Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Confessions of a Veggie Lover

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You would think that someone who writes about vegetables and explores what vegetables can do would love all veggies and all aspects of them. Not so much for me. I've tried, but there are some things that I've just had to accept that I- well- don't like.
Seeds in:
*eggplant. I don't like their texture, or how they taste (bitter) or how they look (scary).
*yellow squash. viscous and goopy.
*cucumbers. they make me burp. I dislike burping.
But I do love eggplant and cucumbers and I like yellow squash (not going to lie- it's not my favorite, but I like it). I just have to remove the seeds as much as I can before eating them.
And then there's corn. I LOVE corn dishes: chowder, creamed corn, succotash, corn in salads, in breads, in stews. I just really don't enjoy chomping on an ear of corn. While corn on the cob is, yes, yummy- I find it somewhat tedious to eat. And kinda messy.  So there you go.

Given my share this week (summer squash, eggplant and corn included) I had to find a way to enjoy these beautiful vegetables while acknowledging my newly admitted preferences. And now that I've 'come out' about my anti-seed perspectives, I dove in and worked with it.

Summer Squash and Eggplant Dip
This can be eaten as a dip with pita chips or crudités, or as a spread with avocado, sliced cucumber and turkey on whole wheat bread or in a pita. 
2 medium-large yellow squash
1 medium eggplant
1 clove garlic
1-inch piece of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
3 scallions
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon honey
1 and 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
2. Prick the squashes and eggplant with a knife, place on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until soft.
3. Peel the garlic and the ginger and cut the ginger into 4 or 5 pieces.
4. Slice each one in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. For the eggplant, you will find ‘pockets’ of seeds that can be simply pulled out. For the squash, there will be a sort of ‘well’ of seeds that can be spooned out.
5. Scrape the pulp out of the eggplant and squash into the bowl of a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.

When in the store today, I found some fresh mozzarella and prosciutto roll on sale for $2.99 a pound. It was great in this layered casserole:

Layered Eggplant and Tomato Casserole
Serve with pasta and Chianti or syrah
1 medium eggplant
2 medium-large tomatoes
8 ounces fresh mozzarella (with or without prosciutto)
8 basil leaves
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
olive oil, as needed

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Slice the eggplant and tomatoes, and mozzarella crosswise, into 1/4-inch slices. Lightly oil a two-quart casserole. Tear the basil into tiny pieces. Combine the breadcrumbs and the Parmesan cheese.
3. Layer the eggplant, then tomatoes, then and mozzarella in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture and some basil. Repeat. Drizzle all with olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil.
4. Bake for 45 minutes, until cheese is melted and eggplant is soft. If desired, uncover and bake another 5 minutes for a crispier crust.
Layered Eggplant and Tomato Casserole, before baking

Black Bean and Corn Salad
You can add diced avocado, if you want.
15.5 ounce can black beans
1 large or 2 medium ears of corn, cooked
2 medium tomatoes
2 scallions
1 clove garlic
1 – 2 jalapenos or other hot pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons Pistou
  1. Rinse and drain the black beans. Cut the kernels off the corn.
  2. Cut the tomatoes crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. Cut into medium dice. Mince the scallions and garlic. Cut the jalapeno in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and veins. Cut into strips and then into small dice. and chop the pepper. 
  3. Put all ingredients in a bowl and toss together.
  4. Make the Pistou:1 large bunch basil, 2 cloves garlic, 1/4 clup olive or canola oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Place all in a blender of food processor and blend to a paste.
  5. Dress the vegetables with the Pistou and toss.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Eggplant and Shrimp Stir-fry, Potato-Cucumber Salad, Yummy Grilled Steak and Zucchini

