Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Simply the Best Bruschetta I've Ever Had

This recipe comes from my local farmer's market. Each week the market provides recipes that feature something for sale and in season that week. Once I sampled the bruschetta, I was addicted. It's very easy to make, just a little time consuming with all of the chopping. I tend to like my chunks pretty small, so it may take less time if you prefer larger pieces of tomato, mozzarella, etc. One thing I have noticed, though, is that a lot of the flavor depends on the variety of garlic used. We get our garlic from the market, our CSA, or from Trader Joe's, and it tends to be good and flavorful. Last summer I bought some garlic at the super market at the shore and the bruschetta wasn't nearly as good. For this recipe both the marinated mozzarella and the jarred sun dried tomatoes come from Trader Joe's. I'm sure that you could just as easily use dry sun dried tomatoes, but I prefer to use these. For more recipes, and to view this original recipe, check out the Glenside Farmer's Market's web page.

J'adore: Sun dried Tomato Mozzarella Bruschetta

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, finely diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, thinly sliced and diced
1/2 container (approx. 8oz.) marinated mozzarella balls, finely diced

Chop and dice all ingredients accordingly. Combine all ingredients and add sea salt to taste. Serve on toasted French bread.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Zucchini Bread Variations

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If life gives you zucchini, make zucchini bread. I've heard stories about towns where people sneak zucchini into each others' mailboxes, leave them on car seats, and pretty much have all out zucchini warfare. A student of mine has told me (on more than one occasion) that he can no longer stomach zucchini after his mother planted it in the garden one summer. I laughed at all of these stories, because I love zucchini, and, honestly, how bad could one little plant be? I suppose I learned my lesson when one weekend I had little zucchini and the next I had green clubs.

Our old neighbor, Sarah, once made us some zucchini bread, and I loved it. Luckily she gave us the recipe before she moved. The more I talked about zucchini and zucchini bread, the more people kept telling me about the different recipes they had. Who knew there could be so many variations? The best thing about zucchini bread, aside from its delicious flavor, is that it freezes well. In the summer I like it plain, but in the winter I like it slightly toasted with a little cream cheese. In any case, here are a few of the recipes I've tried:

J'aime: Vermont Summer Muffins

This recipe is originally from one of the Moosewood cookbooks. Although they're called muffins, they're really more like muffin-shaped biscuits. Scott has been eating these right out of the fridge and prefers them to the sweeter zucchini breads. I like mine warmed up in the toaster oven with a little butter. Makes about 20 muffins.

3 cups unbleached white flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated zucchini
3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
2-3 Tbs. chopped scallions
1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill

2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Sift all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
3. Add cheese, zucchini, scallions, and herbs, and toss lightly to mix.
4. In another bowl, beat the eggs and then whisk in the buttermilk and melted butter.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl and stir enough to blend.
6. Spoon batter into buttered muffin tins, filling about 3/4 full.
7. Bake for 30-35 mins. or until golden.

J'adore: Laura's Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips and Pecans

This recipe came to me thanks to Facebook. An old friend from high school sent me her favorite recipe when she saw that I was making zucchini bread. The original recipe is from An Endless Harvest. Laura suggested adding chocolate chips to the batter. The recipe calls for pecans, but Scott is not a big fan of nuts in breads or cookies, so I made two mini loaves with plain batter and three with chocolate chips and pecan pieces. This has been my favorite recipe so far, and I like that you can sub apple sauce for the oil. Makes 5 mini loaves.

3 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil (or 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup apple sauce)
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 cups grated zucchini (with skin)

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1. Grease and flour 5 mini loaf pans or two regular sized loaf pans.
2. Sift all dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl.
3. In a smaller bowl beat eggs slightly. Add oil (or apple sauce and oil), vanilla, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Beat briefly.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir.
5. Add zucchini and stir to blend evenly.
6. Add pecans and chocolate chips, if desired.
7. Batter will be thick and should be spooned into loaf pans. Fill pans approx. 3/4 full.
8. Bake at 325°F for approx. 45 mins. to 1 hr. depending on the size of the loaf pans. Bread should be golden on the top, and a knife should come out clean when inserted into the bread.

