Sunday, July 31, 2016

Squash Fry




Squash is on the menu yet again! If this is tedious reading, by all means skip this part. Fair warning.. there are other veggies from the garden that I add to the mix. Change is elemental, buy squash still reigns supreme. My patch is bountiful and I'm just spreading the wealth.

I pick tiny zucchini with blossoms still intact. They are the size of my fingers. And I think they will make a good batter fry. Ones without flowers work just as well. I also pick green tomatoes and flat Romano beans. It gives me immense joy to eat what I grow. The batter is an old standard, amped up. White wine, egg and flour get a boost with lemon zest and pepperocini. Oil heats as I whisk and wash. The sizzle tells me it's time to eat.



SQUASH FRY
Serves 2-4


4 mini Zucchini with Blossoms 
15-20 Romano Beans
3 Green Tomatoes 
1 Egg
1/4 cup Flour
1/3 cup White Wine
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
1/4 teaspoon Pepperocini or Chile Flakes
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of Black Pepper
1 cup Canola Oil for frying


Carefully wash and dry small zucchini, beans and tomatoes.




Cut tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Whisk egg, flour, white wine, lemon zest, pepperocini and seasonings till the batter is smooth.




Heat oil in a wok or deep saucepan over high heat.

Dip zucchini in batter till well coated and fry till brown and crisp, turning often. This should take 3-4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to fry. Drain zucchini on paper towels.




Once zucchini are done, dip beans in batter and fry for 2-3 minutes. Drain beans on paper towels.

Dip tomato slices in batter and fry till crisp brown, anywhere from 3-5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Arrange  veggies on a platter, dust lightly with salt and serve hot.




Just picked veggies never tasted so good. The joy of walking to my garden, the greenery giving up these jewels, then making the most of this bounty in my kitchen,  is reward enough. That their taste is as it should be, is a bonus. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Chilled Zucchini Soup




Summer inevitably brings the zucchini challenge. It's running through my mind, the garden, the kitchen and a host of baskets. Squashes abound, hiding under prickly leaves and stems. The handouts continue as I meander through a maze of zucchini recipes. To beat the heat I envisage a cold soup. Some onion and garlic is quickly sauteed with chunks of zucchini and a few choice spices. Stewed for minutes and then pureed, the soup is diluted with milk and cream, then stashed in the fridge to cool off. Poured into bowls, it is topped off with crisp brown squash blossoms.....ideal croutons!!! 


CHILLED ZUCCHINI SOUP
Serves 4


2 medium Zucchini
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
1 large Onion
2 Garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon Curry Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup Milk
1/4 cup Cream
5-6 Squash Blossoms (optional)


Cut zucchini and onions into 1/2 inch chunks.

Roughly chop garlic.

Heat olive oil in a deep saucepan.

Add onions and garlic. Sweat onions for a few minutes over high heat.

Drop zucchini chunks into onions.

Add curry powder and seasonings. Saute for a few minutes.




Pour 1 cup water to veggies and bring to a slow boil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove cover, raise heat. Let most of the water evaporate.

Scrape zucchini into a blender and whiz  for 30 seconds. 

Add milk to zucchini and blend again for a minute till soup is smooth.

Pour contents into a container.

Whisk in cream and refrigerate till cool.

Wash and clean squash blossoms. Remove the inner stamens. Slice each blossom vertically into 4-5 segments.

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan.

Add squash blossom segments to hot oil and saute till crisp and golden brown.

Pour soup into bowls. 

Top with squash blossom croutons and enjoy.






NOTES

This soup can be easily served hot or cold. Both versions are very satisfying.

Half & half can be used in place of milk and cream. Use whole or 2% milk if you can.

The squash blossom croutons are optional but quite delicious. If you do have access to them, do use them as this adds another dimension to the chilled soup. If not, bread croutons add a nice crunch.





Besides being inundated with squashes and hot humid days, the desire to languish in cool rooms is omnipresent. The idea of a chilled wine and cold food is a soothing balm. And they are enjoyed by all.




