Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thai menu, Zucchini Pizza!

I seem to be caught in a viscous zucchini-cycle. Last Wednesday afternoon I picked all that were over 4” long and while we were at the lake house I managed to use most of those. Then the day we returned, Saturday, three days later, there were several more waiting. Not little ones, either. They are all at least 10” long.

Sunday night's pizza was topped with (you guessed it!):

I grilled a chicken breast and zucchini slices, then grilled one side of the pizza crust. The crust was flipped over, brushed with rosemary/garlic oil, and topped with lowfat mozzarella, grilled zucchini, pepperocini peppers, fresh tomatoes, grilled chicken, and Parmegiano-Reggiano. Delicious, but there are still a lot more to use up!

Okay, my last 2 posts consisted of entertaining recipes and this one will finish those used when my friends Jenni, Nancy, & Meridee came to visit me at the lake house and cook wonderful things.

Here we are, preparing Friday dinner (which was reviewed in my last post):

For dinner on Saturday, I planned a Thai menu.

The main course was Chicken Satay. I prepared the marinade for the chicken two days earlier and this was very quick to put together for dinner. Absolutely delicious, too!

Chicken Satay

serves 3-4


for the Marinade:
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 stalk lemongrass (hard outer leaves and green top removed), minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted in a small dry skillet until fragrant, and then ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in a small dry skillet until fragrant, and then ground

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (for pork only)
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons pineapple juice
2 tablespoons unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped

for the Satay:

1 pound boneless chicken breasts

18 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes and dried
Vegetable oil spray


Make the marinade: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well (if working ahead, leave out the peanuts until ready to use). Seal and refrigerate. The marinade will keep for a couple of days.

Grill the skewers: Generously spray the meat with vegetable oil and put the skewers on the medium-hot grill, arranging several skewers close to one another. Flip and turn frequently until the surface is slightly charred and the meat feels firm when pressed with tongs. Grill as follows

(times are approximate): chicken breast (charcoal, 2 minutes; gas, 4 minutes) Transfer to a platter and serve hot.

from Fine Cooking #52, pp. 56-60

The pineapple dipping sauce was prepared a couple of hours ahead and allowed to sit at room temperature. It provided a nice, sweet, spicy note to the satay.

Pineapple Dipping Sauce

makes about 1-1/2 cups, serves 4-6


1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple or 1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple with juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lime (to yield a scant 1/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 fresh bird or serrano chiles, cored, seeded, and minced
1 shallot, slivered


In a serving bowl, combine all the ingredients. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

from Fine Cooking #52

This is a great recipe. I’ve developed it over the years and have some friends who request it often. This Thai Peanut Sauce was originally made as a dip for veggies but, if using it as a dipping sauce, add a little additional water or some chicken broth to make it a thinner (more “dip-able” consistency).

* Exported from MasterCook *

Thai Peanut Sauce

Recipe By : Vicci

Serving Size : 6 (barely!)

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 tablespoons peanut butter

5 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 large garlic cloves -- chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

1 tablespoon fresh chives -- sliced (or sliced green onion tops)

Place all ingredients except chives in small food processor and process until smooth. If too thick, a little more water.

Spoon into small bowl, garnish with chives or green onion tops.


"3/4 cup"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 44 Calories (kcal); 2g Total Fat; (47% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 251mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 3 1/2 Fat; 0ther Carbohydrates

Serving Ideas : Serve with fresh vegetables such as summer squash, carrots, cherry tomatoes,
red pepper strips, cucumber slices, etc.

NOTES : This can be also made without the food processor, using a wisk to mix the ingredients. In that case, mince the garlic cloves finely.

Can be made a few days ahead.

If using as a dipping sauce for satay, think a bit further with water or chicken broth.

We also had Thai Cucumber Salad, and here is a link to it on the RecipeZaar website. I developed and posted this salad recipe a few years ago and it has always been well-received.

And this was dessert. Entirely appropriate and so yummy. I especially liked the banana, but the mango and pineapple was great too. We had excess sauce and ended up drizzling it over the coconut rum brownies (which I will post the recipe for soon). Really, can you ever have too much coconut???