Jodi's Lemon or Lime Cheesecake

Several years ago a co-worker's wife gave me this recipe. I wish I had a scanner at home, because the recipe is written out very beautifully and artistically (which makes perfect sense since Jodi is a very talented block print artist). I've been meaning to make this for a while, but I just never seem to have a reason to make an entire cheesecake. Now that I've finally gotten around to making it I'm not quite sure why I waited so long. It's a delicious, albeit a bit laborious, result.

Note: If you are looking for a low-calorie cheesecake, this is NOT it.

J'adore: Jodi's Lemon/Lime Cheesecake


2 sleeves cinnamon graham crackers
3/4 stick melted butter

3 8oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temp.
1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
1 Tbs. lemon or lime zest
2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups sour cream
3 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup water
1/3 cup lemon or lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 Tbs. corn starch
1/4 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. butter
2 tsp. lemon or lime zest

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. For the crust: blend graham crackers and butter together. Press mixture into the bottom of a spring form pan. Bake for five minutes.
3. For the filling: gradually blend sugar into cream cheese. Beat the eggs in one at a time. Mix in lemon/lime juice, zest, and vanilla. Pour mixture onto crust. Bake for approx. 40 minutes until lightly puffed and slightly brown. Remove from oven and let cool 10-15 minutes.
4. For the topping: mix all ingredients together. Pour/spread topping over cooled cake. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 1 hour.
5. For the glaze: in a small saucepan slowly heat all glaze ingredients except butter and zest, stirring constantly until thick (approx. 20 mins.) Once thick, remove from heat and mix in butter and zest. Allow to cool.
6. When both cake and glaze are cool, spread glaze over cake. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Vegetable Fajitas

I'm not sure if my mom came up with this recipe or if I did, but I think I've been making it for as long as I've been cooking. The measurements aren't too precise, but it's a wonderful summer recipe, especially with the bounty of home gardens and farmers' markets.

J'adore: Vegetable Fajitas with Caramelized Onions

1 zucchini
1 yellow summer squash
2 carrots
1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange)
olive oil (or Persian Lime Infused Olive Oil)
balsamic vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
approx. 1/2 jar salsa
chili powder
juice from 1 large lime slice (optional)

1 or 2 onions, sliced or diced
1/2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. brown sugar

grated cheddar cheese (optional)
sour cream (optional)

For the fajita filling:
1. Dice all vegetables and put into a large non-stick skillet. Add approx. 1 Tbs. of olive oil or lime olive oil, stir to coat vegetables, and turn heat on to medium-low.
2. Cook vegetables for about 5 minutes, then add approx. 1 Tbs. balsamic or white balsamic vinegar to the skillet. Add approx. 1/2 a jar of prepared salsa to the skillet. Stir to combine ingredients. Add chili powder to taste. Cook vegetables long enough that they are soft, but still a little crunchy. Remove from heat.

For the caramelized onions::
Slice or dice onions according to your preference. I prefer to half my onions and then slice them; Scott prefers them diced so that they're not too stringy and are easier to eat. Place onions in small non-stick frying pan with oil. Saute until tender. Sprinkle in brown sugar, stir, and continue to saute another minute or two.

Serving suggestions:
Heat tortillas for a few seconds in the microwave to soften. Layer grated cheese, caramelized onions, fajita vegetables, and sour cream onto tortilla. Fold and serve with tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Erin's Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burgers

You know you have good friends when they make you home-made veggie burgers. We're still working on getting the burgers to hold together, but they taste just right!

J'aime beaucoup: Erin's Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burgers

1 6 oz. package Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice original recipe (6 oz. of any brown or wild rice may be substituted, just add extra herbs or a veggie bouillon cube)
1/2 an onion, diced
3 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbs. olive oil (I use Smokey Chipotle Olive Oil for extra flavor and punch)
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground chili powder
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste (use Chile Verde Sea Salt, Lime Fresco Sea Salt, or Haberno Heat Salt if you're feeling adventurous!)
Add diced chile, habanero, or chipotle pepper if desired.