Monday, July 25, 2016

Roasted Vegetables with Honey Chili Glaze





Something about mad dogs and Englishmen come to mind as I roast a bunch of veggies on a blisteringly hot day. Ever since I sample the roasted veggies at Pangea in Evansville, the itch to eat them again persists. The restaurant is a hip farm-to-table, contemporary cafeteria style eatery with an eclectic menu. The roasted veggies are outstanding! 

As the temperature soars outside, heat rises in my kitchen. I peel butternut squash, red onions. I dice red peppers and zucchini...yes...that's part of the teeming bounty. Romano beans and Brussels sprouts round out the veggies. Sweat pours off my face as I open and close the oven! The glaze is quick mix of sweet chili sauce and litchi honey, which adds a gentle sweetness. Litchi honey that comes all the way from Hong Kong. Thanks Tammie!!



ROASTED VEGETABLES WITH HONEY CHILI GLAZE
Serves 4-6

1 Butternut Squash 
1 large Red Pepper
2 cups Brussels Sprouts 
2 Zucchini 
2-3 Red Onions
10-15 green Beans 
3-4 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Lots of fresh cracked Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Honey 
1/2 cup Sweet Chili Sauce 


Heat oven to 400F.

Cut all butternut squash, red pepper and zucchini into 1/2 inches cubes.

Halve Brussels sprouts and beans.

Peel and halve onions. Slice vertically into 1 inch thick pieces.

Place veggies on a baking sheet. You might need 2 baking sheets.

Drizzle veggies with olive oil, salt and black pepper.

Roast for 20-30 minutes, till they brown. Watch carefully, moving veggies as they brown.




Whisk honey and sweet chili sauce well.




Take veggies out of the oven and pile them on a platter.

Drizzle veggies with the sweet chili glaze before serving.




Why am I baking on this sweltering day?? Some old friends arrive for lunch. Kavita's father was by Mum's side on the day my Dad passed away....eight years ago today. This slender thread that holds us together makes me dig deep, to give her family a memorable repast, to help me say thank you.








Thursday, July 21, 2016

Zucchini Feta Gratin




I go away for a few days to small zucchini transformed into baseball bats. The resident gardener claims to have been blindsided by thorny leaves!!! So now I have a zucchini palooza, a veritable farmstand worth of gourds. So if I can't give them away fast enough, I have to dream up a dish a day!  Today's veggie special is a simple, quick fix...a gratin.



I saute onion, garlic and zucchini cubes along with tomatoes and herbs. This mix is piled into a gratin dish and drowned in egg and milk. Some adeptly arranged feta is nestled in to the veggies before they are baked. The resulting gratin is pleasing mouthful, letting zucchini and feta fight for dominance. A delicious accompaniment to the adjacent Cajun fish filets.


ZUCCHINI FETA GRATIN 
Serves 4

2 medium size Zucchini 
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 large Onion
2-3 Garlic cloves
2 Tomatoes 
1/4 cup chopped mixed Herbs-- Thyme, Parsley, Basil, Oregano 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of fresh Black Pepper 
1/4 cup Feta 
1 1/2 cup whole or 2% Milk
2 Eggs


Cut zucchini and onions into 1/2 inch diced cubes.

Mince garlic finely.

Heat olive oil in a pan.

Add onions and garlic and sweat then till translucent.

Add zucchini cubes and saute for 5 minutes till zucchini is tinged brown.




Slice tomatoes and add to zucchini. Saute for a few minutes.




Add herbs and seasonings. Stir well to mix. Take zucchini off heat.

Heat oven to 350F.

Divide veggie mix between 4 gratin cups.

Wedge pieces of feta into gratins.

Whisk milk and eggs well. 

Divide between gratin cups making sure the batter covers veggies.




Place cups on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Take them out of the oven and enjoy them warm.




Today's special goes well with spicy Cajun flavors. The mellow tones are the perfect foil for tongue tingling southern spices! Tomorrow is another day... I see a grilled zucchini pizza in my future.



