Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Last Potato Salad


I love potato salad, with vinegar or mayo, it matters not.
But it's a summer thing only. I won't be thinking about it for the next 9 months or so.

Labor Day is my last potato salad of the season, it will be soup and chili time before you know it (sorry to depress you).

I rarely deviate from a tried and true recipe.
Such would be my Classic Potato Salad.

For this holiday weekend, I did a trial run on Roseanne Cash's potato salad. Very similar to the classic w/ egg and mayo, celery and onion, but Ms. Cash uses cilantro and chopped pickles instead of parsley and pickle relish. She uses Dijon mustard instead of Gulden's spicy brown, as I do, and red onion instead of white.

Roseanne Cash's Potato Salad Recipe:

3 pounds medium red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed
8 dill pickle spears, coarsely chopped (I used pickle relish instead)
3 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
choppped cilantro

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 25 minutes.

Drain; cool. Cut potatoes into 1-inch pieces and transfer to large bowl. Stir in pickles, celery, onion, eggs, mayonnaise, and mustard. Season potato salad to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)

It was just a little different and I don't think anyone noticed, but everyone loved it just the same.

Bye bye my beloved potato salad. See you next summer!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Tart: Zucchini & Mozzarella

It's Tuesday. Time for a tart. We had an earthquake and a hurricane in NJ all in one week. Is someone trying to tell us something?

This week's tart is a delicious tart from that great book Radically Simple.

It's pretty easy to put together and is perfect for a summer lunch.

I did not have heavy cream, so substituted with whole milk. Same goes for scallions, I subbed in chives from the garden.

Why doesn't Pepperidge Farms send me a case of frozen puff pastry already?
I mention their product about 5 times per month! It's my favorite ready made ingredient.

Zucchini & Mozzarella Tart (adapted from Radically Simple):

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted
6 oz. of fresh mozzarella, packed in water
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes, drained (I rehydrated mine in warm water), and chopped
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped
handful of green onions, chopped (I used fresh chives)
1 zucchini, sliced thin
1 tbsp dried oregano
kosher salt & pepper
2 eggs
3/4 cup of heavy cream (whole milk or half & half)

Roll out the puff pastry to fit a 12" x 12" square tart pan with removable bottom.

Tear the mozzarella ball into pieces and scatter over the dough.
Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese on top of the mozz.

Next layer is the sundried tomatoes. Sprinkle them around and on top of the cheeses.
Scatter the basil, scallions and oregano on top of that layer.

In a nice pattern, place the zucchini slices as your last layer. Sprinkle with kosher salt & pepper.

Mix the 2 eggs w/ the cream or milk, and carefully pour the custard around and over the zucchini.

Sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan cheese and bake in a 400F oven on a baking sheet (to catch any spills) for 30-35 minutes.

Let rest a few minutes and remove the bottom of the pan and serve.

This tastes like a pizza, it is really fabulous.

I hope you try it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Too Much Zucchini Bread

I hope everyone on the East Coast made it alright thru Hurricane Irene this past weekend and that you and your house are still standing strong. We had water in the basement, lots of trees down and a big mess, but we are alive and ok to complain about it.

Thank you for all of the emails about our well being!

If you are reading this, then hopefully your power has been restored by now too.

You must be so tired of clicking in and seeing zucchini or tomato recipes, with an eggplant thrown in here and there.

By the end of summer you are either giving away your tomatoes, cukes and squash or trying to be creative with them!

I thought I was helping you with ideas on how to use your excess bounty.
At least I don't talk about corn everyday.

I am not a huge fan of zucchini bread, it is always too greasy because it uses a whole cup of vegetable oil. Yuck.

Why not substitute some whole grain flour and healthy olive oil and make a nice icing for your regular loaf? The original recipe calls for neutral canola oil, so if you like, you can use that, but I prefer olive oil in my cakes.

This recipe has redeemed the evil zucchini bread for me.