Lots of cucumbers, some potatoes, some Japanese eggplant, tomatoes, green pepper and more zucchini made up my share this week. Lots of possibilities!! I love the Eggplant with Garlic Sauce at the local Chinese restaurant, and wanted to make something like it. Okay, I'm not going to lie: it's really hot and as much as I like to cook, I had a craving for it and wanted to just eat it, not make it. But, I had the ingredients, so I fooled around with all the Asian spices and sauces in my kitchen, and after several tries, came up with this one, added some shrimp and had it over rice sprinkled with chopped scallions and peanuts. 
I also had a hankering for some traditional potato salad with a mayonnaise-based dressing, but felt a responsibility to all the cucumbers. Adding them to the potato salad gave the salad some crunch, and the cucumbers went well with the mustard and chives. to go with it, I grilled some zucchini and steak. I also made Chocolate Zucchini Cake- the zucchini does add nutrition, but mostly it keeps the cake really moist. 

Eggplant and Shrimp Stir Fry
Asian (Japanese) eggplant are best for this, but you can use Italian eggplants if you cut them into 1-inch cubes. I added some yellow beans from my share- green beans or broccoli would do just as well.
4 Japanese eggplants or 1 medium-large eggplant
1/4 pound beans or broccoli florets
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ounces extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or smoked sharp paprika
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
4 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon Chinese black bean sauce*
1/2 teaspoon chili paste, or chili-garlic sauce*
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch

chopped peanuts, scallions, and/or cilantro as garnish
hot cooked brown or white rice

1. Wash the eggplant and cut into 1-inch pieces. Trim the beans and cut into 1-inch lengths. Mash the garlic.
2. Blend together the water, Aleppo pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar.
3. In a separate bowl combine the garlic, black bean sauce, chili paste, sesame oil and 2 teaspoons cornstarch.
4. Heat the oil in a wok to 350 degrees. Add the eggplant in batches and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown and soften. Remove to a plate while you finish with the rest of the eggplant, and then stir-fry the beans.
5. Remove the beans to the plate with the eggplant and add the shrimp. Stir fry until pink. Put on the plate with the vegetables.
6. Drain off any extra oil in the wok and add back the eggplant, beans and shrimp.
7. Stir to combine, and then add in the soy sauce mixture. Cook, stirring, until thickening.
8. Add the remaining sauce mixture and cook until sauce is of the desired consistency.
9. Serve over rice and garnish with peanuts, scallions or cilantro.
*available in the Asian section of the supermarket

Grilled Steak and Zucchini
You can do this on a barbecue or in a grill pan inside. Serve with Potato and Cucumber Salad.
sirloin steak
1/2 cup vegetable oil (not olive oil)
1 teaspoon chipotle pepper

1. Heat your grill or grill pan. Combine the oil and pepper. Slice the zucchini crosswise on the diagonal.
2. Brush the steak with the oil mixture and place on the hot grill or grill pan, oiled side down. Brush the top with the oil.
3. Cook for 5 minutes and turn over. Brush the zucchini with the oil and place on the grill. Brush the top with the oil. Cook for 4 minutes and turn over. Turn the steak over again, if you like it medium-well, or remove to a plate to rest for medium-rare.
4. Cook the zucchini for another few minutes, until tender. Serve.
Potato and Cucumber Salad
Very traditional in flavor, but the cucumber adds some crunch and the mustard gives it a zing.
4 potatoes
3 pickling cucumbers
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon stone ground mustard
2 Tablespoons chives
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Scrub the potatoes and cut them into one-inch pieces. Fill a pot with cold water and place over high heat. Add the potato pieces and bring to a boil. Once the water begins to boil, set a timer for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, scrub the cucumbers and cut off the ends. Cut in half lengthwise and then slice into 1/4-inch slices.
3. Mix together the yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cucumbers.
4. When the potatoes are done, drain and run under cold water. Shake well to dry. Add to the bowl with the cucumbers and dressing and stir to coat. Chill.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
The end of the summer brings bumper crops of zucchini, often ungainly in size, resulting in recipes for zucchini pancakes, muffins, cookies, and cakes. The zucchini keeps this cake incredibly moist.
2-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon espresso powder or 2 teaspoons instant coffee

1 cup sugar 
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup apple sauce
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups grated zucchini

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease and flour a bundt or tube pan.
2. Combine the dry ingredients, through the espresso powder. 
3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in 2 stages. 
4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake 40 minutes.

