Friday, June 29, 2012

Hooray! It's Squash Season

Yes, I really am jumping for joy! I just love this time of year and picking the first of what appears to be a long squash season. In the garden this year, we have summer squash, cousa squash,pattypans, zucchini straights and rounds again and then for Autumn winter squash, hubbard delicata and acorn..but that's a long way off, thank goodness. You can find many squash dishes here, on our recipe page.

Last night I harvested the first of our summer squash and zucchini. Gave them all a bath and sliced them up. Into a saute pan they went along with some shallots, onions, fresh chard and one lone red pepper itching to be used up in the frig, along with a drizzle of olive oil--a sprinkling of fresh thyme, savory and lemon verbena large dollop of Casco Bay's Herb & Garlic Butter. And for good measure I tossed in 4 TBLS of homemade limoncello at the end of the cook. I was a happy camper :) The chops were grilling up nicely--the rice pilaf nearly done. A just picked fresh garden salad on the side and dinner was done. Don't you just love summer?

The owners of Casco Bay Butter Co are new vendors at my Kennebunk Farmers Market this year, and bring to the table a fabulous selection, as well as abundant samples of all natural artisan butters made from cream sourced right here in Maine. A couple of weeks ago I tried the Maple butter.. gosh it was scrumptious over pancakes and this week the owners gifted us with their garlic & herb butter. Just wonderful!

The end result-- First of the season limoncello squash! You just know it won't be the last of the squash posts :)Have a great grilling weekend. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Strawberry Bounty

I looked over the table at Chase Farm filled with pints of gorgeous berries and just took in the aroma. The delicate perfume just made me pause. Without even realizing it, I bent over the fruits and said, "Hello!" I think I was overcome with sensory pleasure.

The woman next to me smiled and leaned in to me.."Sometimes I want to say 'hello' too. They're just so beautiful. Feeling both silly and sweet, I realized that I had connected with another culinary kindred spirit.

With our recent mix of sun and rain, fresh pick strawberries are at their peak this week, so with baskets in tow off to the strawberry fields I went to begin my picking week. After three trips so far, I have nearly 40 pounds of this much loved Spring bounty presently in my new freezer and I'm loving it! U-pick farms are overflowing locally with berries, so be sure to get out their and pick some for yourself! Or surely any farmers market nearby will be offering-- in addition to gazillions of garlic scapes this week, trays of fresh picked strawberries.

Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy them or check out our recipe page for more ideas:

1) The CLASSIC: Cut up a pint of freshly washed fruit and toss with 1/8 cup of granulated sugar and the juice of one lemon. Stir to combine, cover with wrap and chill for two hours. Serve over vanilla bean ice cream.

2) The ITALIAN Kiss: Hull a pint of strawberries and toss with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar. Bake for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven until the fruits are soft, but not mushy. Serve as a compote with fresh whipped cream, over ice cream or as a fabulous glaze for grilled meats.

3) The SALAD Maker: Slice berries over your next green salad and serve with a mustardy vinaigrette made from 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 TBLS dijon mustard and 3/4 cup maple syrup. The berries mix beautifully with a peppery blend of greens like arugula, mizuna and spring mix.

4) No strawberry season would be official without making strawberry rhubarb pie around our house.

5) Nor the absence of at least one strawberry trifle, tiramisu or parfaits.

6) And surely at least two quarts of Strawberry Ice Cream is usually in order. :)

7) More Vintage Garden Jellies of course need to be made.. this week it was Strawberry Balsamic Fig with a hint of fresh basil being stirred in my pots.

8) And finally the CHOCOLATE Dipped Strawberry: Melt white or dark chocolate in 30 second intervals in your microwave until smooth. Dip in the fresh picked fruit and set it on waxed paper to firm and harden. Eat as-is or set atop your favorite cake to make an elegant decoration.

It's a gorgeous Sunday out there--grab your baskets and go pick some strawberries!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Florentine Lasagne

Spinach growing in the garden is a welcome sign of Spring and with our mild winter it was one of the first of my spring seeds that went into the garden but this week I harvested what was left of a super growing season, and I'll be planting more being grown as a fall crop too.

So with my crazy season this time of year and a few rainy days I made spinach lasagne for a change. Farmers markets and gardening are keeping me hopping so I'm not spending much time in the kitchen these days, so when I do, I try to prepare time saving meals. I've always wanted to try oven ready lasagne noodles and I have to admit, they were very good and for time-pressed cooks just pretty darn good. By no means will they replace a thick tray of oven baked traditional lasagne, but a great time saver. Be sure the final layer of marinara sauce covers the edges of the noodles to prevent them from getting hard.

Lasagne Florentine

1 1/2 lbs fresh spinach, rinsed well & roughly cut
2 TBLS olive oil
16 oz ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
1 egg
6 TBLS Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp each of: dried basil and oregano
ground black pepper
3 cups marina's so much better or use your favorite brand
9 no-boil lasagne noodles

In a medium skillet,add olive oil and saute garlic until just lightly brown. Add the rinsed fresh spinach, tossing until just wilted. Drain any excess liquid from the cooked spinach and set aside.

In a large bowl combine ricotta, 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella, egg, 4 TBLS parmesan, the herbs and ground pepper. Stir in the cooked spinach.

In the bottom of a 9x9 square baking dish spread a ladle of marinara sauce. Top with three lasagne noodles, half the ricotta/spinach mixture--then 1/2 cup or so of marinara sauce. Top with three more noodles, repeating the layering finishing off with your top of lasagne noodles. Generously spread the remaining marinara sauce over the noodles spreading to the edge of your casserole. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high until bubbly and the noodles are tender--about 4 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing, and then serve. Enjoy!