Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I was given a copy of this recipe in exchange for a bag full of zucchini; it was a win-win for me - a great recipe, and I was able to give away some zucchini when I was overwhelmed with too much.  This is super moist and delicious.  At the suggestion of my friend, I made this in a 9-inch loaf pan, so it took a bit longer to bake.  The only other change I made was to use full-fat sour cream instead of the low-fat or yogurt option.

Hmm, it's Star Tested, good choice, I guess.  :)

Don't forget the walnuts, the ingredient lists continues into the second column!

Really tasty served with rasberry puree ...

Monday, 29 July 2013

Nicoise Salad with Anchovy Dressing

I have been anxiously waiting for the fresh beans to be ready for harvest, so I could make a Nicoise Salad, along with some new potatoes.  Beans have been ready for a week or two now (July 22 post), so I picked up a nice piece of tuna from the Pelican Grill ... Lapointe is very overrated; the Pelican Grill is by far the best location for fresh fish and seafood in Ottawa!

There are many variations of Nicoise Salad, so many that I can't quite figure out what was the traditional version.  But they almost all call for green beans, new potatoes, tuna, hard-cooked eggs, and usually tomatoes, olives and lettuce leaves.  Sometimes artichokes and sliced onion.  But I think the traditional version also includes anchovies and capers.  Rather than have the anchovies and capers included as a main ingredient, I have (mostly) followed an Emeril Lagasse idea which has an anchovy dressing (with capers).  It's kind of like the dressing for a caesar salad - super creamy and delicious!

I have to admit I was somewhat hesitant to follow an Emeril recipe; I was never much of a fan.  When I used to watch Food TV (when I used to have a TV!), his catchphrases were too annoying for me to watch his show.   But I love this dressing!

And since I had some freshly made basil pesto, I decided to toss the green beans with pesto before adding them to the plate.

For the potatoes, I wanted to check out the Blue Russian potatoes I had planted in containers in the greenhouse and I thought the purple-blue flesh might look nice in contrast with the other colours.

For a full meal, there should probably be one egg per serving, but I used duck eggs, so thought a half egg per serving was enough.

About the tuna ... I know many health advocates are anti-tuna due to the levels of mercury; although it also has SO many other benefits.  But I figured after many years of being vegetarian (real vegetarian, so no fish either), I've done my bit to help myself and the world, and now I'm going to eat whatever I want.  Besides, everything in moderation ...

The salad can be plated individually or piled onto a serving platter for everyone to pick at.  It's great as a main or in smaller amounts as a light nibble on a hot afternoon.  For the salad itself, I haven't bothered to list amounts, it's pretty flexible.

Nicoise Salad
Grilled tuna, sliced (2-3 ounces per serving is enough as part of this meal)
New potatoes, boiled until fork tender
Early borlotti beans (or any green bean), boiled "al dente" (optional: tossed with pesto)
Duck eggs, hard-cooked
Fresh lettuce greens
Thinly sliced red onion
Anchovy Dressing - recipe follows

Anchovy Dressing
2 anchovy fillets
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 egg (or just the yolk)
2  tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
8 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp minced shallot
1 tsp capers, minced
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

Mash the anchovies with garlic and just a pinch each of S&P.  I did not have the best quality anchovies so I actually had to mince them with a knife first - really good anchovies will mash easily with a fork.  Then add 1 egg, or as I did, I added just the yolk.  Whisk together.

Add lemon juice and dijon mustard, and again whisk together.  Then start streaming in the olive oil while whisking throughout - this is when the sauce really comes together.  Add in remaining ingredients and give one final whisk (Emiril calls for 2 tsp capers, I cut it back to 1 tsp, due to personal preference).  Pour into a jar (250 ml is just the right size) and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.  Good for a few days.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Paris Market Atlas Carrots

I started these carrots from seed in mid-April (April 13 post) in stacked styrofoam containers.

