Roasted Tomato Jalapeno Salsa

roasted tomato salsa
I’m sorry for my infrequent posts these past few months – but I have a good excuse.

Our family is growing! And while I have been feeling pretty good, all things considered, blogging has taken a back seat lately. In the past few months, I haven’t felt much like experimenting in the kitchen. Slightly nauseated and continually tired, my cooking pursuits have been limited to grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, whole wheat blueberry muffins, and mushroom cheddar omelets.

But all of that has suddenly changed. You see, I think I’ve reached that nesting phase. For most women, I guess nesting means washing baby clothes and hanging mobiles. But not for me. No, in our house Jeff is in charge of decorating the nursery while I obsessively stock our freezer with meals and ingredients to enjoy when we’re too bleary eyed and exhausted to even beat eggs.

Thankfully, our farm share’s bounty is well timed. The tomatoes have started to pour in, along with piles of fresh herbs and loads of garlic. This week, I threw it all in the oven, along with some green jalapeno peppers, and made a big batch of this spicy, smokey salsa. After I was done eating my fill of chips and salsa, I froze the rest. As it happens, cooked salsas actually freeze pretty well and retain their flavor for a few months in the freezer. The texture of the salsa might change when defrosted, but if you stir it well and heat it up again, it is just fine.

This salsa is really easy to make, and works well in all kinds of recipes. I froze most of my batch, and when I defrost it, I’ll probably use it to marinate steak for grilled steak fajitas. Or possibly I’ll toss it with some black beans, whole wheat pasta, and cheddar for a southwest pasta bake. I might even just spoon it into a tortilla with some scrambled eggs for a quick breakfast burrito.

Roasted Tomato Jalapeno Salsa
Makes about 4 cups

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4 medium tomatoes, halved
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, halved and seeded
1/2 small onion, thickly sliced
4 peeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons minced scallion
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with half of the oil. Arrange the tomato halves, jalapeno halves, onion, and garlic cloves on the baking sheet and brush with the remaining oil. Roast the vegetables until the onion begin to brown and the peppers are blistered. Cool slightly. Working in batches, pulse the vegetables in a food processor and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the cilantro, scallions and vinegar. Add salt to taste. Serve right away, refrigerate for a few days, or freeze to use within a few months.

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Published in: on July 28, 2013 at 6:32 pm  Comments (2)  
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Fresh and Easy Spring Rolls

asian spring roll veggie
Where did Spring go? I have no idea what happened to the last few months, but all of a sudden, here we are. And this here and now is HOT. Weeks like this make me endlessly thankful for air conditioning. And even though we are enjoying the incredible luxury of central air while our neighbors sweat, I still have no desire to turn on the oven. There is nothing worse than a hot steamy kitchen on a hot steamy day.

So we’ve been eating a lot of spring rolls. This is cooking without cooking, and the results are flavorful, light and fresh – my kind of summer food. And like all my favorite recipes, there is really no recipe here. There is a technique, for sure. But as for the ingredients, well, that’s up to you.

You can pretty much stuff these light little rolls with just about anything that’s in your fridge. The fillings below are merely a suggestion, but I’ve used everything from shredded cooked chicken to pea shoots to fried tofu to Fuji apples. It pretty much all works. In terms of noodles, rice noodles are probably most traditional, and they work well. But I happened to have a box of angel hair pasta in my pantry so that’s what I used yesterday and they were lovely. I’ve also used seaweed noodles and soba noodles. They all are just fine – or you can feel free to leave out the noodles all together.

Be patient with yourself when working with the rice paper wrappers. Try not to overstuff the rolls, and you’ll get the hang of it. And have fun!

thai spring rolls
Fresh Spring Rolls with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
Makes 25 rolls

2 cups cooked angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup chopped lettuce
1 cup sliced snow peas, cut in long thin strips
1 cup sliced bell pepper, cut in long thin strips
1 cup sliced mango, cut in long thin strips
1/4 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
25 dry rice paper spring roll wrappers (the package will contain many more!)
warm water
2/3 cup bottled sweet chili sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce

Toss the pasta with the oil. Arrange the veggies, mango and herbs on a cutting board so that they are easily accessible. Fill a shallow dish, such as a pie plate, with warm water. Working with just one wrapper at a time, take one rice paper wrapper and soak it in the water until it softens, about 10 seconds. Once it is soft, remove the wrapper from the water and lay it on a flat surface. It may wrinkle a bit, and that’s fine. Place a small bit of pasta, lettuce, snow pea, pepper, mango, scallion, and basil in the center of the wrapper. Fold in the ends and then roll the wrapper closed to seal. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings. Meanwhile, to make the dipping sauce just wisk the chili sauce with the soy sauce. Serve the sauce with the spring rolls. These are best served right away but if you cover them well, they will keep a few hours in the fridge before the wrappers start to get a bit chewy.