Make 2 loaves, one for you, and one for me.

Really Good, not Greasy, Zucchini Bread: adapted from Smitten Kitchen (makes 2 big loaves)

3 eggs
1 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour)
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup raisins or chocolate chips

I like to line my loaf pans with parchment paper for easy lift-out and I don't have to grease the pans at all.

Mix the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Beat the eggs with the sugar, vanilla and oil. Add the grated zucchini to the wet ingredients and gradually add the flour mixture. I added the raisins and walnuts last.

Divide the mixture between 2 regular size loaf pans and bake in a 350F oven for 55-60 minutes. Let cool in the pan before icing.

Lemon icing:
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp whole milk
juice of half a lemon

whisk ingredients together with a fork and drizzle over the warm cakes. The icing will harden quickly.


PS: Just a warning, tomorrow I am posting another zucchini recipe! Sorry!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Eileen's Peach Cake

I don't know Eileen, but I loved her peach cake.

There are not a lot of peach desserts out there. Your choices are usually peach pie, peach cobbler or peach crisp, however, I was in the mood for CAKE. So I googled (don't you love that "googled" is actually a word?) peach cakes and I found this recipe. What would we do without the world wide web? (also known as the internet).

Let me first put a disclaimer on this recipe.
It's bad for you. Too much oil, too much sugar, too much white flour and a lot of eggs.

Life is short, so make it anyway.

You can substitute canola for the vegetable oil, however, I am not a fan of canola, and olive oil wouldn't go with the peaches here, so just use the Wesson and worry about it later. (I guess you could cut it down by using apple sauce, as I often see bakers do).

Stick with the recipe, you won't be disappointed. It is excellent the day after baking it and the day after that.

A little slice of cake won't kill you.

Eileen's Peach Cake: (adapted from Southern Food)

4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable or canola oil (I used a little less than a cup)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups sliced fresh peaches (about 2 large ones), (I left the skins on)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
powdered sugar for the top

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat eggs well; add 2 cups sugar and the oil, beating until well blended.

Combine flour, salt, and baking powder; beat into egg and oil mixture alternating with orange juice. Blend in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, toss the sliced peaches (and pecans, if using) with 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

Pour about one-third of the batter into a greased, and floured tube pan. Layer one-half peach mixture over it. Cover with another one-third of batter and the remaining peach mixture. Spread remaining batter over the last layer.

Bake at 350° for 60 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cake rest in the pan 15 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to completely cool. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar.

This is one of those great cakes.
I made this just in time for Hurricane Irene this weekend, before we lose power tomorrow. Always good to have a cake in the house during emergencies.

Enjoy, be safe and remember to just have a little slice (yeah, ok).

update on 9/3/11: I tried this cake with 1 cup of olive oil and we loved it even more! So my theory that olive oil and peaches may not work together was wrong. It was great!

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Mesquite Smoked Brisket on a Gas Grill

Yes folks, it can be done. You can smoke meat on a gas grill. No charcoal or special grill needed.

It does take some patience and plenty of practice.

For my first time, it came out "good", I am not going to say "great" because I am very critical. I think I added too much mesquite and I cooked it a bit too long, but it still had a great smokey flavor and a sweet BBQ taste. We all liked it very much, especially the next day on toasted bread with horseradish and mustard.

I followed this recipe to a T, but since my brisket was only 4 lbs, not the typical 10 lb. slab that the pros usually cook, I had to adjust my time and temperature so I had to guess, but the next time I would cook it less amount of time.

Mesquite Smoked Brisket: (adapted from this recipe)

1 beef brisket (10+ pounds), with a layer of fat at least 1/4 inch thick, preferably 1/2 inch thick
2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

I am printing the original recipe, since it is worth trying. I used a 4 lb. brisket and that makes a lot, but I would buy a big 10 pounder if your butcher will get you one, and follow the directions. All the comments say they loved this method and they would only cook a brisket this way.