These are a stubby type of carrot so I thought the depth was enough.  It was actually; but I did a poor job of thinning out the carrots and they were packed in a bit tight; so they are still a bit small.  I've been nibbling on them over the past week or two and I thought it was time to just harvest them.

I have plenty of other carrots (several varieties) that are also well on their way:

On the Patio Stairs

In a Raised Garden

Container in the Greenhouse

I only got about a half pound of these Paris Market Atlas carrots, but they are really tasty.  I cooked them with some grated ginger, orange zest and orange juice to make a bit of a glaze.  I don't know why so many recipes for glazed carrots always call for sugar or honey.  Carrots are plenty sweet, and the orange juice provides enough sugars to create a nice sticky glaze.  Add a bit of butter at the end, and it makes a delicious side dish.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Basil Pesto with Spaghetti and Zucchini


Basil is my favourite herb if I were forced to choose one, and pesto is definitely my favourite use of it.

Pesto is always amazing tossed with freshly cooked pasta, but equally delicious with boiled new potatoes, spread on some grilled flatbread or crostini, used as a base for pizza, oooh, in a grilled cheese ... hmm, I'm seeing a trend here.  Pesto is pretty good with breads and starches.  But it's equally delicious brushed on grilled meats, tossed with shrimp or even green beans.

Okay, so I've established that it's a versatile sauce (paste).  Here I've used it in the most traditional way, tossed with some pasta and I've added some julienne cut zucchini strips (or at least the best julienne I can manage, maybe more like thin strips).

For the basil recipe, I've always thought of so many cups of "packed basil".  I know how I pack a cup full, but it's not always obvious to anyone else.  So I took what I originally considered 2 cups of packed basil and stuffed it into one measuring cup as tightly as seemed reasonable considering it kept popping back up due to its freshness.  I ended up with slightly less than one cup.  But even at that, it takes a lot of basil leaves to make it happen ... I tore leaves off about 20 plants; this batch is just 5 or 6 of them.

As for pine nuts, oy, are they ever expensive!  And I've recently read about PNS - Pine Nut Syndrome.  I am NOT kidding.  They can apparently cause "taste disturbances" for a few days or up to a few weeks where everything you eat will taste bitter or even metallic.  What is the world coming to?!  I've never experienced this, and hope to enjoy many more pine nut dishes in my lifetime. But the term pesto simply refers to a paste and can be made in many ways such as an equally delicious combination of arugula and walnuts replacing the basil and pine nuts.  So fear not PNS sufferers ... there are other options!

Basil Pesto
1 very tightly packed cup of basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
4 Tbsp olive oil
Lemon Juice
1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Combine pine nuts and garlic in food processor and pulse or blend into small bits.  Add basil leaves and do the same.  Slowly stream in the olive oil while blending which will allow the paste to form.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice.  This should result in a loose paste; if needed, add more oil.  Turn into a bowl and mix in parmesan cheese and salt to taste.  If you want to freeze or otherwise store the pesto, do not add the cheese or salt - add it when ready to use.  Makes 1 cup.

Zucchini Pasta - 2 servings
1/2 cup basil pesto
2 medium zucchini (one yellow, one green if possible)
2 garlic cloves
2 servings pasta cooked plus some cooking water
Parmesan Cheese

Prepare pasta.  Cut zucchini into julienne slices. When pasta is almost ready, heat shallow pan, add some olive oil.  Add zucchini slices and garlic at the same time.  Toss quickly until zucchini is slightly wilted (just a minute or two).  Add cooked pasta and basil pesto and toss with the zucchini.  Add pasta water as needed to make it a bit saucy.  Season to taste with S&P.  Top with parmesan.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Individual Raspberry Trifles

I made a full size English trifle for a recent party; layers of pound cake, strawberries. custard and vanilla yogurt (the traditional dish would be with whipped cream, but the custard is rich enough).  Definitely one of my favourite desserts and so easy to put together.  Here is a quickie version, with individual trifles served in 250 ml mason jars.

