Monthly Archives: August 2011

Zucchini Bread

Quick breads – helping zucchini haters like myself enjoy squash for a lifetime.

I hate almost anything in the squash family – always have. So why I ever decided to make zucchini bread for the first time 3 years ago, I don’t know. But I do know that the result is such a soft and sweet slice of bread. And with just the right texture from those ribbons of zucchini.

The only thing I hate worse than squash is nuts in my brownies, cookies, ice cream and bread. So I adapted this to my pickiness (from Cooks Illustrated).

Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 lb. zucchini, ends trimmed, grated on box grater
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c. plain yogurt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 6 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Heat oven to 375. Grease bottom and sides of 9×5-inch loaf pan. Dust with flour, tapping out excess.

Toss zucchini with 2 T sugar and set in drainer in sink for 30 min.

Meanwhile, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Whisk together remaining 1/2 c. sugar plus 2 T sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon and melted butter. Set aside.

When zucchini has drained, squeeze it between paper towels to extract any excess juice. Stir zucchini in with yogurt mixture, then add to flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake until loaf is golden brown and tester comes out clean – 55 to 60 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool in pan 10 min, then transfer to wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving.

Can be stored, wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days. But be sure to eat it by then because it tends to get a bit gummy!

The weather is dropping below 90 every day – fall must be right around the corner. What better for fall than a warm, comforting, sweet loaf of bread?

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Parmesan Fried Okra

Ever since I saw “The Help” with my book club, I’ve been craving fried things. Southern fried things – fried with cornmeal, spices, oil and reckless abandon.

Until I can find the perfect fried-chicken recipe, I will scratch my fried itch with other tasties. Like the organic okra I am swimming in, thanks to Shore Farm Organics.

A Twitter friend, Lisa, actually tweeted me this recipe when I asked the universe to send me good okra recipes. Her Parmesan-fried okra is a great twist on the classic cornmeal method. The okra pods are lightly fried, so aren’t dripping in fat, but still lose that snotty stickiness they are known for (what is that?).

Thanks for the recipe, Lisa! I added my own touches…

Parmesan Fried Okra

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. sliced fresh okra
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. cornmeal
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan, grated
  • Salt and smoked (or regular) paprika or other pepper
  • Canola oil

Lightly beat egg in one bowl and set aside. Combine dry ingredients in another bowl.

Toss sliced okra in egg.

Then, toss okra in dry ingredients. Heat a few swirls of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. You want enough oil to cover the pan, but not too deep. When hot, add the okra and fry until golden on each side, 3-4 min. per side. I sort of flipped mine like an omelet in places.

Once the okra is bright green and nicely fried, transfer to paper towels and finish with extra Parm cheese and a little salt.

I served mine with a basil aioli, lemon wedges and Texas Pete’s hot sauce.

Grant finished the plate in less than 15 min.

My mom said that her mother prepared fried okra with a little chopped tomato stirred in at the last minute, which adds a nice acidity. Brilliant! I will try that next time – just got more okra from the farmers’ market.

Enjoy your fried foods, friends! xoxo

Roasted Potato and Leek Soup

This recipe is one of my favorite soup recipes of all time. Roasting Yukon gold potatoes with leeks, then pureeing and mixing with white wine, Parmesan, cream and chicken stock, you don’t need much more than a spoon. And some fried shallots to sprinkle on top.

Rewritten from my archives, I give you:

Roasted Potato Leek Soup with Fried Shallots

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned of all sand (3-4 leeks)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, plus extra for serving
  • 6 to 7 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
  • Crispy Shallots, recipe follows, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the potatoes and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender. Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the wine and 1 cup of the chicken stock, scraping up any crispy roasted bits sticking to the pan.

In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with the steel blade, adding the pan liquid and about 5 cups of the chicken stock to make a puree. Pour the puree into a large pot or Dutch oven. Continue to puree the vegetables in batches until they’re all done and combined in the large pot. Add enough of the remaining 1 to 2 cups of stock to make a thick soup. Add the cream, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and check the seasonings.

When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently and whisk in 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Serve hot with an extra grating of Parmesan and crispy shallots, if using.

