Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tomato Zucchini Pie

I made this veggie pie for one of my last dinners with my old roommates this summer.  The recipe is adapted from a combination of a few recipes from the Simply in Season cookbook that I adapted to what I had on hand.  It's a great way to showcase some of the delicious veggies coming to peak season in the middle of the summer, but is still something you can make now, as the last of the tomatoes and zucchini come in.  A savory pie filled with vegetables, cheese and eggs makes an ideal vegetarian entre for any season, and an impressive presentation!  

For the Crust:
-1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
-7 Tbsp butter, chilled
-1/3 c cheese of your choosing, shredded
-3-4 Tbsp water
-1/2 tsp salt

->Cut butter and flour together until crumbly.  Mix in cheese and salt.  Add water one tablespoon at a time, and mix until dough comes together into a ball.  Add more water if necessary.  Shape into a smooth ball, cover with plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, start the filling.  

For the Filling:
-2 medium zucchini, sliced
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved OR 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-salt and pepper
-large bunch fresh basil, chopped
-5-6 large eggs, beaten
-2 c cheese, crumbled or shredded (pictured above is mozzarella) 
-4 tsp mustard
-1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated

->Saute zucchini and onions in oil in a large skillet.  Add garlic and season with salt and pepper and cook until soft.  Take off the heat and stir in basil.  Combine beaten eggs and cheese in a separate bowl and then stir into zucchini mixture.  

-->While zucchini is cooking, take out chilled dough.  On a floured surface, roll out dough ball until it is a circle big enough to cover your pie pan and turn under the edge.  Press crust into a pie pan, turning under edges and flouting them by pressing with your thumb.  

Spread mustard over bottom of pie crust (from above).  Pour zucchini mixture into prepared crust.  Top with Parmesan cheese.  Arrange tomato slices on top of pie.  

Bake at 375 degrees until center is set and crust is golden (about 20 minutes).  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.  Slice and serve!  

~*TIP:  Make variations of this pie all year long by changing up the vegetables, herbs, and the cheese.  In fall and winter, fill it with roasted butternut squash, season with sage, and mix in some goat cheese.  In spring, fill with peas, spinach, broccoli, and/or asparagus, season with thyme, and mix in your favorite swiss or cheddar. It's a simple dish with endless possibilities.  *~

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cumin Roasted Chicken with Cucumber Salsa over Cracked Wheat Pilaf

Derek and I made this fresh, seasonal dinner using ingredients from the farmers market and our gardens.  Making it with two people is a big help because one can focus on the chicken while the other works on the pilaf.  He was in charge of the chicken with cucumber salsa, while I experimented with cracked wheat for the first time. 
Cracked wheat is similar to bulgur wheat in that they are both made by cracking the whole wheat kernel, but bulgur wheat is steamed and toasted before cracking, whereas cracked wheat is not.  Both bulgur wheat and cracked wheat are more nutrient dense than many other grains, as the nutrients and fiber of the wheat germ and bran are not removed.  But it's not just the nutrient breakdown that made us want to try experimenting with cracked wheat more in the future...  it's the nutty flavor and light texture that will make it a staple in our kitchens from now on.  

For the Chicken:
-2 chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on
-2 Tbsp butter
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 1/2 tsp chili powder
-1 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp paprika
-salt and pepper to taste

->Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Melt butter (about 10 seconds in the microwave should do it).  Whisk in spices with a fork.  It should be a brownish liquid at this point.  Rub this butter mixture under the chicken skin and all over the outside.  Place chicken in shallow baking dish.  Bake until golden brown and juices run clear.  

For the cucumber salsa:
-1 cucumber, finely chopped
-1/2 large tomato, chopped
-1 red pepper, chopped
-1/4 of a medium sweet onion, finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-chopped cilantro
-juice of one lime
-salt and pepper

->  Combine all vegetables in a mixing bowl.  Add cilantro and lime juice and season with salt and pepper.  

For the Cracked Wheat Pilaf:
-2 c cracked wheat
-2 tsp cumin
-1 tsp coriander 
-4 c water or broth
-salt and pepper
-juice of one lemon
-olive oil
-1 medium zucchini, grated
-1 red pepper, finely chopped
-1/2 large tomato, chopped
-salt and pepper

->  Toast cracked wheat in a dry skillet over medium heat until it gives off a nutty aroma.  Add spices, and allow to toast with wheat until aromatic.  Add water or broth.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat, simmering approximately 15 minutes.  Do not stir or peak.  Remove from heat when all water is absorbed, still not stirring.  Place a dish towel between the lid and pan, to form a tight seal.  Allow to rest 5 minutes.  Add lemon juice and a good drizzle of olive oil.  Fluff with a fork.  Add chopped vegetables and season with salt and pepper.  Top with cilantro.  
-->Serve chicken on a bed of the cracked wheat pilaf and top with cucumber salsa.  Enjoy!
~*TIP:  Chop up any leftover chicken after dinner and mix with leftover cracked wheat and salsa for a delicious cold cracked wheat and chicken salad for lunch the next day.  Mmmm.  *~

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cornbread Shortcakes with Maple Blueberries and Drunken Cream

My roommate recently threw a dinner party and requested that I make a dessert using cornmeal.  He had acquired some white cornmeal from a camp that mills their own corn where he used to attend as a kid.  I wasn't quite sure where to go from there, but Derek's mom had just invited us to a "pick-your-own" blueberry farm that same day, so I knew the berries would be involved somehow.  From there, start with a corny take on an old summer favorite, add a little Matson-family maple syrup here and there, and a few simple components turn into something mouth-watering...


