Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sauteed Zucchini

It's that time of year, summer vegetables are upon us and the season is just starting to peak - corn, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, basil. Not the least of this is zucchini which is busting out in our garden now. As fantastic as fresh-from-the-garden zucchini is, it can take a bit of creativity to come up with recipes to use it all.
This is a simple preparation that is delicious, easy, and healthy, perfect for a weeknight vegetarian dish.

Sliced onion

Sliced zucchini

Sauteeing the garlic

Fresh herbs from the garden

Zucchini in the pan

Getting the color

Chopped herbs with the lemon zest

Finishing up

2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced very thinly into half-moons
3-4 zucchinis, sliced into rings
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs - i.e. oregano, basil, thyme
Fresh-cracked black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat then add the garlic to color a bit. Add the sliced onion and cook until soft and translucent. Raising the heat, add the zucchini slices and allow to cook until quite soft and well colored, about 10 minutes or so. Just before it's done, sprinkle the lemon zest on it, add the herbs, salt, and stir throughly to combine before removing from the heat.

Easy, huh?

We served it here with leftovers from a pasta dish earlier in the week.

Curried Quinoa with Peas and Cashews

Another Deborah Madison delight, we settled on this dish for a one-meal vegetarian dinner. A little involved but well worth the effort as you get proteins from the nuts and quinoa. If you use the oil rather than the butter, this dish is also vegan.

Two batches of the cut onion

Red quinoa soaked, rinsed, and drained

Carrot juice

Onions heating up

Pan with the quinoa added and cooking

Fresh zucchini from the garden

Toasted cashews

Cubed zucchini

Quinoa with the liquid added

And now with the cubed zucchini

Just about done

2 tablespoons canola oil or butter
1 onion split between 1/4 finely minced and 3/4 coarsely chopped
1 cup quinoa, throughly rinsed, soaked, and drained
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 cups boiling water
Fresh-cracked black pepper
2 zucchini, diced into small cubes
1 cup carrot juice
1 cup peas - frozen or fresh
1/4 cup minced green onions
1/2 cup cashews, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

I used a combination of oil and butter to cook the quinoa and only oil for the skillet with the vegetables. I used an old vegetable juicer to process the carrot juice but you can purchase it already prepared. It adds some to the flavor as well as the overall color of the dish.

Prepare the boiling water before you begin so that it is ready for when you need it.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil/butter in a small soup pot over a medium flame, add the finely minced portion of the onion, and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Stir in the drained quinoa with 1/2 teaspoon of the curry powder and a pinch of salt - cook for a couple of minutes. This will toast the quinoa a bit as it picks up the flavor of the spice. Add the boiling water mixing in the quinoa then lower the heat. Cover and allow to cook at a simmer for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile over a medium heat in a small (10-inch) skillet, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil/butter. Once hot, add the coarsely chopped portion of the onion, the zucchini cubes, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder stirring to combine everything well. Cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, or until everything has softened considerably but before it has a chance to color. Add 1/2 cup of water with the carrot juice and a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes then add the peas and minced green onions and allow to cook for a few more minutes while the flavors coalesce. Move the vegetables along with the chopped cashews into the pot with the quinoa, tasting for salt and adding some pepper. Serve in soup plates with a garnish of the chopped cilantro.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sausage with Onions and Peppers

This is a great recipe for a weeknight meal or as a meal to prepare over the weekend to use as a leftover during the week as the flavor only intensifies over a few days time and a reheating. It's based on a simple dish I found from Food Network (Giada De Laurentiis) online which I tweaked to my own taste.

Sausages a-splatterin'

Herbs from the garden, veggies from the farmer's market

Strips and slices

Cooked sausages

Garlic cloves - from the Spanish Rojas I harvested last month

Chopped herbs

The sauce, she's a-done!

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 sweet Italian sausages
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch rings
2 red bell peppers, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
4 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
leaves from 1 branch fresh oregano, chopped
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup sweet marsala wine
16 oz canned whole tomatoes (e.g. Muir Glen)
fresh-cracked pepper

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Once hot, add the sausage and brown on each side, about 20 minutes then remove to set aside. For me, this splattered quite a bit so it might be good to either use a splatter screen or partially cover the skillet while the sausage cooks.
With the oil from the sausages still in the pan, add the onion slices and pepper strips to cook over medium heat. Move the vegetables around while they cook so that they do not burn but so that they do color well and get quite soft. Once they have softened considerably, add the chopped herbs to heat for a minute then add the tomato paste, mixing with the herbs and vegetables.
Pour in the wine, then add the tomatoes to the pan and stir everything to combine thoroughly. Slice the sausages into 2 inch lengths and add into the pan submerging them into the sauce. Bring to a strong simmer then cover to cook for about 20-30 minutes, or as long as you time for.

We served this with some sliced crusty Italian bread but it would go great with some cooked pasta as well.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Minced Lamb with Mint (pudine wala kheema)

Delicious weeknight meal (if you have a little time anyway) based on a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, with protein and lots of flavor, perfect with some naan, chutney, pulses, and rice. I haven't perfected naan at all, relying on purchasing it at the farmer's market from an Indian vendor, I get my chutneys from an Indian market, but I do make the pulses and rice. I'll get around to chutneys and, hopefully, a reasonably decent naan some day. The spices, heat, and well-carmelized vegetables are what really have drawn me to Indian food recently but it will take years to really get good at making it. It sure is fun trying to, though.