Crispy Shallots:

  • 4 T vegetable oil
  • 5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings

Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, and saute for 10-15 minutes, until they are a rich golden brown. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain well, and spread out to cool on paper towels. Sprinkle with kosher salt. These are also good over salad and steak!

I made this while enjoying a cool weekend in the mountains. Remember soup weather? Barely! What’s your favorite fall dish that you can’t wait to warm up with?

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pickled Peppers

Pickling has become the only way I manage my weekly CSA packages. Even after splitting it with a friend and eating everything I can with Grant, there still is only so much you can do with 5 pounds of peppers, and okra, and eggplant.

After my foray into cucumber pickling, I thought I would try to pickle a ton of extra peppers I had one week. This led to the realization that finding canning materials is harder than I thought. My local Ace was closed, ChefsMart didn’t have any and I didn’t want to drive 30 minutes out to the mall in all that heat, just to battle Target moms on my way to Bed, Bath & Beyond. So I made due with my two largest stock pots and you know what? It was fine. Maybe not good for large batches, but this was a baby step.

I even used the “sanitize” button on my dishwasher – felt so official! Just like I remember my mom doing when I was little and it was canning season.

If you are a novice like me and interested in canning, I recommend the Ball guide to home preserving, which @wordyjules said would become my canning bible. It has.

Pickled Peppers (makes 4 cans)

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. sliced peppers – use whatever you have on hand (I used banana peppers, jalapenos and red bonnets)
  • 3 c. white vinegar
  • 1 c. water
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed

Sanitize jars and lids (place in clean dishwasher and hit “sanitize” button. Once clean, remove without toughing insides to cool on a clean towel).

In large stainless steel bowl, combine peppers. Set aside.

Set two large stainless steel (or non-aluminum) pots on the stove, one filled with enough water to submerge jars. Heat water-filled pot. In second pot, combine vinegar, water and garlic. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil for 5 min. Discard garlic.

Pack peppers into sanitized jars and ladle hot pickling liquid in, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Tap to remove air bubbles, wipe rim. Center lid on jar and tighten.

Place jars in canning pot of water, bring to a boil, cover and process 10 min. Remove lid, wait 5 min. then remove jars and cool. Once cooled, you will feel that the seal has snapped shut. Store, or open and eat!

The red peppers in this made even the mild peppers HOT. Whew! I’m going to let mine sit a few weeks in the hopes that they mellow out a bit. My goal is to have these for appetizers and for adding to things like salads and tacos.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Chicken Taco Salad

I’ve never been one of those girls who just order a salad. Please, ladies. I rarely even have them as a side dish with my hearty meals. Salads annoy me because they take kind of a long time to put together and the lettuce just never stays as fresh as I would want it.

I guess, whenever I’m really hungry, a salad isn’t what pops into my mind.

Now that I’ve adequately bashed salads, let’s talk about how I got over myself and made one that was delicious and satisfying.

It was a quiet night when I was home alone. It was hot as Hades outside and I didn’t want anything that would make me even hotter. So I put together a simple taco salad that was perfect except that I forgot the black beans!

Simply seasoned chicken, seared and then poached and shredded. Sharp cheddar cheese. Ripe avocado. Salsa fresca. Baked corn tortilla strips. Romaine. Taco salads are great because they don’t need a dressing – the juices and seasoning of the ingredients are plenty.

This recipe makes me think I should do salads more often. And I was able to pack my extras as a great lunch!

Maybe next time I’ll do something with steak and blue cheese? Peaches and bacon?

Chicken Taco Salad

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, seasoned with cumin, smoked chipotle chili powder, garlic powder and seasoned salt (just use whatever you have on hand!)
  • 6 soft corn torillas, sliced into strips and tossed with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoned salt
  • 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and shredded
  • 1/3 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 c. salsa fresca (mix 2 large chopped tomatoes, 1 minced garlic clove, handful minced cilantro, half small onion chopped or 2 shallots, seeded and chopped jalapeno, S&P, juice of one lime)
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced

Heat oven to 400. Spread tortilla strips on baking sheet. When oven is heated, bake until crisp, mixing occasionally, 15-20 min.

