Friday, August 15, 2014

Zucchini Soup Base



Too much zucchini? It's the time of year when I go out to the garden and hope that I don't find another giant zucchini lurking under a leaf. Fortunately, there are many wonderful zucchini recipes out there for eating now and later. Making a soup base to freeze for later is one thing I do to cope with the glut of zucchini. It's fast and easy.

Zucchini Soup Base

1-2 medium onions, chopped
1 head (about 15 cloves) of garlic, peeled
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1-2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
10-12 cups (roughly) cut up zucchini
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute for several minutes. Add the garlic and continue sauteeing for another minute. Add the carrots, the zucchini, the chicken stock and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. 
Remove the bay leaf (don't forget this step!). Puree the vegetables and broth with a stick blender or countertop blender. Cool and pour into containers to freeze.

I divided the amounts given in this recipe into three and froze it in quart jars, leaving space for expansion, so I'm guessing there are about 3 cups, maybe a little more, in each jar.

To serve, thaw the soup base, place in a saucepan and heat through. Add more chicken stock to thin the soup to your liking, season to taste with salt and pepper, and add about 1/2 cup light cream just before serving.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Watermelon Tomato Salad with Mint and Feta



Several years ago I printed out a list of 101 Simple Salads written by Mark Bittman from the New York Times. The list offered suggestions, not actual recipes. Brilliant. How many of us actually measure salad ingredients anyway? In the interest of precision, though, I'm writing out a rough recipe for my own memory. Perhaps you'll find it helpful, too.

This sweet/salty mixture of crisp watermelon cubes, chunks of juicy tomatoes, some salty feta cheese, and a sprinkle or two of chopped mint doesn't even need a dressing. I drizzled a little olive oil over top and called it quits. Delicious! Tim ate the leftovers from dinner just before going to bed last night. I'd call that a success.

Watermelon Tomato Salad with Mint and Feta

4 cups cubed watermelon (1-inch cubes)
2 medium-sized tomatoes, cored and cut into rough cubes
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 - 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Toss everything gently. Put into a bowl and serve. Easy peasy. 

I served it alongside grilled pork chops, potato salad and a grilled vegetable mixture (eggplant, red pepper, onion, mushrooms). 

edited: I've made this twice recently, once as above and once without the cheese, and using basil in place of mint, with a drizzle of basil garlic vinaigrette. Also a winner. This is a very adaptable salad.



Friday, July 4, 2014

Balsamic Roasted Vegetables



Several years ago a co-worker brought a similar dish to a potluck. It's a bit of a different twist on roasted vegetables. A balsamic vinaigrette is poured over the vegetables before they are roasted, resulting in more depth of flavour. This dish is great warm, cold, or hot. I'm planning on taking it on a camping trip soon.

The amounts given here are generous and will serve 8 - 10 people. Add or subtract vegetables as you like. I think butternut squash, sweet potatoes, yellow summer squash or mushrooms would be fine additions. You may have to adjust the baking times depending on the vegetables chosen.

Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

2 medium sized zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into a 1 inch dice
2 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into a 1 inch dice
1 large red or white onion, cut into a 1/4 inch dice
2 sweet red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
fresh basil or parsley

Combine the zucchini, eggplant, onion and peppers in a large bowl. 

Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over the vegetables. Hold about 1/4 cup back, for dressing the vegetables later, if desired. Use enough to coat the vegetables, but they shouldn't be sitting in a puddle of dressing

Spread on two rimmed baking sheets. Roast at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, then stir and continue roasting 10-15 minutes. The vegetables should be lightly browned and beginning to caramelize around the edges. 

Cool. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of fresh minced parsley or julienned basil just before serving.  
 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Strawberry Tart







Strawberry season is short. Oh, I know that I can buy those crunchy, tasteless, beautiful looking imported strawberries for many months of the year. I usually succumb once a year, then vow to never buy them again. Real strawberries are worth the wait: soft, juicy, impossibly sweet and flavorful.  And the scent - almost as sweet as the taste.

This tart showcases the best of local strawberries. There's little to distract from the intense berry flavor. A shortbread crust and some cream with a hint of lemon curd enhance the strawberry's true nature. This tart is best served the same day it's made, although if you have some leftover, it's not bad for breakfast. 