Published in: on June 24, 2013 at 5:48 pm  Comments (7)  
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Sweet Zucchini Crumble

sweet zucchini raisin crumble

Jeff whines to anyone willing to listen about my habit of sneaking veggies into every dish.  He’s right – I do shove spinach into lasagna, cabbage into potstickers, cauliflower into mac and cheese, sprouts into sandwiches and peppers into quesadillas. Jeff, on the other hand, could go for weeks without consuming so much as a carrot stick.

Over the years he has become amazingly adept at ferreting out even the smallest dice of hidden vegetable. Dinner in our house goes something like this:

Jeff: “There’s fennel in this sauce, I can tell.”

Katie: “Yep.”

Jeff: “I’m not a big fan of fennel”

Katie: “Too bad.”

And on some nights dinner is more like this:

Jeff: “The kale gives this pesto a weird texture”

Katie: “There’s no kale, it’s just basil and oil and nuts and cheese”

Jeff: “Liar”

Katie: “OK, fine, basil and oil and nuts and cheese AND kale.  You win.”

Jeff: “I always win”

So I’ve basically given up on pulling the wool over his eyes.  He has super-human veggie-radar.  But if the veggie-avoiders in your life have a less developed system of vegetable detection, this zucchini crumble is an amazing way to sneak some green into their tummies. While it would never fool Jeff, this sweet zucchini crumble would probably pass for apple crumble with most zucchini haters.

squash crisp Zucchini is amazingly versatile.  From ratatouille to chocolate zucchini bread it works in almost everything.  But until my mother-in-law suggested last weekend that zucchini could take the place of apples in a classic crumble, the idea had never, ever occurred to me. She swore up and down that it would be delicious, but I couldn’t quite imagine it. So, of course, I immediately ran out and bought some zucchini.  Despite my mother-in-law’s proclamation of zucchini crumble wonderfullness, I was fully expecting disaster.

But you know what?  It’s completely freaking delicious!  Who knew? Well, my mother-in-law knew.

It isn’t quite like apple crumble, but it’s close.  In fact, I might even like it better.  The texture of the zucchini here is surprisingly lovely – soft enough to seem decadent but firm enough to stand up to the hearty oat crumble topping. The raisins add an extra burst of sweetness, but if you are feeling experimental, I think dried cranberries might add a nice tart punch. This crumble makes a great dessert served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.  But I actually have been eating it for breakfast with a dollop of Greek yogurt.  And I don’t even feel guilty about having dessert for breakfast.  After all, I’m getting my veggies!

sweet zucchini crisp

Sweet Zucchini Crumble

Serves 4

3 cups chopped zucchini

1/4 cup raisins

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup cold unsalted butter cut in bits

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease four individual ramekins.  In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with the raisins, sugar, half of the cinnamon, and the nutmeg. Divide the zucchini mixture among the ramekins. Stir together the oats, flour, brown sugar, salt, and remaining cinnamon.  Add the butter and, using your fingers, rub the butter into the oat mixture until it is mostly incorporated.  The mixture won’t be uniform, and that’s fine. Top the zucchini in each of the four ramekins with a quarter of the oat mixture.  Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and cook for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and the zucchini is soft.  Serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream, or yogurt.

Published in: on August 29, 2012 at 6:19 pm  Comments (9)  
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Brie, Brown Sugar and Peach Pizza

grilled brie pizza

Lately I’ve been blurring all the lines between meals.  Oatmeal for lunch, waffles for supper, tuna melts for breakfast.  Who came up with all these ideas about what should be eaten when?  Of course, across the globe all of these lines blur anyway, so while eating fish at 8am feels a little thrilling to me, it’s none too shocking in a global sense.

While I love to rebel by eating a hot fudge sundae for supper, even better are those dishes that bend the rules all by themselves. Like this pizza.

The other night, Jeff and I set out to make a dessert pizza.  We layered our crisp/chewy crust with sugar, cinnamon and ripe fruit.  But something was missing.   Something rich and cheesy.

