“Silky” Zucchini

Do you listen to podcasts? Any favorite food ones? For over a decade now I have been listening to 2 in particular. The first is “Good Food” from KCRW in Santa Monica. I could weep listening to the Santa Monica Farmers Market report on a weekly basis, especially in the dark months of winter here in New England.

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The second is “Splendid Table” from National Public Media and features as a host a woman by the name of Lynne Rosetto Kasper. I love how she brings food to life and has such a passion for all things cultural and culinary. Recently, Lynne spoke with the acclaimed chef Skye Gyngell and got this recipe for slow cooked zucchini. (As an aside, I have to state that the name Skye Gyngell is second only to Fuchsia Dunlop as a great name in female culinary talent and is also eligible to be a Bond Girl name…you know like Moneypenney or Eleanor Lavish from “Room with a View” or Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor.)

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Anyway, I digress. Skye talked about this method of cooking zucchini as slow and caring. No hot grill or pointy kebab stick.  And it’s ridiculously simple. The twist belongs to whatever fresh herb is added at the end. Start with 2 Tbsp each of olive oil and butter in a heavy pan on medium heat.

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Slice 12 small zucchini ( I used 2 medium/large) into 1/8″ coins. Put slices of zucchini in the pan with the melted butter and olive oil and toss gently to coat. Add two finely diced cloves of garlic. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting of the burner. Skye’s recipe, made on a commercial burner allegedly takes 40 minutes to soften and turn to it’s luxurious state. On my household burner, the time was closer to 1:10 hours. The key again is to stir it every ten minutes or so to prevent it from burning even the tiniest bit!

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Once the zucchini is cooked to soft and transparent state, take a good five or six stems of fresh tarragon ( although mint or basil or chervil will work also) and strip the stems and finely chop the leaves. Add about 3/4 of a tbsp of ground black pepper and about a teaspoon of kosher salt. Taste and adjust if needed.

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I will warn you that this is not a “pretty” vegetable side. But it more than makes up for it in taste. If you like the 5th taste of umami, then this is a dish for you. I suppose you could put it in a slow cooker, but still think you would have to check it for burning, although maybe not as frequently if your slow cooker was on low. I suggest using as a plain side dish, a topping for lightly tossed spinach, mixed with some lentils, or on a pasta with grated cheese…that would be yummy!

Stars and Stripes!

You know how sheet pan suppers are all the rage? Evidently slab pies are now the darling of Pinterest pinners. My bestie, L, was telling me about this one in particular and because baking is cheaper than therapy, I gave it a whirl on Saturday and sent the whole slab/pan to rehearsal with the Hubs on Sunday.


I used 2 packages of pre made pie crusts, one large bags of frozen whole strawberries and a small bag of frozen blueberries. Also, sugar, corn starch and a little lemon zest/juice.


I used my 1/2 sheet pan, aka a jelly roll pan and overlapped the crusts to gauge how much I would need for the bottom crust. 



Rolled them out together to get them as close to pan size as possible. Rolled the crusts onto my rolling pin and draped into the pan and pinched, trimmed etc till it was a full crust. I did have to piece some of the edges.

Mix one tbsp corn starch and one tbsp sugar and some lemon zest with the blueberries


Fill the top left corner with the blueberry mix.


Repeat the cornstarch, sugar and lemon with the strawberries but double the amounts. Fill in the rest of the pan with the strawberry mix.


I used a cookie cutter for the stars and set aside.


I stretched the remainder of the dough by rolling and squared it off with a pizza cutter and bench scraper.


Then I cut and placed 1″ stripes over the strawberries. Thirteen alternating stripes….

Placed the stars and popped into oven following directions on box for oven temp.


When baked I sprinkled with some sparkly sanding sugar for that festive look. Only an empty pan came home…

Five for Friday

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It’s back! I haven’t done a five for Friday in FOREVER! So I’ll post some Fridays if I can and when I have the substance to do so…Here’s this week’s edition. Summer flowers…quelle surprise!

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So Many Apricots…Part II

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Keep slicing!…Now I moved on to apricot curd. Traditionally, curd is sold or made with lemons, sometimes lime, but you can really make it with any fruit. I’ve made orange, clementine, raspberry and apricot on more than one occasion.

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Put the sliced fruit and 2 tablespoons each of water and sugar in a heavy pot. Bring to a boil and dial back the heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Fruit will get soft but won’t disintegrate. You want the flavor of the fruit, not the taste of sugar, so you can adjust the sugar for your own taste.

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Pulse the hot fruit in your food processor or blender and then push through a sieve or china cap to remove the solids. You could also use a food mill, which I’ve used in the past but didn’t feel like unlimbering it from the cabinet. Move the now mostly liquid fruit back into the heavy pot.

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Meanwhile, whisk two egg yolks with corn starch until smooth. (ANOTHER MAJOR BAKING SECRET!)

