Summer Supper: Crisper Cleanout!

Posted: August 23, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

My favorite thing about the summer is when it gets hot and sultry out, and tomatoes burst forth with all their colorful, vibrant glory. I mean, look at this:
Composed Salad - Tomatoes

This is a salad (ok, in my world, it’s a salad) involving items that we got in our CSA share this week – 2 big beautiful heirloom tomatoes sliced, and a handful of beautiful little yellow baby tomatoes cut in half. Some parsley, also from the CSA. Salt and pepper. That’s literally all it is, and it’s the most beautiful thing ever. This salad is what I love best about summer. The funky old tomatoes, green and brownish and yellow, orange, pink, red, multicolored and mottled, they’re all finally coming ripe, and being their amazing selves. I love tomato season.
Fun fact: when Jesse and I started dating, he told me that he didn’t like tomatoes. I told him, honestly, that what he disliked was crappy tomatoes. A good tomato is a joy, and judging by the happy look on his face when I gave him his plate tonight, he has learned that lesson well.

The other amazing thing about this particular summertime is our CSA share. Where before, on a night like Sunday night, I would have needed to go to the store to get something to make for dinner, I could just open the crisper and see what veggies we had, or had left from previous weeks. I haven’t had this ready access to fresh, excellent vegetables since I was a kid and my parents and grandparents had gardens. And while just a week or two ago I was bemoaning the fucking omnipresence of zucchini (seriously, there was none this week in the share. I did a happy dace), Sunday night it was a lifesaver to have those squashes in the crisper.

Because it meant that I could make squash cakes to go with our tomato salad, thereby giving us a full on vegetarian meal, complete with the inclusion of fruity beer and cheese!
Summer Dinner

Squash Cakes
adapted from Epicurious

I pretty much stick to the recipe when I make these cakes, which I have made a couple times now. I hope to use the same recipe to make sweet potato cakes in the future, because sweet potatoes with some curry spices and cheese…. just the thought makes me happy!! In fact, it makes me wonder if I could do this with butternut squash and white cheddar, or acorn squash and goat cheese. The possibilities seem endless!!

Squash cakes.

I grated up 1 small zucchini, 1 yellow goose-neck squash, and 1 pattypan squash, put them in the colander, and sprinkled them with salt. Then, I squished the shredded squash with my hands, squeezing out the water after the half-hour was up, and rolling it up in a dishtowel to squeeze out some more water. When making the batter, I used 1/3 of a cup of Bluepoint Blueberry Ale, because I’m convinced that the quarter-cup I added the first time wasn’t enough. I also added 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, because I’m a punk.
From there, the only real change I made this time was using shredded mozzarella instead of goat cheese, because it was what I had in the fridge. I really like the way the mozzarella melts, and gets kind of crispy, so it’s a little like you’re eating pizza or the best grilled cheese. It’s also a little like you’re eating a latke, only a latke jacked up about 10 degrees. In fact, I bet this would be really good with straight up potatoes too, if you could squeeze out enough water, so if anyone’s interested in the attempt, let me know.

This was an awesome Sunday night supper, and used up a lot of the veggies that I was wondering what to do with, and how I could use them before they became a waste. Hopefully it can help you get rid of some of your excess zucchini, or help you appreciate your summer tomatoes a little better. Or maybe both.

Any summer favorites from you guys out there?

A Cool Dish for a Hot Day

Posted: May 5, 2010 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

It’s the beginning of May and it is unseasonably hot! While I love Summer, I’m not ready for sweltering subway rides, humid apartments or blazing sun yet. Is Spring really over?

To decide what to cook for the week, over the weekend I flipped through recipes I’ve collected over the years from farmers markets; most of them here in New York distribute fliers to give people ideas on how to prepare the fresh veggies they sell. Genius idea. (For example, what does one do with ramps? I still don’t know but I suppose I can easily find out at the next farmers market I browse through.) Nothing really caught my eye until I spotted a cucumber-purslane-yogurt salad dish — purslane being another vegetable that I have no idea how to prepare. However, the description for this recipe said it was a lot like tzatziki, and inspiration flashed.

A long while back, I had made a beet tzatziki and I could have sworn I had the recipe somewhere in one of my binders but I could not find it for the life of me. So, I made it up. Using the “yogurt salad” recipe as a template, I went to the grocery store and purchased two bunches of organic golden beets, a tub of Total 0% Fage Greek Yogurt, a few other ingredients and was good to go. Normally I love, love, love their 2% but I figured I’d cut the calories a bit and go with the 0%. For it to be less runny, however, go with the whole milk or 2%.

Anyway, tzatziki is a great accompaniment on most dishes on a hot day. It’s a Greek yogurt sauce that you can dollop on grains, greens or I guess meat, not that I’d do that, haha. It’s refreshing, especially since I added cucumber and mint. Also, it’s super easy to make!

Preferably whenever you cook with beets you are roasting them yourself, because buying them pre-sliced in a can has tons of sodium! Check it out. Just know that prep time will be at least an hour if doing so.

