Saturday, July 31, 2010

Random Bites in July

july beach

July was a good month for...............................

drinking Rosé from Provence to beat the heat

bird watching

growing tomatoes

weekly grilled vegetable sandwiches made from local produce

farmers' markets

the beautiful Jersey shore (sans "Snooki" & "The Situation". ugh)

What will August bring? Probably the same things, only more heat and better produce!

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Good Ideas: Mustard Salad Dressing

I get annoyed at people who don't recycle.

What's the big deal?

The town picks up our newspapers, bottles and cans every Thursday morning, it's free, and all you have to do is put the stuff at the curb, so why not TRY and do something that MIGHT help the environment?

I don't drive a Prius or anything like that, but I feel that recycling is the least I can do to help my state's D.E.P. dump less "stuff" in our landfills, and NJ has a few of them! (Hey, have they found Jimmy Hoffa yet?).

I have this creepy neighbor (doesn't everybody?), who does nothing to help the community.
He doesn't vote, he doesn't recycle, and his wine bottles are overflowing in his garbage cans.

Should I say something? or should I be nice and take his bottles out of his cans and put them in MY recycling?

Nah. Karma will get him some other way.

Isn't this a salad dressing post? Stacey, can you stay on track?

This is really about how I recycle this silly French mustard jar.

When there is a little less than a tablespoon of mustard left in the jar, and you know you are going to have to work hard to get it out, I have found a new life for it.

Mix a few shakes of your favorite vinegar in it, and some olive oil.

I like a few flakes of Maldon sea salt and some black pepper.
Shake it up in the jar, and you will have salad dressing all week.

A mustard vinaigrette works well on most greens and salad combos.

I add some minced shallots and chopped fresh herbs to it sometimes. The jar never gets totally empty.

I hope I don't get salmonella poisoning, but so far, it's been about 2 years and I keep adding to it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tomato Cherry Salad

cherry salad2

Summer doesn't get any better than this.

Fresh, fabulous Jersey tomatoes paired along with beautiful ripe, sweet cherries.

This is the B.E.S.T.

Drizzle w/ some good balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and it's done (and the annoying task of pitting the cherries).

That's all folks.

Hard to believe that cherries and tomatoes go so nicely together.

Why not? A tomato is a fruit anyway.

Make sure you are using the best summer tomatoes you can find, not the supermarket type. And you can only make this in the summer. That is law.

Great Cherry & Tomato Salad (from 5 Second Rule): REALLY a great salad

1 lb. of cherries, mixed Bing and Rainier, pitted and halved
1 basket of tomatoes, heirloom, cherry and grape (as many varieties as you can find!)
balsamic vinegar
kosher salt

I put all the ingredients in a big bowl, sprinkled w/ kosher salt then drizzled with a little Italian balsamic vinegar and mixed together right before serving.
Serve at room temperature.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Michael's Linguine w/ Lemon & Peas

pea pasta5

File this under recipes from memory & good stories.

My friend Michael, a NYC bachelor cooks for one on a budget.

He came from an Italian family of 9 children and he seems to know how to whip up a pasta dish for himself without having to go to the market during the week.

Whether it be anchovies, garlic, olive oil or black pepper, he can make a delicious dinner from what he has in the cabinet.

For this recipe, as long as you have some frozen peas and a lemon, you are in business (and pasta, of course).

I added the mint to the recipe because I have it in the garden and I love peas with mint. They just belong together.

Michael's Linguine with Lemon & Peas:

1/2 box of linguine (8 oz.)
olive oil
1 cup of frozen peas
1 small onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
lemon zest
salt & pepper
1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water
freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

fresh chopped mint (optional)
2 tbsp butter (optional)

In a heavy skillet, large enough to hold the pasta, heat some olive oil and cook the chopped onion and garlic on low heat for about 2 minutes, just until fragrant.
You don't want to brown the onion, just wilt it.

Cook your linguine in salted boiling water as per directions. Add the frozen peas the last minute of cooking together with the pasta.
Before draining, save 1/4 cup of pasta water and set aside.