Remember, a brisket is a big slab from the lower chest of the animal. It is very lean and needs a lot of time to cook it, since it gets the most workout on the cow. DO NOT BUY A CORNED BEEF BRISKET, this is a different cut of meat and has been cured with flavorings and spices.

Line an aluminum pan with heavy duty foil.

Make the spice rub and rub it on both sides of the meat, patting it down with your hands.
Let the meat cure a bit with the rub for at least 4 hours, best overnight.

Lay the meat in the pan FAT SIDE UP.

You are only going to use one side of the grill, while keeping the other side completely turned off. You want to maintain a temperature of 250F at all times.

Soak the mesquite chips (don't use as much as I did in the photo) in water for 30 minutes and drain out the water. Set an aluminum pan of wet mesquite chips on the hot burner on the grill.

Place the brisket on the off burner side and close the lid. DO NOT OPEN THE GRILL FOR 2 HOURS, try and resist!

After 2 hours, check the meat and baste with some of the juices. I turned my wood chips at this time. The smell on the patio was so nice!

Keep basting the meat every 45 minutes. After 6 hours total, the meat should be done.

It is important to rest the meat for 1 hour covered with foil.
So basically, you have to start this project at 10 a.m. if you want to serve your guests dinner by 5 pm on a Sunday, which is what we did.

After the rest period, you are ready to slice your meat. Slice across the grain and serve with a nice BBQ sauce.

This makes a great Sunday summer dinner for friends and the best leftovers the next day.

A little bit of effort required, but it paid off!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Quinoa Salad w/ Zucchini, Feta, Currants & Dill

Now that I have discovered the benefits of quinoa, there's no stopping me.
My husband even thinks it tastes "pretty decent".

I actually got 4 free zucchini at the farmer's market yesterday, they were giving them away (they just keep multiplying), so I thought it was time I made this lovely salad.

This was an easy and tasty way to prepare quinoa. I used that gorgeous red quinoa for an interesting contrast, but regular quinoa is fine.

I used less dill than the original recipe calls for, I thought 4 tablespoons would be overpowering for my taste buds. I also omitted the toasted sesame seeds, cause I didn't have any!!

This was healthy and delicious and since I have been abandoning my gluten free friends lately (and you know who you are!), this can be on their menus too.

Quinoa Salad w/ Currants, Zucchini, Feta & Dill (adapted from 101 Cookbooks & the cookbook Ancient Grains):

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3/4 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1/4 cup dried currants
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 small zucchini, grated on a box grater
4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

feta cheese, crumbled for the top

Rinse the quinoa until the water runs clear and add it to the 2 cups of water in a heavy saucepan. Add the olive oil and a tsp of salt. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer for about 15 minutes until the little germ kernels show (the curly q's). Drain, if there is any water left and add to a large bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the quinoa and taste for seasonings. May need a pinch more of salt.

The lemon zest and lemon juice is the dressing, no more oil is needed.
I added a bit of crumbled feta to the top and served this warm.

It was delicious!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stacey Slaw

I think I will change my last name from "Snacks" to "Slaw", it sounds better.

The word “cole slaw” comes from the Dutch word koolsla, which means cabbage salad.
Don't you love always getting a language lesson here?

If you don't like the typical slimy summer cole slaw from the deli, then give this fresh version a try.

I used my pickled red onions and some beautiful black seedless grapes for sweetness.

It stays in the fridge all week, and gets better the second day.

Stacey's Cole Slaw w/ Grapes & Pickled Onions:

1 package of shredded cabbage, red, green & white
1 large carrot, peeled & grated
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup Hellman's REAL mayo
1/4 cup pickled red onions (recipe here)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 cup of black or red seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro
1/4 cup sliced scallions
handful of chopped walnuts (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, adding the grapes, green onions and walnuts last. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Refrigerate for a few hours so the flavors come together.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zucchini Tomato Gratin

Is your garden bursting with zucchini and tomatoes?

