Friday, August 19, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini Rounds

I guess it wouldn't officially be summer without serving something stuffed right? Okay, I have a serious love/hate relationship with zucchini--I'll be the first to admit it. I just love it's lovely yellow blossoms. I hate that one plant yields so much fruit all at once-I probably serve it three times weekly around here. I love the tender nutty flavor of a four inch zucchini and how lovely it presents in many dishes with it's vibrant green color.. it's truly delicious.

Some call this vegetable boring, but truth be known zucchini is one of the many squash plants we grow, and in moderation, I seldom tire of it. This year I wanted to add to my squash patch, so we tried growing round Tondo zucchini. They are really so sweet looking in the garden, the yield so far has been great and now I have a new dish to squash to stuff! You really don't need to use solely the Tondo or round zucchini for this recipe, the typical Italian long squash, delicata squash, Leabanese cousa or pattypan squash will do equally as well.

Come on, fess up-- you know you have a gazillion of these heading into torpedodom(is this really a word?) in your garden right now. With a few simple ingredients along with a few helping hands to assist you in harvesting you can have a really satisfying squash dish to serve your family in no time. What I like the most about stuffed vegetable is that they can be served as a side dish to meat or fish or as part of an antipasto. The fillings are limitless and can be a simple breadcrumbs with herbs, or a meat filling for a more substantial meal. Use your imagination!

P.S. I'm sure you already know this, but if you should come across some of those overgrown torpedoes in your garden, haul them into the kitchen, grate them all up, allow them to drain and toss them into zip lock bags and freeze for cooler weather recipes.

Stuffed Round Zucchini

4 round Tondo or long zucchini
2 TBLS olive oil
1 onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 slices pancetta, diced
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 TBLS pine nuts
4 TBLS panko bread crumbs
2 TBLS fresh basil leaves, torn
2 oz freshly grated romano cheese
1/4 cup grated fontina cheese
2 TBLS olive oil
2 TBLS freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and ground pepper to taste

Cut off the top of the round zucchini or cut a slice lengthwise from the long zucchini. Scoop out the flesh, making sure that you don't cut through the skin, leaving a shell 1/4 inch thick. Chop the vegetable flesh and put aside in a bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes until golden. Add the chopped vegetables flesh and basil and cook for 3-4 minutes until the flesh is cooked and the liquid has evaporated.

Add the tomatoes, pine nuts, panko crumbs, cheese to the vegetable mixture and season to taste with sea salt and ground pepper. Now spoon the mixture into the prepared zucchini shells and drizzle with the olive oil and place the stuffed squash into an oven proof casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender. Remove the foil top, and sprinkle over the parmesan cheese and bake uncovered 10 minutes longer,until the cheese is lightly browned. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Best Ever Peanut Butter Cookies

When I was a youngster, we had a neighbor on our street that just loved to bake, and the best part about her baking was that she generously shared whatever came out of her oven with all the neighborhood children. On a very warm August morning I can recall the aroma drifting through her kitchen windows out onto the street where we played.
Oh my goodness, 'Mrs. Nelson's baking peanut butter cookies' we all howled. And we all knew it was only a matter of time before we got the call and she shared them with us with the iciest cold glass of milk I can recall drinking.

This was back in the days of fresh milk delivery. Do you recall those days? The milkman would deliver our milk and cream in glass bottles to our doorsteps. Well I remember them well, and every time I bake 'Florence's cookies' I think back on those days gone by with the fondest of memories. Just before she passed away I had asked her to share her cookie recipe with me, so that hopefully one day I could make them for my own children. And that I did.. always during the summer warmer months--mostly on days like today. Our children are up here on holiday, and what better cookie to make for them and share with you than Florence's Peanut Butter Cookies.

Rich smooth peanut butter is the base of this yummy cookie. Slightly crisp on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside,with a nice peanut butter flavor. This one is a real winner!

Mrs. Nelson's Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup softened room temperature butter
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, lighty sprayed or silpat. Bake these cookies on the middle shelf of your oven, and watch carefully. Bake cookies only 8-10 minutes.

Whisk together the flour and baking soda. With your mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for a minute or two, until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter and sugars and beat for another 3-4 minutes. Slowly add the beaten egg, and flavoring.. beating for another minute.

On low speed add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl, just until everything is moistened. Your dough will be soft and pliable. Pour the sugar into a small bowl. With a tablespoon, scoop out enough dough to form a two inch ball, and roll each formed ball into the sugar bowl, then place onto the cookie sheets. Dip the tines of a fork into the sugar and make a couple of crisscross impressions to each cookie top. This recipe yields approximately 36 cookies. Once they are all on cookie sheets, any remaining sugar in the bowl can be sprinkled over each.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets mid bake time. The cookies will be lightly colored, still a bit soft in the centers and just beginning to brown around the edges. Transfer to wire racks to cool and pour yourself a big cold glass of milk. Enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Baked Shrimp

It's time for some seafood wouldn't you say? I'm setting all the tomatoes,pickles and squash aside, as the sky has opened up and it's just pouring out there, so not much gardening for me today.