I made the sauce a day ahead and set it out to come to room temperature while we prepared dinner. What surprised me was that I used light coconut milk and it worked out just as well as I believe the regular coconut milk would have (but without all of that nasty saturated fat that normally just oozes from coconut!). I did add ¼ teaspoon coconut extract to boost the flavor, though.

As I mentioned, the recipe made a lot of sauce. In addition to what we used it with that evening, I had some to use as an ice cream topping for the next few days.

And I have to add that, since you’ll be using the creamy coconut milk that rises to the top of the can, place it on your counter and allow it to sit undisturbed for a couple of hours then open very carefully as not to disturb the “layers”.

Grilled Fruit with Coconut Sauce

makes about 1 cup of sauce, serves 4-6

For the sauce:

1 can (13-1/2 ounces) coconut milk

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the grilled fruit

2 large firm but ripe bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 large ripe mangos, peeled and sliced
1 small ripe pineapple


Gently open the coconut milk and transfer the creamy top half into a measuring cup; you should have 1 cup. If you don’t, add enough of the clear juice from the bottom of the can to equal 1 cup. (Discard the remaining juice or save it for another use.) In a small saucepan, combine the coconut cream, sugar, and salt. Heat over low to medium until the sugar and salt dissolve; don’t let it boil or the coconut cream will curdle. Simmer to thicken, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Chill the sauce (it will thicken further as it cools) and let it come to room temperature before serving.

Grill the fruit

Heat a grill to medium. Peel and core the pineapple; slice it into rings or cut it into chunks and thread the chunks onto skewers. Grill the fruit just enough to soften it, about 2 minutes per side. Drizzle with the coconut sauce and serve.

from Fine Cooking #52

Sorry, only one photo of this meal—we were too busy eating! :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tuscan grilled dinner, blueberry-lemon galette recipes

Look! Another post in less than 24 hours!!! :)

A few weeks ago, three friends came to visit. We have met at the lake house every year for five years now and it’s “all about cooking”. And drinking and generally having a great time together. Jenni suggested some wonderful-sounding recipes and Nancy offered to make one of her “famous” galettes, then I filled in with other recipes. I wanted the first night to be an all-grilled meal, on my new grill on the new patio, and enjoyed outside. Fortunately, I came across some recipes on the Fine Cooking website and it all came together. Even the weather, so ominously forecast even that same day, cooperated.

The Tuscan dinner menu was a perfect way to start out. We started with an assortment of olives and baked, marinated goat cheese with Jenni’s grill-baked Italian wheat bread.

I could have eaten the entire tray and been quite satisfied, but then we went on to the main part of the meal.

The Tuscan Grilled Chicken, Sausage, and Sage Skewers were delicious. I made the rosemary-garlic oil a few days before and we tossed chunks of chicken thigh meat with it a couple of hours before grilling. They were threaded on skewers with sage leaves (from Jenni’s herb garden). Instead of using sweet Italian sausage links, as directed in the recipe, I subbed chicken sausages with spinach and asiago which I had bought at Sam’s Club. These have a fraction of fat that the traditional pork Italian sausage does. Of course, since they are precooked, we skewered them separately and just heated them on the grill. I really liked eating bits of the crisp sage leaves along with the chicken and sausage pieces.

Tuscan Grilled Chicken, Sausage & Sage Skewers

Serves six to eight.


2-1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 7 or 8), trimmed of excess fat and cut in half (the pieces should be roughly equal in size; if the thighs are large, cut them in thirds or quarters)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. Rosemary-Garlic Oil

1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage links, cut into 2-inch pieces (or may I suggest-- Chicken, Spinach, & Asiago Sausages!)

24 large fresh sage leaves

how to make

Up to a day ahead and at least a couple of hours before serving, toss the chicken in a medium bowl with 2 Tbs. of the oil, the rosemary, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper.

Heat a gas grill to medium or prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup oil into two small bowls (one for grilling and one for serving). Alternately thread three pieces of sausage, three pieces of chicken, and four sage leaves onto each of six 12-inch metal skewers (or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for 1/2 hour).

Grill the skewers, covered, until one side is browned and has good grill marks, about 4 min. Brush with some of the rosemary-garlic oil, flip, and cook the other side until it, too, has good grill marks, about 4 min. Brush with

more oil and flip again. Continue cooking, flipping, and brushing with oil until the sausage and chicken are both cooked through (check by slicing into a couple of the thicker pieces), about 10 min. more.

