Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Garden Ragu

Summer's here and like most cooks, I'm faced with the 'what will I do with all these excess garden veggies'? I'm not certain all the rains we have been seeing is helping things along just a mite.. but I can't recall ever having so much zucchini, squash and eggplant, at least not all at ONCE!

As I picked over each plant the other day, I was reminded of an old Italian neighbor, Mrs. Savero. She was kind of a throw back in time, sort of a young Sophia Loren, if you remember those days, and wore many familiar 'Sophia' dresses while gardening! She was quite the site and of course many of the local fishermen would be happy to visit and bring her the 'catch of the day'. In exchange she always offered up her best garden vegetables. My Dad was among these fishermen. I remember him coming in one night with this large toureen filled with this marvelous smelling concoction, given to him by Mrs. S. It was one of the best vegetable dishes I've ever eaten, and have made it every summer for over 30 years now. The only difference is, I usually wear a sports bra and running shorts when I'm in the garden, though always bare footed, seldom a low cut, off the shoulder dress!{wink} So, if you have abundant summer veggies growing in your gardens, try this delicous dish! Here's my version of Mrs Savero's Summer Ragu.

· Veggies from the garden:
1 Eggplant, 2 cups green beans, 2 yellow squash, 2
zucchini, 1 red pepper, 1green pepper, 8 Roma tomatoes, 2 small new potatoes.
Cut all vegetables bite sized & set aside. Cube eggplant and set in colander
and sprinkle with salt after each layer. Allow to set 20 minutes or so and
rinse well. Pat dry, squeezing out excess moisture.

· Saute in a large pan ½ cup extra virgin olive oil:
2 chopped onions, 5-6
garlic cloves, 1 cup mushrooms. When onions are nearly transluscent add ½
cup dry white wine, a good sprig of fresh thyme, and 5-6 torn basil leaves.

· Toss in all the vegetables now along with 2 TBLS marinara sauce or tomato
paste, Italian parsley, 2 tsp sugar, ground pepper and sea salt & the juice
of one lemon . Allow this to simmer for an hour or so until vegetables are
tender, but haven’t lost their shape.

Serve this ragu warm or room temperature, with lots of Pecorino cheese. You’ll be eating bowlfuls of this dish.. it’s that good! ;) Enjoy!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara is essentially spaghetti with eggs and bacon, it is very simple to make and delightful to eat. Sometimes I add a bit of cream to give it a more silky texture. Served overlooking a gorgeous Tuscan sunset even better!

While staying in Rhadda, overlooking the famous Volpaia valley, I added some fresh herbed goat cheese to this dish.

Glorious & abundant produce of the season, great wine, sensational countryside.. Tuscany will captivate it's many visitors every visit.

1 lb spaghetti
2 eggs
5 oz pancetta, (or bacon) diced small
2 garlic cloves, mashed & diced fine
3 TBLS grated Parmesan cheese
4-5 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp oregano
hot pepper flakes to taste
sea salt & ground pepper
goat cheese (opt)
fresh parsley
Bring water to a vigorous boil Add a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of salt to the water.
While you're waiting for the water to heat, pour olive oil in a frying pan and add the pancetta (bacon), diced into small pieces along with the garlic. Fry to the point of being well cooked, but not crunchy. About three to four minutes should do it. It should still be soft and pliable.
While you're waiting for the bacon to cook, beat the two eggs, in a medium bowl. Add oregano, hot pepper flakes, salt & pepper.
The beaten egg will cook with the heat of the pasta and fried pancetta.
Cook the spaghetti to al dente. A few minutes should do nicely. Drain the pasta and add it immediately into the beaten eggs and mix well. If you time it right, the heat from the pasta will cook the egg. Mix very well.
Toss again.. sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread & a nice Chianti. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Down to the Docks

I guess it's easy to see we are major seafood lovers here. With our abundant selection of fresh fish and shellfish, some days it's just hard to decide what to choose. Saturday I headed up to the Portland docks to one of my favorite fish markets.. Harbor Fish Market. This is always a fun visit for me, but deciding on what I want to bring home, another story. I seldom settle on just the 'daily specials'.

So I thought some of you other seafood lovers might like to see some of the many selections they offer and why it's so hard for me to make up my mind. ;) This market is just wonderful... a throwback in time, with such a varied assortment of seafood specialties and freshest of fish to choose from. With a wonderfully knowledgable and friendly staff, it's easy to see why they've been around for over thirty years.

A few fish selections..

Countless clams, mussels & oysters than you know what to do with..

Some things you really may not know what to do with LOL :-)

And I haven't even headed over to the perriwinkle, crab, shrimp or lobster tanks yet! LOL Perhaps now you understand my dilemma. But even if you aren't a seafood lover.. this market is one special place to visit if you are ever in our neck of the woods.

