Thursday, July 26, 2012

Week 6: Zucchini and Ricotta Galette

Oh, Zucchini and Ricotta Galette, if only I had known ... known how wonderful you would be, I wouldn't have waited so long to make you.

You enticed me with your flaky, buttery crust and farm-fresh zucchini. I swooned over the delectable ricotta-mozzarella-Parm combination and that finishing touch of garlicky olive oil. So many flavors coalescing into a whole that somehow surpassed the sum of your individual parts.

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette, you were delicious and quickly gone, but you won't soon be forgotten.

Friends, I wish I could claim this recipe as my own, but I didn't even adapt it. So I'm sending you off to the Smitten Kitchen site, where the recipe originates. My galette wasn't as pretty as the one over there (for one thing, I forgot to overlap my zucchini slices) but it tasted wonderful anyway -- like a garlicky "white pizza" in a pastry/croissant dough. If you get your hands on some fresh, smallish zucchini, I highly recommend making this.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Week 5: Dressed Carrots and White Beans; No-Fuss Potato Salad

There's a certain irony in writing a food blog in the summer. The produce is great, but do you really want to turn on the oven when it's roasting outside? This week, in the interest of energy conservation (mine at least), I've been sticking mostly to salads and stovetop-prepared foods that let me get in and out of the kitchen (and blog) quickly. Here are two to try when you need something quick, easy, and good for a cookout or barbecue.

 Dressed Carrots and White Beans
(Adapted from 101 Cookbooks. Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish.)

1 Tbsp regular olive oil, plus a little extra for sauteing
1.5 cups slender carrots, sliced thinly on the diagonal (about 3 to 4 carrots)
1 15-ounce can small white beans, rinsed and well-drained
2 Tbsp finely chopped dill leaves
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Dash salt
About 1/4 cup thinly sliced white onion (mild or sweet variety)

Heat a bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and cook about 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, or until they begin to soften and brown. Add the beans and dill and cook about 3 minutes longer, or until the beans are heated through. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the brown sugar, and stir gently; the sugar will dissolve. Whisk together the tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Pour over the carrot-bean mixture. Stir in the onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

No-Fuss Potato Salad
(A personal recipe, but inspired by several sources. Serves 4 to 6.)

2 lbs new potatoes, scrubbed clean but not peeled
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tbsp white granulated sugar
1/2 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
1/4 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 scallions, sliced

Boil the potatoes in a saucepan of salted water, 20 to 25 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and cool the potatoes, remove peels if desired, then cut the potatoes into cubes. Place the potatoes into a large bowl.

Mix together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. Pour over the potatoes. Add the diced celery and onions and stir gently to combine. Chill in the refrigerator. Before serving, garnish the potato salad with the sliced scallions and paprika.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Week 4: Cheddar and Dill Scones

Treadmills are boring, boring, BORING. I can't read when I'm walking or jogging on one, so the only thing that improves the experience for me is snagging one of those funky machines at the Y that comes with its own little television set. Naturally, I tune into the Food Network. There's hardly a better incentive for working out hard than spending half an hour watching Paula Deen.

I tread into more dangerous territory, so to speak, if I catch one of Ina Garten's shows instead. She makes her share of rich treats, too, but I don't find her exasperating like so many of the other Food Network celebrities. Maybe it's her calm manner, her style of entertaining, or her Hampton digs. If I spend a half-hour with Ina, I don't want to work out, I want to go home and cook. And I want to cook something buttery and worthy of the calories.

If you are in the mood for a savory treat, and you have a good-sized bunch of dill (as I did this week), Garten's scones are worth a try. I considered lightening them up a bit -- they contain a copious amount of butter -- but I was seduced by the recipe and kept it as written. I guess that means I'm heading into the Y for another workout session soon.

Cheddar and Dill Scones
(Adapted from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Makes 8 large scones.)

2 cups plus 1/2 Tbsp flour, divided use
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 Tbsp cold butter, diced
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
4 ounces finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh dill (leaves only)
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk, for egg wash

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Have on hand a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Combine the 2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine. Sprinkle the butter on top and pulse until the mixture forms pea-sized pieces. Mix the eggs and heavy cream together and add to the flour-butter mixture, and pulse just to combine. Mix the cheese, dill, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon of flour. Add the cheese mixture to the dough and pulse until it is almost incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 1 minute, until the cheese and dill are well distributed. Roll the dough into an 8-inch square, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into 4-inch squares, then cut each square in half diagonally to form 8 triangles. Brush the tops with the egg wash.

