Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Zucchini Orecchiette Carbonara

As the influx of summer squash from the CSA continues, I find that I am having to get more and more creative on how to use it. At the beginning of the summer, sliced fresh Zucchini Carpaccio with just a touch of olive oil and lemon juice was my staple. However, after eating it almost every day for most of the summer, I branched out into zucchini mini muffins, Zucchini Crab Cakes, and Zucchini "Pasta". With just a few more weeks of summer left, I'm sure I'll soon be missing the light, refreshing zucchini flavor, but for now, I'm going to continue my creativity. Last week's riff on a traditional dish was Spaghetti Carbonara. I've mentioned before my distinct dislike of peas, so, what better way to improve an otherwise delicious dish than to ditch the peas for one of my favorite vegetables - zucchini?!

Serves 2-3

Zucchini Orecchiette Carbonara

  • 1 1/3 c dry orecchiette
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 small zucchini, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/4 c half & half
  • 1/2 c Parmesan, grated, plus more to serve
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While water is heating, mix eggs, Parmesan, half & half and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside. 

Add salt and pasta to boiling water. While pasta is boiling, spray large saute pan with cooking spray and cook bacon over medium high heat until beginning to brown. Add garlic and zucchini. Saute until zucchini softens. 

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 c pasta water. Add drained pasta to zucchini mixture and reduce heat to low. Add 4 tbsp pasta water to egg mixture, stirring constantly. 

Add egg mixture to zucchini and pasta, stirring constantly so that egg cooks but doesn't scramble.

Top with additional Parmesan and serve.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sweet Heat Apricot Thyme Habanero Jam

With the CSA in full swing, I was suddenly the recipient of 28 apricots from last week's share. I don't know about you, but it would actually be physically impossible for me to eat 28 apricots in a week. With half a jar of spiced plum jam still in my refrigerator from the week before, I decided to attempt the official canning process for this one so that I have a little longer to eat it.

I knew I wanted to do something a little bit different with this one. I like plain fruit jams alright, but the ones I really love are just a little bit more complex, a little bit more interesting. I also love using jams in savory dishes, so incorporating a savory herb into the jam seemed like the way to go. Also, once I had the first three ingredients in, it was still just too darn sweet and a tad flat. I had seen other jam-making bloggers add salt to jam as a sort of nod to the salted caramel and salted chocolate craze. I do love sweet and spicy together. The addition of that spicy salt put the jam squarely over the top. I was able to taste just the littlest bit, but I am so looking forward to cracking that jar open in a few weeks to enjoy the rest! If you don't have habanero salt on hand, just substitute 1/2 tsp of salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

This recipe can be made as a quick-jam and kept in the refrigerator in a clean, glass container for up to one month. If you'd like to preserve the jam for longer, and store at room temperature, you must follow a more intensive method such as water bath canning, which is what I did. Step-by-step instructions can be found through this link.

Sweet Heat Jam

  • 1.5 lbs fresh apricots, pitted and chopped
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp habanero salt
  • 1/2 c water
Mix all ingredients in a large sauce pan. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer for approximately 1 hour, stirring regularly. You'll know it's done when you drag your spoon or spatula through the middle, and the sides hang separately for a moment before filling in. Transfer the jam to your glass jar and store for 1 month in the refrigerator or up to a year if water bath canning.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

South of the Border Style Bison Burgers

I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in Washington, D.C. with one of my best friends from high school, Emily, and her husband, Rob. Emily and I have been cooking and baking together since we were about 12 years old. Fortunately, our skills have progressed past skim milk "whipped cream," which,  as it turns out, is just frosting. Emily is truly and expert baker, so we decided to collaborate on a few meals for the weekend, much to Rob's delight.

Emily had never tried bison before, and, since it's one of my absolute favorite meats, it had to be included on the menu. If you've never tried bison, I strongly encourage it. The flavor profile is slightly gamier than beef, but not as strong as lamb. Also, bison is even leaner than chicken or salmon, making it one of the healthiest meat options out there. It really makes a delicious burger. One word of caution: because it is so lean, it cooks FAST and is much better served medium or medium rare than well done.