Copped onion with the cardamom and cloves

Spice mixture added in

Cooking the ground lamb

Meat getting well cooked

chopped mint

just about done

1 medium onion
8 cloves garlic, peeled
chunk of fresh ginger, chopped
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons peanut oil (or other vegetable oil)
4 green cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1 1/2 pound ground lamb
kosher salt
large bunch fresh mint leaves finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
juice of 1 lemon

Peel the onion and halve it vertically. Mince one half of the onion and set aside. Chop the other coarsely and add to a blender with the peeled garlic, chopped ginger, and water. Blend to a smooth paste and empty into a small bowl.
Combine the cumin, coriander, tumeric, and cayenne into a mortar or spice grinder to grind and combine. Add to the ginger-garlic paste and mix thoroughly.
Set a small skillet over high heat and add the oil. When hot, add the cardamom pods and whole cloves to heat for a few seconds. Add the remaining minced onion, stirring and frying until a good brown color. Lower the heat to medium and add the spice mixture, stirring and frying for a few minutes to consolidate. Don't hesitate to add a little water as needed to keep the mixture from drying or sticking to the skillet surface.
Add the ground lamb, breaking it up and mixing it into the contents of the skillet until it loses its pink color. Add a pinch of salt then cover the skillet turning the heat to very low and let it sit for about 25 minutes.
Remove the cover from the skillet, add the chopped mint, garam masala, and lemon juice. Cover again and allow to cook for a few more minutes before removing from the heat to serve.
This dish is a great candidate for a nice chutney and/or mango pickle, if you like it hot.

Homemade Garam Masala

As I'm currently knee-deep in an Indian cooking phase, I decided it was time to make my own garam masala as the old remnants of the bag I purchased years ago have gotten a bit stale to say the least. I got this recipe from an old book years ago so not sure to whom it should be accredited. Suffice to say there are as many recipes for this as there are Indian chefs so not sure how patented this one is anyway. This one's really good though I'd recommend setting aside a little time to do it as there are a few time-consuming steps involved, though definitely worth the trouble as you'll probably only need to make it every several months or so at the most. I highly recommend that you only use whole herbs here rather than the pre-ground in bottles as it's key in getting the good flavor and aroma.

Drying the herbs in the oven

cardamom pod shells

separating the cardamom seeds from the pod shells

From the oven

combined herbs prior to grinding

garam masala in the jar

2 pieces cinnamon sticks (Asian, definitely not Mexican)
1/2 cup whole green cardamom pods
1/4 cup whole cloves
1/4 cup whole cumin seeds
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1/4 cup whole black peppercorns

Preheat the oven to 200F.
Line a baking pan with low sides with foil and spread the herbs in a single layer on it. Place the pan in the heated oven and allow to cook for 30 minutes, stirring them occasionally making sure to not let any of them burn or color at all.
Remove the pan and allow to cool for a few minutes. Move the cardamom pods from the pan into a bowl in order to seed them. This is a little time-consuming but once you get the hang of it, should go fairly quickly. Some of the pods can be broken by hand but some may require a little help from a kitchen mallet though go slowly as the seeds could explode out of the pod if you're not careful. Extract the seeds from each pod and put aside until you're done. Meanwhile discard the pod shells.
Wrap up the cinnamon sticks in a kitchen towel and whack the towel with the flat side of a kitchen mallet in order to break them up into small pieces.
Combine all of the herbs in a bowl and stir to combine well. Add in batches about a half cup at a time into a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Combine all of the finished ground herbs into a glass jar to store and use for several months.

Tip: We discovered a good way to clean a spice grinder is to grind some rice in it between uses. Works really well.

Zucchini Frittata

We're growing zucchinis again this summer and the harvest is coming in fast and furious. Time to pull out the zucchini frittata based on both a recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone book and one from Alton Brown. I'm updating the post I made a couple of years ago to add photos this time with better instructions. 

Part of the first harvest from the garden

Grating the zucchini in the food processor

Draining the zucchini in the colander

Grating the Parmigiano Reggiano




Cooked zucchini with the chopped bacon

Eggs, herbs, and cheese

Zucchini added in

Frittata in the pan

1 1/2 pounds zucchini
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 strip bacon
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 cup parmigiano reggiano grated plus another 2 tablespoons for topping
6 eggs
2-3 cloves garlic
bunch of fresh basil chopped
leaves from a branch of fresh Greek oregano chopped
Fresh-cracked black pepper

Clean the zucchini and grate them with a box grater or in a food processor. Put the grated zucchini into a colander placed inside a bowl and salt it thoroughly with the kosher salt in order to extract its liquid. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. Wash the zucchini thoroughly under running water and allow to drain again in the colander. Pat dry with paper towels and empty it into the middle of a dish towel. Tie up the corners of the towel to make a pouch of the zucchini and, over the sink, twist tightly to squeeze out the remaining liquid. Put the zucchini into a bowl and set aside.
In a 10" skillet cook the bacon over low heat to done. Take the bacon out, chop, and set aside. Put the bacon fat into the skillet and raise the heat to medium-high. Add in 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and, when it has melted, the drained zucchini and cook until well-browned. A few minutes before the zucchini is done add the chopped bacon and stir to combine.
Meanwhile pound the garlic in a mortar with the chopped herbs into a paste. Break the eggs into a bowl adding the herb paste and stir well to distribute the herbs evenly in the eggs. Add the pepper and cup of grated cheese. Once the zucchini is cooked, add it as well to the bowl with the herbs and eggs.
Heat up a broiler and place a rack into the next to top position. On the stove add another 2 tablespoons of bacon fat to the skillet, bring the heat to medium and pour the contents of the bowl in. Allow to cook for a minute for the eggs to set a bit then lower the heat. Once the eggs have set with just a little movement on the top, about 10-15 minutes, remove from the stove, spread the remaining grated cheese over the top, and put into the broiler to brown, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the broiler and once the eggs have sit for a few minutes, slice into 4 even quarters and serve.