It’s a Zoo-cchini Around Here

I do not grow zucchini because my raised bed garden just doesn’t have enough real estate. Given that, how is it that I always seem to have a zucchini or two (or three!) hanging around the house?  Generous friends, that’s how.  You know who you are, you zucchini pushers!

Zucchini has a mild taste that lends itself to breads and of course everyone’s current favorite – zoodles (noodles made from spiralized zucchini).   I was looking for a simple recipe to use up my gifted squash plus the other summer vegetables I had on hand and came across one from Catherine Katz and her website Cuisinicity. Although the recipe is originally for an eggplant dish, I substituted zucchini for some of the eggplant.  You can see the original recipe here.  Here is mine:

Zucchini and Eggplant Fricassee

  • 1 sweet onion, thickly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 large ripe tomato, cut into wedges
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dry thyme (or fresh thyme to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp dry rosemary or rosemary blend herb mixture (I used Murals of Flavor from Penzey’s Spices.)
  • 1 bay leaf (don’t forget to remove after cooking and before serving)
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven 350 F. Sautee the onion in the olive oil until just soft but not fully cooked and set aside.

Cut the eggplant, zucchini, and tomato into thick slices (about 1 inch) and  place them in a large bowl. Add the warm onions including the oil they were cooked in, the spices, bay leaves, salt and pepper to the bowl and mix gently to coat all the ingredients.

Transfer mixture to a large baking dish and spread into an even layer. Place in preheated oven. (As you can see I had to change baking dishes to accommodate all the vegetables.)  Bake for an hour or more until they are to the point of being almost caramelized,  stirring gently once or twice to make sure all the juices cover the vegetables.

This was easy to put together and smelled delicious coming out of the oven.  It makes a great side dish for these late summer days when the weather is a little cooler and you don’t mind turning on the oven. Any left overs could be used in sandwiches or added to pasta sauces. The next time I make it I may try adding some big slices of portabella mushrooms.

How about you?  What are you doing with extra zucchini these days?

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Let Me Eat Cake!

  • Hot Fudge Cake

I was looking for a healthier cake recipe for Mother’s Day. I wanted something that didn’t have white flour or white sugar and it had to be chocolate! I found this recipe from the EatPlant-Based blog and had to try it.  I substituted coconut sugar for the brown sugar and still got good results.  (You know that most of the brown sugar sold is just white sugar with a little molasses added, right?)

 

 

The assembly is rather strange.  There is no sweetener in the cake batter other than the natural sweetness of the applesauce.  The sugar all goes into a hot water mixture that is poured over the cake batter in the pan.

 

As the cake bakes the batter rises to the top and a pudding forms in the bottom.  Once the cake cools you invert it and serve with the pudding on top (no frosting required!)  Here’s the finished cake.

One note – it’s best to cool the cake completely and then leave it in the pan until it’s ready to serve.  I tried flipping it over onto a plate while it was still slightly warm and the pudding ran all over the place. I ended up flipping it back in and chilling it until the next day. That’s why there are no pretty pictures of it being served.  It was still good!

A Few of My Favorite Things

I had a birthday recently so I thought I would share recipes for some of my very favorite foods with you.

  • Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
  • Gazpacho
  • Swiss Chard Pesto

Green Salsa (Salsa Verde)

I absolutely love salsa verde and I can’t believe that I never tried to make it for myself until recently.  It’s easy, saves money, and you can make it without all the sodium that is present in commercial products.

Salsa verde starts with tomatillos, an ingredient you might not have used before.  Tomatillos look like green tomatoes but they are actually related to the gooseberry.  To clean them just hold the tomatillo under warm running water and pull off the husk. They tend to be a bit sticky so this helps to wash the stickiness away, too.

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Here’s what you’ll need to make approximately one quart of salsa:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. tomatillos (I try to get them all about the same size so they will roast evenly)
  • 1-2 jalapenos to taste; stems removed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 white onion, cut into quarters
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Everything goes on a sheet pan. I covered my pan with non stick foil.