For 4 servings:

Cook 2 cups of raspberries plus 2 Tbsp white sugar in a pan for just a few minutes until the raspberries break down.

Slice 8 ounces of pound cake into small squares.  Make custard, or use a flavoured yogurt.  I made this with a layer of leftover homemade custard and a layer of lemon yogurt.

Start with a spoonful of the raspberries, then custard/yogurt.  Toss in some squares of pound cake, then repeat as many times as you can.  Leave room at the top for a last layer of the raspberry sauce.

Refrigerate for at least a few hours to allow the cake to soak up the custard/yogurt, but 24 hours is best.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Roasted Summer Squash and Tomato Pie

This is an easy way to use up some of that bountiful zucchini.  I used a combination: one eight-ball squash, one regular green zucchini and a large patty pan (I'm having a hard time keeping up with the harvest, and they are getting bigger than I normally allow).  My tomatoes are kicking in as well, and roasting tomatoes adds so much great flavour!  I've indicated 10-12 plum tomatoes which is an approximation of what I actually used: some plums, a few black krims and a handful of cherry tomatoes.

Makes 2 pies.

3 large zucchini or other summer squash
10-12 plum tomatoes
475 gram tub of ricotta
1/4 cup feta
3 Tbsp parmesan
2 pie crusts
12-15 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup aged cheddar (Balderson 5-year aged) or more parmesan

Slice squash into rounds about 1/2 inch thick.  Do same for tomatoes.  Keep the squash and tomatoes on different trays as the cooking time will vary depending on type and thickness.  Sprinkle each with salt and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in 400 degree F oven about 45-60 minutes until browned; stir tomatoes, flip squash slices partway through.  Allow to cool slightly.

Reduce over temperature to 350 degrees F, and blind bake the pie crusts for 18-20 minutes.

Roughly chop the roasted squash, and stir into the ricotta along with the feta and parmesan (for a firmer texture, you can also mix in one egg).  Season lightly with salt.  Divide evenly between the two crusts.  Grind fresh pepper on top and sprinkle with chopped basil leaves.  Spread the roasted tomatoes on each pie, then the grated aged cheddar.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. You may need to cover the outer crust with tinfoil or one of those pie doohickeys to avoid burning.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Birds Attacking Windows

I'm starting to get very annoyed with the stupidity of birds.  For the past few months, I have had a red cardinal knocking its face against my bedroom window for 20-30 minutes at a time, several times a day.  It most often occurs at 6am (especially on weekends) ... no need for an alarm clock.

Yesterday, while sitting in the yard with some friends, I saw a robin attacking another window of the house.  And this morning, some other bird (haven't figured out what kind yet) starting throwing itself at my backyard window.

From what I've read (and discussed with others), this is a territorial attack; the birds sees its own image and believes it to be a challenger in the territory. If I block the windows with something, they would not see their reflection anymore, but it also kind of wrecks my view.

Darn, if I had held onto my Rob Lowe poster from the nineties, I might be able to prevent this annoying experience.  Sigh ...

Friday, 19 July 2013

Zucchini Malai Kofta

I lived in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver for many years before moving to Ontario and I often frequented Annapurna, a vegetarian Indian restaurant (now closed).  I was addicted to their garlic naan, and Malai Kofta dish.  When I visited India during that same period, it was no surprise that I put on a few pounds, due partly to the cream-laden sauce used for Malai Kafta, but also my discovery of Milkcake, an Indian dessert somewhat like fudge, but soooooo much better.

My cooking used to be a lot healthier ... when I made Malai Kofta in my early years, I used yogurt; more often these days I use cream.  I've come to a compromise lately, and have decided on 18% table cream in this curry sauce.

I usually make this recipe on different days; starting with the Kofta.  Kofta balls are amazing when served in this curry sauce, but can easily be used as a pakora-type appetizer (easiest approach is to follow the same recipe, then form flat patties and fry them).   These freeze well so can be made at any time.

