grilled potato and vegetable salad

Last year I said, “You know what always makes me twitchy? Hearing people talk about how they just have sooo many zucchini or tomatoes or whatever from their garden.”

Squeeeee!!!! And now I am one of those people! I am I am I am I am!!!

Okay, sort of. I have hundreds of tomatoes growing, but they won’t. turn. red. Aaargh! I only had enough green beans for one meal, but it looks like there will be a steady supply of jalapenos and chile peppers starting soon. I wouldn’t say that I get more zucchini than I know what to do with – my single plant offers about one squash per week (after being suitably sexed up of course), which is just right for us.

And it’s just right in this dish. When I’m cooking something on the grill, it always makes more sense to me to make the whole meal on the grill. It can be difficult to find interesting grilled side dishes though. I had made grilled potatoes and grilled vegetables many times before, but mixing the two together and adding dressing to make a salad was more fun than eating them separately. It’s a perfect side for so many meat dishes, and it’s the perfect way to use my one zucchini per week.

One year ago: Tortellini Soup with Carrots, Peas, and Leeks
Two years ago: Summer Rolls

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Grilled Potato and Vegetable Salad (adapted from Bon Apetit via epicurious)

Serves 4 to 6

You can also try microwaving the oiled potatoes in a covered bowl for a few minutes before grilling, if you’re concerned about the centers cooking all the way through. Sometimes I do this; sometimes I don’t.

2 pounds asparagus, red onions, mushrooms, summer squash, and/or red peppers
8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, sliced ½-inch thick
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (such as parsley, chives, and/or basil)
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Prepare the vegetables – trim the asparagus; cut the onions into ½-inch slices, keeping the rings together; leave the mushrooms whole; cut the squash on a bias into half-inch slices; cut the bottom and top off the peppers and cut the middle section in half length-wise. Season the vegetables and potatoes with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil.

2. Whisk the lemon juice, shallot, herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the extra virgin olive oil.

3. Prepare a grill to medium heat. Lay the vegetables in a single layer on the rack and grill until browned and tender, about 8 minutes per side for potatoes, 6 minutes per side for peppers and onions, 4 minutes per side for mushrooms and squash.

4. Chop the cooked vegetables and potatoes into ½-inch cubes; place them in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

stuffed squash flowers

I didn’t realize how sexual plants were until I started growing zucchini. Concerned that my plants weren’t being pollinated, I did some research and found that to hand-pollinate zucchini, all you have to do is rub the male flower’s pistil on the female’s stigma.

Kinky.

But how to tell the difference between male and female flowers? Well, you learned this when you were five – boys and girls have, ah, visibly different parts, and the zucchini flowers’ parts are surprisingly similar to humans’. Or maybe I just have a dirty mind. You be the judge.

Pistils and stigmas aside, female flowers have a mini zucchini as a stem, and males have a normal stem. This is important, because if you’re going to fry zucchini flowers, and you should if you have them available, you want to fry the males of course, and leave the females behind to form zucchini. But not before sacrificing a male to rub over the female, in a deliberate act of zucchini rape.

To further abuse your zucchini flowers, cut the males off (ouchy), pry them open, stuff them with cheese, batter, and fry them. It’s kind of like mozzarella sticks, except even crisper and more flavorful because the mozzarella was marinated in garlicky olive oil. It’s almost better than sex – at least zucchini sex.

One year ago: Puff Pastry Dough
Two years ago: Pain a l’ancienne

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers (adapted from How to Read a French Fry, by Russ Parsons)

I used regular (not fresh) mozzarella because it’s all I had. It worked just fine, but I definitely think fresh would be even better.

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 24 pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ – 1 cup water
2 quarts vegetable oil for deep-frying
24 zucchini flowers (about 1 pound), washed and dried

1. In a medium bowl, combine the cheese, garlic, crushed red pepper, olive oil, and a healthy pinch of both salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour and enough water to form a thin, smooth batter with the thickness of heavy cream.