Strawberry Tart

1 baked and cooled shortbread crust (I used this recipe) in a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 cup lemon curd
fresh strawberries, rinsed and dried, stems removed (about 2 cups, plus extra for garnish)
4 Tablespoons peach jam 
fresh mint (for garnish and for chewing on)

Whip the cream with the icing sugar until soft peaks start to form. Add the lemon curd and continue whipping for 15-20 seconds until incorporated. The mixture should retain its shape when a spoon is dragged through it.
Spread 1/2 of the cream and curd mixture onto the crust. 
Cut the strawberries in half from top to bottom and lay them in concentric rows on top of the cream, beginning with the outside of the crust.

Heat the peach jam slightly and strain it to get about 2 tablespoons of peach jam liquid. Drizzle the liquid over the berries.

Spoon the remaining cream/curd mixture around the top of the tart. Use extra berries and fresh mint as a garnish. Place in the refrigerator and chill for an hour before serving.  

Crisp Vegetable Slaw







One of summer's delights is lots and lots of salads. Crisp, crunchy, fresh. I make them every day. The one thing I dislike is chopping cabbage. Actually, it's not the chopping I dislike, it's the clean up. Whether it's done in a food processor or on a cutting board, it makes a mess. All those little bits seem to fly everywhere and wiping them up gives me a feeling mildly related to nails on a chalkboard. Weird, I know. 

I do have to chop cabbage for this recipe, but not too much because the cabbage is on equal grounds with other vegetables. Snap peas, carrots, red pepper, radishes, and cabbage provide lots of color and texture. No onions in the mix because the onions are in the dressing which has a hint of sweetness, a hint of mustard and those onions. A few toasted almonds added just before serving add a final bit of crunch.

Get out a big chopping board and bowl and use your mad knife-wielding skills to make a salad that will delight your senses and keep for several days in the fridge. 

Crisp Vegetable Slaw

2 cups thinly sliced snap peas
2 cups chopped cabbage (I like to slice it thinly, then give it a rough chop with a big knife, resulting in narrow strands rather than an actual chop)
2 - 3 carrots, coarsely grated
1 - 2 sweet bell red peppers, thinly sliced (about 1/4 x 1 1/2 inches)
1/2 - 1 cup sliced radishes
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (either in the oven or in a skillet on the stove top)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all of the vegetables in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over and mix well. Season to taste. Add the almonds and toss. 

Dressing

1 small red or yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons honey (maple syrup also works)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 Place all ingredients into a blender and process for about 30 seconds.
 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Yogurt Cake



This recipe has become a regular around here. It comes together quickly with ingredients I usually have on hand, tastes wonderful warm or cool, and is a great background for a variety of sauces and toppings. Oh, and it keeps well, too, covered, on the counter. Credit for the recipe goes to Chocolate and Zucchini, a cookbook written by a French author. (She also writes a blog by the same name.) I've altered it slightly.

Yogurt Cake

1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use grapeseed), plus what's needed to oil the pan
1 cup plain yogurt (unsweetened), full fat or 2%
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon rum (optional)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 to 1/2  teaspoon salt 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of a 10-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, and oil the sides of the pan. OR, use a 10-inch springform pan and just oil the sides. I use a springform pan.

Whisk together the yogurt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, the rum and the oil. Whisk again. 

In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to yogurt mixture and whisk or stir lightly just until combined.

Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. A toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean. Cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then loosen from pan and turn out onto the rack to cool. 

In the above photo I served the cake with a raspberry sauce made with frozen berries from last summer. It's equally good with any fruit sauce, or fresh fruit and whipped cream, or chocolate sauce.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Rhubarb Cream Cheese Pie




Rhubarb's early appearance in the garden is a welcome sight after a long winter. Early settlers to North America considered it an aid to digestion and good health after a winter of eating preserved foods. 

The creamy baked topping on this pie is a perfect foil for the tart, fruity rhubarb filling. Although the recipe calls for an unbaked pie crust, I used a graham crust since I didn't feel like making pie pastry. We'll see how it turns out when I cut the pie. (edited to add: turned out just fine)

Rhubarb Cream Cheese Pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F).

1 uncooked pie crust (10 inch)

Line a deep 10 inch pie plate with the pie crust and set aside. 

Filling:

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup water
3-4 cups chopped fresh rhubarb (cut into 1/2 inch sized pieces)

In a medium saucepan mix the sugar and cornstarch. Add the water and stir to combine. Stir in the fresh rhubarb. Cook over medium high heat, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture thickens and turns clear.

Pour rhubarb mixture into pie shell and bake for 10 minutes.

While the pie bakes, prepare the topping.

Topping:

1 package (8 oz) softened cream cheese 
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until smooth.
Pour over the hot rhubarb.

Reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees. Return the pie to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. The topping should be golden brown. 

Cool thoroughly and serve with freshly whipped cream.