Eating zucchini in a non-healthy way

Eating zucchini or, how to eat in season without chomping on sunflower sprouts

Not there’s anything bad about sprouts. But sometimes an eater wants to skip over the raw kale salad and vinegar slaw and eat some comfort food, even if IS summer and the bounty is plentiful!

Here’s how to do it:

Take a non ginormous zucchini or two, plop in a bowl of water to soak (Marcella’s technique for loosening ground sitting vegetable from its soil), boil some pasta, chop a bit of onion and sauté it in butter, add zucchini which you have cut into julienne, pour in some pasta water to reduce, add cream and saffron and reduce again. That’s it!

When your pasta — I recommend fettucine — is done, serve under cream sauce and add grated parmesan. I think I can skip the ice cream on this night. I had my cream in savory form, thanks!

Ingredients:
1/4 # fettucini
4 T chopped onion
1-2 small zucchinis, cut into julienne strips, 1-1/2” by 1/4”
1 c heavy cream
Pinch saffron
grated parmesan

 

Spring variation: substitute asparagus for zucchini; steam it ahead before cutting into 1-1/2” lengths before sautéing as above.

Impromptu summer lunch salad

Hungry mid-day and don’t want to fuss much? Take what you have that is farm fresh and toss together a casual salad.  Here’s what went into today’s salad chez moi: chopped kale, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, raw summer squash, diced peppers.  If I had a red onion, I would have added that to the mix. But this is a no-stress lunch, so not to worry, I told myself.

I wasn’t in the mood for a sharp vinaigrette, so here’s what I did: I started with leftover extra mayonnaise/sour cream from potato salad. To that I added buttermilk and a bit of olive oil and salt.  Voila!

Canned items:  chickpeas, drained and rinsed, artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed, and soaked in olive oil (the oil I later added to creamy dressing, above)

Farmers market/CSA items:

yellow summer squash, sliced thin on mandoline

assorted sweet peppers, cut into large dice

Several leaves of lacinato kale, soaked, dried and chopped fine

YUM!

Summer lentil salad extravaganza

When you find yourself with lovely local lettuce in early summer, and perhaps some leftover grilled chicken, cook up some Puy lentils and assemble a main course salad, great for a crowd. Pomegranate molasses adds a new flavor element to sherry vinaigrette brightened with lemon zest and juice.

Ingredients:
Stewed puy lentils, chilled
Chicken or vegetable stock for cooking lentils
Sherry shallot vinaigrette with shallots macerated in apple cider vinegar, lemon zest & juice, walnut & olive oil, sugar and pomegranate molasses
Leftover chicken, sliced thick or hard boiled eggs or boiled chilled shrimp (omit cheese)
Canned artichoke hearts and bottled roasted peppers, drained and rinsed.
Toasted walnuts (1 c), broken up when cool.
Little turnips, carrots sliced on mandoline
fresh herbs, minced — parsley and chives, at a minimum

Directions:

Cook lentils: Sauté diced carrots, celery, shallot in large saucepan. Add 1 t cumin, crumbled, ground pepper, and less than 1 t dried thyme, crumbled. When done, stir in chopped garlic and cook for one minute.
Stir in 1-1/2 c puy lentils, picked over and rinsed. Turn up heat and add stock to more than cover. Bring to a simmer and cook at least partially covered 20-30 minutes until barely tender — don’t let get mushy. Drain and chill.
Toast 1 c. walnuts in 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes until fragrant. Let cool, then break up a bit.
Heat olive oil in small sauce pan, add couple garlic cloves cut in half and cook for a couple minutes until slightly browned and aromatic. Remove from heat and let sit.
Drain and rinse artichoke hearts; put on towel and blot dry. Put in bowl and pour garlic oil over them, adding more oil as needed.
Make vinaigrette: minced shallot and apple cider vinegar to macerate 15+ minutes. Lemon zest, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, walnut oil, olive oil, dash sugar (or honey) and 1-2 t pomegranate molasses, S&P. Taste and adjust acid, salt and sweetness as needed. Using a lettuce leaf is a good method of tasting.
When lentils are cool (or brought to room temp if cooked in advance), toss liberally with vinaigrette. Salt as needed.
Mince fresh herbs such as parsley and chives. Mix into lentils with walnuts.
Wash and spin dry lettuce leaves.
Clean turnips and cut thinly on mandoline with carrots and parmesan, if using. Cover and refrigerate to wait for salad assembly.

Assembly:
Lay lettuce leaves around outside of platter. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Dump dressed lentils in center. Top with chicken, artichokes and peppers. Sprinkle on coarsely broken up turnips, etc.

Sautéed chicken breasts, for a change

Let’s say you’ve got the boneless chicken breast sauté technique down, and you have worked it into your repetoire: Cook some vegetables, and then throw a chicken breast or three into a hot sauté pan, make a quick butter/lemon pan sauce and you’re done. Done that 10 times and over it.