Move the scones to the baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is lightly browned and crusty. Serve warm.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Week 3, Part 2: Orange, Radish, and Mint Salad; Couscous With Mint and Peas

Sense a theme here? I can't say for sure if the minty foods we've been eating this week have made us feel any cooler, but it's been worth the shot.

Both of these recipes are a little more accessible than the spiced potatoes described in my previous post. They use only common ingredients and don't require any oven time.

Orange, Raddish, and Mint Salad
(Adapted from Ellie Krieger. The combination sounds odd, but the salad is a little sweet, a little peppery, and very refreshing. )

4 navel oranges, sectioned or supremed (see note)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
6 large radishes, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste

Combine the orange segments, onion, radish slices, and mint in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or let the flavors blend an hour or two in the refrigerator.

Note: To "supreme" an orange: Using a small knife, cut the top and bottom off the orange, stand it on one end, and cut away the peel and pith, following the curve of the fruit. Cut along each segment of the orange and remove the fruit from its membrane. You can leave the orange pieces whole, or cut in half. Add any juices that accumulate on your cutting board into the salad.

Couscous With Mint and Peas
(From many sources)
2.5 cups water
1 cup fresh shelled peas
1 10-ounce box plain couscous (about 1.5 cups), uncooked
3 sprigs mint, leaves only
Juice from 1/2 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the peas and cook gently 2 minutes. Add the couscous, cover the saucepan, and remove from heat.

Let stand 5 to 10 minutes, until the couscous absorbs the water. Fluff the couscous mixture with a fork, then stir in the mint and lemon juice. Season to taste.

Week 3, Part 1: Spiced Potatoes and Cilantro-Mint Dressing

My daughters are 12 and 14 this summer, and you would think that after 12 years or 14 years of feeding my kids that I would know what they would like to eat. You would think that, but, like me, you would be wrong. Two non-adventurous eaters going for spiced potatoes (and in particular, Indian-food-style spiced potatoes)? Who would have guessed? I'm documenting this surprising event in my blog so I can remember it the next time they are being fickle and contrary over whatever I'm serving. Which will probably be at dinnertime tonight.

The potatoes have an addictive quality to them, and a bit of kick from cayenne pepper. The cilantro-mint dressing somewhat tames them, but has a kick of its own, from jalapeno pepper. I'm finding that all herby, green dressings are somewhat similar -- this one isn't far from chimichurri or cilantro-basil sauce -- but I accomplished my primary goal of the week, which was to use up a bunch of cilantro and work down some mint. If you don't have the herbs on hand, the potatoes are fine without the dressing.

Spiced Potatoes and Cilantro-Mint Dressing
(Adapted from Deborah Geering's recipes for Atlanta Magazine. In addition to vegetables, the cilantro-mint dressing would complement grilled meat or fish.)

For the dressing:
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only (about 2 cups)
2 to 3 sprigs mint, leaves only
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp canola oil, or another flavorless vegetable oil
2 Tbsp water
Juice from 1/2 lime (about 2 Tbsp)

Place the jalapeno, cilantro, mint, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the oil, water, and lime juice and process until smooth, scraping sides if necessary. Makes about 1/2 cup.

For the potatoes:
3 baking potatoes (such as russets), cut into 1-inch cubes
2 to 3 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp cumin seed
1.5 tsp garam masala (see note below)
1.5 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

Place the potatoes in a large pot (I used my 5-quart Dutch oven) and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook the potatoes until they can be pierced with a fork, about 5 minutes. Drain. (Parboiling the potatoes cuts down on the subsequent roasting time. You can skip this step, and roast the potatoes for longer.)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Pour the oil onto a large rimmed baking sheet (e.g. 10-by-17 inches). Add the potatoes and toss to coat with oil. Mix the spices together and sprinkle them over the potatoes; toss again to coat. Arrange the potatoes so they are in a single layer, and roast until browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes if you parboiled them.

Note: Garam masala is a spice mix available at many grocery stores. One way to make your own is to mix: 

1/4 tsp (or 1 part) ground clove
1/4 tsp (1 part) ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp (1 part) ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp (2 parts) ground cardamon
1/2 tsp (2 parts) ground black pepper
1 tsp (4 parts) ground cumin
1-1/4 tsp (5 parts) ground coriander