Let cool for a couple of minutes and then arrange on a platter, drizzle on the remaining oil, and set out for guests to serve themselves.

from Fine Cooking #80, pp. 37

Also from Fine Cooking:

Rosemary-Garlic Oil

This wonderfully fragrant oil is the flavor base for many of the dishes in the Tuscan grilling menu. It involves little more than heating the oil so that the garlic and rosemary infuse it. You can make the oil up to five days ahead. Yields 1-1/2 cups.


1-1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
3 sprigs fresh rosemary

how to make

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic starts to bubble steadily, 3 to 4 min. Add the rosemary, remove from the heat, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a clean glass jar or other storage container, cover, and refrigerate. Use within five days.

from Fine Cooking #80, pp. 36

As for pre-prepping, I grilled the red peppers and zucchini the night before and allowed them to come to room temperature before adding to the pasta.

Fregola with Grill-Marinated Red Peppers & Zucchini

Fregola is a tiny toasted pasta from Sardinia. It can be found at Italian specialty stores, or ordered online at GourmetSardinia.com. You can also substitute Israeli couscous or any tiny pasta, but toast it first in a large, dry skillet, over medium-low heat until it browns a bit, about 10 minutes.

Serves six to eight.


2 red bell peppers, cored and cut into four pieces
1-1/4 lb. zucchini (4 small), trimmed and quartered lengthwise
5 Tbs. Rosemary-Garlic Oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
3 Tbs. chopped fresh mint, plus 3 Tbs. torn mint leaves
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
3/4 lb. fregola

how to make

Heat a gas grill to medium or prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire. In a large bowl, toss the peppers and zucchini with 2 Tbs. of the oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Arrange the vegetables on the grill and cook, covered if using a gas grill, until they have nice grill marks, about 3 min. for zucchini and 5 min. for peppers. Flip and cook on until the other sides are well browned, too, another 3 to 5 min. Continue cooking and flipping occasionally until the zucchini is crisp-tender and the peppers are completely tender with very charred skins, 8 to 10 min. total for zucchini and 12 to 15 min. total for peppers. Transfer to a large cutting board to cool.

Scrape the charred skins off the peppers. Coarsely chop the vegetables and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Toss with 2 Tbs. of the oil, the vinegar, chopped mint, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste and let sit for up to 2 hours at room temperature.

Up to 1 hour before serving, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender (about 10 minutes for fregola). Drain the pasta and toss with the vegetables. Drizzle with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the torn mint and set out on the table for serving.

from Fine Cooking #80, pp. 39

Next up was a Spinach and Grilled Radicchio Salad. This was so good and flavorful. Meridee grilled the radicchio just before serving, and a few weeks later I made the same salad and grilled it a couple of hours beforehand. If there is time and it’s not too crazy, I would suggest grilling it just before using. The radicchio which I grilled early turned brown in many areas and I had to trim a lot of the very browned areas off. But I did need to leave some of the browned parts on (or there would have been no radicchio!) so it was a good thing that I was serving this outdoors under very concealing torch-lights. My guests loved it and one had 3 servings, browned or not!

Spinach & Grilled Radicchio Salad

Peppery, bitter radicchio mellows a bit when it's grilled, and, when tossed with baby spinach and shavings of Pecorino Romano, it's the perfect counterpoint to the rich grilled chicken and sausages.

Serves six to eight.


3/4 to 1 lb. radicchio (2 small or 1 large), trimmed and quartered through the core

7 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. baby spinach (about 6 cups), rinsed well and spun dry
3-1/2 to 4 oz. shaved Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup)
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

how to make

Heat a gas grill to medium or prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire. Brush the radicchio with 2 Tbs. of the oil and sprinkle with 3/4 tsp. kosher salt. Grill the radicchio (covered if using a gas grill) until it browns and chars lightly

in spots on one side, 3 to 4 min. Flip and grill until the other side is browned and the radicchio is softened and wilting, 3 to 4 min. (If using a large radicchio, you may need to grill it on a third side for a few more minutes to fully soften it.)

Let the radicchio cool on a cutting board for a couple of minutes, and then trim off the cores and coarsely chop. In a serving bowl, toss the radicchio with the spinach and the cheese.