Here’s a change of pace I discovered in Diana Henry’s brilliant chicken-all-ways cookbook A Bird in the Hand:  Chicken Breasts with Wild Mushroom sauce.  Here’s an exact recipe: https://tinyurl.com/yd3el7ar

But you will want to buy this book because it will bring chicken back into weeknight — and dinner party — rotation, in a very happy, and low-stress way.

Basically you soak some dried porcini or other wild mushrooms in boiling water for 15 minutes, Sauté some fresh mushrooms in butter — cremini is now my standard fresh mushroom — throw in the soaked dried mushrooms, add in the soaking liquid and some chicken stock, and reduce, and then add in some cream, and reduce again. Easy-peasy. You can make the sauce ahead of cooking the chicken and let it hang nearby while you cook the rest of your meal. Then when you’re ready, you sauté a chicken breast or three, and serve with the sauce. It is very, very delicious. Like the best mushroom bisque. Not too rich, and the soaking liquid adds a bass note/unami flavor. (You may be more of a lady than moi, and serve a delicate amount of sauce with chicken!)

Diana Henry has you serve the chicken and mushroom sauce over lentils, which seems to be a fine idea. But I didn’t take the time first go-round. I made a variation of White Dog Cafe’s roasted corn salsa since I had the first of the summer’s corn on hand.

 

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is a handy thing to have in the sweet kitchen. I like mine flavored with lemon and vanilla. (Vanilla adds a floral, tropical scent which I adore.)

It is in fact simple: equal parts by volume sugar and water. Increase ratio of water for poaching pears.

To use for fruit salad:

¾ c sugar

¾ c water

Heat over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Raise to boil, then simmer one minute.

Remove from heat and add:

1-2 slices lemon peel (taken off with peeler, pith removed w/ knife)

1-1/2” vanilla bean, split lengthwise

 

Pour into heat-proof dish (Pyrex measuring cup is good)

Let cool to room temp. Scrape vanilla bean with knife to put seeds into liquid; put all back in, probably removing lemon peel then or later.

Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

 

Sources:

Baranbaum, Pie and Pastry Bible, p 260

Turnips!

Okay, kids, boil away!  “No way!” I hear hordes shouting.  Yes, indeed, I’m here to tell you that those staple roots available at very reasonable prices at farmers markets in early summer and fall to winter are actually an enjoyable vegetable to eat at dinner.  They’re a low carb alternative to potatoes on your dinner plate.  And if you cook them promptly the greens are delicious with ’em, so you get a double dose of veggies — roots and greens — for one effort. And everything is better with roasted garlic, which this has.

Here’s what you do, per the very excellent and wacky Power Vegetables by the Lucky Peach folks.  Boil them and toss them with a snazzy anchovy, caper vinaigrette and eat your low-carb veggies happily.  You boil the peeled, cut turnips for 15 minutes or less, throw in their greens at the end (or arugula or spinach, as I did), then toss with a Riviera/Italian wacky vinaigrette and … wow!  A great side to chicken or I’m told roast pork.

Ingredients:

5 garlic cloves, unpeeled

3 anchovy filets

1 t capers, rinsed and chopped

2 T chopped parsley

1/2 T red wine vinegar

1 T olive oil

4 turnips, peeled and cut into large bite-size pieces

Turnip greens, arugula or spinach (all optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees (or can go to 350 if need be)
  2. Put garlic cloves on pan and bake for 30 minutes until soft.  Peel when cool enough to handle.  Mash if you want.
  3. Put up large pot of water to boil.
  4. Make (low-volume liquid) vinaigrette: Put anchovies, capers, parsley, oil, vinegar & S&P in a jar and shake.  Add garlic if cool, or else just hold on side to add with turnips later.
  5. When water boils and you’re ready to eat in 15 minutes, salt water and add turnips and boil for 15 minutes or until no resistance when poked with a knife, but before turning mushy.  Add greens at end and drain, returning all to pot.  Add dressing and garlic and stir well. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

Winter salad — Watercress, pears and blue cheese

A delicious, elegant dinner party first course.  I served for Thanksgiving.  Pears are in season; watercress is a welcome bright green as Winter is setting in in the Northeast US.

Ingredients:

Watercress

Mesclun

Pears – D’Anjou

Blue cheese

Walnuts – roasted and cooled (375 degree oven for 8 mins until fragrant)

Vinaigrette:

Shallots, minced; soaked in apple cider vinegar to cover

Lemon juice

Walnut oil

Olive oil

S&P

Shake in bottle; refrigerate up to a couple days. Remove before using to come to room temp.

Salad assembly:

Wash and dry lettuce and watercress; remove thick stems if needed

Cut pear in half and core with corer, or cut into quarters and slice to remove core.

Cut quarters into quarters  or thirds lengthwise to make moderate-size wedges.

Toss greens with vinaigrette. Place on individual plates. Lay pears in pretty way grouped together on side of plate. Sprinkle walnuts and blue cheese on top. Drizzle more dressing on pears, etc.