I still have cabbage from last week, more eggplant, pepper, zucchini and tomatoes. The eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and pepper are screaming 'ratatouille'. But I'm not there yet. I'm thinking more of a Moroccan stew with grilled flatbread or Vegetarian chili with cheddar corn muffins. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Zucchini Lasagna and Zucchini Parmesan

Stone Gardens Farm, Connecticut
Zucchini is a most prolific plant. Plant a seed and get lots and lots and LOTS of squash. Because of its abundant output, recipes for zucchini abound-- breads, muffins, gratins, scrambles-- name a dish and someone has probably tried to make it with zucchini, or find a way to put zucchini in it. And I'm no exception. I've made cobbler, bread, muffins, pancakes, put it in chilies and stews, fried it, roasted it, blanched it, stir-fried it, put it into salads and soups.
You'll find the recipe for Zucchini Cobbler in a previous blog. This week I'm honoring my zucchini using some traditional Italian American recipes: Lasagna and Parmesan.
My shares continue to offer dark greens, which I work into the Bechamel Sauce for the lasagna, adding flavor, texture and more nutrition.
The Zucchini Parmesan is prepared as a casserole. It starts out with the breading and frying, then is layered in a baking dish with sauce and cheese and baked. Both can be frozen, bringing summer flavors into the winter months.

Green and White Lasagna with Summer Squash

1 bunch greens (turnip, kale or beet)
2 large summer squash or zucchini
 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk
2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces Parmesan cheese
 8 ounces ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
8 ounces mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9” x 13” pan.
2. Trim and wash the greens. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the greens and simmer for 10 minutes. Rinse under cold water until cool. Squeeze as much moisture as you can from them. Chop finely. Thinly slice the zucchini or squash crosswise. Mince the garlic
3. Grate the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
4. Make a béchamel: melt the butter in a saucepan and add the garlic.  Add flour and stir until combined. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil and add the bay leaves, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add half of the Parmesan cheese. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
5. Combine the ricotta, egg and salt and stir until smooth
6. Distribute 1/2 cup béchamel sauce in bottom of baking dish; position 3 noodles on top of sauces. Stir the chopped greens into the rest of the béchamel.
7. Spread 1 cup greens mixture on top of noodles. Lay slices of squash over the sauce. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan and top with 3 more noodles. Spread one cup spinach mixture evenly of noodles, layer with squash and sprinkle evenly with 1 cup mozzarella and top with 3 more noodles. Spread with 1 cup of greens mixture followed by ricotta mixture. Finish with 3 noodles, remaining greens and remaining mozzarella.
8. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and broil until cheese is spotty brown, 4-6 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Zucchini Parmigiana
This is just like my recipe for Eggplant Parmesan with a few differences: I would peel the eggplant and if it is a very large eggplant, I'd salt the slices and let drain for 15 minutes, then rinse and pat dry before starting the breading process. This will alleviate some of the bitterness that a lot of eggplant seeds can bring.
8 servings
2 eggs
1 ounce Parmesan cheese
1 pound mozzarella cheese
2 Tablespoons parsley leaves
2 large zucchini
black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup flour
2 cups breadcrumbs
olive oil, for frying
2 cups marinara sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grate the Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese and mince the garlic. Mince the parsley.
3. Cut the zucchini crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds.
4. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl or cake pan and add the cheese, parsley, pepper, and garlic. Place the flour in another shallow pan, and the breadcrumbs in a third.
5. Dredge the zucchini in the flour, dip into the eggs and then the breadcrumbs. Repeat with all slices.
6. Heat 1 inch of oil in a heavy skillet. Fry each slice until golden brown on each side.
7. Spoon just enough of the marinara sauce into a square baking pan (9”x10”) to cover the bottom of the pan. Layer the zucchini slices, sauce and cheese, finishing with sauce and cheese.
8. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and cheese melts.
Hanson's Farm, Massachusetts