Golden Beet Tzatziki with Cucumber and Mint
- 1 bunch roasted golden beets (about 4) or you can use regular red beets if preferred
- 1 to 2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint
- 2 cups Greek yogurt, whole preferred but can use non-fat if desired
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Separate beet from greens, which can be cleaned thoroughly and put to another use. Scrub beets and slice off the roots, then place in pan and bake until a knife can easily poke through the skin, about an hour and a half or less. When finished, they should be easy to peel. Let cool until you are able to handle, then remove the skin. Slice into thin strips.

Place beets, cucumber and mint into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine Greek yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and coriander and season to taste with salt. Add the vegetables and mint to the yogurt mixture and mix well. Add a pinch of pepper. Taste, then season further if necessary. Serve chilled as a condiment or a side. Serves 4.

Tada! So refreshing on those unseasonably warm days.

The catering side of being a foodie…

Posted: July 12, 2009 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , | 7 Comments »

This weekend, my mother, my sister Paige and I threw a baby shower for my sister Leanne.  Of course, the baby shower was at Leanne’s house…so she and her husband did just as much work as we did, but its the thought that counts right?  So as usual for most family events, I ended up being in charge of food.   I have been working on this menu for a while,  but of course things like the guest list tend to guide the menu so it wasn’t truly finalized until the night before the shower when we all went grocery shopping.  We finalized the guest list at 12-15, so here is the final menu that we settled on:

Caprese tomatoes

2 loaves of antipasto bread

Chicken wraps

Roast beef wraps

Spinach Artichoke dip

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and blue sprinkles (Its a boy :) )

The roast beef wraps just had butter, and cheddar cheese.  The chicken wraps were Paige’s idea, and she spread the tortilla with cream cheese and  salsa, then sprinkled it with mexican cheese and added chicken.  It was something I wouldn’t have thought of, but they were really good.

For the spinach artichoke dip, I just used Paula Deen’s recipe which is super easy, and really good.  I haven’t found a recipe I like better yet, so I’m going to keep with that one until I find something better.  The only thing I do differently is add 1-2 cloves of finely chopped garlic…because lets face it, garlic makes everything better.

I also have to report that sadly, in the interest of time and ease, we used a cake mix for the cupcakes…so I can’t really report on that.

The antipasto bread is something that I have been making for a couple years, since I found a recipe in my mom’s recipe box.  Basically you take bread dough, once its risen completely, roll it out and then put in whatever you want.  Leanne requested pepperoni and cheese in one of them, so I just tooke sliced mozzarella and covered the dough, leaving about an inch on the outside, then I put down sliced pepperoni.  From there just roll the dough up like you would a jelly roll, pinch the dough all along the seam to completely seal it.  Score it across the top with a knife a couple times, then put it on a greased cookie sheet, seam side down and bake it at 350 for 30 minutes.    The second loaf is the standard loaf that I make.  Its the same process, but the ‘stuffing’ is different.  I take a pound of ground sweet italian sausage and sautee it with garlic and onions.  Then, once the sausage is completely cooked, let it cool down and add one package of cooked chopped spinach and parmesan until it tastes like you want it to.  Line the rolled out bread dough with sliced mozzarella, and then top it with the sausage mixture, again, leaving at least an inch perimeter at the edge of the dough.  Roll it, score it, bake it the same way, and when you open the oven 30 minutes later, you have a delicious loaf of bread stuffed with deliciousness.  I forgot to take pictures, but I make it all the time, so I will be sure to do a follow up.

Now…the dish I am most proud of.  I am a HUGE fan of the caprese salad (for those of you that don’t know, thats just tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil.  Usually with balsamic)  Its a really great summer dish, its easy, its light and its SO GOOD.  So I wanted to do the caprese, but decided to change it up a little bit.  Rather than making it a knife and fork kind of a salad, I wanted it to be more like finger food.  So I searched around and found a lot of stuffed tomato recipes, and a lot fo bruschetta recipes, but nothing that was what I really wanted.  Most of them talked about cooking the tomatoes, or doing some other crap that does not make sense to me, so I took some ideas I liked and came up with the most simple recipe on earth…and freaking delicious to boot.  I got two packages of campari tomatoes which are nice because they are like a two bite size.  I just cut the tops off of them and hollowed them out with a small spoon.  They tend to get a little wet witht he juice, so just wipe them with a towel to dry them off.  Then I took two large balls of fresh, water-packed mozzarella (try to find the firmest ones you can).  I diced the cheese fairly small, and mixed it with some fresh, chopped basil.  Then just stuff the tomatoes with the cheese and top them with some basil chiffonade.  Before you serve it, just drizzle them with balsamic, or you can serve it with a balsamic reduction dipping sauce.  Overall it worked out really nicely, and was delicious!IMG00141-20090711-1041By the way, I think this is also my best photography to date…so thats exciting too :)


Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.