3. In large pot, heat the vegetable oil to 375 degrees. While the oil heats, use a finger to pry open each flower; stuff a piece of mozzarella inside, then twist the petals together to close the flower around the cheese.

4. Dip the blossoms in the batter; let excess batter drip off, then place the blossoms in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides, 4-5 minutes. Fry only 4-6 blossoms at a time, carefully monitoring the oil temperature so it remains between 350 and 375 degrees. Drain the fried blossoms on a paper towel-lined plate. Salt lightly and serve immediately.

strawberry chocolate ice cream pie

The rest of the country (hemisphere, I suppose) is gearing up for summer. Here in the desert though, we’ve been there for a while. This weekend Dave and I hiked over seven miles in 90 degree weather. It’s a dry heat though! (Actually, the hike wasn’t bad at all – it was either shady or windy the whole time, so although we were hot, we weren’t dying. And the dry heat does make a difference.)


the beginning of homemade chocolate ice cream

Ice cream pie is perfect for the weather we’ve been having. The specific ingredients called for here aren’t perfect for me though. I eat so many bananas as snacks that the idea of adding them to chocolate ice cream for dessert didn’t sound appealing. Strawberries, however, can be added to most any dessert.

Oh, except maybe not one that’s going to be stored in the freezer like this. Sliced strawberries between the crust and the ice cream turned into ice cubes in the freezer; I should have given them a dip in vodka before freezing them to keep them from freezing so solidly. Other than that, what’s not to love about this dessert? I don’t need to tell you that chocolate ice cream and strawberries are a tempting combination – especially when it’s a hundred degrees out.

Spike chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Chipster-Topped Brownies
Two years ago: Pecan-Honey Sticky Buns

cherry-cherry bread pudding

Seasonal fruit – I like it. I eat the strawberries in the spring and the blueberries in the summer and the apples in the fall and the apples, still, in the winter. I do not eat the apples in the spring. And apparently I shouldn’t eat the cherries in the spring either, because these were the most terrible, tasteless, watery cherries I’ve ever had.

I was vaguely hoping that baking them would concentrate their flavor enough so that they, you know, had some, but no, that just gave me cooked terrible cherries. Poor bread pudding, ruined by bad cherries. I guess I should have gone for the apples after all.

Now the bread pudding part, that I certainly enjoyed. It’s bread, it’s custard – it’s French toast! I’ll make it with the apples in the fall to enjoy this recipe in all its glory.

Elizabeth chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted. I used 1 cup (terrible!) cherries, pitted and halved, in place of the caramelized apples, cherry jam instead of apple butter, and all whole milk rather than a mixture of milk and heavy cream. And I forgot to add a dash of salt to the custard, which I regretted.

One year ago: Mango Bread
Two years ago: Traditional Madeleines

quick classic berry tart

I can’t be the only one who prefers recipes that use whole eggs instead of egg parts. It isn’t just a mild packrat tendency, although I’m sure that’s part of it. I buy the expensive eggs – the ones that are hopefully (but questionably, I know) from slightly less mistreated animals. Throwing away egg whites is throwing away money. And sure, you can freeze egg whites (because it’s always egg whites I have leftover; delicious rich emulsifying egg yolks I can almost always find a use for), but what’s the point of gathering a collection of frozen egg whites that I’ll never use?

All this to say that I didn’t really make Dorie’s classic berry tart. I made Tartine’s. Their pastry cream is the only I’ve seen that uses whole eggs instead of egg yolks. I like the silky light texture that results from the addition of egg whites. Likewise, their tart dough uses whole eggs, so I went ahead and made that too, instead of Dorie’s.

Of course the result was fantastic – every baking book has some variation of tart dough + pastry cream + berries, and for good reason – it’s an unbeatable combination. I’m confident this tart would be just as good with Dorie’s recipes; I’ve made both her pastry cream and her tart dough, and they’re wonderful. They’re especially great if you enjoy egg white omelets so you don’t end up with a freezer full of egg whites.

Christine chose this, and she has Dorie’s recipes posted.

One year ago: Tartest Lemon Tart
Two years ago: Florida Pie

slaw tartare

“Here, taste this”, I requested, bringing Dave a cornichon.

He obliged, then made a face. “Euck, it’s a pickle.”

I sighed. Brined food is Dave’s single food hangup, but the cornichons had seemed relatively mild to me. I was hoping he wouldn’t mind them.

I went back into the kitchen to finish the salad, snacking on at least one cornichon for every one I chopped.

Before too long, I tried again, this time with capers. “Too briny”, he insisted.

I was starting to get worried about whether Dave would tolerate this slaw at all. Instead of coleslaw, he might be topping his shrimp burger with arugula and, uh…ketchup? We were out of mayonnaise; it had all gone into the dressing.

I forged on, but halved the capers and reduced the vinegar by even more. After mixing the dressing into the salad, I started tasting for seasoning. Results were inconclusive, so I tasted again. Seems okay, but I should take one more taste. When I realized that all my tasting was simply to keep eating, I decided the seasoning was just fine.

But it was time for the real test. I took a small bowl of the coleslaw to Dave. “Ooh, this is good slaw!” he exclaimed, finishing the bowl off in no time. I let out the breath I’d been holding. He was right. It is good slaw.

(The shrimp burgers were delicious.  They will be my next entry.)

One year ago: Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts, and Ricotta Salata
Two years ago: Creamy Buttermilk Coleslaw (okay, that’s kind of wierd)

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Slaw Tartare (adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Rebecca Charles’ and Deborah Di Clementi’s Lobster Rolls and Blueberry Pies)

Not a fan of watery coleslaw, these days I salt all of my cabbage destined for slaw.

Also, the recipe on Deb’s site, which reportedly already has less mayonnaise than the original, still seems to have a crazy amount of it. I’ve reduced it to about a third of what she recommends and thought the slaw was perfectly creamy. I’ve reduced some of the other dressing components accordingly.

½ cabbage (about 1 pound), shredded fine (5-6 cups)
kosher salt
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ cup capers
¼ cup chopped cornichons, plus 1 tablespoon of the juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Toss the shredded cabbage and 1 teaspoon salt in a colander or large mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. Let it stand until cabbage wilts, at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Rinse the cabbage under cold running water. Spin the cabbage in a salad spinner until it’s dry or press, but do not squeeze, to drain it; pat dry with paper towels. Place the wilted cabbage in a large bowl.

2. Mix the onions, sherry vinegar, and sugar together in a small bowl. Let it set for about 15 minutes, then mix in the capers, cornichons, cornichon juice, mustard, mayonnaise, and pepper. Fold the dressing into the cabbage and serve, or refrigerate for several hours for serving.

cherry tomato salad

Here are two common pairings that seem impractical to me – bread served with pasta and fries served with burgers. Of course they’re tasty combinations – who doesn’t love more carbs? – but do they make nutritional sense?

Granted, a leafy green salad would be too refined, and roasted or steamed vegetables don’t go with the casual feel of a burger. That’s why I love a non-lettuce based salad to go along with burgers, instead starring something like mushrooms or peppers or tomatoes.

Even though my little desert town has perfect grilling weather nearly year-round, it does not have perfect tomatoes. That’s a nice thing about this salad – you can make it with grape tomatoes, the only decent tomato option at the grocery store for most of the year.

What’s more, the tomato flavor is enhanced by draining the watery juice from the tomatoes and reducing it to use with the dressing. The dressing ends up somewhat sweet, which is nicely balanced by tart red wine vinegar, fresh cucumber (I can’t believe I used to not like cucumber), and salty feta. I’d take this salad over fries any day.

One year ago: Lemon Poppy Seed Waffles
Two years ago: Whole Wheat Pasta with Greens, Beans, Tomatoes, and Garlic Chips

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Greek Cherry Tomato Salad (from Cooks Illustrated)

If in-season cherry tomatoes are unavailable, substitute vine-ripened cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes from the supermarket. Cut grape tomatoes in half along the equator rather than quartering them.

If you don’t have a salad spinner, after the salted tomatoes have stood for 30 minutes, wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and gently shake to remove seeds and excess liquid. Strain the liquid and proceed with the recipe as directed.

The amount of liquid given off by the tomatoes will depend on their ripeness. If you have less than ½ cup of juice after spinning, proceed with the recipe using the entire amount of juice and reduce it to 3 tablespoons as directed.

2 pints ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 4 cups) (see note)
table salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into ½-inch dice
½ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Toss tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon salt, and sugar in a medium bowl; let stand for 30 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes to a salad spinner and spin until the seeds and excess liquid have been removed, 45 to 60 seconds, stirring to redistribute the tomatoes several times during spinning. Return the tomatoes to the bowl and set aside. Strain the tomato liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.

2. Bring ½ cup tomato liquid (discard any extra), the garlic, oregano, shallot, and vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the mixture is reduced to 3 tablespoons, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and cool to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the oil and pepper to taste until combined. Taste and season with up to ⅛ teaspoon table salt.

3. Add the cucumber, olives, feta, dressing, and parsley to the bowl with the tomatoes; toss gently and serve.

soft chocolate and berry tart

Chocolate and raspberry was my favorite flavor combination for a long time. It’s still up there for sure, but I’ve tried so many desserts recently that I’ve found all kinds of other great pairs – orange and vanilla, peaches and amaretto, cream cheese and anything. There’s no need to play favorites, but I was excited about making a chocolate and raspberry tart.

Then I used strawberries instead. Sometimes baking for Tuesdays with Dorie happens to be one item on a long (but manageable!) To Do list, and those times, I make do – and I had strawberries in the freezer. Even though Dorie specifically recommends against using strawberries because they’re too juicy, I went ahead with what I had. I defrosted a few, diced them small, sprinkled them with sugar, and set them aside to give off some liquid, which I drained before using the berries in the recipe. (I had a brief thought of “what should I do with the liquid?” Then – wait a minute! That’s sugary strawberry juice! And I drank it.)

I’d call it a success! My tart was a bit sloppy when I cut into it, but it was still crisp tart crust, rich chocolate, and sweet berries. No one complained about combining chocolate and strawberries around here, that’s for sure.  Rachelle has the original recipe posted on her site.

One year ago: Lemon Cup Custards

zucchini bread

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You know what always makes me twitchy with envy? Hearing people talk about how they just have sooo many zucchini or tomatoes or whatever from their garden, and they just don’t know what to do with it all.

Shut. Up.

Also: Give them to me.

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I live in an apartment. There are no raised beds and no compost bins. There isn’t enough sunlight for container plants. I can’t even keep herbs because the cats eat them.

No, I bought these zucchini from the grocery store, although it at least was from the local farm section. But it’s the end of summer, and, damn it, I wanted zucchini bread.

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I’m not a big carrot cake fan – vegetables? dessert? they do not belong together – but zucchini bread I can do. It’s a quick bread, a snack; it isn’t masquerading as a fancy cake. Like most quick breads, this one starts with the dry ingredients (flour, salt, leavener, nuts) and the wet ingredients (eggs, butter, sugar, yogurt, a little lemon juice) mixed separately before being folding together.

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What I like about this recipe is how it treats the zucchini. Zucchini is full of water, and think about it – when did you last add water to a quick bread? You don’t, because it makes baked foods wet and gummy. So you have to remove the water from the zucchini. After the zucchini is shredded, mix it with a couple tablespoons of sugar, and let it sit and drain in a strainer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. By the time you’re ready to move on with the recipe, the zucchini will have given up something like a half-cup of (bright green) water. What’s even better about this method is that you end up using more zucchini than you could if you had to keep all of the water in the dough.

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Ooh, I loved these. Loved them. So soft, so tender, so pretty and green. They don’t taste at all vegetal, and they’re just sweet enough. Someday I’ll have a house and a vegetable garden, and I will turn so much zucchini into beautiful bread. Until then, I’ll be grateful that zucchini is available year-round from the grocery store.