Really, you can’t go wrong with brie.  Has brie ever made any recipe worse?  I doubt it. And with this pizza, the combination of sweet and rich, crisp and gooey moves beyond the restrictive labels of dessert or dinner or breakfast.  Frankly, this pizza works wonderfully for any or all of the above.  It would make a compelling cheese course or a unique brunch.  We made it again last night and ate it for dinner with a simple arugula salad.

I’ve talked about grilling pizza before, last year when we made this Spicy Thai Chicken Pizza and I’m as big a fan now as I was then.  The crust becomes both crisp and chewy, slightly charred and full of flavor.  It works wonderfully with the soft, rich sweetness of the peaches and brie.  You can make your own pizza dough, if you like.  But I usually take the lazy way out and buy mine from a local pizzeria.  Many will sell you dough if you ask.  And some good grocery stores make their own dough too.

I like to pre-grill the peaches to caramelize them a bit before slicing them up as a pizza topping.  You don’t want to cook the peaches too long, or they will be too soft to slice.  You just want a bit of color on the fruit, and to soften the flesh a bit. And don’t skip the cinnamon.  It may sound like a strange pairing with the cheese, but the combination is surprisingly fantastic.  Trust me.  Actually, trust Jeff.  It was his idea.  Sometimes he’s smart like that.  But only sometimes.

brie cheese pizza

Brie, Brown Sugar and Peach Pizza

Serves 4

1/2 lb pizza dough

1/4 cup flour

1 large ripe peach (slightly under ripe is better than over ripe)

5 tablespoons brown sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 ounces brie, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat a gas grill to medium and grease the grates.  Roll out the dough thinly, using the flour to prevent sticking.

Slice the peach in half and remove the pit.  Press one tablespoon of brown sugar on the cut side of each peach half. Place the peaches on the grill, cut side up, and cover the grill.  Cook for two minutes and then flip (you will lose some of the sugar, but that is ok).  Grill the peach for just two minutes more and then remove from the heat.  Allow the peach to cool before slicing.

Meanwhile, carefully transfer the dough to the grill (it will bend into a strange shapes as you transfer it – just call it rustic and don’t worry about it).  Cover the grill and allow the dough to cook until the bottom gets rigid and slightly charred.  Flip the pizza dough (Jeff has developed a two handed method with a spatula and a set of tongs, but go with whatever works for you) and move quickly to sprinkle with the remaining sugar and the cinnamon.  Top evenly with the peach slices and the brie.  Close the grill and cook just long enough to let the cheese melt slightly, only a couple of minutes.  Remove the pizza from the heat and sprinkle with the raspberries.  Let the pizza cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Published in: on August 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm  Comments (4)  
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Fresh Cherry Pie Martini

martini with bing cherries

Has any one else noticed the explosion of flavored vodkas on the market?  Only a couple of years ago I thought myself pretty clever for making my own basil vodka and my own pomegranate vodka. But now, in any corner “Packy” (that’s what we New Englanders call a liquor store) you can find everything from cookie dough vodka to mango vodka.  But I have to say, my favorite find has been toasted marshmallow vodka.  It’s pretty fantastic with just a splash of root beer and certainly lovely in a chocolate martini.

Even better, though, it adds a special something to this cherry pie martini – something that turns cherries and alcohol and graham cracker crumbs into pie.

I have been all about fresh cherries this summer.  My lips may be permanently stained from eating them by the bucketful.  But sometimes a girl needs a bit of variety.  And I can’t actually take the credit here, since Jeff, witnessing my cherry obsession, came up with this lovely drink all on his own.  As a special treat for me.  How sweet is that?

Cherry Pie Martini

Makes 2 drinks

1/4 cup chopped fresh bing cherries

3 ounces toasted marshmallow vodka

1 ounce amaretto (or other almond flavored liqueur)

2 ounces unsweetened plain almond milk

ice

1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

additional cherries for garnish (optional)

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the cherries, pressing with a spoon to squeeze as much juice as possible from the fruit.  Add the vodka, amaretto, and almond milk to the shaker, along with a large scoop of ice.  Shake vigorously.  Meanwhile, moisten the rims of two martini glasses.  Spread the graham cracker crumbs on a flat dish and dip the martini glass rims into the crumbs to coat.  Strain the martini into the glasses, adding a few ice cubes to the glass, if you like extra ice.  Garnish with a fresh cherry or two and enjoy.

Published in: on July 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm  Comments (4)  
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Picnic Perfect Pressed Sandwich

salami and cheese gourmet pressed sandwich

I have fantasies of a perfectly romantic picnic; sipping wine while lounging on the grass, sampling a harmonious array of French cheeses, nibbling on perfectly ripe sun-warmed strawberries.