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Stir the eggs and corn starch mix into the hot fruit on low heat. Keep mixing….

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Next, drop 2 tablespoons of butter into the hot mix and continue to stir. The mix will start to tighten up and is helped immensely by the corn starch you added to the egg yolks. I had never used corn starch as an ingredient in curd before this particular batch and couldn’t believe how well it worked and did NOT change the taste. All you get is fruit.

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Because we use the product so quickly and it only made about 12 ounces ( about a dozen whole apricots to start), I just filled two old jam jars. But if you have done pressure or steam canning in the past, feel free to follow your procedures for that. The Hubs and I have been enjoying the curd on toasted french bread ( tartine) with a little butter with our hot morning beverages.

 

 

So Many Apricots…Part I

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My obsession with apricots reaches a fever pitch about this time every year.  Apricots from warmer parts of the country start to flood the warehouse stores here in the Northeast. So, on a recent trip to Costco, I gifted myself a flat of darling pinky, peachy, fading to that glorious luminous orange color stone fruit. I was determined that they would not turn to a slag heap in the fridge, where I stashed them when I thought they were ripe.

I wanted to make a tarte, but decided to add a twist by making a frangipane filling versus the traditional custard. Frangipane is a stiffer, almond based filling, popular in Europe, especially in tartes with berries. Frangipane is a shade under marzipan in it’s consistency. More flow than mold consistency.  I hadn’t had it in a million years, and faced with a gloomy but humid outside/air conditioned inside Saturday afternoon, I knew I could run the oven for a while without totally heating the house beyond recovery. The tarte starts with a short crust, easily formed in your food processor with flour, sugar ( a little), salt, ice water and very, very cold butter cut into teeny, tiny pieces. Blend in the food processor until the dough is shaggy and turn it out onto a floured board. Just knead it a bit until you can form a dough, then flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic and stick in the fridge to keep while you make the frangipane. I had enough dough to fill a traditional  removable bottom tarte pan, plus my two personal size pans that I bought in France. Remember only roll out the dough and fill the pan once the dough is chilled and the frangipane is ready to go.

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You can use slivered almonds to make the base of this sticky cream substance but because I keep it in the house for macarons, I used almond flour ( just ground up almonds). So a lot of the work was already done. To the almonds you will add sugar, salt, egg yolks, butter and vanilla and almond extract. Because I was making an apricot tarte, I used apricot extract to bump up the fruit flavor.

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Roll out your crust and trim the edge. Using a fork, pierce the dough on the bottom. Freeze for ten minutes while you preheat the oven.

MAJOR BAKING SECRET ABOUT TO BE REVEALED!  I recently learned that if you freeze a pie shell or tarte dough before baking, the dough will not shrink and pull away from the pan when blind baking! It’s magic!

Anyway, blind bake the frozen or deeply chilled shell for about 12 minutes until it’s just set. Fill with the frangipane.

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Next , I cut the apricots into twelves, each half had 6 slices. This allows them to lay more evenly on the frangipane. I probably could have snuggled a few more pieces in but decided to leave well enough alone. Sprinkle the top with sugar and bake at 425° for about 40 minutes or until the frangipane rises a little and turns a little bit brown. Let cool completely before you slice and you can add fresh whipped cream on top for a real treat.

 

 

Just another Meatless Monday…

Uses up a good amount if your summer garden bounty. I started by blind baking a pie crust for about 10 minutes and then layered summer squash and zucchini slices in overlapping layers. Because the veggies will shrink up, better to have the slices tightly packed.


I whisked an egg and a couple of teaspoons each of cream and creme fraiche together and then pored it evenly under the veggies. 


I topped the tarte with a little shredded mozzarella and put the whole zucchini as it were back into a 425 oven for 30 minutes.


Let the tarte sit for ten minutes before you slice. Add a green salad and you have a simple summer supper and/or a meatless Monday option!

Yet again, no picture

But the recipe is delicious!


Hard to say if the star of this dish is the bacon or the cheese, but personally, I’m voting for the raclette cheese. A traditional melting cheese, it’s usually used on vegetables and/or potatoes and melted on a brazier. 


I browned some onions and steamed cauliflower till it was mashable. Gave it a whazz with the stick blender and added some butter.


Nest layer the mashed cauliflower with the slices of cheese. 


Top with crumbled, fresh bacon.


Bake at 425 degrees until bubbly and melts. Great low carb alternative for stuffed baked potatoes!

Crunchy summer salad

Sorry to say that I forgot you take a picture once everything in this crispy, crunchy cabbage dis that requires no cooking. It does require you to be patient as you slice the brussel sprouts either with a paring knife or on your mandolins. You could also use the slicing blade on your food processor. Simply slice them as thin as possible


Toss the sprouts with olive oil, lemon juice, shredded cheese, salt and pepper.