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pork Chops with Savory Apple Butter




Think pork and apples. You couldn't ask for a more complementary pair. This combination is a Cajun spiced happenstance. Pork chops are liberally sprinkled with zesty seasonings and then topped with a spicy apple butter. I could stuff the chops, but for that the chops would have to be at least an inch thick. Not quite up my alley, freezer or kitchen. Plus I do like using the stuffing as a topping which turns crusty brown while roasting.

The savory butter is a strange combination.  The holy trinity of Cajun cuisine are sauteed.. onions, green peppers and celery. Added to this mix are chopped apples, butter, stock, breadcrumbs and Cajun spices. This mix is then cooked just enough to keep some texture. You should see bits of apple, butter and greens. Pork chops are generously spiced with Cajun seasonings and then topped with the apple butter. Roasted in a hot oven, they take on earth tones...dark brown and crusty.


PORK CHOPS WITH SAVORY APPLE BUTTER
Serves 4


8 loin Pork Chops
3 Gala Apples
1/2 cup unsalted Butter
3 tablespoons Olive Oil 
2 big Onions
5 Scallions
2 Green Peppers
4 Celery Stalks
4 Garlic Cloves
3 + 2 tablespoons Cajun Seasoning (recipe below)
3/4 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Breadcrumbs 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Cajun Seasoning 
1 tablespoon ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Chile powder
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
2 teaspoons Garlic powder
2 teaspoons Onion powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Whisk powders well and keep in an airtight jar.

Wash and pat dry pork chops. Arrange them on a baking sheet or ovenproof dish.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning over chops.




Chop onions, green peppers and celery into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet.

Add chopped onions, celery and peppers. Saute for 5-8 minutes till onions turn translucent.

Mince garlic finely and add to onions.




Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning over onions. Keep sautéing for a few minutes longer.

Add chicken stock and breadcrumbs to onions and let the liquid come to a low simmer. Take off the heat and cool.

Heat oven to 350F.

Core and chop apples into large chunks. Do not peel.

Put chunks into a food processor along with butter. Pulse a few times till you have small chunks of apple. 




Scrape apple butter into the onions. Mix well to combine.

Divide onion apple butter between the pork chops, mounding the mix over the chops.




Place chops uncovered in the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and enjoy with any side of your choice.




The pairing of pork and apples is as old as the hills. The emanating aroma is enough to lure my meat lovers into the kitchen, where the deliciousness happens!







Sunday, July 10, 2016

Beets with Goat Cheese and Shallots




A trip to the farm stand yields a handful of yellow beets. And so begins a summer salad. A year ago my brother the chef made us a slow roasted beet salad with whipped goat cheese and a white balsamic glaze, topped with a crunchy granola. The taste has stayed with me long past the end of the salad. I crave it whenever I see beets. So this is my next to best effort. 

Goat cheese is infused with lemon zest, whipped with blood orange olive oil and used as a base for roasted or boiled beets. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some hand shredded basil and crisp fried shallots brings me to the brink...not quite the original, but a lagging second.


BEETS WITH GOAT CHEESE AND SHALLOTS
Serves 2


2 medium roasted or boiled Golden Beets
1/2 cup Goat Cheese at room temperature 
1 teaspoon Lemon zest
1 tablespoon Blood Orange Olive Oil
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh cracked Black Pepper 
2-3 Basil leaves
1 tablespoon fried Shallots


Peel beets and cut into wedges.

Place goat cheese in a bowl and add lemon zest, blood orange and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oils to cheese. 

Add a pinch of salt and whip cheese till smooth and creamy. A wire whisk works well.

Spread cheese on a small plate.




Top with beets wedges.




Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle remaining olive oil over beets.

Shred basil leaves and arrange over beets.




Top with fried shallots and enjoy!



Salad is simple makings with a few standout items. It's nowhere near the epicurean taste of Samir's salad. Then again that unique flavor resides permanently in memory lane.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cherry Bluberry Lattice Pie



The Fourth  of July screams all things American and what could be more appropriate than pie. It is to be a fruit pie, one that oozes the essences of summer. I have cherries and blueberries to fill a small pie. Just enough to satisfy that sweet tooth. 

