.

5 lbs summer squash or zucchini (about 3-4 large ones), sliced
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 head garlic, minced, or 1/2 cup chopped scapes
Splash of water
4-5 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss the sliced squash in a colander with a sprinkling of salt all over, then let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Shake off the excess liquid; pat dry with a dish towel if you're feeling slightly more ambitious. You can skip this step if you like, or if you're in more of a hurry, but it will help make your end product a bit thicker.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the drained squash and the garlic or scapes. Saute over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add a splash of water to keep the garlic from sticking to the bottom. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes, stirring periodically. You want the squash to be nice and tender. When it is done. remove from heat and either mash with a potato masher or puree with an immersion blender. Ideally you want to leave it slightly chunky. Stir in the shredded cheese until melted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Squash Noodle Lasagna

This pasta-less lasagna substitutes thinly sliced summer squash or zucchini for the noodles, and it's delicious. The squash makes a surprisingly good textural substitute, in addition to tasting good and being more nutritious. My squash-avoiding seven-year-old scarfed it down not realizing what he was eating, and my skeptical husband admitted to being wholly won over.

Like most lasagna recipes, this is a bit of a project, best saved for a weekend. The squash slicing is easiest with a mandolin if you have one. Use good local ricotta if you can find it; I got a luscious hand dipped whole milk version from Maplebrook Farm (Vermont) at Green Fields Market.

4 medium summer squash or zucchinis (nice and straight if possible)
16 ounces ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 large egg
1 lb ground beef
4 cups tomato sauce
1 cup chopped fresh basil (optional but good)
12 ounces shredded mozzarella

Start by slicing the squash or zucchini lengthwise to about 1/8-inch thick. Lay the slices out on dish towels and salt lightly on both sides. Let sit for 10 minutes or so, then blot dry with another dish towel. You want to remove some of their excess moisture to improve the texture in the lasagna and keep it from getting to soggy. Optionally, you can then bake the slices in a single layer for about 10 minutes at 400 to partially cook and dry them further; I tried this with some of my squash and found I couldn't tell the difference in the end product, so likely won't bother with it again in the future.

While the squash sits exuding moisture, stir together the ricotta, Parmesan, and egg in a small bowl. Set aside.

Brown the beef in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, salting it as you do so. Add the tomato sauce and fresh basil and set aside.

When the squash is ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 9x13-inch pan.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of squash, placing the slices next to each other as close as possible but not overlapping.

A layer of squash, partway through lasagna assembly
Spread a third of the ricotta mixture over the squash, then top with a third of the mozzarella. Repeat layers in this order (sauce, squash, ricotta, mozzarella) for two more layers. Cover the pan lightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes. Let sit for several minutes before serving.

Serves about 6.