Monday, August 20, 2018

Roasted Tomatoes (and a Baked Frittata recipe)

One of the few redeeming features of summertime (in my I-really-wish-it-was-Fall opinion) is tomatoes.  Ripe, glorious tomatoes straight from the garden that taste like – well, tomatoes.  I rarely buy tomatoes from the grocery store, instead stocking up during tomato season at the farmers market or the you-pick farm or from our neighborhood mailboxes where generous folks sell their excess produce at amazing prices (and sometimes even give stuff away). 

Unfortunately tomatoes aren’t in season for very long in my neck of the woods, so I enjoy the big juicy globe tomatoes fresh while I can, and then preserve the meaty oblong paste-type tomatoes so I can cook with them throughout the winter months.  Canning tomatoes is a great way to preserve large quantities, but it’s laborious and renders a product that’s best suited to making sauces or soups.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when you are wanting something a bit different tomato-wise, roasting them is a great – and far less laborious – way to go.

Roasted in a slow oven for a few hours, tomatoes cook down to a rich mass full of concentrated flavor.  They’re great used as a topping for bruschetta, or spooned over pasta, or added to a sauce, or swirled into a simple baked frittata for a quick and easy meal.

Making baked frittatas is something I like to do when I want a cooked meal, but I don’t really feel like cooking.  Not technically a frittata (nor an omelet, and not quite a quiche) – it’s more like poufy baked eggs – the dish comes together quickly with whatever ingredients happen to be in the fridge.  A bit of cheese, some fresh herbs or leftover veggies – pretty much anything works to flavor the frittata.  Including leftover roasted tomatoes.  Whatever you call it, here’s how I make mine. 

6 large eggs
1-2 tbsp heavy cream
salt & pepper to taste
¼ cup roasted tomatoes
goat or feta cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Spray a deep pie plate with non-stick cooking spray or brush lightly with olive oil.
  3. Lightly beat the eggs, then mix in the cream and salt and pepper to taste (keep in mind that there’s already salt in the tomatoes).
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared pan.  Add the roasted tomatoes and swirl them around with a fork.  Crumble cheese over the top. 
  5. Cook for about 25-30 minutes, until the frittata is a light golden brown and the edges are puffy.  Makes 4-6 servings.

So back to the roasted tomatoes.  They’re super easy to make, and measurements don’t need to be exact.  I really like oregano so my herb blend for this recipe has lots of it, but any mix of herbs, including commercial Italian seasoning, can be used.  Roasted tomatoes freeze well, so I like to make several batches, put them in heavy freezer bags, and store them in the freezer to pull out when needed.  I lay the bags on their sides as they freeze; once solid they can be stacked flat to save freezer space.  Note, because of the oil content, the roasted tomatoes in the accompanying recipe poster are not suitable for canning.  Use them fresh within a few days, or freeze them for long-term storage. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Dry 'em and Fry 'em: Zucchini

Got zillions of zucchini?  Or a neighbor with zillions of zucchini that keeps foisting theirs on you?  Or maybe you just like zucchini?  Wherever you fall on the zucchini spectrum, they are a versatile vegetable to have on hand all year round. 

I don’t grow them myself, but I take advantage of the fresh, organic zukes available at the farmers’ market in the summer, then dehydrate them so I can cook and bake with them during the winter months.

While I dry some in thin slices to be thrown into a pot of soup, my favorite prep method for dehydrating zucchini is to shred it.  In this form it can be used in so many ways:  to thicken soups, add flavor to sauces and sautés, make zucchini bread (or maybe some chocolate zucchini cake), or to make zucchini fritters.

Fritters make a great appetizer/first course, especially topped with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche, aioli, or pesto.  They’re equally lovely served just with some lemon wedges.  Fritters work well as a side dish too (I quite like them with roasted chicken or grilled sausages).

If you don’t have a dehydrator and aren’t tempted to get one, you can still make these fritters by substituting about 1 pound of fresh zucchini for the dried.  Shred the zucchini with a food processor or stand mixer attachment, or use the course side of a box grater.  Squeeze out as much moisture as you can from the shredded zukes, then proceed as directed starting with Step 2.

(recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living)
1 cup dried shredded zucchini
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 tbsp minced fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 - 4 tbsp olive oil

1.    Reconstitute zucchini in 1 cup of boiling water.  Allow to sit for about 30 minutes, then drain thoroughly.

2.    Mix together the drained zucchini, salt & pepper, lemon zest, parsley, garlic, and eggs.  Slowly add the flour, stirring well so that no lumps form.

3.    Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot (the oil should sizzle when you drop a tiny amount of the zucchini mixture into it), carefully drop in the zucchini mixture 2 tbsp at a time (a 2-tbsp cookie scoop works great for this), spacing the fritters a few inches apart. 