Just before serving, toss the salad with the remaining 5 Tbs. oil and the vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.

from Fine Cooking #80, pp. 38

And now on to dessert. Nancy’s fabulous galette! Actually, two galettes. The first one featured a marzipan layer topped with apples and spices. Since this was to be an all-grilled dinner, some of us decided that we should grill the galette. Nancy had her doubts, but humored us. A baking stone was preheated on the grill, the galette formed in a well-greased cast iron skillet. It was baked but the bottom crust burnt before the apples were completely softened. Most of us thought it was very tasty (less the charred bottom) but Nancy was not pleased. Even though the entire galette was eaten by 4 of us after a big meal, she was not convinced that she did an good enough job on her dessert. So, being Nancy who is always well-prepared, she bought ingredients for a backup galette—blueberry and lemon. Since the blueberries were much softer in texture than the Pink Lady apples, this cooked without burning. And it, too, was delicious but we were
only able to eat half of it. Jack enjoyed the rest later that weekend.

Anyway, the consensus was:

You can grill galettes. Jenni bakes bread on a stone on her grill, so we think that any recipe can be adjusted. It’s just the adjustment which takes some patience and experimentation. For galettes and pies, however, either precook the more dense fillings (apples) or use soft fruit (blueberries, ripe peaches, etc.).

Following is the blueberry galette recipe. The apple-marzipan galette recipe can be found at the Cooking Light website.

A grilled galette!!!

Blueberry Galette

Recipe By : Gourmet July 2004

Servings : 6

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

--------- ---------- ---------------------------------------

1 pound fresh blueberries -- about 3 cups

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 9" refrigerated pie crust

1 large egg -- lightly beaten

1 teaspoon sugar

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Stir together the blueberries through 1/2 cup sugar. Unwrap pie dough and unfold onto baking sheet. Spoon blueberry mixture onto center of dough, leaving a 1-1/2" border around edge.

Fold edge of dough over blueberry mixture, pleating dough as you go around the circle. Lightly brush pastry with beaten egg and sprinkle with the teaspoon of sugar. Bake until filling is bubbly and crust is golden, about 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly on baking sheet on a wire rack.

After several hours of eating, drinking, laughing, and having a good time, we made our way back into the house where everything was cleaned up quickly and we all fell into our beds to enjoy the kind of deep sleep that only comes after such a thoroughly pleasant evening (of course, the fresh lake air and total silence helped, too!).

Next post will be the recipes for the coconut pancakes with mango compote and tropical fruit salad which was our breakfast the morning after this feast.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mango Salsa Recipes

Last week at this time I was complaining about the heat and humidity. Temperatures were up into the mid-90’s and then it rained. And rained. We received almost 4” of rain in about 2 ½ days. The hygrometer in the house indicated that the humidity inside was over 90%. Miserable wasn’t quite a strong enough description of those few days. I ran out of bread but, there being no way on earth I would have turned on the oven to bake (heck, I was boiling pasta in the microwave), I bought a loaf. Not too bad, but when the temperatures come down later this week, into the mid-70’s, I will be baking again. And that store-bought bread will fortify the ducks at the lake house.

And I must again sing the praises of air conditioning. After 23 years of sweltering in the upstairs bedroom, it was absolute heaven to close the doors, turn on the unit, and sleep without becoming drenched. Of course, we opted for an inexpensive unit and it is quite loud (Frigidaire model FAA087P7A, sold exclusively at Lowe’s). Fortunately, after a couple of nights of frequent waking, we have become accustomed to the noise and are now considering if we should return it and spend 50% more to get a quieter model. On one hand, it was only $135, we only use it when we absolutely have to, and it’s an incredibly heavy thing to lug around. On the other hand, it sounds like a vacuum cleaner! The “cheap hand” is winning out so far…

In my last post, I gave some recipes which I had tried on guests and were successful. I’ll continue in that manner.

Served along with the vegetable kebabs previously mentioned, I made grilled salmon with a mango salsa. There are a million recipes out there for mango salsa, but I have 2 favorites and one was very enthusiastically received by our guests (the other one is darn good, too, so I will post that as well). Both are great with grilled salmon, and the second, containing cucumber, is also excellent accompaniment to grilled chicken or fish.