1. Cook rice according to instructions. If using brown/wild rice combo with bouillon cube: bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add bouillon cube and stir until it is dissolved. Add rice, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until all water has evaporated. Once rice has cooked, remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool.
2. In a small skillet sauté onion, celery, and carrot in olive oil until tender.
3. In a large mixing bowl mash half of the black beans with a fork or potato masher. Add remaining beans, rice, vegetables, and all other ingredients and mix thoroughly.
4. Form 10 burger-sized patties and place onto an oiled tray or oiled glass dish. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Can be kept in the refrigerator overnight or frozen.
5. Pour approx. 1 Tsp. of olive oil or Smokey Chipotle Olive Oil onto skillet. Cook burgers approx. 6 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Add cheese if desired.

Serve burgers on whole wheat buns with lettuce and tomato. They are also tasty served with salsa and guacamole.

Birthday Staple: Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

My mom has been making this cake for us since we were little, so it's pretty much a birthday staple in our family. This cake is moist, chocolaty, and delicious.

J'adore: Mom's Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup margarine (1 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1. Blend sugar, margarine, vanilla, and eggs in a food processor or mixer. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
2. Butter and flour a bundt pan. Tap out excess flour before pouring in batter.
3. Pour batter into floured bundt pan and bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
4. Allow cake to cool completely before overturning bundt pan onto a cake plate. Ice and decorate as desired.

J'adore: Chocolate Icing

*These measurements are approximations; fine tune with taste testing.
1/2 stick margarine
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp. vanilla
dash of buttermilk

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or mixer until icing is smooth. Taste test for desired sweetness.

*Note: I've added chocolate chips and blueberries to the cake batter before cooking. Serve with strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries on the side for extra color and flavor.

Summer Staple: Zucchini Fritters

I stumbled across this recipe in a magazine someone gave me. I'm not even sure what magazine it was, but this recipe is one of my all-time favorite dishes to make in the summer. It appears to originally come from a cookbook called Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson. There is nothing better than stepping outside in the summer and picking all of these ingredients fresh from the garden.

Je ne peux pas vivre sans:
Zucchini Fritters

2-3 zucchini, coarsely grated
6 or so green onions or scallions, finely chopped
6-8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 small bunch fresh dill, chopped
2 sprigs fresh mint, chopped
6-8 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. paprika
3 eggs, lightly beaten
scant 1 cup all purpose flour

2-3 limes
sour cream

1. Coarsely grate zucchini and place in a colander. Lightly salt and toss to mix. Place colander over a plate or in the sink and allow zucchini drain for approx. 30 minutes.
2. Once zucchini has drained, squeeze excess moisture out of zucchini with a clean kitchen towel. Place zucchini in a mixing bowl.
3. Add crumbled feta, chopped mint, dill, parsley, scallions, and flour to the bowl. Mix ingredients together. Add beaten eggs and mix thoroughly.
4. Pour a little olive oil onto a skillet. (I like to use Persian Lime Olive Oil for extra punch.)
5. Drop large spoonfuls of the mixture onto the heated skillet. Flatten them with a spatula or the back of a spoon so that they are roughly the size and shape of small pancakes. Cook patties until golden brown on each side.
6. Transfer to plates and serve with lime wedges and sour cream. Spritz fritters with lime juice as you eat.

Cucumber and Dill Potato Salad

I'm a picky potato salad person, but I love this recipe. I'm not very precise about the measurements, but it seems like one of those recipes that's better adapted to fit people's individual tastes. Here's the link to the original recipe.

J'aime beaucoup: Cucumber and Dill Potato Salad

6-10 small to medium sized red potatoes (1 qt. of mini red potatoes from the farmer's market works perfectly)
1/3 to 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream (I like it better more creamy)
10 or so cornichons, chopped
6-10 sprigs of dill, washed and chopped
1 European cucumber, thinly sliced and quartered (any seedless cucumber will do)
sea salt to taste

1. Scrub potatoes and cut to desired size. Place in a pot and cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender.
2. Combine crème fraîche/sour cream, cornichons, dill, and cucumber in a bowl.
3. Drain potatoes and add to crème fraîche mixture. Toss to coat. Add freshly ground sea salt to taste, and serve immediately.

*Note: this dish tastes best served right away when the potatoes are still warm. It will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, but it tends to dry out and doesn't taste nearly as good.
**Cornichons are little French pickles. You can find them in Trader Joe's; if you can't find cornichons, substitute another small pickle or modify the amount of whatever pickles you have on hand.