I have the perfect recipe to help you use up your harvest.

Just because it's a Tuesday and I made this in a tart pan, this is not a tart, but a gratin (because it has bubbly cheese on top).

Some may call this a tian (a French vegetable casserole).
Call it whatever you like, but I call it delicious.

You can use any fresh herb, and the olives make it very Provencal.
No crust, no eggs, (see, I told you it wasn't a tart), just simple fresh Jersey produce baked in the oven.

Zucchini & Tomato Gratin:

5 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
2 medium size zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
handful of kalamata olives, quartered
kosher salt
olive oil
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
fresh thyme leaves or basil

In a greased shallow 8" x 10" casserole or gratin dish, layer the tomato and zucchini slices, overlapping and pushing them together nice and snug.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt.
Add the grated Parmesan cheese to the top and dot w/ the olive slices and fresh thyme leaves.

Bake in a 425F oven for about 20-30 minutes until the top is getting nice and brown.

Using a fish spatula, slide the rows of vegetables onto a platter and serve.
Serves 4 as a side dish.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Grilled Chicken on Cherry Tomato Panzanella

I am just showing off with my beautiful red & yellow cherry tomatoes again.

This is summer at its best. Grill some chicken breasts and serve over this beautiful bread & tomato salad.

Panzanella is very forgiving. You can use stale bread, or if you don't have any old bread, toast up some good slices like I did (a good ciabatta works).

You can use any variety of tomato and any fresh herb you like.

You can add mozzarella or feta if you are keeping this a meat free dinner, otherwise let's grill the bird.

Cherry Tomato Panzanella w/ Grilled Chicken:

4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
kosher salt & pepper

2 lbs. of mixed cherry tomatoes, (yellow, red, green), halved
handful of chopped kalamata olives
1 cup of fresh basil leaves, sliced (I used opal and green)
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into cubes
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
6 slices of old crusty stale bread (or toasted fresh slices), torn into pieces

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
kosher salt & pepper

You can make the salad 2 hours in advance and keep on the counter at room temp. The longer it sits, the better it is.

Combine the tomatoes with the other salad ingredients in a large bowl and add the torn bread pieces.

Pour the dressing over the bread and tomatoes, toss to coat and let rest.

Season the chicken breasts w/ kosher salt & pepper and grill for about 6 minutes per side, depending on their thickness.

Place the dressed panzanella salad on a large platter and place the grilled chicken breasts over the salad.

Serve and enjoy!
This is one of my favorite and easiest summer dinners.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fig & Walnut Quick Bread

The figs are almost done for the season because of the rain. Ruined. Rotten and soggy.

I am hoping some sunshine will bring a new harvest in September, because they are a late summer crop anyway (maybe my trees will produce more than 3 figs this year!).

I had a few pathetic fresh figs dying on the counter, they were too mushy for a salad, so I made this nice quick bread (really a cake), and what a cake it was!

Delicious for breakfast and after school snack.

If you don't have fresh figs, dried ones would work just as well.

I thought it might be strange to macerate the figs in dry sherry, but the results were delicious and unusual.

Fig & Walnut Quick Bread (adapted from this site):

Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf

1 1/2 cups stemmed and coarsely chopped ripe dark or light figs
1/4 cup dry sherry (use the good stuff or use Marsala wine)
1/2 cup light olive oil
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
cinnamon sugar for the top (optional)

In a medium sized bowl add the figs and macerate for 15 minutes in the 1/4 cup of sherry.

Toast the nuts and chop them. Set them aside and cool.

In a large bowl, add the sugar and olive oil and beat until light in color. Add the 2 eggs and beat for 2 minutes.

Add the flour and the rest of the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix together. Add in the nuts last.

With a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the figs and sherry so the figs don't mash up too much in the batter.

Pour into a parchment lined or greased 9" loaf pan and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 1 hour.

Let cool in the pan before removing.

Best eaten the next day for breakfast! Yum!

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