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Preheat your broiler to high and move the rack to the highest position so that the vegetables are only 2-3 inches away from the heat.  Broil for about 15 minutes, turning everything over halfway through.  You want some roasted black spots on everything but the garlic.  The tomatillos will soften and change color.  I usually babysit closely in the last few minutes; removing what looks done and returning the rest to the broiler until everything is done.  The garlic cloves need to be removed from their skins (just cut off one end and squeeze) and then everything goes right into the blender.

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Use the “grind” or “chop” setting on your blender to keep some texture and blend just until there are no large pieces left.  At this point you can add some salt, pepper if desired, and sometimes I add the juice of a lime.

Green salsa is great for serving with tortilla chips or as a topping for enchiladas and grilled meats. Try stirring some into mashed avocado for a different kind of guacamole, too.

Gazpacho

This a perfect time of year to make this cold soup that features the ripest tomatoes from the garden. I started with this recipe for  Classic Andalusian Gazpacho from Epicurious.  While the addition of cucumber is not necessary I had one so I threw it in. Since I planned to freeze a portion of this soup I did not add the bread but I can do that before I serve it.  I also did not add the oil or strain the solids from the soup.

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This couldn’t be any easier. There is absolutely no cooking involved. Just some chopping, blending, chilling, and you’ve got a refreshing warm weather meal.

Swiss Chard Pesto

A classic pesto consists of basil, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, pine nuts, and grated parmesan cheese.  I grow basil every summer and this is my absolute favorite way to use it.  There are many variations. I’ve made pesto with baby spinach, artichoke and olives, sun dried tomatoes, etc.  Since I have quite a bit of chard in the garden this year I’ve made this version several times.  Here is my recipe:

  • 6-8 large leaves Swiss chard, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts may also be used)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan (I substitute nutritional yeast to make this vegan)
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a rasp grater
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or use more water if avoiding oil)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Cut chard into ribbons and steam for about 5 minutes.  Removed from steamer and cool.  Put the cooked chard, basil, nuts, cheese, nutmeg, lemon zest and juice, garlic, and water into food processor or personal blender and pulse until the mixture begins to break down and come together. Add olive oil to the mixture and pulse a few more time to blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Pesto has many uses. I made an awesome sandwich last week by spreading pesto on a baguette and topping with grilled vegetables and sliced fresh mozzarella.  It’s good dribbled over sliced tomatoes and can be served hot, warm, or cold as pasta sauce or for dressing pasta salads. I also use it to flavor mashed potatoes.

All of these recipes are great ways to use summer produce and I think it’s no coincidence that some of my favorite foods taste best at the time of my summer birthday.

 

 

Grow Your Own

My garden usually consists of 8-10 pots on the deck but this year my husband had the idea to purchase a cattle feed trough and turn it into a large container garden.  Here’s a picture of it earlier this spring:

GardenEarly

That’s spinach coming up in the back and if you look closely there are also some radishes and onions in there somewhere.  Fast forward a month or so and here is what it looks like this morning:

GardenJune

Sorry for the photo quality but I think you can see that my garden is flourishing. You may notice we added a couple of half barrels between the garden and the propane tank – one contains sweet potato plants and the other is growing red skin potatoes.

Our small garden has already provided lots of spinach, lettuce, and green onions. When I thinned the radishes we ate the sprouts and we’ll do the same with the beet greens when I thin the beets. When the spinach was done I replaced it with pepper plants. And we are definitely looking forward to tomatoes, eggplant, and those potatoes.

Why am I telling you about my garden in a healthy cooking blog?  Because growing your own food is one of those things that almost guarantees that you and your family will eat better. You can’t grow anything in a home garden that is bad for you and if you have kids you will find that they are more willing to eat something if they have helped to plant, water, and watch it grow.

I’m not a master gardener by any means but I get a great sense of accomplishment from my garden. I’m growing a lot of food for a little bit of money; I’m spending more time outdoors; and I am learning a lot in the process.  You should try it.