I experiment with an old fashioned pie crust. After years of using a food processor, I follow a recipe that is explicit details about handmade pastry. My butter and flour encrusted fingers become adept as I follow the recipe. Cold water pulls the dough together and then the magic happens. I roll the dough into a large rectangle. A few well placed folds, divided in half, the dough sits in the fridge for a short while.

I pit cherries with a knife. Blueberries and cherries are doused in sugar and arrowroot. I only use one portion of the chilled dough. This is further divided in half. I roll one half on a heavily floured surface. If the weather is warm and humid you might have to dust the surface repeatedly with flour as the dough is rather buttery. The recipe is insistent on pie plates, calling for tempered glass ones....yes..that's Pyrex in my vocabulary! I use a 6 inch pie plate..perfect for the rolled circle. The second half is also rolled into a circle and then cut into 1/2 inch strips for a lattice crust. This step involves a lot of bluster as I haven't quite grasped the lattice portion well. But then I am not entering this pie in any contest anytime soon!


CHERRY AND BLUEBERRY LATTICE PIE 
Serves 4 people or makes 1 small 6 inch pie

Old Fashioned Flaky Pastry
Attributed to Stella Parks on Serious Eats
Makes one double crusted 9 inch pie

1 2/3 cup APB Flour plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt or 1/2 teaspoon Table Salt
2 sticks or 16 tablespoons COLD unsalted Butter
1/2 cup cold Water

Cherry and Blueberry Filling

1 heaped cup pitted Cherries 
3/4 cup Blueberries 
2 tablespoons Sugar
A pinch of Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Arrowroot 
1 Egg

Make the dough by whisking flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.

Cut butter into small pieces and scatter over flour.

Use your fingertips to smoosh the butter into thin sheets. Work the sheets into the flour.




Add cold water and knead the dough into a shaggy ball.




Place dough on a generously floured surface and roll out to a 10x15 inch rectangle. Dust the underside of the dough as you roll as the dough might stick to the surface. Use a bench scraper to reposition dough.



Use a rubber spatula to make small indentations dividing the dough into fours. Fold each quarter inwards so the ends meet in the middle. Then fold one end over the other. You should have four layers. 




Gently fold in half so you have eight layers. 



Cut dough in half. 

Put each half in a plastic bag and refrigerate for 20 minutes. 




At this point you could freeze one half of the crust if you are making the above 6 inch pie. 

Mix cherries, blueberries, sugar, salt and arrowroot in bowl. 




Generously flour a surface and place one half of the dough on it. 

Cut the dough in half.




 Use one half for the bottom crust. Roll dough to a 7 inch circle. 




Place dough onto a 6 inch glass pie plate. Crimp the extra dough over the rim of the plate.




Roll other half into a 7 inch circle.

Cut into 1/2 inch strips.




Heat oven to 400F.

Scrape cherry blueberry filling into prepared pie plate.

Place one lattice strip on one end of filling.

Place the second strip at right angles to the strip.

Place next strip under the first strip.

The fourth strip has to be woven under and over the strips.




Subsequent strips should be woven under and over... It's complicated. Look in NOTES below for instructions.

When you are done trim lattice edges and tuck edges under the outer rim.



Use left over strips to neaten the outer edges. I pressed the left over strips over the outer edges as you can see below.





Break egg into a bowl and whisk well.

Brush pie with egg wash.

Place pie on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.

The lattice crust should turn a rich brown color.




Remove pie from oven and cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Slice and enjoy!




NOTES

If the weather is warm or humid refrigerate the dough if you see the butter becoming too soft. Keep the bottom crust in the fridge till you are ready to fill and top.

If you do plan to make a regular 9 inch round pie, the dough recipe is more than adequate. Double the filling recipe portion. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

I used the other half of the dough to make peach hand pies. The dough refrigerates well for a few days. The dough freezes for up to a week. 

I had trouble with the lattice crust, trusting my instincts, not reading the article in its entirety. Read this to make the perfect lattice crust. 




Lunch is on the patio, under bright blue skies, with a crisp chenin blanc and turkey lettuce wraps.....a perfect summer afternoon to also eat some humble pie.