4.    Cook until the bottoms of the fritters are golden, about 2-3 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium, turn the fritters, and cook for another 2-3 minutes more, until the fritters are completely golden.  Remove the fritters to a plate lined with paper or flour sack towels to absorb any excess olive oil.  Cook any remaining zucchini mixture, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.  Garnish as desired and serve.  Makes about 6 fritters.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lefty Loosey

It’s spring!  Which means gardening time, which means I finally have an excuse to play with the hose  buy more plants  dig in the dirt  get outside and enjoy the weather.  As I’ve been putting a perennial herb garden together, I’m reminded of a little teaching aphorism, one I wish I learned a long time ago – before I may have had that incident last year where I turned the main water faucet on the side of the house the wrong way and the pressure blew the knob right off the pipe and maybe there was a water geyser that rivaled Yellowstone’s and after getting soaking wet head to toe I had to go running for my husband because the force was so great I couldn’t get the knob back on.  But I admit to nothing, except now maybe muttering “lefty loosey” to myself whenever I get near an outside water faucet to turn on the garden hose. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Make Your Own Irish Cream Liqueur

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, which means I’ll for sure be making a batch of homemade Irish Cream.  Making it yourself means you can use fresh ingredients that give a rich, full flavor without any of the chemical taste you may find in commercial bottles.

Recipes abound on the Internet for DIY Irish Cream Liqueur.  They’re all more or less the same, although some call for much more sugar than others.  I’ve adapted a version that uses sweetened condensed milk, which to my palate provides a rich taste and creamy texture that is not overly sweet.  I find heavy cream a bit too heavy, so I use mostly half & half blended with some cream.  Or I just use what I have in the fridge – it’s all good.  Just be sure if you’re using heavy cream to not get distracted and let your blender go too long or you’ll end up with something approaching whipped cream.  ASK ME HOW I KNOW. 


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pumpkin or Apple? That is the question. (The answer is both.)

Some folks are very particular about their pie.  There are those that think pumpkin pie rules, and there are those that believe that nothing can compare to a good old-fashioned apple pie.  If you’ve been given the pie assignment for a holiday gathering and have only the time or inclination to bake just one, how do you choose?  Here’s an answer:  Make a Pumpkin Apple Pie. 
The combination of flavors is perfect, and it has a light texture that’s not overly custardy or heavy.  The first taste brings a surprising burst of tart apple, without the cloying sweetness of a classic apple pie.  This somewhat unusual pie can be served all season long as a simple dessert, yet it’s nice enough for the holidays.  It’s sure to please many a pie lover.
It’s a snap to make, especially if you cheat like me and used store-bought pie crust and canned pumpkin purée.  And it’s a great way to use your homemade applesauce, especially if you have jars languishing on the shelves from a prior season (I made this pie yesterday and won’t say what vintage the applesauce was from).
Should you wish to make your own pumpkin pie spice -- you've likely got the ingredients already in the cupboard -- the recipe is here as well. 


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

2017 All-Pumpkin Dinner

The tradition continues.  This year’s dinner excludes an appetizer, because … gnocchi and brownies. 

Without further ado, here’s the menu for our (mostly) annual all-pumpkin dinner.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Thinking Outside the Jar: Roasted Red Pepper Spread to Red Pepper Pesto

What do you do when you pick a peck of red bell peppers?  You can freeze them, dehydrate them, or make pickles.  I sometimes do all of things, but mostly I like to make something a bit different:  Roasted Red Pepper Spread.  It’s a delicious condiment that pairs beautifully with goat cheese crostini and can be used for many other appetizers.  And of course it’s a great sandwich spread.  But while I can eat more than my fair share of crostini, there’s only so many appetizers a small household can handle -- so I like to put my condiment to good meal use. 
Roasted Red Pepper Spread is made with roasted sweet red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic.   There’s some vinegar in there – all these vegetables are low in acid and thus require acidification in order to be safely water bath canned at home.  All these ingredients cook up into a rich and savory concoction that makes the house smell divine.  While I admit that peeling peppers is not my favorite activity, it’s easy enough and worth the small extra effort. 
spoonful of the spread will perk up couscous (and let’s face it, couscous can always use some perking up), and I like it topped on polenta with poached or coddled eggs and maybe some steamed greens.  One of my favorite uses is to transform it into pesto for a quick and delicious dinner.  A quick whirl in the blender, along with some parmesan, olive oil, and a bit more garlic and salt is all you need.  Well, and some cooked pasta, of course. 
Another benefit:  Roasted Red Pepper Spread can make a nice host/hostess or holiday gift.  It’s beautiful orangey-red color looks great in the jar.  Simply add a ribbon and card with suggested uses, or include it in a gift basket with some fancy dried pasta and a great wooden spoon.