Meanwhile, prepare chicken. Heat skillet over medium-high with a drizzle of EVOO. Sear breasts on both sides, then pour in 1-1 1/2 c. chicken stock or water. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until cooked through – 5-10 min. depending on thickness. When done, remove to cutting board and shred or chop.

Finally, prepare salad. Layer lettuce, then salsa, then cheese, then chicken, (then more cheese?) then avocado, then tortillas.

Enjoy al fresco with a nice summer ale.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Strawberry-Riesling Granita

Granitas will my new favorite way to incorporate day-drinking into my summer weekends. This recipe happened on accident – originally intended to be a slushy, I added less wine than I should have, and then froze the whole thing, creating big flaky strawberry-Riesling ice crystals, perfect for combing with your fork and spooning into a glass.

Scratching the fork through the frozen mix, the crystals really reminded me of fresh snow as it glinted off the light. Lovely for the eyes and palate.

I was lucky enough to be in the presence of 12 pretty ladies last weekend as we were limo-taxied around Yadkin Valley wineries all day. I made it a big deal that I had to find a dry Riesling for this recipe, and the girls happily tried dozens of sips to help me find my one perfect bottle. I don’t normally like Riesling, so the dry variety was much better for me. I even enjoyed a glass of it while I was preparing everything.

Yummy for a light dessert or weekend treat. Especially great following a very spicy meal.

Strawberry-Riesling Granita

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 bottle of dry Riesling – or however much you can fit in your blender
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 c. halved strawberries
  • 2 T sugar

Combine all ingredients in blender and process until well blended. Pour into frozen ice cream maker and process for 30 min. (you could try to skip this step and instead just freeze, pulling it out every hour to comb with your fork). Transfer slushy mixture to square container, cover and freeze until hardened.

To serve, scrape up the crystals with your fork and spoon into glasses.

You will just get the faintest taste of wine, with the fresh berries.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Appetizers for Lunch

It has happened that one of my favorite ways to eat lunch is as an appetizer. Think about all the things you love about appetizers – artisan cheeses, Italian meats, fresh fruit, crackers and bread … why can’t those things be your lunch?

So my new brown-bag lunch of choice these days has been a wedge of good cheese, some good crackers and fresh fruit. It is great to nibble on if you typically eat at your desk …

Even on weekends, Grant and I are known to have heavy appetizers for our mid-day meal and it’s perfectly wonderful and filling.

On one recent trip to the mountains, I sliced up some of our farm tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, basil from our garden and toasted baguette. Seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, it was wonderful to make our own little crostini.

Next, I made a plate of soft Goat Lady Dairy cheese, prosciutto (with cracked pepper), grapes and a hard Parmesan-like cheese that I impulse-purchased at Whole Foods. It was fabulous!

Both were perfect with a crisp glass of wine or a cold beer. And they took moments to put together.

Enjoy your summer lunches, friends! xoxo

Easy French Apple Tart

Here follows the response to my craving for something apple-y. This simplified version of a French apple tart is so easy, you can do it if friends unexpectedly stop by for dessert.

Simply layer apple slices on a sheet of pastry, dot with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Then you bake, brush with preserves and slice! It’s a pretty elegant semi-homemade sweet.

Easy French Apple Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry, rolled out to 10×10-inch square
  • 2-3 apples (Granny Smith or Pink Lady are good), peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • Half stick unsalted butter, diced, chilled
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. apricot preserves mixed with 2 T water

Preheat oven to 400 and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay pastry on sheet, then layer with overlapping apple slices. Sprinkle sugar over, then a pinch of cinnamon. Dot with butter. Bake 35-45 min. until the apples are caramelized in spots (their sugary juices will leak out and burn, just to warn you!). If the pastry puffs up in one area, as mine did, just poke it with a knife.

Heat preserves with water in a small saucepan until melted, then brush over the entire tart.

When done, loosen pastry away from the sheet and cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wasn’t that easy? Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Classic Pot Roast

On a recent trip back home from the mountains, I got a severe longing for fall. A crisp breeze, golden sunlight in the late afternoon and the smell of rich foods roasting in the oven. I decided then and there that I would bake something with apples and something with a roast. (the apples will come later)

As fate would have it, a violent thunderstorm crashed the city that afternoon and made me want to snuggle deeper into my fall memories. After a therapeutic few hours of cleaning, I began chopping my onions, carrots, celery and leeks that would create the base for this fabulous roast that I would totally serve to company.