We were also looking for a dairy-free recipe for this occasion, so I went with my favorite dairy-free flavor profile. The spiciness of the chipotle chilies complemented and didn't overwhelm the bison, and, let's be honest, avocado with lime is always delicious. Some quick-pickled jalapenos replaced traditional pickles for an all around great dish. We served these burgers with a side of grilled patatas bravas style potatoes and chili lime grilled corn.

Emily made these 40 minute buns from scratch, and they were delicious! Honestly, I don't know if I'll ever buy hamburger buns again. These appeared to be really easy, even for a non expert baker like me, and they were unbelievably delicious.

Serves 4

Bison Burgers

  • 1 lb ground bison meat
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder (you can substitute regular chili powder mixed with a bit of cayenne)
  • 2 tbsp onion, grated
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large vidalia onion, sliced into steaks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 beefsteak tomato, sliced into steaks
  • 1 c avocado spread (see recipe below)
  • pickled jalapenos, to taste (I cut this recipe in half, and let them marinate for the full 2 hours)
  • 4 hamburger buns (Emily made )
Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Gently mix bison meat with chili powder, onion, oregano, paprika and salt until incorporated. Evenly split meat into 4 sections and form into patties. Make sure the patties have a dent in the middle, almost like a doughnut but with a dent instead of a hole. This will ensure a flatter patty. Brush the sliced onions and the patties with olive oil. Grill the onions for approximately 6 to 8 minutes per side. Grill the patties for approximately 4 minutes per side for medium. These cook super fast! Spread each bun with 1/4 c of the avocado spread, top with 1 patty, 1 stack of onions, pickled jalapenos and sliced tomatoes.

Avocado Spread
  • 1 1/2 ripe avocados
  • juice of 1 lime (at least 1 tbsp)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Mash all ingredients together until well incorporated. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

DIY Bathtub Tray

Living in a small NYC apartment means that storage and counter-top space are at a premium. Unfortunately,
our bathroom is completely missing counter space and severely lacks in storage as well. The storage was a fairly simple fix - we added a tower over the commode and a separate towel tower next to the tub. The counter space was a bigger challenge. For this, I decided to tackle a project I had seen on Pinterest, but with my own spin on it, of course. I built a multi-purpose bathroom tray. It can be placed on top of the sink as additional counter space, or it can be used as a tray for the bath. It was super cost effective, and, though it took a few days, it was really fun! Here's what you need:

  • Large piece of wood (you can buy this from your local craft store pre-cut or have it cut to the size you need)
  • Wood stain
  • Polyurethane
  • Sponges
  • Clean rags
  • Handles
  • Screws
  • Drill
First, cut the wood to the appropriate size for your needs. I did the next few steps in a different order, but I'd recommend drilling the holes for the handles before staining. 

Next, I stained the wood with three coats of stain. You'll want to use as many coats as it takes to get the desired color, and be sure to allow them to dry completely between coats and before applying the polyurethane. 

Then, coat the wood well with polyurethane. Again, allow the polyurethane to dry completely between coats.

Then, I measured the holes needed to fit my handles and marked the wood. I drilled holes for the screws, and I drilled a slightly wider hole on the bottom so that the screw top could lay flat in the wood.

I attached the handles and tested the tray for water proofing. If your polyurethane doesn't do the trick for waterproofing, you can spray the whole tray with a water proofing spray.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pea Soup Pizza

I hate peas. It's not the flavor. It's for the most common reason: I really don't like the texture. However, I really do enjoy the flavor and am a big fan of pea soup. My fiance is a fan of peas, especially fresh peas, so when they came in our CSA, I knew I couldn't get out of it. At just about 4oz shelled, I knew there wasn't enough to make soup, so I scoured the internet for a way that I could cook the peas to get the flavor without the texture. After looking through a hodge podge of recipes, I came up with my own. The pea part is really just a pea pesto without the Parmesan. The prosciutto topping mimics the delicious flavor of the ham, and using ricotta instead of the traditional mozzarella gives it a creaminess that you wouldn't normally get in a pizza and the mild flavor lets the pea shine through. This was a definite winner in our house, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it would be a big hit with kids too.
Serves 4-6