This was one of the easiest main dishes I have made for guests ever. The salmon was just rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper and grilled. The easy to make mango salsa, containing fresh pineapple and banana as well, gave it a delicious tropical flavor. Jack was surprised at the amount of fish I was cooking, and the amount of mango salsa in the bowl, but there was nothing was left. :)

Now, freshly squeezed lime juice and orange juice are essential in this. I have subbed the not-from-concentrate orange juice sold in bottles in the dairy section of the grocery store and it’s okay but juicing a fresh orange (and only half an orange, really, since the recipe calls for only 2 tablespoons of oj) makes a difference.

Tropical Mango Salsa

2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 teaspoon fresh orange zest

1 teaspoon fresh lime zest

1 or 2 small hot chilies (jalapeno, habanero, Serrano, or Scotch Bonnet if you’re feeling really adventurous), seeded and minced

1 cup fresh diced pineapple (about ½” dice)

1 cup diced mango (about ½” dice)

1 large diced banana; peel, cut lengthwise into quarters (which is easier done if you cut the banana crosswise in half first), then slice these quarters into ½” pieces

2 tablespoons minced fresh mint

Mix first 7 ingredients in a large bowl (this can be prepared ahead of time). Fold in the pineapple and mango. Gently fold in banana. Sprinkle with mint. Serve within an hour.

And here’s the other mango salsa recipe. You can sub small, hot chilies for the hot sauce. I like trying different flavors of hot sauce and, this time, used a ginger-peach hot sauce which added a great flavor. I’ve also used cantaloupe instead of the mango with excellent results

Mango Cucumber Salsa

4 servings

3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice

½- ¾ teaspoon hot sauce

pinch kosher salt

1 ½ cup diced mango (about ½” dice)

¾ cup peeled, diced cucumber (about ¼” dice)

¾ cup diced red bell pepper (about ¼” dice)

¼ cup minced red onion

Mix first three ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix gently. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours (bring to room temp before using, and I would add the onion just prior to serving in this case).

Now, you may notice that there are no photos to go with these entertaining recipes. I have a difficult enough time trying to get everything on the table without having to take time to photograph. :) However, because I like to add photos in here (seems a little static otherwise) here is a pic of my husband’s recent handiwork in completing the patio at the lake house. He really put forth effort to have it ready for the first batch of guests, and it looks wonderful.

Monday, August 6, 2007

We have just completed a marathon of entertaining in the past 2 months. I was able to keep to my “guests every other weekend only” rule, but even entertaining twice a month has its toll. I’m tired! Okay, it may also be the heat and the 95% humidity as well. I do love to have friends over for a meal or for a weekend. I enjoy the planning, the preparation, the anticipation of good food and great company. But I love the cooking. I adore being in the kitchen for a few days, working from a schedule, trying new recipes. My back aches and my feet hurt afterward, but it is just so much fun. In total contrast to what I have read (“don’t use new recipes on company, stick with tried-and-true dishes”), I always try out new recipes on my guests. I believe that I have gotten to the point where I am able to analyze the ingredients and “tweak” to make the final dish more flavorful, spicier, less fattening, etc. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable process. And, of course, there’s The Moment. It’s that time when all of the food is on the table, the wine glasses are filled, the candles (or torches) lit, and my friends are laughing and talking and I just want to save that moment. Hold it forever.

The “every other weekend” rule came about so I don’t kill myself trying to do everything, all of the time. After a weekend of entertaining, the guests leave and I start to clean up. The kitchen, at this point, is the least of the problem. There is cleaning the guest rooms, scrubbing the bathrooms, vacuuming the rooms where we have congregated (and ate!). A couple of days of this, after all of the preparation and also cooking and clean-up while our guests are actually in the house, and I crash. I need at least one day and possibly two. Energize. Extra yoga, extra stretching, extra exercise. And, most importantly, extra sleep! And, because I always cook too much, we have wonderful leftovers to eat for those couple of days while I regroup. It’s like a reward for all of my efforts and I take full advantage. Then it’s back to weeding and watering the vegetable garden and flower beds, house chores, etc. Until I realize that I have to begin planning for the next event. I need that break between guests, no matter how very much I enjoy having them.

We had friends for dinner this past Saturday and now there’s nothing on my
plate for two more weeks. So I now have time to update my blog and get caught up on correspondence that I have allowed to slide over the past 5-6 weeks.