Other times I dream of an old-fashioned family fun picnic; crisp and flavorful fried chicken, cool, creamy macaroni salad, stacks of  checkered napkins and mason jars filled with lemonade.

I’ve even imagined a chic, luxurious picnic; caviar-topped blini, baby lamb chops, sparkling glasses of champagne, Belgian chocolates and real silverware.

But in reality, my picnics have usually been full of messy spills, dirt-coated cheese knives, squished fruit, hungry ants, warm beer and threatening thunder storms.

And you know what?  I’m ok with that. Picnics aren’t meant to be perfect, they are meant to be fun – insects and all.  I may have pretty picnic dreams of brie and champagne, but most times, we’re just as happy with sandwiches and chips.

But not just any sandwiches, of course.  It’s still a picnic after all.  Any excuse to lounge in the open air, munching away in the sunshine, is cause for a little bit of special treatment.

picnic basket sandwich wineThis pressed sandwich is so simple, and yet somehow more than the sum of its parts. Plus, it travels so well!  As always with simple food, quality ingredients count here.  Good, crusty bread, pungent cheese, aromatic basil, and rich salami come together in a perfect bite.  The secret lies in the squish.  You have to really press the heck out of this sandwich.  The idea is to remove the majority of the soft insides of the bread, layer in the fillings, and then smush down the sandwich so that the flavors and textures marry overnight.

You could certainly change up the fillings here.  Adding some pesto might be nice, or switching out the salami for prosciutto.  You could layer in some thin slices of grilled eggplant, or go crazy and add a bit of sriracha.  The ingredients are merely a suggestion, but the squish is necessary.  You do want to take care to keep moist ingredients, such as roasted peppers or sliced tomato, from having direct contact with the bread, in order to avoid a soggy sandwich.  But by removing much of the soft crumb of the bread, you will delay soggy bread syndrome pretty effectively.  However, this sandwich is best eaten the next day, if you leave it longer than a day, the bread will probably get soggy.

Pressed Sandwich

Serves 8

1 1-pound round loaf peasant bread or French boule

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

6 oz thinly sliced Genoa salami

1 cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 cup fresh baby arugula

3 ounces shaved parmesan cheese

Slice the bread in half horizontally.  Remove the majority of the soft crumb from both the top and the bottom, leaving about an inch of crust all around. (Keep the bread-insides for another use, like breadcrumbs). Spread the mustard into the bottom of the bread.  Top with an even layer of salami, then roasted peppers, basil, arugula, and finally the cheese. Place the top of the bread over the fillings and wrap the whole loaf tightly in foil.  Place the foil-wrapped loaf on a large plate and top with another large plate.  Weigh down the top plate with a heavy brick, or, in a pinch, a six-pack of beer works too.  Place the weighted sandwich in the fridge overnight.  To serve, remove the sandwich from the fridge and slice into eight even wedges.  Wrap each wedge individually to transport to a picnic.

Published in: on July 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm  Comments (6)  
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Summer Things

I’m sitting here, curled up on the sofa with a fuzzy blanket, eating a warm and comforting bowl of chili.  We didn’t lose power as expected, but still, this storm has propelled me into fall behaviour.  Clearly, while I was busy picking paint colors for the hallway and perusing catalogues for dining room chairs, and imagining ways to rework the landscaping in our new backyard, summer happened.  And now it’s almost over.  Next weekend marks the unofficial official end of the season, and I’m not ready.

I’m still hooked on zucchini, and craving corn.  I guess I need to cram as much summer flavor as I can into the coming days.  In case you’re feeling the same way, below are some of my favorite summer recipes, worthy of one last hurrah, and also lovely additions to a Labor Day BBQ spread.

zucchini and eggplant stew

Easy Ratatouille

Perfect for using up those summer veggies,  this simple ratatouille is delicious over grilled chicken or fish, and wonderful at room temperature tossed with cooked pasta for a veggie-filled pasta salad.

watermelon juice drink

Watermelon Basil Martini

Pretty and pink!  This refreshing summer drink is fantastic for a labor day BBQ. You can make a big pitcher and let your guests help themselves.

chocolate malt

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Malt

To me, malts and milkshakes scream summer.  Enjoy a malt from a huge glass with a bendy straw for an old-school treat.  Or try serving them in little shot glasses for a really fun BBQ dessert!

tomato bread salad

Panzanella

I spend August in pursuit of perfect tomatoes. And once those tomatoes arrive, using them in every possible dish becomes my mission!  This simple panzanella salad is lovely and easy and full of fresh flavor.