Cornbread Shortcakes:
-1 c flour
-1/2 c sugar + additional for sprinkling 
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 c cornmeal
-8 Tbsp butter, cut up
-1/2 c milk or cream

Maple Blueberries:
-2 c fresh blueberries
-juice and zest of one lemon
-1/4 c maple syrup

Drunken Cream:
-1 pint whipping cream
-maple syrup

->  Mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the butter, either cutting in or using a mixer at medium speed until dough is the texture of course meal.  Add the milk until a crumbly dough forms.  Form into a ball of dough and then flatten into a thick disk.  

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  

Meanwhile, coat blueberries with lemon and maple syrup.  You can adjust the amount of maple syrup to your taste and according to the natural sweetness of your berries.  

When dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll chilled dough out to a 3/4-inch disk.  Cut the disk into eight wedges.  Place on a cookie sheet, allowing enough space for wedges to spread.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  

Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until somewhat firm and golden.  

While shortcakes cool, whip cream to stiff peaks, then add as much whiskey and syrup as the cream will hold and as your tastes prefer.  

Plate shortcakes with cream and berries on top and enjoy as a decadent but fresh summer dessert!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Orzo Fennel Salad

Pasta salads have come to be a symbol of summer.  No summer picnic, potluck, or celebration is complete without one.  With that much pasta salad in demand each summer, there are plenty of opportunities to change it up each time, incorporating a new type of pasta, sauce or dressing, and fresh vegetables and herbs each time.  The orzo salad below makes use of the gorgeous red and yellow cherry tomatoes that have been so prolific at our farmer's market all summer as well as fresh fennel straight from my garden.  Mix and match the ingredients from this version with whatever fresh local veggies and herbs you have on hand.  And don't forget, just like with my grandma's famous potato salad, the key is always to dress it while it's hot...  :)
-1-2 c orzo
-2-3 c cherry tomatoes
-chopped fresh herbs, such as fennel fronds, mint, and basil
-juice of one lemon
-olive oil
-salt and pepper

->  Cook orzo in boiling salted water until al dente according to package directions.  Meanwhile, halve your cherry tomatoes and chop your fresh herbs.  Mix the lemon juice and olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.  When the orzo is finished and drained, mix it while it is still hot with the tomatoes, herbs, and dressing.  Dressing the pasta hot is key for the flavors to really mix and be absorbed well.  Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or pepper if needed.  Refrigerate until cold or eat room temperature.  

~*TIP:  This winter when there are fewer fresh herbs and vegetables on hand, but you still crave cool, refreshing pasta salad, try a different version of this orzo salad that makes use of canned and preserved vegetables, etc.  You can incorporate sliced roasted red peppers, pickled artichokes, calamata olives, or even some tuna packed in olive oil.  If you're growing parsley in your garden, you'll probably be able to find some still green even with snow on the ground to chop up and include.  Throw in some feta cheese, and it will be a hit.  My roommate Rachel makes something similar to this, and we can never get enough of it. *~

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Veggie Skillet

This is one of my favorite breakfast, brunch or even dinner dishes to throw together.  For this one, I used red and yellow grape tomatoes from the farmers market and kale that I had blanched and frozen from my garden. But you can use just about any vegetables that are in season and finish with your favorite fresh herbs and cheese.  I love finishing with fresh basil and an herbed goat cheese.  mmmm....
-1-2 eggs per person
-1/2 c veggies per egg (tomatoes, kale, spinach, summer squash, zucchini, sweet potato, onions, or anything else you enjoy!), chopped
-chopped fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, thyme, rosemary, etc.)
-cheese (herbed goat cheese, parmesan, cheddar, etc.)

->  Saute veggies in a hot skillet in olive oil until tender.  If you're using a harder veggie like sweet potatoes, you may want saute them in a covered pan and cook until fork-tender, adding quicker-cooking veggies later.  Season with salt, pepper, and any dry herbs you may be using.  Meanwhile, scramble eggs and season with salt and pepper.  Add eggs to veggies and stir periodically until scrambled and cooked.  Finish with fresh herbs and cheese.  
~*TIP: One of the great things about gardening and buying locally and seasonally is that produce is at its most delicious, most abundant, and therefore generally least expensive at this time.  Sometimes your favorite garden veggies are too abundant to use all at once, or you buy up a good deal at the farmer's market.  To save time, money, and veggies, you can freeze them for later use.  Just chop the veggies how you will use them for your favorite recipes, blanch them in boiling hot water, plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking, and pack them into freezer-safe containers or ziploc bags in the amounts you usually use them.  Pull out a bag whenever your favorite recipe requires!  *~