delicious discourse

you won’t miss the meat

Posted in recipe, whim by delicious:discourse on September 19, 2008

The other night, a group of five girls, including myself, got together to try our hand at Bon Appetit’s Cooking Club menu for October, which is basically a vegetarian feast. Not sure how those of the male specie would respond to the strict no meat policy of such a dinner, I thought it safest to stick with the girls who seem more open to the idea. The philosophy of the menu is ideally seasonal vegetables that anyone could get locally at their farmers market. However, BP is slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to Texas agriculture. I had Matt attempt to pick up persimmons for me for the persimmon ice cream, and the person he asked at Whole Foods (the headquarters I might add) looked at him like he was crazy. A similar thing happened to Marie on her quest for pomegranates at WF. So, in the spirit of the menu, we just had to make do, just as people used to have to do–I opted for vanilla ice cream from Amy’s Ice Cream and the salad was sans pomegranate seeds.

Each of the 5 of us owned a dish. In the true spirit of a feast, this elegant and meatless meal was a true collaboration. Having everyone bring a dish for an already planned meal makes entertaining so much easier and also more exciting because you get to experience food made by other people and admire their own effort and creativity.


The first dish, courtesy of Nancy, was a dish of roasted shitake mushrooms with tossed in a dressing of lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and parsley, and cubes of pecorino cheese. Unimpressed with her first go at the dish, Nancy whipped up a second adding more garlic, less mustard, and using an aged vs. the called-for young pecorino. Whatever she did, it did the trick. Served with toothpicks, this girl, as in me, who does not even like mushrooms, could did not want to put the pick down, but I knew I had to save room for what was to come. (Pictured above. Courtesy of Bon Appetit)

Served with the main course, instead of before was a autumn farmer’s market salad made by Marie. With it’s roasted orange butternut squash, green arugula,and hypothetical pomengranate seends, the dish has quite the fall color scheme. Light and comforting with it dressing of orange huice, lemon juice, and walmnut oil, and complimented with the addition of walnuts, then drizzled with pomegranat molasses, the salad could have been a meal on its own. Nothing screams fall like butternut squash.

The zuchini galettes, courtesy of yours truly, turned out much better than I had ever expected. Frankly, I was worried, but that began to cease with every sip of my kir and when I began to see how much food we really had. The pastry was very easy to make. It just takes patience cutting the butter into the flour, but if you are a nerd like moi, it can be very meditative. I made it the night before. The filling was relatively easy, it just involved things time consuming steps, like draining the zuchinni for twenty minutes, or letting the zuchini-onion mixture cool to room temp. Also, you may not anticipate it, but cold pastry takes time to roll out. The first bite though, warm out of the onion, made every single step and worry worth it. The pastry was flaky and golden and the smooth zucchini was and ricotto were popped by parmesean and and fleur de sel.

Anna was extremely skeptical of her succotash of fresh corn, lima beans, tomatoes, and onions that she had actually made the night before. After reheating in a skillet and seasoning with some salt, the dish improved greatly. Maybe the flavors sort of melded together, but the dish was delicious, fresh, and the perfect antidote from the richness of the galettes. For the grand finale, dessert was in itself a collaborative effort. The vanilla ice cream was courtesy of our very good friend, Amy, over at Amy’s Ice Cream and I made the cherry-almond short bread cookies the night before. Kenzie was in charge of the pears. He nervousness, marked by her complete memorization of the recipe and its steps, was uneccessary. She executed the pears browned in butter, rose, and thyme beautifully. Sweet and soft, the dessert was beautiful next to the creamy icecream and the crunch of the shortbread.

All photographs are courtesy of Bon Appetit. I did not want to bore and torture my guests with taking hours of photographs, so this will have to do. However, I will attest that every dish we made looked exactly like the picture, except for the shitakes, which nancy left whole.

Recipes are below:

Shiitake Mushrooms with Young Pecorino Cheese
6 servings
7 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
8 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lemon, peel cut into long thin slivers (yellow part only)
Coarse kosher salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch-wide slices or left whole if smaller than 1 1/2 inches in diameter
1 garlic clove, peeled, flattened
6 oz young pecorino cheese (pecorino fresco) or Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
Whisk 5 teaspoons lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in 6 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in lemon peel slivers. Season dressing to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Toss mushrooms, remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle mushrooms with coarse salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes. Using spatula, turn mushrooms over and roast until soft and beginning to brown around edges, about 10 minutes longer.
Pour half of dressing over hot mushrooms on sheet. Add garlic and toss to coat. Let cool on sheet.
Combine mushrooms, cheese, parsley, and remaining dressing in medium bowl. Let marinate at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Discard garlic clove. Serve mushrooms and cheese with toothpicks, if desired.Roasted Butternut Squash, Pomegranate, and Walnut Salad
6 servings

4 1/2 to 5 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash (from about one 2-pound squash)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons walnut oil or other nut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 oz arugula (about 8 cups lightly packed)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses*

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss squash, olive oil, and crushed red pepper on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Roast 15 minutes. Using spatula, turn squash over. Roast until edges are browned and squash is tender, about 15 minutes longer. Sprinkle with coarse salt. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Whisk orange juice, walnut oil, and lemon juice in large shallow bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add arugula, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds; toss to coat. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Spoon warm or room-temperature squash over salad. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and serve.