Published in: on August 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm  Comments (12)  
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Almond Muesli

bircher musali

I’d love to tell you all that I sit out on my deck each morning, savoring a steamy cup of coffee with frothed milk, leisurely reading the newspaper, thoroughly enjoying a three-course homemade breakfast on good china. But the truth is, I usually run out of the house with my hair still wet and scarf down breakfast at my desk. 

Which is why I have a bit of an obsession with hotel breakfasts; they are a calm, pleasurable, and relaxing way to start the day. And I especially love European hotel breakfasts.  A basket of flakey pastries, a big pot of coffee, and a buffet of flavorful cheeses, fresh fruits, and, best of all, bircher muesli. 

The Intercontinental in Bucharest, Romania makes a lovely, creamy bircher muesli.  So does a tiny Bed and Breakfast outside Bansko, Bulgaria.  A little Inn near Toulouse, France serves a version so wonderfully rich that no amount of tiny, fresh, sweet strawberries can turn these cream-laden oats into a healthy breakfast.

I’ve been experimenting for years, trying to recreate my favorite European breakfast experiences.  The very best traditional bircher muesli is usually made with oats, nuts, dried fruit, full-fat yogurt and heavy cream.  Perhaps it’s a difference in the yogurt, or my discomfort using more than a splash of cream in what should be a healthy breakfast, but I have never quite mastered bircher muesli.

I’ve tried combinations of yogurt, milk, apple juice, soy milk, and cream, some better than others.  In fact, soy milk was a surprising front runner. And then last weekend, I was wandering around Whole Foods with my friend Laran, who happens to be allergic to soy.  We were chatting about the merits of a portable breakfast when it occurred to me that, instead of soy milk,  almond milk might just be the thing to elevate my muesli. And I was right. All the creaminess, and no off flavor.  It may not be quite the traditional European bircher musali, but it is certainly a delicious, healthy, portable breakfast. 

I love that I can make this the night before, and then grab it out of the fridge as I start my mad dash to work in the morning. It would, of course, be just as tasty were I to spoon it into a pretty glass and savor each bite while admiring my sunny flower beds.

Almond Muesli

Serves 2

1 cup rolled oats

1 tablespoons oat bran

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup  dried fruit (such as chopped apricot, cherries, raisins, etc)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

2 cups fresh mixed berries

Stir all ingredients except the berries together in a bowl until well combined.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  To serve, stir well and then spoon the muesli into bowls and top with plenty of berries.  This recipe doubles easily, and keeps well in the fridge for up to three days, but be sure to wait until the last minute to add the berries.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm  Comments (10)  
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Beef, Orzo, and Herb Stuffed Peppers

greek stufed bell pepper

I love fresh herbs, but I realized the other night that my thinking about herb usage has been a bit narrow. Sure, I pair fresh basil with ripe tomatoes, rub roasted chicken with thyme, and top fish tacos with cilantro.  I toss fresh chopped mint with berries, infuse it into chocolate mousse, and use it to garnish lemon tarts. But until now, I have rarely used mint in savory dishes.

I know, I know… you’ve been making lovely minted pea salads for years, and enjoying mint pesto on your lamb kebabs  as long as you can remember.  But it would seem that I’ve had a mint mental block.

I’ve long reserved mint for dessert. But no longer. The background of fresh mint in these stuffed peppers is surprising, but fits so naturally with the rich, meaty filling.  Neither frosty nor sweet, the mint here simply adds an herbacious intensity that brings these peppers to life. 

beef and mint stuffed pepper

I’ve made stuffed peppers before, this lentil stuffed version, in particular, is a favorite. When I posted those lentil and rice stuffed peppers, I was yearning for a healthy, filling meal that would reheat well from my lunch box. These beef, orzo, and herb stuffed peppers are just as nutritious, filling, and portable. And while the bell peppers in my garden are still quite tiny, this would be a wonderful way to use up garden surplus. It is most certainly a great way to put some of that mint overtaking your garden to work on your table.

