I like to cook. Sometimes my daughter likes to eat.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Smitten Kitchen's Zucchini, Ham and Ricotta Fritters

Fritters? Latkes? Pancakes? Whatever you call them, these are delicious! Light, savory, they make a lovely brunch or light supper with an arugula salad, or probably any green salad but the peppery greens were perfect. Don't want to lose track of this one.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Best of Summer Recipe Roundup

Although summer was crazy, with fewer opportunities to cook than I would like, several recipes joined our list of favorites. Summer 2010 will go down as the year we realized we like zucchini, that we can't keep up with a farm box, and that you really can't have too much baba ganoush.

Simple Steamed Zucchini
Up to now, most of our go-to zucchini recipes have involved a lot of spice. We all thought we really disliked the taste of plain zucchini. But it turns out that simply steamed zucchini is a treat! The key is avoiding those bitter one, one bite of bitter zucchini can ruin us for the whole summer, delicate squash flowers that we are. Look for smooth-skinned, straight or gently curving squash. If it has bulges down the body, that means it was watered irregularly and it's bound to be bitter. Then cut it in 1" half moons, or quarters if they are larger squash. Lightly oil your steamer pan, add the squash, sprinkle with kosher salt and crumbled oregano and steam a few minutes till done to your preference. We actually like ours slightly soft rather than perfectly al dente. The squash gets a lovely creamy texture that pleasantly surprises us each time.

Pesto Trapanese (Tomato-Almond Pesto)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

When I saw this recipe, I was smitten with its simplicity -- wonderful summer ingredients, no cooking, and a nice change after weeks of traditional pest. Plus I am guaranteed to love anything with pecorino cheese and I had lovely roma tomatoes from our farm box that needed using and about a handful of basil that hadn't yet wilted. We gobbled it up, but to our tastes it needed something, a little contrast to the rich almonds, olive oil and cheese. I added a touch of vinegar at the end and also ground the almonds more finely. They don't break up the way pine nuts do. Here's my modified dish, no longer very traditional but it's won rave reviews.

3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 large handful fresh basil leaves
2 to 3 large garlic cloves
Several sprinkles of sea salt
Several grindings of black pepper
8 ripe plum tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup grated Pecorino
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 t red wine vinegar

1 pound linguine or spaghetti

In a small skillet, toast the garlic cloves *in their skins* until they take on light brown patches on all sides. Allow to cool, then peel. Place the basil inside a folded piece of wax paper and pound lightly with a meat tenderizer.

Grind the almonds in a food processor until they are somewhere between a grain of shortgrain brown rice and good-sized breadcrumbs. Add the basil, peeled garlic and a few pinches of sea salt into the food processor and chop. Add the tomatoes, cheese and olive oil and whirl briefly. Season with freshly ground black pepper and the vinegar.

Cook the linguine until it is al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta cooking water and drain the rest. Immediately toss the hot linguine with the pesto and mix quickly so that it drinks the sauce up a bit, adding more pasta water if needed. Serve with freshly grated pecorino and a glass of wine.

Israeli-style Baba Ganoush

Pierce the skin and roast one globe eggplant till it is very soft, either in a 500 degree oven or over a grill. This can take as long as one hour, but it is totally passive, you can do it while you're eating dinner and the rest of the recipe comes together in minutes.

Make a deep slit in the flower end of the eggpant and allow it to drain in a colander in the sink for ~10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a small cast-iron or other heavy pan over medium-high heat. Toast 2 unpeeled garlic cloves until the skin is browned on all sides. Cool and peel.

Scoop the eggplant flesh away from the skin, removing any large seed clusters and place it in the bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic cloves, 1/2 t salt, 1 T lemon juice, and 2 T mayonnaise. Whirl it till it's smooth, maybe 4-5 long pulses. Adjust the balance of lemon and mayonnaise until you are satisfied, then enjoy garnished with chopped parsley and a drizzle of flavorful olive oil, or keep on hand for a quick snack when you are too ravenous to cook dinner. Better yet, make something for dinner like lamb burgers or garbanzo patties and serve the baba ganoush alongside in a whole wheat pita.

Ravioli with Corn, Spinach and Pancetta

This recipe is based on a recipe from one of my favorite, food blogs, Dinner: A Love Story. I've been happy with every recipe I've cooked from this blog (and their Time for Dinner cookbook is fantastic), but that doesn't mean I don't fiddle a bit, and here are the results, a perfectly easy after-work meal that takes very little prep. Even MZ liked it, once she could be convinced to try everything on one fork full instead of plucking out various ingredients with her fingers. This recipe handily serves 4 people.

1 lb. fresh cheese ravioli or 1/2 bag dried cheese ravioli*(TJs)
1/2 T olive oil
1 package diced pancetta (TJs)
1/2 large onion, diced
Freshly shucked corn from 2 ears or 5 oz (1/2 bag) frozen white corn
4 cups fresh spinach, leaves roughly chopped
1/2 cup finely grated parmigiano cheese
1 cup low sodium chicken broth

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and pancetta to the pan, stir and go change out of your work clothes. Then dice the onion and shuck the corn, if using fresh.

Generously salt the boiling water. Add the ravioli and cook for 15-16 minutes till a little more firm than al dente. If using frozen corn, add it to the water, stir, cook for 1 minute and add the spinach. Stir and drain into a colander with a mesh strainer.

Meanwhile, when the pancetta is crisp, remove it from the pan and discard all but 1 T of the oil/fat. Saute the onion. Add the drained ravioli mixture and the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in 1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and a generous grinding of black pepper. Serve with additional cheese.

*These are a matter of personal taste. I prefer fresh but I do think these little raviolis have a flavor all their own, their size is nice here and they couldn't be more convenient, although keep in mind they take almost 20 minutes to cook.

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