I settled on sockeye salmon filets, swordfish, fresh lump crabmeat and couldn't pass up the 'special' on haddock. So, last night we had Grilled Salmon & Beurre Blanc.. yum!

Grilled Salmon & Beurre Blanc

4-5 salmon filets
dark brown sugar
1 tsp dillweed
lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil

Beurre blanc sauce:

A traditional Beurre blanc sauce is made with no cream, a rich white butter sauce made with a reduction of vinegar or wine and some add a bit of heavy cream to stabilize it…though Chef Anthony Burdain would argue this point..he wrote in his novel "There is no, I repeat, no, cream in a real beurre blanc ... You see any mention of cream in there? No ... you put cream in there, it ain't a beurre blanc". But I still prefer adding a bit of cream to my sauce.

1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 lb unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
fresh thyme
juice of ½ lemon
sea salt & white pepper

· Rinse & pat dry salmon filets. Sprinkle with lemon juice & dillweed. Rub olive oil over salmon filets. Now dredge filets in a bowl of dark brown sugar. Set aside until ready to grill.

Beurre Blanc sauce:

· In a sautee pan add the wine – reduce to ½ on medium heat
· Add cream and reduce this also to ½ on medium heat
· Add a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar, fresh thyme, lemon juice, salt &
· Now lower the heat & add your chilled cut butter a few pieces at a time,
whisking with each addition until creamy and reduced by ½ once again.

Grill dredged salmon filets for approximately 8 minutes, each side ( depending on thickness of filets) over a medium heat. The sugar glaze heats rapidly, so keep your eye on the filets… don’t scorch. Once cooked, spoon Beurre blance sauce on and serve. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fingerlings & Strings

This week at the farmer's market I picked up some fresh string beans and fingerling potatoes with the intent of making a Greek bean dish we enjoy, but with our crazy schedules this week, decided instead to prepare a pretty simple side dish to serve with lemon poached haddock instead.
Versatile and time savers aren't the only reason we enjoy fingerling potatoes. They just so compliment many different dishes be it poultry, beef or fish. Baked, roasted, grilled, steamed, fried, sauteed, boiled or mashed, just try these gems and see why we love the superior flavor.

Fingerling potatoes & string beans

· 2 lb red or white fingerling potatoes
· 1 lb fresh string beans. Snipped ends and snapped in half
· 2 garlic cloves, diced
· 5 slices sweet prosciutto, sliced
· grated Romano cheese
· olive oil
· fresh thyme & parsley
· sea salt & ground pepper to taste

Peel fingerlings and prepare string beans. Boil or steam together until potatoes are just tender. Drain & set aside. Heat olive oil and lightly sautee garlic. Add prociutto slices. Toss the cooked fingerlings and string beans into your pan along with fresh thyme and parsley, sea salt & ground pepper. Gently toss once more. Grate Romano cheese over potatoes and serve warm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fresh Basil Pesto

Every year we plant basil and every year the plants do so well that we can't use it up fast enough. What to do with it all? Basil pesto, of course! Here is a simple recipe. Pesto is usually made to taste, based on the ingredients you have at hand. So simply adjust the ingredients to your own personal taste. Many pesto recipes call for Parmesan cheese, we often use Pecorino which has a stronger flavor. Most basil pesto recipes call for pine nuts but you can easily substitute walnuts. I oftentimes add some pistachio nuts as well.
I’m often asked which variety is my favorite of the basils, but that’s like asking which of my children is the favorite! :) I grow so many and we really enjoy them all.. but I’d have to say, for pesto. Genovese with it’s large leaf and fragrantly sweet essence is the one I’d always choose. I love to sautee some zucchini and red peppers and add the pesto and it’s always great. Try it on cold pasta with artichokes and chicken for a nice summer salad. Or simply spread on a good, crusty Italian bread.It’s so good as a dressing for those abundant fresh garden tomatoes you also haven’t any idea what you will do with. So go on and use up that basil in your garden and be sure to freeze a bit up if you can promise not to dive into it before winter! :)

2-3 cups fresh basil leaves, washed well
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Pecorino or parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 TBLS fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup pine nuts, pistacchio or walnuts
sea salt & white pepper to taste

· Mix everything together in food processor except the oil and lemon. Be sure to scrape down the sides. You'll want to get every bit of basil in your mix.
· Once everything is mixed well, slowly drizzle in lemon and olive oil.
· Mix again until blended, not pureed but rather, well combined and smooth.