Lastly, a final toss with some walnut halves! Trust me, you’ll love it!

Currently Crushing…

Selecticism Rose Cider-headingBeen a while since I waxed poetic on new things I have either tried or procured and so I thought I’d share some of them with you…

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First up in the adult beverage category, I’m happy to introduce you to dry rose cider. Not as sweet as other alcoholic ciders with the taste of rose wine featured prominently! Comes in perfect personal size bottles, great for beaches or parties, and would look great in any clear door refrigerator! We searched locally for this and our local packie manager found the last 4 pack on the bottom shelf of the cider section of our favorite local. I’m hoping they get more in stock soon, I’ve been rationing the ones I have. I love the label, so McKenzie / Childs. The cider comes from Wolffer Vineyards on Long Island, and they also stock white and rose wine. Might have to do more research in person at the vineyard!

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I’m usually not one to purchase additional “gadgets” for the household unless it has a clearly demonstrated superiority of design or purpose. After seeing the larger version in action in the tiki bar at my brothers pool both last season and this season, I decided it might be a good addition to our own “bar” tools! I have used a blender in the past for mixing adult beverages but the key difference is the ice shaver that is built into the hopper of the machine. The Hubs and I have both used it for margaritas, Mexican mudslides ( rum not vodka) and for my personal favorite, Frose! If you aren’t using premixed alcohol, they give you a handy mixing cup that conveniently measures the ingredients and then opens into the carafe so you don’t have to pour them separately. Ingenious and comes in several sizes to correspond to the size of your tiki hut!

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I have so many emails everyday that I don’t even remember signing up for. Yes, I agreed to and use Skimm every morning and get my books occasionally on Book Bub but some of the other ones really had me scratching my head. Unrollme is so easy! You can get rid of only the emails you never want to see again, but keep some or get a daily roll up! Use the app on your phone or iPad and it will carry through. So easy. Next day, one roll up and about 10 emails. Fabulous!

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I’d been stalking this cute apron from the Etsy shop, The House She Loved. If you remember my post from earlier, you know I hunted one down at the French Country Market recently and met the maker. Fashioned like an old style school room pinafore, I love that the apron covers everything without restricting movement. It’s made of a sturdy linen with a retro barkcloth pocket that you can stuff a 5# bag of flour in! So soft and washes like a dream!

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Long time readers know that I love anything apricot and shampoo is no different! L’Oreal now has this apricot oil nourishing shampoo that works great on colored hair. I’m just finishing my first tube, a little goes a long way, and just got a second back up.

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Lastly, watching Project Runway, late one nite, I kept the channel tuned to the follow on show for start up beauty/fashion items and found “Swell Skin”. Let me tell you, it is SWELL! I bought both the soap and the oil and use both religiously now. Any dermatologist will tell you that a regimen of cleanser and moisturizer and sunscreen will help keep skin moist and looking ageless, along with proper hydration etc. I’m no MD but I can tell you that this has replaced Cetaphil for me. I use twice a day and with enough working, the lather turns almost creamy in your hands. Let it sit on your face for a bit as instructed and you will feel a coolness. I use the oil before bed and although the scent is a little organic and strong, it dissipates quickly and is not noticeable after 2 or 3 minutes at most. I don’t feel like I need moisturizer after I cleanse, and feel like my sunscreen and make up go on better. My face also feels great during the day. Soap seems to last forever, still on first bar and been using now over 3 months! To order go to www.swellskin.net.

 

 

 

 

Look, it’s gift wrapped cheese!

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In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I completely stole this recipe from one of those little commercials that run on Facebook. Looked easy and it was!

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Square off a zucchini so it’s an even surface on all sides and is less roundish. Use your mandoline to cut long slices like shown above.

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Use either bocconcini mozzarella or cut 1/2 thick slices into quarters so they are roughly the same diameter as a quarter

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Form a cross with 2 slices of zucchini and center the mozzarella piece.

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Wrap the mozzarella and keep overlapping the slices and direction. When completely wrapped in zucchini, stick a short toothpick through all layers to hold together.

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Mix some fresh parmesan and panko and set out along with 2 beaten eggs and about 1/2 cup of AP flour. This is a wet hand / dry hand operation!

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First dip the packages of cheese in the flour and coat well, then dip in egg wash and then roll in the panko cheese mix. Put in refrigerator for about an hour.

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Meanwhile heat canola or veggie oil in a deep, heatproof dutch oven. If you drop a drop of water in and it sizzles, it is ready. Gently lower the cheese and zucchini into the hot oil and cook until brown. DO NOT walk away from hot oil at any time. Safety first! When done, serve immediately on a bed of mixed greens tossed with olive oil and fresh pepper and lemon or on a bed of fresh marinara! Great summer appetizer!

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