This is a dish that I make often around here..not even a real recipe and so easy to prepare. Simply shrimp and potatoes, baked together with garlic,fresh herbs, butter and olive oil whats not to love? A perfect side dish, appetizer or even a light meal. Dip your shrimp into all those flavored juices with some crusty bread and serve with a nice tossed salad. And speaking of crusty breads, I'm taking a day long workshop this week to learn how to make natural Levain bread and I just can't wait! But that's a post for another day. Let's make some yummy shrimp.

Baked Shrimp

2 dozen medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 medium potatoes
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 TBLS butter
2 TBLS olive oil
panko breadcrumbs
2 TBLS fresh parsley, summer savory, with a pinch of thyme, minced
zest of 1 lemon & reserve the lemon for serving
sea salt and ground pepper

Wash and boil potatoes just until a knife comes out easily.
Drain and then cool. Peel the potatoes and slice thin. Peel shrimp, devein and rinse them off, patting dry with paper toweling. Lightly oil a baking casserole, and arrange shrimp and potatoes, overlapping each as you place in your baker. In a small skillet saute butter, olive oil, garlic,lemon zest, herbs, salt and pepper for just a minute or two. Pour this over the shrimp and potatoes. Add 1 TBLS of water, and don't forget to sprinkle panko crumbs on top, as I did ;-) Well heck, I just saved my crumbs for another meal. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes,lightly foil covered. Then, uncover, turn up the oven to broil for 2 more minutes. Squeeze the juice of your peeled lemon over all and serve. Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Goodness from the garden

Do you recall my post back in the Spring for some new vegetable and herb seeds I ordered from a new supplier? Well I have to say I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome of that purchase. Everything I planted has come up beautifully, especially the genovese basil. And though I use a lot of fresh basil in my meals around here.. this week I'm having a difficult time using it up before it goes to flower--so a quick pesto was in order for lunch this week.

I had been roasting tomatoes all morning and thought, why not? Crusty artisan bread from my friend Robin, covered in fresh walnut pesto and topped off with still warm roasted tomatoes with their scrumptious herbal garlicky juice. Lunch was splendid!

Basil Pesto with walnuts

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup walnuts, or toasted pine nuts if you prefer
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 TBLS extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBLS water
1 large clove garlic, quartered
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place basil, walnuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, oil, water, garlic, and pepper in a food processor. I omit any salt in this recipe, as the cheese is salty enough for me. Pulse just a few times, then process until fairly smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally. I'll bet you can't resist dipping your finger in for a sample of this goodness. ;-) Fresh basil is so prolific this time of year and pesto is so simple pesto is to prepare. Try some--you'll love it. Enjoy!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes

Mark Bittman wrote---"A fresh tomato is a beautiful thing — which is all the more reason to slice it, mash it, crush it, or stuff it" in an article this weekend in the NY Times "The Proper Ways to Treat an Heirloom". Mr. Bittman will get no argument from me. We've waited for weeks to pluck those first warm luscious beauties from the garden, knowing full well those firsts would never make it to the kitchen. I can't think of any other summer vegetable I feel this way about.

But as of yesterday my kitchen counter was nearly covered with an assortment of fresh tomatoes.. romas, brandywines, beefsteaks, 4th of July's (that obviously were a might late producing), early girls and then there are the cherries.. yellows, orange and reds. The grapes, well they too just never seem to make it indoors... some gardeners do work up an appetite with all this weeding you know!

So I have all these lovely tomatoes on hand. I haven't even begun the roasting process, nor the canning yet. Well after reading a post here a few weeks ago, I've been waiting patiently for my romas to ripen to give this recipe a whirl, and as we had some friends over this weekend--here was the perfect opportunity. I didn't want to be in the kitchen long during this visit, so I did the prep work earlier in the morn--so all I needed to do when the time came was pop these tomatoes into the oven and just wait. Clearly they were a big hit here and clearly I will be making these again. So if you have an abundance of tomatoes as we do, definitely give this recipe a won't be disappointed. I chose to use my romas.. as this is what I had the most of on hand, and I preferred this appetizer sized fruit as well. I omitted the eggplant and subbed in zucchini and used half the ricotta cheese--subbing in goat cheese and shredded fontina.

Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes
Adapted from The Italian Dish Blog & "The Italian Farmer's Table"

6 roma tomatoes
1-1/2 TBLS olive oil
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup herbed goat cheese
1/4 cup grated fontina cheese
1 large egg
1/3 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 TBLS chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 TBLS minced fresh oregano
1 TBLS minced fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and flesh, reserving 1/4 cup for the filling. Salt the insides of the tomatoes and turn them over to drain excess water.

Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to a medium size skillet and add the red onion and cook over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the yellow pepper and the zucchini and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the reserved tomato flesh with a bit of the juices and saute for another 5 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Place the ricotta, goat cheese, eggs, 1/4 cup panko crumbs, the grated pecorino cheese, 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, herbs and vegetable mixture in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Puree ingredients until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stuff tomatoes with the filling, using a spoon and place stuffing side up on an oiled baking dish. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining 1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano and the remaining panko crumbs and drizzle with the remaining 1 TBLS olive oil.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender and the filling is golden brown. Can be served immediately or at room temperature. The stuffed tomatoes can be made a day in advance and gently reheated. Enjoy!