When ready to eat the full meal, the sauce is made, and the koftas are cooked for a short time in the sauce just before serving.

Zucchini Kofta
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini, after water has been squeezed out
1 cup grated paneer
2 jalapenos, minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup channa flour (chickpea flour)
Oil for Frying

Mix all ingredients together and form 15-20 balls.  Fry in oil until deep brown in colour.  I don't like to deep fry, so I flatten mine slightly and fry them in 1 inch of canola oil a few at a time.

Drain on paper towels until ready for use.  I often freeze them at this stage; they are then ready to thaw and toss into a curry sauce.

Curry Sauce

3 garlic cloves
2 inch piece of ginger
1 large onion
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp fresh cardamom seeds
3 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp each turmeric and chili powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2-3 large tomatoes (about 1 1/2 cups pureed)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
15 cashews
1/2 cup 18-35% cream

In a food processor, combine garlic, ginger and onion.  Heat a large pan with canola oil (1-2 Tbsp).  Add cumin seeds and cook for a minute or so until they begin to pop.  Add cardamom seeds and cook only for 20 seconds or so, then add onion mixture.  Cook this at medium heat until the liquid begins to cook away.  Add remaining spices and cook for about 2 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the tomato and cilantro in the food processor.  When the mixture in the pan has released most of its liquid, add the tomato mixture, and again, cook until the mixture has lost most of the liquid.

Ground the cashews in food processor with a small amount of the cream to form a loose paste.  Mix into the curry mixture.   Add about 2 cups of water.  Stir to combine, and let cook just a minute or two, then add kofta balls.  Cook for about 6-8 minutes to heat balls through, then add remaining cream. Continue cooking just until mixture heats up again.

Serve with rice or naan.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Garlic Scape Hummus

It is garlic scape season!  I was lucky enough to be given a big batch of them from a good friend; I did not plant any garlic last fall so had none of my own.  I try to use garlic scapes the same way I use garlic; as long as the recipe calls for minced or chopped fresh garlic, scapes can probably be used.  But I say probably; I actually haven't used them too often so I don't have a lot of experience.

It definitely works well in a pesto recipe; either as replacement for just the garlic in the recipe, or even replacing both the garlic and the basil as I did (Garlic Scape Pesto).

This is a pretty basic hummus recipe with scapes replacing the garlic.  Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms (olive oil can be added straight in or streamed in during processing).  Both olive oil or lemon juice can be adjusted for texture and/or seasoning. Salt to taste.

1/3 cup scapes, roughly chopped
1 19 oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
3 Tbsp tahini
1/4-1/2 cup lemon juice
3-5 Tbsp olive oil

Serve with warm pita bread, olives and a drizzle of olive oil.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Patty Pan Squash

This is my zucchini harvest for today; I had a similar one just a few days ago.  I have kept up with most of the zucchini, but the patty pans seem to be multiplying exponentially.  Some good friends (thank you!) have accepted bags full.  I always purchase a package of mixed summer squash seeds from William Dam Seeds each year, and there always seem to be 4 or 5 patty pan plants.  Each plant can easily supply dozens, if not a hundred, little squash in just a few weeks.

I pick them small, 1-3 inches in diameter, as they are much more tender at that stage.  Besides, can you imagine 80 large patty pan's from each plant to deal with?!  They are still edible, for sure, but at that size, I am more likely to stuff and bake them.

But I also discovered that I have a crookneck squash plant, which I've never had before, so I'm excited about those.  Otherwise, I have the usual yellow and green zucchini, plus 1 eight-ball squash plant (they only look like 8-balls if they are picked quite small ... otherwise they become slightly more oblong).

This evening, I made a simple dinner with sauteed patty pan's and a handful of borlotti beans served with a bit of aged cheddar.  Fresh and delicious.