I have planned to post only standout recipes here, but I’m going through my notes and many of them were great and I want to share. This is going to take a while… :)

I don’t know if I mentioned this in any previous posts, but we have a house on a lake an hour away from the farm. It’s beautiful and rather secluded and we enjoy entertaining there during the summer.

Our first large group of guests arrived in early July for a long weekend. This year, I asked each couple to bring some contributions to the meals. I am a control freak and this was a decidedly adventurous experiment for me. However, everything turned out wonderfully and I’m going to have to expand on this concept in the future. I also accepted help in the kitchen. That was a biggie, too. I have a few friends who get together and cook or bake with me occasionally, but we’ve been doing this for several years and I was uncertain about the expertise of my other friends. For example, for this lake house gathering, Tammy offered several times to help and I took her up on her kind offer. For dinner one evening, I asked her to slice zucchini that would be threaded on skewers and grilled. She asked how thick the slices should be and I took my knife and showed her. “About ¾ of an inch” I said. I turned away for a second to grab my kitchen ruler (heaven help me, I measure things!) and when I turned back she was happily chopping away. One inch slices. Inch-and-a quarter slices. My mouth dropped open and I saw my husband gesturing to me from the other side of the counter. “Let it go!” he mouthed. I did. I slipped the ruler back into the drawer. And it was fine. I also said nothing about the irregular chunks of eggplant and red pepper. I accepted a wine refill and thought “who cares, it will still taste good.”. And it did!

The Old Dog can be taught New Tricks!!!

Anyway, one meal was a great pasta dish taken from Cuisine at Home magazine called BLT Pasta. Actually, it should be called BST Pasta, since the lettuce in it is actually spinach, but who cares about details (ME!!!!). With this pasta, I asked Tammy to bring a salad that would be dressed with a blueberry vinaigrette which I had been experimenting with. She prepared a wonderful salad of butter lettuce, spring greens, pear, blueberry, pine nuts, and goat cheese. It was sensational with that dressing.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Blueberry Vinaigrette

Recipe By : Vicci

Servings : 24

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

1/2 medium shallot

1 large garlic clove

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar -- I prefer white balsamic, although a very good, mild dark

balsamic will be very good, too

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

3/4 cup olive oil

With the food processor running, drop in the shallot and garlic clove and mince finely. Stop the processor and add the next 5 ingredients (sugar through vinegar). Process until well blended. Add the blueberries and pulse until they are very well chopped. With the processor running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream and process until the mixture is smooth.

Transfer mixture to a large bottle and chill overnight to meld flavors.

This will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.


"2 cups"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 68 Calories (kcal); 7g Total Fat (1g Saturated); (87% calories from fat); trace Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 75mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

The pasta was delicious. Although I doubled the recipe (to make “8 servings”), it barely served 6 of us. I use turkey bacon instead of the regular and can’t imagine it being that much different. The smoky bacon flavor was very dominant. I also used more spinach than is called for, and subbed whole wheat linguine for the bucatini pasta.

* Exported from MasterCook *

BLT Pasta

Servings : 4

Preparation Time :40:00

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 large garlic cloves

2 cups bread cubes -- take from a nice, dense loaf of French or Italian bread

1 tablespoon olive oil -- divided

4 pieces turkey bacon

2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup thinly sliced leeks

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cup chicken broth

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

8 ounces whole wheat linguine

3 cups fresh spinach -- sliced into 1" wide strips

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Mince the garlic in a food processor, then add the cubed bread and process until coarse crumbs. Heat one teaspoon of the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the bread crumbs. Toast until golden, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. In the meantime, sauté the turkey bacon in a medium skillet until done. Drain on paper towels, and slice crosswise into 1/4" wide strips.

Add the linguine to the boiling water and cook until al dente.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet and caramelize the tomatoes and sugar over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add leeks and sauté until they are wilted, about 3 more minutes. Add the wine and stir, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Simmer until the liquid is nearly evaporated. Carefully scoop 1/3 cup of the boiling water from the pasta pot and add to the tomato mixture along with the broth, vinegar, and pepper flakes. Simmer until the mixture is reduced by about 1/3 (5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.