Add the peas and pasta to the onion and garlic in the skillet and add lemon zest and more olive oil. Add the reserved pasta water and season with salt & pepper and mix well.
If you want a little more richness, you can add a tablespoon or two of butter, but I don't bother.

Garnish with fresh chopped mint & Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Delights: Zucchini Lasagne

zucchini lasagne9

As I was grilling my 3rd batch of zucchini this week, I was thinking, "what am I going to do with all of this?".

A layered lasagne, using the zucchini slices instead of noodles it was going to be.

I had an idea for a recipe, but took some notes from Elaine's recipe via her beautiful mother Angela from Naples.

This can be an all day affair if you don't do some things ahead.

I always have fresh breadcrumbs in the freezer.
I always have homemade tomato sauce in the freezer.
I always have freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and grated mozzarella in the fridge, so all I really have to do is grill the zucchini, and you can even do that the day before.

Wow, I am not usually so well organized.

Elaine's recipe calls for boiling the zucchini strips for 5 minutes in water, until limp, but I liked the grill marks and the crispy edges, so I grilled mine.
A little kosher salt and olive oil and a few minutes on the grill.

Zucchini Lasagne (adapted from The Italian Dish):

3-4 large zucchini, sliced the long way, grilled or cooked for 5 min. in boiling water
1 cup of homemade tomato sauce (you can use whatever sauce you like)
1 cup of fresh ricotta cheese
2 eggs (Elaine's recipe calls for 4 eggs)
1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (use the real stuff) (divided)
1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese (divided)
1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs (divided)
fresh chopped parsley
salt & pepper

Make the ricotta mixture by adding the eggs, ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of parmesan, 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, salt & pepper and fresh parsley. Set aside.

In a small rectangle baker (8 x 10), lay some tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Lay slices of zucchini, overlapping them a bit like noodles.

Next, layer a dollop of the ricotta cheese on top & spread over the zucchini slices, and sprinkle w/ half the mozzarella cheese.

Layer with another row of zucchini slices.

Next add some more tomato sauce on top of the zucchini and sprinkle the other 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs over the sauce. Finish with the rest of the ricotta mixture.

Sprinkle the other 1/2 cup of mozzarella and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese on top of the ricotta mixture.
This will be your topping, a nice baked cheesy fluffy mixture, that browns in the oven.
I liked that!

Bake at 350F for about 40-45 minutes.
Let sit an hour before serving.

This was fantastico!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Peach Streusel Breakfast Muffins

peach muffins

I always buy 2 baskets of peaches at the farmers market on Sunday.
One white, one yellow.

Who needs a scented candle (which I despise, by the way), when you have that glorious aroma of ripe peaches in the air?

They always ripen at the same time and I have about 15 peaches to deal with.
I have no choice but to bake with them so they don't all rot!

Peach cobbler would be my number one choice of peach desserts, however it doesn't stay more than a day, so muffins it was going to be.

I found this yummy sounding recipe on Ezra Pound Cake's site, it is from Sarah Foster's Market Cookbook.

The muffins were not too sweet and would be perfect for breakfast.

I did not peel my peaches (I never do), and I substituted nonfat Greek yogurt for the sour cream in the recipe.

The streusel topping makes for a nice crunch.

Peach Streusel Muffins (by way of Ezra's Pound Cake & Fosters Market): makes 12 muffins

Brown Sugar-Walnut Streusel Topping:

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For the topping: In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the butter, and mix until well blended. Set aside.

Muffin Batter:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sour cream (I used nonfat Greek yogurt instead)
1 tablespoon dark rum or pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped peaches (about 3 peaches)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12 large muffin cups with paper liners, and spray lightly with nonstick spray.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, from flour to salt, and set aside.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, butter, yogurt and rum or vanilla. Fold in the peaches.

5. Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture. Stir until just moist and blended. Do not overmix.

6. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan with a large ice cream scoop (1/3-cup scoop). The batter should come to the top of the paper liner or pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar walnut streusel topping, and lightly press the topping into the muffin batter.

7. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes clean. Remove from the oven, and cool for 5 minutes in the pan.

I liked them the next a.m. (reheated in the hiss!) with a swipe of butter.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ricotta Pudding Cake w/ Roasted Grapes


I always make a dessert when I have leftover ricotta cheese from a lasagne or an eggplant rollatini.

This time I made a ricotta pudding cake based loosely on a Mario Batali recipe from his Molto Italiano cookbook.

I added roasted grapes as a fruit sauce and it came out DELICIOUS!
This is more like a flan, than a cake or a pudding, but he calls it a budino (pudding in Italian).

I added more flour to my recipe and next time I think I will bake it in a springform pan instead of a ceramic quiche pan as Mario suggests.

Budino di Ricotta:

1 lb. fresh ricotta cheese (I like Trader Joe's fresh ricotta)
1 tsp cinnamon
5 eggs
3 tbsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp candied orange peel
grated zest of a lemon

1 cup red seedless grapes
sprinkle of sugar
splash of balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp of olive oil

Mix all the cake ingredients in a bowl and pour into a well greased and floured quiche pan (next time I will use a springform pan for easier removal).

On a small baking sheet lined with foil, lay the grapes and splash with the vinegar and oil and sprinkle with sugar to coat.

Place the quiche pan on the center rack of a 350F oven and the grapes on the bottom rack of the same oven, so they cook together.

Bake about 25 minutes, the budino will puff up then flop when you take it out of the oven.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and place some of the roasted grapes on the side.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Stuffed Cheese Bread w/ Herbs

cheese bread4

The next time someone asks you to bring something to a potluck dinner or BBQ, bring this.

It can be made the day before, it is easy to transport and receives rave reviews every time!

I usually make this with 2 long loaves of bread, or baguettes, but I had this wonderful large round boulle, so used that instead.

Use whatever herbs you have on hand. I always have chives, basil & parsley in the garden, so while I am deadheading the plants, I remember to make this.

Don't skip the arugula, that is what makes this bread spicy and a bit different.

Go for any cheese you like, I like mozzarella, but I don't see why you couldn't use fontina, brie or gruyere.

Here's the recipe:

Take a long loaf of bread and slice in half.
Scoop out the middle, and save the insides for breadcrumbs later.

You will need:
2 tbsp of chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp green onion (or chives)
2 tbsp of chopped fresh arugula leaves
1 cup of shredded mozzarella (or your favorite cheese)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt & pepper

In a bowl, combine the stuffing ingredients and mound into the hollowed out bread.
Put the lid back on the bread to cover and wrap tightly in aluminum foil.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Wait till cool enough to slice.
I also grill this on the top rack of my grill in the foil and it comes out terrific!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Roasted Halibut w/ Lemons & Olives

lemon halibut

This recipe is from the NY Times, and the title of the article was Dinner Party.
I am always in search of good dinner party recipes that won't take up a lot time.

This was a simple and terrific way to prepare beautiful halibut, one of my favorite fishes, and certainly nice enough for a dinner party.

Start with the freshest, best halibut filets you can find, and have your fish monger remove the skin for you. My guys are so nice!

Roasted Halibut w/ Lemons, Olives & Rosemary (adapted from the NYT):

2 8oz. pcs of halibut filets, at least 1" thick
olive oil
kosher salt
ground chili pepper (they want you to use Turkish or Aleppo.....I used cayenne sparingly)
2 fresh rosemary branches
1 lemon, sliced paper thin
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives

I prepared the fish 3 hours ahead and kept in the fridge until roasting time, this way I could concentrate on my salad and side dishes.

On a half sheet pan, place your fish filets and brush with olive oil.
Season with kosher salt and the chili pepper (just a dash on each filet).

Lay the rosemary sprigs across the fish and drape the lemon slices over the fish.

Drizzle with more olive oil (just a little) and kosher salt over the lemons.
Sprinkle the sliced olives on and around the fish.

Roast for about 10 minutes at 450F until the fish is opaque.
Carefully broil the fish so the lemon slices get nice and brown, about another 2 minutes.

Easy and Elegant!