Simmering in red wine, stewed tomatoes, rosemary and thyme, the chuck roast becomes tender and soft on the fork. Just wonderful on top of Grant’s famous creamer potatoes (mashed with just a pat of butter and some chicken stock).

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa, again (who else would I trust to use chicken bouillon?)

Classic Pot Roast

Ingredients:

  • 1 (2-4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, tied
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • Good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 cups good red wine, plus 2 T
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
  • 1 cup good-quality chicken stock
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 3 branches fresh thyme
  • 2 branches fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Pat the beef dry with a paper towel. Season the roast all over with  salt and pepper. Dredge the whole roast in flour, including the ends. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear for 4 to 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn and sear the other side and then turn and sear the ends. This should take 4 to 5 minutes for each side. Remove the roast to a large plate.

Add 2 tablespoons more olive oil to the Dutch oven. Add the carrots, onions, celery, leeks, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, 1 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Tie the thyme and rosemary together with kitchen string and add to the pot. Put the roast back into the pot, bring to a boil, and cover. Place in the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender or about 160 degrees F internally. Turn the heat down to 250 degrees F after about an hour of cooking to keep the sauce at a simmer.

Remove the roast to a cutting board. Remove the herb bundle and discard. Skim off as much fat as possible from the sauce. Place the pot on the stovetop over low heat, and return the sauce to a simmer. Place 2 tablespoons flour and the butter in a small bowl and mash them together with a fork. Stir into the sauce and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring until thickened. Taste for seasonings. Remove the strings from the roast, and slice the meat. Serve warm with the sauce spooned over it.

I reduced the salt she called for and didn’t take the extra step to puree some of the vegetables – I like thick chunks of everything in there. But puree if you wish! Won’t change the fact that the sauce is delicious and rich and the roast is nice and tender. Serve with your favorite mashed potatoes or crusty bread to mop up the drippings!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Roasted Shrimp

I’m just starting to appreciate cucumbers. Hated them most of my life, except in pickle form, but now I’m seeing them as a refreshing, crunchy summertime staple. I like them sliced into my water, my gin & tonic, my couscous salad and now, into a chilled soup.

I have to admit that although this recipe was good and Grant LOVED it, I still am not a chilled-soup kind of gal. Soups need to be thick and steaming and hearty for me to gulp them down. Chilled soups, on the other hand, are like tomato-based bloody marys – better for me to delicately sip in small doses.

The flavors are strong and Ina Garten’s recipe is aggressively seasoned – next time, I’ll go a little easier on the salt. But it’s probably still less salty than any soup you’ll find canned.

As a topping, I roasted some shrimp in the oven at 400 degrees, simply dressed with olive oil and salt/pepper. After 7 minutes, I took them out and sprinkled them with lemon zest and they were done. I then placed them atop each bowl of soup. Then, when I realized that was poor planning, I chopped the shrimp into big chunks and then scattered on top – much easier to eat!

Adapted from Ina Garten:

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Roasted Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 2 (17-ounce) containers Greek yogurt (I used 21 oz total)
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half (I just used 1 c. water because I didn’t have any)
  • 3 farm-fresh cucumbers, unpeeled, seeded and chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 9 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (gah! Use way less – start with 1 T)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (6 lemons)
  • Roasted shrimp, for garnish – I used 3/4 lb.
  • Thin slices of lemon, halved, for garnish
  • Fresh dill, for garnish

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the yogurt, water, cucumbers, red onion, scallions, salt, and pepper.

Transfer the mixture in batches to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until the cucumbers are coarsely pureed and then pour into another bowl. Continue processing the soup until all of it is pureed. Fold in the dill, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until very cold.

Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice. Serve chilled, garnished with the shrimp, lemon, and fresh dill.

As you can see, even though I used less yogurt and plain old water instead of half/half, my soup was still nice and creamy – and without the added fat! The lemon and dill really add a nice freshness, and the onion gives it a little heat.

If I were going to serve this to company, I would do it as a first course, in small glasses instead of bowls, with the shrimp, lemon and dill on top – add a little more lemon zest just for color.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo