Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zucchini-Feta Pancakes

I know zucchini is out of season, but Los Poblanos has been giving us these cute little yellow pattypan squashes from Del Cabo, a cooperative of small family farms in Mexico. And so, here's one of my old faves, zucchini-feta pancakes! They are light and fluffy but satisfying. Any summer squash will work, although they are prettier with green zucchini.

This is another recipe from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook.  I first made these when I was on exchange in Western Australia in college, and this was the only cookbook I brought with me.  I was living in a student flat with six other kids, and of course I didn't have an electric mixer so I just tried to beat the egg whites by hand. It was a bit of a disaster - the texture was horrible, but they tasted great! The key to this recipe is to whip the whites until they are really stiff, then gently fold them in with the other ingredients.

4 eggs, separated
4 packed cups zucchini, or any summer squash
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup minced green onions or shallots
1 tsp dried mint
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper
1/3 cup flour
oil for frying
sour cream or plain yogurt for topping

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form - if you run your finger through it, the trail doesn't collapse. Combine zucchini, feta, egg yolks (optional), onions, flour and seasonings. Mix well, then gently fold in the egg whites to make a smooth batter.

Heat oil in a large skillet, and when it is very hot, drop in spoonfuls of the batter. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Serve with sour cream or yogurt.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mustard-Roasted Cauliflower

I have tried roasted cauliflower before, but wasn't totally impressed with the flavor. But this makes it perfect! It's not too mustardy, and really brings out the sweetness of the cauliflower. Look at this gorgeous green specimen - if you look closely you can see the fractal pattern of its florets...

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut off the green leaves, and slice the whole head through into 1/4-inch slices. Whisk together 1/4 cup of olive oil with 1/4 tsp salt, 1-2 cloves of garlic (minced), and 2 Tbs mustard (something like Dijon, although I wonder if yellow or stone-ground mustard would be ok). I just discovered that the mustard I've been using has a little bit of sugar in it, so next time if I have different mustard, I might add a little bit of honey.

Toss the cauliflower in a large bowl with the sauce to coat it. Roast it for about 20-25 minutes, toss it a bit, and continue roasting for another 20 minutes or so, checking often to make sure it doesn't burn. I have been experimenting a bit with roasting temperatures, and I think maybe you could get it done in less time if you went up to 425F, and checked it more often. It should be nicely browned in places (these are the best bits!) and if you think it needs a bit more salt or mustard flavor when you taste it, you can always whip up a little bit more mustard sauce and add it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cabbage and Rye Panade

Incredible. Delectable. I can't say enough about this dish, it's a new favorite. Although everything tastes awesome with Gruyere, that's not the only thing that makes this fantastic. In fact, I would use a bit less cheese next time. A panade is a sort of casserole with bread soaked in broth - it's kind of like stuffing, but sort of fancier. This one tastes kind of like French onion soup, but with great cabbage, herb and garlic flavor.

This is adapted from a Deborah Madison recipe, but I found it on a discussion thread on Chowhound, which, amazingly enough, started in 2007 and is still going - so many great cabbage recipes! It calls for juniper berries, which may be a bit difficult to find (I got them from the bulk spice section at our local co-op, which by the way is much more economical than buying spices at the regular grocery store!)  You could leave them out, but they add a wonderful, unusual flavor. I never would have thought to cook cabbage with juniper or sage, but it's great!

3 T butter or olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 t juniper berries, crushed
2-3 lbs cabbage, quartered & sliced into ribbons
1-2 tsp ground rubbed sage
5 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
4 (or more) slices rye bread with caraway seed
1/2 - 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
3-4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 350. Heat butter or olive oil in skillet and fry the onion, and juniper berries until onions begin to brown. Add cabbage, sage, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup water to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until cabbage is tender and browned in places, about 20 minutes.

Place half the cabbage into the dish, lay the rye bread over it to cover the baking dish in a single layer (you may need more than 4 slices depending on how big your dish is (as you can see, I used a cast iron frying pan, and I needed 5 slices). Then layer on the gruyere and finally the remaining cabbage. Pour the broth over everything and bake for around 45 minutes, until it's bubbly and the cabbage edges are browning. Spoon it into soup dishes. There should be some broth left in the pan, so ladle some into each bowl to serve.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Moroccan Winter Squash with Caramelized Shallots

Oh, this was amazing. Almonds, raisins, and garlic really dress up the squash without being overwhelmingly sweet. Mint and lemon are the perfect light finish.

This recipe is adapted from Ghillie Basan's Modern Moroccan, which has gorgeous photos as well as excellent recipes!  I just noticed that it's quite expensive now on Amazon because it's not available new anymore, but they do have a couple of her other cookbooks, which I haven't tried but they're probably good.

2 lb winter squash (any variety is fine)
1/2 cup water
3-4 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
16-20 pink shallots, peeled
10-12 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup raisins
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and ground black pepper
small bunch of mint, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges for serving

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the squash into thick slices, and place in a covered casserole dish with the water to bake for about 45 minutes. You can either peel the squash before baking it, or just bake it and remove the skins later (this is what I did, because peeling uncooked squash is such a pain!)

Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet on medium-high, add the shallots and cook until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and almonds, tossing to coat them with oil, and cook until they begin to brown. Add the raisins, turn the heat down, and continue cooking until the shallots and garlic are caramelized. Stir in the cinnamon and a little water. Season well with salt and pepper. You may want to add a little extra salt because the squash is not salted.

Pile this mixture over the squash and return to the oven, uncovered, for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh mint and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over the vegetables.

This dish is wonderful on its own or with couscous, and maybe a dollop of plain yogurt. And as Dave says about everything, this would be great with a little red chile in it too!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spinach, Pear and Gorgonzola Tart

This is another variation on the pear and greens theme - always a winner. I recently found White Balsamic Vinegar, at the grocery store near my house, which is not normally known for its gourmet selection! It is amazing, sweet and fragrant. But regular balsamic vinegar would be great on this too.

1 sheet puff pastry
1 ripe pear
1/2 pound spinach
1/4 cup gorgonzola
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly score about a 3/4" border around the puff pastry sheet, so that the outside edges will puff up. Be sure not to cut all the way through!

Brush with olive oil and arrange the spinach, pears and gorgonzola on it. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the gorgonzola starts to bubble and the pastry is puffed up around the edges, about 20 minutes. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could do some caramelized onions and spread them over the bottom if you like, but that takes time and I was hungry!

Pasta with Chard and Lemony Ricotta

Chard is already sprouting up in my garden, from where I planted it several years ago - I just ignore it and it continually reseeds itself!  I love both the stems and the leaves chopped up together for a great texture variety.

This recipe is adapted from Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats. She is so adorable and I love the 30-minute meal concept, although I can never quite whip it out that fast myself.  But I figure if I start there, at least it's a safe bet to be faster than some other recipes I might want to try.  I have really enjoyed some of her recipes, although I've been disappointed with others, and I think she often relies a bit too heavily on bacon and chicken stock for flavor!

1 pound rotini or other corkscrew-shaped pasta
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or hot paprika (my favorite spice! you can also combine cayenne and regular paprika to make your own - it has such a wonderful nutty flavor)
salt and pepper
1 bunch of rainbow or red chard, sliced in thin ribbons
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or other flavorful hard cheese
15-oz tub of ricotta cheese
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta. Meanwhile, fry bacon in a skillet until crisp. Drain, wipe out the pan, and add olive oil.  Cook garlic, onion, hot paprika, salt and pepper, for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are lightly caramelized. Add the chard, toss to coat with oil, and cook until wilted. Add stock and a couple of ladles of hot starchy water from the pasta pot. Boil for 6-7 minutes, then turn off heat and add lemon juice and bacon. Drain the pasta well and toss with the greens and grated parmesan. Combine the ricotta with the lemon zest, season with salt and pepper, and whip with a fork until fluffy. Put a dollop on the bottom of each bowl and serve the pasta over it. Stir it up in your bowl with the pasta, and yum!!  I think next time I will try it without the bacon, maybe balsamic vinegar instead, and try adding some thyme.

I bet can think of a lot of things to do with that lemony ricotta in the future - it is fantastically fragrant and delicious!