Monthly Archives: July 2014

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Warm Tomato Sauce

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This is a story about the plight of the male squash blossom.

Squash blossoms, I have learned, are either male or female. Females bloom, become fertilized and swell to produce the fruit. Males bloom as well, fanning the sky with their magical essence that floats into the soft yellow petals of any female nearby…with the help of our winged friends. And once this job is done, the males lose their purpose. And, as so often happens in the wild, they die.

I came upon this realization as I recently researched how to harvest one’s own squash blossoms for the purposes of cooking. We are lucky enough to have a glorious growing season in N.C., and planted one too many yellow summer squash in our little garden patch. Grant clips the soft yellow squash, but just as many “male” blossoms stay there, not producing fruit, being wasted.

Until I came along with a desire to stuff them with creamy ricotta and herbs.

If you are lucky enough to find squash blossoms at the market, I would cook them within 24 hours. Garden-grown is always best, of course, as I ate mine less than 10 hours after picking, which was ideal because some were still wide open and easy to fill. I leave a bit of stem – makes for easier handling – and be sure to clean them of any bugs and pull that little…”male thingy” out from inside. Picking in morning is best, as the flowers will be open.

You can find a much more professional recipe elsewhere, such as epicurious.

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Warm Tomato Sauce

Use 6-8 fresh squash blossoms, cleaned, stamen removed.

Filling:

Mix together 1/2 c. ricotta (I used fat-free ricotta from Trader Joe’s, but by all means go whole milk!), 1 egg yolk, 4-5 fresh sliced basil leaves, S&P to taste.

Using a spoon or your hands, push about 1 T filling into each flower. Careful! Gently twist the top closed.

Batter:

In a medium bowl, mix 1 c. AP flour with enough white wine to make it look like pancake batter. That is as technical as I get. I used a really sweet wine that I hated, and it turned out great. Probably close to 1 c. wine.

Meanwhile, heat 2 inches of canola oil in a deep pan until shimmering – probably close to 300 degrees but I didn’t check. Test and learn! I also didn’t have enough oil, so mine were shallow-fried and a little flat on one side. Oh well!

Dip each stuffed blossom in the batter and let excess drip off before dropping into hot oil.

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Make sure squash brown on all sides – it will only take a few minutes. Sprinkle with coarse salt when you remove them to a towel to drain and cool.

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Serve with warm tomato sauce, or, as I have been calling it, tomato oil.

In small saucepan, cook 1 large clove garlic in 2 T olive oil and a pinch of chili flakes. Add 1 large chopped garden tomato or equivalent. Cook over low until soupy – season to taste.

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I served mine with extra basil and Maldon sea salt sprinkled over. It was lovely. The crust was crunchy and the blossom and filling were so soft inside. It felt like biting into a Krispy Kreme donut. You can really taste the wine in the batter.

The garlicky tomato sauce is a perfect complement. See how that ricotta just oozes out…

20140727-145706-53826268.jpgEnjoy, friends! xoxo

 

Smoked Mozzarella and Truffled Mushroom Pizza + Blog Tour!

Blog Tour! I was so flattered when the amazing Bethany from My Fake Food Blog asked if I would participate in a blog tour. We’re all writing about our creative process and I was happy to be considered because I’ve been so MIA lately.

Keep reading for a quick and easy pizza recipe that will blow your mind…

1. What are you working on?

Catching up on my blog archive! I have a number of dishes ready to post – just need to carve out 30 minutes here and there to get the job done. I find I’m most creative on the weekends, when I have more time for “me” and to be inspired by the light and warm air.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I try to keep it strictly about the food and rarely share personal photos or stories. I’ve had blogs in the past that were more like personal diaries. I learned the hard way that it sucks putting yourself out there and inviting anonymous people to judge you. I think the best blogs offer a little personal touch to keep it unique – readers want to get to know you, personally – but stay “on brand” when it comes to their content and artistic point of view.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Food preparation is one of the last pieces of artistic expression that I regularly practice. Being a grown up is so much more complicated and clouded – creating things with food is very simple and allows your brain to refocus and be peaceful. I’m always a happier, more balanced person when I have time to cook.

4. How does your writing process work?

Trial and error. I work within the normal limits of my life – food that is easy and affordable. The sad truth is that I often repeat recipes throughout the week for my family, so when it comes to blog-recipes, I sometimes have to be extremely creative and force myself to do something different. That challenge is what keeps life interesting.

Next up on the Blog Tour: Please visit the inspirational Teri at A Foodie Stays Fit – arguably one of the most popular blogs in the Triad.

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There’s not much to this post except a few ingredients that work together to create something elegant and robust with favors atypical for a regular weeknight meal.