*A thick pomegranate syrup; available at some supermarkets and at Middle Eastern markets, and from adrianascaravan.com.

Individual Zucchini, Lemon, and Ricotta Galettes
makes 6 (mine made 8)CRUST
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons (or more) ice water

FILLING
5 2/3 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 1 1/3 pounds)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
4 tablespoons butter, divided4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* Fleur de sel

Crust: Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl. Using fingertips, rub butter into flour mixture until coarse meal forms. Add 4 tablespoons ice water, 1 tablespoonful at a time, stirring until dough forms moist clumps, and adding more water by teaspoonfuls as needed if dough is too dry. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten each into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out.

Filling: Place zucchini in colander set over large bowl. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and toss to coat. Let drain 30 minutes. Working in batches, squeeze zucchini in kitchen towel to remove as much liquid as possible.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini and lemon juice; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until zucchini is tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup Parmesan, egg, lemon peel, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Stir in cooled zucchini mixture. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out 1 dough disk to 1/8-inch thickness. Using 6-inch-diameter plate, cut out 3 dough rounds. Repeat with remaining dough. Place 3 dough rounds on each baking sheet.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Spoon 1/2 cup filling into center of 1 dough round, leaving 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch border. Carefully fold up border, pleating dough edges to create round pastry with about 2 to 2 1/2 inches of exposed filling in center. Repeat with remaining filling and dough rounds. Brush crusts with melted butter. Drizzle any remaining melted butter over filling in centers. Sprinkle galettes with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel.

Bake galettes 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until crust is golden and filling is set and begins to brown, about 25 minutes longer. Run spatula under galettes to loosen. Let rest 5 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Serve individual galettes hot or at room temperature.

Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes, and Onion
6 servings2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
Coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups chopped red tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn (preferably 2 ears of white corn and 2 ears of yellow corn)
2 cups fresh lima beans (from about 2 pounds pods) or 10 to 11 ounces frozen lima beans or baby butter beans, thawed
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before continuing.

Stir in basil and serve.

Bosc Pears in Rosé Wine
6 servings1 tablespoon butter
3 firm but ripe medium Bosc pears, peeled, halved, cored
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/3 cups semi-dry rosé wine
1/4 cup wildflower honey
Vanilla ice Cream

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears, cut side down. Tuck thyme sprigs around pears. Cook until cut sides are brown (do not turn pears over), about 3 minutes. Transfer pears to plate. Add rosé wine and wildflower honey to same skillet and boil until mixture is reduced to about 1 cup, scraping up any browned bits, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add pears, cut side up. Spoon some of juices in skillet over pears, cover skillet, and simmer until pears are tender, about 10 minutes. DO AHEAD Pears can be made 4 hours ahead. Uncover and let stand at room temperature. Rewarm pears before continuing, if desired.

Place 1 warm or room-temperature pear half, cut side up, on each of 6 plates. Drizzle pears with sauce from skillet. Spoon scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside pears and serve.

Cherry-Almond Shortbread Cookies
makes about 24
24 dried tart cherries (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup crème de cassis (black-currant liqueur)
1/2 cup raw almonds with skins, divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Soak cherries in cassis in small bowl at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain; pat dry.
Grind 3 tablespoons almonds in mini processor until finely ground. Finely chop remaining almonds.
Whisk all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add ground almonds; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Beat in flour mixture on low speed just to blend.
Scrape dough out onto sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Using paper as aid, form dough into 8 1/2×1 3/4-inch log. Brush dough all over with egg (except for ends). Scatter chopped almonds on sheet of plastic wrap. Roll log in almonds to coat. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD Dough can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Cover and chill cherries.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Let dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Unwrap dough and cut into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Place cookies on large ungreased baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Place 1 cherry in center of each cookie.
Bake 10 minutes. Press cherries into cookies (cookies will have softened). Rotate baking sheet in oven and bake until cookies are lightly golden and slightly puffed, about 18 minutes longer. Cool cookies on sheet on rack 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack to cool completely. DO AHEAD Cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.