Drain pasta. Add the spinach leaves to the tomato sauce, then dump the hot linguine into the skillet and toss until the spinach is wilted. Sprinkle in the bacon pieces and toss a couple of more times. Divide onto 4 serving plates and sprinkle each serving with garlic bread crumbs.


"adapted from Cuisine at Home June 2007"

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Per serving: 361 Calories (kcal); 9g Total Fat (2 saturated); (23% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 53g Carbohydrate; 12mg Cholesterol; 548mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : Can also use dry white wine and white balsamic vinegar for a subtle variation in taste.

Another standout recipe for this weekend was vegetable kebabs. Now, not ordinarily an exciting side dish, these were made special but the vinaigrette which was brushed onto the kebabs as they cooked, then drizzled over the veggies prior to serving.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Vegetable Kebabs

Servings: 8

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar -- preferably white

1 small garlic clove -- minced

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pound zucchini -- small are best; cut crosswise into 3/4" slices

5 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt -- divided

2/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper -- divided

1 1/2 pounds baby eggplant -- cut crosswise into 3/4" slices

2 large red bell peppers -- cut into 1 1/2" pieces

3/4 pound cherry tomatoes

1 large sweet onion -- cut into 1 1/2" pieces

Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 1 hour, or use metal skewers

In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Thread on skewers.

In the same bowl, repeat the process with the eggplant, then the peppers, then the cherry tomatoes, then the onion. With each, use 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Thread each kind of vegetable on separate skewers (this will make the veggies cook more evenly since tomatoes take less time to cook than onion, red peppers take less time to cook than eggplant, etc.).

At this point, after the vegetables are skewered, they can be placed on a tray, covered with plastic, and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.

Prepare the grill (medium-hot charcoal or moderate, about 350 degrees, for a gas grill)

Spray the skewers lightly with cooking spray, then grill the kebabs, turning once, until tender. Brush kebabs with vinaigrette once during cooking. Transfer cooked vegetables from the skewers to a platter and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.


"adapted from Gourmet magazine August 2006"

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Per serving: 116 Calories (kcal); 10g Total Fat (1g Saturated); (72% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 330mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : I usually quadruple the vinaigrette to use for other meals (grilling vegetables, chicken, fish, etc). It keeps in the refrigerator for a month.

This is all I can manage for today. :) Hopefully more soon!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Zucchini "Pizza"?!?!

I'm desperately trying to keep up with the zucchini which my garden has been (over) producing. Tonight's great idea was a zucchini crust for our regular Sunday night pizza. I did an internet search but nothing seemed to appeal, so I just went out into the kitchen and played around. First I took the biggest zucchini remaining in the vegetable bin in the refrigerator and weighed it. 2 pounds. I shredded then spun it dry in the washing machine (I go through this rather unusual technique in an earlier post). To bind the zucchini, I added a few eggs, then spiced it up and, at the last minute, threw in some grated cheese. I "baked" this on the grill then, after the crust was firm, added pesto, sliced onion and tomatoes, and mozzarella. Jack said it best. "It is not pizza by any stretch of the imagination, but it's delicious!".

Seriously, I sometimes wonder if he is humoring me. How can everything be good? Or maybe he keeps his standards low just for moments like this... Anyway, he is right. It was darn flavorful, but not pizza.

Zucchini "Pizza Crust"

1 whole large egg
2 large egg whites
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced very finely
1 large pinch kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 ounces grated Asiago
2 pounds zucchini, grated and spun (!)

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add garlic through cheese and mix well. Knead in the zucchini with your hands. Pat into a large, well-greased pizza pan.

Now, I used the outdoor grill to bake this (I haven't used our oven in weeks because of the heat). I let the grill come up to 350, then quickly placed the pan on the grids and shut the lid. I allowed this to cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the crust looked "set" and not wet anywhere. You want the eggs to cook! I removed it from the grill, spread 2 tablespoons pesto, sprinkled 4 ounces of light mozzarella, a half very thinly sliced onion, a large sliced tomato. The I placed it back on the grill, closed the lid, and baked until the cheese was melted and bubbly (about another 4 minutes). Allow to sit for a couple of minutes before cutting.

I know that I've been complaining about the plethora of zucchini, but I really am enjoying this since I rarely buy it at any other time of the year. I've already started a few plants for a fall crop. :) Now if those tomatoes would just hurry up...