My plan was simple. Smoked mozzarella was on sale. So were Cremini mushrooms. I try to keep store bought pizza crust on hand for those just-in-case moments. So I went to town …

Smoked Mozzarella and Truffled Mushroom Pizza

Ingredients

  • One ball of pizza dough (store bought or homemade)
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 6 oz of Cremini mushrooms (or more/less to taste and use your preference), sliced medium
  • 2 T garlic olive oil
  • 1 ball smoked mozz, sliced thin
  • Truffle oil (optional)
  • Coarse sea salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 and lightly grease pizza sheet or baking sheet.

Heat butter over medium in large pan, then add mushrooms, sautéing until lightly browned around the edges, 5-7 min.

Roll or spread dough on prepared pan and brush with olive oil. Spoon mushrooms over top, then evenly distribute pieces of cheese.

Bake until crust is golden, crisp and cheese is melted, 10-15 min.

Out of the oven, drizzle pizza with truffle oil, salt and pepper. Slice. Serve with a peppery arugula salad.

Enjoy, friends! Xoxo

Tuscan Sausage With White Beans and Sage

Seasoned to Taste: Tuscan White Beans and Sausage

The more I look into pantry cooking and “peasant fare,” I find that the combination of beans and pork fat are a comforting mainstay across many cultures. From the purple-hull peas and ham hocks we make in The South to this simplified version of an Italian staple – pork sausage with white beans and tomatoes.

I altered the original recipe significantly, based solely on what I had on-hand. Canned beans instead of dried cannellini soaked overnight; one large, over-ripe fresh tomato instead of canned.

The one-pot dish creates a thick gravy as the beans cook and the starches swirl with white wine, hot garlic and melting bits of tomato. Simple and easy enough for a weeknight meal. I used pork sausage, but next time I will try chicken or turkey sausage, as we found the pork a bit rich.

Tuscan Sausage with White Beans and Sage

Ingredients:

  • 2 T EVOO
  • 5-6 sweet Italian sausages (1 package)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c. crisp white wine (or to taste, depending on liquid level)
  • 1 can cannellini beans, with liquid
  • 1 large ripe tomato, or 1 can diced (drain a bit of the liquid if using canned)
  • 4 fresh sage leaves, sliced
  • S&P to taste

Heat oil in large skillet over medium. Brown sausages on all sides, 3-4 min. Add garlic and pepper flakes, continue to cook 1 min. Add wine and stir until bubbling. Add beans, tomato and sage, stirring to combine. Simmer 5 min, adding liquid as necessary so sausages are submerged 1/3 way, until sausages are cooked through. Uncover, simmer to thicken the sauce, if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Seasoned to Taste - Tuscan Sausage and White Beans

I recommend serving with a crusty bread and simple green salad. And a glass of that white wine.

Seasoned to Taste - Tuscan Sausage and White Beans

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

 

Moroccan Chicken With Olives

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I have to give another shout-out to my gal-pal Bethany on this one, who posted about this “easy Moroccan week-night chicken dish.” I don’t know that I’d quite call it “easy” because it included about a dozen spices, but once you get the ingredients in, it’s pretty low-maintenance. And oh, how lovely those Moroccan flavors are – the red pepper, lemon and salty green olives. Warmth of cinnamon, heat of the ginger, perfume of coriander and that distinctive tinge of Spanish saffron.

All soaking through the tender, swollen pearls of Israeli couscous.

Like, Bethany, I used a fresh lemon instead of preserved (just couldn’t find it). We also had unpitted olives. Next time, I would like to remove the pits because it’s a bit of a bummer to have to bite around them.

Adapted from “My Fake Food Blog” and Food52

Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2.5 pounds chicken thighs (I used bone-in, skin-on)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 ½ cup small diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger (I used ground, because didn’t have fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron
  • ½ cup green olives, rinsed
  • 2 preserved lemons, pulp removed; rind cut into strips (or zest and juice of 1-2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet or over medium high heat. Dry the chicken pieces and season them with salt and pepper. Place them in the skillet in batches and brown on all sides. Make sure the skins are nice and crispy, like a pork rind. Remove the chicken and place on a plate.

Add the onion to the skillet and cook until slightly softened. Add the ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric and cayenne pepper and stir together. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Pour the chicken stock into the skillet so that 2/3 of the chicken is submerged. Add the saffron and stir to combine. Bring liquid to a simmer, cover the skillet and simmer on medium low heat 20 minutes. Add the olives and lemons. Cover and cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and turn the heat to high. Cook for another 6-8 minutes until sauce reduces slightly. Stir in the cilantro. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve chicken and sauce on a bed of couscous. Garnish with cilantro.

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Enjoy, friends! xoxo