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chocolate & zucchini

Posted in recipe, Uncategorized by delicious:discourse on September 9, 2008

Look very closely. Can you identify my secret ingredient? The tiny green flecks floating within the sea of cookie and chocolate chunks??? Zucchini! Now I understand the brilliance of the unusual combination. I have long wondered how Clotilde Dusoulier’s blog Chocolate & Zucchini came to be named. However, after reading her About page, the name combination came together completely by accident, both chocolate and zucchini meaning entirely different things to her, but together representing her approach to food and food things.

The goodness of chocoalate and zucchini in the same dish would have to come together quite by accident because (I am making an assumption based on my average brain here) you normally would not think to put the two together. To state the obvious, one is a vegetable and the other is commonly treated as a dessert. How they could come together in unison only a highly dangerous and volatile chemistry experiment could determine. One of the brave souls turned out to be Camille, Barbara Kingsolver’s oldest daughter, as documented in my latest read Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Deep into the chapter titled “Zucchini Larceny,” in a effort to get rid of an overabundance of zucchini, Camille devises shredding fresh zucchini and adding it to chocolate chip cookie batter and then devilishly serving them to her younger sister and all her friends, while toying with them to guess the secret ingredient she never would tell. Her cookies were a wild success with only one or two remaining.

Inspired by the zucchini at my local farmer’s market and the lip-licking memory of my zucchini bread of last weekend, I decided to give the combination a go. A sweet, soft, and spongy summer emerged with pockets of earthy chocolate. I strongly recommend serving them with a side of sunny Saturday afternoon, preferably in early September when you are mourning the loss of an endless summer, but there is still an abundance of fresh, local zucchini.

ZUCCHINI CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (courtesy of Animal Vegetable Miracle)
(Makes about two dozen)
1 egg, beaten
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 T vanilla extract
Combine in large bowl.
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ t baking soda
¼ t salt
¼ t cinnamon
¼ t nutmeg
Combine in a separate, small bowl and blend into liquid mixture
1 cup finely shredded zucchini
12 oz chocolate chips
Stir these into other ingredients, mix well. Drop by spoonful onto greased baking sheet, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350°, 10 to 15 minutes.

Note: I accidentally used bittersweet chocolate, silly me, which was slightly overpowering to the subtle but present zucchini. My recommendation would be for semi-sweet chocolate chips for the sake of very importantbalance.

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The best zucchini bread ever, really

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on September 2, 2008

Zucchini bread, like carrot cake, runs in my blood. One of the many reasons I love carrot cake is because my mother, back in her baking days, would make it for every birthday of my Dad, my sister, and I, as well as requesting it to celebrate every year she turned older. I just grew up with it. It was a part of my childhood and now it is a big part of my life. So, I assume the same would have happened with zucchini bread had my father not nipped it in the bud at the early stage. The story goes, as newlyweds in Ventura, my mother would make zucchini bread all the time. My dad working close by at his surf shop, would come home for lunch or after a surf and start with a slice, which turned to two, which turned to three, you get my point. Once you start, if its that good, it is hard to stop no matter how satisfied you are. So, my Dad, a lean, athletic guy in his late-twenties, had to ask my mother to stop making so much zucchini bread because he was gaining weight! True story. Good thing birthdays come just once a year.

So, after a childhood sans zucchini bread, I decided I should try my hand at making it myself. My first attempt proved tasty, but this post, of my second attempt, proves it can get much much better.

Last week I stumbled across my now favorite blog, the aesthetically simple, gorgeously photographed, and filled-with-knowledge 101 Cookbooks. Perusing the recipe journal, I came across Heidi’s, the author, recipe for her special zucchini bread. What caught my eye were a few of the ingredients, namely curry powder, poppy seeds, and crystallized ginger. This would either be the most perfect combination or perfectly awful. I had to try it.

The verdict—perfect. Absolutely perfect. The unusual ingredients present a mystery as you try to discern the slight hint of curry powder and ginger. I took a loaf to work, the recipe makes two, and the bosses son claimed I was a gourmet chef. My reply—hardly, but Mom would be proud, and Dad would be in trouble.

Heidi’s Special Zucchini Bread Recipe (yields 2 loaves)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top
1/3 cups poppy seeds (optional)
zest of two lemons (optional)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)
2 t. vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using
3 large eggs
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 T curry powder (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside.
In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.
In a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until the mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).
In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and curry powder. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.
By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.
Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. I like to under bake my zucchini bread ever so slightly to ensure it stays moist. Keep in mind it will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven as it is cooling. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling – if you leave them in their pans, they will get sweaty and moist (not in a good way) as they cool.

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