This pesto recipe will make approximately 1 cup and may be store in refrigerator up to 5 days. Enjoy & happy gardening!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Claws for Celebration! Crabby Patties

Claws for celebration! In addition to the 4th of July, you might be wondering what I am celebrating and not really crabby at all. Though this very hot & muggy weather is beginning to make us all wilt. I had my new refrigerator delivered today. Room! Space! And.. a large cheese drawer! Watch out Whole Foods now! :)

Our daughter came to visit over the holiday weekend and after another fabulous day on the beach along with a 3 mile walk, at the end of the day we had worked up our appetites, but no one wanted a large hot meal.. so we decided on lobsters and crabby cakes. I had never made crab cakes before, but just love them! With a little bit of prodding and some guidance from my very own sous chef, (daughter) Shawna….(who makes them all the time) I’m proud to report that these patties of succulent Maine lump crabmeat and scallops were a big hit at our dinner table! I’m not sure if I had more fun assembling them all or sampling them as I cooked them all! LOL Well.. I should add, we cancelled our order for lobsters at the pound as we were so full from nibbling along the way. We settled on sautéed spinach, jicama salad and delicious, Crabby Patties.

Crabby Patties with Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade
· 3 eggs
· 2 tsp mayonnaise
· 4 TBLS seeded Dijon mustard
· 1/2 lemon, juiced
· lemon zest of two lemons, 1/8 cup
· 2 scallions, chopped
· ¼ cup parsley, minced
· 4 T cilantro, minced
· 1 ½ lb. jumbo lump crab meat, picked through for shells
· ½ lb fresh scallops, diced
· ½ TBLS tobasco sauce
· ½ sweet red bell pepper, diced small
· 2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
· Salt and white pepper to taste
· Olive oil & Unsalted butter
This will yield approximately 30 Crabby cakes- 2 ½ oz or the recipe may be easily reduced in half. Or you may serve these as little 1 oz hor d’oeuvres. I think I’ll try this the next time our gang gets together.

Preparing the Crabby Patties
Lightly beat eggs . Whisk in mayo, mustard, tobasco and lemon juice. Using a wooden spoon, stir in scallions, parsley,red peppers and cilantro. Add crab, scallops, Panko, and salt and pepper and gently fold with spoon, being careful not to break the crab into smaller pieces. Gather crab mixture into small palm-sized balls and gently pat into a small rounded patty. Place on wax-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat butter and olive oil in large skillet. Cook 4-6 crab cakes at a time, depending on the size of your pan. You want to have room between each cake for even cooking. Cook 4 minutes each side, then drain on paper towels.

Serve with roasted red pepper remoulade

Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade

1 jar roasted red peppers, drained
½ cup mayonnaise
2 TBLS lemon juice
¼ cup sweet relish
1 TBLS worchestershire sauce
1 TBLS Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves
Toss it all into your food processor along with a bit of tobasco, fresh chopped parsley, a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar, sea salt & ground pepper. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Eggplant Lasagna

There is something about fresh eggplant that is so appealing to me. I'm not sure if it's all the colorful varieties and various shapes that draws me in, but I seldom won't pick up a few whenever I shop. The deep shiny plum hooks me every time! It's just a gorgeous vegetable.

I picked up this weeks eggplant with the intention of making eggplant haystacks, but once I returned home from the market realized I had forgotten to pick up a few more necessary ingredients, so instead I decided on eggplant lasagna instead. An easy dish to prepare, fewer carbs, omitting traditional lasagna noodles and just plain delicious!

2 eggplants
seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg
olive oil
30 oz ricotta cheese
3 tsp pecorino cheese
1 egg
1 cup fresh spinach
sea salt, pepper
1 tsp fresh parsley
marinara sauce
Italian sausage, cooked & sliced (opt)
mozzarella shreds

Frying the eggplant:
· Slice eggplant and dredge in seasoned flour.
· Dip into egg wash made of egg and a little milk
· Now dredge into seasoned bread crumbs
· Fry the crumbed eggplant slices in good olive oil until golden brown.. then drain on paper towels

As you are frying the eggplant, warm up the marinara sauce & prepare the ricotta filling

Ricotta filling:
· 30 oz Ricotta cheese
· 3 tsp grated pecorino cheese
· 1 egg
· 1 cup fresh spinach, torn
· salt, pepper, fresh parsley

Mix all together until creamed well. * Save any leftover cheese mixture and add it into your morning omelet.

To Assemble:
Pour a ladleful of sauce to the bottom of baking dish. Place fried eggplant slices, slightly overlapping one another to cover bottom of your dish. Add a layer of ricotta mixture and sliced sausage if desired. Spoon a bit of sauce over all and repeat the steps. When your layers are completed, top with a bit more sauce and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over all.
Pop the dish into a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes uncovered. Allow it to set 10 minutes before serving. Serve with a nice garden salad. Enjoy!