These peppers have a whisper of Greek influence, but you could substitute a bit of lamb in for the beef, and add a drizzle of good olive oil to pump up the mediterranean flavor. I served my peppers with a dollop of sour cream, but a bit of tzaziki would add both creaminess and additional flavor. 

peppers

Beef, Orzo and Herb Stuffed Peppers

Serves 6

6 large bell peppers

1 cup uncooked orzo

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 lb lean ground beef

1 cup canned tomato sauce

1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint

salt and pepper to taste

cooking spray

Slice the tops off of the peppers, core and rise the insides of the peppers, and arrange them in a baking dish.  Bring a few cups of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat and cook the garlic, onion, and celery until slightly soft, about 3 minutes.  Add the beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon until browned.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the orzo, beef mixture, tomato sauce and plenty of salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the oregano and mint. Lightly spray the insides of the peppers with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Fill the peppers with the beef mixture and top each pepper with its cap. Add a few tablespoons of water to the bottom of the baking dish. Bake until the peppers are a bit shriveled and tender but still slightly crisp, about 45 minutes.

Published in: on August 2, 2011 at 6:59 pm  Comments (12)  
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Light and Hearty: Cooking in My New Kitchen

zucchini ribbons with meat ragu

First of all, I must apologize for being missing in action here for the past few weeks.  And what a time of year to be out of commission in the kitchen!  All of the fruits and vegetables exploding from the farmers market have had me salivating!

But we’ve been in the midst of unpacking boxes, and only this week did I rediscover my treasure trove of pots and pans.  After a few months of hopping from sublet apartment to generous relative and back again, we have finally moved into our house.  I love saying that – my house.  Having been a happy renter for many years, the idea of mowing the lawn and painting the walls is a bit daunting, but still exciting.

I will admit that this homeowner stuff is hard work!  Not only have we been unpacking, but there are hedges to trim, decks to finish, fences to mend, curtains to hang, basements to clean… the list goes on.  I’m getting to know my new kitchen and loving that I can see my garden from the window over the sink. I’m learning that the floorboards in front of the oven creak loudly and predictably, and that there is a little sparrow that likes to sit on the windowsill. I’ve only made a handful of meals here so far, but there will be many more to come.

This Zucchini Pappardelle With Hearty Meat Ragu is one of the first dishes I made in our new home.  I actually made it a couple weeks ago at Jeff’s parents house, and then again here.  It has been so hot outside, that I’m craving light, summery fare.  But a wimpy salad is no match for the efforts of unpacking.  We’ve needed hearty fare to help us push through the mountains of boxes and endless to-do lists.  Hearty and light is a tough combination, but this riff on pasta fits the bill.  The thin strands of delicate zucchini provide subtle crunch and bite, while the ragu offers richness and depth. Under the hot ragu, the zucchini ribbons wilt just enough to twirl nicely around your fork, and hold on to the meaty bits of sauce.

This time of year, I tend to toss a bit of zucchini in just about anything.  It tops a salad, joins a stir-fry, adds heft to a muffin, fills in a kebab, but rarely is zucchini the star.  I love that this is a dish all about beautiful, fresh zucchini.  If the ribbons here put you off, please don’t let them scare you.  It takes almost no time at all to peel the zucchini into strips, I promise.  Much less time, in fact, that bringing a pot of water to a boil for making pasta.  Just be sure you have a good peeler, and stop peeling when you get to the seeds in the middle.  No need to waste the middle, though.  Feel free to use it however you like – I added it to a vegetable stock for some extra zucchini flavor. 

And as for the ragu, the recipe I’ve included is very fluid.  You can add a splash of cream at the end for a richer version, or toss in some extra veggies, if you like.  Omit the pancetta, if you prefer, or add in some chopped sun-dried tomato for extra depth of flavor.  You get the idea.  I usually make a full batch (much more than you need for the zucchini) and freeze half.  In fact, this meal was a gift from the freezer, brought with us to the new house.  You didn’t think I spent time stirring over a hot stove when there are boxes to unpack, did you?  The link below takes you to my favorite Hearty Meat Ragu recipe, which I shared with you all about a year and a half ago.  But if you have some meat sauce on hand, use what you’ve got!  And in a pinch, a bit of jarred tomato sauce never hurt anyone.

zucchini pappardelle

Zucchini Pappardelle With Hearty Meat Ragu

Serves 4-6

8 medium zucchini

4 cups Hearty Meat Ragu (or your favorite meat sauce)

1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini into long, thin strips about an inch wide. Stop when you get to the seeds – do not include the seeds, discard them or save them for another use.  Warm the ragu.  In a large bowl off the heat, gently toss the zucchini with the warm ragu. Serve right away topped with the parmesan cheese.

Published in: on July 20, 2011 at 7:42 pm  Comments (24)  
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