Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Five of the Easiest and Best Ways to Cook with Summer Squashes

I normally post a recipe a week, not because I have a significant fan base or anything, but because if I don't make myself write down recipes, I forget them. Keeping in mind that I am not quite the only one reading my recipes, I try not to be too redundant, despite the fact that I tend to use the same ingredients over and over based on what's growing in my garden. 

Like any respectable California home gardener, I am now overwhelmed by a bumper crop of summer squash. 
A day's harvest of patty pan squash, eggplant and Roma tomatoes
A zucchini that got out of hand

I am eating squash of some kind every day, but it does seem a little annoying to post squash recipes for two months straight. So here you go, I will just throw out my five favorite and easy (but not original) ways to use up squash, with links to recipes that I've tried and liked. I emphasize the word easy because there are plenty of layered and stuffed squash recipes that are great, but they are more fussy.

Then I promise I will not post anything about squash for the rest of the summer, unless I get hit with some wild and crazy, super-original inspiration.

1.  Sliced, floured, fried and salted. Sometimes, the simple stuff is the best. Nice high heat on your olive oil ( a little smoke is no big deal) and fried squash slices with good-ol' homemade ranch on the side. It's just yum.

2. Grated up and put in a fritter. I have several of these recipes posted, I sometimes call them patties or pancakes too, but Nigella Lawson has some tasty ones here- Courgette Fritters

3. Grilled and served in a salad. Grilling adds a ridiculous amount of flavor to a vegetable that isn't super intense in flavor to begin with. Get a little char on there, and don't salt until after they're grilled. Check out My Grilled Summer Salad.

4. Mixed in with pasta sauce. This is so obvious, but it's just really tasty. The trick is not to do it too soon though. You don't want mushy zucchini and you don't want to water down the sauce. I would lightly saute the squash separately in olive oil first, then mix it up with your sauce, or pasta, at the last  minute. I like Tyler Florence's recipe for spaghetti and meatballs, you could use a smaller pasta instead of spaghetti and replace half the pasta with the squash.

5. Mix it up half and half with mashed potatoes. This works well and it's even better if you leave the skin on the potatoes and go for the chunky kind of mashed potatoes. You will want to grate or finely chop the squash and, just like with fritters, squeeze a bunch of the moisture out of the squash first. Replace about a third to a half of the potato bulk with squash and follow the mashed potato recipe of your choice.

Happy Gardening and Eating!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Savory Cheese-Puff Donuts

These appetizer donuts are really easy but there's kind of a short window of time to eat them in. They are screaming hot when they are just done, but they're not quite as exciting (though still tasty) when they've gone completely cold. My friend Trish has this great vintage warming plate thing that would be great to serve these on, but I don't know anyone else who has one of those, so just eat them within 20 minutes of making them.

1 1/8 cup all purpose flour
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar 
1 teaspoon dried summer savory (or dried mint or parsley if you don't have savory)
-1 small block of really sharp or strong flavored cheese, cut into about 1/2 inch cubes. I had sharp Irish Cheddar. Blue cheese would be good too, if it is a kind that isn't too moist and crumbly.

-Enough corn oil, plus a splash of olive oil for deep frying

-a small jar of pepper jelly, just heated through until it's syrupy 

Mix the first nine ingredients in a bowl and then cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and leave the batter on the counter to rise for one hour.

Heat the corn oil in your deep fryer or small pot until the oil is around 360 degrees, (or just wing it). When the oil is hot, take several cubes of the cheese at a time and drop them on top of the batter. Using a tablespoon, very gently cover each cube with a bit of the gooey, stretchy batter. Scoop the individual cubes out, now covered in dough, by the spoonful and drop into the hot oil. They will puff up right away, and then you fry them for a few minutes per side until they are a deep golden brown. To be honest, the ones int he picture are a tiny bit under-done but I was impatient and hungry.

 Let them drain on a paper towel for a minute or two, salting and peppering them like you do with other fried foods. When all of your cheese is used up you can still make cheese-less donuts if there is leftover dough, or just toss it out, it's not like flour is that expensive.

Serve the donuts right away, drizzled or coated with the warm pepper jelly. You could also use warm honey with chopped jalapenos in it, or you could use a syrupy balsamic vinegar reduction.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper "Pesto"

I don't know if I should be calling this pretty orange sauce "pesto", there's no Parmesan (or pine nuts) in it. I'm only doing it because it does have nuts in it, and I think it would work for the same applications: slathered on pizza, pasta, baguette, pita chips, sandwiches, grilled meat and so on. 

You don't have to be a kitchen over-achiever and grill your own peppers, the ones you  buy at the store or deli are just fine. Actually they might even be better because they'll be the nice sweet ones from Italy or Spain. Plus you can sound really pompous when you  mention that they're, "Imported from Europe."

You'll need some kind of blender or food processor for this easy sauce/spread.

1 10 ounce jar of roasted red Spanish or Italian peppers, drained
1/2 mounded cup of roasted and salted and Marcona almonds (if you can't get those, regular almonds are fine, but you want them peeled and roasted and if they are unsalted, add more salt to the recipe.) For a thicker dip, use one whole cup.
1 tablespoon FRESH oregano leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons of your favorite vinegar, I used red wine pomegranate, for the dip use the juice of one lemon instead.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 smashed garlic clove (a small one)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon of creme fraiche, or something similar like heavy cream, sour cream or cream cheese (or that Toffuti stuff to keep it vegan)
OR, for the dip version, omit the creme fraiche and add 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes.

Blend all the ingredients really well in your blending machine of choice, then let it sit in the refrigerator for at least a half hour, or save it in there up to a week (or freeze it for longer). This makes a cereal bowl sized amount which would be plenty for spreading on appetizers, or it would be enough to coat a bowl of buttered pasta for two.

If raw garlic is a bit much for you, you can add dry granulated garlic, about a teaspoon instead. In that case I would add a few extra splashes of vinegar for punch.