Pea Soup Pizza

  • pizza dough for 2 pizzas, separated
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 c Pea Pesto (see recipe below)
  • 2 oz prosciutto, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 8 oz fat free ricotta
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, to serve
  • Parmesan, to serve
Preheat oven to 500F. Roll dough out very thin, to less than 1/4 inch thick, on lightly floured surface. Spray two cooking sheets with olive oil cooking spray. Transfer dough to cooking sheets. Spread pesto evenly over dough. Drop spoonfuls of ricotta on top of the peso, and press cheese down to spread. Top ricotta with sliced prosciutto. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Pea Pesto

  • 4 oz fresh shucked peas (you can substitute frozen, but I wouldn't recommend canned)
  • 1/8 c chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor until as smooth as possible. It's ok if it's still a little chunky. You just want to be able to spread it easily.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Broiled Peaches with Rosemary Honey

The Delightful Broiled Peaches with Rosemary HoneyI can only have Peach Cobbler so many times before I just want something different. For this dessert, I wanted something a little lighter, and I really wanted to let the flavor of the peaches shine through. You could broil them as I did, or you could easily grill them instead. You'd get a nice smoky element that way, but, living in NYC, we don't have a grill so the oven works just fine. The rosemary adds a rich flavor, and the caramelized peaches and honey are so sweet that this dish goes better with a plain fat free Greek yogurt than ice cream. The tartness of the yogurt adds one more level of complexity to the flavor of this dish. Plus, it looks quite pretty when you serve it.

Serves 2

  • 2 large, fresh peaches (not over ripe)
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted (or butter cooking spray)
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 c plain fat free Greek style yogurt
Heat honey and rosemary in a small saucepan over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until honey is very runny and you can smell the rosemary. Be careful not to let it get too dark.

Meanwhile, turn on broiler. Slice peaches in half and remove pit. Brush cut-side of peaches with melted butter or spray with butter cooking spray. Place in pan under broiler. Broil for about 5 minutes, or until tops of peaches are just starting to turn golden.

Serve each peach with 1/4 c yogurt drizzled with a few tbsp of honey. Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sausage Stuffed Summer Squash

The plethora of summer squash from the CSA is now in full swing! I love that raw zucchini carpaccio, but summer squash cooks so beautifully that I couldn't leave that alone - plus you have to have some variety, right? This dish is great for dinner parties. I've seen similar dishes recommended for side dishes, but if you get the big, round variety of squash, it's a stunning a main course and is plenty of food. This is also an easy one to make vegetarian or gluten free. To make it vegetarian, substitute the insides of the squash and a quart of mushrooms for the meat and double the Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. To make it gluten free, substitute quinoa for the bulgur.

  • 4 small, round summer squash
  • 1 small yellow onion, copped
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 links (1/2 lb) spicy Italian chicken sausage, raw
  • 1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 c cooked bulgur
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375F. Cut the tops off of the squash. Scoop out the insides and set aside. (These can be used for a vegetarian version of this dish or used in zucchini bread or zucchini bites.) Spray insides of squash with olive oil cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper. Stand upright and open in a small baking pan. Add tops of squash to pan. Add water to 1/4 inch high in the pay. Roast in oven until squash is fork-tender, approximately 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat large saute pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add onions, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and rosemary. Saute until onions are just turning translucent. Cut sausage out of links and add to saute pan, breaking apart as you go. When sausage is beginning to brown, add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook over medium low heat until liquid reduces by half, approximately 25 minutes. Stir in bulgur. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove squash from oven. Drain any liquid remaining in the pan. Fill squash with sausage mixture. Spread additional sausage mixture on squash tops. Sprinkle each with Parmesan cheese. Roast for approximately 10 minutes, until cheese is beginning to brown. 

Remove stuffed squash from oven and transfer to plates. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.