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One year ago: Sausage and Red Pepper Hash

Zucchini Bread (from Cooks Illustrated)

To make muffins instead of a loaf, divide the batter between 12 greased and floured muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-25 minutes.

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 pound zucchini, washed and dried, ends and stems removed, cut in half lengthwise and seeded if using large zucchini, each half cut into 1-inch pieces
¾ cups (5¼ ounces) sugar
½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped coarse
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter, melted and cooled

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the zucchini and 2 tablespoons of the sugar until the zucchini is coarsely shredded, twelve to fifteen 1-second pulses. Transfer the mixture to a fine-mesh strainer set at least 2 inches over a bowl and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can shred the halved zucchini (don’t cut into 1-inch pieces) on the large holes of a box grater, toss with the 2 tablespoons of sugar, and drain.

3. Meanwhile, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a cooling rack and cool completely. Transfer the nuts to a large bowl; add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk until combined. Set aside.

4. Whisk together the remaining ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and melted butter in a 2-cup glass measure until combined. Set aside.

5. After the zucchini has drained, squeeze the zucchini with several layers of paper towels to absorb excess moisture. Stir the zucchini and the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula.

6. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least one hour before serving. (The bread can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

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pickled coleslaw

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Salads can be tricky, because if I’m eating a big bowl of vegetables, it better be healthy, you know? But there’s the whole salad dressing issue. Vinaigrette is the standard lighter option, but even it’s usually based on olive oil.

Coleslaw is no exception to the salad dressing problem. Many coleslaws are simply cabbage, mayonnaise and seasoning. Not only is this a little plain for my taste, but it turns coleslaw into a full-on indulgence. Even my favorite buttermilk coleslaw recipe includes a bit of mayonnaise and sour cream (which could probably be replaced by plain yogurt), although the base of the dressing is lowfat buttermilk.

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A lot of people don’t even like creamy coleslaws, preferring vinegar-based slaws instead. I like both types, and at first I thought these vinegar dressings were the no-fat answer for coleslaw, until I found out that most involve oil, like a typical vinaigrette does.

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The solution, it turns out, is pickled coleslaw. The cabbage here is mixed with nothing but vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Those ingredients have to be heated to dissolve the sugar, then cooled so they don’t wilt the cabbage. Then they’re mixed with the shredded cabbage and a few other vegetables (sadly, I didn’t have a cucumber around when I made this, so I had to skip it), and refrigerated overnight – or for longer, if need be.

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What a great way to eat a big bowl of vegetables. Since I’m not worried by a wee bit of sugar, there’s nothing for me to feel guilty about here. And it isn’t just about being healthy – it tastes great too. It’s tart without being too sour and has a wonderful crunch. Even Dave, pickle-hater that he is, enjoyed it. Gotta love a salad without compromise.

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One year ago: Mashed Potatoes with Kale

Pickled Coleslaw (from Deb Perelman for NPR)

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Brine:
1½ cups distilled white vinegar
1½ cups water
⅓ (2.33 ounces) cup sugar
2½ tablespoons kosher salt

Slaw:
1 small head green cabbage
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 kirby cucumber, thinly sliced

Bring brine ingredients to a boil in a 2-quart nonreactive saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. (Use a pan of stainless steel, glass and enameled cast iron; avoid pure aluminum and uncoated iron, which can impart an unpleasant taste to recipes with acidic ingredients) Transfer to a 3- to 4-quart nonreactive bowl and cool completely. To speed this process up, you can set the bowl over a second bowl of ice water, and stir, which will quickly chill the brine.

Halve, core and halve again the head of cabbage, then finely slice it with a knife, or run the quarters through a food processor fitted with a slicing blade.

Toss sliced cabbage, bell pepper, carrot and cucumber in bowl with brine. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate, tossing the ingredients once or twice in a 24-hour period. After one day in the brine, the coleslaw is ready to serve. It keeps for up to 1 week, chilled.

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